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


Gettin’ Crafty w/ Eagle: a distributor’s tasting of what’s to come for #KnoxBeer cc: @KnoxBeerGuy

August 29, 2012

One of the signs greeting attendees to the event

In Knoxville’s small but growing craft beer scene, I find myself in quite a few discussion about the local beer distributors and the role they play in our available choices. To give you some background, you need to know about the three tier system that was established for the sale of alcohol after prohibition.  The basic structure of the system is that producers can sell their products only to wholesale distributors who then sell to retailers, and only retailers may sell to consumers. There are a few exceptions here & there. In Tennessee, you can self distribute within the county your brewery is located. For example, Woodruff can deliver kegs of their beer anywhere in Knox county, but don’t expect to see them on tap in Maryville. That is, unless they sign an exclusive contract with a distributor. I know of 6 craft beer distributors who deliver to Knoxville. We have the big boys that are either owned or run by the “big 2“. The big 2s are Eagle, which is primarily AB-Inbev (Budweiser, etc), and Cherokee which is MillerCoors. There are several other smaller distributors with their own much smaller portfolios. There is Molo-Tenn based out of Chattanooga (Ft. Collins, Sam Smith, Flying Dog, McNeils to name a few). There’s also Lipman Brothers out of Nashville (Craggie, Lost Coast, Boulder, etc.), Bounty Bev (Green Flash, CalfKiller, Lucky Bucket, etc.) and Beverage-Control of Knoxville (Stone, Mendocino). Each one of these distributors has both their pros and their cons. For example, Beverage-Control can bring in Stone’s beers in bottle, but not kegs since they don’t have refrigeration in their warehouse. My point is that there is no such thing as a “perfect” distributor.

<hate> In fact, one of them (and I’ll go ahead and name names), is so univerally hated by the Knoxville craft beer scene that I rarely hear their name without an expletive thrown in before it. If you are part of the Knoxville beer scene, you know who exactly I’m writing about. Fuckin’ Cherokee. Honestly, I could rant for a whole post about how bad they are, how they don’t seem to give 2 shits about anything besides Miller or Coors (& usually with the word “lite” thrown in somewhere.) When every other city or town in the southeast is enjoying thier Hoptimum, Torpedo or Estate Ales by Sierra Nevada and we can’t get them here in K-town, just know they are responsible. Rumor is that they even pulled Duck Rabbit’s Milk Stout off the shelves at local Ingles because according to an unverified source “people don’t want to drink dark beers in hot weather.” ARRRRGH! </hate>

On the opposite side of this kind of behavior by a big distributor is the love, respect and value shown to craft beer by Eagle Distributing. Yes a majority of their sales are the Budweiser line of products. Unfortunately this can sometimes earn them the ire of uninformed craft beer lovers. People without a firm grasp of history tend to ignore the contributions Anheuser-Busch has made overall to the beer industry. Do I like the taste of Bud? Not really, but at the same time I wouldn’t turn a cold one down, or pull a beer douche card and look down on someone for their beer choice. Budweiser makes a consistent clean product, that pays the bill for Eagle. This allows Eagle to distribute the smaller brands that I love. Yazoo, SawWorks, New Belgium, Magic Hat, RJ Rockers and Brooklyn are all distributed by Eagle.

Eagle’s craft beer manager is Jeremy Walker (aka @KnoxBeerGuy on twitter), who has a passion for good beer. He invited me to an event I went to last night and the title of this post. Gettin’ Crafty With Eagle.

Jeremy Walker- @KnoxBeerGuy on twitter. Follow him and you’ll have your thumb on the pulse of Knoxville craft beer.

Last night’s event was an informal tasting, information session and all around good time. The guest list was most of the bar owners, staff, store managers, account reps and movers and shakers of the Knoxville beer scene. The focus was to let us all know which craft beers and brands are coming soon to the local market and to let us try them and learn about them. I am not so good with doing reviews of beers. I rather leave that to better writers than I such as the Knox Beer Snobs or Lou of Blues and BBQ. Plus I know taste is all subjective. A beer I despise may be a beer that you love and vice versa. I did however try to take pictures and notes so I could tell my readers what to look out for.

Todd and Matt from Jackson Avenue Market in the Old City

I got to the event promptly at 5:30 and immediately ran into Matt and Todd of Jackson Avenue Market. I grabbed my 1st beer, New Belgium’s Peach Porch Lounger. This is a brettanomyces beer that is packaged in 22 ounce bottles. I really liked this one and the brett was way more predominant then the last Brett beer from NB. I liked this one and plan on snatching up a case for my cellar, since this is a bottle conditioned beer that will age well. While sipping on this Matt told me that Jackson Avenue Market is now carrying almost 250 different beers. They are still planning on going for their high gravity license, so look for their offerings to expand. I own them a visit, since it’s been a couple of months. We even discussed briefly hosting a free tasting of my homebrew there sometime in the future.

More folks trickled in and I saw Neil McCormick of Yazoo. He had brought some of their delicious smoked porter, Sue. It’s been a few years since I enjoyed this last and all I can Say is WOW! I can’t wait until we can get this locally on draft and it bottles. There’s a reason why it’s 99 on Ratebeer.com This was one of my favorites of the night and I kept going back to it. Neil also told me about the Tennessee Craft Brewer’s Guild meeting in Chattanooga and plans for the first fundraiser. It’s going to be in Nashville and sounds like a whole hell of a lot of fun. Think craft beer prom with a twist. More details will be forthcoming, I assure you.

Welcome back Terrapin Beer Company!

By now most everyone knows that Terrapin Beer Company’s tasty selections are back in town. Several selections are already on draft and on the shelves. At Eagle’s event there was chance for those unfamiliar to try Hopsecutioner IPA. Terrapin brews beer that I (and everyone I know) loves. Since they’ve been gone, I’ve never neglected to bring back some during my treks to Asheville. Knox Beer Snob Rob told me that he will cry if we are able to get Wake N Bake coffee oatmeal stout here. Well buddy, I’ll be shedding tears of joy myself if this happens. We shall see.

Brooklyn!!!

Brooklyn Brewery was well represented at the event as well. Since I have access to a steady supply at my weekend job, I elected to stay with their high gravity offerings from them. I rather enjoy Local Number Two, so had some along with Local one. I also revisited Sorachi Ace. The last and only time I had this beer, I was a bit disappointed. For whatever reason, The hop character for which this beer is named was muted and overpowered by the Belgian yeast strain. That was not the case this time at all. The lemony Japanese hops stood out and balanced very nicely with the yeast and malts. I’m glad I had it again. My guess is that maybe when I tried it in the past, it had sat too long and the hops dropped out. I don’t know, but I do know I love this beer now.

As I mingled and moved between the 2 rooms this event took place in, a friend of mine mentioned RJ Rocker’s high gravity Pumpkin Ale. I in turn mentioned the RJ Rockers pumpkin to a friend of mine who is a server at Barley’s and beertends at Fort Sander’s Yacht Club, so we went back to the 1st room where we tried it.  I missed it the first time around because it was being dispensed from a kegerator behind the table where bottles of Black Perle and Bell Ringer were being poured. I’m not really keen on pumpkin ales, especially this early in the season. I had just tried Terrapin’s Pumpkinfest, and found it way over spiced to my liking. The RJ Rocker’s Gruntled Pumpkin was in sharp contrast to the Terrapin one. I absolutely loved it. I thought to myself, we have a winner! It’s everything a pumpkin ale should be. Not too spicy, not to sweet, well balanced with the flavor of the actual pumpkin. After having this, I don’t think I could be content with any other pumpkin ale from now on.

Jeremy: “Who wants to win this?” Crowd: “I do!”

Near the end of the event there was a drawing for prizes. Everyone who came in was given a raffle ticket. There was some seriously cool stuff given away, and everyone was hoping they would win the Yuengling boat. While Jeremy pulled tickets and read numbers, I talked to Curtis from Sweetwater and drank some of the Low Ryder IPA. What a solid, enjoyable beer. He informed me that it is going to be available year round starting in October. He also told me that a majority of the next Dank Tank series, Danktoberfest will be shipped to the new accounts in Alabama. That state just passed a law allowing 22 ounce high gravity beers. He also said that due to demand, it will not be on draft, bottles only. This does not bode well for Knoxville, and if we do get any, I anticipate it being snatched up within hours of it hitting the stores. Like I said before, follow Jeremy on twitter because he’ll let us know when it lands.

Well, I knew I had committed to run early in the morning so I didn’t stay long. I said my goodbyes, loaded up of free swag left over from the raffle, got a promise from a friend to come visit me at work on Sunday and headed out. I really want to sincerely thank Eagle for all they do for beer in this area and for hosting this killer event. I can’t wait for the next one.

A few more things to mention before I end this post. Adam of SawWorks Brewing has started a new early morning running group. This morning was the 1st run. We meet every week day at 6 am at Saw Works headquarters. The run goes through downtown, over the Gay Street Bridge and back. We stop by Old City Java for free coffee on the way back. I haven’t ran for over 9 months. I have always made excuses, and have found that my health (and waist line) have suffered for it. Well no more. I am committed to doing this daily. Even though my legs are sore, it felt good to get some early morning exercise to start my day. I encourage people to join us, even if you can only walk instead of run at first. I can only run a small portion of the route and a snail’s pace, but you have to start somewhere.

I also want to let everyone know that this Thursday I will be once again doing an infusion at Suttree’s. I know what we are planning to do, but you’ll have to come out to see exactly what it will be. You will be pleasantly surprised by the tasty treat I have planned. All I can say is that every time we do an infusion, it gets better and better. Don’t miss this, or you’ll regret it. We’ll start at 7, so come on down.

The last thing before I sign off is that I just received my shipment of merchandise to sell at Kingsport Oktoberfest. I do plan on launching my online store real soon. Shirts, magnets, stickers and glassware will be available. All proceeds go towards helping a needy homebrewer (me) buy more ingredients to brew beer to share with his friends. Be on the lookout for my next post where I shamelessly beg for you to buy my (really cool) crap.

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

 


Ratchet’s Reviews: Beer Books Edition.

March 30, 2012

Hey there readers, today’s post is about beer and books. Specifically books about or related to beer or brewing. Most of the books I’m going to tell you about, I have acquired within the last 6 months. I have found that beer books are like most beers, they have a shelf life. Sure some of these books will age well for decades, but some will be outdated in just a few short years. This is why when I am shopping for beer related books, I always check the year they were published. If you buy a ten year old guide book to the “world’s best beers”, chances are a few of the beers and breweries featured are no longer in existence. Same thing with books on brewing. The basics of brewing haven’t changed for centuries. However, there is near constant evolution of equipment, ideas, styles, and ingredients. These older books might not have reference to newer hop varieties such as Citra, Simcoe, or newer “styles” such as Dark IPAs. I’m not saying that you should ignore all older books on the subject. For example, Charlie Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Homebrewing is every bit as relevant as it was when it was first published in 1984.

That being said, here are some of the books I have and my thoughts on them.

The Craft of Stone Brewing Co. by Greg Koch, Steve Wagner and Randy Clemens. Published September of 2011.

Ratchet Rating: 5 (out of 5) Pints. Suggested beer to drink while reading: Arrogant Bastard.

I picked this up in Asheville during my Christmas Beercation. I ended up with a signed copy that I purchased at The Thirsty Monk. This is a really slick book. Nice glossy full color pictures and well written. This book is a combination of things. First it’s a complete history of Stone Brewing Company. From the early days of homebrewing to one of the most respected craft beer producers and everything in between. If you’ve ever wondered how Greg comes up with the rants on the sides of the 22 ounce bottles, this book has that. Each beer that has ever been brewed by Stone has a description beyond just the style and ingredients. They go into the thought process and history of such famous beers such as Arrogant Bastard, Stone Smoked Porter and their Vertical Epic series. The book is written in a relaxed and no holds barred conversational tone. It’s just like sitting around talking to your friends over a few Stone IPAs. The book also features clone recipes to brew your own imitations of their well loved beer. It also has a section  on beer and food pairings by “Dr.” Bill Sysak aka Master Pairings. This is in addition to incredible food recipes from Stone’s own World Bistro and Gardens. Whether you’re a Stone Brewing Company fan, a home brewer, a foodie or a craft beer novice, this book has something for you. If you haven’t picked up this book yet, switch over to Amazon, ebay or better yet Stone’s own website and order it now. You’ll be glad that you did.

The next two books I’m going to tell you about are beer style specific. First up is Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition by Phil Markowski. Published 2004.

Ratchet Rating: 3 (out of 5) Pints. Suggested beer to drink while reading: Fantôme De Noel

I borrowed this last fall from my buddy Shanezilla, who is a big fan of saisons. I just recently in the last few years started acquiring a taste for belgium style beers. I’m not really a big fan of farmhouse style ales, but I can appreciate them from time to time. This book is a pretty good attempt to trace the history of farmhouse brewing in both the North of France and in Belgium. This book was a little long, and I thought that the material could have been covered in fewer pages. However, I did enjoy learning about traditional farmhouse brewing and how the Saisons and Belgium style ales of today probably bear little resemblance to those historically brewed on farms in the Wallonia and Flanders regions of Belgium and France. There are a few recipes included for homebrewers, and the author encourages experimentation when it comes to brewing this type of beer. If you are a big fan of Saison, Sours, Belgium or Brett beers, this is your book. I did come away from reading this with an idea for a saison that I want to brew this summer.

The next style specific book to tell you about is Smoked Beers: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes by Ray Daniels and Geoffrey Larson. Published in 2004.

Ratchet Rating: 3.5 (out of 5) Pints. Suggested beer to drink while reading: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen.

I purchased this book online. I got it to help me with my research to brew the best possible Rauchbier that I could. Previous to reading this book, I was already aware of the Bamberg style smoked beers as well as the peat smoked Scottish ales. Reading this book really opened my eyes to how many types and styles of smoked beer there actually are. The book is primarily a history and discussion of the style, going back to the early days of brewing beer when most malts were dried using smoke. Those early brews undoubtedly must have had some smoky flavors as part of their profile. As malting techniques advanced the smoked flavors in beer vanished except for a few regions keeping to the traditional ways. The Bamberg region in Germany is the most well known of these. After reading this book, I really want to visit there someday. This book is written in part by Geoff Larson, founder of Alaskan Brewing Company. They are known for their smoked porter, which I have not yet had the pleasure of trying. This book is well written, reads easily and also includes a few recipes and tips for homebrewers. I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in this style. Beer historians, homebrewers, smoke lovers will all appreciate the history, types and techniques for smoking malt. I just hope that my Rauchbier turns out as good as this book did.

Great American Craft Beer: A Guide to the Nation’s Finest Beers and Breweries by Andy Couch. Published August 2010.

Ratchet Rating: 4.5 (out of 5) Pints. Suggested beer to drink while reading: Your favorite anything.

I picked up this gem at McKays in west Knoxville. I was given a gift card for Christmas and used it wisely on this book. Great American Craft Beer is very well written, stylish and informative. More than just a guidebook, it has sections on beer and food pairings, stories from some well-known brewers, a bit of beer history and profiles of some of the best brew pubs in the country. This book cover only American breweries and beer. There are more than 80 styles of beer covered and 340 beer profiles featuring full-color photographs and illustrations of the beers and beer labels. Some of your favorites beers are surely featured as were mine. Because of this book, my beer “wish list” has grown substantially. If you plan on reading any beer books this year, this one should be near the top of your list.  Expertly written by Andy Couch of Beerscribe.com. Get this book, seriously.

The Beer Book, Your Drinking Companion to Over 1,700 Beers edited by Tim Hampson. Published October 2008.

Ratchet Rating: 4 (out of 5) Pints. Suggested beer to drink while reading: Any imported craft beer.

Another great find at McKays. I’ll let you in on a secret. I have a friend that works there and get books for the price McKays pays for them. Every once in a while, I’ll go over there, pick out a few things and hand them to this person to buy. This person comes over to my house after work where they are compensated with, you guessed it, beer. Alright, so yeah, this book. It’s primarily an encyclopedia of beer. Not just craft beer, it has history and information about the big corporate beers too. This is a beautifully produced coffee table book with full-page photos. Beers are arranged by country and geographical area. Anyone who is lucky enough to travel overseas should consult this book for craft beer choices.  I wouldn’t call this a comprehensive guide, just for the fact that the brewerys that are included, only 2 of their beers are featured. There are a few examples of it’s age (it came out in 2008) because some beers might no longer be produced by the brewers and some of the beer labels might have changed. This should not count against it however. It’s a great book with a lot of relevant information. This book is currently only $16 on Amazon. At that price, there is no excuse not to pick this up. Last I checked McKays had another pristine copy marked at only $10. That is well worth the price. Get this and you’ll be happy you did.

The Oxford Companion to Beer edited by Garrett Oliver. Published October 2011.

Ratchet Rating: 5 (out of 5) Pints. Suggested beer to drink while reading: ANY beer.

This is the definitive encyclopedia of all things beer. I heard about this book before it was available. I first got to see it for myself at a Knox Beer Crew tasting in January. I knew right away that I had to have it. The next day I got online and scored a copy. This book has a cover price of $65, but you can get it much cheaper than that. I scored my copy for $30 shipping and all, from eBay. I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!! I mean seriously. Pretty much anything you wanted to know about beer can be found in it. Want to know the true history of IPA? It’s in there. Want to know what type of acids are in a hop cone? It’s in there. When I first got this book, I was determined to read it from cover to cover. It really is an encyclopedia in alphabetical order. I got mostly through “A” before I was overwhelmed with information. I had to put it down and read something else. I do still plan on reading it all the way through, but not all at once. For now, it’s a great guide. If I want to look up a certain type of hop, a brewing technique, or a yeast strain this helps immensely. Anyone who is into craft beer should have this book. It is worth it’s weight in gold.

The last one is NOT a beer book, but I want to tell you about it anyway. Suttree by Cormac McCarthy. Published 1979.

Ratchet Rating 5 (out of 5) pints. Suggested beer to drink while reading: something cheap from a can.

Ever since I first heard about Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern, I wanted to go back and reread this book. When I broke the news, I knew I had to get a copy. I first read this book back around ’96 or so when I moved to Knoxville. I was living with a bunch of guys in the Fort Sanders neighborhood and there was a well-worn copy kicking around the house. Honestly, I remembered very little of what I read back then. I also didn’t get the street and neighborhood references being that I was new to town. I picked up my new copy at Central Street Books that is in the building that use to be the Corner Lounge. It’s fitting since that I got it there since “The Corner” is mentioned a couple of times in the book.  The city of Knoxville is pretty much the star of this novel. I won’t comment much on the story other than to say I really enjoyed it. It’s written in typical Cormac McCarthy style with periodic long and almost hallucinogenic flowing descriptions. When I read it I could picture what Knoxville looked like back in the 1950s when the story takes place. Also from the sounds of it, certain parts of this town were a real shit hole back then. This book also spurred my curiosity of what Knoxville use to look like back in the day, to the point that I went to Union Avenue books and looked through the old Knoxville photographic history books they have for sale there. If you want an entertaining story, and a window back to Knoxville of old, read this.

I have 2 more beer books I’ve gotten recently that I look forward to reading.They were found at McKays. The first is The History of Beer in America by Yenne Bill. Flipping through it so far, it’s very intriquing. I can’t wait to throughly digest it. The next book is The Naked Pint an Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer by Christine Perrozzi and Hallie Beaune. I haven’t even cracked this book open, but it looks good so far. I will report back on both of these books at a later date.

Well that’s my post for now. I do want to give a big shout out to everyone that came out to infusion night at The Casual Pint last Wednesday. It went over really well, and we do plan on doing it again in April. We picked one date already, but I realized later on that I already have plans that night. As soon as I talk with Nathan and nail down another date for our infusion of Woodruff’s Blonde ale run through fresh cut strawberries, I will let you know.

Until next time,

Cheers

Ratchet


Infusion Night at @TheCasualPint and a report about our last #KnoxBeerCrew meeting

March 26, 2012

Appreciation of craft beer is growing at an incredible rate. It seems like every week a new brewery pops up on the otherside of the mountains in NC (where the laws make it easier then here in TN). It also seems that every week I learn about a new beer festival as well. Just today I found out about Asheville Brews Cruise’s new “The Best Firkin Beer Festival” taking place April 28th. So many festivals, so little time. I understand that beer festivals taking place almost every weekend is just a part of craft beer becoming so popular.  As I think about it though, even if had unlimited money and zero responsibility I would still pick and choose which beer fest I go to. If I went to one every weekend, I’m sure I’d find myself getting burnt out. A “festival fatigue” if you will.

Because of the amount of festivals taking place, it really takes something different and special to pique my interest. The upcoming Thirsty Orange Brew Extravaganza is one of those. This inaugural festival has been in the planning for over a year. It’s brought to you by the same crew that puts on the Kingsport Oktoberfest. I’m in constant communication with the main organizer, Aaron Carson, who gives me updates. Everytime a new brewery is added and everytime a special cask conditioned ale is made for this festival, I get a call from Aaron. I can hear the excitement in his voice as he lays out the new details. Him and his crew have worked really hard to bring a one of a kind experience to the often overlooked Johnson City, TN.  There is a lot more I could say about this festival, but honestly my man Don of the Knox Beer Snobs has already said it better than I could at his post here.

That being said, here is a list of festivals that I plan on attending this year, with a quick note about each.

Thirsty Orange April 14th, Johnson City.  I’ll be serving my Orange Ginger Pale Ale, A Chocolate Ale, my Hop Boom! IPA and a homemade cream soda. The Orange Ginger Pale Ale will be infused with shredded fresh ginger, mandarin orange slices and whole leaf Citra hops.

Beer City Festival, June 2nd in Downtown Asheville. The wrap up to Asheville’s first annual beer week. I’m actually planning on staying in Asheville for the last 4 days of beer week. There are many events planned and even a smartphone app being developed. Tickets are almost sold out, so if you plan on going, you better get one quick.

Knoxville Brew Fest, Saturday June 23rd at Southern Railway Terminal in Knoxville. I’ll be serving here as well. I plan on having a wild flower wheat beer, a stout on nitro, a Maibock and my Rauchbier. I should have my merchandise for sale as well.

Kingsport Oktoberfest, September 21st and 22nd, the streets in front of the Chamber of Commerce, Kingsport, TN. Last year’s event is still one of my favorites. This year it’s going to be bigger and better. I plan on serving my beer at this event, same as I did last year.

Great American Beer Festival, October 11-13th, Denver Colorado. This is the Grand daddy of all of the American Beer Festivals. 3 days, 450+ breweries. I’m saving now for this. The only drawback is that I’ll miss the Asheville Oktoberfest which is scheduled on the same Saturday this year.

Knoxville Brewer’s Jam, October 6th at World’s Fair Park. Knoxville’s first and premier beer festival. I always serve beer at this event as part of the Tennessee Valley Homebrewers club. There is an idea kicking around to team up with a few other Knox Beer Crew homebrewers and getting our own tent this year. We’ll have to see. Either way I’ll have some tasty beers to share.

These are all the beer events I plan on attending as of now, but it’s subject to change.

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Report on the Knox Beer Crew meeting last weekend.

Thanks to Jason and Beverley Anderson for hosting the tasting at their house. We had many new members show up and there was a great selection of beers shared. I brought a 2012 bottle of Sexual Chocolate that I traded for. We also got to try Brooklyn Black OpsFounders Curmudgeans Better Half 2012,  Dogfish Sah’tea, Mikkeller 1000 IBU, Avery Samael’s Oak-Aged Ale, Nantahala Trail Magic Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, Southern Tier  2X Stout, Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout, Ommegang Adoration Ale, Great Divide 17th Anniversary, Founders Imperial Stout, Cigar City Cubano-Style Espresso Brown Ale and a giant 3 liter bottle of Stone 10th Anniversary Ale opened as seen in the below video:

Also some really cool pictures as well (click to make big).

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Well I took my ABC course and should have my card soon. This means I’ll legally be able to pour high gravity beer at events. This is something that Johnson City’s attorney is requiring in order to serve beer at the Thirsty Orange. If you are going to work in a restaurant or bar in TN serving alcohol, this is required by the state. I learned quite a bit in that class including how sophisticated fake ids are now.

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Large corporate macrobrew has long been known for it’s rampant sexism.  Because of this, women haven’t always been treated equally in the beer industry when it comes to pay and respect. Thankfully this is changing. Craft beer is for everyone (of age), and there is a new group in town of kick ass women who want to spread knowledge, love and understanding of craft beer. They are the Barley’s Angels and they their first meeting coming up soon. For more information about how you can join and/or support this righteous group of sisters, and what they are about, check out Knox Hop’nings.

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One last thing as a reminder. This Wednesday I’m teaming up with The Casual Pint for our first beer infusion night. We’ll be running Woodruff’s Porter through my infuser packed with cocoa nibs and shredded coconut. If this event goes well, we plan on doing an infusion once a month. Please come out and support. I hope to see you all there.

More next week,

Ratchet


Belated report on the TN Winter Beer Fest and more

February 9, 2012

Hey readers, I figured I’d update the ol’ blog and let you know how the TN Winter Beer Festival went. It was (insert positive exclamative adjective here)! I had a really good time.  As you know, the festival took place at the Laurel Valley County Club in Townsend. It was held in the clubhouse which is 2 stories. Upstairs had Depot Street and Smoky Mountain Brewery pouring their tasty concoctions. Downstairs had Woodruff and Marble City side by side. I wore my Woodruff shirt to the event and I’m glad I did. By the time it occured to me that I should ask for a volunteer t-shirt, they were out of my size. I knew most of the other volunteers, but since the event was limited to 180 tickets, by the end of the night, it felt like everyone knew everyone. Since I wore my Woodruff shirt and am a good friend and supporter of the brewery, I helped pour beer for them all night. The photographer for the Daily Times took a great picture of me doing just that, that you can see here.

As ticket holders came in the door, they were given a t-shirt, a pint glass and a poker chip. Each brewery had a large beer mug in front of their taps. People were instructed to vote for thier favorite beer or brewery by placing the poker chip in the mug. There was some stiff competition. Since I was representing Woodruff, and consider the Downtown Grill & Brewery my home away from home, I really wanted Dave to take home the “Best of Beers” trophy. As I was pouring beer I noticed 2 things. There were the tried and true beer connoisseurs who absolutely loved the seasonal, high gravity Captain’s Winter Ale. There were also more then a few people who weren’t necessarly beer drinkers, but came out to support the event. This crowd absolutely loved the Downtown Blonde, which also happened to be the lightest beer being poured. The combination of votes from craft and light beer drinkers turned out to be the winning combination for Woodruff. Dave took home the coveted trophy!

Dave Ohmer of Woodruff Brewing Company wins the Best Of Beers Award

 I do want to thank Dave for generously offering me the extra bed available in the cabin that he and some others were staying at  nearby. He offered it so I could drink and not have to worry about sobering up to drive home to Knoxville. I was going to take him up on the offer, but around 7 pm, my kidneys started to ache. By 7:30 I knew I was done sampling beers and had switched over to water. By the time the event ended at 9,  I was stone cold sober. I helped clean up, said my goodbyes & drove home to the comfort of my own bed.

I am vrey much looking forward to next year’s TN Winter Beer Fest. Make sure to check out Don’s post about the festival at Knox Beer Snobs.

One more thing before I end this really short post. April 14th is the Thirsty Orange Beer Festival in Johnson City TN. Check out this great post about it on Tattood Brew’s website. I am heavily involved in helping to organize this festival. I think my big claim to fame is that I came up with, and wrote the rules for the Iron Brewer competition. As we get closer, I’ll write a proper post about it. As for my next post, I’m thinking about doing a step-by step tutorial on the kegerator I’m building.

Until then,

Ratchet


We know you like beer, but why do you hate children?

January 25, 2012

Most of the people I know in the Knoxville Craft beer community are real fine outstanding folks. As a whole, they support a wide variety of causes, and donate their time and energy to many charities. I image most of them think of themselves as progressive. It just makes me wonder, why do they hate kids?

Whoa, whoa there Ratchet…What the hell are you talking about?

You know what I’m talking about. If they don’t hate children, then why haven’t they bought their tickets yet to the Tennessee Winter Beer Festival?

Wait…, What? What does that have to do with kids? I’m confused.

Well then, let me fill you in. The Tennessee Winter Beer Festival is about more then great craft beer, amazing food and camaraderie in the shadows of the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s also about helping kids. Specifically abused and neglected kids.

How so?

I’m glad you asked. It’s because 100% of the proceeds from this festival go directly to New Hope Blount County Children’s Advocacy Center. The Children’s Advocacy Center is a child-friendly, safe place for child victims of sexual and physical abuse. Children, along with their non-offending family members, receive necessary services at the Center for return to optimal functioning. The Center is designed to be the “child’s office,” where multiple agencies and professionals convene to coordinate and deliver services in one place so the child only tells their story one time.

Many times when people plan on attending a beer festival, they focus primarily (of course) on the beer, and not where the $ from the fest is going. I wanted people to know. As a father, I take the health and well being of children to heart. As someone who works in a law firm, I hear heart breaking stories of abuse all the time. This is your chance to make a difference while having a good time.

I have talked to people in the Knoxville community about this fest. I know $45 may seem like a lot for a festival with only 4 participating breweries. However, I have heard this from people who have no problem shelling out $30 and up for 1 uber-limited bottle of beer. When you think about it, what is being offered for the price is well worth it. First you are getting unlimited beer from Marble City Brewing Company, Woodruff Brewing Company, Smoky Mountain Brewery and Jonesboro based Depot Street Brewery. Woodruff even brewed up a special batch of beer for this event. In addition to the brews, Miss Lilly’s Cafe (who host the monthly Townsend beer club dinners) is providing some amazing food. Seriously, you could very well spend that much on dinner for you & your sweetie at their restaurant. For your money you also get a shirt and a pint glass. This festival is really small. Only 180 tickets are being sold. Think of this less then a festival, and more of a private beer dinner with you and your close friends. Since the event is so intimate, you’ll be able to talk with and learn whatever you would like from the actual brewers themselves. For even more information, check out the festival’s website, this article from the New Sentinel, and this article from The Daily Times as well.

People who attend are going to be talking about this event for a long time. I encourage everyone who reads this to go get a ticket soon. After all, you don’t hate children, do you?

See you there,

Ratchet