One of the Best Weekends EVER! @ThirstyOrange Extravaganza and Brewery Visits @SleepyOwlBrew

April 14, 2014

I don’t even know how to start this post. My mind is still processing the pure amount of concentrated fun I had this weekend in Johnson City. I’m talking of course about The Thirsty Orange Brew Extravaganza. I drove up on Friday morning with a goal of visiting some breweries, going to the site of the event, getting settled into my hotel and covering the beer dinner. I was able to get just that accomplished. My first stop of the trip took me to Damascus, VA, home of the Virginia Creeper Trail. About 4 or 5 years ago, I took a vacation to camp and ride the trail with my son. We had a great time and I kept thinking how Damascus would really benefit by having a nano-brewery. Not only does the Creeper trail go through, but so does the Appalachian trail. Well fast forward a few years and now there is a small brewery appropriately called “The Damascus Brewery“. I met the owner Adam on my last beer trip to All Ale To The Queen Craft Beer Carnival in Charlotte, NC. We shared a table together and he poured his delicious Bazinga Black IPA. I really enjoyed talking to him and I knew I would have to go check out his set up. We spoke on the phone a few times to plan it out and I headed up there Friday morning. Adam is a family man, and had previous engagement with his kids, so he arranged to have his number 2, co-brewer and all around cool dude Jeremy open the place up just to give me a tour.

When I arrived he immediately started showing me around. I recognized some fermenters that were manufactured by my friend Carl at Bubba’s Barrels. Every piece of equipment had a story behind it. After looking around, it was time for some sampling. I sat at the bar and listened to the tale behind everyone of their brews. Each beer I tried was great. I wanted to bring some home to share, so after a while I picked a growlette of Sweet Beaver, an apricot heffeweizen. After awhile I realized it had to get on the road and I didn’t want to take up too much of Jeremy’s time. I said my goodbye and am going to have to go do the Creeper Trail again this Summer so I can spend much more time there and enjoy full sized pours.

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Yes!

My next stop was to go see my friend and all around great guy, Brian Connatser at Sleepy Owl Brewery in Kingsport, TN. I arrived to a familiar location. Sleepy Owl is in the old rail road depot where Kingsport Oktoberfest is held. The brewery occupies the space that we used as a staging area the last couple of years. Brian has a 1 barrel Blichmann system with electric heating. Unfortunately, he did not have any beers to pour as he is still waiting for his final TTB number before he can fire up the system. When he does, you better believe I’ll be taking him up on his offer to come brew a collaboration. We talked for awhile and he gave me great advice and a whole lot of hope. He built his whole brewery by hand and with a budget I could see myself doing. After a little bit, I had to head on. I wish Brian and Sleepy Owl nothing but great success. I have a feeling they will be growing at an outstanding pace.

The next place to go was the Millennium Center on ETSU’s campus to find Aaron and get situated. I quickly found him running around attending to all the last minute details like always. He asked if I could go to The Battery where the beer dinner was being held and make sure they had all the parts for the jockey boxes they needed for the night. After doing so, I headed over to Earth Fare to buy the ingredients for the next day’s infusion. After that, I had barely enough time to go to the hotel, shower and change to get ready for the dinner. I arrived early enough to make sure we got the beer hooked up to pour and enjoy a few pints myself. As familiar and new faces started arriving I had time to meet the new Highland festival rep, Mark. We hit it off right away, and I joked with about how he had taken my dream job. Next Josie and Jeff from Urban Orchard arrived. I had a blast with them last time, and it was good to see them as well. Adam from Damascus Brewery was on scene and I made sure to thank him for having Jeremy show me around. I got a text from my buddy Adam Reinke asking if I could save seats for him and the crazy M.A.L.T. guys he was bringing.

After enjoying several beers and mingling with my friends (Shout out to Jay, his wife, Brian Connatser and Smap of UBC) it was time to start the dinner. We all got seated and the first course came out. You can see what we had for each pairing by following the twitter post from that event. Course 1, 2, 3, and 4 hot linked for your convenience. After dinner it was time for a little partying. Reinke and his crew were staying at the Double Tree where I was at and, while some of the others like Jeff and Josie from Urban Orchard were at the the Carnegie hotel right at the festival site. We had so much fun together at All Ale to The Queen we wanted to find another “Grassy Knoll” to hang out. Instead we got a cement patio outside the hotel. Cementy knoll just doesn’t have the same ring to it. I stashed my car back at my hotel and along with Adam and crew, we shared a cab back to Carnegie. After a few beers, it dawned on me that I was supposed to “Run For The Booty” in the morning and should make my way back to my hotel. While waiting for a cab, I saw one of my friends being dropped off out front. Their ride just happened to be going back to Double Tree so it worked out perfectly for me. So I called it a night and rested up for the next day.

Morning arrived and I woke up slightly hungover. No big deal, I did my best run hungover, so I just drank coffee and water and headed back to the site. I arrived and parked. while waiting for the run to start, I unpacked a few things from the car to set up my booth. I waited around for what seemed like a really long time until the run go underway. I wasn’t going for speed and knew it was a color run, so I left my iPhone and headphones in the car. I started off the near the front of the pack and stayed there the whole time. I expected to get passed by many other runners, but only a few did. Along the route there weren’t any markers, so I had no idea how far I had to go. There were a few color stations where they threw died cornstarch on us, and a few sand pits set up where we dug for plastic coins. They gave out prizes based on who got the most. I came to run, not dig in sand, so I didn’t focus on that. I did finish strong near the front, but had no idea what my time was, but I felt great. After getting back to the site, I had a few pictures snapped and then headed back to my room to clean up and get ready for the day’s big festivities.

After cleaning up, it was set up time. My friends Jess Hurd and Rob Brantner both had family in the area they could stay with and agreed to help me out by volunteering for the day. I met them both on site. Rob was my merchandise, booth volunteer.  Jess is a recent graduate of South College’s brewing Science program, so I thought this would make her overly qualified to help me run the festival’s mobile infusion unit. After getting the booth set up, we had to make sure we had everything for the randal. We got it from the organizers and I realized that it wasn’t as cleaned out as I thought from the last festival. It took awhile and some borrowed beer line cleaner and Star-San to get it ready. We were able to get it up and running at Highland’s booth right as the early bird ticket holders were let in at 1pm. We had a strict schedule for the infusions. We decided to do 5 infusions. Each table would get 45 minutes, with 15 minutes between each one to unpack, clean and repack for the next booth. Once up and running, we would take turns running things while the other one of us grabbed a beer and socialized. I seen many of my tri-cities friends and every time I turned around I was getting a hug, handshake or a pat on the back from someone I hadn’t seen in awhile. After (more then) a few beers, it started to feel like rock star status. We were all into full on party mode, but I had to self regulate my consumption because of my duties. We hit our groove and the infusions ran like clockwork. Here’s what we did:

Highland Brewing Company Thunder Struck Porter with mint, cinnamon and Cocao nibs from 1:15-2

Goose Island Beer Co. Endless IPA with strawberry and cutie oranges from 2:15-3

New Belgium Brewing Snapshot with watermelon and hops from 3:15-4

Starr Hill Brewing Company Dark Star Stout with coconut and cocao nibs from 4:15- 5

And our last infusion of the day was Urban Orchard’s Sweet English Cider with Plums and Peaches from 5 until they ran out. The festival ended at 7 and I wanted to make sure we would have time to enjoy it before it was over. I walked around and made plans for the after party with friends. Most brewers and volunteers know we can’t get overly inebriated at the fest because we still have to pack up and make way to our respective hotels, clean up and grab some food before the real party begins for us. There was an official after party at a place called Holy Taco and a bar tab set up just for us. So after sobering up, breaking down and packing up, I hit my hotel for a shower, and some fresh clothes. Once again outside the lobby I met with friends of ours such as John from Lookout Brewing in Black Mountain, NC and his crew. Adam, Mark and Erich from the infamous Mike Hawke homebrew tent were there as well. We shared cabs to get back downtown and Holy Taco. As soon  as I walked in the door I was bombarded by friends. I felt very loved and had some good buddies tell me they had waited a whole year to smoke with me, so we went to the parking lot for a little smoke session that didn’t last long. After about 4 minutes and 20 seconds, we were walking back into the bar. My Bearden Beer Market running buddy D.J. Loope was there as well as the Chisholm Tavern crew. So was Stephanie of Superfly Fabulous events, the organizers of Thirsty Orange. She told me there were tables set up for us out back. I walked back there to find the MALT guys, The Lookout Brew crew, my Urban Orchard peeps, Rob and some new friends I made that day. The beer and music was flowing and I was feeling good. Regulate by Warren G. was bumping on the sound system, prompting Josie of Urban Orchard and myself to dance to it. I sat the next table over most of the time getting to know my new friends Maggie and TJ who work at Mellow Mushroom with my friends Andrew, Andrew and Flipper. We drank more and I remember buying us a round a margaritas and drinking mine and most of a few other peoples as well. I decided we need more pictures and someone took this funny series below as TJ kept pinching my nipples. It was too funny to not turn into an animated gif.

Stop!

Stop!

As the party progressed the decision was made to head back to the “Cementy Knoll” at The Carnegie. Luckily instead of a cab, TJ and Maggie had a friend, Victoria that drove us there. We bumped loud electronica music (except for when that cop was following us) on the way there. We arrived to find the rest of our crew already in place and at the point I was drinking anything anyone handed me, as you’ll see by the pictures. At some point I went into the downstairs by the patio and grabbed some nice big comfy upholstered chairs and dragged them outside. Adam Reinke commented that we were going to get kicked out of the hotel we weren’t even staying at.

The rest of the party started becoming a blur and my off switch flipped. It was time to head back to the hotel. I did an irish goodbye and had the front desk call me a cab. The next morning I woke early with a hangover, packed my car and headed home.

What an incredible time. I am hoping to get back up to tri-cities real soon to visit and also brew with Jimie, Jay and Brian. I am also hoping that some of my friends from up there will come visit me. I’d love to show them around Knoxville and Maryville for a weekend. Maybe a few of them will join me next month for Asheville Beer Week?

Coming up next is both CurtisFest and Hops for Hope. Curtis Fest is less then 2 weeks, on Saturday April 26th. Some friends and I are already scoping out the site to see where we want to set up camp. I’m really excited about this because besides my tweeting duties, I have no other responsibilities. I’ll get to actually relax and drink copious amounts with some of my favorite people. Hops for Hope is May 2nd at the Lily Barn in Townsend. I am volunteering for this one. To know more about it, read this excellent post by Knox Beer Snobs. we currently have tickets for sale for both events at the Market in Maryville, so feel free to come by and pick them up from myself of dAveBV. Also a note to our Brew Mob crew. We are cementing plans for our Oskar Blues Cans Film Fest entry video shoot. When we announce when we are filming, we’ll need you to show up in your Brew Mob gear for the final shot. You’ll be comped with beer for your participation and we will have some Oskar Blues cans to share. You can find out when this is going to happen on our Facebook and Twitter feed.

This is all for now, there’s another big announcement coming soon. I’m hoping to post about it before CurtisFest. Thanks for reading this, enjoy the pictures below.

May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you’re going, and the insight to know when you’re going too far.

     — Irish toast

Cheers,

-R@TcheT-







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Ginger powers Activate. Me with my Bearden Beer Market Running buddy, D.J.

Ginger powers Activate. Me with my Bearden Beer Market Running buddy, D.J.

That crazy brewer man is scaring me. Drake from wolfhills

That crazy brewer man is scaring me. Drake from Wolf Hills

Wizards serving up their sauce.

Wizards serving up their sauce.

These guys know how to party. Willy D from Starr Hill, Mark from Highland and myself

These guys know how to party. Willy D from Starr Hill, Mark from Highland and myself

This could possibly be the best idea for a brewers tent, like, ever!

This could possibly be the best idea for a brewers tent, like, ever!

Adam looking all serious

Adam looking all serious

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Me and Jimie. It's like Compton and long Beach together, now you know you're in trouble!

Me and Jimie. It’s like Compton and Long Beach together, now you know you’re in trouble!

Ain't nuthin' but a G thang bay-bay

Ain’t nuthin’ but a G thang bay-bay

Steve Dedman. Another homebrewer brew-styar. He always wins awards.

Steve Dedman. Another homebrewer brew-styar. He always wins awards.

Only the finest malt beverages were consumed at the Cementy Knoll after party

Only the finest malt beverages were consumed at the Cementy Knoll after party

Have a blast with my new friends TJ and Maggie at the after party

Have a blast with my new friends TJ and Maggie at the after party

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Beer Festival Season is Upon Us. @allalequeen @thirstyOrange

March 13, 2014

So much has happened since my last post and I don’t really feel like writing about it all. Some things do need to be said to bring my readers (are there any left?) up to speed. I spur of the moment up and moved to Maryville. The timing was right to step away from the Knoxville beer scene for awhile. My part time job at The Market morphed into a fulltime one. I turned down a financially lucrative office position and a decent call center job to work somewhere that I’m happy at. Yes money does bring me happiness in the form of having disposable income to buy beer, but at the price of spending 40-50 hours a week in a stressful office environment. This year I’m focused on being happy, and part of that is learning to accept less decadent, more survival based living conditions and lifestyle. I moved into a small house in Downtown where everything I could possibly need is within a 1/2 mile walk.

I’m learning to really love Maryville. It’s a lot closer to my beloved mountains and the beer scene is small, intimate and friendly. People (not all, but for the most part) in this area are still just learning about craft beer and are excited and enthusiastic about it.

That all being said, a lot more has happened including several beer events since I last wrote. I’ll go ahead and recap: They were all awesome. The one that really stood out was Yazoo’s Marti-crawl thru the Old City, but I’m probably remembering that one best because it took place just a few days ago.

So coming up, there are some beer Events I’m really looking forward to. This Saturday Nantahala Brewing in Bryson City is releasing Trail Magic number 7, a Jack Daniels barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout. Richard, Sandy and myself will be making the drive to Bryson City. The next morning, Sunday, is the annual Kegs and Eggs event at The Casual Pint in Bearden. On March 21st and 22nd I’m traveling to Charlotte, NC for All Ale To The Queen Beer Carnival. Friday night I plan on visiting several breweries and Saturday at the festival I’ll be running the randall all day. I have a free room for both nights (2 double beds) and so far, as of this writing, am traveling solo. If anyone wants to come along and help pay for gas and help me out at the fest in exchange for free entry and hotel, let me know ASAP.

The festival after that is in April, Thirsty Orange. This is it’s 3rd year and the site is going to be bigger and the event better. I’ll write more about this in the future, but I do encourage everyone to get tickets because it’s on record pace to sell out.

Alright beer folks, Ill try to write again soon.

Cheers,

The drinker formally known as Ratchet


The Most Amazing Meal I’ve Ever Had. The @OskarBlues Beer Dinner at @TheTomatoHead

December 11, 2013

Peanut butter and jelly.
Salt and pepper.
Bagels and cream cheese.
Spongebob and Patrick.
BEER AND FOOD.

Somethings just naturally pair well with others. Of the above list, the last one is of course, my favorite. I had the good fortune to attend The Tomato Head’s first craft beer dinner last night. Indulging in the best meal I’ve ever eaten paired with beers from one of my favorite craft beer brands, I had the most incredible dreams all night long. I woke up this morning feeling refreshed and inspired to write about it.

For anyone living in our great city of Knoxville, it would be inconceivable to me if they didn’t know about the Tomato Head. Originally opening it’s doors as The Flying Tomato in 1990, it’s been an anchor tenant of Market Square through all it’s changes and a cornerstone of the Knoxville Restaurant scene. When I first moved here in the late 90’s, it was the one place I knew I could get great pizzas and vegetarian fare. It was the place where I first fell in love with the concept of brunch. I don’t hide the fact that I am an unabashed fan. They opened their Gallery Shopping Center location in Bearden, late 2012. This is where the beer dinner took place.

The Tomato Head's Gallery Shopping Center location. On Kingston Pike, in Bearden.

The Tomato Head’s Gallery Shopping Center location. On Kingston Pike, in Bearden.

A more recent arrival to Knoxville is the introduction of Oskar Blues Brewery’s line of tasty craft beers. One of the first craft breweries to see the value in canning it’s beer, they started distributing to Knoxville just this year. This is mainly due to their recent Brevard, NC expansion. Previously if you wanted to track down some O.B. you either had to travel or have someone ship it to you. All of their beers are very highly rated and incredibly good. I remember hearing about their Ten Fidy Imperial Stout long before I tried it. When I finally tracked it down years ago, I was blown away. It was one of those rare times where the beer actually lived up to they hype associated with it. A month or 2 ago the first cans of Brevard brewed Ten Fidy finally hit the local shelves. There was much rejoicing in the Knoxville beer scene when this happened.

Menu for the beer dinner

Menu for the beer dinner

Brewing beer and cooking food have much in common. A good brewer, like a good chef, will know what flavors work together. Texture, mouth feel, presentation and most of all, taste makes a great meal and a great beer what they are. It’s both science as well as art. Both the brewers at Oskar Blues and the chefs at Tomato Head are artisans. For this beer dinner, Mahasti and Sam came up with an amazing meal to pair with amazing beers. First up was potato pancakes topped with house pickled beets from Mountain Meadow Farm, sour cream, and sauerkraut. This was paired with Oskar BluesMama’s Little Yella Pils. This was a great combination where the flavors of the root vegetables, the tanginess of the sauerkraut and the creaminess of the sour cream complimented the light, crisp and thirst quenching qualities of the pilsner. I could have ate this all night, but the meal had only just begun.

Potato pancake, house pickled beets, Sauerkraut and sour cream paired with Mama's Little Yella Pils.

Potato pancake, house pickled beets, Sauerkraut and sour cream paired with Mama’s Little Yella Pils.

The main course consisted of F Nolan and Sons Victuallers Redding English Bangers served on a Flour Head Bakery Stout bun with roasted sweet peppers and onions, and a sour cherry mustard made with Deviant Dales’s IPA. This was accompanied by a Rye Berry Winter Green Salad. The beer pairing for this course was Dale’s Pale Ale and Old Chub Scotch Ale. When I first read the menu, I was apprehensive. The reason being is that I primarily eat a vegetarian diet. I’m not very strict about it, and do eat meat on occasion. However it’s extremely rare that I eat red meat. Please excuse my ignorance, but I had no idea what a banger was. I was imagining some red beef bits or something. (Hey I’m a beer geek, not a foodie, but I’m learning). Imagine my delight when they brought out the plates and I learned that a banger was an all natural pork sausage link. YUM! I took a bite of the bun filed with cut up pieces of banger, sweet bell peppers and the best mustard ever. It was beyond words. As I chewed I think my eyes rolled into the back of my head and I might have moaned or something, because when I came to, I noticed people at the table looking at me funny. I’m sorry but I couldn’t help it. This was the best food I have had since my last meal at the Tomato Head. The whole plate was incredible. I remember being in a state of bliss and trying my best to keep from tearing up with joy. I found that the hoppiness of Dale’s Pale Ale really complimented the bitterness of the winter green salad. For me, the part of the meal that really stood out was the sour cherry mustard. Everyone at our table agreed, if this was available to purchase in jars, it would be one of those condiments that you put on everything. They way it tasted combined with sips of Old Chub was phenomenal. If the Tomato Head makes this a regular dish, I will soon be homeless having spent all my money to eat there everyday.

Heaven on a plate

Heaven on a plate

At this point I felt the early stages of the itis. I was full and satisfied. However, we weren’t done yet. It was time for dessert. They brought out bread pudding made with Flour Head Bakery Parker House rolls, Schwab Farm roasted apples topped with a chocolate sauce made with Ten Fidy and home made whipped cream. Naturally the beer pairing for this was Ten Fidy, Oskar Blues’ incredible Russian Imperial Stout. For me the Ten Fidy was dessert enough, but with the chocolate covered apples and the bread pudding it was over the top goodness. I fought with myself to consume every last bit, no matter how full I was.

Dessert!

Dessert!

As I finished my meal, I sat and talked with the staff of the Tomato Head, and the others at our table. We all agreed that this meal was a huge success. Like I mentioned, this was The Tomato Head’s first craft beer dinner, and I am sure they will have many more in the future. Like all great restaurants, they really appreciate craft beer and how to pair it with a meal. I’m really excited that the downtown location is being expanded. Once the construction is done, they will have a bar focusing on great wine and beer. The timeline for this is February, and I can’t wait! I look forward to frequenting the new bar, and claiming my spot as a regular.

I’d like to thank the wonderful staff at the Tomato Head for everything. As far as beer dinners go, this one was the best. I look forward to the next one, and the continued success of Knoxville’s best restaurant.

Cheers,

Ratchet