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Little Rock Man To Bring Back Goldcrest 51 Beer

Kenn Flemmons talks about the vintage Memphis beer he's bringing back to life.

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It's doubtful that anyone alive today knows as much about Goldcrest 51 beer as Little Rock resident Kenn Flemmons. The collector of Goldcrest paraphernalia and author of Goldcrest 51 Beer: Finest Beer You Ever Tasted even knows the beer's original recipe.

Beginning this week, Flemmons will introduce the historic Memphis beer back into the market. Using the original recipe, Flemmons is having it brewed at Blue Pants Brewery in Alabama, and it will be available for sale beginning this Thursday at the Tennessee Brewery Revival and Westy's in the Pinch.

Goldcrest 51 was brewed at the old Tennessee Brewery (the site of pop-up beer garden Revival every Thursday through Sunday until May 31st) until the facility closed in the 1950s. In its heyday, the lager was one of the most popular beers in the region.

"I think a lot of people understand that this is not just a beer. This is history. This is Memphis," Flemmons said.

Bianca Phillips

Kenn Flemmons
  • Kenn Flemmons

Flyer: How did you get the recipe?

Kenn Flemmons: I published a book in 2003 on the Tennessee Brewing Company called The Finest Beer You Ever Tasted. When we were doing the research, one of the challenges I had was to find people — still alive — who had anything to do with a brewery that had closed 50 years before. We were able to connect with a half-dozen or so and some spouses whose husbands had worked at the brewery. One of those was the person who had the recipe and had no idea she had it. Her husband had worked in the brew house.

And you own the patent now?

On a lark one day, I went online to look up Goldcrest 51 beer on the U.S. Patent Office website to see who owned the patent. No one did. It had gone back into the public domain. So I filed on it and spent a couple thousand dollars in legal fees, but I was able to get the name and all the logos that go with it. If you have the recipe and the name and all the old logos, then the question becomes, What do you do with it?

A couple years ago, I got a phone call from a local distributor, A.S. Barbaro, and they asked if I'd ever thought about bringing it back. They said they'd love to sell the beer for me. Through A.S. Barbaro's connections, we were able to make all the other pieces fall into place.

Did you plan the launch date to coincide with Revival?

I came over in January and met Billy [Orgel, who bought the brewery building last year]. I mentioned to him that we were working on this beer project and that I hoped we'd be done by June. He said, 'Is there any way to get it done sooner?'

The Untapped promotion [last year] drew 35,000 people through there. And there's no reason to think that same number won't come through this time [for Revival]. If we're going to reintroduce a Memphis brand, where better to do it than the building where it was made?

Will it be available in other bars?

We are delivering the first keg to Westy's, which is owned by Jake Schorr, whose family owned the brewery. When we first started talking about this, I knew we needed to make sure that Jake gets the first keg because that would mean the world to him. [As for other bars], that will be up to the distributor. There is limited quantity.

Do you plan to grow the business and get into bottling?

I have an 18-year-old son who is starting his first year of college, and he's enamored by the whole history of the place. He wants somewhere down the line to play a role in this. If it works and people buy the beer, then we have every reason to keep making the beer. Eventually, it will be sold in bottles or cans.

What does it taste like?

Goldcrest is a middle-of-the-road beer. It's more full-bodied than a lager you'd buy today. It's the kind of beer that is a gateway into the craft world. It's very different from the normal beers that one might think of, the mega-beers.

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