Ben Pugh at Meddlesome Brewing.
For those thirsty for more on the Memphis beer scene, we're presenting barely edited versions of the interviews done by Toby Sells for our cover story on the Memphis Flyer and Aldo's Beer Bracket Challenge.
Here's the Meddlesome Brewing interview with one of its owners, Ben Pugh. Meddlesome is slated to open in Cordova sometime this spring or early summer. The Meddlesome interview didn't make it into our cover story. So, this is web-exclusive content.
That means you should totally read this because Pugh is totally a nice guy. You'll be wanting to drink his beers soon, even if that means driving to Cordova.
Pugh has lived in Memphis since 2002. He is the owner of beer brewing equipment company, Eclectic Ales.
So, how did you come to open Meddlesome Brewing?
I had a brewery in Rock N Dough in Jackson, Tenn. We did that for about three years and then got out of that and sold the equipment out of that to fund this.
We’ll be way bigger here, though. I was a five-barrel system there and we’re doing a 20-barrel system here.
Hell yeah! What made you want open a brewery here?
I live in Cordova (laughs). Driving back and forth to Jackson was tiresome. Really, the big thing is that Memphis is still lacking on breweries, especially when you compare it to everywhere else. Per capita, it doesn’t have the volume a lot of places have.
Ten years ago we would’ve been hard-pressed to make it happen but now things are starting to finally come around.
I live in Cordova. I’ve been here a long time. A bunch of my friends live over here. Anytime any of us want to go get a beer, it’s a 15-mile drive on the interstate, down Sam Cooper, or all the way Downtown.
There’s just nothing over here. Then we’ll say, let’s go to the Flying Saucer (Cordova). Well, it’s packed. Let’s go somewhere else. Where else can we go? Yep, that’s it. There’s no where else to go.
Another big driving factor was Shelby Farms. They’ve done such a huge renovation over there. Any day that it’s 50-plus-degrees outside, it is packed. It’s crazy.
We take our kid over there to play all the time. We drive past the dog park, which happens to be right across the street (from Meddlesome) and the parking lot is packed full. Then, the next lot is full and the one after that. Or, if you go to the kids area, the parking lot is full and the overflow lot is full and it’s like, holy cow! There’s just so much going on over there.
And you’re telling me those folks don’t want to go drink a good beer somewhere?
If we can catch 2 percent-3 percent of the people who are coming out from (Shelby Farms) for a beer, I would be ecstatic.
You’d be packed out.
Yes, any nice day.
Alright, we have to talk about the name. Where did Meddlesome come from?
There was a lot of discussion and sleepless nights on that. Coming up with a brewery name is not easy. Most names are taken. The ones that aren’t taken just aren’t that clever.
We had a branding guy we worked with and there were just so many names we threw out and they were all taken.
Ass Clown Brewing is taken.
I know, right? There’s Clown Shoes, too! You know, I’m sure there’s a good story behind it.
What we came up with was Meddlesome. That’s because whenever we got into home brewing, we never really stuck to what anyone was saying. We were, essentially, meddling with what was considered convention.
You know, you have to do an hour-long mash. We’d ask, what happens if you don’t? What if we do it for an hour or forty minutes or thirty minutes? What happens? Oh, well, you can’t do it, the efficiency are so bad. It’s not worth doing. Well, I’m going to try it.
We just went through so many different things that we decided that so much of what these people say is just garbage. For the most part, you can do this in many different forms. I’m not going to say any one is right or wrong; they all get a result in the end. But the process and honing of it, was something we were constantly working on, me and Richie both.
Who is Richie?
Richie (EsQuivel) is my partner (in Meddlesome). He’s a home brewer, been brewing for as long as I have.
How did y’all meet?
I was president of the one of the brew clubs in town. He joined the club. We just kind of hit it off. We brewed very similar styles of beer and our brewing techniques are very similar. Our taste in music and other things are a lot the same. So, we just instantly hit it off.
So, you two would just meddle in things?
We just try to find unconventional ways to do the same thing. Not sticking to what someone tells you.
What kinds of beers do you make and how do you make them?
We’re not tying ourselves to one specific thing. We’re going to be all over the map. We’ve made so many different styles that we’re very comfortable to produce whatever we want.
Our three flagship beers will be a blonde ale, an American brown ale, and an American IPA. With those three, we’re able to cover the vast majority of beer drinkers whether they’re entry-level or people who just don’t care for dark beer.
Brown ale, to a lot of people, is dark beer. So, we cover that category. Then we got hoppy/bitter. The blonde ale will be similar to a pilsner or golden ale. It’s a necessity. You got to have something everyone can agree one. With those three, I think we’ll do OK.
Every brewery has to have a lighter beer of some sort. Most of them don’t want to, but they know if they want to sell to everyone who walks in the door, they have to have something that appeals to them. Or, you could be Stone (Brewing in California) and say, fuck everybody. We only make IPAs. We don’t really care what you want! (Laughs.)
So, you’ll have the three flagships and then…
We’ll have probably at least two or three seasonal beers or rotating specialties. In the taproom we have a one-barrel pilot system. We have three fermenters. So, we should have three one-barrel batches on tap here, for one-offs or experimentals, if we’re trying to new hops or grains. So, we don’t have to dedicate 20 barrels to it to find out, man, that just wasn’t that great!
We do think we’ll one of those as a gluten-free beer. We’re not going to go sorghum or millet. There are enzymes out now that will reduce gluten down to a (federally recognized level) to consider it gluten-free. You can make it from barley, too. So, it actually tastes like beer. It doesn’t taste like some weird, sorghum product.
Alright. So, what’s up with the big gear? (Points to an enormous gear wheel sitting on the floor.)
It’ll hang over our bar. We want a very industrial look and feel in here. Concrete walls. Stained concrete. Everything is going to be as industrial as we can get.
The bar will have a copper top. It’s all in that box there. We’re going to do rivets on the front of it.
The conduits on the walls stay exposed. The big, red iron beams stay exposed. We’re doing absolutely no drop ceiling. It’s going to stay just like this. We’re going to paint it black but it’ll stay exposed.