Having a great time at #AvlBeerWeek. (Day 2 of my beercation)

May 31, 2012

I’m sitting in the dining area of the Downtown Inn & Suites eating breakfast, and drinking the Terruno Nayarita coffee I brought with me. (hotel coffee is typically nasty).

So I’ll recap my adventures that I had yesterday. I got to the hotel, checked into my room, unpacked the car and headed over to Jack of the Woods for lunch. I’m glad I only ordered the garlic cheese fries and not an actual entree. The portion sizes there are huge! Then I went ahead and ordered a beer I’ve never had before, 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon.  For this trip, I’m all about trying unique beers that I haven’t had before.

 I paid for lunch and headed across the street to one of the best beer bars in the world, the Thirsty Monk. I’ve written about the Monk pub before, and it never fails to impress me. This was an official Asheville Beer Week event taking place, a tasting of rare Stone Brewing’s beers. I ordered a flight and got to work. One of best things about this bar is the people you meet. I sat next to a couple of local fellows, Travis and Joel. Joel is also a homebrewer and we had a great conversation. We made plans to drink together again tonight. I also met the local Terrapin Brewing company rep. We spoke about Terrapin and I asked him when we could expect to have their beers back in Knoxville. They have recently added new fermentation tanks, so hopefully it won’t be long before we see them back on the shelves and on tap in Knoxville bars. At 6pm they tapped a cask of Terrapin’s Easy Rider. I thought it was a very well done beer, having a heavy grapefruit aroma from the hops used. Well, I wanted to bar hop, so I said my goodbyes and walked over to Asheville Brewing Company on Coxe Avenue for the District 12 Ale release.

A flight of Stone Beers at Thirsty Monk

District 12 is a new Summer wheat beer, named so for the movie, the Hunger Games which was filmed in this area. District 12 is the area in the movie that the main characters are from, which is made up of the Appalachains. When it was being filmed, the actors stayed in Asheville. I only stayed long enough to charge up my iPhone battery and enjoy the one pint. I checked the Asheville Beer Week website and chose the next event to go to. I knew my buddy Aaron (from Kingsport OktoberfestThirsty Orange and Brewer’s Summit ) was at the Belgium Beer Dinner at Pack’s Tavern.

May the Hops be forever in your favor

The dinner was a ticketed event, but sinced it was mostly a meat based menu (and I’m primarly vegetarian) I opted to pass on it. I knew however, that there was great beer there. Since the event started at 6:30 and my arrival was around 8, I knew it was pretty much over. I just walked in like I was supposed to be there. I saw my friend Aaron and went an hung out. At that point, most of the diners had left and the food and beer tables were packing up. I did try a few beers, and had a great conversation about the abbey style ales being brewed under the Ovlia label by Sierra Nevada. We finished our beers and headed out. Aaron and his friend headed to Thirsty Monk where I’d later join them.  I sat down across from the Jackson Building while I played on my iPhone and contemplated my next move. While sitting there, a walking ghost tour group stopped in front of it and I heard some interesting stories.

Some of beers I sampled at Pack's Tavern

My next move was to head to Lexington Avenue Brewery. I stopped in long enough to have their Chocolate Stout on nitro. I like LAB’s beers, but I have yet to have one that’s knocked my socks off. The chocolate stout was pretty unimpressive in my opinion. I do plan on going there again tonight, so I’ll give something different a try.

Cleat, The coolest bartender at Thirsty Monk

Flying Dog was gooooood!


After quaffing my beer I headed back to Thirsty Monk to meet up with Aaron. I found him at the downstairs bar. The Thirsty Monk has 2 bars. The upstairs is mainly American Craft beers, the downstairs mostly Belgium craft beers. I elected to stay with 4 ounce pours since I had beer drinking the last few hours and wanted to pace myself. As we sat there drinking and conversating, who should walk in but Brian Grossman of Sierra Nevada and Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River. I introduced myself to these beer world celebrities and spoke with them about their beer. Both of them are giuninely nice guys and very engaging. Brian told me that Sierra Nevada was 95% ready to go to Alcoa when they looked to Asheville. He said he was very worried about coming to Asheville and being seen as the elephant in the room. His fears were put to rest when he met with the local brewing community and they welcomed Sierra Nevada with open arms. Next I spoke with Adam Kimball, the sales rep for Great Divide. I let him Know of my love of their Yeti series. I told him that I planned on visiting their brewery when I go to the Great American Beer Fest in Denver this year. He told me that on the Thursday at the start of the festival they host a big welcoming party event with free food and beer. I’m definitively going to that! Well, next thing I know Brian is next to me at the bar uncorking bottles of the Sierra Nevada & Russian River collaboration, Brux. He generously poured samples for everyone around to try. He explained the name Brux is for the yeast strain used in this beeer, Brettanomyces bruxellensis. He said that this beer was 2 years in the making. It’s going to be a super limited release in 750ml corked bottles. He said it’ll be gone as soon as it hits the market. I want to get several. He advises that this beer will age well for years.

Me with Vinne from Russian River. I don’t know why my iPhone and stupid computer won’t accept this jpeg the right way up.

Me with Brian Grossman of Sierra Nevada

Brian Grossman pouring Brux



Well the night ended and I stumbled back to the hotel. This morning I realized an important lesson. If I am going to be bar hopping and drinking all evening, I have to make sure to drink water between rounds. Hangovers suck.

There is a lot more events to attend tonight. It looks like I’ll have some company in the form of my Knox Beer Crew buddy, Trader Scott. Beer will be drunk, tales will be told and Hijinks will insue. To follow along in real time, check out my twitter feed @Ratchetbrews and friend me on Untappd.

Tune back in tomorrow for more tales of adventure during Asheville Beer Week.



Beercation time! 5 days in #Asheville for @AvlBeerWeek !

May 30, 2012

Ever since the first Asheville Beer Week was announced, I have planned on going. Everyone that knows me knows of my love of Beer City USA. I live in Knoxville, a quick 2 hours away (more like 90 minutes if I have no scaredy cat passengers in my car, ha ha). Only a 2 hour drive but it’s so different from Knoxville, it feels like a world away. I love everything about it. The beer, the food, the people, basically the whole culture. Yes, myself and almost every other Knoxvillian I know has entertained thoughts of moving there. I don’t because I have a pretty good job here, but if the stars were aligned, I’d be packing for my move instead of writing this. In fact, it seems like that is what I hear the most from fellow Knoxvillians about moving there. They can’t find work and the cost of living is higher. For whatever reasons we don’t move, my friend Jeff of Three Bears Coffee sums it up best (and I’m paraphrasing) “They don’t need you there, they have enough cool people. If all the cool people in Knoxville moved, it would suck”. So instead I visit as often as my finances will allow.

Which brings me back to Asheville Beer Week. Technically not a week, but 11 days of celebrating Asheville’s great world renown beer culture. I have lost count of the amount of breweries this area has, but it seems like I read about a new one popping up at least once a month. The stated mission of this special “week” is “to celebrate that nectar known as beer—to taste many different styles of beer and variations on those styles; to pair beer with a smorgasbord of delicious foods; to learn about and explore beer in all its delectable complexity; and, most of all, to have fun drinking beer in the brewery-centric mountains of Asheville, NC”. With a statement like that, how could I not plan a trip?

So here I am. My plan is to blog all 5 days I am here. I really want to stick with the plan. I WILL stick with the plan. Every morning, hungover or not, I will sit in the hotel cafe with my laptop and write about what happened the night before. The bar hopping, the food, the tastings, the special casks and all the different events and beer. I will upload my photos and post them as well. If you would like to follow along in real time, make sure to check out my twitter feed at @RatchetBrews . I will also post on my Ratchet Brews Facebook Page. See what I’m drinking on Untappd. If you read this and are out on the town, send me a comment, let’s get together for a beer. After all, that’s what I came here for.



Day 1: Wednesday events I plan on attending:

First go to Brusin’ Ales, say Hi, have a few samples of whatever they have on tap, pick up my bottle of Greenman Flanders Red ale I bought and had them hold, grab a few other things for later.

I also plan on hitting The Lobster Trap for a pint of thier special beer week casks, Thirsty Monk around 4pm for the special Stone Beers tasting, Asheville Brewing company for the District 12 release, Green Man for a Session Fest pint, possibly taking a cab out to Highland and/or Brixx for the cask tapping.

Some of my #homebrew recipes.

May 21, 2012

I have previously written about how I come up with my own recipes for homebrew. Since I wrote that post in September of 2011, every batch since than has been of my own formulation. Some have turned out better then others. Whenever I’ve made a mistake, (be it the incorrect fermentation temperature, the wrong malt, hops or yeast.) I always treat it as a learning experience. It’s the constant evolution of a brewer. I want to learn to be the best brewer I can be. This is one of the reasons I haven’t brewed a kit or clone beer for awhile. I want the beer to be 100% my creation. I’m not saying I make the best beer or that I won’t ever use a recipe that isn’t my own.

I recently won an award for a beer I designed. The Tennessee Valley Homebrewers competition- the Homebruin cup, was held on May 12th. The judging took place at Calhouns on Kingston Pike near Pellissippi Parkway. The stakes for this competition were high, with best of show being brewed by Smoky Mountain Brewery for it’s affiliated restaurants. The Brewmaster, Marty Velas sponsored this contest in order to find a beer to enter in the Great American Brew Fest’s Pro-Am competition in Denver.  To enter, you had to be both a member of the TN Valley Homebrews and the American Homebrewers Association. When I first learned of the contest, my mind went to work. I started thinking of a beer to brew that would go good with Smoky Mountain’s bar-b-que heavy menu. I decided to brew a Rauchbier. I have mentioned this several times in previous posts.

For this competition, homebrews were divided into 4 main catagories for ease of judging. My Rauchbier was in the “other beers” catagory. I ended up with a bronze medal for my efforts. All the homebrews I have brewed and entered over the years, and I finally placed in a contest. I am very happy with this, and hope I can continue to brew better beers and win more awards.

So this post is supposed to be about recipes. I’ll be honest, when it comes to my recipes, I haven’t been keeping very good notes. I used to hand write every recipe and add them into a notebook I had. Eventually I started typing them and saving a word file on the computer. Currently I use an iPhone app called iBrewmaster. I find it is a very reliable app, and it automatically calculates and estimates original and final gravity. I will admit, I have been leaning a little bit too hard on this app to keep track of things. I need to at least get back to saving as a word file as well. That being said, I will list of few of my recent recipes below. If you have any suggested changes, or if you brew these yourself,  I’d love to hear from you. Add a comment and let me know. All my recipes are for a 10 gallon batch, so adjust up or down accordingly for your brew size.

Rauchig Berg Rauchbier (Rauchig Berg is German for “Smoky Mountain”)

Original gravity 1.052 Final Gravity 1.007 Abv 5.9%

12 pounds Weyermann Smoked Malt (bamberg style beechwood smoked)

1 pound light Munich malt

2 pounds 12 ounces of Weyermann Melanoidin malt

1 pound Weyermann Carabohemian malt

2 pounds Weyermann Vienna Malt

1 pound Weyermann Caramunich 1

12 ounces Floor Malted Bohemian Pilsner malt

3 & 1/2 ounces of Hallertauer hop pellets (2 ounces 60 minutes, 1 & 1/2 ounce last 30 minutes)

1 ounce Tettnang Hop pellets (added last 5 minutes)

2 XL “smack packs” of Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager Yeast* (see note)

1 tsp yeast nutrient added last 15 minutes of boil.

1 Whirlfloc tablet added last 5 minutes of boil

Mash grains with 7 gallons of water heated so when you strike the grains it stays between 150-154 degrees for 60 minutes. Sparge with 8 gallons of 168 degree water for 30-45 minutes.

60 minute boil following the hopping schedule above.

Rapidly cool wort to 50 degrees and aerate. I used a small oxygen tanks and a diffusion stone to aerate. Lager yeast is difficult to get going, and could use the oxygen boost.

* Note about lager yeast. On this recipe I made a 3000ml starter. I basically brewed a mini batch of this beer on my stove top, using grain bags for the mash. I did not want to have any chance of the starter affecting the flavor of this beer. I pitched 1 package of yeast to 1000ml of the starter in a erlenmeyer flask and put on a stir plate inside of my lagering fridge at 50 degrees. The rest of the starter I canned in pint jars. Over the next couple of days I stepped the starter up to 3000 ml by adding in 1 or 2 jars of wort. When I brewed, I cooled the wort down and pitched the yeast starter, and the fresh smack pack at the same temperature of the wort to avoid yeast shock. I then fermented this beer at 50 degrees (see my post about my chest freezer/ lagering fridge dying during this fermentation).

This beer fermented for a month. After fermentation, I cold crashed it to 36 degrees then filtered and kegged it. I lagered it at 34 degrees for a month. This is the most technical beer I have ever brewed, and I love it. I still have a keg and a half left. It is incredibly delicious. Nice and balanced with subtle smooth and in now way overpowering smokiness. I know someone who swears they hate smoked beers and that they all taste like liquid smoke and are nasty. I gave them a glass of this. They tried it, looked perplexed and exclaimed that it was good. They asked what it was and could not believe my answer. So, yes I love this beer. Honestly, I will work this one back into my brewing schedule as soon as I can.

Taurus Maibock

After successfully brewing my Rauchbier, I got on a German lager kick. I bought a smaller chest freezer that can fit exactly 2 carboys to use just for fermenting lagers.I came up with a simple recipe for a Maibock, after reading a dozen or so different ones. This is the last batch I brewed before I moved. I brewed it the Friday before the Thirsty Orange Festival and moved the lagering fridge and the batch into the basement of my new place as soon as the cool down was done and the yeast pitched. The movement of the drive helped aerate it. This batch is kegged and is being carbonated and lagered. I tried it when I kegged it, and it was great.

Original Gravity 1.062 Final Gravity 1.020 abv 5.5%

20 pounds Pale Ale Malt

6 pounds Munich.

4 ounces of Mt. Hood hop pellets. (2 ounces at 60 minutes, 1 at 30 minutes and 1 at 5 minutes left in the boil.)

Wyeast 2487 Hella Bock Yeast Stepped up starter as decribed in the Rauchbier recipe, pitched 3000 ml. Fermented at 50 degrees for a month. I had some this weekend, and it was incredible smooth after only a week of Lagering.

Toasted Hemp Seed Pale Ale

This was a recent batch that is still fermenting. I made this last year and learned a valuable lesson. DON’T TOAST HEMP SEEDS IN YOUR OVEN!! I did that last year and it smoked up my place so bad that I couldn’t see across the room. I couldn’t breathe right for a month. This year I toasted the hemp seeds in a cask iron skillet on a camp stove outside. It made all the difference.

20 lbs.  2-row pale malt

2 lb. Munich malt

2 oz. black patent malt

3 lbs. toasted hemp seeds

1 & 1/2 ounce Cascade hops (90 mins)

1 & 1/2 ounce Cascade hops (45 mins)

1 oz. Cascade hops (10 mins)

1 & 1/2 oz.  Cascade hops  (0 mins)

1 Whirfloc Tablet

3000 ml starter of Wyeast Rogue Pacman Yeast

Mash grains with 9 gallons of water heated so when you strike the grains it stays between 150-154 degrees for 60 minutes. Sparge with 8 gallons of 168 degree water for 30-45 minutes. 90 minute boil following hopping schedule as above. I used a combination of whole leaf and pellet hops. Currently fermenting at 70 degrees.

Last year this batch was a hit. It’s a basic Cascade pale ale, but with a slight nuttiness from the toasted hemp seeds. I can’t wait to see how this years batch turns out.

Wheat Beer

Original Gravity 1.052

I came up with this basic wheat beer recipe recently. I just brewed it this weekend. I ferment in 6 gallon carboys. With this batch I used 2 different wheat strains to make 2 different beers. One carboy I used Bavarian Wheat yeast to make a hefewezien. The other half I am fermenting with an American yeast strain. When the American yeast batch is done, I plan on adding blackberry extract at kegging time to make my yearly batch of what I can “Blackberry Bomber”. A few hours after this batch was in the carboys, I was worried because I did not see any activity. However, when I checked them in the morning, they had blown off the airlocks and were foaming out the sides. Here’s my recipe. Suggestioned changes are welcomed.

10 lbs pale ale malt

4 lbs torrified wheat

2 lbs floor roasted bohemian wheat

2 lbs Wyermann light wheat

2 pounds red wheat

2 lbs rice hulls

2 oz Cascade hops (60 minutes)

2 oz Willamette hops (5 minutes)

5 gallons fermented with Wyeast American Wheat Yeast

5 gallons with Wyeast Bavarian Wheat Yeast

Mash grains with 7 gallons of water heated so when you strike the grains it stays between 150-154 degrees for 60 minutes. Sparge with 8 gallons of 168 degree water for 45 -60 minutes. It’s important to use rice hulls in a brew like this because of the filter effect. Wheat tends to gum up your mashtun if you’re not careful. Stuck sparges are no fun and can ruin a brew day.

60 minute boil following the hopping schedule above

Stop and Smell the Hops IPA

Original Gravity 1.070 Final Gravity 1.011 ABV 7.99%

This is a big imperial sweet malty hoppy beer. It came out to 8% abv.

17 pounds of Pale Ale malt

9 pounds Munich Malt

1 pound Crystal Malt 60L

2 pounds of Vienna Malt

1 ounce Zythos hops  at 60 minutes

1 ounce Simcoe hops at 60 minutes

1 ounce Cascade hops at 60 minutes

1 ounce Magnum hops at 60 minutes

1 ounce Zythos hops  at 5 minutes

Dry hop with:

1 ounce Cascade hops

1 ounce Zythos hops

1 ounce Simcoe hops

2 ounces Crystal hops

1 Whirfloc Tablet

3000 ml starter of Wyeast Rogue Packman Yeast

Mash grains with 9 gallons of water heated so when you strike the grains it stays between 150-154 degrees for 60 minutes. Sparge with 8 gallons of 168 degree water for 30-45 minutes. I fermented this batch low, at around 64 degrees. I was told that the sweetness is caused by it being under attenuated from the low fermentation temperature. That may be true, but everyone I have let try this loves it and has been asking for more.

I plan on posting recipes in the future. I might even edit this one at a later time to include more. I’ve been out of stout, so I need to brew a batch again soon. I have a couple of imperial stout recipes, but I want to brew a basic irish stout. However, I can’t really bring myself to brew something that’s alcohol content is below 5%. Because of this, I will have to play around a little bit with my grain bill. I don’t currently have any beer pouring through the stout faucet on my kegerator. This is the main reason I want to brew this style. It is Mulberry season around here, and I am thinking of harvesting a couple pounds of berries. If I do, I will juice them and make half of the batch a mulberry stout. If I do, I’m sure it will turn out to be good.

A couple more things I wanted to mention before I finish this post. This Wednesday I will be working my 1st shift as a bartender at Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern on Gay Street. I’ll be behind the bar from 5-10pm. This is our soft opening this week before we announce to the rest of the world that we are open for business. This gives us a chance to get to know the sales computer system, and work out all the other little bugs before we are always busy. So if you want, come buy a beer and check us out starting on that day.

This Thursday at The Casual Pint, 6pm will see the debut of SAW WORKS BREWING (formerly Marble City). They will be pouring thier new Pale Ale brewed by Dave Ohmer. Dave made the step from assistant brewer at Woodruff to head brewer at the recently renamed and reformatted Saw Works. If you haven’t heard about this yet, check out this excellent post by the Knox Beer Snobs.

Well this is all for now. A week from this Wednesday I will be in Asheville for the last 5 days of the first Asheville Beer Week. There are a lot of really cool tastings and events planned, so make sure to check out the website and facebook page. My plan is to start each day out by posting a recap of the previous day and night’s activities that I attend. I might even live update a time or 2. So look forward to 5 days of blog updates in a row. I know I am.



Another uninspired blog posting from yours truly.

May 15, 2012

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this. It’s a combination of reasons. Mostly it was moving, followed by unpacking and settling in. I’ve been too busy to write. I’ve been too busy to go out much, or even drink beer. Life gets hectic sometimes. Much has happened in Knoxville in the last month since I’ve updated this site. Marble City hired a new brewer and changed it’s name to Saw Works Brewing. Suttree’s is closer to opening then ever and the Casual Pint is building a new site downtown. All this is already well known in the craft beer scene here in town, so there is no need for me to rehash it, just follow the links if you didn’t already know about any of these.

So I’ll just tell you what I’ve been up to with my brewing. Like I said, I moved closer to downtown. With this move I gained a whole basement to keep my beer, brewing supplies, kegerators and other stuff in. I was given another fridge to use how I see fit. I brewed a maibock right before I moved, and recently kegged it. Last weekend I brewed my toasted hemp seed pale ale in my new place. The next chance I get, I plan on brewing a wheat beer. I am hoping to brew a stout after that. With Suttree’s opening soon, my weekends are about to be full. Luckily I still have my planned Asheville Beer Week Vacation coming up at the end of this month.

It’s little over a month until Knoxville Brewfest. I am supposed to have a booth out there, but now I’m worried I will not have enough beer to bring. I know I’ll have a keg of my Rauchbier, my Maibock, Hemp seed ale, and hopefully some wheat beer. I wish I could have more, but the move really put a damper on my brewing. There just doesn’t seem like enough hours in a day to get everything accomplished.

Well that’s what’s been going on. I still don’t feel like my writing is inspired. I had to force myself to get this done. With everything going on, I feel a little burnt out. I am hoping this will pass.

Until next time,