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.