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Q & A with Mike Lee

Co-founder of High Cotton Brewing Company/Owner of Mid-South Malts



Memphis seems to be on the up-and-up when it comes to craft beer with Ghost River Brewing Company's recent expansion into bottling and the ever-growing availability of craft brews imported from other cities. Now, the local beer scene is poised to reach new heights with another craft brewery slated to open downtown this September.

High Cotton Brewing Company, which should be able to produce about 14 kegs of beer at a time, will be located in an 8,700-square-foot brewery building at 598 Monroe across from Kudzu's Bar & Grill in the Edge District. High Cotton founders Mike Lee of Mid-South Malts, lawyer Brice Timmons, Memphis Light, Gas, & Water utilities engineer Ryan Staggs, United Airlines pilot Ross Avery, and a silent investor eventually plan to open a taproom next door to the brewery. — Andrew Caldwell

Flyer: Where does High Cotton Brewing fit into the Memphis beer scene?

Mike Lee: We want to be very local. Hopefully, we can get some neighborhood participation and support the local community through quality craft beer.

Can you talk about the Southern feel you are aiming for?

Most of us have had family members involved in the cotton business, so that's how we chose the name High Cotton Brewing Company. Of course, beer isn't all that Southern in origin, but Southerners have always been known for doing things very well. There's a lot of effort and high-quality products, especially with things like whiskey, so that's what we envision doing with our beer.

It may be too early to say, but do you have any styles of beer lined up?

We'll probably start with two regular beers. Once we can proceed with our taproom plans, we'll have maybe eight to 10 beers at a time, so we plan to hit a bunch of different styles. There's a bill going through the legislature now that is trying to change the definition of beer in Tennessee from 5 percent alcohol by weight to 12 percent. If that passes, you'd better believe we're going to brew some big beers.

I understand you'll be working with a relatively small system: seven barrels. Are you planning on distributing, or will all of your beer be served from your taproom?

We will distribute, and the good news is we can self-distribute in Shelby County, so we don't need a distributor. We can save some money that way. Initially, we're only going to do kegs, and we'll be selling growlers [half-gallon containers] out of the taproom. We're working on getting new 32-ounce, biodegradable growlers that we can fill and sell.

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