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

July 29, 2013

A while back my friend and legendary Asheville homebrewer, Adam Reinke, approached me about guiding a tour of Ashevillians through the Knoxville Beer Scene. I didn’t have to think twice about it. Over the last couple of months, we coordinated our plans and set the itinerary.  The trip was put together by Asheville’s homebrew club, MALT (Mountain Ale and Lager Tasters) . They chartered a bus to bring them over the mountains and back.

Adam Reinke (in Green), his wife Missy and some Asheville friends

Adam Reinke (in Green), his wife Missy and some Asheville friends

Everyone knows that Knoxville has just a fraction of the breweries and craft beer bars that Asheville does.  At the time we originally planned, Knoxville only had 3 operating breweries. Black Horse Pub had not yet opened, so was not included on the tour. The bus arrived at Saw Works Brewing Company at 10:30 am. Co-owner Jonathon Borsodi and head brewer Dave Ohmer had graciously agreed to open early to accommodate the group. Everyone settled in for flights and samples of beer before going behind the scenes where Dave talked about brewing for Saw Works and answered questions. (click on pictures below to enlarge).

After we were done at Saw Works, we headed over to Gay Street to check out Downtown Grill and Brewery, home of Woodruff Brewing Company.  This place has long been my home away from home. Whenever I have friends visiting from outside the area, I always bring them here. The IPA has been a go to of mine, and years ago this was the only spot to get decent craft beer in all of downtown. There we ate lunch, sampled beer and spoke with assistant brewer, Tommy. (Once again, click on the pictures below to enlarge)

After everyone finished up at Downtown Grill and Brewery, we walked across the street to Knoxville’s best Craft Beer Bar, Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern. When planning this trip, I definitely wanted to show off where us Knoxvillians go for the best draft selection. Sure other places might have more taps, but when it comes to the rarities, Ol’ Sut’s is usually the only place that has them. The group walked in and settled up to the bar. A few people went next store for bottling shopping at Downtown Wine and Spirits. Matt, Stanton and Anne were bartending that day and were happy to pour samples and talk about the selection. We sat around drinking, talking beer, making dirty jokes and coming up with hilarious yet inappropriate names for cider. When we gave everyone the 15 minute warning to get back on the bus, Stanton graciously grabbed a bottle of Rivertown Lambic out of the cooler and poured a sample for everyone. it was very much appreciated.

Before heading to the bus, I took a few of the group over to The Casual Pint on Union Avenue for some last minute bottle shopping. I bought a few selections myself before getting back on board. The Next stop was Smoky Mountain Brewery in Turkey Creek.

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This was the last stop of the days tour. They knew we were coming and had an area all ready for us. We sat down and ordered food and beer while waiting for Brewmaster Marty Velas to arrive and guide us through. I tried several of their beers that I haven’t had before and found them all to be top notch. Marty arrived and we split the group in half to take turns touring the brew house. Marty very graciously poured beer for the guest and talked about the brewing process and the history of Smoky Mountain Brewery.

Well like all good things, the tour came to an end. Much beer was consumed and many people picked up beer they were unable to get back home. We loaded back into the bus and headed back on the interstate. The bus dropped me off back town and I said my goodbyes. It was a great time and I really appreciate all the beer and food bought for me by the group. I made some new friends and look forward to meeting them for beers in Asheville next time I visit. Anytime anyone wants to come visit Knoxville, I will be more than happy to show you around. Maybe I should actually Start a Knoxville Beer Tour. Then again, how’d would I find the time?

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Enjoy the video from the day below. It’s really bad quality because I used a stupid app to do it. When I was recording I had no idea it was doing a split screen or weird color thing. I should have just recorded with the regular camera app, but I’ll know better for next time.

I also want to let everyone know that on Thursday I will be on WBIR’s Live at 5 at 4 talking about craft beer and beercations. This is August 1st which is also IPA Day. I am hoping someone will record the video for me so I can post it here.

Until next time, drink one for me.

-Ratchet


Beer, Beer and More Beer! It’s time for Asheville Beer Week 2013 #AvlBeerWeek

May 26, 2013

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Ever since last year’s inaugural Asheville Beer Week, I’ve been looking forward to the second one. With every month, week and day that has passed, my excitement has grown. Now here I am, a mere day away from my week long beercation, and I can’t wait to be back in the Paris of the South. Last year I had so much fun that I knew that no other vacation would even come close. Why waste my precious vacation days from work on anything else? A trip to the beach? I grew up near them in Florida. Look at me, out in the sun I practically burst into flames like the vampires on True Blood. PASS. Camping in the woods? For a weekend, maybe, but a whole week living like some burnt out hermit? PASS. How about going to Europe? What kind of high roller, made-of-money, jet-setter do you think I am? PASS. What about going to the West Coast? Sure sounds like fun, but costs a whole lot more in travel than a trip across the Smokies.

Craft beer is my hobby and my passion. Combine that with a world-class city full of great restaurants, bottle shops, breweries, interesting architecture and incredibly kind and generous people… THAT is my kind of place. It’s what brings me back every chance I get.

Unfortunately, Katie and I won’t be there until Monday. We know we are missing Just Economic’s Just Brew-it Homebrew festival on Saturday and LaZoom’s Sunday Beer Run. I know from personal experience from attending many beer festivals that the ones that have homebrewers serving their creations are always the best. I did the LaZoom’s Beer Run last year and it was truly a highlight of beer week for me.

We do plan on making up for missing these events by attending as many things as possible between the Monday through Sunday that we’ll be there.

K and I were able to make a quick trip to Asheville and back on Friday night to attend Asheville Scene’s VIP kick-off party. We got to hang out and have a few beers with some good friends of mine, and make many new ones. I finally met several people I know from twitter in real life such as Thom O’Hearn, the beer writer for Mountain Xpress. I also met my fellow ABW guest blogger, James Raiford (we’re in the same shirt/media pass club). The rest of the crowd consisted of the beer-luminati of Asheville, from other bloggers and beer writers, to the Asheville Beer Week organizers, brewery owners, brewers and the godfather of the Asheville beer scene, Oscar Wong. It was a really short stay, but a great time. Katie drove us back to Knoxville afterwards. We both had a lot to do this weekend to prepare to be away from home for so long.

So here it is, my Sunday evening. Saturday, we hiked up Alum Cave Trail with a small cooler full of canned craft beers to sip while enjoying the view. I traded a rare beer yeast strain to a buddy in St. Pete and he sent me back a box full of Cigar City Deliciousness (Thanks Tom!). Sunday, I knew I needed to pack for the weekend, but had to brew a batch of my very much in demand Chocolate Covered Strawberry Stout. Tommorrow morning I will be going on a packing and loading the car rampage.. I hope I can remember to bring everything, including the homebrew I promised to a few Asheville friends.

I’ll be blogging every day for Asheville Beer Week. My plan is to start every morning by writing a recap and posting pictures of the previous day’s events. I will be tweeting as much as possible and posting my beer check-ins to Untappd. So, to my Knoxville friends who are planning on coming up at anytime during the week, text me so we can meet up. The same goes to any of my Asheville friends, I hope we get the chance to share some great brews and conversations.

There are so many events, there’s no way Katie and I can do them all. Here are some of the major ones that we have tickets to or are planning to go to:

Monday: Green Man for the ABA Hoppy Saison release, Asheville Brewing Company for the Perfect Day IPA release, possibly a beer or 2 at LAB, French Broad flight night at Barleys and of course, Thirsty Monk.

Tuesday: A beer here, a beer there and then BELGIAN BEER AT THE BALL PARK MINI-FEST! Nine innings, 9 breweries, 27 beers. Thank goddess that there’s a free shuttle. With this kind of drinking, it’s doubtful we’ll do anything but pass out at the hotel afterwards. I’m ready to drink until I find baseball interesting.

Wednesday: Bell’s Tap takeover at Thirsty Monk, Stone’s Mitch Steele meet and greet book signing at Bruisin’ Ales, and App Vintner’s mini-fest (Sexual Chocolate, OMG!).

Thursday: Thirsty Monk’s NC v SC Craft Beer Civil War, Highland’s 6 Barrel Shoot Out, Wicked Weed’s Saison Tap Takeover, a quick pint at the Winehaus (free OB glass), and the Premier of Crafting a Nation film at Asheville Brewing Company’s Merrimon location.

Friday: Beer Marketing that Doesn’t Suck workshop at Hotel Indigo, High Wire brewing release at Thirsty Monk, Greenlife grocery beer and cheese pairing and Asheville Rare and Wild Beer Tasting.

Saturday: Touring Riverbend Malt House, Beer City Festival and beers afterwards at various bars/ breweries around town.

Sunday: Searching for replacement liver, last minute bottle shopping and going home.

Enjoy the pictures below from the Scene VIP party. I am also linking this Video of Beer Guy Tony Kiss interviewing a few people. If you look closely, you’ll see Katie and me in the background of a few shots.

We’ll be in Asheville by Monday afternoon, see you then.

-Ratchet


Surprise beerday birthday trip from @JuneBugBatticus to Asheville #AvlBeer @WickedWeedBeer @AVLBeerWeek @ChocolateLounge

May 7, 2013

By Asheville Beer Week guest blogger Ratchet, Ratchetbrews.com

This past weekend I celebrated my birthday. Honestly, I didn’t make plans and figured I would just go have a drink at one of my favorite local bars here in Knoxville, maybe catch a movie and generally be low key about it. The older I get, the less important celebrating my birthday is to me. I mean, who wants to grow old? If I wasn’t for my amzing drop dead gorgeous girlfriend, I probably would just stayed at home, cleaned my house and organized my beer cellar. BOR-RING! Luckily I have DO have an amazing, drop dead gorgeous, craft beer loving, travel companion of a girlfriend. Staying at home and not celebrating wasn’t an option. She told me that I only turn (insert random number here) once and she was determined to help me make the most of it and drink some beer! She gave me a great birthday gift by booking us a short get away to our favorite BEER CITY, Asheville.

Beer City USA, 90 minutes that way!

Beer City USA, 90 minutes that way!

The plan was to leave Saturday after seeing some friends at the kick off of Knoxville’s Market Square Farmer’s Market. For various reasons, we didn’t leave town until after lunch. That was totally fine with me since I was able to have nachos and a White Mule pale ale at The Downtown Grill and Brewery before hitting the road.

We arrived to a rainy Asheville. After checking in to the hotel we always stay at, Downtown Inn and Suites, it was time for some bottle shopping! The first (and my favorite) bottle shop we stopped at was Bruisin’ Ales.  As soon as I knew we were going to Asheville, I reworked my budget so I could buy rarities not available at home to replenish my cellar. Shopping at Bruisin’ is great. Not only is it owned by 2 of the coolest people in Beer City, Julie and Jason Atallah, but they also have great selections to try with their sip and shop. You also never know who you are going to run into there. As was the case when this time when I ran into local emcee/street poet/ artist by the name of Chachillie. We spoke for a little while and he ran an idea for a music video by me. He also kicked a freestyle rhyme out on the sidewalk in front of the store. I saw Julie on her way out and got a birthday hug. After going over our options Katie and I made our purchases and decided to head up the road to our next stop, Appalachian Vintner.

App Vintner as it’s known also boast an amazing selection of beer, wine and other libations. Located in the outskirts of what’s considered the Biltmore Village area, they have a bar with an expanded tap selection. They go out of their way to have rare and tasty beers on tap. I purchased a half pour of a 2011 vintage Uinta Labyrinth.  My primary loyalty will always be to Bruisin‘ but the great thing about having multiple bottle shops in town is that there is always something different. Some shops sell out of certain brands and varieties sooner than others. Katie and I spent even more money and I was able to pick up a few things to share with my friends. I also got a gift for my buddy Richard Groves so he can have something special for his 1000th Untappd check in.

Well with 2 bottles shops down, we thought that we might as well hit one more just to see what else we could find. Hops and Vines is a homebrew store with a limited bottle selection. Since it’s primarily known as a place to buy brewing supplies, they sometimes have a few rare craft beer bottles that are sold out elsewhere else. I picked up a 6 year vertical of Sierra Nevada’s BigFoot Barley wine at a decent price and 1 or 2 other things. At this point it was getting late and we still hadn’t hit any breweries. It was time to go a few blocks up the road to Altamont Brewing Company.

Altamont Brewing on a rainy day in May.

Altamont Brewing on a rainy day in May.

Katie enjoying beer at Altamont

Katie enjoying beer at Altamont

The last time Katie and I visited Altamont they had just started brewing. At that time they only had their porter on draft. This time around they’ve been at it for a while and had a great variety. Since we were brewery hopping and planned on hitting as many places as possible, we only stayed for one drink. I had the Hopped Red and Katie had the Amber. Both were delicious and well crafted. We drank our beer while listening to live music and soaking up the local vibe. I really like the neighborhood bar feel of Altamont and will make sure to always fit it into our itinerary.

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Drinking and winking at Altamont Brewing Company.

The next stop of the evening was another must visit when in Asheville, Wedge Brewing Company. Everyone knows I love Wedge’s beers, location and complimentary peanuts. We found a table inside by the bar looking towards the fermenters. We drank half pours of the Hellesbock, Derailed Hemp Seed Ale, Witbier and a Saison of theirs that I hadn’t had before. By the time I ate a whole bowl of free peanuts, I realized a little too late how hungry I was and how I hadn’t eaten since lunch. It was time to leave and head for dinner (and another round of drinks) at Wicked Weed.

We arrived at Wicked Weed through the pouring rain. It was a Saturday night, so we knew to expect a wait for a table. We checked in with the hostess and got a pager to tell us when our seats would be ready. Down the stairs we headed to  grab a drink. As I walked towards the Downstairs bar I heard “Hey Ratchet!” I turned around and who did I see but Wicked Weed’s head brewer Luke! We spoke for a while and he talked about the brewery’s success, the sour and barrel programs and introduced me to his brother Walt who is in charge of those. All this time I was sipping on their Genesis Blonde Sour. After some great conversation with the Dickinson brothersKatie and I headed upstairs to have a meal. By this time my stomach wasn’t doing so great. All the beer I had drank throughout the day combined with Wedge’s peanuts was not a good combination. I ordered fries and a beer and could not finish them. This was my fault for not eating anything substantial since earlier in the day. I know better but in the excitement of everything, I had just plain forgot. I alternated between watching my darling nom on one of Wicked Weed‘s epic burgers and going outside to walk off my discomfort in the rain.

After leaving Wicked Weed it was time for a nightcap at Thirsty Monk. I still wasn’t feeling up to putting anything else in my belly, so I just went and sat with Katie at the downstairs bar as she sipped a few tasty Belgian style ales.

The next morning the weather was still rainy and chilly. It was Cinco De Mayo which Katie is big on, (must be ’cause she’s originally from Texas) so she insisted on tracking down some great Mexican food. First things first, we had to get coffee. Much like I am with beer, I am a coffee connoisseur. I usually only drink fair trade organically grown coffee fertilized with crystalized free range unicorn tears and hand roasted by Norwegian elf spirits. I would rather have a headache from not getting my morning cup-a-joe than drink hotel coffee. Over the years I have had coffee from many places all within a walking radius of the hotel. I’ve been searching for that perfect cup. I finally found it. From now on it’s only French Broad Chocolate Lounge‘s Counter Culture French press coffee for my morning fix. They also have the best selection of pastries, cakes, liquid truffels and other tasty treats to go with it. I got my french press light roast and Katie opted for the Oaxaca Hot Chocolate. I saw they had Highland Mocha Stout cake and couldn’t pass up getting a slice.

Oaxaca and Highland Mocha Stout cake at French Broad Chocolte

Oaxaca and Highland Mocha Stout cake at French Broad Chocolate

After coffee and my decadent snack, it was time to get a solid meal. Looking up Mexican fare on our phones, Katie found Limones. It seemed like exactly what she was looking for, so we headed over. I’m really glad we went. The service, decor and food was all top-notch. I didn’t need a big meal having had cake previously. I knew I wanted a cervesa so I could earn my Cinco De Mayo badge on Untapped. I chose Bohemia after looking up reviews for it online. It’s was a very decent Czech style pilsner brewed in Mexico. It was light, refreshing and paired great with my scrambled eggs and home fries. We ate and ended up boxing plenty of food for later.

The day was getting on and I had things to do back at home in Knoxville. My friend Vanessa was up from Florida visiting my son and his mom, and I didn’t want to miss her before she left. After a quick stop at Earth Fare to look for more beer, Katie and I hopped back on the interstate for the drive home. Our trip to Asheville this time was short but sweet. We are already looking forward to our week-long vacation for Asheville Beer Week. There are so many events during that time that we’re still trying to decide which ones to go to.  We already have tickets to a few things such as the Asheville Rare and Wild Beer Tasting and Beer City fest.

Thanks for reading about my Asheville birthday trip. I highly encourage everyone reading this to get your friends to go online and VOTE. Let them use your tablet, your smart phone, you sister’s mac, your weird brother’s Linux, the library computer or that 56k modem your grandma is still has hooked up to go vote for Asheville to retain the yearly title of  Beer City USA. The polls are private this year but Grand Rapids is being very vocal in the comments. Let’s help Asheville win the bragging rights for the 5th year in a row. Once again, Click here to vote.

Enjoy my photos below. Click on them to enlarge.

Until next time, Cheers,

Ratchet
Until next time, Cheers,

Ratchet


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

April 16, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Ratchet

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Click on pictures to enlarge and for captions.


Live Blogging today: Road trip to @Nantahalabrew bottle release. #AVLBeer

March 23, 2013

TrailMagicFBsized13Road Trip! Today Richard, his wife Sandy, and myself are hitting the road. We are leaving this morning to go to Bryson City, NC for Nantahala Brewing Company‘s Trail Magic #4 bottle release! It’s no secret that Greg at Nantahala brews some of the finest beer in the area. The last time I went for the bottle release, I drove up on Friday and spent the night in Bryson City. Well, Richard had planned on going Saturday and offered to drive. I agreed to go with him on Saturday and save the money on the hotel. Of course this frees up more money to buy beer!

So I will be live blogging in real time the fun of our trip there and back. Any funny things said, beer drank, videos taken will all be uploaded from my iPhone. Subsequently, this is will also be my first guest post for the newly launched Asheville Beer Week website.

9:26 am: My ride just arrived. We’re taking I-40 to 74 from Knoxville to Bryson City. I usually take the scenic route through 441, but that’s not a possibility since the landslide.
10:18 am: You know that really curvy part on I-40 in the Smokies? It makes it really hard to type on an iPhone. On the plus side, I’m now officially in North Carolina. Woot!
11:50 am: Here at Nantahala Brewing Company & hanging out. 10 minutes until the bottles go on sale. Hanging with Richard, Todd and head brewer Greg.

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Todd, Richard with head brew greg (in orange) in the background.

Brew Mob Video! Click to see my interview with head brewer Greg.

12 pm. Go time! 4th in line waiting my turn.

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Bottles on sale

12:25 I got my bottles and am enjoying the company of friends at the bar.

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My lovely selection of bottles: Trail Magic #1, 3, 4 and Chocolate Cherry Stout.

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I got bottle numbers 25 through 28 of Trail Magic #4, Russian Imperial Stout aged in Maker’s Mark Barrels.


1 pm: Just explained the concept of vertical tastings to really cool Natahala beertender Harrison (as pictured below).

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Everyone at Nantahala Brewing Company is super cool. Harrison is no exception.

2:17 pm: Well after a few rounds of sample size beers, a tour if the brewery and a look at the barrel room courtesy of Greg, we’re back on the road. Next stop, Sylva, NC.

2:35 pm. Heading towards world famous, yet semi-secret craft beer store, PJ’s BP gas station in Sylva, NC

2:55 pm. Oh. My. Goddess! This is the BEST gas station beer selection EVER!

Click here for a Brew Mob exclusive video of P. J.’s.

After P.J.’s, it was time for a quick visit to Dieter and Heinzelmannchen Brewery.


4:45 pm: What a day! After Sylva we headed in to Asheville for a quick stop by Bruisin’ Ales.


5:30 pm: What a great day of beer based adventuring! I tried many great beers, saw some good friends, and purchased a great selection of craft beer. We are currently heading home to Knoxville. I meant to be back sooner since I’m providing a tap box and CO2 set up for a friend’s surprise birthday party tonight. I want to sincerely thank Richard for driving today. I was great seeing all my NC friends and I look forward to my next trip across the mountains.
Thanks for everyone reading along online. I’d love to here from you in the comment section below.
Cheers!
Ratchet


Great Impromptu St. Patrick’s Day Brewing Party w/ Friends @RichardGroves @ZMachine85 @DeafGoat

March 17, 2013

Originally this post was going to be another live blogging of brew day. I actually started it that way, but brew day was incredibly busy and fun as you’ll read below. There is no way I could have blogged everything in real time. Instead, this post is my recollection of  what could possibly be the best weekend I’ve had in months. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. I started off Friday evening by heading to my 4 favorite watering holes downtown. Of course I’m talking about Downtown Grill and Brewery, Suttree’s, The Casual Pint and The Peter Kern Library. I wanted to be out enjoying the weather and the company of friends after a long work week.

On the Megatouch Machine at the upstairs bar, Downtown Grill and Brewery

On the Megatouch Machine at the upstairs bar, Downtown Grill and Brewery

I spent the 1st half of Saturday doing, chores, cleaning my house while enjoying the spring  breeze blowing through my open windows and screen doors. Later I spent some time with my son, then headed downtown to see Cutthroat Shamrock play a free show at Market Square. I planned on getting a lil’ swilly, so I left the car at home and walked the less then a mile from my house to downtown (never drink and drive y’all- it’s a horrible idea). I pre-gamed with a beer at home, some blackberry moonshine (thanks Nijoli!) mixed with coca-cola and ice in a to go cup for the walk. Once downtown I stopped by The Casual Pint where I met with a few friends. I slowly sipped on a beer until it was time for Cutthroat to take the stage. Once the band started, I realized I was sobering up and should do something about it. I didn’t want to pay $2 for a wrist band to buy $5 crappy beers on the square, so I walked over to Downtown Wine and Spirits and grabbed a bottle of Bourbon. I was able to sneak it in my pocket, went to Subway and bought a large coke. Mixed it up and took my cup to the front of the stage where I met up with more friends. I got to say, I love this band.  Now I don’t like to talk about it on my blog, but my close friends know my personal life. Let’s just say it was a rough week. As the bourbon worked it’s magic I cut loose. Dancing to Cutthroat Shamrock’s celtic/punk/bluegrass/ piratey tunes was absolutely cathartic. I was in motion for the whole time. I shared my drink and others did the same. Flask were passed about, beers were shared, complete strangers danced with arms around each other. The show came to an end around 10:30 but I was so amped there’s no way I wanted to go home. I knew Suttree’s was packed, so I headed back over to see my friends at The Casual Pint. There was only 2 people working and they were super busy. Nena was worried about underage people coming in, or people stealing beer off the shelves. I offered to play doorman for a while for a couple of beers. I sat at the door and checked IDs. People I knew walked past and stopped to talk. I remember more beer being shared, a snort or 2 of someone’s homemade white lightning and a  few swigs of wine. 11:30 and I knew it was time to walk home. I had planned on going to The Casual Pint’s Bearden location the next morning for their kegs and eggs event before brewing beer. It was a long, rough walk home with many stops to rest on the way. I got home, past out, woke up in the middle of the night, drank some vitamin water and took some ibuprofen. 7:30 am alarm Sunday morning and I got up, made coffee and headed to breakfast.

Well I enjoyed my omelet with Richard and his wife Sandy, and headed home to start brewing. I had success cultivating Heady Topper‘s yeast strain, Conan, from a couple of cans I saved for just that. I took my direction from this wonderful blog past and was able to step up to a 4500 ml starter between Wednesday and Saturday. Honestly, I was very worried it wouldn’t work. I made the starter on Wednesday, pitched the yeast dregs from the cans into the flask on the stir plate and waited. Two days went by with no activity. I thought my experiment was a failure and was already planning to use my old standby, Safale US-05. However by Saturday morning the starter was rapidly fermenting. YES! This yeast strain was a big part of the batch of beer I planned, and I knew it wouldn’t be the same without it.

Sunday my friends Jerry and Millie were the 1st to arrive. Jerry was very helpful when it came to getting everything set up. Usually I start brewing at the crack of dawn, and starting at 10 am instead is a lot later than usual. Having an extra set of hands, along with Millie documenting everything, was awesome. Next to arrive was assistant brewer Richard, followed by Todd. Millie ran to Earth Fare and picked up an incredible variety of sushi.

Once we got going, I started texting friends to come over. Beer and buddies on a perfect spring like day, what could be better? My friend Chris is hosting a group of law students from Kansas who are interning for his environmental law center on their spring break. I told him he was more than welcome to bring them over to learn to brew beer and enjoy a few. I was expecting maybe 3 or 4 people, and the next thing I know, there is a dozen or so people gathering in my basement brewery. Awesome! The more the merrier! The spring breakers were absolutely thrilled to lend a hand and learn about the brewing process.  Terri and Aimee from the Knox Beer Crew came over. More and more friends arrived.  At one point there were 24 people there laughing, talking, drinking, and dancing to good Irish/celtic punk  like Flogging Molly, The Pogues, The Tossers, Cutthroat Shamrock and Dropkick Murphys on my Pandora feed. This was a proper St. Patrick’s day party! The beer was really flowing and I was on top of the world! We drank down my stash and I can honestly say I now have room for food in my upstairs refrigerator again.

Well brew day eventually came to an end. With all the people there, cleaning was a breeze. People started taking off a few at a time. The law students wanted to go check out Ijams Nature park while it was still light out. The crowd got smaller and smaller. Eventually I was by myself, exhausted but incredibly happy and a little bit buzzed. I laid back on my couch in my brew basement for a few minutes and enjoyed the silence with a big old grin on my face. I knew I should eat dinner. I didn’t want the weekend to come to a close so I got up and walked back downtown for food. I ordered a half Dan’s pasta at the Brewery and went and visited Suttree’s for a sample size beer while my food cooked. After a few minutes I picked up my order to go and brought it over to The Casual Pint and washed it down with 2 more sample size beers.  As I walked back across the Gay Street bridge while the sun set, I thought about how no matter what’s gone on recently in my life, I am truly blessed. I have good friends, I brew beer people enjoy, I have food, clothing, shelter and a good job. All that and I had one hell of a weekend.

Here’s to many more.

Good Friends, good beer, good times.

Ratchet

PS. Every brew day should be a party. I plan on brewing again on Sunday, April 21st. If you’d like to come over, send me an email or text me. Also Nantahala Brewing Company’s next Trail Magic bottle release is this Saturday the 23rd at Noon. Richard and I are going if you’d like to join us. We plan on getting there by noon and being back in Knoxville by 4 pm or so.


LIVE From the Tennessee Winter Beer Festival in Townsend #KnoxBeer

February 9, 2013

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Hello there from the Laurel Valley Country Club in Townsend Tennessee! I will be reporting live all day about all the beer, food, fun and camaraderie at the 2nd annual Tennessee Winter Beer Festival. I will also be posting pictures, LOTS of pictures. So if I met you at the festival, and you happen to see your picture on my website, I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

2:10 pm: Still setting up & waiting for Brewers to arrive. Hope everything is ready for when the doors open at 3.

Baskets of rare beer to were one of the many items to bid on for the silent auction.

Baskets of rare beer to were one of the many items to bid on for the silent auction.

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Drinking games

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Calfkiller setting up

3:20 pm: The doors are open and the beer is flowing! Prosit!

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Katie and Richard

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Marty Velas (center) and The Smoky Mountain Brewery crew

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Heidi & Nathan from The Casual Pint

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Shawn Kerr

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Erich From Studio Brew

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Mike from The Market in Maryville & Rob from Knox Beer Snobs

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Volunteers checking people in.

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Calfkiller has amazing beer!

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4:45 pm: I just finished walking around serving jalapeño poppers & talking to many great people. Thanks for the support!

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Todd, El Presidente of The TN Winter Beer Festival Board

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deliciousness!

I helded the Kitchen staff for awhile by serving these incredibly tasty Jalapeno poppers.

I helped the Kitchen staff for awhile by serving these incredibly tasty Jalapeno poppers.

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Attendees enjoyed the beer and weather on the back patio

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Cheers!

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I love the contrast of the shadows and light on this picture, Great time speaking with y’all.

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This gentleman looks like he is having a great time.

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Really cool guys I enjoyed speaking with. Send me an email sometime, let’s get together for a beer or 3.

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I really enjoyed speaking with all the other homebrewers that I met.

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5:50 pm So many good beers & good people. I took a quick break from beer to drink some water & I’m now sipping on Smoky Mountain’s Russian Imperial Stout. Check out my untappd feed to see the tasty beers being consumed.

Bands provided the soundtrack to the fest.

Bands provided the soundtrack to the fest.

6 pm: Saw Works just tapped their much anticipated Bourbon Barrel aged Double Chocolate Porter to much fanfare.

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First pour of Saw Works Bourbon Barrel Aged Double Chocolate Porter

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The Bourbon Barrel Aged Double Chocolate Porter ran out quickly.

6:30: Just ate some food upstairs. Loooong line. Calfkiller ran out of most of their beer & is down to their classic Stout.

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Food was provided upstairs

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Calfkiller’s beers went rather fast. Here they are down to their last keg of stout.

7 pm: Andy shares Cigars!

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Andy shared cigars with other attendees. Here his is sharing one with Katie Duncan.

7:30 pm Dirty Pictionary! (I’ll upload video tomorrow)

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Shawn drawing pictures for dirty pictionary.

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Rebecca Tatum hosted the games

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Don of the Knox Beer Snobs hollering something or other during dirty pictionary.

8 pm: The festival has an hour to go until it’s over. Most of the brewers are out of beer. Making plans with brewer friends for afterwards.

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Happy Attendees

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Depot Street

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Chris who organizes Knoxville Brewers Jam grooving to some music.

8:33 pm: Remember y’all, it’s for the kids.

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All the Proceeds went to the New Hope Advocacy Center. http://www.BlountKids.org

9:28 pm: The TN Winter Beer Fest has come to an end. My phone died for awhile, but a lot happened in the last hour. Calfkiller won the People’s choice award. I want to personally congratulate Robin Carbaugh who bid on and won a keg of my homebrew in the silent auction. I look forward to bringing you some tasty beer.

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The bidding sheet for my homebrew

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Calfkiller wins the People’s choice award

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Adam Palmer from Saw Works announcing the winners of the silent auction.

Update, the next morning: Thankfully I took care of myself yesterday by eating, drinking vitamin water & slowly sipping my beer so I’m hangover free. I want to thank everyone involved in putting this wonderfully cozy little festival together. With any luck, I’ll be participating as a pro-brewer pouring my beer for everyone. I’ve been updating this site through an app, but once I get to a computer I’ll upload a few little video snippets & add in links. Once again, if our paths crossed at this festival, I’d love to hear from you. Please post a comment below.

Cheers

Ratchet