Great Time at @AllAleQueen #Craftbeer Carnival #CltBeer #NCBeer #beerfest

March 24, 2014

I consider myself blessed for the life I have. Not only am I one of the resident beer geeks at The Market in Maryville but I also get to go work beer festivals through SuperFly Fabulous Events. You might haven’t  heard of this company, but you know of their work. Kingsport Oktoberfest, Thirsty Orange, All Ale To The Queen, Beer City Bus Tours and Brewer’s Summit. The team that put on these events are great people and I’m proud to be their friend. At these festivals I’ve done everything from represent a brewery (Woodruff), to pouring my homebrew, promoting the events through social media, to the most recent, running the mobile infusers. The best part about doing all this is having another chance to hang out before, during and after the events.

This weekend brought me to Charlotte, NC for the All Ale to the Queen Craft Beer Carnival. I’ve been planning on this event for months now, and I almost didn’t make it. My life has changed so much in a short amount of time. Being unemployed for awhile, moving to Maryville and working a low paying (but fulfilling) job has had it challenges. The finances starting looking grim for a 4 hour drive. When I estimated the gas money needed to go, it didn’t look like I could pull it off. Luckily a few friends saw my post on my personal social media and came to my rescue by buying some rare beers I’ve been cellaring. I was hoping to rope one or 2 of my remaining friends to go with me, but despite some last minute bribery, It ended up being a solo trip.

So I loaded up the car and left Friday Morning for Charlotte. The drive was uneventful. My GPS said it would take 4 and 1/2 hours but I made it to the venue in 4 with no problems. I checked in and was handed one of the festivals jockey boxes and asked if I could get it re-lined. Since I was also now in possession of the company’s brand new top of the line randall and needed to get parts, it wasn’t a problem. I put everything in my car and googled the nearest homebrew supply store. I found my way to Beer and Wine Hobbies International. The staff there was great and helped me reline the box and get all the parts I needed to set up the Randall. As I sat there with them talking about beer the clock was ticking. I had to still find my way to where the beer dinner was starting at 6. I had time for one quick brewery stop. I asked where I should go and Triple C Brewing was the answer given. Luckily it wasn’t too far away. I paid for the parts (company credit card, woot!) and headed there. As I drove up, I noticed how packed the place was. This was definitely a popular brewery, with lots of people and dogs enjoying the great weather. It happened to be one of the last days of Charlotte Beer Week and Triple C released a milk stout brewed with Vanilla Beans and Kahlua soaked oak chips that they called “The Dude Imbibes“. I got a full pour of that and a flight of four other beers as well. I was very impressed with the quality of the brews I tried. As I sat there drinking my beers, I had a conversation with a local about the Charlotte Craft Beer Scene. I could have stayed the rest of my trip at Triple C, but it was time to head to the beer dinner. I made sure to buy myself a wax capped big bottle of their Smoked Imperial Amber as a souvenir. Hopefully I won’t have to sell this one off to fund a future beer trip.

I arrived at Harry’s Grille and Tavern for the beer dinner. As I walked in and looked around the room, I recognized half the people there. I struck up a conversation with Aaron who introduced me to April Smith. She was running the social media for this festival. We grabbed one of the few remaining tables. My friend and all around good guy, Adam Reinke had texted me to say he was coming to the dinner. I saved him a couple of seats. He arrived with the infamous Mark with him. The course and beers started coming, and each one was incredible. Check out the All Ale To The Queen Twitter post about each course. Here’s one, two, three, four and five.

As the dinner came to an end, many were wondering what was next on the agenda? The word spread quickly through the brewers and other in town that we would take over the lawn in front of the hotel. There were already lawn chairs there. Somehow we started calling this “the grassy knoll”. I don’t know who came up with it, but that’s what we all referred to it as the rest of the weekend. Once back to the hotel we started to hang out there. Beers were flowing and a great time was had. I had a little (a lot) too much to drink. Like, bad behavior drunk ( I apologize to the person most of this was directed towards, but in my defense I HATE being stalked). Luckily I caught myself and stopped. I went to my room to sleep it off.

I woke up the next morning hung over and slightly hating myself. I felt a deep seated need for punishment. What else could I do but run it out? I got dressed in my running clothes, set my Nike app for a 5k and hit downtown Charlotte. The 1st mile hurt. My head was pounding, my mouth was dry and my liver hurt like hell. As I made my half way point, I started feeling better. By the end of my run I felt great. My app chimed in to tell me the 5k was over. To my astonishment I had beat my previous record by 3 and a half minutes!

Back at the hotel I drank coffee, showered and then headed out to the festival site. There was work to do. I set up my merchandise table, pieced together the randall and lent a hand where needed. When the doors opened, I knew I would need a volunteer and they hooked me up. I was introduced to Joy who was just that. I’ve done many fest and had many volunteers and she was the best so far. She is a home brewer and eager to learn all she could about beer. Together we were able to stay on schedule and came up with a great system for moving the randall around, cleaning it and setting it up. Her shift technically ended at 3:30 but she stayed, helping me all the way until the 8 pm ending time. This went above and beyond what was expected of her. Thanks homegirl!

There was so much going on at this festival and I was so busy I only caught about a fraction. When I was able to lift my head from what I was doing, the view was spectacular. This was mainly due to the incredibly hot aerial acrobats at the middle of the room and the always eye pleasing Charlotte Beer Girls.  There were also freak show acts that I missed but friends told me about later. Like a guy who ate a light bulb. My questions is, how’d he figure out that was something he was good at? What inspired him to eat the first one? I also missed the homebrewer contest and didn’t get to try everyone’s beer. Congrats to the winners though, maybe one day I’ll brew again and will enter another competition. For now, I’m honestly happy to NOT be brewing.

The one thing I was able to focus on, like I said, was the randalizing of beer. Awhile back I was talking to Aaron and told him we needed better randalls and system for mobile infusing. He asked my recommendation and I told him to buy the top of the line system from Dogfish head. He did so and it was worth every penny! We broke this new system in at Catawba’s booth with the brewery’s founder, Billy, as Seen in the video below:

The next infusion we did was at Abita’s booth with their Strawberry Lager going through French Broad Cocao nibs and shells and fresh strawberries. This was a hit. It was so good that the rep had to fill a growler to bring back to the brewers in New Orleans. So if you see Abita come out with a chocolate strawberry beer in the future, just know where it originated. People where clamoring for this beer and the line grew really long once the word spread. We were only scheduled to be at their booth for an hour, but if we would have taken it away when that early, I’m pretty sure we would have caused a riot. I was fine with staying there, especially since the Goose Island booth was right new to me and the reps kept sneaking me sips of Bourbon County Stout and Backyard Rye on the down low (thanks ladies!).

We were finally able to unhook the randall and head over to Rj Rockers where we ran the always popular Son of A Peach through, you guessed it, peaches. Since we didn’t have enough peaches due to my clumsily spilling half of them, we added some plums as well. It was a great combination. My volunteer, Joy had pointed out that there was a small group of girls following the infuser around. Sure enough they were first in line for the Rj Rockers. As I sat there talking with them, they asked to take pictures. Since my main weakness is pretty girls, I couldn’t resist. Of course, I couldn’t resist inviting them to the after party as well, but no such luck.

My Randall groupies.

Me and my Randall groupies.

The last infusion of the day was with Starr Hill. I tried to infuse their Cryptical Imperial Stout with Cocao Nibs and Shredded coconut. We ran into our first clogging issues of the day and were only able to get a few pours out of it. This was near the end of the fest, so I decided it would be alright to break it down, give it a good cleaning and call it a day.

The festival came to an end and I made sure to pack up and secure the randal and jockey box. As the attendees left it was back to being the festival people. Grassy Knoll takeover was the post festival party plans. By this time I was completely sober. I always stop drinking about and hour or 2 before a festival like this is over so I can drive. As I loaded up my car I noticed my buddy Jim Cope carring a big plastic bag and looking faded. My friend Trevor and his girlfriend walked over and as we talked and I mentioned the party, they asked if they could ride with me. We piled into my car and were talking and laughing our asses off on the way to the hotel.

Trevor Sharp gears up for the Jim Cope homeless impersonation challenge. We all were laughing so hard it hurt.

Trevor Sharp gears up for the Jim Cope homeless impersonation challenge. We all were laughing so hard it hurt.

When we arrived, the party was already in effect. Adam Reinke had ordered pizzas, beer was flowing and Urban Orchard brought out a keg of cider to share. I ran back to the room to grab one of my growlers and when I came back, the group was little more subdued. Where’s the keg? Well it seems like we were all having such a great time that the police came and told the group that we couldn’t be so obvious and have kegs out. The lawn was actually part of Johnson and Wales University. I found this hilarious because the same weekend a bunch of rowdy craft beer drinking drunks took over the hotel, the other people staying there were parents and potential students checking out the college. I could see the shocked look on the face of families are they walked passed us. I would not be a bit surprised if more then a few parents told their kids that there was no way they’d allow them to attend there after seeing us.

So instead of kegs, we just kept taking turns filling up growlers with Urban Orchard Cider and Studio Brew’s Mosaic Sunset from the kegs stashed in the cars a few feet away. I want to give a big shout out to my new friend, Jeff Anderson from Urban Orchard. It was great partying with you brother, and I look forward to hanging out again in a few weeks at TO.

Well I knew I had a 4 hour drive and a shift at the Beer Den the next day, so I had to call it a night. It pained me to be responsible and walk away from a great party with people I love and admire. Good thing I get to do it all over again soon. I hope everyone enjoys the pictures and if we met, I’d love to hear from you.

Charlotte you were great. I’ll be back in November for Attack of The Big Beers, so you have 8 months to prepare for my arrival. I’ll be counting the days my friends.

Cheers!

-Jason aka Ratchet


A (Way) Late Post About @KPTOktoberfest #craftbeer #beercation

November 7, 2013

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.

Todd and Richard at the Ratchet Brews booth.

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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

Our buddy, Dave from Saw Works Brewing Company

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Some of our favorite craft beer people, Pam and Erich Allen of Studio Brew!

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!

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.

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Anyone for some Cottonwood Pumpkin ale infused with pumpkin pie slices?

Bad Santa

Bad Santa

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Hi-Wire Brewing Company, one of Asheville’s newest breweries.

It's the Great Pumpkin Ale, Charlie Brown!

It’s the Great Pumpkin Ale, Charlie Brown!

Two of the hardest Ganstas you'll ever meet!

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.

Cheers,

Ratchet

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.


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


Kingsport Oktoberfest this SATURDAY @KPTOktoberfest (my 100th post)

September 25, 2013

If you haven’t gotten your tickets yet to the Biggest Tricities festival of the year, then I guess you’re not going. If you are planning on it, and haven’t bought tickets, you need to get on it. Chances are they are going to sell out soon. This is probably my favorite festival of the Year. It takes over a 6 block area of downtown Kingsport and a majority of it is free. In fact, the only cost is to get into the bier garden.  I could go on and on about it, but everything that needs to be said has been said. Check out these links:

My Blog about 2012’s event.

My Blog about 2011’s event.

Knox Beer Snob’s write up about it.

Ashvegas.com article about it.

Times News Article.

News Channel 11 Story.

Out N’ About magazine article.

Facebook page.

@KPTOktoberfest twitter feed.

You get the point. I’ll be there along with Richard and Todd pouring our delicious homebrew. We are bringing Celiatrix Gluten-Free IPA, Comrade Soze Russian Imperial Stout, Ma Hefe Heffeweizen, Hop-BOOM! IPA, Blackberry Bomber, and Butternut Squash Ale. We are also bringing merchandise to sell, so pick up a shirt or something to help us pay for more beer making ingredients.

Also, if you want to go for the day and not spend the night, contact me. I know of at least one person going for the day that plans on driving back to Knoxville that night. Y’all could carpool and share gas. If you want to spend the night, you better hurry, most of the hotels are booked.

Well this is all for now. If I get a chance, I’ll write about last weekend’s bourboncation, if not I’ll be sure to tell you how Oktoberfest went. Hope to see you there and also don’t forget that the Brooklyn Brewery Tap Takeover is happening at Suttree’s tonight at 6. 17 taps with some super rare beers and brewmaster reserves that will probably never be available in this area again. If you see me there, buy me a beer? I’m broke as hell, but I can pay you back in homebrew.

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


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

July 23, 2013

It’s been almost a month since my last post. A combination of being incredibly busy and not having anything substantial to write about are my excuses. I haven’t brewed for a while, and still have to keg the 40 or so gallons sitting in my fermentation room.  It seems like everytime I plan on doing my “beer chores”, life happens.

Since then I have cut back substantially on my craft beer intake (as anyone who follows me on untappd has probably noticed.) I did have a fun night on the Star of Knoxville’s “Booze Cruise”. They didn’t have any beer I liked, so I stayed with mix drinks on that one.

Last Saturday was a going away party for one of the Knox Beer Crew‘s most notorious members. Our own Nick “Big Magic” Walsh. He recently accepted a job offer back in his home state of Michigan. Nick still has many friends up there, along with his family. He was a major part of the scene here and ran the Knox Hopnings facebook page. Everyone in town has at least one or two wild and crazy Nick stories to tell. I’ll never forget my trip to GABF last year with him and some of the other guys. I’m sure Nick will come back a couple of times a year to visit (at least we hope so). So Big Magic, we’ll miss you bro. Good luck with your new job, and don’t forget about us down here in lil’ ol’ Knoxvegas.

Bye Nick! We'll miss ya bro!

Bye Nick! We’ll miss ya bro!

On Sunday I was able to take a quick trip to Bruisin’ Ales with my good friends Scott Kirkham aka Booze Traveler and Jason Anderson aka Animal. Scott mentioned to me a few days before that he was planning to go there and back and I asked if I could ride along. We met at my office around 10 am. An hour and 45 minutes later we pulled up to Bruisin’. We were there a little early so we hung outside waiting for them to open. A couple from Louisville arrived to wait as well. I said it almost looked like we were lining up for a rare bottle release, we just needed a few more people.
Well the time came and Jason (not co-owner Jason) let us in. The first thing I did was ask about sip-n-shop. I got a pour of Pisgah’s Tripel and a pour of Sweetwater’s  Waterkeeper Hefeweizen. I had reserved one of the last bottles of Allagash’s 2013 Confluence. I was really lucky to get one considering there were only 6 bottles available in all of Western North Carolina. I follow Bruisin’ Ales Twitter and Facebook feed. When they post the rarities (and they do), I know to call and reserve them.

We hung out pursuing the selection, talking to other shoppers and generally beer geeking out. After a while we made our purchases, and said our goodbyes. Where next guys? Animal and Booze Traveler were hungry but I convinced them to go check out Appalachian Vintner before lunch. We arrived and realized that they are closed on Sundays, so we drove back downtown for food and beer at Wicked Weed.

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

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

We walked in and headed downstairs. I started with a 10 ounce pour of the XIII Mango Cumin Saison. The guys grabbed menus from the bar while I was content to munch on the free pretzels for my lunch. After finishing my drink, I opted for a 6 pour flight. Animal ordered a bison burger which he swears is his favorite, and Booze Traveler went with a cheese plate. Ol’ Boozie handed me a small chunk of blue cheese. “Here, let this melt in your mouth and then take a sip of your Black Angel Cherry Sour.” I did as he said and inadvertently blurted out “holy s**t that’s good!” The combination was the best cheese and beer pairing I have ever had. While drinking our beer, co-owner and brewer Walt dropped by  our table to say hi. We talked for a few minutes and he let slip that they plan on doing some 750ml releases out of their barrel program soon. These bottles will be really limited, and I’ll be sure to try to get my share.

We finished our meal and noticed dark clouds on the horizon. The forecast had called for storms, so we decided that it was time to head back to Knoxville.

It was a great and quick trip and I’m glad that we live so close that we can spend 6 hours and have a mini-getaway. Thanks again Scott for letting me ride with ya. Everyone please check out his blog that mentions our trip.

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A couple more things I want to mention in this post. Kingsport Oktoberfest is happening Saturday September 28th. Tickets are on sale with the limited edition VIP packages selling quickly. From what I am told, there are only a few memberships and VIPs left. The extras are well worth the price. This has to be my favorite beer festival of the year. Each year this event gets bigger and better. Once again I am looking forward to pouring my homebrew and doing a workshop at Beer University. Das Krew has recently added Instagram to their social media arsenal. If you are on Instagram, give them a follow. They are also trying to increase the twitter followers as well. There have been some contest for retweets are followers lately, so don’t miss out.

And now about my beer shopping habits...

And now about my beer shopping habits…

shut-up-and-take-my-money

Well ever since my last beercation for Asheville Beer Week, I’ve been in debt. I guess that’s what happens when I spend my savings and max out my credit cards. I’ve been doing fairly good about paying it off and not spending too much, but the bad part is I don’t go out as often as I use to and I haven’t had any beer adventures until last Sunday. See, I do have a problem. My problem is that I don’t seem to be able to pass up buying hard to find and rare beers when they become available online. I have several websites bookmarked that I look at frequently. Every once in a while I see something super rare and highly rated that I just got to HAVE. This is the case in point with Luekens Liquors down in Florida. They carry a great variety of Cigar City beers. Sometimes they list a rarity and it’s usually sold out by the next day. I was doing my window shopping last week when this appeared. As I sat there reading the description, I looked down and saw that I had already subconsciously pulled my credit card out of my wallet. Oh well, what’s another 2 weeks of making payments on my credit if it’s going to get me rare beer and make me happy?

So I thought I’d be an enabler and post a list of online shops that ship. Y’all know that Bruisin’ Ales does right? Well what about these?

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

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

Luekens Liquors. Ships from the bay area of Florida. They charge for shipping and packaging, but I’ve never had a bottle break. They ship in heavy duty cardboard boxes. Usually takes a week or more to get here.

France 44. Based in Minnesota. Slow shipping but great selection.

Quality Liquor Store. Based in San Diego, sometimes they have Russian River stuff, but it sells quick. I ordered one time and they substituted a bottle of something. That kind of rubbed me the wrong way, being that I got no notification that they were going to do so.

20 West Wine and Spirits. Based out of Illinois, carries a lot of Three Floyds, Pipeworks and other area goodies. Quick shipping but expensive.

Let’s Pour. Decent selection and usually has free shipping if you buy enough. Based on the West Coast and ships slowly. Packaged great but I am always afraid of temperature extremes during shipping in the summer months.

HalfTime Beverages. Based in New York and with a great selection and the best packaging of craft beer I have ever seen. I wouldn’t hesitate to order from them again.

These are ones I have dealt with. There are more listed under the trade tab at the Knox Beer Crew Website. I hope this helps you find some stuff you have been looking for, ore new things to try. If this has been helpful, please let me know when your order gets in and lets meet for a beer. Until next time…

Cheers,

Ratchet


A great time and perfect weather at the 2nd annual http://ThirstyOrange.com beer festival

April 16, 2013

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Last weekend was the Thirsty Orange beer festival in Johnson City, TN.  This was the second annual edition, and festival organizers Aaron & Stephanie Carson and Das Krew did an absolute fantastic job of putting together this one. The weather was perfect, the beer was flowing and everything ran smoothly. From the early morning set up, to dropping off entries for the homebrew competition, to early admission VIP entrance, to the main part of the festival all the way to packing everything up, was all without a hitch. This is the 4th festival they have put on in the tri-cities area. They have learned from past festivals and had the logistics locked down for this one. I can’t say it enough how great and put together it was.

 I arrived Friday evening to spend some time meeting with Aaron and Stephanie to work out the details for running the infusers the next day. I always try to get to a beer festival in another city a day before to check out the area and most importantly to not have to make a long drive 1st thing in the morning. After meeting with Aaron and Stephanie, I ran to the store to get infuser ingredients and ended up eating at a crappy Mexican restaurant (seriously I LOVE Mexican food, but this one was awful).

Saturday morning I was up early for the festival. Set up time started at 8:30. I had to set up the booth, get the beer flowing, fill bottles for the homebrew competition and so on. It took quite awhile to get everything done. Luckily I was all set up by the time early admission VIPs started trickling in. From there I stayed busy. So busy in fact that I didn’t really take a lot of pictures (my bad). I was busy but it wasn’t a hectic, frantic type of busy but a happy and sociable one. I got to talk, hang out and drink with many of our pro-brewer buddies such as Studio Brew and CalfKiller. My tent was set up in the home brewer section of the festival right next to my good friend Jimie Barnett and Triple B Brewing.  Jimie and I always have a great time at these festivals and I want to give him and Jay a big shout out. A really big thanks goes out to Jimie’s nephew and my new Johnson City friend, Steven for making my day nice and bright.

Knoxville was well represented by other fellow home brewers such as Legit Brewing, UBC, Friendship Brewing and Tennessee Valley Homebrewers. Other homebrew clubs such as MALT from Asheville, Tri-Cities Beer Alliance and Electric Avenue from outside Nashville were well represented and had exceptional beers.  The camaraderie among home brewers is a beautiful thing.

One of my favorite parts of these types of events that I set up at, is the feedback I get from people attending and trying my brews. A beer I may not think is my best may end up being the one that everyone loves the most. A perfect example this time around was my Chocolate Covered Cherry Nitro Stout. I like this beer but it’s not my favorite, and next time I brew it, I’ll make a slight recipe adjustment. However, people were going nuts over this beer! It was the 1st keg of mine to blow out and people were disappointed when it was gone. I actually won an award on this one. Gerard of the website Road Trips For Beer was a celebrity judge and he picked this one as his favorite of the festival.  To say I am honored is an understatement. To have a guy who’s job is to pretty much travel the country and taste beer say he liked this one the most out of 100 something homebrews? THAT makes me feel like I DO actually know what I’m doing.

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I was lucky enough to have a lot of help at my booth this year in the form of my buddy Flipper who has been my right hand man at the last 3 Tri-cities beer fests. I got him all set up with the festival’s infusers and he did a terrific job of keeping them going on a schedule. Also my assistant brewer, Todd and his wife Lauren drove up from Knoxville and helped hold things down and pour beer. With this much help, we were able to rotate in and out of the booth and walk around socializing and trying different brews. The only one missing from our crew was Richard, but he was representing for us at the Blue Ridge Wine & Food Festival.

Well I went through all my home brew, drank some fantastic beer, hung out with friends new and old. The festival eventually came to a close and I packed up and headed out to eat. I found a great little place called Jack’s City Grill to eat at.  After refueling, I headed back to the hotel and had an impromptu craft beer party in the lobby with Gerard. The Wolf Hill crew stopped by and hung out followed by Friendship Brewing and Aaron and Stephanie. We drank a four pack of Brevard NC brewed Deviant Dales graciously given to me by Austin, a plant employee. Gerard shared a big bottle of Boulevard’s Double Wide IPA and Friendship Brewing had a growler of their IPA.

After a long active and incredibly fun day, it was time to retire to my room and pass out. I can’t wait until next year’s Thirsty Orange. Make sure to mark your calendar for Das Krew’s next event, Kingsport Oktoberfest on September 28th. You know I’ll be there. Enjoy the photos and videos below.

Cheers,

Ratchet

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Click on pictures to enlarge and for captions.