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

September 17, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Ratchet


Gettin’ Crafty w/ Eagle: a distributor’s tasting of what’s to come for #KnoxBeer cc: @KnoxBeerGuy

August 29, 2012

One of the signs greeting attendees to the event

In Knoxville’s small but growing craft beer scene, I find myself in quite a few discussion about the local beer distributors and the role they play in our available choices. To give you some background, you need to know about the three tier system that was established for the sale of alcohol after prohibition.  The basic structure of the system is that producers can sell their products only to wholesale distributors who then sell to retailers, and only retailers may sell to consumers. There are a few exceptions here & there. In Tennessee, you can self distribute within the county your brewery is located. For example, Woodruff can deliver kegs of their beer anywhere in Knox county, but don’t expect to see them on tap in Maryville. That is, unless they sign an exclusive contract with a distributor. I know of 6 craft beer distributors who deliver to Knoxville. We have the big boys that are either owned or run by the “big 2“. The big 2s are Eagle, which is primarily AB-Inbev (Budweiser, etc), and Cherokee which is MillerCoors. There are several other smaller distributors with their own much smaller portfolios. There is Molo-Tenn based out of Chattanooga (Ft. Collins, Sam Smith, Flying Dog, McNeils to name a few). There’s also Lipman Brothers out of Nashville (Craggie, Lost Coast, Boulder, etc.), Bounty Bev (Green Flash, CalfKiller, Lucky Bucket, etc.) and Beverage-Control of Knoxville (Stone, Mendocino). Each one of these distributors has both their pros and their cons. For example, Beverage-Control can bring in Stone’s beers in bottle, but not kegs since they don’t have refrigeration in their warehouse. My point is that there is no such thing as a “perfect” distributor.

<hate> In fact, one of them (and I’ll go ahead and name names), is so univerally hated by the Knoxville craft beer scene that I rarely hear their name without an expletive thrown in before it. If you are part of the Knoxville beer scene, you know who exactly I’m writing about. Fuckin’ Cherokee. Honestly, I could rant for a whole post about how bad they are, how they don’t seem to give 2 shits about anything besides Miller or Coors (& usually with the word “lite” thrown in somewhere.) When every other city or town in the southeast is enjoying thier Hoptimum, Torpedo or Estate Ales by Sierra Nevada and we can’t get them here in K-town, just know they are responsible. Rumor is that they even pulled Duck Rabbit’s Milk Stout off the shelves at local Ingles because according to an unverified source “people don’t want to drink dark beers in hot weather.” ARRRRGH! </hate>

On the opposite side of this kind of behavior by a big distributor is the love, respect and value shown to craft beer by Eagle Distributing. Yes a majority of their sales are the Budweiser line of products. Unfortunately this can sometimes earn them the ire of uninformed craft beer lovers. People without a firm grasp of history tend to ignore the contributions Anheuser-Busch has made overall to the beer industry. Do I like the taste of Bud? Not really, but at the same time I wouldn’t turn a cold one down, or pull a beer douche card and look down on someone for their beer choice. Budweiser makes a consistent clean product, that pays the bill for Eagle. This allows Eagle to distribute the smaller brands that I love. Yazoo, SawWorks, New Belgium, Magic Hat, RJ Rockers and Brooklyn are all distributed by Eagle.

Eagle’s craft beer manager is Jeremy Walker (aka @KnoxBeerGuy on twitter), who has a passion for good beer. He invited me to an event I went to last night and the title of this post. Gettin’ Crafty With Eagle.

Jeremy Walker- @KnoxBeerGuy on twitter. Follow him and you’ll have your thumb on the pulse of Knoxville craft beer.

Last night’s event was an informal tasting, information session and all around good time. The guest list was most of the bar owners, staff, store managers, account reps and movers and shakers of the Knoxville beer scene. The focus was to let us all know which craft beers and brands are coming soon to the local market and to let us try them and learn about them. I am not so good with doing reviews of beers. I rather leave that to better writers than I such as the Knox Beer Snobs or Lou of Blues and BBQ. Plus I know taste is all subjective. A beer I despise may be a beer that you love and vice versa. I did however try to take pictures and notes so I could tell my readers what to look out for.

Todd and Matt from Jackson Avenue Market in the Old City

I got to the event promptly at 5:30 and immediately ran into Matt and Todd of Jackson Avenue Market. I grabbed my 1st beer, New Belgium’s Peach Porch Lounger. This is a brettanomyces beer that is packaged in 22 ounce bottles. I really liked this one and the brett was way more predominant then the last Brett beer from NB. I liked this one and plan on snatching up a case for my cellar, since this is a bottle conditioned beer that will age well. While sipping on this Matt told me that Jackson Avenue Market is now carrying almost 250 different beers. They are still planning on going for their high gravity license, so look for their offerings to expand. I own them a visit, since it’s been a couple of months. We even discussed briefly hosting a free tasting of my homebrew there sometime in the future.

More folks trickled in and I saw Neil McCormick of Yazoo. He had brought some of their delicious smoked porter, Sue. It’s been a few years since I enjoyed this last and all I can Say is WOW! I can’t wait until we can get this locally on draft and it bottles. There’s a reason why it’s 99 on Ratebeer.com This was one of my favorites of the night and I kept going back to it. Neil also told me about the Tennessee Craft Brewer’s Guild meeting in Chattanooga and plans for the first fundraiser. It’s going to be in Nashville and sounds like a whole hell of a lot of fun. Think craft beer prom with a twist. More details will be forthcoming, I assure you.

Welcome back Terrapin Beer Company!

By now most everyone knows that Terrapin Beer Company’s tasty selections are back in town. Several selections are already on draft and on the shelves. At Eagle’s event there was chance for those unfamiliar to try Hopsecutioner IPA. Terrapin brews beer that I (and everyone I know) loves. Since they’ve been gone, I’ve never neglected to bring back some during my treks to Asheville. Knox Beer Snob Rob told me that he will cry if we are able to get Wake N Bake coffee oatmeal stout here. Well buddy, I’ll be shedding tears of joy myself if this happens. We shall see.

Brooklyn!!!

Brooklyn Brewery was well represented at the event as well. Since I have access to a steady supply at my weekend job, I elected to stay with their high gravity offerings from them. I rather enjoy Local Number Two, so had some along with Local one. I also revisited Sorachi Ace. The last and only time I had this beer, I was a bit disappointed. For whatever reason, The hop character for which this beer is named was muted and overpowered by the Belgian yeast strain. That was not the case this time at all. The lemony Japanese hops stood out and balanced very nicely with the yeast and malts. I’m glad I had it again. My guess is that maybe when I tried it in the past, it had sat too long and the hops dropped out. I don’t know, but I do know I love this beer now.

As I mingled and moved between the 2 rooms this event took place in, a friend of mine mentioned RJ Rocker’s high gravity Pumpkin Ale. I in turn mentioned the RJ Rockers pumpkin to a friend of mine who is a server at Barley’s and beertends at Fort Sander’s Yacht Club, so we went back to the 1st room where we tried it.  I missed it the first time around because it was being dispensed from a kegerator behind the table where bottles of Black Perle and Bell Ringer were being poured. I’m not really keen on pumpkin ales, especially this early in the season. I had just tried Terrapin’s Pumpkinfest, and found it way over spiced to my liking. The RJ Rocker’s Gruntled Pumpkin was in sharp contrast to the Terrapin one. I absolutely loved it. I thought to myself, we have a winner! It’s everything a pumpkin ale should be. Not too spicy, not to sweet, well balanced with the flavor of the actual pumpkin. After having this, I don’t think I could be content with any other pumpkin ale from now on.

Jeremy: “Who wants to win this?” Crowd: “I do!”

Near the end of the event there was a drawing for prizes. Everyone who came in was given a raffle ticket. There was some seriously cool stuff given away, and everyone was hoping they would win the Yuengling boat. While Jeremy pulled tickets and read numbers, I talked to Curtis from Sweetwater and drank some of the Low Ryder IPA. What a solid, enjoyable beer. He informed me that it is going to be available year round starting in October. He also told me that a majority of the next Dank Tank series, Danktoberfest will be shipped to the new accounts in Alabama. That state just passed a law allowing 22 ounce high gravity beers. He also said that due to demand, it will not be on draft, bottles only. This does not bode well for Knoxville, and if we do get any, I anticipate it being snatched up within hours of it hitting the stores. Like I said before, follow Jeremy on twitter because he’ll let us know when it lands.

Well, I knew I had committed to run early in the morning so I didn’t stay long. I said my goodbyes, loaded up of free swag left over from the raffle, got a promise from a friend to come visit me at work on Sunday and headed out. I really want to sincerely thank Eagle for all they do for beer in this area and for hosting this killer event. I can’t wait for the next one.

A few more things to mention before I end this post. Adam of SawWorks Brewing has started a new early morning running group. This morning was the 1st run. We meet every week day at 6 am at Saw Works headquarters. The run goes through downtown, over the Gay Street Bridge and back. We stop by Old City Java for free coffee on the way back. I haven’t ran for over 9 months. I have always made excuses, and have found that my health (and waist line) have suffered for it. Well no more. I am committed to doing this daily. Even though my legs are sore, it felt good to get some early morning exercise to start my day. I encourage people to join us, even if you can only walk instead of run at first. I can only run a small portion of the route and a snail’s pace, but you have to start somewhere.

I also want to let everyone know that this Thursday I will be once again doing an infusion at Suttree’s. I know what we are planning to do, but you’ll have to come out to see exactly what it will be. You will be pleasantly surprised by the tasty treat I have planned. All I can say is that every time we do an infusion, it gets better and better. Don’t miss this, or you’ll regret it. We’ll start at 7, so come on down.

The last thing before I sign off is that I just received my shipment of merchandise to sell at Kingsport Oktoberfest. I do plan on launching my online store real soon. Shirts, magnets, stickers and glassware will be available. All proceeds go towards helping a needy homebrewer (me) buy more ingredients to brew beer to share with his friends. Be on the lookout for my next post where I shamelessly beg for you to buy my (really cool) crap.

Cheers,

Ratchet


#KnoxBeer #IPADay @IPADayOrg event and hop infusions @Suttrees on 8/2:

July 31, 2012

This Thursday August 2nd is IPA Day. For those of you who weren’t aware, this annual event was co-founded by beer evangelist and social media celebrity Ashley Routson aka “The Beer Wench“. From the IPA Day website, it’s described as “universal movement created to unite the voices of craft beer enthusiasts, bloggers, and brewers worldwide, using social media as the common arena for connecting the conversation together.” Basically a more wordy way of saying, let’s celebrate this widely loved beer style on a certain day by drinking it, doing special events around it and tweeting/blogging about it. This is the 2nd annual IPA Day. Last year I went down to Florida on beercation, and didn’t actually get to partake of an IPA on IPA day. This year things are different. On Thursday starting at 6pm I will be at Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern on Gay street for their IPA Day celebration.

So what is going on at Suttree’s for IPA Day? Well first of all, as many of the 24 taps as possible will be switched to different IPAs. Expect to see East coast, West coast, English and historical examples of the style. The main show however, is what we are going to do with 2 separate infusers. We will have 2 kegs of Green Flash West Coast IPA, a very solid, enjoyable (and very loved) beer on it’s own. One keg will be infused with whole leaf Simcoe Hops, and the other keg will be infused with whole leaf Citra hops. I picked these two hops based on their wild popularity in the world of craft beer. These 2 varieties are incredibly good, but rare and expensive at the same time. These aren’t hops you can grow in your back yard. Both cultivars are proprietary, meaning only a few select farms in the Yakima Valley of Washington are licensed to grow them. Simcoe has a very distinct aroma of citrus, grapefruit, and pine. While it is a very popular aroma hop, its high alpha acid percentage and low cohumulone content make it a very useful bittering hop as well. Citra is a dual-purpose hop released in 2007 by the Hop Breeding Company. It is a cross of Hallertauer Mittelfruh, U.S. Tettnanger, East Kent Golding, Bavarian, Brewers Gold, and other unknown hops. Citra has a citrus aroma and flavor, with a heavy aroma of tropical fruits (guava and mango come to mind). It is typically used as an aroma hop, but due to its high alpha percentage and low cohumulone content, it makes an excellent bittering hop as well. This IPA Day infusion event is a very good way to come taste and experience the difference between these two. It’s the same beer but different hops. Which one will be your favorite? We’ll have a running tally and will announce which hop won the tasting on Suttree’s twitter account.

I hop(e) to see you all there.

One more thing before I sign off. I want to give a big thank you and shout out to Dave and Adam of Saw Works Brewing Company. Yesterday evening they hosted a TN Valley Homebrewers tour of their brewery. Going behind the scenes with fellow beer geeks and seeing just how much work goes into bringing Knoxville great beer was inspiring. So when you are out on the town, don’t be afraid to drink local. Rest assured that they are going above and beyond to bring Knoxville the quality and consistency that we craft beer lovers deserve.

Dave Omer, talking beer in front of Saw Works’ fermenters

Cheers,

Ratchet


Last chance to get tickets to http://brewerssummit.com

July 6, 2012

Friday July 13th is the Brewer’s Summit. This is your last week to get tickets to what is surely going to be a great event. We want you to get tickets, we need you to get tickets. This is a fund raiser for the Tennessee Craft Brewers Guild. A group from all over the state that plans on working for change when it comes to beer laws and taxes in our fine state.
This is not a big event. Only a 150 tickets are being sold, and most of those are already gone. Click this link, buy your tickets, then come back and read the rest of this post.

Ok you’re back? I wanted to mention how this heat has effected my brewing schedule. I haven’t brewed a batch of beer in approximately 3 weeks or more. I have a batch of stout that I need to keg. I still have plenty of beer, and a few kegs left over from Brew Fest. I am also pretty broke. I have base grains, but unless my budget frees up, I don’t have the funds to purchase specialty grains, hops or yeast. The reason for this is that my last car died and I had to use my meager savings and max out my lines of credit to purchase a new one. I should be out of debt within 3 months, and I am hoping to be able to brew again sooner then that. Someone asked me if I had planned to brew a saison and take advantage of this heat for fermentation. I had not considered that, primarly because I am not really a fan of saisons. There are a few I like, but rather not brew one. Honestly, at this point I want to brew another batch of my Rauchbier, another IPA and then start brewing for fall. I want to brew an Oktoberfest Marzen Lager and then my yearly batch of Butternut Squash Ale.

One more thing I want to mention on this post. The downtown Knoxville location of The Casual Pint is tenatively set to open on July 21st. To kick this off, Saw Works Brewing is having a cask night. It looks as though I will be beertending part time at The Casual Pint. I stopped by and spoke with Nathan about becoming part of the team, and I’d like to thank him for the opportunity. Make sure to like The Casual Pint on Facebook and follow on twitter to stay up to date about the opening of the newest location. When it does open, I hope to see you there.

Cheers,

Ratchet


Knoxville Brew Fest live photo post

June 23, 2012

Welcome to the Knoxville Brew Fest! I know I am going to be very busy serving my beer & sampling others. I will be live tweeting all day. What I plan on doing is updating this all day with photos from the Fest. So keep checking back until my iPhone battery dies. If I take your picture, or you are checking out my website for the 1st time, please leave a comment below.

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Holy crap! Look at that line! About to get slammed!

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THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

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What a great festival! It’s the first time I’ve been at a beer fest & not even come close to getting a buzz. That’s alright because I had so much fun meeting people & talking about my beer. After the crowds left, I was able to get a few growlers filled from the leftovers. A big thank you goes out to the organizers, the brewers (pro & home alike) & all the craft beer lovers who made this a roaring success. I can’t wait for next year!

One last thing, I’d like to invite y’all to come out to Suttree’s on Wednesday night. We are going to be infusing one of the last kegs of SweetWater’s Happy Ending with hops, cocoa nibs & shredded coconut. I hope you see you all there.

Cheers,
Ratchet


Mark your calendar for these upcoming #KnoxBeer events

June 15, 2012

Hey y’all. Life has been pretty hectic for me since I got back from Asheville Beer Week. Between my day job, beertending at Suttree’s, and chores I am just now getting caught up. Figured it was time to write another quick update.

There are  Knoxville beer events coming up that I hope everyone already knows about. Just in case, I’ll tell you about them. Everyone knows that I beertend part time at Suttree’s. On Wednesday, June 20th at 7 pm we will be having a beer trivia night sponsored by Sweetwater Brewing Company. Brush up on your beer facts, do a lil’ research about SweetWater and thier beers and come on down to Suttree’s to win some great swag courtesy of SweetWater.

Then on Saturday June 23rd, is the Knoxville Brew Fest going on at the Southern Railway Terminal on the edge of downtown. I did this event last year, and it was great. The early admission VIP tickets are well worth the price. I will be set up there pouring samples of my beer, so make sure to come say hi. I will have about 25 gallons, and I’m sure it will go fast.

The Brewer’s Summit is coming up on Friday July 13th. This event is a fund raiser for the TN Craft Brewer’s Guild. Brewers from around the state will talk about the laws and tax issues affecting your craft beer choices in Tennessee. Beers will be paired with cheese, and more food provided by Nama and Pizza Kitchen. I will be serving a tasty mulberry stout on nitrogen. There are less then 50 tickets still available for this event, and we anticipate it selling out soon. You can buy them, and find out more about this event at the Brewers Summit Website.

I know it’s still awhile away, but I have October on my mind. Brewer’s Jam tickets are already on sale at the Casual Pint. This year I am going to be skipping one of my favorite beer festivals, the Asheville Oktoberfest. I am skipping it because I AM FLYING OUT TO DENVER FOR THE GREAT AMERICAN BEER FESTIVAL!!! WOOO-HOOO! I’ve been talking about this for a year now with Knox Beer Crew founder, Matt Crowell. He has a friend, Kevin LA, who has graciously invited Matt to bring along a few other members of the crew to stay at his place in Denver. I am stoked! The GABF is the biggest and best of all the beer festivals in America. I’ve heard countless stories over the years and have been dying to go. Thanks to Kevin I can afford it because I’m not paying an arm and a leg for a hotel room. I bought my plane ticket yesterday, and the AHA member tickets to the event go on sale on July 31. General public tickets go on sale August 2nd. According to Matt, Kevin is going to take us brewery hopping in Fort Collins and around Denver. We are flying out the morning of Thursday October 11th and returning on Sunday evening. I am attending 2 of the festival’s tasting sessions, one of them being an AHA members only session. I can not wait!

On another note I finally got the 30 gallons of beer I had fermenting into kegs. Now I have empty carboys, so it’s time to brew again. I really want to have a stout on tap at home. The 10 gallons I have is going to be given away at the Knox Brew Fest and at the Brewer’s Summit. Therefor, this Sunday I plan on brewing it again. I think after this batch, I’ll brew some more Rauchbier.

One last note to end this post. I want to give a big shout out to all the craft beer drinkers in Knoxville that have been showing Suttree’s some love. On the limited days I beertend, I’ve gotten to know some regulars. I have met some great people who share my love and enthusiasm for craft beer. I am also always surprised when someone I haven’t met tells me that they read my blog. Thank you! That means a lot to me, and if you come in while I’m working, please introduce yourself.

Cheers,

Ratchet


Day 4 of my #beercation to #AvlBeerWeek @BeerCityFest !

June 2, 2012

Ok today recap of yesterdays adventures at Asheville Beer Week will be short. I don’t have time to sit around all day and wait for my hotel’s slow internet to upload. I have to pack up the enormous amount of brewery swag and glasses, and all the beer I bought. I am checking out of Downtown Inn and Suites and Into The Hotel Indigo, a fancy hotel stay I was given as a birthday present (thanks Mom Linda!)

So yesterday started out as the previous. I made my own coffee I brought and ate in the hotel’s dining area. I lounged around afterwards and wrestled with getting the website updated. I was able to clean myself up and head down to an ESB brewing workshop at Fifth Season Garden Supply. I already know how to brew an ESB, but I didn’t have anything else planned and figured it would be good to hang out with people interested in homebrewing. The garden shop also doubles as a homebrew supply store and is right behind Green Man’s brewery. Honestly, that was my main reason for going, because the workshop promised a tour of Green Man afterwards. Since I love Green Man’s ESB, I figured maybe the workshop was using their recipe and I would get to know how to replicate it. Well, they did a more basic recipe, but I did get to meet and hang out with some pretty cool people, a few who are already extract brewers. The workshop was very basic. When it ended, we did go to Green Man for a quick tour. I did get a run down of the hop, grain and yeast bill of Green Man’s ESB, but not amounts. I am touring them again tomorrow, so maybe I can get more specifics.

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A basic homebrewing workshop at Fifth Season Garden Company

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Sign up at the Green Man tasting room

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Fermentation Tanks at Green Man

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A few looking out from the Brewing area of Green Man

Well after a pint of Green Man’s Session fest Scottish Stout, I headed for the next event. On the way I stopped and got a tofu Spring wrap from on of Asheville’s Many food trucks. It was amazing. If you see this truck on the streets of Asheville, get food from them, you won’t be disappointed.

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The next Beer Week event I went to was the Mystery Brewing release party at Bruisin’ Ales. Eric Lars Myers is a writer a former homebrewer and the current head brewer, owner and CEO of Mystery Brewing Company of Hillsborough, NC. He brought along copies of his book, North Carolina Craft Beer and Breweries. He also brought along for of his brews to sample. I spoke with him about brewing, got him to sign a copy of his book for me and had a great time at Bruisin’ Ales. I hung out for awhile before heading to the next event.

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One of Mystery Brewing’s selections.

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The 1st Mystery Brewing beer I sampled. Very light and refreshing. Eric brews good beer.

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For another angle of this picture, see Bruisin’ Ales’ twitter feed @bruisinales

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Mystery Brewing has great descriptions and unique beer names

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Eric of Mystery Brewing, Myself and Julie from Bruisin’ Ales. Probably my favorite picture taken of me at Asheville Beer Week so far.

   Well, I went off to the next event. Barley’s was having what they called “Sexual Lychee Night” which consisted of them tapping a keg or New Belgium’s Tart Lychee and Foothills Brewing Company’s Sexual Chocolate. I already have had Tart Lychee several times, seeing how we have it on tap at Suttree’s. I have only had Sexual Chocolate once, from a bottle. I had never had it before on Draft. I got there and spoke with the bar tender and he advised me that they were waiting on the brewery reps to get there before they tapped the keg. I had another beer while I waited. By that time a twitter/ untappd friend of mine, Jeff Haws arrived in town. He met me at Barley’s. I was able to get a pour of the ultra rare Foothills beer and replenished my tank with a slice of Pizza, before heading back to Thirsty Monk.

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Foothills Brewing Company’s ultra rare and highly sought after beer, Sexual Chocolate.

I had to stop back and drop off my book and a few things at the hotel first. When I got to the Thirsty Monk, they were at capacity and couldn’t let anyone else in. Downtown Asheville was packed and I could see from all the untappd check ins that many people arrived into town for Asheville Beer Week &  Beer City Festival. They did allow me on the front porch and I sent Jeff in to get me a beer. I was eventually able to go in, but at that point I already had a comfy bench seat out front where I spent the rest of the night slowly sipping my beers. Jeff eventually headed back to his hotel. As I set that, I met the brewer for Mother Earth Brewing company while he waited for them to let more people in. We talked for a minute and then Aaron from Brewer’s Summitt arrived to hang out and drop off some promotional material. We headed downstairs, where I ran into Greg from Nantahala Brewing Company. It seems like every brewer in town for today’s Beer City Fest made their way to the Monk at some point yesterday. It was getting late so Aaron gave me a ride back to the hotel. I have a ton of Brewer’s Summit posters and other promotional material I need to distribute, so if anyone would be willing to give me a hand, it would be very much appreciated. 

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@JeffHaws at The Thirsty Monk.

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Super Rare Sierra Nevada Beer that was brewed for Brian Grossman’s wedding. “Love at First Bike”.

Well I am going to now start getting ready for today’s Beer City festival. I need to pack this hotel room, and get some food. I should also hit up a grocery store to stock up on provisions like sun block, water and snacks to help me make it through. Once again, if you read this and use twitter, I’m on there as @RatchetBrews . I also wanted to give a big shout out to whoever is doing the @AvlBeerWeek twitter feed for all the retweets. See y’all at the festival. #AvlBeerWeek continues…


Another uninspired blog posting from yours truly.

May 15, 2012

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this. It’s a combination of reasons. Mostly it was moving, followed by unpacking and settling in. I’ve been too busy to write. I’ve been too busy to go out much, or even drink beer. Life gets hectic sometimes. Much has happened in Knoxville in the last month since I’ve updated this site. Marble City hired a new brewer and changed it’s name to Saw Works Brewing. Suttree’s is closer to opening then ever and the Casual Pint is building a new site downtown. All this is already well known in the craft beer scene here in town, so there is no need for me to rehash it, just follow the links if you didn’t already know about any of these.

So I’ll just tell you what I’ve been up to with my brewing. Like I said, I moved closer to downtown. With this move I gained a whole basement to keep my beer, brewing supplies, kegerators and other stuff in. I was given another fridge to use how I see fit. I brewed a maibock right before I moved, and recently kegged it. Last weekend I brewed my toasted hemp seed pale ale in my new place. The next chance I get, I plan on brewing a wheat beer. I am hoping to brew a stout after that. With Suttree’s opening soon, my weekends are about to be full. Luckily I still have my planned Asheville Beer Week Vacation coming up at the end of this month.

It’s little over a month until Knoxville Brewfest. I am supposed to have a booth out there, but now I’m worried I will not have enough beer to bring. I know I’ll have a keg of my Rauchbier, my Maibock, Hemp seed ale, and hopefully some wheat beer. I wish I could have more, but the move really put a damper on my brewing. There just doesn’t seem like enough hours in a day to get everything accomplished.

Well that’s what’s been going on. I still don’t feel like my writing is inspired. I had to force myself to get this done. With everything going on, I feel a little burnt out. I am hoping this will pass.

Until next time,

Ratchet


Ratchet’s Reviews: Beer Books Edition.

March 30, 2012

Hey there readers, today’s post is about beer and books. Specifically books about or related to beer or brewing. Most of the books I’m going to tell you about, I have acquired within the last 6 months. I have found that beer books are like most beers, they have a shelf life. Sure some of these books will age well for decades, but some will be outdated in just a few short years. This is why when I am shopping for beer related books, I always check the year they were published. If you buy a ten year old guide book to the “world’s best beers”, chances are a few of the beers and breweries featured are no longer in existence. Same thing with books on brewing. The basics of brewing haven’t changed for centuries. However, there is near constant evolution of equipment, ideas, styles, and ingredients. These older books might not have reference to newer hop varieties such as Citra, Simcoe, or newer “styles” such as Dark IPAs. I’m not saying that you should ignore all older books on the subject. For example, Charlie Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Homebrewing is every bit as relevant as it was when it was first published in 1984.

That being said, here are some of the books I have and my thoughts on them.

The Craft of Stone Brewing Co. by Greg Koch, Steve Wagner and Randy Clemens. Published September of 2011.

Ratchet Rating: 5 (out of 5) Pints. Suggested beer to drink while reading: Arrogant Bastard.

I picked this up in Asheville during my Christmas Beercation. I ended up with a signed copy that I purchased at The Thirsty Monk. This is a really slick book. Nice glossy full color pictures and well written. This book is a combination of things. First it’s a complete history of Stone Brewing Company. From the early days of homebrewing to one of the most respected craft beer producers and everything in between. If you’ve ever wondered how Greg comes up with the rants on the sides of the 22 ounce bottles, this book has that. Each beer that has ever been brewed by Stone has a description beyond just the style and ingredients. They go into the thought process and history of such famous beers such as Arrogant Bastard, Stone Smoked Porter and their Vertical Epic series. The book is written in a relaxed and no holds barred conversational tone. It’s just like sitting around talking to your friends over a few Stone IPAs. The book also features clone recipes to brew your own imitations of their well loved beer. It also has a section  on beer and food pairings by “Dr.” Bill Sysak aka Master Pairings. This is in addition to incredible food recipes from Stone’s own World Bistro and Gardens. Whether you’re a Stone Brewing Company fan, a home brewer, a foodie or a craft beer novice, this book has something for you. If you haven’t picked up this book yet, switch over to Amazon, ebay or better yet Stone’s own website and order it now. You’ll be glad that you did.

The next two books I’m going to tell you about are beer style specific. First up is Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition by Phil Markowski. Published 2004.

Ratchet Rating: 3 (out of 5) Pints. Suggested beer to drink while reading: Fantôme De Noel

I borrowed this last fall from my buddy Shanezilla, who is a big fan of saisons. I just recently in the last few years started acquiring a taste for belgium style beers. I’m not really a big fan of farmhouse style ales, but I can appreciate them from time to time. This book is a pretty good attempt to trace the history of farmhouse brewing in both the North of France and in Belgium. This book was a little long, and I thought that the material could have been covered in fewer pages. However, I did enjoy learning about traditional farmhouse brewing and how the Saisons and Belgium style ales of today probably bear little resemblance to those historically brewed on farms in the Wallonia and Flanders regions of Belgium and France. There are a few recipes included for homebrewers, and the author encourages experimentation when it comes to brewing this type of beer. If you are a big fan of Saison, Sours, Belgium or Brett beers, this is your book. I did come away from reading this with an idea for a saison that I want to brew this summer.

The next style specific book to tell you about is Smoked Beers: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes by Ray Daniels and Geoffrey Larson. Published in 2004.

Ratchet Rating: 3.5 (out of 5) Pints. Suggested beer to drink while reading: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen.

I purchased this book online. I got it to help me with my research to brew the best possible Rauchbier that I could. Previous to reading this book, I was already aware of the Bamberg style smoked beers as well as the peat smoked Scottish ales. Reading this book really opened my eyes to how many types and styles of smoked beer there actually are. The book is primarily a history and discussion of the style, going back to the early days of brewing beer when most malts were dried using smoke. Those early brews undoubtedly must have had some smoky flavors as part of their profile. As malting techniques advanced the smoked flavors in beer vanished except for a few regions keeping to the traditional ways. The Bamberg region in Germany is the most well known of these. After reading this book, I really want to visit there someday. This book is written in part by Geoff Larson, founder of Alaskan Brewing Company. They are known for their smoked porter, which I have not yet had the pleasure of trying. This book is well written, reads easily and also includes a few recipes and tips for homebrewers. I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in this style. Beer historians, homebrewers, smoke lovers will all appreciate the history, types and techniques for smoking malt. I just hope that my Rauchbier turns out as good as this book did.

Great American Craft Beer: A Guide to the Nation’s Finest Beers and Breweries by Andy Couch. Published August 2010.

Ratchet Rating: 4.5 (out of 5) Pints. Suggested beer to drink while reading: Your favorite anything.

I picked up this gem at McKays in west Knoxville. I was given a gift card for Christmas and used it wisely on this book. Great American Craft Beer is very well written, stylish and informative. More than just a guidebook, it has sections on beer and food pairings, stories from some well-known brewers, a bit of beer history and profiles of some of the best brew pubs in the country. This book cover only American breweries and beer. There are more than 80 styles of beer covered and 340 beer profiles featuring full-color photographs and illustrations of the beers and beer labels. Some of your favorites beers are surely featured as were mine. Because of this book, my beer “wish list” has grown substantially. If you plan on reading any beer books this year, this one should be near the top of your list.  Expertly written by Andy Couch of Beerscribe.com. Get this book, seriously.

The Beer Book, Your Drinking Companion to Over 1,700 Beers edited by Tim Hampson. Published October 2008.

Ratchet Rating: 4 (out of 5) Pints. Suggested beer to drink while reading: Any imported craft beer.

Another great find at McKays. I’ll let you in on a secret. I have a friend that works there and get books for the price McKays pays for them. Every once in a while, I’ll go over there, pick out a few things and hand them to this person to buy. This person comes over to my house after work where they are compensated with, you guessed it, beer. Alright, so yeah, this book. It’s primarily an encyclopedia of beer. Not just craft beer, it has history and information about the big corporate beers too. This is a beautifully produced coffee table book with full-page photos. Beers are arranged by country and geographical area. Anyone who is lucky enough to travel overseas should consult this book for craft beer choices.  I wouldn’t call this a comprehensive guide, just for the fact that the brewerys that are included, only 2 of their beers are featured. There are a few examples of it’s age (it came out in 2008) because some beers might no longer be produced by the brewers and some of the beer labels might have changed. This should not count against it however. It’s a great book with a lot of relevant information. This book is currently only $16 on Amazon. At that price, there is no excuse not to pick this up. Last I checked McKays had another pristine copy marked at only $10. That is well worth the price. Get this and you’ll be happy you did.

The Oxford Companion to Beer edited by Garrett Oliver. Published October 2011.

Ratchet Rating: 5 (out of 5) Pints. Suggested beer to drink while reading: ANY beer.

This is the definitive encyclopedia of all things beer. I heard about this book before it was available. I first got to see it for myself at a Knox Beer Crew tasting in January. I knew right away that I had to have it. The next day I got online and scored a copy. This book has a cover price of $65, but you can get it much cheaper than that. I scored my copy for $30 shipping and all, from eBay. I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!! I mean seriously. Pretty much anything you wanted to know about beer can be found in it. Want to know the true history of IPA? It’s in there. Want to know what type of acids are in a hop cone? It’s in there. When I first got this book, I was determined to read it from cover to cover. It really is an encyclopedia in alphabetical order. I got mostly through “A” before I was overwhelmed with information. I had to put it down and read something else. I do still plan on reading it all the way through, but not all at once. For now, it’s a great guide. If I want to look up a certain type of hop, a brewing technique, or a yeast strain this helps immensely. Anyone who is into craft beer should have this book. It is worth it’s weight in gold.

The last one is NOT a beer book, but I want to tell you about it anyway. Suttree by Cormac McCarthy. Published 1979.

Ratchet Rating 5 (out of 5) pints. Suggested beer to drink while reading: something cheap from a can.

Ever since I first heard about Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern, I wanted to go back and reread this book. When I broke the news, I knew I had to get a copy. I first read this book back around ’96 or so when I moved to Knoxville. I was living with a bunch of guys in the Fort Sanders neighborhood and there was a well-worn copy kicking around the house. Honestly, I remembered very little of what I read back then. I also didn’t get the street and neighborhood references being that I was new to town. I picked up my new copy at Central Street Books that is in the building that use to be the Corner Lounge. It’s fitting since that I got it there since “The Corner” is mentioned a couple of times in the book.  The city of Knoxville is pretty much the star of this novel. I won’t comment much on the story other than to say I really enjoyed it. It’s written in typical Cormac McCarthy style with periodic long and almost hallucinogenic flowing descriptions. When I read it I could picture what Knoxville looked like back in the 1950s when the story takes place. Also from the sounds of it, certain parts of this town were a real shit hole back then. This book also spurred my curiosity of what Knoxville use to look like back in the day, to the point that I went to Union Avenue books and looked through the old Knoxville photographic history books they have for sale there. If you want an entertaining story, and a window back to Knoxville of old, read this.

I have 2 more beer books I’ve gotten recently that I look forward to reading.They were found at McKays. The first is The History of Beer in America by Yenne Bill. Flipping through it so far, it’s very intriquing. I can’t wait to throughly digest it. The next book is The Naked Pint an Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer by Christine Perrozzi and Hallie Beaune. I haven’t even cracked this book open, but it looks good so far. I will report back on both of these books at a later date.

Well that’s my post for now. I do want to give a big shout out to everyone that came out to infusion night at The Casual Pint last Wednesday. It went over really well, and we do plan on doing it again in April. We picked one date already, but I realized later on that I already have plans that night. As soon as I talk with Nathan and nail down another date for our infusion of Woodruff’s Blonde ale run through fresh cut strawberries, I will let you know.

Until next time,

Cheers

Ratchet