Macro-brew

I’ve never been a fan of macro-brews from the large scale breweries like Miller or Coors. I’ve always found the taste of corn in them to be unappealing, and they’re generally lacking in much depth of character or flavor. One night a week ago we were at a restaurant and I asked the server if they had any local craft brew. He said they had Michelob Golden Light. I looked at him with a weird look on my face, and he explained that it was a regional beer. I sat there with a befuddled expression on my face before craning my neck to look over at the bar. I spotted a Fulton tap and asked for that.

Interestingly enough I did some googling and discovered that Michelob Golden Light is actually only distributed in the upper midwest, so he had that part right, but it certainly isn’t a craft beer. After this experience, a few days later, I found myself at a small local casino, and instead of trying to overcome a lack of craft beer knowledge, I asked our server at the restaurant for a bottle of Michelob Ultra. I had no idea what I was going to get, but I figured what the heck, I might as well get another beer on Untappd.

I received the bottle, and took a taste. It wasn’t the worst beer I’ve had, but it certainly tasted of corn, and was all around mediocre. However (and this is the point I’m slowly getting to), it was brewed without flaws. As I drank the beer, in my head, I started thinking about how many truly bad craft beer’s I’ve had. In particular from local breweries that are just learning how to brew. There was one brewery in particular that should have closed their doors until they could figure out their issues.

So, despite all my bashing of macro-brews, and their overall mediocrity, the one thing I can say positively about them is that they are 100% consistent. They’re not my cup of tea, but I respect that they can produce the same results every time, for millions of gallons a year.

Another 50 mile bike ride

Last year I did a 50 mile solo bike ride around a bunch of breweries near the SW metro area. This year I turned it into a bit of an event, and was joined by 4 friends. We started the morning around 9:30am at Lake Calhoun, and from there jumped onto the Cedar Lake Trail. This is a beautiful trail that heads down to Hopkins, MN before merging with some other trails.

IMG_1568.jpgWe made our first pit stop at The Depot, a trailside coffee shop right outside Hopkins. Because the breweries that we wanted to hit don’t open until noon, we had a little time to kill, and we used it to fuel up with some yummy old fashioned donuts. From there we jumped onto the Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail which is a crushed limestone trail that heads into the cities south of Lake Minnetonka.

After 20 miles we ended up at our first brewery of the day, Enki Brewing in Victoria, MN. We arrived right at noon, and settled in for our first beer of the day. One of our group had developed a slow leak in his rear tire, so we made sure to take care of that before we headed back out again. The ride back would include stops at a total of 5 different breweries, so we needed to get a move on.

IMG_1572.jpgAs we headed back down the trail we were enjoying a nice tailwind and a beautiful morning of cool temps. From a weather perspective the ride was perfect. By mid-afternoon the long sleeves had all been put away and we got to enjoy wonderful fall day. There was a fair amount of traffic on the trail, but thankfully it never impeded us too badly.

Eventually we made it to our second stop, Excelsior Brewing in Excelsior, MN. By now we were enjoying our beers outside if possible, and Excelsior has these cute boat-dock style tables on their patio. We noticed that they also have created a beer that was made with Eurasian Milfoil, but none of us decided to give it a try. We had already picked our beers before we noticed it, and frankly I’m not sure any of us were brave enough to see what it really was like.

IMG_1574.jpgOur next stop ended up being much longer than we had intended. When we arrived in downtown Hopkins we decided to hit the local Erberts and Gerberts sandwich shop. However, there was a crowd, and they were severely understaffed. It took almost a half an hour to get our food. By the time we walked back over to LTD Brewing and had a beer we had been stopped for nearly an hour.

Our fourth stop was at Steel Toe Brewing. By this point we were all getting a bit tired, and our conversations were minimal. We were at 40 miles and many of us were feeling the burn in our quads. We downed our beer at Steel Toe pretty quickly and made our way to our final stop.

IMG_1588.jpgThe trip to Eastlake Craft Brewing is fun because you get to ride down the Midtown Greenway. The Greenway is a beautiful bike and pedestrian route through southern Minneapolis that has overpasses. This means it’s almost like an expressway for bikes. We eventually found our exit at the Midtown Global Market and went in to get our final beer of the day. I ended my day with a lovely sour beer that was made with grilled peaches.

Once we finished with this final, fifth beer, we headed back to our cars, and the conclusion of fifty miles. The fact that I ran 11 miles yesterday meant that I was hurting more today than I had planned on. As I relaxed on Sunday evening, I slowly rolled out my quads on the foam roller, grimacing as I did. I know I’ll have a couple days of recovery ahead of me, but I’m very happy that I got another half-century ride in. It was a fun bonus to get to share it with some friends as well.

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Islands of Peace Park

Today I took a (very) brief walk through Islands of Peace Park in Fridley, MN. This is an out of the way park off of East River Road, that has some nice walking paths on a small peninsula in the river. I managed to grab a couple nice shots with my phone before heading back to the car. Having never been to this park I was pleasantly surprised at how pretty it was.

The beer count fail

As many of you know I enjoy recording my beer in the Untappd app. It’s a fun way to keep track of what you’ve tried before, and rack up badges for doing various beer drinking related tasks.

I haven’t had any beer related tourism in the past month or so, and do I decided to hit the big box liquor store to do a make-your-own-6-pack. That way I could boost my unique beer count a bit and catch up to my friend Michael. I loaded up my pack with beers that I didn’t recognize, and then headed home to crack them open over the next couple weeks.

However, when I went to go check in the first beer, it turns out I had already had it. Oh well, no biggie, it was still an enjoyable beer. Later I go to crack open a second one and, crap, I’ve had this one too! So it turns out that I’ve had a lot more beers on tap at restaurants than I remember. When you get them in a restaurant you have no idea what the can or bottle looks like. What looked new to me was only because I hadn’t had it in that packaging before.

Oh well, hopefully the other four will be new ones to me. I need to schedule another trip to hit some places I haven’t hit before. Any excuse to travel is a good one, but beer tourism is a nice perk.

Testing fat bikes

I’ve talked about wanting to commute, and generally get around more, by bike. One of the issues in Minnesota is the winter time when streets are icy, snowy, and generally hard to travel on. Since I had some time on Monday I decided to check out a couple of fat bikes at Freewheel Cycle to see what they were all about, and if they might be the answer to my winter biking issues.

I tried out two different models, the Salsa Beargrease, and the Trek Farley 5. The two main differences on these bikes is that the Salsa has a carbon frame, vs the Trek aluminium, and the tire size (Salsa: 3.8; Trek 4.5). I took them both out on the same route down the street from the store, down and up a hill, and a few tight loops in a parking lot.

I tried out the Salsa Beargrease first, and almost immediately I found out why fat bikes are so popular. The smoothness of the ride, and the feeling of stability is incredible. The handlebars extend wide, so you really feel like you’re as stable as possible. The tires make a ton of noise on pavement, which gives you the immediate sense that you’re riding something “different”.

Both bikes have a single cog in the front with 10 or 11 gears in the back. This makes for very easy shifting, but it also does limit how fast you can really go. I took both of the bikes down a slight hill, and wasn’t able to get over 17 mph before I ran out of gears and had to settle for coasting. I wasn’t complaining too much though since riding on flat pavement isn’t what these are intended for.

I also took both bikes around a couple tight curves in parking lots and I could feel how tightly the studded tires were gripping, making my much more confident in my turning. I can see how these would be a tremendous benefit on some of the sharp curves on local mountain bike trails. Heading back up the small hill was slow but steady. Once again I had to suffice with a limited amount of gears, but I managed to get it done just fine. Before I knew it my short test rides were over.

Overall, I found the Salsa Beargrease to be the more enjoyable ride. It felt speedier and lighter, due to the frame and smaller tires. The Trek was fun, and “tank-like”, but lacked just a bit of the “wow” factor of the Salsa. Considering the comparable price, it’s easy to see why the Salsa’s are so popular right now. I think that either one could be a great bike, but if I were to pull the trigger on buying one, the Salsa would be the way to go.

I don’t know if I’ll invest in this, this year, but I got a taste of how amazingly fun these bikes are, and why they’re as popular as they are. If winter is calling and you want to keep biking, these seem like an awesome way to go.