Tuesday, December 14, 2010
If you're ever on a gameshow and they ask you what the world's oldest brewery is, don't forget this name: Weihenstephaner. Besides being a mouthful to say, Weihenstephaner is in fact the world's oldest operating brewery. The beer is still made out of the Weihenstephan Abbey and has been ever since 1040 when, according to their website, Abbot Arnold obtained a license to brew. The brewery is located just north of Munich and I definitely plan to visit on my beer pilgrimage to Europe someday. Other breweries I plan on visiting: Westvleteren in Belgium and....well, really that's the only one I'm really excited about visiting for now, but I'll have more of a gameplan once a trip gets closer to happening. On to the beer!
Weihenstephaner Original is a traditional Munich Helles (bright) Lager, which means it's basically going to taste like a German beer should. The beer pours a perfectly golden color with a lot of carbonation and a nice cap of foam which lasts the entire beer. Looks-wise, it's tough to top a good German beer. I smelled the beer and picked up some cloves, a little bit of that Heineken signature skunk/funk (but not in an actually skunked way), some lemon and a light citrus scent.
The taste of this beer is pretty special. A few years ago, I was in Berlin and my dad and I made it a point to try a lot of German beer. For whatever reason, it's rare that breweries out here can replicate that signature German taste. Weihenstephaner has nailed it with this one. While in reality I guess I shouldn't have been surprised because it's a beer from there, it was nice to taste a beer that really took me back to Germany. The beer looks light, but doesn't taste it, which was nice. There is a nice smooth malty element before a quick snap of grassy hops and then a smooth drawn out malty finish. I know I already used the word "smooth" twice in that last sentence, but I couldn't believe how smooth this beer was. If you're looking to try a good German beer, skip over the Beck's and Spaten and grab this one.
Final Grade: A
Monday, December 13, 2010
Lagunitas is an interesting brewery from one of the best areas that beer is coming out of today, northern California. Never afraid to try new things when it comes to beer, Lagunitas releases some very different beers. According to their website, this beer "was originally a failed attempt to make our Olde GnarlyWine Ale way back in 1997. Boatloads of Brown Sugar were added to the boil in an attempt to rescue the batch." So while they couldn't save the batch they were trying to make, they ended up making a strong ale that has more than enough sweetness to hide the alcohol. Dangerous.
The beer pours a ruby red color with a cream colored head. There were some nice floral hop aromas coming off of this one along with a pretty heavy sweet smell that I could only interpret as the massive amounts of brown sugar in the beer.
This beer is dangerous. Super dangerous. At 10%, there should be at least a hint of alcohol...but there's not. The sweetness from the brown sugar totally kills any hint of alcohol, leaving you thinking that you're drinking a beer that's something like 4% when it's significantly higher in alcohol. However, this isn't to say that this beer is one dimensional. The hops give it a nice bitterness that make is so the sweetness isn't overwhelming. Along with the brown sugar, there's a nice honey flavor that works well in the beer. Interesting beer.
Final Grade: B+
I'd like to start this review by saying that, in general, I love unfiltered beers. Maybe it's because my love for beer started (like so many other people) with a love for hefeweizens. Maybe it's because I love looking at a glass of beer and having no idea what's going on inside of it. Or maybe it's because there's something that seems so untamed about an unfiltered beer. Whatever the case, in general, I like them. So when I was looking around in Bristol Farms the other day and saw a bottle of Firestone Walker's Solace with the word "unfiltered" on the label, the case was pretty much settled. I opened it about an hour later, hoping for some unfiltered goodness.
The beer pours a very hazy orange-ish/ brown color that seemed to glow a bit in the glass. So far so good. It reminded me a bit of Russian River's Sanctification at first, but without quite so much of a radioactive glow to it.
The beer smelled pretty similar to a hef. The smell didn't blow me away like Sanctification, but I could pick out some of that characteristic hef yeast, banana, some sort of melon which I eventually thought was cantaloupe, and some honey.
I'm not going to say the taste was a total letdown, but I was pretty excited for this beer going in, and after the first sip, that excitement was pretty much gone. The taste starts with that familiar wheaty/hef taste, and then fades to a sweet and creamy finish with some orange, honey and a little bit of spice. For me though, here's where it went wrong. It felt like this beer had a lot of potential. However, it felt so overly carbonated, that the bubbles blasted the flavor nuances right off your tongue before they had a chance to shine. In the end, there was almost no finish to this beer and the end taste was slightly off and metallic. This beer was dangerously easy to drink, but not quite as enjoyable as I had been hoping for. This is a good beer for the summer, but I'd say if you had other decent choices, you'd be better off going for something else.
Final Grade: C+
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Going into this tasting, I didn't know much about Maui Brewing Company. I knew they were based out of Hawaii. I knew that for some reason, they insisted in putting all of their beer in cans. And I knew that CoCoNut Porter was supposed to be good. And that's about it.
As it turns out, Maui has a pretty good reasoning behind putting all their beer in cans. The logic is that by putting beer in an environment where it has no chance of light exposure until being opened, it eliminates any chance of damage due to light (light is bad news for beer and can create the dreaded phenomenon known as "skunking"). In addition to protection from light damage, Maui claims that by not producing bottles, they are reducing the amount of broken bottles on the islands that generally find their way to the beaches. I'm sold.
CoCoNut Porter is a dark beer brewed with hand toasted coconut. Coming from Hawaii, the use of coconut makes sense and I'm expecting this beer to taste a lot like a Mounds bar. The label reads "...like hot chicks on the beach." We'll see...
The beer pours a deep dark brown with a cream colored head that disappears a little too quickly. I picked up a lot of roasted malts and coffee off of the scent, but not too much coconut. Hmmm...
I was expecting this beer to be pretty sweet, but there's barely any sweetness. The dominating flavors are coffee and roasted malts with some bittersweet chocolate mixed in. I was a little surprised. For a beer that's called "CoCoNut Porter," it didn't taste a whole lot like coconut. As the beer warmed, I finally began picking up a hint of coconut on the finish along with a hint of milk chocolate sweetness. The mouthfeel was really light for a porter and it kind of felt weird drinking a beer this dark that felt like a lager in your mouth. Overall, this beer has some good elements, but "...like hot chicks on the beach" it is not.
Final Grade: B
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
As you may already know, I'm a bit of a fan of Deschutes. Not only do they make my favorite beer, The Abyss, but they make some other fantastic beers and they are one of the best breweries in the Pacific Northwest. I'm always excited to see the new beers they come up with. The other day, I realized that one of their year-round beers, Inversion IPA, had somehow slipped by my radar. For one reason or another, I had never tried it before. I love Deschutes and I love IPAs, so it only seemed right that I should try this one.
Inversion pours a dark amber color with a small white foam cap. I was actually surprised how dark this was for an IPA. Most are in the gold/copper range, but this was way darker. This beer is dry hopped for seven days (which means after the initial boil, whole hop cones are added after the beer has cooled and allowed to steep into the beer before filtration) and it shows in the smell. The nose is full of intense floral hops along with the smell of jasmine and malts.
This isn't an IPA that messes around. If you take one sip, you're going to know right away that you have an IPA in your hands. The hops hit you hard and bitter and don't let go through the finish. However, this isn't just straight hop juice, this beer is balanced with some caramel malts and some undertones of biscuit and bread. The end result is a beer that will satisfy the biggest hophead, but is also pretty drinkable for anyone else. Yet another good beer by Deschutes.
Final Grade: A-
Monday, December 6, 2010
As I may have mentioned before, the Bruery embarked on a 12 year series of holiday beers two years ago. Each beer is named and themed after the "12 Days of Christmas" song. I bought the newest one, "3 French Hens" a few weeks ago, but recently realized that I wouldn't know how to judge it's taste later on if I didn't try one now. So a few days ago, I picked up another bottle and gave it a try. If I can wait, the next bottle won't be opened until 2019, when 12 Drummers Drumming is released.
For the theme of 3 French Hens, the Bruery chose to age a portion of the beer in French wine barrels. So the end result is a beer that is a Belgian strong dark ale with 25% of it having been aged in these wine barrels. I'm expecting some pretty good things from this beer as it ages.
The beer pours a very dark brown color with some lighter chocolate brown tinges on the edges. The head was a pretty massive cream color that lasted for a significant amount of time. The smell gave off a lot of the effects of the aging in wine barrels and I picked up an almost chardonnay-like scent off of this. In addition, there was a sweet yeast smell and some dark fruits present. As the beer warmed, it opened up a lot and those dark fruit flavors came out more. Towards the end, I was picking up another smell that was a little off-putting: vinegar. It was just a hint though, so we'll see if that sticks around in a few years.
The taste was incredibly complex. It started with the sweet yeast that was a little reminiscent of Unibroue's yeast. Then, it moved on to a rich spicy middle and finished on a very smooth but dry note. I tried for a long time to pick out the flavors in the middle, but it was too hard to pick out single elements in the intense blend of spices. The dark fruits were still there and fig and raisin came out with the sweetness from the yeast. On the finish, there were some bready malts and a bit of oakiness that made the smooth finish linger forever. I can't wait to try this down the road and see how it ages. My guess is it's going to be worth the wait.
Final Grade: A-
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
A few months ago, I sent out a message to my Hood to Coast team asking them if any of them had any good beers to try. One of the guys from Portland, Alan, sent me a pretty solid list back in return. There was just one problem: many of them are near impossible to find here. After about a week of looking, I tracked down Ninkasi's Tricerahops, which turned out to be fantastic. Despite looking around though, I couldn't locate a few of the other breweries on the list, including Hair of the Dog, a brewery located in Portland. I was especially bummed about this one because most of the reviews of their beers were extremely favorable. It seemed like things just weren't meant to be between Hair of the Dog and I, so I made a mental note to visit them the next time I was in Portland and moved on. Then, I was in a liquor store the other day and sure enough, they had Hair of the Dog! The first one I wanted to try was a beer called Adam.
Adam is another beer done in the Old Ale style. For some reason, I keep stumbling across this style and for the most part, that's been a very good thing. I have yet to try an Old Ale I didn't like. Coton was the first, followed by Deschutes' Jubel and these were both fantastic. Now, it was time for Adam.
Adam pours an extremely dark brown (and maybe closer to black) color with a very thin mocha head that settles quickly. One of the things I like most about Old Ales is how intimidating they look and this one's no different. It's just a mass of thick, dark liquid in front of you daring you to take a sip. The aromas coming off of it were intense: heavy raisin and molasses notes with some dark chocolate, smoke, licorice and a lot of fig as the beer warms. When I first uncapped the bottle, I smelled some hops, but these are all but gone in the glass.
The taste is everything the smell promised and more. There is a lot of sweetness upfront and then a hint of smokiness with a long and lingering finish that brings a pleasant warmness on the swallow. It was really pretty incredible how long the taste lingered, changing as it went. I read one review of the beer in which the reviewer said he didn't get the finish until thirty seconds after taking a sip. I'm not sure if the finish took that long for me, but it was definitely a long time before you got that final taste that stayed with you until the next sip. This beer reminded me a lot of Coton flavor-wise, but this feels like it hasn't been aged as long. This one is "only" 10% while Coton boasts a whopping 14.5%. In a way, I think I liked Adam better though. It definitely didn't feel as untamed as Coton. It's definitely worth a try if you can find it.
Final Grade: A+
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
The beer pours an extremely dark brown with lighter brown tinges when it's held to light. An impressive mocha colored head caps the beer and sticks around for a while. The smell is full of that characteristic Unibroue yeast (a distinctively strong and sweet yeast). Along with the yeast, there are some pleasant hints of dark fruit. Already, I can tell this is going to be an upgrade from last year.
I took one sip and was relieved. So much better than last year! The Unibroue yeast is coupled with full flavors of black licorice and plum along with some bready malts and hints of fig and brown sugar. The beer is well balanced and definitely feels like it could age really well. The mouthfeel is a bit light but pretty much dead on for a Belgian Dark Ale. Nice work, Trader Joes.
Final Grade: A
Thursday, November 25, 2010
The beer pours a cloudy amber color with ruby tinges on the edges. After the pour, there was a moderate off-white head that faded pretty fast. The smell was way better than I was expecting. I smelled lots of floral hops first, then a sort of tropical scent which I thought smelled like lychee. Then came the tea- a sort of musty earthy smell that was somewhat hidden behind the other elements.
The taste was, well, unique. I was a little put off because this beer labels itself an IPA, but really has nothing in the taste that would cause me to believe the label. The taste starts with a slight touch of floral hops and a some sweetness similar to the lychee scent. Then this beer takes a pretty drastic turn and hits your taste buds with a hard blast of mate. The finish is all bitter tea and earthy funk, and not in a good way. As the beer warms, the hint of hops disappears and is replaced by more tea. So in the end, you really just feel like you're drinking cold mate. Not good. I almost couldn't finish this beer because it tasted so gross.
Despite not liking mate to begin with and trying to give it a shot, things didn't go well. I'm trying to handicap my grade a bit because of my bias, but I still can't make myself give this one a good grade. If you label a beer an IPA, no matter what else you do to it, you have to have hops. The hops of this beer were so hidden in the background that labeling this an IPA seems silly.
Final Grade: C-
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
October means one "new" thing for the Trader Joes beer section- Kennebunkport Pumpkin Ale. Usually, I'm not crazy about pumpkin beers and I remembered not liking this one last year. Still, I decided to take one home and give it a second chance.
The beer pours a clear golden color with a decent white foam head. The smell was way better than I remembered a year ago- full of pumpkin pie aromas. I didn't smell a lot of "pumpkin" in the beer, but it still smelled like a pumpkin pie somehow- lots of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
The taste definitely surprised me. It held up to the smell well and the spiciness was definitely the main element. There was a lot of sweetness from the spices, but still not a lot of pumpkin. Other than that, this beer was a bit one dimensional as there was no hint of hops and little evidence of malts. As the beer warmed, it became kind of bad and started to taste more like Bud Light. The mouthfeel was pretty thin throughout, but it didn't bother me as much when the beer was cold. This is pretty much one you need to slam when it's cold because once it gets warm, you might want to not do anything with it but water the plants. Overall though, it's not a bad interpretation of the style and I will probably have to get it again when it rolls through next year.
Final Grade: B-
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Hop Wallop pours a perfectly clear amber color with a decent two-finger cream head. On a side note, this was the first time I used my new Russian River tulip glass and it was a good beer to break it in with. Hop Wallop left some nice lacing down the glass as I drank it.
The beer has a pretty solid double IPA smell. Floral hops hit the nose right away followed by a strong malt presence and a slight earthiness. I tried for a while, but couldn't figure out what was creating the earthy aroma.
The taste isn't the hop bomb I was expecting from the name, but it's still pretty good. The stars of the show (as they should be in a double IPA) are the hops and the malts and they're constantly jockeying to take the forefront of the taste. The taste starts with some malt sweetness, then takes a hard turn and brings a big hit of floral hops, and then fades out on a smooth malty note. The finish is surprisingly gentle but not to the point that it just dies. It leaves the slightest malty hint on your tongue that definitely leaves you wanting more. The balance in this beer is near perfect.
Final Grade: A-
Thursday, November 18, 2010
On my birthday, my friend Brian and I went over to Ballast Point for something a little different- two new versions of Sculpin. One was brewed with the insanely spicy Habanero pepper and the other was brewed with the hottest pepper on earth- the Ghost Pepper (Naga Jolokia).
Both of these beers look exactly like Sculpin. They had a beautiful amber color with very little head. Definitely hard to top Sculpin.
I thought that the smells of these were going to blow me away, but they were actually relatively tame. I got the Ghost Pepper while Brian got the Habanero, and for some reason, his smelled hotter than mine. That couldn't be though. Mine was supposed to be the hottest pepper in the world. Maybe it just didn't smell like it. It was time to find out.
I braced myself and took a sip. I got the familiar Sculpin taste (mango, pineapple, perfect hit of hops) and then something new. It tasted a bit like a Thai pepper at first. There was kind of a metallic, dirty taste that really hot peppers have right before they knock you off your feet with a blast of heat. But the heat never came. There was a bit of a prickly, tingly sensation on my tongue, but nothing that would suggest that I had just ingested the hottest pepper on earth. I was pretty bummed. I tried the Habanero one and it was much better. As soon as you take a sip, the heat hits. It's not unbearable, but it's definitely hot. It wasn't perfect with the Sculpin, but it worked well enough and I definitely enjoyed it a lot more than the Ghost Pepper one. Overall, I was glad to get the chance to try these two variations of Sculpin. Don't know if I'd rush to try them again though.
Final Grade: Ghost Pepper- C
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Yesterday, Toronados had a Russian River showcase, so I went with my girlfriend and another friend to check it out. I've really been wanting to try more of Russian River's sour beers ever since trying Supplication (a sour beer that is brewed with cherries and aged in pinot noir barrels) a few months ago. Officially, these beers are called American Wild Ales, due to their use of a strain of yeast called Brettanomyces ("brett" for short). This strain of yeast is particularly hard to control and many brewers refuse to go into other breweries that use brett because they're afraid that they may bring it back with them in their clothes and contaminate their beers. But used correctly, brett can impart a characteristic tartness and funk that many beer lovers can't get enough of.
Sanctification pours an extremely hazy straw color that seems to glow in the glass. It kind of looks like a lighter apple cider. The haze is so thick that there's no way to tell what's going on in the beer, just a lot of chaos. The pour left no sign of a head, so the entire goblet seemed to glow. It was a pretty crazy looking beer.
The smell is pretty much what you expect from a sour beer. It smelled earthy and pungent. I picked up a lot of funk, a bit of lemon-like sourness and a sort of chlorine-like smell.
When you take a sip of Sanctification, the sourness hits you like a punch in the mouth. It's like biting into a lemon-sour. The brett is definitely a huge factor in the taste and there's a lot of funk going on along with the sourness. There is a hard peppery bite to the beer to along with the sourness. As the beer warms, more flavors come out and I could definitely taste some tart green apple and lemon. The finish is long and dry, almost like a dry white wine. It lingers on your tongue and leaves that wonderful sour taste on your mouth. Russian River nailed it with this one. Can't wait to try more of their beers.
Final Grade: A
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Alright, so moving on. A few weeks ago, I tried one of Deschutes more interesting offerings- Hop in the Dark. The beer labels itself a new style of beer- the Cascadian Dark Ale. I figured it was worth a try, so I picked it up at a local Bristol Farms.
The beer pours a very dark color (not quite The Abyss-dark, but close. Sorry, I'm kind of stuck on The Abyss right now.) with a foamy mocha head and nice lacing. The smell is really not what I expected. This beer looks like a stout but smells like an IPA. The nose is nothing but fresh hops. I was definitely curious as to what it could possibly taste like.
So, looks like a stout, smells like an IPA and tastes like...both! What a strange beer. There are a lot of hops in this beer, but not to the point of an IPA. Along with the hops are flavors of roasted malts, dark chocolate and coffee. To tell the truth, the taste reminded me a bit of a Guinness, which was a little strange for me.
Overall, this beer is full of contradictions that somehow seem to work together. The beer looks like a dark beer should, but the mouthfeel is like a lager. The beer smells like an IPA, but tastes closer to a porter. It's kind of a cool beer and definitely worth a try if you're ready to be confused the hell out of.
Final Grade: B+
Monday, November 15, 2010
The beer pours a light hazy golden color with a cream colored ring around the top. The beer didn't smell like much right after it was poured, but once it warmed, the bourbon was definitely evident, along with a sweet malty smell.
The beer definitely has that great tripel flavor to it. It has that familiar yeast taste along with a smooth malty backbone. It's very well balanced. The bourbon is definitely present and presents a pretty substantial amount of heat as you swallow the beer. At 11%, this is a pretty big beer, and you can definitely taste the alcohol thanks to the bourbon. While the bourbon adds complexity to this beer, I don't know that it adds to the overall quality. I'm a huge fan of bourbon barrel aging, but this one became a little overpowering, especially as the beer warmed. Overall, this is a pretty solid offering from Allagash and definitely worth a try if you can find it. Glad I got the chance to try it.
Final Grade: B+
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Iceberg Beer pours an extremely pale and almost greenish yellow color. I can't remember ever seeing a beer this pale. It worried me a little bit initially because usually (in my experience, at least), less color means less taste. The head of the beer was surprisingly resilient and stayed at around 1/4 inch for the entire beer.
The smell was initially a tad skunky and I was a little worried that the beer was spoiled. But it didn't smell skunked enough to not give it a fair chance. As I smelled the beer more, it seemed that the "skunk" smell may have just been the yeast. There was also a hint of malt, wet grass, grain and a bit of lemon zest. It was smelling much better than most light beers.
I took my first sip and was completely blown away. Not only was the beer not skunked, it was full of flavor. The familiar lager taste comes to the palette first, but it's followed by a full creamy sensation that I didn't expect at all. It reminded me a little bit of Anderson Valley's Summer Solstice beer, which labels itself a cream beer. The flavor of Iceberg Beer wasn't as sweet as Anderson Valley's, but it was just as velvety smooth. The finish was really clean with almost no bitterness, a slight tinge of honey, a slight nuttiness and a bit of hop sourness.
Chances are, you will never see this beer in a store. But if you happen to be in Newfoundland, look for this one. It will be easy to spot. It's the one with the iceberg on it.
Final Grade: A-
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Back to Stone. Here's the write up of the 10.10.10 Vertical Epic off of Stone's website:
"This ninth edition of our Stone Vertical Epic Ale series takes two interesting left turns. A Belgian-style golden triple is the starting point of this beer, but the first left turn is nearly immediate with the addition of dried chamomile flowers, triticale, and Belgian amber candi sugar. The second, and rather unusual left turn takes us half an hour up the road from Stone to Temecula courtesy of the addition of just-pressed Muscat, Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc grapes from our friends at South Coast Winery. As the Stone Vertical Epic Ale series has moved through the calendar, we found that the brewing schedule for a 10.10.10 release coincided nicely with the grape harvest, neatly providing an interesting twist in this epic ale."
Wine grapes in a beer? Interesting...
The beer pours a pale orange golden color with the thinnest ring of a head imaginable. The smell is pure grapes. It almost smelled like a white grape juice. Hidden somewhere in the grape smell was a slight herbal smell. So far, there was little that would lead me to believe I was about to drink a beer.
The taste was again full of the grape flavors that were present in the smell. Again, I was reminded of white grape juice. It tasted a lot like a sauvignon blanc with a hint more sourness on the finish. The aftertaste was definitely way more wine than beer. However, there were a few beer elements present. I noticed a definite yeast presence with a hint of banana/ bubblegum sweetness that you can find in many hefeweizens. I also picked up a slight malt presence that you wouldn't find in a wine.
Overall, this was a really strange beer and I cant wait to see how it matures with 2 years of aging. I wasn't crazy about this beer, but I'm still looking forward to revisiting it in a few years time.
Final Grade: B+
Monday, November 8, 2010
The beer pours an absolute jet black with slight hints of brown and a slight mocha colored head which doesn't last long. As soon as the head's gone, it looks like you're holding a glass of tar. The smell is heavy with coffee and a little bourbon. This is a pretty intimidating beer.
The taste of this beer is absolutely beastly. There's a slight sweetness with hints of dark fruits upfront and then the taste dives to the most bitter coffee taste I've ever experienced. There's a hint of hops to it, but the majority of the flavor is coffee. The tagline for this beer is "Not your Dad's 30 weight," and it's perfect for this one. This is, without a doubt the thickest beer I have ever tasted. It's almost sludge-like and goes down like mud. I wouldn't recommend drinking an entire bomber of this. Luckily, I just had one glass and it was the perfect amount. If you're interested in trying something different, Old Viscosity may just be what you're looking for. Still, know what you're getting into before you go.
Final Grade: B+
Pure Hoppiness is another Double IPA, and it's a great offering from Alpine. The beer pours a slightly hazy golden orange color with a pretty massive foamy white head that eventually calms to a thin layer on top of the beer.
The smell of this beer really caught me off guard. Being a Double IPA, there was definitely a huge hop presence. I don't know where Alpine is getting their hops from, but their beers always smell like the freshest hops I've ever smelled. This one is no different. Huge pine and citrus hops were the first thing I smelled and they smelled amazing. While I expected the hops, I didn't expect the next thing I smelled. The beer had an pretty big "funk factor." I know this isn't going to make it sound like a beer I would recommend trying (which it is), but I couldn't help thinking that the "funk" smell was almost like a cross between a strong cheese and a wet dog. I have no idea where the funk came from (maybe the malts?) but it didn't stop me from enjoying this beer.
The taste is where Pure Hoppiness really shines. The pine hops hit your palate hard upfront and are followed by smooth bready malts. The result is a hard hit of hops with minimal bitterness on the aftertaste. There was almost a creaminess to the beer and I picked up a little flavor that, after trying to figure it out for a while, I could only describe as buttered popcorn. There's also a slight caramel sweetness to the malts that works perfectly with the rest of the beer. The mouthfeel is just what I expect from a double IPA- slightly heavier than a single IPA but not so heavy that you forget about the hops. Alpine makes another double IPA called Exponential Hoppiness that I will no doubt be trying if I can get my hands on it. So look for Alpine beers out there, they're definitely worth a try.
Final Grade: A+
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
I had trouble finding this one for a while. But one day, I walked into a local liquor store and there it was, waiting for me. I had planned to try a different beer that day, but it's too hard to wait for Pliny. Plus, there are about 50 warnings on the bottle telling you not to age this beer and to drink it fresh, so the issue was settled.
First of all, let's learn a bit about this beer. It's brewed by Russian River, a brewery that, as far as I'm concerned, has yet to miss on a beer. It is named after the roman scholar who is credited with giving the botanical name to hops. Pliny is classified as a Double IPA, which means it's going to have more malt and more hops than a regular IPA. In fact, Pliny is brewed with 40% more malt and twice the hops as RR's standard IPA, Blind Pig (another great beer). On a side note, there's also a beer called Pliny the Younger. This has a reputation for being one of the most difficult beers to find in the world. It comes out in February and is only released on draft. You have to know where it's going to poured and be there within 20 minutes of the keg being tapped if you want a chance at trying this one. Look for a review in February (if I'm lucky).
Back to the Elder. The beer pours a coppery golden color with a lush foamy white head which settles fairly quickly. The smell is amazing. Sure, the hops are there, but they're coupled with some surprising scents. I could pick our pineapple, mango, a little bit of wet grass, and a decent malt presence. This, of course is all tucked under the real star of the show- the huge piney hops. The beer smells incredible.
The taste, if it's possible, is even better. I was glad to see that this beer wasn't a straight hop bomb like a lot of IPAs. This was even a beer that I can see people who aren't huge hop heads appreciating. The hops definitely take the lead, but they're offset by a lot of grapefruit and a hard peppery bite. The finish is all resiny hops, but it doesn't stick to your mouth and leave you puckering up. It fades smoothly, leaving you wanting more and more. The feel of the beer is perfect; velvety smooth and full. If you can find this one, do not pass it up.
Final Grade: A+
The Bruery is a relatively new brewery based out of Placentia, California. They make some of the most coveted beers on the market right now, including one called "Black Tuesday;" a once a year release that packs a punch at nearly 20% ABV. Wowsers. They try some pretty different styles and for their second anniversary, they released a beer called Coton.
I had heard a little bit about Coton and was definitely interested in trying it. However, with beers from The Bruery being pretty hard to find with the exception of 2 or 3, I figured I might not get the chance. Then my girlfriend and I were having dinner with some friends in Culver City and I noticed that they had Coton on their specials list. Sold. There was just one problem. I assumed the beer would come in a small goblet or pint glass at the most, but soon the waiter brought out a 22oz. bomber of it and a glass. Uh oh. I checked the label to see how strong it was- 14.5 %. It was going to be a long night. I poured a glass and had a look.
To tell you the truth, I've never been so taken back just by looking at a beer as I have by Coton. It poured a thick dark brown color that was almost black and had no head or hint of carbonation at all. I took a whiff and it smelled like soy sauce. I couldn't believe what I had gotten myself into. Then I took a sip.
The taste of Coton takes you places most beers don't go. It's classified as an Old Ale, which means that it is typically aged a bit longer and has a higher alcohol content than most other ales. A portion of Coton is aged in bourbon barrels, so the smell definitely has a bit of heat to it from the bourbon. For a beer that smelled so strange, the taste was really surprising. It was full of dark fruits and pleasantly sweet. I picked up a strong flavor of raisin and hints of plum, burnt brown sugar, a bit of the alcohol, smoke, caramel, molasses and fig. That's a lot going on for a beer that smells like soy sauce. As it warms, the flavors open up even more and the smell definitely becomes more complex.
The mouthfeel of the beer is very thick and syrupy, but it works somehow with the flavors. To tell the truth, it almost feels more like drinking a brandy than a beer. It's really a unique experience.
Coton is a beer that is not meant to be pounded. It's one that needs to be sipped and shared to be truly appreciated. I would absolutely try this again if given the chance. As I was drinking it, I couldn't help but think it tasted like it was begging to be aged. I feel like a year or two of aging would make this beer really special. Still, it's a fantastic offering by the Bruery.
Final Grade: A
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
After running the Hood to Coast, I decided to wait a few days to write about it. My logic behind this was that if I wrote everything down right away, I would have way too much information to process and the experience wouldn't have had a chance to fully settle in. The dangerous aspect of this approach, of course, is finding yourself over a week (or two months) removed from the race and slowly forgetting some of the details that made the experience so memorable. So I guess it's time to finally write about this one. Coincidentally, this happens to be my 100th blog post and I can't think of a better subject. Let's get this going.
Before The Race:
As probably anyone who has ever run Hood to Coast will tell you, one of the hardest parts about the race is the wait. It seems like you're always waiting. And while the end result is always worth the wait, it can be tough on your nerves knowing that something so physically strenuous is right ahead of you but having to wait to get to it. I usually tend to overthink things like crazy right before the race. It varies, but usually my thought process right before the race goes something like this: "Did I really train enough?" "Have I been eating right to make sure my body doesn't sabotage me during the race?"" Why did I think this was a good idea again?"...etc.
This year, I didn't feel nearly as stressed before the race as last year. Maybe this was due to actually feeling ready for the race this year and maybe it was because I really knew what I was getting into this time. It also really helped to not have as much downtime before the race. This year, my girlfriend and one of her best friends accompanied Brian and I up to Seattle on Wednesday and then drove down with us to Portland the next day to get ready for the race. Having the time with all of them in Seattle really took my mind off of the race. We took a nap under the Space Needle, took the duck tour through the city, ate amazing food and all decided that we could see ourselves living there. On Thursday, we explored the area of Fremont and Gasworks Park and then drove the three hours down to Portland. By the time I was able to collect my thoughts, it was Thursday night already and the race was less than 24 hours away. It was the perfect way to spend the time before the race.
Friday came before I knew it and all of a sudden, we were on the road to Mt. Hood and late for our start time. After finally negotiating traffic and an Andretti-like performance by my dad up the mountain roads (in a minivan, no less), we made it to the start line about 10 minutes early. After a scramble to pick up our baton for the race and about 2 team pictures in front of Mt. Hood, our first runner, Dylan (one of my best friends since second grade), stood at the start line with the seconds ticking down until our second Hood to Coast would begin.
Ask me now what I was thinking as the race was about to start and I don't think I could tell you. I don't think that there was really a thought process as I was standing there, just a rush of emotions. There was a certain element of nostalgia present. Part of me couldn't believe that I had been standing in the same place exactly a year ago. But mostly, I was feeling a rush of excitement and adrenaline that I was trying hard to subdue. Being the sixth runner meant that I was going to be the last one in our van to run. So while our race was starting at 3:15 on a Friday afternoon, mine wouldn't be starting until it was almost getting dark.
Total Distance: 7.4 miles
Average Pace: 7:30
Runners Passed: 5
Runners Who Passed Me: 3
Net Roadkill: 2
Song That Was Stuck In My Head: Arcade Fire's "Modern Man"
After waiting for what seemed like forever and seeing everyone else take off and finish, the last runner before me, Dylan's dad, Perry, took off. Finally, I was on deck. So far, we were already beating the ambitious pace we had set out for and I didn't want to be the one to ruin it. At the same time, I didn't want to destroy myself on the first run like I had last year. Since this was my longest run, I decided to try and find a good pace and stick with it for as long as I possibly could.
After getting lost trying to find the next checkpoint, we finally showed up a few minutes before Perry did. As I waited in the gate, my thoughts were racing. I kept asking myself if I was really ready for this. By now it was too late, but I couldn't help wonder if I had doomed myself by not training enough. In the van everyone else had been talking about the work they had been putting in for Hood to Coast and it had dwarfed my efforts. Still, not it was too late to do anything but run. And it was time. Soon enough, Perry came around a bend in the road and the moment was finally upon me. I took the baton and started running.
To tell the truth, running the first leg was a little weird for me. I had been waiting so long that it felt like I had used up most of my adrenaline while I was cheering for everyone else. In a way, I think this was a good thing. It didn't sap me of my energy, just my nerves. So while I was running, I felt more relaxed than I had in a long time. I remembered my fatal error from last year (putting all my energy into my first run) and I tried to find a comfortable pace as quickly as I could and stay there. Usually, this takes me a while, but this time, I was able to find a groove pretty quickly.
The first two miles had some nasty hills but, surprisingly, I found myself cresting each hill with relative ease. I couldn't believe how good I was feeling. Were these the same legs that had struggled to get through the tiny hills by my house? Had someone switched legs with me over night without my knowing?
As good as the running felt, I was beginning to get a little discouraged. I had run nearly 2 miles and didn't have any roadkills to show for it. I was sure that by the 2 mile mark, I would be way past my roadkill total from last year. I didn't expect the course to look like the PB boardwalk, where there are seemingly 30 people to pass every quarter mile, but I had expected to see a couple people to pass. Finally, I saw victim number 1 about a quarter mile in front of me. After a few minutes, I was past them and my roadkill total was in the positives. But it seemed like as soon as I passed that person, someone else came racing past me.
After passing the next runner, I was sure that my roadkill count was going to be in the positives for good. No sooner had I thought this than another runner came flying by me. Well, she looked like a runner, only smaller. She was about 4'9" and at least 50 years old and her gait was somewhere between an old man who can barely walk going out to get the morning paper and someone on one of those Gazelle aerobic machines. I don't think I can call it running. It was more like speed-shuffling. But she was speed-shuffling at a ridiculous pace.
Finally, I reached the town that was to be the end of my run. I felt surprisingly energized, even though it had been nearly an hour since I started running. I quickened my pace, knowing that each bend in the road could bring the sight of the finish line. There was just one problem- this was the longest town ever. Every time I was "sure" that the end was near, I would come around a curve only to find another long straightaway and no finish line in sight.
At last, I crested the final hill and saw the finish waiting about half a mile away. It seemed like it took 20 minutes to get there but, finally, I powered through the finish line and handed off the baton. The first leg was finished.
Total Distance: 4.15 miles
Average Pace: 7:50
Runners Passed: 4
Runners Who Passed Me: 2
Net Roadkill: 2
Song That Was Stuck In My Head: Usher's "Yeah" (...don't judge)
After our first legs of the run were complete, we drove to my cousin's house near downtown Portland to get some much needed rest. While I didn't get that much sleep, I had some pizza that may have been the best pizza I've ever had. If this pizza had come into my life at any other point, I don't know that I would have thought as much of it. But after eating nothing but Powerbars and Power-gel for a solid half day, that pizza was looking real good.
Soon enough, we were standing at the next checkpoint in downtown Portland and it was freezing. Dylan was first up and he looked way more ready than I felt. I think at this point the only thing anyone was really thinking about was how much sleep they could be getting at home right now. Still, we were all about as amped as could be expected after getting an hour of sleep and running on energy bars.
After Dylan took off, it felt like the countdown had finally begun again to my next run. Still, with 5 runners before me, I had to control my emotions. By the time we got to my handoff, it was 3 am and I pretty much felt like doing anything but running. Still, I mustered up what energy I could and got ready for the handoff.
And here's where things started to go wrong. As I was checking my vest to make sure everything was on right (my number, my safety pins, my lights, etc.), I realized that my front light had fallen off. I found it beeping in the grass by my feet but couldn't find the magnetic back. I had no idea what to do. I scrambled around in the grass but it was no use. It was gone. I had no idea what to do and I could see Perry coming around the bend. If I was caught without a light, my whole team could be disqualified. I had to think of something. So with one had clutching the light to my chest, I took the baton with the other and started running.
Before the race, I had asked my dad (who had run the same legs last year) which leg he thought was the hardest. I figured he would say the first, if only because it was so much longer than the others. But he didn't take long to say that the second leg had been the one he had struggled the most with. I didn't really believe him until I got about halfway through the second leg.
Let me set the scene for you. The second leg goes gradually uphill through a little more than 4 miles of country road. During the day, I'm sure the scenery is beautiful, but at night, there's nothing to see, not even lights. Every once in a while, you can see the light of a house far off in the distance, but it's rare that the lights come close to the road. For the majority of the run, you're running next to huge empty fields and listening to the overwhelming silence of night pierced every once in a while by the sound of crickets and maybe a bird or two. With no runners around me, there were times when I was pretty worried about some creeper jumping out of the bushes to snatch me. I don't think I've ever been happier to hear the sound of someone running up from behind me if for no reason other than it meant I was still on the right road.
To make matters worse, the reflective vest I was wearing was being a jerk. Somehow, I had ended up with a vest that seemed to be made for a 450 pound man and it was being whipped by a cold wind that seemed to always be blowing at me diagonally. At this angle, it was coming under the vest and pulling it off to the side and I would have to adjust it every few seconds. The end result was that for about half of the run, I had to run with one hand over my chest holding the light in place and another hand trying to keep the vest from flapping around. It looked ridiculous. I didn't look like I was running as much as imitating a T Rex with it's arms tied around its torso.
As I neared the end of the run, I finally saw a halo of light in the distance. Surely this was the handoff and I decided to pick up the pace. Right as I did this, I felt a sharp pain on the outside of my right knee. Not good. I've had this before and it once kept me from running for 2 weeks. This was not what I needed with a long third leg ahead of me. So while I was happy to be done with the run, the grim reality was that I was going to have to get through the third leg with a bad knee. And as the knee felt right then, I wasn't sure if I could. Uh oh.
Total Distance: 5.35 miles
Average Pace: 7:00
Runners Passed: 15
Runners Who Passed Me: 3
Net Roadkill: 12
Song That Was Stuck In My Head: Arcade Fire's "No Cars Go"
After the second leg of Hood to Coast, I was in bad shape. My knee felt like if I took another step, it was going to explode. Luckily, I had a few teammates who had a lot more experience with running pains than I did. Perry recommended I take ibuprofin, and while I wasn't sure that it would do much, I figured it couldn't hurt. Soon enough, everyone had finished their runs but me and it was time to get back to it.
I stood at the last handoff feeling about as good as I possibly could but really worried about my knee. It had been feeling better since I had taken the ibuprofin, but it still felt a little unsteady. I wouldn't know until I was on the road.
About a quarter mile into into the run, I realized that everything was going to be alright. Without a doubt, it was the best feeling I had the entire race. My knees felt as good as I can ever remember them feeling. It was amazing. Thank you, Ibuprofin!
Now, there was only one thing on my mind. I wanted to finally get some roadkills under my belt. Last year, I think I finished with a grand total of 6 and I was on pace for a similar total this year. I wasn't about to let that happen. My first was waiting about 300 yards ahead of me. There was only one problem: she was fast. After about 10 minutes, I had finally pulled even with her, but she wasn't going down without a fight. Finally, I nudged past her and saw nothing but open road ahead of me. Great, this roadkill thing wasn't looking so hot. To make things worse, about 2 seconds after I passed the girl, two elite runners passed me like they had jetpacks attached to their backs.
As I running up the last gradual hill before a long downhill, I was beginning to get discouraged. Everyone else had been coming back to the van with roadkill totals in the double digits and it appeared I wouldn't even be able to get five in one run. Then, I saw him. He was a guy about my age with long shaggy hair and he wasn't running as much as he was skipping. I don't know what it was, but something inside me went off. It was probably like the feeling a hungry lion would get if he saw a gazelle stuck in a pit full of honey barbecue glaze. I knew that nothing was going to stop me from getting this roadkill.
As I came up behind him, the guy went into a bit of a panic mode. He wasn't about to let me pass him. We started down the hill and his skipping became frenzied. Unfortunately for him, by the time he heard me coming it was already too late. I passed him and sprinted down the hill.
As I got farther down the hill, I saw two people running together. Voom! Roadkill! Soon enough, I saw two more people running together. Voom! I added two more to the total. This is what I had imagined my cousin Phil's (who routinely came up with returns of 20+ roadkills) runs to be like. Just one victim after another. Running had never felt this good before.
By the time I got close to the finish, I felt better than I had before I had taken my first step of the race. It was incredible. This is what I had imagined finishing would be like last year. As we all know, last year's finish was absolutely disastrous, but this year, I was rocking it.
I saw the handoff ahead and ran as fast as I possibly could, passing roadkill #15 on the way in. I crossed the finish line. I handed off the baton. And just like that, the Hood to Coast was over for me.
Looking back on the Hood to Coast, I learned that you can train as much as you want, but you never really know what is going to happen out there. So many thing went wrong for me on the road but, more importantly, so many more things went right. Time for a little tidbit called- "Things I Didn't Expect That Did Happen."
Things I Didn't Expect That Did Happen
1. The iPod was never missed: This is definitely #1 on the list of things I did not see coming. With the exception of my runs with Cesar and the one time I ran two miles before realizing I had forgotten my iPod, I had failed to run once without my iPod before the race. I thought this was going to suck. It didn't. The only time I think it really would have helped would have been on my night run.
2. I enjoyed my last run more than any of the others: Total surprise. I expected to be gassed by the time my second run was over and to survive the third run by sheer will. While I wasn't feeling great after the second run, I was able to pull it together and have a great third run in which I averaged a better time than both of my other runs. Thank you, Ibuprofin!
3. I would run at sub 7:30 pace for the whole race: Before the race, one of the guys in our van, Dave, asked what I was hoping to average for the race. I told him 7:30, but in my head I was thinking, "yeah, if I hitch a ride along the way." With the help of a ridiculously quick (by my standards) final run, I averaged a 7:26 mile for the whole race.
4. Chafing: 'Nuff said.
5. I would enjoy this year more than last year: Last year being my inaugural year, I was caught up in a tornado of emotions. I was trying to take everything about the race all in at once and I felt like I missed a lot. This year, I knew more of what to expect. I knew that I needed to train more. I knew that the Hood to Coast is something that everyone appreciates differently. And I knew that I was going to have a blast.
Thank you, Hood to Coast.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Yikes. I'm still optimistic going into the race, but this final run was bad. I was definitely feeling the effects of taking a week off. Still, I think it was better to get a bad run over with today and feel like I still have some good ones left in me before race time.
It's now time to go. My next post will be about the race itself. It's finally here. Ready or not.
Damnation is labeled a Belgian Strong Pale Ale. I don't know that I've ever tried one of these before, so here goes.
The head swells up in the glass as soon as the beer touches it. I haven't seen one like this since the Saison Dupont. The color is a pale golden hue with a nice foamy head that had good retention.
The smell of the beer is really different. I definitely got a bunch of the yeast, but it doesn't smell as full and in your face as a lot of beers that use Belgian yeast. It also doesn't have that sort of bready smell that some yeast-strong beers tend to have.
The taste is a lot like the smell- full of yeast, but not in a way that's overpowering. To me, it almost felt like I was drinking a cider. This beer is no slouch at over 7%, but you wouldn't know it from the taste. It does a remarkable job of feeling light while not tasting light. The only thing I wasn't sure about was the almost total lack of carbonation. I could see bubbles rising from the bottom of the glass, but there was almost no carbonation in the taste. I don't know, maybe there was just something wrong with my bottle. Still, I enjoyed this beer a lot. Can't wait to try more from Russian River.
Final Grade: A-
Monday, August 23, 2010
Coronado Brewing Company is located right on Coronado Island- a beautiful island across from downtown San Diego that is part naval base and part residential area and beach town. I hadn't heard much about their beers, but I saw one of them, Mermaid's Red Ale, at a restaurant in North Park and decided to try it.
The beer pours a deep ruby and chestnut brown color. The head quickly fades to a slight off white cap. Hops and malts definitely dominate the smell. So far so good.
Usually, I'm not a huge fan of red ales. I've had a few good ones, but for the most part, I've been pretty disappointed. This one didn't blow me away, but it was much better than most. It had decent complexity with notes of chocolate at the beginning and some smooth caramelized malts and then faded into a bitter hoppy finish. The mouthfeel was a little weak, but not bad. I think if nothing else, this beer opened my eyes to reds again. I'm definitely going to have to try a few more after this.
Final Grade: B
Thursday, August 19, 2010
About a week ago, I saw a new beer at Bristol Farms. I'm a sucker for good looking labels and this one had it- a gnome picking hops out of a field. Being a fan of hops (and a fan of gnomes), I knew I was going to have to try it. Today, I went to The Yardhouse for the first time and saw it on the menu. Sold!
Alright, first a little about this beer. I didn't know any of this until I read up on it later, but still, I think it's good to know. First of all, the beer is made by a Belgian brewery- Brasserie d'Achouffe. They make a few specialty beers that they export to the states and a few find their way to Southern California. This beer in particular is a mix between a Belgian Tripel and an American IPA. Strange, but definitely intriguing. Until today I had never tried a Belgian IPA. On to the tasting...
The beer pours a very pale straw color that seemed to have pale green tinges to it. It is obviously unfiltered and very hazy and capped by a thin head. The smell is full of bright citrus notes: apple, pear and lemon. As the beer warmed, the smell was all pear and delicious.
The taste was well represented by the smell. It's full of light fruit flavors and a lot of malty smoothness. The finish has a bit of pepper and a decent hit of hops. The hit isn't quite as hard as it probably should be for a double IPA. Still, this was a pretty solid beer.
Final Grade: B+
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
There are some beers that you have to drink fast. Usually, these are beers that taste terrible once they get warm (A.K.A.- Anything with "Lite" in the name, almost any beer that would be good with sushi, PBR). Avant Garde is not one of these beers. As soon as you pour it, you just know that it's a beer that you'd like to spend a little time with before it's gone. The beer pours a hazy gold with a fairly large head that recedes lazily to a light foam cap. The aromas coming from the beer are wonderful. Light malts and freshly baked bread make up the majority of the smell, but there are other things present and it takes a while for them to come out.
The flavor of this beer was wonderful. I can't pinpoint why exactly, but this reminded me a lot of a saison but without the "funk." There was something very earthy about the taste that had "saison" written all over it. The hops were present but pretty subtle and very earthy. There was also a little sweetness from the malts and a lot of that fresh baked bread flavor that was present in the smell. There is so much going on in this beer that drinking it too fast would be a sin. It's a wonderful beer, but one you need to have some time to drink. I can't wait to try some more of their brews. This one was special.
Final Grade: A
On Monday, I set out to run the Regents loop (3.25 miles) around my house after work. For some reason, I really felt like I was going to kill it. I had been thinking about running all day at work and I had been counting down the minutes until work was over so I could get out there. Still, when I started, something didn't feel right. I don't know if it was something I ate or the lingering effects of the long run on Thursday, but when I started running, I felt sluggish. My tank felt like it started at 10% instead of full and it dwindled quickly.
I decided that I had been waiting too long to run not to give it my all, so I charged the first mile with a full head of steam. By the time I reached the mile mark, I had set a new personal best, but also had nothing left for the final 2 miles. To make matters worse, the sun decided to up its intensity right at the moment I was feeling the worst.
The last 2 miles were a blur in slow motion. It felt like it took forever to reach my place again and by the time I did, I felt like I had run a marathon. Really bad.
I'm going to write this run off as nothing. I've had a few of these runs before and it usually just means that the next run is going to be better. Now I'm just hoping that my last run before Hood to Coast isn't a really good one.
Before the run, I decided to try something new. Gatorade just came out with a "performance system" that involves three different drinks that you use while exercising. We decided to try the "before" one (a pouch of syrupy liquid you take 15 minutes before exercise) right before we ran and the "after" one (a slightly chalky drink in a smaller bottle that's full of protein) once we were done.
Whether it was mental or not, I think that the "before" stuff really helped. After the first 6 miles, I was still feeling pretty fresh. The cramp monster was strangely absent and my breathing felt way too normal for what I had just done. After a short break, we headed down the boardwalk again.
Surprisingly, the next trip up the boardwalk wasn't bad either. By the time we made it to the end, we were both definitely feeling the mileage, but it was still better than I had expected to feel. Knowing that our final mileage was going to be closer to 11 miles, something inside me wanted to head back out for an extra 2 miles once we made it back just so I could say I had run a half marathon. Sadly, I overestimated my abilities once again.
On the way back to the Pacific Beach pier, things took a turn for the worse. All of a sudden, we both hit the wall. Without Cesar there, I probably wouldn't have made it. It wasn't that anything terrible like a cramp hit me, it was just that the miles finally caught up with me. By the time we hit the 10 mile mark, we were both struggling and realized that we still had a mile to go. We could see the finish in the distance but no matter how long we ran for, it didn't seem to be getting any closer.
Finally, after the longest mile I've probably ever ran, we made it back to the pier. It was pretty bad. Everything hurt and I felt about to pass out. People walking by were giving us strange looks and I knew that I would be doing the same if I was in their place. Slowly, we walked back to my car and drank the Gatorade "after" drinks. They didn't taste so great, but I felt my senses slowly coming back. A few minutes later, I felt better and by the end of the day (besides a few sore muscles), I hardly knew I had run at all.
So what did I learn? Most of it was encouraging. I learned that my body can take 11 miles of punishment and not explode. I learned that all the training I've put in may actually be helping. I learned that it might not be a bad idea to bring a few of those Gatorades on Hood to Coast. And I learned that I would probably run the Hood to Coast a lot faster if I had Cesar running with me.
We leave in a week. This year I'm ready.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Pilsner Urquell is one of the most (if not the most) famous of the Czech beers that makes its way to the U.S. It is "the world's first pilsner" and is now brewed in a few different locations in Europe. I was reading some reviews of the beer on beeradvocate and it seems that the recipe has been dummed down a bit over time to suit more people. Bad move, guys. From my experience with beers, they never seem to taste as good once you change something that was already tasty.
Alright, time for a try.
The beer pours a clean and clear golden yellow with a quickly receding white foam head. It smells the way I've come to learn pilsners should smell- clean, hoppy, a little funky and a little skunked. This one's definitely not skunked, but has that slight skunky smell.
The taste is clean and crisp. The hops make up the body of the flavor and there is a very earthy quality to them. The finish has the bitter flavor that most European beers do. It definitely represents the style well. The beer's flavor even remind me a bit of a saison. For beer that is produced this much, it's actually not bad. Definitely way better than a Beck's or a Budweiser. I don't think this beer is anywhere near the top of my list, but it was better than I was expecting.
Final Grade: B
Not so long ago, I dreaded running after work. It wasn't that I didn't want work to be over, I just didn't want to run after working an 8 hour day. Things have changed a lot in the last few months though, and now, I find myself constantly looking out the window and wishing I was running. This went on for the entire day yesterday, so when I finally started running, it felt like a spring had been winding inside me the entire day. I took off down the street a lot faster than I had meant to and almost tripped over the uneven pavement a few times. I was still in my work clothes and I could feel my box cutter smacking against me with every step, but I had been waiting too long for this to stop. By the time I reached home, I had worn myself out and hardly felt like running again. Still, I realized that a mile wasn't going to do a whole lot for me and my training, so I changed into my running clothes and went back outside.
The weather had warmed considerably, but it still felt good to be out and running after being at work all day. I could feel my legs protesting after being asked to exercise again in such a short time, but I felt surprisingly good. After cresting the first big hill, I went into a steady tank mode and never really drifted into the torpedo or T-Rex zones, which was a good thing. I think the important thing was getting back out there, not pushing myself too hard. I'm saving a bigger run for Thursday.
It's now 2 weeks until we leave for the race. As far as the progress I'm making goes, I think I am light years beyond where I was last year, but I still feel there's a little ways to go. I feel like if the race was today, I would be ok (which is a really great feeling), but I still want to improve and make sure that I kill my end of the race when the time finally comes. I think Thursday is going to be a really good test of where I'm really at. Let's see how it goes.
Monday, August 9, 2010
The beer pours an apple cider gold with a lot of carbonation. The beer is unfiltered and has a lot floating around in it. Right at the end of the pour, something brown sloshed out of the bottle and into the glass. Total buzzkill. I didn't find out what it was until the end of the pour.
The smell of the beer is pretty much all granny smith apple. This definitely carried into the taste as well as a slight pepperyness and spiciness. The feel is a little thin and the sweetness is a little off. Definitely not my favorite of the Unibroues.
When I got to the bottom of the glass, all the sediment had settled there and I just couldn't bring myself to drink it. It had become a brown glob at the bottom of the glass. Really, I've seen more appetizing things in vomit. I wasn't a fan. I kind of wish I had saved a better beer for last. Not a total waste of time, but definitely not the best.
Final Grade: C
The beer comes in a very traditionally Japanese looking bottle. Most of the writing is in Japanese on the bottle and the label has a watercolor on it of some people picking rice in a field. It almost looks more like a sake bottle than a beer bottle. Something told me right away I was going to like this beer.
The beer pours a very pale and clear yellowish color with almost no head. The smell of the beer is pretty similar to that of a Kirin or a similar Japanese beer with a lot of maltiness coming through. As the beer warmed a bit, I could pick out a little steamed rice in the smell.
The taste of the beer was also pretty similar to that of a Kirin and was malty with a slight bitterness. However, whereas the finish of a Kirin or Asahi is all bitterness, the finish of the Koshihikari fades into an almost sweet smooth finish. Probably my favorite part of the beer. It's absolutely perfect with sushi. Definitely worth a try, just make sure you find out how much it is before the check comes. Oops.
Final Grade: B+
Friday, August 6, 2010
Maybe the most optimistic mantra I've heard is that of my friend and teammate Bryce, whose mantra is this: "Hills are your friend." I wish that this could be my mantra, I really do. I just can't do it though. As much as I tried to like them, hills and I have never been on good terms. I'll be in the middle of a decent run (or near death like I was during the last leg of the Hood to Coast last year) and then a hill will come along and make things worse. So this year, I decided to try something different- train for the hills.
When I ran the 7 mile loop around my house, the most brutal part was towards the end of the run when I came to the large uphill by the Mormon temple by my house. So yesterday, I drove to the bottom of the hill and ran it. The uphill is part of a 1.5 mile loop that I used to live on, and it goes steadily uphill for about 3/4 of a mile before turning back downhill.
I went out to the loop planning to do it 3 times without stopping. Not only would this get me in shape on this hills, but it would get me out of my usual pattern of having to stop at a ton of traffic lights, forcing me to run the 4.5 miles nearly non-stop.
As it turned out, this was easier said than done. I made it through the first lap without much of a problem. Then the sun decided to make things interesting and warm up about 15 degrees. Suddenly, I was nearing T-Rex mode on only the second lap and being absolutely baked by the sun. Somehow I made it up the hill, but I didn't think I would be able to do another lap without a break.
I've noticed a pattern in my train of thought when I'm running. I always tend to make the worst decisions when I'm running downhill. Decisions like "10 miles is totally doable today," or "I can definitely do 3 more laps of this." Then I come to a section of the run that actually tests me and I start to hate my life and my poor decision making skills. It's a vicious cycle.
On the run yesterday, I started downhill on my second lap and decided it would be a good idea to just go for it and run a third lap. After all, it was what I had set out to do at the start of the run. Of course, I got to the start of the hill and remembered how badly I had felt on the last lap. Still, I wasn't about to turn back, so I steadily made my way back up the hill. Soon enough, the run was done and so were my legs. Still, I felt like I was a step closer to liking hills. For now, we're still not friends. Frenemies maybe.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
T1- Torpedo Mode: It's rare that I'm in full torpedo mode, but when I am I feel like there's no stopping me. There have only been a handful of runs, including the one last Monday, during which I felt I was in full torpedo mode. Usually, I go into a short stretch during any given run where I feel like I've gone into torpedo mode. Feeling like I'm in this mode is pretty much the reason I've come to love running. Torpedo mode means "full steam ahead" and it feels great. If I can have a few good stretches of torpedo mode during Hood to Coast, I will be a happy panda.
T2- Tank Mode: This mode is what probably 80% of my running falls into. When I go into tank mode, I try to find a pace that's not too fast and not too slow. For the most part, this is about a 7:30 mile pace, but I'm trying to knock that down a bit. Tank mode isn't quite as exciting as torpedo mode, but I still feel like it's going to take a lot to bring me off my steady pace. Nothing wrong with tank mode. But there is something wrong with our last "T."
T3- T-Rex Mode: Bad news. When I'm running in T-Rex mode, I feel like my arms are way too short for my body. For whatever reason, when I'm struggling, my arms pull up close to my chest and swing diagonally rather than moving backwards and forwards along my sides. I don't know exactly what a T-Rex would look like running down my street for exercise, but I can imagine it would look a little something like me when I'm in trouble.
Usually when I go running, it takes me a minute or two to warm my muscles up and get into tank tode. But once I'm there, I usually feel pretty solid throughout the run barring a few dips into T-Rex mode or highs that reach into torpedo mode. Sadly, Run 19 began in T-Rex territory and never really made in out.
I could feel something was wrong pretty much right off the bat. It wasn't that any part of my body really hurt, it was just that I felt really sluggish. Maybe it was because I had already worked a full shift at work. Maybe it was because I worked really early the day before and had ingested enough caffeine in the past 24 hours to put down a small animal. Whatever the reason, my body just couldn't get in the groove and soon enough, I felt my arms shrinking up against my chest. T-Rex mode was in full effect.
Despite struggling for the majority of the run, I was able to finish less than 2 minutes slower than my fastest time. So now, I feel like I have my range established. The pace I should be running is somewhere right between as fast as I ran last Monday and as badly as I did this Monday. Even though this run was brutal, I feel like I'm still making progress. I'm just hoping that T-Rex mode decides to stay in California when we go up for Hood to Coast.
To get in the spirit, I've decided to try and get my hands on a few of their beers before we go up there. So far, I've only tried their Dead Guy Ale and their Hazelnut Brown Nectar. Then, a few weeks ago, I spotted their Chocolate Stout in the market and had to pick it up.
Rogue's Chocolate Stout pours a deep and thick brown with an almost Abyss-like dark brown foamy head. The head had really great retention and left a lot of lacing down the glass. When you smell the beer, it smells like cocoa. And not like Swiss Miss cheap cocoa, but the best cocoa you can imagine.
While the smell of this beer pretty much sticks to "chocolate," the flavors locked in it are a bit more complex. There is definitely a lot of chocolate in this beer, but it's not as sweet as the smell leads you to believe. The chocolate is definitely bittersweet with a slight hoppiness coming through about midway in the taste. The finish is a hard hit of bittersweet chocolate that is perfect. The mouthfeel of this beer is really smooth and almost milky. A very smooth beer and a solid offering from Rogue. I'm excited to try more of their stuff before I head up there.
Final Grade: A
Monday, August 2, 2010
Blanche de Chambly pours a murky straw color with a thin white head. The smell is definitely full of citrus of some kind, probably lemon, and the yeast is definitely present.
The flavor of the beer is definitely one of the best in a wit I've ever had. Very smooth, very drinkable. There is a slight peppery flavor towards the finish that blends really nicely with the citrus flavors. This beer reminds me somewhat of a Blue Moon, but definitely one that is better made (no offense to Blue Moon). Overall, this was a really fantastic example of the Belgian Wit style and I'm a little sad there's only one more of these Unibroue beers left to try.
Final Grade: A
Friday, July 30, 2010
Victory at Sea is one of Ballast's best and (sadly) another one of their seasonal beers. On a side note, Ballast recently decided to not only make their Sculpin IPA (one of my top 2 favorite beers ever) year-round but to also start bottling it in 6 packs. So...happy...
Victory at Sea is traditionally released in the late fall/early winter so I was really surprised (in the best way ever) to see it was on tap. So as soon as I was done with the San Salvador Saison, it was on to Victory at Sea.
The beer pours an absolute obsidian black with tiny tinges of brown and a slightly thin mocha head. The smell is coffee, coffee, and more coffee. It smells like the best freshly ground coffee you will ever smell.
The taste is smooth with lots of coffee tempered by the sweetness of the vanilla and roasted malts. The mouthfeel is absolutely perfectly smooth. While this beer ends on a bitter coffee note, the finish is smooth enough that it's not jarring at all. If you can find it, try this one. It's one of the best out there.
Final Grade: A+
Since the weather still hasn't realized that it's summer yet, I didn't see the sun for the entire run, which was nice. For some reason, whenever I decide to run down there, the sun decides to come out right as I'm getting tired. It's crazy.
When I took off, I immediately felt like I was going too fast. Still, I was feeling good (maybe all the adrenaline left over from Tuesday's run) and so I decided to just keep it going as long as I could. As it turned out, the buzz lasted a lot longer than I thought it would.
About two minutes into the run, I saw my first roadkill victim in front of me- bingo! I took off and a few seconds later, I was on the board in the roadkill department. A few minutes later, I saw two more victims. By the time I reached the end of the boardwalk (5 minutes better than my previous best time! What is going on???) I had passed 12 people. Booyah.
On the way back, I didn't spot quite as many people but managed to catch a few. Then, I heard it. Footsteps behind me and they were getting closer. Bad news. Soon, I saw a younger shirtless dude slowly passing me on the left. As much as I didn't want it to happen, I didn't want to kill myself trying to beat this guy, so I let it happen and cried a little inside as my roadkill dropped from 18 to 17. A few minutes later, I saw him on the side of the path talking to a bunch of guys from his cross country team. Fair enough. If I'm gonna get passed by someone, I guess it might as well be someone like that.
I finished the first lap of the boardwalk and rested for a few minutes before heading out again. My time was only 38 minutes, so I still had a ways to go. I decided to head out for another 12 minutes and then head back. As it turned out, I made it another mile and half away and back meaning that I ended up running 8 miles- the farthest I've run so far. The best part about it was that it didn't feel half bad. I came out of it feeling tired, but a few minutes later, I was thinking about running again and planning out the next step in my training.
And I think that was when I realized it- I don't hate running anymore.