New post coming soon, until then read this by @KnoxBeerSnobs:

June 17, 2013

Knoxville Craft Beer Week as written by the Knox Beer Snobs. 

Also if you are not a member of the Knox Beer Crew, this is a good time to come join us and see what we are all about. Here is a copy of the email announcing our next tasting.

Hello Everyone.  Hope you are all doing well & getting excited about Knoxville Beer Week! We are looking forward to our June tasting and just wanted to send out the final details regarding the event. 

This event will take place on Sunday, June 23rd, starting at 3pm at Sunspot’s new location, 2200 Cumberland Avenue. We are going to meet on the upstairs patio. This is a non-style specific tasting, so bring what you will.
Since this is taking place during KNOXVILLE CRAFT BEER WEEK, and is listed as an OFFICIAL EVENT, we want to make sure to do it up right! Please spread the word and invite your friends. However, we want to make sure everyone knows what the KNOX BEER CREW is all about. We are Knoxville’s premier group of craft beer lovers. We search high and low to find and share unique beers and our monthly tastings. Attendees are expected to bring beer to share. It is HIGHLY encouraged that you try to bring something that is not available here in Knoxville at our local stores so that everyone can experience something new. We are encouraging people to let their friends know about this and invite anyone they would like to come. Let’s share our love of craft beer!
Come hungry as the Sunspot has a killer menu! We want to show our $upport to this fine establishment that is so graciously allowing us use of the space. They also have one of the best draft beer selections at both the upstairs and downstairs bar. The new limited edition KNOXVILLE CRAFT BEER WEEK Glasses will be available for purchase. $10 gets you the glass, a full pour of your choice and the satisfaction of knowing that a portion of the proceeds goes towards the TN Craft Brewer’s Guild, a group dedicated to getting some of this state’s stupid beer laws changed.
Since it is KCBW, we want to do something a little different for this tasting. How many of us have extra beer and brewery related glassware, stickers, shirts, coasters and other swag we’ve accumulated? Bring your extras and let’s have a swap meet! This goes for bottles of hard to find beer too! When someone ask you where you got that rare bottle or those cool glasses, you can proudly say “I traded for it!”
 
The last thing we want to mention is that this event will be held outside, rain or shine. Either way, it’s sure to be hot! We are putting out a call to bring pop-up canopies, camping chairs and maybe a fold up table or 2. If you can contribute, pleaselet us know. We appreciate your help on this.
 
Hope to see everyone there! 
 
One last note: IF YOU ARE PLANNING ON ATTENDING, PLEASE REPLY TO THIS EMAIL!!! THE BAR WILL NEED A HEAD COUNT IN ORDER TO PREPARE. THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT.

 

I know this wasn’t a real post, but I felt I have gone to long without an update. I’m working on a new post on my trials and tribulations of getting my nano-brewery off the ground. Be on the lookout for it in the next couple of days.
Until then, this is what I have fermenting at “The Brewery on High
20 Gallons Russian Imperial Stout
20 Gallons of Anglophile Jerry’s ESB
5 Gallons Orbital IPA
5 Gallons Smokin’ Hops IPA
Kegs:
Rauchbier
Chocolate Covered Strawberry Stout
Skulf IPA
ABCC IPA
Skulf IPA dry hopped with Belma
Maibock
Apricot Honey Lager
Honey Lager
Honey Agave Strawberry lager.
Which of these will I be serving at Knox Brew Fest on the 29th? You’ll just have to buy a ticket and see.
Cheers,
Ratchet

Last day of our #AvlBeerWeek Beercation and goodbye to Asheville (for now).

June 2, 2013

The last day of #AvlBeerWeek and our beercation did not start in typical fashion. We had stayed out pretty late and drank many beers the night before. Luckily I properly hydrated and took my vitamin supplements, so no hangover. However, because of the time we ended up sleeping in. We woke up with very little time to get ready for the first activity of the day; our planned tour of Riverbend Malt House.

They sell directly to homebrewers as well!

They sell directly to homebrewers as well!

Rushing to get there for the 11  am tour, we arrived 20 minutes late. We were able to walk through and catch the tour in progress in the germination room.

germination

Traditional floor malting

Co-founder Brian Simpson was talking the assembled group through the malting process. He described where the grains come from, how they are germinated and how long it takes. He also told us of their capacity and about some of the trials and tribulations they faced as a new business. We from the germination room to the next area of the malt house where they dry and kiln the grain. Riverbend’s other co-founder Brett Manning walked us through this part of the process. I took a small video of him describing how and why they kiln the malt.

I found the tour and close look at the equipment very informative. Once this year’s NC hop harvest comes in, I’d love to brew a beer with them and Riverbend’s malt. The tour ended and we headed back to the hotel to update the blog and get ready for Beer City Fest.

Beer City Fest

Beer City Fest!

Beer City Fest is the big ending for Asheville Beer Week. All the breweries in the area set up on Roger McGuire Green downtown. This was the 4th annual edition of this festival. Asheville happened to lose the online “Beer City Poll” this year to Grand Rapids Michigan, but that in no way takes away from what this jewel of a city has to offer. This years festival was bigger and better with all the breweries bringing their ‘A’ game.

The day was hot, and we spent time walking around trying many great beers and socializing with friends. Katie’s favorite beer at the festival was Holy City’s Fancy Stout, a big badass caramel stout. My favorite was Nantahala Brewing Company’s Trail Magic 5, a crisp, refreshing saison brewed with honeysuckle flowers painstakingly picked by head brewer Greg Geiger. Here’s a quick video of him talking about that beer.

What really surprised me about the festival were the people who would come up and say hi and tell me that they love reading my blog. Every time that happened, it really made my day.  I made sure to give everyone who did that one of my refrigerator magnets I keep in my pocket.  I also met Mags Bonham and her husband who had traveled all the way from Vermont for Asheville Beer Week. Of course, since they were from Vermont, I talked to them about my favorite IPA, Heady Topper. Mags makes some really cool hop jewelry, so check out her etsy page and tell her I sent you. I also want to give a big shout out to my buddy Trevor who offered me more sunblock. I had layered up back at the hotel, but I needed that recharge. After a few hours of walking in the heat and drinking beer, we were exhausted. We elected to leave the festival an hour early to take a nap in the air-conditioned hotel room. I set my alarm and passed right out. Later when showering and getting ready to go back out, it dawned on my why I was able to fall asleep for my nap so quickly. In the rush of everything, I had neglected my morning coffee.

After recharging at the hotel, we headed back out. Our friends from the Knox Beer Crew, Matt, Krissy, Jason and Beverley were in town. They were out in West Asheville eating, and we thought we’d do the same. Katie is big on Mexican food (I joke that a majority of her diet is nachos) so we headed out to a spot recommended by many locals, Papas and Beer. With a name like that, how could we go wrong?  We arrived and went inside and was seated within 5 minutes. I looked at the beer selection, and better than your typical Mexican restaurant, I was a little disappointed. Not that the craft beer selection they had was bad, but they only had 4 local craft beers on tap. I don’t know, maybe with a name like Papas and BEER, my expectations were too high. I still didn’t feel like drinking, so I stuck with water. The food was really good, and Katie was able to get her daily margarita fix. After eating, we made a quick pit stop at Appalachian Vintner to pick up a few more things for a friend back home. By this time, I had room for desert, and since we wanted to experience as much as Asheville as possible on our last night, we headed to The Hop on Merrimon avenue. This was another locally recommended spot. I thought they had beer flavored ice cream, but there wasn’t any. Hey locals, am I getting this place confused with somewhere else? I specifically remember having beer ice cream at one of the local beer events. Anyway, no beer ice cream, but we did get a small scoop of some delicious flavors. Next we parked back at the hotel and headed over to meet our friends at The Thirsty Monk. The Monk Pub was packed, but we only had to wait a few minutes to be let inside. We settled sat at a table with our friends downstairs and enjoyed a beer. It was hot and one of our friends wasn’t feeling good, so they didn’t stay long. They said their goodbyes and Katie and I finished our beer and headed out for more last night adventures. We hailed a cab from downtown to the Wedge Brewery. We arrived around 10:45 and realized they had closed at 10. Is it just me, or I do I remember wrongly the Wedge staying open later than that on a weekend night? Anyway, we hopped back in the cab and went back downtown. We walked over to the Vault on Rankin for a drink. One drink later, we hit up the Sky bar. We liked the patio, but as we sat for 15 minutes wondering why no one was taking our drink order, one of the locals told me they were closing for the night. That was fine with me because after blowing through my savings this week, I wasn’t really looking forward to spending $12 on a cocktail. At this point we were exhausted and went back to the hotel. I feel asleep in short order.

So here I am at Wall Street Coffee House writing this post and looking back on this week. I sure had a great time and will miss being here. Luckily I live only an hour and 45 minutes away. There are many places and breweries that I wanted to visit, but haven’t had the chance. This just gives me another excuse to come back as soon as possible. Until then, I will miss the food, the beer but most importantly my friends both newly made and long time known. Without y’all, Asheville wouldn’t be what it is. Anytime y’all want to come over the mountain, let me know. I have space for you to stay and would love to show you around our “Scruffy City.”

Before I end this post, I want to personally thank Dr. Patel and the staff at Downtown Inn and Suites for making our week-long stay wonderful. Sure there are fancier hotels in the area but as far as cleanliness, location, friendliness of staff and affordability, you really can’t beat staying here. Even if  I suddenly and expectantly became filthy rich, I would continue to book rooms at this fine establishment.

Alright Beer City, until next time…

Cheers,

Ratchet


Recap of Friday, Day 5 and 2nd to last day of our #AVLBeerWeek #Beercation

May 31, 2013

Friday morning found us back at Izzy’s Coffee Den. We had actually gotten a late and barely had time to enjoy our drinks as we worked on the blog. Before we knew it, it was time to go to the next event. We had recieved a private invitation to attend Digital Relativity’s Beer Marketing (That Doesn’t Suck!) workshop. This event took place on the 10th floor of the Hotel Indigo. Arriving to complimentary valet parking for attendees, we were escorted to a posh condo overlooking Asheville. Many of other other friends in the beer industry were there. Brewers, venue owners, marketing and sales reps, and of course, bloggers. Leading the workshop was none other then Pat Strader. We’ve both know of each other and have been friends on untappd, but this was the 1st time meeting in real life. Pat walked us through an informative 2 hour presentation while we sipped beer and snacked. I learned quite a bit from this workshop and plan on implementing some of his suggestions as soon as possible. Being that it was going to be a very busy day, so of the brewery reps had to excuse themselves early to get ready for various events they were hosting around town. We had planned on taking a trip on the Pisgah Brewing to see our friend Gaines and to take a short tour and purchase some rare bottles. We realized how short we were on time. Gaines was at the workshop and apologized that he wouldn’t be bale to take us on a tour but he would make sure to let other people at the brewery know we were coming so they could show us around. As we left Hotel Indigo, Julie from Bruisin Ales told us that she had just gotten a shipment of the rare bottles from Pisgah the day before. We elected to go there instead and picked up a few other things that had just came in as well. By now we were hungry and Katie always craves Panda Express when we are in town, so we headed over to the Asheville Mall so she could get her fix and I could pick up a new cord for my beleagered computer. After getting her food to go, and a quick stop at Radio Shack, we headed back to the hotel to prepare for the Asheville Rare and Wild Beer tasting event. We could see the line forming from our hotel balcony.

It didn't suck

It didn’t suck

At 6 pm we walked the few short blocks to The Mill Room where The Asheville Rare and Wild Beer Tasting was taking place. This was a small event with only 250 tickets sold and many breweries brought their rarest creation. Many of the bottles and kegs were the last ones in existence. We walked around seeking out the rarest of the rare and were joined at the event by our #KnoxBeerCrew buddies Todd & Joey. It seemed like everyone at tasting knew each other. This tasting was put together & sponsored by All About Beer Magazine with a portion of the ticket sales going to Pints for Prostates, an organization that focuses on men’s health issues. I really enjoyed the event. Most of the beers will never be brewed again, the food was amazing and hanging out, meeting and socializing with everyone was great. The only thing I thought could be done better next time is to extend the time the event runs. With over 30 different beers being served, the 3 hours alotted was just not enough time to responsibly sample everything that I wanted to.

When the event ended at 9, we got our group of friends together and decided to go to Wicked Weed to enjoy thier new collaboration with Foothills, Batch 69. I had glasses, stickers, magazines and other swag from the event, so I headed to the hotel to drop it off while Katie, Joey and Todd went to WW. I took a few minutes to freshen up, drink some more Emergen-C and down the last of my multi-vitamins. I arrived to find Wicked Weed packed, as is typical on a Friday night. I bluffed my way pass 2 sets of door guys by telling them I was already seated with my friends and had just walked out for a moment. This allowed my to bypass the line and go immediately to drink with my buddies (yeah I know, I suck.) I bought a half pour of Batch 69. This beer is a combination of Wicked Weed’s Freak of Nature Triple IPA and Foothill’s famous Sexual Chocolate, brewed and combined together at the same time. It was incredibly delicious and I may or may not have purchased a mini-growler to share with friends back in Knoxville. I spoke with Luke (who I almost didn’t recognize at first due to his 70s costume and wig) about this beer. I asked why they didn’t name it Sexual Freak. He laughed and said that is what they considered at first but knew it would be too risque. It just so happed to be the 69th batch brewed by Wicked Weed, so it was just fitting to call it that.

We sat around enjoying each others company and beer. I was happy to see that Todd was having an indepth conversation with Mitch Steele, while Katie spoke and hung out with Abby, Luke’s wife. Aaron and Stephanie Carson came to hang out as well. There was a band playing funk jams. They were really good, and afterwards hip hop music played while inebriated patrons got down and danced. It was getting late and around 1 pm we headed towards The Thirsty Monk for 1 last beer. Katie did her best to heard us 3 big drunk guys down the road and keep us out of trouble or from falling off the sidewalk. We got to the Thirsty Monk to find it closed (again!). Instead we headed across the road to Jack of the Woods. After one last beer it was time to pass out. We said our goodnights to Joey and Todd and passed out almost immediately.

Today is another big day. We are going to take a quick tour of Riverbend Malt House and then get ready for Beer City Festival. That runs until 6, and we’ll see if we can make it the whole time. Other Knox Beer Crew friends of ours such as Matt and Krissy Crowell and Jason and Beverly Anderson are coming in for the day. They will be bar hopping while we are at the fest, and we have plans to hang out tonight. Since this is our last day of beercation, we plan to make the most of it. Tune back in tomorrow for a recap, and in the mean time, check out my untappd check ins to see what delicious brews I’m consuming. There is also my twitter feed and the #AvlBeerWeek tag to follow as well.

See you at the fest!

Cheers,

-Ratchet

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Recap of Thursday, Day 4 of our @AvlbeerWeek beercation. @CatawbaBeer

May 30, 2013

IMG_4493

Yesterday started off in typical fashion with the hunt for coffee. Being away from my cold, dark room at home makes it a little bit more difficult to sleep as long as I would like to in a hotel. My body woke up promptly at 7:15 and wouldn’t allow me to go back for a few more hours. I grabbed my computer and snuck out of the hotel to let Katie finish snoozing.

Since I’m in town and am looking for new experiences, I thought I’d try a different coffee shop other than Izzy’s. Checking “the Google“, I decided to head over to High Five based on their online ratings. They serve counter-culture coffee, which is one of my favorite fair-trade organic brands. Being that it was morning and I could already feel the heat of the day approaching, I opted for an iced coffee, sat down with my drink, and settled in to write my post.

An hour later, my Internet privileges had expired, so I went to the counter to purchase something else. The staff there told me how to get back online, and after struggling with it for five minutes, I asked someone who worked there for assistance. They were very helpful and I was able to get back online and continue writing. About this time, Katie had awoken and texted me. I told her where I was and she came to meet me and help me work on my blog. She is one helluva great editor when it comes to my somewhat rambled and disjointed writings. (She insisted I take this part out but I won’t let her.)

We worked until it was time to leave to go to meet with Billy Pyatt at Catawba Valley Brewing Company in Morganton, N.C. Located an hour east from Asheville, Catawba Valley is one of the local craft beer brands that has been available in Knoxville for as long as I can remember. Back when the only place to get a craft beer was Barley’s, I fondly remember nights of drinking their Firewater IPA. So, when we ran into Billy when we came into town on Monday and he graciously extended his invitation to visit, that made it to the top of our Must-Do list.

The drive over didn’t seem to take long at all, and we arrived in downtown Morganton at Catawba’s spacious location. Billy was expecting us and warmly greeted us at the door. He was finishing up a phone meeting with a new distributor, so we had time to admire their set up and take a few pictures.

Billy didn’t keep us waiting more than a minute or two, and started off the tour by telling us about Catawba’s Asheville expansion. For those of you who haven’t heard, Catawba Valley is opening a small 7-barrel specialty brewery in the space across the street from French Broad Brewery, in Asheville’s Biltmore district.

As we spoke, we walked around and he showed us a few critical pieces of Catawba’s infrastructure, such as the grain hopper, glycol system, and their 10-barrel brewhouse. We met with Scott, Billy’s brother, co-owner, and head brewer, while he was finishing up a batch of their famous King Coconut Porter. I always find the smell of cooking wort intoxicating. As he opened the brew kettle, I took a big whiff. I love that smell!

Having grown organically over the years, it seemed Billy and Scott had a story about each and every piece of equipment over the years. For example, I noticed a big, tall, 40-barrel fermenter looming ahead. Billy told us the story of how that used to be one of Highland Brewery’s first fermenters back when they were brewing in the basement of Barley’s.He said it sat abandoned for years and it was a three-day, slow, meticulous process to remove it from the building so that they could put it back to use at Catawba.

Billy also pointed out various fermenters that they were testing or were planning to install at the new locale. As everyone who is familiar with Catawba knows, when it comes to packaging, not only are their increasingly popular beers available on draft at locations throughout the southeast, but they are also a packaging brewery that opts to can their beer.

We worked our way over toward their rather impressive and relatively new canning line. Billy walked us through each step of the process, going as far as canning up a special can of Catawba Valley canning line water to bestow upon my Khaleesi. She was pretty excited.

It takes about one to one and a half seconds per can to fill and seal. As quickly as they can can the beer, the labeling process is a whole lot more tedious. Each label is applied manually by hand. For each twenty barrel batch of beer that is canned, Billy advises that it takes their employee a solid three days to apply all the labels to a batch. But man, does it look good! Catawba is also very adamant about the quality of their beer and they weigh each individual can to make sure not one single customer will ever be shorted.

Next, we walked through a secret door and ended up, low and behold, in their tasting room. I can definitely imagine this being THE place to spend your weekend nights. Actually, unbeknownst to us, Billy is very familiar with this building. Having grown up in the area, he used to visit this very space back in his high school days when it was a BYOB honky-tonk dive, “Slick Willie’s”. Needless to say, it’s come a long way since then!

Weeks are filled with event nights in the tasting room, everything from Thursday open-mike nights, to traveling bands, to wedding and corporate receptions. While food isn’t offered, the small-town feel of Morgantown really comes alive with the fact that so many catering options are available. We didn’t want to impose for too long, as Billy’s a very busy man, and as we were saying our goodbyes, he kindly offered a six pack of our choice to take with us. We both agreed – Firewater IPA.

Right before we left, he recommended his favorite local eatery, Pat’s Snack Bar, to fill our bellies before the drive back home. Once again, I really want to thank Billy and Scott for their gracious hospitality. We cannot wait to come and visit their new Asheville location when it opens in August. Here’s a small clip to show you how contagious Billy’s enthusiasm can be.

After the visit to Morganton, we drove back and took a quick swim at the hotel before preparing ourselves to go back out again. There were (as usual) plenty of events that were going on that evening, so we wanted to hit as many of them as possible.

We first visited the new wine/beer bar, Weinhaus on Coxe Avenue close to the Monk. I’ve visited this shop often over the years, when it simply a bottleshop and not a bar. I can remember, over 10 years ago, buying Highland bombers for $3 or $4 each, going back and selling them to my buddies for a flat $5 (to make up the gas money, of course). Tonight, the Oskar Blues rep Amy was hosting a pint night. So we headed into Amy’s Weinhaus to take a quick video (as seen below) and sample the Chardonnay-barrel aged Mama’s YellaPils, as well as one of my favorite high gravity IPAs, Gubnah.

I spoke with the store manager, and Amy’s boss, Chris Russell the Oskar Blues Southeast sale manager on our way out. Khaleesi and I talked his ear off about how excited we were that they had joined with Lipman Brother’s Distributing and were going to be a part of the Knox beer culture soon! I heard that cans are already starting to show up in the big stores like Kroger, having been at The Casual Pint and a few other of our favorite beer stores for a few weeks now.

Thursday was one of the busiest days of Ashville Beer Week schedule-wise, with many events going on within walking distance. Although the Highland Brewing Company Six Barrel Shoot-Out was at the top of our list, we elected to skip it due to location and to keep from having to drive. As we left Amy’s Weinhaus heading toward Barleys, who would we run into again other than our good buddies and Stone Stalkers. We paused for a quick pic, to show a few of my Knox Beer Crew buddies like Todd and Jason what they were missing out on.

Look who we keep running in to.

Look who we keep running in to.

We told Scott and Mitch we’d catch up later (surely) and headed down the road. We arrived at Barley’s too late to meet with the crew of All About Beer, who had invited us to a small event they were doing for Rare and Wild Beer Tasting ticket holders. However, we arrived just in time for the upstairs Foothills Brewing and New Belgium Tap Takeover.

We grabbed seats and I settled up to the bar when I noticed they had this year’s Sexual Chocolate, as well as the 2012 batch. While waiting for the bartender, I chatted with Evan, the Foothills representative. He told me to get the Olde Rabbit’s Foot, which is probably the rarest of the rare when it comes to North Carolina beer. He told me how he had to pull some serious strings and do a lot of pleading to get the brewery to agree to send one small keg to Barley’s for the event. This is the first time his beer has been poured outside either one of the three breweries that produced it. For those of you who don’t know, Olde Rabbit’s Foot is a collaborative effort between Foothills, Olde Hickory, and Duck Rabbit. They combine Sexual Chocolate, Event Horizon, and the DR Signature Milk Stout into the best-tasting bourbon-barrel aged imperial stout I’ve ever had in my life. It was so good that the little devil on my shoulder was trying to tell me to smuggle a growler of this out of the bar to share with my #KnoxBeerCrew pals. The devil on my other shoulder told me to do it to, but I realized how big of an inconvenience it would be, so I just let it go.

We enjoyed our beers at Barley’s while hanging out with crews from both New Belgium and Foothills. It turns out there are quite a few New Belgium people in town from the main plant in Fort Collins, including one of the head brewers, Alex, who, someone who isn’t used to being interviewed or the “face” of New Belgium because of all his behind-the-scenes work. I was able to take a few videos, as seen below.

We then stopped by Jack of the Wood for the Mitch Steele Extravaganza. The chefs had prepared a special menu to pair with some rare Stone beers. Katie opted for the burger and I got an order of the most epic onion rings I’ve ever had in my life, complete with Arrogant Bastard ketchup. We said a quick hello to Mitch and Scott and headed on to our next destination, Wicked Weed.

Everyone knows that Wicked Weed brews some epic saisons, and for this event, they had pulled a keg for pretty much every one they’d ever brewed. We met up with our good friends, the Reinkes, and pulled up seats next to them on the back patio. Adam introduced us to Brent from Riverbend Malt House. I’ve been particularly excited to tour this facility tomorrow before the Beer City Fest. We didn’t get to spend a lot of time in discussion, but am really looking forward to learning more in a just a few hours.

Everyone ended up ordering different saison batches and pass them all around, so we could try to sample them all. I was most with impressed with the V Chocolate and Raspberry Saison they had originally brewed for Valentine’s Day this year. Katie particularly enjoyed the X Passion Fruit Saison. She loves farmhouse ales so was thrilled to participate in this even. Honestly, all of the beers were incredibly great and I was happy to have the opportunity to sample most of them.

At this point it was getting late and we wanted to have one last beer at the Thirsty Monk before we called it a night. However, on par with every other night this week, we arrived at the pub just a few minutes after last call of the night. Accepting fate, we headed back to the hotel where we finished the night off with a bottle of Weyerbacher’s Heresy.

It was a long day, but a good day, and the big plan for tonight is the Asheville Rare & Wild Beer Tasting. Some of our#KnoxBeerCrew buddies are coming up for this event, I’m hoping that when the event ends at 9, we’ll still be physically able to walk over to Wicked Weed for the Batch 69 release, the collaboration between Foothills Brewing Company’s Sexual Chocolate and Wicked Weed’s Freak of Nature IPA. Make sure to check back tomorrow for more stories from#AVLBeerWeek. In the meantime, click the pictures below, and feel free to leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers!

Ratchet


Recap of Wednesday, day 3 of our @AvlbeerWeek beercation. @AppVintner

May 30, 2013

Once again I started the day off in the search of coffee. Having became a big fan of Izzy’s Coffee Den’s Mexican Mocha, I knew exactly where to head in my pre-caffeinated state. This time I was able to convince the beautiful Katie Khaleesi to accompany me. While we drank our coffees and worked with my crappy laptop, she read my copy of The Naked Pint.

After struggling once again with computer issues, I finally was able to get most of yesterday’s post written. By that time, K had an appointment at Spa Theology (girls do different things on vacation). I headed back to the land of slow wi-fi (the hotel) to finish uploading files. While Katie was getting her relax-on, I had gotten a text from my good friend and fellow Knox Beer Crew member, Jason Smith, saying he was making a day trip to Asheville for Beer Week! Cool!

After Katie’s spa trip and my technological hassles, it was time to go out and get beer. First on the agenda was the Asheville Brewing Company release of Reinke’s Red Ale. This batch was local homebrewer, BJCP judge and Asheville Beer Week Committee member Adam Reinke’s recipe brewed on ABC’s 7-barrel system. As a homebrewer myself I realize what a great honor it is to have a pro-brewer like your beer enough to want to brew it on their system. We had to go show our support. However, once again I messed up on the timing of the event and we ended up there an hour early. Since we had some time to kill, we walked over to Wicked Weed to have a quick half pour. We arrived and went to the downstairs bar and were greeted by Walt. We talked for a little bit, but I could tell by all the activity that they were in the middle of a full fledged brew day. He told us to try the super rare Ryes Above brewed by New Belgium. Only seven barrels of this was ever brewed and Wicked Weed just had to have some left over from an event. Wow, it was amazing. Kat ordered the Coolcumber American Golden because the description sounded like the perfect drink for a hot day. We shared our beers like we always do. I have to say that every time I drink something produced by the Wicked Weed guys, I’m blown away by the quality, originality, skill and taste of what they brew. Well, about this time, I ran into Luke, who was a whirlwind of activity back in the brewing area. I’m not the kind of guy who wants to distract someone in the middle of a project. I said hello and told him I knew he was busy, but asked if he would mind filming a little something for the website. He was happy to take a few moments out of his busy work day. The results are posted below.

After the video, Luke asked if we have tried the Freak of Nature Triple IPA. We said we had not, but we were definitely planning on it. He went to the bar and graciously poured us a couple of samples. While we sipped on this incredibly delicious concoction, he told us all about it. This is a high grav IPA that hides its alcohol behind a plethora of dry hops. We were stunned by how good it was. Just writing this post makes me want to put away the computer and high tail it back there for some more. So seriously, I can’t recommend this beer enough. Go try it yourself and thank me later.

With a lot on the agenda, it was time for the next event. We picked up Jason at Asheville Brewing Company where we had parked and was sampling some brews. The previous day, Kat had spoken to Elizabeth of Boulevard Brewing at the Belgians at the Ballpark. She had told her about an event at Altamont Brewing Company that was not on the ABW website. K looked it up online and we stopped over for a quick drink and to check it out. we arrived and I walked up to the bar with Jason. Could my eyes deceive me? I pointed to a tap handle. “Do you see that?!?” I asked him. “Next to the 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat?” “No, no, on the other side of that one.” “OH. MY. GOD!” Yes, ladies and gentlemen, they had Foothill’s Sexual Chocolate ON TAP!!! Let me tell you, Ashevillians who have it so good, we Knoxville beer geeks go out of our way for this beer. We don’t have it like y’all. You would be surprised what doesn’t make it to the other side of the mountains. For many of us, like Jason, this is our Carolina white whale. Usually when this is released each year, caravans of Knoxville craft beer lovers make a pilgrimage just to track down the illusive tapping. Forget about bottles, many of us would trade a body part for one. While Jason and I enjoyed our find, Kat and Boulevard’s Elizabeth talked about the other rare selections on tap. Boulevard had a sessionable test beer called Nelson Grape Ale. It was a light summer beer brewed with Nelson Sauvin hops and Muscat grape juice. It was very thirst-quenching and it very awesome to get to try a rare test batch. Other brewery representatives were in attendance, such as my buddy Erica from Highland. Most of the beers on tap were rarities. It was so nice to sit around sippin’ and socializin’. Altamont was hosting a cook out in the parking lot and processing chickens out there as well. I ran into head brewer and all around cool guy Gordon Kear and talked him into a doing a short video. Here it is in all its glory.

With so much to do, it was time to hit the next event. We headed off to Appalachian Vintner for their mini-fest. On the way we took a quick pit stop at Hops & Vines to peruse their bottle selection. Jason picked up one of the last six packs of Sierra Nevada‘s six-year Bigfoot Barley wine vertical.

We arrived to find Appalachian Vintner the most packed I’ve ever seen it. They pulled out all stops getting rare beers from Sierra Nevada, Foothills, and Starpoint brewery. We settled up to the bar and made our selections. I went with a Starpoint Duh! DIPA. Kat chose a cask-edition, dry-hopped Hoppyum, and Jason went with Mornin’ Wood Double IPA.

With beer in hand, we carefully weaved our way in and out of shoppers to review their expansive selection of rare craft beer. I had already had some items on the list I had planned to pick up for friends, but due to the crowd, I decided to put off the majority of my bottle shopping for later on in the week. Kat, however, couldn’t pass up a few sours and farmhouse ales that are unable to be obtained in Knoxville.

At this point, I realized that time had gotten away from me again. While my good friend, Adam Reinke’s Red IPA was being poured at Asheville Brewing Company, Mitch Steele from Stone Brewing Company had already begun his meet and greet at Bruisin’ Ales. As we were getting ready to pay for our beers and be on our way, I was able to spend some time with Appalachian Vintner, owner, Charles Alexander, speaking with him about his store and their events for Asheville Beer Week. Below is a short video of the conversation.

Before we ventured on to Bruisin’, going and trying Adam’s beer was next on the list. We walked into ABC and it was packed. Adam, his wife Missy, and their friends and family were already at the front table enjoying a pitcher of the infamous brew. As I headed to the bar to get some glasses, Adam made sure to tell me to grab a Reinke Red Ale shirt. I was thrilled, as usual, to receive another ABC shirt, additionally, one touting my friend’s brewery release.

As I was chatting with other ABC employees, Mark a friend of Adam’s, dove into discussion with Kat and Jason about a caravan to our Scruffy City this summer to tour the breweries and taprooms we have in the great city of Knoxville. Tentatively planned for the end of July, we’ll make sure to let everybody know so we can show our good friends from the other side of the mountains just how we do things on our side of the Smokies.

So, how was Adam’s beer? If I had to describe it in one word, I’d say “phenomenal”. Very well-balanced maltiness, tons of hop aroma, and dangerously drinkable. There were only seven barrels brewed, and it’s sure to go quick. Make sure to get down there and get yourself a glass or three before it’s all gone. To hear more about it from Adam’s perspective, check out this video we filmed back in the back of the brewery.

As much as we wanted to stay and socialize, I didn’t want to miss out on the meet-and-greet with the legendary Mitch Steele. Saying our goodbyes and making plans to meet up again later this week, we headed the few short blocks away to Bruisin’ Ales.

I expected it to be standing-room-only, but being that it was near the end of the event and close to closing time, most of the crowd had dissipated. More time for me!

We started off saying hello to all our staff member friends, and introduced ourselves to Mitch and the Southeastern Stone brewery representative, Scott. I had met Mitch previously back in October at GABF where I got him to sign a copy of his book, IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale. It was, of course, great to see him again, especially in a more intimate setting where we’d have more time to chat.

Mitch is very personable, outgoing, down-to-earth, and loves what he does. They were pouring samples of four of Stone’s flagship beers: Sublimely Self-Righteous, IPA, Cali-belgique IPA, and Ruination. Mitch was more than happy to speak to me about his experience as Stone’s Head Brewer, and the research and development that went into writing his IPA book, as seen in the video below.

As I was speaking with Mitch, Katie and Scott had struck up a conversation about his role as the Southeastern representative (what do you know, sales and marketing folks tend to flock together). Here she is speaking with him on camera and enjoying some of the brew.

We met many other friends and fellow beer-geeks, such as the president of MALT (Mountain Ale and Lager Tasters). We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation with him and trying his brew at Beer City Festival this upcoming Saturday.

We said our goodbyes to Mitch and Scott, and joined Jason and his mother for dinner at Lab, secretly hoping we’d run into to Mitch and Scott again. I sampled Lab’s Rye Pale Ale, while the others took a break from beer for a bit. And who would you guess that walked into Lab as we finished our meal, but Mitch and Scott. We exchanged helloes with them, goodbyes with Jason and his mom, and headed back to the hotel to regroup for our next adventure. Katie took a dip in the pool while I uploaded some photos and videos for my much-beloved blog readers, and about 10:30, we headed out again to Thirsty Monk.

We found that downstairs still had the same selection of Allagash and New Belgium beers that we’d had previously, so in our quest to try as many unique (and rare) beers as possible, we went to check the tap selection upstairs, where there was a Bell’s Brewery tap takeover in progress. Finding that the kegs had blown of the ones we were the most interested in, we opted for a quick half-pour of Oarsman Ale, and made the decision to head back over to Wicked Weed before they closed. Once again, as we were leaving, we ran into our new Stone stalkees. We tried to get them to join us at the Weed, but having planned that for their schedule the next day, we went on without them.

Arriving back at our newest go-to spot, we opted for some sours. I got the Apricot Darkness sour, while my beautiful Khaleesi chose the Wild Abigail Sour Dubbel. Both were tasty, tart, and triumphant. At this point, it was nearly time to close, so after visiting briefly with Luke’s wife, Abby, we headed back to the hotel.

After all the beer and adventures of the day, we passed out in short order. It’s hard to believe that our beercation is half-way over, but I have to say, it’s been nothing but awesome so far, however, I’m looking forward to the second half, beginning with today’s tour of Catawba. Honestly, there are so many events that it’s hard to keep straight, so make sure to tune in tomorrow for details. However, be sure to follow the twitter and untapped feeds for exclusive first-looks at the videos, prior to being published on the blog. Also make sure to check out #avlbeerweek on Twitter to see how other beer fanatics are celebrating, and don’t forget to tweet us if you’re in the area. We’d love to meet up and have a beer with you! Below are pictures of yesterday’s adventures; click to enlarge.

Cheers,
Ratchet


Recap of Tuesday, day 2 of our #AVLBeerWeek beercation

May 28, 2013

Yesterday started off for me like most days do. When I wake up, two thoughts immediately come to mind: food, coffee. It doesn’t matter what order they are in as long as they pretty much around the same time. The hotel had the complimentary breakfast, but I knew that I’d have to walk to get a good cup of joe. I grabbed my laptop and headed towards my favorite morning locale, the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. I arrived and in my groggy pre-coffee state was confounded by the fact that the door was locked. I then noticed the sign that they don’t open until 11. “What sort of trickery is this?” I thought. I. NEED. COFFEE!!! It then occurred to me that I could look up other coffee shops on my iBrain. “Siri, what is the best coffee shop in Downtown Asheville?” “Looking up beast pooping spots in Downton Abbey.” “Siri… I hate you.”

I then decided to use what the old folks commonly refer to as “The Google“. I did a search for coffee and Izzy’s Coffee Den was at the top of the list with glowing reviews. I walked over, bought an iced Mexican Mocha and settled in to write. My blog post took forever to get together. Mostly because I am using a laptop from 2007, which is approximately 23 in techno-years. It does things like overheat, shut off at random, freeze up and generally be a pain in the ass. I’m currently writing the second  third draft of this post having lost my first one two.

Two iced Mochas later, I was pretty buzzed because I consumed four times the caffeine I normally do. I finished my post and headed over to Bruisin’ Ales for the ABA Hoppy Saison bottle release. As I hung out, sipped, and shopped, Channel 13 filmed a segment on the special beer. Watch the video and see if you recognize anyone. After making my purchases, I headed back to the hotel to meet back up with K and to proofread the blog one last time before publishing. It was 2 hours until Belgians at the Ball Park, so we had some time to spare. We stopped by the Thirsty Monk for the downstairs Allagash/New Belgium tap take over and both got a flight of 4 different and delicious beers. We also got hooked up with some cool posters and glassware. Khaleesi shot a quick video of me talking about my flight.

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After we drank our flights and stashed our beer swag back at the hotel, we headed over to Asheville Brewing Company’s Coxe Ave location for the Perfect Day IPA release. I brought a homebrew to give to Mike and hung out and spoke with him, Doug and the assistant brewers about the beer and future brewing plans. Mike gave me a shirt from the event. Unfortunately, they didn’t have one in Khaleesi’s size.

Mike Rangle finding me a shirt that will fit. ( Take a XL shirt but with size XXXL beer belly adapter.)

Mike Rangle finding me a shirt that will fit. ( I take a XL shirt but with size XXXL beer belly adapter.)

It was now time to walk the few blocks away to McCormick Field for the Bruisin Ales Belgians at the Ball Park event. This was something Kat and me had been really looking forward to. It turned out to be a small, intimate affair. There was an amazing beer selection, great food and camaraderie amongst the attendees. I met several brewers, representatives, and hung out with old friends. Honestly, I spend most of the time socializing and very little time paying attention to baseball. I know that the Asheville Tourist minor league team won, but that’s all I can really tell you about the game. Still, what an absolutely great time we had. We took a view videos as seen below. Katie did a great job on her first interview for the website. Check out her talking with Boulevard Brewing Company’s Elizabeth Belden.

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After the game was over, we headed back towards the hotel. At this point we were both hungry again, and Asheville Brewing Company was on the way. We stopped to have one last drink for the night and slice of pizza. By this point we were both tired and headed back to the hotel to sleep.

Today there is yet again many events to choose from. Adam Reinke’s Red Ale gets released at 4pm at Asheville Brewing Company, Appalachian Vintner is having a mini-fest at 5, and Mitch Steel from Stone is doing a book signing/ beer tasting at Bruisin Ales at 6. Add in the other various events around town and it’s another full day. Tune back in tomorrow to see where we’ve been and what we drank.  In the mean time, let me know you’re out there reading this. Please leave a comment below, We’d love to hear from you.

Click on the pictures below to enlarge.

Cheers,

-Ratchet


Recap of Monday, day 1 of our #AVLBeerWeek beercation

May 28, 2013

We planned to leave Knoxville at 12:30, but as most vacations go, we got a slightly late start and left Knoxville at 2:30. We made great time and it worked out that we arrived in Ashvegas a little bit after 4. That turned out to be alright, because that was the time that the ABA Hoppy Saison release party at Greenman kicked off. We skipped checking in to the hotel. The nice desk clerk laughed at me on the phone when I called to tell her we’d be checking in late, around 7 pm. I guess that’s not “late” in the hotel biz, I just didn’t want our room given away because we got considered a no-show. Yeah, I know I can be neurotic sometimes.

We drove straight to Dirty Jack’s, the Greenman tasting room. As soon as we parked and walked in, we were greeted by several of our Asheville beer friends. Right by the bar was Adam and Missy Reinke ordering their pours of ABA Hoppy Saison. We grabbed a table with them and were soon joined by Gary Glancy, another ABW guest blogger. Committee member Caroline Forsman was in attendance as well as Asheville Brewing Company’s Doug Riley and Mike Rangel. I also had a chance to meet and touch base with Asheville Ale Trail’s  Hilton Swing. It’s likely that I’ll be writing an exclusive report for his website, so be on the look out for it later this week.

As we sat at Dirty Jack’s enjoying the conversation and beer, I noticed on twitter that the only guest blogger I hadn’t yet met was in the house. I did not know what Sarah Spooner looked like, because on her twitter profile, half her face is covered. Katie made it her mission to determine which of the females at the bar she was, based on eyebrows. She struck out the first time and was convinced she finally knew who she was. She told me to go ask. After looking foolish the first time, I told her I wasn’t going to do it. She made a bet with me (don’t ask), that if I asked her if she was Sarah, and she was wrong, that I’d win the bet. Challenge accepted. Well K was right, and I got to meet and chat with my fellow guest blogger. I also need to make good on my bet (I haven’t forgotten darlin’).

I also spoke with Billy Pyatt of Catawba Brewing Company at length. This was the second time we’ve met, the first being at GABF in Denver last year. Catawba is opening an Asheville location and we spoke about the plans, the history of Catawba and what it takes to be a professional brewer. He also graciously extended an invitation to take Katie and me on an exclusive tour of their Morganton location. This is something we absolutely can not pass up, and we plan on working out the details with him today.

Greenman’s head brewer and local beer legend John Stuart was there as well. I know who John is, having seen him around, but I’ve never spoke or officially met him before. I introduced myself and tried not to sound like a gushing fanboy as I told him that his rare batch releases are my absolute favorite beers. I explained how I’ve had every one of the limited edition 750 ml bottles, going out of my way when necessary to procure them. He was very personable and we talked about his brewery, beer week and his decision to send his beers to Knoxville (thanks Tupelo Honey!)

After a few more half pours, we decided to check into our room and unpack. We checked the ABW event schedule to plan our next move. We saw that Barley’s was having a French Broad flight night with free glassware. We headed that way. Since it was 2 hours after the official start, all the free glassware was gone. This wasn’t completely unexpected. We both got a half pour of beer. I had Foothills Brewing’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout and Katie Khaleesi had Foothill’s Jade IPA. We looked at our plans. As we sat there, we thought, well maybe we could go across the street to Wicked Weed for another half pour, then hit up Thirsty Monk for the Rogue XS event. Katie had to go shopping for a bathing suit so she could lay out by the pool at the hotel (we are on vacation, after all). I noticed that where we were going was right next to Carolina Cinemas.

I had visited Carolina Cinemas on a previous trip to Asheville. I knew that they had a decent local draft beer selection. Since we we’re going to be out that way anyway, why not catch a movie? We skipped Wicked Weed and Thirsty Monk and headed over to see the Hangover Part III. I wanted to bring attention to this theater for other beer tourist such as myself who want another option for beer and entertainment. We arrived and approached the counter. “Is the manager around?” I asked. No, he just left, but I am the assistant. I explained who I was and that I was in town writing for the Asheville Beer Week website and wanted to ask him some questions about Carolina Cinemas and their beer selection. He gave me the manager’s card and told me to give him a call. I called up Greg and introduced myself. I asked if it was alright to speak with him and get some information about their operation. He was happy to talk to me. I asked about the beer selection, the decision process on behind what to carry and how they get the beer that they serve. He told me that they focus on local craft brews. Pretty much what they carry comes straight from the breweries themselves, with the exception of Catawba which comes through a distributor. I also asked if they get special limited releases. He told me that they do get some of the popular seasonals such as Highland’s highly sought after Cold Mountain. At the end of the conversation, he generously offered to comp our tickets for the showing. It was very much appreciated. We purchased a Shiva IPA for myself and K had Pisgah’s Nitro Stout. We walked into the theater and had the whole place to ourselves. Of course, this being a Monday night after a long holiday weekend, it wasn’t completely unexpected. A few more couples trickled in before the movie started. I’m a beer blogger and not a movie critic, but I will say that The Hangover III wasn’t all that great. It had a very flimsy premiese, rehashed jokes and none of the originality of part one. That being said, by all means see it and decide for yourself.

So if you are looking for something else to do while in town, don’t hesitate to hit up Carolina Cinemas. First run movies, great service, incredible beer at a very fair price of $5 a pint… you really can’t go wrong. We will definitely be back!

After the movie we hit up Wally World (yeah, I know, they suck) to get a few things. Sunblock, bathing suit etc. Well my darlin’ Khaleesi is kind of a candy addict. For months now she has been obsessing on “the great Skittles controversy“. Apparently Skittles have changed their green from lime to green apple (gasp!), making the original flavor a highly sought after collectible. Bags and boxes going for ridiculous amounts of money on eBay. She believes they have a shelf life of several years. She has also apparently been monitoring Skittles sales online and struggling with purchasing one of the last of the original 1 pound bags. Well at Wally World, we made a quick trip down the candy aisle. Low and behold, digging through the bags and boxes of Skittles, she hit pay dirt! Two big bags of original Skittles buried underneath the new ones. I thought she was going to cry. I’ve never seen a grown woman so happy to find candy. She looked through the 4 ounce boxes and found more with the original lime! Thirty dollars worth of candy later and we were on our way back to the hotel. It was around 12:30 at this time and we thought we’d go to The Monk for one last night cap. They were closed however, so we went back to rest up for today.

Next on the agenda is hitting up Bruisin’ Ales for some bottle shopping. At 4 pm, Asheville Brewing Company’s Perfect Day IPA is going on tap. Today’s big event is the Belgians at the Ballpark starting at 6pm. Nine innings, nine brewerys, food and 27 beers. Phew! Tickets are still available, and I’m sure this event will be epic! Depending on how things go, we may hit up a few other bars and breweries as well. Tune in tomorrow for recap of todays beer based adventures.

One more thing I’d like to mention. Not only are we here to drink great beer and hang out with our current friends, but to make new ones as well. If you read this blog and spot me out and about, please introduce yourself and say hi. If you do, I will hook you up with a little souvenir or something.

Well it’s off to Bruisin’ Ales. Make sure to follow the Asheville Beer Week Twitter feed as well as the hashtag #AVLBeerWeek. Follow along with me on my twitter feed and my untappd check ins as well.

Enjoy the pictures below. Click to enlarge.

Until tomorrow…

Cheers,

-Ratchet


It’s official! We’re in Asheville for #AVLBeerWeek !

May 27, 2013

We skipped checking in the hotel to go straight to Greenman’s Dirty Jack tasting room for the ABA Hoppy Saison release. Damn if it isn’t good! Here’s the first beer o’ our beercation:

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Katie and Myself’s first official beer of Asheville Beer Week. ABA’s Hoppy Saison.

Cheers to a great beer week with Adam & Missy Reinke.

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Cheers!

Achievement unlocked!

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Yes, I’ll admit my geekiness.

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I LOVE this place!

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Dirty Jack, Greenman’s tasting room.

More to come tomorrow!
I’ll try to publish by noon each day. Cheers!

-Ratchet


LIVE From the Tennessee Winter Beer Festival in Townsend #KnoxBeer

February 9, 2013

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

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

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

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

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Drinking games

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Calfkiller setting up

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

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Katie and Richard

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Marty Velas (center) and The Smoky Mountain Brewery crew

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Heidi & Nathan from The Casual Pint

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Shawn Kerr

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Erich From Studio Brew

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

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Volunteers checking people in.

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Calfkiller has amazing beer!

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

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Todd, El Presidente of The TN Winter Beer Festival Board

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deliciousness!

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

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

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Attendees enjoyed the beer and weather on the back patio

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Cheers!

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

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This gentleman looks like he is having a great time.

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

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

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

Bands provided the soundtrack to the fest.

Bands provided the soundtrack to the fest.

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

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First pour of Saw Works Bourbon Barrel Aged Double Chocolate Porter

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The Bourbon Barrel Aged Double Chocolate Porter ran out quickly.

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

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Food was provided upstairs

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

7 pm: Andy shares Cigars!

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

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

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Shawn drawing pictures for dirty pictionary.

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Rebecca Tatum hosted the games

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

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

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Happy Attendees

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Depot Street

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Chris who organizes Knoxville Brewers Jam grooving to some music.

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

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

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

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The bidding sheet for my homebrew

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Calfkiller wins the People’s choice award

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

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

Cheers

Ratchet


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.

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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