Recap of Friday, Day 5 and 2nd to last day of our #AVLBeerWeek #Beercation

May 31, 2013

Friday morning found us back at Izzy’s Coffee Den. We had actually gotten a late and barely had time to enjoy our drinks as we worked on the blog. Before we knew it, it was time to go to the next event. We had recieved a private invitation to attend Digital Relativity’s Beer Marketing (That Doesn’t Suck!) workshop. This event took place on the 10th floor of the Hotel Indigo. Arriving to complimentary valet parking for attendees, we were escorted to a posh condo overlooking Asheville. Many of other other friends in the beer industry were there. Brewers, venue owners, marketing and sales reps, and of course, bloggers. Leading the workshop was none other then Pat Strader. We’ve both know of each other and have been friends on untappd, but this was the 1st time meeting in real life. Pat walked us through an informative 2 hour presentation while we sipped beer and snacked. I learned quite a bit from this workshop and plan on implementing some of his suggestions as soon as possible. Being that it was going to be a very busy day, so of the brewery reps had to excuse themselves early to get ready for various events they were hosting around town. We had planned on taking a trip on the Pisgah Brewing to see our friend Gaines and to take a short tour and purchase some rare bottles. We realized how short we were on time. Gaines was at the workshop and apologized that he wouldn’t be bale to take us on a tour but he would make sure to let other people at the brewery know we were coming so they could show us around. As we left Hotel Indigo, Julie from Bruisin Ales told us that she had just gotten a shipment of the rare bottles from Pisgah the day before. We elected to go there instead and picked up a few other things that had just came in as well. By now we were hungry and Katie always craves Panda Express when we are in town, so we headed over to the Asheville Mall so she could get her fix and I could pick up a new cord for my beleagered computer. After getting her food to go, and a quick stop at Radio Shack, we headed back to the hotel to prepare for the Asheville Rare and Wild Beer tasting event. We could see the line forming from our hotel balcony.

It didn't suck

It didn’t suck

At 6 pm we walked the few short blocks to The Mill Room where The Asheville Rare and Wild Beer Tasting was taking place. This was a small event with only 250 tickets sold and many breweries brought their rarest creation. Many of the bottles and kegs were the last ones in existence. We walked around seeking out the rarest of the rare and were joined at the event by our #KnoxBeerCrew buddies Todd & Joey. It seemed like everyone at tasting knew each other. This tasting was put together & sponsored by All About Beer Magazine with a portion of the ticket sales going to Pints for Prostates, an organization that focuses on men’s health issues. I really enjoyed the event. Most of the beers will never be brewed again, the food was amazing and hanging out, meeting and socializing with everyone was great. The only thing I thought could be done better next time is to extend the time the event runs. With over 30 different beers being served, the 3 hours alotted was just not enough time to responsibly sample everything that I wanted to.

When the event ended at 9, we got our group of friends together and decided to go to Wicked Weed to enjoy thier new collaboration with Foothills, Batch 69. I had glasses, stickers, magazines and other swag from the event, so I headed to the hotel to drop it off while Katie, Joey and Todd went to WW. I took a few minutes to freshen up, drink some more Emergen-C and down the last of my multi-vitamins. I arrived to find Wicked Weed packed, as is typical on a Friday night. I bluffed my way pass 2 sets of door guys by telling them I was already seated with my friends and had just walked out for a moment. This allowed my to bypass the line and go immediately to drink with my buddies (yeah I know, I suck.) I bought a half pour of Batch 69. This beer is a combination of Wicked Weed’s Freak of Nature Triple IPA and Foothill’s famous Sexual Chocolate, brewed and combined together at the same time. It was incredibly delicious and I may or may not have purchased a mini-growler to share with friends back in Knoxville. I spoke with Luke (who I almost didn’t recognize at first due to his 70s costume and wig) about this beer. I asked why they didn’t name it Sexual Freak. He laughed and said that is what they considered at first but knew it would be too risque. It just so happed to be the 69th batch brewed by Wicked Weed, so it was just fitting to call it that.

We sat around enjoying each others company and beer. I was happy to see that Todd was having an indepth conversation with Mitch Steele, while Katie spoke and hung out with Abby, Luke’s wife. Aaron and Stephanie Carson came to hang out as well. There was a band playing funk jams. They were really good, and afterwards hip hop music played while inebriated patrons got down and danced. It was getting late and around 1 pm we headed towards The Thirsty Monk for 1 last beer. Katie did her best to heard us 3 big drunk guys down the road and keep us out of trouble or from falling off the sidewalk. We got to the Thirsty Monk to find it closed (again!). Instead we headed across the road to Jack of the Woods. After one last beer it was time to pass out. We said our goodnights to Joey and Todd and passed out almost immediately.

Today is another big day. We are going to take a quick tour of Riverbend Malt House and then get ready for Beer City Festival. That runs until 6, and we’ll see if we can make it the whole time. Other Knox Beer Crew friends of ours such as Matt and Krissy Crowell and Jason and Beverly Anderson are coming in for the day. They will be bar hopping while we are at the fest, and we have plans to hang out tonight. Since this is our last day of beercation, we plan to make the most of it. Tune back in tomorrow for a recap, and in the mean time, check out my untappd check ins to see what delicious brews I’m consuming. There is also my twitter feed and the #AvlBeerWeek tag to follow as well.

See you at the fest!

Cheers,

-Ratchet

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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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Great Nano and Homebrew Equipment from a Local Vendor: BubbasBarrels.com

February 18, 2013

I spend an almost ridiculous amount of time online looking up equipment for my planned nano-brewery. I am always clicking links, checking out message boards and generally trying to find the best price (along with cheapest shipping) for what I need and want. This is how I stumbled across Bubba’s Barrels. I was shopping for brew pots when I first came across his website. The prices were almost too good to be true. I clicked the shipping page to get an idea of what that would cost me and to my surprise, they were located right here in Knoxville. I called and spoke with Carl the owner and made plans to come check out the equipment they offered. Bubba’s Barrels is located on Pembroke Avenue, just a few short miles up Broadway. When I went for my first visit, what I noticed was both the quality of his products and his enthusiasm for what he does. All his brew pots are made out of 304 stainless steel food grade shipping barrels. He even makes conical fermenters as well. To be honest, I did not end up purchasing a brew pot from him, but not because anything was wrong with them. I had my heart set on Blichmann and couldn’t talk myself out of it, even though I would have saved several hundred dollars. In retrospect, I regret my decision. Sure Blichmann may look a lot more fancy, but Bubba’s Brew pots are every bit as functional and at a fraction of the cost.

One of Bubba's Conical fermentors

One of Bubba’s Conical fermentors

I recently saw where Carl had added some new equipment to the website. This reminded me that I had meant to get a whirlpool device installed in my brew pot. I called him up and asked when he could do this. He said to come on by and drop it off. He’d have it ready for me in a few hours. While there I spoke with him about my upgrade plans, and how I had just noticed his burner stands for 55 gallon pots. I could use another quality burner and need a good brew stand set up. I also complained about how I saw online that Blichmann uses the same standard Banjo Burner but it only puts out around 78,000 BTUs. He advised me that it’s because the regulator that Blichmann sells with their burners isn’t that powerful. Carl sells really nice, pro-grade regulators and offered to let me try out the last one he had in stock. “Take this for your brew day, If you like it, I’ll sell it to you, if not, bring it back”. I did use it and WOW, I love it. I never knew I could get my strike water and boil up to temperature so fast. I love this regulator and I’m definitely buying it. Here’s a short video I took of the regulator in action:

I did get my whirlpool installed. This consisted of him putting a hole in the top of the brew pot, bending the stainless steel tubing and installing the fittings. It was worth every penny I paid for it. If you have a brew pot and a march pump, you can’t go wrong with this type of installation. See what I’m talking about and check out my video below:

So this is it for my local vendor spotlight. I do plan on buying more equipment from Bubba’s Barrels and I will post pictures here or on twitter of my upgrades. Hopefully I can afford that new brew stand soon.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me Ratchet (at) RatchetBrews.com

Cheers,

Ratchet


#AVLBeer Asheville’s Winter Warmer: Good Beer, Good People, Great Time

January 30, 2013

I was able to once again visit the nearby beer mecca of Asheville, NC for this year’s Winter Warmer Beer festival. The event this year was on the main floor of the Asheville Convention Center.

The entrance

The entrance

Arriving a  little early to avoid a long line, I ended up being one of the first people in.

Cups waiting for their new owners

Cups waiting for their new owners

At 3 pm they opened to the general public (those of us who had regular tickets and not early VIP admission). I headed directly to Cigar City’s booth and was happy that there wasn’t a long wait to try their rare and delicious beverages.

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Cigar City Brewing Company from Tampa, FL

Cigar City Brewing Company from Tampa, FL

After tasting Bourbon Barrel Aged Big Sound, Humidor Series Double American Black Ale and Church On A Hill Barley Wine, it was time to go over and see the good folks at Wicked Weed‘s booth.

Wicked Weed had the longest line all the way through the festival

Wicked Weed had the longest line all the way through the festival

Luke from Wicked Weed and myself

Luke from Wicked Weed and myself

I spoke with Luke for a few minutes and tried some of their beers that I haven’t had yet. They are as good as everyone says they are. Freak IPA is especially delicious. I walked around and spoke with various brewers. I also ran into fellow Knox Beer Crew members and people I had met at other beer festivals.

Dieter from Heinzelmannchen Brewery and myself

Dieter from Heinzelmannchen Brewery and myself

Myself and Jason Caughman, owner of Pisgah Brewing

Myself and Jason Caughman, owner of Pisgah Brewing

Nicholas "Big Magic" Walsh was VERY happy to see me.

Nicholas “Big Magic” Walsh was VERY happy to see me.

Knox Beer Crew represent!

Knox Beer Crew represent!

I won the prize for making the creepiest face possible in this Knox Beer Crew Picture

I won the prize for making the creepiest face possible in this Knox Beer Crew Picture

Katie @Junebugbatticus of Knox Beer Crew and Neil @YazooBrew of Yazoo Brewing Company getting goofy.

Katie @Junebugbatticus of Knox Beer Crew and Neil @YazooBrew of Yazoo Brewing Company getting goofy.

Mark Baggett @MarkPBaggett of Knox Beer Crew

Mark Baggett @MarkPBaggett of Knox Beer Crew

Beer up the Yazoo!

Beer up the Yazoo!

The Yummy HeinzelMannchen Gnomes at work

The HeinzelMannchen Gnomes at work

There was even some cider on tap

There was even some cider on tap

One thing I noticed about this year’s festival is that several of the local breweries were not in attendance. I did not see Asheville Brewing Company, Oyster House, Nantahala, Wedge, Green Man or Altamont. It left me wondering why they weren’t there. Maybe someone will read this and leave a comment below to clear up the mystery. Also I do regret not getting to the MALT booth before the homebrew ran out. I should have known. EVERY beer festival, the homebrew always runs out first. I do want to give a big shout out to Adam Reinke who I’ve been following on twitter for awhile but finally met in real life. I’m looking forward to showing him and the Asheville contingent around when they come visit.

Well after hours of sampling great beer, hanging out with friends, eating the food provided and having an overall great time, Winter Warmer came to an end. That did not mean the end of the fun, not even close. A short rest break at the hotel and it was time to head over to check out the now opened Wicked Weed Brewery.

The place was packed and there was a line and wait to get in. From my understanding, it’s been like this almost every night since they opened. Luckily a party left shortly after my friend and I arrived and we were allowed in. We walked inside and glanced around. I immediately spotted Erich, Pam and the Studio Brew crew holding  seats for us.

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Erich and Pam of Studio Brew with friends.

Wicked Weed's Saison IV fermented with Pineapple. Very tasty and highly recommended.

Wicked Weed’s Saison IV fermented with Pineapple. Very tasty and highly recommended.

After some beer and food, it was time to check out the bar downstairs. There was a whole other beer selection down there. I wish I had taken more pictures.

Erich took this picture and emailed it to me.

Erich took this picture and emailed it to me.

There were 2 more stops before the evening would end. Erich, Pam and friends had called a cab to go back to their hotel, so we also left Wicked Weed. I wanted to go get a 6 pack of one of my favorite beers, Ninja Porter. Asheville Brewing Company had just started canning it a week or so previous. A quick half pour was enjoyed and a couple of 6 packs were picked up. After dropping them off at the room, it was time for 1 more stop before calling it a night.

Ninja Porter, open up a can of Whoop Ass.

Ninja Porter, open up a can of Whoop Ass.

Anytime I go to Asheville and stay downtown, I always end the night at The Thirsty Monk. Considering that it is considered one of the top 100 beer bars on the planet and that it’s only a block from the hotel, there’s no reason not to. However, by the end of a long day of sampling beer, I was pretty worn out. I just had 1 half pour of Green Man’s Rainmaker before stumbling back to the room.

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Beer Cage across from the couch downstairs at Thirsty Monk.

The next day came and it was time to head on. By this time my budget for the trip was almost exhausted, but I still had to stop by Bruisin’ Ales. Inside I ran into Knox Beer Crew’s Matt Crowell who was checking out. I managed to get buy the smallest amount of beer I ever had from that world class bottle shop.

The least amount of beer that I have ever purchased from Bruisin Ales.

The least amount of beer that I have ever purchased from Bruisin Ales.

Hopefully I’ll visit Asheville again real soon. Until then, I encourage you to follow Thom O’Hearn on twitter, he’s the new beer writer for Mountain Xpress. It’s the job Anne-Fitten Glenn had before she got the marketing position at the new Oskar Blues plant.

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Two more items before I sign off. As you can see by the background image on this site, the Tennessee Winter Beer Festival February 9th is SOLD OUT. I knew it would, and tried to warn everyone who said they were going but hadn’t bought tickets yet. If you’re lucky, you might find them on Craigslist.

fixThe last item is incredibly important. Fix The Beer Tax is a group lobbying to do just that in Tennessee. The recently launched website (as well as twitter feed and facebook page) has a lot of information on this very important issue. It also has a link where you can send a message to your state legislator  to let them know how you feel about this issue. I strongly encourage everyone to do so.

Well enjoy the Super Bowl this weekend. I don’t really care who wins, but I’m slightly pulling for the Ravens so Ray Lewis can retire after a big win. I’ll post again soon, possibly live from the Tennessee Winter Beer Festival.

Until then, can the Ratchet Brews Crew of Todd, Richard, and Dalton  meet at the Brewery on High this Sunday at noon for some beer filtering, kegging, bottling and LLC discussion? Let me know y’all.

Cheers,

Ratchet


Happy MLK Day everyone. I too have a dream.

January 21, 2013

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I’m very serious about the whole starting a nano-brewery thing. I dream about it every night. Some days it’s all I think about. There is so much to learn and figure out. I’m almost done reading the Tennessee Department of Revenue’s Alcoholic Beverages and Beer Tax Guide and have been talking to people to clarify things I don’t understand. I have the Tax and Trade Bureau’s website bookmarked and read it constantly. I still have to register my trademark and I have the US patent office’s website in my favorites. I am always checking the Brewer’s Association website and look forward to the day I can join that organization and announce to the world that I am officially “a brewery in planning“. Next thing I plan on studying is OSHA regulations.

Right now the thing that seems to be holding me back from applying for permits, getting my trademark registered, etc is finding a location to set up. I have a very limited area I am looking at, all within walking distance of downtown.  I don’t need something big, just enough space to build an office, brewing area, cold storage, fermentation room and the actual bar area/ tasting room. I need something affordable, which unfortunately rules out most of downtown. I like the Fourth and Gill area. That neighborhood is needs a small bar. I’ll keep looking. Craigslist, news paper, word of mouth, friends and driving around searching. Once I DO find a spot (and I will) then the fun begins. Negotiating lease terms, making sure it’s zoned right, inspections and construction, the actual raising of funds and the mountains of paperwork. I KNOW it is going to be hard and test the limits of my sanity, but dammit, I am completely dedicated. Once I find a place I plan to go from living in a comfortable house near downtown with a killer view, to basically being a couch surfing & urban camping brewer. This is because I’ll need the money going towards my house to use for the commercial space. If I have to basically live like I’m homeless to see my dream take off, so be it.

Until then, I have updated a few things on my website. I finally put together a bare bones store page to sell the shirts and other stuff that I have for sale at the various beer festivals I attend. It’s a work in progress and I currently only have a fraction of my merchandise on there. I’ll post more as I can.

I also put together a brewery wish list. People are always asking what they can do to help. I have people asking if I need investors. Yes, I do. However I am not going to start actively soliciting donations or raising funds until I have my location on lock down. I put together the wish list mainly for myself, to have the satisfaction of crossing things off the list as I acquire them as a measure of my progress. Also there is part of me that hopes that there are people out there who happen to have spare equipment, knowledge or insight and can help me cross these things off.

On another note, I had a pretty successful brew day on Sunday. I put together a recipe for an IPA. My friends Richard, Dalton and Todd came over and lent a hand in it’s creation. Katie arrived later on with snacks and moral support. I hadn’t thought of a name for this beer and asked for suggestions. Todd suggested calling it Blitz IPA. After a quick check on untappd, we saw that the name was open. Hop Blitz is what we settled on. Here is the recipe for 10 gallons for those who are interested:

24 pounds organic 2 row brewer’s malt.

2 pounds Pilsen malt

1 pound cara-pils

2 pounds Vienna

1 pound wheat

1 pound crystal 60

1 pound corn sugar

2 ounces of East Kent Goldings Hops (Leaf, 6o minutes)

2 ounces of Cascade (leaf, 30 minutes)

2 ounces Columbus (leaf, 15 minutes)

2 ounces of Centennial (pellet, 15 minutes)

2 ounces Belma (leaf, 5 minutes)

2 ounces of Columbus (leaf, at flame out)

2 Whirlfloc tablets at 5 minutes left

Strike grains with 9 gallons of water to to mash at 152 degrees for 60 minutes

Sparge with 9 gallons at 170 degrees

Yeast- 1/2 gallon starter of Safale S-04 Whitbread English strain.

Cool rapidly to 65 degrees and pitch yeast. I split into 3 carboys for fermentation, roughly 11 gallons fermenting away.

Original Gravity 1.074

Estimated final gravity:1.018

Estimated ABV 7.34% Estimated IBUs: 63.5

Hop Blitz happily fermenting away

Hop Blitz happily fermenting away

Richard, Todd and myself sampling some unfermented Hop Blitz after clean up.

Richard, Todd and myself sampling some unfermented Hop Blitz after clean up.

This weekend I’ll be in Asheville for the Winter Warmer beer festival. Expect a post afterwards. If you are going, and we haven’t met, feel free to introduce yourself. For you Knox Beer Crew guys and gals going, what do say we go to Wicked Weed for dinner afterwards?

Until next time…

Cheers,

Ratchet


In case you missed them, read these post from other #KnoxBeer blogs:

December 12, 2012

With the busy holiday season upon us, I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to post again. Maybe after this weekend’s short jaunt to Chattanooga, or perhaps after my yearly Christmas beercation to Asheville. Either way I think I’ve done good this year posting as much as I did. With that said though, I am going to redouble my efforts to post even more in 2013! I also hope to make serious strides to go from homebrewer to pro.

Anyway, enough about that. Last weekend I had 2 beer events going on. Friday night I poured samples of my “I’m Warming You!” and Oktoberfest at Jackson Avenue Market. Saturday I provided beer for a private party at Saw Works Brewing‘s headquarters. Instead of writing more about that, I’ll refer you to a friend of mine’s website. If you aren’t checking out Saccharomyces Rex’s blog on a regular basis, you should. It’s written from the perspective of a downtown dwelling mini-dino who loves drinking craft beer. It was his party I provided the beer for. Check out his blog post about it HERE. Disclaimer: A few people asked me if I am really the person behind Saccy’s blog. I promise that I am not.

Another local blog to follow, (and the one that inspired me to start mine), is the Knox Beer Snobs. They have a great post about what to get the Beer Snob in your life for Christmas.

Does anyone know of any other Knoxville beer blogs? Since it’s such a small scene, I figured I’d know of them, but am asking just in case. I am specifically want to know about ACTIVE blogs.

A podcast I’ve been listening to during my morning workouts is the Brewing Network’s Brew Strong. This show is hosted by brewers and authors Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer (both I met at GABF).  Recent shows have focused on all issues pertaining to starting and running your own nano-brewery. If you are even mildly interested in beer, I recommend going to The Brewing Network’s website and downloading a few of the free episodes.

Westvleteren XII was released in the US today. Find out more about this super limited Trappist beer at this website, or listen to this NPR story about it. A 6 pack box with 2 tasting glasses is going for $85 retail. Unfortunately supplies and very limited and it’s not available for sale in Tennessee. I do have friends however that are getting this and promised to hook me up with a bottle. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping this happens.

Well this is all for now. I will try to post again soon, but in case I don’t get a chance to do so before the holi-daze I want to wish everyone a Beery Christmas and a Happy New Beer!

Have a Beery Christmas-Ratchet Claus

Have a Beery Christmas
-Ratchet Claus

Cheers,

Ratchet


Thanksbeering weekend #AvlBeer #NCBeer #KnoxBeerCrew

November 25, 2012

The Thanksgiving holiday was an extended weekend for myself and I thought what better way to celebrate then getting out of town. Plans were made to do just that. Thursday I had a quick dinner with my son’s family and hit the road. When you want to have a quick beercentric get away close by that won’t break the bank, there’s only really one place to go: ASHEVILLE!

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Beer City USA, here I come!

Originally the thought was to go camping but a check of the weather made me realize how little I was willing to freeze my ass off. I called my favorite Asheville hotel, the Downtown Inn and Suites. They had rooms available and at a really good price. With lows expected in the twenties overnight, this sounded much more appealing then pitching a tent in the mountains.

Arriving in Asheville early evening, the 1st thoughts were to see what was open. Thanks to Blog Asheville for responding to my twitter inquiry with a list of what would be open downtown on Thanksgiving night. A quick walk around downtown confirmed that my normal watering spots were closed.

The first spot I went to was the Bier Garden on Haywood Street just a few blocks from the hotel. I have seen this place before but always passed it up. Staying open on Thanksgiving must have sucked for the employees but it was smart business because the place was packed. They have a few beers on tap but not as many as I thought a place calling itself “The Bier Garden” would have. They did seem to have an extensive bottle selection. I ordered some fried dill pickle spears and wanted something on the lighter side to go with it. I ordered a Drunken Baby Pilsner brewed for Bier Garden by Foothills. It was light, full flavored and enjoyable. I wanted to do as much adventuring as possible so after paying for my beer and food it was time to head down Walnut Street to Scully’s Bar & Grille. I hadn’t even heard of this bar before but that’s because when I go to Asheville I usually go drink at breweries and not bars. I like this place. It was small, cozy and had a laid back neighborhood bar feel to it. It was the type of bar that had everything from Bud light to cocktails and a decent craft beer selection. The staff was also super friendly. I discussed beer options with the server who recommended Natty Green’s Freedom American IPA. I liked this beer. Very good american style hoppiness with a solid caramel backbone. Since I was bar hopping, it was time to head to the next spot. When getting checked into the hotel room, I was relaxing and channel surfing when I saw the local news doing a story on places open on Thanksgiving. They were featuring Pack’s Tavern. So it was added to the list.

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The taps at Pack’s Tavern

I had visited Pack’s Tavern briefly during Asheville Beer Week but just to meet up with some friends upstairs. This was my 1st time actually sitting down at the bar and ordering. They had a really good selection. All the seasonal beers were on special, so I elected to try Duck Rabbit’s Marzen, an Oktoberfest beer that I haven’t had before. I drank my one beer and headed to the next spot that I was told would be open, Storm Rum Bar and Bistro. I walked there to see what looked liked a recently closed bar. Had I gotten there an hour early, I’m sure I could have had a drink. Oh well, no big deal. I headed towards the last place I knew was open, Asheville Yacht Club.

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A really bad picture of the inside of Asheville Yacht Club

Out of the all the places I visited over the course of the evening, the Yacht Club was my favorite. I have always walked pass this place. It’s pretty much next to Jack Of The Wood, which is one of my favorite Asheville spots. I’ve always seen the sign that says it is a private club. North Carolina has a stupid law that states you can’t have a place that serves drinks unless it also serves food or is a private club.  The good thing is that it’s super easy to get around this.  You simply pay a dollar to become a member and your membership is good for a whole year. Then you sign in at the front every time you come. So I walked in the door and signed in. Loud music was playing, in this case Primus followed by old Metallica. I loved it. The decor was very ocean and pirate themed and I wish I had taken more pictures. They had a full bar. I didn’t see if they had beer on tap, but they did have a decent bottle selection. I elected for Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA since it was on special that night. A few bottles later and I called it a night and headed back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.

Happy Thanksgiving from Asheville Yacht Club’s Pufferfish Bunny

The next morning I woke up with one thought in mind: COFFEE! I don’t drink hotel coffee which I find taste like it was the leftovers that were swept off the roasting room floor. After hitting up the free breakfast in the lobby, I went out in search of a good cup of wake up juice. Nestled in between The Thirsty Monk and Weinhaus I found Firestorm Cafe and Books. On the Patton Avenue level it was just a doorway leading downstairs. Unless you are going in from the street around back, this place is really easy to miss. I walked down and could tell this was the type of place the local activist and anarchist frequent. A majority of the books on sale were alternative press and of the DIY ethic. Unfortunately the person working the counter didn’t know the simplest thing, the origin of their house roast beans. I know it’s a such little thing, but it’s knowledge I take for granted that a barista should know.

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Firestorm Cafe and Books is a worker owned and operated collective.

With all the adventuring I had planned for the day, it was now a matter of waiting for places to open. The first place to go was Asheville Brewing Company’s Coxe Avenue location. I saw online that they had planned to release a new beer on tap that day. In the back of my mind, I figured that they wouldn’t put it on tap until much later, but I had to try anyway. I got there and sat at the bar. My fears were confirmed that the new beer wouldn’t be tapped until much later. Oh well. I did have a half pour of Scout’s Stout. While sipping on my beer I spotted head brewer Doug Riley from across the room. He was kind enough to give me a tour of the brewery and talk beer with me for a little bit.

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Asheville Brewing Company’s state of the art canning line

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Doug Riley, head Brewer of Asheville Brewing Company and myself

After hanging out with Doug it was time for the next part of my trip: Bottle Shopping! First I headed over to see Julie, Jason and the gang at Bruisin’ Ales.

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Inside Bruisin’ Ales

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Outside Bruisin’ Ales

I bought the least amount of beer I ever purchased there but I did get some goodies. I next headed over to Appalachian Vintner to get a few more bottles of  Terrapin’s rare Georgia Theater releases that I saw when I was there on last week’s Bearden Beer Market road trip.

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Inside view of Appalachian Vintner’s beer section

Well with bottle shopping done it was time to meet up with friends at Green Man Brewery’s tap room, Dirty Jack’s.

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Green Man Brewery, an old favorite of mine.

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Tap list at Dirty Jack’s

With so many more brewery visits planned, I only had time for 1 beer. I chose Green Man’s Oktoberfest, Harvester. It was the perfect beer for sipping on the outside patio. My friend and all around cool guy Dalton met up with me along with a few family members of his in town for the holiday.

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Dalton and his homebrewing bro who lives in Atlanta and grows his own hops.

After hanging a bit it was time to head to nearby Waynesville, NC to visit a few breweries. First stop was Frog Level Brewing, a nano brewery that I first visited back in March.

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Beers on tap at Frog Level.

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Frog Level’s new 3 barrel system.

I got to Frog Level late Saturday afternoon and the place was pretty busy. The only one behind the bar was the owner and head brewer Clark Williams. With all the patrons clamoring for beer, it took a bit before mine was poured. I elected to stay with sample sizes and tried the ones I hadn’t had before. After Clark had a chance to catch up, he came over to chat a bit. We talked about his new 3 barrel system and he took me back to look around.

Talking about beer and brewing with Clark at Frog Level Brewing Company

As Clark showed me how his brewery was put together, he gave me a lot of helpful hints and tips. Being an aspiring nano-brewer myself, Clark was an overwhelming source of inspiration. He showed me how certain things can be used in a brewery setting and how to put together a functioning nano-brewery with less costly tools and equipment then I had though possible. He also told me prices on items and where to get them. I thanked Clark for all the advice and set out to my next stop, Headwaters Brewing Company a few blocks away.

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I’m going in there —>

The view that greets you as you walk into Headwaters Brewing Company

I first heard about Headwaters Brewing Company from a NC Facebook list put together by Win Bassett. I read post about the brewery as it made progress and opened for business. Last month while at the Great American Beer Festival I was standing in line for the Dogfish Head booth and saw Headwaters. I passed on trying their beer because I knew that since they were close by, I’d eventually go visit them. While at GABF I really just wanted to try beers that were not in the region, since they are harder to come by.

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Tap list at Headwaters

I sat at the bar and ordered a flight of 4 Headwaters samples. I tried the Upper Falls IPA, Big Sky Rye, Heady Eddy Pale Ale and White Water Hefeweizen. They were all incredibly good. Usually when I try a flight there is at least one beer I don’t like. This was not the case at all with Headwaters. My favorite was the Upper Falls IPA. It was 11% but did not taste like a high alcohol beer. It was deceptively smooth. As I sat and drank my samples I met the owner and head brewer Kevin Sandefur. As we spoke I asked him what size system he brewed on. I was surprised when he said it was a modified 1 barrel Sabco Brew Magic. Next thing I know, I was in the back checking it out.

Where the magic happens

Owner and head brewer Kevin showing me Headwaters set up.

As I looked around and spoke with Kevin, I got even more inspired to start my nano-brewery. They are still fermenting in 6 gallon glass carboys and built their own custom temperature controlled fermentation chamber.

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Temperature controlled fermentation chamber full of Carboys of fermenting beer.

I was very grateful for Kevin taking the time to show me around. I really like Headwaters and can’t wait to visit again. He told me that they plan on expanded to a 15 barrel system in the near future and I wish them nothing but the best.

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Wise words on the wall in Headwaters brewing area.

It was starting to get late and time to go. Originally the plan was to go see visit Dieter and his brewery, Heinzelmannchen in Sylvia, NC.  However due to the time, I had to skip it this go around. I am sorry it was so, but plan on making it up during my next visit to that area. I headed straight to Nanthala Brewing Company in Bryson City. By the time I got there, it was cold and dark. It’s a good thing they built a small heated bar in the big quonset building.

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The entrance to Nantahala.

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The new heated bar area at Nantahala

The other (not as heated) bar at Nantahala

As soon as I walked in I saw owner Joe Rowland and head brewer Greg Geiger. It’s always great to see these guys. I come to Nantahala not only for their great and amazing beers, but to be around other like minded folks who enjoy them as much as I do. Also they were having a “Black Friday” sale on all their previous bottle releases. I love these beers and could not pass up a chance to get a deal on them. I talked to the guys for a few minutes and went at sat at the bar to enjoy a beer. A few minutes later Greg came back and waved me over. He wanted to show me something back in the brewery. He had just finished brewing and wanted me to check out the hop back full of whole leaf Simcoe hops. It smelled so incredibly good.

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Hop back made from a 55 gallon drum. It was full of Simcoe hops and smelled like that and cooked wort. OH SO GOOD!

Greg and I hovering over the warm and great smelling hop back.

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Nantahala’s brewing equipment came from RJ Rockers when they upgraded to a bigger system.

Stop and smell the hop back

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Sacks of malt at Nantahala

Well as much as I could have stayed at Nantahala all night talking about beer with Joe and Greg I knew it was a long drive home. I went next door to get something to eat at a small pizza place. The food was bland and the wait was incredibly long. It was over an hour until the food came out. Afterwards I went back next door to the brewery to say my goodbyes. Greg mentioned that he would be in Knoxville the next day so I invited him to the Knox Beer Crew meeting. He said that he would only be in Knoxville in the morning, but he would leave growlers full of beer for us at Bearden Beer Market.

After the long drive home to Knoxville I went to bed and had one of those good solid back-in-my-own-bed sleeps. Waking up on Saturday fully refreshed, I took my son to the last UT Volunteers home football game of the year. We left at half time and I dropped him back off at his house. I then headed over to Bearden Beer Market where the previously mentioned monthly Knox Beer Crew meeting was taking place.

The Monthly Knox Beer Crew meeting

This month’s meeting focused on stouts and porters and took place in Bearden Beer Market’s Yazoo room. Kevin LA was in town visiting family for the holidays and it was good to see him at the meeting.

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A small portion of the beers we sampled

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Some of the other beers we sampled

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We had a pretty good sized crew at this tasting

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Good ol’ Nick “Big Magic” Walsh

After awhile a majority of the people left the meeting and we opened up the growlers that Greg from Nantahala had generously left for us. I took one last picture so I could text him the crew toasting him and his beer.

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Thanks again to Greg and Nantahala brewing company for the beer. Cheers!

Well that was pretty much the end of Thanksbeering weekend. Sunday I only drank 2 beers right before bed. It was really fun getting out of town and can’t wait to do it again the end of December for Beersmas.

I just wanted to mention to my friends reading this that I really do plan on brewing again on Sunday. Yes I know I said that last post, but this weekend was too hectic and I had to balance out all the beercentric stuff I did with spending time with my son. So if y’all want to come lend a hand or just hang out, I plan on mashing in no later then 10 am. I’m just going to do a 10 gallon batch of a basic pale ale. I’m hoping Dalton, Richard and a few others show up. Also please don’t forget that a week from this Friday on December 7th is First Friday downtown. It is also the Knoxville Christmas parade. This year the parade passes right by Jackson Avenue Market where I’ll be pouring FREE SAMPLES of my winter seasonal called “I’m Warming You!” Please come out and support this event and try some tasty home brew. We are going to start at 6pm. Come down, have a few drinks and watch the parade go by at 7. I am hoping to see you all there.

Cheers,

Ratchet