A Pleasure to Give Asheville’s MALT #Homebrew Club a #KnoxBeer Tour @Reinkster @SawWorksBrewing @Suttrees @SmokyMtnBrewery

July 29, 2013

A while back my friend and legendary Asheville homebrewer, Adam Reinke, approached me about guiding a tour of Ashevillians through the Knoxville Beer Scene. I didn’t have to think twice about it. Over the last couple of months, we coordinated our plans and set the itinerary.  The trip was put together by Asheville’s homebrew club, MALT (Mountain Ale and Lager Tasters) . They chartered a bus to bring them over the mountains and back.

Adam Reinke (in Green), his wife Missy and some Asheville friends

Adam Reinke (in Green), his wife Missy and some Asheville friends

Everyone knows that Knoxville has just a fraction of the breweries and craft beer bars that Asheville does.  At the time we originally planned, Knoxville only had 3 operating breweries. Black Horse Pub had not yet opened, so was not included on the tour. The bus arrived at Saw Works Brewing Company at 10:30 am. Co-owner Jonathon Borsodi and head brewer Dave Ohmer had graciously agreed to open early to accommodate the group. Everyone settled in for flights and samples of beer before going behind the scenes where Dave talked about brewing for Saw Works and answered questions. (click on pictures below to enlarge).

After we were done at Saw Works, we headed over to Gay Street to check out Downtown Grill and Brewery, home of Woodruff Brewing Company.  This place has long been my home away from home. Whenever I have friends visiting from outside the area, I always bring them here. The IPA has been a go to of mine, and years ago this was the only spot to get decent craft beer in all of downtown. There we ate lunch, sampled beer and spoke with assistant brewer, Tommy. (Once again, click on the pictures below to enlarge)

After everyone finished up at Downtown Grill and Brewery, we walked across the street to Knoxville’s best Craft Beer Bar, Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern. When planning this trip, I definitely wanted to show off where us Knoxvillians go for the best draft selection. Sure other places might have more taps, but when it comes to the rarities, Ol’ Sut’s is usually the only place that has them. The group walked in and settled up to the bar. A few people went next store for bottling shopping at Downtown Wine and Spirits. Matt, Stanton and Anne were bartending that day and were happy to pour samples and talk about the selection. We sat around drinking, talking beer, making dirty jokes and coming up with hilarious yet inappropriate names for cider. When we gave everyone the 15 minute warning to get back on the bus, Stanton graciously grabbed a bottle of Rivertown Lambic out of the cooler and poured a sample for everyone. it was very much appreciated.

Before heading to the bus, I took a few of the group over to The Casual Pint on Union Avenue for some last minute bottle shopping. I bought a few selections myself before getting back on board. The Next stop was Smoky Mountain Brewery in Turkey Creek.

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This was the last stop of the days tour. They knew we were coming and had an area all ready for us. We sat down and ordered food and beer while waiting for Brewmaster Marty Velas to arrive and guide us through. I tried several of their beers that I haven’t had before and found them all to be top notch. Marty arrived and we split the group in half to take turns touring the brew house. Marty very graciously poured beer for the guest and talked about the brewing process and the history of Smoky Mountain Brewery.

Well like all good things, the tour came to an end. Much beer was consumed and many people picked up beer they were unable to get back home. We loaded back into the bus and headed back on the interstate. The bus dropped me off back town and I said my goodbyes. It was a great time and I really appreciate all the beer and food bought for me by the group. I made some new friends and look forward to meeting them for beers in Asheville next time I visit. Anytime anyone wants to come visit Knoxville, I will be more than happy to show you around. Maybe I should actually Start a Knoxville Beer Tour. Then again, how’d would I find the time?

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Enjoy the video from the day below. It’s really bad quality because I used a stupid app to do it. When I was recording I had no idea it was doing a split screen or weird color thing. I should have just recorded with the regular camera app, but I’ll know better for next time.

I also want to let everyone know that on Thursday I will be on WBIR’s Live at 5 at 4 talking about craft beer and beercations. This is August 1st which is also IPA Day. I am hoping someone will record the video for me so I can post it here.

Until next time, drink one for me.

-Ratchet


Live from @KnoxBrewFest, The Last Official Event of @KnoxBeer Week #KCBW

June 29, 2013

Hey y’all, Live posting for 2013 Knox Brew Fest here that Southern Railway Terminal. Going to post until my iPhone battery dies. I’ll be too busy to write, so the plan is to upload as many picture and videos as possible. I really want to focus on the attendees, so come by the Ratchet Brews booth and get your picture taken. Come back and see yourself on here.

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Myself, Todd and Richard at our booth

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Myself, Todd and Richard at our booth

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Hops

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The booth right after we set up

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Glassware for sale

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Shirts for sale

Gates are open for VIP. 4 pm for general admission. Come on by!

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Khaleesie and Todd

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The guys at the UBC booth were frying up bacon.

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Todd pouring that good ol’ Ratchet Brews

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Shirts

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Highland

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The infamous Aaron Russell.

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So glad to see wicked Weed here!

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Hoppyum? Yes please!

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My British friends

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AllianceBrewingCo.com

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Adam Ingle of Alliance Brewery. I can’t wait for these guys to get up and running.

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Alliance cask ESB is delicious!

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Thanks for the support!

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Neil from Yazoo

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Jason Smith of Knox Beer Crew @NGD69

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Old Style!

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Katie, myself and my buddy David Chisholm. My beer was his 500th Untappd Check in. So honored!

Katie, myself and my buddy David Chisholm. My beer was his 500th Untappd Check in. So honored!

Congrats to David Chisholm on earning his Untappd Legendary Badge by drinking my Apricot Honey Lager!

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Gingers unite!

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Every time you purchase a Ratchet Brews shirt, a brewer gets his… Mash paddle?

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Local social media guru, Kelly Absner

I met many of my blog and twitter followers in real life for the first time. I want to give a shout out to Jonathan Harris (@DrSkwurl), Landon Moore (@LanDub17) and everyone who stopped by the booth to say hi. Thanks everyone for the support, the encouraging words, the feedback and for purchasing merchandise. If we met, you tried our beer or your picture is on here, please leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you!

Once again this year I ended the festival in decent shape. I just didn’t have time too drink much, being that I was so incredibly busy. I’d like to thank Richard, Todd and Katie for all their hard work and help with everything. After we packed up, we headed to Downtown Grill and Brewery for dinner. Our friends Aaron and Stephanie Carson from Kingsport Oktoberfest and Thirsty Orange joined us. We wanted to hang out longer, but it was a really long day and we were exhausted.

So that’s it for now. I still have some other post that I’m working on and hope to publish soon. Until then, check out the new twitter account @KnoxWaterWeek. I mean, after all, you need water to make beer. Since we had a whole Knoxville Craft Beer Week full of drinking, it’s time to give that liver a rest.

Cheers y’all,

Ratchet


It’s Been a Success! Knoxville Craft Beer Week, only 2 days left.

June 28, 2013

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Every day of this week has been a beer version of choose your own adventure. With so many great events each night, and only 1 of me, it was hard to pick what to attend. I started off #KCBW in what I consider “My neighborhood”, Downtown. Both Suttree’s and The Casual Pint had special cask to kick things off. The Casual Pint took it 1 step further and had Union Avenue closed down for a block party featuring bands playing and vittles from the Hoof Food truck. I visited Suttree’s first where I enjoyed a beer with a few friends before heading over to The Casual Pint. I didn’t stay out for very long. I actually went to bed super early so I could get up super early the next day.

One of the tap list boards at Suttree's

One of the tap list boards at Suttree’s

Sunday was brewday. I was up at 4:30 to prepare. The plan was to brew a batch of wheat beer and be completely finished with clean up and everything in time for the Knox Beer Crew meeting at Sunspot. Thanks to help from my good friends and assistant brewers, Todd and Richard, we did just that. My buddy Dalton, who has been missing in action showed up and lent a hand for awhile.  Friends Joy and Willie stopped by to lend support as well. We finished brewing in record time, and I was able to take a short 45 minute nap before heading out to Sunspot for our monthly tasting.

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The Knox Beer Crew Monthly tasting was an official Knoxville Craft Beer Week event, so we wanted to make sure it was done right. The usual suspects we there and we did it up bigtime. We met on the upstairs patio of Sunspot’s new location. A couple of us brought pop-up canopies to shade us from the hot summer sun. At this tasting we also did a swap meet, where some of us brought shirts, stickers, bottles and glassware to trade. I got a few things I have been wanting to try for awhile. I also got a couple of rarities. We had a few new members join us, and we had a great time. Everyone brought their A game to this tasting, by busting our rarities from the cellar and hard to find beers from all over. My buddy Jason Smith had just returned from a beercation in Vermont and brought my favorite DIPA, Heady Topper to share. Richard Groves brought a bottle of Rogue’s Voodoo Donut Chocolate Banana Peanut butter beer. I can’t even stand the smell of the last beer in this series, the Maple Bacon beer. The new one was only slightly better, but many people passed and those who did only took a tiny sip. There ended up being a 3/4th full bottle sitting there, getting warm. The next thing I know, I was being dared to chug it for a can of Heady Topper. I love Heady, but that was too much. I negotiated for 2 cans of Heady in exchange for this stunt. Jason Smith agreed, and the next thing I know I’m holding my breath and downing this nasty concoction straight from the big pink bottle. I did it and here are the videos proving it. Thanks to Matt Crowell and Animal for providing these.

The tasting ended and I packed up and got some water to go and hit the nearby greenway to walk a few miles, sweat and sober up before I drove home.

Knoxville Craft Beer Week Calendar

Knoxville Craft Beer Week Calendar

Monday was something we all looked forward to. The much sought after Foothills Sexual Chocolate and several other rare Foothills high gravity beers made their debut at Sunspot.

Foothills High Gravity Tap Takeover at Sunspot.

Foothills High Gravity Tap Takeover at Sunspot.

The local distributer had to move heaven and earth for the permits to go through in time to make this event happen. I headed there after work and met with more of the Knox Beer Crew. I love Sexual Chocolate and have had many opportunities to drink it. That is why my 1st beer was the Gruffmeister Maibock. While I was hanging out with my friends, I got a call from Cara at The Casual Pint. They were having an infusion night at the downtown location, and were having a hard time getting everything set up. They needed my help. I finished my beer, said my goodbyes and headed downtown.

Sexual Chocolate, Foothill's highly sought after seasonal.

Sexual Chocolate, Foothill’s highly sought after seasonal.

I arrived at The Casual Pint where they were having an infusion night with a new brand in town, Blue Pants Brewery. They were still struggling with getting the Dogfish Head style infuser working. After tinkering with it and bumping up the gas pressure significantly, I was able to get it flowing. The beer being infused was the Spare Pair Pale Ale  with Simcoe hops. I sat and talked with Blue Pants TN sales rep, Kimmie. She told me about the brewery and their line up. I look forward to trying more beers from them. I left The Casual Pint and headed over to Suttree’s. It was the Monday night, and Sut’s has started to do a bluegrass jam every Monday. This was also bartender Stanton’s birthday party, and there was a free keg of Dark Horse Brewing Company’s Thirsty Trout Porter. I had a drink and said happy birthday to Stanton, and hung out a little bit before calling it a night.

Tuesday there was a few things going on, but a friend of mine so graciously traded me a ticket to Dave Chappelle’s show at the Tennessee Theater. I just had a quick drink at Suttree’s before heading over to the show. Dave is a comic genius and the funniest person of this generation, but his show was marred by hecklers and other dumbasses who didn’t know how to behave. It was so bad, that many news outlets reported on it the next day. See Knoxville, this is why we can’t have nice things. Heed the signs next time, dumbasses.

Signs posted all over the TN theater. Too bad they were ignored.

Signs posted all over the TN theater. Too bad they were ignored.

Wednesday after work I headed over to The Casual Pint’s Bearden location for Highland Brewery’s bingo night. Highland founder Oscar Wong was there along with my friend and sales rep, Kitty. I sat and sipped on a dry hopped, cask conditioned Gaelic Ale. The place was packed and they ran out of bingo cards. Luckily I got one and played several rounds. It was fun, even though I didn’t win.

Bingo Night at The Casual Pint. Kitty from Highland and Nathan, owner of TCP

Bingo Night at The Casual Pint. Kitty from Highland and Nathan, owner of TCP

Thursday after work I went on a bike ride with my son downtown. We road around and stopped in really quick for some ice water at Suttree’s. Next door at Downtown Wine and Spirits, there was a free Victory and Southern Tier tasting. I tried several things while talking with several of my beer scene friends. We didn’t stay long. We rode around some more and ended up joining the patriotic bike parade through downtown. Afterwards I dropped him back off at his house. I left there and headed straight to Sunspot for barrel night. Many of my Brew Mob and Knox Beer Crew friends were there as well. There was more rare and tasty beers on tap upstairs. I tried several that I have been wanting for awhile. Here’s a Brew Mob video from last night.

A video of Don from Knox Beer Snobs from last night.

Tonight I’ll be infusing New Belgium’s Heavenly Feijoa with fruit at Suttree’s. This starts at 6, and I’m hoping to see you out. If I have time, I might stop by BBM later in the evening to see a few brewery friends.

Tomorrow is Knox Brew Fest at The Southern Railway Terminal. I will have a booth and be pouring my Chocolate Covered Strawberry Stout, Apricot Honey Lager, Maibock, Rauchbier and an IPA infused with hops. I will also have merchandise for sale, so bring extra money. I am looking forward to seeing everyone. I will be live picture and video blogging all day at the event, so come by the booth and you might end up on this blog.

This is all for now, I hope you are having a great week.

Cheers,

Ratchet 


New post coming soon, until then read this by @KnoxBeerSnobs:

June 17, 2013

Knoxville Craft Beer Week as written by the Knox Beer Snobs. 

Also if you are not a member of the Knox Beer Crew, this is a good time to come join us and see what we are all about. Here is a copy of the email announcing our next tasting.

Hello Everyone.  Hope you are all doing well & getting excited about Knoxville Beer Week! We are looking forward to our June tasting and just wanted to send out the final details regarding the event. 

This event will take place on Sunday, June 23rd, starting at 3pm at Sunspot’s new location, 2200 Cumberland Avenue. We are going to meet on the upstairs patio. This is a non-style specific tasting, so bring what you will.
Since this is taking place during KNOXVILLE CRAFT BEER WEEK, and is listed as an OFFICIAL EVENT, we want to make sure to do it up right! Please spread the word and invite your friends. However, we want to make sure everyone knows what the KNOX BEER CREW is all about. We are Knoxville’s premier group of craft beer lovers. We search high and low to find and share unique beers and our monthly tastings. Attendees are expected to bring beer to share. It is HIGHLY encouraged that you try to bring something that is not available here in Knoxville at our local stores so that everyone can experience something new. We are encouraging people to let their friends know about this and invite anyone they would like to come. Let’s share our love of craft beer!
Come hungry as the Sunspot has a killer menu! We want to show our $upport to this fine establishment that is so graciously allowing us use of the space. They also have one of the best draft beer selections at both the upstairs and downstairs bar. The new limited edition KNOXVILLE CRAFT BEER WEEK Glasses will be available for purchase. $10 gets you the glass, a full pour of your choice and the satisfaction of knowing that a portion of the proceeds goes towards the TN Craft Brewer’s Guild, a group dedicated to getting some of this state’s stupid beer laws changed.
Since it is KCBW, we want to do something a little different for this tasting. How many of us have extra beer and brewery related glassware, stickers, shirts, coasters and other swag we’ve accumulated? Bring your extras and let’s have a swap meet! This goes for bottles of hard to find beer too! When someone ask you where you got that rare bottle or those cool glasses, you can proudly say “I traded for it!”
 
The last thing we want to mention is that this event will be held outside, rain or shine. Either way, it’s sure to be hot! We are putting out a call to bring pop-up canopies, camping chairs and maybe a fold up table or 2. If you can contribute, pleaselet us know. We appreciate your help on this.
 
Hope to see everyone there! 
 
One last note: IF YOU ARE PLANNING ON ATTENDING, PLEASE REPLY TO THIS EMAIL!!! THE BAR WILL NEED A HEAD COUNT IN ORDER TO PREPARE. THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT.

 

I know this wasn’t a real post, but I felt I have gone to long without an update. I’m working on a new post on my trials and tribulations of getting my nano-brewery off the ground. Be on the lookout for it in the next couple of days.
Until then, this is what I have fermenting at “The Brewery on High
20 Gallons Russian Imperial Stout
20 Gallons of Anglophile Jerry’s ESB
5 Gallons Orbital IPA
5 Gallons Smokin’ Hops IPA
Kegs:
Rauchbier
Chocolate Covered Strawberry Stout
Skulf IPA
ABCC IPA
Skulf IPA dry hopped with Belma
Maibock
Apricot Honey Lager
Honey Lager
Honey Agave Strawberry lager.
Which of these will I be serving at Knox Brew Fest on the 29th? You’ll just have to buy a ticket and see.
Cheers,
Ratchet

Recap of Monday, day 1 of our #AVLBeerWeek beercation

May 28, 2013

We planned to leave Knoxville at 12:30, but as most vacations go, we got a slightly late start and left Knoxville at 2:30. We made great time and it worked out that we arrived in Ashvegas a little bit after 4. That turned out to be alright, because that was the time that the ABA Hoppy Saison release party at Greenman kicked off. We skipped checking in to the hotel. The nice desk clerk laughed at me on the phone when I called to tell her we’d be checking in late, around 7 pm. I guess that’s not “late” in the hotel biz, I just didn’t want our room given away because we got considered a no-show. Yeah, I know I can be neurotic sometimes.

We drove straight to Dirty Jack’s, the Greenman tasting room. As soon as we parked and walked in, we were greeted by several of our Asheville beer friends. Right by the bar was Adam and Missy Reinke ordering their pours of ABA Hoppy Saison. We grabbed a table with them and were soon joined by Gary Glancy, another ABW guest blogger. Committee member Caroline Forsman was in attendance as well as Asheville Brewing Company’s Doug Riley and Mike Rangel. I also had a chance to meet and touch base with Asheville Ale Trail’s  Hilton Swing. It’s likely that I’ll be writing an exclusive report for his website, so be on the look out for it later this week.

As we sat at Dirty Jack’s enjoying the conversation and beer, I noticed on twitter that the only guest blogger I hadn’t yet met was in the house. I did not know what Sarah Spooner looked like, because on her twitter profile, half her face is covered. Katie made it her mission to determine which of the females at the bar she was, based on eyebrows. She struck out the first time and was convinced she finally knew who she was. She told me to go ask. After looking foolish the first time, I told her I wasn’t going to do it. She made a bet with me (don’t ask), that if I asked her if she was Sarah, and she was wrong, that I’d win the bet. Challenge accepted. Well K was right, and I got to meet and chat with my fellow guest blogger. I also need to make good on my bet (I haven’t forgotten darlin’).

I also spoke with Billy Pyatt of Catawba Brewing Company at length. This was the second time we’ve met, the first being at GABF in Denver last year. Catawba is opening an Asheville location and we spoke about the plans, the history of Catawba and what it takes to be a professional brewer. He also graciously extended an invitation to take Katie and me on an exclusive tour of their Morganton location. This is something we absolutely can not pass up, and we plan on working out the details with him today.

Greenman’s head brewer and local beer legend John Stuart was there as well. I know who John is, having seen him around, but I’ve never spoke or officially met him before. I introduced myself and tried not to sound like a gushing fanboy as I told him that his rare batch releases are my absolute favorite beers. I explained how I’ve had every one of the limited edition 750 ml bottles, going out of my way when necessary to procure them. He was very personable and we talked about his brewery, beer week and his decision to send his beers to Knoxville (thanks Tupelo Honey!)

After a few more half pours, we decided to check into our room and unpack. We checked the ABW event schedule to plan our next move. We saw that Barley’s was having a French Broad flight night with free glassware. We headed that way. Since it was 2 hours after the official start, all the free glassware was gone. This wasn’t completely unexpected. We both got a half pour of beer. I had Foothills Brewing’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout and Katie Khaleesi had Foothill’s Jade IPA. We looked at our plans. As we sat there, we thought, well maybe we could go across the street to Wicked Weed for another half pour, then hit up Thirsty Monk for the Rogue XS event. Katie had to go shopping for a bathing suit so she could lay out by the pool at the hotel (we are on vacation, after all). I noticed that where we were going was right next to Carolina Cinemas.

I had visited Carolina Cinemas on a previous trip to Asheville. I knew that they had a decent local draft beer selection. Since we we’re going to be out that way anyway, why not catch a movie? We skipped Wicked Weed and Thirsty Monk and headed over to see the Hangover Part III. I wanted to bring attention to this theater for other beer tourist such as myself who want another option for beer and entertainment. We arrived and approached the counter. “Is the manager around?” I asked. No, he just left, but I am the assistant. I explained who I was and that I was in town writing for the Asheville Beer Week website and wanted to ask him some questions about Carolina Cinemas and their beer selection. He gave me the manager’s card and told me to give him a call. I called up Greg and introduced myself. I asked if it was alright to speak with him and get some information about their operation. He was happy to talk to me. I asked about the beer selection, the decision process on behind what to carry and how they get the beer that they serve. He told me that they focus on local craft brews. Pretty much what they carry comes straight from the breweries themselves, with the exception of Catawba which comes through a distributor. I also asked if they get special limited releases. He told me that they do get some of the popular seasonals such as Highland’s highly sought after Cold Mountain. At the end of the conversation, he generously offered to comp our tickets for the showing. It was very much appreciated. We purchased a Shiva IPA for myself and K had Pisgah’s Nitro Stout. We walked into the theater and had the whole place to ourselves. Of course, this being a Monday night after a long holiday weekend, it wasn’t completely unexpected. A few more couples trickled in before the movie started. I’m a beer blogger and not a movie critic, but I will say that The Hangover III wasn’t all that great. It had a very flimsy premiese, rehashed jokes and none of the originality of part one. That being said, by all means see it and decide for yourself.

So if you are looking for something else to do while in town, don’t hesitate to hit up Carolina Cinemas. First run movies, great service, incredible beer at a very fair price of $5 a pint… you really can’t go wrong. We will definitely be back!

After the movie we hit up Wally World (yeah, I know, they suck) to get a few things. Sunblock, bathing suit etc. Well my darlin’ Khaleesi is kind of a candy addict. For months now she has been obsessing on “the great Skittles controversy“. Apparently Skittles have changed their green from lime to green apple (gasp!), making the original flavor a highly sought after collectible. Bags and boxes going for ridiculous amounts of money on eBay. She believes they have a shelf life of several years. She has also apparently been monitoring Skittles sales online and struggling with purchasing one of the last of the original 1 pound bags. Well at Wally World, we made a quick trip down the candy aisle. Low and behold, digging through the bags and boxes of Skittles, she hit pay dirt! Two big bags of original Skittles buried underneath the new ones. I thought she was going to cry. I’ve never seen a grown woman so happy to find candy. She looked through the 4 ounce boxes and found more with the original lime! Thirty dollars worth of candy later and we were on our way back to the hotel. It was around 12:30 at this time and we thought we’d go to The Monk for one last night cap. They were closed however, so we went back to rest up for today.

Next on the agenda is hitting up Bruisin’ Ales for some bottle shopping. At 4 pm, Asheville Brewing Company’s Perfect Day IPA is going on tap. Today’s big event is the Belgians at the Ballpark starting at 6pm. Nine innings, nine brewerys, food and 27 beers. Phew! Tickets are still available, and I’m sure this event will be epic! Depending on how things go, we may hit up a few other bars and breweries as well. Tune in tomorrow for recap of todays beer based adventures.

One more thing I’d like to mention. Not only are we here to drink great beer and hang out with our current friends, but to make new ones as well. If you read this blog and spot me out and about, please introduce yourself and say hi. If you do, I will hook you up with a little souvenir or something.

Well it’s off to Bruisin’ Ales. Make sure to follow the Asheville Beer Week Twitter feed as well as the hashtag #AVLBeerWeek. Follow along with me on my twitter feed and my untappd check ins as well.

Enjoy the pictures below. Click to enlarge.

Until tomorrow…

Cheers,

-Ratchet


Surprise beerday birthday trip from @JuneBugBatticus to Asheville #AvlBeer @WickedWeedBeer @AVLBeerWeek @ChocolateLounge

May 7, 2013

By Asheville Beer Week guest blogger Ratchet, Ratchetbrews.com

This past weekend I celebrated my birthday. Honestly, I didn’t make plans and figured I would just go have a drink at one of my favorite local bars here in Knoxville, maybe catch a movie and generally be low key about it. The older I get, the less important celebrating my birthday is to me. I mean, who wants to grow old? If I wasn’t for my amzing drop dead gorgeous girlfriend, I probably would just stayed at home, cleaned my house and organized my beer cellar. BOR-RING! Luckily I have DO have an amazing, drop dead gorgeous, craft beer loving, travel companion of a girlfriend. Staying at home and not celebrating wasn’t an option. She told me that I only turn (insert random number here) once and she was determined to help me make the most of it and drink some beer! She gave me a great birthday gift by booking us a short get away to our favorite BEER CITY, Asheville.

Beer City USA, 90 minutes that way!

Beer City USA, 90 minutes that way!

The plan was to leave Saturday after seeing some friends at the kick off of Knoxville’s Market Square Farmer’s Market. For various reasons, we didn’t leave town until after lunch. That was totally fine with me since I was able to have nachos and a White Mule pale ale at The Downtown Grill and Brewery before hitting the road.

We arrived to a rainy Asheville. After checking in to the hotel we always stay at, Downtown Inn and Suites, it was time for some bottle shopping! The first (and my favorite) bottle shop we stopped at was Bruisin’ Ales.  As soon as I knew we were going to Asheville, I reworked my budget so I could buy rarities not available at home to replenish my cellar. Shopping at Bruisin’ is great. Not only is it owned by 2 of the coolest people in Beer City, Julie and Jason Atallah, but they also have great selections to try with their sip and shop. You also never know who you are going to run into there. As was the case when this time when I ran into local emcee/street poet/ artist by the name of Chachillie. We spoke for a little while and he ran an idea for a music video by me. He also kicked a freestyle rhyme out on the sidewalk in front of the store. I saw Julie on her way out and got a birthday hug. After going over our options Katie and I made our purchases and decided to head up the road to our next stop, Appalachian Vintner.

App Vintner as it’s known also boast an amazing selection of beer, wine and other libations. Located in the outskirts of what’s considered the Biltmore Village area, they have a bar with an expanded tap selection. They go out of their way to have rare and tasty beers on tap. I purchased a half pour of a 2011 vintage Uinta Labyrinth.  My primary loyalty will always be to Bruisin‘ but the great thing about having multiple bottle shops in town is that there is always something different. Some shops sell out of certain brands and varieties sooner than others. Katie and I spent even more money and I was able to pick up a few things to share with my friends. I also got a gift for my buddy Richard Groves so he can have something special for his 1000th Untappd check in.

Well with 2 bottles shops down, we thought that we might as well hit one more just to see what else we could find. Hops and Vines is a homebrew store with a limited bottle selection. Since it’s primarily known as a place to buy brewing supplies, they sometimes have a few rare craft beer bottles that are sold out elsewhere else. I picked up a 6 year vertical of Sierra Nevada’s BigFoot Barley wine at a decent price and 1 or 2 other things. At this point it was getting late and we still hadn’t hit any breweries. It was time to go a few blocks up the road to Altamont Brewing Company.

Altamont Brewing on a rainy day in May.

Altamont Brewing on a rainy day in May.

Katie enjoying beer at Altamont

Katie enjoying beer at Altamont

The last time Katie and I visited Altamont they had just started brewing. At that time they only had their porter on draft. This time around they’ve been at it for a while and had a great variety. Since we were brewery hopping and planned on hitting as many places as possible, we only stayed for one drink. I had the Hopped Red and Katie had the Amber. Both were delicious and well crafted. We drank our beer while listening to live music and soaking up the local vibe. I really like the neighborhood bar feel of Altamont and will make sure to always fit it into our itinerary.

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Drinking and winking at Altamont Brewing Company.

The next stop of the evening was another must visit when in Asheville, Wedge Brewing Company. Everyone knows I love Wedge’s beers, location and complimentary peanuts. We found a table inside by the bar looking towards the fermenters. We drank half pours of the Hellesbock, Derailed Hemp Seed Ale, Witbier and a Saison of theirs that I hadn’t had before. By the time I ate a whole bowl of free peanuts, I realized a little too late how hungry I was and how I hadn’t eaten since lunch. It was time to leave and head for dinner (and another round of drinks) at Wicked Weed.

We arrived at Wicked Weed through the pouring rain. It was a Saturday night, so we knew to expect a wait for a table. We checked in with the hostess and got a pager to tell us when our seats would be ready. Down the stairs we headed to  grab a drink. As I walked towards the Downstairs bar I heard “Hey Ratchet!” I turned around and who did I see but Wicked Weed’s head brewer Luke! We spoke for a while and he talked about the brewery’s success, the sour and barrel programs and introduced me to his brother Walt who is in charge of those. All this time I was sipping on their Genesis Blonde Sour. After some great conversation with the Dickinson brothersKatie and I headed upstairs to have a meal. By this time my stomach wasn’t doing so great. All the beer I had drank throughout the day combined with Wedge’s peanuts was not a good combination. I ordered fries and a beer and could not finish them. This was my fault for not eating anything substantial since earlier in the day. I know better but in the excitement of everything, I had just plain forgot. I alternated between watching my darling nom on one of Wicked Weed‘s epic burgers and going outside to walk off my discomfort in the rain.

After leaving Wicked Weed it was time for a nightcap at Thirsty Monk. I still wasn’t feeling up to putting anything else in my belly, so I just went and sat with Katie at the downstairs bar as she sipped a few tasty Belgian style ales.

The next morning the weather was still rainy and chilly. It was Cinco De Mayo which Katie is big on, (must be ’cause she’s originally from Texas) so she insisted on tracking down some great Mexican food. First things first, we had to get coffee. Much like I am with beer, I am a coffee connoisseur. I usually only drink fair trade organically grown coffee fertilized with crystalized free range unicorn tears and hand roasted by Norwegian elf spirits. I would rather have a headache from not getting my morning cup-a-joe than drink hotel coffee. Over the years I have had coffee from many places all within a walking radius of the hotel. I’ve been searching for that perfect cup. I finally found it. From now on it’s only French Broad Chocolate Lounge‘s Counter Culture French press coffee for my morning fix. They also have the best selection of pastries, cakes, liquid truffels and other tasty treats to go with it. I got my french press light roast and Katie opted for the Oaxaca Hot Chocolate. I saw they had Highland Mocha Stout cake and couldn’t pass up getting a slice.

Oaxaca and Highland Mocha Stout cake at French Broad Chocolte

Oaxaca and Highland Mocha Stout cake at French Broad Chocolate

After coffee and my decadent snack, it was time to get a solid meal. Looking up Mexican fare on our phones, Katie found Limones. It seemed like exactly what she was looking for, so we headed over. I’m really glad we went. The service, decor and food was all top-notch. I didn’t need a big meal having had cake previously. I knew I wanted a cervesa so I could earn my Cinco De Mayo badge on Untapped. I chose Bohemia after looking up reviews for it online. It’s was a very decent Czech style pilsner brewed in Mexico. It was light, refreshing and paired great with my scrambled eggs and home fries. We ate and ended up boxing plenty of food for later.

The day was getting on and I had things to do back at home in Knoxville. My friend Vanessa was up from Florida visiting my son and his mom, and I didn’t want to miss her before she left. After a quick stop at Earth Fare to look for more beer, Katie and I hopped back on the interstate for the drive home. Our trip to Asheville this time was short but sweet. We are already looking forward to our week-long vacation for Asheville Beer Week. There are so many events during that time that we’re still trying to decide which ones to go to.  We already have tickets to a few things such as the Asheville Rare and Wild Beer Tasting and Beer City fest.

Thanks for reading about my Asheville birthday trip. I highly encourage everyone reading this to get your friends to go online and VOTE. Let them use your tablet, your smart phone, you sister’s mac, your weird brother’s Linux, the library computer or that 56k modem your grandma is still has hooked up to go vote for Asheville to retain the yearly title of  Beer City USA. The polls are private this year but Grand Rapids is being very vocal in the comments. Let’s help Asheville win the bragging rights for the 5th year in a row. Once again, Click here to vote.

Enjoy my photos below. Click on them to enlarge.

Until next time, Cheers,

Ratchet
Until next time, Cheers,

Ratchet


A great time and perfect weather at the 2nd annual http://ThirstyOrange.com beer festival

April 16, 2013

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Last weekend was the Thirsty Orange beer festival in Johnson City, TN.  This was the second annual edition, and festival organizers Aaron & Stephanie Carson and Das Krew did an absolute fantastic job of putting together this one. The weather was perfect, the beer was flowing and everything ran smoothly. From the early morning set up, to dropping off entries for the homebrew competition, to early admission VIP entrance, to the main part of the festival all the way to packing everything up, was all without a hitch. This is the 4th festival they have put on in the tri-cities area. They have learned from past festivals and had the logistics locked down for this one. I can’t say it enough how great and put together it was.

 I arrived Friday evening to spend some time meeting with Aaron and Stephanie to work out the details for running the infusers the next day. I always try to get to a beer festival in another city a day before to check out the area and most importantly to not have to make a long drive 1st thing in the morning. After meeting with Aaron and Stephanie, I ran to the store to get infuser ingredients and ended up eating at a crappy Mexican restaurant (seriously I LOVE Mexican food, but this one was awful).

Saturday morning I was up early for the festival. Set up time started at 8:30. I had to set up the booth, get the beer flowing, fill bottles for the homebrew competition and so on. It took quite awhile to get everything done. Luckily I was all set up by the time early admission VIPs started trickling in. From there I stayed busy. So busy in fact that I didn’t really take a lot of pictures (my bad). I was busy but it wasn’t a hectic, frantic type of busy but a happy and sociable one. I got to talk, hang out and drink with many of our pro-brewer buddies such as Studio Brew and CalfKiller. My tent was set up in the home brewer section of the festival right next to my good friend Jimie Barnett and Triple B Brewing.  Jimie and I always have a great time at these festivals and I want to give him and Jay a big shout out. A really big thanks goes out to Jimie’s nephew and my new Johnson City friend, Steven for making my day nice and bright.

Knoxville was well represented by other fellow home brewers such as Legit Brewing, UBC, Friendship Brewing and Tennessee Valley Homebrewers. Other homebrew clubs such as MALT from Asheville, Tri-Cities Beer Alliance and Electric Avenue from outside Nashville were well represented and had exceptional beers.  The camaraderie among home brewers is a beautiful thing.

One of my favorite parts of these types of events that I set up at, is the feedback I get from people attending and trying my brews. A beer I may not think is my best may end up being the one that everyone loves the most. A perfect example this time around was my Chocolate Covered Cherry Nitro Stout. I like this beer but it’s not my favorite, and next time I brew it, I’ll make a slight recipe adjustment. However, people were going nuts over this beer! It was the 1st keg of mine to blow out and people were disappointed when it was gone. I actually won an award on this one. Gerard of the website Road Trips For Beer was a celebrity judge and he picked this one as his favorite of the festival.  To say I am honored is an understatement. To have a guy who’s job is to pretty much travel the country and taste beer say he liked this one the most out of 100 something homebrews? THAT makes me feel like I DO actually know what I’m doing.

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I was lucky enough to have a lot of help at my booth this year in the form of my buddy Flipper who has been my right hand man at the last 3 Tri-cities beer fests. I got him all set up with the festival’s infusers and he did a terrific job of keeping them going on a schedule. Also my assistant brewer, Todd and his wife Lauren drove up from Knoxville and helped hold things down and pour beer. With this much help, we were able to rotate in and out of the booth and walk around socializing and trying different brews. The only one missing from our crew was Richard, but he was representing for us at the Blue Ridge Wine & Food Festival.

Well I went through all my home brew, drank some fantastic beer, hung out with friends new and old. The festival eventually came to a close and I packed up and headed out to eat. I found a great little place called Jack’s City Grill to eat at.  After refueling, I headed back to the hotel and had an impromptu craft beer party in the lobby with Gerard. The Wolf Hill crew stopped by and hung out followed by Friendship Brewing and Aaron and Stephanie. We drank a four pack of Brevard NC brewed Deviant Dales graciously given to me by Austin, a plant employee. Gerard shared a big bottle of Boulevard’s Double Wide IPA and Friendship Brewing had a growler of their IPA.

After a long active and incredibly fun day, it was time to retire to my room and pass out. I can’t wait until next year’s Thirsty Orange. Make sure to mark your calendar for Das Krew’s next event, Kingsport Oktoberfest on September 28th. You know I’ll be there. Enjoy the photos and videos below.

Cheers,

Ratchet

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Click on pictures to enlarge and for captions.


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