Live blogging of my big ass brew day

August 11, 2012

Today is the day I am planning on brewing 35 gallons of lager. As promised, I going to try to update my website with a play by play. A lot can go right & a lot can go wrong. I’ve been preparing all week for this. Every bit of my free time has gone into cleaning, grinding grains, buying extras like ice, food, charcoal for the grill & obtaining over 70 gallons of Love’s Creek Spring Water. without further ado, here we go.

5:15 am: Stumbled downstairs, hooked up propane, fired up the burner for the mash water. Must. Make. Coffee!

5:35 am: Ahhhhh, coffee. Damn it sure is early. At least I have this view from my back porch as I enjoy this almost fall like morning.

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6:19 am: Getting ready to mash in. Hagin just arrived to lend a hand.
6:35 am: Hagin stirring while we mash in.

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Hagin stirring the grains

6:55 am: Mashed in. Time to smack the packs.

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Wyeast & a Highland Thunderstruck Coffee Porter

7:00 am. Is it to early for a beer? Not if it has coffee in it.
8 am: Waiting on the sparge water to get up to temperature.
8:40 am: Dalton is here & we are Sparging.

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Hagin & Dalton

9:45 am. Boil is going on & we are cleaning out the mash tun.

10:30 am: Last hop addition on the Rauchbier, getting ready to stop boil & whirlpool. Got the mash tun cleaned & restocked and the new strike water for Oktoberfest going. Almost time for another beer. So far just me, Hagin & Dalton hanging out.

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Dumping the spent grains out of the mash tun

12 pm: I’ve been to busy to post. The Rauchbier is going through the chiller into carboys. The Oktoberfest grains are currently mashing. Dalton, Hagin and I are hanging out sampling some brews & waiting for the next step, which is cleaning the brewpot & bringing the next batch to boil when the grain conversion is done.

3:30 pm: Sorry for lack of updates for those following along. The Rauchbier is in the fermenters, the Oktoberfest doesn’t have long left in the boil & several people have shown up with beer. Knox Beer Crew is being represented by Richard Groves & Mark Baggett. Several other friends like Chris Irwin, James Kane & Aaron Russell along with Hagin & Dalton are hanging out. When the next batch is chilled & fermenting, there is still massive clean up to do, hopefully these guys don’t bail when it’s time for that, lol.
3:45 pm: Conversing on the nature of conversation. Deep thoughts.

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4:30 pm: Beginning cool down of the Oktoberfest. Should figure out cleaning order, I suppose.
20120812-154930.jpg5:30 pm: Done. Beer is in the carboys, the big equipment is clean. Finally sitting down. I’m still waiting a little bit before pitching the yeast to the Oktoberfest. I want a beer but I’m too tired to move. Everyone bailed except Richard & Hagin who helped with the clean up. Thanks guys.
7:30 pm: Everything is clean, the wort is chilled, oxygenated & in the carboys awaiting the magic of fermentation. The guest took off. I am making something to eat & then going to pass out.

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Waiting for fermentation to begin

Thanks for following along today’s post. I might come back & post updates on the status of the fermentation. Now I’m going to pass out after I enjoy my reward for all the hard work of today: Young’s Double Chocolate Stout (from the nitro can) & pizza. Goodnight.

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A reward for a hard day’s work

    Next day update:

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Getting ready for a big brew day on Sunday 8/12

August 7, 2012

I haven’t been able to brew in awhile. Not that I haven’t wanted to, just that my schedule (and finances) haven’t allowed it. I’ve been working weekends at The Casual Pint downtown, which is a second job that I love dearly. I know that the fall beer festival season is coming up, and I have to get ready. I asked for and got a Sunday off work to brew beer. I know I needed to maximize my brew time, so I borrowed the big equipment that is owned by the Tennessee Valley Homebrewers club and has been in the use and care of my friend Tyrone “Chris” Harris of Secret City Brews.  I’ll be brewing 20 gallons of my beloved Rauchbier and 15 gallons of an Oktoberfest Marzen. It’s going to be so good to see all my carboys full again.

I’m inviting friends to come hang out and help if they are so inclined. I forsee this brew day being a combination workshop, tasting, cookout and party. I already have a few people confirmed that they’re coming.  If you ever wanted to see what it’s like from start to finish to brew a batch using all grains, this is your chance. I’ll be starting at the ridiculously early time of 6 am. The brewing schedule (if according to plan) goes a little something like this:

6 am: Get up, stumble downstairs to start the water going.
7 am: Strike grains with water, mash for an hour.
8 am: Start vorlauf.
8:30 Start sparge.
9:30 Finish sparge.
10 Hopefully at boil at this point, 1st hop addition.
11 End of boil and whirlpool.
11:30 End whirlpool, begin cool down.
12:45-1pm Hopefully carboys are full and cool down to yeast pitching temperature.
1:30 Brew pot is cleaned and refilled with water, mash tun cleaned and restocked with grains.
2:15-2:30 Strike 2nd batch of grains with water, mash for an hour.
3:30 Start vorlauf.
4pm Start sparge.
5 Finish sparge.
5:30 Hopefully to boil.
6:30 End boil, whirlpool.
7 End Whirlpool, begin cool down.
8 Hopefully carboys are full, yeast is pitched and equipment cleaned.
8-9ish Rest, drink heavily.
9 ish Thank remaining guest for coming, then pass out from exhaustion.

This is hard work but you don’t have to lift a finger if you just want to come chill. I may (hopefully) fire up the grill (depends on how much help I have). There will be beer to sample, but it’s limited so BYOB is encouraged. For those who do help, I will be breaking out some rarities from my secret stash to share. I’ll also make sure to give you some of the finished product (it’s a lager, so you’ll have to wait 2 months). I also plan on live blogging with picture this brewday on my website for those of you who can’t make it. If you do plan on coming, please email me at jasoncarpenter1974@gmail.com for directions and to let me know what time you think you’ll arrive. You’re welcome to coffee & breakfast if you plan on helping at the start. Everyone is welcome to come whenever and stay until 9ish, when I anticipate being so tired I involuntarily pass out.

Cheers,

Ratchet


Report on the Thirsty Orange Brew Extravaganza @ThirstyOrange

April 19, 2012

This is my third attempt to write about last weekend’s Thirsty Orange beer festival in Johnson City. My original idea was to live blog from the festival. I even set up the page the night before. However, there was so much to do and I was so busy it just wasn’t possible to live blog. I hardly even had time to take my phone out of my pocket to check emails, text and tweets.
So here it is, almost a week later. Let’s see how much I can actually recall.
Here’s some background first. I am currently moving. Everyone knows that packing and moving is a big pain in the ass. Luckily I pretty much have a whole month to do it. I am renting a slighly bigger house on a hill that is closer to downtown. The view is pretty great and the fact that I have a whole basement to brew in is what sold me on the house.

Well, I have a brew schedule that I am trying to stick to. I didn’t want to try to move my fermentation fridge and carboys while they were in mid-fermentation. So I did what any slightly crazed beer obessessed homebrewer would do. I got up extra early Friday morning and started brewing. I ended up mashing in around 5:30 am. I figured, if I was going to move full carboys that I should do it right after brewing so the sloshing caused by the car ride would help oxygenate the wort. Yeast needs oxygen to help get it going. So as I brewed, I cleaned. I moved my small lagering chest freezer into the back of the van. Once I was done brewing my Maibock, I drove the whole set up to, and set it up in, the basement of the house I’m moving in to. I plugged in the fridge and thermostat control and put the two 5 gallon carboys to ferment at 48 degrees. I was done completely around 11 am. I then went over to the Downtown Grill and Brewery and picked up the Woodruff Brewing beer that I took to the festival.

I than went home and packed the van full of tubs, beer, kegs, ice and merchandise.  I then drove to Johnson City. Arriving there I quickly checked into my room. The festival site was at the Mellow Mushroom just down the road, so I headed there to meet with the organizers. I stashed the kegs in the walk in cooler, had a beer and taked plans for the next day. Well as you can imagine, I was exhausted from getting up at 4:45 am that day to brew. I knew Saturday was going to be hectic, so I went back to the hotel and passed out early.

Saturday morning, I rolled out of bed, made some crappy hotel coffee and headed to the site. I was still pretty tired and the crappy hotel coffee just wasn’t kicking in. Thank goodness one of the guys there, Andrew, had brought a carafe of great coffee to share. After “irishing up” a cup of it with a shot of baileys, I was good to go.

While crews set up tents and generally prepared the site for the days festivities, I worked on getting my table, kegs and jockey box set up. I was also on infuser duty. I had my own infuser to run beer through and the festival had it’s own. Responsible for the festival’s infuser was a cool dude (who I had the pleasure of working with) that they called Flipper. I showed him the ropes on how to pack it, how to set up the lines, etc. He picked up on it rather quickly and was able to take the infuser around  and fresh infuse different beers with different ingredients all day. It was definitely a hit of the festival.

Well once the gates were open, things were hectic. I still hadn’t completely set up my merchandise when a line began to form at my table. I was very greatful that the festival organizers had provided me with someone to assist me at my booth, as I honestly could not have done it by myself. Right at the start, I had a beer line break in my jockey box. My first clue that it occured was when beer started pouring out the sides. I lost the whole keg of chocolate ale that I had brewed for the Iron Brewer challenge. I had to cut the bad section of line out and rehook it up to a different keg.

Once all the kinks were worked out, the festival went really well. I did my share of drinking, slipping away from my booth a few minutes at a time to try other beers. I met more then a few really cool people, fellow homebrewers from all over and tried many great brews. It was also really good to see and hang out with my Knox Beer Crew friends who had made the trip up from Knoxville. They left before the end of the festival, but we did have time to squeeze into the on site beer photo booth and get our pictures taken.

Well I stayed until the very end, and was the last brewer set up and pouring until my ride came and got me. I packed up, said my goodbyes and went back to the hotel. After settling in, I went downstairs to get something out of the van and realized that there was a comedy show taking place in the hotel’s restaurant. I drunkenly wandered in and sat in the back unlit portion of the space and laughed for awhile. Then I wandered back upstairs and passed out.

It was a great festival and Aaron and his crew always put together a good event. As far as I could see, everything went smoothly and everyone had a fun time. If this happens again next year, you can count me in to be there.

Ok, will this is all for now. I don’t feel like this write up is all that good, but I had to post something. If you read this and were at the Thirsty Orange, please leave a comment with your thoughts below.

Cheers,

Ratchet

Announcing some of the Homebrew contest winners at Thirsty Orange

 


A Great Weekend for #KnoxBeer

October 25, 2011

The liver is evil and must be punished. Saw this on a shirt the other day, and it (almost) sums up my weekend. I don’t think I’ll make this post really long. The Knox Beer Snobs have posted a great review of all the Knoxville Beer events this weekend, so I’ll refer you to them. I will tell you that I had a great and memorable weekend.

Every year the Homebrew Club does a lot of the beer related grunt work and preparation for Brewers Jam. My weekend pretty much kicked off on Thursday night. The homebrew club does what we call  “Pretzel Jam” where we drink beer and make pretzel necklaces to sell at the event. I had a ride, so I was able to partake in the “leftover” entries from the TN Valley Fair’s Homebrew competition.

Friday I worked a short half day and then headed down to World’s Fair Park to help load the cold truck. The brewers show up, unload the kegs from their vehicles and we move the kegs to cold storage. It was mostly sitting around drinking beer with the occasional heavy lifting. I took a break from that for a few hours and headed over to the grand opening of Marble City Brewing Company’s tasting room, The Quarry. Knoxville really came out to show support for the hometown brewery. The place was packed! The owners even had authentic deep dish pizza flown in for the event. After a few beers, a slice of pizza and some great conversation with fellow craft beer enthusiast, I headed back to World’s Fair Park.  When that was over, it was time for the brewer’s reception in a top secret location. Most of the brewers both local and out of area were treated to beer, cigars, food, and a live bluegrass jam. There was even free jars of locally produced salsa, courtesy of Big S Farms. Pretty much every one of my beer friends were there. I remember looking around at the crowd and thinking if a bomb went off in that room, there wouldn’t be anyone left in the Knoxville craft beer scene. That reception went on long into the night. I left around 11 pm since I was hosting out of town guests and we all had to be up early to work the morning shift.

Saturday morning I made coffee and my guest (fellow homebrewers Shanezilla and Pam) and I headed out. We stopped by Just Ripe on Union Avenue in downtown for a quick breakfast. Then it was on to Brewers’ Jam. There was a whole heck of a lot of work to do before the gates opened at 1pm. We had to deliver the kegs to the brewers, along with Ice. There was also our booth to set up and a few other details to attend to. About 30 minutes or so before kick off, we were pretty much done. This is my favorite time of of the Knoxville Brewer Jam. All the brewers are set up, and everyone has a chance to socialize and try one another’s beers before it gets hectic. Before they opened the gates, we had our customary speech given by Knoxville Police Department, as seen in the following video:

Then the fun begins. It is amazing to see a wave of people pour in when they open the gates. The lines were as far as the eye could see. My 1st keg of Butternut Squash Ale was on tap, and I happily doled out samples to thirsty drinkers. It made me feel like I really know what I’m doing as a beer brewer when people would tell me how much they enjoyed it. I even had some of the most critical members of the homebrew club come back for seconds and thirds. Whenever my 1st keg blew out, I let someone else take a turn pouring while I happily went in search of other tasty beverages to imbide. I saw many of my fellow Knox Craft beer friends and walked around drinking and enjoying their company. Later on in the afternoon, I came back and put on my second keg of Butternut Squash Ale and poured that as well. Near the end of the event, I went and filled several growlers of beer to take home for later. I ran into Mike from Asheville Brewing Company who gave me a really cool Moog filtered Ale shirt.

Well, I went and caught the rest of Cutthroat Shamrock’s show at the end. The jam closed down, the beer stopped flowing, and I started packing out. I finally got my vehicle packed with everything I brought, along with a cooler full of growlers, bottles of beer, merchandise and other stuff I scored at the Jam. I walked over to my office where I spent a few hours drinking water and listening to the Vols football game on the radio. I ended the night eating pizza and thinking how I am already looking forward to next year’s Brewers Jam.

Enjoy the pictures below, click to make big.

Cheers,

Ratchet


Ich hatte so eine tolle Zeit in Asheville Oktoberfest!

October 10, 2011
When I  got back from Asheville I rushed over to my buddy’s work (Comics Exchange) to use the wifi. I wanted to work on this post while everything was still fresh in my mind and my heart was still full of Asheville’s energy. I love Asheville. I freakin’ LOVE it. I haven’t fell so hard for a city since those few summers long ago that I spent tramping around Boulder, CO.   Though as much as I swoon over Asheville, I’m happy and grateful for what I have here in good ol’ Knox-Vegas.

Asheville Oktoberfest was a mostly solo affair for me. I drove up early Saturday, checked in to my room which was literally 1 block away from Wall Street, and got my wrist band. With only 6 local breweries providing approximately 3 beers each, this wasn’t a “tasting”. This was full pour, let’s get drunk and have a blast. Which I did. I used twitter as a quick way to keep tabs on how much I’ve had. After my 5th or 6 full cup, I took a break. Since my hotel was so close, I took 30 minutes to relax in an air conditioned room and drink water. Once recharged, I headed back. Oh and let me say this. Sloppy Joe’s are NOT an appropriate beer street festival food. Please, don’t do this. I knew I had to eat, and should have went with a bratwurst, but I had serious doubts I could fit one of those monster’s in my belly and continue to drink. I got the sloppy joe ’cause it was the only vegetarian choice. Seriously Laughing Seed Cafe, next time veggie brats, or something similar. You’ll sell more food, I promise.

Well, I didn’t really meet any new people at the fest, but luckily I knew some people who were there. My ex-neighbors and friends Brad and Trish and L.C. and Pod. Also Chris and Lindey from the homebrew club. Later on I met up with Aaron and his crew the organizers of the Kingsport Oktoberfest. L.C. and Pod drank fast and crashed early. I spent most of the rest of the festival drinking, wandering and drunkenly dancing to the Stratton Mountain Boys by the stage. The band is great German drinking music, they led the crowd in drunken chants. A friend of mine later remarked on my facebook page in response to a video I posted that German accents cover up slurred speech every time. I found that to be more and more true as Oktoberfest progressed. The fest went from 12-6pm. Around 6:15 I got my last beer. The band was breaking down and most everyone was wandering off. I returned to my room, drink in hand. Crossing the street in front of the hotel, a cop asked me to pour out my full beer. I did so without regret since I was feeling pretty good by then.

My friends stayed in the same hotel as I did, the Downtown Inn and Suites. I went to their room and watched the 1st quarter or so of the Vols game. Knowing that Brusin Ales closed at 9, I walked over there and stocked up on rare beers and stuff you just can’t find in Knoxville. I had a sample of what they had on tap, and talked beer with one of the shop owners for awhile. She hooked me up with a free Asheville Brewing Alliance shirt, which was nice of her. She also gave me a shout on the http://twitter.com/brusinales which was pretty cool. The owners of Brusin Ales are good people, who know their beer. The store is recognized as one of the world’s best bottle shops in several beer magazines. I made my bank account smaller, took my loot and stashed it back in the room. Then I headed to Wedge Brewery which was a short 1 mile walk down the block. I got there real close to closing time, just long enought to have a “Derailed” hemp seed ale. I’ve been wanting to go to The Wedge for awhile. It seems like a great place to spend an afternoon drinking and I look forward to going back again one day.

I ended up the night at Lexington Avenue Brewery. I sat at the bar and ordered one of their amazing local cheese plates and their American Pale Ale. After I ate it became apparent to me that I was done. Like, get-my-ass-back-to-the-hotel-before-I-pass-out done. I payed my tab and shamefully left half of a really great beer behind.

The next day I got up and met with my friends at the hotel’s dining room to enjoy the free breakfast and hang out. I showed them their pictures on the Asheville newspaper’s (the Citizen Times) website. My friend Brad is on the front cover of the physical paper in a crowd shot. It was funny seeing him search for himself like he was playing Where’s Waldo.

Since I’m a complete coffee snob and don’t drink free hotel coffee, I went off in search of a cup of wake up juice. I found it at Wall Street Coffee house. With cup in hand I walked several miles through downtown taking in the sites. This is how I soak up the ambience of a place. I was also on a mission to find a place that was open that had an Oktoberfest poster in the window. I was going to ask for it to bring it back for the wall of my beer room. I didn’t have any luck, but made a mental note to come back after lunch when a printing shop that had one displayed opened. Unfortunately I did forget, so if any Asheville people see this blog, if you send me one, I’ll send you a pint glass in return. I met up with my friends for lunch at Plant, which is a vegan restaurant on Merrimon Avenue. It was a nice brunch, throughly enjoyable even though I’m not vegan. I then proceeded back to Brusin Ales to get a 4 pack of Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale since TN no longer gets Dogfish Head shipments. I also stopped at Earth Fare on my way out of town to get a few Asheville Brewing Company bombers. I got Ninja Porter and Moog Ale. Picked up a few actual brats I plan on cooking next weekend when I brew again.

I have a great time whenever I visit Asheville. I know that for the next few months I’ll be squirreling away money for a return trip. I’m already thinking of the Winter Warmer festival in January. I know for certain that next Oktoberfest, I’ll be there as well. Maybe I’ll have a travel companion for these, or maybe they will once again be solo affairs. Either way, I’m sure to enjoy tasty beers and the great vibe of Beer City USA.

-Cheers,

Ratchet

 

Quick update before the weekend.

October 5, 2011

Hey y’all. I figured I post something to keep the ol’ blog alive and to let you know about some beer related events that have happened or are happening soon. Last night I went to Woodruff’s third cask night at the Downtown Grill and Brewery. Brewer Dave Ohmer dry hopped 15 gallons of their White Mule Pale Ale and naturally carbonated it for 3 weeks. Poured with an authentic hand pumped beer engine, the brew was smooth, creamy and very hoppy. There weren’t as many people in attendance as the 1st cask night, but it was good to see my friends the Knox Beer Snobs in the house. I also got to kick it with a few of homebrew club members as well as some other great folks. I’m greatful for the Brewery’s cask night and hope that it continues to florish. 

Speaking of breweries, Marble City Brewing Company’s tap room, The Quarry, is open. They are open Wednesday through Friday from 4-8 pm, Saturday 2 to 8. If you find yourself out and about in Knoxville, I suggest you check it out. I went on opening day. It’s a nicely redone room, very comfortable.  It’s a small scene there and everyone knows almost everyone. I met a few new friends that night including a fellow homebrewer. I also went and hung out a little bit with Brewmaster Jen who has a wealth of brewing knowledge. It seems like everytime I have a beercentric conversation with her, I learn something new.  The Quarry is having it’s “official” grand opening on Friday October 21 from 4-9 pm. I have volunteered to work the brewer’s keg check in at World’s Fair Park for the Knoxville Brewers Jam that night, but I might have to push that back a bit so I can at least make an appearance.

OH, and speaking of Brewer’s Jam, LAST CHANCE TO BUY TICKETS. I hear that there are less than 100 left and they expect it to sell out by Friday evening. Get them now, or miss out entirely.

Oh Saturday, how I look forward to thee. I plan on getting up bright and early to head to Asheville for their small but fun Oktoberfest celebration downtown. Six great Asheville breweries, games, the music of  Stratton Mountain Boys, the food, the dirndls, a hotel within stumbling distance and a planned trip afterwards to The Wedge Brewery? OH HELL YES!!!! This is one of the events I planned to go to since last year. The hotel was booked months ago and I made sure to get my ticket way before any chance the event would sell out. I’ll make sure to take plenty of pictures and video and write up a nice long post afterwards. I’m still traveling solo, so if anyone wants to go, give me a shout. 

Well I’m kicking myself for not going to the homebrew shop yesterday. I meant to get a new bottling bucket so I could sanitize it with the bottles for my last 10 gallons of my Butternut Squash ale that I plan on bottling tomorrow. Wednesday is the only day that Harry closes shop, so I guess I’ll use my old worn out bottling bucket that needed to be replaced along time ago. I still need to work on my next recipe for chocolate pepper stout. Must order ingredients next week. I have to get at least one more brew day in this month.

Ok, well, I’ll be tweeting live from Oktoberfest this weekend, so for drunken hilarity, check back and read the twitter side bar on this page. Should be entertaining….

Until then,

Cheers,

Ratchet

GO TO THIS!!!

Come drink in the streets of Asheville, Beer City USA

 

Kingsport Oktoberfest- a retrospective.

September 26, 2011

What a weekend! I’m finally back in Knoxville, relaxing at my friend’s work & using the wifi. I’m also drinking my growler of Highland Brewing Company’s Clawhammer Oktoberfest. I brought all my empty growlers to Kingsport with the grand idea that I would fill them with tasty beers from all over. However, the reality is that I was so busy working my booth, I didn’t have time to get my growlers filled. I barely had time to eat or visit with other brewers. I was able to come back with only 2 growlers. The other one has Heinzelmännchen’s  Root Beer for my son.

Alright, here’s how  the whole weekend went down. Friday I got off work early. My bosses was kind enough to lend me her pickup truck that has a camper top for me to be able to haul my kegs along with the Woodruff Brewing Company’s kegs, ice tub, c02 and tap box. I not only had my homebrew, but I was officially representing Woodruff as well. After I loaded my stuff, I went down to the loading dock behind Downtown Grill and Brewery and met with Dave (one of the brewers) and loaded up a half barrell of Alt and a half barrell of Kolsch. A half barrell is is standard size keg for those of you not down with brewer lingo. Dave very professionally tied the kegs down with a ratchet strap. He did a much better job than my laughablle half assed attempts with bungie cords. Then again, he’s a pro who knows what he’s doing because part of his job is delivering kegs.  After everything was secured, I headed up north towards Kingsport. Roughly 2 hours later I was there. I checked in to my dirty but cheap Motel 8 and then headed down to the site.  I unloaded the kegs and equipment and made sure the beer was iced down. Then I went back to the hotel to unwind for a bit. I visited a local gas station/ convenience store for snacks, chilled a bit then headed back down to the site for a little brewer only pre-party. I saw some old friends, ate some food, listened to some bluegrass and met some really cool people.

I really enjoyed meeting and speaking with Dieter Kuhn and Sheryl Rudd of Heinzelmännchen Brewery out of Sylvia, North Carolina. They’re we incredibly nice and generous, having donated a keg of their “Chocolate Covered Gnome” to the pre-party. Chocolate Covered Gnome is a strong 8% abv porter made with cocoa powder. I was blown away by how delicious it was, and had to know everything I could about how it was brewed. I spoke with Sheryl first and asked her why they used cocoa powder instead of cocoa nibs. I really wanted to know “how did they keep the cocoa powder from settling out during the fermenting process?” She introduced me to her husband Dieter and we spoke about beer and his secret for getting the chocolate flavor in it. I learned much, but I am sworn to secrecy. I could tell you how he does it, but then I’d have to kill you (I can’t do that, I need every reader I can get!) I can tell you that I now know not to use cocoa nibs in my beer. It turns out that the cocoa butter fats turn rancid within a couple of weeks. This explains why I thought the chocolate imperial stout I made early this year was infected. It was just the fats going rancid and not an infection at all. Thanks for the advice Sheryl and Dieter. Visiting your brewery just made the top of my must do list.

On Friday night we also had a half barrell of Highland Brewing Company’s Clawhammer Oktoberfest on tap. That was when I was able to fill my growler that I am currently enjoying. I love Highland’s brews. I remember back in the day when we couldn’t get them her in Knoxville, I’d take orders from friends and make a drive to Asheville just to stock up. Anyway, I filled my growler and stopped drinking for the couple of hours it took me to sober up enough to drive the short 1 & 1/2 mile to the hotel. I didn’t really sleep well due to a combination of an uncomfortable bed and hotel situation.

Saturday morning I was up bright and early. I ate the free continental breakfast at the hotel and headed to set up my booth. I had to get kegs tapped, the tap box and carbonation levels just right, the Woodruff banner hung and everything else (merch, tools, etc) in place. The event opened early at 11 am for VIPs. Homebrews poured during that time were collected to be judged and everyone had a ballot where they could vote on their favorites. My Butternut Squash Ale was a hit with many people coming back for seconds, thirds and even fourths! I came up with a new thing to tell people about it. I’d ask if they liked pumpkin ales. If they said yes, I’d tell them it was the same beer different squash. The 11am to 1 pm when it was just VIPs was great, the lines weren’t to big and luckily I had a couple of lovely volunteers to help me pour beer. At 1 pm they opened the gates to the general public and things got hectic. I was trying to pour beer while hooking up an infuser while trying to get food while trying to find beer to drink that wasn’t at my tent. Phew! I really could have used more help. During this portion of the festival, I felt like I was completely overworked. There were a couple of moments when I felt like just walking away and letting people serve themselves. I was able to get a few volunteers, and a little bit of a break. During that time I went and hung out with Don from Knox Beer Snobs, Jennifer and Adam of Marble City Brewery. I also made sure to get beer from Underground Brewing Company, the homebrewers of Legit Brew. I made sure to go say hi to the legendary Oscar Wong of Highland Brewing. I also met Jon of Tattood Brew (who is now on our links section). I had really hoped to spend time at the Beer University part of Oktoberfest. There were some great classes that I had wanted to attend, but it just didn’t work out that way. Hopefully I’ll have a little more help and will be able to next time.

Speaking of beer university, I ended up doing a quick talk about beer infusions. I had set up the infuser at the booth running Woodruff’s Kolsh which is named Downtown Blonde, through fresh cut strawberries. It was a hit and we call it “Strawberry Blonde”. For the Beer University, the idea was that we’d have a keg set up and then we were going to run it through fresh hops and let people taste the difference. That did not happen. Instead I had to wing it. I was a little buzzed at that point. A friend of mine video recorded it for me as seen below.

When the festival was officially over, the biergarden part stayed open for the volunteers to enjoy beer  as a reward for all their work. We poured as much as we could, sold the rest of the Downtown Grill & Brewery glasses. I ended up trading a glass to a guy for the shirt off his back just because I could, and my drunk ass thought it was funny.

At the end of it all I made sure everything was packed up in the truck. I then walked a block over to Stir Fry Cafe  to hang out with some people I had met during the festival. I ate some really good spicy tuna rools and drank water to sober up for the drive back to the hotel.

My overall impression that this was a really great inaugural event. This is Aaaron and crew’s first time putting on a beer festival like this. There were a few rookie mistakes made, but that is to be expected. Those minor issues were addressed and will not happen next time. Speaking of next time, check out Thirsty Orange Brew Extravaganza. This is is still in the planning stages, but believe me, you will not want to miss this in the spring.

Enjoy my pictures below, leave a comment about Oktoberfest. I will try to post again soon, but now my focus in on the upcoming Asheville Oktoberfest taking place on Saturday October 8th.

Cheers,

Ratchet


An in depth look at making my fall seasonal: Butternut Squash Ale

September 21, 2011

Hello my 1 or 2 readers. You still checking out my blog? Good, because this time I have a special VIDEO blog for you. I filmed myself every step of the way when it comes to making my delicious Butternut Squash Ale. This is a behind the scenes look at my brew day.

Enjoy

Part 1:

Part 2:

Ingredients for 10 gallons
12 lbs butternut squash (processed weight)
18 pounds pale ale malt
1 lb carapils malt
2 lb Vienna malt
1 lb 75L dark crystal grain
2 lb light Munich malt
2.5 oz williamette whole leaf hops (60 minute boil)

1 .2 oz of williamette whole leaf hops (last 15 minutes)
1 oz saaz hop pellets (last 5 minutes)
2 cup brown sugar
1 lb flaked oatmeal
2/3 lb Ginger root peeled & chunked (1/2 at 6o minutes boil, 1/2 at 15 minutes)
2 Whirlfloc Tablets (last 15 minutes of boil)
2 1/3 tsp nutmeg
4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp crushed coriander seed
1 tsp yeast nutrient
4 packages of Whitbread dry yeast
Directions:
Peel butternut squash & bake it until caramelized on the outside
Mash crushed grains at 152 degrees for 60 minutes in 8 gallons of water (put Flaked oats in a mesh bag)
Sparge with 7 gallons 170 water. Add squash, gypsum, 2.5 oz
of Williamette hops & 1/2 the ginger.  IMPORTANT: Squash and Ginger Must be in fine mesh bags, or clogging will occur.
Bring to a boil for 40 minutes. Add the brown sugar, whirlfloc Tablets, coriander seed, 1 oz of Saaz hops & rest of ginger boil 20 minutes. At 5 minutes add remaining 1 oz of saaz & 1 tsp of yeast nutrient & remaining spices. Cool rapidly to 70 degrees pitch yeast. After a 2 weeks rack to secondary.

On another note, I am SUPER EXCITED about the KINGSPORT OKTOBERFEST this Saturday!!! I’m like a kid on Christmas, I can’t wait! I’ll be in charge of setting up the randal (that’s an infuser, for all those not down with the beer lingo) on to various microbrews around the festival. We’ll be infusing a porter with coca nibs (raw chocolate), a kolsh with fresh strawberrys and other yummy beers with other yummy stuff. If you want to know when and where each infusion will take place, make sure to follow both myself ( @RatchetBrews ) and @KPTOktoberfest  on twitter. We’ll announce each one there. Plus I’m sure the tweets will get more entertaining as the day progresses and more beer is drank.

You are a sucka if you miss this.

You are a sucka if you miss this.

-CHEERS,

Ratchet


Another reason to homebrew: sharing w/ friends.

August 21, 2011

My last post I put in the title a great problem to have. I never touched on that, so I thought I would do so now. The problem I was going to mention isn’t really a problem, more like a storage issue. I had too much beer. Now wait a minute you say. To much beer? There’s no such thing. Well, as inclined I am to agree with you, there is only so much square feet of space in my house.

Before I go any farther, let me talk about proper beer storage. Good beer and homebrew in particular is very sensitive to temperature. Ideally (and depending on style) beer should be stored between 38 to 55 degrees. I try to keep all my beers stored in my beer fridges. If I don’t have room, I store them in coolers placed on top of air conditioner vents. This typically keeps them cool, but as I rotate through them, I move them to the fridges as soon as I can.

My main beer fridge is a chest freezer that I placed a thermostat control to keep it around 40 degrees. I had boxed of bottles stacked on one another. When I recently kegged some beer, I had to remove them to make room. Kegs have to be kept cold for the CO2 to absorb into the beer for carbonation. My other fridge is just my standard kitchen fridge with food in it. It has always had and will continue to have more beer then food in it. So until a week or 2 ago, I ran out of cold storage space for beer. I did what any self respecting homebrewer should do in my position. I called a few friends over for a party. After a night 0f hanging out with buddies, my cold storage issue was a little less of an issue. I am working on clearing out a few more kegs that I anticipate needing soon. I brought 2 of them to a camping party last night. We didn’t finish them, but we made a pretty good dent. I should have no problem finishing them off by the time I need them.

Imperial Stout and Citra Pale Ale

Which brings me to my main point. If you find yourself running out of room for beer storage because you brew every chance you get, well it’s a good thing. It’s a problem people are more then happy helping you out with. Just be careful who you share with. I had to cut a few people off last night because they were drinking a 8.5% Imperial Stout like it was chocolate milk and getting more then a little swilly. There were a few younger looking people (it’s so funny how 20 somethings look so young to me now) that I felt like carding just to make sure they were legal. Friends assured me that they were, and seriously, I wasn’t trying to be “that guy” at the party.

Ok, Reminder to myself. This weeks beer chores: Bottle ESB on Thursday. Clean sanitize, etc all week to get ready. Saturday is the Judging for the Tennessee Valley Fair’s Homebrew competition. I’ll be at Downtown Grill & Brewery all day, helping stewart the event. I have 5 beers I entered. I have zero expectations of winning, I am really looking forward to honest feedback that will help me become a better brewer. Some of the judges are guys who make excellent beer. Beer I find to be far superior to what I brew.

Sunday I am going to brew 10 gallons of Butternut Squash Ale for Brewer’s Jam. So all week I need to clean/ sanitize equipment, and process the squash. Anyone out there reading this that I can bribe with beer to come help me with this?