Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Frozen Foot 5k

Sun. 23 Feb. 2014
8:30 A.M.

As I noted a while back, racing has fallen back in my priorities this year. I am still training for a marathon in May, but I have cut back from racing once a month or more. So I was a little surprised when my wife told me that she signed me up for a 5k.

She did not entirely spring it on me, but it was surprising because I had not really been bugging her either. The race was the Frozen Foot 5k. It was attractive in that it was close and, for Boulder, reasonably priced at $25. It was a fundraiser for the CU triathlon team, which while not striving to cure a cute kid of illness is not a bad cause.

The race was close enough that I just ran there from the house as a warm-up. We had received a dusting of snow but the roads were pretty good and temps were in the high 30’s. 

The sign-up was in the CU field house and was well run. I picked up my packet and got my gloves. I am glad to see more races giving out things other than t-shirts since at this point I could wear a different race shirt every day for two or three months.

The race kicked off at 8:30 (ish). The course stays entirely on the University of Colorado’s campus. This means that it has to do some frequent snaking to fit everything in. There was a few icy patches where we had to tread cautiously, but the other 95% of the course was dry. Two runners with Altitude running shirts took the lead and never looked back. The chase pack amongst us did a decent job pushing each other. The course was well marked with white arrows and volunteers at all of the big turns.

I was left wondering about was the true length of the course. I finished in 16:57 (5:43, 5:46, 5:36) which would be amazing, except that my watch said the course was 2.97 mi. It is possible that I lost a few hundredths on some of the many turns that the course needed to take to stay within the confines of the campus. However, I entered suspecting that I was in 17:15 to 17:30 5k shape and the course being just a bit short would square with this assessment of my fitness. 

The race had about 50 people total. While the field was not large, it was decently deep. Another fun thing of this being Boulder was that the guy who place right ahead of me was 51. The person I placed right ahead of was 13. If you average them you get pretty close to my age of 33. (Fortunately, this is a shorty trend - it would be rather rough on everyone's egos to be beaten by a 90-year-old in a 5k).

This was a well-run and reasonably priced race that was close to home. I may try this one again. Many thanks to the CU triathlon team for putting this on.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Stout Month 2014

Every February the Mountain Sun and its satellite brewpubs have Stout Month. For those of us who like the black gold, this is a bright light during the dark days of winter. I am fortunate enough to live within a 10-minute walk of the Southern Sun (one of those satellites). This lets my wife and I eat a nice dinner at home and go over just for a brew.
Valentine's Day toast at Under the Sun
Bringing our new son along has actually been a lot of fun. In Boulder you are not out-of-place when you bring a kid to a brewpub. At one point, when my wife and I were waiting for a table, one of the nearby patrons remarked to her friend that this place was virtually a nursery with all of the toddlers walking around.
Family photo at Southern Sun
This year my wife came up with the brilliant idea of Stout Month Bingo. If you frequent one of the Suns during this month, print this out for some fun while you sip your stout and eat free fries while waiting for your table. We are still trying to fill in one or two more squares – suggestions welcome.

Need ideas for three more squares
 And finally, here are some of my personal favorites from this year:

Chocolate Dip Stout: This one came out great this year. On nitro its like a chocolate milkshake and a beer had a child.
Girl Scout Stout: A perennial favorite. A perfect balance of roast & mint.
Stoked Oak: Great mix of chocolate, roast and oaky vanilla. You get the oak with out the higher alcohol from some barrel-aged beers.
Nihilist: My favorite of their imperial beers. Followed by the oatamis prime and the megatron.
Coconut Stout: Nice subtle coconut flavor. Smooth velvety chocolate with light roast in the background. Kinda refreshing aftertaste.

Friends sharing stouts early on in the month

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Searching for Fame and Glory – Sea Salt Caramel Stout and Stout Month 2014

I largely brew for my own enjoyment. I also just do not take the time to plan my brewing around homebrewing contests. But my wife, who is not a fan of stouts, suggested that I make a sea salt caramel stout for Stout Month this year. She even went online a looked up a couple of recipes. She is a keeper.

StoutMonth is the glorious month of February when the Mountain Sun breweries put out about a dozen taps per day of the black gold (which rotate virtually every day). Past winners have included an oaked stout and one that tastes like a Girl Scout thin mint cookie (it's good). While a sea salt caramel stout is brewed by a few places, I thought it was intriguing enough that it might have a chance. Game on.

Countdown on the window of Under the Sun
For the ingredients, I combined an errand to pick up a Bob stroller in Longmont with a chance to check out a different homebrew shop - The Bald Brewer. The guy was really cool and we had a good conversation as I went around getting my ingredients. I adapted the recipe off of one that I found on BrewToad. I picked up some caramels from King Soopers and went back home to make the starter.

The Yeast Starter – Sat. 19 Oct.

For yeast I went with the White Labs WLP 002 – Engish Ale Yeast. The flavor from this yeast turned out great, although like Engish Ale yeasts it did settle out rather quickly. If I had it to do over again I would have roused the yeast after about a week of primary fermentation. The starter followed my usual procedure of 100 g of DME boiled in a liter of water for 12 minutes.

Brew Day – Sun. 20 Oct.

I mostly followed the online recipe. I did a full wort boil (all 5 gallons) spread out over two pots that I staggered by 15 minutes. I split the specialty grains, hops, sea salt and caramel equally (roughly) between both pots. Given that a stout does not have that many hop additions this worked well and was not too much trouble.
Pot on the left: malt extract added, pot: steeping the specialty grains
I made a few small modifications to the recipe – I cut out about half of the lactose. I did not want a cloyingly sweet beer. I also threw in a whole oz of perle (instead of the 1/2 oz. called for) because, well, what am I going to do with an extra half ounce of hops? I put the caramels and sea salt in with about 15 minutes to go.

Fermentation started pretty quickly and went strong for about a day and a half before calming down a bit.

Bottling – Mon. 4 Nov.

I gave this one a little over two weeks – which was probably a mistake. My reasoning was that my wife was about a month out from our due date and I wanted to make sure this was bottled in time for the stout month entry date on 4 Jan.

Other logistical notes

The brew day started at 5:55 and was wrapped up by 9 pm – a little over 3 hours. Bottling took around 2 hours. The starter took around 30 minutes. Total time was around 6 hours.  Total costs were $52.78 plus probably a dollar or two for the caramels (I already had the salt). We will just call the total costs around $55. I got about 48 bottles out of the deal for a price of around $1.15 a brew.


The beer turned out really good. As my Boulder friends will be sad to see, it did not win – but there are some good homebrewers here, so I feel it’s like saying “I didn’t win the Bolder Boulder” – people understand that you can still have done well.

After about a month some of the bottles turned out a little overcarbonated. If I did this one again I would give it another month or so in a second carboy. I do not have precise temperature control at the house and so I think it may have just needed more fermentation time (It has been a cooler winter). It is also possible that rousing the yeast could have helped. Oh well, I may just have to brew it again.