Well y’all, it’s true. I haven’t really thought about posting on here in awhile. I said in my last post I’d come back, but that didn’t happen.
Honestly, it’s been fun writing this over the last couple of years. Looking back and seeing how the craft beer scene has changed and grown. Looking at how excited I use to be to go on beercations and seek out new beers. What has changed? Nothing really. I still like those things, but now that there are a million beer blogs and craft beer is ubiquitous. Even dinky little backwoods gas stations have at least a couple of good beers. It’s a great time to be a beer drinker!
Instead of deleting this blog, I’m leaving it as an online time capsule of sorts. I plan on letting my domain names expire, but it will still be here in it’s .wordpress.com variation. Maybe when I’m older and my memories start to fade I can come back and read where I was and what I was doing in these years.
I’ve got other projects that I’ll focusing on in my free time.
So while this is a goodbye to Ratchet Brews and Jason Knows Beer, it’s a hello to other things. I’ll still be tweeting, and posting on facebook and instagram. I’ll still be writing, but mostly for myself.
It’s been one hell of a ride, and it ain’t over (except for this site).
I am posting just in case people are still checking this out. I kind of have abandoned this blog for awhile. I still want to keep it, but don’t feel like writing that much.
Things are going really well for me in Bryson City. I’ve settled into my role as assistant brewer. I have spent a lot of my free time exploring the area. Hiking is becoming a new favorite past time, I am in the right area for it since the Smoky Mountains are 2 minutes in any direction. I visit Innovation Brewing at least once a week. They’re only a 10 minute drive away. I’ve also discovered a new favorite restaurant in Sylva, Soul Infusion.
I go to Asheville quite a bit more since it’s only an hour.
There have been many events, and fun things that have happened. I could have written about a dozen or more post since last, but I really want to get more settled in a give the blog a break until December. I say that, yet here I am writing more then I intended to.
Anyway, I’m still pretty active on twitter and instagram. If you find yourself coming to Bryson City to visit the brewery, give me a shout.
I’ve been looking forward to this since last year. It’s ASHEVILLE BEER WEEK! Asheville is Mecca for beer lovers, Beer City USA, and my favorite city to visit. Last year I was an official guest blogger for ABW, but this year the official blogging is being done by my friends over at Asheville Ale Trail. I am simply here to enjoy.
I got into town around 6pm on Friday evening. My original plan was to head over and see friends at Urban Orchard but on the way into town I received a text from a friend informing me that there was a Green Man meet the brewer event and tasting at Appalachian Vintner. Since App Vintner is always on my itinerary, I opted to go there first. I arrived and settled up to the bar where I was greeted by Charles. I placed an order. I thought it appropriate that my first official beer of Asheville Beer Week would be the Asheville Brewers Alliance White IPA. This cloudy, hoppy and tasty beer is a perfect representation of the style, and of Asheville.
I have more pictures of beer on my phone then anything else
After talking some more, it was time for some bottle shopping. I walked around and carefully chose a small selection. This trip is being done on a shoestring budget, so more times then not, I kept having to put back bottles of stuff I wanted. As I sipped and shopped, Charles came over to inform me that he had just tapped a keg of Olde Hickory’s 2013 Event Horizon. How could I resist? This beer is better as it warms, so I cupped my half pour tightly in my hands to lend it some of my body heat. While I was shopping, I noticed on Untappd that other Knoxvillian friends of mine were in town. I paid for my beers and headed to try to catch up with them. As I drove downtown, I saw Julie from Bruisin’ Ales on the front patio of Thirsty Monk. I parked and walked over there. Jason from Bruisin‘ was on the front patio and after we said our hellos, I walked to the bar where I saw my favorite Asheville bartender, Clete. Sitting at the bar was Julie and Jason came in to join us. I had a pour of Stone’s Sprocketbier while we chatted. I wanted to hit up Wicked Weed, so I said goodbye and walked over. When I arrived, there was a line to get in. At this point I was hungry so I headed over to Coxe Avenue to get a slice of pizza (and more beer) at Asheville Brewing Company. I settled up to the bar and ordered. After awhile I got a text from my friend Jerry that himself, Millie, Robert and Brittney were over at Barley’s and I should join them. Right when I was leaving, an incredibly gorgeous girl stopped me outside the door. “Are you Ratchet?” Caught off guard I stammered, “uh, yeah.” “Oh hey, I read your blog, you in town for beer week?” We talked for a bit while my phone kept getting text from Jerry asking were I was.
I didn’t want to be rude to my friends, so I invited her to join me, but she was in the same position with her friends waiting inside at Asheville Brewing Company. We talked about getting together at some events and said goodbye. I stupidly forgot to get her number. So if you are reading this, email me and let’s hang out at Westside Fest, ok?
Catching up with my buddies at Barley’s we had a drink and made plans where to go next. We agreed that Thirsty Monk would be a good choice, especially since Robert said he hadn’t been there before. We walked over, bought a round upstairs and then headed downstairs for another. The group wanted to go to Asheville Brewing Company, and I was with it, but convinced them to go across the street to my favorite dive bar, the Asheville Yacht Club. I love that place! It’s small, rough, rowdy and has good drinks. I have some great memories associated with it. We ordered some more beer. Our crew was a little disorganized and wanted to go over to Jack of The Woods, but a quick check showed there was a cover charge, so we passed and settled back to our drinks at Yacht Club. It was getting late and I still had to make my way to my friend Wes’s house in South Asheville. I said goodnight and parted ways with the rest of the crew as they headed for Asheville Brewing Company.
I got to Wes’s house and we hung out a bit and tried a few brews. I was tired and knew that today would be huge, so I called it a night.
This weekend brought me to Charlotte, NC for the All Ale to the Queen Craft Beer Carnival. I’ve been planning on this event for months now, and I almost didn’t make it. My life has changed so much in a short amount of time. Being unemployed for awhile, moving to Maryville and working a low paying (but fulfilling) job has had it challenges. The finances starting looking grim for a 4 hour drive. When I estimated the gas money needed to go, it didn’t look like I could pull it off. Luckily a few friends saw my post on my personal social media and came to my rescue by buying some rare beers I’ve been cellaring. I was hoping to rope one or 2 of my remaining friends to go with me, but despite some last minute bribery, It ended up being a solo trip.
So I loaded up the car and left Friday Morning for Charlotte. The drive was uneventful. My GPS said it would take 4 and 1/2 hours but I made it to the venue in 4 with no problems. I checked in and was handed one of the festivals jockey boxes and asked if I could get it re-lined. Since I was also now in possession of the company’s brand new top of the line randall and needed to get parts, it wasn’t a problem. I put everything in my car and googled the nearest homebrew supply store. I found my way to Beer and Wine Hobbies International. The staff there was great and helped me reline the box and get all the parts I needed to set up the Randall. As I sat there with them talking about beer the clock was ticking. I had to still find my way to where the beer dinner was starting at 6. I had time for one quick brewery stop. I asked where I should go and Triple C Brewing was the answer given. Luckily it wasn’t too far away. I paid for the parts (company credit card, woot!) and headed there. As I drove up, I noticed how packed the place was. This was definitely a popular brewery, with lots of people and dogs enjoying the great weather. It happened to be one of the last days of Charlotte Beer Week and Triple C released a milk stout brewed with Vanilla Beans and Kahlua soaked oak chips that they called “The Dude Imbibes“. I got a full pour of that and a flight of four other beers as well. I was very impressed with the quality of the brews I tried. As I sat there drinking my beers, I had a conversation with a local about the Charlotte Craft Beer Scene. I could have stayed the rest of my trip at Triple C, but it was time to head to the beer dinner. I made sure to buy myself a wax capped big bottle of their Smoked Imperial Amber as a souvenir. Hopefully I won’t have to sell this one off to fund a future beer trip.
I arrived at Harry’s Grille and Tavern for the beer dinner. As I walked in and looked around the room, I recognized half the people there. I struck up a conversation with Aaron who introduced me to April Smith. She was running the social media for this festival. We grabbed one of the few remaining tables. My friend and all around good guy, Adam Reinke had texted me to say he was coming to the dinner. I saved him a couple of seats. He arrived with the infamous Mark with him. The course and beers started coming, and each one was incredible. Check out the All Ale To The Queen Twitter post about each course. Here’s one, two, three, four and five.
As the dinner came to an end, many were wondering what was next on the agenda? The word spread quickly through the brewers and other in town that we would take over the lawn in front of the hotel. There were already lawn chairs there. Somehow we started calling this “the grassy knoll”. I don’t know who came up with it, but that’s what we all referred to it as the rest of the weekend. Once back to the hotel we started to hang out there. Beers were flowing and a great time was had. I had a little (a lot) too much to drink. Like, bad behavior drunk ( I apologize to the person most of this was directed towards, but in my defense I HATE being stalked). Luckily I caught myself and stopped. I went to my room to sleep it off.
I woke up the next morning hung over and slightly hating myself. I felt a deep seated need for punishment. What else could I do but run it out? I got dressed in my running clothes, set my Nike app for a 5k and hit downtown Charlotte. The 1st mile hurt. My head was pounding, my mouth was dry and my liver hurt like hell. As I made my half way point, I started feeling better. By the end of my run I felt great. My app chimed in to tell me the 5k was over. To my astonishment I had beat my previous record by 3 and a half minutes!
Back at the hotel I drank coffee, showered and then headed out to the festival site. There was work to do. I set up my merchandise table, pieced together the randall and lent a hand where needed. When the doors opened, I knew I would need a volunteer and they hooked me up. I was introduced to Joy who was just that. I’ve done many fest and had many volunteers and she was the best so far. She is a home brewer and eager to learn all she could about beer. Together we were able to stay on schedule and came up with a great system for moving the randall around, cleaning it and setting it up. Her shift technically ended at 3:30 but she stayed, helping me all the way until the 8 pm ending time. This went above and beyond what was expected of her. Thanks homegirl!
There was so much going on at this festival and I was so busy I only caught about a fraction. When I was able to lift my head from what I was doing, the view was spectacular. This was mainly due to the incredibly hot aerial acrobats at the middle of the room and the always eye pleasing Charlotte Beer Girls. There were also freak show acts that I missed but friends told me about later. Like a guy who ate a light bulb. My questions is, how’d he figure out that was something he was good at? What inspired him to eat the first one? I also missed the homebrewer contest and didn’t get to try everyone’s beer. Congrats to the winners though, maybe one day I’ll brew again and will enter another competition. For now, I’m honestly happy to NOT be brewing.
The one thing I was able to focus on, like I said, was the randalizing of beer. Awhile back I was talking to Aaron and told him we needed better randalls and system for mobile infusing. He asked my recommendation and I told him to buy the top of the line system from Dogfish head. He did so and it was worth every penny! We broke this new system in at Catawba’s booth with the brewery’s founder, Billy, as Seen in the video below:
The next infusion we did was at Abita’s booth with their Strawberry Lager going through French Broad Cocao nibs and shells and fresh strawberries. This was a hit. It was so good that the rep had to fill a growler to bring back to the brewers in New Orleans. So if you see Abita come out with a chocolate strawberry beer in the future, just know where it originated. People where clamoring for this beer and the line grew really long once the word spread. We were only scheduled to be at their booth for an hour, but if we would have taken it away when that early, I’m pretty sure we would have caused a riot. I was fine with staying there, especially since the Goose Island booth was right new to me and the reps kept sneaking me sips of Bourbon County Stout and Backyard Rye on the down low (thanks ladies!).
We were finally able to unhook the randall and head over to Rj Rockers where we ran the always popular Son of A Peach through, you guessed it, peaches. Since we didn’t have enough peaches due to my clumsily spilling half of them, we added some plums as well. It was a great combination. My volunteer, Joy had pointed out that there was a small group of girls following the infuser around. Sure enough they were first in line for the Rj Rockers. As I sat there talking with them, they asked to take pictures. Since my main weakness is pretty girls, I couldn’t resist. Of course, I couldn’t resist inviting them to the after party as well, but no such luck.
Me and my Randall groupies.
The last infusion of the day was with Starr Hill. I tried to infuse their Cryptical Imperial Stout with Cocao Nibs and Shredded coconut. We ran into our first clogging issues of the day and were only able to get a few pours out of it. This was near the end of the fest, so I decided it would be alright to break it down, give it a good cleaning and call it a day.
The festival came to an end and I made sure to pack up and secure the randal and jockey box. As the attendees left it was back to being the festival people. Grassy Knoll takeover was the post festival party plans. By this time I was completely sober. I always stop drinking about and hour or 2 before a festival like this is over so I can drive. As I loaded up my car I noticed my buddy Jim Cope carring a big plastic bag and looking faded. My friend Trevor and his girlfriend walked over and as we talked and I mentioned the party, they asked if they could ride with me. We piled into my car and were talking and laughing our asses off on the way to the hotel.
Trevor Sharp gears up for the Jim Cope homeless impersonation challenge. We all were laughing so hard it hurt.
When we arrived, the party was already in effect. Adam Reinke had ordered pizzas, beer was flowing and Urban Orchard brought out a keg of cider to share. I ran back to the room to grab one of my growlers and when I came back, the group was little more subdued. Where’s the keg? Well it seems like we were all having such a great time that the police came and told the group that we couldn’t be so obvious and have kegs out. The lawn was actually part of Johnson and Wales University. I found this hilarious because the same weekend a bunch of rowdy craft beer drinking drunks took over the hotel, the other people staying there were parents and potential students checking out the college. I could see the shocked look on the face of families are they walked passed us. I would not be a bit surprised if more then a few parents told their kids that there was no way they’d allow them to attend there after seeing us.
So instead of kegs, we just kept taking turns filling up growlers with Urban Orchard Cider and Studio Brew’s Mosaic Sunset from the kegs stashed in the cars a few feet away. I want to give a big shout out to my new friend, Jeff Anderson from Urban Orchard. It was great partying with you brother, and I look forward to hanging out again in a few weeks at TO.
Well I knew I had a 4 hour drive and a shift at the Beer Den the next day, so I had to call it a night. It pained me to be responsible and walk away from a great party with people I love and admire. Good thing I get to do it all over again soon. I hope everyone enjoys the pictures and if we met, I’d love to hear from you.
The Grassy Knoll
TREVOR! What the funk is up with the bag?
Friday Night Grassy Knoll Party
The Hotel staff was great and graciously put up with our drunk asses
Inside Triple C Brewing
Charlotte you were great. I’ll be back in November for Attack of The Big Beers, so you have 8 months to prepare for my arrival. I’ll be counting the days my friends.
So much has happened since my last post and I don’t really feel like writing about it all. Some things do need to be said to bring my readers (are there any left?) up to speed. I spur of the moment up and moved to Maryville. The timing was right to step away from the Knoxville beer scene for awhile. My part time job at The Market morphed into a fulltime one. I turned down a financially lucrative office position and a decent call center job to work somewhere that I’m happy at. Yes money does bring me happiness in the form of having disposable income to buy beer, but at the price of spending 40-50 hours a week in a stressful office environment. This year I’m focused on being happy, and part of that is learning to accept less decadent, more survival based living conditions and lifestyle. I moved into a small house in Downtown where everything I could possibly need is within a 1/2 mile walk.
I’m learning to really love Maryville. It’s a lot closer to my beloved mountains and the beer scene is small, intimate and friendly. People (not all, but for the most part) in this area are still just learning about craft beer and are excited and enthusiastic about it.
That all being said, a lot more has happened including several beer events since I last wrote. I’ll go ahead and recap: They were all awesome. The one that really stood out was Yazoo’s Marti-crawl thru the Old City, but I’m probably remembering that one best because it took place just a few days ago.
So coming up, there are some beer Events I’m really looking forward to. This Saturday Nantahala Brewing in Bryson City is releasing Trail Magic number 7, a Jack Daniels barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout. Richard, Sandy and myself will be making the drive to Bryson City. The next morning, Sunday, is the annual Kegs and Eggs event at The Casual Pint in Bearden. On March 21st and 22nd I’m traveling to Charlotte, NC for All Ale To The Queen Beer Carnival. Friday night I plan on visiting several breweries and Saturday at the festival I’ll be running the randall all day. I have a free room for both nights (2 double beds) and so far, as of this writing, am traveling solo. If anyone wants to come along and help pay for gas and help me out at the fest in exchange for free entry and hotel, let me know ASAP.
The festival after that is in April, Thirsty Orange. This is it’s 3rd year and the site is going to be bigger and the event better. I’ll write more about this in the future, but I do encourage everyone to get tickets because it’s on record pace to sell out.
A big hello and welcome to all the new readers who found out about this blog from WBIR Channel 10’s Live at 5 at 4 story by Emily Stroud. It was a pleasure meeting with Emily and the camera guy to talk about my beer obsession. I would also like to thank Knox Urban Guy of the award winning Inside of Knoxville blog for putting me in touch with Emily. (Yes Jerry, I haven’t forgot about you giving Alan my phone number to pass along when I excitedly mistyped it in an email to Emily.)
I also want to mention that Embrace the Funk is having a Sour Beer Tasting this Saturday at Bearden Beer Market from 1 to 3 pm. This is going to be quite the event. It features five of Brandon Jones’ creations in collaboration with Yazoo’s Embrace the Funk series. There will also be other sour, lambic and wild ale offerings from breweries around the world. They are even going to tap the keg of 2012 New Belgium La Folie that they’ve been hiding in the cooler. There will only be 100 spots guaranteed for Knoxville’s first sour tasting event, so be sure to come by BBM to reserve your spot today! Tickets are $20 and include a Yazoo sampling glass.
I will not be there however. I planned on visiting Sparta, TN’s own Calfkiller Brewery during that time. I’ve known Don and Dave Sergio and crew for over a year now, and have been looking forward to seeing their operation. I plan on taking lots of pictures and video, so check back Monday for a new post. Until then, if you are new to this site, feel free to read back through the archives or leave a comment.
Yesterday started off in typical fashion with the hunt for coffee. Being away from my cold, dark room at home makes it a little bit more difficult to sleep as long as I would like to in a hotel. My body woke up promptly at 7:15 and wouldn’t allow me to go back for a few more hours. I grabbed my computer and snuck out of the hotel to let Katie finish snoozing.
Since I’m in town and am looking for new experiences, I thought I’d try a different coffee shop other than Izzy’s. Checking “the Google“, I decided to head over to High Five based on their online ratings. They serve counter-culture coffee, which is one of my favorite fair-trade organic brands. Being that it was morning and I could already feel the heat of the day approaching, I opted for an iced coffee, sat down with my drink, and settled in to write my post.
An hour later, my Internet privileges had expired, so I went to the counter to purchase something else. The staff there told me how to get back online, and after struggling with it for five minutes, I asked someone who worked there for assistance. They were very helpful and I was able to get back online and continue writing. About this time, Katie had awoken and texted me. I told her where I was and she came to meet me and help me work on my blog. She is one helluva great editor when it comes to my somewhat rambled and disjointed writings. (She insisted I take this part out but I won’t let her.)
We worked until it was time to leave to go to meet with Billy Pyatt at Catawba Valley Brewing Company in Morganton, N.C. Located an hour east from Asheville, Catawba Valley is one of the local craft beer brands that has been available in Knoxville for as long as I can remember. Back when the only place to get a craft beer was Barley’s, I fondly remember nights of drinking their Firewater IPA. So, when we ran into Billy when we came into town on Monday and he graciously extended his invitation to visit, that made it to the top of our Must-Do list.
The drive over didn’t seem to take long at all, and we arrived in downtown Morganton at Catawba’s spacious location. Billy was expecting us and warmly greeted us at the door. He was finishing up a phone meeting with a new distributor, so we had time to admire their set up and take a few pictures.
Billy didn’t keep us waiting more than a minute or two, and started off the tour by telling us about Catawba’s Asheville expansion. For those of you who haven’t heard, Catawba Valley is opening a small 7-barrel specialty brewery in the space across the street from French Broad Brewery, in Asheville’s Biltmore district.
As we spoke, we walked around and he showed us a few critical pieces of Catawba’s infrastructure, such as the grain hopper, glycol system, and their 10-barrel brewhouse. We met with Scott, Billy’s brother, co-owner, and head brewer, while he was finishing up a batch of their famous King Coconut Porter. I always find the smell of cooking wort intoxicating. As he opened the brew kettle, I took a big whiff. I love that smell!
Having grown organically over the years, it seemed Billy and Scott had a story about each and every piece of equipment over the years. For example, I noticed a big, tall, 40-barrel fermenter looming ahead. Billy told us the story of how that used to be one of Highland Brewery’s first fermenters back when they were brewing in the basement of Barley’s.He said it sat abandoned for years and it was a three-day, slow, meticulous process to remove it from the building so that they could put it back to use at Catawba.
Billy also pointed out various fermenters that they were testing or were planning to install at the new locale. As everyone who is familiar with Catawba knows, when it comes to packaging, not only are their increasingly popular beers available on draft at locations throughout the southeast, but they are also a packaging brewery that opts to can their beer.
We worked our way over toward their rather impressive and relatively new canning line. Billy walked us through each step of the process, going as far as canning up a special can of Catawba Valley canning line water to bestow upon my Khaleesi. She was pretty excited.
It takes about one to one and a half seconds per can to fill and seal. As quickly as they can can the beer, the labeling process is a whole lot more tedious. Each label is applied manually by hand. For each twenty barrel batch of beer that is canned, Billy advises that it takes their employee a solid three days to apply all the labels to a batch. But man, does it look good! Catawba is also very adamant about the quality of their beer and they weigh each individual can to make sure not one single customer will ever be shorted.
Next, we walked through a secret door and ended up, low and behold, in their tasting room. I can definitely imagine this being THE place to spend your weekend nights. Actually, unbeknownst to us, Billy is very familiar with this building. Having grown up in the area, he used to visit this very space back in his high school days when it was a BYOB honky-tonk dive, “Slick Willie’s”. Needless to say, it’s come a long way since then!
Weeks are filled with event nights in the tasting room, everything from Thursday open-mike nights, to traveling bands, to wedding and corporate receptions. While food isn’t offered, the small-town feel of Morgantown really comes alive with the fact that so many catering options are available. We didn’t want to impose for too long, as Billy’s a very busy man, and as we were saying our goodbyes, he kindly offered a six pack of our choice to take with us. We both agreed – Firewater IPA.
Right before we left, he recommended his favorite local eatery, Pat’s Snack Bar, to fill our bellies before the drive back home. Once again, I really want to thank Billy and Scott for their gracious hospitality. We cannot wait to come and visit their new Asheville location when it opens in August. Here’s a small clip to show you how contagious Billy’s enthusiasm can be.
After the visit to Morganton, we drove back and took a quick swim at the hotel before preparing ourselves to go back out again. There were (as usual) plenty of events that were going on that evening, so we wanted to hit as many of them as possible.
We first visited the new wine/beer bar, Weinhaus on Coxe Avenue close to the Monk. I’ve visited this shop often over the years, when it simply a bottleshop and not a bar. I can remember, over 10 years ago, buying Highland bombers for $3 or $4 each, going back and selling them to my buddies for a flat $5 (to make up the gas money, of course). Tonight, the Oskar Blues rep Amy was hosting a pint night. So we headed into Amy’s Weinhaus to take a quick video (as seen below) and sample the Chardonnay-barrel aged Mama’s YellaPils, as well as one of my favorite high gravity IPAs, Gubnah.
I spoke with the store manager, and Amy’s boss, Chris Russell the Oskar Blues Southeast sale manager on our way out. Khaleesi and I talked his ear off about how excited we were that they had joined with Lipman Brother’s Distributing and were going to be a part of the Knox beer culture soon! I heard that cans are already starting to show up in the big stores like Kroger, having been at The Casual Pint and a few other of our favorite beer stores for a few weeks now.
Thursday was one of the busiest days of Ashville Beer Week schedule-wise, with many events going on within walking distance. Although the Highland Brewing Company Six Barrel Shoot-Out was at the top of our list, we elected to skip it due to location and to keep from having to drive. As we left Amy’s Weinhaus heading toward Barleys, who would we run into again other than our good buddies and Stone Stalkers. We paused for a quick pic, to show a few of my Knox Beer Crew buddies like Todd and Jason what they were missing out on.
Look who we keep running in to.
We told Scott and Mitch we’d catch up later (surely) and headed down the road. We arrived at Barley’s too late to meet with the crew of All About Beer, who had invited us to a small event they were doing for Rare and Wild Beer Tasting ticket holders. However, we arrived just in time for the upstairs Foothills Brewing and New Belgium Tap Takeover.
We grabbed seats and I settled up to the bar when I noticed they had this year’s Sexual Chocolate, as well as the 2012 batch. While waiting for the bartender, I chatted with Evan, the Foothills representative. He told me to get the Olde Rabbit’s Foot, which is probably the rarest of the rare when it comes to North Carolina beer. He told me how he had to pull some serious strings and do a lot of pleading to get the brewery to agree to send one small keg to Barley’s for the event. This is the first time his beer has been poured outside either one of the three breweries that produced it. For those of you who don’t know, Olde Rabbit’s Foot is a collaborative effort between Foothills, Olde Hickory, and Duck Rabbit. They combine Sexual Chocolate, Event Horizon, and the DR Signature Milk Stout into the best-tasting bourbon-barrel aged imperial stout I’ve ever had in my life. It was so good that the little devil on my shoulder was trying to tell me to smuggle a growler of this out of the bar to share with my #KnoxBeerCrew pals. The devil on my other shoulder told me to do it to, but I realized how big of an inconvenience it would be, so I just let it go.
We enjoyed our beers at Barley’s while hanging out with crews from both New Belgium and Foothills. It turns out there are quite a few New Belgium people in town from the main plant in Fort Collins, including one of the head brewers, Alex, who, someone who isn’t used to being interviewed or the “face” of New Belgium because of all his behind-the-scenes work. I was able to take a few videos, as seen below.
We then stopped by Jack of the Wood for the Mitch Steele Extravaganza. The chefs had prepared a special menu to pair with some rare Stone beers. Katie opted for the burger and I got an order of the most epic onion rings I’ve ever had in my life, complete with Arrogant Bastard ketchup. We said a quick hello to Mitch and Scott and headed on to our next destination, Wicked Weed.
Everyone knows that Wicked Weed brews some epic saisons, and for this event, they had pulled a keg for pretty much every one they’d ever brewed. We met up with our good friends, the Reinkes, and pulled up seats next to them on the back patio. Adam introduced us to Brent from Riverbend Malt House. I’ve been particularly excited to tour this facility tomorrow before the Beer City Fest. We didn’t get to spend a lot of time in discussion, but am really looking forward to learning more in a just a few hours.
Everyone ended up ordering different saison batches and pass them all around, so we could try to sample them all. I was most with impressed with the V Chocolate and Raspberry Saison they had originally brewed for Valentine’s Day this year. Katie particularly enjoyed the X Passion Fruit Saison. She loves farmhouse ales so was thrilled to participate in this even. Honestly, all of the beers were incredibly great and I was happy to have the opportunity to sample most of them.
At this point it was getting late and we wanted to have one last beer at the Thirsty Monk before we called it a night. However, on par with every other night this week, we arrived at the pub just a few minutes after last call of the night. Accepting fate, we headed back to the hotel where we finished the night off with a bottle of Weyerbacher’s Heresy.
It was a long day, but a good day, and the big plan for tonight is the Asheville Rare & Wild Beer Tasting. Some of our#KnoxBeerCrew buddies are coming up for this event, I’m hoping that when the event ends at 9, we’ll still be physically able to walk over to Wicked Weed for the Batch 69 release, the collaboration between Foothills Brewing Company’s Sexual Chocolate and Wicked Weed’s Freak of Nature IPA. Make sure to check back tomorrow for more stories from#AVLBeerWeek. In the meantime, click the pictures below, and feel free to leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you!
Once again I started the day off in the search of coffee. Having became a big fan of Izzy’s Coffee Den’s Mexican Mocha, I knew exactly where to head in my pre-caffeinated state. This time I was able to convince the beautiful Katie Khaleesi to accompany me. While we drank our coffees and worked with my crappy laptop, she read my copy of The Naked Pint.
Izzy’s Coffee Den
The Naked Pint
After struggling once again with computer issues, I finally was able to get most of yesterday’s post written. By that time, K had an appointment at Spa Theology (girls do different things on vacation). I headed back to the land of slow wi-fi (the hotel) to finish uploading files. While Katie was getting her relax-on, I had gotten a text from my good friend and fellow Knox Beer Crew member, Jason Smith, saying he was making a day trip to Asheville for Beer Week! Cool!
After Katie’s spa trip and my technological hassles, it was time to go out and get beer. First on the agenda was the Asheville Brewing Company release of Reinke’s Red Ale. This batch was local homebrewer, BJCP judge and Asheville Beer Week Committee member Adam Reinke’s recipe brewed on ABC’s 7-barrel system. As a homebrewer myself I realize what a great honor it is to have a pro-brewer like your beer enough to want to brew it on their system. We had to go show our support. However, once again I messed up on the timing of the event and we ended up there an hour early. Since we had some time to kill, we walked over to Wicked Weed to have a quick half pour. We arrived and went to the downstairs bar and were greeted by Walt. We talked for a little bit, but I could tell by all the activity that they were in the middle of a full fledged brew day. He told us to try the super rare Ryes Above brewed by New Belgium. Only seven barrels of this was ever brewed and Wicked Weed just had to have some left over from an event. Wow, it was amazing. Kat ordered the Coolcumber American Golden because the description sounded like the perfect drink for a hot day. We shared our beers like we always do. I have to say that every time I drink something produced by the Wicked Weed guys, I’m blown away by the quality, originality, skill and taste of what they brew. Well, about this time, I ran into Luke, who was a whirlwind of activity back in the brewing area. I’m not the kind of guy who wants to distract someone in the middle of a project. I said hello and told him I knew he was busy, but asked if he would mind filming a little something for the website. He was happy to take a few moments out of his busy work day. The results are posted below.
After the video, Luke asked if we have tried the Freak of Nature Triple IPA. We said we had not, but we were definitely planning on it. He went to the bar and graciously poured us a couple of samples. While we sipped on this incredibly delicious concoction, he told us all about it. This is a high grav IPA that hides its alcohol behind a plethora of dry hops. We were stunned by how good it was. Just writing this post makes me want to put away the computer and high tail it back there for some more. So seriously, I can’t recommend this beer enough. Go try it yourself and thank me later.
With a lot on the agenda, it was time for the next event. We picked up Jason at Asheville Brewing Company where we had parked and was sampling some brews. The previous day, Kat had spoken to Elizabeth of Boulevard Brewing at the Belgians at the Ballpark. She had told her about an event at Altamont Brewing Company that was not on the ABW website. K looked it up online and we stopped over for a quick drink and to check it out. we arrived and I walked up to the bar with Jason. Could my eyes deceive me? I pointed to a tap handle. “Do you see that?!?” I asked him. “Next to the 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat?” “No, no, on the other side of that one.” “OH. MY. GOD!” Yes, ladies and gentlemen, they had Foothill’s Sexual Chocolate ON TAP!!! Let me tell you, Ashevillians who have it so good, we Knoxville beer geeks go out of our way for this beer. We don’t have it like y’all. You would be surprised what doesn’t make it to the other side of the mountains. For many of us, like Jason, this is our Carolina white whale. Usually when this is released each year, caravans of Knoxville craft beer lovers make a pilgrimage just to track down the illusive tapping. Forget about bottles, many of us would trade a body part for one. While Jason and I enjoyed our find, Kat and Boulevard’s Elizabeth talked about the other rare selections on tap. Boulevard had a sessionable test beer called Nelson Grape Ale. It was a light summer beer brewed with Nelson Sauvin hops and Muscat grape juice. It was very thirst-quenching and it very awesome to get to try a rare test batch. Other brewery representatives were in attendance, such as my buddy Erica from Highland. Most of the beers on tap were rarities. It was so nice to sit around sippin’ and socializin’. Altamont was hosting a cook out in the parking lot and processing chickens out there as well. I ran into head brewer and all around cool guy Gordon Kear and talked him into a doing a short video. Here it is in all its glory.
With so much to do, it was time to hit the next event. We headed off to Appalachian Vintner for their mini-fest. On the way we took a quick pit stop at Hops & Vines to peruse their bottle selection. Jason picked up one of the last six packs of Sierra Nevada‘s six-year Bigfoot Barley wine vertical.
With beer in hand, we carefully weaved our way in and out of shoppers to review their expansive selection of rare craft beer. I had already had some items on the list I had planned to pick up for friends, but due to the crowd, I decided to put off the majority of my bottle shopping for later on in the week. Kat, however, couldn’t pass up a few sours and farmhouse ales that are unable to be obtained in Knoxville.
Before we ventured on to Bruisin’, going and trying Adam’s beer was next on the list. We walked into ABC and it was packed. Adam, his wife Missy, and their friends and family were already at the front table enjoying a pitcher of the infamous brew. As I headed to the bar to get some glasses, Adam made sure to tell me to grab a Reinke Red Ale shirt. I was thrilled, as usual, to receive another ABC shirt, additionally, one touting my friend’s brewery release.
As I was chatting with other ABC employees, Mark a friend of Adam’s, dove into discussion with Kat and Jason about a caravan to our Scruffy City this summer to tour the breweries and taprooms we have in the great city of Knoxville. Tentatively planned for the end of July, we’ll make sure to let everybody know so we can show our good friends from the other side of the mountains just how we do things on our side of the Smokies.
So, how was Adam’s beer? If I had to describe it in one word, I’d say “phenomenal”. Very well-balanced maltiness, tons of hop aroma, and dangerously drinkable. There were only seven barrels brewed, and it’s sure to go quick. Make sure to get down there and get yourself a glass or three before it’s all gone. To hear more about it from Adam’s perspective, check out this video we filmed back in the back of the brewery.
As much as we wanted to stay and socialize, I didn’t want to miss out on the meet-and-greet with the legendary Mitch Steele. Saying our goodbyes and making plans to meet up again later this week, we headed the few short blocks away to Bruisin’ Ales.
I expected it to be standing-room-only, but being that it was near the end of the event and close to closing time, most of the crowd had dissipated. More time for me!
We started off saying hello to all our staff member friends, and introduced ourselves to Mitch and the Southeastern Stone brewery representative, Scott. I had met Mitch previously back in October at GABF where I got him to sign a copy of his book, IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale. It was, of course, great to see him again, especially in a more intimate setting where we’d have more time to chat.
Mitch is very personable, outgoing, down-to-earth, and loves what he does. They were pouring samples of four of Stone’s flagship beers: Sublimely Self-Righteous, IPA, Cali-belgique IPA, and Ruination. Mitch was more than happy to speak to me about his experience as Stone’s Head Brewer, and the research and development that went into writing his IPA book, as seen in the video below.
As I was speaking with Mitch, Katie and Scott had struck up a conversation about his role as the Southeastern representative (what do you know, sales and marketing folks tend to flock together). Here she is speaking with him on camera and enjoying some of the brew.
We met many other friends and fellow beer-geeks, such as the president of MALT (Mountain Ale and Lager Tasters). We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation with him and trying his brew at Beer City Festival this upcoming Saturday.
We said our goodbyes to Mitch and Scott, and joined Jason and his mother for dinner at Lab, secretly hoping we’d run into to Mitch and Scott again. I sampled Lab’s Rye Pale Ale, while the others took a break from beer for a bit. And who would you guess that walked into Lab as we finished our meal, but Mitch and Scott. We exchanged helloes with them, goodbyes with Jason and his mom, and headed back to the hotel to regroup for our next adventure. Katie took a dip in the pool while I uploaded some photos and videos for my much-beloved blog readers, and about 10:30, we headed out again to Thirsty Monk.
We found that downstairs still had the same selection of Allagash and New Belgium beers that we’d had previously, so in our quest to try as many unique (and rare) beers as possible, we went to check the tap selection upstairs, where there was a Bell’s Brewery tap takeover in progress. Finding that the kegs had blown of the ones we were the most interested in, we opted for a quick half-pour of Oarsman Ale, and made the decision to head back over to Wicked Weed before they closed. Once again, as we were leaving, we ran into our new Stone stalkees. We tried to get them to join us at the Weed, but having planned that for their schedule the next day, we went on without them.
Arriving back at our newest go-to spot, we opted for some sours. I got the Apricot Darkness sour, while my beautiful Khaleesi chose the Wild Abigail Sour Dubbel. Both were tasty, tart, and triumphant. At this point, it was nearly time to close, so after visiting briefly with Luke’s wife, Abby, we headed back to the hotel.
After all the beer and adventures of the day, we passed out in short order. It’s hard to believe that our beercation is half-way over, but I have to say, it’s been nothing but awesome so far, however, I’m looking forward to the second half, beginning with today’s tour of Catawba. Honestly, there are so many events that it’s hard to keep straight, so make sure to tune in tomorrow for details. However, be sure to follow the twitter and untapped feeds for exclusive first-looks at the videos, prior to being published on the blog. Also make sure to check out #avlbeerweek on Twitter to see how other beer fanatics are celebrating, and don’t forget to tweet us if you’re in the area. We’d love to meet up and have a beer with you! Below are pictures of yesterday’s adventures; click to enlarge.
Ever since last year’s inaugural Asheville Beer Week, I’ve been looking forward to the second one. With every month, week and day that has passed, my excitement has grown. Now here I am, a mere day away from my week long beercation, and I can’t wait to be back in the Paris of the South. Last year I had so much fun that I knew that no other vacation would even come close. Why waste my precious vacation days from work on anything else? A trip to the beach? I grew up near them in Florida. Look at me, out in the sun I practically burst into flames like the vampires on True Blood. PASS. Camping in the woods? For a weekend, maybe, but a whole week living like some burnt out hermit? PASS. How about going to Europe? What kind of high roller, made-of-money, jet-setter do you think I am? PASS. What about going to the West Coast? Sure sounds like fun, but costs a whole lot more in travel than a trip across the Smokies.
Craft beer is my hobby and my passion. Combine that with a world-class city full of great restaurants, bottle shops, breweries, interesting architecture and incredibly kind and generous people… THAT is my kind of place. It’s what brings me back every chance I get.
We do plan on making up for missing these events by attending as many things as possible between the Monday through Sunday that we’ll be there.
K and I were able to make a quick trip to Asheville and back on Friday night to attend Asheville Scene’s VIP kick-off party. We got to hang out and have a few beers with some good friends of mine, and make many new ones. I finally met several people I know from twitter in real life such as Thom O’Hearn, the beer writer for Mountain Xpress. I also met my fellow ABW guest blogger, James Raiford (we’re in the same shirt/media pass club). The rest of the crowd consisted of the beer-luminati of Asheville, from other bloggers and beer writers, to the Asheville Beer Week organizers, brewery owners, brewers and the godfather of the Asheville beer scene, Oscar Wong. It was a really short stay, but a great time. Katie drove us back to Knoxville afterwards. We both had a lot to do this weekend to prepare to be away from home for so long.
So here it is, my Sunday evening. Saturday, we hiked up Alum Cave Trail with a small cooler full of canned craft beers to sip while enjoying the view. I traded a rare beer yeast strain to a buddy in St. Pete and he sent me back a box full of Cigar City Deliciousness (Thanks Tom!). Sunday, I knew I needed to pack for the weekend, but had to brew a batch of my very much in demand Chocolate Covered Strawberry Stout. Tommorrow morning I will be going on a packing and loading the car rampage.. I hope I can remember to bring everything, including the homebrew I promised to a few Asheville friends.
I’ll be blogging every day for Asheville Beer Week. My plan is to start every morning by writing a recap and posting pictures of the previous day’s events. I will be tweeting as much as possible and posting my beer check-ins to Untappd. So, to my Knoxville friends who are planning on coming up at anytime during the week, text me so we can meet up. The same goes to any of my Asheville friends, I hope we get the chance to share some great brews and conversations.
There are so many events, there’s no way Katie and I can do them all. Here are some of the major ones that we have tickets to or are planning to go to:
Tuesday: A beer here, a beer there and then BELGIAN BEER AT THE BALL PARK MINI-FEST! Nine innings, 9 breweries, 27 beers. Thank goddess that there’s a free shuttle. With this kind of drinking, it’s doubtful we’ll do anything but pass out at the hotel afterwards. I’m ready to drink until I find baseball interesting.
Wednesday: Bell’s Tap takeover at Thirsty Monk, Stone’s Mitch Steele meet and greet book signing at Bruisin’ Ales, and App Vintner’s mini-fest (Sexual Chocolate, OMG!).
Thursday: Thirsty Monk’s NC v SC Craft Beer Civil War, Highland’s 6 Barrel Shoot Out, Wicked Weed’s Saison Tap Takeover, a quick pint at the Winehaus (free OB glass), and the Premier of Crafting a Nation film at Asheville Brewing Company’s Merrimon location.
Friday: Beer Marketing that Doesn’t Suck workshop at Hotel Indigo, High Wire brewing release at Thirsty Monk, Greenlife grocery beer and cheese pairing and Asheville Rare and Wild Beer Tasting.
Saturday: Touring Riverbend Malt House, Beer City Festival and beers afterwards at various bars/ breweries around town.
Sunday: Searching for replacement liver, last minute bottle shopping and going home.
Enjoy the pictures below from the Scene VIP party. I am also linking this Video of Beer Guy Tony Kiss interviewing a few people. If you look closely, you’ll see Katie and me in the background of a few shots.
We’ll be in Asheville by Monday afternoon, see you then.
Myself and other guest blogger, James
Myself, Doug the head brewer of Asheville Brewing company, and author/ Oscar blues representive Anne-Fitten.
Band playing at the event
A view from the inside of the Mill Room looking out towards the door.
Myself with Anne-Fitten of Oscar blues
Joe Zinich and Myself
Myslef with Mike Rangle, president of Asheville Brewing Company
Beers on tap at the event.
Got to try great new beers from new breweries Burial Brewing Company and Hi-Wire brewing.