Brewer’s Jam recollection and looking forward to #GABF with #KnoxBeerCrew

October 8, 2012

What a weekend! I want to write about Brewer’s Jam, but don’t think I’ll do it justice. Instead I’ll just tell you about my craft beer weekend in general.

If you read my last post, you know I was going to be busy. Friday night is somewhat of a blur, but what I can recall was amazing. I got off work and headed to World’s Fair Park to help load the cold truck. There were plenty of volunteers and I didn’t stay long. After a while I went home, cleaned myself up and headed to Adam and Shellie Palmer‘s wedding reception at SawWorks. On the way I dropped off kegs at Saccy‘s for the party.

Many of my craft beer friends were at the reception. On tap was the brand new “Dirty South” Brown Ale brewed by SawWorks exclusively for The Casual Pint. It’s an incredible beer and completely different in taste then the SawWorks Brown. Get down to one of The Casual Pint’s locations and try it for yourself. I drank my fair share at the reception.

It was great spending time with some of my favorite people in the Knoxville craft beer community on such a joyful occasion. One of the highlights for me was seeing Dave Ohmer’s face when the guys busted out with the Dave is my Homie shirts that Adam had printed. I made sure to hand mine to Dave with a sharpie to sign it, as seen in the picture below:

Dave sign’s my “Dave is my Homie” shirt

I can’t wait to see the rest of the pictures of taken at the reception by Rebecca Tatum and hope that she post them soon. Thanks to an idea formulated during a conversation with her, I started interviewing for interns that can read me beer books in a english accent as I do chores around my basement brewery. So, yeah, thanks for that Becca.

Well I wanted to stay at the reception longer, but I did commit to Saccy’s Party, so I headed over there. Downtown was a complete mess when it came to traffic and parking since it was First Friday. I eventually found a spot, grabbed my tap box and walked over the his condo. This event took place in the building’s community room, and when  I walked in, I was treated like a rock star. It was unbelievable. The party had been waiting in anticipation of my arrival to tap the kegs. The same time this party was going on, there was the brewer’s reception across the street at the Woodruff building. I went over there for a few minutes, had a drink, said hello to a few people and went back to Saccy’s. After this things start getting a little blurry.  I do however specifically remember having a great tasting homebrewed Pale Ale that stood out for it’s fresh hoppy character.

Well the party eventually died down, so I headed over to The Casual Pint. Stayed there really briefly, then headed to Suttree’s. Somehow I end the night at the Peter Kern Library. I over did it and had a little too much fun. The next morning was rough.

Brewer’s Jam morning I overslept and woke up dehydrated with a pounding head ache. Drinking beer all day a festival was the absolute last thing I wanted to do. The bad part is that I knew better. I should have been drinking water the whole time the night before. I missed most of the morning chores of delivering ice and kegs to the brewers. Thankfully there were plenty of people to take up my slack. I still feel bad about it and I’ll make up for it next year. I brought a cooler to Brewer’s Jam with bottles of vitamin water and a gallon of spring water. I was constantly mixing Emergen-C , and I drank more of that then I did beer during the day. By the time the gates opened, I was fully recovered.

Before the gates opened, I had a chance to wander around and say hi to a few people. I stopped by and saw Kitty at the Highland Brewing booth. Next I went to Asheville Brewing Company and purchased an awesome shirt. Sadly my friend Mike didn’t make the trip, but it was great meeting the guys who were working the booth in his absence. I went over to talk to the guys at Green Man and flipped out when I noticed they had a bottle of their super rare sour ale, Maceo, at the table. This beer was just released on Thursday. Only a few beer stores in Asheville got a case. No one was willing to hold or ship bottles. It was first come, first serve. I had tried bribing friends to go get it since I couldn’t get out of my plans to drive to Asheville, but had no takers. As soon as I saw the bottle at the booth, I took all the money out of my wallet and offered it to the guy there for it. He wouldn’t sell it. He did tell me to check back and we could work something out at the end. Every hour or so I went back to check if it was there. Eventually near the end of the day, he sold it to me. He said since I was persistent, he would sell it to me for the same price it sold for in Asheville. I was so happy. This really did make me feel like Brewer’s Jam was better than Christmas. It also completes my collection of beers that Green Man has released bottles of. I am going to save this for a special occasion.

I saw this and freaked out. I had to have it no matter what the co$t…

Thank you for selling it to me. You have no idea how happy it made me.

What happiness looks like

When the gates opened, my beer was the 1st being poured. Both my Butternut Squash Ale and Oktoberfest were side by side. I worked the taps. We had the longest line at Brewer’s Jam. It was crazy! It stretched all the way across the lawn of World’s Fair Park. My beer was a hit and I poured it until it was all gone. The whole rest of the day people would come up and compliment me on it. It’s a great feeling knowing that I make beer that people really seem to enjoy. It was also so nice meeting and talking to people in line who I had never met in real life but read this blog. Thank you! More then once I heard “I hope this isn’t weird, but….” then the person describing how they read my blog, or seen me at one of the downtown bars, or I’ve poured them a beer at work, or they feel like they know me because of my website. Let me tell you. NO. It IS NOT Weird for you to approach me. It’s AWESOME. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Feel free to stop me and say hi anytime. I love meeting new friends. Every person I met that told me something like this, I tried to give one of my bottle cap fridge magnets. If you see me around, say something and I’ll give you one as well. I try to keep a few on me when I’m out in public.

The Homebrewers booth always has the longest line at Brewer’s Jam

The weather was the best it could have been, and was the best I ever remember it being. It was overcast (so I didn’t get a sunburn) and it was chilly, so I wore my new hoodie the whole time. For the entire time it looked and felt like it could rain at any moment but not one drop fell from the sky. This year I didn’t drink very much, but still had a great time. At festivals, I tend to try for beers I haven’t had before. There were a few I really wanted, but passed because the lines were too long. I also very rarely wandered out into the main crowd of the packed festival lawn. I knew there were many of my friends (Lou of Blues and BBQ for example) that were there, but I just didn’t run in to. I mostly stayed behind the tents where it was less crowded and other brewers were hanging out. I wish I had taken more pictures of Brewer’s Jam and maybe some video, but just forgot. At the end of the festival I was completely sober and hungry. I packed my car, drove home and went with a friend to dinner at the Downtown Grill and Brewery. I sipped some Maker’s 46 for the hour or so we were there. After that headed to Suttree’s where half way through a sample size of Lindeman’s Framboise, I crashed. I had hit the wall and it was like someone flipped an off switch for my body and brain. A lack of sleep had caught up to me. I couldn’t focus on conversation and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. The night was still early, but I couldn’t hang anymore. I got dropped off at my house walked in the door, kicked off my shoes and let myself literally fall into bed. I fell asleep mid fall and woke up 9 hours later completely refreshed.

Lindeman’s Framboise, my Saturday night “off switch”

My weekend ended with me working the Sunday afternoon shift solo at The Casual Pint and reminiscing about the last couple of days with my good friends. I also met a really nice couple who own a winery in Virginia and are planning a brewery. I’m didn’t catch their names or the name of the brewery, but I am hoping they email me so I can take a road trip and visit them and their brewery someday.

Well that was this weekend. Next weekend I’ll be in Denver for the GREAT AMERICAN BEER FESTIVAL! I am flying out with 4 other members of the Knox Beer Crew. We will be repping hard! I am going to make another effort to blog everyday of the trip so those of you who can’t make it can live vicariously through my adventures. It’s going to be epic, so check back Thursday through Sunday to follow along.

Once again, I would like to thank my readers, friends, twitter followers and people I met this weekend for all the kinds words. Hope we all meet and share beer again real soon.

Cheers,

Ratchet

A glass full of Sunsphere


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

September 23, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

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

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Live blogging from @KPTOktoberfest http://kingsportoktoberfest.com/

September 22, 2012

It’s Saturday morning and I am at the Oktoberfest site in Downtown Kingsport, getting ready to set up my booth. I got to in to town late yesterday afternoon. I spent the night before and most of the day on Friday getting everything ready and packing my old trusty CR-V. There is a lot that goes into setting up and pouring homebrew at a festival. One of the things I did was to bake minature butternut squash pies and mini cupcake sized pies. I am going to try to infuse my Butternut Squash Ale with mini-pie slices. I honestly don’t think it’s going to add anything to this beer, I am doing it mostly for presentation. I wanted to do something memorable. Something that people will talk about. Worse case senario is that it turns into a big gloopy mess and clogs up my lines. If so, I’ll just bypass the infuser. I made several pans of the mini-pies for people to eat. I think it will be a nice treat for the V.I.P.s who paid for early admission. I used the butternut squash that was left over from brewing the last batch. It cooked really well in the beer wort, and it has some bitterness because the whole leaf hops were cooked with it in the mesh bag. For anyone who is interested, here’s the recipe:

Step one, brew Butternut Squash Ale.

Step two, remove the squash and hops from mesh bag, freeze until the day before you intend to make pie. Then thaw it.

Step three. Follow this recipe using the butternut squash and hops mixture. I made a simple graham cracker crust using directions on the graham cracker crumb box.

Step 4. Profit.

Ok, We’ll see how it goes. For now, I got to set up everything. Before I do that I just want to give a shout out to everyone that I hung out with at the “Growl at The Moon” Friday night pre-party. It was great chilling out with Jimie Barnett of Barnette’s Best Brew who I happen to be set up next to today. When ever Jimie and I hang out, things get rowdy. It’s like Snoop Dogg said ” Compton and Long Beach together, now you know you’re in trouble.” I also want to go give a big shout out to Matt (who is featured in my Brewer’s Summit video) for providing some incredibly strong and tasty libations. Also it’s always a pleasure to see and hang out with Erick from Studio Brew . A big hug for Kitty and Erica from Highland Brewing who are staying at the same hotel as me. We hung out and had drinks at Stir Fry cafe last night and then shared a cab last night and back to the site this morning.

Well I have a whole bunch of work to do today. I will try to post as much as I can, but if it gets too busy I’ll at least post pictures up. Stay tuned.

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The Ratchet Brews Super Store

All set up and ready to pour. Richard is here and I have Flipper and Lindsey from Johnson City helping me out. Since I am set up, I think I’m going to wander about & check out what else is here.

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Wife and husband Lindsey and Flipper were an enormous help all day! Thanks y’all, you rock!

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Who had the best barrel aged beer at Kingsport Oktoberfest? This guy, Erick from Studio Brew.

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Society of Fermentation. I had their curry stout and it was great. It won an award.

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My kegs.

Had a little near panic moment when I realized that my iPhone battery was almost dead. Luckily I brought this along:

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This little device has saved the day on more then one occassion.

The bier garden is open and the beer is flowing.
Knox Beer Snob Don is here with his festival buddy. They have a master blaster thing going on.

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Don and the Next generation of beer snob.

Photo booth!

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so fun!

I was wondering why it wasn’t busy. Then I found out that so far it was only VIPs, here comes the rush!

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Here they come!

Well Kingsport Oktoberfest is in full swing. The best part of beer festivals are the people that you meet. Fellow homebrewers are my favorite. Like the crew of Music City Brewers.

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Music City Brewers representative.

It’s almost time for my infusion workshop.

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Only beer I have left is my Rauchbier and a keg of Terrapin’s Rye Pale Ale that we’re infusing with cascade and centennial hops.

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My beer ran out fast

Look! It’s Adam Palmer from Saw Works Brewing Company!

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Jimie Barnett from Triple B Brewing with a hop garnished Hopijauna IPA

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Jimie’s neck must be hurting for the weight of all the medals that he won for his great beer.

So many pictures, so little time, sobriety & patience to post. Here’s a picture of me with my friends from Highland Brewing.

Kitty, Ratchet, Erica, Oscar, Eliza

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Lens flare and some random guy on the end.

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Good times!

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My friend Steve of Friendship Brewing couldn’t make it, so I poured his Misty Melon watermelon kolsch for him. It won an award

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Those wild and crazy guys from legit brew were set up next to me. Good people with good beer.

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What do you do with a slice of Butternut Squash pie that has been in an infuser all day, and is beer soaked? You eat it, duh.

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Went to Stir Fry cafe after packing up the booth. Had dinner and a beer with Moccassin Bend brewery and Studio Brew. The place was packed and people were dancing on the sidewalk.

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Erick of Studio Brew being a goof ball.

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

September 17, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Ratchet


Last chance to get tickets to http://brewerssummit.com

July 6, 2012

Friday July 13th is the Brewer’s Summit. This is your last week to get tickets to what is surely going to be a great event. We want you to get tickets, we need you to get tickets. This is a fund raiser for the Tennessee Craft Brewers Guild. A group from all over the state that plans on working for change when it comes to beer laws and taxes in our fine state.
This is not a big event. Only a 150 tickets are being sold, and most of those are already gone. Click this link, buy your tickets, then come back and read the rest of this post.

Ok you’re back? I wanted to mention how this heat has effected my brewing schedule. I haven’t brewed a batch of beer in approximately 3 weeks or more. I have a batch of stout that I need to keg. I still have plenty of beer, and a few kegs left over from Brew Fest. I am also pretty broke. I have base grains, but unless my budget frees up, I don’t have the funds to purchase specialty grains, hops or yeast. The reason for this is that my last car died and I had to use my meager savings and max out my lines of credit to purchase a new one. I should be out of debt within 3 months, and I am hoping to be able to brew again sooner then that. Someone asked me if I had planned to brew a saison and take advantage of this heat for fermentation. I had not considered that, primarly because I am not really a fan of saisons. There are a few I like, but rather not brew one. Honestly, at this point I want to brew another batch of my Rauchbier, another IPA and then start brewing for fall. I want to brew an Oktoberfest Marzen Lager and then my yearly batch of Butternut Squash Ale.

One more thing I want to mention on this post. The downtown Knoxville location of The Casual Pint is tenatively set to open on July 21st. To kick this off, Saw Works Brewing is having a cask night. It looks as though I will be beertending part time at The Casual Pint. I stopped by and spoke with Nathan about becoming part of the team, and I’d like to thank him for the opportunity. Make sure to like The Casual Pint on Facebook and follow on twitter to stay up to date about the opening of the newest location. When it does open, I hope to see you there.

Cheers,

Ratchet


A Great Weekend for #KnoxBeer

October 25, 2011

The liver is evil and must be punished. Saw this on a shirt the other day, and it (almost) sums up my weekend. I don’t think I’ll make this post really long. The Knox Beer Snobs have posted a great review of all the Knoxville Beer events this weekend, so I’ll refer you to them. I will tell you that I had a great and memorable weekend.

Every year the Homebrew Club does a lot of the beer related grunt work and preparation for Brewers Jam. My weekend pretty much kicked off on Thursday night. The homebrew club does what we call  “Pretzel Jam” where we drink beer and make pretzel necklaces to sell at the event. I had a ride, so I was able to partake in the “leftover” entries from the TN Valley Fair’s Homebrew competition.

Friday I worked a short half day and then headed down to World’s Fair Park to help load the cold truck. The brewers show up, unload the kegs from their vehicles and we move the kegs to cold storage. It was mostly sitting around drinking beer with the occasional heavy lifting. I took a break from that for a few hours and headed over to the grand opening of Marble City Brewing Company’s tasting room, The Quarry. Knoxville really came out to show support for the hometown brewery. The place was packed! The owners even had authentic deep dish pizza flown in for the event. After a few beers, a slice of pizza and some great conversation with fellow craft beer enthusiast, I headed back to World’s Fair Park.  When that was over, it was time for the brewer’s reception in a top secret location. Most of the brewers both local and out of area were treated to beer, cigars, food, and a live bluegrass jam. There was even free jars of locally produced salsa, courtesy of Big S Farms. Pretty much every one of my beer friends were there. I remember looking around at the crowd and thinking if a bomb went off in that room, there wouldn’t be anyone left in the Knoxville craft beer scene. That reception went on long into the night. I left around 11 pm since I was hosting out of town guests and we all had to be up early to work the morning shift.

Saturday morning I made coffee and my guest (fellow homebrewers Shanezilla and Pam) and I headed out. We stopped by Just Ripe on Union Avenue in downtown for a quick breakfast. Then it was on to Brewers’ Jam. There was a whole heck of a lot of work to do before the gates opened at 1pm. We had to deliver the kegs to the brewers, along with Ice. There was also our booth to set up and a few other details to attend to. About 30 minutes or so before kick off, we were pretty much done. This is my favorite time of of the Knoxville Brewer Jam. All the brewers are set up, and everyone has a chance to socialize and try one another’s beers before it gets hectic. Before they opened the gates, we had our customary speech given by Knoxville Police Department, as seen in the following video:

Then the fun begins. It is amazing to see a wave of people pour in when they open the gates. The lines were as far as the eye could see. My 1st keg of Butternut Squash Ale was on tap, and I happily doled out samples to thirsty drinkers. It made me feel like I really know what I’m doing as a beer brewer when people would tell me how much they enjoyed it. I even had some of the most critical members of the homebrew club come back for seconds and thirds. Whenever my 1st keg blew out, I let someone else take a turn pouring while I happily went in search of other tasty beverages to imbide. I saw many of my fellow Knox Craft beer friends and walked around drinking and enjoying their company. Later on in the afternoon, I came back and put on my second keg of Butternut Squash Ale and poured that as well. Near the end of the event, I went and filled several growlers of beer to take home for later. I ran into Mike from Asheville Brewing Company who gave me a really cool Moog filtered Ale shirt.

Well, I went and caught the rest of Cutthroat Shamrock’s show at the end. The jam closed down, the beer stopped flowing, and I started packing out. I finally got my vehicle packed with everything I brought, along with a cooler full of growlers, bottles of beer, merchandise and other stuff I scored at the Jam. I walked over to my office where I spent a few hours drinking water and listening to the Vols football game on the radio. I ended the night eating pizza and thinking how I am already looking forward to next year’s Brewers Jam.

Enjoy the pictures below, click to make big.

Cheers,

Ratchet


Kingsport Oktoberfest- a retrospective.

September 26, 2011

What a weekend! I’m finally back in Knoxville, relaxing at my friend’s work & using the wifi. I’m also drinking my growler of Highland Brewing Company’s Clawhammer Oktoberfest. I brought all my empty growlers to Kingsport with the grand idea that I would fill them with tasty beers from all over. However, the reality is that I was so busy working my booth, I didn’t have time to get my growlers filled. I barely had time to eat or visit with other brewers. I was able to come back with only 2 growlers. The other one has Heinzelmännchen’s  Root Beer for my son.

Alright, here’s how  the whole weekend went down. Friday I got off work early. My bosses was kind enough to lend me her pickup truck that has a camper top for me to be able to haul my kegs along with the Woodruff Brewing Company’s kegs, ice tub, c02 and tap box. I not only had my homebrew, but I was officially representing Woodruff as well. After I loaded my stuff, I went down to the loading dock behind Downtown Grill and Brewery and met with Dave (one of the brewers) and loaded up a half barrell of Alt and a half barrell of Kolsch. A half barrell is is standard size keg for those of you not down with brewer lingo. Dave very professionally tied the kegs down with a ratchet strap. He did a much better job than my laughablle half assed attempts with bungie cords. Then again, he’s a pro who knows what he’s doing because part of his job is delivering kegs.  After everything was secured, I headed up north towards Kingsport. Roughly 2 hours later I was there. I checked in to my dirty but cheap Motel 8 and then headed down to the site.  I unloaded the kegs and equipment and made sure the beer was iced down. Then I went back to the hotel to unwind for a bit. I visited a local gas station/ convenience store for snacks, chilled a bit then headed back down to the site for a little brewer only pre-party. I saw some old friends, ate some food, listened to some bluegrass and met some really cool people.

I really enjoyed meeting and speaking with Dieter Kuhn and Sheryl Rudd of Heinzelmännchen Brewery out of Sylvia, North Carolina. They’re we incredibly nice and generous, having donated a keg of their “Chocolate Covered Gnome” to the pre-party. Chocolate Covered Gnome is a strong 8% abv porter made with cocoa powder. I was blown away by how delicious it was, and had to know everything I could about how it was brewed. I spoke with Sheryl first and asked her why they used cocoa powder instead of cocoa nibs. I really wanted to know “how did they keep the cocoa powder from settling out during the fermenting process?” She introduced me to her husband Dieter and we spoke about beer and his secret for getting the chocolate flavor in it. I learned much, but I am sworn to secrecy. I could tell you how he does it, but then I’d have to kill you (I can’t do that, I need every reader I can get!) I can tell you that I now know not to use cocoa nibs in my beer. It turns out that the cocoa butter fats turn rancid within a couple of weeks. This explains why I thought the chocolate imperial stout I made early this year was infected. It was just the fats going rancid and not an infection at all. Thanks for the advice Sheryl and Dieter. Visiting your brewery just made the top of my must do list.

On Friday night we also had a half barrell of Highland Brewing Company’s Clawhammer Oktoberfest on tap. That was when I was able to fill my growler that I am currently enjoying. I love Highland’s brews. I remember back in the day when we couldn’t get them her in Knoxville, I’d take orders from friends and make a drive to Asheville just to stock up. Anyway, I filled my growler and stopped drinking for the couple of hours it took me to sober up enough to drive the short 1 & 1/2 mile to the hotel. I didn’t really sleep well due to a combination of an uncomfortable bed and hotel situation.

Saturday morning I was up bright and early. I ate the free continental breakfast at the hotel and headed to set up my booth. I had to get kegs tapped, the tap box and carbonation levels just right, the Woodruff banner hung and everything else (merch, tools, etc) in place. The event opened early at 11 am for VIPs. Homebrews poured during that time were collected to be judged and everyone had a ballot where they could vote on their favorites. My Butternut Squash Ale was a hit with many people coming back for seconds, thirds and even fourths! I came up with a new thing to tell people about it. I’d ask if they liked pumpkin ales. If they said yes, I’d tell them it was the same beer different squash. The 11am to 1 pm when it was just VIPs was great, the lines weren’t to big and luckily I had a couple of lovely volunteers to help me pour beer. At 1 pm they opened the gates to the general public and things got hectic. I was trying to pour beer while hooking up an infuser while trying to get food while trying to find beer to drink that wasn’t at my tent. Phew! I really could have used more help. During this portion of the festival, I felt like I was completely overworked. There were a couple of moments when I felt like just walking away and letting people serve themselves. I was able to get a few volunteers, and a little bit of a break. During that time I went and hung out with Don from Knox Beer Snobs, Jennifer and Adam of Marble City Brewery. I also made sure to get beer from Underground Brewing Company, the homebrewers of Legit Brew. I made sure to go say hi to the legendary Oscar Wong of Highland Brewing. I also met Jon of Tattood Brew (who is now on our links section). I had really hoped to spend time at the Beer University part of Oktoberfest. There were some great classes that I had wanted to attend, but it just didn’t work out that way. Hopefully I’ll have a little more help and will be able to next time.

Speaking of beer university, I ended up doing a quick talk about beer infusions. I had set up the infuser at the booth running Woodruff’s Kolsh which is named Downtown Blonde, through fresh cut strawberries. It was a hit and we call it “Strawberry Blonde”. For the Beer University, the idea was that we’d have a keg set up and then we were going to run it through fresh hops and let people taste the difference. That did not happen. Instead I had to wing it. I was a little buzzed at that point. A friend of mine video recorded it for me as seen below.

When the festival was officially over, the biergarden part stayed open for the volunteers to enjoy beer  as a reward for all their work. We poured as much as we could, sold the rest of the Downtown Grill & Brewery glasses. I ended up trading a glass to a guy for the shirt off his back just because I could, and my drunk ass thought it was funny.

At the end of it all I made sure everything was packed up in the truck. I then walked a block over to Stir Fry Cafe  to hang out with some people I had met during the festival. I ate some really good spicy tuna rools and drank water to sober up for the drive back to the hotel.

My overall impression that this was a really great inaugural event. This is Aaaron and crew’s first time putting on a beer festival like this. There were a few rookie mistakes made, but that is to be expected. Those minor issues were addressed and will not happen next time. Speaking of next time, check out Thirsty Orange Brew Extravaganza. This is is still in the planning stages, but believe me, you will not want to miss this in the spring.

Enjoy my pictures below, leave a comment about Oktoberfest. I will try to post again soon, but now my focus in on the upcoming Asheville Oktoberfest taking place on Saturday October 8th.

Cheers,

Ratchet