Davin and Kellan Bartosch
Owners, Wiseacre Brewing Company
photography by Larry Kuzniewski
Staying true to their Memphis roots, the Bartosch brothers followed their decade-long passion for opening a brewery a few months ago when Wiseacre Brewing Co. opened its doors on Broad Avenue, complete with its very own “grindhouse.” While Davin and Kellan’s quest for the perfect beer took them all over the U.S. (and overseas — can you say Oktoberfest?), earning each numerous accolades along the way, they found they were pulled back to their hometown to try their hand at brewing beer.
The caliber of water in the Bluff City was definitely a draw, but mostly these two just enjoy working together and creating great beer. “This work is kind of my dream,” Davin Bartosch says. “Just being in a brewery. Even if this turned into some enormous company, my head would still be right there [in the factory]. I’ll never get my head out of building recipes and conditioning beer and what the best way is to make a beer do what you want it to do. It’s my love.”
Kellan Bartosch says, “I like to work with my brother. We have fun most of the time. We work pretty hard, but to work together 12 to 14 hours a day and still laugh a lot and get along is pretty rare.”
As far as who handles what for the business, they have a system that works perfectly for them. “We have pretty different personalities,” says Kellan. “Davin’s whole life he’s been really, really good at things he can do by himself — like origami, chess, racquetball. When he can be alone he’s so thorough and detailed and has perfected things his whole life. It totally makes sense that he’s an incredible brewer, and that he can kind of zone out and be at his best.”
Davin continues, “Kellan and I defer to each other on behalf of everything that’s important to the business. Most everything that has to do with making beer, Kellan’s like, ‘Whatever, you know best.’ And whatever has to do with the business side is what he’s good at.” With Wiseacre now sold in more than 20 bars and restaurants as well as a handful of grocery stores after only a few months, their business model is clearly hopping.
Keg Wall Art:
“That’s the solitary piece of art Kellan and I did personally, and that took forever,” says Davin. “We cut all the kegs up with an angle grinder. Actually, we burned out three grinders in the process.”
Room (artwork by Rachel Briggs): “Gemütlichkeit is my favorite German word,” says Davin. “It means ‘a situation that induces a cheerful mood or peace of mind, with connotation of belonging and social acceptance, coziness and unhurry (usually accompanied by beer).’ We tend to not have big, zeitgeist kind of words in English which attempt to define the feelings of a group or an overarching mood. Our language is way more individualistic. I learned the term when singing ‘Ein Prosit’ while studying brewing in Germany … and of course while drinking a few beers.”
“The art for the beers is incredible,” says Kellan. “The artist, Rachel Briggs, is another White Station High School person like us, and the logo was always meant to be a smaller part, and each beer has art of its own. Briggs is out-of-this world good; it’s all hand illustration. She did the mural behind the bar [#2], the taps on the wall, and the other piece of art.”
“This is where we grind grain in the mill, the first step in the brewing process,” Kellan says. “You mash up the grain in the mill because you want to break it open a little bit. The second step is where you ‘mash in’ and extract the sugars and everything good out of the grain, but you have to crush it so it opens up first.”
“There’s a hot side and a cold side [to a brewery], and, honestly if you go more in-depth than that it doesn’t make sense [to most people],” Davin says. “What a condescending thing to say,” Kellan jokes. Davin replies, “Would you like to tell them about f-stops, because he [Larry Kuzniewski, the photographer] is the only one who’ll understand,” says Davin. There you have it: in simplest terms, you need a hot side and a cold side to brew great beer.
Kellan says, “Some is in bourbon barrels and some in port barrels. Usually it takes about six months, but the beer will take on characteristics of the spirit that was in it before and also some of the wood. Davin was a brewer in Chicago, and that’s where barrel-aging got started. Chicago actually has a Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer, which Davin has won a gold medal at already.”