Blast Off! Beers In Memphis Have Gone High Gravity

Posted by Holly Whitfield | February 6th 2017 13500 0

Ed. Note: I’m happy to share this post from new ILM contributor Blake Marcum. (Watch out people, we have a true beer and BBQ expert in our midst.) You’ve probably been seeing some fresh faces on the I Love Memphis Blog. Be on the lookout for even more this month. – Holly

It’s 12 a.m. on January 1, 2017 and I’m at a New Year’s party, pouring a 9% IPA into a glass to toast a long-awaited change to Tennessee beer laws. After that moment, Memphis beer lovers like me had a lot more options at grocery stores, breweries, and bars, due to an increase in the ABV limit – from 6.3% to 10.1%.

It was already – without any doubt – a great time to drink beer in Memphis, and now it’s even better. Here’s why.

at the High Cotton taproom

Local breweries are about to go full throttle

Making beer at 6.2% ABV or lower is like making Kool-Aid without sugar.  Sugar is what makes both beer and Kool-Aid taste great, though, and our local breweries have done a fantastic job working under those limitations. Now that brewers have the freedom to increase the ABV (alcohol by volume), expect better-tasting beer from everybody.

Until the law changed Wiseacre (the only local brewery with a distiller’s license) was the only one to craft high gravity beers for public sale, Example: their 10.5% bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout, Astronaut Status. It’s a dark, rich, powerhouse of a beer that has the bourbon barrel flavor imparted perfectly into their Imperial stout in a perfect partnership. It’s guaranteed to turn your check liver light on.

Wiseacre may have an early lead on this market, but the other breweries are all coming on strong with new recipes of their own.

Here are my recommendations for new high-gravity releases.

1. Memphis Made’s Slumber Party Imperial Stout (9%)

This dark and delicious offering goes down smooth with some nice chocolate tones. It’s dark chocolate, though, so it has the character and taste without going too sweet. One of these after dinner could send you off to a blissful sleep.

Blake Marcum

2. High Cotton Double IPA (7.9%)

I knew this beer would be good from the awesome aroma; it’s sweet and hoppy character is very pronounced. This is no basic IPA. It is definitely a beer that everyone should enjoy.

Blake Marcum

3. Ghost River’s Sinful Sister Barleywine (9.5%)

I first tried this powerful copper-colored delight at the Science of Beer event.  It’s got some hops to it for sure, but they’re evened out by a good amount of malty sweetness.  It is very similar to a Double IPA in my experience.

Blake Marcum

4. Bosco’s Imperial Russian Stout (8.2%)

The aroma and rich flavors of the roasted malts in this pitch-black beer let you know you’re in for a good time.  It smoothly coats your entire mouth and leaves a wondrous lingering effect on your palate.  One of these and a pizza at the bar is my kind of happiness.

Blake Marcum

Where To Get It

You can of course try these new beers at their respective taprooms, but grocery stores can also now carry the high gravity beers.  I went to Cash Saver last week and was very impressed by the increased selection, especially in the variety pick-6 section.

menu board at the Cash Saver (Blake Marcum)

Even better, some of the higher gravity beers are priced as low as the low-grav craft beers.  I walked out of the store with a $10 six-pack that included a 10% Ommegang Adoration, a dark winter beer.  A six-pack of that goes for $12-16.99, so being able to just get one or two (and also try some other new beers) took away that hefty financial risk that comes with new craft beer purchases.

Now if you want buy beers with ABV over 10.1%, you’ve still got to head to Buster’s, Joe’s, or your favorite local liquor store.  Superlo, Kroger, Casual Pint, and Cash Saver are already stocking up on the rest.

Bottle/can beer selection at the Casual Pint on Highland (Blake Marcum)

One more thing: new beers are on the way!

Increased grocery and bar sales will bring new breweries.  For example, the law change was a big reason that Terrapin arrived in November.  That’s wonderful to me because their beer is wonderful.  We should expect to see more breweries open in Tennessee, especially in Memphis where we all know the water is the best because it has more…soul.

In my opinion, it’s going to be a very tasty year for Memphis beer.  Always remember, with greater power beer comes greater inebriation, so always be responsible, use your favorite ride-share app and have fun enjoying these great new beers.


About the Author
Blake Marcum was born and raised in the 901 and now lives in Midtown, helping people vicariously live out their dreams on social media, if those dreams involve beer and barbecue.  He’s a contributor to I Love Memphis, Memphis Travel, and  A Grand Champion of BBQ Fest (2013) and BBQ judge, he really knows BBQ. Pairing that with his love of craft beer, he’s a great representative of the fun side of the Bluff City.  Blake loves the investment going into Memphis and believes the best is yet to come. Follow him on Twitter at @blakeandbrew.

Author: Holly Whitfield

I write about what’s going on with Memphis music, food, arts, events, sports, people, and culture. Memphians love Elvis and barbeque with a passion that must be seen to be believed, but there is so much more to this place.

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  1. Red says:

    Excellent work Blake, thanks for sharing the info!

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