Happy MLK Day everyone. I too have a dream.

January 21, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

24 pounds organic 2 row brewer’s malt.

2 pounds Pilsen malt

1 pound cara-pils

2 pounds Vienna

1 pound wheat

1 pound crystal 60

1 pound corn sugar

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

2 ounces of Cascade (leaf, 30 minutes)

2 ounces Columbus (leaf, 15 minutes)

2 ounces of Centennial (pellet, 15 minutes)

2 ounces Belma (leaf, 5 minutes)

2 ounces of Columbus (leaf, at flame out)

2 Whirlfloc tablets at 5 minutes left

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

Sparge with 9 gallons at 170 degrees

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

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

Original Gravity 1.074

Estimated final gravity:1.018

Estimated ABV 7.34% Estimated IBUs: 63.5

Hop Blitz happily fermenting away

Hop Blitz happily fermenting away

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

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

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

Until next time…

Cheers,

Ratchet


Pre-opening Tour of @WickedWeedBeer, Visit to @OskarBluesWNC, A Beery Christmas and a Happy Brew Year!

January 4, 2013

This year I once again took my pre-Christmas beercation to Asheville. Here I am trying to recall my trip some 2 beer soaked weeks later for this blog. I might have forgotten some details, but here it is. I had been looking forward to this trip for some time. I booked my favorite hotel over 6 months before the trip that way I knew I have a room. I arrived in Asheville the Friday morning before Christmas, got settled into the room and headed out to hit the town. My first stop in “Beer City USA” is almost always to Bruisin’ Ales. Green Man Brewery had just released two limited edition bottles, L’Homme Vert a slightly funky winter farmhouse ale brewed with roasted winter squash and Schadenfreude a Berliner style sour wheat beer. Like with all the Green Man limited releases, I called Bruisin’ Ales ahead of time and had them hold on to them for me. They limited purchases to 2 bottles maximum per customer, but that is fair considering only 150 750ml bottles of each were released.

Picture courtesy of Green Man Brewery's facebook page.

Picture courtesy of Green Man Brewery’s facebook page.

After sipping, shoppin’ and buying myself plenty of holiday cheer in liquid form, it was time for some bar hopping. Usually I stick to the downtown area of Asheville, but I wanted to go check out Hops and Vine and also a new brewery on the same street, Altamont Brewing Company.

Hops & Vines on Haywood Street. great homebrew and bottle shop that I will visit each time I go to Asheville from now on.

Hops & Vines on Haywood Street. A great homebrew and bottle shop that I will visit each time I go to Asheville from now on.

Inside Hops and Vine

Inside Hops and Vine

After a few more bottle purchases at Hops and Vine, along with some ingredients for my next brew day it was time to go check out Altamont Brewing Company. I walked in to the big space that has look and feel that it use to be a garage. It was big and spacious and had a very “neighborhood bar” feeling. I noticed that most of the taps were other local brands. I asked the bartender and he said that they had just started brewing and that day had released their very first beer for sale, a brown porter. I placed my order and immediately fell in love with this beer, it was so good. I spoke to the bartender to learn more about their brewery. He introduced me to brewer Gordon Kear who offered to take me to go look at the equipment.

The outside of Altamont Brewing

The outside of Altamont Brewing

The Bar at Altamont Brewing

The Bar at Altamont Brewing

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Looking back towards the brewing area

Altamont's Yummy porter

Altamont’s Yummy porter

Altamont's Brewing system

Altamont’s Brewing system

Fermenters and bright tanks at Altamont

Fermenters and bright tanks at Altamont

Gordon was really cool and happy to show me around and talk beer. We spoke at some length. He told me that he use to be a brewer at Flagstaff Brewing Company in Arizona. He said that he and his partner started the bar first with the idea that eventually they would start a brewery with profits from the business. They got a good deal on some used equipment and got everything up and running. They have several brews in the fermenters that they will be releasing soon.

Gordon Kear, Brewer at Altamont and myself.

Gordon Kear, Brewer at Altamont and myself.

All said, I really liked this place. The overall vibe, the laid back atmosphere, the friendliness of the clientel and the employees along the fact that they hold the love of brewing quality beer above all else. It is a place I will be happy to make the 5 minute drive from downtown to visit often in the future. I’m looking forward to tasty offerings from them.

Last minute work on Wicked Weed's building

Last minute work on Wicked Weed’s building

After awhile it was time to head back downtown for the next stop. That very evening, Wicked Weed was debuting their tasty beer at one of the best craft beer bars in the world, The Thirsty Monk. The first beer was scheduled to pour at 5:30. I walked into a packed bar shortly there after. You could tell that the locals were excited to try the newest edition to Asheville’s beer scene.  I sat down at the bar and was immediately welcomed by my bartender buddy Clete. Come to find out he is now a full time pharmacy student which is why I haven’t seen him my last several stops to the Monk Pub. Seems that he came out to work at the bar to lend a hand for Wicked Weed’s Debut.

Inside of Thirsty Monk at Wicked Weed's beer debut

Inside of Thirsty Monk at Wicked Weed’s beer debut

There were 2 beers by Wicked Weed being poured. The first one I tried was called Tyranny, a very hoppy west coast style red ale. As soon as I had my 1st sip I knew Wicked Weed brewed quality beer.

From Thirst Monk's beer menu

From Thirsty Monk’s beer menu

A few short moments later, Wicked Weed’s Brewer, Luke Dickinson came over and introduced himself. We had been communicating online and through text message the previous few days about getting a short “pre-opening” tour of his new establishment. It was great to finally meet him in person. He was spoke for a few minutes about his beer, opening the brewery and made plans to tour the next day. Through out the night I saw him light up as person after person came up to him to compliment his brewing skills. He was humble, down to earth and very appreciative of everyone’s support.

Myself and Luke from Wicked Weed Brewing

Myself and Luke from Wicked Weed Brewing

I had to venture to Thirsty Monk’s downstairs Belgium bar to get my next Wicked Weed beer, Saison 1. I brought it back up to my upstairs spot at the bar. As I took a big sip, I was truly blown away. I typically rate beers I haven’t tried before on the Untappd app on my iPhone. It’s based on a 5 cap rating. Although I am pretty generous with my 4 out of 5 rating, it takes a really special beer to get me to go all the way to 5.  Saison 1 is such a beer in my opinion.

After enjoying some brew at The Thirsty Monk, I headed over to French Broad Chocolate Lounge for dessert before dinner. If you ever go to Asheville, you’d be sorry not to visit this wonderful little spot. Their liquid truffles are good enough to make a grown man cry (not me, must have been someone else). After getting a serious chocolate high I stopped in Mast General Store to grab a winter hat (it was a cold and very windy night) . A few blocks over I downed a quick beer at Asheville Brewing Company on Coxe Avenue, then it was dinner time.  I consider everything in Downtown Asheville to be within walking distance. A few minutes later I arrived at  Lexington Avenue Brewery and grabbed a seat. In the past the beer at LAB has always been hit or miss (mostly miss) with me, but the food is always good. There was a deejay playing some chill hip hop tunes as I order dinner and beer. I ate and drank and found myself full and tired. It became time to stumble back to the room and prepare for the next day.

rb banner 2

Saturday after breakfast and coffee, it was time for some more beer based adventuring! I went for a drive to visit the new Oskar Blues plant in Brevard 40 minutes away. There is a free trolly that  leaves from downtown Asheville in the evenings, but I had other plans for later on, so I’ll save that experience for another time. The new plant is located in what can only be described as the middle of nowhere. When I arrived I knew I was in the right place from the signs, but couldn’t immediately tell where the tap room was. After looking around, I eventually located it.

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“Oh, it’s around the corner!” Thanks small, hard to read sign!

Aka small door located on a massive loading dock.

Aka small door located on a massive loading dock.

When you walk through the door, you are immediately inside of a massive warehouse. Up some stairs over looking everything is the bar.

Inside Oskar Blues

Inside Oskar Blues

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Upstairs over looking the main floor is the bar that pours Oskar Blues’ beer. The bar is in the middle with more seating on either side. Off to the right is merchandise for sale and a cooler with beer that you can purchase to go.

Looking toward the bar area from the main floor.

Looking toward the bar area from the main floor.

Seating to the left of the bar

Seating to the left of the bar

Merchandise area at Oskar Blues

Merchandise area at Oskar Blues

I had come for a tour, but an hour early. So I did what I do, I ordered a flight.

A flight at Oskar Blues in Brevard (before)

A flight at Oskar Blues in Brevard (before)

...and after.

…and after.

The tour started and the brewer Noah Tuttle showed us around and told us about the brewery and the plans for expansion. The massive warehouse space was purchased with growth in mind and only a small fraction of it was being used. At the time they only had one of the massive 200 barrel fermenters going. They have a 50 barrel brewing system and are only brewing once a day. I asked him about this and he said that it took them 4 days of brewing to fill the one fermenter.  Other fermenters they had weren’t even hooked up yet. As we spoke, I asked him how they planned to make the Oskar Blues beer from Brevard be exactly like the Oskar Brews beer brewed in Longmont, CO. He was upfront and honest that because of different conditions such as water chemistry and elevation, the beer would be slightly different. It is still the same ingredients and the focus on quality. Hopefully the average craft beer drinker would not be able to tell the difference. Because of these slight differences in brewing conditions, the Oskar Blues cans will be labeled with what plant they were brewed at.

Very healthy and vigorous fermentation

Very healthy and vigorous fermentation

Yes thoughts of "maybe I can scoop up and cultivate some of Oskar blues's yeast for my homebrewery" did enter my head. I didn't have a mason jar, and not sure how happy they'd be about that.

Yes thoughts of “maybe I can scoop up and cultivate some of Oskar Blues’ yeast  strain for my homebrewery” did enter my head. I didn’t have a mason jar, and not sure how happy they’d be about that.

Oskar Blues' brewing system

Oskar Blues’ brewing system

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Kegging area

Kegging area

Test batch

Test batch

Outside of Oskar Blues

Outside of Oskar Blues

After the tour I wanted to head back to Asheville. I purchased a four pack of oSKAr the g’Rauch a rare collaboration beer with Ska Brewing Company and a few cans of Root Beer to take back with me.

Craft Root Beer

Craft Root Beer

I had a 5 pm meeting with Luke over at Wicked Weed, but got back to Asheville early. I went over to one of my favorite breweries, Wedge, for a quick pint while I waited. Since Asheville has excellent food trucks, I grabbed a tofu quesadilla from El Kimchi.

El Kimchi's food is awesome!

El Kimchi’s food is awesome!

Stickers on El Kimchi's truck

Stickers on El Kimchi’s truck

The Beer Menu at Wedge.

The Beer Menu at Wedge.

I always love the beer and atmosphere at Wedge. However I had a 5 pm meeting to go to, so couldn’t stay as long as I’d like.

Fermenters at Wedge.

Fermenters at Wedge.

As 5 pm approached, I made my way over to Wicked Weed to meet with Luke. I was really honored that he  had agreed to give me a quick pre-opening tour of Asheville’s newest brewery.

Wicked Weed is located right next to the Orange Peal. Perfect place for dinner and drinks before a show.

Wicked Weed is located right next to the Orange Peel on Biltmore Avenue. It’s the perfect place for dinner and drinks before a show.

See, right next door.

See, right next door.

Outside patio seating area at Wicked Weed.

Outside patio seating area at Wicked Weed.

As I met Luke and he brought me inside the first thing that struck me was how absolutely beautiful this place is. They employed local crafts people and sourced local material to build a truly stunning dinning room and bar. The tap handles are all hand carved. Luke pointed out a spot on the wood bar that had civil war musket balls embedded in the wood.

Hand carved tap handles

Hand carved tap handles

If you look closely, you can see the musket balls embedded in the wood. If you go, they are in front of the tap handles at the upstairs bar.

If you look closely, you can see the musket balls embedded in the wood. If you go, they are in front of the tap handles at the upstairs bar.

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Upstairs dining area, notice the long community table

After being shown around upstairs, it was time to go  downstairs to see where the magic happens.

Downstairs bar area

Downstairs bar area

The outside of the bar is finished with wood from old barrels

The outside of the bar is finished with wood from old barrels

Taps at the downstairs bar

Taps at the downstairs bar

Wicked Weed's 15 barrel brewing system

Wicked Weed’s 15 barrel brewing system

15 barrel system. 1 barrel = 31 gallons of beer.

15 barrel system. 1 barrel = 31 gallons of beer.

Luke talked enthusiastically about beer and brewing. He has experience brewing in Germany and had previously worked at Dogfish Head.

Luke showing Wicked Weed's fermenters

Luke showing Wicked Weed’s fermenters and bright tanks

Cold room at Wicked Weed

Cold room at Wicked Weed

One of the coolest things about Wicked Weed (and from talking to Luke, I could tell one of his favorite) is their open fermenter. They have built a special positive pressurized, air filtered room with a big tank for open fermenting of  Belgium style beers. Luke advises that based on his experience in Germany, open fermentation can really make a difference on certain styles of beer. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that his Saison 1 was so tasty.

Open fermenter. He plans on hanging a big mirror overhead some that people can see it bubbling away.

Open fermenter. He plans on hanging a big mirror overhead some that people can see it bubbling away.

Wicked Weed also in very much into barrel fermenting and aging beer. They have plans to extend their barrel room.

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Plans are in the works to extend Wicked Weed’s barrel program

I could have stayed and talked beer all day with Luke, but I knew he had to get ready for an event that night. I thanked him for showing me around. On my way out I ran into another member of the crew who remembered talking to me at their brewery announcement at Wedge during Asheville Beer Week.  I’m really looking forward to my next trip back to Asheville so I can eat, drink and be merry at their fine establishment. I have a feeling that this will be my new favorite place!

"May the force carbonation be with you!"

“May the force carbonation be with you!”

After leaving Wicked Weed and grabbing a quick bite to eat, it was time to head out to another one of my favorite places, Green Man’s tasting room, Dirty Jack’s. I wanted to pick up another couple of bottles of the limited releases and have a few more beers.

Dirty Jack's aka the Green man tap room.

Dirty Jack’s aka the Green Man tap room.

They just happen to have a cask of Armageddon Ale they had brewed for the previous day’s end of the world party. I love barrel aged cask conditioned beers and this one did not disappoint!

Very tasty

Very tasty

Since the tap room at Dirty Jack’s doesn’t stay open late, there was one more place to visit before turning in for the night. That’s right, time to head to The Thirsty Monk where I tried Stone Brewing’s Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout.

This is good, but I couldn't drink a lot of them in a row.

This is good, but I couldn’t drink a lot of them in a row.

A few more half pours later and it was time to sleep. Luckily the hotel is less then a block away.

Sunday morning I had a few things I wanted to do before heading home to Knoxville. I ate breakfast at the hotel, packed my ride and headed towards Hops and Vine to pick up a few more of the Green Man bottles for people back home. I got there and realized that it didn’t open for an hour. I had time to kill so I went in search of coffee. I found a little shop right down the road that looked like a regular house from the outside. The coffee was good and I spent the rest of the time checking the fluids and gassing up my car for the trip. Finally Hops and Vine opened and I made some last minute purchases.

Coffee shop on found on Haywood Avenue.

Coffee shop on found on Haywood.

As much as I love Asheville, It was time to head home. I arrived in Knoxville and that night headed over to  Knox Beer Snob Rob’s house to share some rare beer with friends.

Bottom left, clockwise: Rob of Knox Beer Snobs, Ratchet, Matt of Knox Beer Crew, Mike from The Market in Maryville, Jeff Haws, Don of Knox Beer Snobs, Shawn Kerr,  Josh Archer giving a toast to Jason Anderson and his recently deceased pal, Blu.

Bottom left, clockwise: Rob of Knox Beer Snobs, Ratchet, Matt of Knox Beer Crew, Mike from The Market in Maryville, Jeff Haws, Don of Knox Beer Snobs, Shawn Kerr, Josh Archer  all giving a toast to Jason Anderson and his recently deceased pal, Blu.

Stone Vertical tasting. Big Shout out to Animal aka Jason Anderson for sharing these with us.

Stone Vertical tasting. Big Shout out to Animal aka Jason Anderson for sharing these with us.

More beer we shared that night

More beer we shared that night

The next day was Christmas eve. I decided to line up the Christmas presents that I bought for myself in Asheville and take some pictures.

I was a good boy this year!

I was a good boy this year!

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Yum!

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Yum!

My Green Man Limited Bottle releases. I had each one so far.

My Green Man Limited Bottle releases. I had each one so far.

Christmas came and that night I went over to my friend’s condo downtown for beer before going to see the Tarantino movie, Django Unchained. The next night I celebrated my 1000th unique check in on Untappd with a bottle I had been saving since March for just that occasion, Green Man’s Funk 49, an American Sour Red.

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Special occasions call for special bottles

Finally!

Finally!

Saturday was the monthly Knox Beer Crew meeting at Suttree’s. It was good seeing everyone and sharing rare beers such as this little gem brought by Jason Smith:

Hand signed and individually numbered Rogue's Fifteen Thousand Brew Ale

Hand signed and individually numbered Rogue’s Fifteen Thousand Brew Ale

Nick also surprised me by bringing a bottle of last year’s batch of my Butternut Squash Ale that he had been cellaring:

Sunday I brewed another batch of Cocoa stout that I split into two batches, spicy and regular. The fermentation blew the airlocks and I came home from work one day to find yeast splattered all over the walls and ceiling. It took awhile to clean up the mess.

Hours and hours of scrubbing fun! (Not.)

Hours and hours of scrubbing fun! (Not.)

The last part of the whole holiday beer season was New Year’s Eve spent at Suttree’s. Good friends and good beer were the theme of the evening. The first beer of 2013 was bought by my good friend, and Saccy’s roomate, Jerry. We celebrated the beginning with a bottle of  Brooklyn’s Local # 2.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Now it’s a whole new year with new goals and priorities. Honestly I don’t think I drank beer in the last few days. After the Asheville trip, Christmas, the Knox Beer Crew tasting and New Years I feel like I need a week or 2 to let my liver heal. I do hope that everyone of my readers has an amazing 2013 and experiences many wonderful beers this year. I know I will. Stay tuned, I have BIG plans for the next 12 months.

Cheers to a new year,

Ratchet



In case you missed them, read these post from other #KnoxBeer blogs:

December 12, 2012

With the busy holiday season upon us, I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to post again. Maybe after this weekend’s short jaunt to Chattanooga, or perhaps after my yearly Christmas beercation to Asheville. Either way I think I’ve done good this year posting as much as I did. With that said though, I am going to redouble my efforts to post even more in 2013! I also hope to make serious strides to go from homebrewer to pro.

Anyway, enough about that. Last weekend I had 2 beer events going on. Friday night I poured samples of my “I’m Warming You!” and Oktoberfest at Jackson Avenue Market. Saturday I provided beer for a private party at Saw Works Brewing‘s headquarters. Instead of writing more about that, I’ll refer you to a friend of mine’s website. If you aren’t checking out Saccharomyces Rex’s blog on a regular basis, you should. It’s written from the perspective of a downtown dwelling mini-dino who loves drinking craft beer. It was his party I provided the beer for. Check out his blog post about it HERE. Disclaimer: A few people asked me if I am really the person behind Saccy’s blog. I promise that I am not.

Another local blog to follow, (and the one that inspired me to start mine), is the Knox Beer Snobs. They have a great post about what to get the Beer Snob in your life for Christmas.

Does anyone know of any other Knoxville beer blogs? Since it’s such a small scene, I figured I’d know of them, but am asking just in case. I am specifically want to know about ACTIVE blogs.

A podcast I’ve been listening to during my morning workouts is the Brewing Network’s Brew Strong. This show is hosted by brewers and authors Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer (both I met at GABF).  Recent shows have focused on all issues pertaining to starting and running your own nano-brewery. If you are even mildly interested in beer, I recommend going to The Brewing Network’s website and downloading a few of the free episodes.

Westvleteren XII was released in the US today. Find out more about this super limited Trappist beer at this website, or listen to this NPR story about it. A 6 pack box with 2 tasting glasses is going for $85 retail. Unfortunately supplies and very limited and it’s not available for sale in Tennessee. I do have friends however that are getting this and promised to hook me up with a bottle. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping this happens.

Well this is all for now. I will try to post again soon, but in case I don’t get a chance to do so before the holi-daze I want to wish everyone a Beery Christmas and a Happy New Beer!

Have a Beery Christmas-Ratchet Claus

Have a Beery Christmas
-Ratchet Claus

Cheers,

Ratchet


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

December 7, 2012
Chocolate Milk Stout with Spicy peppers

Chocolate Milk Stout with Spicy peppers

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

Measuring Grains for the KBC 505

Measuring Grains for the KBC 505

Mashing in early morning

Mashing in early morning

Mash temps are VERY important

Mash temps are VERY important

So the KBC 505 begins fermentation

So the KBC 505 begins fermentation

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

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

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

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

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

-Ratchet-


Online brewing equipment shopping, upgrades and keg procurement

October 25, 2012

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot of about brewing equipment, upgrading mine and all the cost of turning my hobby into a career. I have spent way too much time recently browsing brewery supply websites. I’ve also been reading everything I can when it comes to laws, taxes and exactly what it takes to go from home brewer to someone who does it for a living. You could say it takes determination, love for what you do, equipment and all that other stuff, but what is really boils down to is money. Cold hard cash or the ability to come up with it.

I am blessed to have a pretty decent job. I live simply and within my means. I don’t care my house is sparsely furnished, or that there is more beer in my fridge then food. When it comes down to buying a furniture, clothes, shoes or beer supplies, it’s pretty obvious what I spend my $ on. When I determine I want a new piece of brewing equipment, I do my research, try to find the best price and then save up for it.

My last upgrade was a 55 gallon Blichmann Boilermaker Brew pot. It wasn’t cheap. All the home brew shops sell this for exactly the same price. My preferred shop, Rebel Brewer, is here in Tennessee. They ship Blichmann’s stuff for free. However, I knew if I bought from them, they have to charge tax which would add more to the price then I had to spend. I ordered from Austin Homebrew Supply and got the same free shipping but without having to pay tax since it was purchased out of state. I could have purchased a similar capacity stainless steel home made brew pot here in town for much less. It was a converted shipping drum. Many brewers (such as my buddies at Legit ) use these without issue. However, there’s a reason I passed on this cheaper brew pot. I have spoke with professional brewers and have been advised that there is a chance that if I tried to go pro, it may not pass inspection. This is because the  bottom does not have a sanitary weld.  This is where I am at on my search for new items to add to my home brewery. I want equipment that when I started my nano-brewery, I can use right away. Currently there is so much I want.

Since I am transitioning from typical home brewer equipment to more professional nano-brewer stuff, I’ve made the decision to phase out my old “corny” kegs to the industry standard sanke kegs. These are not easy to find, and they aren’t very affordable. I have researched and read so much about the cost.  A typical stainless steel keg cost around  $120-$150 new. This is pretty much what all craft breweries pay for them. When you purchase beer in a keg from a store or brewery, the deposit is typically half of what a new keg cost. People don’t always return them. Some of them are stolen off of people’s porches and sold from scrap. Home brewers are notorious for cutting them up to make brew kettles, mash tuns, etc. This may not affect the big guys like Budweiser, but it does effect the industry as a whole. Plus if you are using kegs that are branded by one of the macros, there’s a chance they can take them back no matter how you obtained them. Check out what happened to Calfkiller out of Sparta, TN last year.
So, as a home brew who wants to go pro, my only option is to buy brand new sanke kegs from a manufacturer. I’m thinking because of the upcoming holidays, etc, I’ll have to wait until next year to do this.

I thought I’d make a list of websites that sell equipment for transitioning home-to-nano brewers. These are places I’ve bookmarked and check every day. A guy can dream, can’t he?

Probrewer.com classifieds– This is a website for professional brewers. The classifieds are a great place to find used equipment. When a brewery upgrades or goes out of business, chances are their stuff ends up for sale on here. I call dibs on all the used 1 barrel stuff, so leave it for me, ok?

Stout tanks and Kettles– They have the best price on nano brewery stuff I have found so far. I have my eye on the 55 gallon conical fermenter with butterfly valves and casters. If I get my yearly Christmas bonus at work, it’s so mine.

Specific Mechanical Systems- custom fabrication of brewery components. What I find the most helpful about this website is the charts.

Bubba’s Barrels– local guy here in Knoxville who is fabricating nano-brewery systems. Great price and equipment for home brewers. He can build brew stands, and has a few conical fermenters that he’s working on.

Geemacher– A keg manufacturer in PA. They sell all different sizes of kegs and firkins as well. This is who I’ll probably buy mine from.

Rebel Brewer– Based outside of Nashville, this is where I purchase a lot of my smaller equipment and ingredients. Super fast shipping and excellent customer service.

Some upcoming Knoxville events I want to let everyone know of. Tonight (October 25th) I am doing another infusion event at Suttree’s starting at 7pm. It is also pint night, so the 1st 40 people get a free Lagunitas glass with purchase.

This Saturday is the monthly Knox Beer Crew tasting. I’m not going to say much about this month’s tasting  other then I got a feeling that it’s going to be epic.

Next week the Tennessee Valley Homebrewer’s club will be putting together another Big ASS Malt Order or BAMO. If you join and become a member, you can take part in this and order some grains for home brewing at wholesale cost. Well worth the $25 yearly membership fee.

November 6th is election night. I brewed a clone of the Whitehouse Honey Ale and we will be pouring free samples of it at The Casual Pint downtown as we watch the election results. Come join us for this historic night while trying a copy of this historic beer.

Cheers,

Ratchet


#KNOXBEERCREW #GABF Beercation Day 3 Saturday Recap

October 13, 2012

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

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

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

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Herb Crusted Cheese Dippers at Freshcraft FTW!

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

Big Bear at the convention center

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

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

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We’re going in!

Going in! Woooo!

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I love being a member of The Brewers Association!

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

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

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Myself and Erich Chilling like villians

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The Stone Brewing Company Booth

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

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

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One of my favorite things at GABF is the bag pipes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The back volunteer and brewer area

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

Outside at Falling Rock

Inside at Falling Rock

Avery’s Rumpking and 512’s Wild Bear

Outside at Falling Rock

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

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

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

The Star Bar

Inside at The Star Bar

Tap list at The Star Bar

The back bar at the Star Bar

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

Myself with twitter celebrity, Ashley Routson aka @TheBeerWench

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Ratchet


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


Gettin’ Crafty w/ Eagle: a distributor’s tasting of what’s to come for #KnoxBeer cc: @KnoxBeerGuy

August 29, 2012

One of the signs greeting attendees to the event

In Knoxville’s small but growing craft beer scene, I find myself in quite a few discussion about the local beer distributors and the role they play in our available choices. To give you some background, you need to know about the three tier system that was established for the sale of alcohol after prohibition.  The basic structure of the system is that producers can sell their products only to wholesale distributors who then sell to retailers, and only retailers may sell to consumers. There are a few exceptions here & there. In Tennessee, you can self distribute within the county your brewery is located. For example, Woodruff can deliver kegs of their beer anywhere in Knox county, but don’t expect to see them on tap in Maryville. That is, unless they sign an exclusive contract with a distributor. I know of 6 craft beer distributors who deliver to Knoxville. We have the big boys that are either owned or run by the “big 2“. The big 2s are Eagle, which is primarily AB-Inbev (Budweiser, etc), and Cherokee which is MillerCoors. There are several other smaller distributors with their own much smaller portfolios. There is Molo-Tenn based out of Chattanooga (Ft. Collins, Sam Smith, Flying Dog, McNeils to name a few). There’s also Lipman Brothers out of Nashville (Craggie, Lost Coast, Boulder, etc.), Bounty Bev (Green Flash, CalfKiller, Lucky Bucket, etc.) and Beverage-Control of Knoxville (Stone, Mendocino). Each one of these distributors has both their pros and their cons. For example, Beverage-Control can bring in Stone’s beers in bottle, but not kegs since they don’t have refrigeration in their warehouse. My point is that there is no such thing as a “perfect” distributor.

<hate> In fact, one of them (and I’ll go ahead and name names), is so univerally hated by the Knoxville craft beer scene that I rarely hear their name without an expletive thrown in before it. If you are part of the Knoxville beer scene, you know who exactly I’m writing about. Fuckin’ Cherokee. Honestly, I could rant for a whole post about how bad they are, how they don’t seem to give 2 shits about anything besides Miller or Coors (& usually with the word “lite” thrown in somewhere.) When every other city or town in the southeast is enjoying thier Hoptimum, Torpedo or Estate Ales by Sierra Nevada and we can’t get them here in K-town, just know they are responsible. Rumor is that they even pulled Duck Rabbit’s Milk Stout off the shelves at local Ingles because according to an unverified source “people don’t want to drink dark beers in hot weather.” ARRRRGH! </hate>

On the opposite side of this kind of behavior by a big distributor is the love, respect and value shown to craft beer by Eagle Distributing. Yes a majority of their sales are the Budweiser line of products. Unfortunately this can sometimes earn them the ire of uninformed craft beer lovers. People without a firm grasp of history tend to ignore the contributions Anheuser-Busch has made overall to the beer industry. Do I like the taste of Bud? Not really, but at the same time I wouldn’t turn a cold one down, or pull a beer douche card and look down on someone for their beer choice. Budweiser makes a consistent clean product, that pays the bill for Eagle. This allows Eagle to distribute the smaller brands that I love. Yazoo, SawWorks, New Belgium, Magic Hat, RJ Rockers and Brooklyn are all distributed by Eagle.

Eagle’s craft beer manager is Jeremy Walker (aka @KnoxBeerGuy on twitter), who has a passion for good beer. He invited me to an event I went to last night and the title of this post. Gettin’ Crafty With Eagle.

Jeremy Walker- @KnoxBeerGuy on twitter. Follow him and you’ll have your thumb on the pulse of Knoxville craft beer.

Last night’s event was an informal tasting, information session and all around good time. The guest list was most of the bar owners, staff, store managers, account reps and movers and shakers of the Knoxville beer scene. The focus was to let us all know which craft beers and brands are coming soon to the local market and to let us try them and learn about them. I am not so good with doing reviews of beers. I rather leave that to better writers than I such as the Knox Beer Snobs or Lou of Blues and BBQ. Plus I know taste is all subjective. A beer I despise may be a beer that you love and vice versa. I did however try to take pictures and notes so I could tell my readers what to look out for.

Todd and Matt from Jackson Avenue Market in the Old City

I got to the event promptly at 5:30 and immediately ran into Matt and Todd of Jackson Avenue Market. I grabbed my 1st beer, New Belgium’s Peach Porch Lounger. This is a brettanomyces beer that is packaged in 22 ounce bottles. I really liked this one and the brett was way more predominant then the last Brett beer from NB. I liked this one and plan on snatching up a case for my cellar, since this is a bottle conditioned beer that will age well. While sipping on this Matt told me that Jackson Avenue Market is now carrying almost 250 different beers. They are still planning on going for their high gravity license, so look for their offerings to expand. I own them a visit, since it’s been a couple of months. We even discussed briefly hosting a free tasting of my homebrew there sometime in the future.

More folks trickled in and I saw Neil McCormick of Yazoo. He had brought some of their delicious smoked porter, Sue. It’s been a few years since I enjoyed this last and all I can Say is WOW! I can’t wait until we can get this locally on draft and it bottles. There’s a reason why it’s 99 on Ratebeer.com This was one of my favorites of the night and I kept going back to it. Neil also told me about the Tennessee Craft Brewer’s Guild meeting in Chattanooga and plans for the first fundraiser. It’s going to be in Nashville and sounds like a whole hell of a lot of fun. Think craft beer prom with a twist. More details will be forthcoming, I assure you.

Welcome back Terrapin Beer Company!

By now most everyone knows that Terrapin Beer Company’s tasty selections are back in town. Several selections are already on draft and on the shelves. At Eagle’s event there was chance for those unfamiliar to try Hopsecutioner IPA. Terrapin brews beer that I (and everyone I know) loves. Since they’ve been gone, I’ve never neglected to bring back some during my treks to Asheville. Knox Beer Snob Rob told me that he will cry if we are able to get Wake N Bake coffee oatmeal stout here. Well buddy, I’ll be shedding tears of joy myself if this happens. We shall see.

Brooklyn!!!

Brooklyn Brewery was well represented at the event as well. Since I have access to a steady supply at my weekend job, I elected to stay with their high gravity offerings from them. I rather enjoy Local Number Two, so had some along with Local one. I also revisited Sorachi Ace. The last and only time I had this beer, I was a bit disappointed. For whatever reason, The hop character for which this beer is named was muted and overpowered by the Belgian yeast strain. That was not the case this time at all. The lemony Japanese hops stood out and balanced very nicely with the yeast and malts. I’m glad I had it again. My guess is that maybe when I tried it in the past, it had sat too long and the hops dropped out. I don’t know, but I do know I love this beer now.

As I mingled and moved between the 2 rooms this event took place in, a friend of mine mentioned RJ Rocker’s high gravity Pumpkin Ale. I in turn mentioned the RJ Rockers pumpkin to a friend of mine who is a server at Barley’s and beertends at Fort Sander’s Yacht Club, so we went back to the 1st room where we tried it.  I missed it the first time around because it was being dispensed from a kegerator behind the table where bottles of Black Perle and Bell Ringer were being poured. I’m not really keen on pumpkin ales, especially this early in the season. I had just tried Terrapin’s Pumpkinfest, and found it way over spiced to my liking. The RJ Rocker’s Gruntled Pumpkin was in sharp contrast to the Terrapin one. I absolutely loved it. I thought to myself, we have a winner! It’s everything a pumpkin ale should be. Not too spicy, not to sweet, well balanced with the flavor of the actual pumpkin. After having this, I don’t think I could be content with any other pumpkin ale from now on.

Jeremy: “Who wants to win this?” Crowd: “I do!”

Near the end of the event there was a drawing for prizes. Everyone who came in was given a raffle ticket. There was some seriously cool stuff given away, and everyone was hoping they would win the Yuengling boat. While Jeremy pulled tickets and read numbers, I talked to Curtis from Sweetwater and drank some of the Low Ryder IPA. What a solid, enjoyable beer. He informed me that it is going to be available year round starting in October. He also told me that a majority of the next Dank Tank series, Danktoberfest will be shipped to the new accounts in Alabama. That state just passed a law allowing 22 ounce high gravity beers. He also said that due to demand, it will not be on draft, bottles only. This does not bode well for Knoxville, and if we do get any, I anticipate it being snatched up within hours of it hitting the stores. Like I said before, follow Jeremy on twitter because he’ll let us know when it lands.

Well, I knew I had committed to run early in the morning so I didn’t stay long. I said my goodbyes, loaded up of free swag left over from the raffle, got a promise from a friend to come visit me at work on Sunday and headed out. I really want to sincerely thank Eagle for all they do for beer in this area and for hosting this killer event. I can’t wait for the next one.

A few more things to mention before I end this post. Adam of SawWorks Brewing has started a new early morning running group. This morning was the 1st run. We meet every week day at 6 am at Saw Works headquarters. The run goes through downtown, over the Gay Street Bridge and back. We stop by Old City Java for free coffee on the way back. I haven’t ran for over 9 months. I have always made excuses, and have found that my health (and waist line) have suffered for it. Well no more. I am committed to doing this daily. Even though my legs are sore, it felt good to get some early morning exercise to start my day. I encourage people to join us, even if you can only walk instead of run at first. I can only run a small portion of the route and a snail’s pace, but you have to start somewhere.

I also want to let everyone know that this Thursday I will be once again doing an infusion at Suttree’s. I know what we are planning to do, but you’ll have to come out to see exactly what it will be. You will be pleasantly surprised by the tasty treat I have planned. All I can say is that every time we do an infusion, it gets better and better. Don’t miss this, or you’ll regret it. We’ll start at 7, so come on down.

The last thing before I sign off is that I just received my shipment of merchandise to sell at Kingsport Oktoberfest. I do plan on launching my online store real soon. Shirts, magnets, stickers and glassware will be available. All proceeds go towards helping a needy homebrewer (me) buy more ingredients to brew beer to share with his friends. Be on the lookout for my next post where I shamelessly beg for you to buy my (really cool) crap.

Cheers,

Ratchet