Images and Words By Anthony Maranise
“What… what does this say?” I grumbled to myself.
The sweat from my newly poured, yet nearly finished pint of crisp, delicious Brooklyn Belair Sour beer had apparently dripped onto my notepad and smudged my notes.
I am, after all, as I write this piece, sitting outside on a patio on Highland enjoying a good, cold one as I pen this article. The idea came to me weeks ago when my good friend informed me that there is such a thing as “National Beer Day” in the United States. Apparently, we celebrate in on April 7th… some of us start celebrating earlier than that. But I digress…
Beer is a beautiful thing, in my opinion. In no way is this meant to be a slight against the other mediums of adult-beverage-enjoyment (let’s keep it legal and responsible people), but there is something about a cold, refreshing beer that just makes me smile.
That said, I want to focus this article on 3 great spots in the Memphis area (which are not breweries, but we do have 4 great ones in and around town) to enjoy a cold pint of the sacred nectar. Now, don’t think of me as an aimless wanderer; I’ve put some thought into this. If they sell beer in Memphis, I have likely sampled their inventory and what I will show you in this article are 3 places – one from the more populous divisions of town including East Memphis, the Highland Row area, and Midtown – and will from each of those locales, report to you what I deem to be the best spot for beer consumption.
As the cheerleaders say, “Ready? Okay!”
Hog & Hominy (East Memphis)
707 West Brookhaven Circle, Memphis, TN. 38117
Hog & Hominy is the brain-child of local Memphis, nationally, and internationally award-winning chefs Andrew Ticer & Michael Hudman (who also just so happen to be my cousins). Call me biased, if you want, but after you “give me the time of day” and read this little snippet, go there yourself and see why I have included their spot on my list as the representative for East Memphis.
“The Hog,” as I often affectionately refer to it is more known for its food. It is a restaurant, after all. Terrific pizzas and artisan fusion dishes which synergistically blend together both the best of Northern Italy’s tastes with those of the homespun Southern joy of Memphis barbeque culture make up the menu at this casual, yet refined spot in the heart of East Memphis.
While it is known for its food, I opine that its bar deserves significant recognition; in particular, thanks to its wide selection of beers. On tap, you’ll find a plethora of local flavors from Ghost River to Wiseacre, but in the case, you’ll find chilled bottles with a wide range, tending to the heavier focus on IPAs.
The bar staff is unbeatable and their outdoor patio or backroom is incredibly inviting, especially on the milder of days. Be sure to check out their Bocce ball court, a unique facet to their bar / restaurant. Yes, indeed… grab a cold one or two and head outside to play some Bocce. It’s an Italian game so you know it’ll be worth your investigation, if you aren’t familiar with it. Just ask a bystander… I guarantee, you’ll find someone who knows how to play (and who probably will play right along with you and yours).
Anthony’s Beer Pick at “The Hog”: Abita Andygator
The Casual Pint (Highland Row)
395 South Highland, Suite 126, Memphis, TN. 38111
Full disclosure: This is the place on Highland where I was in the intro to this article and where I am now as I write it. It’s too great to pass up, especially earlier in the afternoon, say between 330 – 7ish. Sure, I know that gives you a long timeframe, but believe me, the atmosphere sucks you in. It did for me anyway. Given that this is the newest spot of the 4, I’ll spend a little time with this one.
Here’s how I came to know of The Casual Pint:
One Saturday afternoon, I hopped in my jeep, headed to a working-weekend lunch with an editor who is only in town every-so-often, and with whom I’ve struck up a good professional and in-kind friendship. While on the way to this lunch on a surprisingly mild pre-Spring afternoon, I had my windows down and my radio cranked up. I had just retrieved my jeep from out of detailing and only then had turned the radio up loud enough to hear it. Quite naturally, the detailers had changed my stations when they were wiping down the interior. The station was of the AM frequency and a local show entitled, “The Beer Show” was playing on WREC 600.
The topic? Sour beers! One of (but not my absolute) favorites!
I kept listening. My editor-friend called, suddenly, and asked to change our meeting time to later in the evening because she and her’s wanted to be sure to be able to go to the National Civil Rights Museum while it was open and they were in-town. I certainly understood and agreed. After our call, I turned the radio back up and continued listening to the content. The first words I heard were: “Causal Pint on Highland.” Now having nothing to do until later in the evening, I went on in search of my new destination: The Causal Pint on Highland.
I had more than a few hours to kill and as I drove up, I noticed their outdoor patio. “Perfect,” I thought to myself as I grabbed the book my girlfriend and I are studying together. Upon entering, I was greeted my smiling faces and warm-welcomes from BOTH the staff and those at the bar already. This seemed like my kind of place.
The Casual Pint, while a Tennessee-based franchise (started in Knoxville) has every bit of a city-local-feel to it. Boasting an incredible draft / on-tap beer selection of more than 25+ brews and an entire back wall full of others, from nearly every region of the United States (and some internationals), I might have to agree with Carson Fleming, a level-one Cicerone, who helps make The Casual Pint run as smoothly as it does.
Fleming remarked: “Our beer selection is easily among the top 10, maybe top 5, beer selections in Memphis.”
Let’s pause a moment. What exactly is a Cicerone? Yes, I asked myself the same thing. So then I asked Carson.
A Cicerone is the general equivalent for beer what a sommelier is to wine. This man knows the ins and outs of beer. If you’re lucky enough to stop in while he’s at work, take my advice and “pick his brain” about beer. He knows.
“To be honest, I became interested in beer because it has an ability to break barriers between people. If you have a beer with someone, the conversation instantly starts flowing and you become bonded in that way,” said Fleming.
Fleming was obviously correct in his assessment as even someone as far as Buffalo, NY agreed that The Casual Pint is “THE place” to have a pint in Memphis.
Sarah Kilmer said, “Coming from Buffalo, there aren’t a great many places here that have a local following and also have a great attraction for people who aren’t from here. We have that here, I think. And though it’s a franchise, it’s really not… I mean the owners live, literally, down the street from here.”
If you aren’t sure what sort of beer you’re in the mood for that day, have no fear. The attentive staff will help you out. I really enjoy what Caroline Schratz, one of “The Pint’s” bartenders and a self-proclaimed “IPA girl all the way” had to say in this regard.
“Each person who walks through our doors is like a new puzzle to solve, and I absolutely love working with someone to help them find the perfect beer,” said Schratz.
This sort of helpful attentiveness gives “The Pint” its “neighborhood-feel,” and for me at least, atmosphere is about equal in importance to selection.
Speaking about this “neighborhood-feel,” owner Lisa Caufield said, “We are neighbors serving neighbors. We exude a warm and inviting atmosphere and we welcome it from others.”
Anthony’s Beer Pick at “The Pint”: New Belgium Le Terroir Dry-Hopped Sour Ale
Hammer & Ale (Midtown)
921 Cooper Street, Memphis, TN. 38104
Having opened their doors in 2013, during the height of Memphis’ emergent craft beer market, owner David Smith “began to recognize the growing need for a sophisticated retail outlet specializing in skillfully produced micro-brewed beers.”
Coming from a background in the art business, Smith and managing partner, Kevin Eble recognized similarities in both a visual artist’s craft and the discerning tastes that make up quality craft-beer. From this realization, Hammer & Ale was born and now sits in the heart of Midtown Memphis’ acclaimed Cooper-Young neighborhood.
Known already for its eclectic art and intellectual scene, the Cooper-Young neighborhood seems a perfect fit for this specialty beer outlet.
Walking inside Hammer & Ale, one quickly notices a casual, yet modern scene, decorated in minimalistic style such that the attention truly remains on the beer. Behind their bar is more than 20 draft taps, the selection of beers that flow from them being a mixture of some locally brewed favorites and some limited special editions.
Most impressive about this spot, in my opinion, are their beer flights. Sure, this is something many beer shops offer, but Hammer & Ale will not leave you “in the dark” in terms of what you’re sipping. Smith & Eble will take their time to help you design your flight of 4 beers around what pleases you most, and will include a list, generally moving from left to right, detailing what you’re drinking and its relationship to the others on the tray (e.g.: most crisp and clean to hoppiest; or light to milk-stout).
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, at least slightly, that their food / beer-snack selection is entirely “on-point.” Having a few flights one afternoon as I did my “research” for this article, I felt suddenly hungry. The good vegetarian that I am, I looked for a non-meat snack and found a plethora of options. Take my advice: their pimento cheese sandwich and house-made kettle chips will make you rethink those simple “grilled cheeses” you’ve always resorted to in the past.
Anthony’s Beer Pick at “Hammer & Ale”: Southern Prohibition Suzy B Blonde Ale
Anthony Maranise is editor of The Galleon and is also with the Master of Arts in Catholic Studies Cohort at Christian Brothers University. He is a firm believer that beer is a gift from God.