I recently had the privilege to visit Memphis, Tennessee. I had never been to Memphis, and my first stop in the city was the Ghost River Brewing Company. I was excited to see a city through its brewery.
Like most visitors, I did not know anything about the Ghost River, so the tour began with an explanation. There is no real river named Ghost River. Instead, it is a portion of the Wolf River, which weaves through the backcountry about 15 miles from downtown Memphis. The Wolf River passes through a large, “Southern-looking” swampy marsh with cypress trees and other native species. While the Wolf River still flows through the large area (over 2,000 acres), the current slows dramatically. Inexperienced paddlers bring their canoes into the marsh and get lost. This section of the Wolf River, where the current seems to disappear, is referred to as the Ghost River. The brewery shows an artistic topographic map of the Wolf River in East Memphis.
With the obvious question answered, here is some quick information about the company. At eleven years old, it is the oldest brewery in Memphis. With their interest in local waterways, it is no surprise that they take great pride in their water. Memphis water is a strong selling point for breweries because of the sand aquifer in the area beneath the city. The water is famously clean, and it is naturally free of common metals and compounds that occur in other watersheds.
In the above picture, you can see a lantern sitting on the shelf. The lantern is the Ghost River logo for a couple reasons: Firstly, the lantern is how people can navigate the Ghost River in their canoes, physically. Secondly, since they are the first brewing company in Memphis, they see their role in Memphis as the navigators of the craft brewing community.
My tour guide in the last week of March was very knowledgeable about the brewing and distribution processes of the company. Ghost River sells beer in eastern Arkansas, all of Tennessee, and down through Mississippi. As a St. Louis resident, you can guess where I’d like to see them expand next. The tour highlighted some of the challenges of small-batch brewing as well. Ghost River has noticed its own very minor differences in their beers when compared to previous batches of the same recipe. It reminds us all that these breweries are making their products by hand. There is no fancy automation system to replicate the same recipe with laboratory-like precision. Each beer is brewed carefully by the brewers with the goal of making an honest recipe for its fans. I’d rather drink a great homemade drink than a machine-made repeat any time.
And finally, this brewery does not take cash! It can be a problem if you’re not aware already. Bring a card and plan on getting through the line faster. I had never seen such strict adherence to a policy like this. I asked to break a $10 bill and they literally could not. It was cool to see, but it may make your day more challenging if you don’t plan ahead. Plan ahead!
This tour is outstanding. For $20, you get several (meaning four or five) half pours throughout the tour, and they will give you a full pint of anything you’d like after you’re done. It was a great way to visit the city, to experience the beer, and to learn more about the region. Ghost River does a great job with the tour. I attended the Grizzlies game that evening and I saw their beer for sale all over Beale Street and in a few restaurants near the stadium. Word is getting out fast, so the bar fills up fast!