Iowa beer tourism

Today I had the honor of visiting two breweries in Iowa as we traveled through the State to a family gathering. On our way to Des Moines we took a pit stop in Ankeny to visit Firetrucker Brewing. This is a brewery that was built in an old fire station that looked like it was from the 50’s or 60’s. This venue was perfect because of the wonderful high ceilings and the large vehicle bays that could be converted to brewing.

We bellied up to the bar and I ordered a flight, as did one of my traveling companions. As we worked through the beers and chatted up the beertender, she tossed a couple other samples our way of really unique stuff that they had, including a Mango DIPA that was killer. I was pleased with everything I tried, and I couldn’t detect any flaws in any of the beers. Everything was crisp and clean and flavorful. Perhaps the only beer that wasn’t tremendously amazing was their brown ale, but then again, it’s to hot to be in a brown mood right now anyway. Before we left I picked up a special bottle of their limited edition smoked sour porter, a pint glass, and a mini-growler of their Imperial Red. I have a friend who’s not a big red ale fan, but I think even he’ll really like this. IMG_3582

After heading out from Firetrucker we continued onward to downtown Des Moines to get lunch at a brewpub. We originally were going to hit a restaurant I found online, but the beertender at Firetrucker recommended a different brewpub, telling us that their sour beers were amazing. A slight change of plans, but I’ve learned to always chat up the beertenders and take their advice when traveling.

We found ourselves at Exile Brewing company (built in an old soap factory), and I’m so happy we took her recommendation. Their standard beers were adequate, although the gold lager was a little ‘meh’ for me. But when I hit their two seasonal sours it was stupendous. The Gose that I had was at a perfect sourness level but was still completely refreshing. The Berliner Weisse was the second sour on tap, and again it was a beautiful beer with great flavor. The Gose beat it out by a hair for the best beer in the brewery, but the Berliner Weisse was a great beer as well.

IMG_3587Also, the food at Exile was amazing. I had an open faced hamburger on top of the bottom of a pretzel bun, smothered in beer cheese sauce with fries. It was so tasty and satisfying after the long drive. My wife and our traveling companion also had some amazing food including lamb sliders. Our original plan was to his some place completely different on Sunday when we travel back through, but the food and beer may have sealed the deal to return to Exile for brunch on our return trip.

We might get a chance to hit another brewpub tomorrow, but for tonight I’m in a comfortable hotel room and feeling nice and satisfied with my beer tourism experience for the day.

Running blind

Sometimes when I go running I decide to commit to not looking at my watch through out the run. Obviously, I can only do this on a familiar route, so that I know where to turn and what my final distance will be. This morning I set out on my traditional 6 mile route, started my watch (glanced briefly to make sure it was running), and then ran based on my body feel.

I like doing a no-watch run every now and then as a way to let my body run solely based on how it feels. Usually it means that my pace times will be higher than normal, as most mornings my body is telling me to stop running because it’s tired. Today was no exception. My pace times were pretty slow for a 6 miler, but time wasn’t the point. It was about just running and enjoying a beautiful morning.

Towards the end of a no-watch run it actually gets really hard not to look at the watch and peek at where I’m at. Even though I know this 6 mile route like the back of my hand, and my watch had beeped the mile markers at all the right places, it’s still hard to suppress the urge to look at the watch for encouragement that “you’re almost done”. I managed to stave off the temptation today and didn’t even see what my time was until I walked up to my front door after the final and sixth beep.

One humorous moment however was around mile 4 when my body started telling me something. It had to pee. Suddenly, I found my pace picking up, and I managed to knock out two pretty solid miles at the end of the run so that I could get to my bathroom!

Thunder run

I had to get in 9 miles this morning so I woke at 4:30am to get ready and head out the door before work. Before I left I checked the weather and saw that there were storms rolling in, and that it would probably be pretty close to try and finish before the sky opened up. I decided to switch from my intended route of a big long 9 mile loop into the neighboring suburb, and instead did a 6 mile, and 3 mile loop around my own neighborhood. That way I could stop off at my house at 6 miles if something went wrong.

I headed out into the darkness with my headlamp and picked up a pretty good pace, feeling a bit of pressure to keep up the groove. As I rounded mile 2 I started to see cloud-to-cloud lightning off in the distance, and I knew I would be in for a soaking soon. When I got to mile 3, however, I looked to the east and saw a beautiful blazing red sunrise underneath the impending clouds. I stopped and snapped a quick pic before continuing on my way.

Despite the threat of rain, and a couple of drops here and there, I made it to the 6 mile mark, and back to my house, with only my sweat drenching my clothes. As I approached my house however, I saw the second amazing sight of the morning, a beautiful full rainbow across the western sky. I snapped a pic of the rainbow, but then decided that I was tempting fate carrying my phone without a waterproof bag, and so I stashed it in the house. I also grabbed my water bottle, since I had yet to get any rain on me and needed to cool down. IMG_3573

I headed out on my three mile route and finally around mile 7-7.5 the water started. At first it was just a light sprinkle but soon it was an all out rain. I was soaked in minutes, and despite the annoying dripping off of my face, I managed to enjoy the cooling relief. I was even startled a few times by thunder overhead. Thankfully everything stayed in the clouds where lightning was concerned.

I finished out the final 1.5 miles and headed into the house to get showered and ready for the day. When I started to head out to my car I found that the rain had gotten even heavier and roads around the metro had flooded. This made for a trying commute, but I was feeling good from my run, so I took it all in stride.

Back to the heat for the rest of the week, so I need to savor the memory of this morning for as long as I can.

On the train

I’m a big supporter of public transit, and my new job is in a location where I can take public transportation on some of the days that I work. Today I availed myself of the bus, light rail, and train to get myself around and it was all quite pleasant. One of the big struggles of the Twin Cities is the dependence on cars and busses for most transportation. Many years ago there was an extensive streetcar network that connected most of the metro area of the time, and extended even out into some far flung suburbs. The advent of busses (through what many consider underhanded advantages) meant that all of these lines were torn up and paved over to make way for what was considered the future.

Now, as we enter the future we find ourselves trying to strengthen our light rail network and re-build something closer to what we had many decades ago. Much of the younger generation is comfortable with public transportation, at least more so than their parents on average, and so the demand for more transit options has increased. We opened our first light rail line about a decade ago, and last year our second line went into operation.  Now there are two other lines starting design and construction, and even more in the planning phase. I’m excited to see rail transit increase in the Twin Cities as it’s a great way to get around, and both the lines that have opened have had a positive impact of the communities that they touch. Ridership is higher than anticipated, and the future looks bright.