Jackson Kayaks Come to Life

Active & Adventurous - Outdoors

On Tennessee waters or closer to home, Jackson kayaks go deep

Eric_Jackson_geared_to_goSure, any manufactured object is just a thing, especially if it’s mass-produced, not even custom or handmade. But after I met Eric “EJ” Jackson, Jackson Kayak products seemed to be imbued with a spark of life. After some fellow travel writers and I got a personal tour of his production facility plus a kayak demo on the Caney Fork River in Rock Island State Park – including a 360-degree flip off a rock overhang – his products were infused with even more spirit.

Founded in 2003 by Eric Jackson and Tony Lunt, Jackson Kayak designs, builds and manufactures whitewater, fishing and exploration paddle-sports products. The business was a natural extension of Jackson’s professional career as a champion freestyle kayaker (including wins in Men’s Pro World championships, Men’s Pro Pre-World Championships, Men’s Pro, and USA Team appearances in the Olympics. Jackson states, “I have won over 100 events, the most of any kayaker in history,” but then adds, “much has to do for how long I have been doing it!” 

Jackson_Kayak_1So clearly, Eric Jackson knows what makes a high-performing kayak. However, his young son provided initial creative fodder for Jackson Kayak. At the time, no kayak manufacturer made kayaks small enough for preschool-age kids, so Jackson filled that niche – and products such as Rockstar XS and the Fun still provide an early start for a young kayaker. He expanded his product line, adding a diversity of groundbreaking products along the way: in response to a consumer’s request, he built a craft for kayakers with a little extra bulk; by request and based on another EJ Jackson interest, he created the first fishing-focused kayak, with a raised seat, enough stability for standing up (to reel in that whopper of a fish), and other features specifically geared for fishing. The JK line even includes a pontoon-style, twin-hull fishing kayak. 

Eric_Jackson_Big_RigThen there’s the latest: if you see someone fishing from a kayak, navigating their craft with paddles, pedals and an engine, that’ll be a Jackson Kayak Big Rig HD FD. You might even notice that the pedals and engine can be rotated in and out, and that the rig is designed to move automatically out of harm’s way if the boat scrapes bottom or encounters debris. Or maybe you will be that trendsetter, turning heads on the water. 

The factory tour showed off an impressive display of efficiency (among the machines and among the employees), with multiple quality-control checks. Seeing kayaks in various stage of production and inventory ready to ship, I found it easy to imagine that one of them would one day be mine.

The Jackson Kayak production facility also manufactures sturdy Orion coolers (with creative, utilitarian features such as bottle openers, sturdy handles, locking mechanisms and padded lid (you know, for sitting on the cooler). 

Eric_Jackson_on_waterAs we spent the morning with Eric Jackson, his energy and fitness reminded me of his many championships. As he demonstrated his kayak along the falls and the rapids, he also demonstrated the benefits of following one's passions in life.

Jackson's schedule was a testament to the success of his business – besides meeting with our group of writers, he greeted a politician who had come to visit the factory and was between sessions of filming for a Casio commercial. His enthusiasm and passion hinted at the reasons for his continued success, as did his commitment to his adopted Tennessee community and his employees (“It’s the best place in the world to live,” he says). He even showed up at the Blues & Brews Festival in Cookeville a few days later.

If you’re looking for a kayak, for fishing or paddling, whose story goes deeper than “just” high performance, check out Jackson Kayak. Since the JacksonKayak.com website directs shoppers to nearby vendors, you’ll be supporting your community, too.



What happens at a speed tasting with six breweries at BBC18?

Tickle the Tastebuds - Beers & Breweries


Six Virginia breweries show off to Beer Bloggers and Writers

Beer Bloggers Conference 2018 Speed TastingAs part of the Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference 2018, attendees came to Lost Rhino to "speed taste" beers from around Virginia – like speed dating but your favorite beer won't diss you. The following notes demonstrate what happens when 10 brewery reps are trying to fit in pouring and providing an overview of the brewery and the beer in five minutes, tasters are trying to listen, chat, taste, take photos and make notes, everyone's having serious fun, and the noise level goes up in proportion to the alcohol consumed. These notes remind me of a day of research at various breweries – the notes become much more sparse as the day wears on – but this time I'll blame the noise level!


Port City, Alexandria

Optimal Wit

Nice coriander and pepper notes, richness from the wheat, 

1/3 production, top-selling, medal winning

2015, GABF Best Small Brewery

8-year anniversary coming up, first in NOVA



Märzen style

Rich, caramel and spicy-malt forward, carbonation on the palate



Old Bust Head, Fauquier County

4th-year anniversary today

Table Talk Belgian Style Wit

Richness from the wheat and Belgian spices

Started with paw paw, but too expensive to source since not easily accessible so went with passionfruit and guava?

5.3% but powerful flavor from the yeasty esters



Lost Rhino

7 years now

Focus-on-lager brewery from the beginning


First beer - #2 seller (Face Plant IPA is #1)

Clean, showcasing the crackery malts with subtle hops offsetting sweetness. Easy-drinking



Legend Brewing

Started 1993 

Imperial Brown Ale

Sweet, caramel, chocolate pie – smoother than a typical big beer



Well-received by everyone at our table!



Blue Mountain Brewery

Dark Hollow

Bourbon B-A Imperial Stout

Blue Mountain has a dedicated barrel room that changes temps to encourage expansion and contraction of the barrels to impart more flavor to the beers. Taylor Smack brought his Goose Island brewing and barrel-aging experience to Blue Mountain

Chocolate, coffee, barrel beauty! One of my long-time favorites!



Ardent Craft Ales


They like doing lagers

Clean, easy-drinking; showcases the biscuity malt flavors – a lager doesn’t hide anything, and there’s nothing to hide here



AleWerks Brewing

Weekend Lager


Clean (and not enough time for a more in-depth description!)


Spices on the nose make me want to pull out the sweater. Definitely like a pumpkin pie in a glass. Sweet.




Peach IPA

Lactose, ton of local peaches, vanilla, lactose

Full mouthfeel, peaches on the back. Low on hops. Added some kettle soured for a small touch of sour. Nice balance of cinnamon, spice. 






Peppery, flavors I'm not able to articulate



IMG_8768Starr Hill

Last Leaf Maple Brown

Nice blend of maple and caramelly sweetness! Balanced.

Part of the Fall Tour Variety Pack


And the fun continued

On this the final evening of the Beer Bloggers Conference, the speed tasting was but the appetizer. The breweries continued to pour for the attendees, each setting up a station to provide more beer and to provide information. The event was held at Lost Rhino Brewing in Loudoun County.  


And Virginia beer bloggers and writers were well-represented at the event!


Starr Hill Festie for Oktoberfest

Tickle the Tastebuds - Beers & Breweries

Starr_Hill_Festie_amberAs Festie pours from the bottle, you can’t help but think of fall. The deep amber color is reminiscent of autumn leaves. The malty nose – a touch of toast – and rich, caramel malt flavor makes you want to pull on a lightweight jacket, bring out the knockwurst, and exclaim “Prost”! If you’re celebrating Oktoberfest, Starr Hill Festie is the next best thing to wearing lederhosen or dirndls. And at only 4.8% and only 12 IBUs, you can knock back a few as you celebrate.

"Ein Prosit"

Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit 

Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit 

Eins, zwei, drei, g'suffa!

Zicke, zacke, zicke, zacke,

hoi, hoi, hoi!


An Imperial Red IPA that Resonates

Tickle the Tastebuds - Beers & Breweries

Starr_Hill_ResinateContinuing their long-time play on musical themes, Starr Hill presents Resinate, an imperial red IPA. 

As an imperial, even the "red" presents a little more strongly than a standard red IPA - the ruby red notes glimmer in the light of the rich brown liquid.

Caramel notes and piney hops on the nose prepare the palate for the balanced beer flavor. The rich toasted malt (from pilsner, melanoidin, dark crystal and carafa II malts) complemented by hop bitterness (72 IBU, from Denali, Citra, Simcoe and Chinook hops).

Full body and mouthfeel make this an easy sipper, not a gulping lawnmower beer. At 7.7% ABV, you'd definitely want to extend your pleasure.

Starr Hill suggests pairing thie with parmigiano or reggiano cheese; with spicy foods or barbecue ribs; or with salted caramel cheesecake. Yes, please!



Another Remastered Starr Hill Beer

Tickle the Tastebuds - Beers & Breweries

A Fresh Take on Grateful Pale Ale

Starr_Hill_GratefulThe description of this Starr Hill Brewery flagship beer has changed. The official description once stated, "Grateful is a Session IPA, a fresh spin on the American Pale Ale tradition. A strong citrusy, resinous aroma from the American hops leads into a light body with subtle malt flavor."

On a mission to improve their beers, Starr Hill has modified Grateful Pale Ale to be truer to the pale ale style. The new version hits the malt-hop balance. The delightfully clear, golden ale presents with a touch of citrusy hops on the nose and blends the bready notes of malts with a lemony hop taste. Besides having a taste that an experienced beer drinker can appreciate, it's friendly to someone just getting used to the stronger taste of hops.

"This one's much more in balance, got a little more malt body to stand up to that large hop profile," Brewmaster Robbie O'Cain says. "The big story here is the malt backbone." 

The description of the "remastered" pale ale describes the technicality of the changes: "To remaster Grateful Pale Ale, Carafoam and Torrefied wheat were added to the malt bill for a fuller mouthfeel. A revamped hop bill features Cascade, Mosaic, Centennial and Falconer's Flight in the kettle and dry-hop, replacing Chinook, Topaz and Columbus. The new hop varieties, in particular Mosaic and Centennial, bring out more fruit and citrus notes in the beer. The enhanced aroma and flavor are due in large part to the hop bursting technique utilized in other recent pale ale releases from Starr Hill."

Adds O'Cain, "We didn't want to throw out the soul of Grateful ... For a fresh spin on a classic, try Grateful Pale Ale."

Look for the "new" Starr Hill beer in bottles and on tap – and soon in the Summer Jam Can Variety Pack.

Now that's something to be grateful for.

Virtual AWT




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