Wednesday, December 07, 2016

BA Throwdown at Idle Hands

Josh and I enjoyed a chat over a sampling of beers at Idle Hands last night.
My ride home was a fixie-mixie. I rode the grass alongside wrong-way Valley Street, and then cut through Ginn Field on my way to CBC looking for some good Flanders Red. Unfortunately, Craft Beer Cellar closed at 8.

Here's the email that prompted our outing.

Hey TigerMouth61,
Join the BeerAdvocate crew on Tuesday, December 6th at Idle Hands in Malden as we continue our monthly ThrowDown series! The fun kicks off at 6pm. We'll buy a few pints and tear it up BA-style.
For more information, updates and to join the discussion: linkHope to see you there,
Jason & Todd (Alström Bros), Founders, BeerAdvocate

Here's what I learned at the Throwdown...

  • Jillian, our bartender, told me that the BA Throwdown is a monthly event at different breweries, where BA fans can talk beers with "The Bros" and the brewery's owner and head brewer. Or as Austin put it, "hanging out with chubby beer geeks."
  • Chris, the Idle Hands owner, is a pleasant guy, willing to share some of his beer knowledge with strangers.
  • Chris likes to bottle condition his ales. He doesn't use cans for bottle conditioned beers though--and not just because of the name. Cans aren't as rigid as bottles. Bottle conditioning requires that you leave some space in the container for the fermentation. If you leave space in cans and then stack them at the brewery, the cans on the bottom just get crushed.
  • Chris prefers Belgian ales because they are more subtle than IPAs. With IPAs the brewer can hide faults by piling on the hops. Idle Hands always has IPA on tap though, because his customers demand it.
  • I'm attracted to Idle Hands because of they are local, have a cool logo, and specialize in Belgian-style ales. That said, I'm not a huge fan of their beers. 

This is what I tasted last night

(Along with the descriptions from the web page, and my impressions of each beer. Despite the long list, I only drank 36oz of beer before riding my bike home.)
  1. Change Up #3 IPA - American; 7.5% ABV 34 IBU; A reckless amount of Citra hops supported by Centennial, Simcoe, and Palisade, combined with a robust grain bill to hold all the flavor up; we've crafted a soft, citrusy, and juicy IPA that you'd never guess was a 7.5% hop bomb. [pws: ★★★ Very hazy, with moderate carbonation. Fairly typical New England IPA. I'd order this again. They only had enough Change Up #3 left for a half glass, so I had a sip of Josh'. Recipe by brewer Brett.] 
  2. Change Up #4 IPA - American; 7% ABV 35 IBU; Part of our rotating IPA series brewed with Equinox hops being the focus and Columbus, Centennial, Amarillo and Galaxy along for the ride. [pws: ★★ Looked the same as Change Up #3, but Josh described it as flatter and mineral tasting. Again, I just had a sip of Josh' and it was less carbonated than Change Up #3 and had very little flavor to my palate. I'm glad I didn't order this one. Recipe by owner Chris, so I had to apologize to him for not liking it.] 
  3. Sig Sour Dry-Hopped Sour Ale; 4% ABV; Pale straw in color with strong sour lemon/lime/citrus notes and a touch of tropical fruit. Very refreshing. [pws: ★★ Part of my flight, it tasted like unsweetened lemonade. I'm on a mission to discover sours I like; this wasn't one of them. I'm looking for something like Alexander Flanders Red Ale by Brouwerij Rodenbach, or Monk's Café Flemish Sour Ale by Brouwerij Van Steenberge.] 
  4. Kill Your Idles: Blood Orange Sour - Ale; 5.6% ABV; Sour ale w/ blood orange and lactose added creating a flavor reminiscent of fresh squeezed orange juice. [pws: ★★★ Part of my flight, this is more what I am looking for in a sour. A bit tart, but with some sweetness; like one of my favorite candies as a child, Sweet Tarts.] 
  5. Thing 1 Saison / Farmhouse Ale; Mixed culture saison [pws: ★★★ Part of my flight. I gave this three stars because it is the first offering in the Friends of Funky Town program. I'm already committed, so I better learn to like it!] 
  6. Check Raise Stout - American; 6.4% ABV; Flavors of Coffee with hints of pine and citrus emerge from the bittersweet chocolate and roast background. [pws: ★★★★ Part of my flight, this is the only beer from last night that I liked enough to recommend to others. Like most stouts, it had a chocolatey-coffee taste, but it was very well balanced, with a malty sweetness lingering on the tongue. Owner Chris said that their original brewery in Everett was forced out by a casino (I think?), so some of the Idle Hands beers are named after gambling terms. Check Raise is a deceptive play in poker. A player checks early in a betting round, hoping someone else will open. The player who checked then raises in the same round.]
  7. Klara Lager - Dortmunder / Export; 5.5% ABV 25 IBU; Cracker-malt profile w/ herbal & citrus hop notes. Finishes with a mineral-like dryness. [pws: ★ Tasted before ordering a pint of Proème. I'm not a lager fan, so probably a bit harsh in my rating.] 
  8. Proème Saison / Farmhouse Ale; 5% ABV 48 IBU; Dry-hopped farmhouse ale. Massive tropical and stone fruit flavors, finished with a dry, peppery yeast character. [pws: ★★ I tasted before ordering, and it didn't grab my fancy. Ordered a pint anyhow, because Jillian told me it was dry-hopped with Mosaic. Ever since Josh shared a bomber of Trillium's Galaxy Dry-Hopped Fort Point Pale Ale a couple years ago, I've been mad about Galaxy hops. I wanted Josh to try the Proème so I ordered a beer I didn't much like. Josh questioned the description of "massive tropical and stone fruit flavors" and we asked Idle Hands owner Chris about it. He said that Trillium uses way more Galaxy hops in their IPA than Idle Hands does in their Proème Saison, which is a more subtle, malty ale. Unfortunately, Proème didn't blow me away like Trillium's Fort Point. Probably not a fair comparison because BeerAdvocate rates Fort Point as World Class.. Still, give me the Trillium every time.]

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

10th Annual Rippers Five Notches Ride

credit: Austin Swinney

The 10th Anniversary of the Rippers Five Notches weekend was a blast! This was my 8th* time and probably the most fun of them all. Though we may have to change the name since this year's route only included 3 notches and some of us skipped the last one and rode straight to Jay's house from Franconia.

* I didn't join the Rippers until the second Five Notches ride, and I had to miss the year they rode the Five Notches clockwise, instead of the usual counter-clockwise direction.

Hellacious Hosts

The weekend wouldn't be possible without our fantastic hosts. Rich Batten, Jay Olmsted, Andrew Schmitt, and Bill Aalerud open their homes (and kitchens) to a host of tired, hungry Rippers and make us feel welcome and comfortable. It's a lot of work preparing food and beds, and then more work cleaning up after us. Thanks tons! 

In addition to beds... 
  • Rich hosted dinner Friday night. 
  • Andrew procured a sixth keg of Allagash White and a sixth keg of Ipswich Route 101. 
  • Bill drove up Friday night to welcome his guests, then drove back to MA after serving them breakfast the next morning to watch his daughter Claire run cross country for Merrimack College, then drove back up to NH to host dinner after the Notches ride. Whew! That's dedication, to the Rippers and his daughter.
  • Jay gave me a bed with a comfy down comforter, breakfasts of blueberry pancakes and egg/bacon/bagel sandwich, and acted as the designated driver from Bill's apres-Notches dinner.

Can't stay away

Bill wasn't the only Ripper who couldn't ride, but also couldn't stay away. Austin Swinney was there, hawking his hats with the Ripper logo, but couldn't ride due to a cold or something. Don Metz showed up at Bill's BBQ and shared photos of his lovely new VT house that he spent the last year building. JD had a funeral (or a wedding or something) during the ride, but showed up at Shilling for a toast before attending the dinner at Bill's.

The Ride

The Notch ride itself was fast and fun. The foliage was beautiful and the roads were quiet, smooth, and scenic. There was even a little stretch of dirt road, just for me. There were about 25 of us at the Dow Field start at 8:30 AM. We rode together (regrouping at the top of Kinsman Notch and Moosilauke) to the lunch stop at Windy Ridge Orchard. From there, we split into 2 groups; some took a shorter route home for 100km; some continued to Littleton on the 115-mile route. Because lunch was long, and rain was threatening the group on the long route decided to go straight from Littleton to Franconia, shortening the ride to 100 miles.

My new, skinny self was able to stay near the front on all the climbs. Near the end of the day I was happy to be alone at the front on Josh Kapp's wheel up another long hill. Then I realized that was Rich in front of me, not Josh. "What the hell am I doing?", I thought. "I can't ride with Rich." and I immediately went backwards as Rich pulled away. The hill climbing heroes were Rob and Rich, of course, but also Cedric, Mark Jacobson, and Mark Poirier.

When the big boys picked up the pace (25-30 mph) on the flats, I was happy to suck wheel behind Cedric, Rich, Mark Poirier, Josh Fenollosa, or Evan Mead. Of course, Rob Callahan was up there too, and took massive pulls, but I tried to stay behind a bigger wind screen. It worked too; I scored a couple of KOMs, until the rest of the Rippers in the train uploaded their rides and bumped me by a second or two. Still I crowed about it in the car all the way to Bill's house, since this is the first time I got a KOM that wasn't for a segment in the boondocks were only a handful of people know what Strava is.

That night I paid for those trophies. I rolled over in bed and both sartorius muscles cramped so hard I couldn't breathe for several minutes. I just whimpered (quietly so as not to wake my roommates) until the pain receded and I could move again.

Did you know... "The sartorius muscle is a long, thin, band-like muscle in your interior thigh. It’s the longest muscle in the human body. The muscle primarily helps flex and rotate your thigh at the hip joint. The muscle is so long, it also crosses the knee joint, where it helps flex the leg." source

On the last climb to Littleton, I watched in dismay as Rich, Rob, Josh Kapp, and Cedric pulled away from me. I decided to wave the white flag, and call it a day. Josh Kapp and I stopped at Shilling Brewery and Taproom. Fittingly, the Berliner Weisse I ordered was called Gürlimann and came with a shot of raspberry syrup. Josh ordered a manly-man Tripel, at more than double the ABV of my beer.

The Hike

Although Rich planned and led an excellent mixed-terrain ride on Sunday, I decided to hike up Cannon Mountain with Josh Kapp instead. In the summer of 2014, I hiked the 48 Four-Thousand Footers, and I'm going to do it again this winter. So I am starting to transition from biking to hiking. 

The bartender on the summit of the mountain was Rick Hunt. After serving us Pig's Ear Brown Ale from Woodstock Inn Brewery (BA Score 82 - good), he told us he was an artist. Rick was a friend of Angie Bowie--former wife of David Bowie--and illustrated her books: Cat-Astrophe and Fancy Footwork: Poetry Collection.

Book time for hiking up Kinsman Ridge Trail from the Aerial Tram parking lot to the summit and back is 3hr20min. Josh and I did it in 3hr35min, including a stop at the Cafe 4,080' at the top of the tram. My legs are used to biking all day, but after hiking for 3 hours, my quad muscles ached for 3 days, probably due to the down hiking.


A few minutes after we got back to the trailhead and started driving back home, the clouds opened up and it rained so hard that we had trouble seeing the road. Then we ran into a big traffic jam before White River Junction. In spite of the delays, we got back to Winchester for me to see 3 quarters of Brady's return to the NFL, as the Patriots dismantled the Browns. While I ate chips and watched TV, Josh hustled to WILTC to play tennis for a couple of hours.

Notable beers

Andrew provided 2 kegs of beer for the dinners on Friday and Saturday, so I didn't think to bring any of the beers in my fridge. Whoops! What was I thinking? We needed pre-dinner aperitifs both nights. Fortunately, Rob Callahan brought a four-pack of Trillium* and Jay Olmsted had a selection of other fine beers in his refrigerator. Thanks, guys. I'll remember to bring something tasty next year.

*Unreliable sources report that I declared Ipswich Route 101 tastes better than Trillium Sleeper Street. I categorically deny it. Go to my fact checking web page to learn the truth. Besides, I was drunk when I allegedly made this claim. Also... If I offended anyone by my remark, I apologize. Bring on the next debate!
Allagash White (from the keg): BA Score 92 - outstanding

Ipswich Route 101 IPA (from the keg): BA Score 82 - very good

Trillium Congress Street IPA: BA Score 98 - world class
Trillium Double Dry Hopped Sleeper Street IPA: BA Score 98 - world class
Trillium Fort Point Pale Ale: BA Score 99 - world class

Wicked Weed Pernicious IPA: BA Score 94 - outstanding

Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale: BA Score 86 - very good
Bel Haven Scottish Ale: BA Score 85 - very good

Monday, September 26, 2016

VT Fall Classic 200K randonee & Camel’s Hump Hike

More $$$ for beers than Zzzz’s

VT Fall Classic 200K Randonee & Camel’s Hump Hike--as told in photos and live text messages


Hungry Mountain Co-op mix pack. Got the only one with Sip, Light in the Window, Limited Access, and 14th Star Maple Stout.

Now watching Sox at Three Penny Taproom and drinking Hill Farmstead Abner DIPA and eating Sip of Sunshine Bratwurst sandwich.

Abner was awesome. Hill Farmstead Self Reliance #2 just ok. Brat pretty tasty.

Abner v Self Reliance. Abner even looks better.
Drinking Lawson's Sip now. Abner was better. 

Favorite tonight: Rodenbach Alexander Flemish Sour.

2nd dinner at Positive Pie. That's a Heady Topper.

Last post, I promise. Drop In Brewing's Dude Are You OK? 8% American Pale Ale. Floral, piney, candied grapefruit.

Josh: Dude! Living the life! You are not driving, right!
Me: Walking 0.3mi to my Airbnb. Thanks for asking. VT is awesome!

I lied. Last beer; last post. Good Water InspiRed. Band so loud; so good. Why ride tomorrow?

Good thing I'm walking back to Airbnb. Listening to band now. Bass is so loud, my whole body is vibrating. I love it.
Listening to Black Rabbit shred. 3 musicians. Lots of sound. Up next: Lake Superior.
Gotta get up in 6 hours and ride 120 miles on dirt roads up big hills. Ugh.


Woke up at 5am and the ride start was only 1 mile from my Airbnb, but I still got there 20 minutes late for the 6am start. Oh well, I like riding by myself.

Really cold and foggy for the first few hours.

First control point--the floating bridge in Brookfield.

A boat in a sea of grass. The quirky home across the street had a castle turret, a shrine to a gazing globe, and a bronze dragon on the gate.

The sun eventually came out and showed fluffy white clouds against a brilliant blue sky, but it stayed chilly all day.

Red Hen Baking Co, the 2nd vendor control, was so comfy. I spent an hour drinking coffee and eating pastries.
I took 5 hours to ride the first 100k even with long breaks at the controls. The second 200k was much harder and took me 7 hours, even though I took minimal breaks at the controls. All told I took 2hrs20min of breaks during the 12-hour ride.

North Face, taken while climbing North Street out of Montpelier at mile 69. The hill climbed 2.7 miles with sections over 10%.

We rode under the Ezekial Ball barn, built in 1903.

The Cabot Creamery Visitor Center was another control. They even stamped our brevet cards with a cow head.

I planned to make good time on the 15-mile downhill dropping 1600 feet near the end of the ride. But the rail trail was rough with patches of loose sand, so even pedaling hard I was only going 15mph.

The loose sand made for some near crashes, but I stayed upright. Then, after miles of riding without seeing another soul, I wiped out just as a pretty young woman was walking towards me. I blame it on the shadows and leaves hiding the long, narrow stone at an angle to my direction of travel. I was definitely not distracted by the woman, but my ego was bruised worse than my hip because she witnessed my tumble.

After 10 miles on the Cross VT Trail, much of it on an unmaintained rail trail, I needed a drink.

At Plainfield Co-op, the last control before the finish.
1 for now; 1 for later. Supah Phunk better be good; it cost $8.

To Josh: You've had the Supah Phunk? After the ride someone told me Hermit Thrush is an up and coming brewery. Btw - bought it at mile 113 so only had to carry it 13 miles. 

Notice the cow stamp from Cabot Creamery, makers of Cabot Cheddar.

Post-ride party  with New England Randoneurs.
Long Trail Farm House series is pretty good. I especially liked the tart Berliner-Style Weiss.

Got me 5 top-ten trophies. Only way I score those is ride remote places where the locals haven't heard of Strava.

My note to my Airbnb host, Rod, in his guest book.

Was biking all day. Now walking to town to sample craft beers.
La Puerta Negra
First stop après après-ride-party. College kids pre-party. I post-party.

Fiddlehead IPA and live music at La Puerta Negra.

The Nightingales.

Josh: Is the dude wearing pants?
Me: Ha! Thank god, yes. But they are red leather pants.

Now I'm at Sweet Melissa's waiting for Blue Fox and the Rocking Daddies to come on. Better have a Queen City Porter while I wait. Up next... Lost Nation Mosaic IPA.

Jalapeño poppers while waiting for Blue Fox and the Rocking Daddies to come on. Montpelier has a great bar and live music scene.

An odd thing about the music scene here is that I'm younger than everyone on the dance floor.
Some serious Peanuts dancing going on here. At least the band is really good, and so are the beers.

My love affair with Mosaic hops continues.
I've found most of the excellent VT beers on draft here in Montpelier. But no Four Quarters.
...and no Foley Brothers. I'm going to try to pick up a bottle of FB with a pirate on the label for Thirsty Thursday--VT Gaps Edition.

Oh man. Alarm goes off in 5 hours. Gotta climb a mountain.
41F. Brrrrr


I hiked Camel's Hump from the east, via Monroe Trail, Dean Trail, Long Trail to the Summit, then back down on Monroe Trail. Book time: 5 hours. My time: 3hr24min.

Plan was to meet Kevin and Jocelyn at 8:30. I got to the trailhead at 8, waited until 9, then headed out solo. No phone service, so I didn't get their message saying they were running late.

 Monroe cemetery, near the Monroe trailhead, is the resting place of Katherine and Will Monroe, plus their dogs: Scottie, the beloved collie, Bebe Alpine, Sir Hector of Arken, Landseer of New Foundland, Alpine II of Saint Bernard (both victims of distemper), Hector of Anahasitt, Alpine III of Saint Bernard, Basque of Basquaerie

At the start I put on all my layers, but after 15 minutes of climbing I stripped down to my t-shirt.

The Beaver "Pond" on Dean Trail during my hike, in the midst of the drought of 2016.

The Beaver Pond as shown at "An Insider's Guide to Hiking Camel's Hump"
The summit is the rocky peak on the right.

The wind was howling on the rocky peak, so the layers went back on.
The Patagonia Houdini jacket is awesome! Super lightweight and compact in the pack, but blocks the wind and rain when you pull it on. Thanks, Julie!

Captain Morgan-ing on summit of Camel's Hump.

To Julie: Done hiking Camels Hump. See you tonight.
Fun. But cold. Pretty quick. A bit over 3 hours [actually 3:24].
A real scramble up top. Exposed and windy.

To Josh: Hiked Camels Hump. Now getting lunch at ProPig. Drinking half glass of Hermit Thrush Party Guy, a session sour ale (3%).
Hill Farmstead Harlan is five stars for sure. Again, half glass. 

Foley Brothers Blackheart imperial maple porter. Definitely not a session Ale. There is a Craft Beer Cellar across the street. I'm gonna get Foley Brothers for Thirsty Thursday - Gaps Edition.

Josh: Nice. OK to drive?
Me: I’m walking. Ha! I'll be here another hour. No more beer. Will be ok. All half pours.

BBQ - you going? If I get home by 6, maybe I'll swing by. 

For the drive home. Don't worry; it's cold brew--coffee, not beer. I made it last week..

The Plan

  • Coffee Corner Diner for VT’s best Eggs Benedict (according to Yelp)
  • hike Camel’s Hump
  • Prohibitiion Pig for lunch and beers
  • drive home for Rippers’ 1st Annual BBQ contest and beers
  • pick Julie up from Logan at midnight

Biking the Fall Classic 200k

The 200k route is close to 70% unpaved, with ~85 miles of dirt roads. Both of these routes feature a bit of adventure along the way which riders should be prepared for. Both routes traverse a few roads which are categorized as Class IV & are minimally maintained. The 200k will follow a rail-trail which is also minimally maintained. The condition of these roads/trails largely depends on the weather leading up to & during the brevet. Riders may encounter short sections of ruts, mud, boulders, soft sand, gravel, steep descents/ascents & downed tree branches. Conditions may change along these roads within a very short distance so be prepared for variable conditions. Wide tires, 700 x 32, etc., will prove helpful, especially if the weather is inclement. The late summer weather has been very dry & so a road bike with 700 x 28 tires was sufficient for a recent pre-ride of the route. With an open mind & a bit of an adventurous spirit you’ll likely very much enjoy these quiet, scenic stretches as they pass through wooded, remote areas of Vermont.

Note: The 200k is a very challenging route, with significantly more climbing along the 2nd loop of the ride. The second loop has about 5,500 feet of climbing over 57 miles or close to 100 feet of climbing per mile. The 10 mile ride along the rail trail is gradually downhill, however, the minimally maintained, frequently rough condition of the rail trail makes this section particularly challenging. Use caution along the rail trail & be prepared to ride slowly & brake suddenly to avoid soft sand, rocks, roots, etc.

post-ride party: at the ride organizer’s house (start/finish) immediately following the 110k, from approximately 2 PM – 7 PM. Food, beverages & showers will be available.


Hiking Camel's Hump

I picked my route based on An Insider's Guide to Hiking Camel's Hump and VT State Parks trail map. Monroe Trailhead is on the east of the mountain, so closer to Montpelier, and Dean Trail goes past a pretty beaver pond.
  • 7.4 miles, Difficult, (2583' via Monroe Trail and Dean Trail)
  • Book Time: 5:00, Actual Time: 3:24
  • Start from the parking lot at the end of Camel’s Hump Road, North Duxbury, VT on the eastern flank of the mountain
  • Monroe Trail, Dean Trail, Long Trail heading north to Summit, Monroe Trail back to the trailhead

Odds and Ends

I listened to A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Blackman while driving to and from Montpelier.
The author does a great job developing the characters; I feel like they are real people, some of whom I've met.
The story unfolds slowly, and first impressions are adjusted as I learn more about Ove.
At times I was laughing out loud.