***Please note: We had direct permission from the owner to shoot here. This location is private property. Do not attempt to visit or access this site. I cannot provide any information regarding access or info of the owners. Thank you 🙂 ***
Perched on the Mississippi bluff with the trolley line at its front door the Tennessee brewery was at one point the largest brewery in the South. With more than 1500 workers producing more than 250,000 barrels per year, the Tennessee Brewery was a titan in the beer making industry. When prohibition hit, operations shut down, but resumed afterwards producing the best known leading beer in Memphis called “Goldcrest”. The building which was erected in 1890 is basically unchanged today. The brewery officially closed in 1954. The current owners (who gave us permission to shoot there) purchased it a few years before the 2008 market crash in order to keep it from being torn down. They are holding on it hoping that someone will make an offer to renovate or restore it as a mixed use building
Above Images from Wikipedia
The brewery has other claims to fame beyond beer. A few scenes from “Walk the Line” were actually filmed inside. Memphis Paranormal Investigations have investigated overnight about 12 times and claim it is one of the most haunted buildings in Tennessee. During our 8 hour daytime shoot however we never felt any unease or heard anything other than the trolley out front coming by every 20 minutes on its circuit. That being said… I’m not sure I would like to spend the night there.
What really struck me as we entered the building was the massive open center shaft of the building which was adorned with beautiful metal worked railings. The windows mostly covered up with a semi-opaque corrugated plastic offered warm pleasing light to the enter the spaces.
As we walked around and explored all the twists and turns and hidden rooms of the seven story building we quickly realized that nothing was left inside, just empty rooms with interesting architecture. This presented a challenge for me as a photographer because many of the images that I take have a ‘human element’ that helps draw the viewer and place them in the scene. Instead I tried to capture the magnitude of the building and the beautiful decaying architecture all around me. I hope you enjoy the imagery:
This is will be a wonderful shot in the arm for Memphis.
Jessica, do you have any photos of your 3X grandfather or grandmother. My wife has a silver chain purse that belonged to her. Best regards.
My name is Brian Manis and I am currently producing and directing a documentary on the Tennessee Brewery. I would love to discuss this with you. Please feel free to email me here. Your article from 1892 is very interesting to me as well as you depth of knowledge on E Jungenfeld & Co.
My great x3 grandfather was J.W. Schorr. For years I tried to get my grandmother to head back there with me to reclaim it and reopen it. Sad I can’t finally be the one to do it. Hopefully they will honor the history of it when they restore it.
Thank you for these beautiful photographs. I was almost arrested the last time I visited.
I thought you would like to see the latest news on the Brewery: http://www.bizjournals.com/memphis/print-edition/2014/10/10/apartments-on-tap-for-tennessee-brewery.html
There’s hope for it yet, thanks to the wonderful people who did the
Untapped series of events. : )
That is fantastic news! Thanks so much for sharing, things looked bleak for a while there…
Just heard that the building may be saved! If anyone is interested, here’s a link to the story: http://www.choose901.com/tn-brewery-contract-signed/
Hi Walter — If you or others you know would like a little architectural background on this brewery, please feel free to contact me. I can tell you that the brewery was designed by the St. Louis firm of E. Jungenfeld & Co.; I have an 1892 article published in the wake of the brewery’s completion Your photographs are so beautiful and so touching for their sense of abandoned beauty, especially given my own deep interest in the history of brewery architecture. Thank you for sharing. Susan Appel
Are they still letting people inside? I would love to get in a do a shoot. It would make for a gorgeous boudoir session… Who did you have to contact?
Hey Melissa, I don’t think they are letting people inside anymore. I’ll check with my contact and see though.
someone please buy me….. it wood be such a waste to see this building go down !!!!
Jayme Caspall, Would you or a member of your family still have the recipe for the Goldcrest 51? I am a homebrewer and would love to try my hand at it…if not me then the new microbrewery’s in town would kill for the opportunity. Yazoo brewery in Nashville just did something similar with “Gerst” from the old Nashville brewery. The family helped tweak the recipe and it is fantastic!
Daniel, Author Kenn Flemmons acquired the recipe to Goldcrest 51 and about 3-4 years ago, he worked with Vino’s Brewpub in Little Rock to reproduce the beer. They made a few batches and had some available at a beer tasting event in midtown. It was pretty good. You may want to get in contact with him to see if he has any specific rights to the beer.
I was part of an event last year that utilized the courtyard. I was so captivated by the exterior architecture of the Brewery and longed to see the interior. You have given me that chance. Thank you. It is stunning.
this is amazing….I’m from Kansas and old architecture is one of my favorite things….
Your photographs are stunningly effective. In your hands, every brick and stone-course becomes an elegy to an era that raised its cities to not only last, but wished to say something about their connection to ancient and still-viable traditions. I’m much indebted to your vision and skill.
Thank you very much Brett, you are far too kind!
Absolutely gorgeous! There’s plenty of folks with more money than sense, and maybe one will save this gem. While it may cost more than it would be “worth,” renovating it would provide jobs and also create a spectacular buzz for our city – “Grit & Glam” may be an appropriate theme, should the reno ever happen!
I hope you are right Jordan! Would love to see this place restored!
We used to sneak in there when we were in high school many moons ago. It was always at night, so we would go straight to the roof and hang out. Great view. Amazing place. I’ve always wanted to buy it and make it my house.
As a fellow photographer who is a born and raised Memphian, I am so jealous you got to go in there but I’m so glad someone did. These photos are beautiful, the lighting is wonderfully done and I sure hope we don’t lose this building.
Thank you for your kind words Kim! I really appreciate it.
I worked the Make-Up FX on two films that shot on this property. A very beautiful location!
That’s awesome Jim! I know part of Walk the Line was filmed there. Can you say which films you worked on?
SO beautiful! Thanks for sharing the photos. What a beautiful old building and sad that nothing was ever done with it.
The Tennessee Brewery has always been my favorite building in Memphis. Ever since I was in high school I dreamed of someone renovating it. I think it would make a truly spectacular hotel. Unfortunately, it is so far below code it would take someone with more money than sense. But wouldn’t it be such a treasure?? Thanks for the glimpse inside. Beautiful photos.
I have always had a fascination with old abandoned buildings and such. I happen to be one of those Route 66 “roadies” for example.
You have done a fabulous job here documenting this relic for us. I lived in Memphis for 11 years and was introduced to this building by friend who is into photography as well. The building always seemed a surreal place to me–elaborate and as ghostly as they come.
Looks like we need a Bloomberg-type billionaire to step up and preserve it for us. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Oh by the way, I’m from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, so yes I also dig there fact that it was a brewery!
This is incredible work. Thank you for giving me unparalleled access to two locations in my hometown that I have lusted after for years (the Marine Hospital and the Brewery). I have recently moved east from Memphis to Nashville and I am terribly homesick for the gritty flavor of Memphis that I grew up to adore. These pictures perfectly encapsulate the beauty and mystery of the Bluff City that I remember.
Thank you for your kind words Angela! So glad that you connected with the images. You have a nice large abandoned landmark in Nashville too. THe Tennessee State Prison 🙂 We sneaked around the place on a sunday but would of course need permission to get in fully. 🙂
My wife’s great grandfather August Rinn immigrated from Germany to escape Kaiser Wilhelm’s army. He was employed at Tennessee Brewing company for 50 years, serving as the brewmaster and head of the brewers union. HIs grandson-in-law (my wife’s father) worked on the bottling floor for a brief period, too. Goldcrest 51 is well known in our family even though the brand has been extinct for many decades. Our son, August Rinn Caspall is named in honor and memory of the brewmaster of the flagship brand Goldcrest 51.
Thank you so much for the history and your connection! I hope you enjoy the metal print that you purchased! Would love to see any historical images that you might have. Kindest Regards! – Walter Arnold