Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Firsts

First of all, in our firsts, I would like to point out what an odd words "firsts" is, but that is the focus of today's post - some firsts.

Our first kegging from River City Brewing!  I was out sick last Friday, but that didn't stop Cody and Greg from moving ahead with racking out the first batch of beer from the new system.  It was a golden ale that served as our test batch for the first run-though of the brewhouse.  Thankfully, the brewhouse performed admirably, as has every step since.  I am quite disappointed that I wasn't here to enjoy the fruits of our labor, but that day will be here tomorrow.  Finally.

Our first kegging of River City Red!  Tuesday is the day that we will rack out our first batch of River City Red.  We are a sponsor of Spokane Restaurant Week and the preview/introduction party is Tuesday, so we are hoping to serve samples from these two beers.

Our first public sampling!  Okay, I milked that for two firsts, but Tuesday afternoon will also hold our first public sampling of our golden ale and River City Red at the preview/into party for Spokane Restaurant Week.  The event is not open to the public, but if you are attached to a restaurant in some way, then check out the idea and get on board.  Here is that link again: Spokane Restaurant Week.

Our first "new" employee!  Cody, Greg and I have all been around for the prior incarnation of our brewery in Coeur d'Alene.  I am very pleased to have both of them back and brewing for us.  They are serious, committed brewers who fully believe in the Drink Local concept and always have time for chat with beer geeks, home brewers and anyone who is interested in craft beer.  This week, however, we have also welcomed Emily to the River City Brewing team.  Emily shares these attributes, but has the daunting task of organizing everything outside of the beer-making process, including all of our relationship/process with our vendors, our distributor, and the government (no small task for a brewery), as well as helping with sales, beer gear, advertising, etc., etc., etc.  Thankfully, Emily is one of those people who appears to have endless enthusiasm and interest and is devoting it the brewery.  Welcome aboard!

My personal first bike ride of the year!  Yes, it was snowy, cold, wet and miserable on Monday this week.  The temperature was, however, well above the sub-freezing temps of the past couple of weeks so I set my mind to getting on my bike a week ago.  I got it ready this weekend and just decided to grin and bear it.  Thankfully, it turns out that making the decision was the hardest part.  The ride went well (mostly) and it was nice to be pedaling a bike again after a couple of month hiatus.  More on that later.



Friday, January 25, 2013

Twitter Followers (@RiverCityRed)

We have a Twitter account for the brewery, that, like this blog, mostly hits on beer and bikes, but also picks up a few other tidbits (find us here - @RiverCityRed).  At this point, we have mostly been learning about twitter and seeing how it fits into the social media landscape and how we can eventually spread word about our beer, the places you can have a pint, the stuff we are supporting, etc.  Nothing ground breaking about that, but a slowish process of learning and exposing ourselves (no, not that way) to people who might be interested in following us. 

As a result, however, I was thoroughly entertained to get an e-mail from a company that will sell me twitter followers.  It's not a tutorial on how to get followers, or lessons about social media, or even targeted approaches to build followers - nope, it's just a website with four items for sale - Facebook likes, Instagram Followers, YouTube views and Twitter Followers.  You click on the one you want and then pick your item.  Twitter follower pricing is as follows: 10,000 followers - $24.99; 50,000 followers - $89.99; and, for you real value shoppers out there, 100,000 followers - $149.99. 

Oh, I get it now.  The value of my twitter account is NOT finding people who want to know about our brewery and beer, and share a few things along the way, instead it's about impressing everyone with how many followers I have regardless of how little it means.  I was so going the wrong direction with that.  Now I get it and will be all over it.

So, tomorrow, when my twitter followership jumps from the low three digits (my mom started at least 75 of those accounts), to tens of thousands, we will both know why and we can feel good about the ability to buy damn near anything in this great land of ours!  Now you can celebrate #DrinkLocal with me and my one hundred thousand one-hundred thirty-four favorite people!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Random Thoughts

It has long been a part of the blog-world code of ethics that one write "random thoughts" posts.  It is a way of clumping together disparate things; in other words, a lazy way to post without sufficient thoughts to justify it.

Class action lawsuit - It's Not About the Bike - So, funny that this would be on the agenda, because I said I was done with Lance, but I love the fact that there is an angry lawsuit by readers/purchasers of the Sally Jenkins/LA tome.  No one deserves more richly to be the focus of an angry lawsuit than LA.

Phil Liggett / Paul Sherwen - When I was learning cycling, I used to worship these guys.  After I understood cycling, particularly after the explosion of information on the internet, I appreciated these guys but learned of their limitations and the blind eye they preferred to turn towards the seamy underbelly of cycling.  Now, however, after Liggett's dogged refusal to admit plain facts (After the Oprah/LA interview was in the can but not aired, Liggett was quoted as saying that there was evidence that only 2 of LA's 7 TdF wins were done while doping.  Really?  I think Liggett should share that evidence - or even better yet - know when to shut his piehole on a topic on which he has not one parsec of credibility).  I am just not looking forward to listening to them during my beloved classics season and then the TdF.  I will be looking for internet feeds with foreign voices for the Classics and glad to know that at least the Giro is not theirs.

Parsec - For you science nerds out there, my parsec reference was just to see if you were paying attention.  And yes, I know that a parsec is really, really big.  I mean REALLY, REALLY big.

Fat Bikes - A couple of local good guys, D.D. and P.S. (http://26inchslicks.blogspot.com/), have become Fat Bike Aficionados (Speaking of which, you may need to consider a blog-name change there, eh?).  They preach the goodness of Fat Bikes, go to Fat Bike conventions, go on jealousy-inducing breakfast rides on Fat Bikes.  Hell, I have the impression they abandon their wives and sleep with their Fat Bikes in the garage to make sure their fat steeds are safe during the night.  Anyway, knowing my penchant for bike purchasing (N + 1), they tried to talk to me about them.  Now, I love the stories and I can feel the camaraderie, but I just thought the uses were too limited or too far between.  I mean, how often am I riding on sandy beaches?  Sandy beaches are made for cold beer and sipping tequila, not Fat Bikes.  Well, I was flat wrong.  Little did I know that this whole global warming thing was going to bring a permanently frozen tundra landscape to Spokane and the only way to get outside was to be on a Fat Bike.  Damn, it turns out that buying another bike is the answer yet again.

Ramblin Road / Manito Tap House - Hey, remember when we were talking about beer on this beer blog?  Me neither.  Here goes.  Got together this week with the proprietor (missing his spouse-partner) of Ramblin Road Craft Brewery (B.G.) (By the way, I don't use people's names on this blog unless 1) they are famous or 2) I get permission.  Don't know why, it's just the way I roll).  They are focusing on doing Belgian-inspired ales and just out of the gates.  We got together to talk beer and met at the Manito Tap House (I was hoping to catch one of their beers on tap, but they were between kegs).  Two things jumped out of this conversation.  First, it's great to have more people making beer in Spokane and passionate about spreading the word about drinking/supporting local products.  I wish them much success.  Second, it is so cool that beer has exploded all over Spokane.  Sure, I meant that to sound silly, but sitting at Manito Tap House it is impossible to not reflect upon how great they are with beer (and food), but also note how many other places in the area are taking beer seriously.  I won't go all "old-timer" on you, but things have changed a lot in the beer world since 1999 and all for the better.

Bike Commuting - Starting next week.  Temperatures up a bit, snow on the ground to cover the freeze-dried ice there now.  I don't know how it will go, but I promise tales of adventure and probably pictures of bruises.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

River Park Square - I gotta an idea for ya

Start on the roof level of the garage and finish where the Christmas tree sits.  I think we have a whole new Bloomsday kinda thing here.  Just as soon as we can get children and grandmothers to commit to full-body armor extreme down-hilling, that is.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Armstrong - The Last Word (I hope)

I am a cycling fan in that I love riding bikes and I follow professional cycling. I have been doing both since I started cycling "seriously" in 1985. That means that I have been paying attention to professional cycling since before Greg Lemond won the Tour de France the first time and, thus, have watched the entire arc of Lance Armstrong's career, from punchy one-day rider, to cancer patient, to the miraculous run of TdF wins, to retirement & comeback, to the USADA penalty and now, the Oprah interview.  I have never loved Lance, but I was also never a Lance-hater.  I have wished for a long time that cycling could move on from Lance and that other athletes would seize the spotlight, but for better or worse that day has not yet come.  And so, here are my thoughts on Lance which, I hope, will be my own Last Words on Lance.

First, credit where credit is due.  Lance Armstrong is a focused, determined and talented athlete.  He was at the start of his career and was throughout.  Many athletes who hit a pinnacle like winning a TdF have a hard time maintaining the intensity or desire that got them there - too many distractions for a champion and too much temptation to enjoy the fruits of that labor.  Not Lance, though.  He seemed to finish each win with an equal or increased desire to win again. Year after year, he did everything possible to win and then win again.  After each victory, he challenged everyone involved to step up their game that much higher to win again.  He demanded that of his equipment suppliers, his teammates, his organization and his sponsors.  In doing so, he raised the level of competition each and every year.  He forced innovation of clothing, wheels, frames and even watches and sunglasses.  And he demanded that the suppliers not allow anyone else to have the innovations until after the race, by which time he would be working on the next iteration.  And, because of his success, he increased his budget for this process each year and kept pushing to not only win, but to utterly dominate the TdF every year.

That was obvious to even a casual observer of the process and sport.

And if your determination to win is that focused and that overwhelming, is it surprising to learn that doing "everything possible" to win would include performance enhancing drugs? 

Here are a couple of basic points on PEDs for the casual observer.  First, the margin between winning and not winning the TdF is very, very narrow.  One year I read the difference between 1st and 40th was 3%.  That is the case at the top level of every single sport.  Second, PEDs in the 90's, oxygen vector doping (including EPO, EPO variations and blood transfusions) make a LARGE difference.  And the longer the duration of an event, the more difference they make.  In other words, they may not make much difference in a 100 meter dash (although they help there too), they will make a big difference in 10,000 meters and a bigger difference in a marathon - so how much do you think they would help in a 3-week race?  The answer - HUGE. 

Next point, passing PED tests - Tyler Hamilton said these were not drug tests, they were IQ tests.  In other words, the tests look for drugs in your system at that moment.  If you understand the process and the tests, the trick is not to "get lucky", the trick is to devise a system that is better than the testing system.  If your avoid-detection budget is dramatically larger than the detection budget, do you think that would help?  How about if the detection system is open and transparent in exactly how it works, when it will do testing, how the science works and just what they are testing for, do you think that helps you to understand and then design your avoid-detection system?

And lastly, on the "level playing field" discussion.  Yes, it is true that most people who were at the top of the sport at that time were cheating.  Does that make it better?  No, it makes it worse.  And did the drugs actually make a "level" playing field?  No.  Two reasons - first, the way the drugs work, a person with a lower natural hematocrit level actually gets a bigger boost than someone with a higher natural hematocrit level.  Ironically then the guys who were less competitive with no drugs become dominant with the oxygen vector drugs.  It doesn't just bring up their level to the level of the non-drugging athletes, it makes them much better.  Does it turn donkeys into race horses?  No, but it makes the mid-pack race horses the winning race horses.  Sounds like cheating to me. 

And second, as for Armstrong, when he had the biggest budget, pushed his suppliers to develop better equipment for him and not share it with any other competitor, hired the best doping doctor in the world and then paid him to not work with any other athlete, does that sound like "level playing field"?  No, it makes it sound like Armstrong-world where he wanted to have the best of each and every element and make sure that no one else had it.  Like him or not, you have to be impressed at some level with the focus and determination to bring himself to that level year after year after year, but you can't excuse it by saying "I was just doing what everyone else was doing," because that wasn't true with any single element of the program from the fabric of his jersey to the medical program he was on.  No one else had private jets to facilitate their program or any of the other apparatus that Lance's budget provided him.  It wasn't level, it was slanted Lance's way and that is the only way he played for years and years.

And the other element of Armstrong during all of these years is the way he dealt with critics or problems.  He took the same focus, the same determination, and the same overwhelming budget and turned it full force on anyone who dared to criticize him.  He didn't dismiss his detractors, he tried to annihilate them.  He used scorched earth tactics to not only try to silence anyone who spoke the underlying truth or questioned him, but he used the scorched earth process to scare away anyone thinking about speaking the truth or questioning him.  His behavior towards some economically powerless individuals was nothing short of barbaric and reprehensible, particularly the now familiar trio of Emma O'Reilly, Betsy Andreu and Mike Anderson.  All three dependent on Lance in some way for their livelihoods (Emma and Mike directly, Betsy's husband), but all at dramatically huge disadvantage when Lance starting calling them liars, sickos, trolls and worse, and then turned high-priced lawyers on them with virtually unlimited budgets to destroy their credibility and, in the process, trying to destroy them.  There are many examples of this disgusting and horrible behavior from Lance Armstrong, both small and large, and no amount of apology will ever re-set the tables.

And so with this background, it brings me to the most recent element of the Lance Armstrong saga - his USADA case and his celebrity confession with Oprah. 

First, I thought that Oprah brought everything to the table that could be reasonably expected from her.  She is not a detail level sports journalist, much less a cycling specific one.  She is a celebrity interviewer; the most famous one, but that is what she does.  She did, however, bring up uncomfortable topics and pushed back at points.  Did she skip things I would like to have heard about?  Yes.  Did she fail to follow up on things I wanted to know?  Yes.  But she did hold Lance to some things and didn't pull punches from a celebrity interviewer perspective. 

As for Lance?  The first moments were riveting.  After all the years and all the defiance, I was glad that he plainly admitted those things including doping through all seven victories.  At least that topic was resolved for all the Lance-lovers and Lance-haters.  After that, however, the real Lance returned in full force.  The one that is focused and determined to win and to tilt the table his way.

I do not believe that he wasn't doping during the 2009/2010 comeback.  I have read that his bio-passport information left a 1 in a million chance of him NOT doping during this period, not to mention that a) he is still Lance, b) he was still working with the best blood doping doctor in the business and c) he was third at the TdF despite set-backs, problems, years out of competition and his advancing age. 

I also don't believe that he wasn't well aware that he had sued Emma O'Reilly.  How many low-paid employees did he sue?  Yes, more than one, but he has been questioned about Emma O'Reilly repeatedly.  It is utter bullshit that he didn't know that he had sued her.  He also flatly denied that anyone on his behalf had offered to make a "donation" to USADA, despite the very credible assertions from people who have no reason to lie and have not yet lied about anything. 

One of Lance's big things with his teammates that confessed and then accused him was this simple equation - if they took drugs and lied about it, they are liars, so how can we trust them now?  Reasonable question, but here is how you know whether you can trust them - you listen to them and see if what they say now is actually the truth or appears to be the truth, has verifiable elements of authenticity and accuracy and if the rest of it fits into the truths and known facts.  That's how we determine whether liars are now telling the truth and whether they deserve the opportunity to trusted or forgiven.

If, on the other hand, their confessions appear to be true only on the specific items that can't be plausibly denied anymore and then suspicious on other elements, then you shouldn't trust them.  If they continue to contradict things that seem to be true without sufficient explanation, or if they continue to contradict people that have always spoken clearly and truthfully, then you shouldn't trust them.  If they continue to assert things that can be proven to factually untrue or at least have a likelihood of being true in 1 chance out of one million, then you shouldn't trust them.

And so it was with Lance.  After the few clear and direct statements, his obfuscation, misdirection and hubris continued to emerge repeatedly after that, all of which indicate that he was not telling exclusively the truth; that he isn't truly sorrowful for cheating and lying and destroying people in whatever way that he could; that he doesn't understand and didn't demonstrate remorse or contrition; and that ultimately he is not worthy of trust or redemption in the eyes of thoughtful people.

And thus I come to my last point.  We, as a nation and even as a world, are not made up of thoughtful people.  We inexplicably pay attention to scads of people like the Kardashians who are not worthy of any attention.  We ignore large and important truths about the world around us.  I personally spend more time reading about professional cycling in any month that I do during the entire year combined learning about large policy issues or any number of important topics.  And, as a result of our interest in celebrities and our enormous capacity to forget, Lance Armstrong accomplished most of what he needs to in order to start the climb back on his pedestal for the public at large.  It is just a matter of time, regardless of whether he cooperates in any further investigation, regardless of whether he names any names, regardless of whether his ban stands, and regardless of how many settlements are made or how much of his personal fortune is spent avoiding actually making amends with those who deserve it, his time with Oprah will satisfy the curiosity of most people.  It will put to bed the questions about Lance, even though hundreds of important questions remain unasked and unanswered.  It will slowly open the door for Lance to start making cancer related appearances again, which will pave the way to his involvement in Livestrong again.  And that will open the door to appearance fees and endorsements again.  Hell, Nike went back to supporting a man who fought dogs to the death, how can they not get back on board with a guy whose only crime was wanting to win?

And yes, this process will be dismay those who rightly hate him for all of the cheating and lying he has done.  It will seem unfair to those astounded by the riches he achieved by cheating and being ruthless.  And it won't make right any of the wrongs against the individuals or the sport.  But it will happen and it's just a matter of time.  And for that reason, I am moving on and intend for these to be my last words on Lance Armstrong.

Friday, January 18, 2013

NEED POST FOR FRIDAY, 1/18. REMOVE THIS TEXT WHEN BLOG WRITTEN.

This is sample text to remind me to type a blog posting for Friday, January 18.  Remember to delete it when you get around to typing an entry.

If, however, you see this text on the blog, it means it was automatically posted and I forgot to actually write a post.  If that happens, please notify the authorities immediately because it means one of several things:

1) I have "sampled" way too many of our beers and fallen asleep under my desk, thus failing to blog about anything.  Actually, don't notify the authorities.  I could use the sleep.  I'll be fine.

or

2) My internet connection went down, my computer froze up, my smart-phone was dropped down a well, the public library was closed, and I left on a vacation.  In that case, definitely don't notify the authorities.  Or my mom.  She'll just worry and I'm sure I'll be fine.  I'll call when I get back.  Really.

or

3) The much fantasized about Zombie-pocolypse has actually occurred.  If so, I am out with a sawed-off shotgun in one hand, a machete in the other, a bandolier on my chest and I am slowly jogging away from the Zombies.  It turns out that they really do move slowly, what with that re-animated tissue and all.  Actually, if that has happened, don't worry about calling the authorities.  You probably have better things to do right now, like put on a steel-reinforced helmet to protect your "BRAINS! . . . BRAINS! . . . BRAINS!"

or

4) I didn't take the time to type up anything because I completely bereft of ideas.  It's surprising that I could even think of the word "bereft' in my depleted state, that is how bereft of ideas I am.  Seriously, I'm feeling completely drained of witticisms, funny stuff, quips, come-backs, observations or wry notations.  In which case, don't notify the authorities because they get kind-of pissed if you just call them because you are otherwise out of creative ideas.  I know.  I've done it more than once.  Did you know that 911 can get a restraining order against you?  I didn't.

or

5) I have been abducted by aliens who are intent on stealing super secret information from me in a vain attempt to understand our human culture.  They can't figure out why the Kardashians pulled in $60 million last year.  They can't figure out when Justin Bieber will come out of the closet.  They can't figure out why no one has talked to Christina Aguilera about letting herself go.  And they can't figure out why I was capable of watching every single episode of Gilligan's Island over and over and over, even the really bad ones like when the Harlem Globetrotters were stuck on the island and . . . never mind.  The authorities won't believe your story.  Unless you call Agent Scully.  Feel free to send her.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Time

Most mornings I rush around, doing everything as quickly as possible: absorbing caffeine (primary importance); checking in with my wife and kids (almost as important); and generally getting myself ready to get to work as soon as I can (hmm, also important it seems).  Most days, with three people in my house headed to high school (my wife is a teacher), the schedule is early and the pace is quick.

Today, though, my wife had a very early meeting and my kids had "late start," which meant there was a bigger than normal gap between the departure times.  I, unusually, was ready around the time my wife drove off and that left me in the also usual position of being commander in chief of the morning shift, and, the most unusual of all, with plenty of time.

And, I have to say, it was very odd.

What may seem even odder to you is that it reminded me of mowing my lawn. 

You see, some tasks absorb enough of your body and brain that you can't do anything else, but you have plenty of brain left over for other stuff.  This morning, while the dogs wondered why the loud-feeder was moving unusually slowly around the kitchen, I did a number of tasks that fit into that category - unloaded the dishwasher, made espresso (maybe more than once)(oh fine, definitely more than once), made sandwiches for three lunches, got breakfast stuff ready and waited for my kids to make appearances. 

I have to confess that at one point while I was staring at the espresso machine waiting for it to warm up, I wondered where my phone was and had the urge to check e-mail and look at twitter, but I had left it far enough away that I couldn't get it and simultaneously keep my coffee moving ahead.  Priorities prevailed and I realized at that moment that periods of stillness are unusual, but welcome.  Which reminded me of mowing my lawn.  It is the same level of engagement and disengagement and it can be profoundly enjoyable.

My next task was making sandwiches for me and my boys.  There is no other way to describe it than deeply calming.  I was doing something useful, it had an easy pace, I had no other demand on my time at that moment and I had my espresso to keep me company.  Sometimes that would cause me to contemplate some problem or deadline at work, some home thing that I hadn't done when I should, or some other similar issue that was vexing, but inexplicably today it made me notice how nice it was to just be doing that.  The times that happens for me most often are mowing the lawn or cleaning my driveway.  Those are both tasks that don't allow you do anything else, but also aren't real taxing on the brain waves, and they take long enough that I find that I can't help eventually enjoying the time to ponder random things and somewhere in there notice how nice it is to just have that "time". 

And yes, soon enough my kids thundered into the room, breakfast was made, schedules were contemplated and the pace picked up to the pell mell of a normal day, but it's nice to have those moments occasionally.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Old Beer, New Bottle

Okay, that title sounds completely unappealing, but it is supposed to be a funny turn of the phrase "old wine in new bottles."  Okay, similarly unappealing and doesn't ring a bell?  I guess we all weren't english majors in college, but I am veering wildly from my point.

A LONG time ago, in 2002, there was discussion in Spokane about a book called "The Rise of the Creative Class" by Richard Florida.  In fact, Mr. Florida came to town to talk about the idea of creating economic prosperity by supporting the creative class.  The Inlander did an issue dedicated to this topic, and for some reason (I think I have pictures of an editor from a pub crawl), they asked me (and lots of others) to contribute a short essay.  Below is what I provided to the Inlander, but I thought it was relevant today (although I am glad to point out that there are a lot more microbreweries around now than there were then).

Supporting the Creative Class

In my work at the Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company, I have discovered the simple, direct and guaranteed path for the Inland Northwest to support the “Creative Class.”  My advice can be encapsulated in this pithy, easy to remember mantra: DRINK LOCAL BEER.  Lest you think this is purely self-serving, please keep in mind that there are two local breweries, so it’s not just the Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company.  You can and should also buy beer from the Northern Lights Brewery.  And, actually, there is a little more to it than that.  You also have to go listen to local bands.  The benefit here is that you can often listen to local bands AND drink local beer.  You should also buy a CD from every local band.  Also, if you find you need a break from local beer, you can also drink local wine or enjoy a hot cup of local coffee.  You should do this in restaurants owned by local people.  When you pay the bill, you should write a check from your local bank.  If you need a night at home, fix yourself a nice dinner, with groceries purchased from a locally-owned store.  When you are sitting at the table and notice that it might be time to replace the “left-over from college” poster on the wall, seek out a local piece of artwork, from a local artist, at a local gallery or local art festival.  To celebrate purchasing real local artwork, instead of drinking another local beer, go out for an evening at a local symphony, chamber group or quartet of your choosing.  If an outdoor experience seems more appropriate, make sure you get your bike tuned up at a local shop or your new fishing gear at a local outfitter.  After all of this local experience, when you get home, just imagine:  you can crack open a bottle of local beer, put on a CD from a local band, sit down where you can see your local artwork and finally, open up a book purchased, yes, at a local bookstore.

If you get really excited about this process, you can do it in virtually every aspect of your life.  I suggest you start again with the basics.  You go into a bar or restaurant that isn’t a locally-owned spot (say your boss, who is new to town, picks the place and she isn’t hip to this “local” tidal wave sweeping the region), the first thing you do when your server comes up to the table is say, “What local beer do you have?”  Or better yet, “Do you have any excellent Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company or Northern Lights beer on tap?”  You see, your server in a non-local spot may need clear sign posts.  In fact, wherever you go, you can start with the question, “What do you have that it is local?”  You might be surprised at the answer and, you will discover, that what is local in this place happens to be great.

In some of our neighboring cities, like Seattle, Portland and Boise, the people are convinced that the things created in their cities are better than the stuff created somewhere else.  Given a choice between local and non-local, it is a hands-down, no-brainer decision to pick local.  Because it’s made by them and it’s made for them.  And when you get down to the nitty-gritty, it makes strong economic sense.  For every dollar you spend at a local company, you can make some reasonable assumptions.  First, you know the employees are local, so their paychecks get spent at the same local spots you are supporting.  Next, you know the owners are local, so if they are lucky enough to make a buck, that buck is going to be spent on local goods and services.  And even before that buck of profit, the local owner is likely to be hiring some local bookkeeping help, maybe using a local lawyer, engaging a local graphic artist to design a local logo, advertising in a local publication (like this one) and overall, using those local dollars to help the local economy.  With an equation like that, not only is the creative class going to get direct support from your purchases of artwork and CD’s, but those who are currently working in local restaurants, health clubs, stores, banks and tattoo parlors are going to have jobs and benefits and the opportunity to express their creative impulses.  And all because you went out and had a local beer.  Well, I raise my glass to you and to the creative class you are supporting.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Longing for Spring

Winter finally came to the Inland Northwest this month.  All the signs were here: snow, power outages and pick-up trucks in ditches.  With that came the bane of the cyclist's world - the trainer.

For the last months, even as November and December wore on, lots of cyclists were still outside rolling around.  It was cold, but with some decent technical clothing, it was surprisingly ride-able. Some make the switch to mountain bikes, with more protected trails and lower windspeeds, but even on the road, it was nice to be outside.  Even a couple of weeks ago, I found myself thinking that maybe global climate change isn't so bad if I get to ride my bike right through the winter.  I'll be dead by the time the world succumbs to famine and pestilence and I get to ride my bike in the meantime, right?

Anyway, all of that came to an end with the snow-pocalypse.  Of course, when I was a kid, we just called it a snow storm, but the jack-asses who now produce local television insist that every weather event is the equivalent of biblical swarm of locusts devastating everything in sight, but anyway, the roads are no longer hospitable for bike riding.  As a result, I hit the pain-cave. (When I was a kid we called that the basement, but now we have to hero-ize all our actions so instead of being a middle-aged guy enjoying his hobby and fighting back the bulge, instead I am involved in an epic struggle of titanic importance that requires me to enter the PAIN CAVE!!!!!)(Apparently cynicism is the word of the day).

So where was I?  Oh yeah.  I went into the basement to get on the trainer.  I have a pretty nice set-up for riding my trainer with an old bike frame permanently affixed to a Kurt Kinetic trainer (actually I recently got a new one at Steve's On Cannon, passing along the 10-year old Kurt Kinetic trainer to my kids) set-up in front of the old family TV and a library of cycling videotapes and DVDs stretching back to the 70's.  I have a long-standing habit of starting with my oldest recordings and watching them chronologically from the oldest to the newest and then starting over again.  It keeps them all reasonably fresh and I love watching the progression from the amphetamine-enhanced, wool-jersey-wearing athletes to clenbuterol-enhanced, lycra-jersey-wearing athletes.  And, thus set up, I can sit on the damn thing for an extended period of time. Yesterday, with only a modicum of fitness, I managed to eek out 2 hours.  This week, I will endure a bit more, all in hopes of being ready for the snow to subside and the fun to begin again.  Which brings me to my point.

Last year, I seemed to struggle with winter more than usual.  Most winters, I enjoy the snow, I go skiing, and like not having yard-work.  It all seems okay and then I look forward to spring with a normal amount of joy.  Last year, however, I was deeply yearning for the warm sun.  I became oddly obsessed with the feeling of the sun warming my skin in just that perfect way where it feels good and life-affirming.  It was a peculiar feeling for me, because I am a long way from a sun worshiper and I assure you, no one in their right mind, including me, is longing to see my carcass warming in the sun.  So why was I hit with that last year?  I think I know now.  It was those cycling videos.

This weekend, I watched a few stages of the 2007 Tour de France, including about 90 minutes of coverage of one stage (thank goodness for the 15 hour DVD set) where the temperature was perfect for the day.  The fans were clad in shorts, a few in bikini tops, and the cyclists were warm in the valleys and okay across the mountain summits.  In other words, one of those perfect days.  And I was sitting there on my trainer, in the cold basement with a view of the daylight window with snow outside and frost on the panes, thinking of how nice it would be to feel the sun.

It could be a long time until spring if this trainer time keeps up.  I think I'll go hibernate instead.

Monday, January 14, 2013

River City Twilight Criterium - 2014

Despite the enthusiasm and sponsor support, I'm sorry to report that this race will not be held in 2013.  I could say that it was because it was a big project and we just didn't have the person-hours to devote to it in a way that we could pull off a first class race, but the real reason is that I am triskaidekaphobic and I couldn't stand to be associated so closely with something that was established in a year ending in "13".  I'm sorry for disappointed racers, teammates and families, but it's just the way I roll.

It is cold, snowy and cold outside.  I realize that.  I really do, so why would I start talking about bike riding right now?  Because I love it, that's why.

And you know that the other thing I love is beer, right?

And so, putting 2 and 2 together in that age-old way, what could be better than bike riding and beer drinking being put together?  Nothing.

Okay, I can honestly think of one or two things that I might put slightly above beer drinking and bike riding together, but not much.  But what, you ask, is this bike-riding/beer-drinking thing of which I speak?  The River City Twilight Criterium, that's what - a bike race to be held in the evening of Saturday, August 3rd.

There isn't a lot of story to tell yet, but just for a moment, picture this in your mind's eye.  Downtown Spokane on a warm summer evening as the sun is going down.  A beer garden with a variety of River City beers flowing.  Live music behind you.  And . . . in front of you . . . a stampeding group of lycra-clad crazy folks riding their bikes 25-30 or more miles per hour, passing by every couple of minutes as they wring out every last bit of performance from their tired muscles all for the glory of crossing the finish line first.  And, also, all for your entertainment as you sip a cold frosty one in the beer garden or stroll along the sidewalks or take a breather in any of the many sidewalk cafe spots along the race course.

Sound like a fun summer evening?  I thought so.  Now do me a favor - put that date on your calendar right now, while we are both thinking about it - Saturday, August 3rd.  I know that spot is empty on your calendar, so make a note of it right now and then, when it rolls around, you will remind yourself how damn smart it was to block it out right now, while it's still cold and snowy outside.

And in the meantime, let's give a moment of appreciation to the folks helping to make it happen - Visit Spokane, Downtown Spokane Partnership, Washington Trust Bank and the River City Red Cycling Club.  There are more sponsorship and volunteer opportunities, so if you are interested, drop us a line at rivercityred at gmail dot com or leave a comment below.

See you at the start line.

Friday, January 11, 2013

"Old" movies

For a beer blog, we are getting off topic today.  Actually, we are likely to get off topic in the midst of most blogs themselves, so I'm not going to start out apologizing for it. 

Today's topic - It's funny how things change.  I was about to talk about my Netflix list and I realized that many people are "over" Netflix and now have moved on to online movies, streaming movies on their smart televisions and smartphones, Red Boxes or bitter-torrenting movies or whatever it is that kids are doing now, but I cling to the old ways of my ancestors, like reinheitsgebot, so I am still clinging to those red mailer envelopes and the movie list.

Several months ago, I had the idea that it would be fun to load up my Netflix list with a bunch of  mostly 1980's movies that I loved during my more precious and formative years.  Since Hollywood seems devoid of any new ideas and is fixating on rehashing all old movies and tv shows, both good and bad (really, A-Team?), I thought I might as well rehash a few myself.

I picked movies that I remembered fondly.  Movies I thought were funny or heart-warming.  Movies that I thought I would enjoy seeing again and movies that my teenage kids would enjoy. 

So, how did it turn out?  Mixed - at best.  I was shocked by a couple.  Planes, Trains and Automobiles - I remember laughing my ass off in the movie theater in 1987.  In 2012 - not so much.  It was meaner than I remember and not that funny.  Oh sure, a few bits, but overall - meh. 

Around the time the remake came out, I thought my kids would enjoy Footloose with Kevin Bacon.  Turns out, No.  It ended and I thought, "why did I like that in 1984?"  Same with Four Weddings and a Funeral.  I remember being very touched by the W. H. Auden quote at the funeral, which still rang true, but the rest?  Not so much.  A never-heart warming Andie MacDowell and Hugh Grant just came off as deeply dysfunctional and not charming at all in 2012.  How was it the highest grossing British film of all time and an Oscar Nominee for Best Picture of the Year in 1984?

On the other hand, a few movies easily stand the test of time.  Caddyshack.  1980.  An absolute classic that I think humanity will still be watching at the 100 year anniversary in 2080.  And one that I recalled as funny, but which is just as funny 20 years later (wait, what? that came out twenty-flippin years ago?), was 1993's So I Married an Axe Murderer.  It was a time when someone could still control Mike Myers and it has a great cast including bits by Alan Arkin, Steven Wright, Charles Grodin and Phil Hartman.  Sure it's slightly uneven, but that was obvious when it was released, but it is every bit as funny two decades later. 

Some others:

12 Monkeys - 1995 - Gilliam at his best.  Almost.
Out of Sight - 1998 - Clooney being Clooney, Lopez being a much better version of Lopez and an Elmore Leonard book - still fun.
The Dark Crystal - 1982 - Um, no.
Top Gun - 1986 - Um, also no.  Was Kenny Loggins ever cool?
True Stories - 1986 - I had high hopes, but my kids just looked at me quizzically.  A moment in time.
Beetlejuice - 1988 - Look how young they all are.  Holds up.
Scrooged - 1988 - Proof that Bill Murray could act years before he got credit for it.  This is what Christmas movies should be.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai - 1984 - Sadly, it didn't get better.

And I guess that was ultimately the lesson.  Movies really are a product of the time in which they are made.  They reflect the zeitgeist of their era and some work years later and most don't.  Like books, there are still some we go back to years, decades and even centuries later - those are the classics.  And to no one's surprise, the 80's were not known for nor likely to every produce mostly classics.  Too much hair and too many zippers I think.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The New Year of Cycling


This is a few days behind the New Year, but the sentiment is still relevant.  And, this may sound odd, but as a cyclist, I love this time of year.  Oh sure, it’s cold and dark and miserable outside a lot of the time and downright difficult to ride my bike, but other than that, it is perfect.  When you talk about the New Year, many people focus on the champagne and ringing in the day.  Don’t get me wrong, I am always in favor of champagne, but for me, it’s not the “Eve” that is so great, it is the sense of renewal and unbroken promise of the year stretching out ahead.

A new year brings alive my sense of possibility and hope.  We get to write our own story on that fresh new year and the possibilities are grand.  As a cyclist, I have put aside the fatigue or difficulties of last year and I think about the great rides ahead.  As a bike commuter, I think about how many days of riding I will be able to do this year.  As a bike racer, I think about really attacking my training so will cross some unknown finish line in newfound glory.  As an adventure rider, I look forward to new roads, new trails, and new challenges.  It is all laid out in front of me and none of those pesky things like work or expense or my age or my lack of fitness are holding me back.

My brother once asked me why I was planning on a particularly long, grueling ride.  I said, “My buddy talked me into it.”  He responded, “You are easy to talk into things,” and I immediately said, “Exactly!”  And this time of year, I can be talked into a lot of things because the promise of the new year is so wonderful that almost any adventure or race or ride seems likes a good idea.

Now is the time to seek out your challenges for the spring and summer.  Don’t be afraid to find a new ride to put on the calendar.  Pick a new road or a trail and then pick a weekend.  Stake it out while there are no conflicts.  Find a gran fondo, or a charity ride or a race and fill out the registration form now, while it still seems like a good idea.  Having a challenge waiting on the other side of the dark winter is motivating and exciting.  It will make it easier to get some training done during these cold months.  It will make it more fun to get your bike tuned up and ready to go weeks earlier.  It will give the new year promise and excitement and it gives you something to look forward to, starting right now.

The new year will surely bring some challenges and problems.  For most cyclists, it will bring flat tires and fatigue.  For bike racers, it will bring disappointment.  But all of that is someday later, not now.  Right now is the time to think about the beautiful scenery waiting out there, the camaraderie of a group ride or a solo day on a bike with just your own thoughts.  It is the time to think about the promise of the new year, as a cyclist and as a person.  I can’t wait.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Picture Post

Here are a few pictures from the first step our first brew.

Grain going into the elevator and then grist mill

Cody (front) and Greg (rear) "mashing in"

A view into the Mash Tun

Greg checking the mash temp. (he's holding a thermometer)

Cody checking the sugar levels in the wort

Sparging really, you can't see it, but it's sparging in there)

Careful consideration of the wort transfer into brew kettle

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Our First Official Tour

Those of you who are paying close attention know that we are located in the Eldridge Building at the corner of First and Cedar in the Carnegie Square area of downtown Spokane.  Our much more famous and well-loved neighbor in this building is the Rocket Bakery.  Sometime not too far into the future, our draft beers are going to be available at the Rocket Bakery (a thing for which we are very grateful) and all during the process, the crew at the Rocket not only put up with the occasional noise and mess from the construction, they also provided a vital, life-affirming service day after day after day - coffee.

There is a saying that "it takes a lot of good beer to make good wine" because those vintners are known to toss back a brew or two while they consider their craft, but there should be a corollary that "it's takes a lot of good coffee to make good beer".  Even if that saying doesn't take off, it is true that the kind folks at the Rocket have faithfully produced cup after cup of that hot, caffeine-containing elixir that has helped fuel our process.

In return, we were glad to host them for our first official tour on Monday night.  Unfortunately, it didn't involve any beer drinking, as none was ready, but we did get to show them the brewery space and talk about how to make beer.  All in all, a we River City Brewing folks appreciated the opportunity to show our our space and equipment to our Rocket neighbors.  Here are some pictures (thanks to EGS) to commemorate the tour and to say thanks to our Carnegie Square Rocketeers!

Examining the Mash Tun - No swimming allowed

Grain samples and hop pellets - In petri dishes, so you know it's scientific.

In the Condition Room - That bucket must be fascinating!?

Fermentation - Ew, what's that smell?

I'm on the clock for this, right?

This tank is cold.  You can tell by touching it.

A lot of beer talk.  No beer tasting?

Monday, January 7, 2013

A More Reasonable Update

Quick was the watchword last time.  Reasoned and slow is the pace today.  Not just because it's Monday morning and I would rather be asleep than sitting here, but instead because . . .

Anyway, here is a bit longer update on the official state of affairs at the brewery.  First, for those of you who are hip to such things, we have a somewhat active Twitter account @RiverCityRed.  We, using the royal "we" in this case, are just getting acclimated to Twitter, but take a look for occasional funny comments and observations along with brewery news.  As we get out and about to start sharing beer, it will have more notes about places to find our beers and where we are enjoying them.  And, even though I personally think that Facebook has peaked, we will have a Facebook page up soon.

Now, onto the hard hitting news you have come to expect from this blog.  The news can be broken down into two primary pieces - We are making beer.  It's not ready to drink.

If you make coffee, you can drink it immediately (depending on your temperature tolerance), but coffee is made to make and drink - pronto.  Doesn't do well to sit.  On the other end of the spectrum, if you are making whiskey, you may have to wait a decade or longer to sample the finished product.  Making and drinking it immediately is not advisable.  On a shorter scale, wine also takes about a year from "making" to "drinking", although longer is sometimes better.  Both of these (wine and spirits), benefit from aging, which primarily means mellowing.  The sharp flavors become easier or mellower, the flavors all blend together better and you end up with a better experience.

Beer sits on the coffee side of this continuum.  It is better "fresh", although with beer, fresh means "ready to drink" which takes somewhere between a few weeks to a few months.  After the point it is ready, it doesn't continue to get better and the trick is to keep it in this peak state through temperature control and preventing exposure to oxygen.  On the other hand, like the mellowing and blending of flavors that comes from aging wine and spirits, beer has to go through this process to be ready to drink, but it does it in a shorter period.  The period is dictated by the type of beer, with lighter beers being ready sooner and darker/heavier beers taking longer and dark/heavy/high-alcohol beers taking the longest.  For example, we brew a golden-style ale for our Huckleberry and it will go from brewing to drinking in under three weeks.  On the other end, a barley wine benefits from six months.

Why is all of this relevant?  Because we have our first batch of Huckleberry Ale brewed, fermented and in the conditioning tank.  It will be ready to drink by the middle of this month.  We have our first batch of River City Red (not dialed in quite, but close) that moved from the fermentation tank to the conditioning tank last week and it will be ready for the kick-off of Spokane Restaurant Week on January 29.  And lastly,we have a stout in the fermentation tank, but it won't be ready to drink until sometime in February.  So, at this point, we are in the process of brewing, fermenting, conditioning and getting ready for the day later this month that we will start filling kegs and otherwise filling the pipeline so that we have beer for consumption.

What does this mean to you?  A couple of things - first, soon we will have beer that will start filtering out to bars and restaurants and second, after a bit more time and have a full line-up of beers available, we will have an open house and so some sampling. 

And really, that's what you wanted when you closed your eyes and blew out your Happy 2013 candles, isn't it?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

I was afraid. Very afraid.

Here is a post from a biking blog last January.  Kinda relevant today.

I am afraid. Very afraid
by: RiverCityRed

Here is the follow-up post:

I was right!
 
First, I should give credit (or blame) to two smart-ass sidekicks for the video below.  The inspiration was the e-mail exchange started with Rider Two, P.M., suggesting the icy day ride and Rider One, A.M., responding with threats, tears and Justin Bieber.  It is nice to have funny friends.

Second, it appears that they should have taken my warning more seriously.  Rider Two went ahead on his icy day, Belgian-esque ride.  I will let the picture tell the tale better than my words or any cartoon video could.


 I tried to warn him.

Condolences and pictures of flowers can be left in the comment section.   

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Quick Update. Seriously Quick.

A quick break for the holidays has stretched on too long. Unfortunately, that means a desk full of work, a big stack in the inbox, e-mails coming out ears (yes, it does hurt), and plenty to do which made the blog suffer.  Have no fear, however, I am back. Quickly.

Here is the quick update. Really quick. Don't blink or you will miss it. It can travel around the world while you take a breath, that's how quick. Seriously.

Last week, you celebrated a major holiday, but we celebrated our first-ever brew as River City Brewing in our new location! This week, the rest of the world celebrated another major holiday, but we celebrated two brews (one so far, another for tomorrow). By the end of the day tomorrow, we will have Huckleberry, River City Red and a stout either fermenting or in a conditioning tank and getting closer to being ready to drink day by day. It's really exciting for us.

More later.