Inside The Pearly Gates Of Bristol, Where A Wild Football Experiment Became Heaven On Earth

09.12.16 3 years ago
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Larry Ramsey is a homebrewer. He takes it seriously, and is constantly tinkering, trying new ingredients and approaches. If you’re lucky enough to get an invite into his Airstream on Saturdays in the fall, he might share some of his knowledge (and beer) with you.

Some things work surprisingly well, like the gluten free offering he introduced a few years ago so that his buddy with celiac disease could still drink a draft beer before games. Others are just plain good. But nothing comes close to topping what Ramsey has done with his Clubhouse Stout.

Let’s rewind a bit. Ramsey and a few friends started the Clubhouse Tailgate back in 1998 before Virginia Tech home games. What started as a group of three or four steadily grew the way these things do. Folks turned up, or passed by, or were invited. And then they never left. They just kept right on coming. The tailgate added a few vehicles, and more than a few people.

Every Saturday – since that first Saturday almost two decades ago – they all pick a moment before the game to take Communion.

This isn’t Communion in the religious sense, although it’s not exactly sacrilege either. To honor the tailgate, friendship, and the Hokies, a designated representative says a few words. Then the group collectively does a shot of Wild Turkey 101. For the Ohio State game over Labor Day weekend a year ago, that meant more than 150 shots of Wild Turkey 101 at the same time.

Oh yeah, back to the Clubhouse Stout. This is Larry’s pride and joy. He brews it like a typical stout except for one thing. He adds a whole bottle of Wild Turkey 101 to it. It’s essentially every bourbon barrel stout you’ve ever had giving you an RKO out of nowhere at the end. He recommends not having more than one before a game, although some folks learned the hard way.

At one point Larry is asked what the alcohol content is in one pint of the stout.

“I don’t know,” Ramsey chuckles. “But I’m afraid to find out.”

The Clubhouse isn’t just a tailgate. It’s a community. And this community has never seen anything like the Battle at Bristol before.

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