Archive | April, 2013

Oh, the sweet sweet taste of victory

29 Apr

Well, I attempted to write a poem about my ride yesterday.

In conclusion… I am not a poet. Yikes.
I write kind of how I think, disjointed and random, but somehow things tend to come together in the end, albeit often with much effort.

I’ve been stressed out lately. This is not an apt description. I have been burning out like a 1988 honda civic with four flat tires. Eeesh.
Money sucks, my job has been stressful, and I’m “neurotic to the bone, no doubt it”. So I tend to find every single thing that could possibly count as a failure in my life and I just zero in on it with absolute focus. I can put on a fake happy face for so long, and then get absolutely exhausted at trying to keep the disguise and then I just get crabby.

I find I’ve been placing my identity in the wrong places. Whatever you believe in, I put my faith in Christ, and my identity as well. If my identity is found in being a child of God, the failures I rack myself over the coals for, become less and He becomes more.

Anyway. The ride.

I’ve been meaning to get on my bike, and I’ve been meaning to blog about it. I’ve been commuting most days, and I took an 8 mile ride a couple weeks ago in a bit of nice weather, but I really hadn’t given it my all. I decided to do the High Cliff State Park ride today. If you don’t know, or aren’t from around here, High Cliff State Park has a really nice big hill. Okay, so I know there are bigger hills, but I ride a single speed and haven’t done more than 8 miles yet this year.

There was a second about 5 miles out when I told myself I may not make it up the hill today, and then I immediately caught myself. What are you saying? Not make it up? Are you *expletive* crazy? Of course I am making it up this hill.

As the slope drew nearer I could feel myself shake a little, thinking what if, what if I can’t make it. I pushed the thoughts away and powered through, and climbed. I fought with every breath, and I cursed the wench for its foul existence and I dug my heels and I climbed.

And I made it up the hill.

As it turns out I really needed that victory today.

Oh, the sweet sweet taste of victory.

A wonderful classic, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

25 Apr

I won’t lie to you folks, Sierra Nevada is definitely one of my favorite breweries. I have loved every beer I’ve had from them, and I mean loved. This though, the pale ale, is something of genius. Their more adventurous varieties are wonderful, but the classic pale ale is a really phenomenal beer. In a world where limited releases and crazy high ABV beers are reigning, a beer like this that works on a more simple basis is needed. I like to be well rounded with my beers, and not just stick to the intesne IPAs, though I love those.

First, I really like the Sierra Nevada logo. It’s just classic, and the Pale Ale bottle is wonderful. The green along with green fields just speaks to how refreshing and enjoyable this beer is.

It pours a nice light golden amber, pretty clear. It poured with a nice thick bubbly head, not real deep, but nice. Medium carbonation is present, not a ton of bubbles, but a good looking amount.

The aroma is similar to an IPA but more subtle, with hints of grapefruit and pine, with a nice caramel backing.  It smells of hops, but it seems well balanced, and this comes through in the taste.

Upon taste, the tartness of the grapefruit is present, and the caramel smoothness balances the bitterness. It’s a great balance actually, the bitterness balanced by a slight caramel sweetness makes for a perfect combination. It doesn’t overwhelm either sense, but rolls wonderfully. The mouthfeel then is as smooth as you’d imagine given this balance. It is full, but beautifully smooth, I mean just perfect.

My overall assessment? This is one hell of a fine beer. Damn. It doesn’t pound like an IPA, but it also isn’t wussy either. I know I talk a lot about balance, but with good reason, as I think life is all about balance. This beer does absolutely everything a great beer does. It soothes, fills, cleanses and invigorates. You could do much worse than drink this on a very regular basis, and I’m definitely going to be bringing this to bonfires all summer long. It’s a staple, and I’ll tell you this: if you can’t figure out what you want to get, just go ahead and make this your default beer, I’m sure as hell making it mine.

 

SNPaleAle-2

SNPaleAle-4

SNPaleAle-5

Goose Island 312: Urban Wheat Ale

23 Apr

In all honsety, I don’t drink much in the way of wheat beer, but in the interests of expanding my tastes, I decided to do a review on this much favored Urban Wheat Ale from Goose Island. I’m not going to get into the politics much, but I honestly don’t know if this beer has changed at all since the brewery switched from being a local Chicago craft brewery to being owned by the largest beer company in America. I have had Goose Island before the change in ownership, but that was before I really critiqued beer much, and can’t say much about the topic. If you have a take on this, I’d love to hear from you though! Hit me with a comment, or email me, what have you. I really enjoy the labeling of the 312. Obviously the Chicago skyline is present, hence the Urban proclamation. The logo is very minimalist and classy,  I am not always a fan of using type vertically, but it really works in this case. The yellow is also a nice choice, it seems to mesh with a wheat beer, and echoes the color of beer well.

First, the pour. It poured a clear golden, with a slight haze. I didn’t get much head at all when I poured it, so that may be an anomaly, but it did look to have a decent amount of carbonation, nice little bubbles popping up.

312 has a nice wheaty smell to it, with a definite orange citrus presence, a nice lightly fruity tones. It’s a subtle but very enjoyable aroma, implies a perfect beer for a warm spring early sumer afternoon.

The taste is quite refreshing. much like a light fruitier ale with the slight thickness of a wheat beer. This is definitely lighter than the usual fare that I enjoy, but it’s a good beer. It started out a bit sour, but really evened out about halfway through, I really njoyed the subtle fruity taste, it tastes of oranges and citrus, but it’s not overwhelming. As for the mouthfeel, it was nice and smooth, just thick enough,as I mentioned. It fills, but is an easy drinker for sure.

Overall, this was a pretty god wheat beer. Again, I don’t know if the taste has changed at all, but from this sampling, I can’t really say that Anheuser-Busch ruined it or anything like that (as much as I kind of would like to). If you’re looking for a nice warm weather sipper, you can down a couple of these while grilling out, and be quite refreshed. I may even pick some up to have after bike rides (=

 

312-1

312-2

312-3

Sometimes you just have to let go

18 Apr

Since I started to become more and more interested (read obsessed) with cycling, the desire to learn how to do my own repairs has naturally been a part of the journey. It’s not that I don’t want to give business to my local shops, I love them! It’s just that it’s really cool to learn how to fix your own bike, and be able to know how to take it apart, put it back together and be able to mend small problems on the fly. I think everyone should obviously learn how to change a flat, patch a tire with a dollar bill, and change their handlebar tape. It’s like learning how to change your own strings on a guitar.

Anyway, I decided a while back to work on this bike I found at goodwill for $20. I even put a blog post up about it, and proceeded to never post about it again. That is, until now. As you may have guessed from the title this job never really went as planned. It’s not a bad looking bike, and upon putzing around, I did learn quite a bit about how the little things work, how to take certain things apart and whatnot. It quickly became clear though, that the parts on this bike weren’t exactly normal. For instance,

PBR-5

Now, I didn’t research this heavily, so maybe this design is more prevalent than I realize, but I’ve never seen a crank put on like this. It’s not the craziest thing, but just a small example of the difficulty in this bike. The parts don’t subscribe to normality. Everything is weird sizes, (I know campy parts are different too) and all the bolts are at just the weird enough angles that you can’t really get at anything. It’s like the manufacturers did not want anyone to fix these. I read online that bike shops hated to work on them, which of course I only took as a challenge.

It turns out, that these bikes were given away in I believer the 1980s with boom-boxes at record stores, because they didn’t meet safety specs and could not legally be sold in the U.S.

I thought I could fix this bike when I first bought it. It turns out it was not to be. I managed to get it riding and then I’m pretty sure the bottom bracket is junk. It was my project, I was going to beat the challenge. But I didn’t. Sometimes you have to push through against all odds, but sometimes you just have to cut your losses. Although, I did learn how to put on my own handlebar tape.

PBR-7

Who knows, maybe I’ll wind up turning this into a fixie one day. Or maybe I’ll let someone else work on it and see if they can turn it into a work of art. I got my $20 worth of learning out of it anyway. More likely I’ll try to turn it into miniature pieces of bike art. So I guess, it isn’t a total loss. IN fact, it isn’t a loss at all. I learned a little bit about y own limitations and when I need to just let something go and move to bigger and better things.

I also learned to tell you that  if you see one of these at a rummage sale and think to yourself it might make a good project… Run For Your Life! And then give me a call, because you can have this one (=

The Spotted Cow, a Wisconsin Tradition.

16 Apr

If you are at all into craft beer, then I assume you know about New Glarus. I’ve done a couple reviews of their beer before, a couple of my favorites, Moon Man, and Black Top. An interesting thing you may or may not know about New Glarus is that there beer is only available in Wisconsin. I often see tweets and facebook updates from friends who’ve moved out of state, wishing they could get their hands on it. Even with this limited distribution, they still managed to rank pretty high in a recent poll by the Brewers Association, which is just freaking awesome! I feel for the friends who can’t get it readily, but it’s pretty cool to have such a dedicated brewery right here in the heart of the dairyland.

Spotted Cow is not in my opinion the greatest beer New Glarus makes, but it’s definitely the most well known, and has some wonderful endearing qualities.

Wisconsin is a bit of a confused state in the beer world. There is a whole lot of great beer brewed right here in the state, some really amazing local microbrews are available just in the Green Bay and Appleton areas. Milwaukee is also home to Miller (okay I know that’s not technically true but we have Miller Park anyways) and there is a heavy network of domestic beer distribution. I get that domestics have their place, and I realize why people indulge in such beers like Miller Lite and Bud Light, among others, but it always boggles my mind to see people drinking swill when better wonderful options are available. Weddings are a great example, and a great example of how Spotted Cow is saving beer lovers lives.

If you haven’t been to a Wisconsin wedding, it’s pretty much the law that there’s an open bar sometime around the dinner. Either up to the dance or during the dance, whatever. A lot of weddings there will be two beers available during this time. It’s either Bud Light and Spotted Cow, or Miller Lite and Spotted Cow, and I’ll let you guess which I choose. There’s always that moment of relief when I see the cow on the tap, and to know I’m not alone. While many wallow in a shallow pool of mediocre beverages, I take comfort in the fact that our whole state is putting some really great beer on the map.

Well, on to the beer.

I would be remiss to mention this beer without talking about the label. It even worked it’s way pretty far into the beer label bracket competition on CBS sports! It’s just a classy label, paying homage to the dairy that our state is famous for. I love the simplicity of it, the straight green field, star at the location of New Glarus and even the name. It’s wonderful simplistic design, my favorite kind.

Spotted Cow is said to pour cloudy as they leave bits of yeast in the bottle. It pours a little cloudy, but mostly clear golden, it’s not like a hefeweizen. It shows a decent amount of carbonation, but doesn’t have a real thick head. It stays around for a little while and reduces to a thin film throughout most of the beer.

The smell is definitely citrusy and fruity with maybe just a hint of nutinesst. It’s not an amazing aroma, but it’s quite honest and gives a good idea of what is to come.

The taste is similar to the other pale american lagers that I mentioned, but it has a refreshing slightly fruity quality that sets it apart. It has a lemon-like fruity flair, with the just a tiny hint of the corn they add. It’s a nice easy going flavor, perfect for warm summer evenings and chilling outside in nature.

The mouthfeel is really what I think sets this beer apart from others in its class. It is nice and creamy smooth, not watery like it’s mass marketed opponents. It fills your mouth and goes down easy, almost buttery.

Overall, like I said, it’s not my favorite New Glarus beer, but it is quite good, and gives a good representation of New Glarus’s ability to craft great beer. You can find it on tap at most bars all over the state, and it’s always cool to see the cow hanging out on the tap. So go pick up a pack (if you’re in state, if not, come visit!) and relax, it’s going to be a wonderful evening.

SpottedCow-3

SpottedCow-1

SpottedCow-2

It’s that time of year again… asking for money (=

12 Apr

So last year I embarked on a refreshing new journey. In honor of several who lost their lives battles to cancer, I resolved to participate in a fundraising bike ride for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. It’s an annual ride, and it takes place from Mequon to Sturgeon Bay Wisconsin. It involves cycling about 73 miles each day with the option of defeating a full century on the opening day. It was one of the more fulfilling journeys I have taken. I was given the opportunity to use a love of mine, cycling, to raise funds and support others who have suffered from similar circumstances.

This year I have determined to give myself an additional challenge.  I want to raise $1000.00. I need to do this by July 1st, and I need your help! I am sending out a ton of letters, but would really appreciate the help from my online friends! Even if you can only donate a couple bucks, every little bit helps!

If you would like more information about who I am riding in honor of, and also want instructions on how to donate, this is the link to my personal fundraising page and right now I don’t have any donations, so please help me make my page look a little more hopeful (=

Thanks so much guys, and keep reading, I’ll be getting back to new beer reviews next week, I’m picking up a sample pack today, so I should be set for a few new ones!

The weirdest April ever: photos of the spring ice storm

11 Apr

So, it has nothing to do with biking or beer. I’m sorry. Sue me if you must (= But I do love photography, and this blog does relate to the environment in which I find myself, and I regularly bike in this area so I’ll allow it. Plus, it’s my blog and you’re here anyway so hey! Thanks for coming (=

If you’re from Wisconsin, you know that our springs tend to be not very springy. Most of the time winter turns everything into a slightly warmer slushy mess that transitions mysteriously into summer, basically skipping ‘spring’ entirely. If you are not from Wisconsin, this is part of why so many Wisconsinites go crazy and wear shorts and t-shirts in april when it’s 45 degrees out, and others complain relentlessly around this time of year that it’s still so cold.

Well this year has been really weird. We had a thunderstorm last night, (not that odd for Spring) and then shortly after the temperature dropped rapidly,  freezing basically everything. I mean everything, roads, trees, blades of grass, cars, power lines etc. The result is a city coated in absolute pristine beauty. This beauty comes at a high price however. I mean that quite literally, I saw some very expensive damage today. The insurance claims are going to be skyrocketing. Large branches have fallen everywhere due to the extreme weight of the ice.

I think it’s ironic the way nature works. It does something so devastating, possibly fatal to some, if a tree fell in the right place; yet it does it with such beauty. The way the trees glimmered white was enchanting, and I couldn’t help but stare, and become conflicted with the stark contrast of beauty and destruction. I typically speak about these things with pictures, so I’ll stop blabbing and show some, photos that is, of something the likes of which I really have never seen before.

WhiteStormy-1

 

WhiteStormy-2

 

WhiteStormy-3

 

WhiteStormy-4

 

WhiteStormy-5

 

WhiteStormy-6

 

WhiteStormy-7

 

WhiteStormy-8

 

WhiteStormy-9

 

WhiteStormy-10

 

WhiteStormy-11

 

WhiteStormy-12