Local Beers You Can Believe In
Memphis folks making beer down the street from you.
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Back at the Wiseacre brewery off Broad Avenue — this time on a weekday morning — the tasting room is dim and all is quiet; no music plays overhead. Brothers and brewery owners Kellan and Davin Bartosch are getting ready for a day of brewing beer, Kellan with a travel mug of coffee in his hand, and Davin in rubber boots.
The Wiseacre brewery has been a dream for the brothers for years. Raised in Memphis, Davin and Kellan went separate ways geographically and professionally.
Davin studied brewing in Chicago and Munich, was the brewmaster for Chicago’s Rock Bottom brewery and restaurant, and racked up tons of brewing awards at the Great American Beer Festival, World Beer Cup, and more. Kellan went west and studied the beer business, working for a beer distributor, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., and became a certified cicerone, the beer equivalent of a wine sommelier.
The two had a handshake agreement that they would open a brewery one day. They made good on their gentlemen’s agreement last year when they brought their collective beer and business knowledge back home to Memphis. They opened Wiseacre Brewing on Labor Day weekend 2013.
“A lot of [craft beer’s surge] just comes from the fact that people want to drink something that’s made closer to their house,” Kellan Bartosch says. “They want to drink something that’s fresh.”
Civic pride has certainly underpinned the rise of craft beer. It’s that same pride that has fueled a new respect for local music, art, and food. People want to see something of themselves in the cultural experiences they have. Local creativity comes from places we’re familiar with, like Midtown, Downtown Memphis, or the source of the Wolf River up near Moscow, Tennessee.
These are real places, not the proverbial “mountains” or “the Colorado Rockies” where national beers like Busch and Coors are purportedly made. (The latter brand is now part of the international Molson Coors Brewing Company, and joint ventures in the U.S. with Miller.) So, when folks from Memphis — people we may even know — make beer in a building down the street, we consider their product a bit differently. And we want to taste it.
Kellan Bartosch agrees that Memphis drinkers are still figuring out much about the craft-beer scene. But they are learning and want to learn, he says. Drinking through the immense and ancient beer family tree to seek out what you like can be daunting and take time — with hundreds of varieties of ales, porters, stouts, barleywines, browns, saisons, and more to be tasted and explored.
Still, Bartosch insists that there are only two important things people need to know about his craft. “Beer is fun, and it’s for everyone,” he concludes.
Toby Sells is a staff writer for The Memphis Flyer.