Alluvial Brewing

One our way across Iowa last weekend, we stopped in at a place just north west of Ames called Alluvial Brewing. This is a beautiful little taproom that sits among vineyards and organic farms. You feel like you’re truly out in the country as you drive up to the front door.

IMG_1133.jpgWe went in and I ordered up a flight of beers to try. We then decided to sit outside and soak in nature while I enjoyed my brews. The biggest standout for me was the coconut porter. It was smooth, with a wonderful coconut flavor, and rivaled some of the best ones I’ve ever had. I could see drinking many of these on a cold winter night. Another brew that caught my attention was the gooseberry sour. I had never had gooseberry in a sour beer before (that I am aware of) and it was a unique taste. At first I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but as I drank it I came to enjoy it more and more.

I enjoyed all the beers in the flight that I had, and found no brewing flaws in any of them. What really made Alluvial for me though was the setting. It was an amazing place to sit and enjoy some beer, and it’s the kind of place my wife (who doesn’t drink) has even commented that she’d love to own. Giving people a beautiful setting in which to enjoy good beer is a great mission in life. I’m glad to have gotten a chance to try Alluvial and enjoy both in one spot.

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Farnham House Brewing Company

Since we were traveling this weekend, I had to hit some new breweries. After we spent some time at the Omaha zoo on Saturday, we decided to hit Farnham House Brewing Company in downtown Omaha. This is a brewpub with a full menu, and specializing in European beer styles. We arrived and I ordered up a flight, and some food.

Before I get into the beer, I have to say that the food at Farnham House was amazing. We both ordered a grilled cheese with bacon, and I got mine with a side of beer cheese soup. The sandwiches were amazing, the beer cheese soup was out of this world. Needless to say we were really happy with the food choice we made.

As for beer I sampled a flight that due to some miscommunication, ended up being 7 beers. A couple of the big standouts for me were in the sour category. They did a berliner weisse that was amazingly tart. They offer syrups to mix in if you want, but since I was doing small flights I opt’d to just drink it straight. I also really enjoyed the apricot sour that they have right now. However, the big winner for me was their papio kriek. This amazing sour beer with cherries was so perfectly balanced that I made sure to pick up a half-growler to bring home before we left.

Almost all of their other beers were good, and without flaws, although I didn’t care much for their maibock. The zomer wit in particular was very easy drinking and I could easily see drinking it on a beautiful hot summer evening. Overall, Farnham House was a great stop on our trip. I could see stopping back here if we ever end up in this area, and for anyone else who’s near Omaha I highly recommend a visit. It’s a great example of craft beer and good food in the heart of America.

Running Hitchcock Nature Center

This weekend the wife and I are down in Council Bluffs, IA for some family stuff, but we still needed to get out for a run. My wife found a park just a little bit north of the city called Hitchcock Nature Center. A local trail running group holds races there in December, so we knew it must be a pretty decent course.

We arrived at the park just as it opened at 6AM. We paid the $2 entry fee and parked at the trailhead. Originally, I had downloaded the entire 13 mile course into my watch, but we decided we didn’t have enough time for that, so we just headed out on a loop of the southern part of the park, with the intent to get in a good 90-120 minutes of movement.

The trails on the map are color coded with either blue (easy), yellow (moderate), or red (hard). We opted to try out some of the yellow trails first, and see what constituted moderate at this park. As we progressed around the first part of the loop, we realized that the moderate trails were actually a bit more challenging than we were expecting. They weren’t insurmountable by any means, but they certainly kept us on our toes for the first half an hour.

Footing wasn’t that big of an issue, as the trails are all grass and dirt, with no roots or rocks to speak of. But being in bluff country meant a lot of climbing. In many ways the moderate trails were like the northern section of Murphy-Hanrehan park in the Twin Cities, with rollers that slowly sapped the strength out of you. Eventually we found ourselves on some blue trails, and it was amazing how much of a difference that made.

It made such a difference that we got turned around at a sign post, and ended up missing our turn and needing to backtrack. It was all good though since we were on very runnable trail and were feeling pretty good. Once we got back from the southern end of the park we decided to cut to the north by taking one of the red trails to see what hard was like. The footing wasn’t really any more difficult, but the rollers got VERY steep. As we climbed the steepest of them I commented that up in Minnesota we’re smart enough to just build stairs on hills like this!

IMG_1152After we crested the final big hill we decided to head out on a spur trail for a bit that was marked easy. We were really glad that we did because it ended up finishing at an overlook where we could see for dozens of miles across the flat farmland and prairie surrounding the bluffs. We stopped for a bit to take it all in, and then headed back to the visitor’s center. My wife climbed the observation tower, but my vertigo stopped me part way up, so I went back down and watched some of the birds at a local feeder.

We packed up our gear and headed back to get cleaned up for the rest of the day. It took us about 90 minutes to go 5 miles, but since this was a casual run before our race next week, I was fine with that. We ended up having a great time outside, running in a new place that we had never been to before. It was a great way to start the day and spend time together.

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The Yanez verdict

I wanted to take a brief moment and just share my reaction to the Yanez verdict. For those who aren’t aware this was the trial of Officer Yanez and his shooting of Philando Castile. The county attorney brought up two different charges against the officer, manslaughter and a reckless weapons charge. Both were acquitted, leading to a lot of hand wringing and sadness in the Twin Cities that justice really hasn’t been served.

From interviews with jurors, it appears that the biggest issue is the law. The way that the manslaughter laws are written, you need to prove some form of culpable negligence. In this case, they couldn’t find evidence of that, despite not liking what the officer had done. This seems to be the greatest problem with use of force cases involving police. The law doesn’t appear to be written to protect citizens when it comes to the use force, and particularly firearms. Unless you have video of a suspect on the ground with their hands up, it’s often the officer’s word about what happened vs. the dead citizen.

One of the more unpopular opinions out there, but one that I feel would help, is to seriously consider disarming police of their firearms during routine situations. I fully understand that there are certain situations (and neighborhoods) where this isn’t an option, but for the majority of cases, officers have no reason to have their firearm on them. So many of these situations involving deadly force, could have been solved through other means.

Of course I’m saying this as a private citizen, and not a police officer. I’m sure there are dozens of arguments against disarming police, and I’m sure my thoughts could be torn to shreds by people more knowledgeable in all of this. Yet, it doesn’t change the fact that I believe that many situations could be solved through less deadly methods. Maybe I’m just naive and overly optimistic, but I have to believe that guns are not the answer to every situation, but that if you have a gun you’re more likely to think it is the answer. It’s like with any tool, and I see this all the time in the technology space. When you know one tool really, really well, you tend to rely on it to the exclusion of other options. The old phrase, “when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” applies.

None of what I said does much to fix the poor race relations that we’re currently dealing with in America either. One of the more salient points that has been brought up about the Yanez verdict is the question about why the officer was so scared. If Castile has been white would Yanez have been as on edge? These are questions we’ll never know the answer to, but it speaks to a sad state of affairs in our country when we have to even pose the question.

I pray we learn to grow beyond this as a society, and that someday these horrific acts are just a memory. I would love to see the end of this type of tension in my lifetime, but it’s hard to be hopeful for our society with the state things are currently in.