Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Andy Ashby, one of the founders and organizers of the Cooper-Young Regional Beerfest, to talk about the history of the festival and what we can expect this year.
The Cooper-Young Regional Beerfest will be held this Saturday, October 15th, from 1-5 p.m., in the parking lot of Life Link Memphis.
Why do you think Cooper-Young is especially suited to host a beer festival?
You’ve got a city like Asheville, North Carolina, where they’re crazy about their beer. They’ve got something like eight or nine local breweries in a relatively small town. It’s kind of a point of pride for us that we’ve got this very tight-knit neighborhood [which isn’t unlike a scaled-down version of Asheville], and we love the idea of a local community and craft beer.
It feels like one of those win-win things: we’ll get a bunch of beer that we can’t normally get here,and have it basically delivered to our doorstep. And on top of that, you get to meet a bunch of really cool brewers like Ivan Chester from Yazoo, the folks from Lazy Magnolia, and Schlafly is sending some of their brewers down here. So you get to hang out with these guys, drink their beer, and raise money for the [Cooper-Young] all at the same time.
What was attendance and the general reaction like last year?
Last year, we sold around 400 tickets, plus all of the volunteers and designated drivers plus comp tickets, so we probably had around 500 people...and we sold out on festival day even though we were brand new and kind of an unknown commodity. It really worked out well...most attendees were from Memphis, and a good portion of those were from Cooper-Young. So we decided to offer more tickets this year.
It seems like just about everything revolving around the festival is a celebration of all things regional.
Exactly. We’ll have food from local restaurants: Sweet Grass will be bringing homemade brats which will be made Friday, and freshly-made mustard as well as barbecue from Central. WEVL will be there, and Goner Records will be DJing and selling some of their merchandise. We really wanted to focus on promoting Cooper-Young as a community.
Can you talk a bit about the beer education tent?
The beer education tent, which we’re calling Beer Tent Revival, gives brewers and the Bluff City Brewers & Connoisseurs the opportunity to talk about whatever they want: their products, the brewing process, the industry. It was a huge success last year. The tent was almost overflowing, so we’ve provided more room for it this year. We want people to come away excited about craft beer in the same way we’re excited. You usually can’t really get that access to the people who really know beer...I mean they’re the ones who brew it.
Which breweries should we expect to see this year?
Ghost River, Boscos, Yazoo, Schlafly, Lazy Magnolia, Red Brick from Atlanta (who just recently introduced their beers to the Memphis market)..a lot of stuff that’s within a day’s driving distance. And that includes some stuff from some breweries from Asheville like Green Man, French Broad, and the Asheville Brewing Company. Plus the Bluff City Brewers & Connoisseurs are bringing some pretty exciting beers [Check out a few of them here.] It should all be pretty fantastic.
We want people to discover some new beers that, next time they’re at a bar or restaurant, they’ll ask about. It’s a way of showing breweries that don’t currently distribute here that there is in fact demand for their product in Memphis.
Keep an eye out for pt. 2, in which Ashby talks about the local craft beer scene.
I know I mentioned this in the last post, but Raffe’s Deli will be hosting a beer tasting this evening featuring Yazoo and brew-master, Ivan Chester, starting at 7 p.m., and Young Avenue Deli will be hosting keep-the-glass cask night (also with Ivan) at 6 p.m. tomorrow evening...I believe he’ll be bringing a cask of Yazoo’s Sly Rye Porter instilled with Olive & Sinclair cocoa nibs. Both events should be pretty stellar, so check ‘em out!
Edited: An earlier version of this story read that tickets for the Cooper Young Regional Beerfest had sold out. Tickets can be bought online at beerfest.cooperyoung.org until midnight Friday or at Boscos Squared, Mid-South Malts and the CYCA offices.