Sunday, November 30, 2008

Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome

At $4.69 for a 18.7oz bottle, this stuff had better be good. Some Christmas/winter beers taste like a Christmas tree...may not be the most pleasant taste, or what you'd normally expect from a beer. However, the higher alcohol content these beers usually pack, along with the strong pine tree taste, they usually bitch slap you across the face reminding you it's Christmas.

For the beer...this is your standard English Ale...very good. Not Wintery/Christmasy or anything else in my mind. I'm not sure why they picked this recipe for their "winter welcome". I'd drink this beer any time of the year. Grade=A, PQ=15.9

Sport Utility Prius

Loaded down the SUP for a quick camping trip. 2 bikes on the rack, and 1 in Sonya's lap. The rest of the car was crammed with camping gear.

Our 2nd try at "mountain biking"...a lot faster than the first time. Saturday we worked on zooming down hills.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

2 Aussie Beers

Yesterday tried Boag's Premium Lager and Cooper's Pale Ale. I probably tried these in Australia, but that was 7 years ago...I probably liked them then, a lot. I was just coming off my Bud Light phase, and was living in Korea drinking massive amounts of Cass and OB. Needless to say, I didn't appreciate good beer at the time.

These beers aren't bad. Not particularly good either.

Boag's Lager tastes like a watered down American Lager. It's better than a Natty Light, or most any light beer...yet it's nowhere comparable to the King in a Can. It's a C.

Cooper's Pale Ale seemed watered down as well. It was weak on the hops and didn't taste like a pale ale should. Had they called it something different, like Cooper's Beer, I probably would have a different opinion of the beer. It went down smooth and had a decent taste otherwise...just wasn't what I was expecting when looking at the label. This was marketed as a beer drinker's beer, with label captions discussing bottle conditioning, fermentation, sediment, etc. I expected a lot, but was let down. Still, it's a B-.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bikini Blonde Lager

This is one of Maui Brewing Co's offerings. I went to pick up a 6-pack sampler, but none were available. I tried the IPA and Porter draft last week, so I opted for the lager. Good stuff...strong on the hops, refreshing like a lager should be...fairly light, goes down smooth. I give it an A-. The stuff is pricey. I'm not sure why most of the local brews are more expensive than beers from the mainland. This one was $9.99/six pack. Not quite worth that kind of money. PQ=26.7

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Wait is Over

If pressed to name my favorite band and album of all time, I'd have to say Guns N Roses and Use Your Illusion II. I can't say anything cheesy like "the album spoke to me" or "defined me" or any crap like that. Really, I just thought GNR put together that perfect blend of kick ass rock and not so cheesy ballads that set them apart from the other bands of their day (Poison, Skid Row, Def Leppard, etc). Then Kurt Cocaine came along, killing rock as we know it, then offing himself. Axl spent the next 17 years working on this album, and somewhere along the way thought that cornrows on a white guy in his mid-40s was a good idea...supposedly the most expensive album ever made. I've been reading about this album, anticipating it for years. My expectations for the album were low, especially since I heard Axl was really into Industrial music. Expectations fell lower when I saw his cornrows. When I saw the release was confirmed, I pre-ordered on iTunes in order to get an early preview of the Chinese Democracy single. My motivation was mainly curiosity, wondering if it was worth the 17 year wait. I was surprised to find a pretty decent album. I'm by no means a music or pop culture critic, so I have to defer to Chuck Klosterman for an expert opinion on this album and its deeper cultural context.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Three Philosophers Belgian Style Blend (Quadrupel)

I don't know a lot about Belgian beer, other than I like it. This "Belgian Style" beer from Ommegang Brewery in NY is no exception. This hearty ale has a noticeable cherry taste...maybe because it's 98% ale and 2% ale with cherries added. The cherries aren't overpowering, and doesn't detract from the sweet beery goodness. At 9.8% alcohol, it packs quite the punch. Unlike a lot of high octane brews, there's not a strong alcohol finish. Like most things at Whole Foods, this one will break the bank. $15.99 for a 4-pack of 12 oz bottles. That's $.33/oz. This one is Grade A, but with the high price, the PQ=12. At that price, it's definitely a sipping beer.

Engineering Marvels

Had some heavy rain this morning.
Our custom redneck covered lanai has become stressed by 2 years of rain. Today it almost gave way. Being a former engineering major, I put my expertise to work, taking quick actions to save the lanai.

The rain continued throughout the day, and the rake/repair stand combo performed remarkably.

Had planned to ride, but for the 30th straight Saturday, it wasn't in the cards. Once the rain's over and after I do this trail running race in 2 weeks, will get around to a Saturday ride. Not much to do on a rainy day in Hawaii, so decided to go to Whole Foods to pick up some beeer. Apparently everyone in Oahu shops on rainy days, as the roads and the store were crowded. My car was lost in a sea of Prius's in the parking lot.

I got 4 new beers, and a "microbrewed" cola. This is Virgil's Real Cola. At $2.39 a pop, this natural caffeine free cola ain't cheap. It was pretty A on my cola scale, but at $.20/oz, I doubt I'll buy again. PQ=20

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Real Food

What a difference 3 weeks's what I'm eating now:

And who can forget what I was eating then:

Monday, November 17, 2008

Prius Bike Rack and Mountain Biking

Bought a bike rack for the Prius. It's a Saris Bones 2. Before buying, I did some searches and found lots of discussion on Prius bike racks. The Prius community is very active on the interwebs. Here at, there's a fairly lengthy discussion about bike racks. There's a lot of concern about gas mileage and some discussion boards feature a lengthy debate on roof rack vs tow hitches vs trunk mounted racks. I've always preferred the roof rack, but won't do it with the Prius, mainly because I've got about $500 of roof rack parts from the old Subaru sitting around gathering dust. Most of the parts are incompatible with the Prius, and I don't feel like throwing down that kind of money on another roof rack. I'll just wait to buy a car that's compatible with the old rack.

It took awhile before I broke down and bought a rack for the Prius. It got old taking out the car seats and folding down the rear seat to make the Sport Utility Prius conversion, and I could only hold one bike. Decided I'd get Carter started on mountain biking and realized, I'd need a rack to carry both of our bikes and him in the car seat.

Yesterday, we made our first mountain biking attempt. What I realized is that Oahu is severely lacking in beginner MTB trails. The few places I've ridden have serious hills, roots, rocks, mud and are pretty much no fun for a beginner. We started out in Waimanalo on the Maunawilli Ditch Trail. I seriously overestimated the suitability of the trail for a 4-year old on a BMX with 16" wheels. The initial climb was no fun, so we packed back up and headed to Bellows. There was a short multi-use trail that is fairly sandy, but well-packed, has few roots and loose rocks. Most importantly, the trail is flat. He did well there, so we did a couple loops for a total of 5 miles.

In Beer news, went to the Yard House last night and tried a draft Maui Brewing Co's Big Swell IPA. A decent IPA, not as good as the SN Anniversary Ale...rates a B+...I like my IPAs to be a little hoppier. For the 2nd beer, went with an old standby, the Franziskaner Hefeweizen. Sonya had the Maui Coconout Porter. I wasn't impressed with the first taste of the Porter...something odd about it. I'll need to pick this one up in the can for further investigation.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale

Picked up a 24-pack at Costco yesterday. This one's very good. I've probably had about 5-6 of these things so far. Anniversary Ale is well-balanced IPA...not too hoppy, very consistent and drinkable. Grade=A, PQ=46.2...this is one of the best I've had so far.

In other beer news, was in Whole Foods today. They have one of the better beer selections I've seen on the island. Discovered Maui Brewing Co's selection today. Good ratings on Beer Advocate and are surprisingly hard to find on Oahu. Too bad Whole Foods is so damn far away. Now I need to plan a trip to Maui in order to visit the brewery.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Budweiser American Ale

After trying the craft beers Anheuser Busch put out under their Michelob label, I had very low expectations for the American Ale. Saw it in the local Korean grocery store last week, looking for something that would go well with Kalbi. The romance of Korean beer has gone away, and I'm no longer trying to re-live my mid-20s and the days of multiple large pitchers of Cass on Saturday afternoons at Geckos. What I did discover is that the Korean grocery has a good selection of beer at some of the best prices around. I picked up a six pack of the GB Czech Pilsner for $1 less/six pack than the Navy Exchange offers, and I found this sixer of American Ale. No one seemed to know the price for this beer, so they charged me $8.29/six pack. I've since seen it for $8.99 elsewhere, so once again, I'm happy with the prices at Waimulu Market.

Budweiser did a good job with this one. It's a pleasant surprise, and tasted better than I remember the Michelob Pale Ale. Hoppy, clean, good taste. I really couldn't find any flaws. It's worth drinking again. It's an A-, PQ=32.1.

Wild Blue Blueberry Lager

This "beer" is produced by Anheuser-Busch, the same folks that sell fruity NAs in the Arab world. I've never tried a blueberry flavored beer, so thought I'd give this a try. This "beer" is cleverly marketed, looking like a microbrew from some small town in New York. I didn't know this was a mass-market gimmick drink, like Tequiza, until I did a Google search.

This "beer" only resembled a beer in its packaging. In a blind taste test, I would've confused this with some Mad Dog 20/20 or other bum-wine. It did go down a little smoother than your average bum wine, so I'll give it a D+.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Camping and Life Lessons

Went camping. Had fun.

The boys were taught a valuable lesson on physics, and more importantly, what to do with unwanted Coors Light.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Basil Hayden's

This bottle of Basil Hayden's Bourbon was a nice surprise I found waiting for me last Sunday. I like a good small batch bourbon, but to tell you the truth, I can't describe the taste like a true aficionado. I may not be able to describe the bite as gentle and the finish as brief, but I can tell you this does go down smoother than Jim Beam.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

1/2 marathon + graph

Ran the Val Nolasco Half Marathon today. I ran this race 2 years ago and had a miserable time, which I can attribute to 3 main reasons. 1) It was extremely humid, and there was no wind, 2) I was out of shape, and 3) I weighed about 20 pounds more than I do now. I suffered badly that day, finishing in 2:15. I was extremely dehydrated and it took a couple days to recover.

Today was much different. The weather was perfect.

Here's a graph and a map. My last couple of miles were faster than the first...highly unusual for me, since I seem to start out too fast.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Gordon Biersch Czech Pilsner

Czech Lagers have been my beer of choice for the past year or so. Problem is that they're usually pretty expensive in Hawaii. Czechvar is $10.99/6 pack. Pilsner Urquell is a little cheaper.

I'm not a huge Gordon Biersch fan...some of their beers are good, such as their Marzen. Others I can barely stomach, like their Hefeweizen. This is the first I've seen of the Czech Pilsner. This one was very good. It packs a lot of Hops and at $7.99/6 pack, is a good bargain. This one's a solid A.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Back in the Saddle

After 6 months off the bike, made it to the Tuesday and Thursday rides this week. For Tuesday's ride, I did absolutely no prep to the bike. I took off the number from April's Team Time Trial, pumped up the tires and took off. The ride went OK...everyone else was extremely fast. I kept a good pace on the first loop, rode easy for awhile, then picked up the pace for another quick interval. It will be awhile before I'll be able to keep up with this intense of a ride.

For today's ride, I made one slight modification to the bike. I swapped out the stem. My guess is that I was able to shave off 1-2 grams of bike weight on the stem. I'm convinced this made a difference as my 3 climbs up Camp Smith went extremely well. I wasn't too far back, and was able to ride consistently through all 3 climbs. This 1g savings made all the difference, I'm sure of it.

It's good to see that my legs and lungs remain relatively strong after 6 months off. One thing that didn't maintain its fitness is the taint. It's going to take some time to make that stronger.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

the ultimate cup

Sonya's dad recently sent us a Technivorm Moccamaster coffee maker. According to all the reviews I've read, this European coffee maker can produce the "ultimate cup" of drip coffee. When I got back home Sunday, I set out on a quest to find a conical burr grinder, which all the literature says is key to producing the ultimate cup. This was a bit of a challenge here on the island, and I had to visit several stores until we finally broke down and visited the yuppie mecca of William's and Sonoma. There were 2 models available, and the prices varied by $100. I asked the lady working the coffee section for some advice, expecting her to be a W&S certified coffee snob. She knew little, and suggested that I get the $99 Breville model, as it's cheaper and they're both conical burr grinders. Why would I need 40 settings that the fancy Italian model offered?

We also received a bag of Kenya AA Gatchatha Estate from Willoughby's Coffee. Coffee Review gave it 93 points back in August. I guess that means it's good. So, ground it up and had an afternoon cup.

I'm not sure if it's all the literature, reviews and the general coffee snobbish aura of this machine and bag of beans, but I must say this was the best cup of coffee I've ever had.

Monday, November 3, 2008

finally home

After 4 days of travel, 2.5 books (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, The Good Fairies of New York, and Survivor), 7 flights, 2 overnight stays (Frankfurt and Baltimore), 4 beers (to include a good Kolsh and a so-so pumpkin ale at Capitol City Brewery in Arlington), 2 mini-bottles of Jack Daniels, and 20+ hours in passenger terminals and airports, I finally made it home. Everyone was excited, except the vacationing mafioso that found himself in our picture.