Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Past Week's Beer Log (Illustrated), and Brotherly Beer

Not a bad week (so far). All of the larger bottles shown above were shared with my brother; I can't think of a better way to enjoy a good beer. (I think we both liked the Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary best.)

If I could start all over, I'd spend, say, 10-15 years learning how to brew beer and brew it well. Once I had achieved a proper level of brewing expertise and expanded the scale of my production just a bit, I'd try to talk my brother into partnering with me in setting up our own brewpub. 

It's a pipe dream, especially since (1) I have no restaurant experience other than working at the Starbucks-Lite at a local bookstore back in grad school, (2) my business acumen is on par with my restaurant experience, and (3) I've yet to even brew my first batch of beginner homebrew (though September still looks promising).

But it's fun to think about it. 

"Twombly Time, All the Time."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pucknation on Keeping "Perspective" About Running

"But at the end of the day, it's nothing really special. It's not profound. It's just running. That's it. In fact, if a person looks at the big picture of life, it's merely one morning out of three hundred and something. Right?"
--Pucknation, in a moving blog post in which he reflects on seeing a series photos of fallen U.S. soldiers posted along his running route this morning. I've caught myself feeling sorry for myself a few times since I began my forced break from running a couple of weeks ago; this post provides a good corrective to those feelings. 
Puck "gets it"; may I do the same someday.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wolves Dressed as Sheep, Sheep Dressed as Wolves--Beer Ephemera

My brother, Stephen, and I often chat about the local beer distribution scene. As a general manager of a locally owned restaurant, Stephen is privy to the coming and going of beers into and out of the market, and he has a pretty good take on how trends within the industry affect us locally.

One trend we discussed recently was the diluting of the craft beer market by giant commercial brewers. As craft breweries are enjoying increasing success even as larger breweries are reporting slumping beer sales, the latter have begun to introduce faux-micros, beers that are intended to match--or at least intended to convince consumers that they match—the quality and variety of beers crafted by local and regional breweries. The marketing and branding of these beers range from the up-front (think of the recent batch of Michelob-branded specialty beers) to the deceptive (micro “imposters” brewed by the macrobreweries but without obvious disclosure of their origin, such as Blue Moon, Killian’s Red, even “Memphis Brown”; see this article for a great write-up).

To be fair, some of these imposters taste pretty good; I’ve enjoyed a nice Amber Bock as an alternative to watery lagers more than once. But the move is a deceptive one, aiming to capitalize on a market trend (and charge near-craft prices to boot). I’m not going to assume that the goal is to Wal-Mart the smaller breweries out of business (and there are too many upstart craft breweries making great beer for that to happen, I think), but the trend does raise an eyebrow.

Conversely, I’ve also recently tried beers sold only at Costco and marketed under the ubiquitous Costco “Kirkland” label. Enjoying the beer way more than I thought I should, I looked at the label and noticed Kirkland beer is brewed in Utica, New York—which just happens to be the city in which Saranac beer is brewed. A little Internet research confirmed that, sure enough, Saranac (more specifically, the FX Matt Brewing Co, which brews Saranac) brews the Kirkland beer sold in the eastern US (Gordon Biersch brews the beer sold in the western half of the country). I only recently tried and enjoyed Saranac beer, which has just recently entered the Memphis market. Since it’s sold for around 7 bucks a six-pack, and since a case of Kirkland beer is available for about $18 (roughly $0.75/bottle), the latter is obviously a much better deal.

So am I contradicting myself by eschewing the macros-sold-as-micros while embracing the semi-micro disguised as a macro? Perhaps, though if the choice is between a cheap tasty beer and an expensive not-as-tasty one, I’ll choose the former every time.

Fortunately, though, options other than those two exist, and the best option—buying fresh, locally brewed beer—is readily available to me in the Ghost River family of beers. Cheers to them!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Church of Beer?

Photos of the Church Brew Works, a brew pub housed in a former (and deconsecrated) Roman Catholic parish in Pittsburgh, PA.

I'm fairly conflicted about this one. (I think the placement of brew kettles in the former altar area bothers me most.)

If the repurposing of churches as museums of atheism in the Soviet Union parallels the nightmare of totalitarianism described in 1984, then maybe the Church Brew Works embodies the death-of-personhood-by-amusement described in Brave New World.


Then again, I've had my share of beer in our church's parish hall on feast days--even beer homebrewed by a fellow parishioner.

(Really, really good beer.)

And I pray in bars, if nothing else, to ask God's blessing on and to give thanks for the beer.

R.E.M. played their first gig in a converted* church building in Athens, Ga. I'm pretty pro-R.E.M.

(*Pun intended.)

Maybe I'll just choose another battle.

But...I just can't support this 100%.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Stubbornness and The Whole Ass

Running log:
Distance: 1.36 miles
Achilles tendon straps on? Yep.
Pain? Oh yeah.
So....So I'm going to have to take a real break from running, not half-way: to quote my buddy Jim, I'll "use the whole ass" and go all in with this hiatus. I've already started asking around about physical therapy. I've made peace with the fact that I may just have to count my Tulsa marathon entry fee as a "donation."

And it's OK. I still love running...I just can't enjoy it first-hand right now.

Second-hand is good, too. Cindy ran 30 minutes straight today. 5K, here she comes!!

ps: Bike ride, anyone?

The Perils of Stubbornness

So the Achilles tendon straps arrived Saturday. Because I was a dunderhead and--in a fit of impatience--ran way too far the day before they arrived, I was a little too sore to give them a proper go till Sunday.

The verdict?

Still out. I still feel some soreness when running, though not too much. The straps are, however, a bit clunky and tight; trying them on reminded me of the first time I tried on ice skates when I was 9. I’m planning a short indoor run after work today and will see how they feel then.

I knew I would have a hard time keeping the running fast. I'm pretty sure pride, ego, and vanity are all jumbled together with the "good" reasons I like to run...but I'm not going to rule out plain ol' stubbornness either.

Running log:
Friday: 6 painful (and sweaty) miles outside (OK, 2 relatively pain free miles, 2 fairly uncomfortable miles, and 2 really, really painful miles…I can still hear “You Big Dummy,” Fred Sanford-style, ringing in my ears)
Sunday: 2.55 (less painful but still really sweaty) miles outside

Beer log:
Friday: Fat Tire at Soul Fish and Schlafly Kolsch later at home
Saturday: Ghost River Brewery tour! I sampled the Golden, Hefeweizen, Red (twice), Pale Ale, and Brown Ale; I later had a McSorley’s Black Ale at home. Ghost River rocks.
Sunday: More Schlafly Kolsch while practicing music with my cousin (who is now a Schlafly fan himself) for our show next Saturday
Monday: I wasn’t planning to have a beer, but I shared a Bud Light with my good friend Bryan Hayes during practice for HIS set Saturday

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Tuesday Musings on Running and Beer

  • Today marks my 7th consecutive non-running day. The achilles tendons are still a little tender to the touch, but all other pain is gone. The achilles tendon support straps I ordered should arrive this week. The temptation will be to put them on and then run as if I haven't been hurting. I'll need to resist that temptation and take it easy; that's easier said than done.
  • My wife can now run 28 minutes without walking. Methinks her long-desired 5k may be a possibility this fall. Go Cindy!
  • Deep water pool running is as easy or hard as you make it. Don't think you can sweat while up to your neck in a swimming pool? Think again.
  • Said pool running is even more difficult when you try to do it during peak pool usage hours. I tried to carve out about an 8' x 5' nook for myself, but even those tiny borders were trespassed. 
  • Upland Brewing Co. in Bloomington, Indiana, makes some mighty tasty beers. Thanks to our good friend Ashley, I now know that first-hand.
  • The folks who make Red Stripe also make a stout--Dragon Stout. It's delicious, mon.
  • I'm planning to return to Ghost River Brewery for a tour this Saturday. Anyone interested in going who has not yet heard from me should contact me by noon Thursday so I can give a head count to the brewery.
  • Initial reviews of Sierra Nevada's Tumber Autumn Brown Ale are not as favorable as I'd hoped. I'm still planning to give it a go, but I may wait a bit.
  • Replacing a home AC and a full set of tires and having a smorgasbord of other auto ailments repaired--not to mention the crazy heat and humidity--have pushed back the Great Homebrewing Experiment of 2010. Mid-September is looking realistic now.
  • If one attends an Antiochian Orthodox parish, can one observe the Slavic fasting discipline as relates to beer? I'd like to think so, but I may be deluding myself here. Forgive me.