Vancouver USA Half Marathon – Vancouver, WA – June 15, 2014

Last Sunday was Lisa and I’s second in a series of three half marathons this summer. (I never got around to blogging about the Oregon Spring Half on May 3.  I’ll get that soon).  Vancouver represented a new state for both of us as well as a city we spend a lot of time in.  I work there, Lisa’s parents live there, we are getting married there.  The other fun thing about this race is it included a beer festival at the finish!

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A nice shirt and a beer mug for the festival were the swag for this race! Pretty exciting!

Lisa’s cousin Karadee as well as Karadee’s sister Zandra and Zandra’s husband Mike were running this race as well.  We managed to find them at the start and while Zandra and Mike were planning a much faster pace than us, Karadee was right where we were planning to be and so we promised to stay together as best we could.  It worked out really well.  We stayed together most of the way and also hung around with the 2:45 pacer (a fellow Half Fanatic!) most of the way as well.  Our goal for this race was merely to finish and enjoy the race.  No PRs for this one, at least not for Lisa and I.  Karadee and Zandra both PR’d!

The race started at Esther Short park in downtown Vancouver and wound it’s way through downtown, through Officers Row of Fort Vancouver (which was awesome!) and then up the only major hill of the course but it was a doozy! A mile and a half slog up the hill of death.  Then we careened down the hill through a couple parks and then along the waterfront and back through Fort Vancouver to finish back in Esther Short park.  It was a really nice course, even with the hill of death.  We all stayed together until about mile 8 when Karadee just caught some kind of groove or second wind and she took off! We cheered her on as she pulled away.  At about mile 11 my calves started cramping up (again!) and we had to stop and walk a bit.  Tried to run again but only made it another 1/4 mile or so before they cramped up again.  The only complaint I could have about this race is the late stage water stops had run out of gatorade.  I doubled up the water and even ate a second Gu for the sodium and potassium but it wasn’t enough to help.  We had to walk until mile 13 and then we just had one corner to turn for the finish, so we jogged it out to the finish.  I cramped up again immediately but I was able to keep going just until the finish.

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We finished! HUGE medals! Very nice.

After the race we grabbed some much needed food and gatorade and then walked to the car to change clothes and get our beer mugs.  We headed back to the beer festival for some beer and food!  We didn’t realize until too late that the gear check tag from the bottom of the bib got us a free beer from the beer sponser Heathen Brewing in Vancouver.  Oh well.  But we had our free tokens to get some samples.  We had enough tokens to get two samplers (one token each) and then one full beer pour (4 tokens) with our dinner.  I sampled a NW Red Ale from McMenamins, a Saison from Heathen and then got a full pour of Kiwanas Cream ale from Pelican Brewing.  Lisa tried a Porter from Heathen, another one I don’t remember that she just liked the name, and then got a full pour of Irish Stout from Breakside.

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It did suck to cramp up towards the end, for like the 4th race in a row no less, but we finished and we made it.  We had a great time and got to spend most of the race with Karadee which was really fun and made the miles FLY by.

Up next is the Foot Traffic Flat on July 4th, which I spectated last year, but this year I get to run it.  This will be the 3rd race in well under 90 days to qualify Lisa for the half fanatics, but after this race we are going to take a break from halfs for a while.  The training has been grueling and trying to fit it in among work, school, church and wedding planning has been daunting.  For the rest of this year and probably all of next year we are going to concentrate on shorter races, mostly 5Ks but some 10Ks and one 15K (Shamrock).  We’ll set different goals, like go for time and work on speed.  Both of us would love to nail a sub 30 minute 5K.

On to the next!

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Drink Local

Since I’ve moved to the Pacific Northwest I’ve discovered the joy of eating local and cutting out the middle man and long trips that pollute the oceans and air.  Organic lettuce isn’t that expensive when you’re not trucking it in from China. But what about the other side of that coin? What should we have with our wonderful local dinner? Just crack open a Budweiser or a California wine and call it a day? HELL NO!

Portland is known as Beervana, home of the highest concentration of microbreweries on the planet.  However, Portland is also home to several micro distilleries and the areas to the southwest and north of Portland are prime wine regions (Williamette Valley, Columbia River Valley, Horse Heaven Hills to name a few of the AVA Regions). The choices are endless, although what grows best in this region is Pinot grapes.  Both Pinot Noir (Red) and Pinot Gris/Grigio (White) are world class in this area.

Just as an example of what a plethora of choices we have, here is a partial list of the breweries, wineries and distilleries in the area, and this is JUST the one’s I’ve tried or visited.  All in the Portland area unless otherwise noted.

Breweries:

McMenamins
Portland Brewing
Laurelwood Brewing
Red Hook Brewing (Seattle)
Full Sail Brewing
Deshutes Brewing
Rogue Brewery (Newport, OR)
Widmer Brothers Brewing
Hopworks Urban Brewery
Lucky Labrador Brewpub
Burnside Brewing
Occidental Brewing Co
Fearless Brewing (Estacada, OR)
10 Barrel Brewing (Bend, OR)
Caldera Brewing (Ashland, OR)

Wineries:

A to Z Winery
Dobbes Family Estate
Columbia Winery (Seattle/Yakima Valley)
Chateau Ste Michelle (Seattle/Yakima Valley)
King Estate/Acronym
McMenamin’s Edgefield
Christopher Bridge
Erath Winery
Willamette Valley Vineyards

I feel like I’m missing several, but this is still a good list.

Distilleries:

Eastside Distilling
Rogue Spirits (Newport, OR)
New Deal Distillery
McMenamin’s Edgefield Distillery
McMenamin’s CPR Distillery
Distilling Head

You see, the choices are endless.  Why anyone in this town would drink a Bud Light or a Kendall Jackson is beyond me…

 

I made Beer… and it was easy.

My first batch of home brewed beer is now finished and aging (conditioning) in bottles in the fridge.  It was fairly easy, but it was not fast.  I started on May 5th when I created the wort (young beer) and pitched the yeast.  Two weeks of primary fermentation in the barrel and then on May 20th it was ready to bottle.  Done right? Well, not quite.  At this point I had to add more sugar for a secondary fermentation to create the carbonation we all know and love.  The carbonation serves multiple purposes.  First it gives us the fizzy crisp mouth feel we are used to in beer, but more importantly Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the bottle as well as pressure inside prevents oxygen from getting inside the bottle and ruining the beer.  Oxidation and sunlight are what cause a beer to go “skunky”.  That’s why good beer (not Corona or Miller High Life) comes in brown or green glass bottles, or aluminum cans.

Here’s how it went down.  First the easy part.  The Mr Beer kit is self contained and really easy to use.  The beer ingredient can is what’s know as “Hopped Malt Extract”.  This is essentially wort that’s been boiled and then concentrated into a syrup.  It includes all of the malt sugars needed for fermentation and flavor as well as hop extracts for bittering, flavor and preservation.

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You can’t really see anything but Lisa took a picture of me pouring the malt extract from the can into a pot of boiling water to dissolve it into the wort.  Behind me you can see the Mr Beer fermentation take (designed to look like a barrel) and a large pitcher full of water to fill the keg with.  After I poured the hot wort in the keg (half full already with cold water to cool the wort) I filled it the rest of the way with water, placed it in a safe place and pitched the yeast.  The yeast in the kit is a dry yeast you simply sprinkle on top.  I was unable to take an initial gravity reading with my hydrometer, which at first I thought was not a big deal, but later realized it was indeed a big deal.  More on that later.

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It’s hard to see, even with the flashlight but this is what the keg looked like after about three days.  This thick foam is known as “krausen”, which if you ask me sounds like a sea creature, and the first 2-4 days are when the yeast are most active and this period is known as “high krausen”.  After that the yeast die down and the foam goes away, but they aren’t done.  After the easiest to ferment sugars are gone, the yeast keep working for another 2-3 weeks depending on the beer style and alcohol level desired, they just slow down after their initial binge.  The Mr Beer kit recommends fermentation for 2 weeks.

About halfway through the fermentation I began to notice a strong smell of apples in the room where my brewing kit was.  I didn’t have a clue what this could signify so I googled it.  Now, searching the internet for brewing problems is like looking at WebMD when you have a cold.  It’s going to tell you a whole bunch of stuff that is wrong with you, like having 12 different kinds of cancer.  Turns out the apple smell is caused by acetaldahyde.  On the one hand, this is a normal byproduct of yeast fermentation, so that’s not so bad.  On the other hand if it doesn’t go away, it can be a telltale sign of all kinds of things that went wrong including dead yeast, poor temperature control etc.  So what I’m reading is basically “Your yeast is dead, and your beer is ruined”.  *sigh* Not a great start to my homebrewing career.  So I start a post-mortem to find out what went wrong and I turn to the only test I have at my disposal.  I check the specific gravity with my hydrometer now that I had acquired a “hydrometer jar”, essentially a tall glass tube tall enough to accommodate the hydrometer.  I didn’t have this the day I made the wort which is why I wasn’t able to get an initial gravity reading.  The gravity reading I get is 1.012 (water is 1.000).  This is low.. very low.  This is bad.. very bad.  Or is it?  I pull out my Brewmaster’s Bible and flip to the potential alcohol tables.  My specific gravity relates to a ABV of about 1.7%.  This is way too low and something has gone horribly wrong.  I mull this over in my head for a little while and then I read how the alcohol levels are calculated.  You take the ABV of the initial gravity and subtract it from the ABV of the final gravity and this is the approximate alcohol content of your beer.  Having not thought about relative densities of alcohol and water I have to read through this a couple times before it clicks.  Alcohol is less dense than water, therefore the gravity of the wort (sugar solution) will be HIGHER than the gravity of the final beer.  The gravity starts high and then drops.  EUREKA! I used an online tool to estimate the starting gravity of my wort which it tells me is about 1.030.  Subtracting the data from the table gives me an ABV of 3.2%.  This is lower than the 3.7% that Mr Beer lists on the can, but at this point my beer is not done yet.  I’ve still got about 5 days left to go.  Maybe my beer is not dead after all!

I was thinking about making some changes to my beer, letting it ferment longer, adding more yeast, or just throwing it out when Lisa reminded me of a good point.  For good or for ill I had stated I was going to make the first batch exactly by the Mr Beer recipe and let the chips fall where they may.  If it’s good so be it, if it got messed up along the way, so be it.  We can assess it at the end if something goes wrong.

On May 20th my beer was ready to bottle.  My kit came with 11 750ml plastic bottles.  This is roughly equivalent to 22 12 ounce bottles.  So for 14-17$ depending on the style, my kit makes nearly a 24-pack of beer.  So it’s not dirt cheap, in fact you can get some beers for cheaper than that, but it’s going to be low alcohol, flavorless beer like Michelob Light.  Supposedly the homebrew should be much better than that.

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Getting ready to start bottling.  The pitcher contains a sanitizing solution to clean the bottles with.

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Bottled beer, but it’s not ready yet.  Now it takes another 2 weeks for carbonation, and some websites even suggest another 2-4 weeks of “conditioning” after that for the flavors to mellow.

So we wait.. and we wait.. then comes to moment of truth.

May 30th.  Two of my bottles (the last two filled) got a little extra yeast in the bottles.  So they ended up getting fully carbonated first and I stuck them in the fridge for a couple days.  One day when Lisa was over we cracked one open and we tried it.

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Well, it looks like beer, it smells like beer, what does it taste like?

Turns out, it tastes pretty good.  It has a very light, crisp taste and a dry finish.  The Mr Beer American Light Lager is exactly what it sounds like, it’s their version of the style that includes Bud Light, Miller Light, Coors Light etc.  Light flavor, light body, low alcohol.  Lisa really liked it.  I think I was trying too hard to describe it or compare it to something to appreciate it fully, but I have 10 more bottles of it.  Some of which will be shared around, especially to Lisa’s family who has been waiting since Christmas!

So, I did it! I successfully made beer! After we start making a dent in this batch and getting some empty bottles back I’ll start the second batch.  Lisa is requesting a stout.  We’ll see. 🙂

  • About Me

    I am a recent graduate in Food Science (NC State, 2009) and I work for a major food manufacturing company. I love food, but I can no longer eat anything that crosses my path. About 24 months ago I begin a serious struggle to get my obesity under control and reduce my chances of developing Type II diabetes. Since September of '09 I have lost 50 pounds and I still have a long ways to go. I've started eating better and exercising more, including taking up running.