Saturday, March 30, 2013

Insane

Not beer or bikes or even anything sane, but it is a completely NSFW mini-James Bond sci-fi go-pro action short.  Steffan would say, "If you are looking for the internets hottest creation, then this one has everything - blood splatters, parkour, naughty language in the soundtrack, and every living Russian stuntman who owns a skinny tie."

What else do you need to say?

Well, two things.  The thumbnail has nothing to do with the clip and that I found this at All Hail The Black Market.  Blame him if you hate it.  Love me if you don't.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Again? Dr. Spalm Again.

Dear Dr. Spalm - I know that you say that just riding my bike is the best way to get better, but surely there are some ways to ride that have better results than others.  I mean, if I ride 10 mph for 8 hours that can't have the same result as riding faster for a shorter period or doing intervals or motor-pacing or whatever?  If you really know that much about cycling, can't you share some advice?
A Training Racer

Dear Training Racer:
I was unfairly characterized last week as being grumpy or ill-tempered.  It is so American to praise people for being straight-shooters or plain spoken, but when you are actually given straight-forward advice or plain spoken truth, you dislike it.  In my homeland, we had a saying, "if you put butter on a shit biscuit, it is not better than a plain shit biscuit."  It may be that the saying lacks the impact upon translation than it does when you hear that in your crib when your parents walk away, but even with your low educational standards you probably perceive what is being said to you.

That being said, there is also the semblance of a reasonable thought or question within your ramblings.  I would strongly suggest, however, that you not start sentences with "I mean" unless you are trying to explain your way out of a gross misstatement or you are poorly translating from one language to another.  Nonetheless, looking past your poorly phrased question, as I am often asked to do, it is correct that different training methods can have different impacts.  That is, however, only after the point at which you have devoted sufficient time and energy to developing actual fitness and strength on your bicycle.  If you are as fat and lazy as your average citizen, you will indeed benefit from anything that takes you away from your couch and yet another hour of American Idol (turning you into a nation of American Idle), whether that is riding for many hours very slowly, riding faster for shorter period or any other manner of movement.

But, for the sake of argument, let us entertain the idea that you have achieved a base level of fitness by riding for many hours on many days in many conditions and on many terrains and are ready to proceed.  Then and only then, are you ready for specific training or further development. 

In my past experience, this is the time that we suggest you start taking vitamins.  By vitamins, I mean drugs.  By drugs, I mean performance enhancing drugs.  That is the fastest and best way to win races.  If your goal is to go faster than everyone else, this will do it, particularly those who are not on drugs.  No method is more proven or more reliable.  Yes, you may die from over-thickening your blood, from any variety of metabolic process gone awry, or from inexplicably developing testicular cancer, but in the meantime you will win races, get a much larger paycheck and kiss many more podium girls.  And by kissing podium girls, I mean . . . never mind.  Just take your vitamins and don't ask any more questions.

Dr. Spalm - I would like to buy a new race bike, but I am really leaning towards a steel frame rather than carbon fiber.  Any suggestions?
Retro Racer

Dear RR - It is often said in bicycle circles these days that "steel is real."  That is true in a literal sense, as purely metaphorical frame materials are dramatically less practical for racing of most varieties.  It is also true that steel is real - real Victorian.  I suggest that you purchase a safety bike of steel material, mate it with wood rims, a two-speed drivetrain switched from one gear to the other by simply taking out the rear wheel and flopping it around to the gear affixed to the other side of the hub, and then enter the first Tour de France.  If, however, you are intending to race in this century, I suggest that you avail yourself of technological advancements, as you will be competing against others who have done so.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Beer - Good or Bad?

Makes me thirsty just looking at it.
Despite the title, this is not a philosophical piece on the inherent moral goodness of beer.  That is a foregone conclusion.

The topic of interest to me is "good" beer versus "bad" beer and I would posit that there is only one definition of "bad" beer: beer that has flavors that were not intended by the brewer to be there.  These flavors can be from errors or problems with the brewing process, fermentation, contamination or many other places, but under this definition "bad" beer stands out easily and agreeably for everyone.  Like a bottle of wine that is "corked"; it is spoiled by exposure to air which causes the wine to taste vinegary.  It is obvious and apparent.

But what about beer you don't like?  I would suggest that is, exactly as the question states, beer that you don't like.

I had a conversation with someone recently who told me with great confidence that the beer from another local brewery was "bad".  I asked about the experience with the beer to find out if there was a contamination issue, off flavors or whatever.  It turns out they they just didn't like the beer.  I'm okay with that, but that doesn't make the beer "bad."

I have, I think without exaggeration, tried hundreds of beers.  Several hundred.  I have been drinking beer regularly and with intentional variety for more than a quarter century.  I have often stood at diverse beer cases in grocery stores looking for anything that I haven't tried before.  I have had beer from almost every area of the globe (very light on Antarctic beers, so far).  I will scan any tap list in a bar or restaurant to find things that sound interesting and/or that I haven't tried.  I am interested in beers of all varieties and I am interested in trends in beers.  That said, I don't like every beer that I try.  And, to my way of thinking, that is the way it should be.

One of the great things about the re-awakening of beer in America is that we aren't looking to behemoth breweries to market-test a new style every few years.  Instead, we are greeted in towns small and large (at least in our part of the country) with dozens of breweries making their own version of popular styles and their own versions of styles they are inventing with abandon.  The craft drinking public is embracing everything by the pint and willing to actively support the journey.  That is exactly the creativity and diversity that makes the "craft" part of craft beer.

Along with this, however, come styles, types, flavors or experiments that don't work as well as others, or, at least, aren't as appealing to "me".  And if that weren't true, then the breweries wouldn't be trying enough things or I would be indiscriminate in my own tastes.  The bigger point being, you will find me trying beers of all kinds, but you won't hear me saying that any one of them is, absent off/spoiled/contaminated flavors, a "bad" beer.  I may not like it, I may not praise it, I may not order it again, and, if I see multiple styles of beer from one brewery with a distinctive style running through it that I don't like, you won't me see trying their beer regularly, but that doesn't make it bad, it just makes it something I don't like.

I looked for, but couldn't find, a quote I recall from Michael Jackson, aka The Beer Hunter, one of the foremost authorities on beer while he was alive.  That quote was basically that he liked all beer and that every style and type had a place.  I would agree.  I don't have a favorite, even of our own beers.  What I want to drink varies by day, time of day, weather, prior activity, food pairing, venue, whatever.  There isn't one beer to go with all situations, although there is a beer to go with all situations.   

As we embrace beer diversity and drinking locally, I think we should endeavor to respect what everyone else is doing.  Let's drink the beer, discuss the beer, like or not like the beer, but let's appreciate the effort and work and good intention that all of us are putting into contributing to the craft.  There is something I will gladly drink to.  Cheers!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Epic Rap Battles of History?

You may or may not have children.  If you do have said children, they may or may not watch YouTube videos (for instance, children in utero are generally not yet watching YouTube, after that, they are - for sure).  And, if you have children and they watch YouTube videos (they do), then they may or may not share them with you.  For this, you should feel fortunate either way.

If they share them with you, that means they are still speaking to you, which is always nice as a parent.  On the other hand, if they do, then you have to watch them and, it turns out, things that your children want to watch on YouTube may or may not be anything you want to spend your time watching.  I mean, how did Rebecca Black singing "Friday" become a thing?  It was assuredly not mature adults sharing it repeatedly.  (Yes, Gangham Style gets a special pass on this).

So, where am I going with this?  The mother of all of my children is a history teacher.  (Yes, we are and have been married during this whole time, but it does make it sound more interesting, doesn't it?)  As good kids, when my children's interest in watching YouTube videos intersects with an interest of their parents, that means valuable time must be devoted to this intersection.  Thus, Epic Rap Battles of History were brought to my attention.  For those who don't know, this is an increasingly long series of videos featuring two "rappers" battling for supremacy, but instead of Jay-Z facing off against Lil Wayne, or Marky Mark facing off against the Funky Bunch, these rap battles feature, and I swear I am not making any of these up, all of the following and more:
  • Hitler vs. Darth Vader
  • Abe Lincoln vs. Chuck Norris
  • Einstein vs. Stephen Hawking
  • Justin Bieber vs. Beethoven
  • Dr. Suess vs. Shakespeare
  • Master Chief vs. Leonidis
  • Ghandi vs. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Moses vs. Santa Claus
And now, in the surest sign that cycling has briefly risen to our collective national attention, the latest rap battle features Lance Armstrong facing off against Babe Ruth.  It is not the best of the Epic Rap Battles of History videos, and their hallmark is always to be a bit crude if not rude, but then again, I am not holding my breath for the next time a professional cyclist is featured in such a nerdy, mainstream way, so without further ado, I bring you Epic Rap Battle of History - Lance vs. Babe Ruth.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Costco

If I say "Costco" to you, what comes to mind?  There are a variety of probable responses - "great prices!," "I don't need four dozen of everything I want," "they pay their workers way better than Wal-Mart, so I always shop there," "they pay their workers too much, so I never shop there," "why did they have to mess with our liquor laws?"  You get the idea.

Here is what I think if you mention Costco to me - AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!

Despite that response, I have nothing against Costco.  In fact, I really like that Costco exists and I appreciate when my wife goes to Costco and comes back with reasonably priced good stuff for us, but I really, really, really, really hate going to Costco.  I mean, I hate it.  Really.

Why, you logically ask next?  Because of people.

You know exactly what I am talking about, right?  It's all those damn people pushing carts around Costco like they are drunk.  Some wander, so go way too slow, others way too fast, and most exhibit idiocy on a grand scale - just the way drunk people act.

If someone gave me a million dollars to waste (I agree that this is not likely, but just for the sake of discussion), I would spend that money recreating any given day's activity in an aisle at Costco but with cars on downtown multi-lane street.  First, all street lanes, stop lights and sense of direction or decency would be eliminated.  Cars would be allowed to travel both directions on all areas of the street.  Most cars would stop suddenly, without warning and certainly without brake lights, because that is just the way people operate their carts at Costco, right?  Cars would suddenly veer left or right with no rhyme or reason to it.  And, the piece de resistance would be the "free food" cart that would cause cars to drive straight towards it with complete obliviousness to any other vehicle or obstacle.  The overhead view would show this fan of vehicles pointing out in every direction from the precious sample station.  And the only positive from that is that for a few moments no one would run into anyone while everything is at a standstill.

The cars wouldn't bash into each other; it wouldn't turn into demolition derby.  That's not what happens in Costco.  Instead, those paying attention would be dinged, banged and otherwise gently abused for actually paying attention, while those who seem to operate with utter indifference to their fellow man would be rewarded by careening unaware from 29-packs of toilet paper to 50-lb boxes of pigs-in-a-blanket, with a quick stop at the novelty sweatshirt and work-out video stack. 

It is a symphony of controlled chaos where the oblivious reign supreme and the observant suffer.

Not quite right, but you get the idea.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Beer Tasting

There are several million words on the internet written about beer tasting (yes, I counted them).  You can find advice both good and truly horrible, ranging from the simple admonitions, like "put it in your mouth," all the way through to extremely pretentious suggestions that would put a wine sommelier to shame.   You can find color charts with more choices than Sherwin-Williams and style categories so narrow you can't shove a dime into them, much less find three beers that fit.

That said, though, there are some key points that I think will make your beer tasting just a bit more thoughtful.  Please don't, however, let "tasting" ever get in the way of "enjoying," which is really the point after all.  Pretension doesn't go well with any beer.

Color - The first thing to do with any beer is look at it.  Seems obvious, but a lot of time we pick up a glass and put it to our lips without a second thought.  To get a better sense of the beer, just take a look.  This is usually relatively easy, as most places will serve you a beer in a clear pint glass, but take a moment to pick up the glass, maybe hold it up to a light source and then consider the color. 

The color may range from very light straw to a very dark brown or opaque black, but if light does transmit through the beer, the next step is to consider how cloudy or clear the beer is.  The amount or type of filtering differs between styles and breweries, but take a look for a consistent texture through the glass.  If, by the way, you find oddities floating in the beer or flakes/chunks drifting down to the bottom of the glass - that is a bad sign, although usually that is from the line from the keg to the faucet.  You might ask about the tap line cleaning, or you might want to find another establishment, but in either case, keep in mind that flakes shouldn't be there and it may impact the flavor of the beer.

Smell/Aroma - After you look at your beer, the next step is smelling your beer.  This is the stage where a well-poured beer, which has a head on it, will enhance the opportunity to smell the beer.  A flat beer or one with little or no head will have less aroma available for your nose.  A decent head on the beer will help aerate some of the aroma, making it easier to get a sense of the beer.  Beer is made up of two primary ingredients - malted barley and hops.  Usually one or the other will be the predominant smell, i.e., hops stand out with an IPA, while malts will be stronger in most stouts or porters, but the smell of both hops and malt are discernible in most beers.

Some glassware is better for smelling (and this is why most wine glasses are curved inward at the top and wine drinkers will stick their noses into the glass), while the most common pint glass still is not really well suited to gathering smells, but still put your beak down to the head or liquid and inhale.  It's worth it.

Mouthfeel - Next stop on this sensory experience - put some beer in your mouth.  Good step, eh?  Also, don't sip, slurp or suck beer in.  The ironic thing about people who are hesitant to drink a new beer (picture the macro-drinker asked to sample a craft beer) is that the tiny sip (followed immediately by a declaration said craft beer is "bitter") is that this process aerates the beer in a way that is intended and strongly enhances the bitter flavors.  Give it a try sometime - bitter abounds.  That's why beer tasting is done with a "drink" rather than a sip.

When the beer is first in your mouth, consider for a moment how it feels.  Beer can be thin or thick feeling in your mouth; very carbonated or not (this may depend on the gas pressure or gas mix to pour the beer); very viscous or very light.

The term "mouthfeel" usually gets some laughter when I mention it at a tasting, because it is a funny word and not a familiar word, but if you think about mouthfeel while the beer is in your mouth, you will be surprised to notice how distinct the mouthfeel is of many beers.

Taste - Next up, the most common step and one that is almost unavoidable - taste the beer.  The taste of the beer is the whole mixture of hops, malt and anything else in the beer, combined with the carbonation level, the gas used to pour the beer (usually CO2, but can be nitrogen or air, or a mixture of these, purposely or not), the temperature of the beer (same beer at different temperatures tastes very different) and the combination of other things that were in your mouth just prior to drinking this beer (whether food or a prior beer) and sometimes the smells or atmosphere around you. 

If you are really wanting to taste a beer, it is better to eat something very neutral (mild bread or crackers) to help clear out your palate, but even if you don't do that, be aware that your mouth is a dynamic place that mixes up whatever you have going on, so at least make mental note of that. 

If you are going to be tasting numerous beers, also keep in mind that your best experiences are going to come from drinking the lightest beers first and working towards the darkest and/or hoppiest.  Hops give their flavor from the hop oil that is in the beer and some of that oil will linger on your tongue past the drink, so the more hop in your beer, the more impacted later beers will be.

After-taste - And lastly, the after-taste.  After you swallow the beer and consider the tastes that were present in the beer, then wait a moment and consider what flavors are left over.  Flavors that linger in your mouth or on your tongue tend to become sharper or less appealing, so after-taste can have a big impact on what you think about a beer.  For this reason, the less after-taste the better usually, but in any case, take a moment to consider it before you move onto the next drink.

Enjoying beer is really the reason we drink it, but taking a moment to thoughtfully drink a beer can increase your enjoyment.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Dr. Spalm - A bit short-tempered today

We find Dr. Spalm is a bit of a cranky mood today.  Not sure if his supply of home-made narcotics is running low, he needs something to eat or he just feels like taking out his own issues on poor unsuspecting readers, but since we paid for this column, we thought we would share it with you and then have beer to wash the taste out.  Enjoy?


Dear Doktor Spalm - I see a lot of people out riding their bikes in the snow and cold and rain and misery this time of year.  Many of them are training for racing season and will be faster as a result.  How can we make them stop it so that it is a level playing field when it's time to start racing?

Thank you,
A Late Starting Racer

Dear Lazy Racer - It is a uniquely American idea that this so-called "level playing field" exists anywhere or at anytime.  In the country of my childhood, we recognized that there was never such a thing.  No matter what the area, someone is more talented or smarter or has more resources.  Some are more dedicated, some have better equipment.  Some have better genetics or better performing enhancing drugs.  It doesn't take cheating to make a contest unfair; it only takes the second person or team to show up.

Bike racing is hard.  No matter how fit you are or how fast you go, if you are racing against anyone of comparable age or fitness, it is hard.  If you want to race against one-legged grandmothers, you will probably win the race but lose in every other way.  They say that training more doesn't make it hurt less, you just go faster.  The reality, however, is that your amount of fast is dictated by a hundred things that have nothing to do with fair or even.  In short, you have shown yourself to be unsuitable in temperament or intellect for racing.  Please do not.



Dear Dr. Spalm - I am trying to get in shape for the cycling season, but I don't know the best way to go about it.  What should I do?
Beginning Cyclist

Dear Supposed Cyclist - As an erudite and accomplished scholar, I am loathe to quote such low-brow entertainment as movies, but your statement that you are "trying" to get in shape forces me to quote Yoda, "Try not.  Do or do not.  There is no try."

For you, however, the quote could be modified as follows, "Try not.  Ride or ride not, but don't waste my time asking stupid questions when the answer is quite obvious.  Ride your bike."

Did you expect that just because I am paid by the word to answer questions that I would blather on about yoga classes for cyclists or power meters?  Those things are discussed by people selling something and those with little integrity or intellectual honesty.  If you want to be good at something, do it.  And then do it more.  Keep doing it until you are good at it or you are not, but don't pretend that there is another answer or way.  Do or not do.  There is no try.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Big Chain Ring

My friend, TW, who also sent me the Growler Bike link, recently sent me a link to another bike that is of equally limited use.  Actually, this one may be even more limited in use since the growler bike takes 1) someone with an abundance of discretionary income and little discretion in the actual process of spending it, and 2) a need to drink beer.  That combination of things seems reasonably likely to occur repeatedly within any given community, so maybe there is more more market for it than I originally envisioned.

This bike, however, takes much more than money and a love for beer.  It takes 1) a cyclist with the tree trunk size legs and 2) a specially equipped Mercedes.  That may be too simplistic, but you get the idea that this is more limited use than a bike designed to fetch growlers, because a third requirement might be an extraordinary disregard for metalic teeth and a chain moving very rapidly quite far up one's inseam.  You see, we are starting to limit the number of people who are going to qualify rapidly.  Enough with the wordy discussion and how about a picture, eh?

Aren't your wheels supposed to be a LOT larger than your chain ring?

As you can see, this bike betrays its heritage immediately and you can tell quickly that it is the steed of a rider from bygone days.  Here is that rider with the extraordinary disregard for gnashing teeth quite close to his saddle, made all the more remarkable because it must take stones of a certain size to be willing to ride this bike for its intended purpose.

Jose Meiffret - 1962's Fastest Man on a Bike
The captions give away the story, but the bike was ridden to break the extraordinary speed of 200 km per hour, which it did in 1962.  The story of Mr. Meiffret is told here (Date with Death), but the only two things you really need to know are 1) that he actually rode this thing for a measured kilometer at 127 mph, and 2) this is a quote that he carried in his jersey pocket for this ride:
In case of fatal accident, I beg of the spectators not to feel sorry for me. I am a poor man, an orphan since the age of eleven, and I have suffered much. Death holds no terror for me. This record attempt is my way of expressing myself. If the doctors can do no more for me, please bury me by the side of the road where I have fallen.
On our team, we have a couple of guys in particular who seem devoted to Rule 90 (and Rule 5, for that matter), including PM, JS and TC, but even they would acknowledge the extreme of this particular set-up.

As for the aforementioned specially equipped Mercedes?  This is what it looked like and here is how this bike was assisted up to speed.

How do you turn a Mercedes 300 into the car from SNL's Ambiguously Gay Duo? Just like this.
And kids, before you try this at home - Don't.

The link to the original story sent to me from TW: This bizarre looking bike went 127 miles per hour.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Code Red

I watched "A Few Good Men" this past weekend.  It is a good movie, probably not quite as good, in my opinion, as its reputation would suggest, but there are a massive number of actors who are or later became very good and, of course, Jack Nicholson is great and well remembered for belting out, "You want the truth? . . . You can't handle the truth!"  (Side note, that isn't the actual quote from the movie, but hopefully George Lucas will remake with that line to satisfy movie audiences someday.)

Anyway, the underlying conflict in the movie regards a "Code Red," which is apparently Marine lingo for a punishment meted out within a unit that is outside of the normal protocol.  In other words, when a Marine steps out of line, his unit members may take it upon themselves to punish him (or presumably her, although not many "hers" in this movie).

The idea of a Code Red, as described in the movie, is not that unit members are hazed or mistreated for "fun" or as part of general bullying, but because it is up to the unit to together maintain standards - show up on time, clean your room, keep up during drills, etc.  Since they depend on each other, they have to know that everyone takes seriously the rules and responsibilities.  Now, in the movie, this particular Code Red enforcement has drastic consequences and if you haven't seen it, you should watch the flick, but what does that have to do with beer or bikes?

Beer, not much, although I like most references to Red, which tends to make me thirsty for a River City Red.  But bikes?  Now there we can have a Code Red situation, although enforcement tends to be pretty slack compared to the Marines, at least those at Gitmo.  If you are familiar with The Velominati, then you are familiar with "The Rules."  The Rules are a list of, well, rules, that traditionalists generally agree with and abide by.  These rules tend to appeal to the hard-core, usually euro-centric riders who know and admire Merckx, Kelly, most Belgians, and anyone else identified as a hard-man of the sport.  It includes gems like HTFU, Shorts should be black, Saddles bars and tires shall be carefully matched, Slam the stem, or Tires should be mounted with the label centered over the valve stem.  The rules also, importantly, start out with these: 1 - Obey the Rules; 2 - Lead by example; and 3 - Guide the uninitiated.  Which, to my way of thinking, outlines the ideas behind a Code Red - obey the rules, follow them yourself, and "guide" those who don't join you back to the rules. 

Enforcement in the movie was fairly direct and harsh.  Enforcement on the road is a trickier thing.  For one thing, most of us are riding for "fun," with a group that we can join or leave anytime, and we haven't signed up for abuse, coercion or even direction necessarily.  As a result, you may or may not have someone say something like, "hey, we don't do that."  You may, however, find yourself out front of a group ride with no one following, off the back of a group with no one particularly interested in where you are, or shunned in some other subtle or not-so-subtle way.  I can only think of one time I was interested in riding someone off the shoulder of the road and that wasn't so much for enforcement of cycling's rules, but more enforcement of the general "don't be an a-hole" rule.

In contrast with the subtle approach, I have been pretty straightforward with my 17-year old son who has recently taken cycling more seriously and come along for a couple of the group rides.  I have been directly saying to him, "this is what we do in this situation" or "if this happens, here is what we do."  The key concept in there is "what we do."  "We" referring to the group as a whole and under general or specific agreement by showing up to ride.  Any group, from Gitmo Marines, to the kids smoking after school, to a Dungeons and Dragons game, to a group of beer-swilling masters racers, have agreed-upon rules for inclusion.  We don't talk about Code Red as such, but it's fair to recognize that the underlying idea is similar, just a lot less life-and-death.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Beer is FUN!

This weekend a lot of fun stuff happened - The Zags were made a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament (this is really big); the first "Classics" bike race of the season was held - Milan-San Remo (which was shortened in a way I have not seen in 25 years of watching bike racing, with a motorized transport in the middle of the race to avoid a snow-covered climb/descent); the F1 season started with a great race in Australia (the Iceman Cometh, but not in the depressing O'Neill way, in the nickname-of-one-of-the-racers who won way); and St. Patrick's Day was celebrated with wide and rampant drunkiness and consumption of corned beef.

Also, if you are a normal human, some other stuff happened that was less fun, like chores.  My son stoically intoned to me on Sunday, "Doing laundry is my favorite thing in the world, Dad."  I said, in response, something like, "Not everything we do is about having fun.  Some stuff just needs to be done."  A typical Dad-ism which has a silent monologue accompaniment of thinking, "Yeah, I hate doing laundry too." 

It did, however, make me think about a comment made to me last week, which was basically along the lines of, "I wish I owned a brewery and didn't have to work for a living."  This well-intentioned person appeared to be otherwise sane, but he didn't realize that those were two completely separate desires - owning a brewery AND not having to work for a living.  It is funny how many people say things like that, apparently thinking that owning or operating a brewery is really just about the same as sitting at a table drinking beer with your friends.  I mean, it's beer!  It must be nothing but fun, right?

This reminds me of something I heard at a gathering of brewers recently, "In the beer business, the best thing is the beer and the worst thing is the business." 

When people actually stop and think about it, they realize that a brewery does involve work and chores and other stuff that no one "wants" to do, but if you do all of that stuff with a beer in your hand, then it must all be good, right?  No.  It doesn't actually work like that either.  I have known brewers who tend to do that too much and they don't tend to last.  The industry as whole has a high appreciation for beer, but a low toleration for abuse of it.  Just doesn't work to be professional in industry and not respect it.

If you ask most brewers what they spend their days doing, the answer I hear most is "cleaning."  Kettles, tanks, kegs, filters, even floors - everything needs to be sanitary to provide the right environment for making good beer.  And, if I'm not mistaken, that sounds more like work or chores than sitting at a table drinking beer. 

I do stop to remind myself in the midst of aggravation or annoyance with the business side of beer that this should be fun.  It is about beer and the underlying purpose is all about fun and flavor and enjoying life.  I am really pleased that our brewery provides jobs, uses local ingredients to make a local product and tries to do good.  Those are the best things about the beer business, but just like the laundry, the chores still have to be done.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Mark Bender - Doma Coffee

It is true that this blog is normally about beer and bicycles, but I wanted to follow up today with a message about coffee and bicycling.  A rider known to the local cycling community, Mark Bender (no known relationship to our beloved Bill Bender) has suffered a significant injury while traveling.  He is in intensive care in Hawaii awaiting stabilization so that he can come home, but not surprisingly the expense is as significant as the injuries.

Jenni Gaertner, a well-known local racer & coach, and wife of Mike Gaertner (owner of Vertical Earth) has organized a fundraiser through Doma Coffee in which Doma is donating all of the proceeds from the sales of La Bicicletta style coffee to the Bender family.  Terry Patano, owner of Doma, is a bike fanatic and great guy, so hat’s off to him for this.  Your part, if you choose to participate, is just to order a couple of pounds of coffee for $13.25 / lb ($12.50 + 6% ID sales tax).

I am going to coordinate the purchase of several pounds and will get them delivered to my office.  If you know me, send me an e-mail in the next day or two and I will get the coffee ordered and delivered to our offices.  After it arrives, I will let you know and you can collect your coffee and pay for it.  Alternatively, if you don't know me or didn't get my e-mail about this already, you can go directly to the Doma Coffee site and order it online: http://www.domacoffee.com/product_expanded.php?id=758&secid=6.  All sales of this style will be included through the end of April, regardless of where or how they are ordered.  Again, hats off to Doma!

If you want more information about Mark Bender and the fundraiser, you can find info in these spots: Facebook event page, with updates on Mark’s condition - https://www.facebook.com/events/308281062631820/?fref=ts; Drunk Cyclist – where I learned about originally in a post by local photographer and DC contributor Caveman - http://drunkcyclist.com/2013/03/11/fellow-tribal-member-down-help-if-you-can/; national media - http://www.bikerumor.com/2013/03/15/friday-roundup-bicycle-bits-pieces-44/; and other local clubs - http://www.pain-cave-productions.com/support-mark-bender/. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Dr. Spalm Answers Your Podcast Question

The brewery crew and some cycling friends recently sat down with Packfiller Productions to drink some beer and talk cycling.  A discussion of prior cycling blogs broke out and Dr. Spalm was mentioned.  He recently re-surfaced after word of a co-conspirator indictment seemed to fall by the wayside so we asked if he would be interested in answering some questions.  He requested pre-payment this time, which is a normal request but which usually leads to a delay in the answers until the hang-over clears up enough for the clicking keyboard to not bother Dr. Spalm.  We relented this time and, sure enough, it took several days for this Q & A to surface.  Here, though, is the actual question from MH during the podcast:
Dear Dr. Spalm - It's a little windy and rainy out, should I actually go for my training ride or just pack it in today?
Dear Mr. H - I use the more formal capitalized family or tribal name initial because I did listen to the entire broadcast and it was claimed that you are an attorney.  As little evidence as there was to support this assertion, in my native country, those who study law are admired for their education and judgment, so we offer them this respect in all of our dealings with them.  In this country, I do the same merely out of respect for my heritage.  (Please pause here to reflect upon the insult I have cleverly woven into this simple statement.  Ms. Austen, if you were writing today, you would be welcome to use this in Pride & Prejudice II.)

I should also pause to clarify that I had no intention of listening to the entire podcast (from whence does such a word derive?; it is an ugly aberration of a word and utterly meaningless in salon conversation, suitable only for saloon conversation it would appear), but I was not able to turn it off once it started.  Frivolous technology has no interest for me and the device, lacking any obvious way to turn it on or off, driveled on.  I considered dropping it in my drink as a way of stopping it, but was worried that my cocktail would acquire a stench were I to do so.  Nonetheless, I do appreciate the experience, however, as I will be writing Dante Alighieri to let him know that I have discovered a 10th circle of hell known as the Sober Listening of Podcast.  Try as I might, I was not able to become sufficiently unsober to tolerate it measurably.  I am aware that Senor Alighieri is known to have been deceased since the 14th Century, but I assure you he will want to return from the grave to update his writings based on this newly acquired knowledge of such things that he was not even able to conceive after hundreds of hours of contemplation of the degrees of hell that humanity could create or experience.

Now let us turn to the examination of your question itself.  I must remind myself that this podcast process is a "live" recording and therefore you thusly excuse yourself from any preparation, planning or, apparently, forethought, as to your questions.  If I were not to keep this awareness present, I would not be able to even address the question for I hold it in such contempt.  It may be, upon further reflection, only my contempt for this question (and the fact that I have already spent the per-word stipend offered by this blog for my writings) that provides the energy to offer a response.

An aside for this process of writing for this blog.  If this country had the civility to recognize the validity of the education received in my homeland, I would be considered a credentialed person capable of resuming my medical, veterinary and cosmetic trades, however, the lack of accreditation and obvious prejudice of this nation's so-called scholars and arbiters of such things prevents me from making a living in my chosen field and I am forced to take on menial tasks to provide sustenance.  The per-word payment for these answers was foolishly agreed to by the purveyors of this outpost in the internet and I take nothing but delight from stretching out their pitiful pittance of recompense by extending my writings to the full extent that my capabilities and energies will allow.  They have provided no escape or legal clause in our agreement that directs my dissertation and it is only my good faith that prevents me from cutting and pasting the same words into this answer as many times as I choose.  They have provided no escape or legal clause in our agreement that directs my dissertation and it is only my good faith that prevents me from cutting and pasting the same words into this answer as many times as I choose.They have provided no escape or legal clause in our agreement that directs my dissertation and it is only my good faith that prevents me from cutting and pasting the same words into this answer as many times as I choose.They have provided no escape or legal clause in our agreement that directs my dissertation and it is only my good faith that prevents me from cutting and pasting the same words into this answer as many times as I choose.  HA!

As for your question, it is not worthy of answer.  If you had said, "it is windy and rainy" you might have asked a question suitable of a small child.  If you had said, "the roads are covered with ice and the windchill has created law enforcement warnings" you might have asked a question suitable of Paul Main and many Belgians.  If you had not included the commercially implied phrase, "pack it in" as a subtle way of referencing your beloved Packfiller Productions, I might have been duped into responding taking into account the simple way in which you speak as an indication of diminished capacity.  But no, taken as a whole there is nothing serious or meaningful in this question and therefore you will receive no insight from my decades of consultation with the cycling world.  And, unfortunately for you, having received pre-payment for this answer, I have reached the exact word count required of me by contract.  Now. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Strava = Strava-rific or Strava-erible?

I want to talk about Strava, a topic about which we, collectively, will probably not agree.  The title to this blog post, that is something on which we can all agree - it is really bad.  But, it is true that some people think that Strava is wonderful, terrific, the reason to ride a bike, or whatever, while others think just the opposite and that it is terrible, awful, horrible and no good; that it steals joy and makes misery out of every ride. 

For those of you who don't know, Strava is a website with a companion app that records your runs or rides.  The data can be uploaded to the site directly from a smartphone app or with a multitude of other bike/run computers like a Garmin device.  From that data, Strava gives you an entry for the run or ride, including a map of the route, elapsed time, elevations, speed, HR if available and watts if your device provides it.  But, much more importantly for the sake of all that is good and horrible about it, it also then looks at your ride and pulls out "segments" and not only compares your results on that same segment, but compares your segment time against every other Strava upload for the same segment.  In other words, if you have a hill you climb near your house that you ride up 40 times in a summer, Strava will (either automatically or if you set the parameters yourself) record this "segment" and you can see your fastest or slowest or most consistent period of times up the hill.  Over time, you can compare year by year or month by month, so see what impacts your times overall.  But, and this is where the great/totally-not-great part comes in, you can also see how you compare against all the other Strava records of everyone who has also ridden up that hill.  Then, you can not only check your speed against your buddies, but other racers or competitors or, well, anyone.

I guess in places like Boulder, Colorado, that not only means comparing your time with the guys who show up on your porch Saturday mornings for a ride, but also a number of national level and international level pros. Which brings up the last characteristic relevant to this discussion.  The program not only provides you the data, it ranks your performances, it gives you online trophies/badges for creating your top places and KOM or QOM (King or Queen of the Mountain) for the fastest of all Strava records.

The question is; is that a good or bad thing?

To me, it's like everything else in life - it's how you treat it.  Here are some other views, which I will fairly or unfairly represent.

Pro-Strava - The people who love Strava tend to be competitive and, more likely than not, tend to think that a ride didn't really happen unless there is data to back it up.  They like crunching numbers, examining data, building programs around them, etc.  These folks tend to have new technology and upgrade this element of their gear all the time.  They also like the experience of objectively ranking their multiple performances, not only against themselves, but against you.  They also often call these folks triathletes. 

Anti-Strava - The people who hate Strava tend to be the opposite of the pro-Strava folks.  They ride for a variety of reasons, but they get don't have to have a number attached to any of it.  They may or may not have a cyclocomputer, but if they do, they tend to be simple.  They may know how many miles they rode, but use things like "perceived" effort to measure their efforts, rather than a specific number.  And, these folks aren't just the laid-back types.  There are old-school pros who train by "feel" rather than numbers, so it isn't just the stoners with vintage bikes that take this approach.

With or without data, the problem with Strava isn't so much the individual approach to it, but the approach of the individual in a group, because it changes behavior.  In my riding group, we have what we call "Strava poaching", in which you use the group effort to maximize your own Strava records.  In other words, as you approach a known segment, you drop to the back of the group or even just off the back, you cross the "start" line of the segment and then catch back onto the group, help the group to whatever degree needed or necessary and then as the "finish" line approaches, you dash up to the front or even off the front to make sure your total time on the segment is the fastest. Using the group you are going faster than you would be able to individually, but then you get individual credit for it. 

And while that might seem anti-social (dickish, in the parlance of my group), the question then becomes, what is the point of "winning" a Strava segment?  If that's okay (and just be clear, there are no rules whatsoever about that), then how about setting your record on a day with a huge tailwind, or one step further, how about drafting behind a car or moto?  And then, just for fun, how about hanging onto that car just for a bit.  Or even being in that car or driving the motorcycle.  Okay, clearly we can (I assume) agree that riding your motorcycle or driving your car would invalidate your KOM, but then that begs one more question - who gives a rat's pattoottie?

And that is ultimately where I personally come down on Strava - who gives a rat's pattoottie?  Does it matter that people are faster than me, or that someone may have used a group ride or a big tailwind day to beat my record?  It doesn't matter to me at all.  I know that there will always be folks on the road that are faster than me and those that are slower than me (okay, at least faster).  I know that some folks will take advantage of any self-regulated system and others will be punctilious in their conformity to the mores they believe exist within the group. 

What I do like about the system is that I can now look back at my 2010 times versus 2011, 2012 and, as we move along, 2013.  I can see what years I got into a facsimile of being "in shape" or got my weight down or whatever.  I enjoy it when I see someone I know that is below me on a particular segment, but I don't care too much, and I also don't get too head up about anyone being ahead of me.  If going fast is your gig, then that really is a product of "getting out of it what you put into it."  So if you go faster, you probably deserve it by training more, being leaner, etc.  And if going faster isn't your gig, then probably better to ignore Strava all together. 

Some years I ride with no cyclocomputer/HR monitor or any way of measuring mileage or speed.  Other years I have one on my handlebars.  But never once have I thought that the reason for the ride was contained in those number.  Or the joy, or the experience, or the pain, or the solo thoughts or the camaraderie, or anything else too important.  Bottom line on Strava - take or leave it, but don't spend too much time loving it or hating it.  It's just not worth either. 

Oh, and also, don't be a dick about it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Classics and the Monuments



There are classics and there are monuments.  No, that’s not right.  There are Classics and there are Monuments.  They should properly be capitalized because that is the way we signify importance in words; words like Mom, President, God - take your pick.  And further, there is a reason that these words stand alone, with no further modifier needed.  They aren’t properly referred to as “Cycling” Classics and they aren’t Monument “Races”.  Because if you don’t know what is meant by these terms standing alone, you can’t possibly understand what they mean.

For some cyclists, the Classics are the season.  Oh sure, we all pay attention to the Tour.  You have to because it’s too much of a circus to ignore and people at the office are going to ask you to explain why the guy who is winning hasn’t won any of races.  That never happens in NASCAR or the NFL, so it’s hard to get the nuance I guess.  The difference is that the Tour is a 3-week chess match, but one with frequent intermissions for all other sort of shenanigans.  It’s like a chess match with a food eating contest and a high-ropes course thrown in.  That's why you mix up the general classification stuff with sprint stages, mountain stages, TT's and even TTT's.  The Classics, on the other hand, are very direct and very primal.  More like a boxing match, but of the variety in the “Quiet Man” – lasting for hours across hill and dale, bare-knuckle, might makes right, winner take all.  It’s the toughest competitor that wins a Classic and to be the toughest competitor, particularly that early in the year, you start with a tough racer and you prepare in the toughest conditions.  It’s not the guys training under the sun in Majorca that win the Classics.  It’s the guy wintering in Shithole, Belgium, riding the pave, covered in mud and cow splatter that has earned the right to win a Classic.  And that is why they are Classics.  And the toughest of these are the Monuments.

In a world where everything is hyped, where everything becomes hyperbolic and oversold, you have to question these terms – Classics and Monuments.  Is that just a marketer’s hype?  Is it classic, god forbid, with a K?  No and no.  These are genuine Monuments, not just in the cycling world, but Monuments, full stop.  Consider the history of these races – Milan-San Remo (La Primavera, first running 1907), Tour of Flanders (the Ronde van Vlaanderen, first held in 1913); Paris-Roubaix (the Queen of the Classics, the Hell of the North or l’Enfer du Nord, first raced in 1896); Liege-Bastogne-Liege (La Doyenne – first held in 1892); and Giro di Lombardi (Race of the Falling Leaves, the only one not held in the Spring, started in 1907).  The last of these was first ridden 100 years ago this year.  The earliest was 21 years earlier, in 18-frickin-92.  Do you know what else was going on in 1892?

In 1892 Ellis Island became the processing center for immigrants to the United States.  The rules for basketball were published and the first public game, ever, was played.  The toothpaste tube was invented that year.  The Stanley Cup was created.  Thomas Edison patented the two-way telegraph.  AND they held a bike race from Liege to Bastogne to Liege and they have kept doing so since then except when things like World Wars got in the way.  That is what it takes to become a Classic and one of the Monuments.

For better or for worse, however, these are not things known by most cyclists in the United States, much less the general public.  I suppose their hidden quality makes them all the more special, like truffles in the woods.  You can’t really explain it so much as experience it.  And the experience has obviously changed over the last 100 years.  The equipment is lighter, as carbon dampening has taken over for steel frames with tied and soldered wheels.  High-tech, water-resistant, breathable fabrics and pads have taken over for wool jerseys and shorts with sheepskin chamois.  But what has not changed one bit is the struggle of the racers against each other, against the elements – the wind, rain and snow – the rough roads and pave, the agonizing and brutal climbs, and the bitter temperatures.  That is the stuff of the Classics and it’s the stuff that forges Monuments over the course of a century.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Packfiller Podcast

Last week we had the chance to combine a couple of my favorite things in the world - beer and bikes.  Now, I would normally strongly advocate against combining drinking alcohol and anything two-wheeled, but this was different.  We were engaging in one and talking about the other.  Happens when I ride my bike and we talk about beer, but today it was the happy combination of drinking beer and talking bikes.

This time, however, was quite different than the several hundred other times I have done that.  This time someone purposely recorded the conversation and made it available for you to listen to it.  Why?  I can't really explain that, but I do know who did it and where to find it.

The Packfiller Podcast is a production of Packfiller Productions, a company that primarily does live announcing for sports events, but also produces a podcast that mostly (but a long way from exclusively) talks about cycling.  Here is what they say about themselves:
Packfiller Productions has been a live event announcing and multimedia entertainment organization since 1999. The company aims to bring the highest live event entertainment and quality announcing services, along with laughs, information, and news from the outdoor lifestyle. Our services provide a true spirit of fun, professionalism, and encouragement to all competitors. Promoters of events we announce constantly comment on the ‘spirit of fun’ that our announcing provides, and brings back participants year after year.
Packfiller Productions offers announcing services that can make your event truly special, along with the ability to broadcast your event LIVE on either our web site, or yours. Friends and family can watch competitors from anywhere in the world! Our announcers have over 25 years of quality experience, ranging from World and National Championships to great, hometown venues.
So, in part because of the brewery support for cycling, but also because they strongly suspected that we would provide free beer samples, we were invited to talk about our beer, do a tasting with Pat and Mark (Mark Hodgson) and be guests on the Packfiller Podcast.  Actually, we did the podcast in two parts, with the first being an interview with those of us who work at the brewery and the second being people drinking beer and talking about cycling, but including the founders of the cycling club.  To hear the second part, go to iTunes or one of the other podcast broadcasters or go here: http://packfiller.com/2013/03/08/on-location-with-beer/

To hear the first part, um, well, this is embarrassing, but the recording file was corrupted and we have to re-record that part.  It is possible, in my mind at least, that Pat corrupted the file on purpose as a way of getting us to provide him with more beer, but he says that is not the case.  I even promised more beer if I didn't have to do it again, but that didn't make him change his tune, so maybe there really is something wrong with recording, but we are getting together with him soon and talking about beer again, so stay tuned, same bat-channel, same bat-blog, for more news as it develops.

In the meantime, enjoy the podcast and go to Packfiller's Facebook page and let them know whether to invite us back again.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Beer Descriptions - Again

One of the nice updates to Blogger, that was added several months ago, is the ability to create additional pages or tabs with the blog.  Above this post you will see tabs for "Home", for "Beer Descriptions" and for "Cycling Team".  The Beer Description tab has all of the information and more about each of the beers we are making, so next time you are sipping one and need to know just what you are drinking, tasting or experiencing, come back to this handy reference.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Seasonals and One-Offs

And finally, a beer listing for beers that are like the Ghost of Christmases yet to come.  Beer that doesn't exist today, but will eventually.  And as Scrooge learned, you can still impact the outcome of those things that will be.  How, you ask?  No, not by yelling out your window to a passing child, but by e-mailing us at gage at inland nw brewing dot com and telling us what you want to see us make.

In the meantime, there are a few beers that are likely to make an appearance.  We are already talking about an Imperial IPA for a mid-to-late summer debut.  And, in the category of higher alcohol "big" beers, we are also talking about a barley wine for the winter.  Because of the conditioning time of beers like these, they have to be planned well in advance, so the discussions have already started.

And, speaking of winter beers, the Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company Frozen Lake was a well-received winter warmer, so that is also likely to make at least a limited appearance.

The other beer that get mentioned occasionally in the brewery is a cream ale.  I'm not really a big fan of cream ales, but we did create a legendary cream ale once.  It was legendary in that it existed primarily in legend.  That is because the entire batch was spilled down the drain and not one person got to taste even a sip of it.  A non-brewery person passing through the brewery accidentally hit a handle on an outlet for the conditioning tank and when the beer started coming out, they did just the opposite thing it takes to close the valve and managed to remove the valve.  Not surprisingly, with several hundred gallons of beer forcing its way out, the valve wouldn't fit back on and the person only managed to spray beer everywhere in his futile attempts to stop the flow.  At some point he gave up and watched the spectacle of hundreds of gallons of beer foaming, spilling, spraying and then spiraling down the floor drain.  To this day, the brewers involved will tell you that is was the singularly greatest beer ever created anywhere by anyone, but unfortunately for history, no one got to taste it.  We have never tried a cream ale since for fear of not being able to recreate the legendary status of the prior batch.

The long and short of it; we are just getting started and looking forward to more beers coming from the brewhouse over the coming months.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Girlfriend Golden - Revisited (Again)

The name "Girlfriend Golden" has caused a couple of Twitter conversations about the origin of the name, primarily as it relates to a "quote" in an article.  I would like to address the topic, as it is something I think is serious, despite the fact that this blog very rarely has a serious tone.

First of all, here is our official description of the beer, 

Girlfriend Golden – The hallmark of a great girlfriend is how well you get along.  This golden ale will easily pass that test.  Using pale malt and light hopping, this easy drinking beer will get along with almost everyone.  Whether you are new to the craft beer world, or a serious connoisseur, the straw color and crisp finish are inviting to all.  Very low on the IBU scale, this beer was described to us once as like a “biscuit with a touch of honey on it.”  After a glass of it yourself, you will definitely want to spend more time with your new Girlfriend.  O.G. – 11.0 / I.B.U. – 6 / A.B.V. - 5.0%
That isn't too controversial, but here is a snippet from the article in the Spokesman-Review, including the comment that was attributed to me, 
The other initial entry is Girlfriend Golden Ale (5.0 ABV, 6 IBU), easier-drinking still with a sweet breadiness from pilsner malt.  “We were looking for a fun way to say, this is our ‘chick beer,’ ” Stromberg says of the name. Not that guys won’t drink it, too, he adds; at a test tasting, one quipped, “I love my Girlfriend, but don’t tell my wife.”
That comment has prompted a couple of responses like this one in the Inlander blog, which entry was otherwise very positive and appreciated by those of us at the brewery,
Ha ha. Hopefully the forward-thinkers at River City won’t mind if this chick sticks with the red, because I’m just not really into golden ales, or woman jokes, frankly.
So, here is the thing.  When the article came out in the Spokesman-Review, it was also overall very positive and appreciated.  Having been interviewed more than once, and having been there for this one, I knew that the writer had condensed a long, rambling, stream-of-consciousness response to his question into a reasonable facsimile of what I had said.  I know, like and respect the writer and in the context of the article, it certainly didn't jump out at me as warranting follow-up or clarification.  I definitely uttered the phrase "chick beer" and said that we were looking for a fun way to approach the topic.  The critical difference, however, is that I didn't just say "this is our chick beer" without more context around it.

The writer asked me about the name and I was trying to explain how we arrived at it.  The point I was trying to make was that Golden Ales or Blonde Ales are often dismissed by pseudo-serious beer drinkers.  They do, in fact, get called a variety of pejorative things, like "craft beer with training wheels," the "first stop after BudMillerCoors," "baby beer," or "chick beer."  

The category really has three hallmarks. First, it is legitimately an introduction microbrewery beer.  When we had brewpubs, when ever a customer asked for a macro-brewery beer, our servers offered them a golden ale or, at a minimum, offer them a sample of the golden ale when they were brought their bottle of big brand beer (for which we charged the full price of a pint - again encouraging them to try our 16 oz. of hand-crafted goodness instead of their 12 oz. bottle of "watered down" macro).  Second, it is dismissed by some male micro-drinkers lacking confidence in their manhood or at least knowledge of beer as something unworthy of consideration. And third, it is acknowledged by actually-serious beer drinkers as a lighter style that tastes great with some foods (like anything spicy), is a nice choice when you want something light or is the most refreshing thing on a hot day.

What I was trying to do was 1) acknowledge that this was our own entry into that lightest or "starter" category and 2) come up with a positive and fun way to denote that concept.  My rambling answer to the question about the name covered a lot of this ground and I don't blame the writer for picking up on the phrase that I used.

All of that said, I am open to the idea that I may have made a mistake with the name, but I do want to assure any reader that there was no disrespect and no pejorative tone intended.  It is possible that our brewery bona fides in this area caused us to gloss over this as a potential issue.  The two full-time brewers and I are happily married to women that we respect.  I have been married to my wife for 24 years and am in awe of what she does professionally and personally.  I also was raised by a very strong woman, her very strong sister and their very strong mother.  My mother and aunt were in a generation that was proudly feminist and my grandmother was the sort of person who never considered her gender in deciding what she should be doing in the world.  It simply would not be possible to be raised by these women and not have the utmost respect for what they accomplished personally, professionally and without submission to any pejorative gender stereotypes.  As a result, when consideration of the name came around, it was certainly not done with any sneering attitude towards women or their beer drinking inclinations.

So how then do we get to the idea of naming the beer "Girlfriend"?  It started with those hallmarks I discussed above.  We were pondering the concept that pseudo-serious drinkers dismiss this category, but that there had to be a positive way to address that topic.  A number of possibilities came up, but in the end, we thought we landed at something that made fun of the stereotype and was also catchy.  I freely admit I like alliteration and it occurred to me that people might have fun with the name and, mindful of the fact we need to sell some of it if we want to keep our jobs, that it lent itself to some funny advertising ideas.  And just to be clear, none of our ideas were bikini-clad, bimbo ideas and there were no "blonde bombshells depicted on the tap handle" discussions.  The concepts we talked about were things like a woman sitting on a couch at home with a pint in hand saying/texting "No thanks, I'm staying in with some Girlfriends tonight."  Or a male or female saying, "I'm meeting my Girlfriend at the bar." And, as we suspected, we had some funny comments made to us when we served samples at the Inlander/Visit Spokane roll-out to Spokane Restaurant Week, like the one quoted above.

In conclusion, there is a saying that any joke you have to explain isn't funny.  Or starting out saying, "I'm not a racist, but . . ." is almost a sure sign that you are about to say something racist.  So, if you have to say, "Our beer is named Girlfriend Golden, but it isn't reinforcing negative stereotypes about female beer drinkers . . .", then maybe we should reconsider the name.

Please let us know what you think, either in the comments section below or by e-mail to gage at inland nw brewing dot com.  We are sincere in appreciating the thoughts of our customers and potential customers and do not intend any disrespect to women, or girlfriends, anywhere.

Post-script - The author of the original Spokesman-Review article, Rick Bonino, contacted me after this blog went up.  First and foremost, I want to make it clear that I was not intending to question Mr. Bonino's journalistic integrity.  I do not question his reporting or that I used the phrase "chick beer" or even "our chick beer."  The clarification that I intended was to explain the context in which the statement was used, rather than to question the reporting of the statement.  I unreservedly apologize for making it appear in a tweet that the quote wasn't a quote.  It was an accurate quote but it was within a context that made it clear that this was phrase used to describe the category rather than as a stand-alone statement.  The 140-character limit was too short to explain the difference, but shorthand resulted in an unfair sentence.  I have deleted the tweet in question because I did not want it to stand as inaccurate statement.  Pages have been written about the need for context to create accurate understanding and I have managed to create two additional situations out of this first one which serves as a reminder of its importance, whether in an article, a blog or a tweet.