Twice a year, beer lovers pack the Memphis Zoo, tiny cups in hand, to support the zoo while sampling beers from around the world.
Zoo Brew is the Memphis Zoo’s semi-annual beer tasting fundraiser. Attendees pay $30 – $35 to sample as many beers as they’d like. Once they’re inside, they get a tiny two-ounce cup and a beer guide map.
Don’t let the tiny cup fool you – it’s entirely possible to get a little bit (or a lot) tipsy at Zoo Brew. If you’re planning to go, I recommend walking (if you live close enough) or having a friend drop you off and a cab pick you up. Even if you’re sipping, it’s easy to drink a little bit fast when the tasting booths are so close together.
The coolest thing about Zoo Brew is that it gives Memphians a chance to try a huge variety high-end craft beers that aren’t sold in Memphis. At Friday night’s Zoo Brew, more than 40 beer vendors served samples of more than 100 different brews.
My favorites were a Steenbrugge (Belgian), Delirium Nocturnum (Delirium Tremens darker cousin) and the Butte Creek Pilsner. The strangest beer that I tried was a Japanese rice beer called Hitachino Sweet Stout that kind of tasted like A1 Steak Sauce.
The beer vendors were spread out through out the Zoo, which helped control traffic. Even though there are a finite number of tickets available, the event is hugely popular and thus, pretty crowded. If you want to avoid lines, I recommend taking a backwards strategy and starting with the beers that are the furthest away from the main entrance.
None of the zoo’s animals are out during the event, which, though disappointing at first, made total sense as the night went on. There’s plenty to see, though. On Friday night, there were live bands scattered throughout the zoo, there was a dance floor with a DJ and the Grizzlies had brought a photo booth, games and the Grizz Girls.
The next Zoo Brew will happen in the spring of 2012 (most likely in May). Keep an eye on the Memphis Zoo website to find out when tickets go on sale – you’ll want to get them early. Because Zoo Brew is a drinking event, you must be 21 years old or older to attend.