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VOL. 130 | NO. 69 | Thursday, April 9, 2015

Beer Revived

Tennessee Brewery: The Revival brings beer garden back Downtown

By Don Wade

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Revive the beer garden, and they will come. If the soft opening held on Tuesday night, April 7, was any indication, then Tennessee Brewery: The Revival will have a nice run this spring.

Taking advantage of warm temperatures, patrons packed the pop-up beer garden at the recently purchased Tennessee Brewery at 495 Tennessee St. Among those milling about: Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, city councilman Myron Lowery, and members of the Grizzlies’ front office.

The Revival is modeled after last year’s Untapped, which was held in the same space and was deemed an unqualified hit. Profits from Tuesday’s soft opening benefited Habitat for Humanity.

“The way this came about it, we visited Untapped a couple of times and we loved it, thought it was a great event,” said Benjamin Orgel, 22. “Specifically my father, Billy (Orgel) and I, came down a couple of times. And we got interest in the building and Billy agreed to purchase it.”

The historic stone and cast iron brewery opened in 1890 but has been vacant since 1953. Billy Orgel and his partners are transforming the building and surrounding property into a mix of apartments and commercial space. The brewery building itself is 90-feet tall and overlooks the Mississippi River. The redevelopment project also includes a parking garage.

Benjamin Orgel said construction on the apartment project will begin in the summer after The Revival has shut down. It is scheduled to run April 9 through May 31, on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and on Sundays from noon to 9 p.m.

The event includes mobile food trucks, and local musicians and artists. For the soft opening, Central BBQ had a food truck in the courtyard and the first featured artist is Adam Exelbierd.

After Billy Orgel and his partners closed on the purchase of the building, Benjamin asked his father, “Hey, why don’t you let me run the beer garden?”

Benjamin already works for his dad at Tower Ventures, a cell phone tower development firm.

“Around the office, I call him Billy,” Benjamin said. “When we’re at dinner, I call him dad.”

Benjamin, a recent graduate of the University of Texas, brought in friends Paul Stephens and Logan Scheidt and they formed TNBG (Tennessee Beer Garden) LLC. Stephens recently finished up at Ole Miss and Scheidt at Alabama. All three young men are huge college football fans, but Scheidt is outnumbered 2-to-1 because Benjamin has thrown in with Ole Miss.

“I’m now actually a season-ticket holder at Ole Miss,” Benjamin said. “It’s fun to go down there. You ever been to The Grove?”

At some level, The Revival brings a bit of The Grove to Memphis. The crowd for the soft opening was diverse – people of all ages, wearing everything from shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops to dresses and high heels or a suit and tie.

Aside from the open-air garden, which has been enhanced with a fountain – “100 percent him,” Benjamin said, giving his dad credit for that idea – and more landscaping, there are three separate large rooms inside the brewery that are part of The Revival. In one, there is an interactive art exhibit that allows people to write down what they like best about Memphis. Early entries: beer, sunsets, BBQ and Tony Allen.

Another room features a large screen TV that on Tuesday night was showing a documentary about the Tennessee Brewery by Brian Manis. Soon, it will be a place to watch The Masters, Grizzlies playoff games or maybe a little day baseball. That room also includes an air hockey table and a pingpong table.

“We’re kid-friendly and dog-friendly,” Benjamin said. “You just have to be 21 to drink a beer.”

All beer is $5 for a 14-ounce cup and all the local breweries are represented. Memphis Made Brewing Co.’s Andy Ashby has even prepared an exclusive “Luke McLuke” Revival brew. National craft beers also are available, but so is Pabst Blue Ribbon.

“People love PBR,” Benjamin said. “I don’t, but people do.”

Expectations are for 5,000 visitors per weekend, Benjamin said, but after May 31 The Revival will be no more. At least not at this venue.

“We’re looking at this as a community event,” Benjamin said.

The event’s popularity, however, begs the question: Will TNBG LLC be doing pop-up beer gardens elsewhere in Memphis and/or beyond?

“Funny that you ask that,” Benjamin said. “All I can say about that is Paul, Logan and I have discussed. That’s the honest answer. We want to see how this goes first. We feel like if it is successful there can definitely be more in the future.”

After all, as Stephens said, the Memphis market seems like a match for the concept.

“A lot of beer drinkers (live) here,” he said.

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