Thanksbeering weekend #AvlBeer #NCBeer #KnoxBeerCrew

November 25, 2012

The Thanksgiving holiday was an extended weekend for myself and I thought what better way to celebrate then getting out of town. Plans were made to do just that. Thursday I had a quick dinner with my son’s family and hit the road. When you want to have a quick beercentric get away close by that won’t break the bank, there’s only really one place to go: ASHEVILLE!

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Beer City USA, here I come!

Originally the thought was to go camping but a check of the weather made me realize how little I was willing to freeze my ass off. I called my favorite Asheville hotel, the Downtown Inn and Suites. They had rooms available and at a really good price. With lows expected in the twenties overnight, this sounded much more appealing then pitching a tent in the mountains.

Arriving in Asheville early evening, the 1st thoughts were to see what was open. Thanks to Blog Asheville for responding to my twitter inquiry with a list of what would be open downtown on Thanksgiving night. A quick walk around downtown confirmed that my normal watering spots were closed.

The first spot I went to was the Bier Garden on Haywood Street just a few blocks from the hotel. I have seen this place before but always passed it up. Staying open on Thanksgiving must have sucked for the employees but it was smart business because the place was packed. They have a few beers on tap but not as many as I thought a place calling itself “The Bier Garden” would have. They did seem to have an extensive bottle selection. I ordered some fried dill pickle spears and wanted something on the lighter side to go with it. I ordered a Drunken Baby Pilsner brewed for Bier Garden by Foothills. It was light, full flavored and enjoyable. I wanted to do as much adventuring as possible so after paying for my beer and food it was time to head down Walnut Street to Scully’s Bar & Grille. I hadn’t even heard of this bar before but that’s because when I go to Asheville I usually go drink at breweries and not bars. I like this place. It was small, cozy and had a laid back neighborhood bar feel to it. It was the type of bar that had everything from Bud light to cocktails and a decent craft beer selection. The staff was also super friendly. I discussed beer options with the server who recommended Natty Green’s Freedom American IPA. I liked this beer. Very good american style hoppiness with a solid caramel backbone. Since I was bar hopping, it was time to head to the next spot. When getting checked into the hotel room, I was relaxing and channel surfing when I saw the local news doing a story on places open on Thanksgiving. They were featuring Pack’s Tavern. So it was added to the list.

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The taps at Pack’s Tavern

I had visited Pack’s Tavern briefly during Asheville Beer Week but just to meet up with some friends upstairs. This was my 1st time actually sitting down at the bar and ordering. They had a really good selection. All the seasonal beers were on special, so I elected to try Duck Rabbit’s Marzen, an Oktoberfest beer that I haven’t had before. I drank my one beer and headed to the next spot that I was told would be open, Storm Rum Bar and Bistro. I walked there to see what looked liked a recently closed bar. Had I gotten there an hour early, I’m sure I could have had a drink. Oh well, no big deal. I headed towards the last place I knew was open, Asheville Yacht Club.

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A really bad picture of the inside of Asheville Yacht Club

Out of the all the places I visited over the course of the evening, the Yacht Club was my favorite. I have always walked pass this place. It’s pretty much next to Jack Of The Wood, which is one of my favorite Asheville spots. I’ve always seen the sign that says it is a private club. North Carolina has a stupid law that states you can’t have a place that serves drinks unless it also serves food or is a private club.  The good thing is that it’s super easy to get around this.  You simply pay a dollar to become a member and your membership is good for a whole year. Then you sign in at the front every time you come. So I walked in the door and signed in. Loud music was playing, in this case Primus followed by old Metallica. I loved it. The decor was very ocean and pirate themed and I wish I had taken more pictures. They had a full bar. I didn’t see if they had beer on tap, but they did have a decent bottle selection. I elected for Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA since it was on special that night. A few bottles later and I called it a night and headed back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.

Happy Thanksgiving from Asheville Yacht Club’s Pufferfish Bunny

The next morning I woke up with one thought in mind: COFFEE! I don’t drink hotel coffee which I find taste like it was the leftovers that were swept off the roasting room floor. After hitting up the free breakfast in the lobby, I went out in search of a good cup of wake up juice. Nestled in between The Thirsty Monk and Weinhaus I found Firestorm Cafe and Books. On the Patton Avenue level it was just a doorway leading downstairs. Unless you are going in from the street around back, this place is really easy to miss. I walked down and could tell this was the type of place the local activist and anarchist frequent. A majority of the books on sale were alternative press and of the DIY ethic. Unfortunately the person working the counter didn’t know the simplest thing, the origin of their house roast beans. I know it’s a such little thing, but it’s knowledge I take for granted that a barista should know.

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Firestorm Cafe and Books is a worker owned and operated collective.

With all the adventuring I had planned for the day, it was now a matter of waiting for places to open. The first place to go was Asheville Brewing Company’s Coxe Avenue location. I saw online that they had planned to release a new beer on tap that day. In the back of my mind, I figured that they wouldn’t put it on tap until much later, but I had to try anyway. I got there and sat at the bar. My fears were confirmed that the new beer wouldn’t be tapped until much later. Oh well. I did have a half pour of Scout’s Stout. While sipping on my beer I spotted head brewer Doug Riley from across the room. He was kind enough to give me a tour of the brewery and talk beer with me for a little bit.

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Asheville Brewing Company’s state of the art canning line

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Doug Riley, head Brewer of Asheville Brewing Company and myself

After hanging out with Doug it was time for the next part of my trip: Bottle Shopping! First I headed over to see Julie, Jason and the gang at Bruisin’ Ales.

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Inside Bruisin’ Ales

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Outside Bruisin’ Ales

I bought the least amount of beer I ever purchased there but I did get some goodies. I next headed over to Appalachian Vintner to get a few more bottles of  Terrapin’s rare Georgia Theater releases that I saw when I was there on last week’s Bearden Beer Market road trip.

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Inside view of Appalachian Vintner’s beer section

Well with bottle shopping done it was time to meet up with friends at Green Man Brewery’s tap room, Dirty Jack’s.

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Green Man Brewery, an old favorite of mine.

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Tap list at Dirty Jack’s

With so many more brewery visits planned, I only had time for 1 beer. I chose Green Man’s Oktoberfest, Harvester. It was the perfect beer for sipping on the outside patio. My friend and all around cool guy Dalton met up with me along with a few family members of his in town for the holiday.

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Dalton and his homebrewing bro who lives in Atlanta and grows his own hops.

After hanging a bit it was time to head to nearby Waynesville, NC to visit a few breweries. First stop was Frog Level Brewing, a nano brewery that I first visited back in March.

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Beers on tap at Frog Level.

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Frog Level’s new 3 barrel system.

I got to Frog Level late Saturday afternoon and the place was pretty busy. The only one behind the bar was the owner and head brewer Clark Williams. With all the patrons clamoring for beer, it took a bit before mine was poured. I elected to stay with sample sizes and tried the ones I hadn’t had before. After Clark had a chance to catch up, he came over to chat a bit. We talked about his new 3 barrel system and he took me back to look around.

Talking about beer and brewing with Clark at Frog Level Brewing Company

As Clark showed me how his brewery was put together, he gave me a lot of helpful hints and tips. Being an aspiring nano-brewer myself, Clark was an overwhelming source of inspiration. He showed me how certain things can be used in a brewery setting and how to put together a functioning nano-brewery with less costly tools and equipment then I had though possible. He also told me prices on items and where to get them. I thanked Clark for all the advice and set out to my next stop, Headwaters Brewing Company a few blocks away.

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I’m going in there —>

The view that greets you as you walk into Headwaters Brewing Company

I first heard about Headwaters Brewing Company from a NC Facebook list put together by Win Bassett. I read post about the brewery as it made progress and opened for business. Last month while at the Great American Beer Festival I was standing in line for the Dogfish Head booth and saw Headwaters. I passed on trying their beer because I knew that since they were close by, I’d eventually go visit them. While at GABF I really just wanted to try beers that were not in the region, since they are harder to come by.

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Tap list at Headwaters

I sat at the bar and ordered a flight of 4 Headwaters samples. I tried the Upper Falls IPA, Big Sky Rye, Heady Eddy Pale Ale and White Water Hefeweizen. They were all incredibly good. Usually when I try a flight there is at least one beer I don’t like. This was not the case at all with Headwaters. My favorite was the Upper Falls IPA. It was 11% but did not taste like a high alcohol beer. It was deceptively smooth. As I sat and drank my samples I met the owner and head brewer Kevin Sandefur. As we spoke I asked him what size system he brewed on. I was surprised when he said it was a modified 1 barrel Sabco Brew Magic. Next thing I know, I was in the back checking it out.

Where the magic happens

Owner and head brewer Kevin showing me Headwaters set up.

As I looked around and spoke with Kevin, I got even more inspired to start my nano-brewery. They are still fermenting in 6 gallon glass carboys and built their own custom temperature controlled fermentation chamber.

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Temperature controlled fermentation chamber full of Carboys of fermenting beer.

I was very grateful for Kevin taking the time to show me around. I really like Headwaters and can’t wait to visit again. He told me that they plan on expanded to a 15 barrel system in the near future and I wish them nothing but the best.

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Wise words on the wall in Headwaters brewing area.

It was starting to get late and time to go. Originally the plan was to go see visit Dieter and his brewery, Heinzelmannchen in Sylvia, NC.  However due to the time, I had to skip it this go around. I am sorry it was so, but plan on making it up during my next visit to that area. I headed straight to Nanthala Brewing Company in Bryson City. By the time I got there, it was cold and dark. It’s a good thing they built a small heated bar in the big quonset building.

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The entrance to Nantahala.

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The new heated bar area at Nantahala

The other (not as heated) bar at Nantahala

As soon as I walked in I saw owner Joe Rowland and head brewer Greg Geiger. It’s always great to see these guys. I come to Nantahala not only for their great and amazing beers, but to be around other like minded folks who enjoy them as much as I do. Also they were having a “Black Friday” sale on all their previous bottle releases. I love these beers and could not pass up a chance to get a deal on them. I talked to the guys for a few minutes and went at sat at the bar to enjoy a beer. A few minutes later Greg came back and waved me over. He wanted to show me something back in the brewery. He had just finished brewing and wanted me to check out the hop back full of whole leaf Simcoe hops. It smelled so incredibly good.

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Hop back made from a 55 gallon drum. It was full of Simcoe hops and smelled like that and cooked wort. OH SO GOOD!

Greg and I hovering over the warm and great smelling hop back.

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Nantahala’s brewing equipment came from RJ Rockers when they upgraded to a bigger system.

Stop and smell the hop back

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Sacks of malt at Nantahala

Well as much as I could have stayed at Nantahala all night talking about beer with Joe and Greg I knew it was a long drive home. I went next door to get something to eat at a small pizza place. The food was bland and the wait was incredibly long. It was over an hour until the food came out. Afterwards I went back next door to the brewery to say my goodbyes. Greg mentioned that he would be in Knoxville the next day so I invited him to the Knox Beer Crew meeting. He said that he would only be in Knoxville in the morning, but he would leave growlers full of beer for us at Bearden Beer Market.

After the long drive home to Knoxville I went to bed and had one of those good solid back-in-my-own-bed sleeps. Waking up on Saturday fully refreshed, I took my son to the last UT Volunteers home football game of the year. We left at half time and I dropped him back off at his house. I then headed over to Bearden Beer Market where the previously mentioned monthly Knox Beer Crew meeting was taking place.

The Monthly Knox Beer Crew meeting

This month’s meeting focused on stouts and porters and took place in Bearden Beer Market’s Yazoo room. Kevin LA was in town visiting family for the holidays and it was good to see him at the meeting.

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A small portion of the beers we sampled

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Some of the other beers we sampled

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We had a pretty good sized crew at this tasting

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Good ol’ Nick “Big Magic” Walsh

After awhile a majority of the people left the meeting and we opened up the growlers that Greg from Nantahala had generously left for us. I took one last picture so I could text him the crew toasting him and his beer.

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Thanks again to Greg and Nantahala brewing company for the beer. Cheers!

Well that was pretty much the end of Thanksbeering weekend. Sunday I only drank 2 beers right before bed. It was really fun getting out of town and can’t wait to do it again the end of December for Beersmas.

I just wanted to mention to my friends reading this that I really do plan on brewing again on Sunday. Yes I know I said that last post, but this weekend was too hectic and I had to balance out all the beercentric stuff I did with spending time with my son. So if y’all want to come lend a hand or just hang out, I plan on mashing in no later then 10 am. I’m just going to do a 10 gallon batch of a basic pale ale. I’m hoping Dalton, Richard and a few others show up. Also please don’t forget that a week from this Friday on December 7th is First Friday downtown. It is also the Knoxville Christmas parade. This year the parade passes right by Jackson Avenue Market where I’ll be pouring FREE SAMPLES of my winter seasonal called “I’m Warming You!” Please come out and support this event and try some tasty home brew. We are going to start at 6pm. Come down, have a few drinks and watch the parade go by at 7. I am hoping to see you all there.

Cheers,

Ratchet


@BeardenBeerMrkt road trip to @HighlandBrews #Avlbeer #KnoxBeerCrew

November 15, 2012

Well I didn’t originally plan on doing this, but I’m going to try to live blog today’s beer road trip adventure from my phone. I intended to post about it after the trip, but I figured as long as I have my all important phone charger I might as well. Plus this way those of you who didn’t make it can live vicariously through me. Just grab some beer & refresh this page every half an hour or so for live updates. Of course real time drinking stats can be found on my twitter & untappd feeds.

So where am I going? This picture can explain it more then typing a long ass description with my thumbs can.

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11:48: I just arrived at Bearden Beer Market. We’re hanging out waiting. There is so much beer on this bus! Fellow Knox Beer Crew GABF alum Big Magic Beer is going to co-star on this adventure. Ladies and Gentlemen, BIG MAGIC (applause)

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Nicholas “Big Magic Beer” Walsh He’s all about the 505 and @eggs

Say something to the people following along at home Nick. “For the love of craft beer!”
Ok Nick.
12:20 We are on the bus. Did I mention there is a ton of beer? Good thing this bus is equipped with a restroom.

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One of the many coolers of beer in the front seat

We are on our way! There is a lot of good people and good beer on this bus. My 1st official beer of this trip is Dogfish Head’s Positive Contact that I brought to share.

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12:50 pm: Wow. 7th or 8th beer cracked open & WE’RE NOT EVEN TO THE STATE LINE! Big Magic just said “what am I drinking now?”

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Dave!

1:51 pm: I slowed down a little on the drinking. I’m still sipping though. I’m trying to finish reading Asheville Beer by Anne Fitten Glenn ( aka @Brewgasm on twitter). Word is she might meet up with us at the Highland Brewery release. I hope so. I can finally meet her in real life & get my book signed.

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Bus reading

2:30 pm. Big whoops of joy as we pulled into Pisgah.

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Pisgah’s tap room

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Myself with a flight of Pisgah’s finest. Picture of me taken by Jen Parker.

Also Jen just did my Tarot reading:

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It was kind of spooky accurate.

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Look, it’s Adam Ingle!

Ladies & gentlemen, that man who made this all possible, Mr. Matt McMillan! Aka Matty Mac:

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Thanks to Matt from Bearden Beer Market for putting this trip together.

4:12pm: Pisgah was freaking awesome! We are now back on the bus. I’m feeling pretty good. I wandered back where the magic takes place and snapped some pictures.

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Jason Caughman, owner of Pisgah took time to meet with Adam and myself. Here he is venting one of the barrels to let us have a smell. He also shared a 3 year aged Christmas ale with us.

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Jason Caughman of Pisgah, Adam Ingle of Smoky Mountain Brewery and Matt McMillan of Bearden Beer Market.

Behind the scenes I met with Jason Caughman, owner and Co-founder of Pisgah. We spoke for awhile about brewing and Pisgah’s plans for expansion. I could have talked beer with him all day but it was time to go.

5 pm: We’ve been at Highland Brewing Company’s Tap room for a few minutes.  I’ve already seen my friend Erica & now being given a tour by Kitty.

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Big Magic! He looked around the massive space and declared “It’s the Home Depot of beer!”

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A picture taken before the place got completely packed

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I got one of the last pours of El Lupulo before it was gone. The small batch stuff ran out quick!

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Kitty!

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Right before we took the tour. We had to wear safety glasses. Safety first!

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200 barrel fermenters

I did meet Author & twitter celebrity Anne Fitten & got my copy of her book signed

5:46 pm: We’re still at Highland Brewery, I’m enjoying a 2012 Cold Mountain. Had to pick up a couple of the big blue bottles, since I know how rare this beer is going to be.

Hungry! Thankfully there was a food truck and a hot dog cart at Highland. I had to get me a free range organically fed tofu beast dog.

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Outside Patio at Highland

6:50 pm: Faded! On the bus again.
8:08 pm: We stopped by Appalachian Vintner for some bottle shopping. They have 10 beers on tap but my off switch kicked in so I didn’t drink. I did however spend more then intended. At least I got some goodies to share.

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A small portion of my score.

8:52 pm Last stop of the night. Time for one last beer & dinner. Luckily the last stop is at one of my favorites Asheville places, Asheville Brewing Company on Coxe Ave. I’m getting a veggie quesadilla & washing it down with batch 272 a small batch dry hopped IPA. I also picked up a 6 pack of Shiva IPA cans.

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Well we got back on the bus for the trip home. By that time we were all pretty faded from a day of drinking. I somehow managed to sleep for most of the trip back. Somewhere around the Dandridge exit, a drunk ass Big Magic started singing Toto songs to entertain us. Somehow that degraded into him rapping Easy E lyrics. Half of the bus was groaning while the other half was laughing. Big Magic can be pretty funny sometimes.

Back at BBM I was too tired to say good byes to all my buddies I just adventured with. I just got all my stuff to my car and drove home.

Thanks again to Matt and The Bearden Beer Market for putting together this great Asheville beer run. I look forward to the next one.

Cheers,

Ratchet


Solo #homebrew day, new hop variety, brewing of KBC 505 and Hurricane Sandy relief

November 12, 2012

There’s a few things coming up in the Knoxville craft beer scene to tell y’all about. First a note on a few things that already happened. Last Tuesday was the election and America voted another term for the first president to have beer brewed in the White House. The other choice was a guy who has never drank a beer in his life. I personally don’t trust a guy who has never drank beer, and it seems a lot of people didn’t either. For election night, I had brewed a copy of the White House Honey Ale. The recipe and video were published on the official White House blog. It was a really easy extract based brew. I was able to brew 5 gallons in the short few hours I typically have after work and before bed time. I followed all the directions as per the White house, so it would be as close to their recipe as possible. For election night we poured free samples for people to taste and enjoy at the Casual Pint’s downtown location. There was a pretty big crowd come out to try it and watch the election returns.

So how is this beer? It’s really basic, very drinkable but a bit on the English side of the ale spectrum. Although I liked it, It’s not a beer I’d likely make to keep on tap at home. Other people seemed to really enjoy it. My pal and fellow blogger Saccy drank a bit and I made sure to constantly fill his cup. He wrote about it and posted this cool picture on his website.

Saccy’s sign. Thanks for your vote! Check him out at Knoxbeerdinosaur.wordpress.com

The Tennessee Valley Homebrewer’s latest Big Ass Malt Order or (BAMO for short) just wrapped up. Collectively the club ordered 2 pallets of grain. I did my part and ended up with 325 lbs. The bulk of my order was organic 2 row brewers malt. I also picked up more Rauch Malt, some vienna, light munich, and crystal 60. This should cover my base malt needs for the next 6 to 7 brews. For me this buying in bulk at wholesale price is well worth the yearly dues I pay to the club. If you are a homebrewer and in Knoxville, click here to find out more about joining. It’s well worth it, even if you don’t brew all grain. Members can get malt extracts at cost as well.

Back of my CRV loaded with my BAMO order

I also recently ordered bulk hops from the website HopsDirect.com. This website is by Puterbaugh farm out in the Yakima Valley. It’s a family run farm that grows and sells fresh leaf hops by the pound. I was shopping around for leaf hops on their site when I came across a proprietary hop they grow call Belma. This is the first year they are releasing this hop and the description sounded wonderful. The best part is the price, $5.25 a pound! This is unheard of for any hop variety. Even Cascade which everyone grows and is the most readily available hop cost $13 a pound. I know that this is an introductory price and in the future this hop will probably be in the $15 to $18 a pound range. So I bought 3 pounds. I ended up selling one of them at cost to my friend Kavon who is also a homebrewer and bartends at Suttree’s. But still I have 2 pounds. These hops smell fantastic. Much like other American hop varieties, they have a very citrusy aroma. I couldn’t wait to use some of it, so I brewed a beer this weekend. I took my recipe for my Cascadian Dark Ale (or Dark IPA if you prefer) and tinkered with it to include these hops. The last couple of times I’ve brewed, I’ve had help from several good friends. It’s great to have people lend a hand (especially with the clean up) on brew days. However, this time I wanted to get back to my roots and brew alone. It’s almost meditative for me to do that every once in awhile. So I didn’t tell anybody, got my ingredients together, started a monster yeast starter a couple days before, went to the spring and got water, spent my Sunday brewing and now I have 10 gallons happily bubbling away. My next brew day I will include my friends. Next Sunday I plan on brewing a Belma based pale all. I’m going to call it the KBC 505 which is reference to an inside joke with the guys I went to GABF with.

6 ounces of Belma hops from HopsDirect.com

My friends and co-owners of Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern, Matt and Ann, went on beercation last week to the west coast where they traveled and visited breweries. I got several text from Matt when he was at Russian River Brewing Company. He sent me the pictures below:

Russian River’s Tap board

A case of Russian River’s Bling Pig and a case of Pliny the Elder

Well last night at ol’ Sut’s we had a private employee and friends party with some goodies they sent back. There was a case of both Pliny the Elder and Blind Pig. I brought a few bottles of rare stuff to share as well along with a 2.5 gallon keg of my Oktoberfest. It’s was a great time and lots of good beer was drank. I took a few pictures as well as a short video clip. Thanks Ann and Matt for throwing this party and for the Pliny shirt you brought back for me. Y’all are awesome!

Pliny the Elder, one of the highest rated IPAs ever.

Matt iceing down the beer

More bottles and a mini keg of homebrew

Mmmmmmm, Beer!

Blind Pig anyone?

Well there’s a few things coming up soon in Knoxville. This Thursday there is a bus leaving from Bearden Beer Market going to Highland Brewery for the release of Highland’s Cold Mountain Winter Ale. I’m not sure if there are any spots left. It’s $30 per seat for a trip to Asheville. More details are here and in the image below. I am going, it sounds like too much fun to pass up. I’ll try to post about it afterwards.

Owly Images

Also coming up this Saturday is the Brooklyn Brewery Hurricane Sandy relief fund raiser. This charity event, co-sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery and Eagle Distributing will be going on all day Saturday at both Casual Pint locations, Bearden Beer Market, Vic’s Beer Garden, both Brixx Pizza locations, Central Flats and Taps, and Suttree’s. So go drink beer, it’s for charity.

One more thing of note. Next First Friday, December 7th at 7pm I will be pouring FREE samples of my winter seasonal. Previously called Spicy Cocoa Stout, now called I’m Warming You, it’s a 7.3% abv imperial chocolate milk stout brewed with Tennessee cherry chili and jalepeno peppers. This will take place at Jackson Avenue Market in the JFG building in the Old City. Mark it on your calendar now and let’s pack that place.

Seriously, y’all come out for this one. Please?

Cheers,

Ratchet