Memphis Taproom is open.
We've all been waiting for this, some longer than others. Brendan "Spanky" Hartranft and Leigh Maida, business and life partners (and sappy as that sounds, they make it work), opened the booger tonight. Was it early, was it late? "Brother, it was about as late as it could get," said Brendan. "I never worked so hard without getting paid!" Leigh laughed, really happy to see the door open.
I'll be honest: I think it was the first time I've ever been on Cumberland St., although I've crossed it plenty of times, it's not far from Yards -- er, I mean, Philadelphia Brewing. Both breweries were represented on the taps, by the way: Kenzinger and Philly Pale. O'Reilly's Stout was on, too, Sprecher Black Bavarian, Nodding Head Melvin (Melvin? I asked Curt Decker. "Yeah," said Curt with his constant wry grin, "one more in a series of one-offs." It was a pretty nice hoppy ale, one -- like most Nodding Head beers -- I'd be happy to drink all night), Popperinge Hommelbier, Ace Pear cider, Rogue Buckwheat, Monk's Sour, and one more I just can't remember. Curt told me the beer engine had just come in today, so that will be added soon.
We sampled some hush puppies, some french fries, but I wasn't really there to eat. I was there to catch the vibe, and it was live. Brendan's parents were there, Bill and Sheila, and just proud as could be. Everyone was happy to see the place open; as I said, some of us have been waiting for this a long time.
Brendan's about 30; I met him 12 years ago, when he was a waiter at the Blue Ox, and he was a hustler then, moving, learning, asking, offering, making the table happen. He found out I was a beer writer, and he asked me questions all night. I like to say I knew he was going places, and the truth is, I did. I followed his progress through various Philly bars -- he stayed in touch and made that easy -- and he reached that point at Nodding Head where there was only one place he could go: out on his own.
He's there, and in a perfect position for Spanky: Fort Apache. The neighborhood -- "Port Fishington," at the intersection of Fishtown, Port Richmond, and Kenzington -- is actually nice: small, neatly kept rowhomes, clean streets, families on the sidewalks (free parking, as I pointed out to Curt Decker). But it's Fort Apache for beer: he's an outpost, like the Grey Lodge has been for years. There's nothing else around (not quite correct: see the comment from Mr. Thursday, and a tip of the hat to him for it), and he's going to have to get local trade to survive. I don't think that's going to be a problem. Spanky will make it happen, and before they know it, Port Fishington residents are going to be drinking Kenzinger, and O'Reilly's, and Ace Pear, and not even blinking an eye (prices aren't bad for Philly, either: $4 for a pint of good craft beer).
He's got plenty of backup: note the crew on the corner (that's Jimmy Wiggins, craft beer guy from Origlio Beverage, Tom and Fergie of Monk's Cafe along with chef Adam Glickman, and the aforementioned Curt Decker, all taking a break from the hustle and flow inside). But this is going to be Brendan and Leigh, making things work. The place is a beautiful corner bar, the kind of place that makes me kick myself for settling in the suburbs. The menu looks great, the beer will be excellent, and the service will be top-notch, I promise. Get on down, brother (you too, sister), and you won't be disappointed.