Listening to this: https://soundcloud.com/djmaars/dj-maars-boomtown-set-2014
and announcing this Post by Nantahala Brewing Company.
I’ll be busy, but I’ll check back on this blog come December.
Listening to this: https://soundcloud.com/djmaars/dj-maars-boomtown-set-2014
and announcing this Post by Nantahala Brewing Company.
I’ll be busy, but I’ll check back on this blog come December.
A lot happens in a month. It’s been that long since I last wrote here. I just haven’t been inspired to write. It’s not like a lot of stuff hasn’t happened. I just haven’t gotten around to (or felt like) writing about it.
I guess I could start where my last post left off, Asheville Beer Week. Despite my intentions, I only did a few days there. Sunday ended with Westside Fest. It was a great festival despite having to run around to the local homebrew and hardware stores to get a few missing parts for the Randal. I ended up on the news once again. After the event Sunday, I was just tired. I sobered up (hadn’t drank too much there anyway), ate dinner at Asheville Brewing Company and drove back to Maryville. This was the opening weekend of Asheville Beer Week and I had originally planned on going back the following weekend. For some reason this year, I just wasn’t feeling it and decided to stay in town and work instead. After all, Sunday June 1st was the first Sunday where we were open at Bluetick Brewery. It is my day, being that I was the one to convince Christopher to let me open up the bar and make him some money.
Let’s see, what else has happened in the last month? Quite a few things actually. June 6th Trader Scott, Richard and myself took short beer trip across the mountains. We went to Sylva, NC to bottle shop at Pj’s, checked out Innovation Brewing and Heinzelmanchen Brewery. This was right before going to a bottle share party & trail magic release at Nantahala Brewing Company. It was just a day trip, really fun and much needed.
Most of what has gone on has been at Bluetick Brewery where I now work full time. The Blackberry Farm Brewery gig didn’t last long, as I wasn’t a good fit there. Bluetick is definitely my type of place and it’s exciting to be on the ground floor of a up and coming brewery. I set up and promote events as just one of my duties. Our biggest event took place on June 20th. It was our Grand Opening, and the place was packed. Here is the WBIR news segment about it.
The next day was Knoxville Brewfest near the Southern Railway terminal in downtown. Another duty of mine is being the festival guy, so we set up and poured 2 of our brews. It was a lot of fun and thankfully we had enough volunteers so that I could get out and socialize with friends at the fest. Not that I didn’t spend a lot of time at our booth. I wasn’t the driver so after the fest we hit a few parties around Knoxville before going home.
Other then this, my life has been pretty routine. I injured myself running, so I am still trying to rehab my leg. I still run a little (until it starts hurting) but mostly doing my exercise bike while watching movies. Most of my time is spent at Bluetick Brewery working. Tuesdays I go in early, place beer orders, meet with distributors, make phone calls, write the newsletter and bar tend for the very few people who come to have a beer. My usual bartending nights are Thirsty Thursday, when we put our weekly batch of beer on tap, and Sunday Fundays. Sundays are my favorite because it’s laid back, we get a pretty good crowd and group of regulars and we do a bottle share at 2pm. This Sunday I anticipate that I’ll get my “Elite” badge on Untappd for having 2500 unique check ins. I joined Untappd on June 19th, 2011, so this milestone has taken me a little over 3 years of trying different beers to achieve. I’ll be bringing out the best stuff from my cellar to celebrate. So if you want to participate, grab a bottle and come on down.
This is all for now. I don’t know when I’ll write again. I’ve been writing the weekly Bluetick newsletter so that’s been taking most of my creative juices. Of course I still constantly tweet, so there’s that. Until next time.
I’ve been looking forward to this since last year. It’s ASHEVILLE BEER WEEK! Asheville is Mecca for beer lovers, Beer City USA, and my favorite city to visit. Last year I was an official guest blogger for ABW, but this year the official blogging is being done by my friends over at Asheville Ale Trail. I am simply here to enjoy.
I got into town around 6pm on Friday evening. My original plan was to head over and see friends at Urban Orchard but on the way into town I received a text from a friend informing me that there was a Green Man meet the brewer event and tasting at Appalachian Vintner. Since App Vintner is always on my itinerary, I opted to go there first. I arrived and settled up to the bar where I was greeted by Charles. I placed an order. I thought it appropriate that my first official beer of Asheville Beer Week would be the Asheville Brewers Alliance White IPA. This cloudy, hoppy and tasty beer is a perfect representation of the style, and of Asheville.
After I finished it, I ordered Green Man’s Berliner Weisse. I walked over and spoke with Green Man’s brewer to ask if this was the previously bottled Shadenfreude, but he informed me it was not. I told him of my love of Green Man’s beers and showed him a picture I keep on my phone of when I had bottles of all the small batch stuff.
After talking some more, it was time for some bottle shopping. I walked around and carefully chose a small selection. This trip is being done on a shoestring budget, so more times then not, I kept having to put back bottles of stuff I wanted. As I sipped and shopped, Charles came over to inform me that he had just tapped a keg of Olde Hickory’s 2013 Event Horizon. How could I resist? This beer is better as it warms, so I cupped my half pour tightly in my hands to lend it some of my body heat. While I was shopping, I noticed on Untappd that other Knoxvillian friends of mine were in town. I paid for my beers and headed to try to catch up with them. As I drove downtown, I saw Julie from Bruisin’ Ales on the front patio of Thirsty Monk. I parked and walked over there. Jason from Bruisin‘ was on the front patio and after we said our hellos, I walked to the bar where I saw my favorite Asheville bartender, Clete. Sitting at the bar was Julie and Jason came in to join us. I had a pour of Stone’s Sprocketbier while we chatted. I wanted to hit up Wicked Weed, so I said goodbye and walked over. When I arrived, there was a line to get in. At this point I was hungry so I headed over to Coxe Avenue to get a slice of pizza (and more beer) at Asheville Brewing Company. I settled up to the bar and ordered. After awhile I got a text from my friend Jerry that himself, Millie, Robert and Brittney were over at Barley’s and I should join them. Right when I was leaving, an incredibly gorgeous girl stopped me outside the door. “Are you Ratchet?” Caught off guard I stammered, “uh, yeah.” “Oh hey, I read your blog, you in town for beer week?” We talked for a bit while my phone kept getting text from Jerry asking were I was.
I didn’t want to be rude to my friends, so I invited her to join me, but she was in the same position with her friends waiting inside at Asheville Brewing Company. We talked about getting together at some events and said goodbye. I stupidly forgot to get her number. So if you are reading this, email me and let’s hang out at Westside Fest, ok?
Catching up with my buddies at Barley’s we had a drink and made plans where to go next. We agreed that Thirsty Monk would be a good choice, especially since Robert said he hadn’t been there before. We walked over, bought a round upstairs and then headed downstairs for another. The group wanted to go to Asheville Brewing Company, and I was with it, but convinced them to go across the street to my favorite dive bar, the Asheville Yacht Club. I love that place! It’s small, rough, rowdy and has good drinks. I have some great memories associated with it. We ordered some more beer. Our crew was a little disorganized and wanted to go over to Jack of The Woods, but a quick check showed there was a cover charge, so we passed and settled back to our drinks at Yacht Club. It was getting late and I still had to make my way to my friend Wes’s house in South Asheville. I said goodnight and parted ways with the rest of the crew as they headed for Asheville Brewing Company.
I got to Wes’s house and we hung out a bit and tried a few brews. I was tired and knew that today would be huge, so I called it a night.
Today’s agenda is fun. Wes is a great homebrewer and is pouring his beer at Just Economic’s Just Brew It homebrew festival. I am helping at his booth, Midnight Oil brewing. I’m really looking foward to seeing all my Asheville friends. The last 2 years the locals have told me that this event is their favorite part of beer week. Before this I’m going over to Hi-wire Brewing’s Ringmaster Release and Belgian Waffle Brunch. I’m trying to hurry up and write this so I can go. Tonight after Just Brew It, a group of us are going over the Catawba’s Asheville location for the King Coconut release party.
Well I need to get out the door and get to it. I’ll be live posting today’s festivities on Twitter, Instagram and Untappd. I’ll try to write again tomorrow. Check out the pictures below.
If you haven’t gotten your tickets yet to the Biggest Tricities festival of the year, then I guess you’re not going. If you are planning on it, and haven’t bought tickets, you need to get on it. Chances are they are going to sell out soon. This is probably my favorite festival of the Year. It takes over a 6 block area of downtown Kingsport and a majority of it is free. In fact, the only cost is to get into the bier garden. I could go on and on about it, but everything that needs to be said has been said. Check out these links:
Knox Beer Snob’s write up about it.
Ashvegas.com article about it.
Out N’ About magazine article.
You get the point. I’ll be there along with Richard and Todd pouring our delicious homebrew. We are bringing Celiatrix Gluten-Free IPA, Comrade Soze Russian Imperial Stout, Ma Hefe Heffeweizen, Hop-BOOM! IPA, Blackberry Bomber, and Butternut Squash Ale. We are also bringing merchandise to sell, so pick up a shirt or something to help us pay for more beer making ingredients.
Also, if you want to go for the day and not spend the night, contact me. I know of at least one person going for the day that plans on driving back to Knoxville that night. Y’all could carpool and share gas. If you want to spend the night, you better hurry, most of the hotels are booked.
Well this is all for now. If I get a chance, I’ll write about last weekend’s bourboncation, if not I’ll be sure to tell you how Oktoberfest went. Hope to see you there and also don’t forget that the Brooklyn Brewery Tap Takeover is happening at Suttree’s tonight at 6. 17 taps with some super rare beers and brewmaster reserves that will probably never be available in this area again. If you see me there, buy me a beer? I’m broke as hell, but I can pay you back in homebrew.
A while back my friend and legendary Asheville homebrewer, Adam Reinke, approached me about guiding a tour of Ashevillians through the Knoxville Beer Scene. I didn’t have to think twice about it. Over the last couple of months, we coordinated our plans and set the itinerary. The trip was put together by Asheville’s homebrew club, MALT (Mountain Ale and Lager Tasters) . They chartered a bus to bring them over the mountains and back.
Everyone knows that Knoxville has just a fraction of the breweries and craft beer bars that Asheville does. At the time we originally planned, Knoxville only had 3 operating breweries. Black Horse Pub had not yet opened, so was not included on the tour. The bus arrived at Saw Works Brewing Company at 10:30 am. Co-owner Jonathon Borsodi and head brewer Dave Ohmer had graciously agreed to open early to accommodate the group. Everyone settled in for flights and samples of beer before going behind the scenes where Dave talked about brewing for Saw Works and answered questions. (click on pictures below to enlarge).
After we were done at Saw Works, we headed over to Gay Street to check out Downtown Grill and Brewery, home of Woodruff Brewing Company. This place has long been my home away from home. Whenever I have friends visiting from outside the area, I always bring them here. The IPA has been a go to of mine, and years ago this was the only spot to get decent craft beer in all of downtown. There we ate lunch, sampled beer and spoke with assistant brewer, Tommy. (Once again, click on the pictures below to enlarge)
After everyone finished up at Downtown Grill and Brewery, we walked across the street to Knoxville’s best Craft Beer Bar, Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern. When planning this trip, I definitely wanted to show off where us Knoxvillians go for the best draft selection. Sure other places might have more taps, but when it comes to the rarities, Ol’ Sut’s is usually the only place that has them. The group walked in and settled up to the bar. A few people went next store for bottling shopping at Downtown Wine and Spirits. Matt, Stanton and Anne were bartending that day and were happy to pour samples and talk about the selection. We sat around drinking, talking beer, making dirty jokes and coming up with hilarious yet inappropriate names for cider. When we gave everyone the 15 minute warning to get back on the bus, Stanton graciously grabbed a bottle of Rivertown Lambic out of the cooler and poured a sample for everyone. it was very much appreciated.
Before heading to the bus, I took a few of the group over to The Casual Pint on Union Avenue for some last minute bottle shopping. I bought a few selections myself before getting back on board. The Next stop was Smoky Mountain Brewery in Turkey Creek.
This was the last stop of the days tour. They knew we were coming and had an area all ready for us. We sat down and ordered food and beer while waiting for Brewmaster Marty Velas to arrive and guide us through. I tried several of their beers that I haven’t had before and found them all to be top notch. Marty arrived and we split the group in half to take turns touring the brew house. Marty very graciously poured beer for the guest and talked about the brewing process and the history of Smoky Mountain Brewery.
Well like all good things, the tour came to an end. Much beer was consumed and many people picked up beer they were unable to get back home. We loaded back into the bus and headed back on the interstate. The bus dropped me off back town and I said my goodbyes. It was a great time and I really appreciate all the beer and food bought for me by the group. I made some new friends and look forward to meeting them for beers in Asheville next time I visit. Anytime anyone wants to come visit Knoxville, I will be more than happy to show you around. Maybe I should actually Start a Knoxville Beer Tour. Then again, how’d would I find the time?
Enjoy the video from the day below. It’s really bad quality because I used a stupid app to do it. When I was recording I had no idea it was doing a split screen or weird color thing. I should have just recorded with the regular camera app, but I’ll know better for next time.
I also want to let everyone know that on Thursday I will be on WBIR’s Live at 5 at 4 talking about craft beer and beercations. This is August 1st which is also IPA Day. I am hoping someone will record the video for me so I can post it here.
Until next time, drink one for me.
It’s been almost a month since my last post. A combination of being incredibly busy and not having anything substantial to write about are my excuses. I haven’t brewed for a while, and still have to keg the 40 or so gallons sitting in my fermentation room. It seems like everytime I plan on doing my “beer chores”, life happens.
Since then I have cut back substantially on my craft beer intake (as anyone who follows me on untappd has probably noticed.) I did have a fun night on the Star of Knoxville’s “Booze Cruise”. They didn’t have any beer I liked, so I stayed with mix drinks on that one.
Last Saturday was a going away party for one of the Knox Beer Crew‘s most notorious members. Our own Nick “Big Magic” Walsh. He recently accepted a job offer back in his home state of Michigan. Nick still has many friends up there, along with his family. He was a major part of the scene here and ran the Knox Hopnings facebook page. Everyone in town has at least one or two wild and crazy Nick stories to tell. I’ll never forget my trip to GABF last year with him and some of the other guys. I’m sure Nick will come back a couple of times a year to visit (at least we hope so). So Big Magic, we’ll miss you bro. Good luck with your new job, and don’t forget about us down here in lil’ ol’ Knoxvegas.
On Sunday I was able to take a quick trip to Bruisin’ Ales with my good friends Scott Kirkham aka Booze Traveler and Jason Anderson aka Animal. Scott mentioned to me a few days before that he was planning to go there and back and I asked if I could ride along. We met at my office around 10 am. An hour and 45 minutes later we pulled up to Bruisin’. We were there a little early so we hung outside waiting for them to open. A couple from Louisville arrived to wait as well. I said it almost looked like we were lining up for a rare bottle release, we just needed a few more people.
Well the time came and Jason (not co-owner Jason) let us in. The first thing I did was ask about sip-n-shop. I got a pour of Pisgah’s Tripel and a pour of Sweetwater’s Waterkeeper Hefeweizen. I had reserved one of the last bottles of Allagash’s 2013 Confluence. I was really lucky to get one considering there were only 6 bottles available in all of Western North Carolina. I follow Bruisin’ Ales Twitter and Facebook feed. When they post the rarities (and they do), I know to call and reserve them.
We hung out pursuing the selection, talking to other shoppers and generally beer geeking out. After a while we made our purchases, and said our goodbyes. Where next guys? Animal and Booze Traveler were hungry but I convinced them to go check out Appalachian Vintner before lunch. We arrived and realized that they are closed on Sundays, so we drove back downtown for food and beer at Wicked Weed.
We walked in and headed downstairs. I started with a 10 ounce pour of the XIII Mango Cumin Saison. The guys grabbed menus from the bar while I was content to munch on the free pretzels for my lunch. After finishing my drink, I opted for a 6 pour flight. Animal ordered a bison burger which he swears is his favorite, and Booze Traveler went with a cheese plate. Ol’ Boozie handed me a small chunk of blue cheese. “Here, let this melt in your mouth and then take a sip of your Black Angel Cherry Sour.” I did as he said and inadvertently blurted out “holy s**t that’s good!” The combination was the best cheese and beer pairing I have ever had. While drinking our beer, co-owner and brewer Walt dropped by our table to say hi. We talked for a few minutes and he let slip that they plan on doing some 750ml releases out of their barrel program soon. These bottles will be really limited, and I’ll be sure to try to get my share.
We finished our meal and noticed dark clouds on the horizon. The forecast had called for storms, so we decided that it was time to head back to Knoxville.
It was a great and quick trip and I’m glad that we live so close that we can spend 6 hours and have a mini-getaway. Thanks again Scott for letting me ride with ya. Everyone please check out his blog that mentions our trip.
A couple more things I want to mention in this post. Kingsport Oktoberfest is happening Saturday September 28th. Tickets are on sale with the limited edition VIP packages selling quickly. From what I am told, there are only a few memberships and VIPs left. The extras are well worth the price. This has to be my favorite beer festival of the year. Each year this event gets bigger and better. Once again I am looking forward to pouring my homebrew and doing a workshop at Beer University. Das Krew has recently added Instagram to their social media arsenal. If you are on Instagram, give them a follow. They are also trying to increase the twitter followers as well. There have been some contest for retweets are followers lately, so don’t miss out.
Well ever since my last beercation for Asheville Beer Week, I’ve been in debt. I guess that’s what happens when I spend my savings and max out my credit cards. I’ve been doing fairly good about paying it off and not spending too much, but the bad part is I don’t go out as often as I use to and I haven’t had any beer adventures until last Sunday. See, I do have a problem. My problem is that I don’t seem to be able to pass up buying hard to find and rare beers when they become available online. I have several websites bookmarked that I look at frequently. Every once in a while I see something super rare and highly rated that I just got to HAVE. This is the case in point with Luekens Liquors down in Florida. They carry a great variety of Cigar City beers. Sometimes they list a rarity and it’s usually sold out by the next day. I was doing my window shopping last week when this appeared. As I sat there reading the description, I looked down and saw that I had already subconsciously pulled my credit card out of my wallet. Oh well, what’s another 2 weeks of making payments on my credit if it’s going to get me rare beer and make me happy?
So I thought I’d be an enabler and post a list of online shops that ship. Y’all know that Bruisin’ Ales does right? Well what about these?
Luekens Liquors. Ships from the bay area of Florida. They charge for shipping and packaging, but I’ve never had a bottle break. They ship in heavy duty cardboard boxes. Usually takes a week or more to get here.
France 44. Based in Minnesota. Slow shipping but great selection.
Quality Liquor Store. Based in San Diego, sometimes they have Russian River stuff, but it sells quick. I ordered one time and they substituted a bottle of something. That kind of rubbed me the wrong way, being that I got no notification that they were going to do so.
20 West Wine and Spirits. Based out of Illinois, carries a lot of Three Floyds, Pipeworks and other area goodies. Quick shipping but expensive.
Let’s Pour. Decent selection and usually has free shipping if you buy enough. Based on the West Coast and ships slowly. Packaged great but I am always afraid of temperature extremes during shipping in the summer months.
HalfTime Beverages. Based in New York and with a great selection and the best packaging of craft beer I have ever seen. I wouldn’t hesitate to order from them again.
These are ones I have dealt with. There are more listed under the trade tab at the Knox Beer Crew Website. I hope this helps you find some stuff you have been looking for, ore new things to try. If this has been helpful, please let me know when your order gets in and lets meet for a beer. Until next time…
Friday morning found us back at Izzy’s Coffee Den. We had actually gotten a late and barely had time to enjoy our drinks as we worked on the blog. Before we knew it, it was time to go to the next event. We had recieved a private invitation to attend Digital Relativity’s Beer Marketing (That Doesn’t Suck!) workshop. This event took place on the 10th floor of the Hotel Indigo. Arriving to complimentary valet parking for attendees, we were escorted to a posh condo overlooking Asheville. Many of other other friends in the beer industry were there. Brewers, venue owners, marketing and sales reps, and of course, bloggers. Leading the workshop was none other then Pat Strader. We’ve both know of each other and have been friends on untappd, but this was the 1st time meeting in real life. Pat walked us through an informative 2 hour presentation while we sipped beer and snacked. I learned quite a bit from this workshop and plan on implementing some of his suggestions as soon as possible. Being that it was going to be a very busy day, so of the brewery reps had to excuse themselves early to get ready for various events they were hosting around town. We had planned on taking a trip on the Pisgah Brewing to see our friend Gaines and to take a short tour and purchase some rare bottles. We realized how short we were on time. Gaines was at the workshop and apologized that he wouldn’t be bale to take us on a tour but he would make sure to let other people at the brewery know we were coming so they could show us around. As we left Hotel Indigo, Julie from Bruisin Ales told us that she had just gotten a shipment of the rare bottles from Pisgah the day before. We elected to go there instead and picked up a few other things that had just came in as well. By now we were hungry and Katie always craves Panda Express when we are in town, so we headed over to the Asheville Mall so she could get her fix and I could pick up a new cord for my beleagered computer. After getting her food to go, and a quick stop at Radio Shack, we headed back to the hotel to prepare for the Asheville Rare and Wild Beer tasting event. We could see the line forming from our hotel balcony.
At 6 pm we walked the few short blocks to The Mill Room where The Asheville Rare and Wild Beer Tasting was taking place. This was a small event with only 250 tickets sold and many breweries brought their rarest creation. Many of the bottles and kegs were the last ones in existence. We walked around seeking out the rarest of the rare and were joined at the event by our #KnoxBeerCrew buddies Todd & Joey. It seemed like everyone at tasting knew each other. This tasting was put together & sponsored by All About Beer Magazine with a portion of the ticket sales going to Pints for Prostates, an organization that focuses on men’s health issues. I really enjoyed the event. Most of the beers will never be brewed again, the food was amazing and hanging out, meeting and socializing with everyone was great. The only thing I thought could be done better next time is to extend the time the event runs. With over 30 different beers being served, the 3 hours alotted was just not enough time to responsibly sample everything that I wanted to.
When the event ended at 9, we got our group of friends together and decided to go to Wicked Weed to enjoy thier new collaboration with Foothills, Batch 69. I had glasses, stickers, magazines and other swag from the event, so I headed to the hotel to drop it off while Katie, Joey and Todd went to WW. I took a few minutes to freshen up, drink some more Emergen-C and down the last of my multi-vitamins. I arrived to find Wicked Weed packed, as is typical on a Friday night. I bluffed my way pass 2 sets of door guys by telling them I was already seated with my friends and had just walked out for a moment. This allowed my to bypass the line and go immediately to drink with my buddies (yeah I know, I suck.) I bought a half pour of Batch 69. This beer is a combination of Wicked Weed’s Freak of Nature Triple IPA and Foothill’s famous Sexual Chocolate, brewed and combined together at the same time. It was incredibly delicious and I may or may not have purchased a mini-growler to share with friends back in Knoxville. I spoke with Luke (who I almost didn’t recognize at first due to his 70s costume and wig) about this beer. I asked why they didn’t name it Sexual Freak. He laughed and said that is what they considered at first but knew it would be too risque. It just so happed to be the 69th batch brewed by Wicked Weed, so it was just fitting to call it that.
We sat around enjoying each others company and beer. I was happy to see that Todd was having an indepth conversation with Mitch Steele, while Katie spoke and hung out with Abby, Luke’s wife. Aaron and Stephanie Carson came to hang out as well. There was a band playing funk jams. They were really good, and afterwards hip hop music played while inebriated patrons got down and danced. It was getting late and around 1 pm we headed towards The Thirsty Monk for 1 last beer. Katie did her best to heard us 3 big drunk guys down the road and keep us out of trouble or from falling off the sidewalk. We got to the Thirsty Monk to find it closed (again!). Instead we headed across the road to Jack of the Woods. After one last beer it was time to pass out. We said our goodnights to Joey and Todd and passed out almost immediately.
Today is another big day. We are going to take a quick tour of Riverbend Malt House and then get ready for Beer City Festival. That runs until 6, and we’ll see if we can make it the whole time. Other Knox Beer Crew friends of ours such as Matt and Krissy Crowell and Jason and Beverly Anderson are coming in for the day. They will be bar hopping while we are at the fest, and we have plans to hang out tonight. Since this is our last day of beercation, we plan to make the most of it. Tune back in tomorrow for a recap, and in the mean time, check out my untappd check ins to see what delicious brews I’m consuming. There is also my twitter feed and the #AvlBeerWeek tag to follow as well.
See you at the fest!
Yesterday started off in typical fashion with the hunt for coffee. Being away from my cold, dark room at home makes it a little bit more difficult to sleep as long as I would like to in a hotel. My body woke up promptly at 7:15 and wouldn’t allow me to go back for a few more hours. I grabbed my computer and snuck out of the hotel to let Katie finish snoozing.
Since I’m in town and am looking for new experiences, I thought I’d try a different coffee shop other than Izzy’s. Checking “the Google“, I decided to head over to High Five based on their online ratings. They serve counter-culture coffee, which is one of my favorite fair-trade organic brands. Being that it was morning and I could already feel the heat of the day approaching, I opted for an iced coffee, sat down with my drink, and settled in to write my post.
An hour later, my Internet privileges had expired, so I went to the counter to purchase something else. The staff there told me how to get back online, and after struggling with it for five minutes, I asked someone who worked there for assistance. They were very helpful and I was able to get back online and continue writing. About this time, Katie had awoken and texted me. I told her where I was and she came to meet me and help me work on my blog. She is one helluva great editor when it comes to my somewhat rambled and disjointed writings. (She insisted I take this part out but I won’t let her.)
We worked until it was time to leave to go to meet with Billy Pyatt at Catawba Valley Brewing Company in Morganton, N.C. Located an hour east from Asheville, Catawba Valley is one of the local craft beer brands that has been available in Knoxville for as long as I can remember. Back when the only place to get a craft beer was Barley’s, I fondly remember nights of drinking their Firewater IPA. So, when we ran into Billy when we came into town on Monday and he graciously extended his invitation to visit, that made it to the top of our Must-Do list.
The drive over didn’t seem to take long at all, and we arrived in downtown Morganton at Catawba’s spacious location. Billy was expecting us and warmly greeted us at the door. He was finishing up a phone meeting with a new distributor, so we had time to admire their set up and take a few pictures.
Billy didn’t keep us waiting more than a minute or two, and started off the tour by telling us about Catawba’s Asheville expansion. For those of you who haven’t heard, Catawba Valley is opening a small 7-barrel specialty brewery in the space across the street from French Broad Brewery, in Asheville’s Biltmore district.
As we spoke, we walked around and he showed us a few critical pieces of Catawba’s infrastructure, such as the grain hopper, glycol system, and their 10-barrel brewhouse. We met with Scott, Billy’s brother, co-owner, and head brewer, while he was finishing up a batch of their famous King Coconut Porter. I always find the smell of cooking wort intoxicating. As he opened the brew kettle, I took a big whiff. I love that smell!
Having grown organically over the years, it seemed Billy and Scott had a story about each and every piece of equipment over the years. For example, I noticed a big, tall, 40-barrel fermenter looming ahead. Billy told us the story of how that used to be one of Highland Brewery’s first fermenters back when they were brewing in the basement of Barley’s.He said it sat abandoned for years and it was a three-day, slow, meticulous process to remove it from the building so that they could put it back to use at Catawba.
Billy also pointed out various fermenters that they were testing or were planning to install at the new locale. As everyone who is familiar with Catawba knows, when it comes to packaging, not only are their increasingly popular beers available on draft at locations throughout the southeast, but they are also a packaging brewery that opts to can their beer.
We worked our way over toward their rather impressive and relatively new canning line. Billy walked us through each step of the process, going as far as canning up a special can of Catawba Valley canning line water to bestow upon my Khaleesi. She was pretty excited.
It takes about one to one and a half seconds per can to fill and seal. As quickly as they can can the beer, the labeling process is a whole lot more tedious. Each label is applied manually by hand. For each twenty barrel batch of beer that is canned, Billy advises that it takes their employee a solid three days to apply all the labels to a batch. But man, does it look good! Catawba is also very adamant about the quality of their beer and they weigh each individual can to make sure not one single customer will ever be shorted.
Next, we walked through a secret door and ended up, low and behold, in their tasting room. I can definitely imagine this being THE place to spend your weekend nights. Actually, unbeknownst to us, Billy is very familiar with this building. Having grown up in the area, he used to visit this very space back in his high school days when it was a BYOB honky-tonk dive, “Slick Willie’s”. Needless to say, it’s come a long way since then!
Weeks are filled with event nights in the tasting room, everything from Thursday open-mike nights, to traveling bands, to wedding and corporate receptions. While food isn’t offered, the small-town feel of Morgantown really comes alive with the fact that so many catering options are available. We didn’t want to impose for too long, as Billy’s a very busy man, and as we were saying our goodbyes, he kindly offered a six pack of our choice to take with us. We both agreed – Firewater IPA.
Right before we left, he recommended his favorite local eatery, Pat’s Snack Bar, to fill our bellies before the drive back home. Once again, I really want to thank Billy and Scott for their gracious hospitality. We cannot wait to come and visit their new Asheville location when it opens in August. Here’s a small clip to show you how contagious Billy’s enthusiasm can be.
After the visit to Morganton, we drove back and took a quick swim at the hotel before preparing ourselves to go back out again. There were (as usual) plenty of events that were going on that evening, so we wanted to hit as many of them as possible.
We first visited the new wine/beer bar, Weinhaus on Coxe Avenue close to the Monk. I’ve visited this shop often over the years, when it simply a bottleshop and not a bar. I can remember, over 10 years ago, buying Highland bombers for $3 or $4 each, going back and selling them to my buddies for a flat $5 (to make up the gas money, of course). Tonight, the Oskar Blues rep Amy was hosting a pint night. So we headed into Amy’s Weinhaus to take a quick video (as seen below) and sample the Chardonnay-barrel aged Mama’s YellaPils, as well as one of my favorite high gravity IPAs, Gubnah.
I spoke with the store manager, and Amy’s boss, Chris Russell the Oskar Blues Southeast sale manager on our way out. Khaleesi and I talked his ear off about how excited we were that they had joined with Lipman Brother’s Distributing and were going to be a part of the Knox beer culture soon! I heard that cans are already starting to show up in the big stores like Kroger, having been at The Casual Pint and a few other of our favorite beer stores for a few weeks now.
Thursday was one of the busiest days of Ashville Beer Week schedule-wise, with many events going on within walking distance. Although the Highland Brewing Company Six Barrel Shoot-Out was at the top of our list, we elected to skip it due to location and to keep from having to drive. As we left Amy’s Weinhaus heading toward Barleys, who would we run into again other than our good buddies and Stone Stalkers. We paused for a quick pic, to show a few of my Knox Beer Crew buddies like Todd and Jason what they were missing out on.
We told Scott and Mitch we’d catch up later (surely) and headed down the road. We arrived at Barley’s too late to meet with the crew of All About Beer, who had invited us to a small event they were doing for Rare and Wild Beer Tasting ticket holders. However, we arrived just in time for the upstairs Foothills Brewing and New Belgium Tap Takeover.
We grabbed seats and I settled up to the bar when I noticed they had this year’s Sexual Chocolate, as well as the 2012 batch. While waiting for the bartender, I chatted with Evan, the Foothills representative. He told me to get the Olde Rabbit’s Foot, which is probably the rarest of the rare when it comes to North Carolina beer. He told me how he had to pull some serious strings and do a lot of pleading to get the brewery to agree to send one small keg to Barley’s for the event. This is the first time his beer has been poured outside either one of the three breweries that produced it. For those of you who don’t know, Olde Rabbit’s Foot is a collaborative effort between Foothills, Olde Hickory, and Duck Rabbit. They combine Sexual Chocolate, Event Horizon, and the DR Signature Milk Stout into the best-tasting bourbon-barrel aged imperial stout I’ve ever had in my life. It was so good that the little devil on my shoulder was trying to tell me to smuggle a growler of this out of the bar to share with my #KnoxBeerCrew pals. The devil on my other shoulder told me to do it to, but I realized how big of an inconvenience it would be, so I just let it go.
We enjoyed our beers at Barley’s while hanging out with crews from both New Belgium and Foothills. It turns out there are quite a few New Belgium people in town from the main plant in Fort Collins, including one of the head brewers, Alex, who, someone who isn’t used to being interviewed or the “face” of New Belgium because of all his behind-the-scenes work. I was able to take a few videos, as seen below.
We then stopped by Jack of the Wood for the Mitch Steele Extravaganza. The chefs had prepared a special menu to pair with some rare Stone beers. Katie opted for the burger and I got an order of the most epic onion rings I’ve ever had in my life, complete with Arrogant Bastard ketchup. We said a quick hello to Mitch and Scott and headed on to our next destination, Wicked Weed.
Everyone knows that Wicked Weed brews some epic saisons, and for this event, they had pulled a keg for pretty much every one they’d ever brewed. We met up with our good friends, the Reinkes, and pulled up seats next to them on the back patio. Adam introduced us to Brent from Riverbend Malt House. I’ve been particularly excited to tour this facility tomorrow before the Beer City Fest. We didn’t get to spend a lot of time in discussion, but am really looking forward to learning more in a just a few hours.
Everyone ended up ordering different saison batches and pass them all around, so we could try to sample them all. I was most with impressed with the V Chocolate and Raspberry Saison they had originally brewed for Valentine’s Day this year. Katie particularly enjoyed the X Passion Fruit Saison. She loves farmhouse ales so was thrilled to participate in this even. Honestly, all of the beers were incredibly great and I was happy to have the opportunity to sample most of them.
At this point it was getting late and we wanted to have one last beer at the Thirsty Monk before we called it a night. However, on par with every other night this week, we arrived at the pub just a few minutes after last call of the night. Accepting fate, we headed back to the hotel where we finished the night off with a bottle of Weyerbacher’s Heresy.
It was a long day, but a good day, and the big plan for tonight is the Asheville Rare & Wild Beer Tasting. Some of our#KnoxBeerCrew buddies are coming up for this event, I’m hoping that when the event ends at 9, we’ll still be physically able to walk over to Wicked Weed for the Batch 69 release, the collaboration between Foothills Brewing Company’s Sexual Chocolate and Wicked Weed’s Freak of Nature IPA. Make sure to check back tomorrow for more stories from#AVLBeerWeek. In the meantime, click the pictures below, and feel free to leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you!