#30daysofbiking… complete!

For the first year since I had heard about this challenge, I managed to get it done. If you’re not familiar, #30daysofbiking is a challenge where you pledge to ride your bike, even just a little bit, every single day of April. Most years I’m involved in early season trail races, and so I might start with good intentions, but the riding falls off the radar. This year though, partially thanks to the pandemic, I had a lot more time to get into the saddle every single day. Some days involved long adventures with my wife. Most others were just quick trips around the neighborhood. Sometimes I’d ride somewhere on an errand, but most of the time it was just for fun.

I also managed to take a picture every single day, except one. I put it all together into a small slideshow and put it on my YouTube channel. I just did an export of the simple Apple Photos Slideshow, but then brought it into DaVinci Resolve and added some simple titles and transitions. This also meant I had to re-import the audio track separately and add it so that it lined up with the titles.

Not bad for about 15 minutes of video work. The biking took a lot longer than 15 minutes. When all was said and done I ended up with just under 284 miles and just over 24 hours of saddle time.

Experimenting with N/A beer

As anyone who knows me knows, I love beer. I’ve been a craft beer guy for a long time and have tasted just about every beer flavor you can imagine. I also realize that constant consumption of alcohol and the calories that go with it is not always the best for you. So I’ve been seeking out some alternatives that can give me some of that same flavor profile, yet not burden my waistline any more than it needs to be. Plus, sometimes it’s nice to have a beer in the middle of the afternoon when you’re working from home (as we all are now) and not feel weird about “drinking” at work.

Enter N/A beers. Over the past few months I’ve been exploring the new frontier of craft non-alcoholic beers. No longer are we stuck with things like O’Doul’s, but there is an entire marketplace filled with some pretty decent options, and it seems like more and more are entering the space every month. Even some local craft breweries are getting into the act.

Before I talk about what I’ve found that I like, I do need to acknowledge that nothing you will find in N/A will taste exactly like the beer you’re used to. That’s because alcohol is a flavor, and it’s not one that’s easy to duplicate effectively. Therefore, you need to temper your expectations and understand that you’re not going into this for beer, but non-alcoholic beer. It’s different, and that’s OK.

Something that surprised me when I started tasting some of these beers was that even the big breweries were getting into the market space, and doing a good job of it.

  • Coors Edge is a pretty decent corn-tasting lager that has that same crispness and refreshing feeling that a cheap beer does. It’s also pretty widely available.
  • Heineken 0.0 is another big brewery entry that really nails that simple macro-brew taste in a zero-percent package. This one is probably about the closest thing I’ve come to real beer in the N/A space.

On the smaller side there’s a few breweries that are making a big splash.

  • Partake Pale is a really solid entry, as is their IPA. I haven’t been able to find their stout yet, but from the pictures, it actually gets closer to the real color than other ones I’ve seen.
  • Wellbeing Brewing does a really solid Golden Wheat, and their Dark Amber isn’t too bad either. A little bit sweet, but not cloying. I’ve got a couple other new ones of theirs on the way, so I’m anxious to try those.
  • Hairless Dog is one that is local, and I’ve written about them before. Overall, it’s a decent beer, but I think they’re slightly behind some of the others on this list. Their IPA is probably their most solid.
  • Surreal Brewing is one that seems to be all over the place around here, including the local grocery store. They have a wide variety of flavors, and one of their biggest selling points is super low calories. They’re Red IPA is only 33 calories per can which is crazy. It’s got a good nose on it as well as a fuller bodied taste. One disappointment is their Juicy IPA which isn’t very Juicy. I don’t think the aromas were able to really survive the NA process.
  • Athletic Brewing Company… it’s taken forever, but I FINALLY got my hands on some this weekend. I cracked open their IPA it is probably the best N/A IPA that I’ve tasted out there. I’m anxious to try the Golden I picked up as well. I can see why they’re sold out all the time.

Finally, I need to mention our local brewery Fair State Coop that does a really solid N/A lager. It’s crisp and clean, and when I’m relaxing by the open window next to my desk (because it’s all we can really do right now anyway) it scratches the itch for a malt beverage. Plus, I’m supporting a great local brewery!

I’m certainly not giving up beer, but having options is always good. It’s great to see a marketplace that’s so filled with creative and awesome brewing options. I’m guessing that with the explosion of craft beer that N/A craft will be not too far behind. So what have you tried? Anything you think is really awesome?


Interviewing Wes Allen

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m doing some more experimenting with content creation in the audio/visual realm. I’m doing some interviews in the coming weeks with some folks, and I wanted to test out my setup with recording the call and then post-production.

My friend Wes was kind enough to be my guinea pig and help me out with an interview today about how he’s faring during the COVID-19 crisis as the pastor of a small church in New Jersey. So without further ado, meet Wes Allen!

Doing more video and audio stuff

I’ve always enjoyed making videos and recording things, and with the current lockdown there’s a lot more opportunity to use video and audio to communicate with folks. In particular in my role as the president of the board of our regional trail running non-profit. In the past couple weeks we’ve done some videos to promote a virtual run that we’re doing, and it gave me a chance to try out some tools I haven’t used before.

Sony a6000

I’ve had my Sony mirrorless camera for a long time now, but it’s only recently that I’ve been using it more and more for video. I have a beautiful 50mm/f1.8 lens that gives amazing results in just about any lighting condition, with a great bokeh to the background. I’ve been using this for my “talking head” segments in the videos.


iPhone 11 Pro

What can I say about the iPhone 11 Pro except that it’s an amazing camera and video tool. The video it takes is great for something that fits in your pocket and that you can take anywhere. I used the iPhone for the on-the-trail shots in the video and it worked great. I know a lot of people prefer a GoPro, but I haven’t broken down and gotten one of those yet. Maybe sometime soon, but for now the iPhone works just fine.

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Blue Yeti Microphone

One of the biggest improvements to my video quality is a good microphone. For a while I was borrowing my son’s Yeti, but finally broke down and got my own when it was on sale last week. This thing is amazing, and I can’t believe how good the quality is from something that’s just over $100. If I ever get more into podcasting, this mic will be key.

For videos, what I’m actually doing is using a USB adapter to plug the mic into my iPhone and then recording the audio on the Voice Memo’s app. It’s a quick and dirty solution to get better audio quality than I can get from my Sony’s built-in mic. I use a simple clap to sync the audio later in post production.


DaVinci Resolve 16

Since my current iMac is too old to run Final Cut X, I had to use what I could, and that led me to DaVinci Resolve 16. I had heard great things about this tool, and when I finally tried it out, I understood why. It’s pretty quick to pick up and learn, especially if you’ve worked with video tools before, but it’s got incredible depth. The free version is good for most basic usage, and if I ever needed to get more in-depth, the $300 version would cover anything I could ever need. I’ve only scratched the surface though and I’m super happy with what I’ve been able to accomplish.

So that’s what I’ve been using to keep myself busy with some new creative outlets. I’ve got another project for my trail organization coming up soon, and then I need to start working on more videos for St Croix 40, and hopefully eventually Fire Tower.

Missing “spaces”

I’m a person who derives energy from being around energy. Despite being an extrovert, I do NOT require constant interaction with people. Sure, I enjoy it, but what matters more to me is being around the energy of humanity. I remember a blog post I made many years ago, after I had moved back into St. Paul for a couple of years after my divorce. I commented in this blog that I loved living right on Grand Ave. and feeling the energy of life around me. I didn’t have to talk with everyone I saw, but I could feel them there.

As we’ve all been in lockdown for a few weeks, I’ve discovered that one of the things I really miss are the spaces in which people would gather. Places such as coffee shops, taprooms, restaurants, and parks. I loved being in these places, even when I wasn’t interacting directly with people, because of the energy. I would often hit the cafe at Silverwood Park in the afternoons to get some work done, even though I wasn’t talking to anyone there at the park. I would sit next to a window with my headphones on and just feel content being somewhere that was alive.

One might suggest that parks are even more busy now, but due to the fear of spreading the virus, I find myself avoiding busy times at the park, or on the paths, because I don’t want to be around crowds. It’s a sad irony the one of the places I’ve often wanted to see more people using, has become a place that I dread is overcrowded, under these circumstances. I do hope that many of the folks who have found themselves outside at their local parks, continue using and supporting them in the future, once we’re back to normal.

In the past, I also loved the space at churches, specifically the sanctuaries. I’ve gotten to spend a bit of time alone in church sanctuaries (or with one or two others), and it’s given me time to admire and absorb the beauty of the space. The pews ache with anticipation of people who would crowd in and fill them. Even when no one was there, the space feels alive with the energy of life, because it’s sole purpose is to be a gathering space for humanity.

Just like churches are sacred spaces, taprooms, coffee shops, and restaurants, are built to hold people and in many ways are sacred spaces of humanity themselves. They exist for the sole purpose of containing humanity. When you have people gathering in these places, you have energy. That’s an energy that drives me. In this time of lockdown, that’s something that I sorely miss.