A Vacation w/ Beer Side Trips? Just Don’t Call It A #Beercation.

September 12, 2013

Update, Feb 2014: I really struggled with if I should delete this post or not. It’s about a trip with my ex-girlfriend. It’s hard for me to look back and see how much fun we had together. I have edited a lot of my other post to remove references to her. I’m the one who decided to end things with her. We just weren’t compatible and have different things we want in life. Where ever or whoever she’s with now, I wish her nothing but the best. She deserves to be happy and so do I.

Last weekend Katie and I took a trip to Charleston, SC. She has been wanting to go to the beach for awhile, and I wanted to check out the beer scene there. I grew up in Florida, near the beach, I have fair skin and burn easily. Convincing me to willingly go to the beach is a pretty hard sell. I finally consented, knowing I’d at least get to check a few places I’ve read about in various beer magazines.

The last time I took a major trip with her, it was to Asheville for Beer Week. She was expecting a leisure filled vacation, but it turned in to more of a working trip with all the events I was covering for the blog. Because of this, on top of her recent diagnosis via an endoscopy that she has Celiac Disease and can’t drink much beer, she insisted that our Charleston trip not be a beer focused one. Right away she made it known that I was not to consider this a “Beercation”.  I learned quickly to not refer to it as so.

So Thursday afternoon we loaded up her Highlander and hit the road. Charleston is roughly a six hour drive from Knoxville. We arrived at our hotel around 8 pm. Once settled in, I was able to convince her to go check out The Charleston Beer Exchange a few blocks away from where we were staying. I picked up a pre-paid order for my friend Todd and bought myself some rarities. We stashed them back at the hotel and went on a mission to find a craft beer bar called the Craftsmen. We walked around looking for it and realized that it was closed for repairs. So we headed to the next place called Closed for Business. This was a nice little bar that I had read about in Draft Magazine. Really great selection with very knowledgeable bartenders.  I tried several beers while Katie had a mixed drink and some cider. At this point it was getting late and we called it a night.

The next morning we woke up, loaded the car and walked around Downtown Charleston. We had time to kill since check in time to the Condo on Isle of Palms wasn’t until 4. We walked through the Historic Market and generally check out the sights. Eventually we stumbled upon Southend Brewery. Ah ha! Drink time! I ordered a flight and got Katie a Mojito. We chose a table out on the patio and I settled into my beer. Huh… first beer, substandard, second beer, nothing special, third beer, meh… and so on through all 8 samples. I hate saying anything bad about breweries, but honestly this one’s beer weren’t good. If you ever go to Charleston, skip this place. When I spoke with locals later on during the trip, they all told me it was a tourist trap and that they were sorry I had to experience it.

Avoid this place

Avoid this place

We left downtown and drove to the really nice condo Katie booked for us. It over looked a private beach on Isle of Palms. We arrived, checked in, unpacked the car, and hit the beach to play in the waves. I’ll admit, I had a lot of fun. The beaches I grew up with were on the Gulf of Mexico, and the waves were tiny. At Isle of Palms they were about 4 feet. We played on the beach for quite a bit until we were tired and it it was time for the next part of our adventure. We drove over to North Charleston to check out Holy City Brewing Company.  I have had a few of Holy City’s beers at festivals in Asheville, and have always enjoyed them. We both bought flights and sat and enjoyed the atmosphere while sipping on our selections. I really like their beer and the way the brewery is set up. There was a food truck outside, pic-nic tables and corn hole boards. People and dogs were hanging out and socializing. We only stayed for about an hour, because there was so much we wanted to do. I bought a couple of bottles of Holy City’s Pluff Mud Porter to go. On the way back to the hotel, we made a run to the store for food and supplies. There was a Piggy Wiggly nearby, and I had heard that they had a great beer selection. We also planned on hitting a liquor store, but for some awful reason, they close at 7 pm in the area. However, the Piggly Wiggly did live up to the hype, beer wise. The selection was great and they sold growler fills as well. I had already bought a bunch of beer earlier, so I skipped purchasing anything but food.

Beer list at Holy City

Beer list at Holy City

We got back to the Condo, ate dinner and went for a walk on the beach. At this point it was night, and we were pretty exhausted from the day’s activities. We settled in to watch a movie and only made it half way through before determining that it was time to sleep. Saturday would be another big day.

View of the beach from the patio of our condo.

View of the beach from the patio of our condo.

Saturday we got up, ate breakfast, had coffee and rushed out to swim. I had layered up with plenty of sunblock. After playing in the waves for a bit, Katie wanted to soak up some rays. I made a last minute decision to go for a jog. I ran barefoot on the beach for about a mile or so, the alternated walking & running. I decided to go as far as I could see, where the beach curved out of sight. This wasn’t my brightest idea. It took forever and by the time I got there, I was too tired to run back. I must have been a good 4 miles from our condo. I started the walk back. I was really sore, tired and dehydrated. I got sun burnt pretty bad as well. Where I returned 2 hours later to the condo, I found a really worried Katie. She was glad I was alright since I hadn’t told her that I was going anywhere. I drank a lot of water, took a shower and layered on more sunblock. It was time for the next adventure, checking out Westbrook Brewing Company.

Westbrook's tasting room as you walk through the front door.

Westbrook’s tasting room.

Westbrook is well known for making tasty beer. It wasn’t too far of a drive, being in the neighboring suburb of Mount Pleasant. We happened to arrive on a day where they released the 4th edition of their Bearded Farmer Saison series called Taylor. They also re-released their super balanced and incredibly tasty Citrus Ninja Exchange IPA as well. At the bar we ordered 2 flights and found a place to sit. As we enjoyed our beer, they announced that there was a tour taking place soon. Katie gave me that look. The one that said “You are not here on beercation, you are here to hang out with me.” I agreed and told her I just wanted to go back and snap a few pictures, not necessarily do the whole tour. She was fine with that, and we left our perch and did just that as seen in the shots below. (click on any picture for slideshow)

After finishing our beer, taking some more pictures and purchasing bottles of Citrus Ninja and Taylor, we headed back to the condo. Everywhere we went, we relied on our iPhone maps and Siri to tell us directions. On the way back to the beach, Katie told me to turn off Siri. She insisted that she knew how to get there. I didn’t think the drive look familiar, but I trusted her. The next thing I know, we are pulling in to House of Brews. She surprised me! I was super happy to go check it out. House of Brews is just that. A house stocked full of beer. They had a small bar, and outside patio and 3 rooms with shelves. We sat at the bar and ordered a half pour and spoke with the owner. He told us about the local craft beer scene and his store. I walked around the  dimly light storage rooms (light kills beer) and found some amazing selections. Three of the bottles I grabbed also happened to be the last on the shelf! I got a rare Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel aged in Cognac barrels that I have been seeking for awhile. This is definitely special occasion beer. Well we only stayed long enough to have a drink and make some purchases. I dropped Katie back off at the Condo so she could get some more beach time while I hit up the nearest liquor store. We decided that we wanted fruity beach drinks, and settled on pina coladas.

When I got back, it was time to mix up some drinks. Luckily our condo came stocked with a blender. As she mixed up the first batch, I went down and started the grill for a little ocean side cook-out. It was dark by the time we had ate and polished off a few drinks. Feeling good, it was time for a little night time walk on the beach and a swim. We made sure to walk way far away from any other people before we jumped in the ocean. We got knocked around by the waves and and had a good ol’ time. However, at this point the cups we had brought with us were empty, so it was time to dry off and hit a little roof top bar a few doors down from the condo. We quickly rinsed off the salt water, put on dry clothes and walked over. The place was called Coconut Joe’s. Total little touristy place with the kind of crowd you’d expect. We went to the top and consumed even more fruity tropical drinks while enjoying the sights, sounds and breeze from the ocean. After awhile we noticed the crowd had disappeared and that the staff was starting to clean. We asked someone what time they closed. Apparently there is a noise ordinance because of the surrounding condos. So we paid for our drinks and headed back to the hotel. A few more drinks later, it was time to call it a night.

Sunday morning was a whirlwind of packing the car and cleaning the condo. Check out time was at 11 am and came way too early. We left just as the condo’s owner came to clean around 11:45. Right before we left we took a walk on the private fishing pier. We hated to have to leave, but we knew that we faced a long drive home. Before we left Charleston for good, we stopped back by Charleston Beer Exchange for some last minute purchases. There was a little waterside park at the end of the road and we sat on a bench there for a few minutes admiring the view and psyching ourselves up for the long drive ahead.

It was Sunday and the whole plan was to make it to Bruisin’ Ales before 6 pm when they closed. They are holding some beers for me. We cut it really close and arrived at Bruisin at 5:45 to find it …closed. Apparently they close at 4 on Sundays and not 6 like I thought. Oh well. We decided we could make one last stop for our little vacation and visit Wicked Weed right down the road.

We bought a couple of flights and as we drank them we once again ran into Luke, brewer and co-owner of Wicked Weed. He came over and sat down with us and talked for awhile. He had just gotten back into town from a trip to Colorado where he brewed a collaborative beer with New Belgium. I can’t wait to try it, and I’ll will make sure to help them spread the word when it is ready. Eventually we finished our samples and said our goodbyes. 2 hours later we were back in good old Knoxville, our vacation done. We had a really good time and I’ll never forget the experience. I loved Charleston and hope to return again soon. Check out the pictures below (click for slide show) and keep reading, there other things to mention.

I wanted to mention a few things before ending this post. Friday night New Belgium’s Clips of Faith event takes place at World’s Fair Park. I originally wasn’t planning on going, but my son bailed on our plans, so I might as well. See you there?

Also Saturday the Pints for Prevention beer festival takes place behind Central Flats and Taps. It’s $40, and if I wasn’t so burnt out on beer festival, I might consider going. No honestly, that’s not why. I plan on checking out an event in Sevierville that day and then taking my son to the last day of the fair. So I’ll be missing this one. Hopefully The Knox Beer Snobs or Blues and BBQ writes about it. Let me know how it went fellas.

Next weekend it’s looking like I’ll be heading to Maker’s Mark up in KY at the very least. Plan A is to hit a couple of places on the Bourbon trail and stay at a Bed and Breakfast and head back Sunday. If finances don’t allow then Plan B is to just drive there, take the tour and drive back. I am still hoping Plan A: Operation Bourboncation is a go, but probably won’t know until the week of.

The last weekend of the month is Kingsport Oktoberfest. This is Tennessee’s largest Oktoberfest and it pretty much takes over all of downtown Kingsport. Most of the festivities are free, but tickets are still for sale for the bier garden. That’s where you find me, pouring a few of my beers like Butternut Squash Ale, Ma Heffe Heffenweizen, Blackberry Bomber, and IPA and a new Gluten free IPA called the Celiactrix that I brewed for Katie. Trust me, this festival is worth the drive and there are still many cheap hotel rooms available near the event. don’t miss this.

Also remember the Knoxville Brewer’s Jam takes place on Saturday October 12th. Tickets are still on sale, but won’t be for long.

That’s all for now, I’ll post more when I have something to write about.

Cheers,

Ratchet


@wbir Story About Beercations Feature Yours Truly. Shout outs to #AVLBeer @Nantahalabrew @WickedWeed and @SawWorksBrewing

August 2, 2013

A big hello and welcome to all the new readers who found out about this blog from WBIR Channel 10’s Live at 5 at 4 story by Emily Stroud. It was a pleasure meeting with Emily and the camera guy to talk about my beer obsession. I would also like to thank Knox Urban Guy of the award winning Inside of Knoxville blog for putting me in touch with Emily. (Yes Jerry, I haven’t forgot about you giving Alan my phone number to pass along when I excitedly mistyped it in an email to Emily.)

So here is the video below. Just in case it’s not working, here is a direct link to WBIR’s video.

I also want to mention that Embrace the Funk is having a Sour Beer Tasting this Saturday at Bearden Beer Market from 1 to 3 pm. This is going to be quite the event. It features five of Brandon Jones’ creations in collaboration with Yazoo’s Embrace the Funk series. There will also be other sour, lambic and wild ale offerings from breweries around the world. They are even going to tap the keg of 2012 New Belgium La Folie that they’ve been hiding in the cooler. There will only be 100 spots guaranteed for Knoxville’s first sour tasting event, so be sure to come by BBM to reserve your spot today! Tickets are $20 and include a Yazoo sampling glass.

I will not be there however. I planned on visiting Sparta, TN’s own Calfkiller Brewery during that time. I’ve known Don and Dave Sergio and crew for over a year now, and have been looking forward to seeing their operation. I plan on taking lots of pictures and video, so check back Monday for a new post. Until then, if you are new to this site, feel free to read back through the archives or leave a comment.

Cheers,

Ratchet


A Pleasure to Give Asheville’s MALT #Homebrew Club a #KnoxBeer Tour @Reinkster @SawWorksBrewing @Suttrees @SmokyMtnBrewery

July 29, 2013

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.

Adam Reinke (in Green), his wife Missy and some Asheville friends

Adam Reinke (in Green), his wife Missy and some Asheville friends

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.

IMG_5032

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?

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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.

-Ratchet


A #KnoxBeerCrew goodbye to @BigMagicBeer, A quick #beer run to #Asheville w/ @Booze_Traveler and Animal and notes about @KPTOktoberfest

July 23, 2013

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.

Bye Nick! We'll miss ya bro!

Bye Nick! We’ll miss ya bro!

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.

Tap list at Wicked Weed Downstairs on 7/21/13

Tap list at Wicked Weed Downstairs on 7/21/13

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.

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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.

And now about my beer shopping habits...

And now about my beer shopping habits…

shut-up-and-take-my-money

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?

Another beer purchased off the internet. Specifically, Luekens Liquors.

Another beer purchased off the internet. Specifically, Luekens Liquors.

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…

Cheers,

Ratchet


Last day of our #AvlBeerWeek Beercation and goodbye to Asheville (for now).

June 2, 2013

The last day of #AvlBeerWeek and our beercation did not start in typical fashion. We had stayed out pretty late and drank many beers the night before. Luckily I properly hydrated and took my vitamin supplements, so no hangover. However, because of the time we ended up sleeping in. We woke up with very little time to get ready for the first activity of the day; our planned tour of Riverbend Malt House.

They sell directly to homebrewers as well!

They sell directly to homebrewers as well!

Rushing to get there for the 11  am tour, we arrived 20 minutes late. We were able to walk through and catch the tour in progress in the germination room.

germination

Traditional floor malting

Co-founder Brian Simpson was talking the assembled group through the malting process. He described where the grains come from, how they are germinated and how long it takes. He also told us of their capacity and about some of the trials and tribulations they faced as a new business. We from the germination room to the next area of the malt house where they dry and kiln the grain. Riverbend’s other co-founder Brett Manning walked us through this part of the process. I took a small video of him describing how and why they kiln the malt.

I found the tour and close look at the equipment very informative. Once this year’s NC hop harvest comes in, I’d love to brew a beer with them and Riverbend’s malt. The tour ended and we headed back to the hotel to update the blog and get ready for Beer City Fest.

Beer City Fest

Beer City Fest!

Beer City Fest is the big ending for Asheville Beer Week. All the breweries in the area set up on Roger McGuire Green downtown. This was the 4th annual edition of this festival. Asheville happened to lose the online “Beer City Poll” this year to Grand Rapids Michigan, but that in no way takes away from what this jewel of a city has to offer. This years festival was bigger and better with all the breweries bringing their ‘A’ game.

The day was hot, and we spent time walking around trying many great beers and socializing with friends. Katie’s favorite beer at the festival was Holy City’s Fancy Stout, a big badass caramel stout. My favorite was Nantahala Brewing Company’s Trail Magic 5, a crisp, refreshing saison brewed with honeysuckle flowers painstakingly picked by head brewer Greg Geiger. Here’s a quick video of him talking about that beer.

What really surprised me about the festival were the people who would come up and say hi and tell me that they love reading my blog. Every time that happened, it really made my day.  I made sure to give everyone who did that one of my refrigerator magnets I keep in my pocket.  I also met Mags Bonham and her husband who had traveled all the way from Vermont for Asheville Beer Week. Of course, since they were from Vermont, I talked to them about my favorite IPA, Heady Topper. Mags makes some really cool hop jewelry, so check out her etsy page and tell her I sent you. I also want to give a big shout out to my buddy Trevor who offered me more sunblock. I had layered up back at the hotel, but I needed that recharge. After a few hours of walking in the heat and drinking beer, we were exhausted. We elected to leave the festival an hour early to take a nap in the air-conditioned hotel room. I set my alarm and passed right out. Later when showering and getting ready to go back out, it dawned on my why I was able to fall asleep for my nap so quickly. In the rush of everything, I had neglected my morning coffee.

After recharging at the hotel, we headed back out. Our friends from the Knox Beer Crew, Matt, Krissy, Jason and Beverley were in town. They were out in West Asheville eating, and we thought we’d do the same. Katie is big on Mexican food (I joke that a majority of her diet is nachos) so we headed out to a spot recommended by many locals, Papas and Beer. With a name like that, how could we go wrong?  We arrived and went inside and was seated within 5 minutes. I looked at the beer selection, and better than your typical Mexican restaurant, I was a little disappointed. Not that the craft beer selection they had was bad, but they only had 4 local craft beers on tap. I don’t know, maybe with a name like Papas and BEER, my expectations were too high. I still didn’t feel like drinking, so I stuck with water. The food was really good, and Katie was able to get her daily margarita fix. After eating, we made a quick pit stop at Appalachian Vintner to pick up a few more things for a friend back home. By this time, I had room for desert, and since we wanted to experience as much as Asheville as possible on our last night, we headed to The Hop on Merrimon avenue. This was another locally recommended spot. I thought they had beer flavored ice cream, but there wasn’t any. Hey locals, am I getting this place confused with somewhere else? I specifically remember having beer ice cream at one of the local beer events. Anyway, no beer ice cream, but we did get a small scoop of some delicious flavors. Next we parked back at the hotel and headed over to meet our friends at The Thirsty Monk. The Monk Pub was packed, but we only had to wait a few minutes to be let inside. We settled sat at a table with our friends downstairs and enjoyed a beer. It was hot and one of our friends wasn’t feeling good, so they didn’t stay long. They said their goodbyes and Katie and I finished our beer and headed out for more last night adventures. We hailed a cab from downtown to the Wedge Brewery. We arrived around 10:45 and realized they had closed at 10. Is it just me, or I do I remember wrongly the Wedge staying open later than that on a weekend night? Anyway, we hopped back in the cab and went back downtown. We walked over to the Vault on Rankin for a drink. One drink later, we hit up the Sky bar. We liked the patio, but as we sat for 15 minutes wondering why no one was taking our drink order, one of the locals told me they were closing for the night. That was fine with me because after blowing through my savings this week, I wasn’t really looking forward to spending $12 on a cocktail. At this point we were exhausted and went back to the hotel. I feel asleep in short order.

So here I am at Wall Street Coffee House writing this post and looking back on this week. I sure had a great time and will miss being here. Luckily I live only an hour and 45 minutes away. There are many places and breweries that I wanted to visit, but haven’t had the chance. This just gives me another excuse to come back as soon as possible. Until then, I will miss the food, the beer but most importantly my friends both newly made and long time known. Without y’all, Asheville wouldn’t be what it is. Anytime y’all want to come over the mountain, let me know. I have space for you to stay and would love to show you around our “Scruffy City.”

Before I end this post, I want to personally thank Dr. Patel and the staff at Downtown Inn and Suites for making our week-long stay wonderful. Sure there are fancier hotels in the area but as far as cleanliness, location, friendliness of staff and affordability, you really can’t beat staying here. Even if  I suddenly and expectantly became filthy rich, I would continue to book rooms at this fine establishment.

Alright Beer City, until next time…

Cheers,

Ratchet


Recap of Friday, Day 5 and 2nd to last day of our #AVLBeerWeek #Beercation

May 31, 2013

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.

It didn't suck

It didn’t suck

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!

Cheers,

-Ratchet

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Recap of Thursday, Day 4 of our @AvlbeerWeek beercation. @CatawbaBeer

May 30, 2013

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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.

Look who we keep running in to.

Look who we keep running in to.

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!

Cheers!

Ratchet