Last chance to get tickets to http://brewerssummit.com

July 6, 2012

Friday July 13th is the Brewer’s Summit. This is your last week to get tickets to what is surely going to be a great event. We want you to get tickets, we need you to get tickets. This is a fund raiser for the Tennessee Craft Brewers Guild. A group from all over the state that plans on working for change when it comes to beer laws and taxes in our fine state.
This is not a big event. Only a 150 tickets are being sold, and most of those are already gone. Click this link, buy your tickets, then come back and read the rest of this post.

Ok you’re back? I wanted to mention how this heat has effected my brewing schedule. I haven’t brewed a batch of beer in approximately 3 weeks or more. I have a batch of stout that I need to keg. I still have plenty of beer, and a few kegs left over from Brew Fest. I am also pretty broke. I have base grains, but unless my budget frees up, I don’t have the funds to purchase specialty grains, hops or yeast. The reason for this is that my last car died and I had to use my meager savings and max out my lines of credit to purchase a new one. I should be out of debt within 3 months, and I am hoping to be able to brew again sooner then that. Someone asked me if I had planned to brew a saison and take advantage of this heat for fermentation. I had not considered that, primarly because I am not really a fan of saisons. There are a few I like, but rather not brew one. Honestly, at this point I want to brew another batch of my Rauchbier, another IPA and then start brewing for fall. I want to brew an Oktoberfest Marzen Lager and then my yearly batch of Butternut Squash Ale.

One more thing I want to mention on this post. The downtown Knoxville location of The Casual Pint is tenatively set to open on July 21st. To kick this off, Saw Works Brewing is having a cask night. It looks as though I will be beertending part time at The Casual Pint. I stopped by and spoke with Nathan about becoming part of the team, and I’d like to thank him for the opportunity. Make sure to like The Casual Pint on Facebook and follow on twitter to stay up to date about the opening of the newest location. When it does open, I hope to see you there.

Cheers,

Ratchet


Report on the Thirsty Orange Brew Extravaganza @ThirstyOrange

April 19, 2012

This is my third attempt to write about last weekend’s Thirsty Orange beer festival in Johnson City. My original idea was to live blog from the festival. I even set up the page the night before. However, there was so much to do and I was so busy it just wasn’t possible to live blog. I hardly even had time to take my phone out of my pocket to check emails, text and tweets.
So here it is, almost a week later. Let’s see how much I can actually recall.
Here’s some background first. I am currently moving. Everyone knows that packing and moving is a big pain in the ass. Luckily I pretty much have a whole month to do it. I am renting a slighly bigger house on a hill that is closer to downtown. The view is pretty great and the fact that I have a whole basement to brew in is what sold me on the house.

Well, I have a brew schedule that I am trying to stick to. I didn’t want to try to move my fermentation fridge and carboys while they were in mid-fermentation. So I did what any slightly crazed beer obessessed homebrewer would do. I got up extra early Friday morning and started brewing. I ended up mashing in around 5:30 am. I figured, if I was going to move full carboys that I should do it right after brewing so the sloshing caused by the car ride would help oxygenate the wort. Yeast needs oxygen to help get it going. So as I brewed, I cleaned. I moved my small lagering chest freezer into the back of the van. Once I was done brewing my Maibock, I drove the whole set up to, and set it up in, the basement of the house I’m moving in to. I plugged in the fridge and thermostat control and put the two 5 gallon carboys to ferment at 48 degrees. I was done completely around 11 am. I then went over to the Downtown Grill and Brewery and picked up the Woodruff Brewing beer that I took to the festival.

I than went home and packed the van full of tubs, beer, kegs, ice and merchandise.  I then drove to Johnson City. Arriving there I quickly checked into my room. The festival site was at the Mellow Mushroom just down the road, so I headed there to meet with the organizers. I stashed the kegs in the walk in cooler, had a beer and taked plans for the next day. Well as you can imagine, I was exhausted from getting up at 4:45 am that day to brew. I knew Saturday was going to be hectic, so I went back to the hotel and passed out early.

Saturday morning, I rolled out of bed, made some crappy hotel coffee and headed to the site. I was still pretty tired and the crappy hotel coffee just wasn’t kicking in. Thank goodness one of the guys there, Andrew, had brought a carafe of great coffee to share. After “irishing up” a cup of it with a shot of baileys, I was good to go.

While crews set up tents and generally prepared the site for the days festivities, I worked on getting my table, kegs and jockey box set up. I was also on infuser duty. I had my own infuser to run beer through and the festival had it’s own. Responsible for the festival’s infuser was a cool dude (who I had the pleasure of working with) that they called Flipper. I showed him the ropes on how to pack it, how to set up the lines, etc. He picked up on it rather quickly and was able to take the infuser around  and fresh infuse different beers with different ingredients all day. It was definitely a hit of the festival.

Well once the gates were open, things were hectic. I still hadn’t completely set up my merchandise when a line began to form at my table. I was very greatful that the festival organizers had provided me with someone to assist me at my booth, as I honestly could not have done it by myself. Right at the start, I had a beer line break in my jockey box. My first clue that it occured was when beer started pouring out the sides. I lost the whole keg of chocolate ale that I had brewed for the Iron Brewer challenge. I had to cut the bad section of line out and rehook it up to a different keg.

Once all the kinks were worked out, the festival went really well. I did my share of drinking, slipping away from my booth a few minutes at a time to try other beers. I met more then a few really cool people, fellow homebrewers from all over and tried many great brews. It was also really good to see and hang out with my Knox Beer Crew friends who had made the trip up from Knoxville. They left before the end of the festival, but we did have time to squeeze into the on site beer photo booth and get our pictures taken.

Well I stayed until the very end, and was the last brewer set up and pouring until my ride came and got me. I packed up, said my goodbyes and went back to the hotel. After settling in, I went downstairs to get something out of the van and realized that there was a comedy show taking place in the hotel’s restaurant. I drunkenly wandered in and sat in the back unlit portion of the space and laughed for awhile. Then I wandered back upstairs and passed out.

It was a great festival and Aaron and his crew always put together a good event. As far as I could see, everything went smoothly and everyone had a fun time. If this happens again next year, you can count me in to be there.

Ok, will this is all for now. I don’t feel like this write up is all that good, but I had to post something. If you read this and were at the Thirsty Orange, please leave a comment with your thoughts below.

Cheers,

Ratchet

Announcing some of the Homebrew contest winners at Thirsty Orange

 


Yeast, you can’t make beer without it.

December 8, 2011

As part of my never ending obsession to become the best possible beer brewer I can be, I’ve taken the next step. In the past I have always bought a fresh package of yeast whenever I planned on brewing. Yeast is expensive as far a beer ingredients go. I can get a good powdered yeast such as Safale US-05 or 04 for $3.99 a package at the local hombrew shop. Since it is never good to under pitch the amount needed, I end up buy 3 or 4 packs. The other type of yeast I use is liquid yeast from Wyeast. These are really expensive, around $8 for a “smack pack“. My local homebrew supply shop only keeps three different strains in stock, so when I want a different one, I have to factor in the cost of a cold pack and shipping as well. I usually pitch 2 or 3 packs for my 10 gallon batches. Like I said, can be a bit pricey. My other option for yeast is great, I can always ask the brewmaster, Jennifer for some yeast from Marble City Brewing Company. She dumps more yeast in 1 batch then most homebrewers use in a year. It’s a great strain (California Ale Yeast), however working out the timing to meet her at the brewery can be tricky. So I’ve added another peice of equipment to my collection.
  For a long time, I’ve wanted an Erlenmeyer Flask and a stir plate. Every once in awhile, I pull up my wish list at Rebel Brewer.com and daydream about various ingredients and equipment I want (yes, I know I’m a dork). With the stir plate and flask, I would think how nice it would be to make a large yeast starter so I would only need 1 package of yeast. I knew I’d need the largest started kit they offer, since I brew more then the average 5 gallons at once. Well, my mom recently asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I sent her a link to the Rebel Brewer page. The next thing I know, a box from them shows up on my door step. I have the best mom ever! Not only did she get me this, but she also got me a membership to the American Homebrewer Association. That is something I have wanted for as long as I’ve been brewing! Now that I have my flask and stir plate, I went ahead and ordered 1 package of Rogue’s Pacman yeast strain. I will brew with it, and when I move the beer to the secondary, I will harvest and store the yeast. This part is new to me. It’s something I have never done before, and I’m a little bit nervous about it. I found a ton of information online and plan on using this webpage as my guide. I would like nothing more then to build up a great yeast library, and never have to buy it again.
So yes, I plan on making a batch again this weekend. I haven’t brewed for about a month. That last post where I said I was going to brew this weekend? It didn’t happen. I figured I had more beer then places to store it, I should drink down my stash a little bit first. A few weekend bon-fire parties later and I have space again. I plan on making another Cocoa Stout because my last batch (the one with peppers) is freakin’ amazing.

Alright topic switch. Here is what I currently have on tap and bottled at my house,with my tasting notes.
On tap:

Butternut Squash Ale. This is the 1st batch I made this year, when I was still getting use to my equipment. It is more thick, heavier, spicier and alcoholic then my next 2 batches. I like this the least. My friends who try it says it’s awesome, but I consider this my “learning batch” and I don’t feel like it lives up to my standards. I’ll be glad when this keg is empty. My subsequent batches of this beer however, are incredibly good and have earned me props from some of the most grizzled, cynical and critical beer snob members of the homebrew club.

Cream Soda. Yes I know it’s not a beer, but I included it because I do have it on tap in the fridge. My kid made this. It’s good, he is proud of his creation, and I’m proud of him. He is going to be one hell of a brewer when he grows up.

Woodruff’s New World Porter. NOT a homebrew. The Brewers filled up one of my 5 gallon kegs for me for $40. At that price, how could I NOT have this on tap? When I got my infuser, I ran this thorugh shaved coconut and raw cocao nibs. It was just like drinking an almond joy. Because it was so good, we drank around half the keg over Thanksgiving weekend. I plan on keeping one of Woodruff’s tasty creations in my fridge at all times. When this is empty, I’ll get their IPA next.

It All Went Black, Cascadian Dark Ale. This is the beer I ran a contest to name in my last post. Mark Baggett, one of our local #KnoxBeer tweeps named it. I still got to get him is six pack (Holla Mark!). I like this beer. It does taste more chocolatey then I expected, but then again, I did use 2 pounds of pale chocolate malt in the recipe. I do like it however. Nice and hoppy, very drinkable. If I make this again, I will dial back on the chocolate malts. Homebrewing is nothing if it ain’t a learning experience.

Spicy Cocoa Stout. Saved the best for last. This beer is great! It’s better then great! It’s freakin’ fantastic! This is definitely one of the best beers I have ever brewed. On tap it’s nice and smooth, big cocoa taste at first, then you get the spicy pepper heat on the finish. Pepper and chocolate are perfectly balanced. It warms me up when I drink it, just as I intended with this recipe. This will be my winter seasonal from now on.

Bottle conditioned beers:

Spicy Cocoa Stout, Butternut Squash Ale and Cascadian Dark. The Butternut Squash ale I save to give out for Christmas presents.

Alright, I still want to hear from you if you read my blog. Leave a post below. Maybe we can meet up sometime and you can sample one of my brews.

Cheers,

Ratchet


The curse of the serious home brewer – upgrade fever.

November 16, 2011

I’ve had a serious case of blogger’s block lately. This is the 3rd post that I’ve drafted since my last update. I deleted the other ones because they just kind of fizzled out. I’m sitting here and sipping on a New World Porter from Woodruff Brewing Company and I have finally figured out what to write about.
I consider myself to be a serious home brewer. Everybody knows home brewing is my hobby, but I know very few other home brewers that invest themselfs in it like I do. Hell, outside of my family and my job, home brewing beer defines me. Where other people I know dream of saving for a vacation to the beach or buying new records or clothes, I dream of visiting breweries and buying better beer making equipment. Which is exactly what I have done this week.
I’ve been lucky enough to make a little extra money on the side doing game day parking at my office. With it I figured I could buy some gear that will improve the quality of my brews. I’ve been looking at counter-flow bottling systems for several years now. Just like any purchase I make, it takes me an incredibly long time to make up my mind on exactly which brand I want to get. Each one has it’s own pros and cons to consider. I’ve been leaning towards buying the Blichmann Beer Gun for awhile. However, after further research and a conversation that I had with a pro brewer, I went with the deluxe version bottle filler offered by More Beer. I like that it fills from the bottom of the bottle up, and that it flushes out the oxygen with CO2 first. Up until now, I’ve been naturally carbonating my beer. This is done by adding priming sugar when I bottle. The remaining yeast cells eat the sugar and create the carbonation. I’ve made great beer this way, and have so for year. So how will using a counter-pressure system improve my beer? Well, hopefully in several ways. As great as bottle conditioning is, things can go wrong. Yeast can autolyze, creating off flavors. Too much carbonation and your beer can foam really bad when you pour it, or even worse, bottles can explode. Luckily, that hasn’t happened to me in over 10 years, but I still am careful to store my beers in coolers to minimize mess if it does. Oxidation is a big concern of mine as well. There nothing like going to pour a beer and realizing a whole batch has gone stale due to extra oxygen that was picked up during the bottling process. With counter pressure filling, I won’t have to worry about this so much.
It’s pretty simple how this works. I’ll flush out the oxygen out of the empty keg with carbon dioxide and then keg my beer. Then I’ll force carbonate it. Whenever I want to bring bottles somewhere, I’ll simply sanitize however many I want, then fill them directly from the keg using the bottle filler. This should cut down significantly on the amount of storage space I need.
Not to say I won’t ever bottle condition beer. In fact I plan on doing just that with a few from every batch. Some higher gravity beers, and styles like Imperial Stouts and Barley Wines benefit from extended bottle conditioning. Instead of going through the trouble of measuring out tiny amounts of bottling sugar, I’ll just use tabs. I don’t plan on bottle conditioning more then 10 beers out of every batch anyway.
Another major reason I purchased the counter pressure filler is for non alcoholic drinks. My 7 year old son makes his own sodas (with my help & guidance, of course). We always keg his creations. The reason being is that to bottle conditioned soda, you have to use yeast which creates yucky off flavors. If we fill the bottles under pressure with already carbonated soda, he can bring them to a friends house, birthday party or whatever. Just like me and my beers, he takes great joy in sharing something yummy that he made with his friends. I can also give him all the clear bottles I keep, since you don’t have to worry about soda getting “light struck” like you do with beer.

My new bottle filler

The other piece of equipment I purchased this week was a filtering system. I’ve been looking and researching these for awhile as well, but not to the extent that I have with counter-pressure fillers. Filtering will also improve my beer, mostly the look of it. Pretty much every home brewer has issues with chill haze. This is caused by proteins in the beer that make it cloudy when it’s cold. This doesn’t effect the flavor in any way. It’s really just an issue of presentation more then anything. My brewing techniques have improved significantly over the years, but I still get chill haze from time to time. Filtering may also help improve the flavor by taking out tiny particles of yeast, proteins and polyphenols. I purchased my filter from Home Brew Stuff. The one I bought I can also use as a infuser, which is what I think it will get the most use as. I can run my IPAs and Pale Ales through extra hops, and my Stouts and Porters through coffee beans or cacao nibs. Hell if I’m feeling adventurous, I can run my beer through fruit if I want. Which is what I may do if I’m serving it at a festival.
Both of these upgrades are dependent on my kegging system. I currently have 6 five gallon corny kegs, 3 gallon and a 2.5 gallon. I’ll need to use 4 kegs to filter 10 gallons. I also have 2 Carbon Dioxide tanks, a 10 and a 5 pound. I have 2 regulators, one of which I need to get replacement gauges for. My beer fridge is a chest freezer with thermostat control. It has the capacity to fit all of my full kegs at once. The beer has to be kept cold in order for the C02 to absorb. I got the feeling that once I’m up and running at full capacity, I’ll be looking for more kegs and another chest freezer to add to my set up. I’ll cross that bridge if and when I ever get there.

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Ok, Random recipe, here’s a pale ale I plan on brewing Thanksgiving weekend.

C & C American Pale Ale -10 gallon recipe

20 pounds 2 row Pale Ale Malt
1 pound Dark Crystal malt (75L)
2 ounces Citra hops.
2 ounces Cascade hops.
2 whirlfloc tablets
Strike crushed grains with 8 gallons of 163 degree water
hold grains at 152 degrees for 60 minutes.
Sparge with 7.2 gallons of 179 degree water
bring to boil, add 1 ounce of Cascade hops.
30 minutes, add 1 ounce of Citra.
Last 10 minutes add another ounce of Cascade.
Last 5 minutes of the boil, add the whirfloc tablets.
Add last ounce of hops at end of boil.
Rapidly cool and pitch with 3 packages of Safale- US-05 dry yeast or Wyeast or White Labs California Ale Yeast.

If you read this blog, I’d love to hear from you. I have more then a few beer and brewery stickers I have collected at festivals. The next 6 people to post a comment, I’ll mail you a beer sticker from my collection.

Cheers,

Ratchet.


A note about #StoutDay and the #KnoxBeer @Woodruffbrewing cask of it.

November 3, 2011

Today (November 3rd) is Stout Day which is described in this way: “International Stout Day is a worldwide celebration of the iconic beer style, Stout. Taking place in homes, pubs, breweries and restaurants; it’s all about celebrating the craft beer revolution, relishing in this beloved beer style, sharing your photos, tasting notes and events with the world.” This takes place nearly 3 months after IPA Day. These events are to raise awareness of these certains styles of beer, and are mostly a social media led phenomenon. I slightly conflicted about these “days”. On one hand, I personally don’t need an excuse to drink a good quality craft beer. These special days were mostly created by certain well know beer bloggers and seem to first and foremost be a way for them to extend their brand. On the other hand, it does go a ways to create awareness of different styles of beer. It does give people an excuse to “drink outside of their comfort zones” and try a style that they might normally avoid. If someone who normally drinks Light American Lagers gets turned on to craft beer because of one of these specialty days, then it’s worth it. At the same time it makes me wonder how far naming these special days will go. Do we really need a day for every style of beer? What about Schwarzbier Day or Belgian Tripel Day? One things is for certain, it’s only a matter of time before someone announces another one of these days and the rest of the internet & social media spheres jump on board. Chances are, so will I.

I do want to add that my first craft beer experience was with a stout. I was a young adult (aka a Dumbass) who had just dropped out of college to go traveling with some friends (aka other dumbasses aka dirty hippies). We did shows and gatherings. On the “lots”, other more experiences dumbasses would sell beer. One of the most popular brands at these events (or whatever you want to call them) was “Sammy Oaties”, our nickname for Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout. From my first taste, I was in love. For years afterwards I would only drink dark beers. It wasn’t until I became a homebrewer that I expanded my appreciation of other styles. A good oatmeal stout takes me back, and I still buy myself a “Sammy Oatie” every once in awhile as a treat.

Speaking of Stout Day, my good Friend Dave Ohmer will be tapping a cask of Woodruff’s State Street Stout this eveing at 6pm at Dead End BBQ. This is another addition in his cask conditioned series. I will be there to support my local brewery, and if you are here in Knoxville, why don’t you make an appearance as well?


Update: I took this picture around 6:15 pm. It’s my buddy Dave (the brewer) giving me a fresh pint of cask conditioned stout. Damn it was good!

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So much fun! Live blogging of my #homebrew day again today

October 27, 2011

I had such a great response to my live blogging of my last brew day, that I thought I’d do it again. I took the day off work. It’s been a slow work week and I am caught up. Thought I’d brew a batch of American Style Dark India Ale aka Dark IPA aka Cascadian Ale. It’s a style I’ve been wanting to brew for awhile. I’ve had many homebrewer’s interpretations of it recently, along with a few commercial examples. I really like it. I formulated this recipe and ordered my hops last week. Of course, after I weighed out my grains and ground them I revisited my worn copy of Brew Your Own magazine that has an article about this style of beer. It’s seems like my recipe has more chocolate malt then others do. So it might turn out to be a “chocolate IPA”, but pale chocolate malt isn’t as roasty as normal chocolate malt. Either way, I’m sure it will be good. I will let you know when I eventually get to drink it. Here’s my recipe for 10 gallons:

20 lbs Pale Ale Malt
1 lb, 6 ounces of Vienna Malt
2 lbs pale chocolate
1 lb midnight wheat
1 lb dark crystal 80
1 lb flaked oats
2 Whirfloc tablets (last 5 minutes)

4 oz Amarillo Hops (2 oz 60 minutes, 1 oz 30 minutes, 1 oz 5 minutes)
4 oz Centennial hops (2 oz 60 minutes, 1 oz 30 minutes, 1 oz 5 minutes)
2 oz Crystal hops (1 oz 45 minutes, 1 oz 5 minutes)

Safale US-05 American Ale Yeast

Mash w/ 9 gallons of water (hold at 152-154 for 60 minutes)

Sparge with 8 gallons of water at 168 degrees
Boil and follow hop schedule

Yesterday I went and filled my water jugs at Love’s Creek Spring. I also set everything up on my porch so I could get the water going as soon as I woke up. My whole plan is to get done as soon as possible so I can take my son to “Scare in the Square” this evening.

5:40 am: Woke up before my alarm. I should get out of bed & get going.
6:00 am: Started water going, hoping to mash in by 7.
6:10 am: Coffee!
6:54 am: Mashed in. Hit my temperature with no issues.
7:00 am: Started Sparge water going. It’s on low since I have an hour to get it to 168 degrees.
7:08 am: Making breakfast.
7:28 am: Just stirred the mash, 30 minutes left to go until Sparge.
7:34 I’m now measuring my hops. This is my first true all whole hops brew.

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7:58 am: Starting my Vorluaf
8:23 am: Sparging
9:03 am: finished Sparging, waiting to achieve boil. Only 20 more degrees to go.
9:10 am: it’s at boil! Adding 1st hop addition
9:25 am: added next hop addition
9:40 am: yet another hop addition. Also working on cleaning out my mash run and sanitizing my carboys & cool down equipment.
10:05 am: last 5 minutes of the boil & last hop addition. Also adding Whirfloc tablets
10:10 am: boil is done. Turned off propane. Took out mesh bags full of hops & let then drain in a strainer. Going to start my whirlpool in a few minutes.
10:20 am: started my whirlpool. Going to do this for 20 minutes so all the trub goes to the center of the brew pot.
10:40 am: on to the cool down. It’s a lot easier to do on a cold rainy day.

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11:02 am: cool down done & carboys are full!
11:24 am: starting gravity of the wort is 1.062. Tasty very hoppy, but it balances with maltyness & a hint of chocolate malt. No roast character which is good & within the style for this type of beer. Of course the flavor will change with fermentation. I’ve pitched the yeast & am awaiting the magic of fermentation. It’ll be awhile until I post again, there is a lot of clean up to do.
11:54 am: not even close to being done with brew day clean up, but must take a break. Hard work.
1:00 pm: Guess what? Still not done with clean up. I’m tired.


A Great Weekend for #KnoxBeer

October 25, 2011

The liver is evil and must be punished. Saw this on a shirt the other day, and it (almost) sums up my weekend. I don’t think I’ll make this post really long. The Knox Beer Snobs have posted a great review of all the Knoxville Beer events this weekend, so I’ll refer you to them. I will tell you that I had a great and memorable weekend.

Every year the Homebrew Club does a lot of the beer related grunt work and preparation for Brewers Jam. My weekend pretty much kicked off on Thursday night. The homebrew club does what we call  “Pretzel Jam” where we drink beer and make pretzel necklaces to sell at the event. I had a ride, so I was able to partake in the “leftover” entries from the TN Valley Fair’s Homebrew competition.

Friday I worked a short half day and then headed down to World’s Fair Park to help load the cold truck. The brewers show up, unload the kegs from their vehicles and we move the kegs to cold storage. It was mostly sitting around drinking beer with the occasional heavy lifting. I took a break from that for a few hours and headed over to the grand opening of Marble City Brewing Company’s tasting room, The Quarry. Knoxville really came out to show support for the hometown brewery. The place was packed! The owners even had authentic deep dish pizza flown in for the event. After a few beers, a slice of pizza and some great conversation with fellow craft beer enthusiast, I headed back to World’s Fair Park.  When that was over, it was time for the brewer’s reception in a top secret location. Most of the brewers both local and out of area were treated to beer, cigars, food, and a live bluegrass jam. There was even free jars of locally produced salsa, courtesy of Big S Farms. Pretty much every one of my beer friends were there. I remember looking around at the crowd and thinking if a bomb went off in that room, there wouldn’t be anyone left in the Knoxville craft beer scene. That reception went on long into the night. I left around 11 pm since I was hosting out of town guests and we all had to be up early to work the morning shift.

Saturday morning I made coffee and my guest (fellow homebrewers Shanezilla and Pam) and I headed out. We stopped by Just Ripe on Union Avenue in downtown for a quick breakfast. Then it was on to Brewers’ Jam. There was a whole heck of a lot of work to do before the gates opened at 1pm. We had to deliver the kegs to the brewers, along with Ice. There was also our booth to set up and a few other details to attend to. About 30 minutes or so before kick off, we were pretty much done. This is my favorite time of of the Knoxville Brewer Jam. All the brewers are set up, and everyone has a chance to socialize and try one another’s beers before it gets hectic. Before they opened the gates, we had our customary speech given by Knoxville Police Department, as seen in the following video:

Then the fun begins. It is amazing to see a wave of people pour in when they open the gates. The lines were as far as the eye could see. My 1st keg of Butternut Squash Ale was on tap, and I happily doled out samples to thirsty drinkers. It made me feel like I really know what I’m doing as a beer brewer when people would tell me how much they enjoyed it. I even had some of the most critical members of the homebrew club come back for seconds and thirds. Whenever my 1st keg blew out, I let someone else take a turn pouring while I happily went in search of other tasty beverages to imbide. I saw many of my fellow Knox Craft beer friends and walked around drinking and enjoying their company. Later on in the afternoon, I came back and put on my second keg of Butternut Squash Ale and poured that as well. Near the end of the event, I went and filled several growlers of beer to take home for later. I ran into Mike from Asheville Brewing Company who gave me a really cool Moog filtered Ale shirt.

Well, I went and caught the rest of Cutthroat Shamrock’s show at the end. The jam closed down, the beer stopped flowing, and I started packing out. I finally got my vehicle packed with everything I brought, along with a cooler full of growlers, bottles of beer, merchandise and other stuff I scored at the Jam. I walked over to my office where I spent a few hours drinking water and listening to the Vols football game on the radio. I ended the night eating pizza and thinking how I am already looking forward to next year’s Brewers Jam.

Enjoy the pictures below, click to make big.

Cheers,

Ratchet


Kingsport Oktoberfest- a retrospective.

September 26, 2011

What a weekend! I’m finally back in Knoxville, relaxing at my friend’s work & using the wifi. I’m also drinking my growler of Highland Brewing Company’s Clawhammer Oktoberfest. I brought all my empty growlers to Kingsport with the grand idea that I would fill them with tasty beers from all over. However, the reality is that I was so busy working my booth, I didn’t have time to get my growlers filled. I barely had time to eat or visit with other brewers. I was able to come back with only 2 growlers. The other one has Heinzelmännchen’s  Root Beer for my son.

Alright, here’s how  the whole weekend went down. Friday I got off work early. My bosses was kind enough to lend me her pickup truck that has a camper top for me to be able to haul my kegs along with the Woodruff Brewing Company’s kegs, ice tub, c02 and tap box. I not only had my homebrew, but I was officially representing Woodruff as well. After I loaded my stuff, I went down to the loading dock behind Downtown Grill and Brewery and met with Dave (one of the brewers) and loaded up a half barrell of Alt and a half barrell of Kolsch. A half barrell is is standard size keg for those of you not down with brewer lingo. Dave very professionally tied the kegs down with a ratchet strap. He did a much better job than my laughablle half assed attempts with bungie cords. Then again, he’s a pro who knows what he’s doing because part of his job is delivering kegs.  After everything was secured, I headed up north towards Kingsport. Roughly 2 hours later I was there. I checked in to my dirty but cheap Motel 8 and then headed down to the site.  I unloaded the kegs and equipment and made sure the beer was iced down. Then I went back to the hotel to unwind for a bit. I visited a local gas station/ convenience store for snacks, chilled a bit then headed back down to the site for a little brewer only pre-party. I saw some old friends, ate some food, listened to some bluegrass and met some really cool people.

I really enjoyed meeting and speaking with Dieter Kuhn and Sheryl Rudd of Heinzelmännchen Brewery out of Sylvia, North Carolina. They’re we incredibly nice and generous, having donated a keg of their “Chocolate Covered Gnome” to the pre-party. Chocolate Covered Gnome is a strong 8% abv porter made with cocoa powder. I was blown away by how delicious it was, and had to know everything I could about how it was brewed. I spoke with Sheryl first and asked her why they used cocoa powder instead of cocoa nibs. I really wanted to know “how did they keep the cocoa powder from settling out during the fermenting process?” She introduced me to her husband Dieter and we spoke about beer and his secret for getting the chocolate flavor in it. I learned much, but I am sworn to secrecy. I could tell you how he does it, but then I’d have to kill you (I can’t do that, I need every reader I can get!) I can tell you that I now know not to use cocoa nibs in my beer. It turns out that the cocoa butter fats turn rancid within a couple of weeks. This explains why I thought the chocolate imperial stout I made early this year was infected. It was just the fats going rancid and not an infection at all. Thanks for the advice Sheryl and Dieter. Visiting your brewery just made the top of my must do list.

On Friday night we also had a half barrell of Highland Brewing Company’s Clawhammer Oktoberfest on tap. That was when I was able to fill my growler that I am currently enjoying. I love Highland’s brews. I remember back in the day when we couldn’t get them her in Knoxville, I’d take orders from friends and make a drive to Asheville just to stock up. Anyway, I filled my growler and stopped drinking for the couple of hours it took me to sober up enough to drive the short 1 & 1/2 mile to the hotel. I didn’t really sleep well due to a combination of an uncomfortable bed and hotel situation.

Saturday morning I was up bright and early. I ate the free continental breakfast at the hotel and headed to set up my booth. I had to get kegs tapped, the tap box and carbonation levels just right, the Woodruff banner hung and everything else (merch, tools, etc) in place. The event opened early at 11 am for VIPs. Homebrews poured during that time were collected to be judged and everyone had a ballot where they could vote on their favorites. My Butternut Squash Ale was a hit with many people coming back for seconds, thirds and even fourths! I came up with a new thing to tell people about it. I’d ask if they liked pumpkin ales. If they said yes, I’d tell them it was the same beer different squash. The 11am to 1 pm when it was just VIPs was great, the lines weren’t to big and luckily I had a couple of lovely volunteers to help me pour beer. At 1 pm they opened the gates to the general public and things got hectic. I was trying to pour beer while hooking up an infuser while trying to get food while trying to find beer to drink that wasn’t at my tent. Phew! I really could have used more help. During this portion of the festival, I felt like I was completely overworked. There were a couple of moments when I felt like just walking away and letting people serve themselves. I was able to get a few volunteers, and a little bit of a break. During that time I went and hung out with Don from Knox Beer Snobs, Jennifer and Adam of Marble City Brewery. I also made sure to get beer from Underground Brewing Company, the homebrewers of Legit Brew. I made sure to go say hi to the legendary Oscar Wong of Highland Brewing. I also met Jon of Tattood Brew (who is now on our links section). I had really hoped to spend time at the Beer University part of Oktoberfest. There were some great classes that I had wanted to attend, but it just didn’t work out that way. Hopefully I’ll have a little more help and will be able to next time.

Speaking of beer university, I ended up doing a quick talk about beer infusions. I had set up the infuser at the booth running Woodruff’s Kolsh which is named Downtown Blonde, through fresh cut strawberries. It was a hit and we call it “Strawberry Blonde”. For the Beer University, the idea was that we’d have a keg set up and then we were going to run it through fresh hops and let people taste the difference. That did not happen. Instead I had to wing it. I was a little buzzed at that point. A friend of mine video recorded it for me as seen below.

When the festival was officially over, the biergarden part stayed open for the volunteers to enjoy beer  as a reward for all their work. We poured as much as we could, sold the rest of the Downtown Grill & Brewery glasses. I ended up trading a glass to a guy for the shirt off his back just because I could, and my drunk ass thought it was funny.

At the end of it all I made sure everything was packed up in the truck. I then walked a block over to Stir Fry Cafe  to hang out with some people I had met during the festival. I ate some really good spicy tuna rools and drank water to sober up for the drive back to the hotel.

My overall impression that this was a really great inaugural event. This is Aaaron and crew’s first time putting on a beer festival like this. There were a few rookie mistakes made, but that is to be expected. Those minor issues were addressed and will not happen next time. Speaking of next time, check out Thirsty Orange Brew Extravaganza. This is is still in the planning stages, but believe me, you will not want to miss this in the spring.

Enjoy my pictures below, leave a comment about Oktoberfest. I will try to post again soon, but now my focus in on the upcoming Asheville Oktoberfest taking place on Saturday October 8th.

Cheers,

Ratchet


An in depth look at making my fall seasonal: Butternut Squash Ale

September 21, 2011

Hello my 1 or 2 readers. You still checking out my blog? Good, because this time I have a special VIDEO blog for you. I filmed myself every step of the way when it comes to making my delicious Butternut Squash Ale. This is a behind the scenes look at my brew day.

Enjoy

Part 1:

Part 2:

Ingredients for 10 gallons
12 lbs butternut squash (processed weight)
18 pounds pale ale malt
1 lb carapils malt
2 lb Vienna malt
1 lb 75L dark crystal grain
2 lb light Munich malt
2.5 oz williamette whole leaf hops (60 minute boil)

1 .2 oz of williamette whole leaf hops (last 15 minutes)
1 oz saaz hop pellets (last 5 minutes)
2 cup brown sugar
1 lb flaked oatmeal
2/3 lb Ginger root peeled & chunked (1/2 at 6o minutes boil, 1/2 at 15 minutes)
2 Whirlfloc Tablets (last 15 minutes of boil)
2 1/3 tsp nutmeg
4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp crushed coriander seed
1 tsp yeast nutrient
4 packages of Whitbread dry yeast
Directions:
Peel butternut squash & bake it until caramelized on the outside
Mash crushed grains at 152 degrees for 60 minutes in 8 gallons of water (put Flaked oats in a mesh bag)
Sparge with 7 gallons 170 water. Add squash, gypsum, 2.5 oz
of Williamette hops & 1/2 the ginger.  IMPORTANT: Squash and Ginger Must be in fine mesh bags, or clogging will occur.
Bring to a boil for 40 minutes. Add the brown sugar, whirlfloc Tablets, coriander seed, 1 oz of Saaz hops & rest of ginger boil 20 minutes. At 5 minutes add remaining 1 oz of saaz & 1 tsp of yeast nutrient & remaining spices. Cool rapidly to 70 degrees pitch yeast. After a 2 weeks rack to secondary.

On another note, I am SUPER EXCITED about the KINGSPORT OKTOBERFEST this Saturday!!! I’m like a kid on Christmas, I can’t wait! I’ll be in charge of setting up the randal (that’s an infuser, for all those not down with the beer lingo) on to various microbrews around the festival. We’ll be infusing a porter with coca nibs (raw chocolate), a kolsh with fresh strawberrys and other yummy beers with other yummy stuff. If you want to know when and where each infusion will take place, make sure to follow both myself ( @RatchetBrews ) and @KPTOktoberfest  on twitter. We’ll announce each one there. Plus I’m sure the tweets will get more entertaining as the day progresses and more beer is drank.

You are a sucka if you miss this.

You are a sucka if you miss this.

-CHEERS,

Ratchet