Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Briefest of Running Logs

Nice outing tonight--not as chilly as I'd feared, just humid enough to work up a healthy sweat, and nearly traffic-free. All in all, one of my favorite sorts of runs.

Running log:
Yesterday: 7 sluggish miles on the "dreadmill"
Tonight: about 8.5 miles outside--my usual 6-mile route plus an extra bit added in the middle

Monday, October 25, 2010

Just a Beer

I just poured myself a glass of beer--Schlafly Dry Hopped APA, for those keeping score.

I have a lot on my mind tonight, some of it heavy, some of it shallow, most of it involving neither running nor beer. This blog, however is not the venue for those thoughts. If I'm wise, I'll try to hash them out in writing somewhere, sometime soon; but not here.

I have long fashioned myself a writer, but a "writer" who doesn't write is a wannabe at best and a poseur at worst. I'm not sure I write well; I get by in terms of usage, style, punctuation, and such, but some days I don't have much to say. I started this blog for one reason only: to give myself a reason to write about--something. Anything. The twin topics of this blog are, at least, two things I think about fairly regularly.


I very much enjoyed the beer dinner I attended recently--a feast for the senses for sure. The next day, I received a phone call from someone admitting (to me, but chiefly to themselves) their alcoholism, asking me to support them and keep them accountable. Timing is funny.


I really know very little about beer. I have noticed, however, that I have picked up the unfortunate habit of talking about it as if I have actual expertise in the ins and outs of beer styles, various breweries and brewing regions. Somewhere, Screwtape is laughing.

I do really enjoy trying new beers, and comparing different examples of the same style, and learning about how beer is made. I also have not given up on my desire to brew my own; financial concerns have back-burnered that plan somewhat, but I know I've also probably been reluctant to take the actual step of walking into a shop and saying, "I know nothing. Please help me with this." Know-it-all-ism is a tough habit to break, a difficult posture to drop. Lord, have mercy.


Running has been going well. Of course, a couple of good runs gave me the (misguided?) confidence to resume marathon training. So far, the achilles tendons have held up; my stamina, though, has not yet returned.

(And I'm strongly considering petitioning New Belguim to change the name of their flagship brew to Flat Tire.)

I somehow pounded out just over 17 miles Saturday, hoping for 20 but ultimately happy with my total. The Tulsa marathon is less than 4 weeks away; I'd love to run an even 20 in one go sometime in the next couple of weeks. I figure I have maybe two more shots at meeting that goal--this Thursday evening (the night before I travel to Iowa with my mom and two of her siblings) and maybe the weekend after next.

I'm pretty sure I'm a damn fool for trying to run that distance having taken 2 months off, but my mostly successful recent long runs have given me confidence to at least try. The greater the uncertainty in other parts of life, the more I enjoy channeling energy into attaining a difficult goal.

Sometimes, it seems as if I'm running away from something; other times, towards something. And every once in awhile, I run just for the love of the run. Not usually, unfortunately; but those fleeting times of running for its own blissful sake make all of those other runs worthwhile--if just for the hope that the bliss might return somehow, someday.


In better running news, Cindy did a dry run (pun intended) of the course of her upcoming 5k this past Saturday. She made it just fine. She's ready. I ran the course with her--easily the most enjoyable 3 miles of my 17 that day. A different sort of bliss, perhaps, but most welcome.


And the beer glass is now empty.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Carbo Loading?

I’ve attended beer festivals, beer tastings, beer-and-wine tastings, and wine-paired dinners, but last night’s Schlafly Beer Dinner at Patrick’s Steaks and Spirits was the first meal I’ve had for which the various food courses were selected to pair with specific beers. Already a fan of Schlafly’s products as well as Patrick’s (some of the best home cooking in town!), I expected to fully enjoy the meal. I was not disappointed.

In the company of several friends as well as dozens of other patrons, I was treated to the following menu (descriptions are from the event’s Facebook page):

Hors D’oeuvres
Spicy Smoked Pork BBQ Crostini
Served with Schlafly Pumpkin Ale
A full-bodied, deep reddish amber beer made with pumpkin and
butternut squash and spiced with nutmeg, clove and cinnamon.

First Course
Beer Cheddar Soup
Served with Schlafly Dry Hopped APA
An American Pale Ale with a hearty dose of hop bitterness, flavor and aroma.
Hops are added directly into the finished beer to boost the fresh,
fruity flavor and aroma of American hops.

Second Course
Lump Crabcakes, Wilted Garlic Spinach &
Roasted Red Pepper Remoulade
Served with Schlafly Pale Ale
A rich, amber-coloored, medium bodied British style ale
with a smooth mild hop character

Third Course
Butternut Squash Risotto
with Bacon-wrapped Jalapeno Shrimp
Served with Schlafly Oktoberfest
A malty, full-bodied, deep reddish-amber lager. Traditionally brewed in March
for the Oktoberfest in the fall, this style is also known as Märzen.

Sweet Potato Cheesecake
Served with Schlafly Bourbon Stout
Roasty, rich, and malty, and aged for several months in freshly-emptied
Jim Beam bourbon barrels, where it picks up the essential
character of oak, caramel, and bourbon flavors.

Favorite pairing? Really tough call. I might have to go with the final pairing—the sweet potato cheesecake paired with the barrel aged stout, just because the flavors of both the dessert and the beer were individually very strong, yet they complemented each other really well.

Favorite beer of the night? The aformentioned stout was the most unusual and the pumpkin ale was the more pleasantly surprising (somehow, I did not expect to enjoy it but did), but the dry-hopped APA continues to be my favorite Schlafly offering—nice hop punch in the nose, but not so heavy or bitter that you can’t enjoy the rest of your meal.

Favorite food course of the night? Gotta go with the sweet potato cheesecake, by a nose. Each dish was excellent, though, and for sheer comfort-food indulgence, I’d pick the beer cheddar soup.

Learn anything new? The Schlafly Bottleworks (their second, larger brewery in the St. Louis area) is housed in a former Kroger store. My wife is a Kroger pharmacist, and my first job was at Kroger. Is this a sign to us regarding a potential career upgrade?

Swag? A keychain bottle opener as well as two tulip glasses (score!) 

Overall observations

1. The beer serving sizes were really just about perfect. At first, I assumed (incorrectly) that we'd get a full bottle of each of the five selections--which might've been fun in theory but would've ultimately spoiled a nicely balanced meal (and spoiled the next day at work as well!). Instead, each beer serving was around 6 ounces; given that two of the beers were "big" (in alcohol content), that was just about right.
2. If you're going to attend a beer dinner, it's a total bonus perk to be able to sit at the table with the brewery representative--not only did we get a couple of extra refills (not so many as to negate the point made in #1 above), but we also were able to chat with him about all things beerly and St. Louis-related.
3. According to one of my dining partners, the best bartender in town can be found at Billy Hardwick's bowling alley, just down the street from my house. I don't bowl but once a blue moon, but I may have to stop by there more often--turns out I've had a neighborhood bar without even knowing it!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chicago, Milwaukee, and Thereabouts

Running back toward the Lake Front Path. This was the second of two pain free runs!

Chicago is one of the more running-friendly cities I've visited. In addition to the glorious Lake Front Path, which offers mile after mile of automobile-free space to run, walk, or bike, the city really seems to throw its support behind the Chicago Marathon, signs and banners for which were everywhere during our visit (which took place about 3 weeks before the race). 

The Millenium Park bean. The next time we visit Chicago, we may not visit as many tourist-specific places, but this was my first time there and I (as did my wife) wanted to see the Bean.


Regional beer flight at Mity Nice, Water Tower Place. From left to right: Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald porter (a Cleveland beer, actually), Goose Island Green Line pale ale, Metropolitan Brewing Krankshaft Kolsch.

Eliot Ness Vienna Lager (Great Lakes Brewing), enjoyed with pizza at Lou Malnati's. This was one of my favorite beers of the week--another from the Cleveland brewery. Cleveland = Beer Mecca? I love learning new things! 

Hangin' with the Fonz on the Milwaukee Riverwalk. Both Cindy and I were surprised/impressed at how liveable Milwaukee seemed to be.

The original giant mug into which a designated diver slid every time the Brewers hit a home run at their old stadium. Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee now boasts the mug, which we saw on our brewery tour.

The Beer Trifecta!
Beer cheddar soup, beer-battered cheese curds, and the local pale ale at a brewpub, southern Wisconsin.

"How does it feel?"
Thrift store, southern Wisconsin, where thrift stores lack the must and funk I usually associate with them.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Grace and Work

It's official! My wife, Cindy, is now registered for the Race for Grace 5k, to be held November 6. She's really working hard in making the transition from treadmill-only running to running outside, and I think she'll be more than ready. I can't wait to cheer her on!

Cooper-Young Regional Beerfest

With my good friend Billy, I attended the Cooper-Young Regional Beerfest Saturday afternoon. Here's my quick take on this very enjoyable event:

Beers I tried
Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company: Ninja Porter
French Broad Brewing Company: Gateway Kolsch
Yazoo Brewing Company: Summer Ale, Sue
Vino’s Brewpub: Goldcrest 51
Mid-South Malts/Memphis Homebrewers: English IPA
Abita: Andygator, SOS

Overall Thoughts
The CYRB was a pleasantly manageable size, allowing attendees to try products from all (or at least most) of the breweries represented without getting sloshed. The focus on breweries within a day’s drive of Memphis was a nice theme (that said, Sierra Nevada was represented, too; they were an obvious outlier, but I don’t think anyone complained). The afternoon on which the festival was held, however, boasted a record high temperature for the date (some 90-odd degrees); the lack of humidity meant that we were not exactly uncomfortable, but I altered my beer selection strategy to accommodate the heat (ie, more Kolsches and lighter beers, fewer dark and/or heavy ales).

Pleasant Surprises
1. Andygator, Abita’s double bock. This was the first beer I tried, and it was a hot day, so of course this one seemed extra refreshing. But I think I’d like it in a different setting as well…crisp, not watery, not bitter for the wrong reasons (ie, skunky), just refreshing and thirst-quenching.
2. Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company’s Ninja Porter. After only a few minutes at the beerfest, I knew the unseasonably warm temps would probably lead me to lean toward the lighter beers (in body and color) rather than the heftier ones that I often prefer. The Ninja Porter, though, was the right beer at the right time—a complete contrast to the others I’d tried heretofore, yet surprisingly thirst-quenching for a porter. Nice chocolate and coffee overtones, and light carbonation. Winner!
3. The Goldcrest 51. Unlike the lightweight imposter that was marketed and sold here very briefly in the mid-90s, this version of the flagship beer of the old Tennessee Brewery does indeed follow the recipe used in brewing the original. Although the new/old 51 is not a beer I'd crave, it is much more flavorful than most mass-produced beers and (like #s 1 and 2 above) proved to be eminently thirst quenching.

Yazoo’s famed Sue—wrong beer at the wrong time. I’ve been a bit turned off by rauchbiers/smoky beers (maybe it’s an acquired taste?), but I’d heard good things about Sue. Unfortunately, the smoky flavor, full-bodiedness, and high alcohol content led me to cut bait after only a few sips (for shame!). I don't really blame the beer--the taste matched the description--but I guess I'd hoped I'd be more ready for it. I wasn't.