Memphis In the Meantime
By Bobby Bush
This was my first trip to Memphis proper, ever. We were there on a mission. Yep there
was a beer fest, some great music and several new brewpubs to add to my list, now
totaling 527 US breweries. Memphis is not only a great city for the blues, but the
metropolitan area covers nearly 300 square miles and is home to 1.1 million people and
four brewpubs. Unfortunately, in the summertime itís hotter than hell and more humid
than a shower.
But we made the most of the sauna weather with a trip to Boscos Squared during
its first anniversary party and Cellarman of the Year celebration. This Overton Plaza
brewpub, which sits almost directly across from the original TGIFriday, was a whirlwind
of activity as we sneaked through the door. A festive crowd was gathered at the long
rectangular island bar. Chuck Skypeck, master brewer behind all three Boscos locations,
was making merry behind the bar. Drawing a ticket from a bucket he screamed the
winning number. A door prize was bestowed upon a lucky patron.
Skypeckís congregation consisted of previous winners of Boscosí weekday
cellarman contest in which the daily winner is allowed to tap a tiny keg of cask
conditioned ale. Of those 250 applicants, most were one hand for the grand prize- a trip
for two to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver in late September. Similar
drawings were also held at Boscosí Germantown (east Memphis) and Nashville locations.
Amidst all the hullabaloo, we managed to sample some of Skypeckís great brew.
Hefeweizen was lemon-esque, smooth with a tart finish. Famous Flaming Stone Bier was
fruitier than the Nashville-brewed version. It was medium bodied with a slightly sour
closure. Wheat was also smooth and fruity with rounded sweet finish, while
copper-colored Dunkel was strongly sweet, emphasized with a quick tart-sweet bite for
the finale. Ruby-hued Isle of Skye Scottish Ale was sultry, slinky in smooth exuberance,
while IPA worked the opposite extreme. Bright orange-gold, this tasty ale was hoppy all
over, tickling the tongue with intervals of spicy hoppiness. In its cask version, IPA carried
a thick white head of foam. Its citrusy/grapefruit finish revealed a dose of Cascades hops
that, while bitter but not overpowering, was harder to detect in its carbonated rendition.
Boscos Brown was mildly malty, barely sweet within its medium body. Presenting a faint
bitterness, Edís Porter was dark in taste. Darkness was embodied in the richness of
roasted malt and dark caramel taste.
This time we were able to sample Boscos bottle conditioned ale. Well, at least
one, theyíd given all the Wheat away as door prizes. Stored at 53 degrees, Famous
Flaming Stone Bier was decanted from a 22 ounce bottle into our pint glasses. Foamy and
much richer than the draft, this brew was provocative in taste and presentation.
The next morning I had time for a quick run by the original Boscos Pizza Kitchen
& Brewery in Germantown Heights, a Memphis suburb. This cramped kitchen, complete
with open brick oven, and bar restaurant with a small copper-clad brewery in the back was
just greeting Sunday lunch diners. Situated in the bustling confines of Saddle Creek
shopping center, the beers of choice, with one exception, were identical to those of its
Memphis sibling, though all were brewed on site. So thatís what I tried. Brewer Jeff
Opielís Prohibition Pilsner was gold and cold. Beneath its creamy white froth was a
pleasant light lager accented by bittersweet aftertaste. Boscos in Germantown opened for
business in December 1992 and lays stake to being ďTennesseeís Original Brew Pub.Ē For
more info on the Boscos trio see www.boscosbeer.com.
From there it was a quick jump over to Hops Restaurant Bar Brewery. Open
since September 1998, the brewers slot had recently been filled by Katherine Wood. She
had the typical Hops brews on tap. Clearwater Light, Lightning Bold Gold, Hammerhead
Red and a seasonal Bavarian-style unfiltered Wheat beer. I ordered a pint of Hammerhead
and forgot to ask for a room temp glass. Low-and-behold, this Hopsí glasses were not
caked with ice. The $2 pint of Red was clean, fruity with a tart citrus finish. It was a little
over-carbonated but actually a nice session drink. Bartender Mike Simpson (no kin to
Bart) was a friendly, helpful kid. The Florida-based Hops chain, which has more
breweries than any other US company, needs a few more brewers like Katherine Woods to
Thatís it for Memphis, beer-wise, but the city has much much more to offer in
terms of entertainment. Just one suggestion, stay away in July in August.
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush