Sunday, June 30, 2013

Frank Shorter Speaks Out About the Allstate Boston13.1 Marathon for The One Fund

The chaos after the first bomb went off at this
year's Boston Marathon (Photo credit)

I was granted the opportunity to speak to Frank Shorter about his participation in the Allstate Life Insurance Boston Half-Marathon being held September 15th in Suffolk Downs, MA.  The race benefits The One Fund set-up for Boston Marathon bombing victims. Frank Shorter was a commentator for NBC at this year's Boston Marathon, witnessing the bombings and their aftermath. This was not the first time Frank Shorter experienced terrorism.  Forty years earlier at the 1972 Olympics in Munich where he won Gold in the Marathon, Palestinian Terrorists, with help from local Neo-Nazi groups, kidnapped and later killed eleven Israeli athletes, in what became called the Munich Massacre.

I called Frank Shorter at the pre-arranged hour, and we effortlessly chatted away about his running days in Florida, his winning bets for beer money, and beer itself for a couple minutes.  Then, he quietly changed the topic to the fund raising race, and suddenly flowed stream of thoughts about what was clearly a highly personal topic for him. I scribbled his words down on my notepad as fast as I could with as little interruption as possible.   Here is my best effort to capture what he said.

Terrorist  at the Israeli OlympicTeam Headquarters
during the Munich Massacre (photo credit)

"The Boston Marathon bombings brought me back to Munich.

When I was in Munich, I heard the shots the terrorists fired.  The Olympic Marathon was four days after the massacre.  I remember talking with Kenny Moore, who was also running in the Marathon.  We told ourselves not to think about what terrorists might do next.  If terrorists were going to attack again, the Olympic Marathon was the only event where they couldn’t be stopped.

Covering this year’s Boston Marathon as an NBC reporter, I was struck how well everyone acted after the bombs went off.  People either orderly and promptly cleared the area to allow the emergency crews in, or rushed to aid the victims.   It was a common effort for humanity and there was none of the “me first” attitude you might expect.
I was stationed near the medical tent at the finish line during the race coverage, and watched everything unfold as they brought in victims.  I couldn’t get very close due to all the security but watching this really brought me back to Munich on a personal level.
This race we’re putting on to support these victims in not something “you have to do”.   It’s something you simply do.  Runners always move forward and they do it literally through their movement.  Runners are constantly overcoming adversity.  What better way to show the constant drive of runners than display it with a race.
It was incredible seeing all the pictures of the victims over and over again on the news.  It reminded me that 40 years ago, there were no images of the Israeli athletes that were killed.  It just happened.
In terms of medicine and rehabilitation, tremendous gains have been made over the past 40 years and the Boston Marathon victims have more hope for recovery.   There’s a lot more we can do today to restore the victims.
Frank Shorter (Photo Credit)
My son received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Illinois where his specialty was orthotics and prosthetics.  I understand the tremendous costs in replacing a leg, a foot, or the other recoveries the victims will have to pay both financially and emotionally for the rest of their lives.  Every time there’s an improvement in prosthetics or recovery therapy, I want everyone injured in the bombings to have it.

From a psychological point of view, I personally want the people who were damaged to have the ongoing hope they can always improve.  I hope they can envision all the advances in medicine that are going to occur over the years and have in their mind that they can never feel like they leveled off.

That’s what you do as an athlete; you keep moving forward.  I’d like to set up a system where the bombing victims can do that.  So I don’t want this race to simply be a lump sum payout, but an annual event providing continual funding over time.

So let’s hold the race and see how it goes.  Let’s create as much momentum at the start and fine tune the process over the years."

Monday, June 24, 2013

Homebrew Diaries: Closet Hophead 2, Honey Belgian IPA

Sparging the grains for Closet Hop Head 2
A while back, I tried my hand at brewing a Belgian IPA called "Closet Hophead".  It turned out OK, but I thought I could do better.  Now to brew a better beer, I certainly could delve deeply into books on brewing science and work hard on improving my brewing techniques.  But it's a lot easier to simply steal ideas from better brewers.

At the Bistro Double IPA fest during SF Beer Week last February, I got to talking with a home brewer who suggested using two types of yeast for a Belgian IPA.  According to him, Belgian Ale yeast gives a beer nice aromatic qualities but tends to suppressed the hop flavors.   Yeasts such as California Ale yeasts are better at bringing the hops to the forefront.  Later on, I spoke with Hermitage Brewmaster Greg Filippi about Hermitage's Single Hop IPA series, and discovered Greg used a lot of late hop additions to the boil to bring out bright hop characteristics.

Armed with this stolen knowledge, I set out to brew a second iteration of Closet Hop Head.  I brew 2-gallon batches using two 1-gallon glass jugs as fermenters, so it was easy to simply pitch Belgian Ale yeast in one, and California Ale yeast in the other, to get both the best of both yeast strains.  Then, I tweaked the recipe to increase the hop additions later in the boil in an attempt to bring out the hop flavors. 

The result was the most complicated brewing recipe and process I ever tried.  Here's the recipe:

4 lbs. 2-row Malt
1 lb Munich Malt
1/2 lb organic wildflower honey (added at 5 minutes)

Mash with 1 1/2 gallons water

Sparge with an additional 1 1/4 gallons water

0.3 ounces Amarillo hops 60 minutes
0.3 ounces Amarillo hops 45 minutes
0.1 ounces Amarillo hops 30 minutes
0.2 ounces Cascade hops five minutes
0.2 ounces Chinook hops five minutes
0.2 ounces ground coriander, five minutes
0.2 ounces Cascade hops, steeped at flame out for 15 minutes
0.2 ounces Chinook hops, steeped at flame out for 15 minutes

Add 1/2 gallon cold water at flame out

White Labs Belgian Ale Yeast in 1-gallon fermenter
White Lab California Ale Yeast in a second 1-gallon fermenter

Original Gravity: 1.066
Final Gravity: 1.010
ABV: 7.4%

The result was a good, not great homebrew.   The brew is a good mix of honey, aromatics from the yeast, and a floral hop character.  The malt is crisp, simple and dry, and which works as a good canvas for all the different flavors.  It doesn't have the hop bite I was hoping for and while the brew is definitely complex, it's also a tad muddled.  A nice beer, but still needs a little tweaking with a little more hops......and a couple more swiped brewing secrets.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Rambles: Hermitage Magnum Single Hop, Running Pastor and World Record Beer Milers

You'll feel lucky after drinking Magnum Single Hop IPA from Hermitage
I've been finding more and more interesting stories, news, and beers that were worth a mention, but for whatever reason, couldn't devote an entire post to.  So instead of keeping these things buried, I decided to accumulate them release them in small batches called "Rambles".  So welcome to the first of these random dispatches of noteworthy beer and running news, bits, and whatnot.

Hermitage Brewing's Magnum Single Hop IPA
Hermitage Brewing recently released Magnum Single Hop IPA latest in their single hop IPA series.  It's an unexpected choice for a single hop IPA, since Magnum hops are best known as a "bittering" hop.  Brewers use bittering hops for background, allowing hops with like Willamette, Cascade, or Chinook to take the forefront in the beers flavor profile.  Brewing an IPA entirely with Magnum hops is like conducting an orchestra entirely composed of tubas.

But hey, the beer works.  It doesn't have the more brighter, citrus flavors of typical West Coast IPA.  Instead, there's a softer, warmer, and lightly piney vibe making this a great change of pace IPA.  Further proof that despite the glut of IPA's, brewers continue to innovate on the style.

A Couple Other Good Beers
I really enjoyed Almanac Farmer's Reserve #3,  This light ale is aged for a year in white wine barrels, fermented with a Belgian yeast blend,  and made with strawberries and nectarine.  The tangy flavors from the yeast, strawberries and nectarines play off one another really well.  Summer in a glass.

To my slight surprise, I've found the crisp, lightly lemony Goose Island's 312 Urban Wheat Ale to be my go-to lawn mower beer lately.   Yes, it is an ABInBev product.  Please spare me the Craft vs. Crafty nonsense.

Pastor Running for Clean Water in Africa
Running across the country this summer at a rate of about one marathon per day, is Steve Spear, a 49-year old pastor raising money for Team World Vision to provide clean water for impoverished regions of Africa.  According to a press release, Steve will run 3,200 miles, burn through 6,100 calories a day, and go through 10 pairs of running shoes while speaking with various churches and religious organizations across the country about the need for clean water in Africa.  Funny thing is that not too long ago, Steve absolutely hated running.  You'll find more about his remarkable story and journey here.

Want to Set a Beer Mile PR?
For those who want to test their ultimate limits in a Beer Mile, this interview with Tasmanian Josh Harris, who recently broke the Beer Mile World Record, is required reading.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

See Jane Sell Beer: Jane's Beer Store in Mountain View

At the outer edge of downtown Mountain View, a small bottle shop quietly sprung up a few months ago .  It's Jane's Beer Store, a place that somehow exudes a friendly vibe despite its utilitarian decor.  Inside, you'll find every inch of shelf and cooler space is crammed with beers of every possible description.   The dimly lit room gives the place a sense of reverence to the beers set before you.  Jane's expansive selection cannot possibly be summed up in a few sentences, or even paragraphs, but it does seem more  heavily weighted towards California breweries and European imports.   Other domestic breweries like Boulevard, Clown Shoes, and Dogfish Head make prominent appearances.

As the South Bay continues to awaken to the greater possibilities of beer, places like Jane's Beer Store arise to meet this new awareness.  It's  further proof that when it comes to beer, the good guys are winning.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Session #76 : Beer Autism

For this month's Session, Glen Humphries at Beer is Your Friend asks to write about beer compulsion.

Lance Rice knows a lot about beer.  He's collected hundreds of beer cans over the last 40 years, and can tell you all about each one of them.   He knows the history of most breweries in the United States, and figures out the malts and hops in a beer after just a few sips.

Remind you of anyone?

Lance has autism.  While estimates suggest as many as 1 in 110 people are currently born with autism, we don't know much about the condition.  We know they have trouble with communication and are uncomfortable in social situations.   Like many with autism, Lance has battled several phobias in his life.  Scientists think autism makes it difficult to control and organize sensory input.   A quiet, well lit room with a few people chatting away is transformed into a raging mosh pit full of strobe lights within the mind of an autistic.  It's thought that to maintain control of their turbulent surroundings, people with autism focus intensely on familiar and comfortable things to find order in their chaotic life.  For Lance, when it's about beer, he's in his comfort zone.  Know someone like that?

Lance is the subject of a movie and book project called "Lance's Brewery Tour" currently seeking funding on Kickstarter.  Many breweries have thrown open their doors to allow Lance the opportunity to see the breweries he could only talk about.   This support seems to come because the project celebrates Lance's autism rather than pities him for it .  As the father of an autistic child, it's a story I support and contributed to on Kickstarter.  And yes, I am writing this to encourage others to back this project if they feel Lance's story deserves a wide audience.

All of us beer geeks have a compulsion at some level with beer.  Perhaps there is a little autism in all of us.

Update:  Yay!  Today, Lance's Brewery Tour was fully funded!

Aaron and Lance Rice discussing their project
at Great Lakes Brewing Company


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Beer of the Month: Electric Tower IPA from Santa Clara Valley Brewing

When I finally got a chance to try Electric Tower IPA from Santa Clara Valley Brewing, I was actually afraid to drink it.  Sure, Brew Master Steve Donohue won four Great American Beer Festival medals at Sunnyvale's Firehouse Grill before leaving to start Santa Clara Valley Brewing with Tom Clark so you figured it was going to be good.  Plenty of people got pretty excited when they announced in March their licensing was complete and they were going to commence brewing, including myself.  I even kept bugging Steve a few times on his Twitter account about when his first beer would come out.  With all that build up, my biggest fear was that no beer could really live up to all these expectations and by the time  I'd finally try it, it would be a let down.

Since you know Electric Tower IPA is Beer of the Month, you can figure out the rest.

Drawing of the Historical San Jose Electric Tower
(Wikipedia Common Image
Yes, Santa Clara Valley Brewing delivers the goods and then some, meeting all the high expectations with their initial release.  I could tell this was going to be a good just by opening the bottle.  Wonderful aromas of pine and mango greeted my noise.  Sipping the beer delivered more of the same, with its smooth and flavorful tropical mango, pineapple and resin-like pine flavors.  There's a solid, lightly toasty malt foundation to this fairly dry beer as well, but as with any good West Coast IPA, the hops are doing all the talking.  

So what's this Electric Tower all about anyway?  Back in 1881, a large electric tower was erected in San Jose, used for lighting up the city.  These were common in America cities in the late 1800's, often called Moonlight Towers, as electrification began to sweep the country. San Jose's tower was one of the largest ones of this era.  You might say it was the earliest example of Silicon's Valley technical prowess.

Electric Tower IPA:  Another reason it's good to live in the South Bay.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Win A Reebok Spartan Race Race Entry

If you held a distance running race at a military boot camp during the filming of an episode of  Wipe Out, you'd have the Reebok Spartan Race.  The Spartan Race is a series of races held all over the country that Outdoor Magazine calls "the #1 obstacle race" series in the country.  If you need to get pumped up to run, jump over barriers, climb through rope thingys and get really muddy, check out all their high adrenaline videos

There are three levels of Spartan races held at various locations throughout the country..  There's the Spartan Sprint, a 3+ mile race with at least 15 obstacles, the Super Spartan consisting of 8+ miles through at least 20 obstacles, and the Spartan Beast race consisting of 12+ miles through no less than 25 obstacles. 

And if that isn't enough, there's also the Spartan Death Race being held this June 21st in Pittsfield, VA, which they cheerfully claim as making "giving birth look like a walk in the park."  I don't even want to know what's involved in that one.

The Spartan Race Series comes to Northern California this August 10th with a Spartan Beast race in Monterey.

And now you can join in the madness!   The Spartan Race organizers have provided a free entry coupon to a lucky reader.  Just be the first person to e-mail me at "photon.dpetermangmail{dot}com" and declare "I'm ready for anything the Spartan Race throws at me!" and that coupon is yours!

For those too late to get the free entry, you can still get 15% off on your entry by following this link.

And yes, your entry includes a coupon for beer at the finish.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Scenes from a Mountain View Beer Walk

Yesterday's Mountain View Beer Walk is in the books.  For those who don't know what a "Beer Walk" is, it involves getting a taster glass and walking around a downtown to different stores and sampling beer from different breweries at each stop.   Part of the fun is discovering what beer is pouring at each store and its fun to stand around sipping beer in a place like a bookstore, boutique or hair salon.

The Mountain View Beer Walk was a 25th Anniversary Celebration of Mountain View's Tied House Brewpub of sorts.  It also served as an introduction to the general public of Santa Clara Valley Brewing initial release of Electric Tower IPA.  Of course, plenty of other great breweries like Strike, Hermitage, New Belgium, Goose Island, Santa Cruz Ale Works, Fault Line, Anchor, Heretic, Almanac, Lagunitas, Firestone-Walker, Gordon-Biersch, Ninkasi, Hanger 24, Speakeasy, and Sierra Nevada participated.

Another great job by The Beer Walk folks.  All the Beer Walk staff in their bright orange shirts were all friendly and helpful and the event was well organized.  I'll leave you with a few pictures of yesterday's event.