Suds & Sounds: Beale Street Brewing Co. Celebrates Memphis Music Through Craft Beer

In Suds & Sounds we turn the spotlight on breweries, focusing on the role of music in that brewery’s history, packaging, tastes, and in its city or town as a whole. The idea is to get beer and music lovers to connect with a side of the brewery that may often go overlooked, but one that we think is absolutely vital. To accomplish this, we are talking to the brewers themselves about their own love of music and the role it plays in how they approach their beer. And who knows, maybe we’ll even talk to a musicians from time to time to give a perspective from the other side.

Memphis, Tennessee ranks right alongside cities like New Orleans, New York and Chicago as among the greatest contributors to the rich legacy of American music. Blues, rock and roll, soul, jazz and hip-hop have all flowed from the city, resulting in some of the most iconic artists and labels stretching from Stax to Sun and everything in between. While drinking often goes hand in hand with live music, in Memphis that hasn’t always included craft beer. However, in recent years America’s craft beer explosion has been creeping into the “birthplace of rock and roll” with enthusiasm from beer lovers and music lovers a like.

Taking its name from the storied street that is home to numerous blues clubs and plenty of musical history, Beale Street Brewing Co. is one of the newest craft beer purveyors on the Memphis scene. Helmed by Kelvin Kolheim, who also brews, Beale Street Brewing is one of the best examples of why the Suds & Sounds column exists as it seemingly connects its beers with the Memphis music scene at every opportunity. Kolheim is as passionate about his home town and its music as he is about beer, brewing hazy IPAs, sours and more traditional styles with names and labels that reference artists like Al Green, Isaac Hayes and 8Ball & MJG. Since launching earlier this year, Beale Street has been announcing releases via social media while also distributing some of their beer to local stores. This strategy has worked well during these pandemic days when most tap rooms aren’t completely open for business, but Kolheim aims to open a brewing facility and tap room close to Beale Street’s namesake as soon as he can. We recently talked with Kolheim about how he came to brewing and creating beer that taps into the music of Memphis.

How long have you been brewing and what do you consider your greatest triumph so far as a craft brewer?

I’ve been home brewing for about 7 years now. Our greatest triumph thus far is getting some beer on the shelf earlier this year.

Talk about the beer culture a bit in your city. What do people look for in a good beer and what do you hope to provide, and also do you see the beer scene as being linked in any way to the music scene?

Memphis has an awesome young brewery scene. These guys are making great beer. The scene mimics the local culture for sure with music a chief driver.

A lot of breweries seem to incorporate their own musical tastes into their packaging and presentation, whether it be a collaboration with a band, a tribute label, or a beer name that references something they like. Has you brewery ever done something like this, and if so can you tell us about it?

Our musical taste is Memphis. We incorporate it in almost everything we do. Space Age Sippin’ was a collaboration with 8Ball & MJG. Memphis All-Day Errrday was a nod to Isaac Hayes. 528hz of Love & Hoppiness was a tribute to Al Green.

In your opinion, is there a particular band or genre that is ideal to listen to while brewing beer?

Brewing is like cooking for me. It depends on the vibe of what you’re brewing/cooking. Not too much music is excluded, I usually listen to soul music, jazz, blues, hip-hop, brass band, reggae.

Some breweries have gotten more into music through sponsoring tours, festivals, or even throwing their own versions of those. How do you think live music fits into the fabric of craft beer, and is this something your brewery has done?

Music is the rhythm of life. Craft beer fits perfectly as music is also a universal language.

When naming beers, do you consciously try and reference songs, bands or albums, or do you find you naturally gravitate towards it?

Absolutely, it’s a natural gravitational pull as we’re intentional in celebrating Memphis through the love of craft beer.

Do you have any musicians or noteworthy people that you can say are fans of any of your beers?

8Ball & MJG, Bun-B, along with some other Memphis artists. Fans of 8Ball & MJG are excited to see them collaborate with us.

8Ball & MJG sign cases of beer

Breweries often collaborate with other breweries for beers. They also have been known to collaborate with musicians. Is there a musician or band that you would love to collaborate with, and if so, what kind of beer do you envision you would brew?

We are planning to do more collabs for sure. Every artist we celebrate/collaborate with we were fans first, so each beer is special. We are definitely intentional when tailoring the liquid to the artists’ style.

What is the plan for Beale Street Brewing in the long-term? Is the goal to open a taproom on or near Beale Street?

One goal for Beale Street Brewing Co. is to find our own space for a production facility and taproom. Yes, that’s correct.

Visit bealestbrewing.com for more info. 

Check out other editions of Suds & Sounds:

NOLA BREWING

TRVE Brewing

Switchback Brewing Co. 

Real Ale Brewing Company

Burnside Brewing Co.

Sweetwater Brewing Company

Illuminated Brew Works

Tennessee Brew Works

Taos Mesa Brewing

The Lost Abbey

Shmaltz Brewing Company

Against the Grain

Melvin Brewing

Hanging Hills Brewing Company

On Tour Brewing

Hops & Grain

Sanctuary Brewing Company

Upright Brewing

4th Tap Brewing Co-op

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