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 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, 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


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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.


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.

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:
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+.


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'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.