Monday, October 25, 2010

The Choice is Yours

First, an old school throw-back, which will make sense later on in the post.

So I didn't get out to race cross this weekend on account of:
1) a nagging right hip flexor which was most likely aggravated by cross (something to do with wildly swinging my leg over the saddle to re-mount) and would have been made worse by more cross.
2) there was plenty of stuff to do around the house, resulting in some swearing, and a few trips to home depot.
It's too bad, though, 'cause from what I've heard, the Perth course was one of the best in a long time.

I did manage to get out a road ride on Saturday (the hip flexor doesn't hurt when riding, so don't say "well, what about your hip?). I'm not gonna go into much detail, about the ride, since I headed up to the park and have ridden those roads countless times, but what I will say though, is that it was a friggin' workout! But then again, I've ridden an average of 3 hours a week for about the past 2 months, so what was I expecting?!?!?!?

So lastly, that leaves another beer review. This week it's not an Ontario beer, but a British ale, Black Sheep Ale  (now you can see why I picked the "Black Sheep" video....get it? Yeah I know, a little cheesy, but aren't you glad I put up that video....A CLASSIC!!) The beer itself is a nice brilliant amber-copper colour, with a mellow aroma. The label describes this as "crisp, dry and bittersweet" and the flavour strikes a nice balance of sweetness and bitterness. The finish is on the bitter side of things, and in the words of the brewery, consists of "Black Sheep's uncompromising long, dry and bitter finish." They got that right! I think this beer would be best enjoyed with some food to offset the bitter finish (I didn't really have a chance to try it with some food since I just guzzled it down to replace carbs from my road ride). To me, this beer tastes like a lot of English Ales that I've tried. It's not a bad beer, I'd drink it again, but there's nothing really making it stand out amongst the sea of ales.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Almonte Cross and Trafalgar Ales and Meads

Where to start? Talk about biking, or beer. Going by the expression "save the best for last", I'm gonna start with the biking, and finish with the beer.
This past weekend was the much anticipated Almonte cross race. I was looking forward to this one for 2 reasons:
1) the last time I rode an Almonte cross course was 2 years ago, and it was a fun course. Everyone talks about the Almonte courses being among their faves, and I'm sure this year would be no exception
2) I got a new bike!!!!

Looking pretty spiffy. An Opus Spark.

So yes, an Opus Spark. Aluminum frame with a carbon fork, decked out in full 105 components (except for the FSA Omega crank) and Mavic Aksium wheels. (Thanks to Dave at OGC for the hookup).

The Almonte course was, of course, fun, twisty, technical with lots of ups and downs. To start the race, I tried not to pedal my ass off too hard and blow up. Since we started doing laps around a gravel running track, it was easy to keep others in sight and take advantage of the draft. But as soon as the race hit the grass, my legs decided not to show up, and my pedaling generally lumbered for the rest of the race. On the second last and last laps, I managed to pcik up "a bit" of steam, and found myself out of the saddle trying to mash on the gears for small spurts at a time, but it was too little too late. So how did the bike ride? I found it a little twitchy at first, probably because the fit is a little on the small side of things. The shifting and braking were dependable, but I wonder how many muddy races it will take before the shifting starts to deteriorate. Did the bike make me any faster? No. I need to work on that one!

"A little" dirtier in the space of an hour.

So now on to the beer. Trafalgar Ales and Meads is an Ontario craft brewery out of Oakville. I recently tried two of their beers (they have an extensive selection); the Elora Grand Lager and Elora Irish Ale.

 Trafalger Elora Grand Lager

The Trafalgar website describes their Grand Lager as "a light colored but full flavored lager, brewed in the Plisner style, at full strength". This beer definitely has a nice initial flavour, but then it has a bitter aftertaste that sort of creeps up on you. Because of this, I wasn't a big fan of this beer.
Trafalgar Elora Irish Ale.

On the other hand, the Elora Irish Ale was a winner. What's an Irish Ale? I'm not exactly sure, but a bit of googling reveals that it's usually a red ale due to roasted barley. The Trafalgar site simply describes it as a "brown ale reminiscent of the old style of ale brewing. Brewed as an “anytime ale” this beer is smooth and refreshing". Smooth and refreshing...damn straight!!!! Overall, in terms of the aroma, flavour and finish, this beer had a nice balance between sweet and bitter, leaning towards the sweet side of things. This was full bodied as you would expect from a dark beer, but didn't leave me feeling full...instead I wanted more. One down side was very little carbonation...not sure if this was an intentional part of the brewing process or not. The other bonus with this beer...a 650ml bottle!

Nice and dark.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Turkey Cross and Pumpkin Ale

Thanksgiving Sunday and race #3 in the OBC cyclocross series. Since I've determined that I suck at cross, I figured the race would be a good opportunity to work up an appetite for dinner at my parent's (my Mom always whips up a mean meal!).

I might as well include a quick little blurb here about the race itself. The course wasn't very technical, had lots of long straightaways, little climbing and long uphill run-ups....all things that don't work in my favour at all. I had a decent start, and was hoping that I would gain steam as the race progressed. But somewhere along the way, I started to fade, and then completely ran out of steam by the 2nd last lap (which I was hoping was the last lap...not a good sign). I think it had something to do with this:

Great Lakes Brewery Pumpkin Ale

The night before the race, involved a *fair* amount of alcohol consumption, with minimal fluid replacement (never a good combo the day before a race....I'll never learn!). In the mix was a seasonal brew from Great Lakes Brewery, their Pumpkin Ale. The description on the bottle states that a generous amount of pumpkin was added directly to the brew, along with hints of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and allspice. Taking a good whiff of the beer before taking a sip, it smells just like pumpkin pie. On the first sip, there's no taste of pumpkin that I could pick out, just a good tasting ale, with a touch of sweetness. The spices come though in the finish though, reminding you that you're drinking pumpkin pie beer!

 A little cloudy, but reminds you that you're drinking a limited run craft beer.

A little bike talk to wrap things up. The next couple of pics show you that this was the muddiest race of the year (so far). I'm just hoping that my new cross bike show up this week so I don't destroy the parts on my Mendotta, which I'm planning to sell. I've got an Opus Spark on the way (can't remember if I mentioned that or not in a previous post...not that it really matters). I'm *hoping* that a proper cross bike gives me some sort of advantage in the upcoming would probably be more of a placebo effect than anything else, but I'll take whatever I can get at this point in time.

 The muddiest race so far...I'm getting tired of cleaning my bike every mountain bike doesn't even get this dirty!

 My poor drivetrain.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Oktoberfest and Cross

Oktoberfest and Cycloscross together. I think it's an idea that has potential. Picture it...lots of beer, food and festivities. Guarenteed beer drinking spectators on hand to witness potential carnage. For the racers, tasty food and cold beer after a lung busting effort. What could be better? Food (and beer) for thought....

Saturday, I checked out the Beau's brewery Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill. Since first hearing about this event, I've wanted to check it out, but for some reason it flew below the radar this year. On Thursday though, my buddy Karl came to the rescue, saying that we were gonna go.

After an hour drive to get to the Vankleek hill fairgrounds, we knew we had found the right place, since the the street (and I do mean the ONE street) was packed with cars. We didn't have to wait long for a parking spot, though. On our way to the gate, we spotted people sporting green hats (there's a name for them, the hats that is, but I have no idea what it is), and we kind of joked about how they were really getting into the spirit of things. Well, lo and behold, our admission included one of our very own funky green hats. Once in the fairgrounds, there were TONS of revelers. It wasn't overly crowded, which was nice, and it was easy to find our way around. The overall mood was...jovial, but not messy. This was at 4 in the afternoon, though.

Click on the pic for a better view of the crowds and the sea of "green hats".

Karl, with beer and sporting his hat!

We drank, we ate, we drank some more. We sat in on a talk called "A beer tour of Germany" hosted by Mirella Amato. Who knew we would get some education while sipping beer? Sitting next to us at the talk was one of the brewmasters for the Clocktower pub, who invited us to drop by some time for a sampling of their seasonals....NICE!

Amongst the multitude of local food vendors, we sampled the following:
Beef Brisket from The Branch.
Warm Choucroute Sandwich from Domus Cafe
Peameal Sandwich from the Royal Restaurant
Festivale chocolate Ice Cream Bar from Pascales's All Natural Ice Cream

There was an assortment of limited edition beers from Beau's that we tried (descriptions from the Beau's website):
  • Opa’s Gose: An ancient German style of beer that predates the German Purity Act of 1516, this is a wheat beer brewed with coriander and sea salt. Expect to find a crisp, tart and refreshing wheat beer an interesting saltiness and clove and coriander highlights
  • Late Night Sneaky Dunkel: Dark as night and at 6.3% alc/vol this beer will sneak up on you! A Bavarian style originating from the 16th century, but with roots dating back to 800BC, this is a dark wheat beer and in keeping with the modern Purity Law. Malt forward and lightly hopped with some yummy roastiness; aromas of banana and clove.
  • Happy Pils: A bohemian pilsner, brewed with 25% local grains and wet hopped with local hops too! Crisp, refreshing and light, but with a malty backbone and a light, peppery spice from the local hops, this special wild oats selection was brewed by brewer Chris Maxfield. 
  • Night Marzen: Bready malt backbone complimented by a firm hop presence and high drinkability.
    Hmmm, which beer was this one? Sneaky Dunkel? Night Marzin? It all gets a little blurry after awhile, but the beers were definitely tasty.

    Luther Wright and the Wrongs. Catchy name, and for country music (I'm not usually down with country music), not too bad. This was later in the evening, when things started to get, um, messy. Not for me specifically, but I had fun watching the "messiness".

    After a night's sleep, not enough water and a lingering cold, it was off to Britannia Park for the Madison race. I was paired up with my buddy Jeff from work. We're actually pretty even when it comes to cross (he beat me by a measly 4 seconds last week), which means we both suck, so that makes for a fair pairing, right? So what about the racing? It was a fun, twisty course (thanks in part to the course marking of the Tall Tree team), but I still struggled. I'm hoping that I can race myself into shape and pull off some sort of a decent result at some point in the series.

    Jeff, looking pretty serious, checking out the course.

    Post race, green everywhere.

    Finally! I'm not the only one sporting a Bushtukah kit. Geoff giving the madison race two thumbs up.

    Peter, a fellow "Bushtuker", but sans kit. Looking pretty suave nonetheless.