Boscos bests newbies 

It's 8:30 on Saturday morning, a time when most beer aficionados are at home nursing their hangovers, and Boscos brewmaster John Templet is mashing in. Though it will be hours before the stools come off the bar and customers appear to sample the fruit of his labors, Templet is starting work on a new 200-gallon batch of beer, emptying sacks of malted barley and gallons of warm water into one of two enormous copper kettles behind glass just off the restaurant's main dining room. Templet's brew smells suspiciously like burned coffee and chicken feed. But three weeks from now, after sugar and yeast have worked their magic in one of the 10-foot-tall stainless steel fermenters, the mixture will emerge from the Boscos taps as River Rail Red beer, a smooth, sweet nectar as scarlet as a Razorback fan's heart. Templet smiles a lot as he discusses the qualities of barley, of hops, of the 350 different species of yeast in the world, and the minor miracle they perform when you mix them all together. His infectious grin is understandable. A Louisiana State University alum who studied chemistry and microbiology before "falling into" a career as a brewer, Templet is a man in love. "You're talking to somebody who is in love with beer," he said. Templet's affair with the suds has paid off. Along with an upscale brewpub atmosphere and a long list of domestic and import beers, the eight brews cooked up in-house under his care have helped make Boscos a hit on the often-fickle Little Rock restaurant scene, and the Readers' Choice Best New Restaurant of 2003. Still, beer and good looks are not the whole story. Boscos' long menu runs the culinary gamut, from lowly oyster po-boys and burgers all the way up to delicacies like gorgonzola pear salad, braised chicken roulade, and black bean and goat cheese tamales. On top of that, Boscos offers seven gourmet-style pizzas, cooked in its 780-degree F. wood-fired pizza oven. At 780 degrees, the oven can cook up a perfect pie in less than 5 minutes, or burn it to a crisp in 7. "You have to be constantly spinning and working with it," said Randy Murray, a chef at Boscos. Along with the pizzas, Murray said the something-for-everyone blend of the offerings on the menu is one reason for the restaurant's success in Little Rock, an outgrowth of its original location in Memphis. "When we started out, we tried to be really diverse," Murray said. "The original restaurant in Memphis is in a pretty diverse neighborhood. There were lots of different interests, so we tried to meet everyone as well as we could." It adds up to what Times readers already know: Boscos is a great place for a brew or a bite. For John Templet, however, it's all about the beer. And we do mean ALL of it. "The first form of writing known to mankind was a little cuneiform tablet found in ancient Sumeria, and the actual writing on it was a beer recipe, over 10,000 years old," Templet said, grinning. "People have a debate as to whether civilization started because man wanted to grow crops of wheat for bread, or did they want to make beer?" He knows what he likes to do with the grains.

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