I don’t even know how to start this post. My mind is still processing the pure amount of concentrated fun I had this weekend in Johnson City. I’m talking of course about The Thirsty Orange Brew Extravaganza. I drove up on Friday morning with a goal of visiting some breweries, going to the site of the event, getting settled into my hotel and covering the beer dinner. I was able to get just that accomplished. My first stop of the trip took me to Damascus, VA, home of the Virginia Creeper Trail. About 4 or 5 years ago, I took a vacation to camp and ride the trail with my son. We had a great time and I kept thinking how Damascus would really benefit by having a nano-brewery. Not only does the Creeper trail go through, but so does the Appalachian trail. Well fast forward a few years and now there is a small brewery appropriately called “The Damascus Brewery“. I met the owner Adam on my last beer trip to All Ale To The Queen Craft Beer Carnival in Charlotte, NC. We shared a table together and he poured his delicious Bazinga Black IPA. I really enjoyed talking to him and I knew I would have to go check out his set up. We spoke on the phone a few times to plan it out and I headed up there Friday morning. Adam is a family man, and had previous engagement with his kids, so he arranged to have his number 2, co-brewer and all around cool dude Jeremy open the place up just to give me a tour.
When I arrived he immediately started showing me around. I recognized some fermenters that were manufactured by my friend Carl at Bubba’s Barrels. Every piece of equipment had a story behind it. After looking around, it was time for some sampling. I sat at the bar and listened to the tale behind everyone of their brews. Each beer I tried was great. I wanted to bring some home to share, so after a while I picked a growlette of Sweet Beaver, an apricot heffeweizen. After awhile I realized it had to get on the road and I didn’t want to take up too much of Jeremy’s time. I said my goodbye and am going to have to go do the Creeper Trail again this Summer so I can spend much more time there and enjoy full sized pours.
My next stop was to go see my friend and all around great guy, Brian Connatser at Sleepy Owl Brewery in Kingsport, TN. I arrived to a familiar location. Sleepy Owl is in the old rail road depot where Kingsport Oktoberfest is held. The brewery occupies the space that we used as a staging area the last couple of years. Brian has a 1 barrel Blichmann system with electric heating. Unfortunately, he did not have any beers to pour as he is still waiting for his final TTB number before he can fire up the system. When he does, you better believe I’ll be taking him up on his offer to come brew a collaboration. We talked for awhile and he gave me great advice and a whole lot of hope. He built his whole brewery by hand and with a budget I could see myself doing. After a little bit, I had to head on. I wish Brian and Sleepy Owl nothing but great success. I have a feeling they will be growing at an outstanding pace.
The next place to go was the Millennium Center on ETSU’s campus to find Aaron and get situated. I quickly found him running around attending to all the last minute details like always. He asked if I could go to The Battery where the beer dinner was being held and make sure they had all the parts for the jockey boxes they needed for the night. After doing so, I headed over to Earth Fare to buy the ingredients for the next day’s infusion. After that, I had barely enough time to go to the hotel, shower and change to get ready for the dinner. I arrived early enough to make sure we got the beer hooked up to pour and enjoy a few pints myself. As familiar and new faces started arriving I had time to meet the new Highland festival rep, Mark. We hit it off right away, and I joked with about how he had taken my dream job. Next Josie and Jeff from Urban Orchard arrived. I had a blast with them last time, and it was good to see them as well. Adam from Damascus Brewery was on scene and I made sure to thank him for having Jeremy show me around. I got a text from my buddy Adam Reinke asking if I could save seats for him and the crazy M.A.L.T. guys he was bringing.
After enjoying several beers and mingling with my friends (Shout out to Jay, his wife, Brian Connatser and Smap of UBC) it was time to start the dinner. We all got seated and the first course came out. You can see what we had for each pairing by following the twitter post from that event. Course 1, 2, 3, and 4 hot linked for your convenience. After dinner it was time for a little partying. Reinke and his crew were staying at the Double Tree where I was at and, while some of the others like Jeff and Josie from Urban Orchard were at the the Carnegie hotel right at the festival site. We had so much fun together at All Ale to The Queen we wanted to find another “Grassy Knoll” to hang out. Instead we got a cement patio outside the hotel. Cementy knoll just doesn’t have the same ring to it. I stashed my car back at my hotel and along with Adam and crew, we shared a cab back to Carnegie. After a few beers, it dawned on me that I was supposed to “Run For The Booty” in the morning and should make my way back to my hotel. While waiting for a cab, I saw one of my friends being dropped off out front. Their ride just happened to be going back to Double Tree so it worked out perfectly for me. So I called it a night and rested up for the next day.
Morning arrived and I woke up slightly hungover. No big deal, I did my best run hungover, so I just drank coffee and water and headed back to the site. I arrived and parked. while waiting for the run to start, I unpacked a few things from the car to set up my booth. I waited around for what seemed like a really long time until the run go underway. I wasn’t going for speed and knew it was a color run, so I left my iPhone and headphones in the car. I started off the near the front of the pack and stayed there the whole time. I expected to get passed by many other runners, but only a few did. Along the route there weren’t any markers, so I had no idea how far I had to go. There were a few color stations where they threw died cornstarch on us, and a few sand pits set up where we dug for plastic coins. They gave out prizes based on who got the most. I came to run, not dig in sand, so I didn’t focus on that. I did finish strong near the front, but had no idea what my time was, but I felt great. After getting back to the site, I had a few pictures snapped and then headed back to my room to clean up and get ready for the day’s big festivities.
After cleaning up, it was set up time. My friends Jess Hurd and Rob Brantner both had family in the area they could stay with and agreed to help me out by volunteering for the day. I met them both on site. Rob was my merchandise, booth volunteer. Jess is a recent graduate of South College’s brewing Science program, so I thought this would make her overly qualified to help me run the festival’s mobile infusion unit. After getting the booth set up, we had to make sure we had everything for the randal. We got it from the organizers and I realized that it wasn’t as cleaned out as I thought from the last festival. It took awhile and some borrowed beer line cleaner and Star-San to get it ready. We were able to get it up and running at Highland’s booth right as the early bird ticket holders were let in at 1pm. We had a strict schedule for the infusions. We decided to do 5 infusions. Each table would get 45 minutes, with 15 minutes between each one to unpack, clean and repack for the next booth. Once up and running, we would take turns running things while the other one of us grabbed a beer and socialized. I seen many of my tri-cities friends and every time I turned around I was getting a hug, handshake or a pat on the back from someone I hadn’t seen in awhile. After (more then) a few beers, it started to feel like rock star status. We were all into full on party mode, but I had to self regulate my consumption because of my duties. We hit our groove and the infusions ran like clockwork. Here’s what we did:
Highland Brewing Company Thunder Struck Porter with mint, cinnamon and Cocao nibs from 1:15-2
Goose Island Beer Co. Endless IPA with strawberry and cutie oranges from 2:15-3
New Belgium Brewing Snapshot with watermelon and hops from 3:15-4
Starr Hill Brewing Company Dark Star Stout with coconut and cocao nibs from 4:15- 5
And our last infusion of the day was Urban Orchard’s Sweet English Cider with Plums and Peaches from 5 until they ran out. The festival ended at 7 and I wanted to make sure we would have time to enjoy it before it was over. I walked around and made plans for the after party with friends. Most brewers and volunteers know we can’t get overly inebriated at the fest because we still have to pack up and make way to our respective hotels, clean up and grab some food before the real party begins for us. There was an official after party at a place called Holy Taco and a bar tab set up just for us. So after sobering up, breaking down and packing up, I hit my hotel for a shower, and some fresh clothes. Once again outside the lobby I met with friends of ours such as John from Lookout Brewing in Black Mountain, NC and his crew. Adam, Mark and Erich from the infamous Mike Hawke homebrew tent were there as well. We shared cabs to get back downtown and Holy Taco. As soon as I walked in the door I was bombarded by friends. I felt very loved and had some good buddies tell me they had waited a whole year to smoke with me, so we went to the parking lot for a little smoke session that didn’t last long. After about 4 minutes and 20 seconds, we were walking back into the bar. My Bearden Beer Market running buddy D.J. Loope was there as well as the Chisholm Tavern crew. So was Stephanie of Superfly Fabulous events, the organizers of Thirsty Orange. She told me there were tables set up for us out back. I walked back there to find the MALT guys, The Lookout Brew crew, my Urban Orchard peeps, Rob and some new friends I made that day. The beer and music was flowing and I was feeling good. Regulate by Warren G. was bumping on the sound system, prompting Josie of Urban Orchard and myself to dance to it. I sat the next table over most of the time getting to know my new friends Maggie and TJ who work at Mellow Mushroom with my friends Andrew, Andrew and Flipper. We drank more and I remember buying us a round a margaritas and drinking mine and most of a few other peoples as well. I decided we need more pictures and someone took this funny series below as TJ kept pinching my nipples. It was too funny to not turn into an animated gif.
As the party progressed the decision was made to head back to the “Cementy Knoll” at The Carnegie. Luckily instead of a cab, TJ and Maggie had a friend, Victoria that drove us there. We bumped loud electronica music (except for when that cop was following us) on the way there. We arrived to find the rest of our crew already in place and at the point I was drinking anything anyone handed me, as you’ll see by the pictures. At some point I went into the downstairs by the patio and grabbed some nice big comfy upholstered chairs and dragged them outside. Adam Reinke commented that we were going to get kicked out of the hotel we weren’t even staying at.
The rest of the party started becoming a blur and my off switch flipped. It was time to head back to the hotel. I did an irish goodbye and had the front desk call me a cab. The next morning I woke early with a hangover, packed my car and headed home.
What an incredible time. I am hoping to get back up to tri-cities real soon to visit and also brew with Jimie, Jay and Brian. I am also hoping that some of my friends from up there will come visit me. I’d love to show them around Knoxville and Maryville for a weekend. Maybe a few of them will join me next month for Asheville Beer Week?
Coming up next is both CurtisFest and Hops for Hope. Curtis Fest is less then 2 weeks, on Saturday April 26th. Some friends and I are already scoping out the site to see where we want to set up camp. I’m really excited about this because besides my tweeting duties, I have no other responsibilities. I’ll get to actually relax and drink copious amounts with some of my favorite people. Hops for Hope is May 2nd at the Lily Barn in Townsend. I am volunteering for this one. To know more about it, read this excellent post by Knox Beer Snobs. we currently have tickets for sale for both events at the Market in Maryville, so feel free to come by and pick them up from myself of dAveBV. Also a note to our Brew Mob crew. We are cementing plans for our Oskar Blues Cans Film Fest entry video shoot. When we announce when we are filming, we’ll need you to show up in your Brew Mob gear for the final shot. You’ll be comped with beer for your participation and we will have some Oskar Blues cans to share. You can find out when this is going to happen on our Facebook and Twitter feed.
This is all for now, there’s another big announcement coming soon. I’m hoping to post about it before CurtisFest. Thanks for reading this, enjoy the pictures below.
May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you’re going, and the insight to know when you’re going too far.
— Irish toast