Sunday, January 29, 2012

Gearing up (to get get drunk)

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.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tasting Tuesday - Coffee Porter

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.

Shade Grown Coffee Porter
Real Ale Brewing Company - Blanco, TX, USA
ABV: 5.6%
IBUs: 40

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!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The perfect pairing refers to our friendship

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 #3: Pork Belly, Confit Tomato, Frisée
Beer #3: NXNW Northern Light, Pilsner, Austin, TX
Wine #3: Kenwood Pinot Noir, 2010, Sonoma County, CA

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.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

No, no, you throw it with a pitchfork

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.

Push Press

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.


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