I’ve been looking forward to this since last year. It’s ASHEVILLE BEER WEEK! Asheville is Mecca for beer lovers, Beer City USA, and my favorite city to visit. Last year I was an official guest blogger for ABW, but this year the official blogging is being done by my friends over at Asheville Ale Trail. I am simply here to enjoy.
I got into town around 6pm on Friday evening. My original plan was to head over and see friends at Urban Orchard but on the way into town I received a text from a friend informing me that there was a Green Man meet the brewer event and tasting at Appalachian Vintner. Since App Vintner is always on my itinerary, I opted to go there first. I arrived and settled up to the bar where I was greeted by Charles. I placed an order. I thought it appropriate that my first official beer of Asheville Beer Week would be the Asheville Brewers Alliance White IPA. This cloudy, hoppy and tasty beer is a perfect representation of the style, and of Asheville.
I have more pictures of beer on my phone then anything else
After talking some more, it was time for some bottle shopping. I walked around and carefully chose a small selection. This trip is being done on a shoestring budget, so more times then not, I kept having to put back bottles of stuff I wanted. As I sipped and shopped, Charles came over to inform me that he had just tapped a keg of Olde Hickory’s 2013 Event Horizon. How could I resist? This beer is better as it warms, so I cupped my half pour tightly in my hands to lend it some of my body heat. While I was shopping, I noticed on Untappd that other Knoxvillian friends of mine were in town. I paid for my beers and headed to try to catch up with them. As I drove downtown, I saw Julie from Bruisin’ Ales on the front patio of Thirsty Monk. I parked and walked over there. Jason from Bruisin‘ was on the front patio and after we said our hellos, I walked to the bar where I saw my favorite Asheville bartender, Clete. Sitting at the bar was Julie and Jason came in to join us. I had a pour of Stone’s Sprocketbier while we chatted. I wanted to hit up Wicked Weed, so I said goodbye and walked over. When I arrived, there was a line to get in. At this point I was hungry so I headed over to Coxe Avenue to get a slice of pizza (and more beer) at Asheville Brewing Company. I settled up to the bar and ordered. After awhile I got a text from my friend Jerry that himself, Millie, Robert and Brittney were over at Barley’s and I should join them. Right when I was leaving, an incredibly gorgeous girl stopped me outside the door. “Are you Ratchet?” Caught off guard I stammered, “uh, yeah.” “Oh hey, I read your blog, you in town for beer week?” We talked for a bit while my phone kept getting text from Jerry asking were I was.
I didn’t want to be rude to my friends, so I invited her to join me, but she was in the same position with her friends waiting inside at Asheville Brewing Company. We talked about getting together at some events and said goodbye. I stupidly forgot to get her number. So if you are reading this, email me and let’s hang out at Westside Fest, ok?
Catching up with my buddies at Barley’s we had a drink and made plans where to go next. We agreed that Thirsty Monk would be a good choice, especially since Robert said he hadn’t been there before. We walked over, bought a round upstairs and then headed downstairs for another. The group wanted to go to Asheville Brewing Company, and I was with it, but convinced them to go across the street to my favorite dive bar, the Asheville Yacht Club. I love that place! It’s small, rough, rowdy and has good drinks. I have some great memories associated with it. We ordered some more beer. Our crew was a little disorganized and wanted to go over to Jack of The Woods, but a quick check showed there was a cover charge, so we passed and settled back to our drinks at Yacht Club. It was getting late and I still had to make my way to my friend Wes’s house in South Asheville. I said goodnight and parted ways with the rest of the crew as they headed for Asheville Brewing Company.
I got to Wes’s house and we hung out a bit and tried a few brews. I was tired and knew that today would be huge, so I called it a night.
There’s been a few events and little beer trips in the last couple of months that I haven’t had time to write about yet. Instead of taking responsibility for being lazy, my excuses for lack of posting is my work schedule, being a father and playing too much Angry Birds. My writing has suffered as a result. So with that being said, It’s time to start playing catch up on my posting in the next week or so. I’m going to start with my recollection of Kingsport Oktoberfest.
One of my favorite yearly events, this Tri-cities celebration gets bigger and better each year. I headed up a day early to get settled in and hang out with my friends at the brewer’s reception the night before. I got a late start and ended up getting to my hotel room around dusk. After unpacking, I headed over to the festival site to unload the kegs and to visit and drink beer with my friends at the brewers reception. I arrived and saw some of my good tri-cities comrades such as Jimie Barnett and Jay Davis. We immediately launched into a discussion of yeast, brewing times and gravity readings. I realized that I was beer geeking out so hard with other brew-nerds that I hadn’t even poured myself a drink. I got myself out of the conversation by pointing out I was sober and need to fix that. I poured a brew from the tap on the side of the cold truck and walked around to greet our other friends. Dave and Nikki Ohmer from Saw Works were there, along with several of my Tennessee Valley Homebrewers Club buddies. It was great to see my good friends and awesome brewery owners, Erich and Pam Allen from Studio Brew. I had enjoyed giving Erich hell the previous week on social media (mostly using the Kingsport Oktoberfest’s twitter and facebook accounts) for brewing a Butternut Squash Ale (my signature fall seasonal). It was all in good fun though, and it turns our brews are completely different recipes. After socializing, having a few drinks and heading over to Stir Fry Cafe for dinner, I headed back to the hotel. Knowing it would be an early morning, I needed to rest up.
The next morning bright and early I headed down to the site. Before I set up, we needed some breakfast and wake up juice. There was a new coffee shop right by Stir Fry Cafe with an incredible selection. The staff was super friendly and I wish I remembered the name of this place. Unfortunately my google-fu is failing me right now.
After I was sufficiently fed and caffeinated, it was time to set up the booth. I had brought four kegs of homebrew and plenty of merchandise to sell. Richard and Todd drove up from Knoxville that morning and met me at the site.
Todd and Richard at the Ratchet Brews booth.
Once everything was set up and the beer was flowing, it was time to walk around, see friends and drink beer before the gates opened. The moments before ticket holders come in to a festival is always a magic time for brewers. Most of us are set up and are able to socialize and try each other’s brews in the calm before the storm.
Our buddy, Dave from Saw Works Brewing Company
Some of our favorite craft beer people, Pam and Erich Allen of Studio Brew!
The gates opened for the early VIPs. Spending the extra money for early admission is worth it as far as I’m concerned. The vibe is much more relaxed, there are no lines, and you get one on one time with the brewers to talk about what’s in your glass. The people who spring for the VIPs tickets are a much more beer savvy crowd and aren’t there just to get drunk. They truly enjoy conversing about beer. I met some great people, and am truly blessed that a couple told me they learned about Kingsport Oktoberfest and came because they read about it here. It was so great meeting and talking with everyone!
Highland ALWAYS brings the goods to these festivals!
As the day progressed, we took turns working the booth and walking around enjoying the festival. There was a camera crew from the game show network on site and they guy from Cash Cab was the host of a new show. They specifically came to film the TN Idiotarod Race. I walked over to see the beginning.
The day progress, we poured all our beer and got a lot of great feedback. Eventually the festival came to an end. We had an awesome day but it was time to pack up. I found myself tired but mostly sober. We packed everything up. Todd took off for the long drive home while Richard stayed in town at the same hotel as I did. I went back to our room to refresh and change into clean clothes.
Anyone for some Cottonwood Pumpkin ale infused with pumpkin pie slices?
Hi-Wire Brewing Company, one of Asheville’s newest breweries.
It’s the Great Pumpkin Ale, Charlie Brown!
Two of the hardest Gangstas you’ll ever meet being photo bombed.
After I rested up, I grabbed a few bottles of homebrew and hopped in Richard‘s car to go back downtown. We met our friends at Stir Fry Cafe for a post festival dinner. We arrived to a large table with Erich and Pam Allen from Studio Brew, Chris and Sandy Hunt from Moccasin Bend Brewing, Dave and Nikki Ohmer from Saw Works and several others. We ordered food, drank beer, share homebrew and enjoyed each other’s company. As the night wore on, people started heading back to their hotel rooms. We weren’t quite yet ready to call it a night and asked our server what some other decent craft beer bars in town were. We ended up going to a spot called Biggie’s for one last drink.
The next morning I met with Pam and Erich at an Asian buffet restaurant for brunch. I ate my fill and followed them home where in an attached building Studio Brew is located. Erich showed me around the brewery and told me about his trails and tribulations to get licensed. I really need to plan a day to go up there and brew with him.
I could have stayed there all day with Erich and Pam but I needed to get over to Asheville before heading home. I had ordered some beer from Bruisin’ Ales and had to pick it up. I hurried to make it there by 6pm, when I thought they closed. Arriving at 5:50, we found that I had the Sunday hours wrong. They are open noon to 4 on Sundays, not 6 like I had thought. Realizing my mistake, there was only one thing to do. I headed over to Wicked Weed for a quite bite and flight. Once again, while enjoying food and beer, I ran into Luke, who had just returned from a trip to Colorado. He told me about some big plans they had, and another collaboration they did with New Belgium. I do want to congratulate them for beating both Russian River and Crooked Stave for the Gold Medal in the American Brett Beer category at this year’s Great American Beer Festival. This is an amazing accomplishment for a brewery that has only been in existence for less than a year!
Well I drove home to Knoxville and this beer trip came to an end. I have had a few more adventures since this trip, and I plan on writing about them soon. I have another post I am going to publish on Saturday, so make sure you check back then. I’ll tweet the link and add it on the Facebook page.
PS January 2014: I don’t like to make a big deal out of my relationship status, but since this post, Katie and I have parted ways. As I tend to do, I removed and will continue to remove all references to her off of this blog. I’m not depressed over this, and am actually in a good place. I am the one who made the decision for reasons I won’t go in to. No drama, nothing bad, just different life paths. Katie is a really special girl, who deserves happiness. I wish her nothing but the best. That’s all I’m going to say on the matter.
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!
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.
Booze Traveler and Animal
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
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.
Waterkeeper Fish with Proceeds going to clean rivers.
Outside tap list at Wicked Weed Downstairs on 7/21/13
Wicked Weed’s Wickedly awesome cheese plate
Myself and Walt
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…
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.
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…
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!
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.
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.
The Kiln constructed by hand at Riverbend Malt House.
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 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.
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.
My Friend Trevor Sharp, follow him on twitter: @SharpTrevor
Oaked Aged, cask conditioned Old Chub, oh yeah!
Guest Blogger powers: activate!
Fancy Stout (Pinky Out).
Dieter from Heinzelmannchen and myself
Joe from Nantahala Brewing Company
Kevin from BearWaters
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.
Tap list Downstairs at the Monk on Saturday night
An amazing witbier
Where’s the beer flavored ice cream? We we in the wrong spot?
Salsa at Papas and Beer
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
Once again I started the day off in the search of coffee. Having became a big fan of Izzy’s Coffee Den’s Mexican Mocha, I knew exactly where to head in my pre-caffeinated state. This time I was able to convince the beautiful Katie Khaleesi to accompany me. While we drank our coffees and worked with my crappy laptop, she read my copy of The Naked Pint.
Izzy’s Coffee Den
The Naked Pint
After struggling once again with computer issues, I finally was able to get most of yesterday’s post written. By that time, K had an appointment at Spa Theology (girls do different things on vacation). I headed back to the land of slow wi-fi (the hotel) to finish uploading files. While Katie was getting her relax-on, I had gotten a text from my good friend and fellow Knox Beer Crew member, Jason Smith, saying he was making a day trip to Asheville for Beer Week! Cool!
After Katie’s spa trip and my technological hassles, it was time to go out and get beer. First on the agenda was the Asheville Brewing Company release of Reinke’s Red Ale. This batch was local homebrewer, BJCP judge and Asheville Beer Week Committee member Adam Reinke’s recipe brewed on ABC’s 7-barrel system. As a homebrewer myself I realize what a great honor it is to have a pro-brewer like your beer enough to want to brew it on their system. We had to go show our support. However, once again I messed up on the timing of the event and we ended up there an hour early. Since we had some time to kill, we walked over to Wicked Weed to have a quick half pour. We arrived and went to the downstairs bar and were greeted by Walt. We talked for a little bit, but I could tell by all the activity that they were in the middle of a full fledged brew day. He told us to try the super rare Ryes Above brewed by New Belgium. Only seven barrels of this was ever brewed and Wicked Weed just had to have some left over from an event. Wow, it was amazing. Kat ordered the Coolcumber American Golden because the description sounded like the perfect drink for a hot day. We shared our beers like we always do. I have to say that every time I drink something produced by the Wicked Weed guys, I’m blown away by the quality, originality, skill and taste of what they brew. Well, about this time, I ran into Luke, who was a whirlwind of activity back in the brewing area. I’m not the kind of guy who wants to distract someone in the middle of a project. I said hello and told him I knew he was busy, but asked if he would mind filming a little something for the website. He was happy to take a few moments out of his busy work day. The results are posted below.
After the video, Luke asked if we have tried the Freak of Nature Triple IPA. We said we had not, but we were definitely planning on it. He went to the bar and graciously poured us a couple of samples. While we sipped on this incredibly delicious concoction, he told us all about it. This is a high grav IPA that hides its alcohol behind a plethora of dry hops. We were stunned by how good it was. Just writing this post makes me want to put away the computer and high tail it back there for some more. So seriously, I can’t recommend this beer enough. Go try it yourself and thank me later.
With a lot on the agenda, it was time for the next event. We picked up Jason at Asheville Brewing Company where we had parked and was sampling some brews. The previous day, Kat had spoken to Elizabeth of Boulevard Brewing at the Belgians at the Ballpark. She had told her about an event at Altamont Brewing Company that was not on the ABW website. K looked it up online and we stopped over for a quick drink and to check it out. we arrived and I walked up to the bar with Jason. Could my eyes deceive me? I pointed to a tap handle. “Do you see that?!?” I asked him. “Next to the 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat?” “No, no, on the other side of that one.” “OH. MY. GOD!” Yes, ladies and gentlemen, they had Foothill’s Sexual Chocolate ON TAP!!! Let me tell you, Ashevillians who have it so good, we Knoxville beer geeks go out of our way for this beer. We don’t have it like y’all. You would be surprised what doesn’t make it to the other side of the mountains. For many of us, like Jason, this is our Carolina white whale. Usually when this is released each year, caravans of Knoxville craft beer lovers make a pilgrimage just to track down the illusive tapping. Forget about bottles, many of us would trade a body part for one. While Jason and I enjoyed our find, Kat and Boulevard’s Elizabeth talked about the other rare selections on tap. Boulevard had a sessionable test beer called Nelson Grape Ale. It was a light summer beer brewed with Nelson Sauvin hops and Muscat grape juice. It was very thirst-quenching and it very awesome to get to try a rare test batch. Other brewery representatives were in attendance, such as my buddy Erica from Highland. Most of the beers on tap were rarities. It was so nice to sit around sippin’ and socializin’. Altamont was hosting a cook out in the parking lot and processing chickens out there as well. I ran into head brewer and all around cool guy Gordon Kear and talked him into a doing a short video. Here it is in all its glory.
With so much to do, it was time to hit the next event. We headed off to Appalachian Vintner for their mini-fest. On the way we took a quick pit stop at Hops & Vines to peruse their bottle selection. Jason picked up one of the last six packs of Sierra Nevada‘s six-year Bigfoot Barley wine vertical.
With beer in hand, we carefully weaved our way in and out of shoppers to review their expansive selection of rare craft beer. I had already had some items on the list I had planned to pick up for friends, but due to the crowd, I decided to put off the majority of my bottle shopping for later on in the week. Kat, however, couldn’t pass up a few sours and farmhouse ales that are unable to be obtained in Knoxville.
Before we ventured on to Bruisin’, going and trying Adam’s beer was next on the list. We walked into ABC and it was packed. Adam, his wife Missy, and their friends and family were already at the front table enjoying a pitcher of the infamous brew. As I headed to the bar to get some glasses, Adam made sure to tell me to grab a Reinke Red Ale shirt. I was thrilled, as usual, to receive another ABC shirt, additionally, one touting my friend’s brewery release.
As I was chatting with other ABC employees, Mark a friend of Adam’s, dove into discussion with Kat and Jason about a caravan to our Scruffy City this summer to tour the breweries and taprooms we have in the great city of Knoxville. Tentatively planned for the end of July, we’ll make sure to let everybody know so we can show our good friends from the other side of the mountains just how we do things on our side of the Smokies.
So, how was Adam’s beer? If I had to describe it in one word, I’d say “phenomenal”. Very well-balanced maltiness, tons of hop aroma, and dangerously drinkable. There were only seven barrels brewed, and it’s sure to go quick. Make sure to get down there and get yourself a glass or three before it’s all gone. To hear more about it from Adam’s perspective, check out this video we filmed back in the back of the brewery.
As much as we wanted to stay and socialize, I didn’t want to miss out on the meet-and-greet with the legendary Mitch Steele. Saying our goodbyes and making plans to meet up again later this week, we headed the few short blocks away to Bruisin’ Ales.
I expected it to be standing-room-only, but being that it was near the end of the event and close to closing time, most of the crowd had dissipated. More time for me!
We started off saying hello to all our staff member friends, and introduced ourselves to Mitch and the Southeastern Stone brewery representative, Scott. I had met Mitch previously back in October at GABF where I got him to sign a copy of his book, IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale. It was, of course, great to see him again, especially in a more intimate setting where we’d have more time to chat.
Mitch is very personable, outgoing, down-to-earth, and loves what he does. They were pouring samples of four of Stone’s flagship beers: Sublimely Self-Righteous, IPA, Cali-belgique IPA, and Ruination. Mitch was more than happy to speak to me about his experience as Stone’s Head Brewer, and the research and development that went into writing his IPA book, as seen in the video below.
As I was speaking with Mitch, Katie and Scott had struck up a conversation about his role as the Southeastern representative (what do you know, sales and marketing folks tend to flock together). Here she is speaking with him on camera and enjoying some of the brew.
We met many other friends and fellow beer-geeks, such as the president of MALT (Mountain Ale and Lager Tasters). We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation with him and trying his brew at Beer City Festival this upcoming Saturday.
We said our goodbyes to Mitch and Scott, and joined Jason and his mother for dinner at Lab, secretly hoping we’d run into to Mitch and Scott again. I sampled Lab’s Rye Pale Ale, while the others took a break from beer for a bit. And who would you guess that walked into Lab as we finished our meal, but Mitch and Scott. We exchanged helloes with them, goodbyes with Jason and his mom, and headed back to the hotel to regroup for our next adventure. Katie took a dip in the pool while I uploaded some photos and videos for my much-beloved blog readers, and about 10:30, we headed out again to Thirsty Monk.
We found that downstairs still had the same selection of Allagash and New Belgium beers that we’d had previously, so in our quest to try as many unique (and rare) beers as possible, we went to check the tap selection upstairs, where there was a Bell’s Brewery tap takeover in progress. Finding that the kegs had blown of the ones we were the most interested in, we opted for a quick half-pour of Oarsman Ale, and made the decision to head back over to Wicked Weed before they closed. Once again, as we were leaving, we ran into our new Stone stalkees. We tried to get them to join us at the Weed, but having planned that for their schedule the next day, we went on without them.
Arriving back at our newest go-to spot, we opted for some sours. I got the Apricot Darkness sour, while my beautiful Khaleesi chose the Wild Abigail Sour Dubbel. Both were tasty, tart, and triumphant. At this point, it was nearly time to close, so after visiting briefly with Luke’s wife, Abby, we headed back to the hotel.
After all the beer and adventures of the day, we passed out in short order. It’s hard to believe that our beercation is half-way over, but I have to say, it’s been nothing but awesome so far, however, I’m looking forward to the second half, beginning with today’s tour of Catawba. Honestly, there are so many events that it’s hard to keep straight, so make sure to tune in tomorrow for details. However, be sure to follow the twitter and untapped feeds for exclusive first-looks at the videos, prior to being published on the blog. Also make sure to check out #avlbeerweek on Twitter to see how other beer fanatics are celebrating, and don’t forget to tweet us if you’re in the area. We’d love to meet up and have a beer with you! Below are pictures of yesterday’s adventures; click to enlarge.