Sunday, November 30, 2008

Deschutes the Abyss (& yesterdays Pumpkin Beer) taste-off

The Abyss...where to begin? The month long (or year long) quest to get a few bottles, only to see they were available in Reno after ordering them from BevMo in Roseville...the wait since Friday to crack one open? Hey, it's harder than it sounds. Anyway, I don't think I've ever had higher expectations going in than I had for this beer. It's an 11% imperial stout (my favorite style) brewed with molasses and licorice. 33% of it is then removed, aged in oak bourbon barrels, and blended back in with the rest.

A. Deschutes has been my favorite brewery for years

B. a couple years ago they brewed a Barleywine. It had a highly noticeable black licorice aftertaste that blew me away. I was expecting similar with this one.

C. pretty much any site that reviews beers has this one in the 99th-100th percentile, and has almost all highly positive reviews.

appearance-pours as black as night. like motor oil with a brownish dark-burgundy head

nose-smells of roasted chocolate malt, with a slight hint of bourbon, alcohol, & molasses

mouthfeel-in a word...awesome. thick, smooth. Hannah had a tiny sip and literally chewed it (before asking for more, which we declined)

flavor-near perfection. multi-layered. had some characteristics similar to other imperials such as Rasputin, but to the Nth degree. More everything, without being harsh or overpowering. Pretty stinking smooth and highly complex beer.

We had it in a brandy snifter. Similar to the Black Butte XX, this was 33% barrel aged, and in both cases, I wished it was 50% at least. I think 100% is too either mellows out the character of a beer too much or too much Bourbon flavor covers up the flavor of the beer. With 33%, the Black Butte XX (while still VERY good) was a little harsh, and the Abyss had just a touch of that. Now, I'm really nit-picking here. This beer was exceptional in every way. The "Lord Of The Rings" of imperial stouts. Among the best, but there is just a tiny bit of room for improvement. Easily my favorite imperial stout. But my favorite beer??? I may have to do a Celebrator, Old Guardian, Fuller's, Abyss taste-off one day to settle that one.

As I was waffling between A & A+, my teacher friend Ben reminded me one does not have to have a perfect score to get an A+, so given that there were only 2 tiny things I think Deschutes could do to make this a perfect brew (age half in barrels & more licorice on the finish like the Barleywine)...A+.

So, Ben and I were both in the 97-98 range on a 1-100 scale, and both gave the beer an A+. Abby is not a big fan of imperial stouts, or super strong beers of any kind, for the most part...but she could see the qualities & complexities of the beer as well, and gave it a B. While this brought our overall score down to a low A or A-, it also is a good grade for someone who isn't crazy bout the style.

As an afterthought to the Abyss tasting (and to make room for all the really good beer from black Friday), Abby & myself, along with my younger brother Mikey & my father, had ourselves a little Pumpkin beer taste-off last night. I'll save the extreme details, except for the predictable and entertaining fact that both male relatives (who are not big fans of microbrews in general) liked the weakest (in both abv & beer -but high in spice flavor) beers the best. More pumpkin, less beer please.

1. Shipyard Pumpkinhead-this is the thinest beer of the 4. Not nearly as bad as I remembered, but take away the spice and I wouldn't touch it. Pops & Mikey both gave it an A and ranked it #1 of 4. Abby & I, despite our difference of opinion on Pumpkin spice in beer (I like it, she doesn't) ranked it 3rd, her with a B-, me with a C. So it got a total score of 8 with a B+ avg.

2. Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale-I've had this one the most. It's actually got a nice taste (only if you're into the spice). Nutmeg, allspice, pumpkin...and they're not subtle at all, which is good, since the beer behind the spice also would not be worth it's weight Our grades on this one didn't vary much, and all four of us thought it was 2nd best of the 4. Total score of 8 with a B average. 2 B+'s from the male fam, B from Abby, C+ from me.

3. Dogfish Head Punkin-the only one of the 4 with a 'real' beer behind it-a 7% brown ale, but for big pumpkin spice fans, it just not too exciting. My Dad didn't likr the harshness from the hops. Abby & I both thought it the best of the 4 & gave it a B, while my brother & Dad thought it 4th of 4 and both gave it a D. Total score of 10, with an average grade of C.

4. Harvest Moon (Blue Moon)-lacking inspiration. We all agreed this one sucked. High of a C, while I generously gave it a D. We all ranked it 3rd or 4th, since it had a crap beer behing the spices, and the spices were among the weekest of the four brews. Total score of 14, avg grade of C-.

DFH Punkin is the only one of these I'd probably buy again, although I'd drink a Buffalo Bills if one was offered...and I won't go out of my way to fing this Dogfish beer like I have in the past.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Results from yesterday's mini stout taste-off

Not a ton of intrigue here, but some dissapointment in a certain Petaluma brewery...we had 4 tasters (2 male, 2 female), and we each gave a letter grade and a 1-4 rank. Here's the haps...

1(barely). Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout-total score 6 (avg 1.5) avg grade A-

2. Deschutes Obsidian Stout-total score 6 (avg 1.5) avg grade A-

(one fraction of one grade seperated these two beers)

3. Mendocino Black Hawk-total score 12 (avg 3.0) avg grade C+ (boring)

4. Lagunitas Imperial Stout-total score 16 (avg 4.0) avg grade C- (really close to a D)

...and I thought an "Imperial" would have an advantage. There was nothing imperial about the Lagunitas beer except on the label. I noticed when pouring that it was the thinest and lighest in color of the 4 (huh?), even though light didn't show through any of them once in the glass. It was slightly older than the other 3, but aren't imperials supposed to cellar well? Easily the most dissapointing Lagunitas beer I've ever had, except maybe for a spoiled Maximus. Mendocino...I can still remember liking that brewery, but the memory has faded. 5 years ago White Hawk was my favorite IPA, and Blue Heron one of my favorote Pales. They've gone downhill since then, while my horizons have broadened. Mostly average brews...not bad, but nothing to get excited about. Barney that's better! I was actually the stingy grader for this beer with a B (due to thinner body and less malt/hop balance), but man, was it smooth. Good choclatey, roasted nose, and it went down smooth. Obsidian was not a let down. I hadn't had one in a while, so I was a little worried...but no worries here. Thick, roasted malts with a slight hop chaser. Chocolate, nutty overtones. The ladies both gave the smoother? Barney Flats an A, while the boys both gave the bigger? Obsidian an A, hence the tight scores.

After an incredibly fun afternoon spent at 4 different BevMo stores, I tried an old friend tonight, and made a new one as well. Our neighbor Ben, Abby, and I sampled an Avery Old Jubilation (English Old Ale), and a Fuller's London Porter. Fuller's is one of the few beers that has remained at the VERY top of my "short-list" over the year's. Like with Celebrator (my favorite beer), every time I have one I think my memory of it will have been exaggerated and I'll be dissapointed. No worries of the few beer's I'd give an A+!!! Every other London Porter wishes it tasted like this. So smooth, I thought it was nitrogenated (it's not). PERFECT malt/roast balance. I'll be doing a TOP 100 soon...I expect this to be in the top 3-5, and it will easily be the only "weak" beer in the top 10...I like 'em big, which makes this 5% brew that much more impressive. The Avery Old Jubilation was textbook winter warmer...made me want to snuggle by our space heater (no fireplace). Old Ales are like a Barleywine's little sister. Malty goodness. Solid B for this one. Glad I got some to try. Sunday night we'll be sampling the Abyss from Deschutes...a (partially) barrel-aged imperial stout brewed with licorice and molasses. For a few reasons, my expectations have never been higher for any beer, so stay tuned for the recap. We found many other newbies that I can't wait to try. Many of those may get posted as well...a Belgian Stout, a 12% wood-aged brown ale...YUMMY!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkey Trot 2008 (Grand Prix Finale)

Well, I gave it my best shot. It's been a rough second half to 2008, but I decided last Tuesday to race today after 3 weeks off due to yet another injury to the right side. I figure better to try and fail than not try at all. Today several streaks ended for me, including an undefeated run through the 2008 Gold Country Grand Prix, and a 13 race win streak in the grand prix (including 2 wins over today's winner), dating back to June of 2007. This was also my last likely chance to win my 18th race of the year (I believe I'm 17 for 22), which would have beat my previous best of 17 from a largely injury free 2000. Although my fitness hadn't been affected as much as I'd feared by my time off, I had only tested my speed on flat terrain. Namely, a treadmill. After a couple easy runs, i was able to run 5:23 per mile for 4 miles (21:33), and on Sunday was able to run 16:25 for a 5k (5:17+ per mile). Factoring in the lower elevation, and adding in the terrain, I figured to be in between 16:30-17:00. After just a few minutes on course, I knew that would be unlikely. I'd tucked in behinnd the 5k & 10k leaders, and after running with them for a few minutes, they promptly dropped me at the base of Litton Hill. I would get no closer from here on out, and at times felt that I was closer to jogging than racing. I really struggled with the hills, both the ups (trying to hold a good pace without spiking the heart rate), and the downs (trying to take full advantage of possible speed without pissing off the hip). As it was, I couldn't manage either. I ended up running almost 2 1/2 miles of the race by myself, and finished a distant second, more than a minute off the leader. Similar to the Tahoe Relay in June, it was one of those races where it was such a struggle, that it makes you want to go back to the drawing board and figure out where to go from here. Do to the nature of my "injury" (ie-not knowing exactly what's wrong and therefore not knowing how to treat it), I'm not sure what's next. I plan on trying to train through at least next weekend so I can attempt a decent run at the XTerra Worlds in Hawaii on 12/7. After that, who knows. My 2009 plan is already being altered. I'd be fine with taking a month, or 6 weeks, or whatever off, if I knew that would be the end of it, but I don't. I DO know that I don't have the energy to keep playing the comeback game. I've grown accustomed to running at less than 100% since coming back from 4 years off in 2006, but when my battle in races is against my own body more times than not, maybe it's time to quit?
In 3 years of the grand prix, i've only been slowed by injury, which is both encouraging & incredibly frustrating. I was on a roll in 2006 (4 wins in 4 races), before a persistant hip flexor ended my training. I ran the final 3 races that year, but was close to a minute per mile slower. Last year I lost one race of 9(to today's winner) early in the year while getting back in shape after a 7 month layoff. After 7 weeks off (and 5 weeks in an air cast) this summer, I was able to get back to where I'd beenafter 3 months of good training, and actually beat my time from last October's "Colors" race by 42 seconds. No reason to believe i'd run so poorly the next month...but 8 days after that race, I could barely walk and only "ran" twice over 22 days...once in the Monster Run 10k, where my injury was hidden by the fact that the course was a muddy mess (so pretty much everyone was forced to jog), and a painful 6 miler a week later. My only immediate plans are "liquid therapy"...a mini stout taste-off after dinner tonight (Deschutes Obsidian v. Anderson Valley Barney Flats v. Mendocino Black Hawk v. Lagunitas Imperial). Yum. Looking forward to that, before heading to BevMo tomorrow to pick-up mass quantities of very expensive and very good brews.
To end on a positive note (I know, BEER is positive), Turi destroyed his old PR at the Sparks Turky Trot running 43 minutes, 18? seconds and Peter achieved his goal of breaking 40 on today's trail course by running 39:52, and now looks more than ready to break 3 hours at the Redding Marathon in January. Way to go guys!!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

1st hard run since October

well...the pain in my a@# has been kept in check over the last few days, probably now a 3 on a scale of 1-10 in stead of an 8 or 9...the tightness in the peraformis, hip flexor, and s.i. joint is still quite high (8ish), but after more than 3 weeks of, I've run about 19 miles over the last three days, and did a treadmill time trial today, to see if there's any chance of actually running WELL next week. Since a treadmill is a little easier, I'd add about 3 seconds per mile to today's run if it were on a fastish road course, but I was relatively happy that after 3 weeks of beer, chicken wings, weights, and cross training, that running in the 5-minute range didn't feel totally foreign. I was able to run a 21:33 4 miler/5:23+ per mile (after a 2 mile warm-up), with mile splits of 5:25, 5:24, 5:23, and 5:21 (5k split of 16:44). The warm-up and cooldown were shorter than usual, and I was DEAD afterwards (and will be sore tomorrow), but being that this was my first test, I was happy that I've only lost about 8 seconds per mile over a 4 mile run. AND, I got to break in a new pair of Katana Rac3rs (also Nike, about an ounce heavier than the Mayfly). I'm hoping to get one or two more challenging runs in before next Tuesday, and one more treatment on the hip, so i can get some of those 8 seconds back...that's 25 seconds over 5k & 50 over a 10k afterall, and I don't think they'll give me a head start.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sierra Nevada dual beer tasting

Abby, Ben & I had a 24 oz. Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale "fresh hop ale" (Spring 2008 release) side by side with a Sierra Nevada 12th release Harvest Ale "wet hop ale" (fall 2008 release). Although they were significantly different in character, we each had a hard time deciding which was better. The concensus was that the wet hop ale was smoother, with a better mouthfeel, and the fresh hop ale was more bitter & slightly more aromatic. All 3 of us gave a slight edge to the 12th release wet hop ale, scored as follows...
Ben 12th Ann. Wet Hop B
SH Fresh Hop B
Abby 12th Ann. Wet Hop B+
SH Fresh Hop B
Chris 12th Ann. Wet Hop B+ (ever so close to an A-)
SH Fresh Hops B
So...both were good beers for hopheads...the fall release wet hop ale averaging a B+, and the fresh hop ale getting a B from each of us. The scores I gave were particularly high considering I'm not a HUGE Sierra Nevada Fan. There is a common thread in all their regular beers that make them seem very unspectacular...but I am finding that many of their seasonals & special releases are a whole 'nother story.
Maybe I'll start posting more about beer and less about running if I can't get back to it is day 14 since the pain hit, and no end in sight (sigh)...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Gold Country Grand Prix points update #2

After the "monster" of a race on 11/1, where a few points leaders didn't show, here are the current standings, with 11 of 12 races done. My own status for race #12 is in serious doubt as my back & hip has not improved in the slightest over the last two weeks and several therapy sessions. I'll include the overall top 10 male & female, with AG (age group) leaders in bold, the red is runners who are undefeated within their respective AG...

t1. Therese Iknoian 100 pts (10 races)
t1. Lynne Hurrell 100 pts (10)
3. Diana Wilburn 82 pts (10)
t4. Breanne Mitchell 80 pts (8)
t4. Ronda Jensen 80 pts (8)
6. Anne King 77 pts (11)
7. Nadja Young-Warner 72 pts (8)
8. Amber Kinaston 70 pts (7)
9. Debi Fairchild 64 pts (10)
t10. Jamie Boutte 60 pts (6)
t10. Jessica Boutte 60 pts (6)

1. Mike Buzbee 92 (11)
t2. Ron Gross 90 (9)
t2. chris Badolato 90 (9)
4. Larry Defeyter 84 (9)
t5. Zach Stoll 83 (10)
t5. Steve Bond 83 (10)
7. Kael Newton 82 (10)
8. Jeff Boutte 80 (8)
t9. Austin Violette 77 (8)
t9. Darryl Beardall 77 (8)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Pain and waterslides

Peter Lubbers at the half-way mark...
yours truly finishing my "race"
...and I didn't even fall
I baptize you...

The pain refers to my new back/hip/a@* injury that has knocked me off my feet since Monday, and after run-limping through a 10k (2nd annual Monster Run) today, it is showing no signs of letting up. Apparently, my sciatic nerve and peraformis muscles are only speaking to me when they want to yell, and they are doing that quite well. I'm really hoping to find a solution before this latest thing ruins what's left of 2008 (Turkey Trot & XTerra Worlds), and the long runs (January marathon and February 50k) that I have planned for early 2009. The waterslide refers to the only part of today's course that would have been fast IF it hadn't been raining cats & dogs since last night. When we lined up at the start, I was literally standing in a mini-river, currents and all...and that was the easy part. Today's run was on a course that is a trail runner's dream (for a training run), but I think whoever thought it would be a good idea to have a race here may need to seek help from a medical health proffesional. After a 100 yards on the only stretch of road/river on the course, we made a left and immediately started a muddy downhill. Not a gentle grade mind you, but a steep mudslide, take baby steps so you don't end up on your keister type downhill. So the only part of the course that may have been fast under normal conditions turned into a downhill crawl. On top of the mud, which alternated between the sinking several inches variety, to the slip-fall-break your neck variety, there were hairpin turns conveniently located where there was the worst possible footing. Several people (especially on the second 5k loop, when everything was slicker from 1st loop traffic) where using their hands, as well as their feet, to make the 1st ridiculous turn and climb the ensuing uphill. Pete led down that 1st hill, and I tucked in with a small pack behind him, Larry, Zach and a few others. It didn't seem like anyone was or could run particularly hard for most of the first mile. That's the difference betwen today's course and Pete & I's favorite GP run, the Salmon Run. While the Salmon Run was harder, it was also entirely runable. There were rocks and monster hills, but at least you could race it. Today, even without my injury, would have been about surviving.
I was hurting from the warm-up, and again right after the gun. The good thing is that the pain reached it's height pretty early and just stayed the same the rest of the way. I didn't take the lead until close to the mile mark, and I hit the downhill mile in 6:40. 6-freakin'-40! In the lead! There weren't any stretches that were much faster the rest of the way. Mile 1-2 was flatter, so a bit faster (6:20ish). Mile 2-3.1 was mostly climbing, a 180 degree turn, and a couple switchbacks so it was pretty slow. The 10k ran the 5k course twice...I came through 1st in about 21:42 (7:00 pace). Zach was next. Larry came in right after as the first 5k runner in 22-something...there was no clock. As I'd taken it pretty easy the first loop (partly to manage my pain, and partly due to the course) I thought it would be easy to run even or negtive splits. I didn't know how far back Zach & Pete were, but I wasn't planning on working any harder unless I needed to. Due to the half mile long slip n' slide, though, the fourth mile was 20 seconds slower than the first. I ran the remaining 2 miles or so well within my limits but hurting like hell nonetheless, and came in 1st in between 43:28-43:31 (again, no clock...i hope they took times...). Mile 5-6 is the only part of this race where the heart rate was anywhere near where it should be during an all out effort, which is both good and bad I guess.
Not too many stuck around for the "awards" and bbq-still raining cats & dogs & all. Although it was stated as clear as day on the flyer/registration form that they were doing awards for the top 3 overall, as well as age group and best costume, the RD disputed this when Pete (who came in 3rd overall in the 10k) brought it up. Shoulda got my form from the car. Not a big deal, as they only had ribbons for age group & a medal for 1st overall...but it's the principle of the thing (RDs are you listening???). If you're going to advertise awards for top 3 overall, you might want to actually have awards for the top three overall. There is such a wide range in quality of races/organization/awards within the Gold Country Grand Prix. This one, like a few others, had the quality of being thrown together and being nothing more than a fundraiser. Probably not one I'll do again. When my wife pointed out that the shirt back advertised a 5k only (meaning this year's shirts are probably last year's leftovers) that was just the icing on the cake.
Not to be lost in my rant, is that 13 year old National Class runner Zach Stoll had one of his better races of recent years. He finished strong and came in a few seconds under 46 minutes, second overall in the 10k! Good job Zach! After jumping in the lake to get the mud off before returning to our vehicles, Abby, Hannah, Peter and I went out for coffee & food. I'm off to NY now with Hannah, who is almost 2. Enough said? What do you get when you add an impatient Dad, a thrown out back, a "normal" 22 month old, and an 8 hour plane ride? I hope they serve strong drinks!!! We'd taken Hannah out in her Cinderella costume for Halloween, which is where the non-race pics are from.
Hopefully, I'll get back into my routine before returning to Reno next Saturday...the Turkey Trot was the deepest 5k & 10k in the series last year, so I can't hope to win anything running like I did today. Wish me luck, and see y'all later in the month.