Solo #homebrew day, new hop variety, brewing of KBC 505 and Hurricane Sandy relief

November 12, 2012

There’s a few things coming up in the Knoxville craft beer scene to tell y’all about. First a note on a few things that already happened. Last Tuesday was the election and America voted another term for the first president to have beer brewed in the White House. The other choice was a guy who has never drank a beer in his life. I personally don’t trust a guy who has never drank beer, and it seems a lot of people didn’t either. For election night, I had brewed a copy of the White House Honey Ale. The recipe and video were published on the official White House blog. It was a really easy extract based brew. I was able to brew 5 gallons in the short few hours I typically have after work and before bed time. I followed all the directions as per the White house, so it would be as close to their recipe as possible. For election night we poured free samples for people to taste and enjoy at the Casual Pint’s downtown location. There was a pretty big crowd come out to try it and watch the election returns.

So how is this beer? It’s really basic, very drinkable but a bit on the English side of the ale spectrum. Although I liked it, It’s not a beer I’d likely make to keep on tap at home. Other people seemed to really enjoy it. My pal and fellow blogger Saccy drank a bit and I made sure to constantly fill his cup. He wrote about it and posted this cool picture on his website.

Saccy’s sign. Thanks for your vote! Check him out at Knoxbeerdinosaur.wordpress.com

The Tennessee Valley Homebrewer’s latest Big Ass Malt Order or (BAMO for short) just wrapped up. Collectively the club ordered 2 pallets of grain. I did my part and ended up with 325 lbs. The bulk of my order was organic 2 row brewers malt. I also picked up more Rauch Malt, some vienna, light munich, and crystal 60. This should cover my base malt needs for the next 6 to 7 brews. For me this buying in bulk at wholesale price is well worth the yearly dues I pay to the club. If you are a homebrewer and in Knoxville, click here to find out more about joining. It’s well worth it, even if you don’t brew all grain. Members can get malt extracts at cost as well.

Back of my CRV loaded with my BAMO order

I also recently ordered bulk hops from the website HopsDirect.com. This website is by Puterbaugh farm out in the Yakima Valley. It’s a family run farm that grows and sells fresh leaf hops by the pound. I was shopping around for leaf hops on their site when I came across a proprietary hop they grow call Belma. This is the first year they are releasing this hop and the description sounded wonderful. The best part is the price, $5.25 a pound! This is unheard of for any hop variety. Even Cascade which everyone grows and is the most readily available hop cost $13 a pound. I know that this is an introductory price and in the future this hop will probably be in the $15 to $18 a pound range. So I bought 3 pounds. I ended up selling one of them at cost to my friend Kavon who is also a homebrewer and bartends at Suttree’s. But still I have 2 pounds. These hops smell fantastic. Much like other American hop varieties, they have a very citrusy aroma. I couldn’t wait to use some of it, so I brewed a beer this weekend. I took my recipe for my Cascadian Dark Ale (or Dark IPA if you prefer) and tinkered with it to include these hops. The last couple of times I’ve brewed, I’ve had help from several good friends. It’s great to have people lend a hand (especially with the clean up) on brew days. However, this time I wanted to get back to my roots and brew alone. It’s almost meditative for me to do that every once in awhile. So I didn’t tell anybody, got my ingredients together, started a monster yeast starter a couple days before, went to the spring and got water, spent my Sunday brewing and now I have 10 gallons happily bubbling away. My next brew day I will include my friends. Next Sunday I plan on brewing a Belma based pale all. I’m going to call it the KBC 505 which is reference to an inside joke with the guys I went to GABF with.

6 ounces of Belma hops from HopsDirect.com

My friends and co-owners of Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern, Matt and Ann, went on beercation last week to the west coast where they traveled and visited breweries. I got several text from Matt when he was at Russian River Brewing Company. He sent me the pictures below:

Russian River’s Tap board

A case of Russian River’s Bling Pig and a case of Pliny the Elder

Well last night at ol’ Sut’s we had a private employee and friends party with some goodies they sent back. There was a case of both Pliny the Elder and Blind Pig. I brought a few bottles of rare stuff to share as well along with a 2.5 gallon keg of my Oktoberfest. It’s was a great time and lots of good beer was drank. I took a few pictures as well as a short video clip. Thanks Ann and Matt for throwing this party and for the Pliny shirt you brought back for me. Y’all are awesome!

Pliny the Elder, one of the highest rated IPAs ever.

Matt iceing down the beer

More bottles and a mini keg of homebrew

Mmmmmmm, Beer!

Blind Pig anyone?

Well there’s a few things coming up soon in Knoxville. This Thursday there is a bus leaving from Bearden Beer Market going to Highland Brewery for the release of Highland’s Cold Mountain Winter Ale. I’m not sure if there are any spots left. It’s $30 per seat for a trip to Asheville. More details are here and in the image below. I am going, it sounds like too much fun to pass up. I’ll try to post about it afterwards.

Owly Images

Also coming up this Saturday is the Brooklyn Brewery Hurricane Sandy relief fund raiser. This charity event, co-sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery and Eagle Distributing will be going on all day Saturday at both Casual Pint locations, Bearden Beer Market, Vic’s Beer Garden, both Brixx Pizza locations, Central Flats and Taps, and Suttree’s. So go drink beer, it’s for charity.

One more thing of note. Next First Friday, December 7th at 7pm I will be pouring FREE samples of my winter seasonal. Previously called Spicy Cocoa Stout, now called I’m Warming You, it’s a 7.3% abv imperial chocolate milk stout brewed with Tennessee cherry chili and jalepeno peppers. This will take place at Jackson Avenue Market in the JFG building in the Old City. Mark it on your calendar now and let’s pack that place.

Seriously, y’all come out for this one. Please?

Cheers,

Ratchet


Online brewing equipment shopping, upgrades and keg procurement

October 25, 2012

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot of about brewing equipment, upgrading mine and all the cost of turning my hobby into a career. I have spent way too much time recently browsing brewery supply websites. I’ve also been reading everything I can when it comes to laws, taxes and exactly what it takes to go from home brewer to someone who does it for a living. You could say it takes determination, love for what you do, equipment and all that other stuff, but what is really boils down to is money. Cold hard cash or the ability to come up with it.

I am blessed to have a pretty decent job. I live simply and within my means. I don’t care my house is sparsely furnished, or that there is more beer in my fridge then food. When it comes down to buying a furniture, clothes, shoes or beer supplies, it’s pretty obvious what I spend my $ on. When I determine I want a new piece of brewing equipment, I do my research, try to find the best price and then save up for it.

My last upgrade was a 55 gallon Blichmann Boilermaker Brew pot. It wasn’t cheap. All the home brew shops sell this for exactly the same price. My preferred shop, Rebel Brewer, is here in Tennessee. They ship Blichmann’s stuff for free. However, I knew if I bought from them, they have to charge tax which would add more to the price then I had to spend. I ordered from Austin Homebrew Supply and got the same free shipping but without having to pay tax since it was purchased out of state. I could have purchased a similar capacity stainless steel home made brew pot here in town for much less. It was a converted shipping drum. Many brewers (such as my buddies at Legit ) use these without issue. However, there’s a reason I passed on this cheaper brew pot. I have spoke with professional brewers and have been advised that there is a chance that if I tried to go pro, it may not pass inspection. This is because the  bottom does not have a sanitary weld.  This is where I am at on my search for new items to add to my home brewery. I want equipment that when I started my nano-brewery, I can use right away. Currently there is so much I want.

Since I am transitioning from typical home brewer equipment to more professional nano-brewer stuff, I’ve made the decision to phase out my old “corny” kegs to the industry standard sanke kegs. These are not easy to find, and they aren’t very affordable. I have researched and read so much about the cost.  A typical stainless steel keg cost around  $120-$150 new. This is pretty much what all craft breweries pay for them. When you purchase beer in a keg from a store or brewery, the deposit is typically half of what a new keg cost. People don’t always return them. Some of them are stolen off of people’s porches and sold from scrap. Home brewers are notorious for cutting them up to make brew kettles, mash tuns, etc. This may not affect the big guys like Budweiser, but it does effect the industry as a whole. Plus if you are using kegs that are branded by one of the macros, there’s a chance they can take them back no matter how you obtained them. Check out what happened to Calfkiller out of Sparta, TN last year.
So, as a home brew who wants to go pro, my only option is to buy brand new sanke kegs from a manufacturer. I’m thinking because of the upcoming holidays, etc, I’ll have to wait until next year to do this.

I thought I’d make a list of websites that sell equipment for transitioning home-to-nano brewers. These are places I’ve bookmarked and check every day. A guy can dream, can’t he?

Probrewer.com classifieds– This is a website for professional brewers. The classifieds are a great place to find used equipment. When a brewery upgrades or goes out of business, chances are their stuff ends up for sale on here. I call dibs on all the used 1 barrel stuff, so leave it for me, ok?

Stout tanks and Kettles– They have the best price on nano brewery stuff I have found so far. I have my eye on the 55 gallon conical fermenter with butterfly valves and casters. If I get my yearly Christmas bonus at work, it’s so mine.

Specific Mechanical Systems- custom fabrication of brewery components. What I find the most helpful about this website is the charts.

Bubba’s Barrels– local guy here in Knoxville who is fabricating nano-brewery systems. Great price and equipment for home brewers. He can build brew stands, and has a few conical fermenters that he’s working on.

Geemacher– A keg manufacturer in PA. They sell all different sizes of kegs and firkins as well. This is who I’ll probably buy mine from.

Rebel Brewer– Based outside of Nashville, this is where I purchase a lot of my smaller equipment and ingredients. Super fast shipping and excellent customer service.

Some upcoming Knoxville events I want to let everyone know of. Tonight (October 25th) I am doing another infusion event at Suttree’s starting at 7pm. It is also pint night, so the 1st 40 people get a free Lagunitas glass with purchase.

This Saturday is the monthly Knox Beer Crew tasting. I’m not going to say much about this month’s tasting  other then I got a feeling that it’s going to be epic.

Next week the Tennessee Valley Homebrewer’s club will be putting together another Big ASS Malt Order or BAMO. If you join and become a member, you can take part in this and order some grains for home brewing at wholesale cost. Well worth the $25 yearly membership fee.

November 6th is election night. I brewed a clone of the Whitehouse Honey Ale and we will be pouring free samples of it at The Casual Pint downtown as we watch the election results. Come join us for this historic night while trying a copy of this historic beer.

Cheers,

Ratchet


#KNOXBEERCREW #GABF Beercation Day 3 Saturday Recap

October 13, 2012

Saturday was the last day of the Great American Beer Festival. I was lucky enough to snag a members only session ticket during the great Ticketmaster GABF fail of 2012. Many people missed out, but I got through. The rest of the crew had long sinced planned a trip to Fort Collins to visit the breweries there on Saturday. As tempted as I was to join them, I wantred to check out more of Denver and the festival.

Kevin LA was gracious enough to drop me off downtown. I got out of the truck and immediately realized I forgot my all important precious iPhone charger inside. I figured I’d have to find somewhere downtown and buy another. That’s when I got the call that they were coming around the block to bring it to me. Crisis averted, thanks for looking out fellas.

They drove off and I headed towards Falling Rock Tap House. I got there early, and they weren’t open yet. I headed down to Freshcraft instead. They had the foresight to open early because of the festival, and the place had a pretty good size crowd for only being 10 in the morning. I knew I’d have to get some food to power myself for the day. I got seated (by a wall charger, please) and ordered the best beer cheese soup I have ever had in my life. I also ordered some herb crusted cheese dippers that were to die for. Of course, I had to have a beer to wash it all down.

20121013-124413.jpg

Herb Crusted Cheese Dippers at Freshcraft FTW!

20121013-124628.jpg

First Beer of the day, Dry Dock’s Hefeweizen.

Big Bear at the convention center

I really like Freshcraft and hope to spend some more time there in the future. NextI headed to the convention center and was surprised how long the line was. Luckily I saw my buddies Erich  and Pam from Studio Brew & thier crew near the front. They invited me to join them and I was glad to!

20121013-124953.jpg

Erich and Pam and everyone waiting to be let in to the convention center floor

20121013-125434.jpg

We’re going in!

Going in! Woooo!

20121013-125528.jpg

I love being a member of The Brewers Association!

20121013-125656.jpg

The first place I headed to was Cigar City’s booth. I was the 1st person in line but NO ONE WAS THERE!

20121013-125823.jpg

Blurry picture but a really good beer by Russian River and a silver award winner

20121013-125931.jpg

Myself and Erich Chilling like villians

20121013-130105.jpg

The Stone Brewing Company Booth

20121013-130218.jpg

Maybe one day I’ll be set up in the brewpub pavilion. There’s some great beers in there.

20121013-130333.jpg

Random shot of the convention hall. There were no lines at first

20121013-130633.jpg

One of my favorite things at GABF is the bag pipes

20121013-135645.jpg

Myself with brewing celebrities, authors and all around cool guys John Palmer & Jamil Zainasheff

20121013-141452.jpg

Myself with Author & brewer at Stone Brewing company, Mitch Steele, I brought my copy of his IPA book to sign.

20121013-142225.jpg

Epic doesn’t even begin to describe the craft beer and cheese pairing. I almost cried it was so good.

20121013-173836.jpg


Here’s me rocking a Suttree’s sticker on my back. Because if there’s one thing I do well besides brewing beer, it’s representing the home team. #KnoxBeer

20121013-174056.jpg

Myself with one of the owners of Uinta Brewing company after the beer and cheese pairing

20121013-174417.jpg

These people right here? THESE ARE MY PEOPLE! #TeamStudioBrew

This man did more for craft beer consciousness then any person alive. R.I.P. to the Great Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson

20121013-174725.jpg

Myself with Catabwa Brewer Todd. He is one of the most artistic, creative and awesome brewers in the Sotuheast, and we are lucky to claim him.

The cutie in this picture is Melissa from Ass Kisser Ales. Always a pleasure to see her at Beer Festivals.

20121013-175151.jpg

I got that beer armor on for the last pour at GABF

It was a great session, but I wasn’t ready to leave the convention center yet. I saw there was an area that to get into, you had to have brewer credentials. I thought I might know some people back there, or at least meet some of the brewers that I didn’t get a chance to see. So I bluffed my way back there, it wasn’t even hard. I made a plate from the buffett and looked around for familiar faces. I didn’t see any, and sat down at a half empty table. The people there were really nice and come to find out they were volunteers. I didn’t stay long and headed out to continue my adventure.

The back volunteer and brewer area

I left the convention center and took a pedi-cab over to Falling Rock Tap Room. I experienced first hand what all the hype was about. It is craft beer bar with an amazing selection. I walked in and ordered a pint of Rumpking. I was surprised how cheap it was considering everywhere else we went it cost $20-30 a bottle. I also overheard people talking about 521’s Wild Bear. They had a 2 year old aged keg, so knowing I would probably never see this beer anywhere else, I had to get it.

Outside at Falling Rock

Inside at Falling Rock

Avery’s Rumpking and 512’s Wild Bear

Outside at Falling Rock

I met some cool brewers while hanging out downstairs at Falling Rock, this is Justin, one of Twisted Pine’s brewers

A brewer from a small place in Florida. I feel bad for forgetting his name and the name of his brewery. Especially since we drank and talked together for a long time.

I saw on twitter that the Beer Advocate crew was hanging out at another local Denver beer bar I wanted to check out. I looked up the address and walked the few blocks away to The Star Bar.

The Star Bar

Inside at The Star Bar

Tap list at The Star Bar

The back bar at the Star Bar

I really dug the Star Bar. It’s probably my favorite bar of the whole trip. It was a small dive type bar, with a great selection. I met some really cool people and enjoyed a beer that was just released for the 1st time anywhere. While hanging out there, I recognized some social media and twitter celebrities that I follow and am a fan of. I introduced myself and got pictures taken.

Myself with twitter celebrity, Ashley Routson aka @TheBeerWench

Follow these craft beer people on Twitter: @TheHopfather and @BREWPUBLIC

Well my phone was dying and I knew it was time for me to find my way back to Kevin LA’s. The crew was back from their Fort Collins trip and were partying at Kevin’s downstairs bar. I went to a bus station and after trying to understand the routes, I gave up and took a cab home.  When I got there, the beer was flowing and everyone was having a great time. After a few rare beers from Kevin’s generous cellar collection, It was time for me to pass out. What a great time in Denver. I will (hopefully) being coming back next year as part of Studio Brew’s Pro-Am. It’s something Erich, Pam and I spoke about during our time hanging out at the festival.

Hope you enjoyed reading about my trip with the Knox Beer Crew. I had such a great time, met so many cool beer people, and am so thankful to Kevin and his wife for putting up with us. I hope that some of the people I met stay in contact with me. If you read my site, please leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter.

Everyone at home, I miss y’all and will see y’all soon.

Cheers,

Ratchet