Long time since I last posted and much has happened.

October 23, 2013

 So much has happened since Kingsport Oktoberfest.  Originally I thought I’d try to post everything that happened in the last month or 2, but after 2 days of writing this, I I decided to keep it mainly about my Bourboncation.

September 21st and 22nd I hit the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky. Specifically I headed to Loretto, KY for Maker’s Mark. I’ve been a member of the Maker’s Mark Ambassador program since 2005. They put my name on a barrel and sent me periodic updates on where the barrel was in the warehouse and how it was coming along. They also send me cool gifts from time to time. I have been wanting to visit the distillery forever. Finally I got a letter in the mail with a golden ticket telling me that my barrel was done aging and bottles were available for purchase between March and the end of September. So I planned a quick trip. The idea was to drive up for the day, visit the Maker’s Mark Distillery and either drive back or find a hotel for the evening. I got a late start on Saturday and arrived at Maker’s Mark just in time for one of the last tours of the day. It was a pretty drive, but I had moments of worry on the way that we weren’t in the right place. It’s in the middle of nowhere. Nothing but back country roads and horse farms in that part of Kentucky.

At the Maker's Mark sign with my Golden Ticket.

At the Maker’s Mark sign with my Golden Ticket.

The distillery grounds are absolutely beautiful. The distillery itself has a long and rich history. I walked the ground listening to the stories told by the tour guide. When it comes to Bourbon, Maker’s Mark has always been one of my favorite brands and while there I learned why it’s so smooth. The grain bill is massively different from most bourbons where instead of rye, they use red wheat. This takes away the the astringency that rye produces. They also still mash and distill using traditional methods.

The tour is fun and informative and I highly recommend going when you get a chance. Everyone’s favorite part is when they let you sample some bourbon. The tour ends at the gift shop where they sell bottles and all kinds of great souvenirs. Since I am an ambassador, I got to hand dip 2 bottles from my barrel into Maker’s Mark trademark red wax. They even printed custom labels for my bottles. I am excited that I bought 4 long charred oak barrel staves that they used to condition my favorite brand, Maker’s 46. These still smell like bourbon. I plan on sanitizing them and using them to flavor the next big batch of imperial stout that we brew. Here are some pictures and videos from Maker’s Mark. Click on the circles to enlarge.

As I was speaking with the various employees and other people I met on the tour, a question that I was frequently asked was “Are you in town for the Bourbon Festival?” Apparently I came on the right weekend because right up the road in Bardstown, KY was the yearly Bourbon Fest. I just knew that I had to go check this out. I left Maker’s Mark and drove the half hour up. Arriving and finding a great free parking spot, I walked around. This was definitely a family friendly event. The free part had many booths set up and temporary gift shops from many of Kentucky’s distilleries. There was a classic car show and typical street fair food. For $3 you could buy a pin which gave you access to the adult’s only bourbon drinking area. To get drinks you had to purchase tickets. They were pricey, which I thought would limit me to how many drinks I’d imbibe. Was I wrong about that! I immediately made friends with a couple of guys working the bourbon flight booth by going and getting beer for them. They hooked me up repeatedly with free booze. After a few really good mixed drinks which I don’t recall the name of, I met a couple from Knoxville. I met Spencer and Meggers when they walked by and I noticed Spencer’s UT shirt. I simply said “Go Vols!” and the next thing I know, I’m hanging out with them talking about Knoxville, football and getting drunk. Spencer kept purchasing  rounds which I gladly accepted. After awhile of pacing myself, it was time to go. At that point in the fest, it had become a drunken shit show and I really wanted to get to the hotel. I thanked Spencer and Meggers and walked to the car and headed out to find my  hotel room.

The next morning I woke up and headed out. I wanted to go visit Four Roses Distillery since it wasn’t too far away. I arrived just in time for the last tour of the day. I sat and watched a presentation about the distillery before the tour group walked the grounds. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of this brand but still had an enjoyable time.  The best part is that at the end, I got to try several of their sub-brands. Here’s some pictures from the distillery.

After the tour It was time for the long drive back to Knoxville. Unfortunately due to timing and the fact that the distilleries are spread out all over the state, I didn’t get a chance to visit any others. I really wanted to go to Buffalo Trace which distills some award winning brands such as Elmer T. Lee, Pappy Van Winkle and a personal favorite, Eagle Rare. I do plan on visiting in the future.

Being that Lexington was on the way home, and I didn’t want to trip to be over, I thought I’d stop a few places. I drove over to Liquor Barn. I had heard that they had a great selection of craft beers. They did have some goodies there, but I didn’t buy much. I did take home a Mexican craft beer IPA, but after trying it, it tasted like it had been on the shelf for too long. The next spot I hit was the world famous Beer Trappe. This place is known for the great selection and was voted one of the top 100 beer bars in the country. It’s somewhere I had wanted to visit for a long time. I ordered a flight of beer to sip on while I checked out the great bottle selection. I found a few treats that I had been wanting to try, and added them to my cart. After picking out  beer, I settled back up to the bar to talk to the owner and some locals about their beer scene. I asked which local breweries that they’d recommend. I only had time to visit one, so I settled on Country Boy, just a short drive away.

I knew I couldn’t stay long at Country Boy. I was tired from all the drinking and traveling over the weekend and wanted to get home. I stayed long enough to enjoy a flight of 4 samples. I like the atmosphere at Country Boy and look forward to going back when I have more time. I also regret that I didn’t have time to check out West Sixth Brewing while in town.

I finally arrived back in Knoxville around dark. I was tired but happy to have had a great trip. I really look forward to hitting the places I missed up in Kentucky. Maybe another Bourboncation is called for in the spring.

This is all for now. I have a lot more to write about and will start working on my next update right away. After all, I still have Kingsport Oktoberfest, Knoxville Brewer’s Jam, a side trip to Asheville, an update on the brewery, an update about our seasonal homebrews, Louis K’s Blues and Bar-B-Que hootenany, and much more to tell y’all about. So check back and until then drink well my friends.

Cheers,

Ratchet


Kingsport Oktoberfest this SATURDAY @KPTOktoberfest (my 100th post)

September 25, 2013

If you haven’t gotten your tickets yet to the Biggest Tricities festival of the year, then I guess you’re not going. If you are planning on it, and haven’t bought tickets, you need to get on it. Chances are they are going to sell out soon. This is probably my favorite festival of the Year. It takes over a 6 block area of downtown Kingsport and a majority of it is free. In fact, the only cost is to get into the bier garden.  I could go on and on about it, but everything that needs to be said has been said. Check out these links:

My Blog about 2012’s event.

My Blog about 2011’s event.

Knox Beer Snob’s write up about it.

Ashvegas.com article about it.

Times News Article.

News Channel 11 Story.

Out N’ About magazine article.

Facebook page.

@KPTOktoberfest twitter feed.

You get the point. I’ll be there along with Richard and Todd pouring our delicious homebrew. We are bringing Celiatrix Gluten-Free IPA, Comrade Soze Russian Imperial Stout, Ma Hefe Heffeweizen, Hop-BOOM! IPA, Blackberry Bomber, and Butternut Squash Ale. We are also bringing merchandise to sell, so pick up a shirt or something to help us pay for more beer making ingredients.

Also, if you want to go for the day and not spend the night, contact me. I know of at least one person going for the day that plans on driving back to Knoxville that night. Y’all could carpool and share gas. If you want to spend the night, you better hurry, most of the hotels are booked.

Well this is all for now. If I get a chance, I’ll write about last weekend’s bourboncation, if not I’ll be sure to tell you how Oktoberfest went. Hope to see you there and also don’t forget that the Brooklyn Brewery Tap Takeover is happening at Suttree’s tonight at 6. 17 taps with some super rare beers and brewmaster reserves that will probably never be available in this area again. If you see me there, buy me a beer? I’m broke as hell, but I can pay you back in homebrew.

Cheers,

Ratchet


A Vacation w/ Beer Side Trips? Just Don’t Call It A #Beercation.

September 12, 2013

Update, Feb 2014: I really struggled with if I should delete this post or not. It’s about a trip with my ex-girlfriend. It’s hard for me to look back and see how much fun we had together. I have edited a lot of my other post to remove references to her. I’m the one who decided to end things with her. We just weren’t compatible and have different things we want in life. Where ever or whoever she’s with now, I wish her nothing but the best. She deserves to be happy and so do I.

Last weekend Katie and I took a trip to Charleston, SC. She has been wanting to go to the beach for awhile, and I wanted to check out the beer scene there. I grew up in Florida, near the beach, I have fair skin and burn easily. Convincing me to willingly go to the beach is a pretty hard sell. I finally consented, knowing I’d at least get to check a few places I’ve read about in various beer magazines.

The last time I took a major trip with her, it was to Asheville for Beer Week. She was expecting a leisure filled vacation, but it turned in to more of a working trip with all the events I was covering for the blog. Because of this, on top of her recent diagnosis via an endoscopy that she has Celiac Disease and can’t drink much beer, she insisted that our Charleston trip not be a beer focused one. Right away she made it known that I was not to consider this a “Beercation”.  I learned quickly to not refer to it as so.

So Thursday afternoon we loaded up her Highlander and hit the road. Charleston is roughly a six hour drive from Knoxville. We arrived at our hotel around 8 pm. Once settled in, I was able to convince her to go check out The Charleston Beer Exchange a few blocks away from where we were staying. I picked up a pre-paid order for my friend Todd and bought myself some rarities. We stashed them back at the hotel and went on a mission to find a craft beer bar called the Craftsmen. We walked around looking for it and realized that it was closed for repairs. So we headed to the next place called Closed for Business. This was a nice little bar that I had read about in Draft Magazine. Really great selection with very knowledgeable bartenders.  I tried several beers while Katie had a mixed drink and some cider. At this point it was getting late and we called it a night.

The next morning we woke up, loaded the car and walked around Downtown Charleston. We had time to kill since check in time to the Condo on Isle of Palms wasn’t until 4. We walked through the Historic Market and generally check out the sights. Eventually we stumbled upon Southend Brewery. Ah ha! Drink time! I ordered a flight and got Katie a Mojito. We chose a table out on the patio and I settled into my beer. Huh… first beer, substandard, second beer, nothing special, third beer, meh… and so on through all 8 samples. I hate saying anything bad about breweries, but honestly this one’s beer weren’t good. If you ever go to Charleston, skip this place. When I spoke with locals later on during the trip, they all told me it was a tourist trap and that they were sorry I had to experience it.

Avoid this place

Avoid this place

We left downtown and drove to the really nice condo Katie booked for us. It over looked a private beach on Isle of Palms. We arrived, checked in, unpacked the car, and hit the beach to play in the waves. I’ll admit, I had a lot of fun. The beaches I grew up with were on the Gulf of Mexico, and the waves were tiny. At Isle of Palms they were about 4 feet. We played on the beach for quite a bit until we were tired and it it was time for the next part of our adventure. We drove over to North Charleston to check out Holy City Brewing Company.  I have had a few of Holy City’s beers at festivals in Asheville, and have always enjoyed them. We both bought flights and sat and enjoyed the atmosphere while sipping on our selections. I really like their beer and the way the brewery is set up. There was a food truck outside, pic-nic tables and corn hole boards. People and dogs were hanging out and socializing. We only stayed for about an hour, because there was so much we wanted to do. I bought a couple of bottles of Holy City’s Pluff Mud Porter to go. On the way back to the hotel, we made a run to the store for food and supplies. There was a Piggy Wiggly nearby, and I had heard that they had a great beer selection. We also planned on hitting a liquor store, but for some awful reason, they close at 7 pm in the area. However, the Piggly Wiggly did live up to the hype, beer wise. The selection was great and they sold growler fills as well. I had already bought a bunch of beer earlier, so I skipped purchasing anything but food.

Beer list at Holy City

Beer list at Holy City

We got back to the Condo, ate dinner and went for a walk on the beach. At this point it was night, and we were pretty exhausted from the day’s activities. We settled in to watch a movie and only made it half way through before determining that it was time to sleep. Saturday would be another big day.

View of the beach from the patio of our condo.

View of the beach from the patio of our condo.

Saturday we got up, ate breakfast, had coffee and rushed out to swim. I had layered up with plenty of sunblock. After playing in the waves for a bit, Katie wanted to soak up some rays. I made a last minute decision to go for a jog. I ran barefoot on the beach for about a mile or so, the alternated walking & running. I decided to go as far as I could see, where the beach curved out of sight. This wasn’t my brightest idea. It took forever and by the time I got there, I was too tired to run back. I must have been a good 4 miles from our condo. I started the walk back. I was really sore, tired and dehydrated. I got sun burnt pretty bad as well. Where I returned 2 hours later to the condo, I found a really worried Katie. She was glad I was alright since I hadn’t told her that I was going anywhere. I drank a lot of water, took a shower and layered on more sunblock. It was time for the next adventure, checking out Westbrook Brewing Company.

Westbrook's tasting room as you walk through the front door.

Westbrook’s tasting room.

Westbrook is well known for making tasty beer. It wasn’t too far of a drive, being in the neighboring suburb of Mount Pleasant. We happened to arrive on a day where they released the 4th edition of their Bearded Farmer Saison series called Taylor. They also re-released their super balanced and incredibly tasty Citrus Ninja Exchange IPA as well. At the bar we ordered 2 flights and found a place to sit. As we enjoyed our beer, they announced that there was a tour taking place soon. Katie gave me that look. The one that said “You are not here on beercation, you are here to hang out with me.” I agreed and told her I just wanted to go back and snap a few pictures, not necessarily do the whole tour. She was fine with that, and we left our perch and did just that as seen in the shots below. (click on any picture for slideshow)

After finishing our beer, taking some more pictures and purchasing bottles of Citrus Ninja and Taylor, we headed back to the condo. Everywhere we went, we relied on our iPhone maps and Siri to tell us directions. On the way back to the beach, Katie told me to turn off Siri. She insisted that she knew how to get there. I didn’t think the drive look familiar, but I trusted her. The next thing I know, we are pulling in to House of Brews. She surprised me! I was super happy to go check it out. House of Brews is just that. A house stocked full of beer. They had a small bar, and outside patio and 3 rooms with shelves. We sat at the bar and ordered a half pour and spoke with the owner. He told us about the local craft beer scene and his store. I walked around the  dimly light storage rooms (light kills beer) and found some amazing selections. Three of the bottles I grabbed also happened to be the last on the shelf! I got a rare Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel aged in Cognac barrels that I have been seeking for awhile. This is definitely special occasion beer. Well we only stayed long enough to have a drink and make some purchases. I dropped Katie back off at the Condo so she could get some more beach time while I hit up the nearest liquor store. We decided that we wanted fruity beach drinks, and settled on pina coladas.

When I got back, it was time to mix up some drinks. Luckily our condo came stocked with a blender. As she mixed up the first batch, I went down and started the grill for a little ocean side cook-out. It was dark by the time we had ate and polished off a few drinks. Feeling good, it was time for a little night time walk on the beach and a swim. We made sure to walk way far away from any other people before we jumped in the ocean. We got knocked around by the waves and and had a good ol’ time. However, at this point the cups we had brought with us were empty, so it was time to dry off and hit a little roof top bar a few doors down from the condo. We quickly rinsed off the salt water, put on dry clothes and walked over. The place was called Coconut Joe’s. Total little touristy place with the kind of crowd you’d expect. We went to the top and consumed even more fruity tropical drinks while enjoying the sights, sounds and breeze from the ocean. After awhile we noticed the crowd had disappeared and that the staff was starting to clean. We asked someone what time they closed. Apparently there is a noise ordinance because of the surrounding condos. So we paid for our drinks and headed back to the hotel. A few more drinks later, it was time to call it a night.

Sunday morning was a whirlwind of packing the car and cleaning the condo. Check out time was at 11 am and came way too early. We left just as the condo’s owner came to clean around 11:45. Right before we left we took a walk on the private fishing pier. We hated to have to leave, but we knew that we faced a long drive home. Before we left Charleston for good, we stopped back by Charleston Beer Exchange for some last minute purchases. There was a little waterside park at the end of the road and we sat on a bench there for a few minutes admiring the view and psyching ourselves up for the long drive ahead.

It was Sunday and the whole plan was to make it to Bruisin’ Ales before 6 pm when they closed. They are holding some beers for me. We cut it really close and arrived at Bruisin at 5:45 to find it …closed. Apparently they close at 4 on Sundays and not 6 like I thought. Oh well. We decided we could make one last stop for our little vacation and visit Wicked Weed right down the road.

We bought a couple of flights and as we drank them we once again ran into Luke, brewer and co-owner of Wicked Weed. He came over and sat down with us and talked for awhile. He had just gotten back into town from a trip to Colorado where he brewed a collaborative beer with New Belgium. I can’t wait to try it, and I’ll will make sure to help them spread the word when it is ready. Eventually we finished our samples and said our goodbyes. 2 hours later we were back in good old Knoxville, our vacation done. We had a really good time and I’ll never forget the experience. I loved Charleston and hope to return again soon. Check out the pictures below (click for slide show) and keep reading, there other things to mention.

I wanted to mention a few things before ending this post. Friday night New Belgium’s Clips of Faith event takes place at World’s Fair Park. I originally wasn’t planning on going, but my son bailed on our plans, so I might as well. See you there?

Also Saturday the Pints for Prevention beer festival takes place behind Central Flats and Taps. It’s $40, and if I wasn’t so burnt out on beer festival, I might consider going. No honestly, that’s not why. I plan on checking out an event in Sevierville that day and then taking my son to the last day of the fair. So I’ll be missing this one. Hopefully The Knox Beer Snobs or Blues and BBQ writes about it. Let me know how it went fellas.

Next weekend it’s looking like I’ll be heading to Maker’s Mark up in KY at the very least. Plan A is to hit a couple of places on the Bourbon trail and stay at a Bed and Breakfast and head back Sunday. If finances don’t allow then Plan B is to just drive there, take the tour and drive back. I am still hoping Plan A: Operation Bourboncation is a go, but probably won’t know until the week of.

The last weekend of the month is Kingsport Oktoberfest. This is Tennessee’s largest Oktoberfest and it pretty much takes over all of downtown Kingsport. Most of the festivities are free, but tickets are still for sale for the bier garden. That’s where you find me, pouring a few of my beers like Butternut Squash Ale, Ma Heffe Heffenweizen, Blackberry Bomber, and IPA and a new Gluten free IPA called the Celiactrix that I brewed for Katie. Trust me, this festival is worth the drive and there are still many cheap hotel rooms available near the event. don’t miss this.

Also remember the Knoxville Brewer’s Jam takes place on Saturday October 12th. Tickets are still on sale, but won’t be for long.

That’s all for now, I’ll post more when I have something to write about.

Cheers,

Ratchet


Live Blogging! #CraftBeer Run to Georgia. Visiting Burnt Hickory @BHB_brews, @BrickStorePub and More!

August 17, 2013

Hey y’all. It’s time for another edition of beer travel with Ratchet. Today’s trip is to Burnt Hickory Brewery in Kennesaw, GA. This trip came about when my good friends and fellow Knox Beer Crew members Terry and Aimee invited me along for the ride. Being that drinking craft beer and checking out new breweries are my favorite things, I couldn’t resist! It just happened to work out that I got a nice bonus at work the day before, so I can do some bottle shopping as well. Terry told me all about this brewery. They are a nano, brewing on a 2 barrel system. Apparently they only offer tours once a month on a Saturday from noon until 5pm. The tour cost $10 and you get a glass and five four ounce samples. You can buy more samples if you please. They really try to make this a big event with music, food and brewery exclusives every hour. I’m really looking forward to checking them out, trying their beers and learning more about the nano-brewery business.

I’ll be providing a play by play of the day’s trip. So far the plan is to spend the day at Burnt Hickory and possibly drive down to Decatur to check out the world famous Brick Store Pub and also do some bottle shopping. So check back periodically for updates and live vicariously through us!

11:20 am. We are in Kennesaw. Currently eating lunch at Big Pie in the Sky Pizzeria. This place was featured on the tv show, Man vs. Food. Starting the drinking day by splitting a bottle of Terrapin’s Golden Ale. This is Georgia exclusive, only available for purchase in the peach state.

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11:39 am: At Burnt Hickory. Just bought my glass and tickets. Getting ready for my first pour.

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Burnt Hickory from the parking lot. You’d never know it was there.

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My tasting glass and tickets

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12:30 pm: It’s rainy outside but it’s nice inside. A lot of good people & beers. Taking my time and on my second beer, 9353, a Belgian Peach IPA. Very good!

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Draft list at Burnt Hickory

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My friends Aimee and Terry

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A view inside

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Yes I get excited by grains

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The Millennium Falcon, Burnt Hickory’s 1 barrel Blichmann Brewhouse, essentially this is what I have without the fancy brew stand.

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Climate controlled fermentation room

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Only a brewery geek & aspiring nano-brewer like myself would say “Look at the ventalation sysytem, I better get a picture of that.”

1:05 pm: Just did the tour & tried a rare taste of Noggin Knocker Imperial Egg Nog Milk Stout. Wow!

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The Burnt Hickory’s personal beer cellar and stash. Talk about seeing beer geeks drool!

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Dark Lord anyone?

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These guys have a serious stash

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More of Burnt Hickory’s stash

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Stuff that they’ve bottled in the past

1:09 pm: Drinking a kick ass Mojito IPA.

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My Mojito IPA at the tasting room. Big lines at this point.

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They are using Corny kegs just like I do!

1:40 pm. I absolutely LOVE this brewery! I’m learning so much! Just got some amazing advice from head brewer, Will.

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2:30 pm: I tried to upload video but phone keeps dieing. Meeting great people, drinking amazing beer. Lines are long at this point & I’m a little bit buzzed. Here’s a pic of my new friends John, Bob & Mary:

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I met so many friendly people like my new friends, John, Bob and Mary.

Here’s another video of the tour:

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3:30 pm: Me Ratchet. Me drunk. Lucky me no drive. Me now talk like caveman. Me hungry. What me just drinked be on untappd.

6 pm: Ok, ok I sobered up & came to outta cave man mode. We left Burnt Hickory & headed to ATL. We just stopped at Greene’s liquor store where I bought some rarities. We are now heading to Brick Store Pub where our friends have a table for us.

What I picked up at Green's

What I picked up at Green’s

6:15 pm: At Brick Store. I just ordered Straffe Hendrick Quad.

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Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel is very good!

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Knoxville friends from Left to right: George, Sammi, Aimee, Terry and Ratchet.

7:37 pm: I had to take a break and eat something. Didn’t finish my delicious beer. We walked over to Twain’s Brew pub. I just ordered a flight, even though I don’t think I can drink it all. We are going to The Porter Beer Bar next.

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Twain’s

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Sign at Twain’s

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Twain’s house beer list

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I had a flight.

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9:45 pm: Walked around Little 5 Points. Bought clothes at Rag-O-Rama. Had one last beer at The Porter Bar. Drank WestBrook’s One Claw. We are now in the car heading back to Knoxville. I’d like to thank Terry and Aimee again for taking me on this trip. My phone wouldn’t cooperate on loading all the videos and pictures. I’ll try again soon.

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The door to the Porter Beer Bar

Beer list at Porter Beer Bar

Beer list at Porter Beer Bar

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Bar at Porter

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The sign outside where we were allowed to drink our beer on the sidewalk in Little 5 Points. There were cops standing everywhere and they just didn’t care. This is in major contrast to Knoxville.

Thanks for following along. Just a few more things I’d like to let y’all know about. This Thursday, August 22nd I’ll be infusing Flat 12 bierwork’s Cucumber Kolsch with lemons, cilantro and basil at Suttree’s starting at 6. This is going to be good, trust me. I hope y’all can make it out. Also this Saturday is the Knox Beer Crew tasting, taking place at Vic’s. More info on the calendar at KnoxBeerCrew.com

Until next time….
Cheers,
Ratchet


Local #Craftbeer Brewery Spotlight: Saturday’s Visit to @CalfkillerBeer

August 7, 2013

Last Saturday I finally got around to doing something I have wanted to do for a very long time. Drive to Sparta Tennessee and visit my friends Dave and Don Sergio at their incredibly awesome brewery, CalfKiller.

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Calfkiller Brewing Company is a 20 minute drive from Crossville, or approximately and hour and forty minutes from Knoxville. It’s named after the nearby Calfkiller River that runs through Sparta. I originally drove right past it. It’s out in the middle of the country and It looks just like a house and a workshop, which in all reality it is. Don, his wife Kelly and their children all reside on the property.

A few from the parking area. The house is on the left of the driveway and the brewery on the right.

A few from the parking area. The house is on the left of the driveway and the brewery on the right.

I pulled into the driveway and was greeted by Kelly, who was outside painting a table. Introductions were made and she pointed me towards the door of the brewery. I walked in and was immediately greeted by the guys.  “Good to see you, glad you could make it.” was followed almost immediately by “Let’s have some beer.”

Tasting the goodness at Calfkiller

Tasting the goodness at Calfkiller

You can’t buy beer at Calfkiller due to state and local laws, but that doesn’t keep it from pouring. The brothers are very generous with their samples. I tried several different beers and with each, they spoke enthusiastically about the style and recipe formulation of each one. These guys truly have a love of craft beer. The conversation got around to sours and they asked if I wanted to try something. I said sure. They told me this story of a keg of Sam Adam’s Boston Lager that was several years old and and spent time in many people’s garages. By the time someone had brought it to them, it was funky. They cooled it down and hooked it up so they could bottle the contents. They have no idea what happened to sour the keg, but I got to say as far as infected beers go, this was a pretty good sour! The guys were full of stories like this, such as a friend of theirs who had found a keg of Abita Turbodog that had spent a few years in the ocean, having ended up there from Hurricane Katrina. Looking around the brewery, there were many empty bottles of various beers that I can only assume were from parties and bottle shares. I even spotted a couple of empty bottles of my Brew Mob friend Andy “Big Hop” Atkinson’s home brews.

Empty Homeb rew bottles from Big Hop Brews

Empty Home brew bottles from Big Hop Brews

A few minutes before 2pm, other people started trickling in. They do official tours every Saturday by appointment. A FedEx truck also arrived with a fresh shipment of hops.

At 2 o’clock, the tasting room was full and it was time for the official tour. They started out by making sure everyone had a full tasting glass. Dave spoke about the brewery’s beginning, and the trials and tribulations of growing and building their brewery from the ground up. Eventually we moved into the brew house area. Calfkiller brews on a 7 barrel system they had cobbled together from various equipment.  I put together the video below from the tour, but the quality isn’t that great. My phone kept overheating and the battery kept dying, so not much was recorded.

The whole time they gave the tour, they made sure to keep the samples flowing. I progressively asked for smaller and smaller samples since I knew I’d have to drive in a bit. Like all good things the tour came to an end. Many people who had made the drive asked if they could buy growler fills. The brothers had to politely decline, explaining that due to the laws, they could not sell beer on premises. They did however, let people know which of their local accounts in the area could sell. They were happy to give directions to these local bars.

They can’t sell beer there, but that does stop visitors from being able to buy some really cool Calfkiller merchandise such as shirts, glassware and hats. So when you go check them out (and I highly encourage you to do so),  make sure to bring extra cash to pick something up and support these small batch brewers.

I really want to thank Dave and Don for everything. I was so glad to check out this little gem of a brewery and would be more than happy to go back, repeatedly. In the meantime, make sure to follow them on facebook and twitter. They also are present at many local beer festivals, such as the upcoming Kingsport Oktoberfest.

Enjoy the pictures below, click on them to enlarge.

Cheers,

Ratchet


@wbir Story About Beercations Feature Yours Truly. Shout outs to #AVLBeer @Nantahalabrew @WickedWeed and @SawWorksBrewing

August 2, 2013

A big hello and welcome to all the new readers who found out about this blog from WBIR Channel 10’s Live at 5 at 4 story by Emily Stroud. It was a pleasure meeting with Emily and the camera guy to talk about my beer obsession. I would also like to thank Knox Urban Guy of the award winning Inside of Knoxville blog for putting me in touch with Emily. (Yes Jerry, I haven’t forgot about you giving Alan my phone number to pass along when I excitedly mistyped it in an email to Emily.)

So here is the video below. Just in case it’s not working, here is a direct link to WBIR’s video.

I also want to mention that Embrace the Funk is having a Sour Beer Tasting this Saturday at Bearden Beer Market from 1 to 3 pm. This is going to be quite the event. It features five of Brandon Jones’ creations in collaboration with Yazoo’s Embrace the Funk series. There will also be other sour, lambic and wild ale offerings from breweries around the world. They are even going to tap the keg of 2012 New Belgium La Folie that they’ve been hiding in the cooler. There will only be 100 spots guaranteed for Knoxville’s first sour tasting event, so be sure to come by BBM to reserve your spot today! Tickets are $20 and include a Yazoo sampling glass.

I will not be there however. I planned on visiting Sparta, TN’s own Calfkiller Brewery during that time. I’ve known Don and Dave Sergio and crew for over a year now, and have been looking forward to seeing their operation. I plan on taking lots of pictures and video, so check back Monday for a new post. Until then, if you are new to this site, feel free to read back through the archives or leave a comment.

Cheers,

Ratchet


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


A #KnoxBeerCrew goodbye to @BigMagicBeer, A quick #beer run to #Asheville w/ @Booze_Traveler and Animal and notes about @KPTOktoberfest

July 23, 2013

It’s been almost a month since my last post. A combination of being incredibly busy and not having anything substantial to write about are my excuses. I haven’t brewed for a while, and still have to keg the 40 or so gallons sitting in my fermentation room.  It seems like everytime I plan on doing my “beer chores”, life happens.

Since then I have cut back substantially on my craft beer intake (as anyone who follows me on untappd has probably noticed.) I did have a fun night on the Star of Knoxville’s “Booze Cruise”. They didn’t have any beer I liked, so I stayed with mix drinks on that one.

Last Saturday was a going away party for one of the Knox Beer Crew‘s most notorious members. Our own Nick “Big Magic” Walsh. He recently accepted a job offer back in his home state of Michigan. Nick still has many friends up there, along with his family. He was a major part of the scene here and ran the Knox Hopnings facebook page. Everyone in town has at least one or two wild and crazy Nick stories to tell. I’ll never forget my trip to GABF last year with him and some of the other guys. I’m sure Nick will come back a couple of times a year to visit (at least we hope so). So Big Magic, we’ll miss you bro. Good luck with your new job, and don’t forget about us down here in lil’ ol’ Knoxvegas.

Bye Nick! We'll miss ya bro!

Bye Nick! We’ll miss ya bro!

On Sunday I was able to take a quick trip to Bruisin’ Ales with my good friends Scott Kirkham aka Booze Traveler and Jason Anderson aka Animal. Scott mentioned to me a few days before that he was planning to go there and back and I asked if I could ride along. We met at my office around 10 am. An hour and 45 minutes later we pulled up to Bruisin’. We were there a little early so we hung outside waiting for them to open. A couple from Louisville arrived to wait as well. I said it almost looked like we were lining up for a rare bottle release, we just needed a few more people.
Well the time came and Jason (not co-owner Jason) let us in. The first thing I did was ask about sip-n-shop. I got a pour of Pisgah’s Tripel and a pour of Sweetwater’s  Waterkeeper Hefeweizen. I had reserved one of the last bottles of Allagash’s 2013 Confluence. I was really lucky to get one considering there were only 6 bottles available in all of Western North Carolina. I follow Bruisin’ Ales Twitter and Facebook feed. When they post the rarities (and they do), I know to call and reserve them.

We hung out pursuing the selection, talking to other shoppers and generally beer geeking out. After a while we made our purchases, and said our goodbyes. Where next guys? Animal and Booze Traveler were hungry but I convinced them to go check out Appalachian Vintner before lunch. We arrived and realized that they are closed on Sundays, so we drove back downtown for food and beer at Wicked Weed.

Tap list at Wicked Weed Downstairs on 7/21/13

Tap list at Wicked Weed Downstairs on 7/21/13

We walked in and headed downstairs. I started with a 10 ounce pour of the XIII Mango Cumin Saison. The guys grabbed menus from the bar while I was content to munch on the free pretzels for my lunch. After finishing my drink, I opted for a 6 pour flight. Animal ordered a bison burger which he swears is his favorite, and Booze Traveler went with a cheese plate. Ol’ Boozie handed me a small chunk of blue cheese. “Here, let this melt in your mouth and then take a sip of your Black Angel Cherry Sour.” I did as he said and inadvertently blurted out “holy s**t that’s good!” The combination was the best cheese and beer pairing I have ever had. While drinking our beer, co-owner and brewer Walt dropped by  our table to say hi. We talked for a few minutes and he let slip that they plan on doing some 750ml releases out of their barrel program soon. These bottles will be really limited, and I’ll be sure to try to get my share.

We finished our meal and noticed dark clouds on the horizon. The forecast had called for storms, so we decided that it was time to head back to Knoxville.

It was a great and quick trip and I’m glad that we live so close that we can spend 6 hours and have a mini-getaway. Thanks again Scott for letting me ride with ya. Everyone please check out his blog that mentions our trip.

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A couple more things I want to mention in this post. Kingsport Oktoberfest is happening Saturday September 28th. Tickets are on sale with the limited edition VIP packages selling quickly. From what I am told, there are only a few memberships and VIPs left. The extras are well worth the price. This has to be my favorite beer festival of the year. Each year this event gets bigger and better. Once again I am looking forward to pouring my homebrew and doing a workshop at Beer University. Das Krew has recently added Instagram to their social media arsenal. If you are on Instagram, give them a follow. They are also trying to increase the twitter followers as well. There have been some contest for retweets are followers lately, so don’t miss out.

And now about my beer shopping habits...

And now about my beer shopping habits…

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Well ever since my last beercation for Asheville Beer Week, I’ve been in debt. I guess that’s what happens when I spend my savings and max out my credit cards. I’ve been doing fairly good about paying it off and not spending too much, but the bad part is I don’t go out as often as I use to and I haven’t had any beer adventures until last Sunday. See, I do have a problem. My problem is that I don’t seem to be able to pass up buying hard to find and rare beers when they become available online. I have several websites bookmarked that I look at frequently. Every once in a while I see something super rare and highly rated that I just got to HAVE. This is the case in point with Luekens Liquors down in Florida. They carry a great variety of Cigar City beers. Sometimes they list a rarity and it’s usually sold out by the next day. I was doing my window shopping last week when this appeared. As I sat there reading the description, I looked down and saw that I had already subconsciously pulled my credit card out of my wallet. Oh well, what’s another 2 weeks of making payments on my credit if it’s going to get me rare beer and make me happy?

So I thought I’d be an enabler and post a list of online shops that ship. Y’all know that Bruisin’ Ales does right? Well what about these?

Another beer purchased off the internet. Specifically, Luekens Liquors.

Another beer purchased off the internet. Specifically, Luekens Liquors.

Luekens Liquors. Ships from the bay area of Florida. They charge for shipping and packaging, but I’ve never had a bottle break. They ship in heavy duty cardboard boxes. Usually takes a week or more to get here.

France 44. Based in Minnesota. Slow shipping but great selection.

Quality Liquor Store. Based in San Diego, sometimes they have Russian River stuff, but it sells quick. I ordered one time and they substituted a bottle of something. That kind of rubbed me the wrong way, being that I got no notification that they were going to do so.

20 West Wine and Spirits. Based out of Illinois, carries a lot of Three Floyds, Pipeworks and other area goodies. Quick shipping but expensive.

Let’s Pour. Decent selection and usually has free shipping if you buy enough. Based on the West Coast and ships slowly. Packaged great but I am always afraid of temperature extremes during shipping in the summer months.

HalfTime Beverages. Based in New York and with a great selection and the best packaging of craft beer I have ever seen. I wouldn’t hesitate to order from them again.

These are ones I have dealt with. There are more listed under the trade tab at the Knox Beer Crew Website. I hope this helps you find some stuff you have been looking for, ore new things to try. If this has been helpful, please let me know when your order gets in and lets meet for a beer. Until next time…

Cheers,

Ratchet


Live from @KnoxBrewFest, The Last Official Event of @KnoxBeer Week #KCBW

June 29, 2013

Hey y’all, Live posting for 2013 Knox Brew Fest here that Southern Railway Terminal. Going to post until my iPhone battery dies. I’ll be too busy to write, so the plan is to upload as many picture and videos as possible. I really want to focus on the attendees, so come by the Ratchet Brews booth and get your picture taken. Come back and see yourself on here.

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Myself, Todd and Richard at our booth

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Myself, Todd and Richard at our booth

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Hops

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The booth right after we set up

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Glassware for sale

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Shirts for sale

Gates are open for VIP. 4 pm for general admission. Come on by!

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Khaleesie and Todd

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The guys at the UBC booth were frying up bacon.

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Todd pouring that good ol’ Ratchet Brews

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Shirts

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Highland

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The infamous Aaron Russell.

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So glad to see wicked Weed here!

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Hoppyum? Yes please!

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My British friends

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AllianceBrewingCo.com

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Adam Ingle of Alliance Brewery. I can’t wait for these guys to get up and running.

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Alliance cask ESB is delicious!

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Thanks for the support!

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Neil from Yazoo

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Jason Smith of Knox Beer Crew @NGD69

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Old Style!

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Katie, myself and my buddy David Chisholm. My beer was his 500th Untappd Check in. So honored!

Katie, myself and my buddy David Chisholm. My beer was his 500th Untappd Check in. So honored!

Congrats to David Chisholm on earning his Untappd Legendary Badge by drinking my Apricot Honey Lager!

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Gingers unite!

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Every time you purchase a Ratchet Brews shirt, a brewer gets his… Mash paddle?

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Local social media guru, Kelly Absner

I met many of my blog and twitter followers in real life for the first time. I want to give a shout out to Jonathan Harris (@DrSkwurl), Landon Moore (@LanDub17) and everyone who stopped by the booth to say hi. Thanks everyone for the support, the encouraging words, the feedback and for purchasing merchandise. If we met, you tried our beer or your picture is on here, please leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you!

Once again this year I ended the festival in decent shape. I just didn’t have time too drink much, being that I was so incredibly busy. I’d like to thank Richard, Todd and Katie for all their hard work and help with everything. After we packed up, we headed to Downtown Grill and Brewery for dinner. Our friends Aaron and Stephanie Carson from Kingsport Oktoberfest and Thirsty Orange joined us. We wanted to hang out longer, but it was a really long day and we were exhausted.

So that’s it for now. I still have some other post that I’m working on and hope to publish soon. Until then, check out the new twitter account @KnoxWaterWeek. I mean, after all, you need water to make beer. Since we had a whole Knoxville Craft Beer Week full of drinking, it’s time to give that liver a rest.

Cheers y’all,

Ratchet


It’s Been a Success! Knoxville Craft Beer Week, only 2 days left.

June 28, 2013

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Every day of this week has been a beer version of choose your own adventure. With so many great events each night, and only 1 of me, it was hard to pick what to attend. I started off #KCBW in what I consider “My neighborhood”, Downtown. Both Suttree’s and The Casual Pint had special cask to kick things off. The Casual Pint took it 1 step further and had Union Avenue closed down for a block party featuring bands playing and vittles from the Hoof Food truck. I visited Suttree’s first where I enjoyed a beer with a few friends before heading over to The Casual Pint. I didn’t stay out for very long. I actually went to bed super early so I could get up super early the next day.

One of the tap list boards at Suttree's

One of the tap list boards at Suttree’s

Sunday was brewday. I was up at 4:30 to prepare. The plan was to brew a batch of wheat beer and be completely finished with clean up and everything in time for the Knox Beer Crew meeting at Sunspot. Thanks to help from my good friends and assistant brewers, Todd and Richard, we did just that. My buddy Dalton, who has been missing in action showed up and lent a hand for awhile.  Friends Joy and Willie stopped by to lend support as well. We finished brewing in record time, and I was able to take a short 45 minute nap before heading out to Sunspot for our monthly tasting.

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The Knox Beer Crew Monthly tasting was an official Knoxville Craft Beer Week event, so we wanted to make sure it was done right. The usual suspects we there and we did it up bigtime. We met on the upstairs patio of Sunspot’s new location. A couple of us brought pop-up canopies to shade us from the hot summer sun. At this tasting we also did a swap meet, where some of us brought shirts, stickers, bottles and glassware to trade. I got a few things I have been wanting to try for awhile. I also got a couple of rarities. We had a few new members join us, and we had a great time. Everyone brought their A game to this tasting, by busting our rarities from the cellar and hard to find beers from all over. My buddy Jason Smith had just returned from a beercation in Vermont and brought my favorite DIPA, Heady Topper to share. Richard Groves brought a bottle of Rogue’s Voodoo Donut Chocolate Banana Peanut butter beer. I can’t even stand the smell of the last beer in this series, the Maple Bacon beer. The new one was only slightly better, but many people passed and those who did only took a tiny sip. There ended up being a 3/4th full bottle sitting there, getting warm. The next thing I know, I was being dared to chug it for a can of Heady Topper. I love Heady, but that was too much. I negotiated for 2 cans of Heady in exchange for this stunt. Jason Smith agreed, and the next thing I know I’m holding my breath and downing this nasty concoction straight from the big pink bottle. I did it and here are the videos proving it. Thanks to Matt Crowell and Animal for providing these.

The tasting ended and I packed up and got some water to go and hit the nearby greenway to walk a few miles, sweat and sober up before I drove home.

Knoxville Craft Beer Week Calendar

Knoxville Craft Beer Week Calendar

Monday was something we all looked forward to. The much sought after Foothills Sexual Chocolate and several other rare Foothills high gravity beers made their debut at Sunspot.

Foothills High Gravity Tap Takeover at Sunspot.

Foothills High Gravity Tap Takeover at Sunspot.

The local distributer had to move heaven and earth for the permits to go through in time to make this event happen. I headed there after work and met with more of the Knox Beer Crew. I love Sexual Chocolate and have had many opportunities to drink it. That is why my 1st beer was the Gruffmeister Maibock. While I was hanging out with my friends, I got a call from Cara at The Casual Pint. They were having an infusion night at the downtown location, and were having a hard time getting everything set up. They needed my help. I finished my beer, said my goodbyes and headed downtown.

Sexual Chocolate, Foothill's highly sought after seasonal.

Sexual Chocolate, Foothill’s highly sought after seasonal.

I arrived at The Casual Pint where they were having an infusion night with a new brand in town, Blue Pants Brewery. They were still struggling with getting the Dogfish Head style infuser working. After tinkering with it and bumping up the gas pressure significantly, I was able to get it flowing. The beer being infused was the Spare Pair Pale Ale  with Simcoe hops. I sat and talked with Blue Pants TN sales rep, Kimmie. She told me about the brewery and their line up. I look forward to trying more beers from them. I left The Casual Pint and headed over to Suttree’s. It was the Monday night, and Sut’s has started to do a bluegrass jam every Monday. This was also bartender Stanton’s birthday party, and there was a free keg of Dark Horse Brewing Company’s Thirsty Trout Porter. I had a drink and said happy birthday to Stanton, and hung out a little bit before calling it a night.

Tuesday there was a few things going on, but a friend of mine so graciously traded me a ticket to Dave Chappelle’s show at the Tennessee Theater. I just had a quick drink at Suttree’s before heading over to the show. Dave is a comic genius and the funniest person of this generation, but his show was marred by hecklers and other dumbasses who didn’t know how to behave. It was so bad, that many news outlets reported on it the next day. See Knoxville, this is why we can’t have nice things. Heed the signs next time, dumbasses.

Signs posted all over the TN theater. Too bad they were ignored.

Signs posted all over the TN theater. Too bad they were ignored.

Wednesday after work I headed over to The Casual Pint’s Bearden location for Highland Brewery’s bingo night. Highland founder Oscar Wong was there along with my friend and sales rep, Kitty. I sat and sipped on a dry hopped, cask conditioned Gaelic Ale. The place was packed and they ran out of bingo cards. Luckily I got one and played several rounds. It was fun, even though I didn’t win.

Bingo Night at The Casual Pint. Kitty from Highland and Nathan, owner of TCP

Bingo Night at The Casual Pint. Kitty from Highland and Nathan, owner of TCP

Thursday after work I went on a bike ride with my son downtown. We road around and stopped in really quick for some ice water at Suttree’s. Next door at Downtown Wine and Spirits, there was a free Victory and Southern Tier tasting. I tried several things while talking with several of my beer scene friends. We didn’t stay long. We rode around some more and ended up joining the patriotic bike parade through downtown. Afterwards I dropped him back off at his house. I left there and headed straight to Sunspot for barrel night. Many of my Brew Mob and Knox Beer Crew friends were there as well. There was more rare and tasty beers on tap upstairs. I tried several that I have been wanting for awhile. Here’s a Brew Mob video from last night.

A video of Don from Knox Beer Snobs from last night.

Tonight I’ll be infusing New Belgium’s Heavenly Feijoa with fruit at Suttree’s. This starts at 6, and I’m hoping to see you out. If I have time, I might stop by BBM later in the evening to see a few brewery friends.

Tomorrow is Knox Brew Fest at The Southern Railway Terminal. I will have a booth and be pouring my Chocolate Covered Strawberry Stout, Apricot Honey Lager, Maibock, Rauchbier and an IPA infused with hops. I will also have merchandise for sale, so bring extra money. I am looking forward to seeing everyone. I will be live picture and video blogging all day at the event, so come by the booth and you might end up on this blog.

This is all for now, I hope you are having a great week.

Cheers,

Ratchet