A Pleasure to Give Asheville’s MALT #Homebrew Club a #KnoxBeer Tour @Reinkster @SawWorksBrewing @Suttrees @SmokyMtnBrewery

July 29, 2013

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

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).

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)

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.

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.

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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.

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?

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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.

Until next time, drink one for me.

-Ratchet


Announcing #KnoxBeerWeek and Logo design contest. @KnoxBeerSnobs @KnoxBeerCrew @bluesandbarbq

January 14, 2013

On Sunday January 13th at 1 pm many of Knoxville’s craft beer producers, distributors, venue owners and managers, bloggers and supporters met at a secret beer based location to discuss and plan Knoxville Tennessee’s second annual craft beer week. Knoxville has joined the growing list of cities celebrating their own unique craft beer culture with a week of tastings, beer dinners, cask, rare one off beers, special events and the 3rd annual Knoxville Brew Festival at the end. The dates for this great week long celebration is June 22nd through June 29th 2013.

J.T. Baker Bar manager of Sunspot, Rob of Knoxbeersnobs.com, Dave Ohmer of Saw Works, Don of Knoxbeersnobs.com, Todd White of the Markeyt in Maryville

J.T. Baker Bar manager of Sunspot, Rob of Knoxbeersnobs.com, Dave Ohmer of Saw Works, Don of Knoxbeersnobs.com, Todd White of the Markeyt in Maryville

Still early in the planning stages, but I can tell you that we really want to make this huge. Some of the things discussed were a collaboration beer between Smoky Mountain Brewery and Saw Works Brewing Company and a home brewer competition. As we progress towards the date, more info will be available on the new website KnoxBeerWeek.com. You can also keep up to date on twitter @KnoxBeerWeek and the Knox Beer Week Facebook page.

Matt Crowell, webmaster of KnoxbeerWeek.com, Louis Kitrell of Blues and BBQ blog, Russ Torbett and  Jeremy Walker of Eagle Distribution at the Knox Beer week planning meeting

Matt Crowell, webmaster of KnoxbeerWeek.com, Louis Kitrell of Blues and BBQ blog, Russ Torbett and Jeremy Walker of Eagle Distribution at the Knox Beer week planning meeting

Like with any event of this magnitude, we need a logo. A plan was hatched and a contest born. Do you think you have what it takes? Fame, fortune and best of all PRIZES are yours to claim if your design gets picked to represent Knox Beer Week. This logo will be used on all promotional material for Knox Beer Week and hopefully serve as a untappd badge as well. To enter email your spiffiest design to info@knoxbeerweek.com and we will pick the winner at our March meeting. We haven’t exactly determined what the prize would be, but it will be something very cool. We’re thinking something along the lines of 2 tickets to Knox Brew Fest, some swag from Eagle’s vaults, certificates for growlers and swag at participating bars and breweries, etc. We’ll announce the exact prize pack as soon as we solidify it. Just know we are going to insure that whoever wins is going to be VERY happy. Here are the rules: Entries must be received by February 21st. All submissions become property of Knox Beer Week. Entries/ design submissions are limited to 3 per person. Prizes have no cash value. Must be 21 to enter. Nothing offense that you wouldn’t want your elderly conservative grandmother to see.

Now that we go that out of the way, I sincerely hope you have gotten your ticket to next month’s Tennessee Winter Beer Festival in Townsend. I spoke with a few of the organizers who happen to also be members of the Knox Beer Week committee and they say this event is more then likely going to see out real soon. I’ll just refer you to this post by The Knox Beer Snobs and my post from last year on the subject. I absolutely loved being part of last year’s event and am so looking forward to this one. Sales are limited to 200 tickets total, there are very few left. You can get them online or purchase them at either The Casual Pint locations. The money spent is well worth it. It’s a great event, you get beer, a shirt, food and support a very important cause. I will be there and I hope you will be too.

The last thing I want to mention is the new Knox Beer message board. This is going to be a shared Knoxville Beer forum where anything can be discussed. It was just set up and the colors and design are still being worked on, but feel free to sign up and start posting.

Upcoming import beer dates:

January 23rd- Terrapin Wake N Bake night at Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern. I’ll be “Randalizing” this beer with cocoa nibs and vanilla beans. Listen to the Dude.

January 26th- Asheville Winter Warmer Beer Festival at Asheville Civic Center, NC.

February 9th- TN Winter Beer Fest at at the Laurel Valley Country Club in Townsend, TN

April 13th- Thirsty Orange Beer fest at Mellow Mushroom in Johnson City, TN

Cheers,

Ratchet


Solo #homebrew day, new hop variety, brewing of KBC 505 and Hurricane Sandy relief

November 12, 2012

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 KBC 505 which is reference to an inside joke with the guys I went to GABF with.

6 ounces of Belma hops from HopsDirect.com

My friends and co-owners of Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern, Matt and Ann, went on beercation last week to the west coast where they traveled and visited breweries. I got several text from Matt when he was at Russian River Brewing Company. He sent me the pictures below:

Russian River’s Tap board

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

Mmmmmmm, Beer!

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.

Owly Images

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.

Seriously, y’all come out for this one. Please?

Cheers,

Ratchet


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

September 23, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

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

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Is your beer truly seasonal? A rant about pumpkin ales.

September 17, 2012

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about my favorite season, fall. I love the cooler weather, the shorter days, the changing leaves and football. Fall is also Oktoberfest, pumpkin ales and fresh hop IPAs. These are seasonal beers and the subject of this post.

When it comes to beer, what does “seasonal” really mean? For some people it means the time of year that beer is available on the market. Do you expect to see a wet hop IPA in the spring? What about pumpkin ale in May? I would avoid both of these then. For me, a “seasonal” beer can mean a beer brewed to be drank at a certain time of year, but it can also mean a beer brewed with specialty ingredients that were harvested and added in when the beer was brewed. With that being said, let’s talk about pumpkin beer.

A few years back, I was really big on pumpkin ales. I remember waiting in the lines at Brewers’ Jam for a taste of Catawba’s King Don’s Pumpkin or Cottonwood Pumpkin Ale. When I got back into brewing after a few years absence, I decided to brew one myself. I researched recipes, found one online based on Thomas Jefferson’s pumpkin ale, made some rather significant changes and went about gathering my ingredients. It was near the end of summer. My garden was bountiful. I went to the Market Square Farmer’s Market in search of pumpkin and couldn’t find any. I asked around and spoke to many farmers who informed me that the pumpkins were still a month out before they’d be ripe. Huh.  Well this enthusiasm to brew this style lead me to my end of summer seasonal, my butternut squash Ale. I had plenty of ripe squash in my garden. After more research, I changed my recipe and brewed my now famous beer. You know what? I like it better than any pumpkin ale. I can’t imagine going a year without brewing it. Using freshly harvested squash is the only way to go. I guess I could can some squash and use it in next year’s batch, but that wouldn’t feel right to me. I want that freshness.

Which leads me back to this year’s pumpkin ales. They started showing up on the shelves in July. Beers showing up this far ahead of the time they are traditionally enjoyed is referred to as Seasonal Creep. There is no way that pumpkin is anything but canned. Pumpkin is a late harvest fruit, which is why it’s a big thing around Halloween. Pouring beers at The Casual Pint, I have tried a few. I found that I didn’t really like them. It seems like I’ve lost my taste for this style. I have noticed at least one of them has a slight metallic taste. I completely believe this is because of the pumpkin being in a can for a year. Plus I don’t even want to taste something pumpkiny when it still hot as hell outside. Pumpkin flavor is for the fall, period.

The other big fall seasonal beer is traditionally brewed in March. This type of beer is called Marzen which in German translates to “March Beer”. You might know it as Oktoberfest. We have many of these hitting the market right now. This style was traditionally brewed in March and stored or “lagered” until September. This famous beer style originated in Munich Germany where THE Oktoberfest celebration takes place. For a pretty good reviews of Oktoberfest lagers, I recommend checking out The Knox Beer Snob’s post from last year. My favorite (at least on draft) Oktoberfest bier would be Spaten from Munich. “Lass Dir raten, trinke Spaten.”

In the next months or so, we will start seeing “Winter Warmers” hit the market. I’ll save discussion of these for a later post.

Well, to change the topic a little, I want everyone to read the Metro Pulse’s  beer article. This is an article about beer and the local craft beer scene written by Cari Wade Gervin. I know she’s been hard at work on this for about a month. She came out to our last Knox Beer Crew tasting, and had spoken with Lou from Blue and Bar-b-que and several other people around here. It’s a very good read with lot of information. Also the Metro Pulse sent out a photographer who caught me in action pouring beer at The Casual Pint last Saturday.

Can I mention how excited  I am about this weekend? Why is that? IT’S KINGSPORT OKTOBERFEST!!!! I have so much to do this week to get ready for it, that it’s almost overwhelming. I’m going up Friday night before. I am going to try to live post the whole weekend, from the Friday night pre-party to Saturday’s biergarden and Beer University classes to my Sunday day trip to Asheville. Should be a whole lot of fun.

Did you get your Brewer’s Jam tickets yet? Stop waiting and go to The Casual Pint and buy them now. It’s going to sell out. There are only a few dozen left in all of Knoxville. There won’t be any available at the gate.

One more thing for those of you asking. The next infusion night at Suttree’s is on Thursday September 27th. Once again we I will be using shredded coconut and cocao nibs as the ingredients. The beer being infused is Atwater’s Vanilla Java Porter. This is a really popular beer that hasn’t been around in a couple of months. This is going to be tasty and I hope to see y’all there.

So I want to hear from you. Add a comment at the bottom of this post and I’ll mail you some beer stickers from my stash.

Cheers,

Ratchet


Gettin’ Crafty w/ Eagle: a distributor’s tasting of what’s to come for #KnoxBeer cc: @KnoxBeerGuy

August 29, 2012

One of the signs greeting attendees to the event

In Knoxville’s small but growing craft beer scene, I find myself in quite a few discussion about the local beer distributors and the role they play in our available choices. To give you some background, you need to know about the three tier system that was established for the sale of alcohol after prohibition.  The basic structure of the system is that producers can sell their products only to wholesale distributors who then sell to retailers, and only retailers may sell to consumers. There are a few exceptions here & there. In Tennessee, you can self distribute within the county your brewery is located. For example, Woodruff can deliver kegs of their beer anywhere in Knox county, but don’t expect to see them on tap in Maryville. That is, unless they sign an exclusive contract with a distributor. I know of 6 craft beer distributors who deliver to Knoxville. We have the big boys that are either owned or run by the “big 2“. The big 2s are Eagle, which is primarily AB-Inbev (Budweiser, etc), and Cherokee which is MillerCoors. There are several other smaller distributors with their own much smaller portfolios. There is Molo-Tenn based out of Chattanooga (Ft. Collins, Sam Smith, Flying Dog, McNeils to name a few). There’s also Lipman Brothers out of Nashville (Craggie, Lost Coast, Boulder, etc.), Bounty Bev (Green Flash, CalfKiller, Lucky Bucket, etc.) and Beverage-Control of Knoxville (Stone, Mendocino). Each one of these distributors has both their pros and their cons. For example, Beverage-Control can bring in Stone’s beers in bottle, but not kegs since they don’t have refrigeration in their warehouse. My point is that there is no such thing as a “perfect” distributor.

<hate> In fact, one of them (and I’ll go ahead and name names), is so univerally hated by the Knoxville craft beer scene that I rarely hear their name without an expletive thrown in before it. If you are part of the Knoxville beer scene, you know who exactly I’m writing about. Fuckin’ Cherokee. Honestly, I could rant for a whole post about how bad they are, how they don’t seem to give 2 shits about anything besides Miller or Coors (& usually with the word “lite” thrown in somewhere.) When every other city or town in the southeast is enjoying thier Hoptimum, Torpedo or Estate Ales by Sierra Nevada and we can’t get them here in K-town, just know they are responsible. Rumor is that they even pulled Duck Rabbit’s Milk Stout off the shelves at local Ingles because according to an unverified source “people don’t want to drink dark beers in hot weather.” ARRRRGH! </hate>

On the opposite side of this kind of behavior by a big distributor is the love, respect and value shown to craft beer by Eagle Distributing. Yes a majority of their sales are the Budweiser line of products. Unfortunately this can sometimes earn them the ire of uninformed craft beer lovers. People without a firm grasp of history tend to ignore the contributions Anheuser-Busch has made overall to the beer industry. Do I like the taste of Bud? Not really, but at the same time I wouldn’t turn a cold one down, or pull a beer douche card and look down on someone for their beer choice. Budweiser makes a consistent clean product, that pays the bill for Eagle. This allows Eagle to distribute the smaller brands that I love. Yazoo, SawWorks, New Belgium, Magic Hat, RJ Rockers and Brooklyn are all distributed by Eagle.

Eagle’s craft beer manager is Jeremy Walker (aka @KnoxBeerGuy on twitter), who has a passion for good beer. He invited me to an event I went to last night and the title of this post. Gettin’ Crafty With Eagle.

Jeremy Walker- @KnoxBeerGuy on twitter. Follow him and you’ll have your thumb on the pulse of Knoxville craft beer.

Last night’s event was an informal tasting, information session and all around good time. The guest list was most of the bar owners, staff, store managers, account reps and movers and shakers of the Knoxville beer scene. The focus was to let us all know which craft beers and brands are coming soon to the local market and to let us try them and learn about them. I am not so good with doing reviews of beers. I rather leave that to better writers than I such as the Knox Beer Snobs or Lou of Blues and BBQ. Plus I know taste is all subjective. A beer I despise may be a beer that you love and vice versa. I did however try to take pictures and notes so I could tell my readers what to look out for.

Todd and Matt from Jackson Avenue Market in the Old City

I got to the event promptly at 5:30 and immediately ran into Matt and Todd of Jackson Avenue Market. I grabbed my 1st beer, New Belgium’s Peach Porch Lounger. This is a brettanomyces beer that is packaged in 22 ounce bottles. I really liked this one and the brett was way more predominant then the last Brett beer from NB. I liked this one and plan on snatching up a case for my cellar, since this is a bottle conditioned beer that will age well. While sipping on this Matt told me that Jackson Avenue Market is now carrying almost 250 different beers. They are still planning on going for their high gravity license, so look for their offerings to expand. I own them a visit, since it’s been a couple of months. We even discussed briefly hosting a free tasting of my homebrew there sometime in the future.

More folks trickled in and I saw Neil McCormick of Yazoo. He had brought some of their delicious smoked porter, Sue. It’s been a few years since I enjoyed this last and all I can Say is WOW! I can’t wait until we can get this locally on draft and it bottles. There’s a reason why it’s 99 on Ratebeer.com This was one of my favorites of the night and I kept going back to it. Neil also told me about the Tennessee Craft Brewer’s Guild meeting in Chattanooga and plans for the first fundraiser. It’s going to be in Nashville and sounds like a whole hell of a lot of fun. Think craft beer prom with a twist. More details will be forthcoming, I assure you.

Welcome back Terrapin Beer Company!

By now most everyone knows that Terrapin Beer Company’s tasty selections are back in town. Several selections are already on draft and on the shelves. At Eagle’s event there was chance for those unfamiliar to try Hopsecutioner IPA. Terrapin brews beer that I (and everyone I know) loves. Since they’ve been gone, I’ve never neglected to bring back some during my treks to Asheville. Knox Beer Snob Rob told me that he will cry if we are able to get Wake N Bake coffee oatmeal stout here. Well buddy, I’ll be shedding tears of joy myself if this happens. We shall see.

Brooklyn!!!

Brooklyn Brewery was well represented at the event as well. Since I have access to a steady supply at my weekend job, I elected to stay with their high gravity offerings from them. I rather enjoy Local Number Two, so had some along with Local one. I also revisited Sorachi Ace. The last and only time I had this beer, I was a bit disappointed. For whatever reason, The hop character for which this beer is named was muted and overpowered by the Belgian yeast strain. That was not the case this time at all. The lemony Japanese hops stood out and balanced very nicely with the yeast and malts. I’m glad I had it again. My guess is that maybe when I tried it in the past, it had sat too long and the hops dropped out. I don’t know, but I do know I love this beer now.

As I mingled and moved between the 2 rooms this event took place in, a friend of mine mentioned RJ Rocker’s high gravity Pumpkin Ale. I in turn mentioned the RJ Rockers pumpkin to a friend of mine who is a server at Barley’s and beertends at Fort Sander’s Yacht Club, so we went back to the 1st room where we tried it.  I missed it the first time around because it was being dispensed from a kegerator behind the table where bottles of Black Perle and Bell Ringer were being poured. I’m not really keen on pumpkin ales, especially this early in the season. I had just tried Terrapin’s Pumpkinfest, and found it way over spiced to my liking. The RJ Rocker’s Gruntled Pumpkin was in sharp contrast to the Terrapin one. I absolutely loved it. I thought to myself, we have a winner! It’s everything a pumpkin ale should be. Not too spicy, not to sweet, well balanced with the flavor of the actual pumpkin. After having this, I don’t think I could be content with any other pumpkin ale from now on.

Jeremy: “Who wants to win this?” Crowd: “I do!”

Near the end of the event there was a drawing for prizes. Everyone who came in was given a raffle ticket. There was some seriously cool stuff given away, and everyone was hoping they would win the Yuengling boat. While Jeremy pulled tickets and read numbers, I talked to Curtis from Sweetwater and drank some of the Low Ryder IPA. What a solid, enjoyable beer. He informed me that it is going to be available year round starting in October. He also told me that a majority of the next Dank Tank series, Danktoberfest will be shipped to the new accounts in Alabama. That state just passed a law allowing 22 ounce high gravity beers. He also said that due to demand, it will not be on draft, bottles only. This does not bode well for Knoxville, and if we do get any, I anticipate it being snatched up within hours of it hitting the stores. Like I said before, follow Jeremy on twitter because he’ll let us know when it lands.

Well, I knew I had committed to run early in the morning so I didn’t stay long. I said my goodbyes, loaded up of free swag left over from the raffle, got a promise from a friend to come visit me at work on Sunday and headed out. I really want to sincerely thank Eagle for all they do for beer in this area and for hosting this killer event. I can’t wait for the next one.

A few more things to mention before I end this post. Adam of SawWorks Brewing has started a new early morning running group. This morning was the 1st run. We meet every week day at 6 am at Saw Works headquarters. The run goes through downtown, over the Gay Street Bridge and back. We stop by Old City Java for free coffee on the way back. I haven’t ran for over 9 months. I have always made excuses, and have found that my health (and waist line) have suffered for it. Well no more. I am committed to doing this daily. Even though my legs are sore, it felt good to get some early morning exercise to start my day. I encourage people to join us, even if you can only walk instead of run at first. I can only run a small portion of the route and a snail’s pace, but you have to start somewhere.

I also want to let everyone know that this Thursday I will be once again doing an infusion at Suttree’s. I know what we are planning to do, but you’ll have to come out to see exactly what it will be. You will be pleasantly surprised by the tasty treat I have planned. All I can say is that every time we do an infusion, it gets better and better. Don’t miss this, or you’ll regret it. We’ll start at 7, so come on down.

The last thing before I sign off is that I just received my shipment of merchandise to sell at Kingsport Oktoberfest. I do plan on launching my online store real soon. Shirts, magnets, stickers and glassware will be available. All proceeds go towards helping a needy homebrewer (me) buy more ingredients to brew beer to share with his friends. Be on the lookout for my next post where I shamelessly beg for you to buy my (really cool) crap.

Cheers,

Ratchet


Reader Request: The Basics of #CraftBeer Cellaring.

August 16, 2012

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.

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_______________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…)

Cheers,

Ratchet

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:

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