5 Star Stories: Brothers take over beer industry in the Bluff City

Wiseacre: Beer, business and brotherhood

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - One Memphis brewery is taking the lead in Memphis’ craft beer rebirth -- we are in the midst of a Bluff City beer boom.

We’re introducing you to one set of brothers, sharing their taste of Memphis, beyond Tennessee’s borders.

“Ultimately we’re both responding to the higher authority of brotherhood rather than the business," said Wiseacre Brewery co-founder Davin Bartosch.

Brothers Kellan and Davin Bartosch have created a big business from their brotherhood. The founders of the Broad Avenue Brewery Wiesacre have turned their brand into Tennessee’s largest craft beer producer.

“We’ve been best friends really our whole life," said Kellan.

Kellan is a cicerone: Certified in beer knowledge and tasting. He handles the business side of things. Big brother Davin is the master brewer.

“Our grandmother used to call us WiseAcres when we were being little smart-aleck kids," said Davin.

The Bartosch wit -- part of what makes Wiseacre one of the south’s most popular craft breweries in seven states.

The journey began as Davin’s hobby.

“I started homebrewing when I was in college. Part of it’s because I’m cheap and part of it’s because it was a neat way to be like a scientist without people calling you dork," said Davin.

Then, Kellan convinced Davin to turn his passion into a business.

“We had lunch at Soul Fish, shook hands, “Let’s do this, let’s start a business," said Kellan. "And so dad was there to kind of moderate. We went our separate ways. Davin went to brewing school in Chicago and Germany. Came back, brewed beer in Chicago for about six years.”

“I worked for a beer distributor and I was taking night classes in business in Nashville. Then, I got a job with Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. Moved out west to work for them and then we came back to Memphis in 2012," said Kellan.

5 Star Stories: History of the craft brewery craze in Memphis

A full decade from inception to the 2013 groundbreaking.

“Went to Memphis City Schools. We’re really proud of that," said Kellan. “We wanted to come back to Memphis. We’ve always loved being from here. We’ve always been really proud of it and almost kind of bang our chest about it when we meet someone who’s not from here and you’re bragging about your city and so it was really fun to come back and have people so excited we were open.”

And the White Station High grads were an immediate hit producing the No. 4 craft pilsner in the country.

“The first year we were open, Tiny Bomb won a bronze medal at The Great American Beer Festival, which is the most important beer competition in our country, but he had been making Tiny Bomb for six years," said Kellan.

There were plenty of hiccups along the way.

“I was on the packaging line. Someone was on the tank,” said Davin."It was a six-inch port and it shot a laser of beer into the ceiling."

“I was on the ground trying to pull cans off the line, Lucille Ball-type stuff,” chimed Kellan.

“I even screamed, ‘She’s gonna blow!’" said Davin.

Fast forward to 2020. The brothers are looking at expansion as part of a handful of craft brewers taking Memphis back to her roots.

“We outgrew this building in about three years. That was really fast. We were the eighth fastest growing brewers in the country at one point, but then we couldn’t add any more tanks," said Kellan.

And while the popular malt beverage dominates the Bartosch brothers’ lives, they say it’s always been brothers over beers.

“We can argue with each other and get over it immediately...And more than that I think that there’s just a trust," said Kellan.

Wiseacre will keep its Broad Avenue location and open a 40,000-square-foot primary production facility with a 5,000-square-foot taproom this summer on South B.B. King Boulevard.

Do you have a 5 Star Story to share? Email me at 5starstories@wmctv.com and tell me all about it.

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