So much fun. I could sum up yesterday with just those three words. I started the day off drinking coffee at my friend Wes’s house and writing yesterday’s post. I published it hastily so I could make it to Hi-Wire Brewing’s Ringmaster’s Reserve bottle release and brunch. Luckily they had wifi, so I was able to fix all my typos and add in the hyperlinks. Today I don’t know if I’ll have that luxury.
1st event of day 2!
I enjoyed the event. There wasn’t any lines and I was able to get food and my bottles pretty easily. I sat down and enjoyed washing down my waffle covered in mango chutney with the belgian ipa. I could have stayed for hours, but it was time to meet up with Wes, Aaron, Rob and Das Krewe at Wedge Brewing for Just Economics Just Brew It homebrew festival.
Rob and I helped Wes pour his Scotchy Scotch Scotch Butterscotch Scotch ale and his Balls A’ Fire Cinnamon beer. Wes had made up his own infusion contraptions where the beer was poured through funnels full of butterscotch or red hot candies. By themselves, the infusions were a little to much, so we quickly settled on telling people to try the beer on it’s own and then to add a shot of the infusion. That seemed to be the magic combination, and Wes got many compliments on the brews.
Wes’s booth and homemade infuser
The best part of this festival was the creativity of the homebrewers. The recipes, the beer names, the signs were amazing. My favorite beer, name and sign of the fest belonged to Jay Love who brewed a session IPA called Lord Chugginton’s. I liked it so much I told him that I wanted to buy the name and recipe from him. He did give me his awesome sign for it.
My favorite beer of the festival
As the festival proceeded in the dusty parking lot behind Wedge, Rob kept going to the brewery and buying us full beers. Here we were surrounded by free beer, yet he wanted full pints. Who am I to argue with the concept of that? At the end of the festival it was awards time. Wes won a trophy for most creative for his Scotchy Scotch Scotch! I was tired from being in the sun, and had sobered up, so I drove back to Wes’s house for a quick nap, a shower and a change of clothes. I needed to rally for the night! I had met so many cool people and made plans to hang out with friends old and new.
Wes displaying his award with Das Krewe
After I felt refreshed, I headed over to Catabwa’s new brewery in Asheville where I met up with my people. It was a release party for their seasonal King Coconut. I arrived to a table full of my friends and absolutely covered in pitchers of beer. They even had a glass waiting for me.
After a few rounds we made plans to take the party back downtown. Some of our group wanted to hit up French Broad Chocolate Lounge, while others wanted to go anywhere else. Wes and I parked over in the South slope brewery district and dipped into Twin Leaf Brewery for a half pour. It was my first time checking them out. Really nice place with a great selection. While there I ran into my buddy Pete who currently works for Olde Hickory brewing.
Myself with Pete
After Twin Leaf we headed towards Wicked Weed where there was another crazy long line. We headed towards Thirsty Monk but never made it that far. We stumbled across a new brewery I hadn’t heard of before called One World Brewing. We had to check it out! We got our first drink when the rest of Das Krewe made it over to join us. I didn’t really hang with my friends because flirting upstairs with a girl I just met became my priority. Her name was Carmen, and she worked there. Before I knew it, it was getting really late and everyone was ready to call it a night. I wasn’t ready to leave, and certainly knew I shouldn’t be driving. Wes had started sobering up over the last hour or so and took the keys and got us safely back to his place in South Asheville.
So what’s on the agenda today? I’m going to the bottle release at Wicked Weed. Then it’s WESTSIDE FEST! I’m running the randal during this and am looking forward to it. What else will the day have in store? More drinking, more flirting and lots and lots of fun. You can follow along on my twitter, untappd and instagram. Also make sure to follow Asheville Beer Week on those same social media outlets as well as Facebook. A big shout out to Asheville Ale Trail as well.
Check out the pictures below. See y’all around town.
After a month long hiatus, I’m back. I wanted to begin the new year off by changing, challenging and improving myself. So I began by breaking off a relationship that I found myself not wanting to be in anymore. Then I made myself go a full month without looking at or posting on social media. Because that just wasn’t enough, I made myself go a month without drinking any alcohol. To this end, I took January “off” to get my head straight and focus on my goals for 2014. I hardly went out, didn’t really hang with my friends and made diet and lifestyle changes. In this process of staying offline and not drinking, I learned a lot about myself. I realized that I don’t need to constantly check twitter, facebook and untappd to see what everyone is up to. I don’t need to post my every thought or every little detail of my existence. Taking time away also helped me realize who my true friends were as opposed to those in name only.
The not drinking part was little harder, especially the first couple of weeks. I have amassed a pretty decent collection of craft beer and a nicely stocked liquor cabinet. Every time I open the fridge, I see bottles. During this month, when I did go out, it was mostly to the Downtown Grill and Brewery. I’d go to get out of the house, eat something, use the internet and talk with my bartender buddies. They are use to seeing me coming, taking my mug down and filling it for me before I even get to the bar. This happened several times during January. I would thank them, explain what I was doing and drink water instead. I’ve also been working at The Market in Maryville’s Beer Den, surrounded by beer. I could have poured myself a pint at anytime. People were constantly bringing in bottles to share, but I stuck to my plan. That’s why when I did have my first beer in a month, Woodruff’s IPA at the Brewery during the Super Bowl, it meant so much. Before this self-challenge, I was drinking everyday. Some days I’d just have a beer at the end of the day. More often than not, it was several beers. It had just become part of my routine. I was also spending too much money on alcohol. Last year when I had a job that paid decently, I spent a majority of my disposable income on ordering rare craft beer online. I was always trying to keep up on the latest releases, arrange trades, and make trips to brewery only releases. Most of the people I had surrounded myself with were the same way. When I took the month of January to not drink, it started out without a purpose, just one of those “let’s see if I can do it” things. By the end of the month I had many realizations. In retrospect, the money I spent last year chasing down rare beers could have been put to use on things that would have better improved my quality of life and my health. I don’t write this to make myself out to be some self-righteous teetotaler who has “seen the light”, or to make any of my friends question their lifestyle choices. Honestly, I would have been perfectly happy carrying on like I was, had I not took on this challenge. So what does this mean now? Am I NOT going to bottle releases, NOT buy rare beer online or do trades anymore? Of course I will be. I LIKE those things. However, in 2014 I’m not going to do it as much. I don’t want to spend the energy worrying that I’m missing out on same rare once in a lifetime beer, or blow most of a paycheck ordering online when there is so much more to the world. I don’t feel the need to drink everyday, and when I do, I want to respect it more. I want it to be special.
During my month long sabbatical, friends would reach out to check on me. Apparently there were rumors going around that I was depressed and that’s why I was self-isolating. Nothing could be further from the truth. The whole time I was happy and in a really good place. Other than work, I pretty much had time to read, meditate and yes, I even solo brewed a batch of Imperial Stout on the down low.
During my alone time, I reevaluated my goals of opening a nano-brewery. This unrealistic dream of mine took up a lot of my time and energy. I found myself thinking about it to the point where it became stressful for me. In the last 2 years I’ve made no measurable progress towards this goal. Honestly, I’m not in a financial position to accomplish this. I am very independent and don’t like the idea of taking on investors who would possibly have power over my dreams. By giving up this idea, it frees me to pursue other things, and is a huge burden lifted from me. For now, I’m quite happy brewing an occasional batch of beer at home.
The other change I made is my name. My nickname was Ratchet since sometime around 1993. This is way before it was slang for anything else. I started to hate how I’ve been known for the last 21 years had morphed into a term of derision in society and popular culture. It became enough for me to abandon my long term nickname to go back to using my real name. I thought since I’m not trying to go pro anymore, I would give up the name “Ratchet Brews” for this blog and change it to Jason Knows Beer, which I like to think I do. For me this fits more into what my website is about. Because of the name change, you might notice some glitches in older post on this blog. Some pictures might be missing and such. To me, it’s not really that big a deal. I might fix it, I might not. For now, going forward is more important to me then what happened in the past.
So is there going to be content change on my blog in 2014? Not really. I’ll still write the really inane, irreverent post that I always have. You can expect more stories about my traveling adventures. Also the same live updates from beer festivals, brew days, etc. I do want to branch out more into beer education and to that end, I plan on studying and going for Cicerone certification. I want to write some articles on specific beer styles such as origins, recipes, and the like. I’ll continue to write because it’s become too much of an outlet for me to give it up. I’ll probably throw in some non-beer tidbits every once in awhile because I do plan on being more active in running, hiking, urban exploring and eating right. At the same time I don’t plan on being as active in the Knoxville “Beer Scene”.
Christmas is next week and I know some of you are struggling to find the perfect gift for the beer geek in your life. Unless you want to pay a fortune for shipping, it’s too late to order gifts online. I thought while I sat here filling out applications and emailing resumes, I’d take a few moments to put together a list of beercentric gifts available here in Knoxville.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen our small craft beer community grow exponentially. You can find a decent selection of quality suds almost everywhere now. So let’s start with the most basic and easy thing to acquire: gift cards.
Yes giving a gift card can feel like the easy way out, but believe me, your recipient will appreciate it. Not sure what to buy? Can’t remember if they like IPAs or stouts more? Give them the gift of choice. Pretty much everyone offers gift cards now. As far as retail beer shopping, you can’t go wrong with Bearden Beer Market. They carry a wide variety of brews, shirts and other gifts. They also offer growler fills. On cold nights they have a couple of fire pits going in the beer garden, so feel free to bring your own marshmallows.
Another popular choice is The Casual Pint. With 2 locations and more opening in 2014, they also have a great selection of beer and merchandise. Unique to CP is the create your own mix-a-six pack from the selection in the cooler. Not many other places offer this.
If you are on the North side of town, check out Vic’s. Killer selection, knowledgeable staff and you can get your high grav’s right next door. Ask for Louie and tell them Ratchet sent you.
For the best selection in Maryville, check out The Market. Growlers are available as well.
When it comes to craft beer bars, Suttree’s is a sure shot. A gift card here will go along way. They always make sure to have the best draft beer selection in Knoxville.
One of the longest running craft beer bars in Knoxville, Barley’s is also know for their killer selection and awesome food menu selection. Take someone here for dinner and they’ll really get into the holiday spirit.
Want to give something brewed locally? Downtown Grill and Brewery offers gift cards. Great food, super friendly and knowledgeable bar staff and a fine selection of English style ales. Growlers and kegs available. You can get a 5 gallon keg for $50 (plus deposit). Think about how well this would go over at your Christmas party.
Speaking of locally brewed and Christmas parties, you can’t forget about Saw Works. Knoxville’s favorite microbrewery has a tasting room called The Mill. There you can buy a growler, a shirt or some glassware. It’s also available for private parties and they have an upcoming Holiday Bash this Friday at 7 pm. I wish I could make it, but I’ll be in Hot Springs that night.
Maryville’s upcoming Bluetick Brewery has just got a bunch of merchandise in, just in time for Christmas. Every purchase helps them get that much closer to opening their doors to the public.
Is there a home brewer in your life? Knoxville has 2 great homebrew shops. Allen Biermakens on Martin Mill in South Knoxville or Fermentation Station on Kingston Pike in West Knoxville. Both have a great selection of supplies and equipment for those who brew their own.
Well that’s the Knoxville Beer Geek Christmas list. I hope this helps you procrastinators with some ideas. Before I sign off, I want to let you know about tomorrow’s (Thursday night’s) infusion event at Suttree’s. I’ll be taking the ever so popular seasonal from Terrapin, Wake-N-Bake, and infusing it with fresh mint, cocao nibs and mini-candy canes for a festive treat. I’ll be starting around 7 pm, and I am hoping to see everyone.
Y’all have a great and Beery Christmas and try to not let the Krampus get you. I’ll try to post again before the new year.
Peanut butter and jelly.
Salt and pepper.
Bagels and cream cheese.
Spongebob and Patrick.
BEER AND FOOD.
Somethings just naturally pair well with others. Of the above list, the last one is of course, my favorite. I had the good fortune to attend The Tomato Head’s first craft beer dinner last night. Indulging in the best meal I’ve ever eaten paired with beers from one of my favorite craft beer brands, I had the most incredible dreams all night long. I woke up this morning feeling refreshed and inspired to write about it.
For anyone living in our great city of Knoxville, it would be inconceivable to me if they didn’t know about the Tomato Head. Originally opening it’s doors as The Flying Tomato in 1990, it’s been an anchor tenant of Market Square through all it’s changes and a cornerstone of the Knoxville Restaurant scene. When I first moved here in the late 90’s, it was the one place I knew I could get great pizzas and vegetarian fare. It was the place where I first fell in love with the concept of brunch. I don’t hide the fact that I am an unabashed fan. They opened their Gallery Shopping Center location in Bearden, late 2012. This is where the beer dinner took place.
The Tomato Head’s Gallery Shopping Center location. On Kingston Pike, in Bearden.
A more recent arrival to Knoxville is the introduction of Oskar Blues Brewery’s line of tasty craft beers. One of the first craft breweries to see the value in canning it’s beer, they started distributing to Knoxville just this year. This is mainly due to their recent Brevard,NC expansion. Previously if you wanted to track down some O.B. you either had to travel or have someone ship it to you. All of their beers are very highly rated and incredibly good. I remember hearing about their Ten Fidy Imperial Stout long before I tried it. When I finally tracked it down years ago, I was blown away. It was one of those rare times where the beer actually lived up to they hype associated with it. A month or 2 ago the first cans of Brevard brewed Ten Fidy finally hit the local shelves. There was much rejoicing in the Knoxville beer scene when this happened.
Menu for the beer dinner
Brewing beer and cooking food have much in common. A good brewer, like a good chef, will know what flavors work together. Texture, mouth feel, presentation and most of all, taste makes a great meal and a great beer what they are. It’s both science as well as art. Both the brewers at Oskar Blues and the chefs at Tomato Head are artisans. For this beer dinner, Mahasti and Sam came up with an amazing meal to pair with amazing beers. First up was potato pancakes topped with house pickled beets from Mountain Meadow Farm, sour cream, and sauerkraut. This was paired with Oskar Blues‘ Mama’s Little Yella Pils. This was a great combination where the flavors of the root vegetables, the tanginess of the sauerkraut and the creaminess of the sour cream complimented the light, crisp and thirst quenching qualities of the pilsner. I could have ate this all night, but the meal had only just begun.
Potato pancake, house pickled beets, Sauerkraut and sour cream paired with Mama’s Little Yella Pils.
The main course consisted of F Nolan and Sons Victuallers Redding English Bangers served on a Flour Head Bakery Stout bun with roasted sweet peppers and onions, and a sour cherry mustard made with Deviant Dales’s IPA. This was accompanied by a Rye Berry Winter Green Salad. The beer pairing for this course was Dale’s Pale Ale and Old Chub Scotch Ale. When I first read the menu, I was apprehensive. The reason being is that I primarily eat a vegetarian diet. I’m not very strict about it, and do eat meat on occasion. However it’s extremely rare that I eat red meat. Please excuse my ignorance, but I had no idea what a banger was. I was imagining some red beef bits or something. (Hey I’m a beer geek, not a foodie, but I’m learning). Imagine my delight when they brought out the plates and I learned that a banger was an all natural pork sausage link. YUM! I took a bite of the bun filed with cut up pieces of banger, sweet bell peppers and the best mustard ever. It was beyond words. As I chewed I think my eyes rolled into the back of my head and I might have moaned or something, because when I came to, I noticed people at the table looking at me funny. I’m sorry but I couldn’t help it. This was the best food I have had since my last meal at the Tomato Head. The whole plate was incredible. I remember being in a state of bliss and trying my best to keep from tearing up with joy. I found that the hoppiness of Dale’s Pale Ale really complimented the bitterness of the winter green salad. For me, the part of the meal that really stood out was the sour cherry mustard. Everyone at our table agreed, if this was available to purchase in jars, it would be one of those condiments that you put on everything. They way it tasted combined with sips of Old Chub was phenomenal. If the Tomato Head makes this a regular dish, I will soon be homeless having spent all my money to eat there everyday.
Heaven on a plate
At this point I felt the early stages of the itis. I was full and satisfied. However, we weren’t done yet. It was time for dessert. They brought out bread pudding made with Flour Head Bakery Parker House rolls, Schwab Farm roasted apples topped with a chocolate sauce made with Ten Fidy and home made whipped cream. Naturally the beer pairing for this was Ten Fidy, Oskar Blues’ incredible Russian Imperial Stout. For me the Ten Fidy was dessert enough, but with the chocolate covered apples and the bread pudding it was over the top goodness. I fought with myself to consume every last bit, no matter how full I was.
As I finished my meal, I sat and talked with the staff of the Tomato Head, and the others at our table. We all agreed that this meal was a huge success. Like I mentioned, this was The Tomato Head’s first craft beer dinner, and I am sure they will have many more in the future. Like all great restaurants, they really appreciate craft beer and how to pair it with a meal. I’m really excited that the downtown location is being expanded. Once the construction is done, they will have a bar focusing on great wine and beer. The timeline for this is February, and I can’t wait! I look forward to frequenting the new bar, and claiming my spot as a regular.
I’d like to thank the wonderful staff at the Tomato Head for everything. As far as beer dinners go, this one was the best. I look forward to the next one, and the continued success of Knoxville’s best restaurant.
There’s been a few events and little beer trips in the last couple of months that I haven’t had time to write about yet. Instead of taking responsibility for being lazy, my excuses for lack of posting is my work schedule, being a father and playing too much Angry Birds. My writing has suffered as a result. So with that being said, It’s time to start playing catch up on my posting in the next week or so. I’m going to start with my recollection of Kingsport Oktoberfest.
One of my favorite yearly events, this Tri-cities celebration gets bigger and better each year. I headed up a day early to get settled in and hang out with my friends at the brewer’s reception the night before. I got a late start and ended up getting to my hotel room around dusk. After unpacking, I headed over to the festival site to unload the kegs and to visit and drink beer with my friends at the brewers reception. I arrived and saw some of my good tri-cities comrades such as Jimie Barnett and Jay Davis. We immediately launched into a discussion of yeast, brewing times and gravity readings. I realized that I was beer geeking out so hard with other brew-nerds that I hadn’t even poured myself a drink. I got myself out of the conversation by pointing out I was sober and need to fix that. I poured a brew from the tap on the side of the cold truck and walked around to greet our other friends. Dave and Nikki Ohmer from Saw Works were there, along with several of my Tennessee Valley Homebrewers Club buddies. It was great to see my good friends and awesome brewery owners, Erich and Pam Allen from Studio Brew. I had enjoyed giving Erich hell the previous week on social media (mostly using the Kingsport Oktoberfest’s twitter and facebook accounts) for brewing a Butternut Squash Ale (my signature fall seasonal). It was all in good fun though, and it turns our brews are completely different recipes. After socializing, having a few drinks and heading over to Stir Fry Cafe for dinner, I headed back to the hotel. Knowing it would be an early morning, I needed to rest up.
The next morning bright and early I headed down to the site. Before I set up, we needed some breakfast and wake up juice. There was a new coffee shop right by Stir Fry Cafe with an incredible selection. The staff was super friendly and I wish I remembered the name of this place. Unfortunately my google-fu is failing me right now.
After I was sufficiently fed and caffeinated, it was time to set up the booth. I had brought four kegs of homebrew and plenty of merchandise to sell. Richard and Todd drove up from Knoxville that morning and met me at the site.
Todd and Richard at the Ratchet Brews booth.
Once everything was set up and the beer was flowing, it was time to walk around, see friends and drink beer before the gates opened. The moments before ticket holders come in to a festival is always a magic time for brewers. Most of us are set up and are able to socialize and try each other’s brews in the calm before the storm.
Our buddy, Dave from Saw Works Brewing Company
Some of our favorite craft beer people, Pam and Erich Allen of Studio Brew!
The gates opened for the early VIPs. Spending the extra money for early admission is worth it as far as I’m concerned. The vibe is much more relaxed, there are no lines, and you get one on one time with the brewers to talk about what’s in your glass. The people who spring for the VIPs tickets are a much more beer savvy crowd and aren’t there just to get drunk. They truly enjoy conversing about beer. I met some great people, and am truly blessed that a couple told me they learned about Kingsport Oktoberfest and came because they read about it here. It was so great meeting and talking with everyone!
Highland ALWAYS brings the goods to these festivals!
As the day progressed, we took turns working the booth and walking around enjoying the festival. There was a camera crew from the game show network on site and they guy from Cash Cab was the host of a new show. They specifically came to film the TN Idiotarod Race. I walked over to see the beginning.
The day progress, we poured all our beer and got a lot of great feedback. Eventually the festival came to an end. We had an awesome day but it was time to pack up. I found myself tired but mostly sober. We packed everything up. Todd took off for the long drive home while Richard stayed in town at the same hotel as I did. I went back to our room to refresh and change into clean clothes.
Anyone for some Cottonwood Pumpkin ale infused with pumpkin pie slices?
Hi-Wire Brewing Company, one of Asheville’s newest breweries.
It’s the Great Pumpkin Ale, Charlie Brown!
Two of the hardest Gangstas you’ll ever meet being photo bombed.
After I rested up, I grabbed a few bottles of homebrew and hopped in Richard‘s car to go back downtown. We met our friends at Stir Fry Cafe for a post festival dinner. We arrived to a large table with Erich and Pam Allen from Studio Brew, Chris and Sandy Hunt from Moccasin Bend Brewing, Dave and Nikki Ohmer from Saw Works and several others. We ordered food, drank beer, share homebrew and enjoyed each other’s company. As the night wore on, people started heading back to their hotel rooms. We weren’t quite yet ready to call it a night and asked our server what some other decent craft beer bars in town were. We ended up going to a spot called Biggie’s for one last drink.
The next morning I met with Pam and Erich at an Asian buffet restaurant for brunch. I ate my fill and followed them home where in an attached building Studio Brew is located. Erich showed me around the brewery and told me about his trails and tribulations to get licensed. I really need to plan a day to go up there and brew with him.
I could have stayed there all day with Erich and Pam but I needed to get over to Asheville before heading home. I had ordered some beer from Bruisin’ Ales and had to pick it up. I hurried to make it there by 6pm, when I thought they closed. Arriving at 5:50, we found that I had the Sunday hours wrong. They are open noon to 4 on Sundays, not 6 like I had thought. Realizing my mistake, there was only one thing to do. I headed over to Wicked Weed for a quite bite and flight. Once again, while enjoying food and beer, I ran into Luke, who had just returned from a trip to Colorado. He told me about some big plans they had, and another collaboration they did with New Belgium. I do want to congratulate them for beating both Russian River and Crooked Stave for the Gold Medal in the American Brett Beer category at this year’s Great American Beer Festival. This is an amazing accomplishment for a brewery that has only been in existence for less than a year!
Well I drove home to Knoxville and this beer trip came to an end. I have had a few more adventures since this trip, and I plan on writing about them soon. I have another post I am going to publish on Saturday, so make sure you check back then. I’ll tweet the link and add it on the Facebook page.
PS January 2014: I don’t like to make a big deal out of my relationship status, but since this post, Katie and I have parted ways. As I tend to do, I removed and will continue to remove all references to her off of this blog. I’m not depressed over this, and am actually in a good place. I am the one who made the decision for reasons I won’t go in to. No drama, nothing bad, just different life paths. Katie is a really special girl, who deserves happiness. I wish her nothing but the best. That’s all I’m going to say on the matter.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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’shome 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.
The last day of #AvlBeerWeek and our beercation did not start in typical fashion. We had stayed out pretty late and drank many beers the night before. Luckily I properly hydrated and took my vitamin supplements, so no hangover. However, because of the time we ended up sleeping in. We woke up with very little time to get ready for the first activity of the day; our planned tour of Riverbend Malt House.
They sell directly to homebrewers as well!
Rushing to get there for the 11 am tour, we arrived 20 minutes late. We were able to walk through and catch the tour in progress in the germination room.
Traditional floor malting
Co-founder Brian Simpson was talking the assembled group through the malting process. He described where the grains come from, how they are germinated and how long it takes. He also told us of their capacity and about some of the trials and tribulations they faced as a new business. We from the germination room to the next area of the malt house where they dry and kiln the grain. Riverbend’s other co-founder Brett Manning walked us through this part of the process. I took a small video of him describing how and why they kiln the malt.
The Kiln constructed by hand at Riverbend Malt House.
I found the tour and close look at the equipment very informative. Once this year’s NC hop harvest comes in, I’d love to brew a beer with them and Riverbend’s malt. The tour ended and we headed back to the hotel to update the blog and get ready for Beer City Fest.
Beer City Fest!
Beer City Fest is the big ending for Asheville Beer Week. All the breweries in the area set up on Roger McGuire Green downtown. This was the 4th annual edition of this festival. Asheville happened to lose the online “Beer City Poll” this year to Grand Rapids Michigan, but that in no way takes away from what this jewel of a city has to offer. This years festival was bigger and better with all the breweries bringing their ‘A’ game.
What really surprised me about the festival were the people who would come up and say hi and tell me that they love reading my blog. Every time that happened, it really made my day. I made sure to give everyone who did that one of my refrigerator magnets I keep in my pocket. I also met Mags Bonham and her husband who had traveled all the way from Vermont for Asheville Beer Week. Of course, since they were from Vermont, I talked to them about my favorite IPA, Heady Topper. Mags makes some really cool hop jewelry, so check out her etsy page and tell her I sent you. I also want to give a big shout out to my buddy Trevor who offered me more sunblock. I had layered up back at the hotel, but I needed that recharge. After a few hours of walking in the heat and drinking beer, we were exhausted. We elected to leave the festival an hour early to take a nap in the air-conditioned hotel room. I set my alarm and passed right out. Later when showering and getting ready to go back out, it dawned on my why I was able to fall asleep for my nap so quickly. In the rush of everything, I had neglected my morning coffee.
My Friend Trevor Sharp, follow him on twitter: @SharpTrevor
Oaked Aged, cask conditioned Old Chub, oh yeah!
Guest Blogger powers: activate!
Fancy Stout (Pinky Out).
Dieter from Heinzelmannchen and myself
Joe from Nantahala Brewing Company
Kevin from BearWaters
After recharging at the hotel, we headed back out. Our friends from the Knox Beer Crew, Matt, Krissy, Jason and Beverley were in town. They were out in West Asheville eating, and we thought we’d do the same. Katie is big on Mexican food (I joke that a majority of her diet is nachos) so we headed out to a spot recommended by many locals, Papas and Beer. With a name like that, how could we go wrong? We arrived and went inside and was seated within 5 minutes. I looked at the beer selection, and better than your typical Mexican restaurant, I was a little disappointed. Not that the craft beer selection they had was bad, but they only had 4 local craft beers on tap. I don’t know, maybe with a name like Papas and BEER, my expectations were too high. I still didn’t feel like drinking, so I stuck with water. The food was really good, and Katie was able to get her daily margarita fix. After eating, we made a quick pit stop at Appalachian Vintner to pick up a few more things for a friend back home. By this time, I had room for desert, and since we wanted to experience as much as Asheville as possible on our last night, we headed to The Hop on Merrimon avenue. This was another locally recommended spot. I thought they had beer flavored ice cream, but there wasn’t any. Hey locals, am I getting this place confused with somewhere else? I specifically remember having beer ice cream at one of the local beer events. Anyway, no beer ice cream, but we did get a small scoop of some delicious flavors. Next we parked back at the hotel and headed over to meet our friends at The Thirsty Monk. The Monk Pub was packed, but we only had to wait a few minutes to be let inside. We settled sat at a table with our friends downstairs and enjoyed a beer. It was hot and one of our friends wasn’t feeling good, so they didn’t stay long. They said their goodbyes and Katie and I finished our beer and headed out for more last night adventures. We hailed a cab from downtown to the Wedge Brewery. We arrived around 10:45 and realized they had closed at 10. Is it just me, or I do I remember wrongly the Wedge staying open later than that on a weekend night? Anyway, we hopped back in the cab and went back downtown. We walked over to the Vault on Rankin for a drink. One drink later, we hit up the Sky bar. We liked the patio, but as we sat for 15 minutes wondering why no one was taking our drink order, one of the locals told me they were closing for the night. That was fine with me because after blowing through my savings this week, I wasn’t really looking forward to spending $12 on a cocktail. At this point we were exhausted and went back to the hotel. I feel asleep in short order.
Tap list Downstairs at the Monk on Saturday night
An amazing witbier
Where’s the beer flavored ice cream? We we in the wrong spot?
Salsa at Papas and Beer
So here I am at Wall Street Coffee House writing this post and looking back on this week. I sure had a great time and will miss being here. Luckily I live only an hour and 45 minutes away. There are many places and breweries that I wanted to visit, but haven’t had the chance. This just gives me another excuse to come back as soon as possible. Until then, I will miss the food, the beer but most importantly my friends both newly made and long time known. Without y’all, Asheville wouldn’t be what it is. Anytime y’all want to come over the mountain, let me know. I have space for you to stay and would love to show you around our “Scruffy City.”
Before I end this post, I want to personally thank Dr. Patel and the staff at Downtown Inn and Suites for making our week-long stay wonderful. Sure there are fancier hotels in the area but as far as cleanliness, location, friendliness of staff and affordability, you really can’t beat staying here. Even if I suddenly and expectantly became filthy rich, I would continue to book rooms at this fine establishment.
Friday morning found us back at Izzy’s Coffee Den. We had actually gotten a late and barely had time to enjoy our drinks as we worked on the blog. Before we knew it, it was time to go to the next event. We had recieved a private invitation to attend Digital Relativity’s Beer Marketing (That Doesn’t Suck!) workshop. This event took place on the 10th floor of the Hotel Indigo. Arriving to complimentary valet parking for attendees, we were escorted to a posh condo overlooking Asheville. Many of other other friends in the beer industry were there. Brewers, venue owners, marketing and sales reps, and of course, bloggers. Leading the workshop was none other then Pat Strader. We’ve both know of each other and have been friends on untappd, but this was the 1st time meeting in real life. Pat walked us through an informative 2 hour presentation while we sipped beer and snacked. I learned quite a bit from this workshop and plan on implementing some of his suggestions as soon as possible. Being that it was going to be a very busy day, so of the brewery reps had to excuse themselves early to get ready for various events they were hosting around town. We had planned on taking a trip on the Pisgah Brewing to see our friend Gaines and to take a short tour and purchase some rare bottles. We realized how short we were on time. Gaines was at the workshop and apologized that he wouldn’t be bale to take us on a tour but he would make sure to let other people at the brewery know we were coming so they could show us around. As we left Hotel Indigo, Julie from Bruisin Ales told us that she had just gotten a shipment of the rare bottles from Pisgah the day before. We elected to go there instead and picked up a few other things that had just came in as well. By now we were hungry and Katie always craves Panda Express when we are in town, so we headed over to the Asheville Mall so she could get her fix and I could pick up a new cord for my beleagered computer. After getting her food to go, and a quick stop at Radio Shack, we headed back to the hotel to prepare for the Asheville Rare and Wild Beer tasting event. We could see the line forming from our hotel balcony.
It didn’t suck
At 6 pm we walked the few short blocks to The Mill Room where The Asheville Rare and Wild Beer Tasting was taking place. This was a small event with only 250 tickets sold and many breweries brought their rarest creation. Many of the bottles and kegs were the last ones in existence. We walked around seeking out the rarest of the rare and were joined at the event by our #KnoxBeerCrew buddies Todd & Joey. It seemed like everyone at tasting knew each other. This tasting was put together & sponsored by All About Beer Magazine with a portion of the ticket sales going to Pints for Prostates, an organization that focuses on men’s health issues. I really enjoyed the event. Most of the beers will never be brewed again, the food was amazing and hanging out, meeting and socializing with everyone was great. The only thing I thought could be done better next time is to extend the time the event runs. With over 30 different beers being served, the 3 hours alotted was just not enough time to responsibly sample everything that I wanted to.
When the event ended at 9, we got our group of friends together and decided to go to Wicked Weed to enjoy thier new collaboration with Foothills, Batch 69. I had glasses, stickers, magazines and other swag from the event, so I headed to the hotel to drop it off while Katie, Joey and Todd went to WW. I took a few minutes to freshen up, drink some more Emergen-C and down the last of my multi-vitamins. I arrived to find Wicked Weed packed, as is typical on a Friday night. I bluffed my way pass 2 sets of door guys by telling them I was already seated with my friends and had just walked out for a moment. This allowed my to bypass the line and go immediately to drink with my buddies (yeah I know, I suck.) I bought a half pour of Batch 69. This beer is a combination of Wicked Weed’s Freak of Nature Triple IPA and Foothill’s famous Sexual Chocolate, brewed and combined together at the same time. It was incredibly delicious and I may or may not have purchased a mini-growler to share with friends back in Knoxville. I spoke with Luke (who I almost didn’t recognize at first due to his 70s costume and wig) about this beer. I asked why they didn’t name it Sexual Freak. He laughed and said that is what they considered at first but knew it would be too risque. It just so happed to be the 69th batch brewed by Wicked Weed, so it was just fitting to call it that.
We sat around enjoying each others company and beer. I was happy to see that Todd was having an indepth conversation with Mitch Steele, while Katie spoke and hung out with Abby, Luke’s wife. Aaron and Stephanie Carson came to hang out as well. There was a band playing funk jams. They were really good, and afterwards hip hop music played while inebriated patrons got down and danced. It was getting late and around 1 pm we headed towards The Thirsty Monk for 1 last beer. Katie did her best to heard us 3 big drunk guys down the road and keep us out of trouble or from falling off the sidewalk. We got to the Thirsty Monk to find it closed (again!). Instead we headed across the road to Jack of the Woods. After one last beer it was time to pass out. We said our goodnights to Joey and Todd and passed out almost immediately.
Today is another big day. We are going to take a quick tour of Riverbend Malt House and then get ready for Beer City Festival. That runs until 6, and we’ll see if we can make it the whole time. Other Knox Beer Crew friends of ours such as Matt and Krissy Crowell and Jason and Beverly Anderson are coming in for the day. They will be bar hopping while we are at the fest, and we have plans to hang out tonight. Since this is our last day of beercation, we plan to make the most of it. Tune back in tomorrow for a recap, and in the mean time, check out my untappd check ins to see what delicious brews I’m consuming. There is also my twitter feed and the #AvlBeerWeek tag to follow as well.
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.
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!