Kingsport Oktoberfest- a retrospective.

September 26, 2011

What a weekend! I’m finally back in Knoxville, relaxing at my friend’s work & using the wifi. I’m also drinking my growler of Highland Brewing Company’s Clawhammer Oktoberfest. I brought all my empty growlers to Kingsport with the grand idea that I would fill them with tasty beers from all over. However, the reality is that I was so busy working my booth, I didn’t have time to get my growlers filled. I barely had time to eat or visit with other brewers. I was able to come back with only 2 growlers. The other one has Heinzelmännchen’s  Root Beer for my son.

Alright, here’s how  the whole weekend went down. Friday I got off work early. My bosses was kind enough to lend me her pickup truck that has a camper top for me to be able to haul my kegs along with the Woodruff Brewing Company’s kegs, ice tub, c02 and tap box. I not only had my homebrew, but I was officially representing Woodruff as well. After I loaded my stuff, I went down to the loading dock behind Downtown Grill and Brewery and met with Dave (one of the brewers) and loaded up a half barrell of Alt and a half barrell of Kolsch. A half barrell is is standard size keg for those of you not down with brewer lingo. Dave very professionally tied the kegs down with a ratchet strap. He did a much better job than my laughablle half assed attempts with bungie cords. Then again, he’s a pro who knows what he’s doing because part of his job is delivering kegs.  After everything was secured, I headed up north towards Kingsport. Roughly 2 hours later I was there. I checked in to my dirty but cheap Motel 8 and then headed down to the site.  I unloaded the kegs and equipment and made sure the beer was iced down. Then I went back to the hotel to unwind for a bit. I visited a local gas station/ convenience store for snacks, chilled a bit then headed back down to the site for a little brewer only pre-party. I saw some old friends, ate some food, listened to some bluegrass and met some really cool people.

I really enjoyed meeting and speaking with Dieter Kuhn and Sheryl Rudd of Heinzelmännchen Brewery out of Sylvia, North Carolina. They’re we incredibly nice and generous, having donated a keg of their “Chocolate Covered Gnome” to the pre-party. Chocolate Covered Gnome is a strong 8% abv porter made with cocoa powder. I was blown away by how delicious it was, and had to know everything I could about how it was brewed. I spoke with Sheryl first and asked her why they used cocoa powder instead of cocoa nibs. I really wanted to know “how did they keep the cocoa powder from settling out during the fermenting process?” She introduced me to her husband Dieter and we spoke about beer and his secret for getting the chocolate flavor in it. I learned much, but I am sworn to secrecy. I could tell you how he does it, but then I’d have to kill you (I can’t do that, I need every reader I can get!) I can tell you that I now know not to use cocoa nibs in my beer. It turns out that the cocoa butter fats turn rancid within a couple of weeks. This explains why I thought the chocolate imperial stout I made early this year was infected. It was just the fats going rancid and not an infection at all. Thanks for the advice Sheryl and Dieter. Visiting your brewery just made the top of my must do list.

On Friday night we also had a half barrell of Highland Brewing Company’s Clawhammer Oktoberfest on tap. That was when I was able to fill my growler that I am currently enjoying. I love Highland’s brews. I remember back in the day when we couldn’t get them her in Knoxville, I’d take orders from friends and make a drive to Asheville just to stock up. Anyway, I filled my growler and stopped drinking for the couple of hours it took me to sober up enough to drive the short 1 & 1/2 mile to the hotel. I didn’t really sleep well due to a combination of an uncomfortable bed and hotel situation.

Saturday morning I was up bright and early. I ate the free continental breakfast at the hotel and headed to set up my booth. I had to get kegs tapped, the tap box and carbonation levels just right, the Woodruff banner hung and everything else (merch, tools, etc) in place. The event opened early at 11 am for VIPs. Homebrews poured during that time were collected to be judged and everyone had a ballot where they could vote on their favorites. My Butternut Squash Ale was a hit with many people coming back for seconds, thirds and even fourths! I came up with a new thing to tell people about it. I’d ask if they liked pumpkin ales. If they said yes, I’d tell them it was the same beer different squash. The 11am to 1 pm when it was just VIPs was great, the lines weren’t to big and luckily I had a couple of lovely volunteers to help me pour beer. At 1 pm they opened the gates to the general public and things got hectic. I was trying to pour beer while hooking up an infuser while trying to get food while trying to find beer to drink that wasn’t at my tent. Phew! I really could have used more help. During this portion of the festival, I felt like I was completely overworked. There were a couple of moments when I felt like just walking away and letting people serve themselves. I was able to get a few volunteers, and a little bit of a break. During that time I went and hung out with Don from Knox Beer Snobs, Jennifer and Adam of Marble City Brewery. I also made sure to get beer from Underground Brewing Company, the homebrewers of Legit Brew. I made sure to go say hi to the legendary Oscar Wong of Highland Brewing. I also met Jon of Tattood Brew (who is now on our links section). I had really hoped to spend time at the Beer University part of Oktoberfest. There were some great classes that I had wanted to attend, but it just didn’t work out that way. Hopefully I’ll have a little more help and will be able to next time.

Speaking of beer university, I ended up doing a quick talk about beer infusions. I had set up the infuser at the booth running Woodruff’s Kolsh which is named Downtown Blonde, through fresh cut strawberries. It was a hit and we call it “Strawberry Blonde”. For the Beer University, the idea was that we’d have a keg set up and then we were going to run it through fresh hops and let people taste the difference. That did not happen. Instead I had to wing it. I was a little buzzed at that point. A friend of mine video recorded it for me as seen below.

When the festival was officially over, the biergarden part stayed open for the volunteers to enjoy beer  as a reward for all their work. We poured as much as we could, sold the rest of the Downtown Grill & Brewery glasses. I ended up trading a glass to a guy for the shirt off his back just because I could, and my drunk ass thought it was funny.

At the end of it all I made sure everything was packed up in the truck. I then walked a block over to Stir Fry Cafe  to hang out with some people I had met during the festival. I ate some really good spicy tuna rools and drank water to sober up for the drive back to the hotel.

My overall impression that this was a really great inaugural event. This is Aaaron and crew’s first time putting on a beer festival like this. There were a few rookie mistakes made, but that is to be expected. Those minor issues were addressed and will not happen next time. Speaking of next time, check out Thirsty Orange Brew Extravaganza. This is is still in the planning stages, but believe me, you will not want to miss this in the spring.

Enjoy my pictures below, leave a comment about Oktoberfest. I will try to post again soon, but now my focus in on the upcoming Asheville Oktoberfest taking place on Saturday October 8th.

Cheers,

Ratchet


An in depth look at making my fall seasonal: Butternut Squash Ale

September 21, 2011

Hello my 1 or 2 readers. You still checking out my blog? Good, because this time I have a special VIDEO blog for you. I filmed myself every step of the way when it comes to making my delicious Butternut Squash Ale. This is a behind the scenes look at my brew day.

Enjoy

Part 1:

Part 2:

Ingredients for 10 gallons
12 lbs butternut squash (processed weight)
18 pounds pale ale malt
1 lb carapils malt
2 lb Vienna malt
1 lb 75L dark crystal grain
2 lb light Munich malt
2.5 oz williamette whole leaf hops (60 minute boil)

1 .2 oz of williamette whole leaf hops (last 15 minutes)
1 oz saaz hop pellets (last 5 minutes)
2 cup brown sugar
1 lb flaked oatmeal
2/3 lb Ginger root peeled & chunked (1/2 at 6o minutes boil, 1/2 at 15 minutes)
2 Whirlfloc Tablets (last 15 minutes of boil)
2 1/3 tsp nutmeg
4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp crushed coriander seed
1 tsp yeast nutrient
4 packages of Whitbread dry yeast
Directions:
Peel butternut squash & bake it until caramelized on the outside
Mash crushed grains at 152 degrees for 60 minutes in 8 gallons of water (put Flaked oats in a mesh bag)
Sparge with 7 gallons 170 water. Add squash, gypsum, 2.5 oz
of Williamette hops & 1/2 the ginger.  IMPORTANT: Squash and Ginger Must be in fine mesh bags, or clogging will occur.
Bring to a boil for 40 minutes. Add the brown sugar, whirlfloc Tablets, coriander seed, 1 oz of Saaz hops & rest of ginger boil 20 minutes. At 5 minutes add remaining 1 oz of saaz & 1 tsp of yeast nutrient & remaining spices. Cool rapidly to 70 degrees pitch yeast. After a 2 weeks rack to secondary.

On another note, I am SUPER EXCITED about the KINGSPORT OKTOBERFEST this Saturday!!! I’m like a kid on Christmas, I can’t wait! I’ll be in charge of setting up the randal (that’s an infuser, for all those not down with the beer lingo) on to various microbrews around the festival. We’ll be infusing a porter with coca nibs (raw chocolate), a kolsh with fresh strawberrys and other yummy beers with other yummy stuff. If you want to know when and where each infusion will take place, make sure to follow both myself ( @RatchetBrews ) and @KPTOktoberfest  on twitter. We’ll announce each one there. Plus I’m sure the tweets will get more entertaining as the day progresses and more beer is drank.

You are a sucka if you miss this.

You are a sucka if you miss this.

-CHEERS,

Ratchet


Beer Recipes

September 12, 2011

I went jogging this morning and was listening to the Brewing Network’s Sunday Session podcast on my iPhone. Let me just say that the cast of the Sunday Session show all sound like total home brewing shock jock dorks. I listen because even though they are idiots, every once in awhile they’ll drop some homebrewing knowledge. Once of the main idiots was talking about how he doesn’t formulate his own recipes. Something about how it was too hard and that there are plenty of tried and true homebrew recipes out there that are formulated by world class brewers. I think it’s just because he’s probably too dumb (ha ha, just kidding, don’t hate me) to come up with his own. However, it did get me thinking about beer recipe formulation.

Like most homebrewers that I know, I started out by brewing “kit” beers. I’d go down to the local homebrew shop, decide what I wanted to brew, and pick out an ingredient kit. A typical ingredient kit contains everything you need to brew beer. In it you will find a can or two of malt extract, hops, priming sugar and maybe a mesh bag and some specialty grains for steeping. They also contain an instruction sheet. It’s pretty simple and straight foward. I became comfortable with brewing beer in this fashion, some of them pretty damn tasty. After awhile, I took the next step and followed some of the recipes from Charlie Papazian’s the Complete Joy Of Home Brewing. I remember fondly making my first batches of Rocky Racoon’s Crystal Honey Lager and his Holiday Cheer recipe. When I took the leap to all grain brewing. I would order the all grain version of recipe kits online. Basically the same thing but with cracked grains instead of malt extract. I would also look up recipes online for certain beers. If there is a commercial beer you love, chances are you can find a “clone” recipe on the internet or in one of the many books published on the subject.

I still use other brewer’s recipes from time to time. If there is a style I haven’t made before, I find myself looking at several recipes to get an idea of what to do. I use them as a template, and make my own changes. A perfect example of this is my fall seasonal, Butternut Squash Ale. Last fall I wanted to brew a spiced pumpkin ale. I looked online and found several recipes. Then I started thinking about the abundance of butternut squash I had grown in my backyard. I wondered if I could adapt a pumpkin ale recipe. After more online research, I decided to go for it.

The last several beers I’ve brewed are recipes I formulated on my own. Coming up with a recipe is a tricky thing. You got to have the right balance of malt, hops, yeast and adjucts for whatever style that you are brewing. It’s a balancing act. I spend a bit of time thinking of the right ingredients. Last weekend, I was walking around the Market Square Farmer’s Market daydreaming about ingredients for a chocolate pepper stout that I want to brew for the winter. I went ahead I got some peppers from one of my farmer buddies. I’m still thinking of the right hops to use, how to make the stout sweet, roasty and smooth while and combining it just right with the heat and flavor of the peppers. I have a recipe written donw, and think that I’ll more then likely continue to make changes right up to brew day.

I think it’s the natural progression of a good homebrewer to formulate his or her own recipes. It’s a great way to learn what works and what doesn’t. Yes mistakes are easy to make and will be made, but as long as you follow the first rule of homebrewing (relax and have a home brew) you’ll be fine. Below is my “work in progress” recipe for chocolate pepper stout.

Cheers,

Ratchet

Chocolate Pepper Imperial Stout (10 gallon batch)
10 pounds pale ale malt
12 pounds Marris Otter
2 pound pale chocolate malt
1 pound wheat malt
1 ½ pound of lactose
2 pounds of dark crystal malt
2 pounds cara pils
3/4th pound roasted barley
½ pound black patent malt
1 pound of cocoa nibs
2 ounces nugget hops (boil)
2 ounces williamette (boil)
2 ounces of Goldings hops (finishing)
8-10 tennessee cherry chilis (last 20 minutes of boil)

6 big red and smoked jalapenos (at flame out, and left in primary)

Wyeast Irish yeast


Oktoberfest and upcoming beer events

September 2, 2011

    Over the last month or so I have anticipated being busy with brewing and beer related events between now and November. It seems my weekends are booked until then. I wanted to post a list of some of the beer festivals taking place in the region, along with my thoughts on them and if I plan on attending or not. I’m sure there will be a few that I have missed. I’m just posting the ones I know about.

The first one I want to mention is one that I’ve already booked my hotel for. I am really looking forward to the first ever Kingsport, TN Oktoberfest. This takes place on Saturday September 24th in Downtown Kingsport. You should definitely consider going to this one. What sets this one apart from some of the others is what is being billed as “Beer University”.   This educational aspect will provide the opportunity to learn about all aspects of brewing.  Consider it a ‘Growing to Glass’ education that will bring a full appreciation of craft beer. Some of the topics and speakers lined up for this are simply incredible. Check out the website for more details. There is so much going on at this event. It’s family friendly, with an area for the kids. I’m looking forward to the Black Forest Brew Off. This invitation only homebrew competition takes place in the hours before the bier garden opens. I will have a keg of my Butternut Squash Ale and a keg of my ESB. The judging is done by professional brewers and VIPs. There are several prizes and the overall winning brewer will have their recipe upscaled and brewed by Wolf Hills Brewing Company of Abingdon, VA.  Wish me luck! If  anyone wants to go or is already planning on going to this, let me know.

 September 17th is Asheville’s Brewgrass Festival. Everyone tells me how awesome this is. Unfortunately I have yet to make it. I can’t go to everything, but hopefully I can check this out next year since this year’s event sold out weeks ago. I will be brewing beer at home this weekend. If anyone is going, please report back on how it was.

October 8th is the Asheville, NC Oktoberfest. This is another event I am really looking forward to. I got me a hotel booked 1 block away from the festivities. I went last year and had the time of my life. It’s all Asheville beer, it takes place on Wall Street in the middle of downtown. Seriously, I can’t remember when I had more fun. Asheville is a special place. So far I am going solo, so if you want to go or already plan on going, contact me.

October 22nd is the big show. For me it’s the creme de le creme of beer festivals. Of course, I am talking about Knoxville’s BREWERS JAM!!! Seriously, THIS is the event that people around here talk about all year round. Lot’s of beer, great bands and food. The Tennessee Valley Homebrewers set up a tent and dole out unique and delicious brews that you can only try there. I am providing 20 gallons of my Butternut Squash Ale. Last year I brought out 5 gallons and it was gone in 15 minutes. People really enjoyed it. Brewer’s Jam tickets are on sale and like every year it will sell out early. If you are going, buy your tickets now.

There are a lot more beer festivals within a few hours drive, but I only listed the ones I am interested in.  The weekends that I am not going to them, I am brewing beer.

One more thing before I end this post. Woodruff Brewing Company is having yet another Cask Night. This one is taking place at Hard Knox Pizza on Tuesday September 13th starting at 6pm. What are they tapping? Check out this post by Knox Beer Snobs for more details.

Cheers,

Ratchet