All cleans of all kinds today. Just triples, doubles and singles. Started out doing very deliberate full cleans to hammer the idea of "get under the bar" into my head. Managed to work up to a PR (from the floor) of 255.
The first thing I was afraid of trying this beer was that Stone would overdo it with the smoke flavor. They did not, and it's a very balanced Porter. Sweet aroma - smoke really hides out until you take a sip. Hoped for a little softer, maltier taste, but it is a Stone Brew after all. Mouthfeel is excellent.
Just a collection of the off-season throwing videos I've made thus far. Big off-season for me this year, so I want to get off on the right foot with regular throwing. Hammers - need the most work here.
Open Stone - full spin is coming back, and progress is finally being made.
HWFD - Gain weight, Mike.
20 lb Sheaf - Feels good. Just need to get some practices in with speed.
More Stones - Really trying to get my finish fixed.
Still just kinda jackin around until Austin Celtic Festival is over this weekend. After that, I will start my off-season in earnest. Did a lot of overhead work today. Definitely zeroed in on a weak point - my shoulders. I can push press 225 most days, but I was struggling to strict press 165 today. Gotta target delts and triceps a little more these next few months.
Got a good week of training in last week, and I'm ramping up for the off-season fairly well. Hannah continues to rob the wife and I of precious sleep, so I have to make do with what level of rest I get. I got the "lift heavier" bug these past couple of sessions, so I loosened up the routine and kinda did whatever. Nothing wrong with testing myself a little to see what I lost over the course of the season in terms of top-end strength.
Cleans, snatch and deadlifts:
Squat variations and ugly, ugly, bench press:
I have been really getting into the idea of experimenting more with hard cider recipes, so I picked up the following at Austin Homebrew today:
Bavarian Wheat Yeast
1 lb. Wheat DME
1 lb. Golden Light DME
...and then I forgot to get apple juice. It's tough to be this way. To be me.
Really the only thing of actual importance that has been going on with me is the birth of my daughter, Hannah Michelle Beech. Here she is just after being born:
Here she is making a grumpy, yet awesome face a few days later. Seriously, this kid is Queen Grumpface.
I have had a pretty successful season thus far making beer for Luke's big bad tailgate extravaganzas. The biggest hit so far has been a simple blonde ale that I really knocked out of the park. Hmm...replicating a batch; that should be easy in a garage brewery with no computers or skilled brewers.
My highlands game season is coming to a close. I have two more games in Austin and Salado, but I am kind of considering this last weekend's Celtober Cowtown Throwdown the official "end." So, re-capping my first year in the games:
- Competed in 9 games (will be 11 by year's end)
- Earned the right to throw with the A's by my 3rd ever games (north texas kickoff)
- Traveled out of state for a games (greenville, sc)
- Won my first overall games (sherwood forest faire)
- Gained 15 lb.
- Met and befriended throwers and ADs from all over
- Recruited 2 athletes to the sport
- Learned that entertaining and engaging the crowd is incredibly important for the sport
I can definitely live with that list. Let's look at the numbers now as compared to 11 months ago:
Braemar: 28'-1" --> 32'4"
Open Stone: 36'-2" --> 40'-10.5"
Heavy Weight for Distance: 17'7" --> 30'-9"
Light Weight for Distance: 36'-8" --> 62'-7"
Heavy Hammer: 54'-7" --> 68'-4"
Light Hammer: 87-7" (didnt throw this in 2011)
Sheaf: 22' with 16# bag --> 24' with 20# bag
Weight Over Bar: 10' --> 13'
Looking those over, I'm supremely disappointed with open stone, especially given how much I work on it. Breaking 40 feet was great, but I am consistently stuck between 36 and 38 feet. Hammers are abysmal, but that's simply from lack of practice. Can't use that excuse any more. This off-season I will acquire every single implement so I can train how I need to.
Lots of pretty cool happenings around here. After years of suffering the insufferable in corporate gyms, I finally found a good deal on a rack, barbell, and weights and got my home gym started. Have already broken it in with a couple of lifts, and clearly I need to adjust the Feng-Shui of the set-up and build a platform as well. Loving it, though. Happy Father's Day to me.
My awesome wife also got me a legitimate pair of weightlifting shoes for Father's day so I can finally squat without my knee exploding every few weeks.
I haven't competed in a Highland Games since June, and I will be back at it in Huntsville, TX the first week of August. Looking forward to coming off a long rest and a couple of training cycles to get my throws locked in. I am really trying to emphasize hammers and sheaf, as I have really been disappointing in those events. Caber is a monster I need to conquer, but that might take a whole off-season.
Here's me throwing the 20 lb. sheaf in my front yard. It's feeling more natural every time I touch it.
I am down to the last few pints of my very first all-grain batch, the "Ill-Advised Pils." I am happy with this beer overall, especially the color and clarity. I am a believer in secondary and cold storage/lagering more than ever after this batch. My gripes are a touch of diacetyl, and a little unwelcome bitterness from using whole leaf hops and leaving it to sit on them for far too long. I think this is a good start to getting a regular, easy-drinking beer ready for tailgaiting season, though.
Next up is a hard apple cider I decided to try making on a whim after talking to Forest Rogness, owner of Austin Homebrew Supply. It's super simple: 4 gallons of apple juice, 2 lb. of dried malt extract and Belgian wit yeast. It's now in cold storage and I am gonna try force-carbonating and kegging it for kicks. Boom.
Started a new job a couple of months back. It's rewarding, it's basically a start-up but it can also be kind of consuming. Just starting to re-establish some balance.
Highland Games have been going well. Headed into my 4th of the season this weekend in Arlington. I switched from spin to glide in the open stone, so that's earth-shattering. I'm also training regularly with a friend who also happens to be the #1 amateur thrower in North America.
I have yet another failed pilsner in the works. That style is cursed. This one is probably going to end up being called "steam beer" so people finally think I know what the fuck I'm talking about with homebrewing.
Things are quiet on the beer front, but I did have a chance to throw together a small tasting dinner with Luke at his place. We did a Mardi-Gras theme dinner with 4 courses. Since it was just us and our wives, we took some bigger chances to experiment with new techniques and pairings before we decide to another dinner for a broader audience. It went down like this:
King Cupcake & Beignet Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout - Petaluma, CA
The Riesling was probably the best pairing of the night, but I almost think that's cheating; Riesling pairs with almost anything. The Katana saké went really well with the oyster (again, no surprise) but it sucked out loud with the boudin ball. The Belgian wit worked with the boudin ball and nothing else. The lassi did what I intended it to - cut the spice and added acid - but the texture and mouthfeel was too much for an entrée. The Cappucino Stout was a good enough beer on its own, and the concept was right, but cold drinks suck with those desserts.
Oh well. Gotta try everything, even if its not perfect. At least Luke got to show off his high-powered vent hood while blackening the fish.
Training has been going well, and my first Highland Games of the season is this weekend in Fort Worth. I am lifting 3 times a week and throwing 2 times, so I have been pretty beat. I am adjusting though.
Today was pretty crazy:
Warm Up: 5 min treadmill LOTS of foam rolling a little static stretch and band work but had no patience
Push Press 45x3 95x3x2 135x3x8
I was doing funny things with my head today.
Deadlift 225x3x2 295x3x10
DB Rows 130x10x2 - Grip gave out before I could finish, time to strap up.
I went and threw with a guy named Spencer Tyler. He was the #4 amateur Highland Games thrower in North America last year. So yeah, I had to show him the ropes.
Stones - 5 stands, 5 reverse, 5 or 6 fulls. No great distance breakthroughs, but a lot of new stuff to process. Staying on my left forever out of the back. HWFD - Only 5 or so 2-spins. Spencer found an issue with my cast that I need to work on now. 16# Hammer - 4 or 5 tosses. Still basically a n00b on this one.
Interesting week, athletically speaking. I took last week easy in the weight room since it was my de-load week. I also decided at the last minute to register for a fencing tournament that was taking place on Sunday. I only had enough time to get my gear out of storage, make sure it was working and try on my fancy pants. No practice at all. I really just wanted to scratch my competitive itch since I hadn't done anything to test myself physically since last November.
It was a pretty fun tournament, I only saw one person that knew me from back in the old days, and a 10-year old girl told me I was "hot." Also, I made it to the finals, but lost and took 2nd place.
This week was the first "speed" phase for me in Matt Vincent's program. It's always a challenge for me shifting gears from strength work to moving lighter weights as fast as possible. I think having throwing to tie it all together helps it make more sense though. Today looked like this:
5 min treadmill
Bar speed actually got better as I progressed into the later sets.
I felt like I was flying through these, but I imagine they looked pretty slow.
3 sets of 10
Throwing is up to 2 or 3 times a week and there is still a lot of ugly to work out. I recently discovered that another excellent highland games thrower named Spencer Tyler lives just down the road from me. We are planning to throw together this weekend. If I don't eventually get good at this sport, it will be 100% due to me just not trying hard enough.
Lots of training and preparation for highland games right now. First games are on February 25-26 in Fort Worth, and I'm feeling strong and ready. Picked up some nagging training injuries, but nothing that should hold me back. One more week of pure strength training and I will switch gears to an in-season program with more emphasis on speed and maintaining strength.
Finally got my fork ready for sheaf too.
Got the 16 lb. practice sheaf stuffed and sewn shut (thanks, honey) but I'm not going to show it because it's um...not...aesthetically pleasing.
Had a pretty busy day with booze yesterday. Finally got the cabernet sauvignon I have had aging in the closet into bottles. Looks and tastes pretty good, but definitely still needs a few weeks in the bottle to finish. Bottling this stuff reminded me why I went to kegging for my beer: saving immense amounts of time.
Finally got my Highland Games Ale in the keg last night and force-carbonated it today. It's pretty much a Scottish Export 80/- with a tiny tweak to the hop profile. It tastes pretty hoppy, which isn't exactly what I was going for. Maybe spending the rest of the week in the keg will smooth it out.
In other beer news - the kind that doesn't require work on my part - I received my first shipment from the Great American Beer Club! A free 12-pack! Ashley's dad and stepmother gave me a two-month membership for Christmas. Hopefully I will get some of these brews up for Tasting Tuesday sometime soon.
I am pretty stoked about this review for a couple of reasons. I'm a big fan of Real Ale Brewing Company, and I love malty stouts and porters. As such, I was thrilled when they released another limited run coffee porter. A lot of beer nerds around here were excited about it, and I'm certainly no exception. This brew features organic fair trade coffee from Katz's Coffee and is gaining a ton of goodwill around Texas for that alone.
Appearance: Extremely similar to black coffee, unsurprisingly. Has a nice burgundy or ruby coloring to it that makes it really nice to look at though. Thick, rocky head - 1.5 fingers at least, which surprised me. Side note: if you don't drink this out of a mug, you are doing it wrong.
Aroma: The coffee is front and center on the nose. What's nice is that some chocolate and brown sugar character from the malt really come through to highlight it. Almost a latté softness to it.
Taste: Again, the coffee is the star, and with good reason. It's a rich and pleasing flavor that doesn't make the overall experience more acidic. The malts act as a perfect sweetener to the bitter coffee, and the low carbonation keeps the bite at bay nicely.
Mouthfeel: As mentioned, the carbonation was low, but not so much as to thin out the beer. My initial impression was "silky" and I will stick with that. There is a slight astringency that doesn't quite fit in, but it's not enough to detract from the sweet-coffee-ness of it all.
Overall: Not shockingly, this was one my favorites I have tasted recently. I love malty beers and Real Ale executes them as well as anyone. It's not the only coffee porter on the market by far, but I think it stands out because of the fresh taste and smooth blending of all the flavors. Pick up as much of this beer as you can before it goes away.
Another one in the books. This is a really hard job. Follow me on Twitter and share your thoughts on this brew if you've been lucky enough to have it!
Last Saturday, my buddy Luke from Luke What's Cookin put together a wine/beer pairing dinner for our friends that were having a housewarming. We had been wanting to do it for a while, and this was a great excuse.
Luke wrote a pretty exhaustive post, so I will try not to re-hash to much of it. Luke, being a very talented chef, planned and executed 5 incredible courses. My job was to pair a beer and a wine with each. Here is the menu with pairings in its entirety:
Course #1: Herbed Spring Mix with Goat Cheese, Almonds, Orange Beer #1: Ommegang Rouge, Flanders Red Ale, Cooperstown, NY Wine #1: Verdemar Albariño, 2009, Riaz Baixas, Spain
Course #2: Chicken and Andouille Gumbo Beer #2: Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, India Pale Ale, Milton, DE Wine #2: Chateau Routas Rosé, 2010, Provence, France
Course #4: Venison Leg Roast, Potato Celeriac Purée, Roasted Squash Beer #4: Chimay Premiére, Belgian Dubbel, Hainut, Belgium Wine #4: Red Diamond Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008, Patterson, WA
Course #5: Roasted Banana Semifreddo with Peanut Butter Caramel Beer #5: Rahr & Sons Ugly Pug, Black Lager, Fort Worth, TX Wine #5: Tott's Gold Medal Cuvée, San Joaquin Valley, CA
I was floored by how well Luke was able to execute his cuisine. It was fun to go over each one with him and pick out minute things that might work better, but overall he really showed his talent. It was incredibly fun to try and pair drinks with his stuff. I wanted to do two things with the pairings: 1. Have the pairing of food and drink create a taste experience that doesn't exist independently in either, and 2. Use one drink to accentuate the flavors of the course and the other to subdue or soften them.
I accomplished 2. a lot better than 1. and I think we can chalk that up to lack of experience. The pairings went over pretty well from what I could tell. No surprise here, but more people seemed to think the beer pairings were spot-on with the food. My take-home lesson is that I need to keep learning wine. Definitely planning to do this again though, and I think we want to expand the audience. I will keep everyone posted.
Training continues to go well, and I feel stronger than ever right now. I went out to throw this afternoon and had quite a day.
16# standing put to 30 ft 16# with reverse to 33 ft 16# spin to 35
22# braemar to 30 ft PR
HWFD - 20 ft PR
LWFD 52 ft PR
I will take three personal records in one session. Yes, I will.
If you ever need to build a sheaf for highland games, make sure to give yourself a few days lead time.
That's a box containing 20,000 feet of bailing twine, being stuffed into a burlap sack. Unrolling a 10,000 foot spool of that is about is exciting as you would expect it to be. Luckily Ashley brought home some Shiner Spring Dortmunder and I got to enjoy it in my oh-so-proper glassware from Christmas. Sheaf is an event I haven't practiced at all since my last games, and the season is rapidly approaching. I had a knack for it right out of the gate in my first try at it, but I'm gonna need a lot more than 22 feet to run with the big dogs.
The next big thing for me in highland games is a clinic/get together with throwers from the region as well as the Vincent brothers (both pros). I started brewing a Scottish Ale for the occasion that I call Heavy Athletics Ale, and I think it's coming together after an initially slow start to primary fermentation. I transferred it to secondary earlier this week to get it cleared up and hopefully subdue some of the substantial hop bitterness.
I am feeling pretty positive about the upcoming season. I am setting PRs in the gym as well as when I'm throwing. They are small in the great scheme of things, but I finally got the light weight for distance to fly 50 feet last week, and my open stone spin is finally catching up to my glide. Heavy weight for distance is still dismal, though.
Trained with Ashley this week, and had a ton of fun. Today was not my best training performance by a long shot, but at least I got in there and pushed myself. Our little guy gave us a very rough night last night, so I had a feeling it would catch up to me during deadlift. Boy was I right.
385x5x2 - I called it right there. It was horrible, and going for the 5th set would have been nothing but ego. Just didn't have gas in the tank.