Recap of Thursday, Day 4 of our @AvlbeerWeek beercation. @CatawbaBeer

May 30, 2013

IMG_4493

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.

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!

Cheers!

Ratchet


Recap of Wednesday, day 3 of our @AvlbeerWeek beercation. @AppVintner

May 30, 2013

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.

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.

We arrived to find Appalachian Vintner the most packed I’ve ever seen it. They pulled out all stops getting rare beers from Sierra Nevada, Foothills, and Starpoint brewery. We settled up to the bar and made our selections. I went with a Starpoint Duh! DIPA. Kat chose a cask-edition, dry-hopped Hoppyum, and Jason went with Mornin’ Wood Double IPA.

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.

At this point, I realized that time had gotten away from me again. While my good friend, Adam Reinke’s Red IPA was being poured at Asheville Brewing Company, Mitch Steele from Stone Brewing Company had already begun his meet and greet at Bruisin’ Ales. As we were getting ready to pay for our beers and be on our way, I was able to spend some time with Appalachian Vintner, owner, Charles Alexander, speaking with him about his store and their events for Asheville Beer Week. Below is a short video of the conversation.

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.

Cheers,
Ratchet


Beer, Beer and More Beer! It’s time for Asheville Beer Week 2013 #AvlBeerWeek

May 26, 2013

Asheville-Beer-Week

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.

Unfortunately, Katie and I won’t be there until Monday. We know we are missing Just Economic’s Just Brew-it Homebrew festival on Saturday and LaZoom’s Sunday Beer Run. I know from personal experience from attending many beer festivals that the ones that have homebrewers serving their creations are always the best. I did the LaZoom’s Beer Run last year and it was truly a highlight of beer week for me.

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:

Monday: Green Man for the ABA Hoppy Saison release, Asheville Brewing Company for the Perfect Day IPA release, possibly a beer or 2 at LAB, French Broad flight night at Barleys and of course, Thirsty Monk.

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.

-Ratchet


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.

create gif

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

IMG_3005

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.

rb banner 2

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.

IMG_3078

“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

IMG_3041

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

IMG_3057IMG_3069

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.

IMG_3089

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.

IMG_3099

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!

IMG_3124

Yum!

IMG_3123

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.

IMG_3234

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!

20121125-095713.jpg

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.

20121125-095742.jpg

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.

20121125-095800.jpg

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.

20121125-095824.jpg

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.

20121125-095919.jpg

Asheville Brewing Company’s state of the art canning line

20121125-095930.jpg

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.

20121125-095944.jpg

Inside Bruisin’ Ales

20121125-095957.jpg

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.

20121125-100007.jpg

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.

20121125-100023.jpg

Green Man Brewery, an old favorite of mine.

20121125-100053.jpg

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.

20121125-100103.jpg

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.

20121125-100130.jpg

Beers on tap at Frog Level.

20121125-100143.jpg

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.

20121125-100206.jpg

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.

20121125-100219.jpg

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.

20121125-100242.jpg

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.

20121125-100251.jpg

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.

20121125-100312.jpg

The entrance to Nantahala.

20121125-100331.jpg

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.

20121125-100344.jpg

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.

20121125-100353.jpg

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

Stop and smell the hop back

20121125-100401.jpg

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.

20121125-100419.jpg

20121125-100429.jpg

20121125-100437.jpg

A small portion of the beers we sampled

20121125-100444.jpg

Some of the other beers we sampled

20121125-100453.jpg

We had a pretty good sized crew at this tasting

20121125-100501.jpg

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.

20121125-100512.jpg

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