Surprise beerday birthday trip from @JuneBugBatticus to Asheville #AvlBeer @WickedWeedBeer @AVLBeerWeek @ChocolateLounge

May 7, 2013

By Asheville Beer Week guest blogger Ratchet, Ratchetbrews.com

This past weekend I celebrated my birthday. Honestly, I didn’t make plans and figured I would just go have a drink at one of my favorite local bars here in Knoxville, maybe catch a movie and generally be low key about it. The older I get, the less important celebrating my birthday is to me. I mean, who wants to grow old? If I wasn’t for my amzing drop dead gorgeous girlfriend, I probably would just stayed at home, cleaned my house and organized my beer cellar. BOR-RING! Luckily I have DO have an amazing, drop dead gorgeous, craft beer loving, travel companion of a girlfriend. Staying at home and not celebrating wasn’t an option. She told me that I only turn (insert random number here) once and she was determined to help me make the most of it and drink some beer! She gave me a great birthday gift by booking us a short get away to our favorite BEER CITY, Asheville.

Beer City USA, 90 minutes that way!

Beer City USA, 90 minutes that way!

The plan was to leave Saturday after seeing some friends at the kick off of Knoxville’s Market Square Farmer’s Market. For various reasons, we didn’t leave town until after lunch. That was totally fine with me since I was able to have nachos and a White Mule pale ale at The Downtown Grill and Brewery before hitting the road.

We arrived to a rainy Asheville. After checking in to the hotel we always stay at, Downtown Inn and Suites, it was time for some bottle shopping! The first (and my favorite) bottle shop we stopped at was Bruisin’ Ales.  As soon as I knew we were going to Asheville, I reworked my budget so I could buy rarities not available at home to replenish my cellar. Shopping at Bruisin’ is great. Not only is it owned by 2 of the coolest people in Beer City, Julie and Jason Atallah, but they also have great selections to try with their sip and shop. You also never know who you are going to run into there. As was the case when this time when I ran into local emcee/street poet/ artist by the name of Chachillie. We spoke for a little while and he ran an idea for a music video by me. He also kicked a freestyle rhyme out on the sidewalk in front of the store. I saw Julie on her way out and got a birthday hug. After going over our options Katie and I made our purchases and decided to head up the road to our next stop, Appalachian Vintner.

App Vintner as it’s known also boast an amazing selection of beer, wine and other libations. Located in the outskirts of what’s considered the Biltmore Village area, they have a bar with an expanded tap selection. They go out of their way to have rare and tasty beers on tap. I purchased a half pour of a 2011 vintage Uinta Labyrinth.  My primary loyalty will always be to Bruisin‘ but the great thing about having multiple bottle shops in town is that there is always something different. Some shops sell out of certain brands and varieties sooner than others. Katie and I spent even more money and I was able to pick up a few things to share with my friends. I also got a gift for my buddy Richard Groves so he can have something special for his 1000th Untappd check in.

Well with 2 bottles shops down, we thought that we might as well hit one more just to see what else we could find. Hops and Vines is a homebrew store with a limited bottle selection. Since it’s primarily known as a place to buy brewing supplies, they sometimes have a few rare craft beer bottles that are sold out elsewhere else. I picked up a 6 year vertical of Sierra Nevada’s BigFoot Barley wine at a decent price and 1 or 2 other things. At this point it was getting late and we still hadn’t hit any breweries. It was time to go a few blocks up the road to Altamont Brewing Company.

Altamont Brewing on a rainy day in May.

Altamont Brewing on a rainy day in May.

Katie enjoying beer at Altamont

Katie enjoying beer at Altamont

The last time Katie and I visited Altamont they had just started brewing. At that time they only had their porter on draft. This time around they’ve been at it for a while and had a great variety. Since we were brewery hopping and planned on hitting as many places as possible, we only stayed for one drink. I had the Hopped Red and Katie had the Amber. Both were delicious and well crafted. We drank our beer while listening to live music and soaking up the local vibe. I really like the neighborhood bar feel of Altamont and will make sure to always fit it into our itinerary.

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Drinking and winking at Altamont Brewing Company.

The next stop of the evening was another must visit when in Asheville, Wedge Brewing Company. Everyone knows I love Wedge’s beers, location and complimentary peanuts. We found a table inside by the bar looking towards the fermenters. We drank half pours of the Hellesbock, Derailed Hemp Seed Ale, Witbier and a Saison of theirs that I hadn’t had before. By the time I ate a whole bowl of free peanuts, I realized a little too late how hungry I was and how I hadn’t eaten since lunch. It was time to leave and head for dinner (and another round of drinks) at Wicked Weed.

We arrived at Wicked Weed through the pouring rain. It was a Saturday night, so we knew to expect a wait for a table. We checked in with the hostess and got a pager to tell us when our seats would be ready. Down the stairs we headed to  grab a drink. As I walked towards the Downstairs bar I heard “Hey Ratchet!” I turned around and who did I see but Wicked Weed’s head brewer Luke! We spoke for a while and he talked about the brewery’s success, the sour and barrel programs and introduced me to his brother Walt who is in charge of those. All this time I was sipping on their Genesis Blonde Sour. After some great conversation with the Dickinson brothersKatie and I headed upstairs to have a meal. By this time my stomach wasn’t doing so great. All the beer I had drank throughout the day combined with Wedge’s peanuts was not a good combination. I ordered fries and a beer and could not finish them. This was my fault for not eating anything substantial since earlier in the day. I know better but in the excitement of everything, I had just plain forgot. I alternated between watching my darling nom on one of Wicked Weed‘s epic burgers and going outside to walk off my discomfort in the rain.

After leaving Wicked Weed it was time for a nightcap at Thirsty Monk. I still wasn’t feeling up to putting anything else in my belly, so I just went and sat with Katie at the downstairs bar as she sipped a few tasty Belgian style ales.

The next morning the weather was still rainy and chilly. It was Cinco De Mayo which Katie is big on, (must be ’cause she’s originally from Texas) so she insisted on tracking down some great Mexican food. First things first, we had to get coffee. Much like I am with beer, I am a coffee connoisseur. I usually only drink fair trade organically grown coffee fertilized with crystalized free range unicorn tears and hand roasted by Norwegian elf spirits. I would rather have a headache from not getting my morning cup-a-joe than drink hotel coffee. Over the years I have had coffee from many places all within a walking radius of the hotel. I’ve been searching for that perfect cup. I finally found it. From now on it’s only French Broad Chocolate Lounge‘s Counter Culture French press coffee for my morning fix. They also have the best selection of pastries, cakes, liquid truffels and other tasty treats to go with it. I got my french press light roast and Katie opted for the Oaxaca Hot Chocolate. I saw they had Highland Mocha Stout cake and couldn’t pass up getting a slice.

Oaxaca and Highland Mocha Stout cake at French Broad Chocolte

Oaxaca and Highland Mocha Stout cake at French Broad Chocolate

After coffee and my decadent snack, it was time to get a solid meal. Looking up Mexican fare on our phones, Katie found Limones. It seemed like exactly what she was looking for, so we headed over. I’m really glad we went. The service, decor and food was all top-notch. I didn’t need a big meal having had cake previously. I knew I wanted a cervesa so I could earn my Cinco De Mayo badge on Untapped. I chose Bohemia after looking up reviews for it online. It’s was a very decent Czech style pilsner brewed in Mexico. It was light, refreshing and paired great with my scrambled eggs and home fries. We ate and ended up boxing plenty of food for later.

The day was getting on and I had things to do back at home in Knoxville. My friend Vanessa was up from Florida visiting my son and his mom, and I didn’t want to miss her before she left. After a quick stop at Earth Fare to look for more beer, Katie and I hopped back on the interstate for the drive home. Our trip to Asheville this time was short but sweet. We are already looking forward to our week-long vacation for Asheville Beer Week. There are so many events during that time that we’re still trying to decide which ones to go to.  We already have tickets to a few things such as the Asheville Rare and Wild Beer Tasting and Beer City fest.

Thanks for reading about my Asheville birthday trip. I highly encourage everyone reading this to get your friends to go online and VOTE. Let them use your tablet, your smart phone, you sister’s mac, your weird brother’s Linux, the library computer or that 56k modem your grandma is still has hooked up to go vote for Asheville to retain the yearly title of  Beer City USA. The polls are private this year but Grand Rapids is being very vocal in the comments. Let’s help Asheville win the bragging rights for the 5th year in a row. Once again, Click here to vote.

Enjoy my photos below. Click on them to enlarge.

Until next time, Cheers,

Ratchet
Until next time, Cheers,

Ratchet


Pre-opening Tour of @WickedWeedBeer, Visit to @OskarBluesWNC, A Beery Christmas and a Happy Brew Year!

January 4, 2013

This year I once again took my pre-Christmas beercation to Asheville. Here I am trying to recall my trip some 2 beer soaked weeks later for this blog. I might have forgotten some details, but here it is. I had been looking forward to this trip for some time. I booked my favorite hotel over 6 months before the trip that way I knew I have a room. I arrived in Asheville the Friday morning before Christmas, got settled into the room and headed out to hit the town. My first stop in “Beer City USA” is almost always to Bruisin’ Ales. Green Man Brewery had just released two limited edition bottles, L’Homme Vert a slightly funky winter farmhouse ale brewed with roasted winter squash and Schadenfreude a Berliner style sour wheat beer. Like with all the Green Man limited releases, I called Bruisin’ Ales ahead of time and had them hold on to them for me. They limited purchases to 2 bottles maximum per customer, but that is fair considering only 150 750ml bottles of each were released.

Picture courtesy of Green Man Brewery's facebook page.

Picture courtesy of Green Man Brewery’s facebook page.

After sipping, shoppin’ and buying myself plenty of holiday cheer in liquid form, it was time for some bar hopping. Usually I stick to the downtown area of Asheville, but I wanted to go check out Hops and Vine and also a new brewery on the same street, Altamont Brewing Company.

Hops & Vines on Haywood Street. great homebrew and bottle shop that I will visit each time I go to Asheville from now on.

Hops & Vines on Haywood Street. A great homebrew and bottle shop that I will visit each time I go to Asheville from now on.

Inside Hops and Vine

Inside Hops and Vine

After a few more bottle purchases at Hops and Vine, along with some ingredients for my next brew day it was time to go check out Altamont Brewing Company. I walked in to the big space that has look and feel that it use to be a garage. It was big and spacious and had a very “neighborhood bar” feeling. I noticed that most of the taps were other local brands. I asked the bartender and he said that they had just started brewing and that day had released their very first beer for sale, a brown porter. I placed my order and immediately fell in love with this beer, it was so good. I spoke to the bartender to learn more about their brewery. He introduced me to brewer Gordon Kear who offered to take me to go look at the equipment.

The outside of Altamont Brewing

The outside of Altamont Brewing

The Bar at Altamont Brewing

The Bar at Altamont Brewing

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Looking back towards the brewing area

Altamont's Yummy porter

Altamont’s Yummy porter

Altamont's Brewing system

Altamont’s Brewing system

Fermenters and bright tanks at Altamont

Fermenters and bright tanks at Altamont

Gordon was really cool and happy to show me around and talk beer. We spoke at some length. He told me that he use to be a brewer at Flagstaff Brewing Company in Arizona. He said that he and his partner started the bar first with the idea that eventually they would start a brewery with profits from the business. They got a good deal on some used equipment and got everything up and running. They have several brews in the fermenters that they will be releasing soon.

Gordon Kear, Brewer at Altamont and myself.

Gordon Kear, Brewer at Altamont and myself.

All said, I really liked this place. The overall vibe, the laid back atmosphere, the friendliness of the clientel and the employees along the fact that they hold the love of brewing quality beer above all else. It is a place I will be happy to make the 5 minute drive from downtown to visit often in the future. I’m looking forward to tasty offerings from them.

Last minute work on Wicked Weed's building

Last minute work on Wicked Weed’s building

After awhile it was time to head back downtown for the next stop. That very evening, Wicked Weed was debuting their tasty beer at one of the best craft beer bars in the world, The Thirsty Monk. The first beer was scheduled to pour at 5:30. I walked into a packed bar shortly there after. You could tell that the locals were excited to try the newest edition to Asheville’s beer scene.  I sat down at the bar and was immediately welcomed by my bartender buddy Clete. Come to find out he is now a full time pharmacy student which is why I haven’t seen him my last several stops to the Monk Pub. Seems that he came out to work at the bar to lend a hand for Wicked Weed’s Debut.

Inside of Thirsty Monk at Wicked Weed's beer debut

Inside of Thirsty Monk at Wicked Weed’s beer debut

There were 2 beers by Wicked Weed being poured. The first one I tried was called Tyranny, a very hoppy west coast style red ale. As soon as I had my 1st sip I knew Wicked Weed brewed quality beer.

From Thirst Monk's beer menu

From Thirsty Monk’s beer menu

A few short moments later, Wicked Weed’s Brewer, Luke Dickinson came over and introduced himself. We had been communicating online and through text message the previous few days about getting a short “pre-opening” tour of his new establishment. It was great to finally meet him in person. He was spoke for a few minutes about his beer, opening the brewery and made plans to tour the next day. Through out the night I saw him light up as person after person came up to him to compliment his brewing skills. He was humble, down to earth and very appreciative of everyone’s support.

Myself and Luke from Wicked Weed Brewing

Myself and Luke from Wicked Weed Brewing

I had to venture to Thirsty Monk’s downstairs Belgium bar to get my next Wicked Weed beer, Saison 1. I brought it back up to my upstairs spot at the bar. As I took a big sip, I was truly blown away. I typically rate beers I haven’t tried before on the Untappd app on my iPhone. It’s based on a 5 cap rating. Although I am pretty generous with my 4 out of 5 rating, it takes a really special beer to get me to go all the way to 5.  Saison 1 is such a beer in my opinion.

After enjoying some brew at The Thirsty Monk, I headed over to French Broad Chocolate Lounge for dessert before dinner. If you ever go to Asheville, you’d be sorry not to visit this wonderful little spot. Their liquid truffles are good enough to make a grown man cry (not me, must have been someone else). After getting a serious chocolate high I stopped in Mast General Store to grab a winter hat (it was a cold and very windy night) . A few blocks over I downed a quick beer at Asheville Brewing Company on Coxe Avenue, then it was dinner time.  I consider everything in Downtown Asheville to be within walking distance. A few minutes later I arrived at  Lexington Avenue Brewery and grabbed a seat. In the past the beer at LAB has always been hit or miss (mostly miss) with me, but the food is always good. There was a deejay playing some chill hip hop tunes as I order dinner and beer. I ate and drank and found myself full and tired. It became time to stumble back to the room and prepare for the next day.

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Saturday after breakfast and coffee, it was time for some more beer based adventuring! I went for a drive to visit the new Oskar Blues plant in Brevard 40 minutes away. There is a free trolly that  leaves from downtown Asheville in the evenings, but I had other plans for later on, so I’ll save that experience for another time. The new plant is located in what can only be described as the middle of nowhere. When I arrived I knew I was in the right place from the signs, but couldn’t immediately tell where the tap room was. After looking around, I eventually located it.

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“Oh, it’s around the corner!” Thanks small, hard to read sign!

Aka small door located on a massive loading dock.

Aka small door located on a massive loading dock.

When you walk through the door, you are immediately inside of a massive warehouse. Up some stairs over looking everything is the bar.

Inside Oskar Blues

Inside Oskar Blues

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Upstairs over looking the main floor is the bar that pours Oskar Blues’ beer. The bar is in the middle with more seating on either side. Off to the right is merchandise for sale and a cooler with beer that you can purchase to go.

Looking toward the bar area from the main floor.

Looking toward the bar area from the main floor.

Seating to the left of the bar

Seating to the left of the bar

Merchandise area at Oskar Blues

Merchandise area at Oskar Blues

I had come for a tour, but an hour early. So I did what I do, I ordered a flight.

A flight at Oskar Blues in Brevard (before)

A flight at Oskar Blues in Brevard (before)

...and after.

…and after.

The tour started and the brewer Noah Tuttle showed us around and told us about the brewery and the plans for expansion. The massive warehouse space was purchased with growth in mind and only a small fraction of it was being used. At the time they only had one of the massive 200 barrel fermenters going. They have a 50 barrel brewing system and are only brewing once a day. I asked him about this and he said that it took them 4 days of brewing to fill the one fermenter.  Other fermenters they had weren’t even hooked up yet. As we spoke, I asked him how they planned to make the Oskar Blues beer from Brevard be exactly like the Oskar Brews beer brewed in Longmont, CO. He was upfront and honest that because of different conditions such as water chemistry and elevation, the beer would be slightly different. It is still the same ingredients and the focus on quality. Hopefully the average craft beer drinker would not be able to tell the difference. Because of these slight differences in brewing conditions, the Oskar Blues cans will be labeled with what plant they were brewed at.

Very healthy and vigorous fermentation

Very healthy and vigorous fermentation

Yes thoughts of "maybe I can scoop up and cultivate some of Oskar blues's yeast for my homebrewery" did enter my head. I didn't have a mason jar, and not sure how happy they'd be about that.

Yes thoughts of “maybe I can scoop up and cultivate some of Oskar Blues’ yeast  strain for my homebrewery” did enter my head. I didn’t have a mason jar, and not sure how happy they’d be about that.

Oskar Blues' brewing system

Oskar Blues’ brewing system

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Kegging area

Kegging area

Test batch

Test batch

Outside of Oskar Blues

Outside of Oskar Blues

After the tour I wanted to head back to Asheville. I purchased a four pack of oSKAr the g’Rauch a rare collaboration beer with Ska Brewing Company and a few cans of Root Beer to take back with me.

Craft Root Beer

Craft Root Beer

I had a 5 pm meeting with Luke over at Wicked Weed, but got back to Asheville early. I went over to one of my favorite breweries, Wedge, for a quick pint while I waited. Since Asheville has excellent food trucks, I grabbed a tofu quesadilla from El Kimchi.

El Kimchi's food is awesome!

El Kimchi’s food is awesome!

Stickers on El Kimchi's truck

Stickers on El Kimchi’s truck

The Beer Menu at Wedge.

The Beer Menu at Wedge.

I always love the beer and atmosphere at Wedge. However I had a 5 pm meeting to go to, so couldn’t stay as long as I’d like.

Fermenters at Wedge.

Fermenters at Wedge.

As 5 pm approached, I made my way over to Wicked Weed to meet with Luke. I was really honored that he  had agreed to give me a quick pre-opening tour of Asheville’s newest brewery.

Wicked Weed is located right next to the Orange Peal. Perfect place for dinner and drinks before a show.

Wicked Weed is located right next to the Orange Peel on Biltmore Avenue. It’s the perfect place for dinner and drinks before a show.

See, right next door.

See, right next door.

Outside patio seating area at Wicked Weed.

Outside patio seating area at Wicked Weed.

As I met Luke and he brought me inside the first thing that struck me was how absolutely beautiful this place is. They employed local crafts people and sourced local material to build a truly stunning dinning room and bar. The tap handles are all hand carved. Luke pointed out a spot on the wood bar that had civil war musket balls embedded in the wood.

Hand carved tap handles

Hand carved tap handles

If you look closely, you can see the musket balls embedded in the wood. If you go, they are in front of the tap handles at the upstairs bar.

If you look closely, you can see the musket balls embedded in the wood. If you go, they are in front of the tap handles at the upstairs bar.

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Upstairs dining area, notice the long community table

After being shown around upstairs, it was time to go  downstairs to see where the magic happens.

Downstairs bar area

Downstairs bar area

The outside of the bar is finished with wood from old barrels

The outside of the bar is finished with wood from old barrels

Taps at the downstairs bar

Taps at the downstairs bar

Wicked Weed's 15 barrel brewing system

Wicked Weed’s 15 barrel brewing system

15 barrel system. 1 barrel = 31 gallons of beer.

15 barrel system. 1 barrel = 31 gallons of beer.

Luke talked enthusiastically about beer and brewing. He has experience brewing in Germany and had previously worked at Dogfish Head.

Luke showing Wicked Weed's fermenters

Luke showing Wicked Weed’s fermenters and bright tanks

Cold room at Wicked Weed

Cold room at Wicked Weed

One of the coolest things about Wicked Weed (and from talking to Luke, I could tell one of his favorite) is their open fermenter. They have built a special positive pressurized, air filtered room with a big tank for open fermenting of  Belgium style beers. Luke advises that based on his experience in Germany, open fermentation can really make a difference on certain styles of beer. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that his Saison 1 was so tasty.

Open fermenter. He plans on hanging a big mirror overhead some that people can see it bubbling away.

Open fermenter. He plans on hanging a big mirror overhead some that people can see it bubbling away.

Wicked Weed also in very much into barrel fermenting and aging beer. They have plans to extend their barrel room.

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Plans are in the works to extend Wicked Weed’s barrel program

I could have stayed and talked beer all day with Luke, but I knew he had to get ready for an event that night. I thanked him for showing me around. On my way out I ran into another member of the crew who remembered talking to me at their brewery announcement at Wedge during Asheville Beer Week.  I’m really looking forward to my next trip back to Asheville so I can eat, drink and be merry at their fine establishment. I have a feeling that this will be my new favorite place!

"May the force carbonation be with you!"

“May the force carbonation be with you!”

After leaving Wicked Weed and grabbing a quick bite to eat, it was time to head out to another one of my favorite places, Green Man’s tasting room, Dirty Jack’s. I wanted to pick up another couple of bottles of the limited releases and have a few more beers.

Dirty Jack's aka the Green man tap room.

Dirty Jack’s aka the Green Man tap room.

They just happen to have a cask of Armageddon Ale they had brewed for the previous day’s end of the world party. I love barrel aged cask conditioned beers and this one did not disappoint!

Very tasty

Very tasty

Since the tap room at Dirty Jack’s doesn’t stay open late, there was one more place to visit before turning in for the night. That’s right, time to head to The Thirsty Monk where I tried Stone Brewing’s Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout.

This is good, but I couldn't drink a lot of them in a row.

This is good, but I couldn’t drink a lot of them in a row.

A few more half pours later and it was time to sleep. Luckily the hotel is less then a block away.

Sunday morning I had a few things I wanted to do before heading home to Knoxville. I ate breakfast at the hotel, packed my ride and headed towards Hops and Vine to pick up a few more of the Green Man bottles for people back home. I got there and realized that it didn’t open for an hour. I had time to kill so I went in search of coffee. I found a little shop right down the road that looked like a regular house from the outside. The coffee was good and I spent the rest of the time checking the fluids and gassing up my car for the trip. Finally Hops and Vine opened and I made some last minute purchases.

Coffee shop on found on Haywood Avenue.

Coffee shop on found on Haywood.

As much as I love Asheville, It was time to head home. I arrived in Knoxville and that night headed over to  Knox Beer Snob Rob’s house to share some rare beer with friends.

Bottom left, clockwise: Rob of Knox Beer Snobs, Ratchet, Matt of Knox Beer Crew, Mike from The Market in Maryville, Jeff Haws, Don of Knox Beer Snobs, Shawn Kerr,  Josh Archer giving a toast to Jason Anderson and his recently deceased pal, Blu.

Bottom left, clockwise: Rob of Knox Beer Snobs, Ratchet, Matt of Knox Beer Crew, Mike from The Market in Maryville, Jeff Haws, Don of Knox Beer Snobs, Shawn Kerr, Josh Archer  all giving a toast to Jason Anderson and his recently deceased pal, Blu.

Stone Vertical tasting. Big Shout out to Animal aka Jason Anderson for sharing these with us.

Stone Vertical tasting. Big Shout out to Animal aka Jason Anderson for sharing these with us.

More beer we shared that night

More beer we shared that night

The next day was Christmas eve. I decided to line up the Christmas presents that I bought for myself in Asheville and take some pictures.

I was a good boy this year!

I was a good boy this year!

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Yum!

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Yum!

My Green Man Limited Bottle releases. I had each one so far.

My Green Man Limited Bottle releases. I had each one so far.

Christmas came and that night I went over to my friend’s condo downtown for beer before going to see the Tarantino movie, Django Unchained. The next night I celebrated my 1000th unique check in on Untappd with a bottle I had been saving since March for just that occasion, Green Man’s Funk 49, an American Sour Red.

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Special occasions call for special bottles

Finally!

Finally!

Saturday was the monthly Knox Beer Crew meeting at Suttree’s. It was good seeing everyone and sharing rare beers such as this little gem brought by Jason Smith:

Hand signed and individually numbered Rogue's Fifteen Thousand Brew Ale

Hand signed and individually numbered Rogue’s Fifteen Thousand Brew Ale

Nick also surprised me by bringing a bottle of last year’s batch of my Butternut Squash Ale that he had been cellaring:

Sunday I brewed another batch of Cocoa stout that I split into two batches, spicy and regular. The fermentation blew the airlocks and I came home from work one day to find yeast splattered all over the walls and ceiling. It took awhile to clean up the mess.

Hours and hours of scrubbing fun! (Not.)

Hours and hours of scrubbing fun! (Not.)

The last part of the whole holiday beer season was New Year’s Eve spent at Suttree’s. Good friends and good beer were the theme of the evening. The first beer of 2013 was bought by my good friend, and Saccy’s roomate, Jerry. We celebrated the beginning with a bottle of  Brooklyn’s Local # 2.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Now it’s a whole new year with new goals and priorities. Honestly I don’t think I drank beer in the last few days. After the Asheville trip, Christmas, the Knox Beer Crew tasting and New Years I feel like I need a week or 2 to let my liver heal. I do hope that everyone of my readers has an amazing 2013 and experiences many wonderful beers this year. I know I will. Stay tuned, I have BIG plans for the next 12 months.

Cheers to a new year,

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


Infusion video, @KTPOktoberfest round up and a lazy Sunday enjoying #AVLBeer.

September 23, 2012

Well by the end of yesterday’s Oktoberfest celebration in Kingsport, I was beat. I packed the CR-V and walked over to Stir Fry Cafe where I had dinner with the owners and brewers of both Moccasin Bend Brewing Company and Studio Brew. I love the comaderie that brewers have, and I always gain some insight and learn a lot about the industry that I some day plan on joining. I ate and then shortly made my way back to my hotel to finish uploading pictures before I passed out. What a great event and once again a big thank you a shout out to Aaron Carson and Das Krew for organizing this and inviting me to participate. A special thanks once again got to Lindsey, Flipper and Richard who were an immense help to me. Because of their assistance I was able to have a very enjoyable time.

Today I woke up, and wrestled with my slowly dieing computer and slow ass hotel wifi to convert the video Richard took on my iPhone of my infusion workshop. It went well. It was way better and easier that last year’s infuserless fiasco. So, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, here it is:

So today I figured I’d go spend a few hours relaxing in Asheville, updating this site and sipping on brews. I made the drive and Richard followed. We planned on meeting up for lunch with fellow Knox Beer Crew member Matt Crowell, but got here and found out that he bailed. After driving past a few closed breweries, I come to the realization that nothing happens (beer wise anyway) in Asheville until noon. When Asheville Brewing Company on Coxe ave opened, we came right in. I have tried the newest beer to their line up, Coconut Booty, a porter with, you guessed it, coconut. I also dropped off several bottles of my Butternut Squash Ale for Mike Rangle, the owner and a friend of mine.

I am going to go to Bruisin Ales where I intend to pick up a few things for myself and friends back home. Some breweries I wanted to visit are closed today (Craggie) and other places open late. I plan on being back to Knoxville in time to have dinner with my son, so I can’t stay in town long or drink too much. Maybe I’ll just visit Thirsty Monk for 1 beer then some water before heading back home. I really like Asheville, and wish I could stay longer then a few hours. I guess that’s why I am planning a Christmas vacation here again this year.

Well this is all for now. Thanks to everyone I met this weekend. I hope our paths cross again. Until then,

Cheers,

Ratchet
Update 3pm. I was on I-240 just left Bruisin Ales when I decided that I wasn’t ready to leave. I turned around and was the 1st customer in the door at The Thirsty Monk when it opened at 3. I got a half pour of Catawba’s Arlo’s PB & J brown ale. It’s amazing and the story… Well, make sure you hug your kids.

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Live blogging from @KPTOktoberfest http://kingsportoktoberfest.com/

September 22, 2012

It’s Saturday morning and I am at the Oktoberfest site in Downtown Kingsport, getting ready to set up my booth. I got to in to town late yesterday afternoon. I spent the night before and most of the day on Friday getting everything ready and packing my old trusty CR-V. There is a lot that goes into setting up and pouring homebrew at a festival. One of the things I did was to bake minature butternut squash pies and mini cupcake sized pies. I am going to try to infuse my Butternut Squash Ale with mini-pie slices. I honestly don’t think it’s going to add anything to this beer, I am doing it mostly for presentation. I wanted to do something memorable. Something that people will talk about. Worse case senario is that it turns into a big gloopy mess and clogs up my lines. If so, I’ll just bypass the infuser. I made several pans of the mini-pies for people to eat. I think it will be a nice treat for the V.I.P.s who paid for early admission. I used the butternut squash that was left over from brewing the last batch. It cooked really well in the beer wort, and it has some bitterness because the whole leaf hops were cooked with it in the mesh bag. For anyone who is interested, here’s the recipe:

Step one, brew Butternut Squash Ale.

Step two, remove the squash and hops from mesh bag, freeze until the day before you intend to make pie. Then thaw it.

Step three. Follow this recipe using the butternut squash and hops mixture. I made a simple graham cracker crust using directions on the graham cracker crumb box.

Step 4. Profit.

Ok, We’ll see how it goes. For now, I got to set up everything. Before I do that I just want to give a shout out to everyone that I hung out with at the “Growl at The Moon” Friday night pre-party. It was great chilling out with Jimie Barnett of Barnette’s Best Brew who I happen to be set up next to today. When ever Jimie and I hang out, things get rowdy. It’s like Snoop Dogg said ” Compton and Long Beach together, now you know you’re in trouble.” I also want to go give a big shout out to Matt (who is featured in my Brewer’s Summit video) for providing some incredibly strong and tasty libations. Also it’s always a pleasure to see and hang out with Erick from Studio Brew . A big hug for Kitty and Erica from Highland Brewing who are staying at the same hotel as me. We hung out and had drinks at Stir Fry cafe last night and then shared a cab last night and back to the site this morning.

Well I have a whole bunch of work to do today. I will try to post as much as I can, but if it gets too busy I’ll at least post pictures up. Stay tuned.

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The Ratchet Brews Super Store

All set up and ready to pour. Richard is here and I have Flipper and Lindsey from Johnson City helping me out. Since I am set up, I think I’m going to wander about & check out what else is here.

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Wife and husband Lindsey and Flipper were an enormous help all day! Thanks y’all, you rock!

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Who had the best barrel aged beer at Kingsport Oktoberfest? This guy, Erick from Studio Brew.

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Society of Fermentation. I had their curry stout and it was great. It won an award.

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My kegs.

Had a little near panic moment when I realized that my iPhone battery was almost dead. Luckily I brought this along:

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This little device has saved the day on more then one occassion.

The bier garden is open and the beer is flowing.
Knox Beer Snob Don is here with his festival buddy. They have a master blaster thing going on.

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Don and the Next generation of beer snob.

Photo booth!

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so fun!

I was wondering why it wasn’t busy. Then I found out that so far it was only VIPs, here comes the rush!

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Here they come!

Well Kingsport Oktoberfest is in full swing. The best part of beer festivals are the people that you meet. Fellow homebrewers are my favorite. Like the crew of Music City Brewers.

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Music City Brewers representative.

It’s almost time for my infusion workshop.

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Only beer I have left is my Rauchbier and a keg of Terrapin’s Rye Pale Ale that we’re infusing with cascade and centennial hops.

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My beer ran out fast

Look! It’s Adam Palmer from Saw Works Brewing Company!

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Jimie Barnett from Triple B Brewing with a hop garnished Hopijauna IPA

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Jimie’s neck must be hurting for the weight of all the medals that he won for his great beer.

So many pictures, so little time, sobriety & patience to post. Here’s a picture of me with my friends from Highland Brewing.

Kitty, Ratchet, Erica, Oscar, Eliza

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Lens flare and some random guy on the end.

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Good times!

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My friend Steve of Friendship Brewing couldn’t make it, so I poured his Misty Melon watermelon kolsch for him. It won an award

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Those wild and crazy guys from legit brew were set up next to me. Good people with good beer.

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What do you do with a slice of Butternut Squash pie that has been in an infuser all day, and is beer soaked? You eat it, duh.

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Went to Stir Fry cafe after packing up the booth. Had dinner and a beer with Moccassin Bend brewery and Studio Brew. The place was packed and people were dancing on the sidewalk.

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Erick of Studio Brew being a goof ball.

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Last day of #AvlBeerWeek and recap of @BeerCityFest

June 3, 2012

Well last night was the earliest I’ve been to bed since I came to Asheville for Beer Week. Every night I’ve been out drinking and enjoying the food, libations and culture that Beer City USA offers. Last night, I wanted to stay out late, but my body wouldn’t let me. C’mon liver, just one more day. You can do it! Anyway Let me recap what I can remember of yesterday and what I have planned for the last day of my beercation.

The day started out as the previous ones, with me waking up and heading downstairs for breakfast and the all important coffee. Using a combo of my wordpress app and my laptop, I was able to get yesterday’s post up quickly. I then packed up everything to go check into Hotel Indigo for the last night of my stay. I arrived at this hotel and walked in, kind of overwhelmed on how posh it is. Thanks again Mom Linda for getting me this room for my birthday. Once I was situated, it was time to walk down to Roger McGuire Green to wait in line for the festival. Once in line I met some Knoxvillians, and their Asheville friends. I am so sorry I forgot y’alls names. I am horrible with names and have to hear them repeatedly before they stick. It’s a serious flaw of mine and it’s something I struggle to overcome every day.

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Roger McGuire Green downtown where the festival was held

The festival was sold out, but when I looked on my Craigslist app, I saw that many people still had them listed for sale. I gave the number of one seller to a person in line without a ticket. I saw him later in the festival. Once I got in, I made a quick round just to see what there was before I actually even got a beer. My first one was Brown Shugga by Laqunitas. There’s no way I would have remembered that on my own, thank goodness I logged every one of them into untappd.

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This was my favorite beer of the festival

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Once again, Todd (& his epic beard) from Catawba brewed my favorite beer fo the festival

I saw many people I know from the beer scene at festival. One of my favorite people in the regional beer scene is the brewer from Catawba Brewing Company, Todd. Him and his buddies (sorry the whole names escape me thing) are really cool and down to earth. Todd makes absolutely amazing “special edition” or “one offs” beer. The last beer festival I was in Asheville for (see my Winter Warmer post) my favorite beer was his Pumpernickle Rye. We spoke for awhile and I had his Belgian Blonde brewed with cantalope and cayenne. The combo was unbelievable and set the back of my throat tingling. Someone please let the owners of Catawba know that they need to let Todd bottle some of these rare beers so we can take them with us!

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The best swag of the festival was Holy City’s squirt guns filled from a keg full of water

I walked aroung the festival collecting stickers, coasters and other swag for my beer cave, and to share with friends. New Belgium had cool stuff such as bike tube patches, lip balm and ranger patches. The coolest swag at the fest went to Holy City Brewing out of Charleston, SC. They had squirt guns! Someone was filling them up with water and handing them out. I got one, but it was apparent that carrying it in my pocket was not a good idea since it was leaking. I used it to rinse my glass between rounds. Someone suggested filling it with beer, but I took a pass on that idea.

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Crowd at Beer City Fest

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Myself with Doug, the head brewer from Asheville Brewing Company

I walked around enjoying beer and talking with brewers and other people I knew from the beer scene. I went to the Asheville Brewing Company booth where I saw Mike Rangle. Always a pleasure to speak with him. He introduced me to the brewer, Doug. I had seen him before, but this is the first time we had actually met. I told him how much I enjoyed his beer and that Ninja is my all time favorite porter. After seeing him, I ran into Dieter from Heinzelmannchen. It’s always a pleasure to speak with the friendly Dieter. My only regret is that I don’t have time to visit his brewery this trip. I’ve have to make a point of next time taking a quick trip to Sylva, NC.

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Me with Dieter from Heinzelmannchen

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The Heinzelmannchen booth

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One of the many beers I enjoyed at Beer City Fest

Near the end of the festival I waited in a super long line for Thirsty Monk’s Coconorm porter that they released at 3pm. I liked it very much, but it still wasn’t as good as Tennessee Valley Homebrewers Club member Jay Schrade’s toasted Coconut Porter, but it was a close second. Next I spent some time hanging out talking beer with Greg and the crew from Nantahala Brewing Company. They had their newest Trail Magic release, an imperial IPA with lemon grass. They are having a bottle release at their brewery on June 8th. Bryson City is not that far of a drive, and it’s a beautiful one. If you haven’t been to Nantahala Brewing Company, you should go. You are seriously missing out if you don’t.

Beer City Festival ended at 6 pm, but I made plans to leave early to go take a power nap at the hotel. While I was at the Festival, many of my Knox Beer Crew Friends were out in Asheville bar hopping. I planned on hanging out with them in the evening, but I knew if I was going to do more drinking, I would need to recharge. So around 4:30 I grabbed a couple of slices of Barley’s pizza and headed back to the hotel. I drank some tea, took a vitamin and set my alarm for an hour long nap. Waking up feeling refreshed, I hopped in the shower, got dressed and walked over to Thirsty Monk where I met up with Nick, Jeff, Matt and his wife Chrissy and her friend. I could tell the guys were feeling a little on the drunk side. I had half a pour of Evil Twin’s Imperial Biscotti Break. While hanging out there I saw someone posted on twitter that Tom Selleck was at Craggie Brewing company, just a few blocks away. I casually mentioned this to the guys. In their inebriated state, they thought it would be hilarious if we had our drunken pictures taken with him. The next thing I know we are on our way. We get there, and Tom Selleck WAS there. Just in Velvet painting form, behind the bar. We had been punked! Well played twitter, well played. We had a round anyway and Matt and I posed for the below picture.

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We saw on Twitter that Tom Selleck was at Craggie Brewing, so my Knox Beer Crew friends thought it would be funny to go get our picture taken with him. It was funny!

After 1 drink at Craggie I convinced the crew that walking a mile away to Wedge Brewing company wasn’t going to kill them, so off we went. Wedge is one of the most popular places for craft beer lovers in Asheville to hang out, so sometimes they run out of some styles of their beeer. I had a half pour of a hoppy Hellesbock. After sitting around, talking and eating peanuts and Nick nommming down on tamales from the food truck, we decided to head back. As we walked I got a text to meet with Mary and Orion for dinner. I said goodnight to the crew, and when to meet them on Wall street downtown. We walked around trying to figure out what we were in the mood for. We ended the night at the Noodle Shop. I was pretty much done at that point, and my stomach hurt. I could only eat a few bites. As much as I wanted to go back to Thirsty Monk, I knew there was just no way. As we walked back to the hotel we heard a women yell out “He stole my purse!” On the other side of the road a guy was running down the sidewalk. A couple of people tried to stop him. He pushed one guy down. There was a crowd chasing him. I hope they caught him, the women got back her purse and no one (but the thief) got hurt.

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On our walk to Wedge, Matt found time for one of his favorites. Hurricane HIGH GRAVITY!

This is my last day, and the official last day of Asheville Beer Week. I have so much beer and beer swag, I am worried I don’t have enough room in the car for it all. I still need to stop by Bruisin’ Ales and pick up a few more things for myself and for friends back in Knoxville. I get to end my beercation by going on the LaZoom Beer Run tour today. I heard it’s hilarious and I’m really looking forward to it. I will post about it tomorrow. If we met this week, or you’ve been reading my blog, I’d really like to hear from you. Please leave me a comment.

Cheers,

Ratchet


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

June 2, 2012

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

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

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A basic homebrewing workshop at Fifth Season Garden Company

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Sign up at the Green Man tasting room

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Fermentation Tanks at Green Man

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A few looking out from the Brewing area of Green Man

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

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

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One of Mystery Brewing’s selections.

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

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

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Mystery Brewing has great descriptions and unique beer names

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

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

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

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

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@JeffHaws at The Thirsty Monk.

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

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


Having a great time at #AvlBeerWeek. (Day 2 of my beercation)

May 31, 2012

I’m sitting in the dining area of the Downtown Inn & Suites eating breakfast, and drinking the Terruno Nayarita coffee I brought with me. (hotel coffee is typically nasty).

So I’ll recap my adventures that I had yesterday. I got to the hotel, checked into my room, unpacked the car and headed over to Jack of the Woods for lunch. I’m glad I only ordered the garlic cheese fries and not an actual entree. The portion sizes there are huge! Then I went ahead and ordered a beer I’ve never had before, 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon.  For this trip, I’m all about trying unique beers that I haven’t had before.

 I paid for lunch and headed across the street to one of the best beer bars in the world, the Thirsty Monk. I’ve written about the Monk pub before, and it never fails to impress me. This was an official Asheville Beer Week event taking place, a tasting of rare Stone Brewing’s beers. I ordered a flight and got to work. One of best things about this bar is the people you meet. I sat next to a couple of local fellows, Travis and Joel. Joel is also a homebrewer and we had a great conversation. We made plans to drink together again tonight. I also met the local Terrapin Brewing company rep. We spoke about Terrapin and I asked him when we could expect to have their beers back in Knoxville. They have recently added new fermentation tanks, so hopefully it won’t be long before we see them back on the shelves and on tap in Knoxville bars. At 6pm they tapped a cask of Terrapin’s Easy Rider. I thought it was a very well done beer, having a heavy grapefruit aroma from the hops used. Well, I wanted to bar hop, so I said my goodbyes and walked over to Asheville Brewing Company on Coxe Avenue for the District 12 Ale release.

A flight of Stone Beers at Thirsty Monk

District 12 is a new Summer wheat beer, named so for the movie, the Hunger Games which was filmed in this area. District 12 is the area in the movie that the main characters are from, which is made up of the Appalachains. When it was being filmed, the actors stayed in Asheville. I only stayed long enough to charge up my iPhone battery and enjoy the one pint. I checked the Asheville Beer Week website and chose the next event to go to. I knew my buddy Aaron (from Kingsport OktoberfestThirsty Orange and Brewer’s Summit ) was at the Belgium Beer Dinner at Pack’s Tavern.

May the Hops be forever in your favor

The dinner was a ticketed event, but sinced it was mostly a meat based menu (and I’m primarly vegetarian) I opted to pass on it. I knew however, that there was great beer there. Since the event started at 6:30 and my arrival was around 8, I knew it was pretty much over. I just walked in like I was supposed to be there. I saw my friend Aaron and went an hung out. At that point, most of the diners had left and the food and beer tables were packing up. I did try a few beers, and had a great conversation about the abbey style ales being brewed under the Ovlia label by Sierra Nevada. We finished our beers and headed out. Aaron and his friend headed to Thirsty Monk where I’d later join them.  I sat down across from the Jackson Building while I played on my iPhone and contemplated my next move. While sitting there, a walking ghost tour group stopped in front of it and I heard some interesting stories.

Some of beers I sampled at Pack's Tavern

My next move was to head to Lexington Avenue Brewery. I stopped in long enough to have their Chocolate Stout on nitro. I like LAB’s beers, but I have yet to have one that’s knocked my socks off. The chocolate stout was pretty unimpressive in my opinion. I do plan on going there again tonight, so I’ll give something different a try.

Cleat, The coolest bartender at Thirsty Monk

Flying Dog was gooooood!

 

After quaffing my beer I headed back to Thirsty Monk to meet up with Aaron. I found him at the downstairs bar. The Thirsty Monk has 2 bars. The upstairs is mainly American Craft beers, the downstairs mostly Belgium craft beers. I elected to stay with 4 ounce pours since I had beer drinking the last few hours and wanted to pace myself. As we sat there drinking and conversating, who should walk in but Brian Grossman of Sierra Nevada and Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River. I introduced myself to these beer world celebrities and spoke with them about their beer. Both of them are giuninely nice guys and very engaging. Brian told me that Sierra Nevada was 95% ready to go to Alcoa when they looked to Asheville. He said he was very worried about coming to Asheville and being seen as the elephant in the room. His fears were put to rest when he met with the local brewing community and they welcomed Sierra Nevada with open arms. Next I spoke with Adam Kimball, the sales rep for Great Divide. I let him Know of my love of their Yeti series. I told him that I planned on visiting their brewery when I go to the Great American Beer Fest in Denver this year. He told me that on the Thursday at the start of the festival they host a big welcoming party event with free food and beer. I’m definitively going to that! Well, next thing I know Brian is next to me at the bar uncorking bottles of the Sierra Nevada & Russian River collaboration, Brux. He generously poured samples for everyone around to try. He explained the name Brux is for the yeast strain used in this beeer, Brettanomyces bruxellensis. He said that this beer was 2 years in the making. It’s going to be a super limited release in 750ml corked bottles. He said it’ll be gone as soon as it hits the market. I want to get several. He advises that this beer will age well for years.

Me with Vinne from Russian River. I don’t know why my iPhone and stupid computer won’t accept this jpeg the right way up.

Me with Brian Grossman of Sierra Nevada

Brian Grossman pouring Brux

BRUX!

 

Well the night ended and I stumbled back to the hotel. This morning I realized an important lesson. If I am going to be bar hopping and drinking all evening, I have to make sure to drink water between rounds. Hangovers suck.

There is a lot more events to attend tonight. It looks like I’ll have some company in the form of my Knox Beer Crew buddy, Trader Scott. Beer will be drunk, tales will be told and Hijinks will insue. To follow along in real time, check out my twitter feed @Ratchetbrews and friend me on Untappd.

Tune back in tomorrow for more tales of adventure during Asheville Beer Week.

Cheers!

-Ratchet


Beercation time! 5 days in #Asheville for @AvlBeerWeek !

May 30, 2012

Ever since the first Asheville Beer Week was announced, I have planned on going. Everyone that knows me knows of my love of Beer City USA. I live in Knoxville, a quick 2 hours away (more like 90 minutes if I have no scaredy cat passengers in my car, ha ha). Only a 2 hour drive but it’s so different from Knoxville, it feels like a world away. I love everything about it. The beer, the food, the people, basically the whole culture. Yes, myself and almost every other Knoxvillian I know has entertained thoughts of moving there. I don’t because I have a pretty good job here, but if the stars were aligned, I’d be packing for my move instead of writing this. In fact, it seems like that is what I hear the most from fellow Knoxvillians about moving there. They can’t find work and the cost of living is higher. For whatever reasons we don’t move, my friend Jeff of Three Bears Coffee sums it up best (and I’m paraphrasing) “They don’t need you there, they have enough cool people. If all the cool people in Knoxville moved, it would suck”. So instead I visit as often as my finances will allow.

Which brings me back to Asheville Beer Week. Technically not a week, but 11 days of celebrating Asheville’s great world renown beer culture. I have lost count of the amount of breweries this area has, but it seems like I read about a new one popping up at least once a month. The stated mission of this special “week” is “to celebrate that nectar known as beer—to taste many different styles of beer and variations on those styles; to pair beer with a smorgasbord of delicious foods; to learn about and explore beer in all its delectable complexity; and, most of all, to have fun drinking beer in the brewery-centric mountains of Asheville, NC”. With a statement like that, how could I not plan a trip?

So here I am. My plan is to blog all 5 days I am here. I really want to stick with the plan. I WILL stick with the plan. Every morning, hungover or not, I will sit in the hotel cafe with my laptop and write about what happened the night before. The bar hopping, the food, the tastings, the special casks and all the different events and beer. I will upload my photos and post them as well. If you would like to follow along in real time, make sure to check out my twitter feed at @RatchetBrews . I will also post on my Ratchet Brews Facebook Page. See what I’m drinking on Untappd. If you read this and are out on the town, send me a comment, let’s get together for a beer. After all, that’s what I came here for.

Cheers,

Ratchet

Day 1: Wednesday events I plan on attending:

First go to Brusin’ Ales, say Hi, have a few samples of whatever they have on tap, pick up my bottle of Greenman Flanders Red ale I bought and had them hold, grab a few other things for later.

I also plan on hitting The Lobster Trap for a pint of thier special beer week casks, Thirsty Monk around 4pm for the special Stone Beers tasting, Asheville Brewing company for the District 12 release, Green Man for a Session Fest pint, possibly taking a cab out to Highland and/or Brixx for the cask tapping.