Monday, December 30, 2013

Peer Pressure

Sometimes you just hang around with the wrong people.

People have been sent to the electric chair because some of their buddies decided to hold up a liquor store and they decided to just go along.  Others people have become doctors, teachers, engineers, and other respected professionals initially due to peer pressure, but later found that this was a pretty good move.

Even when you don't have direct peer pressure, those around you set the norm.  Did all of the other neighborhood kids play baseball?  You might have played even though none of them ever pressured you. Did all of your cousins go to college? You might have thought that was the thing everyone in your family did.

I started hanging out with the wrong crowd a couple of years ago.  These were guys (and girls!) who thought nothing about an Ironman, a 200 mile bike race on gravel, or a 100 mile run.  Now, I knew that I would never be that extreme.  And I'm not.  But here's an example of what happens.

My friend Travis decides to host a trail running race.  A 4.1 mile course.  You have an hour to finish.  So far, so good.  But here's the catch.

An hour after you run the loop, you run it again.  After another hour, run it again.  Until only one person is left.

So despite not wanting to be an ultra-runner at all, here I am at the starting line.  I was just going to run one lap to show support for Travis.  But I finished the lap and felt pretty good.  Somebody said, "It's time.  Start the next lap."  So I did. And for some stupid reason, I ran a third. I did show some restraint and quit after the 3rd lap.  12.3 miles.  I was getting tired and starting to get a blister on one of my feet.  But it seems pretty wimpy (or pretty normal), if you compare it to my friend Jim.

Running slow through the woods on the second lag.

Jim just kept running.  Not that fast.  4.1 miles.  Once an hour.  For 15 hours.

Jim just kept going.  For 61 miles.

So when just going out and running 12 miles makes you seem like a slacker, is it time to re-evaluate your peer group?  Nah, just recruit some more people into it.

Great job, Travis, for putting on a fantastic race.

Race director Travis (far right) along with some of the other volunteers.  Most of the photo's are taken from Robin (far left).

And same to you, Jim, for making a half-marathon run look like a nap on the couch.

What are these people up to next?  A one-mile swim next weekend.  The weekend after?  A half-marathon.  At night.  On a trail.

And I will be there.

Friday, December 27, 2013


Earlier this year, Excel brewing company launched a new beer in their lineup called Citra.

First, you may wonder who is Excel Brewing?

Well, the guys over in Breese, Illinois (45 miles due east of St. Louis) have had a little operation over there for years called Excel Bottling.  For citrus soda connoisseurs, Excel makes Ski, a wonderful citrus soda.  Ski was introduced in 1956.  Although often compared to Mtn. Dew, Ski has more citrus flavor and is not as sweet.  When you can find it in the returnable bottles, it is still made with cane sugar and contains orange and lemon pulp.

Anyway, back to the beer.

The Excel guys decided that they had extra capacity and would give brewing a shot.  Citra is their tribute to the most famous product of Excel.

Citra is a blond ale, flavored with orange and lemon.  If you expected this to taste like a Leinenkugel Summer Shandy, well, you would be surprised.

Most notable with this beer is its definite ale taste.  You get a bit of that clove aroma that is common with ales.  It is definitely heavier than a shandy.  It's not apparent whether the beer is made only with barley malt or if there is some wheat malt thrown in.

Overall, the body is heavy, the flavor is light with a citrus taste, and the beer is pretty good.

Will this be my "go-to" beer?  Probably not, but I do plan on picking up a few of these from time to time.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The County Commissioner of Beers

Let's face it.  There are a lot of beer snobs out there.  Beer, which used to be the working man's drink, has started to get all uppity.  Beer has strayed from it roots.  Working guys were referred to as "Joe Six-Pack", not "Joseph Triple Dry-Hopped Belgian Lambic IPA".

Budweiser calls itself the King of Beers.  Miller High Life calls itself the Champagne of Beers.  Pretty pretentious if you ask me.  We need a beer for guys who eat pork steaks, who know how to run a chain saw, who can wire a 240 volt air conditioner circuit, who can solder a repair fitting after someone drives a nail into your water pipe.

We don't need a king.  But we could use a good repairman, a good general contractor, a good tool and die-maker.  How about "The County Commissioner of Beers"?

So, I present you the County Commissioner of Beers.  Specifically, Clinton County, Illinois.

Stag Beer  

Now before all of you beer snobs turn up your nose, I challenge you to try a bottle.  And you don't have to spend a fortune to try it.  In Edwardsville, Illinois, you can buy a 12-pack for $7.99 or you can get a $1.00 bottle at the back bar at Laurie's Place every day.  Even at Cleveland Heath (a local upscale restaurant), Stag is priced at a whopping $2.00.

Stag has been brewed since 1851.  Stag was originally brewed in Belleville, Illinois, by Griesedick Western Brewing.  In the 1950's, Stag was sold in 22 states and was the 11th largest brand in the country.

And Stag is a highly underrated beer within its style.  Beer snobs may have a disdain for this style, but don't show disrespect for Stag.  I contend that it is the best beer in the American Lager style.  This style of beer should be lightly carbonated, dry rather than sweet, and very lightly hopped. Stag meets the criteria on all levels.  Stag has won numerous blind tastings and awards.

Stag is priced below the national brands for a simple reason: advertising and marketing.  Stag is not advertised and is distributed in a limited area in southwestern Illinois and southeastern Missouri.

The Stag brand is now owned by the Pabst Brewing Company.  They claim to be the largest American-owned brewing company.  They have acquired many regional brands such as Old Style, Lone Star, Rainier, Stroh's, Schaefer, and Olympia.  Note that there is another Stag beer brewed in Trinadad.  It is not related to Stag Beer of the Midwest.

So, don't be a snob.  Solder some copper pipe, fire up the chain saw, cook a pork steak, and drink a Stag.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Done with Hibernating

Well, the blog has been in hibernation a while.  Two years or so.

I think it's time to wake it up and start posting again.  I've missed posting two years of bike seasons, two years of beer tastings, and two years of barbecue.  I did not miss two years of eating BBQ and drinking beer.

So we'll start with a post on something that is not barbecue but is now in season.  I make sure to go and eat one every year just because it's......

The McRib.

I will first state that the McRib is not barbecue.  Some people will claim that it's not even meat, but according to the definition by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it is indeed meat.

From the USDA website:

is a paste-like and batter-like meat product produced by forcing bones with attached edible meat under high pressure through a sieve or similar device to separate the bone from the edible meat tissue. In 1982, a final rule published by FSIS on mechanically separated meat said it was safe and established a standard of identity for the food product. Some restrictions were made on how much can be used and the type of products in which it can be used. These restrictions were based on concerns for limited intake of certain components in MSM, like calcium. Due to FSIS regulations enacted in 2004 to protect consumers against Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, mechanically separated beef is considered inedible and is prohibited for use as human food. However, mechanically separated pork is permitted and must be labeled as "mechanically separated pork" in the ingredients statement.

If it makes you feel any better, the Chicken McNuggets are mechanically separated chicken.  Even though the description of the process is unappetizing, the McRib is somewhat tasty.  It seems that adding a tangy barbecue sauce, onions, and pickles will make a lot of things tasty.  Sometimes very tasty.

People who claim the McRib is not meat may just be vegetarians claiming that it's not meat so they can enjoy their once-a-year binge.  Or maybe not.