Long time since I last posted and much has happened.

October 23, 2013

 So much has happened since Kingsport Oktoberfest.  Originally I thought I’d try to post everything that happened in the last month or 2, but after 2 days of writing this, I I decided to keep it mainly about my Bourboncation.

September 21st and 22nd I hit the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky. Specifically I headed to Loretto, KY for Maker’s Mark. I’ve been a member of the Maker’s Mark Ambassador program since 2005. They put my name on a barrel and sent me periodic updates on where the barrel was in the warehouse and how it was coming along. They also send me cool gifts from time to time. I have been wanting to visit the distillery forever. Finally I got a letter in the mail with a golden ticket telling me that my barrel was done aging and bottles were available for purchase between March and the end of September. So I planned a quick trip. The idea was to drive up for the day, visit the Maker’s Mark Distillery and either drive back or find a hotel for the evening. I got a late start on Saturday and arrived at Maker’s Mark just in time for one of the last tours of the day. It was a pretty drive, but I had moments of worry on the way that we weren’t in the right place. It’s in the middle of nowhere. Nothing but back country roads and horse farms in that part of Kentucky.

At the Maker's Mark sign with my Golden Ticket.

At the Maker’s Mark sign with my Golden Ticket.

The distillery grounds are absolutely beautiful. The distillery itself has a long and rich history. I walked the ground listening to the stories told by the tour guide. When it comes to Bourbon, Maker’s Mark has always been one of my favorite brands and while there I learned why it’s so smooth. The grain bill is massively different from most bourbons where instead of rye, they use red wheat. This takes away the the astringency that rye produces. They also still mash and distill using traditional methods.

The tour is fun and informative and I highly recommend going when you get a chance. Everyone’s favorite part is when they let you sample some bourbon. The tour ends at the gift shop where they sell bottles and all kinds of great souvenirs. Since I am an ambassador, I got to hand dip 2 bottles from my barrel into Maker’s Mark trademark red wax. They even printed custom labels for my bottles. I am excited that I bought 4 long charred oak barrel staves that they used to condition my favorite brand, Maker’s 46. These still smell like bourbon. I plan on sanitizing them and using them to flavor the next big batch of imperial stout that we brew. Here are some pictures and videos from Maker’s Mark. Click on the circles to enlarge.

As I was speaking with the various employees and other people I met on the tour, a question that I was frequently asked was “Are you in town for the Bourbon Festival?” Apparently I came on the right weekend because right up the road in Bardstown, KY was the yearly Bourbon Fest. I just knew that I had to go check this out. I left Maker’s Mark and drove the half hour up. Arriving and finding a great free parking spot, I walked around. This was definitely a family friendly event. The free part had many booths set up and temporary gift shops from many of Kentucky’s distilleries. There was a classic car show and typical street fair food. For $3 you could buy a pin which gave you access to the adult’s only bourbon drinking area. To get drinks you had to purchase tickets. They were pricey, which I thought would limit me to how many drinks I’d imbibe. Was I wrong about that! I immediately made friends with a couple of guys working the bourbon flight booth by going and getting beer for them. They hooked me up repeatedly with free booze. After a few really good mixed drinks which I don’t recall the name of, I met a couple from Knoxville. I met Spencer and Meggers when they walked by and I noticed Spencer’s UT shirt. I simply said “Go Vols!” and the next thing I know, I’m hanging out with them talking about Knoxville, football and getting drunk. Spencer kept purchasing  rounds which I gladly accepted. After awhile of pacing myself, it was time to go. At that point in the fest, it had become a drunken shit show and I really wanted to get to the hotel. I thanked Spencer and Meggers and walked to the car and headed out to find my  hotel room.

The next morning I woke up and headed out. I wanted to go visit Four Roses Distillery since it wasn’t too far away. I arrived just in time for the last tour of the day. I sat and watched a presentation about the distillery before the tour group walked the grounds. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of this brand but still had an enjoyable time.  The best part is that at the end, I got to try several of their sub-brands. Here’s some pictures from the distillery.

After the tour It was time for the long drive back to Knoxville. Unfortunately due to timing and the fact that the distilleries are spread out all over the state, I didn’t get a chance to visit any others. I really wanted to go to Buffalo Trace which distills some award winning brands such as Elmer T. Lee, Pappy Van Winkle and a personal favorite, Eagle Rare. I do plan on visiting in the future.

Being that Lexington was on the way home, and I didn’t want to trip to be over, I thought I’d stop a few places. I drove over to Liquor Barn. I had heard that they had a great selection of craft beers. They did have some goodies there, but I didn’t buy much. I did take home a Mexican craft beer IPA, but after trying it, it tasted like it had been on the shelf for too long. The next spot I hit was the world famous Beer Trappe. This place is known for the great selection and was voted one of the top 100 beer bars in the country. It’s somewhere I had wanted to visit for a long time. I ordered a flight of beer to sip on while I checked out the great bottle selection. I found a few treats that I had been wanting to try, and added them to my cart. After picking out  beer, I settled back up to the bar to talk to the owner and some locals about their beer scene. I asked which local breweries that they’d recommend. I only had time to visit one, so I settled on Country Boy, just a short drive away.

I knew I couldn’t stay long at Country Boy. I was tired from all the drinking and traveling over the weekend and wanted to get home. I stayed long enough to enjoy a flight of 4 samples. I like the atmosphere at Country Boy and look forward to going back when I have more time. I also regret that I didn’t have time to check out West Sixth Brewing while in town.

I finally arrived back in Knoxville around dark. I was tired but happy to have had a great trip. I really look forward to hitting the places I missed up in Kentucky. Maybe another Bourboncation is called for in the spring.

This is all for now. I have a lot more to write about and will start working on my next update right away. After all, I still have Kingsport Oktoberfest, Knoxville Brewer’s Jam, a side trip to Asheville, an update on the brewery, an update about our seasonal homebrews, Louis K’s Blues and Bar-B-Que hootenany, and much more to tell y’all about. So check back and until then drink well my friends.

Cheers,

Ratchet


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


Brewer’s Jam recollection and looking forward to #GABF with #KnoxBeerCrew

October 8, 2012

What a weekend! I want to write about Brewer’s Jam, but don’t think I’ll do it justice. Instead I’ll just tell you about my craft beer weekend in general.

If you read my last post, you know I was going to be busy. Friday night is somewhat of a blur, but what I can recall was amazing. I got off work and headed to World’s Fair Park to help load the cold truck. There were plenty of volunteers and I didn’t stay long. After a while I went home, cleaned myself up and headed to Adam and Shellie Palmer‘s wedding reception at SawWorks. On the way I dropped off kegs at Saccy‘s for the party.

Many of my craft beer friends were at the reception. On tap was the brand new “Dirty South” Brown Ale brewed by SawWorks exclusively for The Casual Pint. It’s an incredible beer and completely different in taste then the SawWorks Brown. Get down to one of The Casual Pint’s locations and try it for yourself. I drank my fair share at the reception.

It was great spending time with some of my favorite people in the Knoxville craft beer community on such a joyful occasion. One of the highlights for me was seeing Dave Ohmer’s face when the guys busted out with the Dave is my Homie shirts that Adam had printed. I made sure to hand mine to Dave with a sharpie to sign it, as seen in the picture below:

Dave sign’s my “Dave is my Homie” shirt

I can’t wait to see the rest of the pictures of taken at the reception by Rebecca Tatum and hope that she post them soon. Thanks to an idea formulated during a conversation with her, I started interviewing for interns that can read me beer books in a english accent as I do chores around my basement brewery. So, yeah, thanks for that Becca.

Well I wanted to stay at the reception longer, but I did commit to Saccy’s Party, so I headed over there. Downtown was a complete mess when it came to traffic and parking since it was First Friday. I eventually found a spot, grabbed my tap box and walked over the his condo. This event took place in the building’s community room, and when  I walked in, I was treated like a rock star. It was unbelievable. The party had been waiting in anticipation of my arrival to tap the kegs. The same time this party was going on, there was the brewer’s reception across the street at the Woodruff building. I went over there for a few minutes, had a drink, said hello to a few people and went back to Saccy’s. After this things start getting a little blurry.  I do however specifically remember having a great tasting homebrewed Pale Ale that stood out for it’s fresh hoppy character.

Well the party eventually died down, so I headed over to The Casual Pint. Stayed there really briefly, then headed to Suttree’s. Somehow I end the night at the Peter Kern Library. I over did it and had a little too much fun. The next morning was rough.

Brewer’s Jam morning I overslept and woke up dehydrated with a pounding head ache. Drinking beer all day a festival was the absolute last thing I wanted to do. The bad part is that I knew better. I should have been drinking water the whole time the night before. I missed most of the morning chores of delivering ice and kegs to the brewers. Thankfully there were plenty of people to take up my slack. I still feel bad about it and I’ll make up for it next year. I brought a cooler to Brewer’s Jam with bottles of vitamin water and a gallon of spring water. I was constantly mixing Emergen-C , and I drank more of that then I did beer during the day. By the time the gates opened, I was fully recovered.

Before the gates opened, I had a chance to wander around and say hi to a few people. I stopped by and saw Kitty at the Highland Brewing booth. Next I went to Asheville Brewing Company and purchased an awesome shirt. Sadly my friend Mike didn’t make the trip, but it was great meeting the guys who were working the booth in his absence. I went over to talk to the guys at Green Man and flipped out when I noticed they had a bottle of their super rare sour ale, Maceo, at the table. This beer was just released on Thursday. Only a few beer stores in Asheville got a case. No one was willing to hold or ship bottles. It was first come, first serve. I had tried bribing friends to go get it since I couldn’t get out of my plans to drive to Asheville, but had no takers. As soon as I saw the bottle at the booth, I took all the money out of my wallet and offered it to the guy there for it. He wouldn’t sell it. He did tell me to check back and we could work something out at the end. Every hour or so I went back to check if it was there. Eventually near the end of the day, he sold it to me. He said since I was persistent, he would sell it to me for the same price it sold for in Asheville. I was so happy. This really did make me feel like Brewer’s Jam was better than Christmas. It also completes my collection of beers that Green Man has released bottles of. I am going to save this for a special occasion.

I saw this and freaked out. I had to have it no matter what the co$t…

Thank you for selling it to me. You have no idea how happy it made me.

What happiness looks like

When the gates opened, my beer was the 1st being poured. Both my Butternut Squash Ale and Oktoberfest were side by side. I worked the taps. We had the longest line at Brewer’s Jam. It was crazy! It stretched all the way across the lawn of World’s Fair Park. My beer was a hit and I poured it until it was all gone. The whole rest of the day people would come up and compliment me on it. It’s a great feeling knowing that I make beer that people really seem to enjoy. It was also so nice meeting and talking to people in line who I had never met in real life but read this blog. Thank you! More then once I heard “I hope this isn’t weird, but….” then the person describing how they read my blog, or seen me at one of the downtown bars, or I’ve poured them a beer at work, or they feel like they know me because of my website. Let me tell you. NO. It IS NOT Weird for you to approach me. It’s AWESOME. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Feel free to stop me and say hi anytime. I love meeting new friends. Every person I met that told me something like this, I tried to give one of my bottle cap fridge magnets. If you see me around, say something and I’ll give you one as well. I try to keep a few on me when I’m out in public.

The Homebrewers booth always has the longest line at Brewer’s Jam

The weather was the best it could have been, and was the best I ever remember it being. It was overcast (so I didn’t get a sunburn) and it was chilly, so I wore my new hoodie the whole time. For the entire time it looked and felt like it could rain at any moment but not one drop fell from the sky. This year I didn’t drink very much, but still had a great time. At festivals, I tend to try for beers I haven’t had before. There were a few I really wanted, but passed because the lines were too long. I also very rarely wandered out into the main crowd of the packed festival lawn. I knew there were many of my friends (Lou of Blues and BBQ for example) that were there, but I just didn’t run in to. I mostly stayed behind the tents where it was less crowded and other brewers were hanging out. I wish I had taken more pictures of Brewer’s Jam and maybe some video, but just forgot. At the end of the festival I was completely sober and hungry. I packed my car, drove home and went with a friend to dinner at the Downtown Grill and Brewery. I sipped some Maker’s 46 for the hour or so we were there. After that headed to Suttree’s where half way through a sample size of Lindeman’s Framboise, I crashed. I had hit the wall and it was like someone flipped an off switch for my body and brain. A lack of sleep had caught up to me. I couldn’t focus on conversation and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. The night was still early, but I couldn’t hang anymore. I got dropped off at my house walked in the door, kicked off my shoes and let myself literally fall into bed. I fell asleep mid fall and woke up 9 hours later completely refreshed.

Lindeman’s Framboise, my Saturday night “off switch”

My weekend ended with me working the Sunday afternoon shift solo at The Casual Pint and reminiscing about the last couple of days with my good friends. I also met a really nice couple who own a winery in Virginia and are planning a brewery. I’m didn’t catch their names or the name of the brewery, but I am hoping they email me so I can take a road trip and visit them and their brewery someday.

Well that was this weekend. Next weekend I’ll be in Denver for the GREAT AMERICAN BEER FESTIVAL! I am flying out with 4 other members of the Knox Beer Crew. We will be repping hard! I am going to make another effort to blog everyday of the trip so those of you who can’t make it can live vicariously through my adventures. It’s going to be epic, so check back Thursday through Sunday to follow along.

Once again, I would like to thank my readers, friends, twitter followers and people I met this weekend for all the kinds words. Hope we all meet and share beer again real soon.

Cheers,

Ratchet

A glass full of Sunsphere


Let the drinking begin!!! Brewers Jam weekend, it’s better then Christmas! @knoxbrewjam

October 5, 2012

So here I am sitting at my desk at work, waiting for 4 pm so I can go start my weekend. The weekend of Brewers Jam is more exciting to me then any other holiday. Christmas always seems like a let down, New Years is meh and I don’t want to celebrate my birthday anymore because getting old kinda sucks. But BREWERS JAM is the day I wait for and anticipate every year. This year’s event is going to be especially fun for yours truly.

Last night the homebrew club I am a member of met for our annual “pretzel jam” where we get together to make pretzel necklaces to sell at Brewers Jam. This year’s Pretzel Jam was right down the block from my house. I walked there so I could imbibe and not worry about getting a ride home. It was a very short walk. At our yearly Pretzel Jam, we hang out, drink homebrew, eat pizza and pick up our shirts and passes for Saturday. We stand around and share information and tell stories of our homebrewing. Our membership has different levels of experience from the just starting out with extract, brew-in-a-bucket beers to the “I’ve been doing it for 30 years” to multiple award winners and all the way to the truly obsessed OMG I gotta start a brew pub members like myself.

Tonight is going to be incredibly fun, and I will be all over the place. I am going to try to duck out of work early if I can, and head over to World’s Fair Park to help load the cold truck. It’s the drop off point for the brewers when they come into town. My work will consist of sitting around, sipping some brewski’s and waiting for brewers to arrive. When they do, I’ll get off my ass and with help from many of the other club members, move kegs from the brewer’s vehicles to the truck. Then I’ll sit back down and shoot the breeze and sip more beer. It’s a hard duty, but someone has to do it. About 5:45 I’ll head home to grab a few things and then I’m heading to Adam & Shellie Palmer’s wedding reception at SawWorks. Adam is the owner of SawWorks and a good friend. They got married in a private ceremony in Providencials in the Turk and Caicos Islands. The reception tonight is small informal gathering for friends and family. I am bringing a couple of bottles of my homemade mead for the newly weds to enjoy. I can’t stay long, because I have 2 other parties to attend this evening.

Hopefully y’all know and aware of another downtown beer blogger and my good friend, the Knoxville Beer Dinosaur, Sacchromyces Rex. Ol’ Saccy is throwing a pre-Brewers Jam beer party in his building on Gay Street. I see Saccy all the time when I am downtown. When he first approached me months ago about throwing a party, I was all about it. When he finally picked a date, it turned out to be perfect. I agreed to bring some of my homebrew. I actually kegged up 3 gallons of a special rum barrel edition of my Butternut Squash Ale for the party. At the same time I’ll be drinking with my Dino friend, the Brewer’s reception is taking place pretty much across the street. Dinner is at 8, so it looks like I’ll be doing a lot of walking back and forth so I can attend both parties.

I know that I’ll want to, but can’t, stay out all night. I have to be at the World’s Fair Park Saturday morning bright and early to help set up. Once the gates open, I will be pouring beer at the homebrewer’s tent. I have 2 kegs of mine, an Oktoberfest and my famous Butternut Squash Ale. I don’t know when they will be tapped, but when they are, I’ll tweet it. These are only 5 gallon kegs, and they tend to get drained within 15 minutes. The afternoon I am responsibility free and will be able to cut loose and have some fun. This is what I am most excited about. Drinking good beer, hanging with friends. Hell I might even be inebriated enough to get my groove on to some music from the fine bands playing. After the Jam ends, who knows where I’ll end up? I know there is an after party at Market Square and I would be down for seeing friends at The Casual Pint, Suttree’s and going to my new favorite speakeasy, the Peter Kern Library. Like I said, who knows?

I can’t wait to see my friends and meet some new ones. If you recognize me, or read my blog, say hi. Let’s raise a toast, throw back a few cold ones together and celebrate this greatest Knoxville holiday.

Brewers Jam, aaaaaaaaaahh.

Ratchet
4:15 pm:

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Is your beer truly seasonal? A rant about pumpkin ales.

September 17, 2012

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about my favorite season, fall. I love the cooler weather, the shorter days, the changing leaves and football. Fall is also Oktoberfest, pumpkin ales and fresh hop IPAs. These are seasonal beers and the subject of this post.

When it comes to beer, what does “seasonal” really mean? For some people it means the time of year that beer is available on the market. Do you expect to see a wet hop IPA in the spring? What about pumpkin ale in May? I would avoid both of these then. For me, a “seasonal” beer can mean a beer brewed to be drank at a certain time of year, but it can also mean a beer brewed with specialty ingredients that were harvested and added in when the beer was brewed. With that being said, let’s talk about pumpkin beer.

A few years back, I was really big on pumpkin ales. I remember waiting in the lines at Brewers’ Jam for a taste of Catawba’s King Don’s Pumpkin or Cottonwood Pumpkin Ale. When I got back into brewing after a few years absence, I decided to brew one myself. I researched recipes, found one online based on Thomas Jefferson’s pumpkin ale, made some rather significant changes and went about gathering my ingredients. It was near the end of summer. My garden was bountiful. I went to the Market Square Farmer’s Market in search of pumpkin and couldn’t find any. I asked around and spoke to many farmers who informed me that the pumpkins were still a month out before they’d be ripe. Huh.  Well this enthusiasm to brew this style lead me to my end of summer seasonal, my butternut squash Ale. I had plenty of ripe squash in my garden. After more research, I changed my recipe and brewed my now famous beer. You know what? I like it better than any pumpkin ale. I can’t imagine going a year without brewing it. Using freshly harvested squash is the only way to go. I guess I could can some squash and use it in next year’s batch, but that wouldn’t feel right to me. I want that freshness.

Which leads me back to this year’s pumpkin ales. They started showing up on the shelves in July. Beers showing up this far ahead of the time they are traditionally enjoyed is referred to as Seasonal Creep. There is no way that pumpkin is anything but canned. Pumpkin is a late harvest fruit, which is why it’s a big thing around Halloween. Pouring beers at The Casual Pint, I have tried a few. I found that I didn’t really like them. It seems like I’ve lost my taste for this style. I have noticed at least one of them has a slight metallic taste. I completely believe this is because of the pumpkin being in a can for a year. Plus I don’t even want to taste something pumpkiny when it still hot as hell outside. Pumpkin flavor is for the fall, period.

The other big fall seasonal beer is traditionally brewed in March. This type of beer is called Marzen which in German translates to “March Beer”. You might know it as Oktoberfest. We have many of these hitting the market right now. This style was traditionally brewed in March and stored or “lagered” until September. This famous beer style originated in Munich Germany where THE Oktoberfest celebration takes place. For a pretty good reviews of Oktoberfest lagers, I recommend checking out The Knox Beer Snob’s post from last year. My favorite (at least on draft) Oktoberfest bier would be Spaten from Munich. “Lass Dir raten, trinke Spaten.”

In the next months or so, we will start seeing “Winter Warmers” hit the market. I’ll save discussion of these for a later post.

Well, to change the topic a little, I want everyone to read the Metro Pulse’s  beer article. This is an article about beer and the local craft beer scene written by Cari Wade Gervin. I know she’s been hard at work on this for about a month. She came out to our last Knox Beer Crew tasting, and had spoken with Lou from Blue and Bar-b-que and several other people around here. It’s a very good read with lot of information. Also the Metro Pulse sent out a photographer who caught me in action pouring beer at The Casual Pint last Saturday.

Can I mention how excited  I am about this weekend? Why is that? IT’S KINGSPORT OKTOBERFEST!!!! I have so much to do this week to get ready for it, that it’s almost overwhelming. I’m going up Friday night before. I am going to try to live post the whole weekend, from the Friday night pre-party to Saturday’s biergarden and Beer University classes to my Sunday day trip to Asheville. Should be a whole lot of fun.

Did you get your Brewer’s Jam tickets yet? Stop waiting and go to The Casual Pint and buy them now. It’s going to sell out. There are only a few dozen left in all of Knoxville. There won’t be any available at the gate.

One more thing for those of you asking. The next infusion night at Suttree’s is on Thursday September 27th. Once again we I will be using shredded coconut and cocao nibs as the ingredients. The beer being infused is Atwater’s Vanilla Java Porter. This is a really popular beer that hasn’t been around in a couple of months. This is going to be tasty and I hope to see y’all there.

So I want to hear from you. Add a comment at the bottom of this post and I’ll mail you some beer stickers from my stash.

Cheers,

Ratchet


A Great Weekend for #KnoxBeer

October 25, 2011

The liver is evil and must be punished. Saw this on a shirt the other day, and it (almost) sums up my weekend. I don’t think I’ll make this post really long. The Knox Beer Snobs have posted a great review of all the Knoxville Beer events this weekend, so I’ll refer you to them. I will tell you that I had a great and memorable weekend.

Every year the Homebrew Club does a lot of the beer related grunt work and preparation for Brewers Jam. My weekend pretty much kicked off on Thursday night. The homebrew club does what we call  “Pretzel Jam” where we drink beer and make pretzel necklaces to sell at the event. I had a ride, so I was able to partake in the “leftover” entries from the TN Valley Fair’s Homebrew competition.

Friday I worked a short half day and then headed down to World’s Fair Park to help load the cold truck. The brewers show up, unload the kegs from their vehicles and we move the kegs to cold storage. It was mostly sitting around drinking beer with the occasional heavy lifting. I took a break from that for a few hours and headed over to the grand opening of Marble City Brewing Company’s tasting room, The Quarry. Knoxville really came out to show support for the hometown brewery. The place was packed! The owners even had authentic deep dish pizza flown in for the event. After a few beers, a slice of pizza and some great conversation with fellow craft beer enthusiast, I headed back to World’s Fair Park.  When that was over, it was time for the brewer’s reception in a top secret location. Most of the brewers both local and out of area were treated to beer, cigars, food, and a live bluegrass jam. There was even free jars of locally produced salsa, courtesy of Big S Farms. Pretty much every one of my beer friends were there. I remember looking around at the crowd and thinking if a bomb went off in that room, there wouldn’t be anyone left in the Knoxville craft beer scene. That reception went on long into the night. I left around 11 pm since I was hosting out of town guests and we all had to be up early to work the morning shift.

Saturday morning I made coffee and my guest (fellow homebrewers Shanezilla and Pam) and I headed out. We stopped by Just Ripe on Union Avenue in downtown for a quick breakfast. Then it was on to Brewers’ Jam. There was a whole heck of a lot of work to do before the gates opened at 1pm. We had to deliver the kegs to the brewers, along with Ice. There was also our booth to set up and a few other details to attend to. About 30 minutes or so before kick off, we were pretty much done. This is my favorite time of of the Knoxville Brewer Jam. All the brewers are set up, and everyone has a chance to socialize and try one another’s beers before it gets hectic. Before they opened the gates, we had our customary speech given by Knoxville Police Department, as seen in the following video:

Then the fun begins. It is amazing to see a wave of people pour in when they open the gates. The lines were as far as the eye could see. My 1st keg of Butternut Squash Ale was on tap, and I happily doled out samples to thirsty drinkers. It made me feel like I really know what I’m doing as a beer brewer when people would tell me how much they enjoyed it. I even had some of the most critical members of the homebrew club come back for seconds and thirds. Whenever my 1st keg blew out, I let someone else take a turn pouring while I happily went in search of other tasty beverages to imbide. I saw many of my fellow Knox Craft beer friends and walked around drinking and enjoying their company. Later on in the afternoon, I came back and put on my second keg of Butternut Squash Ale and poured that as well. Near the end of the event, I went and filled several growlers of beer to take home for later. I ran into Mike from Asheville Brewing Company who gave me a really cool Moog filtered Ale shirt.

Well, I went and caught the rest of Cutthroat Shamrock’s show at the end. The jam closed down, the beer stopped flowing, and I started packing out. I finally got my vehicle packed with everything I brought, along with a cooler full of growlers, bottles of beer, merchandise and other stuff I scored at the Jam. I walked over to my office where I spent a few hours drinking water and listening to the Vols football game on the radio. I ended the night eating pizza and thinking how I am already looking forward to next year’s Brewers Jam.

Enjoy the pictures below, click to make big.

Cheers,

Ratchet