Last Minute #Christmas Gifts for the #Knoxville #BeerGeek

December 18, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Ratchet


A Pleasure to Give Asheville’s MALT #Homebrew Club a #KnoxBeer Tour @Reinkster @SawWorksBrewing @Suttrees @SmokyMtnBrewery

July 29, 2013

A while back my friend and legendary Asheville homebrewer, Adam Reinke, approached me about guiding a tour of Ashevillians through the Knoxville Beer Scene. I didn’t have to think twice about it. Over the last couple of months, we coordinated our plans and set the itinerary.  The trip was put together by Asheville’s homebrew club, MALT (Mountain Ale and Lager Tasters) . They chartered a bus to bring them over the mountains and back.

Adam Reinke (in Green), his wife Missy and some Asheville friends

Adam Reinke (in Green), his wife Missy and some Asheville friends

Everyone knows that Knoxville has just a fraction of the breweries and craft beer bars that Asheville does.  At the time we originally planned, Knoxville only had 3 operating breweries. Black Horse Pub had not yet opened, so was not included on the tour. The bus arrived at Saw Works Brewing Company at 10:30 am. Co-owner Jonathon Borsodi and head brewer Dave Ohmer had graciously agreed to open early to accommodate the group. Everyone settled in for flights and samples of beer before going behind the scenes where Dave talked about brewing for Saw Works and answered questions. (click on pictures below to enlarge).

After we were done at Saw Works, we headed over to Gay Street to check out Downtown Grill and Brewery, home of Woodruff Brewing Company.  This place has long been my home away from home. Whenever I have friends visiting from outside the area, I always bring them here. The IPA has been a go to of mine, and years ago this was the only spot to get decent craft beer in all of downtown. There we ate lunch, sampled beer and spoke with assistant brewer, Tommy. (Once again, click on the pictures below to enlarge)

After everyone finished up at Downtown Grill and Brewery, we walked across the street to Knoxville’s best Craft Beer Bar, Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern. When planning this trip, I definitely wanted to show off where us Knoxvillians go for the best draft selection. Sure other places might have more taps, but when it comes to the rarities, Ol’ Sut’s is usually the only place that has them. The group walked in and settled up to the bar. A few people went next store for bottling shopping at Downtown Wine and Spirits. Matt, Stanton and Anne were bartending that day and were happy to pour samples and talk about the selection. We sat around drinking, talking beer, making dirty jokes and coming up with hilarious yet inappropriate names for cider. When we gave everyone the 15 minute warning to get back on the bus, Stanton graciously grabbed a bottle of Rivertown Lambic out of the cooler and poured a sample for everyone. it was very much appreciated.

Before heading to the bus, I took a few of the group over to The Casual Pint on Union Avenue for some last minute bottle shopping. I bought a few selections myself before getting back on board. The Next stop was Smoky Mountain Brewery in Turkey Creek.

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This was the last stop of the days tour. They knew we were coming and had an area all ready for us. We sat down and ordered food and beer while waiting for Brewmaster Marty Velas to arrive and guide us through. I tried several of their beers that I haven’t had before and found them all to be top notch. Marty arrived and we split the group in half to take turns touring the brew house. Marty very graciously poured beer for the guest and talked about the brewing process and the history of Smoky Mountain Brewery.

Well like all good things, the tour came to an end. Much beer was consumed and many people picked up beer they were unable to get back home. We loaded back into the bus and headed back on the interstate. The bus dropped me off back town and I said my goodbyes. It was a great time and I really appreciate all the beer and food bought for me by the group. I made some new friends and look forward to meeting them for beers in Asheville next time I visit. Anytime anyone wants to come visit Knoxville, I will be more than happy to show you around. Maybe I should actually Start a Knoxville Beer Tour. Then again, how’d would I find the time?

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Enjoy the video from the day below. It’s really bad quality because I used a stupid app to do it. When I was recording I had no idea it was doing a split screen or weird color thing. I should have just recorded with the regular camera app, but I’ll know better for next time.

I also want to let everyone know that on Thursday I will be on WBIR’s Live at 5 at 4 talking about craft beer and beercations. This is August 1st which is also IPA Day. I am hoping someone will record the video for me so I can post it here.

Until next time, drink one for me.

-Ratchet


Announcing #KnoxBeerWeek and Logo design contest. @KnoxBeerSnobs @KnoxBeerCrew @bluesandbarbq

January 14, 2013

On Sunday January 13th at 1 pm many of Knoxville’s craft beer producers, distributors, venue owners and managers, bloggers and supporters met at a secret beer based location to discuss and plan Knoxville Tennessee’s second annual craft beer week. Knoxville has joined the growing list of cities celebrating their own unique craft beer culture with a week of tastings, beer dinners, cask, rare one off beers, special events and the 3rd annual Knoxville Brew Festival at the end. The dates for this great week long celebration is June 22nd through June 29th 2013.

J.T. Baker Bar manager of Sunspot, Rob of Knoxbeersnobs.com, Dave Ohmer of Saw Works, Don of Knoxbeersnobs.com, Todd White of the Markeyt in Maryville

J.T. Baker Bar manager of Sunspot, Rob of Knoxbeersnobs.com, Dave Ohmer of Saw Works, Don of Knoxbeersnobs.com, Todd White of the Markeyt in Maryville

Still early in the planning stages, but I can tell you that we really want to make this huge. Some of the things discussed were a collaboration beer between Smoky Mountain Brewery and Saw Works Brewing Company and a home brewer competition. As we progress towards the date, more info will be available on the new website KnoxBeerWeek.com. You can also keep up to date on twitter @KnoxBeerWeek and the Knox Beer Week Facebook page.

Matt Crowell, webmaster of KnoxbeerWeek.com, Louis Kitrell of Blues and BBQ blog, Russ Torbett and  Jeremy Walker of Eagle Distribution at the Knox Beer week planning meeting

Matt Crowell, webmaster of KnoxbeerWeek.com, Louis Kitrell of Blues and BBQ blog, Russ Torbett and Jeremy Walker of Eagle Distribution at the Knox Beer week planning meeting

Like with any event of this magnitude, we need a logo. A plan was hatched and a contest born. Do you think you have what it takes? Fame, fortune and best of all PRIZES are yours to claim if your design gets picked to represent Knox Beer Week. This logo will be used on all promotional material for Knox Beer Week and hopefully serve as a untappd badge as well. To enter email your spiffiest design to info@knoxbeerweek.com and we will pick the winner at our March meeting. We haven’t exactly determined what the prize would be, but it will be something very cool. We’re thinking something along the lines of 2 tickets to Knox Brew Fest, some swag from Eagle’s vaults, certificates for growlers and swag at participating bars and breweries, etc. We’ll announce the exact prize pack as soon as we solidify it. Just know we are going to insure that whoever wins is going to be VERY happy. Here are the rules: Entries must be received by February 21st. All submissions become property of Knox Beer Week. Entries/ design submissions are limited to 3 per person. Prizes have no cash value. Must be 21 to enter. Nothing offense that you wouldn’t want your elderly conservative grandmother to see.

Now that we go that out of the way, I sincerely hope you have gotten your ticket to next month’s Tennessee Winter Beer Festival in Townsend. I spoke with a few of the organizers who happen to also be members of the Knox Beer Week committee and they say this event is more then likely going to see out real soon. I’ll just refer you to this post by The Knox Beer Snobs and my post from last year on the subject. I absolutely loved being part of last year’s event and am so looking forward to this one. Sales are limited to 200 tickets total, there are very few left. You can get them online or purchase them at either The Casual Pint locations. The money spent is well worth it. It’s a great event, you get beer, a shirt, food and support a very important cause. I will be there and I hope you will be too.

The last thing I want to mention is the new Knox Beer message board. This is going to be a shared Knoxville Beer forum where anything can be discussed. It was just set up and the colors and design are still being worked on, but feel free to sign up and start posting.

Upcoming import beer dates:

January 23rd- Terrapin Wake N Bake night at Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern. I’ll be “Randalizing” this beer with cocoa nibs and vanilla beans. Listen to the Dude.

January 26th- Asheville Winter Warmer Beer Festival at Asheville Civic Center, NC.

February 9th- TN Winter Beer Fest at at the Laurel Valley Country Club in Townsend, TN

April 13th- Thirsty Orange Beer fest at Mellow Mushroom in Johnson City, TN

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



Solo #homebrew day, new hop variety, brewing of KBC 505 and Hurricane Sandy relief

November 12, 2012

There’s a few things coming up in the Knoxville craft beer scene to tell y’all about. First a note on a few things that already happened. Last Tuesday was the election and America voted another term for the first president to have beer brewed in the White House. The other choice was a guy who has never drank a beer in his life. I personally don’t trust a guy who has never drank beer, and it seems a lot of people didn’t either. For election night, I had brewed a copy of the White House Honey Ale. The recipe and video were published on the official White House blog. It was a really easy extract based brew. I was able to brew 5 gallons in the short few hours I typically have after work and before bed time. I followed all the directions as per the White house, so it would be as close to their recipe as possible. For election night we poured free samples for people to taste and enjoy at the Casual Pint’s downtown location. There was a pretty big crowd come out to try it and watch the election returns.

So how is this beer? It’s really basic, very drinkable but a bit on the English side of the ale spectrum. Although I liked it, It’s not a beer I’d likely make to keep on tap at home. Other people seemed to really enjoy it. My pal and fellow blogger Saccy drank a bit and I made sure to constantly fill his cup. He wrote about it and posted this cool picture on his website.

Saccy’s sign. Thanks for your vote! Check him out at Knoxbeerdinosaur.wordpress.com

The Tennessee Valley Homebrewer’s latest Big Ass Malt Order or (BAMO for short) just wrapped up. Collectively the club ordered 2 pallets of grain. I did my part and ended up with 325 lbs. The bulk of my order was organic 2 row brewers malt. I also picked up more Rauch Malt, some vienna, light munich, and crystal 60. This should cover my base malt needs for the next 6 to 7 brews. For me this buying in bulk at wholesale price is well worth the yearly dues I pay to the club. If you are a homebrewer and in Knoxville, click here to find out more about joining. It’s well worth it, even if you don’t brew all grain. Members can get malt extracts at cost as well.

Back of my CRV loaded with my BAMO order

I also recently ordered bulk hops from the website HopsDirect.com. This website is by Puterbaugh farm out in the Yakima Valley. It’s a family run farm that grows and sells fresh leaf hops by the pound. I was shopping around for leaf hops on their site when I came across a proprietary hop they grow call Belma. This is the first year they are releasing this hop and the description sounded wonderful. The best part is the price, $5.25 a pound! This is unheard of for any hop variety. Even Cascade which everyone grows and is the most readily available hop cost $13 a pound. I know that this is an introductory price and in the future this hop will probably be in the $15 to $18 a pound range. So I bought 3 pounds. I ended up selling one of them at cost to my friend Kavon who is also a homebrewer and bartends at Suttree’s. But still I have 2 pounds. These hops smell fantastic. Much like other American hop varieties, they have a very citrusy aroma. I couldn’t wait to use some of it, so I brewed a beer this weekend. I took my recipe for my Cascadian Dark Ale (or Dark IPA if you prefer) and tinkered with it to include these hops. The last couple of times I’ve brewed, I’ve had help from several good friends. It’s great to have people lend a hand (especially with the clean up) on brew days. However, this time I wanted to get back to my roots and brew alone. It’s almost meditative for me to do that every once in awhile. So I didn’t tell anybody, got my ingredients together, started a monster yeast starter a couple days before, went to the spring and got water, spent my Sunday brewing and now I have 10 gallons happily bubbling away. My next brew day I will include my friends. Next Sunday I plan on brewing a Belma based pale all. I’m going to call it the KBC 505 which is reference to an inside joke with the guys I went to GABF with.

6 ounces of Belma hops from HopsDirect.com

My friends and co-owners of Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern, Matt and Ann, went on beercation last week to the west coast where they traveled and visited breweries. I got several text from Matt when he was at Russian River Brewing Company. He sent me the pictures below:

Russian River’s Tap board

A case of Russian River’s Bling Pig and a case of Pliny the Elder

Well last night at ol’ Sut’s we had a private employee and friends party with some goodies they sent back. There was a case of both Pliny the Elder and Blind Pig. I brought a few bottles of rare stuff to share as well along with a 2.5 gallon keg of my Oktoberfest. It’s was a great time and lots of good beer was drank. I took a few pictures as well as a short video clip. Thanks Ann and Matt for throwing this party and for the Pliny shirt you brought back for me. Y’all are awesome!

Pliny the Elder, one of the highest rated IPAs ever.

Matt iceing down the beer

More bottles and a mini keg of homebrew

Mmmmmmm, Beer!

Blind Pig anyone?

Well there’s a few things coming up soon in Knoxville. This Thursday there is a bus leaving from Bearden Beer Market going to Highland Brewery for the release of Highland’s Cold Mountain Winter Ale. I’m not sure if there are any spots left. It’s $30 per seat for a trip to Asheville. More details are here and in the image below. I am going, it sounds like too much fun to pass up. I’ll try to post about it afterwards.

Owly Images

Also coming up this Saturday is the Brooklyn Brewery Hurricane Sandy relief fund raiser. This charity event, co-sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery and Eagle Distributing will be going on all day Saturday at both Casual Pint locations, Bearden Beer Market, Vic’s Beer Garden, both Brixx Pizza locations, Central Flats and Taps, and Suttree’s. So go drink beer, it’s for charity.

One more thing of note. Next First Friday, December 7th at 7pm I will be pouring FREE samples of my winter seasonal. Previously called Spicy Cocoa Stout, now called I’m Warming You, it’s a 7.3% abv imperial chocolate milk stout brewed with Tennessee cherry chili and jalepeno peppers. This will take place at Jackson Avenue Market in the JFG building in the Old City. Mark it on your calendar now and let’s pack that place.

Seriously, y’all come out for this one. Please?

Cheers,

Ratchet


Online brewing equipment shopping, upgrades and keg procurement

October 25, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Ratchet


Brewer’s Jam recollection and looking forward to #GABF with #KnoxBeerCrew

October 8, 2012

What a weekend! I want to write about Brewer’s Jam, but don’t think I’ll do it justice. Instead I’ll just tell you about my craft beer weekend in general.

If you read my last post, you know I was going to be busy. Friday night is somewhat of a blur, but what I can recall was amazing. I got off work and headed to World’s Fair Park to help load the cold truck. There were plenty of volunteers and I didn’t stay long. After a while I went home, cleaned myself up and headed to Adam and Shellie Palmer‘s wedding reception at SawWorks. On the way I dropped off kegs at Saccy‘s for the party.

Many of my craft beer friends were at the reception. On tap was the brand new “Dirty South” Brown Ale brewed by SawWorks exclusively for The Casual Pint. It’s an incredible beer and completely different in taste then the SawWorks Brown. Get down to one of The Casual Pint’s locations and try it for yourself. I drank my fair share at the reception.

It was great spending time with some of my favorite people in the Knoxville craft beer community on such a joyful occasion. One of the highlights for me was seeing Dave Ohmer’s face when the guys busted out with the Dave is my Homie shirts that Adam had printed. I made sure to hand mine to Dave with a sharpie to sign it, as seen in the picture below:

Dave sign’s my “Dave is my Homie” shirt

I can’t wait to see the rest of the pictures of taken at the reception by Rebecca Tatum and hope that she post them soon. Thanks to an idea formulated during a conversation with her, I started interviewing for interns that can read me beer books in a english accent as I do chores around my basement brewery. So, yeah, thanks for that Becca.

Well I wanted to stay at the reception longer, but I did commit to Saccy’s Party, so I headed over there. Downtown was a complete mess when it came to traffic and parking since it was First Friday. I eventually found a spot, grabbed my tap box and walked over the his condo. This event took place in the building’s community room, and when  I walked in, I was treated like a rock star. It was unbelievable. The party had been waiting in anticipation of my arrival to tap the kegs. The same time this party was going on, there was the brewer’s reception across the street at the Woodruff building. I went over there for a few minutes, had a drink, said hello to a few people and went back to Saccy’s. After this things start getting a little blurry.  I do however specifically remember having a great tasting homebrewed Pale Ale that stood out for it’s fresh hoppy character.

Well the party eventually died down, so I headed over to The Casual Pint. Stayed there really briefly, then headed to Suttree’s. Somehow I end the night at the Peter Kern Library. I over did it and had a little too much fun. The next morning was rough.

Brewer’s Jam morning I overslept and woke up dehydrated with a pounding head ache. Drinking beer all day a festival was the absolute last thing I wanted to do. The bad part is that I knew better. I should have been drinking water the whole time the night before. I missed most of the morning chores of delivering ice and kegs to the brewers. Thankfully there were plenty of people to take up my slack. I still feel bad about it and I’ll make up for it next year. I brought a cooler to Brewer’s Jam with bottles of vitamin water and a gallon of spring water. I was constantly mixing Emergen-C , and I drank more of that then I did beer during the day. By the time the gates opened, I was fully recovered.

Before the gates opened, I had a chance to wander around and say hi to a few people. I stopped by and saw Kitty at the Highland Brewing booth. Next I went to Asheville Brewing Company and purchased an awesome shirt. Sadly my friend Mike didn’t make the trip, but it was great meeting the guys who were working the booth in his absence. I went over to talk to the guys at Green Man and flipped out when I noticed they had a bottle of their super rare sour ale, Maceo, at the table. This beer was just released on Thursday. Only a few beer stores in Asheville got a case. No one was willing to hold or ship bottles. It was first come, first serve. I had tried bribing friends to go get it since I couldn’t get out of my plans to drive to Asheville, but had no takers. As soon as I saw the bottle at the booth, I took all the money out of my wallet and offered it to the guy there for it. He wouldn’t sell it. He did tell me to check back and we could work something out at the end. Every hour or so I went back to check if it was there. Eventually near the end of the day, he sold it to me. He said since I was persistent, he would sell it to me for the same price it sold for in Asheville. I was so happy. This really did make me feel like Brewer’s Jam was better than Christmas. It also completes my collection of beers that Green Man has released bottles of. I am going to save this for a special occasion.

I saw this and freaked out. I had to have it no matter what the co$t…

Thank you for selling it to me. You have no idea how happy it made me.

What happiness looks like

When the gates opened, my beer was the 1st being poured. Both my Butternut Squash Ale and Oktoberfest were side by side. I worked the taps. We had the longest line at Brewer’s Jam. It was crazy! It stretched all the way across the lawn of World’s Fair Park. My beer was a hit and I poured it until it was all gone. The whole rest of the day people would come up and compliment me on it. It’s a great feeling knowing that I make beer that people really seem to enjoy. It was also so nice meeting and talking to people in line who I had never met in real life but read this blog. Thank you! More then once I heard “I hope this isn’t weird, but….” then the person describing how they read my blog, or seen me at one of the downtown bars, or I’ve poured them a beer at work, or they feel like they know me because of my website. Let me tell you. NO. It IS NOT Weird for you to approach me. It’s AWESOME. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Feel free to stop me and say hi anytime. I love meeting new friends. Every person I met that told me something like this, I tried to give one of my bottle cap fridge magnets. If you see me around, say something and I’ll give you one as well. I try to keep a few on me when I’m out in public.

The Homebrewers booth always has the longest line at Brewer’s Jam

The weather was the best it could have been, and was the best I ever remember it being. It was overcast (so I didn’t get a sunburn) and it was chilly, so I wore my new hoodie the whole time. For the entire time it looked and felt like it could rain at any moment but not one drop fell from the sky. This year I didn’t drink very much, but still had a great time. At festivals, I tend to try for beers I haven’t had before. There were a few I really wanted, but passed because the lines were too long. I also very rarely wandered out into the main crowd of the packed festival lawn. I knew there were many of my friends (Lou of Blues and BBQ for example) that were there, but I just didn’t run in to. I mostly stayed behind the tents where it was less crowded and other brewers were hanging out. I wish I had taken more pictures of Brewer’s Jam and maybe some video, but just forgot. At the end of the festival I was completely sober and hungry. I packed my car, drove home and went with a friend to dinner at the Downtown Grill and Brewery. I sipped some Maker’s 46 for the hour or so we were there. After that headed to Suttree’s where half way through a sample size of Lindeman’s Framboise, I crashed. I had hit the wall and it was like someone flipped an off switch for my body and brain. A lack of sleep had caught up to me. I couldn’t focus on conversation and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. The night was still early, but I couldn’t hang anymore. I got dropped off at my house walked in the door, kicked off my shoes and let myself literally fall into bed. I fell asleep mid fall and woke up 9 hours later completely refreshed.

Lindeman’s Framboise, my Saturday night “off switch”

My weekend ended with me working the Sunday afternoon shift solo at The Casual Pint and reminiscing about the last couple of days with my good friends. I also met a really nice couple who own a winery in Virginia and are planning a brewery. I’m didn’t catch their names or the name of the brewery, but I am hoping they email me so I can take a road trip and visit them and their brewery someday.

Well that was this weekend. Next weekend I’ll be in Denver for the GREAT AMERICAN BEER FESTIVAL! I am flying out with 4 other members of the Knox Beer Crew. We will be repping hard! I am going to make another effort to blog everyday of the trip so those of you who can’t make it can live vicariously through my adventures. It’s going to be epic, so check back Thursday through Sunday to follow along.

Once again, I would like to thank my readers, friends, twitter followers and people I met this weekend for all the kinds words. Hope we all meet and share beer again real soon.

Cheers,

Ratchet

A glass full of Sunsphere