Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Still at it at the 2015 Wharf to Wharf

These socks gave me luck at Wharf to Wharf
I've run the Santa Cruz Wharf to Wharf race eights times since 2004. The first time, I jumped into it just because some people I ran with were running it. A year later, I started getting serious, and Wharf to Wharf became one of those big "circle the calendar" races. I trained hard for months, all that effort targeted towards earning one of those coveted top 100 Finisher jackets. The same thing for 2006 and 2007, before some pretty bad knee tendinitis and hip injuries left me hobbling through the course in 2008 and 2009. Deciding to de-emphasize running after a couple years of limping around, I didn't even run it for the next four years.  Working continually over years to alleviate a hip imbalance begin to alleviate those injury woes.

So last year, I cautiously returned and put up a respectable 37:03 for the six mile distance. Failing to hold back the competitive juices this year, I spent this summer aiming to beat that time for the 2015 edition of Wharf to Wharf.  I put in a few short track interval workouts at the Campbell Community Center Track and put in some extra tempo work in hoes of bettering last year's time.

Still, I arrived at the starting line in a pretty relaxed manner, wearing the beer socks that gave me good luck at last May's Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco. I've been running 35 years and now at age 48 with all the high points, the low points, and injuries along that way, I'm just thankful I can get to the line, have some fun and compete. Apparently most of the starters weren't in such a good mood. As the canon fired signaling the start of the race, there was an awful lot of pushing and shoving as we sprung forward.  One guy kept pushing me in the back, and after five annoying seconds of that, I reached back, grabbed his wrist and pushed it away.

Trying to keep things cool, I came through first mile in 6:02, slightly too fast for a sub-37 effort. I'll spare you most of the gory details but continuing a disciplined pace and powering through the rolling hills, where the extra track work certainly helped, I crossed the finish line in 36:46, my race goal met. I was tired, but no hurting body parts. Another year, another pleasant realization I'm not too old for this shit.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Rambling Reviews: 7.15.2015: Fruit Beers from Anchor, Lagunitas and Altamont Beer Works

More rambling reviews for the second time this week. This time, the theme is beers with fruit in them.

First up, Anchor Brewing Zymaster Series No. 8. Luxardo Cherry Ale.  Anchor took a base amber ale and aged in a bed of Luxardo Marischino Cherries, which accorrding to Anchor, aren't those bright, artificially colored fruit-like things that top sundaes but are instead some sort of heirloom cherry. Whatever these cherries are in real life, they make this beer really work. The toasty and smokey flavors from the base amber blend really well with the cherries, all the flavors well balanced. I'm not usually one to get into beer and food pairings but I could see this beer really working well with certain desserts, or the cherry flavors playing off various meats. One of those beers to carefully sip to fully appreciate.
A far less successful example of using a fruit additions is Lagunitas Citrusinensis Pale Ale. Lagunitas took their Dog Town Pale Ale, tweaked the recipe to add more wheat into the grain bill, then added blood orange juice into the mix. The blood orange addition is too heavy handed, dominating the brew rather than creating an interesting twist. The tangy blood orange flavors battles the bitter hoppiness of the underlying Pale Ale and things aren't pretty. Flavors clash and muddle, and when the dust clears, there's this chalky flavor. And what are these weird precipitates collecting at the bottom of the pint glass? An interesting beer, but not in a good way. Big misfire.

Finally, I really dug Berry White, a cream ale with raspberry and cranberry additions from Altamont Beer Works which was pouring on Nitro at San Jose's Original Gravity. Great name, it's almost as smooth and luscious as a Barry White ballad. The raspberry and cranberry work well together creating a nicely rounded berry flavor with a pleasant tartness. Nice off-beat summer beer I found to be a guilty pleasure. Can't get enough of your love, baby!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Rambling Reviews 7.13.2015: Three From 10 Barrel Brewing

10 Barrel Brewing has made lots of noise recently, winning awards and getting acquired by Anheuser-Busch last November.  Now, they have expanded their distribution to the Bay Area and were kind enough to send me three of their beers to try out. Let's find out about some of their beers that's attracted so much attention.

First up, Swill, a mixture of lemonade and a Berliner Weiss known as a radler. "Swill" is a daring name for a polarizing beer. Reviews of Swill on RateBeer and BeerAdvocate are pretty much of the "love it" or "hate it" variety. My wife and I, who have had our share of arguments, were similarly divided. She found it a little too sweet, while I thought the sweetness level was about right. Both of us liked the punchy lemony sour "tang" to it as we sipped this on our front porch during a hot afternoon. It's pretty light beverage with the underlying wheat beer and barely any detectable hop presence, leaning a little more towards the beer side than the lemonade side.  Of course, there will be beer geeks who will simply refuse to be caught dead drinking something like this.  I think a large fraction of the remaining 98% of the population will enjoy this just fine.

Next up, Apocalypse IPA. The largely neutral malt lets the hops shine through with plenty of bright flavors dominated by grapefruit, with some grassy and floral notes in there too. Nothing particularly earth-shattering here, just a well rounded, dry, and balanced IPA that's more about drink-ability than popping you in the mouth with a bunch of hops. Brewed in the stereotypical West-Coast IPA fashion, I found this compares well to the best examples of this style.  I'm talking about beers like Bear Republic Racer 5 or Lagunitas IPA in case you were wondering.

Finally, we end with Joe IPA, an intense grapefruity hop wallop with a little resin finish.  It's surprising dry and well balanced despite all the hop intensity. It's pretty impressive, since IPA's with this much hop flavor usually end up as big malty monstrosities, often sticky sweet and tasting like hop syrup. Somehow they cram in all that hop flavor into a balanced brew. Joe IPA won Gold in the American India Pale Ale category at the North American Beer Awards and fourth in the National Beer Championships this year. It's pretty obvious why.

Let's give 10 Barrel extra bonus points for not naming their IPA's using some tired hop pun. Looks like so far, Anheuser-Busch hasn't screwed up Goose Island. We can only hope they do the same with 10 Barrel Brewing.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Hopothetical Imperial Black IPA from Cliche' Brewing: You've read this review before

This is not your father's Imperial Black IPA.   Upon pouring, I detect aromas of freshly cut huckleberries, two-day old coffee, and alfalfa pollen.  It pours a jet black leaving moderately spaced lacing in the glass, reminiscent of a poorly knit sweater. I'm getting flavors of blueberry, blackberry, Sumatran espresso, guava, raspberry, barnyard hay, rose petals, pomegranate, sage, charcoal, tangerine, Chilean cocoa nibs, grapefruit rind, Italian black figs, mascarpone cheese and carob.

Cliche' Brewing brews Hopothetical Imperial Black IPA using gobs of Two-Row, Maris Otter, Munich, Caramel, Black Patent, and Chocolate malts.  They then add righteous amounts of Cascade, Magnum, Columbus, Simcoe, Centennial and Chinook hops.  It weighs in at an obscene, yet highly drinkable 11.6% abv with a whopping 117 ibu's.

Cliche' Brewing is the brainchild of Johnny Cliche', an avid home brewer who followed his passion turning his hobby into a business when he took the plunge and opened a brewery last year. Hopothetical Imperial Black IPA represents a milestone in another chapter of staying true to his roots. The release party for Hopothetical Imperial Black IPA was recently held at Cliche' Brewing's tap room, a cozy place with a relaxed vibe and friendly atmosphere. Johnny Cliche was exuberant, cheerfully proclaiming "Brewing beer is awesome! We love being a part of the great craft beer community! If you like beer, you'll love Hopothetical Imperial Black IPA!" Asked what's next up his sleeve in his bag of tricks for Cliche' Brewing's next release, he answered "Brewing beer is awesome! We love being a part of the great craft beer community! If you like beer, you'll love our next release!" The release party was epic and a wonderful time was had by all.

Life's to short to drink crappy beer, so do yourself a favor and run, don't walk to Cliche' Brewing and pick up this bad boy of a special treat. You'll be glad you did because it's awesome!

(This post was partially inspired by a recent discussion of beer cliche's over at Boak and Bailey.  I must admit this post resembles some of my prior writing all too well.)