It was a cruel joke on the part of Mother Nature. No, not the one where we accidently import the weapons-grade fauna from East Asia — twice. I mean the wheeze where we are blessed with a perfect week for Memphis in May Music Fest — comfortable, sunny but not hot — and have to cancel because it was just a hair too COVID-y. We'll try again in October.
Barbeque Fest has been moved to late September, but we aren't inviting Ghana back to dinner until spring of 2021. Live at the Garden has gone quiet for the duration, and there will be no rip-roaring "Hip Hips!" from Carnival. All we're left with is swarms of murder hornets. Swell.
The truth is, in spring and summer Memphis is a festival. Which is something I'd never really thought about until this year. Like naptime in kindergarten, you never know what you have until you've lost it. With the city opening up somewhat, can we recreate that Memphis festival vibe at home? Well, not really. The whole point of a righteous festival hootenanny is to leave home and pack yourself butt-to-flank in a sweating mob.
Unless you are pining for a second act of the COVID shuffle, don't do this.
You can, however, get the taste of a Memphis festival at home — with a local lager. If you are going to be a purist about it, you could head to the smallest room in the house with a space heater, invite everyone you're quarantined with to pack in, and drink enormous Natty Lights from those cheap paper cups and hope that you finish before the bottom drops out. Bring in a few thousand of your pet mosquitos and it'll be just like Tom Lee Park!
I wouldn't do this either, to be honest.
A better option is to mask-up and go get a curbside growler or a few cans of Memphis Sands, which is whipped up by Wiseacre. It's a German Helles style — and why not? The Germans invented wholesome day-drinking with light, effervescent, and low-alcohol beer. Back in the old country, this was considered a perfectly normal family-friendly activity. This is important these days if your carousing is limited to your own home. It's hard to shake the little blighters.
If you are going to day-drink — and are someone who still plans to be employed at the end of all this — Sands isn't a bad choice. Both the beer and that groovy Wiseacre artwork are inspired by our famous aquifers that supply the softest water in the country. (On a non-beer note, this soft water is why you'll get better results from dish and clothes washers if you use a lot less detergent.) I digress.
Sands is a light, crisp, and refreshing lager. Mostly it is beautifully simple: Pilsner malt, lager yeast, and that lovely Memphis water. It is low on bitterness and has an ABV of 5.1 percent. To be clear, all local beers are made with that lovely Memphis water, but Wiseacre has turned the can into something of an homage, so it's hard to miss.
Either way, it's the perfect, simple, summer style and is probably what you wish your festival beer tasted like when the wood smoke wafts through the crowd and fills your nose on a warm day surrounded by all the best pork in the world. I'm going to make my own by throwing meat from Charlie's on a grill from Bishop's Hearth and Home that'll smoke up the back yard while I sip a great hometown beer.
Get yours from wherever you want, but do make it local. If we keep our heads about us — despite bat soup and the murder hornets — we might just return to the place where day-drinking was for the weekends. And after breakfast.
Or at least it will for you, gentle reader. I do this for a living.