Memphis is a great town for beer drinkers. The summers are long and hot, beers are cheap and it’s perfectly acceptable to knock back a couple on a school night. Here’s a complete guide to local beer festivals, brewers, and bars with the best selections:
Zoo Brew always sells out. Always. The second that you find out that tickets to the Zoo’s semi-annual beer tasting are on sale, you should buy one. There are more than 100 different beers at the event from distributors, craft brewers and beer clubs. Zoo Brew isn’t just a night of drinking out of tiny plastic cups – it’s also one of the Zoo’s biggest annual fundraisers.
Art on Tap is an annual beer tasting at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens (the next one is Sept. 10th). They bring in beers from local distributors and breweries and food from Memphis restaurants. During the tasting, there’s live music and all of the Dixon’s galleries and gardens are open so you can explore while you sample. Young at Art members get in free and tickets are $50 for everyone else. All of the money raised goes to support the museum’s awesome community outreach and education programs.
The Cooper Young Regional Beer Festival is a newcomer, but it looks like it’s going to be a good time. More than 10 breweries and brew clubs will bring their beers to the event on October 9th. Some of the beers that will be available at the CY Regional Beer Festival aren’t usually available in Memphis. There are only 400 tickets available for the festival, so if you’re interested, go ahead and buy one (they’re $30).
The 2010 Snowden Beer Festival featured more than 70 different kinds of beer from around the world. For a festival in its infancy, that’s seriously impressive. The event is held at the Snowden Grove Amphitheatre in North Mississippi. In addition to the beer, there’s music, food from local vendors and plenty of water and soda if you need a break.
Another newcomer to the local beer festival scene, Memphis BrewFest had its inaugural pour in April. The festival is four intense hours of sampling in AutoZone Park. This year, the sold-out festival featured more than 80 different kinds of beer from around the world.
Bars with great beer selections:
The Flying Saucer has the most comprehensive beer selection in Memphis. It’s also a comprehensive place to drink – there’s a UFO club for enthusiastic (and adventurous) drinkers, a weekly glass night (where you get to keep your glass) and a daily $2.75 fire sale pint.
The Young Avenue Deli in Cooper Young is part deli, part music venue and part bar. Their beer selection is the largest of any independent restaurant in town, and they frequently have seasonal and specialty beers on tap and in bottles.
Raffe’s Beer Garden
Raffe’s Beer Garden is a small Mediterranean restaurant on Poplar, just west of Highland. All of the beer available in the attached convenience store is for sale at the deli. That doesn’t sound very impressive, but for a convenience store, it’s a huge and diverse selection.
The food at Bosco’s is excellent, but the midtown restaurant is better known for its beer selection. All of the beers at Bosco’s are handmade locally. Try one of the constant offerings (the Midtown Brown is my favorite, others swear by the Flaming Stone) or one of the seasonal beers with your pizza or tamales. Bosco’s also offers beer samplers. For about $10, you can try 2 oz. samples of every beer on the menu.
Everything Else (local beers / brew clubs / etc.)
The guys at Ghost River know that good beer starts with good water. Their delicious, made-in-Memphis beers are available at more than 50 restaurants in Memphis. If you’d like to see the brewing process up close, there are free, public tours of the brewery every Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. All you have to do is RSVP in advance.
The Bluff City Brewers is a local club for beer makers and beer lovers. They’ve got a $20 annual membership fee, but membership gets you discounts to Bosco’s and all club events. The club has a regular monthly meeting and outings to local beer events.
Fuzzy Brew is quite possibly the only Memphis blog dedicated solely to beer. It hasn’t been around long, and it’s a total labor of love, but it’s already got plenty of good information. There are reviews of seasonal beers, information on local events and festivals and plenty of love and admiration for frosty cold brews.