Saturday, December 31, 2016

Here are my last six beer reviews of 2016.

This bottle of Brothers Craft Brewing's Verdure was a gift from a friend who participates in various projects with the brewery. This beer might not be available to the general public, there was no UPC symbol on the label and I couldn't find any reviews at It is possible that I am enjoying something exclusive with both of the first two reviews in this batch. I didn't think to ask... sometimes, the best thing to say is simply thank you.

Anyway. Brothers Craft Brewing’s Passion Fruit Vurdure is a Berliner Weissbier. It has a very low ABV (less than 4%) and a tangy character that I found very versatile. I sipped some while cooking dinner the other night and paired the rest with my lean beef and vegetables. I thought it was delicious. This beer pours bright yellow with very little foam and a lot of carbonation. The aroma is tart and bright, the passion fruit doesn’t dominate the sourness of the beer’s aroma, but it is there. The flavor is sour enough to pack a little punch, but it finishes clean and bright and doesn’t blind the palate at all. What a wonderful dinner beer.

I’m far from an expert on Berliner Weisse, but the ones I’ve had are turning me into a fan. I can’t taste a tremendous amount of difference between the passion fruit and pineapple variants of Brother’s Verdure, but I’ve enjoyed them both quite a bit. Like the passion fruit version, I found that this one paired well with lean meat and vegetables, and was delicious to sip on it’s own while I was cooking. Like the passion fruit version, this one is tart and bright. The fruity notes are clearly there, but the difference between the variants is a little lost on me. All I know is that this beer pours bright yellow with average head, smells slightly tart, tastes more than slightly tart, and goes down really easy. I’d drink this again in a heartbeat, and I'd buy it in six-packs very happily.

Barn Dog, a porter by Wyndrige Farm, really isn’t a bad beer. It pours chocolate brown, there isn’t much head, and the truth is, it doesn’t smell very good. There is a muted, plastic quality to the aroma that covers the mild chocolate and vanilla notes with something that just ain’t right. But the flavor is a big improvement. The vanilla comes through on the front and the finish is a combined mix of chocolate, coffee, and a little bit of hops. After that slightly bad smell, the slightly good flavor is a nice surprise. Plus, there is a dog wearing a monocle on the label. That's gotta be worth something.

I hate to use a word like "lush" in a beer review, but "lush" is exactly the right word for Old Hickory's Lindley Park Barrel Aged Imperial Stout. It pours dark brown without much foam, and the aroma is chocolate and vanilla from the barrel aging, plus a hint of the raspberries. The flavor adds coffee to that mix. The raspberries come through on the finish and don’t dominate the flavor, they just add an indulgent quality after all of the character from the malt and the barrel. This is the kind of beer that closes a meal in style, but it was also fine by itself.

This is the first chance I’ve had to try Bell’s Black Note Imperial Stout, and I think this beer deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the hard to find, crazy expensive stuff. It’s that good. Black Note pours black with crimson highlights and basically no head at all (11.5% ABV). The aroma is huge baker’s chocolate and vanilla. Big, rich, a lot of punch, just a tremendous smelling beer. The flavor is delicious. That chocolate and vanilla are right there, and the bourbon barrel comes through strong on the finish. Coffee and toffee notes, and roasted nuts are also a presence. This is fantastic beer.

I shared my last beer of the year with Lucky. Like me, she's enjoyed all of Hardywood's Gingerbread Stout variants this year. And, like me, she was anxious to try this one. We agreed that we haven't had a variation of Hardywood's GBS stout that was anything less than outstanding. And Rum Barrel Aged GBS is one more home run, just as I expected. This version isn't significantly different from the other variations, I'm not sure that the rum barrel aging was able to distinctly and clearly distinguish itself from the already pronounced ginger and spice tones of regular GBS. But it's still damn fine beer, no matter how it's been aged. This one pours dark brown to black with average but brief head (as do the others). The aroma, like other versions of GBS, is sweet, spicy and rich. So is the flavor. There may be a little more sweetness and a little more Caribbean spice going on here, as compared to the bourbon barrel aged and coffee blended varieties. But it isn't enough to significantly change the character of an already fantastic stout. I have absolutely no complaints. Hardywood, I don't know if you are capable of a misstep.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Six more beer reviews.

Farmer Ted's Cream Ale by Catawba Brewing just kinda lays there. It pours pale yellow with a quick, crackling head and average carbonation. The aroma is like a slightly sweeter adjunct lager. Corn, rice, etc. Maybe some wheat. A little bit of sugar seems to be a presence on the flavor. I didn’t hate it. There isn’t much going on here, but it isn’t bad.

Catawba Brewing's Firewater IPA is not really an interesting IPA, but not a bad one. It pours orange in color with very little foam. The aroma is a little bit of grassy hops, vegetables, and mildly sweet notes. The flavor is dominated by the hops in a perfectly acceptable way. The malt is not undetectable. Decent.

Brown Bear is the name of Catawba Brewing's brown ale. It pours chocolate brown with a fair amount of light brown foam. The aroma is caramel and a little bit of spice and grassy hops. The flavor is caramel up front, and closes with a very mellow, slightly sweet malt. Not terrible, not life changing. One more beer.

I mean, OK, fine, I guess. Peacemaker Pale Ale, by Lonerider Brewing, pours copper colored without much foam. The aroma is malty and the flavor is malty, but not really distinct or rich or interesting. Not bright and hoppy enough to be a good lawnmower beer, but the malt just lays there. It’s not a terrible beer but it’s really not much of a beer at all.

Westbrook Brewing's Gose is tasty. The can promises that this beer is "sour, salty, and delicious," and the beer keeps those three promises in spades. It pours clear yellow with a ton of bubbles and a little bit of quick-fading foam. The aroma is salty and piercing tartness, the kind of character I associate with cold apple cider or only lightly sweetened lemonade. The flavor is crisp, very sour, and salty on the finish. Low ABV makes this a session winner. I could suck these things down all day.

Give Me Stout Or Give Me Death is a stout that is brewed in collaboration between Stone, Hardywood, and Ardent. For some reason, the insufferable douche-nozzle who currently inhabits the Virginia Governor's Mansion is also listed as a participant in this beer's creation. This stout pours black with a tan head. The aroma is very much like any imperial stout, with roasted malt and coffee notes, plus a very faint and indistinct hint of the berries mentioned on the label. It is to Stone’s credit that they don’t overdo it with ancillary ingredients. The flavor is rich and hearty, with a strong, bitter quality dominating the character. The berries aren’t much of a presence on the tongue, and the stout isn’t really anything special, but it certainly isn’t bad. Maybe if Stone hadn't felt compelled to somehow involve Virginia's current carpetbagging shitheel governor in the recipe, it would have turned out better.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Six more.

The Bruery's Terreux Batch No. 1731 is billed as sort of a session sour. It might be a good gateway between the IPA and sour styles. It’s fairly straight forward, not aggressive, but funky and a little tart. It pours yellow with a huge head and a decent amount of carbonation. The aroma is remarkably well balanced. The first thing I pick up on is the tart brett fermentation, blended well with the triple hop bill. Notes of sour apples, cheese, and taffy blend with dry, bright, lean hops on the nose. The flavor is all of that but closes with a piercing dry bite that is outright shocking (to me) for a beer with the word "session" on the label. It speaks well of The Bruery that their "session" sour still kicks some. This beer is absolutely IPA, absolutely a stun-grade sour, and yet absolutely a session beer. That’s a lot to play in one hand, but every suit is present.

Hardywood's Gingerbread Stout can stand up to just about anything Hardywood decides to throw at it, and it seemingly always adds the new elements to it’s ensemble gracefully. The regular recipe is delicious, and the Brandy Barrel, Bourbon Barrel, and Coffee versions are all even better. This version, Kentucky Christmas Morning, with both bourbon barrel aging and coffee fusion, is also delicious. But I think the coffee gets a little lost in the avalanche of flavor. It pours coffee/chocolate brown with big, tan had. The bourbon and gingerbread character are strong on the aroma and very strong on the flavor, just like the bourbon barrel aged version of GBS.

To my palate it’s also just a notch hotter than the bourbon barrel variant, which is odd since it’s actually about half a tick lower in ABV. I expected the coffee to show up in the mix in a big way, too, and it just doesn’t. Still, when my principle complaint is that it tastes like BBGBS (a delicious, incredibly well-crafted stout), it’s hard to consider that a complaint. Coffee? Sure, the label says so, so I guess it’s there, but I don’t taste it. All I taste is another delicious Hardywood barrel aged, malty masterpiece.

Paranoid Aledroid by Triple Crossing is is a delicious, really creamy, citrusy pale ale that would be fantastic for session consumption. It pours hazy yellow with a ton of head. The aroma is grassy and slightly tart, and there is a sweet fruit and citrus character to the flavor that I could drink all day. Bananas, pineapple, a bready, wheat beer backbone... it’s hard not to suck this down in a hurry.

Hardywood's Cassowary is the base Imperial stout for several of their other beers. It's a very, very sweet stout that became a little too sugary for me by the end of the bottle... but as a beer to share with friends as dessert, this would be just about perfect. It pours black with a lot of tan head. The aroma is huge baker’s chocolate and a little bit of chicory, a little bit of anise. The flavor is super sugary, as you’d expect from a big milk stout. All that lactose is a giant sugar bomb, which dominates the baker’s chocolate and coffee/roasted malt qualities. It’s a good beer, but this is definitely one to share.

Clown Shoes Hammer Of The Beast is kind of a "stunt beer." It's a blend of two stouts and a barley wine, aged in rum barrels. High concept stuff for sure. This beer pours dark brown to black with a light tan head. The aroma is fascinating. The first thing I notice is the rum barrel aging. The aroma is slightly sweet and boozy, with barley wine character coming through after the rum, and molasses and brown sugar and herbal notes blending with a bunch of malt. Then the stout comes through on the flavor in a big way. Coffee and chocolate kind of swirl and mingle with the barley wine notes, although the flavor is dominated by the stout. I enjoy the way this beer plays one card distinctly, and then the other, without ever losing a bit of it in the shuffle. I don’t know that I would want it every day, but this is as unique and tasty as a novelty beer can be.

Great Lakes Blackout Stout is a very bold, bitter, strong stout that holds it’s own even in the current onslaught of fantastic stouts and porters turned out by American craft breweries. The body is black with a thin, cream-colored head. The aroma is rich and malty, with some hoppy notes in the background. Big, rich, roasted bitterness all over the flavor, and the finish offers a lingering look at that 9% ABV. Well done.

Friday, December 16, 2016

If you wanna read six beer reviews, you're in luck. Here's six beer reviews. Again, this set is heavy on stuff I got to sample because of the generosity of my friend Adam. Adam is my Beer Guy. Everybody needs a Beer Guy, and I hope your Beer Guy is half the Beer Guy that Adam is.

Triple Crossing's Falcon Smash is a strong, tangy IPA that flirts with sweetness without ever tipping in that direction. It pours hazy orange without a lot of foam. The aroma is grapefruit, lemon, all kinds of citrus, and a hint of sugar. Something in the background reminds me a little of chewing gum. The flavor is big and clean, the finish is dry. Hell yes.

Battle Creek is a DIPA from Triple Crossing's Lockout Series. It is a fantastic, juicy, balanced DIPA with an 8% ABV so buried beneath a mountain of tangy hop tastiness that it’s almost undetectable. This beer pours a slightly cloudy yellow/light-orange with average head. The aroma is lemon and tangerine and musky, oily richness. Big, juicy flavor. The kind of beer that makes it hard to believe that citrus isn’t an actual ingredient. Just a pure pleasure to drink.

I've been looking for Ballast Point's Mocha Marlin for quite a while and I finally found it in Lexington. This is a very good coffee porter, although I don’t think I like it as much as my beloved, regular version of Black Marlin. This beer pours chocolate brown with average foam and carbonation, like the original recipe. The coffee addition is all over the nose and tongue. This beer smells and tastes like rich, slightly sweet espresso and a little bit of chocolate. There is already a bright morning-blend coffee tone going on in regular Black Marlin, but here it’s more of a rich, dark espresso character. The American hop quality and slightly tangy finish of the original stuff is muted, here, in favor of more of that espresso. Espresso front to back. It’s good, but I’m in love with Black Marlin as it is, and this diversion can’t replace Ballast Point’s delicious hoppy porter.

I’ve not yet had one bad beer from The Veil Brewery, and OK Guy is one more good one. This peach/apricot double IPA pours hazy orange, and my can was as clumpy as a lava lamp. That’s fine, it doesn’t effect the drinkability or the flavor, and this beer is very drinkable. The aroma has the musty simcoe hop thing going on, and there is a fruity character I’d expect from a beer with added peaches and apricots. The flavor is the same, I don’t really taste apricots or peaches specifically... just a tangy fruity kind of thing that gives this beer a little something extra. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

Sierra Nevada's Christmas Jam is the best session IPA I’ve had. I actually liked it. I’d have thought this was a regular ol’ IPA if you’d poured it and handed me a glass without telling me that the S word was on the bottle. It pours golden yellow with a fair amount of foam. The aroma is lemony and grassy, it smells great. The flavor is clean and slightly malty, with a big, hoppy finish. Not watery, not weak, not boring, not thin. This beer actually tastes good. I usually think that session IPA is a waste of potable water. But this is actual beer.

I'm sure at this point that I am the only person who is surprised to hear me say this, but it's just the truth: Hardywood has replaced Stone as my favorite brewery. What that brewery does with stout is just pure, perfect, accessible, gorgeous art. for instance, Hardywood's Gingerbread Stout... it is delicious on it’s own, and the barrel aged version is fantastic. But there are other variants and I have not yet had a bad one. This coffee version is just about as good as coffee stout gets. It pours dark chocolate brown with average head. The coffee is strong on the aroma, but doesn’t mask the ginger and slightly sugary richness of regular GBS. The flavor plays the coffee card really strongly. To my taste it’s mostly a coffee stout, although the gingerbread character is still there, floating in the background. I don’t know if Hardywood can do any wrong at this point.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

My last two races of 2016 were back-to-back weekends, which isn't usually something I can pull off on a shift-worker's schedule. These were my 24th and 25th races, and the second and third races I've run accompanied by Lucky. Both of them were called the Jingle Bell Run; I suppose every other town in America has a Jingle Bell Run 5K in December. Both Lucky and I did particularly well in the first of these two races. Although neither of us set the world on fire in the second race, we both had fun.

Jingle Bell Run, Lexington, VA, December 3, 2016 ... (Time: 22:00)

The Lexington Jingle Bell Run was on a Saturday morning that started out pretty cold but was very comfortable by late morning. This was my second year participating in this event, and last year I ran what was my then PR for the distance. This year I did even better, finishing with a PR for the course and the distance, a decent twenty-two minutes flat. Lucky did well, too. She finished with a podium spot for her age group, which is quite impressive, given that this race divided runners into divisions of fifteen years or more.

Over the first two miles of this race I ran pretty well. I don't think anyone passed me in those first two miles. During the third mile I began to get tired and I gave away three slots to better runners. This race has a lot of hills early on, and I tend to run well on hills. I attribute that ability to the leg-strength I gained over years of carrying around 330 pounds. Short, fast races are never going to be my specialty. I am better at running long than running fast. But my average 7:02 minute miles in this race are fast by my standards, and I'm happy with my numbers. Lucky was happy with her results, too. But I feel bad that I caused her to miss the race awards by dragging her off to a local beer store as soon as we were both across the finish line.

Jingle Bell Run, Roanoke, VA, December 10, 2016 ... (Time: 23:42)

Unlike the previous week's Jingle Bell Run in Lexington, the Roanoke Jingle Bell Run didn't really warm up over the course of the morning. In fact, this was my coldest day of racing yet. That's a dubious PR, and my only PR of the day, unfortunately. I was almost two minutes off my previous week's PR for the distance. I blame the 20 degree weather. I also blame the fact that I was too busy fooling with my Go Pro to warm up with a few laps around the block before the race. My lungs were angry during the couple of hills over the course of this race, and the last mile was particularly tough. There was another runner with whom I dogged it out for that last mile. I'd pass her, then she'd pass me. Then I'd pass her again, only to watch her pass me again. She passed me one last time during the last couple hundred yards. Afterwards I congratulated that runner and thanked her for pushing during the final third of the race. If she hadn't been there to push me, I'd have been even further behind my 5K PR.

Lucky wasn't thrilled with her time, either, but agreed with me that the cold had really zapped us both. Afterwards, during the awards ceremony, the founder of our running club noticed that Lucky and I have become kind of cozy over the past few weeks. So, this race ended with our quiet, happy little coming out party as a couple. No, I didn't PR during this race. And, no, I have never been happier in my life.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Six, with a big emphasis on Asheville Brewing

Asheville Brewing's Perfect Day IPA is a really nice combination of downable and mean. Pours yellow/orange with decent foam. Aroma has some kick to it, a little bit floral and a little bit pungent. The flavor is even better. Well balanced, bright, tangy, tart, some lemon, some crackery notes. I could get behind this thing regularly.

Rocket Girl is a lager by Asheville Brewing. It's not a bad lager, but more or less just one more lager. It pours bright yellow with a little foam. The aroma is one more lager, maybe a little richer than the corn/rice macro stuff at every convenience store. There’s something slightly tangy on the nose. The flavor is slightly tangy in the close. I don’t know, I guess it doesn’t suck or whatever.

Asheville's Lemon Space Dog IPA is a wheat beer. It's a big pile of lemon meringue sweetness, but not in a bad way. This beer pours very bright yellow with no real head to speak of. The aroma is like lemon candy and mildly yeasty notes. The flavor is more of that with a tiny bit of zing in the finish. I think this beer is fairly tasty.

Ninja Porter is Asheville Brewing's flagship porter. It's not an unusual or surprising porter, but a solid one. Pours dark, chocolate brown with little head. The aroma is coffee, chocolate, porter malts. The flavor is the same, but it closes with a slight but nice hoppy twang. I’d drink this again.

Ninjabread Man is a seasonal variant on Asheville's Ninja Porter. It pours dark brown with a lot of foam. The aroma is sweet and rich. Cinnamon, ginger, sugar, sweet Christmasy notes. The flavor is the same, with notes of molasses and spice rounding out the warm, malty porter finish. This beer is very enjoyable.

Hardywood continues to impress with barrel aging. The barrel aged version of Gingerbread Stout is complex, it’s spinning a lot of plates at once. But it doesn’t drop a single one, and the show is glorious. This beer pours big and brown with average head. The aroma is just a series of clamoring nosegasms. Everything you might think could possibly be there is there in spades, with vanilla and ginger and spice and raisins all blending perfectly into that delicious stout malt base. The flavor manages to pack it all in there, keep the tones bright and distinct, and not lose a bit of it. This ain’t noise. This is music. At once there is a rush of bourbon barrel aging, cinnamon, candied fruit, candied nuts, and big, sweet malt. It never gets old. It never becomes cloying. It’s crazy. I am so completely Hardywood’s bitch right now, and if anyone gave me a hard time about it, I’d point to beers like this. If I ever have another child, I’m naming that kid Hardywood.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Six beer reviews.

I think Green Man's Harvester Ale is one of the better Oktoberfest beers I’ve had, although I’m not a fan of marzens generally. So, take marzen praise from a non-marzen fan for what it is worth. This beer brings a sweet, rich quality to the style that makes it just highly drinkable. It pours bright golden color with a fair amount of foam. The aroma is sweet, with molasses and sugary malt very prominent. That’s the flavor, too. None of it really segregates to the front or back of the tongue, it’s just this swirl of mild hops, a little something like honey, a bit of pineapple... it all adds up to an unassuming but decidedly sweet brew that I found refreshing.

Green Man's ESB is not a bad bitter, but not really anything special. It pours caramel brown with a little bit of suds. The aroma is creamy, nutty, a little hint of floral hops and maple. The flavor is mildly sweet and malty, just a hint of caramel and toasted malt. OK, fine.

The flagship IPA by Green Man is OK. Just OK. It’s nothing to write love songs about. In Roanoke or Lexington it would actually be top tier, but this is from an Asheville brewery. Asheville is a whole ’nother with a whole 'nother standard. This IPA pours copper color with little head. The aroma is standard IPA. Some grassy hops, some cereal malt. Standard IPA taste, too. Not bad in any way. Just not Asheville.

Space Dust IPA by Elysian Brewing pours clear, dark yellow with thin foam. The aroma is lemon citrus, hay, some bready qualities. The flavor is big on that lemon up front but closes with a really clean, strong bitter hoppiness. Pretty good.

I had Hardywood's Rye Whiskey Barrel Pumpkin Ale on tap at the brewery and later from a bottle. I liked it much better on tap, there were creamy vanilla notes that I just don’t get from the bottle. It pours orange/brown with a good bit of foam. The aroma is like a pumpkin ale with some strong rye character. The flavor has more of the rye, but it isn’t as rich or as warm from the bottle as I thought it was on tap. It isn’t bad but it’s far from Hardywood’s A game.

Underground is a kvass, an example of an obscure low-alcohol style, by Flora Fonta in Morgonton, North Carolina. This beer is one of the strangest, and one of the best beers I have had in 2016. This beer pours hazy brown/yellow without much head. The aroma is just crazy. All kinds of qualities come through; fermented apples, sauerkraut, crusty bread, something like wet cardboard. The flavor is tart and bright and really odd. On the finish there is a salty, moldy kind of thing that I find hard to describe. Somewhere between kombucha and a sour ale. I’m completely indifferent about the low ABV. The body is light and crisp. This beer has surprised me more than anything else I’ve had this year, and I really love it.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Here's six more, and like the last batch, this set features several more from The Veil. I am indebted to my pal Adam for bringing me these beers to try. The Veil is poised to bump Hardywood out of my #1 Virginia Brewery spot at this point.

The Veil's We Ded Mon is a very big, uncompromising Imperial IPA. The brewery bills it as a triple, and it’s hard to argue with the designation. This beer pours dense, pale orange. The head fades quickly. The aroma is very strong and aggressive, in league with the last release of Lagunitas The Waldos and Stone's RuinTen. Nose notes include grapefruit, mango, and all manner of funk. It's supremely bitter, the flavor is mean as hell. Bright up front, closing strong and dank with an unmistakable presence of the big ABV. On the swallow it hits again like a tank backfiring. Big, skanky beer.

Dirt Nap is another imperial IPA by The Veil. It pours with a body like pulpy orange juice. The foam on the top is thin but stubborn. Smells like mildly bitter orange juice, too, but the flavor leans toward grapefruit. Still sweet, but tangy, bitter, with a significant kick. Absolutely no hint of the 8.8% ABV. Just giant juice with a dry, bright twist in the finish.

As long as The Veil keeps turning out delicious beer, I will forgive their tendency to give their brews trendy sounding names, such as Never Heardofit. This gose is light, refreshing, and a really nice after-dinner beer. Pours blood red with a pink, foamy head. The aroma is tart, sweet, fruity candy. I figured that would get old by the end but it never wore out it’s welcome. The flavor is bright, juicy and sour. The finish is sweet berries, a little salt, a little lemon. I probably wouldn’t buy this often, The beers I set out to track down are the ones that plunder your palate. But it is the kind of thing I’d crave occasionally if I had it more than two or three times.

Another established favorite that somehow fell between the boards, I only recently realized that I'd failed to review Sierra Nevada's Hoptimum Imperial IPA at or here at the blog. This beer is a giant mouth twister. Hoptimum pours bright, clear orange with a lot of foam. It has legs for days. There is a big, aggressive hop aroma with the usual West Coast mega bitter notes... citrus, gym socks, litter box stank and something like cabbage. The flavor is that to the power of ten. This is aggressive beer. Hoptimum rubs hard.

5 Beans is Six Point's current version of the bean porters. This year's variation is the least of the three releases so far. It's still very good, but the adjunct ingredients may be on the verge of overkill. It pours very dark brown with tenacious, caramel cream colored foam. The aroma is a little overwrought. The coffee and chocolate from the previous releases are drowned out by an overly spicy, synthetic quality. There is some smoke, some allspice and pepper, but mostly a cough-syrup like density. The flavor is better than the aroma, but that cherry cough drop quality is still a presence. The coffee is there, the chocolate is there, but they are subjugated to a secondary role.

Allagash Little Brett is something like a session sour. I tried it, anyway. Little Brett ought to be called Very, Very Little Brett. Or maybe Very, Very Little of Anything. This beer pours pale yellow with a ton of head. The aroma is a bit promising, it has a mild suggestion of that funky, cheesy Brettanomyces thing going on. The flavor subdues it into almost nothing. This is probably the right beer to use to introduce sours to someone who is pale with terror at the very idea. But if you’re already neck deep in the sour thing, this beer is only going to mildly annoy you. It’s not awful, it’s probably OK for quenching thirst. But not for much else.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Star City Half Marathon, Roanoke VA, November 19, 2016. (Time: 1:46:33)

This year's Star City Half Marathon was my 23rd race, and my strongest race yet. This was my fourth half-marathon of the year. I not only PR'd the race, I finished with such a strong PR that I don't know when or if I'll be able to top it. I did a number of things differently before this race, and any one of them might have been enough to throw me off my game. Instead, it all seems to have added up to the perfect set of new variables. I went into the race prepared to just have fun and not worry too much about my splits or my time. I ended up running strong and feeling great, and I was really happy with my numbers.

One of the changes I made was running in very light knee braces. More sleeves than braces, really. The heavy, metal-hinged braces I've been racing in cut my inner legs so badly that I always finish races raw and bloody. After the marathon last month I decided I was sick of the distraction of the extra pain caused by the braces. I would rather run a little more slowly for a while with less knee support than spend another post-race day constantly un-sticking my jeans from the raw sores inside my legs.

I also went into this race feeling under-trained. I like to have a couple of ten mile runs the week before a half marathon, and during the week that lead up to this race I just didn't have time for anything more than my de rigueur six mile runs.

But the biggest change, the biggest distraction, is the incredible woman who's come into my life since the marathon in October. Out of respect for her privacy, I won't refer to her by name here at this blog. Given the profound effect she seems to have had on my running, I'll give her the nickname "Lucky." Having her in my life feels like the sun has come out from behind the clouds after years and years of struggling.

Lucky is also a runner. She ran with me some during the week leading up to the race, and she ran the half-marathon with me as well. Maybe our relationship is good luck for her, too, because she finished the race with a PR of her own.

Other things I did before the race seemed like logical pre-race strategy, and I'm glad to have at least taken a few things more seriously this time out. I ate right, I got plenty of rest, and Lucky gave me a pre-race leg-rub that made me feel more capable and better tuned than I've ever felt before a race.

All of it added up to the best I've ever felt during and after a race, and I hope it's an indication of the current direction of my life in general. I can't remember having been this happy in a really long time.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Six more.

The Veil's Single Brothers is one more over the top dank, juicy imperial IPA. I love the style, so that's no complaint. Single Brothers pours dark, hazy brown/orange with a lot of head. Gigantic grapefruit and floral hop on the front of the nose, with some hay and butter lurking in the background. Very juicy, tart, creamy, bitter, bright flavor. Just delicious.

Boss Man, by The Viel, is a sour imperial IPA. It pours cloudy, pale orange with a fair amount of foam that disappears in a hurry. This beer is all IPA up front. In the nose there are big, floral hops, citrus, some buttery malt. The flavor is dominated by the sour. It hits hard mid-tongue, and the twist is rich and tangy. Notes of peaches and granny smith apples make it pungent and funky. Yes, sir, I like it.

The Veil's Kevin Kevin is the DIPA version of one of their sour IPAs. It pours cloudy orange without much head. The aroma is funky and sly. Lemons, gym socks, cat pee, a little buttered bread, all of it intriguing. Some sour IPAs, to my taste, are bitter hops up front with sour in the finish. This one does it the other way around. I get the sour on the front of the tongue and it closes with bright, dry hops. Compared to other Veil IPAs, this one lays there a little bit on the finish. From another brewery this would be a huge hit, but from the Veil this one is merely damn good.

New Belgium's Lips of Faith Tart Lychee pours hazy pale yellow with very little head. The aroma is really nice. The sour and a buttery malt both come through on the nose. Very tart, strong flavor on the front of the tongue, and mellow in the finish. I don’t pick up on the cinnamon but I don’t care. This thing tastes great.

New Belgium and Oud Beersel's Lips of Faith sour called Transatlantique Kriek is a damn serious sour. It pours burgundy red with basically no head. The aroma is very strong, tart cherries. The flavor is also very strong, tart cherries, a little bit of wood, a little dab of mud, and some honey. Big ol’ aggressive beer. Sour as Hillary Clinton’s dreams. I love it.

Brothers Craft Brewing isn't re-inventing the wheel with Resolute, a barrel aged Russian imperial stout. But there is nothing wrong with playing a familiar tune if you can play it this well. Resolute pours dark, chocolate brown with average foam. The aroma is really rich with a little spice and vanilla. The flavor is dense and flavorful. A lot of coffee, anise, some nutty character, bright notes, and strong, sweet, mellow vanilla hints of the barrel. This is the kind of beer that reminds me why barrel aging an imperial stout never fails to make me happy.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Here's six beer reviews, this edition featuring all Wicked Weed brews. I got most of these at the bottle shop at Wicked Weed's Brewery Pub in Asheville. I picked up a couple of them at another bottle shop in Asheville. While none of these were bad, I do want to say that the beer that is on tap at Wicked Weed's two Asheville locations is much, much better. You can read my reviews of the two Wicked Weed locations in Asheville at this link.

Wicked Weed's La Bonté Sour, the plum variant, pours hazy orange with a creamy head that fades to a rim ring. The aroma is rich, creamy, and tart. It might sound crazy, but the aroma reminds me a bit of Vermont cheddar cheese. Definitely one of the funkier beers I’ve had. The flavor is rich and malty on the front and then closes with sour bite and the wild, sense-expanding blast of a brettanomyces beer. Plum notes are present on the swallow and exhale. This is what I'd have called a sophisticated beer a few years ago, but I just call it damn tasty today.

This bottle of Wicked Weed's Freak Of Nature Imperial IPA was brewed about two weeks before I drank it. I may have never had a fresher IPA. Wicked Weed says " Drinking this beer is like stuffing your face into a bag of fresh hops while eating a tangerine," and I guess my main quibble is I’d have said "lemon" rather than "tangerine." This beer pours bright, clear, pale orange with a very tenacious, creamy head. I get lemon zest and some spice on the aroma. More lemon on the flavor, with hops, hops, hops. Just a giant, dry, uncompromising bitter, hop bomb that is as good as anything from Portland or San Diego.

Wicked Weed's Tropicmost Gose pours hazy yellow with a thin head. The aroma is sweet and slightly tangy. The flavor is like a crisp wheat beer up front and then the tart, fruity qualities flood the finish and mix with the malt for something very refreshing and bright. I like this.

Wicked Weed's Pernicious IPA is a bright, dry, crisp IPA. It pours golden yellow, lots of carbonation and a big pile of foam. The aroma is a little tangy, lemon and grassy hops. The flavor is lemony and crisp and clean. It isn’t an earth-shaker, but it’s an easy-going companion with bar food and an overall fine IPA.

Barrel Aged Lunatic Belgian Ale is the weakest of the Wicked Weed brews in this batch. It's good. Not great. And there is no real hint of the barrel, to my taste. It pours hazy blond, average head, average carbonation. The aroma is typical Belgian, rich-smelling esters, bananas, cloves, etc. The flavor is pretty much the same. The finish is fuller than many Belgians, though, so it gets points for that. This beer has a big ol' ass for a Belgian single.

I intentionally separated the plum and pear versions of La Bonté by a matter of days so I could try to review them more objectively. I liked the pear variation a lot when I had it at the Funkatorium. From the bottle at home this beer is still very good, but I don’t quite enjoy it as much as I did on tap. And I think I actually like the plum version a little better. This beer pours haze orange with a fast fading head, the aroma is tart and yeasty, but not with quite that pronounced cheese kind of thing I noticed in the aroma of the plum version. I don’t really pick up on pears on the flavor, just that same super-funky, wild, strong brett sourness that makes the other variations so good. Really, all the variations of this beer that I've tasted have been damn fine. Wicked Weed has made sours very accessible to this stout/IPA fanboy.