Friday, July 30, 2010

Ballast Point Brewing Company - Victory at Sea Coffee Vanilla Imperial Porter

As I've said so many times before, Ballast Point makes some really bomb beer. Case in point- Victory at Sea.

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+

Run 18

Yesterday, I decided that since my speed was picking up, it was time to focus on the area where I probably need the most work in my training- building up my mileage. So I went down to the PB boardwalk and decided to run for an hour and see how far I could get.

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.

Ballast Point Brewing Company - San Salvador Saison

One of the things I love most about San Diego is having a great brewery like Ballast Point 15 minutes from my house. I wish everyone could be so lucky. This brewery continues to crank out amazing beer after amazing beer and it's rare that they miss. So when they released their newest beer yesterday (the San Salvador Saison), my coworker, Beau, and I knew we had to go.

Here's the press release on this beer:

"The idea started as a San Diego Farmhouse Ale using local ingredients. We wondered what the Kumeyaay Indian’s were eating when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo climbed out of his flagship boat, the San Salvador, and onto the shore of Ballast Point in 1542. Also, what might have Cabrillo stocked on his boat before he left Acapulco (then called Navidad) 3 1/2 months earlier? So with some research we tracked down a fun mix of ingredients for a Belgian inspired San Diego indigenous Ale.

With some help from our friends at The Linkery, North Park Native Plants and Wingshadow’s Farm we were able to track down ingredients like corn, pine nuts, agave, elder flower, white sage, manzanita berries, curacao and local sage honey. The malt bill consisted of Belgian pale malt, caramunich, biscuit, wheat and corn. The result is a 7.5% ABV, brown beer that really has to be tasted to be understood. It tastes like the San Diego countryside."

Seriously, what a great idea. One of the things I love most about Ballast is that they're never afraid to try new things. I mean, look at those ingredients. Have you ever seen anything like that in a beer before? Neither had I.

The beer surprised me when it was poured. I'm used to saisons having a huge head that foams up like a bubble bath the second it hits the glass. This one poured straight from the tap with no head whatsoever. The color is a clear amber with a slight light brown cap. Despite it's appearance, the San Salvador really smells like a saison. The first thing I smelled was that funk that I've come to love in saisons. But hidden in that funk is a combination of things that was hard to describe. I think "the San Diego countryside" would be a pretty good way of putting it.

The taste of the beer has none of the funk in it, but that really didn't phase me. Right off the bat, you get the sweetness of the malts and it's almost a syrupy kind of sweet. Then the flavor absolutely explodes and takes off in all kinds of directions. Beau was saying he wished we could have the list of ingredients next to us so we could have some idea what we were tasting and I had to agree with him. The only ones I could remember at the time were sage and honey and I could definitely pick those out but there was so much more to it. Really, this is a beer I could drink for a long time and never get sick of. I'm really hoping they decide to keep this one around because it's special. Can't wait to have it again.

Final Grade: A+

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Run 17

For the last few weeks, I've been trying to work on dropping my times down a bit. It's not that my times have been terrible, but I still want to get to the point where I'm completely comfortable averaging about 20 seconds a mile faster than I did last year. That sounds like a lot, but after not training much last year, I think it's definitely doable.

As a team this year, we're trying to break the 24 hour mark for the race. Last year we finished at around 25 hours and we've lost a couple quick people since then. Still, while I think it would take a lot to do it, I'd say 24 hours is in reach. There's just one problem- as a team we need to average a 7:15 mile.

I figure I'm right around the middle of the pack on the team speed wise, so that means I should be right around that 7:15 mark if I'm going to hold up my end. Typically, I average around a 7:30 comfortably, so 7:15 isn't that big of a difference. So far in my training, I've been right around a 7:15 for the 3.25 mile loops, which isn't bad, but doesn't fill me with a ton of confidence. You see, I'm going to have to average a 7:15 mile for almost 7.5 miles and I don't think I can do that just yet.

So on Tuesday, I went out after work absolutely determined to smash that 7:15 minute per mile time. I don't know what came over me exactly, but from the moment I started running, everything was clicking. I've never made it up the first hill so fast in my life and the momentum carried on for nearly the entire run. I'm hoping that this was a result of all my training and not just a freak thing, but I can't remember really feeling tired the entire run. It was an amazing feeling. Despite all this, I doubted I was going to break my previous best time of 23:05. When I had run that a week earlier, I felt like I was really in the groove.

So when I finished the run and looked at my time, I was shocked- 22:03. I had beaten my best time by over a minute. Not only that, but my mile average was around 6:45. Ridiculous. I can't remember the last time I ran that fast. It felt pretty good once I recovered and I'm hoping that this run will be something I can build on.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Stone Brewing Company - Smoked Porter

I've had so much Stone beer lately that there was only one of their widely released beers left to try- the Smoked Porter. I hadn't heard much about this beer going in, but a few hours before I was going to drink it, my friend Brian told me that he had it a while back and it tasted like smoked meat. Great.

As it turns out, he wasn't far off. As soon as the beer is poured, a smoky smell erupts from the bottle. It's not completely overpowering and there was definitely something else in there, so I decided to try it.

The beer pours a heavy nearly black with hints of chestnut and ruby on the edges. The head is pretty decent and the retention was perfect. As the level in the glass got lower, the beer left behind a nice sticky lacing. So far so good.

The flavors in this beer definitely go beyond the smokiness I mentioned before. The taste starts off with a slight malty sweetness and then is completely overshadowed by bitter chocolate and coffee flavors. On the finish, there is a hint of hops and dark fruit. Oh, and smoke- lots of it. I saw a review of this beer that compared the taste to the smell of a campfire and I think this is a pretty good comparison. It reminded me of the way your hair smells the morning after you've spent an entire night around a fire. It's not a bad smoky flavor, it's just a little much.

Overall, this wasn't a bad beer. I liked the feel of it and I liked the look, I was just a little taken back by the smoke. So while I probably wouldn't go out of my way to try this beer again, it was a beer that was definitely worth a try.

Overall Grade: B+

Run 16

I think the best thing about running outside as opposed to on a treadmill is that you never know what's going to be waiting for you. On a treadmill you might reduce your chance of being hit by a car or tripping over an uneven curb, but you pretty much know what you're going to get every time you go on one. When you're outside, you really have no idea what's in store for you.

I decided to run again after work yesterday. While the weather down here is somehow still stuck in "crap" mode, it decided to warm up right before I got off of work, so it was about as warm as it's been in a week down here during the run. Despite this, there was a enough of a breeze and shade throughout the route to keep me comfortable enough.

As I rounded to corner at the end of the first straightaway, I smelled something that was a little different. Up to this point, I hadn't seen anything too surprising on the run, but then I came around the corner and saw it. The Korean Barbecue Truck!

If you don't know what a Korean barbecue truck is, I'm sorry. Basically, here's how it works. A food truck with some of the best Korean food you will ever try goes around a neighborhood and uses twitter to let their fans know where they're going to be next. Usually, the trucks are on some kind of loop, but sometimes they'll mix up their locations. This phenomenon began up in LA, where three Korean fusion trucks run by the same company make loops around all of the city. My girlfriend and I were able to find one a few months back and it was delicious. Spurred by the success of the Korean truck, there are now tons of food trucks in LA and I've seen everything from a Vietnamese truck to a cupcake truck. Sadly, this craze has been a little slow catching on down here in San Diego. However, about a month ago, my girlfriend found out that there was a Korean food truck operating down here, we just hadn't been able to find it- until yesterday.

Up to the point I found the Korean barbecue truck, the run hadn't been going fantastic. My first mile wasn't completely sluggish, but it wasn't my best. But after seeing the truck, I was pumped. All I wanted to do was run home to get money and go straight to the truck. I don't know what my average mile time was after seeing the truck, but it was good. I finished the 3.25 mile run ten seconds faster than my previous best time and averaged a 7:06 mile. There's just one thing I need to remember for my next run- to bring money with me next time.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Runs 14 & 15

This past week marked the first time I've run three days in a row. On Wednesday, I ran the 5 mile PB boardwalk again with Cesar and on Thursday, I ran the 3.25 mile loop around my house. In a way, this was a really good way to test where my training really was at.

Wednesday's run was as good as I think I've ever felt on the boardwalk. And while I was exhausted when the run was over, it was probably as easy as 5 miles has ever felt to my body. Again, it definitely helps a lot to have a buddy running with you. The weather was gloomy so the boardwalk was relatively quiet and this helped a lot as usually, you're spending more time sidestepping people than running in a straight line.

On Thursday, I was planning on running at the boardwalk again but didn't feel like driving down for it. As it turns out, that was probably a good thing. My legs were definitely feeling the beating I had put them through the previous two days. As it turned out. I finished the run a minute slower than I had run it on Tuesday. Not bad, considering that this was my third run in 48 hours.

So here's what I took from these runs. I felt pretty good throughout the three days of running but I know I'm going to have to do better. Not only am I going to have to be able to do three runs in half the time I did these, but almost all of the three runs I'm going to have to do are going to be longer than the runs I just did. I'm going to have to step it up but, with a month before the race officially starts, I'd say I'm right where I need to be.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Unibroue - Raftman

Raftman is another beer from Unibroue that was included in the taster pack at Trader Joes. So far, these things haven't been half bad and this one is definitely a step above the previously reviewed Chambly Noir. There are two left in the taster and I'm expecting good things from them.

Raftman pours a dark amber color with a pretty generous white foam head. The head fades fairly quickly and doesn't leave a whole lot behind. The smell is full of malt with a little pepper and lemon mixed in. I can't put my finger on what it smells like exactly, but Unibroue's offerings all have the same type of yeast smell and it's very present in this beer. It smells a lot like a Trader Joes Vintage Ale, so I think I'm going to like it.

Raftman is a rather unusual beer in that it's brewed with whiskey malt. While this doesn't make the beer taste like whiskey, it gives it a kind of rough malt flavor that works really well in the beer. The malt is slightly sweet and is balanced nicely with the yeast. As I got further and further into the beer, I found myself less interested, but overall, it's really not a bad beer. Too bad it's so hard to find on its own.

Final Grade: B+

Run 13

Progress is a funny thing when it comes to training. Going into last week, I felt I was making serious progress in my preparations and I thought I was really almost there. Then the debacle last Thursday happened and I worried if I was going to even be able to survive the first leg of the race. But after my run yesterday, I think I may be on the right track again.

Yesterday, I decided that I wasn't going to mess around with another long run until I felt I was really ready for it again. As badly as I want to run 8 miles just to know I can do it, I'm not really in a hurry to strand myself 3 miles from home and have to walk back in the heat. So yesterday, I decided to do the 3.25 mile loop around my house just to make sure that I wasn't completely out of shape again.

I feel like in some ways, running is a lot like golf. When you first start golfing, it's frustrating. Your hand-eye coordination is never where you expect it to be and the first time you golf, you usually end up missing the ball more than you end up hitting it. A lot of people (me included) think it only takes one good shot to get you hooked on golf. You hit one ball on the sweet spot of the club and golf pretty much has you in its clutches. The problem is that it usually takes a while to hit the sweet spot again, but it's that memory that keeps you going. For running, I think all it takes is one really good run to get you hooked. The problem is that there are usually a lot of bad runs mixed in with the good ones. There's one thing you can usually count on in both running and golf- if you do really bad one day, you're probably going to do really well the next time out.

Having done about as bad as I could possibly do, I decided to really push myself this time. Every time I felt my body slowing down, I pushed myself harder. While usually, this only lasts so long, yesterday it lasted the entire run. It may have been the best I've ever felt during a run. It may have been whatever I ate the night before or just the lingering shame left over from the last run but, whatever the reason, this run was awesome. I haven't killed a run like this in a long time. I was able to average under a 7:10 mile and finished the run only 30 seconds slower than the time I had clocked for my first run around the 1/2 mile shorter loop.

If nothing else, this run gave me a lot of confidence back. I'm about to go for another run today, so hopefully all the positive momentum from yesterday carries over. So while it may not be always evident, progress is being made. And that's the best feeling I could have right now.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Unibroue - Chambly Noire

Every once in a while at Trader Joes, we get something interesting in the beer section. Since we hardly ever get new beer, "interesting" pretty much means anytime we get something new in from Unibroue.

In case you've never heard of Unibroue before (I laughed at the name because I thought it was pronounced "uni-brow," but really it's "uni-brew"), they're a brewery based out of Quebec that makes a lot of beers with labels that look like they were painted by artists of the Revolutionary War. I'm not sure how Unibroue and Trader Joes got together, but Unibroue makes our Trader Joes Seasonal Ale every year. Last year's was a little disappointing, but there have been a few that were really amazing. Until the Seasonal Ale comes around, every once in a while, we get these taster packs that Unibroue releases that showcase a few of their beers. A few months back, I tried one and loved all of the beer inside, so I'm hoping the one I got last week is just as good. First beer to be reviewed- Chambly Noire.

This beer labels itself a Belgian Dark Ale and dark it is. On the pour, it comes out a jet black with slight chocolate tinges around the edges. The smell wasn't overpowering after the pour, so I let it warm a bit. Once it warmed, the nose was full of spices and lemon. There was also a smell of vanilla and a kind of surprising smell of (I don't know what else to possibly call it) root beer.

The beer is a deceptively dark beer in that the flavor is nowhere near what you would expect just from looking at it. The flavor is full of lighter notes that you don't often find in a dark beer. Lemon and spice notes make up the main body and there is a full yeast presence that let you know that you're drinking a Belgian style beer. The closest beer I can compare this to would be Allagash Black, but I think the Allagash may be a bit better. I think the only thing I really didn't like about this beer was the way it felt in my mouth. The feel was really watery and wasn't really doing it for me. Overall though, I'm excited to try the rest of the beers in the taster.

Final Grade: B

Friday, July 16, 2010

Run 12

Thursday was supposed to be the big one. I went to sleep Wednesday night fully prepared to wake up and try to run 8 miles. The weather was still warm, but I figured if I left early enough, I would be alright. Then I woke up and looked out the window and saw nothing but sun and blue sky. When I stepped outside, it was already hot, so I figured that it just wasn't going to happen. I went inside and decided I would try and run early on Friday instead.

Around 1 o'clock (and maybe because I was a beer deep at the time), I decided "F*** it, I'm going running." Was this a good idea? Not so much.

When I took off, I felt really good. It was hot out, but there was a nice breeze that kept if from ever getting too hot. I started thinking that I'd play it safe and just run the short loop around my house. Then I reached the point where I would have to turn to keep the run short. I decided that I was still feeling too good to stop, so I kept going straight. Now the run was 3.5 miles, minimum.

A minute later, I reached the turning point for the 3.5 mile loop and decided again that I was feeling too good to stop. This meant that my loop was now 5 miles at least, but again, when I got to the turn for the 5 mile loop, I decided not to turn.

Around the 2 mile mark, I realized that I had forgotten my ipod at home. While normally, this would have gotten me to turn around right away, I decided that this run would be the run that I triumphantly shed the ipod once and for all. Feeling good about my decision, I continued on and was feeling really solid...for another mile and a half.

Right after the turning point for the 5 mile loop, the road goes down a hill and then into a canyon where it follows a creek for about a mile. When I got to this section of the run, I realized that the breeze I had been enjoying for the entire run to this point had been completely cut off by the mountains. Instead, I found myself on the baking surface of asphalt in the middle of the day. Soon, I wasn't feeling quite as hot as I had been before.

I reached the bottom of the hill and found myself in trouble. I was overheating and about to face over a mile of dead uphills. I had to rest. I stopped under the freeway overpass and sat down on the side of an incline. My fingers were swelling up like Vienna sausages and I was sweating like Shaq in a pre-game layup line. This wasn't good. To make matters worse, I was literally as far from home than I could possibly be at any point in the run. There was no way out of this one.

After a few minutes of rest (and a few strange looks from passing drivers), I started running again. About a minute in, I had nothing left. The remainder of this run wasn't going to happen today. I walked the remainder of the run in the heat and practically crawled through my door at home an hour later. Bad news.

So what did we learn? Well, a few things.

One- if you've had any sort of alcohol, don't assume you're cool to run in the heat.

Two- If it's the hottest day of the year so far, it may not be a great idea to try to run farther than you ever have before.

Three- If you are going to try a long run in the heat for the first time, make sure you have some kind of escape route. Don't leave yourself stranded.

From now on, I'm going to build up my tolerance in this heat. I may have to start at a lower mileage, but I think it's just going to have to be that way. Lesson learned. Oh, and one more thing I learned:

Four- "F*** it, I'm going running," is never a good idea.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Stone Brewing Company - 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA

A few weeks ago, I was running one of the checkstands at Trader Joes when a guy came through the line with some Stone Pale Ale. We got to talking about how great Stone's other beers were and he told me I should look for their recently released 14th Anniversary. I had no idea that it had been released, so a few days later, I went and found it at BevMo.

This marks my first ever Stone Anniversary beer (besides their Sublimely Self Righteous Ale which was originally released as one of their anniversary beers). If the rest are anything like this one, I'm a little disappointed that I've missed them all so far.

Stone took care when they were brewing this beer to keep it as British as possible. The water they used was Burtonised (which means that it was altered to become chemically identical to the water used in Burton-on-Trent) and they used "the most pungent" hops from Kent. The result is something that is undeniably British, but also undeniably Stone-tasting.

The beer pours a slightly hazy golden color with a flawless off-white foam head. The hops are right there in the nose, but there is something sweet behind them that I literally spent 10 minutes trying to pinpoint. I think it was mango, but I'm still not sure. I don't know why this frustrated me so much, but I was wracking my brain trying to recall what the smell could possibly be. I'm still not exactly sure, but mango seems to be as close as I'm gonna get.

The taste of the beer is really something. The hops come out first but they taste different than any hops I'm used to. The flavor is somewhat earthier and a little bit oilier than most hops here. The beer isn't over-hopped so the hops aren't there to blow you away with their bitterness, but rather to lead you into the other flavors of the beer. After the hop flavor comes a surprising slightly buttery and peppery flavor that fades into a gentle finish. For an IPA (or EPA as Stone calls it), this beer was really drinkable. I am officially never missing another anniversary beer from Stone again.

Final Grade: A

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Run 11

So, I don't know what's been going on with the weather in San Diego lately but I like it. Usually by this time of the year, we're in full on summer mode. Every day is super sunny and getting hotter and hotter, slowly leading up to the dismal heat of August. The reason that so many people think that Southern Californians do nothing but go to the beach is because in August, it's so brutally hot that the beach is the only escape. So unless you can get up before the sun does, running is pretty much out of the question unless you're really eager to get heatstroke. However, this year has been different.

Up until yesterday, every day so far this summer has seemed more like a California winter than anything else. Gloom, fog and cold greeted me every morning so far this July- something I can't ever remember seeing this far into the year here. So while everyone else here griped about how summer was taking forever to get here, I was using as much bad weather as I could to run in. I know that some people really like running in warmer weather, but I would much rather run in the cold. But now, it seems that things are going to have to change.

Today was the first day that started off without fog in the sky in the past month and a half or so. Soon, it became apparent that Summer had finally decided to show up. While I've been dreading this day for a few weeks now, it was inevitably going to happen at some point, so I decided to celebrate the real start of summer with a run.

One of the biggest enigmas going into Hood to Coast this year has to be the weather. We could be running in anything from hail and pouring rain to 90 degree heat, so I think it's probably better I'm ready for anything. Last year, we had no idea what it was going to be like until a few days before, and even then we still didn't know exactly what to expect. It ended up drizzling for a good deal of the race, which was fine with me because it wasn't enough to slow you down at all, just cool you off. This year, I'm hoping for the same, but I'm going to have to get some hot runs in just in case.

When I took off today, I had every intention of doing the 3.5 mile loop by my house. After about a quarter mile, I realized that it just wasn't going to happen. I felt like I hadn't run in about a year and a half. I don't know if it was the heat or my breakfast or a combination, but I wasn't feeling too good. Still, it felt kind of nice to actually sweat during a run again. I don't know how hot it actually was out there, but it probably wasn't more than 85 degrees. I know as the race approaches, it's going to get much much hotter, so I'm bracing myself. I'm going to try to up my mileage again by the end of the week so hopefully the heat doesn't go crazy on me out here. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Kiuchi Brewery - Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale

It's not often that you come across a beer that is unlike anything you've ever come across. Going into this tasting, I had a feeling that this beer was going to be a little different going in. For one, I've never come across a beer with "red rice" in the name. I literally had no idea what to expect going into this one and I think that was probably a good thing.

The beer pours a cloudy brown color with little floating black bits in it. While normally, this would really scare me off, something told me that this was just part of the experience with this beer, so I went with it. I've seen unfiltered beers before, but never anything quite like this. To add to the exotic appearance, there was a slight pinkish glow in both the beer itself and in the off-white head.

This really has nothing to do with how good the beer was, but I absolutely loved the label on this beer. The art is has a very old and traditional look to it. This beer looks like a champ. Alright, on to the taste.

To tell you the truth, as badly as I wanted to like this beer, I'm not sure I did. The rice is definitely there in the flavor and the first sip came through with an almost sake-like flavor to it. I don't know why, but after a few sips, I couldn't help that this beer tasted a little like a Budweiser (another rice beer), and that kind of stuck with me for the rest of the beer. Even though, there's a bit of a Budweiser taste to this, Hitachino Nest has a lot more going on. There's an earthy flavor to it and a slightly bitter and maybe even a bit sour aftertaste. This is such a strange little beer that I just don't think it's one that you're supposed to "love." That said, it is without a doubt a well made beer and one that's worth a try.

Final Grade: B+

Friday, July 9, 2010

Rogue Brewery - Hazelnut Brown Nectar

Just when I thought I wasn't a fan of brown ales, Rogue's Hazelnut Brown Nectar came along.

Going into last weekend, I had been hearing a lot about Rogue's beers, but I hadn't tried many of them. Actually, their Dead Guy Ale was the only one I had ever tried. I had been reading up on their beers a lot and the more I read, the more I wanted to try them. Rogue happens to have a brewhouse in downtown Portland, so there's a pretty good chance that will be on the itinerary when Hood to Coast comes around. Anyways, on Saturday, I was in a bar watching the Spain vs. Paraguay game when I looked on the menu and saw they had a Rogue beer on tap- Hazelnut Brown Nectar. Sold.

The beer is a deep brown color with ruby and orange tinges. The smell told me right away that I was going to like this beer. Hazelnut aromas and sweet malts jumped out at me and really made me want to dive into this one. The taste didn't disappoint. It was sweet and full of hazelnut with a gentle finish that had a bit of brown sugar in it. Nectar is a pretty good description. This is a really fantastic beer and makes me really want to try some more of Rogue's offerings. Now that I think about it, I remember seeing a bunch of them at BevMo. Hmmmm.... More on this in the near future.

Final Grade: A

Ninkasi Brewing Company - Tricerahops Double IPA

A few weeks ago, I asked my teammates if they had any suggestions for beers I should try. One of them, Alan, sent me a list of a bunch of beers that sounded really good. There was just one problem- I couldn't find any of them. Alan lives up in Oregon and, sadly, not so many of the great Oregon beers find their way down here. I resigned myself to the fact that there are just a lot of great beers out there that I'll never get to try. Then, while I was in BevMo about a week ago, I finally found one of the beers- Tricerahops Double IPA. I'll admit it, the 6 year old in me who is still in love with dinosaurs was the most excited about this one when I was reading the names just because it's a great name. Apparently, the name of the brewery, Ninkasi, was the name of the beer goddess that the ancient Sumerians used to pray to. So really, there are two great names going on in this beer. Nice.

Tricerahops pours a slightly hazy burnt orange color with a thin tan head. The heads on most of the IPAs I've tried have been relatively thin and small, so this wasn't surprising or disappointing at all. I wasn't really expecting the cloudiness of the beer, and the appearance was almost like that of a really dark hefeweizen than an IPA. This being a double IPA, I was expecting a huge amount of hops in the smell and they were there, but definitely tempered by a sweet malty smell. The taste of this beer is really nice. There is a nice hit from the hops right off the bat and they taste fresh and a bit citrusy. Then the finish fades into the sweet malt flavors that were present in the nose.

Many IPAs (and especially double IPAs) try to absolutely blow you out of the water with the hop flavors. But sometimes, more hop flavor isn't always a good thing. Sometimes the result can be a beer that is so over the top hoppy that there is nothing else going on. I got the feeling when I was drinking Tricerahops that Ninkasi wasn't trying to blow the drinker away with this one- they were just trying to make a good beer. So while it was a little surprising that something that said "Double IPA" on the label wasn't making me pucker like crazy, it was a nice surprise. Super hoppy or not, this is a really fantastic beer. Good recommendation, Alan. I just wish I could try more on that list.

Final Grade: A

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Run 10

Last year during the Hood to Coast, we had a team meeting before the race where the entire team got to meet each other. Some I knew already, others were new faces. Still, no matter who you talked to, the popular topic of conversation was training. Everyone seemed to be trying to gauge where they were compared to everyone else on the team training-wise. I didn't want to make it seem like I hadn't been taking my training seriously, so everytime someone would ask me how much I had trained for the race, I would say the same thing - "Oh, you know. I ran about ten times or so." Whether I actually did ten runs before last year's race or not is debatable, but 10 seemed like a high enough number to me at the time. Of course, in reality (and as I soon found out), running 10 times before a race like the Hood to Coast isn't going to get you anywhere near the shape you need to be in. Going into this year's race, I vowed to break that hallowed "10 runs" marker in an attempt to not feel close to death when the race is over as I did last year. And today, with 6 weeks left before the race, I'm happy to say I've run for the (actual) 10th time.

For my tenth run, I decided to do something a little special- run farther than I ever have before. Having not run in a week (again), I decided it was time to go all out and see if I could run the distance of my first leg of the race- 7.4 miles. Using, I charted a bunch of runs from my house and finally settled on one that measured 7.25 miles. I know, it's not 7.4, but it was close enough for me. Having never run over a 10k before, this would take me a mile farther than my longest run to date. There was only one problem- the cramp monster came along for the ride.

I went into the run fully recovered from going to the fair a second time over the weekend (and this time, deep fried butter WAS on the menu). Having eaten well enough over the past few days, I was hopeful that the run today would be grueling but cramp/other weird pain free. As soon as I hit the 1/2 mile mark, I realized that this would not be the case.

As I got the the first big hill, the cramp monster struck- a double whammy to the left gut and right shoulder. Luckily, I made it to a stoplight just in time and got a minute or two of rest to work out the cramps. When I began to run again, things felt normal...or so I thought.

At around the 2.5 mile mark, the cramp monster bit again- a beast of a pain right in the right gut this time. Grimacing and trying to work it out as I was running, I made it to another light and got another needed rest. When the light turned green, I started off again and things felt better. But I hadn't gotten the best of the cramp monster yet.

At around the 4 mile mark, there is a stretch of about a mile that is one of the worst uphills I've ever run (third only to the Tough Topanga 10k and the hill on my last leg of the Hood to Coast last year). I was waiting for the cramps to come, but they never did. The hill was tough, but I was able to push myself up it and before I knew it, I was through the toughest part of my run. Seemingly, the cramps were done.

I ran up the next street and made the long home stretch down Nobel feeling really good. I was nearing 10k distance, but my legs were feeling like I had only run a mile. Surprisingly, the hill hadn't sapped me of every bit of energy I had left. "I only have a mile left. I can do this," I thought. And then, of course, it hit me like a semi. I could feel it right under my right shoulder blade and it was an absolute toad of a cramp. Damn you, cramp monster! It stayed with me for another half a mile until I reached the final hill. Then, mercifully, the cramp monster decided I had had enough. All that was left between me and the end of my run was one last hill.

I went it this run hoping very optimistically to do it in an hour. However, after all the cramp attacks, I was sure I was nowhere near that mark. But when I looked at my watch, I found that I had four minutes to make it up the hill and get home. I could do this.

I don't know where it came from, but somehow I was absolutely charged up with energy. I barely felt the strain of the slope and destroyed the hill like I've never taken down a hill before in my life. One of my friends from the team has always told me that his motto is: "Hills are your friend." I never really thought of them as anything but my nemesis until today. Today, I pretty much owned them and it felt good.

I reached the end of the run and checked my watch- 58:42. Run 10 is done, and what a run it was. Cramp monster, go bite someone else.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ballast Point Brewing Company - Sculpin IPA

A few months ago, I was just starting to get really interested in beer. With the aid of Kenny, I started to explore some of the beers made in the San Diego area. It wasn't long before I began trying a few of Ballast Point's beers and soon, I found one that blew almost everything else out there away- Sculpin IPA.

Sculpin is (sadly) a seasonal beer that Ballast makes every spring. When I toured the brewery a few weeks ago, they were at the very end of Sculpin season. While this made me a little (ok, more than a little) sad, we saw some barrels of another seasonal beer they make called Victory at Sea- another phenomenal beer that is due to come out in a few months. So, if nothing else, at least there is that to look forward to in the near future.

I bought a bomber of Sculpin a few weeks ago and finally tried it out last Saturday. Wow. I've never tasted an IPA quite like this in my life. For one thing, this beer is full of flavors that most IPAs don't go near. Right off the bat, the aroma of the beer is full of apricot and mango and grapefruit along with clean citrusy hops. The taste is really full with the sweetness of apricot and then ends with a nice hard finish of piney hops. Even though this beer has so much going on, everything is perfectly balanced and the result is really amazing. I only have one complaint - Why does it have to be seasonal? Why?

Final Grade- A+

Friday, July 2, 2010

Run 9

We're exposed to a lot of numbers on a daily basis- most with negative connotations. Whether it's the number of barrels of oil that are pouring into the Gulf on a daily basis or the rising national debt, it's hard to find any kind of statistic that's going to put you in a good mood. For now, these are the numbers I need to focus on- 7.42, 4.15 and 5.35. These are the mileages of the legs I will be running in the Hood to Coast this year. The lineup is officially out and I am really excited.

Last year, I volunteered to run one of the first legs and was put in the second position. Honestly, I had no idea what I was signing myself up for, I just figured that running downhill had to be better than running uphill, and I knew that my first run had a huge downhill. What I didn't realize was that this meant my legs and toes would be absolutely dead after running the downhill. No more. This year, I will be running the sixth leg of the race, which means I will be far from the sloping terrain of Mt. Hood.

The legs I'll be running this year couldn't be more different than the ones I ran last year. Whereas last year my legs were all roughly the same distance, this year, there's a huge difference in mileage. Last year, my toughest leg was my last. Big mistake. This year, I'm getting the toughest done with first. I don't know if any of this guarantees that I'm going to run any faster than I did last year, but I'm thinking that this can't hurt my chances.

On to the run. After not feeling well for the early part of the week, I came to Thursday realizing that I hadn't run once. Still not feeling back to normal but realizing that not running would take an entire week out of my training, I decided to go to the Pacific Beach boardwalk again and hope for the best from my body. Fortunately, my body performed way better than I was expecting and I didn't feel any ill effects after not running for a week. I don't know if it was the perfect running weather or the remarkably solid music my ipod had in store for me on the run, but I felt really good and I ended up finishing the run 5 minutes faster than I had the first time I ran it.

Now, I know exactly how far I'm going to have to run, it's both inspiring and a little scary. To be honest, I've never run 7 and a half miles at one time in my life. So while this is a little intimidating, I'm determined to make sure that when Hood to Coast comes around, the first leg isn't still the first time I've ever run 7.5 miles at one time. Soon, it will be time for the serious training to begin and I'm hoping through it, that 7.5 number will seem a little less of an obstacle.