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

May 30, 2013

IMG_4493

Yesterday started off in typical fashion with the hunt for coffee. Being away from my cold, dark room at home makes it a little bit more difficult to sleep as long as I would like to in a hotel. My body woke up promptly at 7:15 and wouldn’t allow me to go back for a few more hours. I grabbed my computer and snuck out of the hotel to let Katie finish snoozing.

Since I’m in town and am looking for new experiences, I thought I’d try a different coffee shop other than Izzy’s. Checking “the Google“, I decided to head over to High Five based on their online ratings. They serve counter-culture coffee, which is one of my favorite fair-trade organic brands. Being that it was morning and I could already feel the heat of the day approaching, I opted for an iced coffee, sat down with my drink, and settled in to write my post.

An hour later, my Internet privileges had expired, so I went to the counter to purchase something else. The staff there told me how to get back online, and after struggling with it for five minutes, I asked someone who worked there for assistance. They were very helpful and I was able to get back online and continue writing. About this time, Katie had awoken and texted me. I told her where I was and she came to meet me and help me work on my blog. She is one helluva great editor when it comes to my somewhat rambled and disjointed writings. (She insisted I take this part out but I won’t let her.)

We worked until it was time to leave to go to meet with Billy Pyatt at Catawba Valley Brewing Company in Morganton, N.C. Located an hour east from Asheville, Catawba Valley is one of the local craft beer brands that has been available in Knoxville for as long as I can remember. Back when the only place to get a craft beer was Barley’s, I fondly remember nights of drinking their Firewater IPA. So, when we ran into Billy when we came into town on Monday and he graciously extended his invitation to visit, that made it to the top of our Must-Do list.

The drive over didn’t seem to take long at all, and we arrived in downtown Morganton at Catawba’s spacious location. Billy was expecting us and warmly greeted us at the door. He was finishing up a phone meeting with a new distributor, so we had time to admire their set up and take a few pictures.

Billy didn’t keep us waiting more than a minute or two, and started off the tour by telling us about Catawba’s Asheville expansion. For those of you who haven’t heard, Catawba Valley is opening a small 7-barrel specialty brewery in the space across the street from French Broad Brewery, in Asheville’s Biltmore district.

As we spoke, we walked around and he showed us a few critical pieces of Catawba’s infrastructure, such as the grain hopper, glycol system, and their 10-barrel brewhouse. We met with Scott, Billy’s brother, co-owner, and head brewer, while he was finishing up a batch of their famous King Coconut Porter. I always find the smell of cooking wort intoxicating. As he opened the brew kettle, I took a big whiff. I love that smell!

Having grown organically over the years, it seemed Billy and Scott had a story about each and every piece of equipment over the years. For example, I noticed a big, tall, 40-barrel fermenter looming ahead. Billy told us the story of how that used to be one of Highland Brewery’s first fermenters back when they were brewing in the basement of Barley’s.He said it sat abandoned for years and it was a three-day, slow, meticulous process to remove it from the building so that they could put it back to use at Catawba.

Billy also pointed out various fermenters that they were testing or were planning to install at the new locale. As everyone who is familiar with Catawba knows, when it comes to packaging, not only are their increasingly popular beers available on draft at locations throughout the southeast, but they are also a packaging brewery that opts to can their beer.

We worked our way over toward their rather impressive and relatively new canning line. Billy walked us through each step of the process, going as far as canning up a special can of Catawba Valley canning line water to bestow upon my Khaleesi. She was pretty excited.

It takes about one to one and a half seconds per can to fill and seal. As quickly as they can can the beer, the labeling process is a whole lot more tedious. Each label is applied manually by hand. For each twenty barrel batch of beer that is canned, Billy advises that it takes their employee a solid three days to apply all the labels to a batch. But man, does it look good! Catawba is also very adamant about the quality of their beer and they weigh each individual can to make sure not one single customer will ever be shorted.

Next, we walked through a secret door and ended up, low and behold, in their tasting room. I can definitely imagine this being THE place to spend your weekend nights. Actually, unbeknownst to us, Billy is very familiar with this building. Having grown up in the area, he used to visit this very space back in his high school days when it was a BYOB honky-tonk dive, “Slick Willie’s”. Needless to say, it’s come a long way since then!

Weeks are filled with event nights in the tasting room, everything from Thursday open-mike nights, to traveling bands, to wedding and corporate receptions. While food isn’t offered, the small-town feel of Morgantown really comes alive with the fact that so many catering options are available. We didn’t want to impose for too long, as Billy’s a very busy man, and as we were saying our goodbyes, he kindly offered a six pack of our choice to take with us. We both agreed – Firewater IPA.

Right before we left, he recommended his favorite local eatery, Pat’s Snack Bar, to fill our bellies before the drive back home. Once again, I really want to thank Billy and Scott for their gracious hospitality. We cannot wait to come and visit their new Asheville location when it opens in August. Here’s a small clip to show you how contagious Billy’s enthusiasm can be.

After the visit to Morganton, we drove back and took a quick swim at the hotel before preparing ourselves to go back out again. There were (as usual) plenty of events that were going on that evening, so we wanted to hit as many of them as possible.

We first visited the new wine/beer bar, Weinhaus on Coxe Avenue close to the Monk. I’ve visited this shop often over the years, when it simply a bottleshop and not a bar. I can remember, over 10 years ago, buying Highland bombers for $3 or $4 each, going back and selling them to my buddies for a flat $5 (to make up the gas money, of course). Tonight, the Oskar Blues rep Amy was hosting a pint night. So we headed into Amy’s Weinhaus to take a quick video (as seen below) and sample the Chardonnay-barrel aged Mama’s YellaPils, as well as one of my favorite high gravity IPAs, Gubnah.

I spoke with the store manager, and Amy’s boss, Chris Russell the Oskar Blues Southeast sale manager on our way out. Khaleesi and I talked his ear off about how excited we were that they had joined with Lipman Brother’s Distributing and were going to be a part of the Knox beer culture soon! I heard that cans are already starting to show up in the big stores like Kroger, having been at The Casual Pint and a few other of our favorite beer stores for a few weeks now.

Thursday was one of the busiest days of Ashville Beer Week schedule-wise, with many events going on within walking distance. Although the Highland Brewing Company Six Barrel Shoot-Out was at the top of our list, we elected to skip it due to location and to keep from having to drive. As we left Amy’s Weinhaus heading toward Barleys, who would we run into again other than our good buddies and Stone Stalkers. We paused for a quick pic, to show a few of my Knox Beer Crew buddies like Todd and Jason what they were missing out on.

Look who we keep running in to.

Look who we keep running in to.

We told Scott and Mitch we’d catch up later (surely) and headed down the road. We arrived at Barley’s too late to meet with the crew of All About Beer, who had invited us to a small event they were doing for Rare and Wild Beer Tasting ticket holders. However, we arrived just in time for the upstairs Foothills Brewing and New Belgium Tap Takeover.

We grabbed seats and I settled up to the bar when I noticed they had this year’s Sexual Chocolate, as well as the 2012 batch. While waiting for the bartender, I chatted with Evan, the Foothills representative. He told me to get the Olde Rabbit’s Foot, which is probably the rarest of the rare when it comes to North Carolina beer. He told me how he had to pull some serious strings and do a lot of pleading to get the brewery to agree to send one small keg to Barley’s for the event. This is the first time his beer has been poured outside either one of the three breweries that produced it. For those of you who don’t know, Olde Rabbit’s Foot is a collaborative effort between Foothills, Olde Hickory, and Duck Rabbit. They combine Sexual Chocolate, Event Horizon, and the DR Signature Milk Stout into the best-tasting bourbon-barrel aged imperial stout I’ve ever had in my life. It was so good that the little devil on my shoulder was trying to tell me to smuggle a growler of this out of the bar to share with my #KnoxBeerCrew pals. The devil on my other shoulder told me to do it to, but I realized how big of an inconvenience it would be, so I just let it go.

We enjoyed our beers at Barley’s while hanging out with crews from both New Belgium and Foothills. It turns out there are quite a few New Belgium people in town from the main plant in Fort Collins, including one of the head brewers, Alex, who, someone who isn’t used to being interviewed or the “face” of New Belgium because of all his behind-the-scenes work. I was able to take a few videos, as seen below.

We then stopped by Jack of the Wood for the Mitch Steele Extravaganza. The chefs had prepared a special menu to pair with some rare Stone beers. Katie opted for the burger and I got an order of the most epic onion rings I’ve ever had in my life, complete with Arrogant Bastard ketchup. We said a quick hello to Mitch and Scott and headed on to our next destination, Wicked Weed.

Everyone knows that Wicked Weed brews some epic saisons, and for this event, they had pulled a keg for pretty much every one they’d ever brewed. We met up with our good friends, the Reinkes, and pulled up seats next to them on the back patio. Adam introduced us to Brent from Riverbend Malt House. I’ve been particularly excited to tour this facility tomorrow before the Beer City Fest. We didn’t get to spend a lot of time in discussion, but am really looking forward to learning more in a just a few hours.

Everyone ended up ordering different saison batches and pass them all around, so we could try to sample them all. I was most with impressed with the V Chocolate and Raspberry Saison they had originally brewed for Valentine’s Day this year. Katie particularly enjoyed the X Passion Fruit Saison. She loves farmhouse ales so was thrilled to participate in this even. Honestly, all of the beers were incredibly great and I was happy to have the opportunity to sample most of them.

At this point it was getting late and we wanted to have one last beer at the Thirsty Monk before we called it a night. However, on par with every other night this week, we arrived at the pub just a few minutes after last call of the night. Accepting fate, we headed back to the hotel where we finished the night off with a bottle of Weyerbacher’s Heresy.

It was a long day, but a good day, and the big plan for tonight is the Asheville Rare & Wild Beer Tasting. Some of our#KnoxBeerCrew buddies are coming up for this event, I’m hoping that when the event ends at 9, we’ll still be physically able to walk over to Wicked Weed for the Batch 69 release, the collaboration between Foothills Brewing Company’s Sexual Chocolate and Wicked Weed’s Freak of Nature IPA. Make sure to check back tomorrow for more stories from#AVLBeerWeek. In the meantime, click the pictures below, and feel free to leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers!

Ratchet


A great time and perfect weather at the 2nd annual http://ThirstyOrange.com beer festival

April 16, 2013

to

Last weekend was the Thirsty Orange beer festival in Johnson City, TN.  This was the second annual edition, and festival organizers Aaron & Stephanie Carson and Das Krew did an absolute fantastic job of putting together this one. The weather was perfect, the beer was flowing and everything ran smoothly. From the early morning set up, to dropping off entries for the homebrew competition, to early admission VIP entrance, to the main part of the festival all the way to packing everything up, was all without a hitch. This is the 4th festival they have put on in the tri-cities area. They have learned from past festivals and had the logistics locked down for this one. I can’t say it enough how great and put together it was.

 I arrived Friday evening to spend some time meeting with Aaron and Stephanie to work out the details for running the infusers the next day. I always try to get to a beer festival in another city a day before to check out the area and most importantly to not have to make a long drive 1st thing in the morning. After meeting with Aaron and Stephanie, I ran to the store to get infuser ingredients and ended up eating at a crappy Mexican restaurant (seriously I LOVE Mexican food, but this one was awful).

Saturday morning I was up early for the festival. Set up time started at 8:30. I had to set up the booth, get the beer flowing, fill bottles for the homebrew competition and so on. It took quite awhile to get everything done. Luckily I was all set up by the time early admission VIPs started trickling in. From there I stayed busy. So busy in fact that I didn’t really take a lot of pictures (my bad). I was busy but it wasn’t a hectic, frantic type of busy but a happy and sociable one. I got to talk, hang out and drink with many of our pro-brewer buddies such as Studio Brew and CalfKiller. My tent was set up in the home brewer section of the festival right next to my good friend Jimie Barnett and Triple B Brewing.  Jimie and I always have a great time at these festivals and I want to give him and Jay a big shout out. A really big thanks goes out to Jimie’s nephew and my new Johnson City friend, Steven for making my day nice and bright.

Knoxville was well represented by other fellow home brewers such as Legit Brewing, UBC, Friendship Brewing and Tennessee Valley Homebrewers. Other homebrew clubs such as MALT from Asheville, Tri-Cities Beer Alliance and Electric Avenue from outside Nashville were well represented and had exceptional beers.  The camaraderie among home brewers is a beautiful thing.

One of my favorite parts of these types of events that I set up at, is the feedback I get from people attending and trying my brews. A beer I may not think is my best may end up being the one that everyone loves the most. A perfect example this time around was my Chocolate Covered Cherry Nitro Stout. I like this beer but it’s not my favorite, and next time I brew it, I’ll make a slight recipe adjustment. However, people were going nuts over this beer! It was the 1st keg of mine to blow out and people were disappointed when it was gone. I actually won an award on this one. Gerard of the website Road Trips For Beer was a celebrity judge and he picked this one as his favorite of the festival.  To say I am honored is an understatement. To have a guy who’s job is to pretty much travel the country and taste beer say he liked this one the most out of 100 something homebrews? THAT makes me feel like I DO actually know what I’m doing.

Error
This video doesn’t exist

I was lucky enough to have a lot of help at my booth this year in the form of my buddy Flipper who has been my right hand man at the last 3 Tri-cities beer fests. I got him all set up with the festival’s infusers and he did a terrific job of keeping them going on a schedule. Also my assistant brewer, Todd and his wife Lauren drove up from Knoxville and helped hold things down and pour beer. With this much help, we were able to rotate in and out of the booth and walk around socializing and trying different brews. The only one missing from our crew was Richard, but he was representing for us at the Blue Ridge Wine & Food Festival.

Well I went through all my home brew, drank some fantastic beer, hung out with friends new and old. The festival eventually came to a close and I packed up and headed out to eat. I found a great little place called Jack’s City Grill to eat at.  After refueling, I headed back to the hotel and had an impromptu craft beer party in the lobby with Gerard. The Wolf Hill crew stopped by and hung out followed by Friendship Brewing and Aaron and Stephanie. We drank a four pack of Brevard NC brewed Deviant Dales graciously given to me by Austin, a plant employee. Gerard shared a big bottle of Boulevard’s Double Wide IPA and Friendship Brewing had a growler of their IPA.

After a long active and incredibly fun day, it was time to retire to my room and pass out. I can’t wait until next year’s Thirsty Orange. Make sure to mark your calendar for Das Krew’s next event, Kingsport Oktoberfest on September 28th. You know I’ll be there. Enjoy the photos and videos below.

Cheers,

Ratchet

Error
This video doesn’t exist

Click on pictures to enlarge and for captions.


#AVLBeer Asheville’s Winter Warmer: Good Beer, Good People, Great Time

January 30, 2013

I was able to once again visit the nearby beer mecca of Asheville, NC for this year’s Winter Warmer Beer festival. The event this year was on the main floor of the Asheville Convention Center.

The entrance

The entrance

Arriving a  little early to avoid a long line, I ended up being one of the first people in.

Cups waiting for their new owners

Cups waiting for their new owners

At 3 pm they opened to the general public (those of us who had regular tickets and not early VIP admission). I headed directly to Cigar City’s booth and was happy that there wasn’t a long wait to try their rare and delicious beverages.

IMG_3309

Cigar City Brewing Company from Tampa, FL

Cigar City Brewing Company from Tampa, FL

After tasting Bourbon Barrel Aged Big Sound, Humidor Series Double American Black Ale and Church On A Hill Barley Wine, it was time to go over and see the good folks at Wicked Weed‘s booth.

Wicked Weed had the longest line all the way through the festival

Wicked Weed had the longest line all the way through the festival

Luke from Wicked Weed and myself

Luke from Wicked Weed and myself

I spoke with Luke for a few minutes and tried some of their beers that I haven’t had yet. They are as good as everyone says they are. Freak IPA is especially delicious. I walked around and spoke with various brewers. I also ran into fellow Knox Beer Crew members and people I had met at other beer festivals.

Dieter from Heinzelmannchen Brewery and myself

Dieter from Heinzelmannchen Brewery and myself

Myself and Jason Caughman, owner of Pisgah Brewing

Myself and Jason Caughman, owner of Pisgah Brewing

Nicholas "Big Magic" Walsh was VERY happy to see me.

Nicholas “Big Magic” Walsh was VERY happy to see me.

Knox Beer Crew represent!

Knox Beer Crew represent!

I won the prize for making the creepiest face possible in this Knox Beer Crew Picture

I won the prize for making the creepiest face possible in this Knox Beer Crew Picture

Katie @Junebugbatticus of Knox Beer Crew and Neil @YazooBrew of Yazoo Brewing Company getting goofy.

Katie @Junebugbatticus of Knox Beer Crew and Neil @YazooBrew of Yazoo Brewing Company getting goofy.

Mark Baggett @MarkPBaggett of Knox Beer Crew

Mark Baggett @MarkPBaggett of Knox Beer Crew

Beer up the Yazoo!

Beer up the Yazoo!

The Yummy HeinzelMannchen Gnomes at work

The HeinzelMannchen Gnomes at work

There was even some cider on tap

There was even some cider on tap

One thing I noticed about this year’s festival is that several of the local breweries were not in attendance. I did not see Asheville Brewing Company, Oyster House, Nantahala, Wedge, Green Man or Altamont. It left me wondering why they weren’t there. Maybe someone will read this and leave a comment below to clear up the mystery. Also I do regret not getting to the MALT booth before the homebrew ran out. I should have known. EVERY beer festival, the homebrew always runs out first. I do want to give a big shout out to Adam Reinke who I’ve been following on twitter for awhile but finally met in real life. I’m looking forward to showing him and the Asheville contingent around when they come visit.

Well after hours of sampling great beer, hanging out with friends, eating the food provided and having an overall great time, Winter Warmer came to an end. That did not mean the end of the fun, not even close. A short rest break at the hotel and it was time to head over to check out the now opened Wicked Weed Brewery.

The place was packed and there was a line and wait to get in. From my understanding, it’s been like this almost every night since they opened. Luckily a party left shortly after my friend and I arrived and we were allowed in. We walked inside and glanced around. I immediately spotted Erich, Pam and the Studio Brew crew holding  seats for us.

IMG_3340

Erich and Pam of Studio Brew with friends.

Wicked Weed's Saison IV fermented with Pineapple. Very tasty and highly recommended.

Wicked Weed’s Saison IV fermented with Pineapple. Very tasty and highly recommended.

After some beer and food, it was time to check out the bar downstairs. There was a whole other beer selection down there. I wish I had taken more pictures.

Erich took this picture and emailed it to me.

Erich took this picture and emailed it to me.

There were 2 more stops before the evening would end. Erich, Pam and friends had called a cab to go back to their hotel, so we also left Wicked Weed. I wanted to go get a 6 pack of one of my favorite beers, Ninja Porter. Asheville Brewing Company had just started canning it a week or so previous. A quick half pour was enjoyed and a couple of 6 packs were picked up. After dropping them off at the room, it was time for 1 more stop before calling it a night.

Ninja Porter, open up a can of Whoop Ass.

Ninja Porter, open up a can of Whoop Ass.

Anytime I go to Asheville and stay downtown, I always end the night at The Thirsty Monk. Considering that it is considered one of the top 100 beer bars on the planet and that it’s only a block from the hotel, there’s no reason not to. However, by the end of a long day of sampling beer, I was pretty worn out. I just had 1 half pour of Green Man’s Rainmaker before stumbling back to the room.

IMG_3352

Beer Cage across from the couch downstairs at Thirsty Monk.

The next day came and it was time to head on. By this time my budget for the trip was almost exhausted, but I still had to stop by Bruisin’ Ales. Inside I ran into Knox Beer Crew’s Matt Crowell who was checking out. I managed to get buy the smallest amount of beer I ever had from that world class bottle shop.

The least amount of beer that I have ever purchased from Bruisin Ales.

The least amount of beer that I have ever purchased from Bruisin Ales.

Hopefully I’ll visit Asheville again real soon. Until then, I encourage you to follow Thom O’Hearn on twitter, he’s the new beer writer for Mountain Xpress. It’s the job Anne-Fitten Glenn had before she got the marketing position at the new Oskar Blues plant.

almost31.jpg

Two more items before I sign off. As you can see by the background image on this site, the Tennessee Winter Beer Festival February 9th is SOLD OUT. I knew it would, and tried to warn everyone who said they were going but hadn’t bought tickets yet. If you’re lucky, you might find them on Craigslist.

fixThe last item is incredibly important. Fix The Beer Tax is a group lobbying to do just that in Tennessee. The recently launched website (as well as twitter feed and facebook page) has a lot of information on this very important issue. It also has a link where you can send a message to your state legislator  to let them know how you feel about this issue. I strongly encourage everyone to do so.

Well enjoy the Super Bowl this weekend. I don’t really care who wins, but I’m slightly pulling for the Ravens so Ray Lewis can retire after a big win. I’ll post again soon, possibly live from the Tennessee Winter Beer Festival.

Until then, can the Ratchet Brews Crew of Todd, Richard, and Dalton  meet at the Brewery on High this Sunday at noon for some beer filtering, kegging, bottling and LLC discussion? Let me know y’all.

Cheers,

Ratchet


Happy MLK Day everyone. I too have a dream.

January 21, 2013

rbfinal

I’m very serious about the whole starting a nano-brewery thing. I dream about it every night. Some days it’s all I think about. There is so much to learn and figure out. I’m almost done reading the Tennessee Department of Revenue’s Alcoholic Beverages and Beer Tax Guide and have been talking to people to clarify things I don’t understand. I have the Tax and Trade Bureau’s website bookmarked and read it constantly. I still have to register my trademark and I have the US patent office’s website in my favorites. I am always checking the Brewer’s Association website and look forward to the day I can join that organization and announce to the world that I am officially “a brewery in planning“. Next thing I plan on studying is OSHA regulations.

Right now the thing that seems to be holding me back from applying for permits, getting my trademark registered, etc is finding a location to set up. I have a very limited area I am looking at, all within walking distance of downtown.  I don’t need something big, just enough space to build an office, brewing area, cold storage, fermentation room and the actual bar area/ tasting room. I need something affordable, which unfortunately rules out most of downtown. I like the Fourth and Gill area. That neighborhood is needs a small bar. I’ll keep looking. Craigslist, news paper, word of mouth, friends and driving around searching. Once I DO find a spot (and I will) then the fun begins. Negotiating lease terms, making sure it’s zoned right, inspections and construction, the actual raising of funds and the mountains of paperwork. I KNOW it is going to be hard and test the limits of my sanity, but dammit, I am completely dedicated. Once I find a place I plan to go from living in a comfortable house near downtown with a killer view, to basically being a couch surfing & urban camping brewer. This is because I’ll need the money going towards my house to use for the commercial space. If I have to basically live like I’m homeless to see my dream take off, so be it.

Until then, I have updated a few things on my website. I finally put together a bare bones store page to sell the shirts and other stuff that I have for sale at the various beer festivals I attend. It’s a work in progress and I currently only have a fraction of my merchandise on there. I’ll post more as I can.

I also put together a brewery wish list. People are always asking what they can do to help. I have people asking if I need investors. Yes, I do. However I am not going to start actively soliciting donations or raising funds until I have my location on lock down. I put together the wish list mainly for myself, to have the satisfaction of crossing things off the list as I acquire them as a measure of my progress. Also there is part of me that hopes that there are people out there who happen to have spare equipment, knowledge or insight and can help me cross these things off.

On another note, I had a pretty successful brew day on Sunday. I put together a recipe for an IPA. My friends Richard, Dalton and Todd came over and lent a hand in it’s creation. Katie arrived later on with snacks and moral support. I hadn’t thought of a name for this beer and asked for suggestions. Todd suggested calling it Blitz IPA. After a quick check on untappd, we saw that the name was open. Hop Blitz is what we settled on. Here is the recipe for 10 gallons for those who are interested:

24 pounds organic 2 row brewer’s malt.

2 pounds Pilsen malt

1 pound cara-pils

2 pounds Vienna

1 pound wheat

1 pound crystal 60

1 pound corn sugar

2 ounces of East Kent Goldings Hops (Leaf, 6o minutes)

2 ounces of Cascade (leaf, 30 minutes)

2 ounces Columbus (leaf, 15 minutes)

2 ounces of Centennial (pellet, 15 minutes)

2 ounces Belma (leaf, 5 minutes)

2 ounces of Columbus (leaf, at flame out)

2 Whirlfloc tablets at 5 minutes left

Strike grains with 9 gallons of water to to mash at 152 degrees for 60 minutes

Sparge with 9 gallons at 170 degrees

Yeast- 1/2 gallon starter of Safale S-04 Whitbread English strain.

Cool rapidly to 65 degrees and pitch yeast. I split into 3 carboys for fermentation, roughly 11 gallons fermenting away.

Original Gravity 1.074

Estimated final gravity:1.018

Estimated ABV 7.34% Estimated IBUs: 63.5

Hop Blitz happily fermenting away

Hop Blitz happily fermenting away

Richard, Todd and myself sampling some unfermented Hop Blitz after clean up.

Richard, Todd and myself sampling some unfermented Hop Blitz after clean up.

This weekend I’ll be in Asheville for the Winter Warmer beer festival. Expect a post afterwards. If you are going, and we haven’t met, feel free to introduce yourself. For you Knox Beer Crew guys and gals going, what do say we go to Wicked Weed for dinner afterwards?

Until next time…

Cheers,

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


TONIGHT 12/7/12! Come try some of my #Homebrew, for FREE!

December 7, 2012
Chocolate Milk Stout with Spicy peppers

Chocolate Milk Stout with Spicy peppers

Hey y’all just a short update this time. Let me start out by saying that last Sunday was a pretty successful brew day thanks to the Help of Richard Groves and Todd Z-Machine. Followed by an incredibly tasty lunch thanks to Kat. We busted out 10 gallons of all grain Belma Hopped Pale ale that I’m calling KBC 505 in honor of an inside joke with some Knox Beer Crew guys I went to GABF with. (No, I’m not going to explain it, ask Mark Baggett, Big Magic, Animal or Matt Crowell to explain it to you- if they can remember the details.) It’s pretty much done fermenting and I anticipate kegging it next weekend. I also anticipating brewing again next weekend, but at this point I’m not sure what.

Measuring Grains for the KBC 505

Measuring Grains for the KBC 505

Mashing in early morning

Mashing in early morning

Mash temps are VERY important

Mash temps are VERY important

So the KBC 505 begins fermentation

So the KBC 505 begins fermentation

Anyway the main point of this post is to invite everyone out to Jackson Avenue Market in the Old City tonight. I am doing a First Friday event with my good friends the Weidenhamer brothers (Matt and Todd). Starting at 6pm I’ll be pouring samples of my Winter seasonal, “I’m Warming You!” which is a Chocolate Milk Stout brewed with Tennessee Cherry Chilis and Jalapenos. My beer is free. However, I think Jackson Avenue Market wants you to purchase a pint glass to pour the beer in. As far as I’m concerned, you are welcome to use your hands to cup beer in, just as long as you clean up any messes afterwards. There is other tasty beer available to purchase and if enough people show up, I’ll hook up my last keg of Oktoberfest to sample after the Stout is gone. I suggest getting there early for several reasons.

  1. The Christmas parade starts at 7 and goes right past the market.
  2. Parking is going to be a bitch (see reason 1).
  3. There’s an awesome band fronted by my friend Jen Parker that is going to rawk the house.
  4. Space in the market will be limited because of reason 3.
  5. My samples are limited. I’m only bring 10 gallons of beer. We are expecting in excess of 100 people showing up to this event, so even giving out sample size pours (and my close friends drinking much more then that), we will go through these kegs pretty quickly.
  6. The most important reason. We don’t hang out enough. I want to see you, my friends and my friends to be.

So please, come out, drink my beer, tell me if you like it or not (be honest, I HATE people who don’t tell you the truth to spare your feelings). If you don’t like it, tell me why.

If you would like to support my ongoing efforts to raise my brand awareness and get my nano-brewery off the ground, I’ll will have a few t-shirts and bottle cap fridge magnets for sale.

I’ll see you tonight, and don’t forget to tip your bar tender 😉

-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


#KNOXBEERCREW #GABF Beercation Day 3 Saturday Recap

October 13, 2012

Saturday was the last day of the Great American Beer Festival. I was lucky enough to snag a members only session ticket during the great Ticketmaster GABF fail of 2012. Many people missed out, but I got through. The rest of the crew had long sinced planned a trip to Fort Collins to visit the breweries there on Saturday. As tempted as I was to join them, I wantred to check out more of Denver and the festival.

Kevin LA was gracious enough to drop me off downtown. I got out of the truck and immediately realized I forgot my all important precious iPhone charger inside. I figured I’d have to find somewhere downtown and buy another. That’s when I got the call that they were coming around the block to bring it to me. Crisis averted, thanks for looking out fellas.

They drove off and I headed towards Falling Rock Tap House. I got there early, and they weren’t open yet. I headed down to Freshcraft instead. They had the foresight to open early because of the festival, and the place had a pretty good size crowd for only being 10 in the morning. I knew I’d have to get some food to power myself for the day. I got seated (by a wall charger, please) and ordered the best beer cheese soup I have ever had in my life. I also ordered some herb crusted cheese dippers that were to die for. Of course, I had to have a beer to wash it all down.

20121013-124413.jpg

Herb Crusted Cheese Dippers at Freshcraft FTW!

20121013-124628.jpg

First Beer of the day, Dry Dock’s Hefeweizen.

Big Bear at the convention center

I really like Freshcraft and hope to spend some more time there in the future. NextI headed to the convention center and was surprised how long the line was. Luckily I saw my buddies Erich  and Pam from Studio Brew & thier crew near the front. They invited me to join them and I was glad to!

20121013-124953.jpg

Erich and Pam and everyone waiting to be let in to the convention center floor

20121013-125434.jpg

We’re going in!

Going in! Woooo!

20121013-125528.jpg

I love being a member of The Brewers Association!

20121013-125656.jpg

The first place I headed to was Cigar City’s booth. I was the 1st person in line but NO ONE WAS THERE!

20121013-125823.jpg

Blurry picture but a really good beer by Russian River and a silver award winner

20121013-125931.jpg

Myself and Erich Chilling like villians

20121013-130105.jpg

The Stone Brewing Company Booth

20121013-130218.jpg

Maybe one day I’ll be set up in the brewpub pavilion. There’s some great beers in there.

20121013-130333.jpg

Random shot of the convention hall. There were no lines at first

20121013-130633.jpg

One of my favorite things at GABF is the bag pipes

20121013-135645.jpg

Myself with brewing celebrities, authors and all around cool guys John Palmer & Jamil Zainasheff

20121013-141452.jpg

Myself with Author & brewer at Stone Brewing company, Mitch Steele, I brought my copy of his IPA book to sign.

20121013-142225.jpg

Epic doesn’t even begin to describe the craft beer and cheese pairing. I almost cried it was so good.

20121013-173836.jpg


Here’s me rocking a Suttree’s sticker on my back. Because if there’s one thing I do well besides brewing beer, it’s representing the home team. #KnoxBeer

20121013-174056.jpg

Myself with one of the owners of Uinta Brewing company after the beer and cheese pairing

20121013-174417.jpg

These people right here? THESE ARE MY PEOPLE! #TeamStudioBrew

This man did more for craft beer consciousness then any person alive. R.I.P. to the Great Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson

20121013-174725.jpg

Myself with Catabwa Brewer Todd. He is one of the most artistic, creative and awesome brewers in the Sotuheast, and we are lucky to claim him.

The cutie in this picture is Melissa from Ass Kisser Ales. Always a pleasure to see her at Beer Festivals.

20121013-175151.jpg

I got that beer armor on for the last pour at GABF

It was a great session, but I wasn’t ready to leave the convention center yet. I saw there was an area that to get into, you had to have brewer credentials. I thought I might know some people back there, or at least meet some of the brewers that I didn’t get a chance to see. So I bluffed my way back there, it wasn’t even hard. I made a plate from the buffett and looked around for familiar faces. I didn’t see any, and sat down at a half empty table. The people there were really nice and come to find out they were volunteers. I didn’t stay long and headed out to continue my adventure.

The back volunteer and brewer area

I left the convention center and took a pedi-cab over to Falling Rock Tap Room. I experienced first hand what all the hype was about. It is craft beer bar with an amazing selection. I walked in and ordered a pint of Rumpking. I was surprised how cheap it was considering everywhere else we went it cost $20-30 a bottle. I also overheard people talking about 521’s Wild Bear. They had a 2 year old aged keg, so knowing I would probably never see this beer anywhere else, I had to get it.

Outside at Falling Rock

Inside at Falling Rock

Avery’s Rumpking and 512’s Wild Bear

Outside at Falling Rock

I met some cool brewers while hanging out downstairs at Falling Rock, this is Justin, one of Twisted Pine’s brewers

A brewer from a small place in Florida. I feel bad for forgetting his name and the name of his brewery. Especially since we drank and talked together for a long time.

I saw on twitter that the Beer Advocate crew was hanging out at another local Denver beer bar I wanted to check out. I looked up the address and walked the few blocks away to The Star Bar.

The Star Bar

Inside at The Star Bar

Tap list at The Star Bar

The back bar at the Star Bar

I really dug the Star Bar. It’s probably my favorite bar of the whole trip. It was a small dive type bar, with a great selection. I met some really cool people and enjoyed a beer that was just released for the 1st time anywhere. While hanging out there, I recognized some social media and twitter celebrities that I follow and am a fan of. I introduced myself and got pictures taken.

Myself with twitter celebrity, Ashley Routson aka @TheBeerWench

Follow these craft beer people on Twitter: @TheHopfather and @BREWPUBLIC

Well my phone was dying and I knew it was time for me to find my way back to Kevin LA’s. The crew was back from their Fort Collins trip and were partying at Kevin’s downstairs bar. I went to a bus station and after trying to understand the routes, I gave up and took a cab home.  When I got there, the beer was flowing and everyone was having a great time. After a few rare beers from Kevin’s generous cellar collection, It was time for me to pass out. What a great time in Denver. I will (hopefully) being coming back next year as part of Studio Brew’s Pro-Am. It’s something Erich, Pam and I spoke about during our time hanging out at the festival.

Hope you enjoyed reading about my trip with the Knox Beer Crew. I had such a great time, met so many cool beer people, and am so thankful to Kevin and his wife for putting up with us. I hope that some of the people I met stay in contact with me. If you read my site, please leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter.

Everyone at home, I miss y’all and will see y’all soon.

Cheers,

Ratchet


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


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.

____________________________________________________________

_______________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:

20120816-225532.jpg

20120816-225652.jpg

20120816-225725.jpg

20120816-225825.jpg

20120816-225913.jpg