Thursday, May 10, 2012

The BEER blog: ruminations of a beer & math geek

Beer is good. Thursday, I reviewed my 3,000th different beer. In reality, there are probably a few more, but none that deserve the space in my limited memory to rate them accurately. That's why I rate em. To help remember. N Stuff. Those three thousand brews have come from 48 states (including DC) and 45 countries. From grocery stores, liquor stores, bars, breweries, trades, ebay, mail order(& homebrews that are not included in the total)...Dave's underwear drawer. You get the idea. On the site I use to track & score the beers I've had, - there are 81 styles of beer. I've at least sampled a beer or two from every style, some far more than others. My favorite styles by the numbers (ratings on a scale of 1-5, my average is a 3.5): 1. Imperial Porters (28) 4.15 average 2. Imperial Stouts (189) 4.13 (really my favorite if I had to pick, especially the barreled kind) 3. Flanders Red/Oud Bruin (25) 4.07 (combination of two similar them sours) 4. Belgian Quad (24) 4.06 5. Wild Ale (28) 4.01 (sours not brewed in the traditional flanders or lambic styles) 6. Barleywines (111) 3.96 (I combined American & English styles, too much overlap) 7. Imperial IPA (148) 3.93 (for the Hophead in me) 8. Old Ale (25) 3.90 (can be similar to Barlwywines, but merits it's own rank) 9. Strong Ale (101) 3.88 (kind of a catch-all catergory for big brews that don't fit another style) 10. Belgian Strong Ale (108) 3.87 (see strong ale, add Belgian)
I've tried more IPA/IIPAs than anything else (376), lots of stouts (321), pale ales (163), barleywines (111), spiced ales (108), belgian strongs (108), strong ales (101) and porters (96). By the numbers, my least favorite styles: reduced-alcohol (1.57), light lager (1.59), pale lager (2.03), strong lager (2.28) and lager (2.67). This would make it seem like I'm a regular lager hater, but I love Bocks & Doppelbocks. Most cheap (ie-pee pee) beers out there happen to be lagers, and that brings down the scores. The highest rated states are Indiana (12) 4.12, Illinois (17) 4.07, Ohio (16) 4.03, DE (34) 3.96, & Michigan (58) 3.89. Michigan is the only one that I'd really consider a top 5. The others have too small of a sample size and/or are dependent on one brewer (ie-Dogfish Head in DE). MY "real" top 5 states for beer: 1. California 3.61 This was a tough one, but soooo many awesome beers brewed here. 2. Oregon 3.64 Portland, San Diego, Denver (and Asheville, NC apparently)...the beer meccas of the US. 3. Colorado 3.6 4. MI 3.89 two of my favorites, Founders and Bells, call Michigan home. 5. WI 3.1 low average. but several awesome breweries - New Glarus, Tyranena, Ales Asylum... Lowest 3 are Wyoming at 2.18, Missouri at 2.48, and Texas at 2.78.
By volume: 1. California 911! 2. Oregon 210 3. Colorado 176 4. Nevada 167 5. Wisconsin 121 6. Massachussets 86 (mostly Sam Adams) 7. Washington 82 8. New York 76 9. Missouri 60 (mostly pee water) 10. Michigan 58 South Dakota, North Dakota, Arkansas: 0 (feel free to send me some). Favorite by country: 1. USA 3.52 lots o crap, sure, but TONS of awesome brews, brewers, and a neverending variety make this an easy call. 2. Denmark* 3.78 My favorite foreign brewer (Mikkeller) though they don't really have a brewery (gypsies). 3. Belgium 3.69 4. Norway 3.84 5. Scotland 3.73
By volume: 1.USA 2397 2. Belgium 134 3. Denmark 83 4. Germany 72 5. England 67 What are the best breweries in the land, you might ask? Well, let me tell you (though this gets a little hairy). Lots of really really good brewers will not make this list. It's a very short list, but those I deem to be the best of the best. Like I'd mentioned before, Mikkeller is my favorite non-Yankee brewer, but my top-10 are all Anerican.
1. Stone (49) 2. Deschutes (50) 3. Russian River (25) 4. New Glarus (36) 5. Alesmith (13) 6. Bells (19) 7. Founders (14) 8. The Bruery (37) 9. Cigar City (23) 10. Dogfish Head (34) And a just missed shout-out to Lost Abbey/Port, Great Divide, and Firestone Walker, among others. I've had beer, both good (think Sierra Nevada) and bad (Indian Wells) from many a brewer, but none more than these: 1. Boston Beer Co. 70 2. Mikkeller 68 3. Sierra Nevada 62 4. Great Basin (Reno) 51 5. Deschutes 50 6. Stone 49 7. Moylans/Marin 48 8. Rogue 47 t9. Silver Peak (Reno) 46 t9. Anh-Busch 46 (what can I say?) And finally, these...the top 1%, according to yours truly.
Ayinger Celebrator Bells Hopslam North Coast Rasputin 14 Deschutes The Abyss Russian River Pliny the Elder Stone Whiskey Barrel Double Bastard Dogfish Head Palo Santo Stone Red Wine 7-7-07 Vertical Epic Great Divide Espresso Yeti Sam Adams Chocolate Bock Cigar City Marshall Zhukovs Stone Imperual Russian Stout Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel Great Lakes Barrel Aged Blackout Deschutes Dissident (the original batch was amazing) Russian River Consecration Goose Island King Henry Schmidt/Maui/Stone Coconut Macadamia...Porter Alesmith Barrel Aged Speedway Stout Bells Expedition Stout Russian River Pliny the Elder New Glarus Belgian Red Firestone Walker 13 Alesmith Speedway Stout Great Divide Barreled/classic Yeti The Bruery Bourbon Smoking Wood Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout Goose Island Bramble Rye/Rare Bourbon County Russian River Supplication Cascade Sang Royale ****Everything you just read has likely already begun to change. 3001 is happening tonight. CHEERS!!!!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Rock-N-River The Second (& Bidwell...since I never got around to it)

The 2nd for myself, anyway. Turi, 1/4 of the aptly named Team Library Dork, has done this race every year since before he was born. Or something like that. I paced him last year in the half, and have watched other years from the sidelines. I'd only run in 2010, and because of good company, enjoyed the hell out of it despite getting a lashing the last mile. That year I ran 33:01. It was my best 10k since running a pr of 2001. I was quite healthy back then. You might even say robust. Not so much anymore, which is why the 33-flat was nice. As of February of this year, it had been my (then realistic) goal to get back to the 33's in this race. I knew the course. I liked the course. Despite the elevation, it's fast. Pretty flat, with an ever so slight uphill on the way up, and then the return trip back Downtown. I ran a negative split in 2010 despite imploding a little towards the end. But alas, it was not to be. The last Wednesday before the Bidwell Classic 5k a couple months ago, I did what was to be a pretty normal speed-workout, trying to get a little turnover back after taking a good portion of the summer & fall off. I completed the workout, and felt what at first I thought was some extra tightness in the hip flexor area. By that night, I thought maybe a mild strain. Next day...not so mild. Luckily, I hadn't been running 7 days a week for months, so I had a built in day off before Bidwell, and an easy day the day before. My hip did not respond as I'd hoped, but I kept my doubt mostly to myself as we traveled to Chico on Friday. Race morning dawns, and while still fearful, I'm pretty sure things will loosen up at least a little as I warm-up, stretch, and run (and they did, to an extent). I may not have been able to generate as much power as I'd liked, but basically felt ok with race-pace. The first mile went by in a pack of 6, including Scott & Zack, two other Reno runners who I had ocasionally been training with. Last year's champ, Nick, stared to pull away in the middle mile and Zack and Scott went with him. There was a small gap, and another pack of 3, myself included. Though the first mile was dead on goal pace, I couldn't quite hold it as Nick extended his lead. Scott and Zack ran side by side to the tape, while I fought for 5th overall in 16:20. I had hoped to be closer to 16, but as of yet, had no idea the extent of my injuries. All was (mostly) forgotten as we dined at Sierra Nevada for brunch and Burgers & Brews for dinner. As long as I didn't stand up. As the days turned into weeks, it became obvious that this was severe if it was a pull, or was something worse. No amount of time off running seemed to do much good, and things like, oh...sitting, walking, standing, bending, seemed to keep it juuuust irritated enough to not heal. After a few weeks, I stopped in to get the opinion of an old PT friend, who sent me to "the hip guy". The hip guy took an X-ray of my left hip (with a little right in there for good measure) and the results (if not threatening to my passion and therefore my general mental & physical well being) were downright comical. All kinds of fun stuff. "You see this round bone here? That's supposed to be a divet. See this extra lump here? That's putting bone on bone every time you take a full stride. See this hanging off? That peice broke off...pre-arthritic, nerves on the end of bones hitting nerves on the end of bones"...yada yada yada. Too similar for my taste to what was going on originally with my heel and Achilles in 2001. That surgery (4-6 mo. estimated recovery) took 4 years from my prime, and despite a few brief glimpses, I've never been the same. My running career has been a daily balancing act, trying to minimize overcompensating for a dizzying amount of injury upon injury without turning into a sedentary...well, that is not an option. Cortisone was an option, and one that I took a couple weeks later, but even if it was more successful that it seems to have been, it is a delay tactic. Sooner than later, I'll be back in for surgery on my hip, so, you know, the bones fit together like they are supposed to. Unfortunately for me, the cortisone does not seem to be keeping the soft-tissue surrounding my extra bone from being angry. My plan was to buy myself a little time, in order to have a late summer and fall racing season, then have the surgery in November, so I'm not sitting on my ass or otherwise stuck indoors during the nicest parts of the year. I'm not quite ready to call it a year, yet, but it seems as if surgery may come sooner than then. I'll know in a couple more weeks.
Which brings us back to Sunday. I've run roughly 30 or so miles, TOTAL, since the beginning of March, and none of them very fast. I've cross trained quite a bit, and put on 10 lbs, though :) I'd only decided very recently to still run Rock-N-River at all, if quite a bit slower than planned. I can't run ONE 5:20 right now, let alone 6.2 of em...back to back. The fastest I'd dared to go, both because of the pain caused by the injury, and the fact that my lungs are not what they once were, is 18:38 and 19:11 for two seperate 5ks, four days apart. I didn't think I could hold those paces for 10, but if I was going to sign up and spend money, I was going to run as hard as I could in my condition. I figured a 39 & change, 38 on a really good day. Despite the size of the field, I didn't see many familiar faces up front. Still, when the gun went off and I found myself in front by the time we turned off Virginia Street, I was surprised. And anxious, right from the start. I do NOT belong here running this pace. But what pace was I going? I have a pretty good internal pacer when healthy & in shape, but that goes out the window when one hasn't really run in 10 weeks. As it turns out, mile one was a bit too fast. Though I had been cautious and already backed off a little, my mile one split was 5:58. My lungs could feel it. Still not a pace I thought would be leading this race, and also a pace I knew I shouldn't try to hold. I slowed down for the remainder of the out section, and while the lead had shrunk, I still led at the turnaround by a couple seconds, in 19:06 (6:10 pace). I was hurtin, but running scared too. I'd spent half the race in the front, and competitive instinct took over. I didn't want to blow it now! While there were no fast guys in the field, the same cannot be said about the ladies. Local national class runner Sarah Rattier was on me like white on rice after my 2nd mile slow-down. She'd stay there until pretty late in the race. We retraced our steps, but I wasn't getting splits (if there were signs at miles 4, 5, and 6, I didn't see em). I hadn't thought I could run negative splits this time, even with the slight downhill, but I proved myself wrong. As I turned back on Virginia, I was fairly certain of not only holding the lead, but running under 38, which I honestly didn't think I could in the shape I'm in. Final time? 37:24. 18:18 for the 2nd 5k. 6:10 the first half, 5:54 second, 6:02 per for the whole thing...and a whole lotta luck that nobody showed up. I think I'd have barely cracked the top 10 in 2010 with that time.
Can't say I mind, though. A win is a win, and it's been a while! Unfortunately, right before they were to start the awards, I noticed they had me in 3rd, with a teenage boy having run a 8 minute 10k (doubly impressive seeing as how thats roughly 18 minutes under the track world record) and a female without an age having run a 29 (also a world record)! I was fairly certain they'd get it fixed eventually, but we were hungry, and it looked like the only thing we'd be waiting for was a medal that looked nearly identical to the finishers medal, with a different colored strap. Guess 2500 x $40 ain't enough for more than that, right? As I thought, I'm paying for my transgressions today. I can't really do any more damage (it's already done), so it's just a matter of pain management and figuring out when to do surgery. I've got a follow up in a week-and-a-half. If I can't figure out the plan in a week, I'll reschedule, but I'd rather have it done one way or the other. We'll see. So, that leaves the immediate future up in the aor, though I know at the least I'll be travelling to the Buzz Oats No Excuses 5k on Memorial Day, and the Burton Creek Trail Runs in Lake Tahoe a few weeks later. Whether or not I run, I still have to figure out. Your "moment of Zen"...look up the results for RNR on the RGJ website. If you can make heads or tails out of it, kudos to you :)