Brothers Davin and Kellan Bartosch are opening up a brewery in the heart of Memphis’ Broad Avenue Arts District. Wiseacre Brewing Company, located at 2783 Broad, will feature a 13,000-square-foot brewery with a tap room and backyard patio when it opens later this year. The Memphis brothers talked to FuzzyBrew about their beer backgrounds and how Wiseacre will fit into the city’s emerging beer scene.
You both have been in the beer business for some time. How did you decide to open your own brewery, and why did you do so in Memphis?
Davin: This is an industry we’ve always loved but wanted to know it well from every angle before we got going. Getting great experience meant going away, as there weren’t enough great opportunities close by. Kellan lived in California for bit after college and later spent time out West with Sierra Nevada and both indoctrinated him in the West Coast beer scene. Chicago is one of the best beer cities in the country without question. There are a lot of top quality breweries/brewers in Chicago and perhaps no city better grasps the relationship with beer and food as Chicago. Nationally acclaimed restaurants like The Girl & the Goat and Frontera embrace craft beer with educated staff and food pairings while still remaining unpretentious about the whole subject. Chicago is really the epicenter of barrel aging beer too.
Kellan: This has been our dream for about a decade and we finally feel ready. It’s taken this long mostly because Davin has been obsessed with becoming the best brewer he could possibly be. His education from Siebel (Chicago) and Doeman’s (Munich) is literally the best you can get from microbiology to fluid dynamics, but his experience as a professional brewer gave him creative control and technical experience on thousands of recipes with feedback from the masses. He was able to make some mistakes and manage minutia with input from his brewer peers on the path he’s taken leading us back to Memphis. Davin’s friendships with brewers Pete Crowley (Haymarket), Tim Marshall (Solemn Oath), Jared Rouben (former Goose Island Clybourn), John Laffler (Goose Island’s former director of barrel aging), Wil Turner of Revolution and many more, is an essential part of his experience in becoming a great beer designer and brewer. We chose Memphis because we love it here and want to be a part of making this city a better place. Having a good beer scene is an important piece of a city’s culture these days and we’re thrilled to be a part of the excitement folks have about beer here.
Kellan: Oh, man, we’re pumped about being on Broad. There is a ton happening on Broad these days and the location is easily accessible for people from all over the city. The street itself already hosts art-walks and is capable of some other festival opportunities. Pat Brown and David Wayne Brown along with the Broad Business Association have been proactive creating a scene there. We’ll have some great neighbors in restaurants and bars, art galleries, a bakery, a bike shop and more. The Loebs have a good vision for Broad and there are developments that could bring about more great change. The Greenline will run right through and that’ll add more foot traffic. We went out on Friday for my birthday to Broadway Pizza, The Cove and Jack McGoo’s and had a great time. I’m pretty sure I’ll eat lunch at 3 Angels a few times a week for a long time.
In addition to Broad, we’re excited about being a part of Binghampton. That neighborhood is such a success story for Memphis the way people and organizations have served. The Binghampton Development Corporation, SOS, Community Lift and more are playing essential roles in transforming the culture of Binghampton. We want to follow their lead and play a part in Binghampton, too.
What’s the story behind the name Wiseacre?
Davin: Both of our grandmothers used the term and my dad’s mom, in particular, called us that a lot growing up. It’s a synonym for a smart aleck and it’s just a fun word to say. Over the years we’d throw out different names but none of them seemed to fit what we were going for, which was funny and irreverent but also had a throw-back kind of vibe. But a good friend suggested it a few years back, and the more we stewed on it the more it seemed to fit. We’ll be all about Memphis the way we function and thought a name like this made more sense for us. After all, what do brewery names like Dogfish Head or Terrapin or Jester King have to do with anything anyway?
What are the first beers that Wiseacre will be brewing?
Davin: We’re going to have some fun revealing beers in due time. For now we’re on a mission to say that we love all styles of beer – and we truly mean that. The more you talk to people about beer the more it seems some people are comfortable sticking with their light beer of choice and others only want extremes. For the first group I’d say variety is the spice of life! You wouldn’t eat chicken tenders for dinner every night, so why would you drink the same beer over and over? Many beers are an acquired taste, but the more you experiment the more you’ll find something you like in coffee-ish stouts or a phenolic Belgian Tripel. For people who only seem to respect mega-hoppy, aggressive styles the logic goes the other way – you wouldn’t eat spicy Thai every night or something rich like steak. Sometimes simple pleasures like a great burger or pizza can’t be beat the same way a great pilsner or hefeweizen can hit the spot.
Kellan: Versatility makes beer fun as some beers are suited for the summer heat while others have a sophistication more suited for Restaurant Iris. Some are made to drink a few of them while others should be split like a bottle of wine. In every style there are good and bad examples – just because a beer is an IPA doesn’t mean it’s good! We’ll deliver examples of classic styles as centuries have shaped desirable characteristics there. Davin’s food science mind and technical mastery will lead us to some really adventurous places, too. He’s received acclaim for a coffee milk stout, a Belgian IPA, and won a gold medal at the Festival of Wood & Barrel Aged Beer for a bourbon barrel-aged barleywine to name a few, and beers like that are sure to make appearances.
Two other breweries — High Cotton and Memphis Made — are opening up in Memphis this year. Is the Memphis beer scene ready for all these new microbreweries? And what do you think will make Wiseacre stand out?
Davin: Yes! Much has been done in town before we got here, and we stand on the shoulders of those people. Sierra Nevada and others really started creating this market nationally 30 years ago. Boscos has been around since ’92 as a brewpub. Yazoo started in Nashville in 2003. Ghost River started here in 2008. Places like the (Young Avenue) Deli have been serving up craft beer for years. So people here drink a lot of craft beer in town. As people travel, they see beer scenes elsewhere, and they want to see that here in Memphis. In Chicago, for example, there is a huge craft beer scene, but the breweries aren’t competitive – they’re collaborative. The more exposure people get to craft beer, in general, the more people are choosing craft beer over the same ol’ thing. That’s a win for all craft breweries, and that’s what we’re hoping to create in Memphis. We plan on delivering world-class beers and give Memphians something else they can really be proud of. We’re all taking a trust fall of sorts that people and places will respond and support creating our culture here with more good beer venues and events popping up.
Kellan: When it comes to craft beer, there’s some room here in Memphis. At Wiseacre we’ll really be focusing on creating truly unique brews that people are going to love. Davin is kind of “mad scientist” with brewing and I think that’s going to keep it really fun and exciting for Wiseacre fans because they’ll never know what they’re gonna get with his new brews, but they’ll know they’re going to be amazing. Really, we’re just a couple of hometown dudes who love Memphis and love having a good time here, and we want everyone else to have that same experience. So the brewery itself and the tasting room are going to be really inclusive and welcoming and laid-back. We’re not beer snobs. We couldn’t be more serious about beer and about making an insanely good product and our experience was about just that, but we’re not trying to take ourselves too seriously. It’s beer, people, not brain surgery. Let’s learn about it and appreciate it and ultimately have fun with it.