Founders Brewing All Day IPA

Beers have gotten big. I do not mean Texas Roadhouse big where a beer comes in sizes approximated by milk jugs sizes. I mean that beers are both big in terms of alcohol and bitterness. When wheat beers are over 6% ABV and 100 IBU is not an uncommon benchmark for a pale ale to meet someone has to say, “Stop the insanity!” Sorry, I went all Susan Powter on y’all.

Founders Brewing out of Grand Rapids, Michigan answers the call to offer something that is just bigger with All Day IPA:

All Day IPA

The description is that it keeps your taste buds satisfied while keeping your senses sharp. At 4.7% ABV and 42 IBU this beer is right in what I consider to be the sweet spot of easy drinking pale ales. Right now I am waiting to tap two batches of my house pale ale which are calculated to come in at about 3.7% ABV and 35 IBU, so All Day IPA was a perfect tester.

This beer lives up to the billing of all day drinkability without putting you face down on the lawn. This does not taste like a watered down IPA at all. Sometimes a “session” pale ale can taste like a cop out where it seems that the brewer just doubled the water in the brew kettle to get down to spec. All Day IPA was a recipe that was obviously purpose built to come in where it did. This is the kind of beer that I think is often overlooked in today’s ever crowded craft beer market and it is a shame.

It is brewed using Simcoe and Amarillo hops, which surprised me a bit because I did not notice the sometimes overpowering flavors and aromas present in both of those varieties. Maybe I am still scarred by a Simcoe dry hopped IPA that still lingers in the back of my throat. Ugh.

Being available in cans also means that you can bring a few to places where regular old bottles or growlers cannot go. And it comes in a fifteen pack. Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

I am hesitant to call any beer a truly smashing success, but like Toppling Goliath’s pseudoSue this particular beer hits the spot:

Purchase 4 Mug Rating

There’s a New Ride in the House

I came home one Friday night after my daughter’s swim lessons to discover a box waiting for me in the entryway:

Bike Box

Given how crappy the past six or so months have been—coping with my father’s suicide and the daily dealing with of estate details—my family members got together and decided to surprise with a new bicycle.

Why? Because my attachment to my long-time bicycle is legend. Anyone who has owned a bicycle and ridden it for more than a decade can attest that it becomes part of your personality. You unconsciously understand the little squeaks and creaks from the frame. You instantly slide into a comfortable position and can ride for hours without much consternation.

There comes a moment, however, when it comes time to retire the old friend and I did not have the heart to do it myself. I probably should have hung up the Bontrager a few years earlier, but I kept it moving down the trail with a lot of TLC and some new parts. At the end of last summer I could tell that it was going to need a complete rebuild of the drivetrain because some of the parts were still original. Yes, it has a pair of nearly twenty year old derailleurs.

My wife could see me toggling between screens of components and pages with complete bicycles at night after the kids were put to bed, but I would never pull the trigger on either. A complete rebuild of the drivetrain was going to be expensive and a new bike seemed like treason. I think she got sick of me spending so much time on indecision and collaborated with her mother to execute a plan.

Inside was this red beauty:

New Bike

It is a steel cyclocross bike from Nashbar.

As loyal readers will know I noticed a problem immediately after unboxing; one of the Shimano 105 STI levers was broken. For those of you familiar with STI levers will know, if something goes wrong it is usually a complete replacement. Even if it is just a nickel’s worth of plastic. Dumb. Nashbar was most excellent and sent me a replacement lever lickety split.

It’s a steel bike. I am not a retro-grouch or cro-mo curmudgeon, but I prefer to ride steel bikes. I have an aluminum Gary Fisher Big Sur set up for singletrack. It’s not a bike that I could ever really get used to riding over the long haul. I cannot speak to exotic materials like carbon fiber or titanium because my budget has never allowed me or I have never allowed myself to spend that kind of money on two wheeled transportation.

It’s also a fairly yeoman’s setup in terms of components. The critical bits are Shimano’s 105 value gruppo. Bicyclists are a bling obsessed lot and Shimano 105 is not a bling gruppo. No one gets excited about Shimano 105. You can, however, put mile after mile of trouble free cycling on these components and not be out an arm, leg, and lots of donated plasma when something finally goes tits up. Except for the god damned STI levers which retail for like $200. What a joke.

The wheelset is no-name hubs laced to Alex DC19 rims shod in Kenda Kwik 32C rubber. Having not put many miles on the bike yet I cannot speak to the durability or ride quality of the wheels. I do not have my hopes set very high as most OEM wheels are uninspiring at best. This is one of those upgrades where I wait until the end of the season to snag a nice wheelset on the cheap as stocks are cleared in anticipation of next year’s fancy gear. An upgrade is an upgrade whether it’s this year’s model or next.

It did not come with pedals. I am a mountain biker at heart, so mountain-style SPD pedals are the name of the game for me. I am also cheap. I use Shimano SPD M520 pedals exclusively. You can get a pair for anywhere between $25 and $50. It is almost impossible to beat the performance at that price. In all my years of riding I have had zero problems with these pedals.

The critical feature of this bike, for me, is that the headset and bottom bracket are the more standard type as opposed to internal headsets or BB30 like bottom bracket solutions. It might seem silly, but I agree with Chris King’s perception of the flaws with internal headsets. I plan on upgrading my headset to a Chris King NoThreadSet over the winter. There is no finer component on the market.

Before my first ride I also changed out the no-name OEM saddle for a Selle Anatomica Titanico X, of which I will write about at a later date, and re-wrapped the bars with a less corky/foamy bar tape. The bar tape that comes on bikes is absolutely awful.

Here is to a season of great rides.

Friday Linkage 4/18/2014

I thought that it was going to be a breakthrough week. The temperature was going to warm up and the sand would be cleared from the streets. Instead, it rained all day on Sunday and almost snowed later in the week. Nice start to spring.

On to the links…

U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Fell 3.4 Percent In 2012, Says EPA—It’s good news, undercut by the fact that GHG will probably rise in 2013. Ugh.

Climate Efforts Falling Short, U.N. Panel Says—Basically, we are heading blindly into the worst case scenarios for climate change. Joy.

Solar Installation Industry Grows 45 Percent in 2013—Is there bad news about solar anywhere lately? Sure, a few companies are going to fall by the way side and Darrel Issa will probably try and talk about Solyndra but the industry is moving and shaking all the time.

Department Of Defense Undertakes Largest Solar Project To Date—The DoD is going crazy for solar. I have been to several military installations where south facing roofs are covered in solar panels and tracking arrays populate barren no-man’s lands between access roads. Just drive down I-25 near the Air Force Academy and you can see this in full effect. This is your tax dollars at work. In a good way.

World Wind Power Poised to Bounce Back after Slowing in 2013—Wind power worldwide can now power the equivalent of the European Union. Awesome. What is even cooler is that by 2015 Iowa will generate the equivalent of 33% of its power from the wind. We rule.

Ikea is Investing in First Wind Farm in U.S.—If every company put as much thought into sustainability as IKEA the world would be a better place. Of course, IKEA still sells furniture that is essentially disposable so it is not completely off the hook. Love that lingonberry jelly though.

The Denver Post’s ‘Energy And Environment’ Section Is Produced By The Oil And Gas Industry—I post links to the Denver Post a lot, so it is critical that people know where some of the information in that paper is coming from. Campaigns like this are just a joke.

Born-in-Boulder Wild Oats Brand to Re-launch in Walmart Stores—I am not a fan of WalMart. No matter what it does it will still be a planet and soul killing retail behemoth that should go the way of the dinosaur and Woolworth’s. However, anything that puts organic products in reach of more people is a good thing. Unless it is an organic Cheeto.

Small Seed Supply Remains Large Hurdle for Legal Hemp Farming—As more states outright legalize or at least decriminalize marijuana and by extension hemp there is going to have to be some federal action to clear up the muddied waters. Why can’t we farm hemp nationwide?

Minnesota’s Wild Turkeys: A Wildlife Success Story—It’s hard for me to believe that there was a time when wild turkeys were not all over the place. I grew up in southeastern Minnesota in the 1990s and we saw those creepy birds all the time. Heck, on my drive home in suburban Cedar Rapids there is a flock of fifteen or so wild turkeys. Still, it’s a good story.

Invasive Lionfish On The Decline In Jamaica After National Campaign To Save Reefs—I’ve never had a lionfish, but I would eat one if it was on the menu. I am glad to see that our voracious appetite for seafood has had at least one positive effect on the marine environment. Now, if we could only figure out a way to get people to crave Asian carp.

Paying Farmers to Welcome Birds—Farmers are an often overlooked ally in attempts to restore habitat. As a group farmers own a lot of land. Although it is a cliché, farmers also have a connection to the land that most non-farmers would not understand.

How to Make A Refrigerator More Efficient in Five Steps—It’s easy and with Earth Day quickly approaching it’s the least you can do. Okay, the least you can do is sign onto some silly Facebook page about Earth Day. At least making your refrigerator more efficient could actually help.

You Must Read—Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming

If you spend enough time around researchers or market analysts you will learn one adage—it’s not what a company says that is important, it’s where a company puts its money that matters. This is not just about “following the money” per se, but trying to determine where a company thinks it is wisest to invest for the most return.

9781594204012As you read McKenzie Funk’s Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming it is readily apparent that there are a lot of people all around the world who are betting on a very different climate in the near term.

Whether it’s the coming thaw in the Arctic that will allow for reliable shipping through the famed Northwest Passage or the inevitable fight that will occur over the oil and minerals long buried beneath ice choked landscapes there are companies and governments betting on that future. It is telling that they are not betting on a future where the potential warming stalls out and the landscape looks like it does today. How does that make you feel about international climate accords? Thought so.

The business of global warming is actually pretty frightening. As wildfire season begins again in the American west—if it ever really ends anymore as persistent drought is the rule of the day—insurance giants are turning to private fire companies to protect high value properties. It’s a libertarian’s wet dream in warmer world. Private fire companies pale in comparison to what the business of water in a hotter and drier world looks like. Parts of the world will also get wetter, but the amount of potable freshwater will decline so it is not really a net gain.

Funk’s book is not just about the business of global warming, but the radical restructuring of our complex civilization that may occur because of climate change. Some places will witness sea levels rise more than others because of plate tectonics, ocean sub-floor, etc. It’s not fair because the places most likely to be dramatically affected are the same places that emit very little carbon on a per capita basis. No one in Bangladesh is responsible for global warming.

Apparently there are winners in this global reordering as Greenland will likely move closer to independence based on the fact that it has rich resources which will become viable for extraction as glaciers melt into the sea. Greenland’s gain, Denmark’s loss, and the world is just screwed in general.

The one real takeaway from Windfall was that the people who are most likely to see their lives washed away are the poorest and least responsible for the changes brought about in the Anthropocene. Rich people in the developed western world will build flood barriers and desalination plants and move to higher ground, but there are billions of people who cannot. How chaotic will our future be when we have displaced hundreds of millions if not billions of people? That is really scary.

Finally, a Trip to Lion Bridge Brewing Company

1441430_457244274380802_767164573_nWith my Community Supported Ales (CSA) certificate in hand I finally made my first trip down to Lion Bridge Brewing Company in Cedar Rapids’ Czech Village. I know, it seems crazy that someone as into beer as me would wait this long to visit a brewery in his own backyard but life has a way of intruding on so many things.

A note on the space first. In 2008 Czech Village, along with a lot more of Cedar Rapids, was decimated in an apocalyptic flood. Slowly areas have begun to rebound as infrastructure was rebuilt, etc. It is great to see a person making a commitment to an area like the good folks behind Lion Bridge Brewing. The brewery is housed in a building that once contained a business called Maria’s Tea Room. I cannot speak to that business, but I imagine it was quite different. Finished in an industrial chic the tasting room reminds me a lot of Perennial Artisan Ales setup in St. Louis. This is a very good thing.

I would have included some pictures, but I did not want to be that guy photographing everything like a blogging a-hole. It did not seem to fit into the ethos of the evening.

The first pour was a pint of Workman’s Compensation. At 4.7% ABV this beer is aiming to be a session beer, in terms of alcohol, but its body is significantly more malt forward than most session beers. It lingers on your palate more like a brown ale than would be expected.

Calling a beer a session beer is getting to mean as little as the term pale ale in the American brewing spectrum. One consistent theme is a lower alcohol content, which is a good thing, because it seems like every time I turn around someone is releasing another beer that is riding north of 9% ABV. Try drinking a few of those after work and doing anything other than craving fried mozzarella sticks for the rest of the evening. Nonetheless, the beer was a success:

Purchase 3 Mug Rating

As a member of the CSA, I was entitled to my first growler fill gratis and I chose Workman’s Comp.  Drinking it over the course of the last couple of days I cannot help but draw some comparisons to beers that use coffee extracts or dark roasted chocolate malts. It has that coffee bitterness, in a good way, that is somewhat unexpected. Try it for yourself and see if you notice the undercurrents.

Next was a pint of Mad Maximillion.

Mad Max was described as being aggressively hopped with Australian Topaz, a variety heretofore I had not been exposed, but I doubt that most American “hop heads” would consider this to be a bomb of resin and such. It’s a smoother bitterness without the lingering hop resins that can build sip after sip until you are left with a mouth full of hop aroma that makes it seem like you are breathing out of a bong.

I did not get a chance to try it, but Mad Maximillion was available on a nitro draft system. Overall, a solid beer:

Two Mug Purchase

Belgian Golden Wheat was really surprising. I expected this to be the lightest of the three beers in terms of both alcohol and body. It was the highest alcohol (6% ABV) and the body was light, but not to the point like a lot of wheat beers where it is vapid. Saaz hops, I do not know if these are from the Czech lineage, are always a welcome addition because the variety has a really clean profile with a lot of peppery notes. Combine Saaz with a rye malt base and you have a really complex peppery beer. Just an idea.

I came in wanting to savage this beer, but left liking it as much if not more than Workman’s Compensation:

Purchase 3 Mug Rating

Overall, the beers being poured at Lion Bridge Brewing are a nice departure from the hop forward pale ales that seem to dominate American craft brewing.   You won’t find piles and piles of Cascade, Willamette, Amarillo, or Citra hops. It’s a nice change of pace to drink beers with different profiles.

Here is to hoping that a patio is in the plans because warm summer nights call out for enjoying a beer al fresco.

Friday Linkage 4/11/2014

This week was such a bummer. The most recent apparent chupacabra turned out to be bogus. One day we will find this mythical beast nuzzling with a friendly sasquatch. Oh well.

On to the links…

Carbon Dioxide Levels Just Hit Their Highest Point In 800,000 Years—Welcome to the era where human behavior has altered the basic functioning of the planet.

Wind Power Provided 4.8% of U.S. Electricity in January—Damn, that’s a big number. Granted, I live in a state—Iowa—where wind power can be over one quarter of our power any given day and is growing with the addition of some big projects coming on line.

The Energy Haves and Have-Nots—What is the future of distributed solar? I do not know, but this seems to make the case that it will be the domain of the rich in sunny climes. Great.

Here’s Why the World Is Spending Less on Renewable Energy—The spending drop is not all bad news because the per megawatt cost is dropping so much that it was bound the exert some downward pressure on spending in the near term. Granted, it would be nice to see an increase in spending and a decrease in per megawatt cost delivering a double whammy of market penetration.

Five Pathways to Post-Capitalist ‘Renaissance’ by a Former Oil Man—I thought that there some excellent thoughts and ideas presented here about the imminent future.

Ohio’s Clean Energy Standards Under Attack Again by ALEC –ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, writes “model” legislation that Republican legislators nationwide introduce as bills with little or no modification. It’s just another right wing front for big money interests.

What Should Happen To Coal Ash Ponds?—The EPA estimates, remember that no one knows for sure, that there are over 600 coal ash ponds in the U.S. This is a silent danger lurking in a lot of communities in this country.

Thank You, Rio Tinto: British Mining Giant Divests From Pebble Mine—The Pebble Mine is a bad idea no matter how you look at it unless you are trying to make money off environmental destruction. Rio Tinto divesting from the project has to be considered a death knell for this project.

Electric Cars Growing 100% Every Year—The growth rate is great, but the key factoid to me is that you can buy 11 plug-in electric or plug-in hybrid cars for less than $30K. Why is $30K an important number? It’s less than the average price of a new car in the U.S.

The Capitalism of Catastrophe—I have my problem with the entire prepper or survivalist community. It’s no secret. It’s turned into an apocalypse industrial complex complete with tradeshows.

Another Cause of California’s Drought: Pot Farms—I would not say that the pot farms, illicit or otherwise, are a cause of the drought. However, the diversion of water for these operations is exacerbating the supply issue for sure.

Poachers Attack Beloved Elders of California, Its Redwoods—Some ass clowns want burl lumber and are cutting down ancient redwoods to get it. Really? This article does blame both meth tweakers and the Chinese, so it’s got that going for it.

Climate Change: The Hottest Thing in Science Fiction—Now let’s see the young adult blockbuster about a climate change refugee who must also deal with her coming of age in a brutal and foreign land. Kind of sounds good actually.

Proper Labeling of Honey and Honey Products—Basically, if you add extra sweeteners to honey it will no longer be considered honey.

How Food Marketers Made Butter the Enemy—Butter was an easy mark. The very name is synonymous with gluttony. Too bad natural fats are real food and in moderation not bad for us. Oh, and food marketers wanted to sell us vegetable oil shot with hydrogen which is killing us. God bless America. Or is that ‘Murica.

Miller Fortune

If you have watched a sporting event in past few months—recently concluded NCAA basketball tournament anyone?—chances are pretty good that you have seen an advertisement for MillerCoors’ latest creation Fortune:

Miller Fortune

British bad guy—at least according to Jaguar—Mark Strong is there to goad an otherwise staid individual to embrace the wilder side with a swig of lager. Perhaps, but how does the beer taste?

If you read any press material about this particular beer you will notice one thing features prominently…the alcohol level of 6.9% ABV. That’s about the only redeeming quality that the mar-com wonks have decided will sell this beer. Spirited nights apparently begin with a heapin’ helpin’ of grain alcohol.

Now, some beers can handle a 6.9% ABV but this is not one of them. Fortune is supposed to be brewed with Cascade hops, a favorite of craft brew fans everywhere. You would be hard pressed to identify a distinctive hop note in this beer—bitterness or aroma.

Like Budweiser Black Crown this is a beer that is being sold on the image of some kind of urban dreamscape where the drinker attends parties in unique spaces that are populated by revelers nattily done up in little more than black. Don’t believe me? The beer finder for Miller Fortune will direct you to a bottle shop if you do not happen to live in an “urbandaddy” market. WTF?

This beer is basically a dumpster fire in a can.

Zero Mug Purchase