Memphis Made beer to hit bars in October
Beer will flood forth from the tanks of Memphis Made Brewing Co. this month.
Brewery president and Manila Avenue resident Drew Barton expects to deliver Memphis Made beers to bars and restaurants in Memphis in October, though the exact date has not been set. Customers will be able to find Memphis Made at Central BBQ, Flying Saucer and Young Avenue Deli initially.
The brewery will open with some one-off inaugural beers but Memphis Made’s primary production will be focused on a German-style Kolsch, which is a light golden ale, and an India Pale Ale, a light but hoppy ale.
Memphis Made is based in a 6,000-square-foot facility in the big white building with the long ramp on Cooper Street, just north of the trestle art and the I Love Memphis mural.
“Everybody involved in the brewery considers themselves to be Memphis-made,” said Barton, who was born in Memphis and attended college here before working as head brewmaster at Asheville, N.C.’s award-winning French Broad Brewery. “Memphis is where we’ve all grown up and helped define who we are. So, we are Memphis Made.”
The company is opening during a craft beer explosion in Memphis. While Boscos and Ghost River had been the only craft-beer games in town, High Cotton and Wiseacre recently opened their doors and taps to the Memphis market this year.
“We all saw the same thing,” Barton said. “We saw a market where there was a need for craft breweries because there’s a lot (of craft beer) being sold in Memphis right now there’s not a lot being made in Memphis right now.”
Craft beer is exploding across the country, too. The Brewers Association, a craft beer industry group, says craft beer sales grew in 2012 to approximately 17 percent of the $99 billion U.S. beer market.
Memphis Made is a true grassroots start-up, founded by Barton and his wife, Melodie, and longtime Cooper-Young resident Andy Ashby and his wife, Sydney.
A handful of investors helped the Bartons and Ashbys secure a location, and purchase and build the equipment. Barton and Ashby assembled the gear like a custom-made puzzle, chopped through piles of government paperwork for permits and have finally gotten to work on what they’ve wanted to do all along — make beer.
For Barton, the road from college engineering student to brewmaster to brewery owner started in a Borders bookstore in Ann Arbor, Mich., where Barton found “The Complete Joy of Homebrewing.”
“I went home and read it cover to cover twice in that first week,” Barton said. “I had never read a book from start to finish before.”
He went to a home-brewing store, bought supplies, made his first batch of beer “and that’s when I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
He left Kettering University in Flint, Mich. and returned home to Memphis where he designed his own degree in zymurgy, or brewing, at the University of Memphis. There, he studied biology, chemistry, marketing and business management.
He and his then-girlfriend Melodie moved to the micro-brewing mecca of Asheville, where Barton took a job as a delivery truck driver for French Broad Brewery. A year later he was made assistant brewer and six months after that was made head brewer.
While he and Melodie loved the mountains, he said he was ready to return home with the explicit goal of opening his own brewery.
Ashby, a former Cooper-Young Community Association board member, helped found the Cooper-Young Regional Beerfest in 2010. He found out about good beer while bartending in London after college and at the Downtown Flying Saucer, a bar with more than 200 different styles of beer. In recent years, he’s written about beer as Southern Brew News’ Tennessee columnist and as a contributor to American Brewer magazine.
While Barton and his partners looked at other spots in Memphis for their brewery, he always wanted to keep it close to his Cooper-Young home.
“There’s a lot going on here,” Barton said. “We like the restaurants and the neighborhood vibe is very good.”
The company will open a tasting room sometime next year, Barton said.
By Toby Sells