Day 2 of @AvlBeerWeek #Craftbeer #Beercation #AvlBeerWeek

May 25, 2014

So much fun. I could sum up yesterday with just those three words. I started the day off drinking coffee at my friend Wes’s house and writing yesterday’s post. I published it hastily so I could make it to Hi-Wire Brewing’s Ringmaster’s Reserve bottle release and brunch. Luckily they had wifi, so I was able to fix all my typos and add in the hyperlinks. Today I don’t know if I’ll have that luxury.

1st event of day 2!

1st event of day 2!

I enjoyed the event. There wasn’t any lines and I was able to get food and my bottles pretty easily. I sat down and enjoyed washing down my waffle covered in mango chutney with the belgian ipa. I could have stayed for hours, but it was time to meet up with Wes, Aaron, Rob and Das Krewe at Wedge Brewing for Just Economics Just Brew It homebrew festival.

Rob and I helped Wes pour his Scotchy Scotch Scotch Butterscotch Scotch ale and his Balls A’ Fire Cinnamon beer. Wes had made up his own infusion contraptions where the beer was poured through funnels full of butterscotch or red hot candies. By themselves, the infusions were a little to much, so we quickly settled on telling people to try the beer on it’s own and then to add a shot of the infusion. That seemed to be the magic combination, and Wes got many compliments on the brews.

Wes's booth and homemade infuser

Wes’s booth and homemade infuser

The best part of this festival was the creativity of the homebrewers. The recipes, the beer names, the signs were amazing. My favorite beer, name and sign of the fest belonged to Jay Love who brewed a session IPA called Lord Chugginton’s. I liked it so much I told him that I wanted to buy the name and recipe from him. He did give me his awesome sign for it.

My favorite beer of the festival

My favorite beer of the festival

As the festival proceeded in the dusty parking lot behind Wedge, Rob kept going to the brewery and buying us full beers. Here we were surrounded by free beer, yet he wanted full pints. Who am I to argue with the concept of that? At the end of the festival it was awards time. Wes won a trophy for most creative for his Scotchy Scotch Scotch! I was tired from being in the sun, and had sobered up, so I drove back to Wes’s house for a quick nap, a shower and a change of clothes. I needed to rally for the night! I had met so many cool people and made plans to hang out with friends old and new.

Wes displaying his award with Das Krewe

Wes displaying his award with Das Krewe

 

After I felt refreshed, I headed over to Catabwa’s new brewery in Asheville where I met up with my people. It was a release party for their seasonal King Coconut. I arrived to a table full of my friends and absolutely covered in pitchers of beer. They even had a glass waiting for me.

IMG_7997

After a few rounds we made plans to take the party back downtown. Some of our group wanted to hit up French Broad Chocolate Lounge, while others wanted to go anywhere else. Wes and I parked over in the South slope brewery district and dipped into Twin Leaf Brewery for a half pour. It was my first time checking them out. Really nice place with a great selection. While there I ran into my buddy Pete who currently works for Olde Hickory brewing.

After Twin Leaf we headed towards Wicked Weed where there was another crazy long line. We headed towards Thirsty Monk but never made it that far. We stumbled across a new brewery I hadn’t heard of before called One World Brewing. We had to check it out! We got our first drink when the rest of Das Krewe made it over to join us. I didn’t really hang with my friends because flirting  upstairs with a girl I just met  became my priority. Her name was Carmen, and she worked there. Before I knew it, it was getting really late and everyone was ready to call it a night. I wasn’t ready to leave, and certainly knew I shouldn’t be driving. Wes had started sobering up over the last hour or so and took the keys and got us safely back to his place in South Asheville.

So what’s on the agenda today? I’m going to the bottle release at Wicked Weed. Then it’s WESTSIDE FEST! I’m running the randal during this and am looking forward to it. What else will the day have in store? More drinking, more flirting and lots and lots of fun. You can follow along on my twitter, untappd and instagram. Also make sure to follow Asheville Beer Week on those same social media outlets as well as Facebook. A big shout out to Asheville Ale Trail as well.

Check out the pictures below. See y’all around town.

Cheers,

-R@TcheT-


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


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


The Most Amazing Meal I’ve Ever Had. The @OskarBlues Beer Dinner at @TheTomatoHead

December 11, 2013

Peanut butter and jelly.
Salt and pepper.
Bagels and cream cheese.
Spongebob and Patrick.
BEER AND FOOD.

Somethings just naturally pair well with others. Of the above list, the last one is of course, my favorite. I had the good fortune to attend The Tomato Head’s first craft beer dinner last night. Indulging in the best meal I’ve ever eaten paired with beers from one of my favorite craft beer brands, I had the most incredible dreams all night long. I woke up this morning feeling refreshed and inspired to write about it.

For anyone living in our great city of Knoxville, it would be inconceivable to me if they didn’t know about the Tomato Head. Originally opening it’s doors as The Flying Tomato in 1990, it’s been an anchor tenant of Market Square through all it’s changes and a cornerstone of the Knoxville Restaurant scene. When I first moved here in the late 90’s, it was the one place I knew I could get great pizzas and vegetarian fare. It was the place where I first fell in love with the concept of brunch. I don’t hide the fact that I am an unabashed fan. They opened their Gallery Shopping Center location in Bearden, late 2012. This is where the beer dinner took place.

The Tomato Head's Gallery Shopping Center location. On Kingston Pike, in Bearden.

The Tomato Head’s Gallery Shopping Center location. On Kingston Pike, in Bearden.

A more recent arrival to Knoxville is the introduction of Oskar Blues Brewery’s line of tasty craft beers. One of the first craft breweries to see the value in canning it’s beer, they started distributing to Knoxville just this year. This is mainly due to their recent Brevard, NC expansion. Previously if you wanted to track down some O.B. you either had to travel or have someone ship it to you. All of their beers are very highly rated and incredibly good. I remember hearing about their Ten Fidy Imperial Stout long before I tried it. When I finally tracked it down years ago, I was blown away. It was one of those rare times where the beer actually lived up to they hype associated with it. A month or 2 ago the first cans of Brevard brewed Ten Fidy finally hit the local shelves. There was much rejoicing in the Knoxville beer scene when this happened.

Menu for the beer dinner

Menu for the beer dinner

Brewing beer and cooking food have much in common. A good brewer, like a good chef, will know what flavors work together. Texture, mouth feel, presentation and most of all, taste makes a great meal and a great beer what they are. It’s both science as well as art. Both the brewers at Oskar Blues and the chefs at Tomato Head are artisans. For this beer dinner, Mahasti and Sam came up with an amazing meal to pair with amazing beers. First up was potato pancakes topped with house pickled beets from Mountain Meadow Farm, sour cream, and sauerkraut. This was paired with Oskar BluesMama’s Little Yella Pils. This was a great combination where the flavors of the root vegetables, the tanginess of the sauerkraut and the creaminess of the sour cream complimented the light, crisp and thirst quenching qualities of the pilsner. I could have ate this all night, but the meal had only just begun.

Potato pancake, house pickled beets, Sauerkraut and sour cream paired with Mama's Little Yella Pils.

Potato pancake, house pickled beets, Sauerkraut and sour cream paired with Mama’s Little Yella Pils.

The main course consisted of F Nolan and Sons Victuallers Redding English Bangers served on a Flour Head Bakery Stout bun with roasted sweet peppers and onions, and a sour cherry mustard made with Deviant Dales’s IPA. This was accompanied by a Rye Berry Winter Green Salad. The beer pairing for this course was Dale’s Pale Ale and Old Chub Scotch Ale. When I first read the menu, I was apprehensive. The reason being is that I primarily eat a vegetarian diet. I’m not very strict about it, and do eat meat on occasion. However it’s extremely rare that I eat red meat. Please excuse my ignorance, but I had no idea what a banger was. I was imagining some red beef bits or something. (Hey I’m a beer geek, not a foodie, but I’m learning). Imagine my delight when they brought out the plates and I learned that a banger was an all natural pork sausage link. YUM! I took a bite of the bun filed with cut up pieces of banger, sweet bell peppers and the best mustard ever. It was beyond words. As I chewed I think my eyes rolled into the back of my head and I might have moaned or something, because when I came to, I noticed people at the table looking at me funny. I’m sorry but I couldn’t help it. This was the best food I have had since my last meal at the Tomato Head. The whole plate was incredible. I remember being in a state of bliss and trying my best to keep from tearing up with joy. I found that the hoppiness of Dale’s Pale Ale really complimented the bitterness of the winter green salad. For me, the part of the meal that really stood out was the sour cherry mustard. Everyone at our table agreed, if this was available to purchase in jars, it would be one of those condiments that you put on everything. They way it tasted combined with sips of Old Chub was phenomenal. If the Tomato Head makes this a regular dish, I will soon be homeless having spent all my money to eat there everyday.

Heaven on a plate

Heaven on a plate

At this point I felt the early stages of the itis. I was full and satisfied. However, we weren’t done yet. It was time for dessert. They brought out bread pudding made with Flour Head Bakery Parker House rolls, Schwab Farm roasted apples topped with a chocolate sauce made with Ten Fidy and home made whipped cream. Naturally the beer pairing for this was Ten Fidy, Oskar Blues’ incredible Russian Imperial Stout. For me the Ten Fidy was dessert enough, but with the chocolate covered apples and the bread pudding it was over the top goodness. I fought with myself to consume every last bit, no matter how full I was.

Dessert!

Dessert!

As I finished my meal, I sat and talked with the staff of the Tomato Head, and the others at our table. We all agreed that this meal was a huge success. Like I mentioned, this was The Tomato Head’s first craft beer dinner, and I am sure they will have many more in the future. Like all great restaurants, they really appreciate craft beer and how to pair it with a meal. I’m really excited that the downtown location is being expanded. Once the construction is done, they will have a bar focusing on great wine and beer. The timeline for this is February, and I can’t wait! I look forward to frequenting the new bar, and claiming my spot as a regular.

I’d like to thank the wonderful staff at the Tomato Head for everything. As far as beer dinners go, this one was the best. I look forward to the next one, and the continued success of Knoxville’s best restaurant.

Cheers,

Ratchet


A Toast and Congratulations to @KnoxBeerCrew’s @MattCrowell on his @Untappd Eliteness!

November 9, 2013

My friend and Knox Beer Crew Founder Matt Crowell has just hit a big milestone in his craft beer drinking. He has just checked in to his 2500th unique beer on Untappd!

Congrats Matt!

Congrats Matt!

I met Matt a couple of years ago through social media. Around that same time I started using Untappd. For those of you that don’t know what that is, I forgive you. Not everyone is a social media user, has a smart phone or cares to keep track of their drinking. I heard all the arguments against using Untappd from “The cops can just look to see what you’ve been drinking if you get pulled over” to “I don’t support the gamification of craft beer culture”. I have nothing against people that feel this way. Hell, my good buddy and assistant brewer Todd drinks as much (if not more) craft beer of anyone I know and he doesn’t use it. However, for myself and many of my other friends, it’s very integrated into our every day lives. I’ve met some great people (and my girlfiend, ex-girlfriend Katie because of this app.

I first met Matt Crowell at Bearden Beer Market. I’m hoping I’m remembering this right. I use to be a Four Square fiend, checking in to as many places as many times as possible. One evening I checked in at BBM. Matt  happened to be there, asked if I was Ratchet and we hit it off right away. It’s always great to meet other like-minded craft beer lovers. We became friends on twitter and starting using the hash tag #KnoxBeer. We scheduled a tweet up one day at the Downtown Grill and Brewery using that hash tag. It soon morphed into #KnoxBeerCrew and was used whenever our growing group of friends wanted to meet for a drink. Common tweets would be something along the lines of “Anyone from #KnoxBeerCrew going to BBM tonight?” or “Hey #KnoxBeerCrew (some beer store) just got in (blank). We made plans and scheduled a tasting for all of us. From these initial meetings, Matt hatched a plan. Being a web designer on the side, he put everything together and founded the Knox Beer Crew website. This online home for Knoxville Craft Beer has become the main tool that has unified our small but growing craft beer scene. Once it was up and running, we all quickly made profiles and added our input. Monthly tastings were scheduled as a way to meet and enjoy rare beers not usually available in this area.

Matt was an early adapter of Untappd. When I describe Untappd to people unfamiliar with it, I always describe it as a cross between twitter, facebook and four square for beer geeks. You can rate the beers you drink, leave comments, take pictures and link it to your other social media apps. It encourages check-ins by allowing you to earn a number of cool badges for consuming beers, meads, and ciders with a variety of different criteria. An example of the different level of badges can be found here. Currently, the highest badge available for the amount of unique check-ins is the Elite. This is the badge Matt Crowell just earned. That’s 2500 unique beers. Some of these were full pours; some of these were sips. Either way, that’s a whole lot of beer sampled over the last 3 years. Tracking down that many uniques takes a whole lot of dedication and perseverance. Matt is the first person I know personally to reach this milestone. Maybe as Untappd grows over the years, they’ll add another level. If they do, I’m sure he’ll hit it before anyone else in our scene.

So Congratulations Matt, I raise my glass and toast to you! Let’s get together soon and pop some bottle caps.

Cheers to you my friend!

Ratchet, #KnoxBeerCrew fo’ life.


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.

IMG_5145

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