Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I mean, it's the blog title

I made out like a bandit on Christmas. Check it:

Glass Goodies
- Dallas Cowboys Mugs
- Set of Beer Glassware
- 4 Pilsner Glasses
- NXNW Growler

- Brew Chem 101
- Yeast
- Beers of the World
- He Said Beer, She Said Wine

Other Goodies
- Subscription to a "Craft Beer of the Month" Mailing List; a 12-pack every month!
- A chalkboard tap handle

I guess I should get good at making beer now.

Today I was right on, thematically speaking. There was strength stuff and there was beer stuff.

375x1 10 lb. PR

260x1 5 lb. PR

Barbell Good Mornings

Weighted Dips
45x10, 10, 9

Felt really great to break through on two lifts that have stalled for a while. I haven't mentioned it previously, but my current training is being programmed by Matt Vincent, a former LSU track and field standout and current pro highland games thrower. Matt and I got to know each other back when I was running a previous website. Since I have taken to the highland games, he asked me to be a guinea pig for a training program tailor-made for throwers. It's simple but effective, and I can feel that the gains I'm getting are going to translate to longer throws.

As much as I feel like I know about programming, I have to admit now that I'm not ready or able to do it for myself. Matt knows his shit, so I'm doing what he says.

After training, I picked up the little man from daycare and started a brew day. I am doing my own take on a Scottish Ale this time around. Partial mash yet again, as I bought the ingredients before I got my 20 qt. brew pot for all-grain.

If you live in Central Texas and haven't picked up a bottle of what I'm drinking in the last pic, you are missing out. It's Real Ale's Coffee Porter. Great cold weather brew.

The brew session went ok. I didn't have Ashley there to help, and I really missed the extra brain and hands. She's nice to look at, too. The only two problems were a slight sanitation slip up (tip of garden hose in cooled wort) and the wort temperature being too low at yeast pitching because how cold the damn ground water is now. Still, hoping to see bubbles soon.

The biggest change I made to the Scottish Ale was the addition of .25 oz Saaz hops for aroma. I had some leftover from a failed lager, so I thought it might rein in some of the hoppiness from the Kent Gold hops. Kent Gold were 5.8% alpha acid and the Saaz was 3.5% or so. I figured by splitting the final .5 oz of hops between the two, I could mellow it out and show some malt while adding a little "USA, USA" feel to it.

I also finished the keg of cranberry ale. RIP.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tasting Tuesday - NXNW Holiday Ale

If you follow me on Twitter, it's no secret that I'm a big fan of North by Northwest. They are a brewpub with excellent cuisine and an ambitious and creative beer selection, and a true Austin original. Plus, they are on my side of town, so I visit regularly. I thought it would only be appropriate that I include one of their current seasonals in a Tasting Tuesday.

Holiday Ale
North by Northwest Brewpub - Austin, TX, USA
Style: English Barleywine
ABV: 8~9%
IBUs: Unknown

Appearance: Pours a fairly clear mahogany. Thin head with decent retention for such high ABV.

Aroma: Light and sweet, barley is definitely at the forefront.

Taste: Rich, warm barley sweetness with a significant nose and mouthful of alcohol. Gasoline notes appear a bit on the breathe-out.

Mouthfeel: A little thinner than your average ale, but it fits perfectly with the barleywine style. Fairly low carbonation really lets the malt sit on your palate and work its magic.

Overall: This is my first experience with any ale that is a self-proclaimed 'barleywine' and I have to say I enjoyed it thoroughly. Based on the style I was honestly expecting the warmth from the alcohol to be the feature. However, I was pleasantly surprised with how forward the malt was and how NXNW really let it define the character. The alcohol is muted enough to keep it drinkable, but also compliments the spiciness in the ale.

I liked it so much, I got a fancy NXNW growler-full:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I take requests

New program. Working on maximal strength in this phase.

5 min. treadmill
Foam Roll
3 sets of jump rope



Barbell Good Mornings

Weighted Dips

Met with the wife and kiddo and worked on my open stone for a little bit. I have a very small coach:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I bought some tights

Working out is just an excuse to use caffeine.

Push Press
Didn't really warm up properly, just did 3 sets at 65 lb.
205x2 - Just for fun

I messed around a little trying to figure out where I stand in terms of push press strength. 205 was a little tough after the work sets, but still easy enough.

1-arm DB press

Chins (multiple grips) Superset with Cable Curl
5x5 / 5x12

Weighted Dips
25x10, 10, 8, 6

Worked on open stone footwork. Matt Vincent had a really great blog post where he broke down specific positions in the spin, and I spent about 30 minutes working on hitting those at progressively faster speeds. Matso owns.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Goals and Turkey

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. I sure did.

As badly as I wanted to get my keg of cranberry blonde to the UT-Kansas State tailgate extravaganza, it just hadn't conditioned well enough to share with the masses. A couple of days after, I force-carbonated it again while my little boy played with Hot Wheels in the garage:

After this round it really came together and has become more and more enjoyable every day. It was ready for Thanksgiving, and it was cool to be able to share my hobby with the family. Of course, I drank most of it myself but that's the beauty of brewing your own. I still have a few pints left, so of course I am pushing the beer on everyone that comes over so they can bask in my brewing genius.

I am considering throwing together a Great Lakes Christmas Ale clone this weekend. All grain, baby. If you've never had this stuff, I highly recommend it.

Early in the week, Ashley's family was in town. Her dad is a brilliant guy, and I always like getting to spend time with him. He is a wine and coffee-lover, and shockingly I didn't get any time to discuss brewing with him. Nonetheless, he made his famous gravy and there was much rejoicing. We went out to eat most nights other than Thanksgiving, and the first night out was family-style Chinese. I consider family-style dining to be a competition, FYI.

My brother and his girlfriend came in late Tuesday night. He brought some early birthday presents for his nephew, and oh man did he make an impression: tee-ball set, baseball glove, soccer goal, soccer ball, football, basketball hoop and plenty more small gifts. I think he sees being an uncle as a competition, and who are we to argue?

We actually had our Turkey Day on Wednesday since Ashley was scheduled to work on Thanksgiving day. Thursday was tons of outdoor fun with my brother and little guy. We even went to a park and I took some highland games implements to show off with. Actually, I wanted to get my brother's input on my throwing since he has a unique perspective. While he has never done highland games, he did play three years in the Major Leagues as a starting pitcher. He is one of the best natural athletes I have ever known, and I think it's safe to say he knows a thing or two about rotational power. Unsurprisingly, he had some good insight. I hope I can translate some of that into more distance.

Everyone headed home on Friday. The only problem I was left with was cleaning up leftovers and finishing off a keg of cranberry blonde. First world problems.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Scavenging for Gains

Before I trained today I drove about 10 miles north of my house to the San Gabriel River. I parked illegally by the shore and walked out into a dried up portion with a bathroom scale under my arm. I was looking for stones. Not just any stones - stones that I could balance in my hand and throw. I have an obsession, I admit it. Found a decent 22 lb. stone and a few good open stone candidates. I love Texas, but it's not the best destination for finding suitable stones for highland games. Any piece of limestone that weighs over 10 lb. is approximately the size of a basketball.

Slammed my energy drink and headed to Lord's Gym.

Warm up 135x10x2

Felt a little stiff-legged from squats earlier this week, but good overall. Bar was moving quickly enough.

High Pulls

Felt a little uncomfortable with these. Honestly can't remember the last time I ever did them. Started clicking by the last set, which was the one I filmed.

DB Swings (no KBs at this gym)

100-Foot Carry Medley - Farmer's Walk / Hydrant Carry
4 trips

Threw my new 22 lb. stone a little. The handle is a little strange, and the wrist wrap exacerbates that problem. I had decent tosses with a couple of different hand positions though.

Cale, the owner of Lord's stopped by right as I was finishing up. We had a great conversation about the future of the place and what we want to do there. A lot of potential and a big gaping hole in terms of strength facilities around here.

I really want to take my cranberry ale to my buddy's tailgate for the UT Football game tomorrow morning, but it still tastes so flat and thin. Gonna try to force carbonate it one more time tonight and see what I get.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Salado Tossing

Saturday was my 2nd ever Highland Games, which took place at the 50th Annual Salado Gathering of the Clans. It was a really impressive event and you could really learn a ton about the amazing amount of Scottish tradition in Central Texas. Great shops too - I took the opportunity to upgrade my highland games outfit with a little Longhorn flair.

Since I wear the tartan of my wife's clan on my kilt, I felt compelled to stop by their tent as well:

The competition itself was very well-run. The field and the crowd were both great as well. Dave Boyens was the Athletic Director for these games, and he did a stellar job. He was a genuinely fun guy to hang out with and his whole team really seem to love what they do. I will spoil the ending and say that I performed much better than I was expecting. I am very pleased with my finish. Before I get into the particulars, though, I feel like I should address something that my brilliant wife pointed out:

Not everyone reading this blog really knows what the heck Highland Games are.

Even if you do know what they are, odds are that unless you have competed you don't know the ins and outs. It's okay; this is called "being a normal person." I will take this opportunity to give a quick 1-sentence description of each event so when I blabber on about them at least you can get a mental picture. If that sounds unbearable, I don't blame you. For that reason I will also provide you a link to the official rules of North American Scottish Games Athletics. That way, if you want more information on how it works, you can get it from people that know what the hell they are talking about. There's also Wikipedia.

Highland Games, or Scottish Heavy Athletics is a thousands-of-years-old sport that is the result of Scotsmen daring each other to throw heavy things to see who could fling it the farthest. It has an amazingly rich tradition and was even a precursor and inspiration to the modern Olympics.

Braemar Stone: A stone of 20-26 lb. is "put" from a standing position like a modern shot put for distance; no run up or spinning allowed.

Open Stone: Even more like the modern shot put, a stone of 16-22 lb. is thrown in any style desired so long as the stone is "put" i.e., kept against the neck until release.

Light Weight/Heavy Weight For Distance: A 28 lb. or 56 lb. weight, usually attached to a metal handle with a chance, is thrown using any technique desired.

Weight Over Bar: A 56 lb. weight is thrown over a high-jump style bar that can be raised as the attempts get higher.

Sheaf Toss: An implement meant to approximate a bale of hay is thrown for height using a pitchfork.

Hammer Toss: A 16 lb. or 22 lb. hammer is thrown from a standing position for distance.

Caber: A log or pole that is wider on one end than the other is hoisted by the competitor and tossed; scoring is done by relating the landing position of the turned caber to a clock, with 12 o'clock being perfect. If the caber isn't turned, the angle the caber reached in the attempt is judged (but turning it always outscores not turning it).

Got all that? Great job, everyone. Here's how I did in Salado (the order of the events is just as it was on Saturday):

Weight Over Bar - 10 feet
First time I had thrown the 56 lb. weight for this event. I was just happy to get into double digits to be honest. I had the height on 2 of my 3 attempts at 11 feet, but I just couldn't line them up right.

Sheaf - 22 feet
Incredibly happy with this result. The best throws of the day were 24 and 26 feet, and to come in as a newbie who had never even attempted the sheaf toss before, I was really amazed with how well I did.

Braemar (24#) - 27 feet, 5.5" inches
Another result I was happy with. 2nd best throw of the day. While not technically a PR, the stone was 3 pounds heavier than the stone I threw 28'1" last week.

LWFD - 47 feet, 1 inch (PR)
It's a PR, yeah, but still a lot of work to do on this event.

HWFD - 16 feet, 5 inches
Both weight for distance events are still a glaring weakness, but the heavy weight really gives me problems

Hammer (22#) - 54 feet
First time throwing a real hammer, but I have practiced the movement. I managed 3rd place with this throw somehow, but I was throwing 65 feet in practice consistently right before we started. Damn it.

Caber (16'6", 120 lb.) - 70 degrees
No one turned this caber. It wasn't really the weight or the height that made it hard, but the way the taper was cut at the bottom. I picked it well twice, but it was hard to keep it solidly planted in your hands. I threw it to 70 degrees twice, but honestly I think I had a little more than that on the second one. Bonus phallic imagery (yes that's me):

When it was all said and done, I came in 3rd place in the Open class! I'm not gonna lie, I was pretty excited about that. This isnt like a powerlifting trophy that I got because I was the only one with my weight class, age range, division, veteran status, blood type and eye color - I actually won it against serious competition. Oh, and I got the requisite nerdy, strength sports hardware to prove it too:

Kevin, our 1st place winner, is an awesome guy I met at the Austin Celtic Festival. He is over 40 and was really thrilled to win 1st in an open. The guy that edged me out for 2nd place was a 6'11" monster by the name of Rebel. Here he is tossing the weight over bar:

After the games finished up, I hit the up the refreshment stand...

...and took some pictures with the other winners. Please note the enormousness of the man next to me:

Friday, November 11, 2011

oh, stone!

Wrapping up a pretty cool week here, not gonna lie to you.

After the Austin Celtic Festival last week I kept training like a madman all week. I am obsessed with learning these throws. I lifted three times this week and threw four times, and I am definitely feeling it today. I am debating whether or not I am going to compete at the Salado Gathering of the Clans tomorrow. It certainly couldn't hurt to get more experience in real games, but I also have a ton of work to do in order to be any good at this sport. My weight for distance throws are pretty dismal, and I'm still underweight from powerlifting at 198 lb. Plus, I just decided to start using the spin to throw the open stone, so I have to figure that out before the distance really comes.

I finally took the plunge on getting set up to keg my home brew. Stopped by the best homebrew supply store on the planet and picked up a 5 gal. cornelius keg, a 5 lb. CO2 tank and a regulator. I had them walk me through the entire kegging process there in the store. I told them "explain it to me like an idiot." I said this because I am actually an idiot.

Hopefully I can get my cranberry blonde ale in the keg today. I pulled out a sample of it for a gravity reading and a taste a couple days ago, and overall it's drinkable. The cranberry hasn't come through exactly how I wanted - more of the bitter skin taste and not as much of the tart fruitiness. I a hoping a little acid blend and a touch of corn sugar in the keg will help to even it out. As always, time is usually what settles out any weird flavors, but I really wanted this to be ready for tailgating the UT-Kansas State game on November 19. At the very least I hope it's good to go by Thanksgiving.

The most important thing that happened this week though? My wonderful wife Ashley's birthday! Since I have known her, every time we have seen one of those inflatable bouncy castles she has said something like "It would be so fun to rent one of those! I love them!" So, I obliged:

Someone else had a pretty good time too:

Ashley had a great time and really loved her gifts. The one I was most apprehensive about was the shoe rack I built. She had some terrible, crappy shoe rack for ages that fell apart every time she touched it, so I knew I had to do something. I figured I would try my hand at carpentry, and it actually turned out okay. Because all of her shoes don't quite fit on it, we decided I could get some more practice by building another one; maybe combined with some more shelving. MAYBE IT COULD HAVE A KEG AND TAP HANDLES AND....oh.

Anyway - if you read this, honey: I love you and will build you all the shoe racks your heart desires until death do us part.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

and now i'm eating twice as much

Saturday was my first Highland/Scottish Heavy Games at the Austin Celtic Festival. As I have been telling anyone that will listen, I am completely hooked now and this will be my focus in training. The idea of throwing heavy things clicked with me as soon as I tried it, and some of the techniques felt natural right off the bat.

I got to practice for a couple of hours last week with Mike Baab, the organizer and host of the games and one hell of an athlete himself. If you didn't already know, Mike was an outstanding center for the Texas Longhorns and had a long NFL career as well. He is also an incredibly nice guy and a great ambassador for the heavy games.

By the time the real thing came around, I was very happy that I had taken the time to handle some of the implements and learn the rules. It could have been pretty embarrassing to step out there completely unprepared, although we did have a guy do that and he turned out alright. I had also spent a great deal of my spare time in the last week building my own implements and practicing at Lord's Gym up the street from me; I really didn't want to fall on my face my first time out.

We started at 9:00 AM with a rules primer and we were throwing the braemar by 10:00. The stone they used was 21 pounds, and I had been practicing with 24, so lucky me. My first attempt ended up being my best, and even though I tried to crank it up for the third attempt my form just fell apart. Oh well.

Braemar - 28 feet, 1 inch

Next up was open stone. I decided to take a conservative shuffle on my first attempt, glide on the second, then go for broke with a full spin on the last. Again, my first attempt was solid, then I proceeded to throw about 3 feet shorter with a glide. I decided to forgo the spin and just try to shuffle again with more "umph," but it fell short. First throw was a winner again.

Open Stone - 36 feet, 2 inches

While I was comfortable with the stone puts, I haven't really mastered the weight-for-distance throws yet. It showed. First of these two throws was heavy weight for distance. Since I was in the novice class I got to throw the 42 lb. weight instead of the normal 56 lb. It didn't honestly make that much difference though.

HWFD - 17 feet, 7 inches

Light weight for distance I could obviously muscle a little further, but it was still ugly. Just went with a single spin, same as HWFD.

LWFD - 36 feet, 8.5 inches

Here is Mike Baab throwing the LWFD the correct way:

After LWFD we took a long break during which we got lunch and Mike did the kid's games. Extremely cute. Can't wait until my little man is old enough to try. After the break was the caber, which is always a crowd favorite. A group of at least a few hundred was on hand to witness the log-flipping madness. I fueled up with a sheperd's pie and hit the field.

There were four cabers on hand, each increasing in difficulty. Our group only got to 3 of them, and only the strongest guys turned the 3rd. My results were pretty unexpected considering I had never turned the 2nd one in practice.

Caber Toss
1st caber - 12:00
2nd caber - 11:55 (only novice to turn it)
3rd caber - hahaha no

I was fired up when I turned that 2nd caber. The crowd was into it as well since Mike told them this was my first games. Big roar from me, big cheer from everyone. Awesome. As if I needed more ego stroking. Best part though? My 2-year old boy and my wife got to see me do it.

Final event of the day was weight over bar. I felt really good about this event after practicing only a couple of times before we started. I didn't practice it all before the games, but I think it plays into some of my strengths. Plus, I was again throwing the 42 lb. instead of the 56 lb. weight. Here is some video of my successful 10-foot attempt (make sure sound is on for maximum adorable levels):

The biggest mistake I made was not listening to Mike and coming in too fast. I started at 9 feet, which meant I would have to attempt every height afterwards until I failed. I realized the wisdom of Mike's advice when I threw the damn thing 14 feet high on my 9-foot attempt. I finished with a best of 13 feet, but I know I could have had 14 if I paced myself and actually learned how to set up for the event.

Weight Over Bar - 13 feet

The games took place over two days, and as it turns out a lot of the big throwers came on Sunday. The biggest was Andy Vincent, a pro strongman and a buddy of mine from back when I was running a fitness competition website called Now You Try. We had never gotten to meet in person so I took the opportunity to shake hands and chat for a bit. Awesome guy, great athlete and extremely fun to watch. Andy also has pro football experience, so his feet move amazingly quick for such a big man. Check it:

As I sit here typing, I don't know the results of the games but Andy looked like he was on a good pace to win. I am definitely pulling for him. Andy's attitude and everyone else's at these games typifies exactly what I love about strength sports, especially highland and strongman. At the end of the day, we are really competing against our own best performances. We may win prizes based on how the numbers play out, but we aren't usually "gunning" for each other (unless it gets tight or the stakes are high). All the guys this weekend were incredibly supportive, willing to help the newbies and overall were light-hearted and genuinely enjoyed themselves. Powerlifting has a lot this too, but also it has a little bit of a problem with taking itself to seriously. Conversely, that's pretty much impossible to do when you are wearing a kilt and throwing rocks someone found while bagpipes are playing.

That, among many reasons is why I think I have finally found a real home with the heavy games. I will keep competing in anything that comes my way, but I have a burning desire to get very, very good at this.

I came away with a few notes for myself after the experience:

- Need cooler socks.
- Need tacky (sticky tar, basically) to train with on caber.
- Time to gain weight back. Get to 225 lb. at least. Grub time.
- Gotta incorporate more olympic lifting.
- Must master the spin for weight for distance. Stepping stone to a lot of the other events.

Not much in beer news this week. I wanted to bottle my cranberry ale today but I was A) sore as hell and B) thinking I don't want to bottle it at all and just take the plunge into kegging. Added to all of that, my son was sick for the past couple of days. With Ashley working today I wasn't about to leave him alone to run to the brew store. Probably the coolest thing beer-related this week was my buddy Aaron sending me some beer nerd log books by 33 beers.

Life is pretty neat. What cabers do to my lilly-white, crepe paper skin is not so neat. I look like a raccoon attacked my neck and shoulder.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

stick flippah

Oh yeah, I also trained today.


Kettlebell Swings (with a dumbbell)

5 caber flips with 16' 4x4

5 open stone throws with 16 lb.
With a shuffle step I hit 31 feet. I spun for 33 feet. Not a lot of difference yet, really.

5 braemar throws with 24 lb.
Didn't measure

3 hammer throws with 20 lb. hammer
41, 41, and 45 feet

Tasting Tuesday - Raison D'Etre

Dogfish Head is one of my favorite craft brewers, and I know this doesn't make me exactly unique. No matter how much you try to deny it, Sam Calagione is the perfect poster boy for craft beer: handsome, knows beer, sharp, well-spoken and truly passionate about the industry. Beyond Sam's charm though, Dogfish Head make some damn fine beer. They certainly don't aim for the mainstream in any way, shape or form and some of their beers are better left in the brewpub for the hardcore beer nerds. Their classics, like Raison D'Etre however, are a great blend of unique flavors that still make for a drinkable ale.

Raison D'etre
Style: Belgian Strong Ale
ABV: 8.0%
IBUs: 25

Appearance: Pours a reddish mahogany with a thin off-white head. The head was never more than a finger and receded rather quickly.

Aroma: Suprisingly light aroma for such a strong beer. Slight hints of raisin, cherry and malt. Little to no hops.

Taste: Slightly tart with an almost oak character immediately following. Very balanced hop characteristics; have to hand it to them for nailing that. The sweetness is on display the most thanks to the raisins and beet sugar, but that could be considered a blessing with the higher alcohol content. None of the sweet flavors really "cross the line" but they could be a little louder I suppose.

Mouthfeel: Rich and sugary, but not quite syrupy. Raisin becomes more apparent the more you drink. Again, the hops are balanced in such a way as to keep the sweetness in check throughout several rounds.

Overall: If I were judging this beer in a vacuum I would say without hesitation that it is well-executed and drinkable with some great notes of unique flavors. My one gripe might be that I was expecting something a little more "off-center" from Dogfish Head - especially with such wacky ingredients. As I mentioned, the hops work overtime to keep everything in check in Raison D'Etre, but I do find myself wondering what would happen if some of those unique notes got louder and more pronounced. Nonetheless, you can't go wrong with this beer. It is expertly crafted and better than a great deal of the "experimental" craft you might try.

Thanks for reading everyone! As always, hit me up on Twitter to chat about this beer or any other. Cheers!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Times are Changing...Ladies Can Do Stuff Now

Quite a weekend. It was Austin Beer Week and we definitely couldn't let that go by without hitting up some events. On Thursday we went to North by Northwest's Cask Tapping and Brewer's Dinner.

NXNW is a brewpub that has always been one of those reliable Austin standbys, and for that reason I always kinda took it for granted. After this event, I can assure you that will never be the case again. I have always liked their food, and any beer of theirs I have gotten has been good, but I never really took the time to slow down and enjoy what they have to offer. I probably have a bias where I think brewpubs don't dedicate as much time to the craft of beer making as a full-fledged brewery, so I took the NXNW brewer's dinner as an opportunity to really immerse myself in what a successful brewpub had to offer. I was also very happy that Ashley and our lil guy came to dinner as well. It was nice to not be a lone, creepy blogger taking pictures of my food. Plus, Ashley has a much more refined palate than I do. Hell let's be honest - my son probably does too.

The menu and pairings were as follows:

Herbed risotto cakes with a white truffle oil vinaigrette paired with Prost German Pilsner

Gruyere Soup paired with “Dark Side” Cask-Conditioned Black IPA

Veal scallopine with gastrique and peperonata paired with Duckabush Amber

Chocolate Mousse paired with Blackjack Ale

The mousse and Blackjack Ale was by far the pairing of the night. Just made some amazing flavors come out of each. Our little gourmand agreed about the mousse, as you can see. The Prost Pilsner and the risotto cakes was a close second. The Darkside IPA was a standout beer on its own, but the pairing with the veal was just so-so. I suspect this had something to
do with the fact that the Darkside cask was tapped just that evening as part of the festivities. Hard to pair something ahead of time when you don't have the finished product on hand. Nonetheless, an expertly-crafted IPA.

Friday was pretty low-key. I fulfilled my destiny as a truck owner by helping my friend Jay move. Got something fancy in the mail too!

Planning to compete in the heavy games at the Austin Celtic Festival next weekend, and kilts are required. I'm not Scottish by heritage; as my friend Aaron astutely pointed out, being of English heritage, my ancesors are probably responsible for the misery of thousands upon thousands of Scots. Yeah. Sorry. Anyway, the only real familial option I had for the plaid on the kilt was my wife's maiden name: Henderson. Luckily Clan Henderson has a pretty classic and badass plaid, so I'm even more proud to sport it in competition.

Saturday we tailgated with our friends Luke and Summer before the Texas-Kansas game. Luke is a chef and makes everything at his tailgate from scratch. Some of you may know him as the Texas Tattoo Guy. I took a few bottles of my banana-tinged Dortmunder, and to my surprise everyone that tried it reported it was enjoyable and pretty drinkable. Liars, all of them.

After that we headed to the DKR for game time. Our good friend Christian took us to the game with his season tickets, and for that we are very grateful; even moreso since the Horns beat the living hell out of Kansas. Hook 'em!

Sunday was my very first highland games practice. A good-sized group of guys in South Austin practice under the guidance of an awesome guy named Mike Baab. I was pleasantly surprised by how well I picked up the stones and weight for distance, but I was humbled pretty badly by the caber. They had a smaller practice caber (about 11 feet) that I turned and hit 12 o'clock on my first attempt. Of course my ego screams "YEAH, LET'S GET IN THERE WITH THE BIG BOYS!" That's when the humiliation began with the bigger stick. Good stuff though - I am excited to work on getting better.

*Not me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hottest Girl in the Whole Foods

Fun little day out with my lady today. She has been working and I have been traveling and recovering from wisdom teeth, so this was the first day in a while we were feeling up to hanging out and wasting some money on things and stuff.

We hit up Whole Foods since she was craving some organic something-or-other. I can't say I'm a big fan of that store and the whole "organic" movement in general, but I will say Ashley really knows how to navigate those places to find some darn good snacks. For all my misgivings about a Whole Foods trip, I was pretty amped about their beer selection. They have always impressed me and this trip was no different. I came away with quite a bounty:

Breckenridge Brewery (one of my favorites) Agave Wheat,
Timmerman's Framboise Lambic,
Dogfish Head Raison D'Etre

Since it's Austin Beer Week, there was also a marketing guy from Real Ale Brewing Co. named Kenny that was giving out samples in-store. Being a beer nerd, of course I had to chat Kenny up. We talked about the Texas Craft Brewer's Festival that we both attended back in September. We agreed that it could have been run a little more smoothly, but also that the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission bore a good deal of the blame for that. Kenny was a cool dude and it was really fun discussing the Texas beer scene with him. Pretty sure he checked out my wife too, but who could blame him? She was browsing the fancy cheeses suggestively several yards away.

Speaking of which, I had an awesome/awkward moment when I was looking at my bottle of lambic. I saw my wife out of the corner of my eye but didn't recognize her, so I immediately went into "hot blonde to my left, don't look" mode. I told Ashley about it and I'm still unsure whether this gets me positive or negative points.

I think it's positive though, because she bought me these today:

New Balance Minimus, yo. Minimalist footwear is supposed to be all the rage, and I have seen a lot of strength athletes give good reviews to these. I wasn't exactly ready to take the Vibram Five Fingers plunge, and I think this will serve as a better all-purpose shoe. Anyone out there have experience with these?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tasting Tuesday - Drifter Pale Ale

Our featured beer for this installment of Tasting Tuesday is Drifter Pale Ale from Widmer Brothers Brewing. Widmer Brothers has quite an interesting history even though they only date back to 1984. They became perhaps best know for their Hefeweizen, and grew steadily in the Northwest US throughout the 80s and 90s. In 1996 they made the move to bottles and greatly expanded their footprint.

Perhaps most interesting is that Anheuser-Busch InBev holds a stake in this brewery. In 2007 Widmer Brothers and Redhook merged to form the Craft Brewer's Alliance. Since Redhook had already formed a distribution-based merger with AB Inbev, the formation of the new company became, in effect, a merger between Redhook, Widmer Brothers and AB Inbev. Due to the nature of this business relationship, AB Inbev has no direct control over Widmer Brothers' product, and it certainly shows.

Drifter Pale Ale
Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 5.7%
IBUs: 28
Appearance: Pours dark honey, thin off-white head. Not the greatest pour in the picture, but still very short head that settles out fast.

Aroma: Very even blend of hops and malt. As head settles, the malt comes even more forward. A touch of sweeter fruit, mostly apricot find their way through on a deep inhale.

Taste: Very smooth up front, then a touch of hops in the middle. A nice alcohol dryness follows, and notes of dried apricot and butter make a really welcome appearance.

Mouthfeel: The carbonation was relatively low, but unlike the Austin Amber I reviewed, it complimented the malt flavor well. I attribute this to the slightly better blend of malt and hop bitterness on display with Drifter. There is an almost honey-like smoothness that is very in line with the beer's appearance. Nice dryness as well - keeps the sweet in check.

Overall: I was very impressed with this beer. It has a lot of the malt character I really enjoy, and the hops were balanced well. I think if I had to get picky, I would want the hops, especially the Summit, to make more of an impression earlier in the taste. I think what really got me in this beer's corner was the balance between sweetness, bitterness and dryness that made it interesting and complex. Very well done and simple enough for a casual drinker to catch onto.

Drop me a line here or on Twitter with your thoughts on Drifter Pale Ale. Cheers!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I ate a whole bunch.

This weekend was the powerlifting meet I have been training for: Unleash the Beast III. It was held on Saturday at Metroflex Gym in Fort Worth, TX. I competed in my first strongman competition at this very same gym, so it was nice to be stepping on somewhat familiar ground and see some of the same faces. Rendy De La Cruz is the owner, and besides being an absolute behemoth of a man, is an awesome, nice guy. My buddy Jack also drove up from Houston to do this meet, so it was good to have a teammate and coach throughout. It was Jack's first meet so it was really fun to see someone have that experience.

One thing my last experience taught me was that their scale can be a little on the heavy side, so I would have to make sure I was at least a pound lighter than expected in order to make weight. I decided kinda at the last minute to cut weight down to the 198lb. weight class. I was 206 lb. when I made the decision, and my cut was pretty simple and not too taxing. Drank about a gallon of water a day Sunday through Wednesday, then cut all water and sodium for a couple days. Showed up to weigh-in Friday on an empty stomach and made 198.0 lb. and didn't even need to sweat any out. Jack wasn't shooting to make any weight (which was smart) and would be lifting in the 220lb. class. As weak as I am, I really don't have any business cutting, but it was so easy to do and really made more sense than me lifting with 220-pounders.

We left the gym and headed to dinner. I hadn't eaten a serious meal since breakfast, so it was go time. We hit up a place called "Zorro's Buffet" and got to work. 3 plates of love:

I had also been restricting sodium for a few days so I got my NaCl on:

Then it was back the Sheraton for a couple of beers at the hotel bar.

I had Rahr & Sons Ugly Pug. Rahr & Sons is a rare species: a North Texas Craft Brewer, and I had heard nothing but good things. This was a pretty dang delicious black lager (schwarzbier) that really matched up favorably with Guinness' offering in the same style. It certainly lived up to its billing as an easy-drinking dark beer. The malt aroma and flavor were really well-displayed and the mouthfeel was light without being too watery. The hops were more prominent than in other black lagers I've tried, but it wasn't a negative in the least.

The meet didn't start until noon on Saturday so we had plenty more time to stuff our face. We hit up a Fort Worth classic - The Ol' South Pancake House. Right near TCU and full of Horned Frog fans in full game day regalia. Oh, and the food was amazing. You can probably tell from the buffet pics and this one that I was having a problem remembering to take a picture of my plate before I started stuffing my big dumb mouth.

I was back up to 207 lb. by the time we started lifting. Squats came first and through a combination of a terrible sound system, shifting flights and my own stupidity, I completely missed my first attempt. I had planned to open with 315lb., so I just had to head back to the warm-up rack and do it so I could get my confidence. I decided to keep it at 315 lb. for the second attempt so I could be certain I wouldn't bomb out of the meet. I nailed 315 lb. with no problem. I came to this meet with the goal of finally hitting a 365 lb. squat in a meet, so whether I was ready or not I called it for my third and final attempt.

Felt food to get that PR. All those good feelings would quickly get dashed by bench press though. I opened with 225 lb. and blew through it as expected. I was feeling so good that I decided to try 255 lb. I failed halfway up like always. This lift continues to mystify me. The only thing different when I hit 255 lb., earlier this year was being about 15 lb. heavier. I should be stronger in this lift, but I feel like I just fall apart in the bottom. Unsurprisingly, I failed 255 lb. again for my third attempt. Bench press is the worst. Luckily, Metroflex Fort Worth also has an MMA school and they treated us to a 10-minute striking and grappling demonstration. Pretty cool stuff and it helped get the bench press disaster off my mind.

It was a tough room for these guys, as you have a bunch of guys who are just focused on lifting the next weight for an audience. I have to give it up to these guys for putting on a great demo and doing their best to engage a bunch of lazy powerlifters. If I lived in the area, I would for sure be working with them.

I was feeling healthy and strong headed into deadlift, so I knew I had a PR coming. I opened at 445 lb. and smoked that pretty easily. My 2nd attempt was a meet PR of 480 lb. and I pulled that up without much trouble either.

I got greedy on my third attempt and went for 510 lbs instead of my planned 500 lb. The reason being I wanted an 1100 lb. total for the day and 510 lb. would get me there. A better idea would have been to not shit the bed on bench so bad, but oh well. I attacked 510 lb. well and got VERY CLOSE (as the pic below shows), but I just couldn't lock it out. My glutes were just fried and I couldn't get them to fire. Check it:

So to sum up:

Attempt 1 - No Lift
Attempt 2 - 315 lb. Good
Attempt 3 - 365 lb. Good, Meet PR

Attempt 1 - 225 lb. Good
Attempt 2 - 255 lb. No Lift
Attempt 3 - 255 lb. No Lift

Attempt 1 - 445 lb. Good
Attempt 2 - 480 lb. Good, Meet PR
Attempt 3 - 510 lb. No Lift

Finished up with 3 medals:
2nd Place Squat - 198 lb. Weight Class
2nd Place Bench - 198 lb. Weight Class (Only two people competing. Oh, powerlifting).
3rd Place Deadlift - 198 lb. Weight Class

This is the young fella that won Best Lifter and a litany of other awards. His name is Jeremy Scruggs and he is a very talented 132 lb. raw lifter:

And here he is making a 430 lb.squat look easy:

We are all witnesses (to bad benching):

Here I am with Rendy De La Cruz, the badass who runs this gym and these events. A heartfelt thanks goes out to him for running a great event and doing so much to promote strength sports in this part of the country:

We finished the meet in the same style we had prepped for it by eating some marvelously unhealthy food. Our post-meet feast was In and Out Burger. It was a lot of food so I had to wash it down with a milkshake. I'm sure you understand.

Back to the hotel to crash face first on the floor and then shower. Unfortunately I got word that my little boy was having a rough day and night, so I had to head back early and not stay the second night.

Before that, we got a chance to split my homebrewe Dortmunder though. Being in the bottle is really helping it out, and Jack remarked that it is very drinkable. He can definitely taste the banana/fruity esters that came from losing refrigeration during the blackout, but it really doesn't do much besides add some character. Either way, it inspired me to start calling it Bitter Blackout Banana. I'm so gosh-darned clever.

On my way out of town I decided to stop by the gigantic Miller Brewery that sits on I-35 just south of Fort Worth. I could actually smell the malt and that was kind of awesome.