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Posts tagged “review

Beer:30… Henry Weinhard’s Woodland Pass IPA

Dipping back to a familiar style, the IPA has re-entered my household. While usually I stick to random craft beers, I spotted one a while ago that I had never seen before by the name of Henry Weinhard’s. I left it on the shelf for another day, and out of the blue my brother in law brought some over for Halloween. Looks like a craft beer, so it must be one right? Hold on just a minute…

First a history lesson: Henry Weinhard is an actual person. Much like Cincinnati’s own Christian Moerlein, Henry was a brewer from the old days, who actually spent some time here in the area before settling down in Oregon. For a long time, he crafted beers under his own name, and at one point, as it sometimes happens, his company was bought by another larger company. This “craft” beer just happens to be made by the folks at SABMiller, but for some reason they don’t want you to know that. Well, they are not advertising it at least. Anyway, lets see how this IPA stands, enter the Woodland Pass IPA:

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The beer pours like a normal IPA, with a good looking copperish hue. Smell wise I am picking up mostly pine aromas, and not much else. Taste wise, this beer is surprising. Right out of the gate, you pick up a nice hop flavor, but not overpowering like most IPAs that you will find nowadays. It is mild, but nice. Mixed with the hops, you will notice quite a bit of malt flavors, which mellow out the hops even more, and the beer finishes a little bitter. This IPA is lighter than most, and that is not a bad thing. This would be a good, cheap, grilling out type of beer.

Overall, I like this beer. True, it is not a real craft beer. True, it is more along the lines of a pale ale than an IPA. This is a beer that you could drink a few of and not find yourself without your pants the next morning. Not that that is a bad thing, or that it has happened to me. Well done Henry Weinhard’s, err…SABMiller, not great, but not a bad start.

Cheers!


Beer:30… Mendocino Imperial Barleywine

Barleywines are a favorite style of mine, and every time that I see one that I have not had I usually buy it. There is just something almost elegant ending the day with a nice, slow sipping Barleywine. Not one to miss a new one for my list, I spotted this guy hanging out at the new Jungle Jim’s, so of course it came home with me. That said, lets take a look, enter Mendocino’s Imperial Barleywine:

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This beer pours into my snifter like a solid Barleywine. The smells are spot on for the style, with darker fruits taking the stage mixed with a slight sweetness. Taste wise, dark fruits are there again, this time mixing with a nice alcohol warmth, which makes sense due to the 11%ABV. This is a big beer.

Overall, this beer is average to me. Nothing really stands out to really make me want to buy this again. With so many amazing barleywines on the market, this one kind of falls to the rear of the lineup. It’s good, but I would call it average at best.

Cheers!


Beer:30… Meantime IPA.

IPAs are a mainstay in my household. Nothing finishes off a day better than a smooth, highly hopped, bitter IPA. Sometimes though, the West Coast style burns me out, and I start to look elsewhere for my evening beer, branching out to stouts and porters, etc. but I always find myself back to the IPA. Surprisingly though, I have never had an IPA from the origin of the style: Great Britain. Time for that to change, enter Meantime’s IPA:

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The style got it’s start in the UK in the mid 18th century. Folks traveling to India wanted a beer that would make the journey, and what a beer they got. English IPAs became very popular, and the style crossed the pond in the early 1900s, and now almost every brewery here in the states has their own version. There is even the difference between East and West coast IPAs. Enough about that, lets get down with Meantime.

This IPA pours like your typical IPA, maybe just a tad lighter in appearance. Scent wise I am picking up a nice mixture of fruits and alcohol, which this beer is around 7.5% ABV so that is no real surprise. Taste wise, this is not your normal stateside IPA. Very mellow in comparison, but also very enjoyable. Fruity, bitter, smooth, a well balanced beer. The carbonation reminds me of drinking Anchor’s Old Foghorn, as it is very crisp and well done. This is an easy drinking IPA that I am glad that I found!

If you are like me, and drink a fair share of IPAs, give this one a try to mix it up a bit. Not your normal IPA, but historically, it is right on par for the style. This one I will buy again!

Well done Meantime!

Cheers!


Gear Me… Running Shoe Showdown.

For the last year and a half or so, I have really embraced running. Running is something that I have always done from time to time, but for the first time in my life, I have actually enjoyed it. Maybe it’s because I am now in my 30s, and my body is reacting a bit differently than when I was in my 20s. Or it could just be that running is a very inexpensive, and low time commitment way to stay in shape. Don’t get me wrong, I love mountain biking, but it is very nice to just leave from the front door and hit the road or woods for a quick half hour run. That said, here are the shoes that I have been putting to the test…

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From bottom to top: Vibram KSO, New Balance Minimus, Merrell True Glove, and Saucony Kinvara 2.

Vibram Five Fingers KSO
These are the shoes that made me enjoy running again, and made me hate it all the same. I posted a rant about them some time ago (read it here) and after my little toe issue, I took a nice long break from them. After that break, I started to work them back into my running routine, and now I am back to liking them. These shoes really shine for trail running or hiking, but only when it is dry. Wear these shoes when it is muddy, and you will have a trail running session that is similar to ice skating. Since they are so light, they are also a great choice for having around the campsite after a day in hiking boots.

New Balance Minimus
These are my go to shoes now a days. Primarily a trail runner, I find that these shoes are an all around delight for my feet. They feel very similar to the Vibrams, but with a more aggressive tread pattern, that hooks into the ground very well. Wet trail downhill running? Yes please. These shoes connect with the dirt unlike any running shoes that I have worn. I also like running on the pavement with them, but this is not the popular view on this model.

Merrell True Glove
I have been a fan of Merrell’s products for a while now, and when they embraced the minimalist running movement, I was intrigued with their models. I ended up with the True Glove, and after quite a few runs I decided that these were not for me. The feel of them seemed dulled down, as in the rubber seemed too hard, or not as flexible, and they just did not feel right to me. So, I have been wearing these shoes to work, and after two and a half months they look like this:

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These shoes have not held up to a little bit of running, and a lot of time at work. The other shoe has completely separated at the toe from the sole. So add shoes that don’t last and bad ground feel, and that equals shoes that I will not buy again.

Saucony Kinvara 2
After my Vibram incident, I went out looking for a more comfy shoe, and I ended up going with the Kinvara 2s. Compared to all of the shoes on this list, they are like running on clouds. Not a true minimalist shoe, but more of a transition shoe. Any time that I feel like pushing the miles all on pavement, these are the shoes that I reach for.

So there you have it, the shoes in my current stable. I have been running quite a bit more here the past few weeks, mostly due to having a slight tailbone issue, and also due to Venturepax having a running challenge on their site. Head on over to accept the challenge to win some Altra running shoe swag!

Just keep running…


Beer:30… Great Divide’s Wolfgang.

Since it is fall, it’s time to break out the darker beers. Around this time of year, Oktoberfest style beers rule the roost, but another style lies just behind the popular ones: doppelbocks. This type of beer shows up and stays for a while at my household during the fall months. Let’s see how this goat fares, enter Wolfgang:

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Once poured in your glass, this bock looks like it should, nice and dark brown. One interesting characteristic about this goat is that the head sticks around for a bit, with excellent lacing. Smell wise, dark fruits like raisins stick with you. Taste wise, this beer delivers. Smooth sweet caramel flavors blend with bread like malts in an excellent way. Like most Great Divide beers, this beer is amazingly smooth. I would even say almost creamy. This is a very tasty doppelbock that rivals some of my favorites of the style, mainly Ayinger’s Celebrator. The main difference between the two though, is this beer hits you with 8% ABV. Not too shabby in my book, especially when you remember that Celebrator is only around 6.7%.

If you are looking to dive into the style of the bock beer, definitely give this goat a go, it will be worth your while. Once again, Great Divide delivers. Well done!

Cheers!


Gear Me… Surly Tuggnut.

The Surly Troll is an amazing bicycle. Quite possibly my most favorite bike ever. Yes, I just said ever. One recurring problem that I have had with it however, is that when my wheel is positioned a bit farther back in the horizontal dropout, the wheel decides to slip on the chain side. This causes the tire to shift awkwardly and pushes the tire into the chain stay, stopping your forward momentum. While running smaller rubber in the back, this is not an issue, as the wheel can ride all the way forward. But, with winter coming, and I have wanted to roll out on some larger tires, this was just not acceptable. So that said, enter the Tuggnut…

The Surly Tuggnut is a handy dandy $30 piece of stainless steel that fixes this slippage problem and also cracks open those pesky pry off bottle caps on your favorite beverage. It was so easy and straight forward, that I was surprised that it came with instructions. It’s not rocket science, took just a couple minutes to install.

Here are the two things that I do not like about it:

My first complaint is that it has a shiny sliver, chrome like appearance. I would prefer it in black, but to each his own. This one shiny part on my bike will be covered in mud anyway. Second, the bottle opener does not have much clearance with my derailleur, so to use it I will have to turn my bike over like I am changing a tube. Maybe if I would just man up and make this bike a single speed, then I wouldn’t have to worry about that…

Overall, this is a very handy piece of metal, and I am pretty glad that it ended up on my bike. I can now run larger tires without the dreaded wheel rub. And also, I can now drink more beer while on my bicycle. Well done Surly!


Xtracycle review, one year later…

This month marks a full year on the Xtracycle conversion. I have ridden the crap out of this bike, and now I feel like I can make an honest comment on what I like/dislike about it. So that said:

Maiden voyage.

The Xtracycle Freeradical kit is a well packaged, all in one “hitch-less trailer” than makes any bicycle a useful tool for carrying stuff. And by stuff I mean a lot of stuff. The kit is rated for 200lbs or so of cargo, which I did not get up to that weight, but if you can pedal it, it will probably work. Weight is balanced nicely, say for example, if you load a six pack on one side and a load of firewood on the other. Getting started pedaling is a little awkward, but once you are moving you do not notice the vast difference in weight for the left and right side freeloaders(bags). If the weight is balanced somewhat evenly between the two sides, you do not notice the weight at all for the most part. Let’s be honest though, with around 75lbs on the back, you can tell there is some weight, but mostly only on climbs. With all of the extra weight, once you are moving, momentum is your friend.

I used the HaroX for commuting to work, going to the grocery, riding with my daughter, bike camping, road riding, and just about everything else you can think of. Only a little bit of off roading, but with it’s extended wheel base, what little bit that I did was quite fun. Not a fast off road machine, but a nice and slow, easy pace to enjoy being in the woods. I would say in total, I have around 1000 miles on the Xtracycle. It rode smoothly with a set of 1.5 slicks, but also very comfortably with a knobby set of 2.1s. I did enjoy it a little more with the larger tires, just because it gave you the option to hit the dirt if the occasion arose.

Riding loaded.

So with all of the good things said, here is what I was not so fond of:

Right out of the box, it is implied that the Freeradical kit includes everything that you need to get the bike rolling. That is true, but only if you are planning on using rim brakes, and an 8 speed drive train. Since I was using disc brakes, and a 9 speed system, I needed to buy extra cables and two new chains. It would have been helpful to know that from the start. Also, the disc mount of the Freeradical requires a 203mm disc brake rotor, something that I did not think of, since I was planning on using a normal 160mm rotor. All of these were a minor, but more pricey inconveniences that I did not expect. Once that was all taken care of though, it was mostly smooth sailing.

The only other downside for me with this project was the weight. The all steel frame of the Xtracycle adds quite a bit of weight to your bike. Weight that is needed, of course, when you are planning on hauling things. But still, it is damn heavy. Once you are moving it is not as noticeable, but if you need to lift the bike for any reason, or stopping and starting, wow, is it heavy. Honestly though, this is a downside that is also a positive, because it makes your legs strong. But on some rides, I was wishing for a lighter ride.

Add that weight to anything that you might be carrying, and you start to get the commonly observed, “Xtracycle shimmy.” Just a slight, annoying wobble that happens from time to time when carrying weight. I have read that using Xtracycle’s Whatcamacollars helps fix that a bit, but that adds another expense to an already expensive package.

So, would I buy the kit again? You bet. It has been a game changer. Cycling has gone from a sport, to more of a way of living. The bicycle has become a practical tool to use for day to day things. This has probably been one of the best cycling moves that I have made in my cycling life. Very cool product.

That said, I am disassembling the bike, and planning on selling the Xtracycle. I know, lots of praise, then sell it? What the hell? Yeah, a little contradictory. But, I am planning on building a new bike, more of a “do-it-all” bicycle. I love the Xtracycle, but for mountain biking on it, that is not going to happen. My cycling life is needing a lighter, more versatile bike, so the plan is to pull all of the parts, place on a new frame, and sell the Xtracycle and Haro frame as one. Someday, I will build another one…

As for the next bike, I am really excited for it, but I will wait before I let the cat out of the bag…