Hey y’all, figured it was time to write again. Since my last post, I’ve been picking up more and more hours working at The Market in Maryville’s Beer Den while I wait for my new full time job to start next month. I absolutely love everything about being part of the team at The Market and if they could afford me, would be more then happy to be there full time. Alas, they are a struggling mom and pop store and can only justify so much in employee wages, which I completely understand and sympathize with.
In the meantime I really enjoy getting paid to do something I love and am good at, sell beer. We have 8 constantly rotating taps. Pints are always only $3, we do growler fills and you can get a flight of all 8 beers for only $8. Not to mention the bottle selection is incredible. I love when people ask for suggestions or want to know more about a particular style of beer. I also love getting to know the regulars.
Since my last post, many of these regulars, my friends and my readers have asked me the same thing. “Are you really giving up on the idea of opening a nano-brewery?” This is something I thought long and hard about before I came to my decision. Like I said in my last post, I found myself spending to much thought energy on it, and stressing out. I think about it in these terms. The idea of opening a brewery is like a seed. I put that seed in the ground and my thoughts were like watering the seed. Well if you are constantly watering a seed, eventually you are going to drown it and it won’t grow. My decision was one to step back, stop watering it, and let nature take it’s course. For now I have other personal goals and things I want to accomplish. Maybe after I get a firm grip on those things, I’ll be in a better position revisit this idea and have some tools at my disposal to make another effort. In the mean time, we changed the name of our home brewery from Ratchet Brews to We Know Beer. When I say “we” it’s because the home brewing is about more than just me, it’s a team effort. Richard and Todd have become a big part of this, and deserve credit and recognition. This will be our official name when we represent at festivals. Not “We Know Beer brewery” or “We Know Beer brewing company“, simply We Know Beer. This new name encompasses everything we want to be about. It’s more then just about brewing beer, it’s also about education and appreciation, along with other things. We are having our logo developed and hope to debut it along with a mission statement and new merchandise in time for Thirsty Orange in April.
Until then I really need to do an inventory of ingredients and schedule a brew day. It’s kind of hard right now because I am in this inbetween place of working on the weekends while waiting to start my fulltime job. Once I am settled into a regular routine, we’ll be back to brewing on a regular basis. When this happens I’ll let you know.
There’s a few other things I want to write about before I end this post. When I made my goals for this year, getting back in shape was right there at the top of the list. Luckily there is a great beer running community. I love to run and several years back I would do so everyday. Then things happened and I slowly fell out. I started eating a lot. I was in a stressful and unhealthy relationship. Eating, drinking, staying up late and constantly arguing took it’s toll. I gained a bunch of weight. I became depressed. I finally arrived at the point when I said ENOUGH! I’m not doing this anymore. Since then, I haven’t been happier. I eat very sparingly now, mostly a juice diet. I still drink but not everyday and not as much. This balances nicely with my diet. I take yoga classes, weight train and started running again. I’ve was able to transition off of toxic and potentionally long term damaging anti-depressants simply by changing how I react and think about things. When I feel negative thoughts creeping in, I smile and think about all I do have and how blessed I am. I laugh more and I do my best to avoid stressful people and situations. Helping with all this, like I said, is the beer running community. Being around and getting to know other positive, health minded craft beer drinkers has made a world of difference. Monday evenings are now one of my favorite nights of the week because of the fun run at Bearden Beer Market. It’s a great challenge and keeps me working. I have an end of summer goal to be able to do the run at a 9 minute mile pace, including the big killer hill near the end. I’m also going to start the Thursday evening run that takes place at Central Flats and Taps.
Last Saturday morning I joined the Yazoo Barely a 4k run at Central Flats and Taps. Getting up early to start at 8am with 100 or more other people in the cold was exhilarating. I ended up running my personal best time so far. The run ended back at the bar where a round of Yazoo Fall Lager was waiting for us with a complimentary breakfast. We hung out and enjoyed the company of friends while watching the USA vs Russia Olympic Hockey game on tv. There are some great pictures on Central Flats and Tap’s facebook page of the run. I want to thank @YazooLeah for herding the cats to put this together. Yazoo is having a pub crawl through the Old City on her birthday, March 3rd. You know I’ll be there for this one.
This is all for now. It’s been so long since I’ve been at any beer related event that I’m really looking forward to my trip to All Ale to The Queen festival in Charlotte, NC on March 21st and 22nd. So far I’m still traveling solo, so if anyone wants to split gas and help me work the infusers at the festival, let me know.
A while back my friend and legendary Asheville homebrewer, Adam Reinke, approached me about guiding a tour of Ashevillians through the Knoxville Beer Scene. I didn’t have to think twice about it. Over the last couple of months, we coordinated our plans and set the itinerary. The trip was put together by Asheville’s homebrew club, MALT (Mountain Ale and Lager Tasters) . They chartered a bus to bring them over the mountains and back.
Adam Reinke (in Green), his wife Missy and some Asheville friends
Everyone knows that Knoxville has just a fraction of the breweries and craft beer bars that Asheville does. At the time we originally planned, Knoxville only had 3 operating breweries. Black Horse Pub had not yet opened, so was not included on the tour. The bus arrived at Saw Works Brewing Company at 10:30 am. Co-owner Jonathon Borsodi and head brewer Dave Ohmer had graciously agreed to open early to accommodate the group. Everyone settled in for flights and samples of beer before going behind the scenes where Dave talked about brewing for Saw Works and answered questions. (click on pictures below to enlarge).
Dave holding court
Dave gladly spoke about the brewery and answered questions.
Back in the fermentation room
Dave talks fermentation
Dave Ohmer, Head Brewer of Saw Works
Note on one of the test batches by an assistant brewer
After we were done at Saw Works, we headed over to Gay Street to check out Downtown Grill and Brewery, home of Woodruff Brewing Company. This place has long been my home away from home. Whenever I have friends visiting from outside the area, I always bring them here. The IPA has been a go to of mine, and years ago this was the only spot to get decent craft beer in all of downtown. There we ate lunch, sampled beer and spoke with assistant brewer, Tommy. (Once again, click on the pictures below to enlarge)
Samples of Woodruff’s Beers
Assistant brewer, Tommy, talking about Woodruff’s equipment.
The Malters gazing lovingly at Woodruff’s brew house.
After everyone finished up at Downtown Grill and Brewery, we walked across the street to Knoxville’s best Craft Beer Bar, Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern. When planning this trip, I definitely wanted to show off where us Knoxvillians go for the best draft selection. Sure other places might have more taps, but when it comes to the rarities, Ol’ Sut’s is usually the only place that has them. The group walked in and settled up to the bar. A few people went next store for bottling shopping at Downtown Wine and Spirits. Matt, Stanton and Anne were bartending that day and were happy to pour samples and talk about the selection. We sat around drinking, talking beer, making dirty jokes and coming up with hilarious yet inappropriate names for cider. When we gave everyone the 15 minute warning to get back on the bus, Stanton graciously grabbed a bottle of Rivertown Lambic out of the cooler and poured a sample for everyone. it was very much appreciated.
Stanton pouring beer for the Maltsters
Tap board at Suttree’s
Anne pouring beer
The Maltsters at the bar.
Matt pouring beer.
Before heading to the bus, I took a few of the group over to The Casual Pint on Union Avenue for some last minute bottle shopping. I bought a few selections myself before getting back on board. The Next stop was Smoky Mountain Brewery in Turkey Creek.
This was the last stop of the days tour. They knew we were coming and had an area all ready for us. We sat down and ordered food and beer while waiting for Brewmaster Marty Velas to arrive and guide us through. I tried several of their beers that I haven’t had before and found them all to be top notch. Marty arrived and we split the group in half to take turns touring the brew house. Marty very graciously poured beer for the guest and talked about the brewing process and the history of Smoky Mountain Brewery.
More of the group
Beer list at Smoky Mountain Brewery
The Malsters looking over the menu
Adam and Marty
From the brewing area, looking towards the dining room.
Well like all good things, the tour came to an end. Much beer was consumed and many people picked up beer they were unable to get back home. We loaded back into the bus and headed back on the interstate. The bus dropped me off back town and I said my goodbyes. It was a great time and I really appreciate all the beer and food bought for me by the group. I made some new friends and look forward to meeting them for beers in Asheville next time I visit. Anytime anyone wants to come visit Knoxville, I will be more than happy to show you around. Maybe I should actually Start a Knoxville Beer Tour. Then again, how’d would I find the time?
This video doesn’t exist
Enjoy the video from the day below. It’s really bad quality because I used a stupid app to do it. When I was recording I had no idea it was doing a split screen or weird color thing. I should have just recorded with the regular camera app, but I’ll know better for next time.
I also want to let everyone know that on Thursday I will be on WBIR’s Live at 5 at 4 talking about craft beer and beercations. This is August 1st which is also IPA Day. I am hoping someone will record the video for me so I can post it here.
There’s a few things coming up in the Knoxville craft beer scene to tell y’all about. First a note on a few things that already happened. Last Tuesday was the election and America voted another term for the first president to have beer brewed in the White House. The other choice was a guy who has never drank a beer in his life. I personally don’t trust a guy who has never drank beer, and it seems a lot of people didn’t either. For election night, I had brewed a copy of the White House Honey Ale. The recipe and video were published on the official White House blog. It was a really easy extract based brew. I was able to brew 5 gallons in the short few hours I typically have after work and before bed time. I followed all the directions as per the White house, so it would be as close to their recipe as possible. For election night we poured free samples for people to taste and enjoy at the Casual Pint’s downtown location. There was a pretty big crowd come out to try it and watch the election returns.
So how is this beer? It’s really basic, very drinkable but a bit on the English side of the ale spectrum. Although I liked it, It’s not a beer I’d likely make to keep on tap at home. Other people seemed to really enjoy it. My pal and fellow blogger Saccy drank a bit and I made sure to constantly fill his cup. He wrote about it and posted this cool picture on his website.
Saccy’s sign. Thanks for your vote! Check him out at Knoxbeerdinosaur.wordpress.com
The Tennessee Valley Homebrewer’s latest Big Ass Malt Order or (BAMO for short) just wrapped up. Collectively the club ordered 2 pallets of grain. I did my part and ended up with 325 lbs. The bulk of my order was organic 2 row brewers malt. I also picked up more Rauch Malt, some vienna, light munich, and crystal 60. This should cover my base malt needs for the next 6 to 7 brews. For me this buying in bulk at wholesale price is well worth the yearly dues I pay to the club. If you are a homebrewer and in Knoxville, click here to find out more about joining. It’s well worth it, even if you don’t brew all grain. Members can get malt extracts at cost as well.
Back of my CRV loaded with my BAMO order
I also recently ordered bulk hops from the website HopsDirect.com. This website is by Puterbaugh farm out in the Yakima Valley. It’s a family run farm that grows and sells fresh leaf hops by the pound. I was shopping around for leaf hops on their site when I came across a proprietary hop they grow call Belma. This is the first year they are releasing this hop and the description sounded wonderful. The best part is the price, $5.25 a pound! This is unheard of for any hop variety. Even Cascade which everyone grows and is the most readily available hop cost $13 a pound. I know that this is an introductory price and in the future this hop will probably be in the $15 to $18 a pound range. So I bought 3 pounds. I ended up selling one of them at cost to my friend Kavon who is also a homebrewer and bartends at Suttree’s. But still I have 2 pounds. These hops smell fantastic. Much like other American hop varieties, they have a very citrusy aroma. I couldn’t wait to use some of it, so I brewed a beer this weekend. I took my recipe for my Cascadian Dark Ale (or Dark IPA if you prefer) and tinkered with it to include these hops. The last couple of times I’ve brewed, I’ve had help from several good friends. It’s great to have people lend a hand (especially with the clean up) on brew days. However, this time I wanted to get back to my roots and brew alone. It’s almost meditative for me to do that every once in awhile. So I didn’t tell anybody, got my ingredients together, started a monster yeast starter a couple days before, went to the spring and got water, spent my Sunday brewing and now I have 10 gallons happily bubbling away. My next brew day I will include my friends. Next Sunday I plan on brewing a Belma based pale all. I’m going to call it the KBC505 which is reference to an inside joke with the guys I went to GABF with.
A case of Russian River’s Bling Pig and a case of Pliny the Elder
Well last night at ol’ Sut’s we had a private employee and friends party with some goodies they sent back. There was a case of both Pliny the Elder and Blind Pig. I brought a few bottles of rare stuff to share as well along with a 2.5 gallon keg of my Oktoberfest. It’s was a great time and lots of good beer was drank. I took a few pictures as well as a short video clip. Thanks Ann and Matt for throwing this party and for the Pliny shirt you brought back for me. Y’all are awesome!
Pliny the Elder, one of the highest rated IPAs ever.
Matt iceing down the beer
More bottles and a mini keg of homebrew
Blind Pig anyone?
Well there’s a few things coming up soon in Knoxville. This Thursday there is a bus leaving from Bearden Beer Market going to Highland Brewery for the release of Highland’s Cold Mountain Winter Ale. I’m not sure if there are any spots left. It’s $30 per seat for a trip to Asheville. More details are here and in the image below. I am going, it sounds like too much fun to pass up. I’ll try to post about it afterwards.
Also coming up this Saturday is the Brooklyn Brewery Hurricane Sandy relief fund raiser. This charity event, co-sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery and Eagle Distributing will be going on all day Saturday at both Casual Pint locations, Bearden Beer Market, Vic’s Beer Garden, both Brixx Pizza locations, Central Flats and Taps, and Suttree’s. So go drink beer, it’s for charity.
One more thing of note. Next First Friday, December 7th at 7pm I will be pouring FREE samples of my winter seasonal. Previously called Spicy Cocoa Stout, now called I’m Warming You, it’s a 7.3% abv imperial chocolate milk stout brewed with Tennessee cherry chili and jalepeno peppers. This will take place at Jackson Avenue Market in the JFG building in the Old City. Mark it on your calendar now and let’s pack that place.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot of about brewing equipment, upgrading mine and all the cost of turning my hobby into a career. I have spent way too much time recently browsing brewery supply websites. I’ve also been reading everything I can when it comes to laws, taxes and exactly what it takes to go from home brewer to someone who does it for a living. You could say it takes determination, love for what you do, equipment and all that other stuff, but what is really boils down to is money. Cold hard cash or the ability to come up with it.
I am blessed to have a pretty decent job. I live simply and within my means. I don’t care my house is sparsely furnished, or that there is more beer in my fridge then food. When it comes down to buying a furniture, clothes, shoes or beer supplies, it’s pretty obvious what I spend my $ on. When I determine I want a new piece of brewing equipment, I do my research, try to find the best price and then save up for it.
My last upgrade was a 55 gallon Blichmann Boilermaker Brew pot. It wasn’t cheap. All the home brew shops sell this for exactly the same price. My preferred shop, Rebel Brewer, is here in Tennessee. They ship Blichmann’s stuff for free. However, I knew if I bought from them, they have to charge tax which would add more to the price then I had to spend. I ordered from Austin Homebrew Supply and got the same free shipping but without having to pay tax since it was purchased out of state. I could have purchased a similar capacity stainless steel home made brew pot here in town for much less. It was a converted shipping drum. Many brewers (such as my buddies at Legit ) use these without issue. However, there’s a reason I passed on this cheaper brew pot. I have spoke with professional brewers and have been advised that there is a chance that if I tried to go pro, it may not pass inspection. This is because the bottom does not have a sanitary weld. This is where I am at on my search for new items to add to my home brewery. I want equipment that when I started my nano-brewery, I can use right away. Currently there is so much I want.
Since I am transitioning from typical home brewer equipment to more professional nano-brewer stuff, I’ve made the decision to phase out my old “corny” kegs to the industry standard sanke kegs. These are not easy to find, and they aren’t very affordable. I have researched and read so much about the cost. A typical stainless steel keg cost around $120-$150 new. This is pretty much what all craft breweries pay for them. When you purchase beer in a keg from a store or brewery, the deposit is typically half of what a new keg cost. People don’t always return them. Some of them are stolen off of people’s porches and sold from scrap. Home brewers are notorious for cutting them up to make brew kettles, mash tuns, etc. This may not affect the big guys like Budweiser, but it does effect the industry as a whole. Plus if you are using kegs that are branded by one of the macros, there’s a chance they can take them back no matter how you obtained them. Check out what happened to Calfkiller out of Sparta, TN last year.
So, as a home brew who wants to go pro, my only option is to buy brand new sanke kegs from a manufacturer. I’m thinking because of the upcoming holidays, etc, I’ll have to wait until next year to do this.
I thought I’d make a list of websites that sell equipment for transitioning home-to-nano brewers. These are places I’ve bookmarked and check every day. A guy can dream, can’t he?
Probrewer.com classifieds– This is a website for professional brewers. The classifieds are a great place to find used equipment. When a brewery upgrades or goes out of business, chances are their stuff ends up for sale on here. I call dibs on all the used 1 barrel stuff, so leave it for me, ok?
Stout tanks and Kettles– They have the best price on nano brewery stuff I have found so far. I have my eye on the 55 gallon conical fermenter with butterfly valves and casters. If I get my yearly Christmas bonus at work, it’s so mine.
Bubba’s Barrels– local guy here in Knoxville who is fabricating nano-brewery systems. Great price and equipment for home brewers. He can build brew stands, and has a few conical fermenters that he’s working on.
Geemacher– A keg manufacturer in PA. They sell all different sizes of kegs and firkins as well. This is who I’ll probably buy mine from.
Rebel Brewer– Based outside of Nashville, this is where I purchase a lot of my smaller equipment and ingredients. Super fast shipping and excellent customer service.
Some upcoming Knoxville events I want to let everyone know of. Tonight (October 25th) I am doing another infusion event at Suttree’s starting at 7pm. It is also pint night, so the 1st 40 people get a free Lagunitas glass with purchase.
This Saturday is the monthly Knox Beer Crew tasting. I’m not going to say much about this month’s tasting other then I got a feeling that it’s going to be epic.
Next week the Tennessee Valley Homebrewer’s club will be putting together another Big ASS Malt Order or BAMO. If you join and become a member, you can take part in this and order some grains for home brewing at wholesale cost. Well worth the $25 yearly membership fee.
November 6th is election night. I brewed a clone of the Whitehouse Honey Ale and we will be pouring free samples of it at The Casual Pint downtown as we watch the election results. Come join us for this historic night while trying a copy of this historic beer.
What a weekend! I want to write about Brewer’s Jam, but don’t think I’ll do it justice. Instead I’ll just tell you about my craft beer weekend in general.
If you read my last post, you know I was going to be busy. Friday night is somewhat of a blur, but what I can recall was amazing. I got off work and headed to World’s Fair Park to help load the cold truck. There were plenty of volunteers and I didn’t stay long. After a while I went home, cleaned myself up and headed to Adam and Shellie Palmer‘s wedding reception at SawWorks. On the way I dropped off kegs at Saccy‘s for the party.
It was great spending time with some of my favorite people in the Knoxville craft beer community on such a joyful occasion. One of the highlights for me was seeing Dave Ohmer’s face when the guys busted out with the Dave is my Homie shirts that Adam had printed. I made sure to hand mine to Dave with a sharpie to sign it, as seen in the picture below:
Dave sign’s my “Dave is my Homie” shirt
I can’t wait to see the rest of the pictures of taken at the reception by Rebecca Tatum and hope that she post them soon. Thanks to an idea formulated during a conversation with her, I started interviewing for interns that can read me beer books in a english accent as I do chores around my basement brewery. So, yeah, thanks for that Becca.
Well I wanted to stay at the reception longer, but I did commit to Saccy’s Party, so I headed over there. Downtown was a complete mess when it came to traffic and parking since it was First Friday. I eventually found a spot, grabbed my tap box and walked over the his condo. This event took place in the building’s community room, and when I walked in, I was treated like a rock star. It was unbelievable. The party had been waiting in anticipation of my arrival to tap the kegs. The same time this party was going on, there was the brewer’s reception across the street at the Woodruff building. I went over there for a few minutes, had a drink, said hello to a few people and went back to Saccy’s. After this things start getting a little blurry. I do however specifically remember having a great tasting homebrewed Pale Ale that stood out for it’s fresh hoppy character.
Well the party eventually died down, so I headed over to The Casual Pint. Stayed there really briefly, then headed to Suttree’s. Somehow I end the night at the Peter Kern Library. I over did it and had a little too much fun. The next morning was rough.
Brewer’s Jam morning I overslept and woke up dehydrated with a pounding head ache. Drinking beer all day a festival was the absolute last thing I wanted to do. The bad part is that I knew better. I should have been drinking water the whole time the night before. I missed most of the morning chores of delivering ice and kegs to the brewers. Thankfully there were plenty of people to take up my slack. I still feel bad about it and I’ll make up for it next year. I brought a cooler to Brewer’s Jam with bottles of vitamin water and a gallon of spring water. I was constantly mixing Emergen-C , and I drank more of that then I did beer during the day. By the time the gates opened, I was fully recovered.
Before the gates opened, I had a chance to wander around and say hi to a few people. I stopped by and saw Kitty at the Highland Brewing booth. Next I went to Asheville Brewing Company and purchased an awesome shirt. Sadly my friend Mike didn’t make the trip, but it was great meeting the guys who were working the booth in his absence. I went over to talk to the guys at Green Man and flipped out when I noticed they had a bottle of their super rare sour ale, Maceo, at the table. This beer was just released on Thursday. Only a few beer stores in Asheville got a case. No one was willing to hold or ship bottles. It was first come, first serve. I had tried bribing friends to go get it since I couldn’t get out of my plans to drive to Asheville, but had no takers. As soon as I saw the bottle at the booth, I took all the money out of my wallet and offered it to the guy there for it. He wouldn’t sell it. He did tell me to check back and we could work something out at the end. Every hour or so I went back to check if it was there. Eventually near the end of the day, he sold it to me. He said since I was persistent, he would sell it to me for the same price it sold for in Asheville. I was so happy. This really did make me feel like Brewer’s Jam was better than Christmas. It also completes my collection of beers that Green Man has released bottles of. I am going to save this for a special occasion.
I saw this and freaked out. I had to have it no matter what the co$t…
Thank you for selling it to me. You have no idea how happy it made me.
What happiness looks like
When the gates opened, my beer was the 1st being poured. Both my Butternut Squash Ale and Oktoberfest were side by side. I worked the taps. We had the longest line at Brewer’s Jam. It was crazy! It stretched all the way across the lawn of World’s Fair Park. My beer was a hit and I poured it until it was all gone. The whole rest of the day people would come up and compliment me on it. It’s a great feeling knowing that I make beer that people really seem to enjoy. It was also so nice meeting and talking to people in line who I had never met in real life but read this blog. Thank you! More then once I heard “I hope this isn’t weird, but….” then the person describing how they read my blog, or seen me at one of the downtown bars, or I’ve poured them a beer at work, or they feel like they know me because of my website. Let me tell you. NO. It IS NOT Weird for you to approach me. It’s AWESOME. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Feel free to stop me and say hi anytime. I love meeting new friends. Every person I met that told me something like this, I tried to give one of my bottle cap fridge magnets. If you see me around, say something and I’ll give you one as well. I try to keep a few on me when I’m out in public.
The Homebrewers booth always has the longest line at Brewer’s Jam
The weather was the best it could have been, and was the best I ever remember it being. It was overcast (so I didn’t get a sunburn) and it was chilly, so I wore my new hoodie the whole time. For the entire time it looked and felt like it could rain at any moment but not one drop fell from the sky. This year I didn’t drink very much, but still had a great time. At festivals, I tend to try for beers I haven’t had before. There were a few I really wanted, but passed because the lines were too long. I also very rarely wandered out into the main crowd of the packed festival lawn. I knew there were many of my friends (Lou of Blues and BBQ for example) that were there, but I just didn’t run in to. I mostly stayed behind the tents where it was less crowded and other brewers were hanging out. I wish I had taken more pictures of Brewer’s Jam and maybe some video, but just forgot. At the end of the festival I was completely sober and hungry. I packed my car, drove home and went with a friend to dinner at the Downtown Grill and Brewery. I sipped some Maker’s 46 for the hour or so we were there. After that headed to Suttree’s where half way through a sample size of Lindeman’s Framboise, I crashed. I had hit the wall and it was like someone flipped an off switch for my body and brain. A lack of sleep had caught up to me. I couldn’t focus on conversation and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. The night was still early, but I couldn’t hang anymore. I got dropped off at my house walked in the door, kicked off my shoes and let myself literally fall into bed. I fell asleep mid fall and woke up 9 hours later completely refreshed.
Lindeman’s Framboise, my Saturday night “off switch”
My weekend ended with me working the Sunday afternoon shift solo at The Casual Pint and reminiscing about the last couple of days with my good friends. I also met a really nice couple who own a winery in Virginia and are planning a brewery. I’m didn’t catch their names or the name of the brewery, but I am hoping they email me so I can take a road trip and visit them and their brewery someday.
Well that was this weekend. Next weekend I’ll be in Denver for the GREAT AMERICAN BEER FESTIVAL! I am flying out with 4 other members of the Knox Beer Crew. We will be repping hard! I am going to make another effort to blog everyday of the trip so those of you who can’t make it can live vicariously through my adventures. It’s going to be epic, so check back Thursday through Sunday to follow along.
Once again, I would like to thank my readers, friends, twitter followers and people I met this weekend for all the kinds words. Hope we all meet and share beer again real soon.
So here I am sitting at my desk at work, waiting for 4 pm so I can go start my weekend. The weekend of Brewers Jam is more exciting to me then any other holiday. Christmas always seems like a let down, New Years is meh and I don’t want to celebrate my birthday anymore because getting old kinda sucks. But BREWERS JAM is the day I wait for and anticipate every year. This year’s event is going to be especially fun for yours truly.
Last night the homebrew club I am a member of met for our annual “pretzel jam” where we get together to make pretzel necklaces to sell at Brewers Jam. This year’s Pretzel Jam was right down the block from my house. I walked there so I could imbibe and not worry about getting a ride home. It was a very short walk. At our yearly Pretzel Jam, we hang out, drink homebrew, eat pizza and pick up our shirts and passes for Saturday. We stand around and share information and tell stories of our homebrewing. Our membership has different levels of experience from the just starting out with extract, brew-in-a-bucket beers to the “I’ve been doing it for 30 years” to multiple award winners and all the way to the truly obsessed OMG I gotta start a brew pub members like myself.
Tonight is going to be incredibly fun, and I will be all over the place. I am going to try to duck out of work early if I can, and head over to World’s Fair Park to help load the cold truck. It’s the drop off point for the brewers when they come into town. My work will consist of sitting around, sipping some brewski’s and waiting for brewers to arrive. When they do, I’ll get off my ass and with help from many of the other club members, move kegs from the brewer’s vehicles to the truck. Then I’ll sit back down and shoot the breeze and sip more beer. It’s a hard duty, but someone has to do it. About 5:45 I’ll head home to grab a few things and then I’m heading to Adam & Shellie Palmer’s wedding reception at SawWorks. Adam is the owner of SawWorks and a good friend. They got married in a private ceremony in Providencials in the Turk and Caicos Islands. The reception tonight is small informal gathering for friends and family. I am bringing a couple of bottles of my homemade mead for the newly weds to enjoy. I can’t stay long, because I have 2 other parties to attend this evening.
Hopefully y’all know and aware of another downtown beer blogger and my good friend, the Knoxville Beer Dinosaur, Sacchromyces Rex. Ol’ Saccy is throwing a pre-Brewers Jam beer party in his building on Gay Street. I see Saccy all the time when I am downtown. When he first approached me months ago about throwing a party, I was all about it. When he finally picked a date, it turned out to be perfect. I agreed to bring some of my homebrew. I actually kegged up 3 gallons of a special rum barrel edition of my Butternut Squash Ale for the party. At the same time I’ll be drinking with my Dino friend, the Brewer’s reception is taking place pretty much across the street. Dinner is at 8, so it looks like I’ll be doing a lot of walking back and forth so I can attend both parties.
I know that I’ll want to, but can’t, stay out all night. I have to be at the World’s Fair Park Saturday morning bright and early to help set up. Once the gates open, I will be pouring beer at the homebrewer’s tent. I have 2 kegs of mine, an Oktoberfest and my famous Butternut Squash Ale. I don’t know when they will be tapped, but when they are, I’ll tweet it. These are only 5 gallon kegs, and they tend to get drained within 15 minutes. The afternoon I am responsibility free and will be able to cut loose and have some fun. This is what I am most excited about. Drinking good beer, hanging with friends. Hell I might even be inebriated enough to get my groove on to some music from the fine bands playing. After the Jam ends, who knows where I’ll end up? I know there is an after party at Market Square and I would be down for seeing friends at The Casual Pint, Suttree’s and going to my new favorite speakeasy, the Peter Kern Library. Like I said, who knows?
I can’t wait to see my friends and meet some new ones. If you recognize me, or read my blog, say hi. Let’s raise a toast, throw back a few cold ones together and celebrate this greatest Knoxville holiday.
I love it when I get asked questions about home brewing and beer in general. Recently I was asked questions about craft beer storage by Joel D. on my facebook page. He wrote: “Ratchet, in your next blog can you talk about vintage beers? I want to start a collection of beers to keep in my basement/cellar, but don’t know where or how to start. For example, how to know what beers are suited for such storage? What does bottle conditioned “really” mean. I got a bunch of Short’s brew from MI and was told I “must keep cold” and must drink soon. Some bottles (namely bomber’s) indicate that they are good for vintage or storage, but most do not. I tried looking on google, but most links were to buy vintage beer and that is not my goal. Thanks, Joel D.”
All excellent questions Joel. Some of my knowledge of the subject I have learned over the years, and some of that the hard way. Let me preface my response with this, I am not as egotistical to proclaim I know everything about beer or to consider myself a “beer expert”. Those type of claims reek of “beer douchery“. I consider myself simply a home brewer with dreams of going pro, a beer lover and connoisseur. What I do know, I learned through reading, experience and from picking the minds of people who have forgotten more about beer than I’ll ever know.
To get to the questions at hand. Yes some beers are meant to be drank fresh, and certain beers can be stored for years. For example, that super hoppy IPA? Those hops are going to break down and fade with time. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be bad. As the hops fade, the more malty characteristics come to the fore front. It can be really nice tasting. However, being an IPA, you must keep in mind the brewer’s intent and flavors they were shooting for when they brewed it.
How a beer is stored has a major impact on the flavor. Beers should be stored upright, and never vertical like on a wine rack. Also the ideally, any beer you store should be kept around 40 to 50 degrees. I try to keep my beers that I am “cellaring” in a spare refrigerator. I didn’t always have this option, and I know a lot of people don’t. Before I had the fridge space, I’d use extra coolers or large tupperware like storage containers and place them on or as close to an air conditioner vent or window unit as possible. More important the temperature is keeping your beer out of the light. Light struck beer takes on an unpleasant “skunky” quality. I am so paranoid about this now that I don’t purchase beer in clear or green bottles. I don’t even purchase clear growlers. These type of containers let in ultraviolet rays that react with and break down isohumulones, a molecule derived from the hops. The resulting molecule, is very similar chemically and in odour to the chemicals that are part of skunk’s natural defence. Amber or brown glass offer some protection, but if they are sitting somewhere (say for example a shelf that sunlight hits it for a few hours every day), they will go bad.
Some beer styles tend to age better. A rule of thumb is the darker and more alcoholic a beer, the better it will store. It also matters if a beer is bottle conditioned. Bottle conditioning simply means that a tiny amount of priming sugar or unfermented beer is added at bottling to allow the remaining yeast cells to eat the sugars and create carbonation. Most mass produced beer in this country are not bottle condition, with Sierra Nevada being one exception. It’s easy enough to tell if your beer is bottle conditioned or not. Simply take the bottle, give it a swirl and look at the bottom of it. Does you see sediment floating around? If so chances are that it’s bottle conditioned.
The reason bottle conditioned beers tend to age better is because the yeast protect against oxidation and contributes complex flavors as it breaks down slowly in the bottle. The alcohol content will also slightly increase. Now just because a beer is bottle conditioned doesn’t mean it will last forever. It is heavily dependent on style. A lighter pilsner or wheat beer is likely to pick up off flavors that yeast can contribute when they die.
If a bottle or can of beer says drink fresh, do what it says. I recently had a stash of Heady Topper brought back for me from Vermont. As much as I love this beer and wish I can always have it around, I know it’s meant to be drank within days or a couple of weeks of canning, max. I imagine it’s the same with most hop heavy beer. On the other hand, I also tried a can of 1982 World’s Fair Beer at the last Knox Beer Crew meeting. I was told that this beer was gross when it first came out. I was afraid, but cracked it open anyway. It wasn’t too bad. It was carbonated, with major sediment that I can only imagine what it was. It didn’t make me sick, and I can say I had the experience of drinking a 30 year old beer.
If you are looking to collect and store, go for beers that say that say they age well on the label. Some beer styles brewed or conditioned with wild yeast strains such as Brettanomyces are meant to be aged. Beers below 7% alcohol by volume don’t age as well, so look for high gravity beer. Baltic Porters, Russian Imperial Stouts, “Farmhouse style” ales, Flanders Red, Strong belgium ales and Barley Wines.
This advice is just meant as a guideline and there are always exceptions. When I brewed last weekend, I broke out a bottle of homebrewed oaked imperial stout that I had been storing since 2010. It was bottle conditioned, and a style that should’ve lasted long. It was oxidized, and had that cardboard like taste. It could have been that I allowed too much oxygen in during the bottling phase, it could be the yeast strain I used, it could be that it was improperly stored (at room temp the 1st year of it’s life), or it could be other unknown factors. I also had my last bottle of Sweetwater’s Dank Tank 420 IPA that was bottled back in January. All assumptions were that this over the top hop bomb would have gone bad. I even had a local distributor rep tell me months ago that the beer would be undrinkable. It was really good. The hop aromas and flavors had faded slightly, but it was still enjoyable to drink. Of course, it had been stored in my fridge the whole time, and I am positive that is what made the difference.
I hope this helps answer some questions about storing beers or starting a vintage beer collection. I would advise searching google for cellaring beer, aging beer, and beer storage. Some breweries will have information about aging theirs beers on their websites. Just remember the most important thing about beer storage and drinking aged beer, regardless of what anyone else says, is whether you enjoy it or not.
_______________One More (time sensitive) note:_______________________
If you are reading this any day but Thursday August 16th, 2012, you can ignore this.
Tonight at Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern I will be doing another infusion night. Starting at 7pm, we will be pouring Bluegrass Brewing Company’s Bourbon Barrel Stout infused with Whole Vanilla Beans, Cocao nibs and toasted oak chips. This is a great beer that will be made even greater with this infusion. I hope to see you there.
Also I am asking my readers to PLEASE vote for the Knox Beer Crew bar stool at http://BeardenBeerMarket.com . Voting ends at midnight, and the competition is close. Any beer we win will be shared with the crew at the next tasting. Please note that the next tasting is Saturday August 25th at Suttree’s starting at 2pm. New members are welcome, but please bring beer (the rarer the better) to share.
Well that’s all for now. I’ll be beertending this (and every weekend) at The Casual Pint on Union Avenue downtown. Feel free to come by, have a beer (or three) and pick my brain. I really enjoy meeting people who read my blog, and enjoy even more talking about beer (in case you haven’t noticed…)
This is what the poll looks like after you vote. Please help us stay ahead.
Update: While doing the infusion, I went next door to Downtown Wine & Spirits on Gay Street. They have a great selection of beer that would age well. They still have bottles of New Belgium’s Brett beer, some bottles of Moa imperial stout, and other tasty treats. I know where some of my next paycheck is going. Get these beers:
This Thursday August 2nd is IPA Day. For those of you who weren’t aware, this annual event was co-founded by beer evangelist and social media celebrity Ashley Routson aka “The Beer Wench“. From the IPA Day website, it’s described as “universal movement created to unite the voices of craft beer enthusiasts, bloggers, and brewers worldwide, using social media as the common arena for connecting the conversation together.” Basically a more wordy way of saying, let’s celebrate this widely loved beer style on a certain day by drinking it, doing special events around it and tweeting/blogging about it. This is the 2nd annual IPA Day. Last year I went down to Florida on beercation, and didn’t actually get to partake of an IPA on IPA day. This year things are different. On Thursday starting at 6pm I will be at Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern on Gay street for their IPA Day celebration.
So what is going on at Suttree’s for IPA Day? Well first of all, as many of the 24 taps as possible will be switched to different IPAs. Expect to see East coast, West coast, English and historical examples of the style. The main show however, is what we are going to do with 2 separate infusers. We will have 2 kegs of Green Flash West Coast IPA, a very solid, enjoyable (and very loved) beer on it’s own. One keg will be infused with whole leaf Simcoe Hops, and the other keg will be infused with whole leaf Citra hops. I picked these two hops based on their wild popularity in the world of craft beer. These 2 varieties are incredibly good, but rare and expensive at the same time. These aren’t hops you can grow in your back yard. Both cultivars are proprietary, meaning only a few select farms in the Yakima Valley of Washington are licensed to grow them. Simcoe has a very distinct aroma of citrus, grapefruit, and pine. While it is a very popular aroma hop, its high alpha acid percentage and low cohumulone content make it a very useful bittering hop as well. Citra is a dual-purpose hop released in 2007 by the Hop Breeding Company. It is a cross of Hallertauer Mittelfruh, U.S. Tettnanger, East Kent Golding, Bavarian, Brewers Gold, and other unknown hops. Citra has a citrus aroma and flavor, with a heavy aroma of tropical fruits (guava and mango come to mind). It is typically used as an aroma hop, but due to its high alpha percentage and low cohumulone content, it makes an excellent bittering hop as well. This IPA Day infusion event is a very good way to come taste and experience the difference between these two. It’s the same beer but different hops. Which one will be your favorite? We’ll have a running tally and will announce which hop won the tasting on Suttree’s twitter account.
I hop(e) to see you all there.
One more thing before I sign off. I want to give a big thank you and shout out to Dave and Adam of Saw Works Brewing Company. Yesterday evening they hosted a TN Valley Homebrewers tour of their brewery. Going behind the scenes with fellow beer geeks and seeing just how much work goes into bringing Knoxville great beer was inspiring. So when you are out on the town, don’t be afraid to drink local. Rest assured that they are going above and beyond to bring Knoxville the quality and consistency that we craft beer lovers deserve.
Dave Omer, talking beer in front of Saw Works’ fermenters
Welcome to the Knoxville Brew Fest! I know I am going to be very busy serving my beer & sampling others. I will be live tweeting all day. What I plan on doing is updating this all day with photos from the Fest. So keep checking back until my iPhone battery dies. If I take your picture, or you are checking out my website for the 1st time, please leave a comment below.
Holy crap! Look at that line! About to get slammed!
THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
What a great festival! It’s the first time I’ve been at a beer fest & not even come close to getting a buzz. That’s alright because I had so much fun meeting people & talking about my beer. After the crowds left, I was able to get a few growlers filled from the leftovers. A big thank you goes out to the organizers, the brewers (pro & home alike) & all the craft beer lovers who made this a roaring success. I can’t wait for next year!
One last thing, I’d like to invite y’all to come out to Suttree’s on Wednesday night. We are going to be infusing one of the last kegs of SweetWater’s Happy Ending with hops, cocoa nibs & shredded coconut. I hope you see you all there.
Hey y’all. Life has been pretty hectic for me since I got back from Asheville Beer Week. Between my day job, beertending at Suttree’s, and chores I am just now getting caught up. Figured it was time to write another quick update.
Then on Saturday June 23rd, is the Knoxville Brew Fest going on at the Southern Railway Terminal on the edge of downtown. I did this event last year, and it was great. The early admission VIP tickets are well worth the price. I will be set up there pouring samples of my beer, so make sure to come say hi. I will have about 25 gallons, and I’m sure it will go fast.
The Brewer’s Summit is coming up on Friday July 13th. This event is a fund raiser for the TN Craft Brewer’s Guild. Brewers from around the state will talk about the laws and tax issues affecting your craft beer choices in Tennessee. Beers will be paired with cheese, and more food provided by Nama and Pizza Kitchen. I will be serving a tasty mulberry stout on nitrogen. There are less then 50 tickets still available for this event, and we anticipate it selling out soon. You can buy them, and find out more about this event at the Brewers Summit Website.
I know it’s still awhile away, but I have October on my mind. Brewer’s Jam tickets are already on sale at the Casual Pint. This year I am going to be skipping one of my favorite beer festivals, the Asheville Oktoberfest. I am skipping it because I AM FLYING OUT TO DENVER FOR THE GREAT AMERICAN BEER FESTIVAL!!! WOOO-HOOO! I’ve been talking about this for a year now with Knox Beer Crew founder, Matt Crowell. He has a friend, Kevin LA, who has graciously invited Matt to bring along a few other members of the crew to stay at his place in Denver. I am stoked! The GABF is the biggest and best of all the beer festivals in America. I’ve heard countless stories over the years and have been dying to go. Thanks to Kevin I can afford it because I’m not paying an arm and a leg for a hotel room. I bought my plane ticket yesterday, and the AHA member tickets to the event go on sale on July 31. General public tickets go on sale August 2nd. According to Matt, Kevin is going to take us brewery hopping in Fort Collins and around Denver. We are flying out the morning of Thursday October 11th and returning on Sunday evening. I am attending 2 of the festival’s tasting sessions, one of them being an AHA members only session. I can not wait!
On another note I finally got the 30 gallons of beer I had fermenting into kegs. Now I have empty carboys, so it’s time to brew again. I really want to have a stout on tap at home. The 10 gallons I have is going to be given away at the Knox Brew Fest and at the Brewer’s Summit. Therefor, this Sunday I plan on brewing it again. I think after this batch, I’ll brew some more Rauchbier.
One last note to end this post. I want to give a big shout out to all the craft beer drinkers in Knoxville that have been showing Suttree’s some love. On the limited days I beertend, I’ve gotten to know some regulars. I have met some great people who share my love and enthusiasm for craft beer. I am also always surprised when someone I haven’t met tells me that they read my blog. Thank you! That means a lot to me, and if you come in while I’m working, please introduce yourself.