One of the Best Weekends EVER! @ThirstyOrange Extravaganza and Brewery Visits @SleepyOwlBrew

April 14, 2014

I don’t even know how to start this post. My mind is still processing the pure amount of concentrated fun I had this weekend in Johnson City. I’m talking of course about The Thirsty Orange Brew Extravaganza. I drove up on Friday morning with a goal of visiting some breweries, going to the site of the event, getting settled into my hotel and covering the beer dinner. I was able to get just that accomplished. My first stop of the trip took me to Damascus, VA, home of the Virginia Creeper Trail. About 4 or 5 years ago, I took a vacation to camp and ride the trail with my son. We had a great time and I kept thinking how Damascus would really benefit by having a nano-brewery. Not only does the Creeper trail go through, but so does the Appalachian trail. Well fast forward a few years and now there is a small brewery appropriately called “The Damascus Brewery“. I met the owner Adam on my last beer trip to All Ale To The Queen Craft Beer Carnival in Charlotte, NC. We shared a table together and he poured his delicious Bazinga Black IPA. I really enjoyed talking to him and I knew I would have to go check out his set up. We spoke on the phone a few times to plan it out and I headed up there Friday morning. Adam is a family man, and had previous engagement with his kids, so he arranged to have his number 2, co-brewer and all around cool dude Jeremy open the place up just to give me a tour.

When I arrived he immediately started showing me around. I recognized some fermenters that were manufactured by my friend Carl at Bubba’s Barrels. Every piece of equipment had a story behind it. After looking around, it was time for some sampling. I sat at the bar and listened to the tale behind everyone of their brews. Each beer I tried was great. I wanted to bring some home to share, so after a while I picked a growlette of Sweet Beaver, an apricot heffeweizen. After awhile I realized it had to get on the road and I didn’t want to take up too much of Jeremy’s time. I said my goodbye and am going to have to go do the Creeper Trail again this Summer so I can spend much more time there and enjoy full sized pours.

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Yes!

My next stop was to go see my friend and all around great guy, Brian Connatser at Sleepy Owl Brewery in Kingsport, TN. I arrived to a familiar location. Sleepy Owl is in the old rail road depot where Kingsport Oktoberfest is held. The brewery occupies the space that we used as a staging area the last couple of years. Brian has a 1 barrel Blichmann system with electric heating. Unfortunately, he did not have any beers to pour as he is still waiting for his final TTB number before he can fire up the system. When he does, you better believe I’ll be taking him up on his offer to come brew a collaboration. We talked for awhile and he gave me great advice and a whole lot of hope. He built his whole brewery by hand and with a budget I could see myself doing. After a little bit, I had to head on. I wish Brian and Sleepy Owl nothing but great success. I have a feeling they will be growing at an outstanding pace.

The next place to go was the Millennium Center on ETSU’s campus to find Aaron and get situated. I quickly found him running around attending to all the last minute details like always. He asked if I could go to The Battery where the beer dinner was being held and make sure they had all the parts for the jockey boxes they needed for the night. After doing so, I headed over to Earth Fare to buy the ingredients for the next day’s infusion. After that, I had barely enough time to go to the hotel, shower and change to get ready for the dinner. I arrived early enough to make sure we got the beer hooked up to pour and enjoy a few pints myself. As familiar and new faces started arriving I had time to meet the new Highland festival rep, Mark. We hit it off right away, and I joked with about how he had taken my dream job. Next Josie and Jeff from Urban Orchard arrived. I had a blast with them last time, and it was good to see them as well. Adam from Damascus Brewery was on scene and I made sure to thank him for having Jeremy show me around. I got a text from my buddy Adam Reinke asking if I could save seats for him and the crazy M.A.L.T. guys he was bringing.

After enjoying several beers and mingling with my friends (Shout out to Jay, his wife, Brian Connatser and Smap of UBC) it was time to start the dinner. We all got seated and the first course came out. You can see what we had for each pairing by following the twitter post from that event. Course 1, 2, 3, and 4 hot linked for your convenience. After dinner it was time for a little partying. Reinke and his crew were staying at the Double Tree where I was at and, while some of the others like Jeff and Josie from Urban Orchard were at the the Carnegie hotel right at the festival site. We had so much fun together at All Ale to The Queen we wanted to find another “Grassy Knoll” to hang out. Instead we got a cement patio outside the hotel. Cementy knoll just doesn’t have the same ring to it. I stashed my car back at my hotel and along with Adam and crew, we shared a cab back to Carnegie. After a few beers, it dawned on me that I was supposed to “Run For The Booty” in the morning and should make my way back to my hotel. While waiting for a cab, I saw one of my friends being dropped off out front. Their ride just happened to be going back to Double Tree so it worked out perfectly for me. So I called it a night and rested up for the next day.

Morning arrived and I woke up slightly hungover. No big deal, I did my best run hungover, so I just drank coffee and water and headed back to the site. I arrived and parked. while waiting for the run to start, I unpacked a few things from the car to set up my booth. I waited around for what seemed like a really long time until the run go underway. I wasn’t going for speed and knew it was a color run, so I left my iPhone and headphones in the car. I started off the near the front of the pack and stayed there the whole time. I expected to get passed by many other runners, but only a few did. Along the route there weren’t any markers, so I had no idea how far I had to go. There were a few color stations where they threw died cornstarch on us, and a few sand pits set up where we dug for plastic coins. They gave out prizes based on who got the most. I came to run, not dig in sand, so I didn’t focus on that. I did finish strong near the front, but had no idea what my time was, but I felt great. After getting back to the site, I had a few pictures snapped and then headed back to my room to clean up and get ready for the day’s big festivities.

After cleaning up, it was set up time. My friends Jess Hurd and Rob Brantner both had family in the area they could stay with and agreed to help me out by volunteering for the day. I met them both on site. Rob was my merchandise, booth volunteer.  Jess is a recent graduate of South College’s brewing Science program, so I thought this would make her overly qualified to help me run the festival’s mobile infusion unit. After getting the booth set up, we had to make sure we had everything for the randal. We got it from the organizers and I realized that it wasn’t as cleaned out as I thought from the last festival. It took awhile and some borrowed beer line cleaner and Star-San to get it ready. We were able to get it up and running at Highland’s booth right as the early bird ticket holders were let in at 1pm. We had a strict schedule for the infusions. We decided to do 5 infusions. Each table would get 45 minutes, with 15 minutes between each one to unpack, clean and repack for the next booth. Once up and running, we would take turns running things while the other one of us grabbed a beer and socialized. I seen many of my tri-cities friends and every time I turned around I was getting a hug, handshake or a pat on the back from someone I hadn’t seen in awhile. After (more then) a few beers, it started to feel like rock star status. We were all into full on party mode, but I had to self regulate my consumption because of my duties. We hit our groove and the infusions ran like clockwork. Here’s what we did:

Highland Brewing Company Thunder Struck Porter with mint, cinnamon and Cocao nibs from 1:15-2

Goose Island Beer Co. Endless IPA with strawberry and cutie oranges from 2:15-3

New Belgium Brewing Snapshot with watermelon and hops from 3:15-4

Starr Hill Brewing Company Dark Star Stout with coconut and cocao nibs from 4:15- 5

And our last infusion of the day was Urban Orchard’s Sweet English Cider with Plums and Peaches from 5 until they ran out. The festival ended at 7 and I wanted to make sure we would have time to enjoy it before it was over. I walked around and made plans for the after party with friends. Most brewers and volunteers know we can’t get overly inebriated at the fest because we still have to pack up and make way to our respective hotels, clean up and grab some food before the real party begins for us. There was an official after party at a place called Holy Taco and a bar tab set up just for us. So after sobering up, breaking down and packing up, I hit my hotel for a shower, and some fresh clothes. Once again outside the lobby I met with friends of ours such as John from Lookout Brewing in Black Mountain, NC and his crew. Adam, Mark and Erich from the infamous Mike Hawke homebrew tent were there as well. We shared cabs to get back downtown and Holy Taco. As soon  as I walked in the door I was bombarded by friends. I felt very loved and had some good buddies tell me they had waited a whole year to smoke with me, so we went to the parking lot for a little smoke session that didn’t last long. After about 4 minutes and 20 seconds, we were walking back into the bar. My Bearden Beer Market running buddy D.J. Loope was there as well as the Chisholm Tavern crew. So was Stephanie of Superfly Fabulous events, the organizers of Thirsty Orange. She told me there were tables set up for us out back. I walked back there to find the MALT guys, The Lookout Brew crew, my Urban Orchard peeps, Rob and some new friends I made that day. The beer and music was flowing and I was feeling good. Regulate by Warren G. was bumping on the sound system, prompting Josie of Urban Orchard and myself to dance to it. I sat the next table over most of the time getting to know my new friends Maggie and TJ who work at Mellow Mushroom with my friends Andrew, Andrew and Flipper. We drank more and I remember buying us a round a margaritas and drinking mine and most of a few other peoples as well. I decided we need more pictures and someone took this funny series below as TJ kept pinching my nipples. It was too funny to not turn into an animated gif.

Stop!

Stop!

As the party progressed the decision was made to head back to the “Cementy Knoll” at The Carnegie. Luckily instead of a cab, TJ and Maggie had a friend, Victoria that drove us there. We bumped loud electronica music (except for when that cop was following us) on the way there. We arrived to find the rest of our crew already in place and at the point I was drinking anything anyone handed me, as you’ll see by the pictures. At some point I went into the downstairs by the patio and grabbed some nice big comfy upholstered chairs and dragged them outside. Adam Reinke commented that we were going to get kicked out of the hotel we weren’t even staying at.

The rest of the party started becoming a blur and my off switch flipped. It was time to head back to the hotel. I did an irish goodbye and had the front desk call me a cab. The next morning I woke early with a hangover, packed my car and headed home.

What an incredible time. I am hoping to get back up to tri-cities real soon to visit and also brew with Jimie, Jay and Brian. I am also hoping that some of my friends from up there will come visit me. I’d love to show them around Knoxville and Maryville for a weekend. Maybe a few of them will join me next month for Asheville Beer Week?

Coming up next is both CurtisFest and Hops for Hope. Curtis Fest is less then 2 weeks, on Saturday April 26th. Some friends and I are already scoping out the site to see where we want to set up camp. I’m really excited about this because besides my tweeting duties, I have no other responsibilities. I’ll get to actually relax and drink copious amounts with some of my favorite people. Hops for Hope is May 2nd at the Lily Barn in Townsend. I am volunteering for this one. To know more about it, read this excellent post by Knox Beer Snobs. we currently have tickets for sale for both events at the Market in Maryville, so feel free to come by and pick them up from myself of dAveBV. Also a note to our Brew Mob crew. We are cementing plans for our Oskar Blues Cans Film Fest entry video shoot. When we announce when we are filming, we’ll need you to show up in your Brew Mob gear for the final shot. You’ll be comped with beer for your participation and we will have some Oskar Blues cans to share. You can find out when this is going to happen on our Facebook and Twitter feed.

This is all for now, there’s another big announcement coming soon. I’m hoping to post about it before CurtisFest. Thanks for reading this, enjoy the pictures below.

May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you’re going, and the insight to know when you’re going too far.

     — Irish toast

Cheers,

-R@TcheT-







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Ginger powers Activate. Me with my Bearden Beer Market Running buddy, D.J.

Ginger powers Activate. Me with my Bearden Beer Market Running buddy, D.J.

That crazy brewer man is scaring me. Drake from wolfhills

That crazy brewer man is scaring me. Drake from Wolf Hills

Wizards serving up their sauce.

Wizards serving up their sauce.

These guys know how to party. Willy D from Starr Hill, Mark from Highland and myself

These guys know how to party. Willy D from Starr Hill, Mark from Highland and myself

This could possibly be the best idea for a brewers tent, like, ever!

This could possibly be the best idea for a brewers tent, like, ever!

Adam looking all serious

Adam looking all serious

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Me and Jimie. It's like Compton and long Beach together, now you know you're in trouble!

Me and Jimie. It’s like Compton and Long Beach together, now you know you’re in trouble!

Ain't nuthin' but a G thang bay-bay

Ain’t nuthin’ but a G thang bay-bay

Steve Dedman. Another homebrewer brew-styar. He always wins awards.

Steve Dedman. Another homebrewer brew-styar. He always wins awards.

Only the finest malt beverages were consumed at the Cementy Knoll after party

Only the finest malt beverages were consumed at the Cementy Knoll after party

Have a blast with my new friends TJ and Maggie at the after party

Have a blast with my new friends TJ and Maggie at the after party

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Grand Opening of @HopsandHollers and info on @CurtisFestKnox #CraftBeer

April 5, 2014

Hey y’all, quick update today. I’m really looking forward to next weekend and the Thirsty Orange Craft Beer Extravaganza. I plan on leaving Mur-vul first thing Friday morning to go visit a friend named Adam at his brewery, The Damascus Brewery. This is located in, you guessed it, Damascus Virginia. I remember visiting the Virginia Creeper Trail a few years back and thinking that Damascus would be the perfect place for a brew pub. After visiting there I plan on going to Kingsport, TN to visit Sleepy Owl Brewery. My friend Brian Connatser recently came up with the funds to start Sleepy Owl through a successful kickstarter campaign. He’s not brewing yet, because he’s still waiting for his TTB permits, but I’m going to check out his system and see what the future holds. Then it’s off to Johnson City to check out the site, get settled in to the hotel and go to the Friday night beer dinner at The Battery. The menu for this looks incredible. I am mostly vegetarian, but I’m not passing on this. It’s more calories then I normally consume in a week, but I’m not worried because the next morning I’m running my first official 5k.

runbootyThe Run For The Booty is a color run, meaning they bomb the crap outta you with colored cornstarch that sticks to your sweat. You come out looking tie-died at the end. This isn’t a timed race, because they have unique stations set up along the route where you did for gold coins and other prizes. This is a fund raiser for ETSU’s new football team. After I run, I’ll get cleaned up and head to the site to get set up. Much like last festival, I’m running the mobile infuser.

Of course, I’ll be blogging about all this after the fact and of course you can follow along in real time on my twitter feed.

Today (I’m writing this part on Saturday April 5th), I started my day early. Friday after work I took my son to go see the new Captain America movie. We got popcorn and I ate way to much of it. I have been trying really hard to stick to my diet and everyone knows movie theater popcorn has a bazillion calories in it. So I was feeling guilty and chastising my inner fat boy. So instead of going out or drinking beer that night, I made myself go to bed early so I could get up and run. I did 5 miles beating my record by 5 minutes. After I showered and changed, I drove to Knoxville to the Happy Holler neighborhood for Hops and Hollers’ Grand Opening. I had seen my friend Charles on Thursday night at South College’s Brewing Science Program Graduation party at Saw Works. I didn’t know he was co-owner. We started talking and he said they were going to open on Saturday at 11. I said I’d be honored to be his first official customer. He said, “Do it!” so I was there at 10:30. This is a cool spot on Central. It’s not as far down central as Taps and Flats. I walked in and was greeted by Charles and his partner getting ready. They were still writing the tap list on the board. I took a few pictures and at 5 till 11 I asked for a pour. I got Terrapin’s RecreationAle. It was the first pour there. I had brought along some markers and had a 1 dollar bill so they could put their first official dollar as a business up on the wall for good luck. I can’t wait to go back and drink there again. I could only have 1 beer because I had to work at the Beer den, so I said goodbye and headed back to Mur-vul.  On my way I picked up some flyers from my new friend Joe Fox to put up for CurtisFest.

What is CurtisFest? It’s a small intimate craft beer festival that will take place 2pm to 7pm on Saturday April 26th at Mead’s Quarry at Ijams Nature Park. This is a festival mainly to celebrate the life and legacy of a good friend, Curtis McArthur. Curtis passed away due to a tragic accident on New Years eve. All of us who knew him are still in shock and mourning. Curtis was beloved by all. As a rep from Sweetwater brewery, he traveled around and was a fixture of the craft beer scene nationwide. I got to know him from his many trips to Knoxville and we hung out together at many festivals. I have some Sweetwater swag given to me by him that I will treasure forever. His longtime friend Joe Fox started the Curtis McArthur foundation to raise money for scholarships for South College’s Brewing program. This is a way to honor his memory and is something that ol’ Dirt McCurt would have approved. The money from CurtisFest will go to this and to his memorial fund.

So what is going down at CurtisFest? Good people drinking phenomenal beers in an absolutely gorgeous setting. Tickets are $50 and worth every penny. You get an official Curtisfest tulip glass and unlimited samples of some of Curtis’s favorite breweries. These include Asheville’s Wicked Weed and Highland, Nashville’s Yazoo, Terrapin and Sweetwater from Georgia, Knoxville’s own Alliance and Saw Works along with Founders from Grand Rapids Michigan. They expect to add more breweries as we get closer to the date. Curtis was big into sharing beer, so that is a big part of the festival as well. Dig in your cellar, grab a couple of rarities and bring them out to  let other people enjoy them. Who knows, maybe someone else who’s doing the same will have that rare white whale you’ve been searching for. For people who live or are booking a hotel room downtown, there will be free shuttles going back and forth from Market Square to the site.

The other really cool parts of this festival is the food truck fish taco cook off. There will be some stiff competition to determine who makes the best one. Also on tap is a dj playing Curtis’ favorite tunes, so come prepared to boogie! If that isn’t enough to entice you, there will be disc golf, corn hole, paddle boarding and kayaking demonstrations as well. So go ahead and make plans to attend now. For a festival of this nature, there are a very limited number of tickets being sold. You can purchase them online or at the following locations: Barley’s in Knoxville and Maryville, Central Flats and Taps, Hops and Hollers or come see me out at The Market in Maryville, where Dave and I have them for sale. Even if you never met Curtis, please come help us honor his memory and make some great memories while doing so.

This is all for now. I’ll write again next week after Thirsty Orange. Don’t forget I work Sundays at The Market and do a different infusion each week.  We also do a bottle share, so garb something cold and come on down.

Cheers,

 

-R@TcheT-

curtis2

 

 


Great Time at @AllAleQueen #Craftbeer Carnival #CltBeer #NCBeer #beerfest

March 24, 2014

I consider myself blessed for the life I have. Not only am I one of the resident beer geeks at The Market in Maryville but I also get to go work beer festivals through SuperFly Fabulous Events. You might haven’t  heard of this company, but you know of their work. Kingsport Oktoberfest, Thirsty Orange, All Ale To The Queen, Beer City Bus Tours and Brewer’s Summit. The team that put on these events are great people and I’m proud to be their friend. At these festivals I’ve done everything from represent a brewery (Woodruff), to pouring my homebrew, promoting the events through social media, to the most recent, running the mobile infusers. The best part about doing all this is having another chance to hang out before, during and after the events.

This weekend brought me to Charlotte, NC for the All Ale to the Queen Craft Beer Carnival. I’ve been planning on this event for months now, and I almost didn’t make it. My life has changed so much in a short amount of time. Being unemployed for awhile, moving to Maryville and working a low paying (but fulfilling) job has had it challenges. The finances starting looking grim for a 4 hour drive. When I estimated the gas money needed to go, it didn’t look like I could pull it off. Luckily a few friends saw my post on my personal social media and came to my rescue by buying some rare beers I’ve been cellaring. I was hoping to rope one or 2 of my remaining friends to go with me, but despite some last minute bribery, It ended up being a solo trip.

So I loaded up the car and left Friday Morning for Charlotte. The drive was uneventful. My GPS said it would take 4 and 1/2 hours but I made it to the venue in 4 with no problems. I checked in and was handed one of the festivals jockey boxes and asked if I could get it re-lined. Since I was also now in possession of the company’s brand new top of the line randall and needed to get parts, it wasn’t a problem. I put everything in my car and googled the nearest homebrew supply store. I found my way to Beer and Wine Hobbies International. The staff there was great and helped me reline the box and get all the parts I needed to set up the Randall. As I sat there with them talking about beer the clock was ticking. I had to still find my way to where the beer dinner was starting at 6. I had time for one quick brewery stop. I asked where I should go and Triple C Brewing was the answer given. Luckily it wasn’t too far away. I paid for the parts (company credit card, woot!) and headed there. As I drove up, I noticed how packed the place was. This was definitely a popular brewery, with lots of people and dogs enjoying the great weather. It happened to be one of the last days of Charlotte Beer Week and Triple C released a milk stout brewed with Vanilla Beans and Kahlua soaked oak chips that they called “The Dude Imbibes“. I got a full pour of that and a flight of four other beers as well. I was very impressed with the quality of the brews I tried. As I sat there drinking my beers, I had a conversation with a local about the Charlotte Craft Beer Scene. I could have stayed the rest of my trip at Triple C, but it was time to head to the beer dinner. I made sure to buy myself a wax capped big bottle of their Smoked Imperial Amber as a souvenir. Hopefully I won’t have to sell this one off to fund a future beer trip.

I arrived at Harry’s Grille and Tavern for the beer dinner. As I walked in and looked around the room, I recognized half the people there. I struck up a conversation with Aaron who introduced me to April Smith. She was running the social media for this festival. We grabbed one of the few remaining tables. My friend and all around good guy, Adam Reinke had texted me to say he was coming to the dinner. I saved him a couple of seats. He arrived with the infamous Mark with him. The course and beers started coming, and each one was incredible. Check out the All Ale To The Queen Twitter post about each course. Here’s one, two, three, four and five.

As the dinner came to an end, many were wondering what was next on the agenda? The word spread quickly through the brewers and other in town that we would take over the lawn in front of the hotel. There were already lawn chairs there. Somehow we started calling this “the grassy knoll”. I don’t know who came up with it, but that’s what we all referred to it as the rest of the weekend. Once back to the hotel we started to hang out there. Beers were flowing and a great time was had. I had a little (a lot) too much to drink. Like, bad behavior drunk ( I apologize to the person most of this was directed towards, but in my defense I HATE being stalked). Luckily I caught myself and stopped. I went to my room to sleep it off.

I woke up the next morning hung over and slightly hating myself. I felt a deep seated need for punishment. What else could I do but run it out? I got dressed in my running clothes, set my Nike app for a 5k and hit downtown Charlotte. The 1st mile hurt. My head was pounding, my mouth was dry and my liver hurt like hell. As I made my half way point, I started feeling better. By the end of my run I felt great. My app chimed in to tell me the 5k was over. To my astonishment I had beat my previous record by 3 and a half minutes!

Back at the hotel I drank coffee, showered and then headed out to the festival site. There was work to do. I set up my merchandise table, pieced together the randall and lent a hand where needed. When the doors opened, I knew I would need a volunteer and they hooked me up. I was introduced to Joy who was just that. I’ve done many fest and had many volunteers and she was the best so far. She is a home brewer and eager to learn all she could about beer. Together we were able to stay on schedule and came up with a great system for moving the randall around, cleaning it and setting it up. Her shift technically ended at 3:30 but she stayed, helping me all the way until the 8 pm ending time. This went above and beyond what was expected of her. Thanks homegirl!

There was so much going on at this festival and I was so busy I only caught about a fraction. When I was able to lift my head from what I was doing, the view was spectacular. This was mainly due to the incredibly hot aerial acrobats at the middle of the room and the always eye pleasing Charlotte Beer Girls.  There were also freak show acts that I missed but friends told me about later. Like a guy who ate a light bulb. My questions is, how’d he figure out that was something he was good at? What inspired him to eat the first one? I also missed the homebrewer contest and didn’t get to try everyone’s beer. Congrats to the winners though, maybe one day I’ll brew again and will enter another competition. For now, I’m honestly happy to NOT be brewing.

The one thing I was able to focus on, like I said, was the randalizing of beer. Awhile back I was talking to Aaron and told him we needed better randalls and system for mobile infusing. He asked my recommendation and I told him to buy the top of the line system from Dogfish head. He did so and it was worth every penny! We broke this new system in at Catawba’s booth with the brewery’s founder, Billy, as Seen in the video below:

The next infusion we did was at Abita’s booth with their Strawberry Lager going through French Broad Cocao nibs and shells and fresh strawberries. This was a hit. It was so good that the rep had to fill a growler to bring back to the brewers in New Orleans. So if you see Abita come out with a chocolate strawberry beer in the future, just know where it originated. People where clamoring for this beer and the line grew really long once the word spread. We were only scheduled to be at their booth for an hour, but if we would have taken it away when that early, I’m pretty sure we would have caused a riot. I was fine with staying there, especially since the Goose Island booth was right new to me and the reps kept sneaking me sips of Bourbon County Stout and Backyard Rye on the down low (thanks ladies!).

We were finally able to unhook the randall and head over to Rj Rockers where we ran the always popular Son of A Peach through, you guessed it, peaches. Since we didn’t have enough peaches due to my clumsily spilling half of them, we added some plums as well. It was a great combination. My volunteer, Joy had pointed out that there was a small group of girls following the infuser around. Sure enough they were first in line for the Rj Rockers. As I sat there talking with them, they asked to take pictures. Since my main weakness is pretty girls, I couldn’t resist. Of course, I couldn’t resist inviting them to the after party as well, but no such luck.

My Randall groupies.

Me and my Randall groupies.

The last infusion of the day was with Starr Hill. I tried to infuse their Cryptical Imperial Stout with Cocao Nibs and Shredded coconut. We ran into our first clogging issues of the day and were only able to get a few pours out of it. This was near the end of the fest, so I decided it would be alright to break it down, give it a good cleaning and call it a day.

The festival came to an end and I made sure to pack up and secure the randal and jockey box. As the attendees left it was back to being the festival people. Grassy Knoll takeover was the post festival party plans. By this time I was completely sober. I always stop drinking about and hour or 2 before a festival like this is over so I can drive. As I loaded up my car I noticed my buddy Jim Cope carring a big plastic bag and looking faded. My friend Trevor and his girlfriend walked over and as we talked and I mentioned the party, they asked if they could ride with me. We piled into my car and were talking and laughing our asses off on the way to the hotel.

Trevor Sharp gears up for the Jim Cope homeless impersonation challenge. We all were laughing so hard it hurt.

Trevor Sharp gears up for the Jim Cope homeless impersonation challenge. We all were laughing so hard it hurt.

When we arrived, the party was already in effect. Adam Reinke had ordered pizzas, beer was flowing and Urban Orchard brought out a keg of cider to share. I ran back to the room to grab one of my growlers and when I came back, the group was little more subdued. Where’s the keg? Well it seems like we were all having such a great time that the police came and told the group that we couldn’t be so obvious and have kegs out. The lawn was actually part of Johnson and Wales University. I found this hilarious because the same weekend a bunch of rowdy craft beer drinking drunks took over the hotel, the other people staying there were parents and potential students checking out the college. I could see the shocked look on the face of families are they walked passed us. I would not be a bit surprised if more then a few parents told their kids that there was no way they’d allow them to attend there after seeing us.

So instead of kegs, we just kept taking turns filling up growlers with Urban Orchard Cider and Studio Brew’s Mosaic Sunset from the kegs stashed in the cars a few feet away. I want to give a big shout out to my new friend, Jeff Anderson from Urban Orchard. It was great partying with you brother, and I look forward to hanging out again in a few weeks at TO.

Well I knew I had a 4 hour drive and a shift at the Beer Den the next day, so I had to call it a night. It pained me to be responsible and walk away from a great party with people I love and admire. Good thing I get to do it all over again soon. I hope everyone enjoys the pictures and if we met, I’d love to hear from you.

Charlotte you were great. I’ll be back in November for Attack of The Big Beers, so you have 8 months to prepare for my arrival. I’ll be counting the days my friends.

Cheers!

-Jason aka Ratchet


Beer Festival Season is Upon Us. @allalequeen @thirstyOrange

March 13, 2014

So much has happened since my last post and I don’t really feel like writing about it all. Some things do need to be said to bring my readers (are there any left?) up to speed. I spur of the moment up and moved to Maryville. The timing was right to step away from the Knoxville beer scene for awhile. My part time job at The Market morphed into a fulltime one. I turned down a financially lucrative office position and a decent call center job to work somewhere that I’m happy at. Yes money does bring me happiness in the form of having disposable income to buy beer, but at the price of spending 40-50 hours a week in a stressful office environment. This year I’m focused on being happy, and part of that is learning to accept less decadent, more survival based living conditions and lifestyle. I moved into a small house in Downtown where everything I could possibly need is within a 1/2 mile walk.

I’m learning to really love Maryville. It’s a lot closer to my beloved mountains and the beer scene is small, intimate and friendly. People (not all, but for the most part) in this area are still just learning about craft beer and are excited and enthusiastic about it.

That all being said, a lot more has happened including several beer events since I last wrote. I’ll go ahead and recap: They were all awesome. The one that really stood out was Yazoo’s Marti-crawl thru the Old City, but I’m probably remembering that one best because it took place just a few days ago.

So coming up, there are some beer Events I’m really looking forward to. This Saturday Nantahala Brewing in Bryson City is releasing Trail Magic number 7, a Jack Daniels barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout. Richard, Sandy and myself will be making the drive to Bryson City. The next morning, Sunday, is the annual Kegs and Eggs event at The Casual Pint in Bearden. On March 21st and 22nd I’m traveling to Charlotte, NC for All Ale To The Queen Beer Carnival. Friday night I plan on visiting several breweries and Saturday at the festival I’ll be running the randall all day. I have a free room for both nights (2 double beds) and so far, as of this writing, am traveling solo. If anyone wants to come along and help pay for gas and help me out at the fest in exchange for free entry and hotel, let me know ASAP.

The festival after that is in April, Thirsty Orange. This is it’s 3rd year and the site is going to be bigger and the event better. I’ll write more about this in the future, but I do encourage everyone to get tickets because it’s on record pace to sell out.

Alright beer folks, Ill try to write again soon.

Cheers,

The drinker formally known as Ratchet


Beer Running! @BeardenBeerMrkt @CentralFlatsTap @YazooLeah

February 17, 2014

Hey y’all, figured it was time to write again. Since my last post, I’ve been picking up more and more hours working at The Market in Maryville’s Beer Den while I wait for my new full time job to start next month. I absolutely love everything about being part of the team at The Market and if they could afford me, would be more then happy to be there full time. Alas, they are a struggling mom and pop store and can only justify so much in employee wages, which I completely understand and sympathize with.

In the meantime I really enjoy getting paid to do something I love and am good at, sell beer. We have 8 constantly rotating taps. Pints are always only $3, we do growler fills and you can get a flight of all 8 beers for only $8. Not to mention the bottle selection is incredible. I love when people ask for suggestions or want to know more about a particular style of beer. I also love getting to know the regulars.

Since my last post, many of these regulars, my friends and my readers have asked me the same thing. “Are you really giving up on the idea of opening a nano-brewery?” This is something I thought long and hard about before I came to my decision. Like I said in my last post, I found myself spending to much thought energy on it, and stressing out. I think about it in these terms. The idea of opening a brewery is like a seed. I put that seed in the ground and my thoughts were like watering the seed. Well if you are constantly watering a seed, eventually you are going to drown it and it won’t grow. My decision was one to step back, stop watering it, and let nature take it’s course. For now I have other personal goals and things I want to accomplish. Maybe after I get a firm grip on those things, I’ll be in a better position revisit this idea and have some tools at my disposal to make another effort. In the mean time, we changed the name of our home brewery from Ratchet Brews to We Know Beer. When I say “we” it’s because the home brewing is about more than just me, it’s a team effort. Richard and Todd have become a big part of this, and deserve credit and recognition. This will be our official name when we represent at festivals. Not “We Know Beer brewery” or “We Know Beer brewing company“, simply We Know Beer. This new name encompasses everything we want to be about. It’s more then just about brewing beer, it’s also about education and appreciation, along with other things. We are having our logo developed and hope to debut it along with a mission statement and new merchandise in time for Thirsty Orange in April.

Until then I really need to do an inventory of ingredients and schedule a brew day. It’s kind of hard right now because I am in this inbetween place of working on the weekends while waiting to start my fulltime job. Once I am settled into a regular routine, we’ll be back to brewing on a regular basis. When this happens I’ll let you know.

There’s a few other things I want to write about before I end this post. When I made my goals for this year, getting back in shape was right there at the top of the list. Luckily there is a great beer running community. I love to run and several years back I would do so everyday. Then things happened and I slowly fell out. I started eating a lot. I was in a stressful and unhealthy relationship. Eating, drinking, staying up late and constantly arguing took it’s toll. I gained a bunch of weight. I became depressed. I finally arrived at the point when I said ENOUGH! I’m not doing this anymore. Since then, I haven’t been happier. I eat very sparingly now, mostly a juice diet. I still drink but not everyday and not as much. This balances nicely with my diet. I take yoga classes, weight train and started running again. I’ve was able to transition off of toxic and potentionally long term damaging anti-depressants simply by changing how I react and think about things. When I feel negative thoughts creeping in, I smile and think about all I do have and how blessed I am. I laugh more and I do my best to avoid stressful people and situations. Helping with all this, like I said, is the beer running community. Being around and getting to know other positive, health minded craft beer drinkers has made a world of difference. Monday evenings are now one of my favorite nights of the week because of the fun run at Bearden Beer Market. It’s a great challenge and keeps me working. I have an end of summer goal to be able to do the run at a 9 minute mile pace, including the big killer hill near the end. I’m also going to start the Thursday evening run that takes place at Central Flats and Taps.

Last Saturday morning I joined the Yazoo Barely a 4k run at Central Flats and Taps. Getting up early to start at 8am with 100 or more other people in the cold was exhilarating. I ended up running my personal best time so far. The run ended back at the bar where a round of Yazoo Fall Lager was waiting for us with a complimentary breakfast. We hung out and enjoyed the company of friends while watching the USA vs Russia Olympic Hockey game on tv. There are some great pictures on Central Flats and Tap’s facebook page of the run. I want to thank @YazooLeah for herding the cats to put this together. Yazoo is having a pub crawl through the Old City on her birthday, March 3rd. You know I’ll be there for this one.

This is all for now. It’s been so long since I’ve been at any beer related event that I’m really looking forward to my trip to All Ale to The Queen festival in Charlotte, NC on March 21st and 22nd. So far I’m still traveling solo, so if anyone wants to split gas and help me work the infusers at the festival, let me know.

Cheers,

Jason


The Start Of A New Year Is A Great Time to Change Things Up.

February 5, 2014

After a month long hiatus, I’m back. I wanted to begin the new year off by changing, challenging and improving myself. So I began by breaking off a relationship that I found myself not wanting to be in anymore. Then I made myself go a full month without looking at or posting on social media. Because that just wasn’t enough, I made myself go a month without drinking any alcohol. To this end, I took January “off” to get my head straight and focus on my goals for 2014. I hardly went out, didn’t really hang with my friends and made diet and lifestyle changes. In this process of staying offline and not drinking, I learned a lot about myself. I realized that I don’t need to constantly check twitter, facebook and untappd to see what everyone is up to. I don’t need to post my every thought or every little detail of my existence. Taking time away also helped me realize who my true friends were as opposed to those in name only.
The not drinking part was little harder, especially the first couple of weeks. I have amassed a pretty decent collection of craft beer and a nicely stocked liquor cabinet. Every time I open the fridge, I see bottles. During this month, when I did go out, it was mostly to the Downtown Grill and Brewery. I’d go to get out of the house, eat something, use the internet and talk with my bartender buddies. They are use to seeing me coming, taking my mug down and filling it for me before I even get to the bar. This happened several times during January. I would thank them, explain what I was doing and drink water instead. I’ve also been working at The Market in Maryville’s Beer Den, surrounded by beer. I could have poured myself a pint at anytime. People were constantly bringing in bottles to share, but I stuck to my plan. That’s why when I did have my first beer in a month, Woodruff’s IPA at the Brewery during the Super Bowl, it meant so much. Before this self-challenge, I was drinking everyday. Some days I’d just have a beer at the end of the day. More often than not, it was several beers. It had just become part of my routine. I was also spending too much money on alcohol. Last year when I had a job that paid decently, I spent a majority of my disposable income on ordering rare craft beer online. I was always trying to keep up on the latest releases, arrange trades, and make trips to brewery only releases. Most of the people I had surrounded myself with were the same way. When I took the month of January to not drink, it started out without a purpose, just one of those “let’s see if I can do it” things. By the end of the month I had many realizations. In retrospect, the money I spent last year chasing down rare beers could have been put to use on things that would have better improved my quality of life and my health. I don’t write this to make myself out to be some self-righteous teetotaler who has “seen the light”, or to make any of my friends question their lifestyle choices. Honestly, I would have been perfectly happy carrying on like I was, had I not took on this challenge. So what does this mean now? Am I NOT going to bottle releases, NOT buy rare beer online or do trades anymore? Of course I will be. I LIKE those things. However, in 2014 I’m not going to do it as much. I don’t want to spend the energy worrying that I’m missing out on same rare once in a lifetime beer, or blow most of a paycheck ordering online when there is so much more to the world. I don’t feel the need to drink everyday, and when I do, I want to respect it more. I want it to be special.

During my month long sabbatical, friends would reach out to check on me. Apparently there were rumors going around that I was depressed and that’s why I was self-isolating. Nothing could be further from the truth. The whole time I was happy and in a really good place. Other than work, I pretty much had time to read, meditate and yes, I even solo brewed a batch of Imperial Stout on the down low.

During my alone time, I reevaluated my goals of opening a nano-brewery. This unrealistic dream of mine took up a lot of my time and energy. I found myself thinking about it to the point where it became stressful for me. In the last 2 years I’ve made no measurable progress towards this goal. Honestly, I’m not in a financial position to accomplish this. I am very independent and don’t like the idea of taking on investors who would possibly have power over my dreams. By giving up this idea, it frees me to pursue other things, and is a huge burden lifted from me. For now, I’m quite happy brewing an occasional batch of beer at home.

The other change I made is my name. My nickname was Ratchet since sometime around 1993. This is way before it was slang for anything else. I started to hate how I’ve been known for the last 21 years had morphed into a term of derision in society and popular culture. It became enough for me to abandon my long term nickname to go back to using my real name. I thought since I’m not trying to go pro anymore, I would give up the name “Ratchet Brews” for this blog and change it to Jason Knows Beer, which I like to think I do. For me this fits more into what my website is about. Because of the name change, you might notice some glitches in older post on this blog. Some pictures might be missing and such. To me, it’s not really that big a deal. I might fix it, I might not. For now, going forward is more important to me then what happened in the past.

So is there going to be content change on my blog in 2014? Not really. I’ll still write the really inane, irreverent post that I always have. You can expect more stories about my traveling adventures. Also the same live updates from beer festivals, brew days, etc. I do want to branch out more into beer education and to that end, I plan on studying and going for Cicerone certification. I want to write some articles on specific beer styles such as origins, recipes, and the like. I’ll continue to write because it’s become too much of an outlet for me to give it up. I’ll probably throw in some non-beer tidbits every once in awhile because I do plan on being more active in running, hiking, urban exploring and eating right. At the same time I don’t plan on being as active in the Knoxville “Beer Scene”.

With all that said, I do have some travel plans in the following weeks and months. This Saturday is the Tennessee Winter Beer Festival In Townsend from 3 to 9 pm. This is an ultra small event at the The Laurel Valley Country Club. Some of the breweries present this year will be Turtle Anarchy, Saw Works, Studio Brew, Calf Killer and Smoky Mountain. If you haven’t got tickets yet, you’re pretty much screwed since it’s sold out. I’ll be there and might live post similar to last year.

Saturday February 15th I’m driving up to Lexington to attend Craft Writing: Beer, The Digital, and Craft Culture at the University of KY. This is a one day symposium at the University of Kentucky showcasing writing in craft beer. Speaking will be such well know beer writers as Stan HieronymusRoger Baylor, Mitch Steele, and Jeremy Cowan. The keynote address is by Garrett Oliver. I am hoping to learn from the best. If anyone is interested in pitching in for gas, you are welcome to ride up and back with me. I just plan on going for the day and driving home after.

Saturday March 22nd is All Ale to the Queen in Charlotte, NC. This is the ending event of Charlotte Beer Week. I’ll be there for the weekend running the festival Organizer’ s brand new Dogfish Head Randall. I have 2 nights booked at a hotel, so if anyone wants to go, hit me up.

April 11th and 12th is The Thirsty Orange Beer Extravaganza in Johnson City. It starts off with a small beer dinner on Friday Night at The Battery Restaurant.  The new site of this year’s event is at ETSU’s Millenium Center. There will be better (& free) parking, more room, more events and way, way more beer. I will be there as well, and may or may not set up a booth serving my homebrew. I’ll know closer to time.

Well, thanks for reading. I’ll post again soon. Hope everyone has a great 2014. I know mine has been amazing so far.

Cheers,

Jason


Last Minute #Christmas Gifts for the #Knoxville #BeerGeek

December 18, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Ratchet


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