Thursday, December 31, 2009

Beers of the Year

It's the end of the year, and time for Top 10 lists. Last year I was more scientific using the PQ scale to rate the beers. This year I've used the PQ less frequently. I've also been buying some more expensive beers, and feel that rating the beers independent of price would be appropriate.

1) Troeg's Mad Elf--holiday ale. It will be a long wait for the 2010 holiday season. I wish I stocked up on this while I could find it in stores.
2) Sierra Nevada Harvest--hoppy, fresh tasting...a gourmet version of their regular pale ale.
3) Ommegang Abbey Ale--first sampled on draft at Tacchino Ciclocross (which I'd rate as #1 race of the year if I was rating races)
4) Dogfish Head Punkin Ale--great seasonal offering from one of my new favorite brewers. Just a hint of pumpkin taste.
5) Anchor Porter--I love a good porter, and this is a porter's porter.
6) Blue and Gray Minor Dementia--opened up a growler of this for Christmas, and plan on opening another tonight. This is some potent stuff with a great complex taste that's hard to describe...one glass of this nearly knocked me out. Blue and Gray's best beer by far...too bad it's a limited edition.
7) Monks Blood--sampled this the other night on draft. A Belgian-style Christmas ale from 21st Amendment brewery. Was a perfect thing to drink on that 25 degree night before a long cold walk to the subway.
8) Founders Breakfast Stout--A meal in a glass...coffee, maple syrup, pancakes, chocolate.
9) Ommegang Three Philosophers--A great quadrupel from Ommegang.
10) Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA--a high gravity IPA...great taste, hops aren't over the top, plus it's much more affordable than their 120 minute

Cask Ale (finally)

Finally got some ale fresh from the cask this week. It seems like every beer joint I've been in lately that advertises cask ale "just emptied" their last cask. Taking that statement at face value, I concluded that beer from the cask must be some really good stuff, worth the effort I put forth in tracking it down.

When I finally found the cask, I tried 2 beers, Brooklyn Bitter and Oliver's Pagan Porter (w/Vanilla Beans). The natural carbonation gives the beer a less fizzy mouthfeel, and is supposed to accentuate the beer's natural flavors.

The Brooklyn Bitter lacked any flavor, despite the bitter name it was quite tame. This reminded me of my homebrew pre-bottling (and pre carbonation)...not something I could drink every day. I'm not a huge fan of fizzy beers, even though a Korean man once gave me a full discourse on why Korean beer is better than American beer...more bubbles. I checked the Hite and Cass website, and confirmed this Korean belief...the website explained the more fizz = more flavor theory in somewhat of a scientific way with several graphs and charts. This was all in Korean, so I deduced the preceding by looking at the graphs, charts and pictures.

Oliver's Pagan Porter was much better. At first taste, this is a typical porter...somewhat creamy, bold flavors...but without the carbonated kick at the end. The vanilla smell was quite strong. After finishing the beer, the glass smelled more like an empty bowl of vanilla ice cream rather than a pint glass.

Overall, the cask chase was somewhat of a let-down. I'll continue to try cask ales. I have a feeling that I haven't found the right beer yet. Now that I've found my cask source, I'll be back.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa's Private Reserve

We left this out for Santa tonight.

Different from all the other winter beer's I've been sampling this year. It's hella hoppy, several different kinds of hops. On top of the hops, I'm getting a pine tree vibe, but not as overpowering as that rotten pine tree juice I was tasting in that Anchor beer last night. This was a good diversion from my current Belgian kick. A-


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Christmas Eve, Eve Beers

2 days before Christmas and I realized that I still have quite a few holiday beers that have gone untasted. Also, on an impromptu trip to Whole Foods on Monday I added to the stockpile.


Here they are:

Delirium Noel--at $9 something a 25 oz bottle, this isn't a cheap beer. Delirium's been brewing in Belgium since the 1600s. I've had another Delirium offering several years ago, but haven't tried it lately. I've been eyeing the bottle for awhile..the white bottle sticks out in a sea of amber bottles (I don't consider anything in a green bottle to be real beer). A nice amber pour, somewhat fizzy, but surprisingly doesn't taste overly carbonated...sweet, tasted some oranges in there and the standard Christmas spices. Well balanced...a Christmas beer done right. Still not as good as Troeg's Mad Elf, which is a bit tastier and a fair amount cheaper. A-

Starr Hill's The Gift--Someone on beer advocate said this had a biscuity taste, so I had to go out and get some biscuit beer. If it truly is biscuity, this would be a great breakfast beer. I just need some of the gravy flavored Jones soda to go with it, and I'd have the perfect Southern breakfast in liquid form. Alas, like most beer reviews, this guy was full of shit. I never taste the bubble gum, venison, or bananas these guys always claim are in the beers. Maybe it's because some Air Force doctor severed a nerve when he was pulling out my wisdom teeth, leaving my tongue numb for the past 10 years. Anyhoo, I enjoyed this Winterbock nonetheless. Nothing really special here, just a good dark lager...a good session beer for when it's cold outside.

Anchor's Christmas Ale--good on its own. I tried one Monday night. It has quite a few spices...cinnamon, nutmeg, fermented Christmas tree...that gave it an interesting taste. At this tasting, it was a solid B. Tried it again Tuesday night after drinking the Delirium and a Starr Hill and it nearly made me sick. I felt like I was drinking straight up Christmas tree juice...high calorie Christmas tree juice that was making me feel bloated. I barely choked it down, and if there wasn't something morally wrong with pouring out a beer, I would've done it...this is definitely not a session beer.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Aloha




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sledding


Carter and I were the only sledders Saturday morning. The snow was coming down pretty hard, and the wind was howling. The first sled is one of our homemade jobs. Not shown is my duct tape and cardboard masterpiece. It worked much better than the plastic lid.
video

Snowstorm

18+ inches of snow.

We were well-stocked with beer, but forgot the bourbon. Tried to ride to the ABC store during the heaviest part of the storm. I didn't fare too well.


video

After a good plowing, the roads were much better. Made the 3 mile roundtrip Sunday, hitting a few slick spots. It was a struggle to stay upright in some of the slush.

Just read that the bike trails are not plowed during snow storms. I'll either perfect my slush riding, or spend a lot of days on the metro in the coming weeks.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bad Luck and Ommegang Vos

Today, I:

1) Slid on a patch of ice, barely kept the bike upright
2) Watch band broke before I went for a run
3) Left work to find a flat tire on my bike
4) Inadvertently snapped the cable on my rear cantilever brake as I was fixing the flat.
5) Simultaneously dropped one of my rear blinking lights, causing it to be non-functional

After all that, I almost threw in the towel on the ride home. But, I felt kinda weird about jumping on the metro in full bike regalia. So, I decided to noodle down the bike path sans rear brake to the local bike shop. It was a slow day at the shop, and all the employees were drinking Coors Light. Apparently, I was the only customer of the day. They must've felt sorry for me, so they didn't charge for the labor. One bright spot of the day was that I had a kickass slice of pizza from the Italian Store while I waited.

Bike was repaired by 5:30...about the time I'm normally getting home. The bike shop was 2 miles in the opposite direction of my home, so I now had 15 miles to ride through the darkness. Awesome...time to test out the 900 lumens on my helmet light. Aside from nearly hitting a few non-reflective Ipoded runners on the Mt. Vernon trail, the ride was uneventful. I did see riders sporting every possible lighting and reflective combination on the trail...gave me some new ideas.

A day like that calls for a good beer. Weapon of choice was Ommegang's Rare Vos, an amber Belgian Ale. Very refreshing. I've yet to find a flaw with an Ommegang brew. Another A+.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Troeg's Mad Elf

Just opened a 22 of this year's holiday offering from Troeg's. Brewed with honey and cherries, this is a damn good Christmas beer. A year ago, I couldn't stand anything with fruit...maybe it was the fruity NAs or the Wild Blue blueberry crap from Anheuser Busch. Those are examples of fruit gone bad. The high-end so-called "extreme" beer does fruit right. This is a very complex, sweet ale packing a wallop at 10% abv. I think I paid $4.99 for this double deuce. Read somewhere that this beer ages well and would be even better next year...I couldn't wait and had to crack it open tonight. I doubt I could let a beer age in my house for that long.

Grade=A+, PQ=18.9.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Land of the Prius

Tonight we saw this near-identical Prius at the Dogfish Head Ale House. It sports an identical Yakima bike rack and an obligatory Obama sticker. Prius, biking, microbrews and Obama...they even had an "eat local" sticker, so they also promote farmer's markets.



This photo was taken last month at the Hoffman theater. I was there to see a special showing of Race Across the Sky, a movie about mountain biking featuring Lance Armstrong. This guy was obviously there for the same thing. I got this shot post-movie.



Monday, December 7, 2009

Snot Management

Today was the coldest commute in my short bike commuting career. The temp dipped somewhere between 28 (Accuweather iphone app) to 33 (Accuweather website) at my departure. I kept the torso toasty with 3 layers, ultimately shedding the outer layer about 3 miles into the ride. For the face, I opted for the ninja mask which kept my face warm deflecting the warm air back towards my face. Controlling, managing and ridding yourself of snot is important on any ride. Shooting a snot rocket over the shoulder cleanly is a basic cycling skill that all should master. On a cold day, more mucus is produced, so to keep myself clear, I have to fire off a snot rocket every 10 minutes or so. Normally it's not a problem, a rather clean affair, but today there were a couple of complications that kept me from being the skilled snot marksman:

1) On a cold day, the snot is dripping a little thinner. The thicker stuff tends to stick together a little better and you have a better projectile. The thin stuff sprays, or worse yet leaves a trail.

2) The high tech Pearl Izumi micro-sensor ninja mask covers my nose. Therefore, any residual drip will end up on my mask. Also, I have to use my hand to move the mask away from my nose, thus exposing my gloves to spray.

Needless to say, I had a few misfires today and ended up with some snot on my jersey. Timely enough, an article was sent to me today addressing this issue. I guess some other DC area bike commuters were thinking about cold weather riding today.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Good Old-Fashioned Rant

First of all, grown men should not type the following:
 
-LMAO
-LOL
-OMG
 
Even if you claim to be a "metrotextual", that should not be considered socially acceptable.
 
Second, texting while driving should be punishable by jail time.  It's equally as dangerous than drinking and driving.  I've had more encounters lately with texting drivers than drunk drivers.  Talking on the phone is bad enough, but texting is deadly.  Please stop it.  I don't care if you are a metrotextual.  If you can't quit doing it, you should do some jail time and see if you're still LOLing when Bubba has his way with you. 
 
Third, I am not a metrotextual and do not have a texting plan.  I refuse to pay $5 a month to do something that takes a limited amount of bandwidth (less than a phone conversation) and be charged for it.  It's like paying more for bottled Dasani water than for an equal portion of Coca-Cola.  Where's the value added?  Why am I paying extra?  So, every time someone texts me or Sonya, it costs $.25.  From now on, I'm going to charge all that text us...the cell phone bill is high enough. 
 
Forth, I'm angry about this news out of Asheville, NC.  Man shoots at a cyclist, narrowly missing his head and gets 4 months in jail.  It's enough to make you say, OMG.  I say WTF. 

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Turkey Trot

On Thanksgiving, we ran a Turkey Trot. Carter and Jack both ran the 1-mile race and did well. You can see Jack passing this dude that looks dazed.



Sonya passed me at the finish line. My watch said 21:58, but was 22:13 according to the chip. That's due to the fact that we started so far back in the pack. Apparently the 6:00/mile pace sign was for folks that want to walk.

Sonya was happy with her victory, and rubbed it in for the rest of the day...reminiscent of the rare occasion when a Laurion finished ahead of me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Trader Joe's 2009 Vintage Ale

Saw this one at Trader Joe's this weekend. Every year, TJ's brews a special "vintage" beer. This one is a Dark Ale on Lees brewed by Unibroue for TJ's.

At $4.99, this 25.4 oz beer is quite the value. Similar name brand brews go for $7 plus. Vintage Ale is definitely in that class of brews, as a high ABV (9%) dark ale comparable to several in the Belgian style. This one was fizzy and dark, pouring much like a cola. Somewhat spicy, an all around balanced taste. Give it a B+.

today

33 degrees this morning.
 
Saw ice on the wooden bridge by Roosevelt Island.
 
Felt good about the ride.  Nothing like coming inside from a cold workout.
 
Got in elevator.  Army warrant officer entered the elevator. He smelled like an ashtray...robbed me of the clean air and good post ride feeling. He must've been out last night getting his last legal puffs in a Virginia restaurant.  Today they go smoke-free..it's about damn time. 
 
Should've worn the neoprene booties...toes were numb for quite awhile afterwards. 
 
Fingers cold too, as gloves weren't quite dry from last night's rain.
 

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sonya's New Bike

video

Pangaea



On Thanksgiving, I had 2 beers of choice.

1) Blue and Gray's Winter Spice Ale

Picked up a growler of this as well as their Temporary Insanity Imperial Stout on Wednesday. We opened Wednesday night to taste, but drank the bulk of it on Thursday. The initial taste was super cold out of the fridge, so it was hard to gauge the taste on Wednesday. Let it warm up a bit on Thursday to get the full taste. Nice and spicy as the name implies. A very good winter beer.

2) Dogfish Head's Pangaea.

After watching a video on Dogfish's Facebook page saying this was the ultimate Thanksgiving beer, I decided to break this out of my stockpile. Brewed with ingredients from all 7 continents, this is a bit of a novelty beer. As recommended on the side of the bottle, I drank from a wine glass. Then, I was called "gay" for not drinking out of a beer mug...this comment was from a Coors Light drinker, so I had to take the comment with a grain of salt. Tasty, but nothing memorable. Due to the high price, I probably won't buy again.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Holiday Season

It's time to stock up on holiday ales.

Troeg's Mad Elf
Affligem's Noel
Rogue's Santa's Private Reserve
Sierra Nevada's Celebration

I also picked up some non-holiday beer. Dogfish Head's Pangaea (brewed with ingredients from each continents) and Avery's Reverand. So far, have just tried the Avery (a kick ass quadrupel, a great sipping beer) and the Sierra Nevada Celebration.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

$60 six pack


Ever wondered what a $60 six-pack looked like? This is 1/6th of it...The Dogfish Head 120 minute IPA. I'd been wanting to try this for awhile, but wasn't willing to pay the $10 for a 12 oz. bottle. When I heard that Dogfish Head was going to be offering samples at the Alexandria Whole Foods, I headed over hoping to try their collaborative effort with Sierra Nevada (Life and Limb). I inquired about the Life and Limb and found out that Whole Foods was taking a list of all that want the beer. Apparently it's brewed in limited quantities and there's quite the demand. Anyhow, I went ahead and sampled the rest of the Dogfish offerings...all of which I had tried before except the 120 minute IPA. At 18% alcohol by volume, no other beer in the world packs quite the punch (or so they claim). You'd think that it would have an unbearable alcohol taste at that level, but it's far from it, nor does it have the hoppiness of a normal IPA. It's actually quite sweet and very drinkable....a mighty fine brew. The Dogfish man says it ages well, so Sonya picked up a bottle to save for a special occasion. Her plan is to drink it after the National Marathon in March.
As for Life and Limb, I'm now on the search for this Holy Grail. I hit up another Whole Foods today in Fairfax as well as Wegmans and a Total Wine and More. Still no luck.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Kid Hop


Took Jack to his first rap show yesterday...Secret Agent 23 Skidoo.

They're definitely not the Wiggles. They've got talent, and all of their songs are adult-friendly. You can tell these are real rappers that adapted themselves to singing for kids, and it looks like all the kids enjoyed it.

video


Jack with Skidoo

Monday, November 16, 2009

On Sausage

Normally my diet is all business, no sausage. But for the past two weeknds, sausage has been the signature dish on the menu.

Last week, we went to Ben's Chili Bowl. This is a much ballyhooed restaurant in DC. Their signature dish is the half-smoke. Bill Cosby, Chris Rock, the Obamas, Bono and Ted Koppel all love this place. It has to be good right? Has Bono ever led anyone astray? Surely Ted Koppel knows a good chilidog when he sees one.

The line to the joint snaked through the restaurant, out the front door, and through the adjacent alley. When I saw this, I knew the place had to be good. After a half hour or so, we ordered a couple of half-smokes and milk shakes. Miraculously, we were able to find a seat as well.



The half-smoke doesn't look that impressive. It's about the size of the standard hot dog, and the chili has the appearance of your run of the mill Hormel canned chili. The sausage was pretty decent, but nothing special. The chili tasted like it looked...cheap, canned and bland. The half-smoke doesn't sit well in the stomach either. I felt this the rest of the day. Overall, I give the half-smoke a C+. The sausage earns an A-, while the chili earns a D. The line earns an F.

The next day, was the Cross race where brats were served up with Ommegang beer...a much better experience. The beer's an A+, the race was an A+, and the brat gets an A.

Saturday night, we ate at Capital Ale House in Fredericksburg. This place kicks ass. The beer menu's very impressive, more or less a book. They have quite the variety of imports, domestics, and local beers. I saw quite a few bottles of "vintage" beers in the cooler, going for upwards of $30 for a 25 oz bottle. For the most part, their drafts were reasonably priced. I had a Sierra Nevada Triple for $4.50. Getting back to the sausage, I noticed that the "stuffed pretzel" is one of the signature dishes. It consists of a Bavarian pretzel, stuffed with Havarti cheese, sauerkraut, sweet mustard and a Kielbasa. I was in sandwich heaven. This thing rocked! I have never had a sausage based dish equal to the stuffed pretzel, nor have I been in a beer restaurant of this quality. An A+ sausage for sure.

Virginia Beers

Added to the stockpile this weekend, as well as tried a few new drafts.

Friday night, I had a Legend Brown Ale (from Richmond). It was smooth and very drinkable....a good session beer. It was a good mellow beer to drink the night before a marathon.



After the race, we went to Richbrau where I had a kickass black and blue burger which was washed down with their IPA and Pilsner. Both high quality beers. As I hobbled off to the bathroom, I noticed they had a cooler full of 22oz beers beers for takeout. I picked up 3 of 'em...the Big Nasty Porter, a Pale Ale, and their Octoberfest.



I've been frequenting Blue and Gray Brewery in Fredericksburg since August. This is a pretty cool business, where you can go to have growlers filled. Got a grolwer of their Belgian Style Ale...tried it Sunday night, and it was the best damn Virginia made Belgian Beer I've ever had, at least an A-. The other growler is their Pale Ale. There are 22s of a Lager, "Fred Red Ale" and a Stout.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Richmond Marathon

Ran the Richmond Marathon yesterday. Nice course, well-supported, perfect running conditions. Was running strong for the first half, steadily moving towards a better than 3:40 finish....then went over a bridge at mile 15 that was windy and cold. It sucked the life out of me. Briefly picked it up again after the bridge, motivated by the sounds of a DJ scratching up some records for a fly MC at mile 17. Slowed down again. Picked it up at mile 20, when the 3:45 pace group went passed me. Managed to keep running albeit a little slower and finish at 3:49...an 8-minute improvement over my last marathon. Although I slowed down over the last 10K, this wasn't as bad as the last 2 marathons where I was cramping and struggling to the end ensuring days of hobbling and pain. I'm only hobbling a little today.

Sonya was the fan of the day with her cowbell.

The photo of the guy with the tutu was on the camera prior to the photos of me...so, I take it this guy beat me. Nice.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ommegang & Bacon Bar

It's a rainy day, so I could thing of nothing better to do than go beer shopping. At last weekend's race, Ommegang Brewery was one of the sponsors, so I got to try a couple of their Abbey Ales on draft...A+ beer. So, today I picked up one of each Ommegang variety I could find. Also, since I saw it available, I picked up another bottle of the Sierra Nevada Harvest.



Louis Winthorpe was with me on this trip to Wegman's. He loves bacon and chocolate. My philosophy is that when you mix two of your favorite food items, you either have a synergistic effect of creating a mind-blowing dish, or you get a sort of negative synergy (what's the opposite of synergy?) that creates one of the vilest sustance known to man. I call it the Strawberry Quik effect. Sonya purchased some Apricot Stilton last week, under the premise that she was expecting some sort of magical cheese-fruit synergy. Instead, we got something that tasted like a sugar-covered gym sock. See my review of the Bourbon Ale for more on this idea.

Needless to say, bacon-chocolate tasted awful..sort of smoky, too damn salty, and a bit chocolatey. When bacon fell into the cholocate at the Vasges plant, it was not the same magic that happened at Reese's when chocolate fell into the peanut butter.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

More Cross

Did another cyclocross race today in Southern Maryland. Raced in the Cat 4 field...must've been 100 or so riders in this race, and I don't believe all were true Cat 4s. You could see the sand falling out of the jersey pockets of the guys up front. I heard that a couple of Cat 2s were in the field. So much for it being a beginners race.
The race kicked off at 9am....there was a lot of dew on the ground, so sections quickly got sloppy. In fact, about 100 yards into the race, before the group started to string out, there was a big pileup. Over the course of the first lap, I saw a lot of guys go down, and had a few people cross wheels with me, and go down off my back wheel. I managed to stay upright most of the race..I did slip on one of the tight corners right in front of the announcer and most of the spectators. Jack managed to see it...awesome.
I did get a lot of cowbell out there. My cheering section was the most vocal of all in the Cat 4 race.
Jack kicked some major but in the 4 and under little Belgian race. Here he is tackling one of the barriers like a pro...the kid behind him is requiring assistance. Jack led from the beginning and never looked back.
Carter had a fast race as well...one of the first finishers in the 5-6 year old group.
Another great event on a beautiful Sunday. They served up Ommegang Abbey and Hennepin Ale, along with some brats and fries, and even had a funk band playing. I'm pretty impressed so far with the events in the area. The promoters go all out and make these fun events for everyone, and do it in some very nice venues. I discovered a new mountain bike trail in this park...apprently 10 miles of winding singletrack.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

NYC Marathon

Sonya was lucky enough to have her lottery number picked for the NYC Marathon. I got to sit the sidelines this weekend and hang out in NY.

The day before the race we went out for beers at the Pig & Whistle with the Pope. The Pope told Sonya to go to confession. So we went to St. Patrick's Cathedral where she confessed and got a "special runner's blessing." It's been awhile since she's been to confession, so I was amazed that it only took 30 seconds for her to be absolved of all sin.
I got a good spot in Brooklyn to watch the early parts of the race. Here are the lead women at mile 8 with Paula Radcliffe in the lead. They were moving. I tried to get a second close-up shot, but they were gone.

I did some more walking and subwaying, then saw Sonya again in Manhattan at mile 16. I was slow on the camera, so no shots of her...I then moved to Central Park at mile 25. Tracking her on the iPhone, I knew almost exactly when she'd cross my spot but again I suck with the camera. She crossed the line at a fast 3:50...I guess that confessing and blessing did some good. Pressure is on me in Richmond next week.

While we were in the city, Sonya found a new club to join.

...and I tried to meet O'Reilly, Hannity, and Beck.



It's only grape juice

3 unrelated words to attract the yuppies...to grape juice. The picture shows avocado, yet there's none in the can.


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DC Cross



A couple weeks ago, I entered my first cyclocross race. It was loads of fun...aside from 24 Hours of Hell, the best bike race I've raced in. With no race prep, or real 'cross riding, I had no expectation to do well. I knew they were giving out free beer and pomme frites after the race, so that was my sole motivation. Ended up 56th in a field of 125 Cat 4s. It was a fun day, at a nice venue....we hung out and watch some of the elite races, drank some beer...good time. Tomorrow is my second race, for which I have done no preparation. Promises to be another good time...nice weather, good park and sausage, beer & pomme frites for sale.

The kids fared much better in the Lil Belgians race.

Jack easily took first in a field of older kids on training wheels. He was the smallest rider out there. He went off the front at the beginning and never looked back. He even did a second lap for good measure. Look at that intensity.

Carter took 3rd in his group of 5-6 year olds.


It's also the day we found out we were expecting...a 3 year old.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Blogging on the go

Found an iPhone blogger app. This should reenergize the old blog. But is it necessary?


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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Beerfest

I've tried a lot of different beer over the last few months. Hawaii had a limited supply of brew, and it was a bit of a challenge to find something you've never tried. I can't keep up with all the different beers I've tried here, since I have rarely bought the same beer twice (Dogfish Head's Punkin' Ale being the one exception).

Earlier this month, I attended Capital City Brewing's Octoberfest. For $25, got to sample 10x 4oz. beers. They had a decent selection. The weakest I tried was Holy Brew...purely a gimmick beer with their "liquid confession" marketing campaign and pseudo-biblical fonts. They were also giving out free stickers and tattoos. Their line was the longest, so we fell victim to clever marketing. The beer was very bland, watered down, and their server said we have a "lighter and darker" beer. He couldn't tell me if they were selling ales or lagers...it was definitely a lager, somewhere along the lines of Natural Light.

The best beer was Avery's Kaiser Imperial Octoberfest....strong stuff, one of the best Octoberfest's I've drank.

The Milk Stout was another notably awful beer...brewed with lactose. Yum! I'll have to throw a gallon of milk in my next batch of homebrew and see if I can concoct something this shitty.

My Facebook play-by-play is below.




After drinking all our beer, we saw this merkin roll down the street like a tumbleweed and land at our feet.




I found this gem at Wegmans earlier in the week. Normally I check the price of standalone large beers and stay away...usually not a good value. This label sang to me...I didn't look at the price, so there will be no PQ for the Sierra Nevada Harvest Wet Hop Ale. It's an A+++ brew, the best I've had...maybe ever. Maybe I'm a sucker for their marketing, but this beer tasted...well, fresh. Just the right amount of hops, a bit piney and citrusy. Very good stuff. I haven't seen it anywhere else, but I need to buy this one again...may have to make the 30 minute drive to Wegmans for some more.


Friday, September 25, 2009

North Face Endurance Challenge



Last weekend, we ran the North Face Endurance Challenge in Algonkian Park. They offered several races...50 miles, 50K, 21K, and 10K. We opted for the 21K (half marathon). My only other trail half marathon was a brutal, hilly event at Kualoa Ranch. This one promised to be much flatter. The weather was better too, with temps in the low 60s. I was eager to redeem myself after the lackluster performance at the off-road duathlon the previous week. Since I didn't have to ride a mountain bike, the chances were good that I'd do a little better. I didn't get off to a great start, as I had to make a last minute pre-race bathroom run. That set us up at the rear of the group. There were a few chokepoints early on in the race, so since we were at the back, we had to walk a few times in the first mile. After the course opened up a bit, I settled into a decent pace. A heavily tattooed dude past me. For some reason, I decided to follow the guy and ended up running with him through the next few miles of singletrack. At about mile 4, there was a huge hill. Everyone was walking, except for tattoo. I followed him up the hill and we passed dozens of walkers. He paced me for awhile. By the turnaround, tattoo ended up somewhere behind me, as it was difficult at times to pass runners on the single track. Most of the run was uneventful, except for stepping in a ditch, soaking both feet 6 miles into the race. After the turnaround, I saw Sonya close by. She said something about the lack of waterstations...come to find out, she ended up with a group that went off course missing both of them. I made it back to the hill again at mile 9. Like the first time hitting the hill, there were a lot of walkers. I continued to run. About halfway up the hill, I heard someone behind me. It was tattoo. We made it over the hill, and continued on...had some trouble finding the trail, but we thought we were on course until we looked around and saw no one ahead of us and heard no one behind us. We kept a good pace, until we finally came out of the singletrack and started seeing other runners. The 10K was finishing up, and the lead runners from the 50K (which started a couple hours earlier) were all merging onto the same course. We hauled ass for awhile...at the end, tattoo had a stronger kick and passed me at the finish at around 1:57. I was 40th out of 272 by the gun, and somewhere like 38th in chip time. Looking at the times, if I had started near the front, I could've finished ahead quite a few other guys. Since Male 30-39 is the strongest age group, ended up 20th in the age group. Sonya finished close behind me, good enough for 5th in her age group, and 11th out of 91 women. Had she not gone off course, probably would've finished higher.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

hybrid man

On the ride in this morning, I passed a mustached man wearing a short sleeve button-down shirt, with shorts pulled up pretty high.  He was sporting a bow-tie and riding a hybrid....the quintessential DC nerd.  Even though I was riding in easy today, I thought for sure I'd blow by the guy and never see him again.  When I passed him, he immediately sped up and latched onto my wheel.  Dude was singing Journey songs the entire way down the Mt. Vernon Trail, until he passed me North of National Airport. 

Monday, September 14, 2009

FORD

Competed in my first ever off-road duathlon on Saturday. Learned a couple of things:

1) I suck at mountain biking
2) My mountain bike sucks
3) I did well in the run portion
4) No matter how well you run, the results are all about the bike
5) In order to win, you must drink beer, eat pizza and smoke post-race

When I showed up at the race, I had pretty good expectations. I knew I could put in a decent run, and although this was going to be only my 3rd mountain bike ride of the year, I could probably crank out the 9 miles in a respectable time, then bust my ass on the last run and make up any lost time...I couldn't have been more wrong.

First run went well. I could see the leaders as I was finishing up, and there were quite a few bikes left on the rack. I took off on the bike and passed a few riders early on...that's before the singletrack started. We had ran on part of the bike course, so I knew a little of what to expect. As soon as I hit the singletrack, I began to have shifting problems, couldn't get in a low enough gear and ended up falling over on the first climb because I couldn't clip out of the pedals...that happened again, moments later. I fell twice on the first climb, and eventually ran up the hill with my bike. In the first mile, I was passed by quite a few mountain bikers as I struggled with some of the log jumps. I end up behind a guy for a short while who's having a few more problems than me. We come up on a tricky section...a tunnel under I-95 that is not lit. Before the tunnel, you have to ride up on a platform. Next to the platform is a ditch of stinkwater about 3 feet below. The platform was wet, so the guy slipped, bounced off the concrete platform and fell into the stinkwater. I thought for sure the guy was injured, but he bounced back. I pulled his bike out of the stinkwater, and was thankful that at least I didn't smell like him. Then we rode under I-95, a spooky experience as you could see nothing but a small light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel has about 2 inches of stinkwater running through it, so it was a very pleasant experience.

I took a couple good falls after the stink-tunnel, slipped on a root and really busted my ass...my arm was tingling for the rest of the ride. I really wanted the ride to be over, then I took a flat. Thought about riding it on to the transition area, but had no idea where that was....eventually decided to fix the flat. Watch quite a few people pass me. Once I'm back on the bike, I'm convinced I'm in last place. I bust my ass to catch all those that got in front of me...manage to pass most of them. Got to the transition area, and was being cheered on by those who had already finished the race...not good. Head off on the run, cruising at a pretty decent pace, passing a couple others on the course, but did most of it alone. As I head in for the finish, got a few more "good jobs" from other finishers.

Despite the bad riding and bad luck, it was a lot of fun. Post-race pizza and beer was great. Saw a guy at the keg smoking...come to find out he won the race. WTF?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Etiquette

A situation arose this morning, that got me thinking about commuting etiquette. As I merged onto the Mt. Vernon Trail and began to pick up speed, a rider passed me as I was accelerating. As I settled into my planned pace, I realized that I was sitting on his wheel. So I thought, this guy passed me for the sake of passing me. I wasn't sure what to do, but quickly worked out a couple of options in my head:

1.) Throw down the hammer, pass the guy and don't let him catch me.
2.) Back off a little and give the guy some space...he did pass me, and since I don't know him, sitting on his wheel is rude.
3.) Sit on his wheel...if someone passes me, he should do it with authority, or at least ride at a pace I'm not willing to ride.

Since it was a windy day, and I had no intent of hammering all the way to work today, nor did I want to delay my ride by backing off the passer, I sat on his wheel. After a couple of miles, he waved me on and I pulled for the next 2 miles before we exchanged pleasantries and he left the trail. This was probably the ideal situation today, as I got to relax for a bit of the ride, but I could see my choice to quietly sit on the wheel pissing someone off. I'm sure "asking the guy" would be part of proper etiquette, but that's not my style. I'd much rather quietly choose option 1 or 3.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Commute

The worst thing about DC is the commute to work. The daily drive over the Wilson Bridge for 4.5 years (pre-renovation) must've added 10 years to my life. I was dreading a repeat of that experience. Luckily this time I'm working somewhere easily accessed by public transportation and bicycle. Public transport is a little slow...it took me an hour to get to work via bus and metro on Monday. On Tuesday I rode in for the first time. The ride was nice...after a test run the previous week, I found a route with a lot less cars, avoiding Old Town. I thought it would be an easy 26 mile round trip, but I've let the competitive side get the best of me. There are tons of people on the Mt Vernon Trail...I can't let anyone pass me, and feel like I must pass any recumbent or hybrid bike I see out there. Due to traffic lights, I can't ride it much faster than 45 minutes...record was 43 minutes on Friday morning, and I was hauling ass every chance I got.



According to the Kipplinger Bike Commuting Calculator, I'm saving $21.30/day by not driving...this is partially due to the $9.50 daily parking fee. Since I haven't bought a 2nd car yet, I could probably calculate in some additional savings. Of course, I've negated some of these cost savings by eating an extra lunch every day...so knock off $10 there...take out the parking and it's basically a wash. When you throw in all the recent purchases to support the commute, I've negated all the saving. So far it's been lights, jackets, tights, and most recently this bike:



After much deliberations and shopping, I bought a Kona Jake the Snake...an entry-level Cyclocross racer. I'd been eyeing some higher end CX bikes, nearly bought a Cannondale, but after realizing that I'm a Cat 4 racer that only plans on 2-3 Cross races per year, I couldn't justify a Cat 3's bike. This will double as a commuter bike, and I'll feel better about leaving this on the rack in the parking garage than the Cannondale.

The biggest benefit to riding every day is my sanity. When I drove on the beltway everyday, I felt like punching every grandma that cut me off or jumped in the "fast lane" and slowed down to 35mph while she tried to operate her cell phone. It's a lot easier to ride in the grass off the bike path while passing the ipod wearing girl weaving on her aero bars as she learns to ride a bike on the trail (so far the biggest annoyance on the bike path).

It's all exciting so far...we'll see what December brings. I've got all the gear, but have no idea if I can survive the cold.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Beers of the Week







I've been overdoing it on the beer tasting...can't keep up. This week I tried 5 beers.

Starr Hill's Dark Star Stout--Starr Hill is my favorite Virginia-brewed beer (I've only tried 3). This is the 6th brew from their lineup that I've tasted, and it's another winner. It's a smooth stout, solid A, good enough for a PQ=36

Hofbrau's Oktoberfest--I drank a lot of Hofbrau Hefeweizen while I was deployed, thought it was a decent enough beer. Saw this in Costco for $21.99/case...thought it a steal, then noticed that the bottles are 330ml as opposed to 12ozs...they're cheating me out of .8 ounces! Nevertheless, this was a pretty decent seasonal beer. A-, PQ=45...despite being cheated out of .8 ozs/bottle, this still is a good deal.

Sierra Nevada's Summer Lager...picked this up as a single, since I couldn't find a full six-pack. Not really impressed. I prefer Sam Adams' Summer Ale. Grade=B, PQ=18

Trader Joe's Dunkelweizen--Unfiltered, fruity, good flavor, Grade=A, PQ=48

Dogfish Head 90 miute IPA--This is some high-octane stuff. A little pricy at $9.99 a 4-pack, but it weighs in at 9% ABV. Unlike a lot of high alcohol beers, you can't taste it. Really a high quality beer...I love a good IPA. Grade=A, PQ=19.