Great Time at @AllAleQueen #Craftbeer Carnival #CltBeer #NCBeer #beerfest

March 24, 2014

I consider myself blessed for the life I have. Not only am I one of the resident beer geeks at The Market in Maryville but I also get to go work beer festivals through SuperFly Fabulous Events. You might haven’t  heard of this company, but you know of their work. Kingsport Oktoberfest, Thirsty Orange, All Ale To The Queen, Beer City Bus Tours and Brewer’s Summit. The team that put on these events are great people and I’m proud to be their friend. At these festivals I’ve done everything from represent a brewery (Woodruff), to pouring my homebrew, promoting the events through social media, to the most recent, running the mobile infusers. The best part about doing all this is having another chance to hang out before, during and after the events.

This weekend brought me to Charlotte, NC for the All Ale to the Queen Craft Beer Carnival. I’ve been planning on this event for months now, and I almost didn’t make it. My life has changed so much in a short amount of time. Being unemployed for awhile, moving to Maryville and working a low paying (but fulfilling) job has had it challenges. The finances starting looking grim for a 4 hour drive. When I estimated the gas money needed to go, it didn’t look like I could pull it off. Luckily a few friends saw my post on my personal social media and came to my rescue by buying some rare beers I’ve been cellaring. I was hoping to rope one or 2 of my remaining friends to go with me, but despite some last minute bribery, It ended up being a solo trip.

So I loaded up the car and left Friday Morning for Charlotte. The drive was uneventful. My GPS said it would take 4 and 1/2 hours but I made it to the venue in 4 with no problems. I checked in and was handed one of the festivals jockey boxes and asked if I could get it re-lined. Since I was also now in possession of the company’s brand new top of the line randall and needed to get parts, it wasn’t a problem. I put everything in my car and googled the nearest homebrew supply store. I found my way to Beer and Wine Hobbies International. The staff there was great and helped me reline the box and get all the parts I needed to set up the Randall. As I sat there with them talking about beer the clock was ticking. I had to still find my way to where the beer dinner was starting at 6. I had time for one quick brewery stop. I asked where I should go and Triple C Brewing was the answer given. Luckily it wasn’t too far away. I paid for the parts (company credit card, woot!) and headed there. As I drove up, I noticed how packed the place was. This was definitely a popular brewery, with lots of people and dogs enjoying the great weather. It happened to be one of the last days of Charlotte Beer Week and Triple C released a milk stout brewed with Vanilla Beans and Kahlua soaked oak chips that they called “The Dude Imbibes“. I got a full pour of that and a flight of four other beers as well. I was very impressed with the quality of the brews I tried. As I sat there drinking my beers, I had a conversation with a local about the Charlotte Craft Beer Scene. I could have stayed the rest of my trip at Triple C, but it was time to head to the beer dinner. I made sure to buy myself a wax capped big bottle of their Smoked Imperial Amber as a souvenir. Hopefully I won’t have to sell this one off to fund a future beer trip.

I arrived at Harry’s Grille and Tavern for the beer dinner. As I walked in and looked around the room, I recognized half the people there. I struck up a conversation with Aaron who introduced me to April Smith. She was running the social media for this festival. We grabbed one of the few remaining tables. My friend and all around good guy, Adam Reinke had texted me to say he was coming to the dinner. I saved him a couple of seats. He arrived with the infamous Mark with him. The course and beers started coming, and each one was incredible. Check out the All Ale To The Queen Twitter post about each course. Here’s one, two, three, four and five.

As the dinner came to an end, many were wondering what was next on the agenda? The word spread quickly through the brewers and other in town that we would take over the lawn in front of the hotel. There were already lawn chairs there. Somehow we started calling this “the grassy knoll”. I don’t know who came up with it, but that’s what we all referred to it as the rest of the weekend. Once back to the hotel we started to hang out there. Beers were flowing and a great time was had. I had a little (a lot) too much to drink. Like, bad behavior drunk ( I apologize to the person most of this was directed towards, but in my defense I HATE being stalked). Luckily I caught myself and stopped. I went to my room to sleep it off.

I woke up the next morning hung over and slightly hating myself. I felt a deep seated need for punishment. What else could I do but run it out? I got dressed in my running clothes, set my Nike app for a 5k and hit downtown Charlotte. The 1st mile hurt. My head was pounding, my mouth was dry and my liver hurt like hell. As I made my half way point, I started feeling better. By the end of my run I felt great. My app chimed in to tell me the 5k was over. To my astonishment I had beat my previous record by 3 and a half minutes!

Back at the hotel I drank coffee, showered and then headed out to the festival site. There was work to do. I set up my merchandise table, pieced together the randall and lent a hand where needed. When the doors opened, I knew I would need a volunteer and they hooked me up. I was introduced to Joy who was just that. I’ve done many fest and had many volunteers and she was the best so far. She is a home brewer and eager to learn all she could about beer. Together we were able to stay on schedule and came up with a great system for moving the randall around, cleaning it and setting it up. Her shift technically ended at 3:30 but she stayed, helping me all the way until the 8 pm ending time. This went above and beyond what was expected of her. Thanks homegirl!

There was so much going on at this festival and I was so busy I only caught about a fraction. When I was able to lift my head from what I was doing, the view was spectacular. This was mainly due to the incredibly hot aerial acrobats at the middle of the room and the always eye pleasing Charlotte Beer Girls.  There were also freak show acts that I missed but friends told me about later. Like a guy who ate a light bulb. My questions is, how’d he figure out that was something he was good at? What inspired him to eat the first one? I also missed the homebrewer contest and didn’t get to try everyone’s beer. Congrats to the winners though, maybe one day I’ll brew again and will enter another competition. For now, I’m honestly happy to NOT be brewing.

The one thing I was able to focus on, like I said, was the randalizing of beer. Awhile back I was talking to Aaron and told him we needed better randalls and system for mobile infusing. He asked my recommendation and I told him to buy the top of the line system from Dogfish head. He did so and it was worth every penny! We broke this new system in at Catawba’s booth with the brewery’s founder, Billy, as Seen in the video below:

The next infusion we did was at Abita’s booth with their Strawberry Lager going through French Broad Cocao nibs and shells and fresh strawberries. This was a hit. It was so good that the rep had to fill a growler to bring back to the brewers in New Orleans. So if you see Abita come out with a chocolate strawberry beer in the future, just know where it originated. People where clamoring for this beer and the line grew really long once the word spread. We were only scheduled to be at their booth for an hour, but if we would have taken it away when that early, I’m pretty sure we would have caused a riot. I was fine with staying there, especially since the Goose Island booth was right new to me and the reps kept sneaking me sips of Bourbon County Stout and Backyard Rye on the down low (thanks ladies!).

We were finally able to unhook the randall and head over to Rj Rockers where we ran the always popular Son of A Peach through, you guessed it, peaches. Since we didn’t have enough peaches due to my clumsily spilling half of them, we added some plums as well. It was a great combination. My volunteer, Joy had pointed out that there was a small group of girls following the infuser around. Sure enough they were first in line for the Rj Rockers. As I sat there talking with them, they asked to take pictures. Since my main weakness is pretty girls, I couldn’t resist. Of course, I couldn’t resist inviting them to the after party as well, but no such luck.

My Randall groupies.

Me and my Randall groupies.

The last infusion of the day was with Starr Hill. I tried to infuse their Cryptical Imperial Stout with Cocao Nibs and Shredded coconut. We ran into our first clogging issues of the day and were only able to get a few pours out of it. This was near the end of the fest, so I decided it would be alright to break it down, give it a good cleaning and call it a day.

The festival came to an end and I made sure to pack up and secure the randal and jockey box. As the attendees left it was back to being the festival people. Grassy Knoll takeover was the post festival party plans. By this time I was completely sober. I always stop drinking about and hour or 2 before a festival like this is over so I can drive. As I loaded up my car I noticed my buddy Jim Cope carring a big plastic bag and looking faded. My friend Trevor and his girlfriend walked over and as we talked and I mentioned the party, they asked if they could ride with me. We piled into my car and were talking and laughing our asses off on the way to the hotel.

Trevor Sharp gears up for the Jim Cope homeless impersonation challenge. We all were laughing so hard it hurt.

Trevor Sharp gears up for the Jim Cope homeless impersonation challenge. We all were laughing so hard it hurt.

When we arrived, the party was already in effect. Adam Reinke had ordered pizzas, beer was flowing and Urban Orchard brought out a keg of cider to share. I ran back to the room to grab one of my growlers and when I came back, the group was little more subdued. Where’s the keg? Well it seems like we were all having such a great time that the police came and told the group that we couldn’t be so obvious and have kegs out. The lawn was actually part of Johnson and Wales University. I found this hilarious because the same weekend a bunch of rowdy craft beer drinking drunks took over the hotel, the other people staying there were parents and potential students checking out the college. I could see the shocked look on the face of families are they walked passed us. I would not be a bit surprised if more then a few parents told their kids that there was no way they’d allow them to attend there after seeing us.

So instead of kegs, we just kept taking turns filling up growlers with Urban Orchard Cider and Studio Brew’s Mosaic Sunset from the kegs stashed in the cars a few feet away. I want to give a big shout out to my new friend, Jeff Anderson from Urban Orchard. It was great partying with you brother, and I look forward to hanging out again in a few weeks at TO.

Well I knew I had a 4 hour drive and a shift at the Beer Den the next day, so I had to call it a night. It pained me to be responsible and walk away from a great party with people I love and admire. Good thing I get to do it all over again soon. I hope everyone enjoys the pictures and if we met, I’d love to hear from you.

Charlotte you were great. I’ll be back in November for Attack of The Big Beers, so you have 8 months to prepare for my arrival. I’ll be counting the days my friends.

Cheers!

-Jason aka Ratchet


Beer Running! @BeardenBeerMrkt @CentralFlatsTap @YazooLeah

February 17, 2014

Hey y’all, figured it was time to write again. Since my last post, I’ve been picking up more and more hours working at The Market in Maryville’s Beer Den while I wait for my new full time job to start next month. I absolutely love everything about being part of the team at The Market and if they could afford me, would be more then happy to be there full time. Alas, they are a struggling mom and pop store and can only justify so much in employee wages, which I completely understand and sympathize with.

In the meantime I really enjoy getting paid to do something I love and am good at, sell beer. We have 8 constantly rotating taps. Pints are always only $3, we do growler fills and you can get a flight of all 8 beers for only $8. Not to mention the bottle selection is incredible. I love when people ask for suggestions or want to know more about a particular style of beer. I also love getting to know the regulars.

Since my last post, many of these regulars, my friends and my readers have asked me the same thing. “Are you really giving up on the idea of opening a nano-brewery?” This is something I thought long and hard about before I came to my decision. Like I said in my last post, I found myself spending to much thought energy on it, and stressing out. I think about it in these terms. The idea of opening a brewery is like a seed. I put that seed in the ground and my thoughts were like watering the seed. Well if you are constantly watering a seed, eventually you are going to drown it and it won’t grow. My decision was one to step back, stop watering it, and let nature take it’s course. For now I have other personal goals and things I want to accomplish. Maybe after I get a firm grip on those things, I’ll be in a better position revisit this idea and have some tools at my disposal to make another effort. In the mean time, we changed the name of our home brewery from Ratchet Brews to We Know Beer. When I say “we” it’s because the home brewing is about more than just me, it’s a team effort. Richard and Todd have become a big part of this, and deserve credit and recognition. This will be our official name when we represent at festivals. Not “We Know Beer brewery” or “We Know Beer brewing company“, simply We Know Beer. This new name encompasses everything we want to be about. It’s more then just about brewing beer, it’s also about education and appreciation, along with other things. We are having our logo developed and hope to debut it along with a mission statement and new merchandise in time for Thirsty Orange in April.

Until then I really need to do an inventory of ingredients and schedule a brew day. It’s kind of hard right now because I am in this inbetween place of working on the weekends while waiting to start my fulltime job. Once I am settled into a regular routine, we’ll be back to brewing on a regular basis. When this happens I’ll let you know.

There’s a few other things I want to write about before I end this post. When I made my goals for this year, getting back in shape was right there at the top of the list. Luckily there is a great beer running community. I love to run and several years back I would do so everyday. Then things happened and I slowly fell out. I started eating a lot. I was in a stressful and unhealthy relationship. Eating, drinking, staying up late and constantly arguing took it’s toll. I gained a bunch of weight. I became depressed. I finally arrived at the point when I said ENOUGH! I’m not doing this anymore. Since then, I haven’t been happier. I eat very sparingly now, mostly a juice diet. I still drink but not everyday and not as much. This balances nicely with my diet. I take yoga classes, weight train and started running again. I’ve was able to transition off of toxic and potentionally long term damaging anti-depressants simply by changing how I react and think about things. When I feel negative thoughts creeping in, I smile and think about all I do have and how blessed I am. I laugh more and I do my best to avoid stressful people and situations. Helping with all this, like I said, is the beer running community. Being around and getting to know other positive, health minded craft beer drinkers has made a world of difference. Monday evenings are now one of my favorite nights of the week because of the fun run at Bearden Beer Market. It’s a great challenge and keeps me working. I have an end of summer goal to be able to do the run at a 9 minute mile pace, including the big killer hill near the end. I’m also going to start the Thursday evening run that takes place at Central Flats and Taps.

Last Saturday morning I joined the Yazoo Barely a 4k run at Central Flats and Taps. Getting up early to start at 8am with 100 or more other people in the cold was exhilarating. I ended up running my personal best time so far. The run ended back at the bar where a round of Yazoo Fall Lager was waiting for us with a complimentary breakfast. We hung out and enjoyed the company of friends while watching the USA vs Russia Olympic Hockey game on tv. There are some great pictures on Central Flats and Tap’s facebook page of the run. I want to thank @YazooLeah for herding the cats to put this together. Yazoo is having a pub crawl through the Old City on her birthday, March 3rd. You know I’ll be there for this one.

This is all for now. It’s been so long since I’ve been at any beer related event that I’m really looking forward to my trip to All Ale to The Queen festival in Charlotte, NC on March 21st and 22nd. So far I’m still traveling solo, so if anyone wants to split gas and help me work the infusers at the festival, let me know.

Cheers,

Jason


The Start Of A New Year Is A Great Time to Change Things Up.

February 5, 2014

After a month long hiatus, I’m back. I wanted to begin the new year off by changing, challenging and improving myself. So I began by breaking off a relationship that I found myself not wanting to be in anymore. Then I made myself go a full month without looking at or posting on social media. Because that just wasn’t enough, I made myself go a month without drinking any alcohol. To this end, I took January “off” to get my head straight and focus on my goals for 2014. I hardly went out, didn’t really hang with my friends and made diet and lifestyle changes. In this process of staying offline and not drinking, I learned a lot about myself. I realized that I don’t need to constantly check twitter, facebook and untappd to see what everyone is up to. I don’t need to post my every thought or every little detail of my existence. Taking time away also helped me realize who my true friends were as opposed to those in name only.
The not drinking part was little harder, especially the first couple of weeks. I have amassed a pretty decent collection of craft beer and a nicely stocked liquor cabinet. Every time I open the fridge, I see bottles. During this month, when I did go out, it was mostly to the Downtown Grill and Brewery. I’d go to get out of the house, eat something, use the internet and talk with my bartender buddies. They are use to seeing me coming, taking my mug down and filling it for me before I even get to the bar. This happened several times during January. I would thank them, explain what I was doing and drink water instead. I’ve also been working at The Market in Maryville’s Beer Den, surrounded by beer. I could have poured myself a pint at anytime. People were constantly bringing in bottles to share, but I stuck to my plan. That’s why when I did have my first beer in a month, Woodruff’s IPA at the Brewery during the Super Bowl, it meant so much. Before this self-challenge, I was drinking everyday. Some days I’d just have a beer at the end of the day. More often than not, it was several beers. It had just become part of my routine. I was also spending too much money on alcohol. Last year when I had a job that paid decently, I spent a majority of my disposable income on ordering rare craft beer online. I was always trying to keep up on the latest releases, arrange trades, and make trips to brewery only releases. Most of the people I had surrounded myself with were the same way. When I took the month of January to not drink, it started out without a purpose, just one of those “let’s see if I can do it” things. By the end of the month I had many realizations. In retrospect, the money I spent last year chasing down rare beers could have been put to use on things that would have better improved my quality of life and my health. I don’t write this to make myself out to be some self-righteous teetotaler who has “seen the light”, or to make any of my friends question their lifestyle choices. Honestly, I would have been perfectly happy carrying on like I was, had I not took on this challenge. So what does this mean now? Am I NOT going to bottle releases, NOT buy rare beer online or do trades anymore? Of course I will be. I LIKE those things. However, in 2014 I’m not going to do it as much. I don’t want to spend the energy worrying that I’m missing out on same rare once in a lifetime beer, or blow most of a paycheck ordering online when there is so much more to the world. I don’t feel the need to drink everyday, and when I do, I want to respect it more. I want it to be special.

During my month long sabbatical, friends would reach out to check on me. Apparently there were rumors going around that I was depressed and that’s why I was self-isolating. Nothing could be further from the truth. The whole time I was happy and in a really good place. Other than work, I pretty much had time to read, meditate and yes, I even solo brewed a batch of Imperial Stout on the down low.

During my alone time, I reevaluated my goals of opening a nano-brewery. This unrealistic dream of mine took up a lot of my time and energy. I found myself thinking about it to the point where it became stressful for me. In the last 2 years I’ve made no measurable progress towards this goal. Honestly, I’m not in a financial position to accomplish this. I am very independent and don’t like the idea of taking on investors who would possibly have power over my dreams. By giving up this idea, it frees me to pursue other things, and is a huge burden lifted from me. For now, I’m quite happy brewing an occasional batch of beer at home.

The other change I made is my name. My nickname was Ratchet since sometime around 1993. This is way before it was slang for anything else. I started to hate how I’ve been known for the last 21 years had morphed into a term of derision in society and popular culture. It became enough for me to abandon my long term nickname to go back to using my real name. I thought since I’m not trying to go pro anymore, I would give up the name “Ratchet Brews” for this blog and change it to Jason Knows Beer, which I like to think I do. For me this fits more into what my website is about. Because of the name change, you might notice some glitches in older post on this blog. Some pictures might be missing and such. To me, it’s not really that big a deal. I might fix it, I might not. For now, going forward is more important to me then what happened in the past.

So is there going to be content change on my blog in 2014? Not really. I’ll still write the really inane, irreverent post that I always have. You can expect more stories about my traveling adventures. Also the same live updates from beer festivals, brew days, etc. I do want to branch out more into beer education and to that end, I plan on studying and going for Cicerone certification. I want to write some articles on specific beer styles such as origins, recipes, and the like. I’ll continue to write because it’s become too much of an outlet for me to give it up. I’ll probably throw in some non-beer tidbits every once in awhile because I do plan on being more active in running, hiking, urban exploring and eating right. At the same time I don’t plan on being as active in the Knoxville “Beer Scene”.

With all that said, I do have some travel plans in the following weeks and months. This Saturday is the Tennessee Winter Beer Festival In Townsend from 3 to 9 pm. This is an ultra small event at the The Laurel Valley Country Club. Some of the breweries present this year will be Turtle Anarchy, Saw Works, Studio Brew, Calf Killer and Smoky Mountain. If you haven’t got tickets yet, you’re pretty much screwed since it’s sold out. I’ll be there and might live post similar to last year.

Saturday February 15th I’m driving up to Lexington to attend Craft Writing: Beer, The Digital, and Craft Culture at the University of KY. This is a one day symposium at the University of Kentucky showcasing writing in craft beer. Speaking will be such well know beer writers as Stan HieronymusRoger Baylor, Mitch Steele, and Jeremy Cowan. The keynote address is by Garrett Oliver. I am hoping to learn from the best. If anyone is interested in pitching in for gas, you are welcome to ride up and back with me. I just plan on going for the day and driving home after.

Saturday March 22nd is All Ale to the Queen in Charlotte, NC. This is the ending event of Charlotte Beer Week. I’ll be there for the weekend running the festival Organizer’ s brand new Dogfish Head Randall. I have 2 nights booked at a hotel, so if anyone wants to go, hit me up.

April 11th and 12th is The Thirsty Orange Beer Extravaganza in Johnson City. It starts off with a small beer dinner on Friday Night at The Battery Restaurant.  The new site of this year’s event is at ETSU’s Millenium Center. There will be better (& free) parking, more room, more events and way, way more beer. I will be there as well, and may or may not set up a booth serving my homebrew. I’ll know closer to time.

Well, thanks for reading. I’ll post again soon. Hope everyone has a great 2014. I know mine has been amazing so far.

Cheers,

Jason


Last Minute #Christmas Gifts for the #Knoxville #BeerGeek

December 18, 2013

Christmas is next week and I know some of you are struggling to find the perfect gift for the beer geek in your life. Unless you want to pay a fortune for shipping, it’s too late to order gifts online. I thought while I sat here filling out applications and emailing resumes, I’d take a few moments to put together a list of beercentric gifts available here in Knoxville.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen our small craft beer community grow exponentially. You can find a decent selection of quality suds almost everywhere now. So let’s start with the most basic and easy thing to acquire: gift cards.

Yes giving a gift card can feel like the easy way out, but believe me, your recipient will appreciate it. Not sure what to buy? Can’t remember if they like IPAs or stouts more? Give them the gift of choice. Pretty much everyone offers gift cards now. As far as retail beer shopping, you can’t go wrong with Bearden Beer Market. They carry a wide variety of brews, shirts and other gifts. They also offer growler fills.  On cold nights they have a couple of fire pits going in the beer garden, so feel free to bring your own marshmallows.

Another popular choice is The Casual Pint. With 2 locations and more opening in 2014, they also have a great selection of beer and merchandise. Unique to CP is the create your own mix-a-six pack from the selection in the cooler. Not many other places offer this.

If you are on the North side of town, check out Vic’s. Killer selection, knowledgeable staff and you can get your high grav’s right next door. Ask for Louie and tell them Ratchet sent you.

For the best selection in Maryville, check out The Market. Growlers  are available as well.

As far as high gravity beers go, you can’t go wrong with either McScrooge’s or my favorite, Downtown Wine and Spirits. Both offer gift cards and a world class selection of big beers. Right now Downtown Wine still has some rarities available from their cellar sale. If I were you, I’d grab a couple of the 2007 JW Lee barrel aged beers before they’re all gone. I also heard they just got in the 2013 Brookyln Black-Ops.

When it comes to craft beer bars, Suttree’s is a sure shot. A gift card here will go along way. They always make sure to have the best draft beer selection in Knoxville.

One of the longest running craft beer bars in Knoxville, Barley’s is also know for their killer selection and awesome food menu selection. Take someone here for dinner and they’ll really get into the holiday spirit.

Want to give something brewed locally? Downtown Grill and Brewery offers gift cards. Great food, super friendly and knowledgeable bar staff and a fine selection of English style ales. Growlers and kegs available. You can get a 5 gallon keg for $50 (plus deposit). Think about how well this would go over at your Christmas party.

Speaking of locally brewed and Christmas parties, you can’t forget about Saw Works. Knoxville’s favorite microbrewery has a tasting room called The Mill. There you can buy a growler, a shirt or some glassware. It’s also available for private parties and they have an upcoming Holiday Bash this Friday at 7 pm. I wish I could make it, but I’ll be in Hot Springs that night.

Maryville’s upcoming Bluetick Brewery has just got a bunch of merchandise in, just in time for Christmas. Every purchase helps them get that much closer to opening their doors to the public.

Is there a home brewer in your life? Knoxville has 2 great homebrew shops. Allen Biermakens on Martin Mill in South Knoxville or Fermentation Station on Kingston Pike in West Knoxville. Both have a great selection of supplies and equipment for those who brew their own.

You know what would make a great stocking stuffer? Tickets to the Tennessee Winter Beer Festival in Townsend, TN. It takes place on February 8th. You can buy tickets online now or at the Market In Maryville.

Looking for rare beer? There’s a local guy selling a few from his cellar. Check his list here. If you buy something it helps his broke ass buy Christmas presents for his kid.

Well that’s the Knoxville Beer Geek Christmas list. I hope this helps you procrastinators with some ideas. Before I sign off, I want to let you know about tomorrow’s (Thursday night’s) infusion event at Suttree’s. I’ll be taking the ever so popular seasonal from Terrapin, Wake-N-Bake, and infusing it with fresh mint, cocao nibs and mini-candy canes for a festive treat. I’ll be starting around 7 pm, and I am hoping to see everyone.

Y’all have a great and Beery Christmas and try to not let the Krampus get you. I’ll try to post again before the new year.

Cheers,

Ratchet


A (Way) Late Post About @KPTOktoberfest #craftbeer #beercation

November 7, 2013

There’s been a few events and little beer trips in the last couple of months that I haven’t had time to write about yet. Instead of taking responsibility for being lazy, my excuses for lack of posting is my work schedule, being a father and playing too much Angry Birds. My writing has suffered as a result. So with that being said, It’s time to start playing catch up on my posting in the next week or so.  I’m going to start with my recollection of Kingsport Oktoberfest.

One of my favorite yearly events, this Tri-cities celebration gets bigger and better each year. I headed up a day early to get settled in and hang out with my friends at the brewer’s reception the night before. I got a late start and ended up getting to my hotel room around dusk. After unpacking, I headed over to the festival site to unload the kegs and to visit and drink beer with my friends at the brewers reception. I arrived and saw some of my good tri-cities comrades such as Jimie Barnett and Jay Davis. We immediately launched into a discussion of yeast, brewing times and gravity readings. I realized that I was beer geeking out so hard with other brew-nerds that I hadn’t even poured myself a drink. I got myself out of the conversation by pointing out I was sober and need to fix that. I poured a brew from the tap on the side of the cold truck and walked around to greet our other friends. Dave and Nikki Ohmer from Saw Works were there, along with several of my Tennessee Valley Homebrewers Club buddies. It was great to see my good friends and awesome brewery owners, Erich and Pam Allen from Studio Brew. I had enjoyed giving Erich hell the previous week on social media (mostly using the Kingsport Oktoberfest’s twitter and facebook accounts) for brewing a Butternut Squash Ale (my signature fall seasonal). It was all in good fun though, and it turns our brews are completely different recipes. After socializing, having a few drinks and heading over to Stir Fry Cafe for dinner, I headed back to the hotel. Knowing it would be an early morning, I needed to rest up.

The next morning bright and early I headed down to the site. Before I set up, we needed some breakfast and wake up juice. There was a new coffee shop right by Stir Fry Cafe with an incredible selection. The staff was super friendly and I wish I remembered the name of this place. Unfortunately my google-fu is failing me right now.

After I was sufficiently fed and caffeinated, it was time to set up the booth. I had brought four kegs of homebrew and plenty of merchandise to sell. Richard and Todd drove up from Knoxville that morning and met me at the site.

Todd and Richard at the Ratchet Brews booth.

Todd and Richard at the Ratchet Brews booth.

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Once everything was set up and the beer was flowing, it was time to walk around, see friends and drink beer before the gates opened. The moments before ticket holders come in to a festival is always a magic time for brewers. Most of us are set up and are able to socialize and try each other’s brews in the calm before the storm.

Our buddy, Dave from Saw Works Brewing Company

Our buddy, Dave from Saw Works Brewing Company

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Some of our favorite craft beer people, Pam and Erich Allen of Studio Brew!

Some of our favorite craft beer people, Pam and Erich Allen of Studio Brew!

The gates opened for the early VIPs. Spending the extra money for early admission is worth it as far as I’m concerned. The vibe is much more relaxed, there are no lines, and you get one on one time with the brewers to talk about what’s in your glass. The people who spring for the VIPs tickets are a much more beer savvy crowd and aren’t there just to get drunk. They truly enjoy conversing about beer. I met some great people, and am truly blessed that a couple told me they learned about Kingsport Oktoberfest and came because they read about it here. It was so great meeting and talking with everyone!

As the day progressed, we took turns working the booth and walking around enjoying the festival. There was a camera crew from the game show network on site and they guy from Cash Cab was the host of a new show. They specifically came to film the TN Idiotarod Race.  I walked over to see the beginning.

The day progress, we poured all our beer and got a lot of great feedback. Eventually the festival came to an end. We had an awesome day but it was time to pack up. I found myself tired but mostly sober. We packed everything up. Todd took off for the long drive home while Richard stayed in town at the same hotel as I did.  I went back to our room to refresh and change into clean clothes.

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Anyone for some Cottonwood Pumpkin ale infused with pumpkin pie slices?

Bad Santa

Bad Santa

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Hi-Wire Brewing Company, one of Asheville’s newest breweries.

It's the Great Pumpkin Ale, Charlie Brown!

It’s the Great Pumpkin Ale, Charlie Brown!

Two of the hardest Ganstas you'll ever meet!

Two of the hardest Gangstas you’ll ever meet being photo bombed.

After I rested up, I grabbed a few bottles of homebrew and hopped in Richard‘s car to go back downtown. We met our friends at Stir Fry Cafe for a post festival dinner. We arrived to a large table with Erich and Pam Allen from Studio Brew, Chris and Sandy Hunt from Moccasin Bend Brewing, Dave and Nikki Ohmer from Saw Works and several others. We ordered food, drank beer, share homebrew and enjoyed each other’s company. As the night wore on, people started heading back to their hotel rooms. We weren’t quite yet ready to call it a night and asked our server what some other decent craft beer bars in town were. We ended up going to a spot called Biggie’s for one last drink.

The next morning I met with Pam and Erich at an Asian buffet restaurant for brunch. I ate my fill and followed them home where in  an attached building Studio Brew is located. Erich showed me around the brewery and told me about his trails and tribulations to get licensed. I really need to plan a day to go up there and brew with him.

I could have stayed there all day with Erich and Pam but I needed to get over to Asheville before heading home. I had ordered some beer from Bruisin’ Ales and had to pick it up. I hurried to make it there by 6pm, when I thought they closed. Arriving at 5:50, we found that I had the Sunday hours wrong. They are open noon to 4 on Sundays, not 6 like I had thought. Realizing my mistake, there was only one thing to do. I headed over to Wicked Weed for a quite bite and flight. Once again, while enjoying  food and beer, I ran into Luke, who had just returned from a trip to Colorado. He told me about some big plans they had, and another collaboration they did with New Belgium. I do want to congratulate them for beating both Russian River and Crooked Stave for the Gold Medal in the American Brett Beer category at this year’s Great American Beer Festival. This is an amazing accomplishment for a brewery that has only been in existence for less than a year!

Well I drove home to Knoxville and this beer trip came to an end. I have had a few more adventures since this trip, and I plan on writing about them soon. I have another post I am going to publish on Saturday, so make sure you check back then. I’ll tweet the link and add it on the Facebook page.

Cheers,

Ratchet

PS January 2014: I don’t like to make a big deal out of my relationship status, but since this post, Katie and I have parted ways. As I tend to do, I removed and will continue to remove all references to her off of this blog. I’m not depressed over this, and am actually in a good place. I am the one who made the decision for reasons I won’t go in to. No drama, nothing bad, just different life paths. Katie is a really special girl, who deserves happiness. I wish her nothing but the best. That’s all I’m going to say on the matter.


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

August 7, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

Tasting the goodness at Calfkiller

Tasting the goodness at Calfkiller

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

Empty Homeb rew bottles from Big Hop Brews

Empty Home brew bottles from Big Hop Brews

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the pictures below, click on them to enlarge.

Cheers,

Ratchet


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

August 2, 2013

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Ratchet