Boulevard Brewing Tour and Tasting

Boulevard Brewing is one of the largest craft breweries in the country and the largest in the Midwest. Of course, it is the second largest in Missouri. But it seems to have a strong hold in Kansas City, as just about every bar, tavern, and liquor store prominently displays a large, conspicuous Boulevard Brewing sign.

Linda and I were in Kansas City for a few days visiting my kid sister Leigh and her husband Keith. Keith couldn’t get off of work, but Leigh reserved a spot for herself, Linda, and me on the Boulevard Brewery tour. If you plan visit the tour someday, reserve well ahead of time, as it fills up a few weeks in advance.

As brewery tours go, it was pretty standard stuff. An energetic and enthusiastic guide took about twenty-five of us around the brewery, stopping at key locations to show a brief videos on the history of the brewery, or how various machines and gadgets are used in the process of making beer. We learned that founder John McDonald began construction of the brewery in 1988. This hand-made furniture maker and homebrewer turned entrepreneur when everyone told him he ought to start selling his homebrews. He even travelled to Germany to learn traditional brewing techniques prior to opening the brewery.

We also learned that all the old, red brick buildings housing the brewery have reinforced concrete inside to support the brewing equipment, which makes the brewery both tornado earthquake proof. And while the tour began in an old, dusty cellar full of beer aging in barrels for Boulevard’s Smokestack series, most of the brewery is full of recently installed, shiny automated brewing and bottling equipment. While Boulevard has one of the largest outputs of any craft brewery in America, it takes a mere 12 hours for Anheuser-Busch to equal Boulevard’s yearly output. That’s longer than last year, when it took Anheuser-Busch just ten hours.


And of course, what most people consider the highlight of the tour, the tasting room at the end. So here’s a brief review of those beers, from sampling them at the tasting room, and enjoying some more back at my sister’s place. About 70% of Boulevard’s sales is of their unfiltered wheat beer, which I didn’t get a chance to try. I suppose any comprehensive review of Boulevard beer should include their flagship, but frankly, American wheat beers don’t get me all that excited, and faced with a “so many beers, so little time” situation, I opted to try their styles that interested me the most.

ZON Witbier
It’s pronounced “zone” and this summer seasonal won this years Gold Medal at the Great American Best Festival (GABF) in the Belgian Style Witbier catagory. I can see why this won, as it has a sharp, tangy citrus flavors that yield to strong notes of coriander. It’s all enhanced by the tingly carbonation, and while I’m finding witbiers to be a tired, over-exposed style, this one is quite lively and really pops.

Tank 7 Dry Hopped Saison
It’s part of Boulevard’s Smokestack series, and according to Boulevard, you can only find it in their tap room, and on tap at selected locations in Kansas City which they didn’t specify. It’s too bad this is such a limited release. The brew has a lovely lemongrass aroma and the dry hopping gives it a strong herbal flavor, with some grassiness and a little lemon to boot. Another light, summer style from Boulevard with exploding flavors.

Luna Ale
Described as combination of a tradition British Brown Ale and a German Dunklewiessen, it’s as weird as that sounds. I picked up all the flavors one would expect if you mixed two beers of those style together. Nutty roasted malt? Check. Creamy mouth feel? Check. Peppery yeast with some fruity esters ? Check. And put this all together and it’s…ummm…well my sister really likes it. I’m trying hard to like it, but let’s just say I’m still getting to know this beer.

Bully! Porter
Lot’s of roasty malt goodness, with lots of bitter chocolate flavor and some detectable coffee notes, and little or no sweetness. Despite all the roasted malt, very smooth and drinkable.

Single Wide IPA
It’s not a malty East Coast / UK IPA. It’s not a thinly malted West Coast hop-bomb IPA. It’s comes across as a middle of the road, IPA. There’s a decent amount of malt to balance the grapefruity and slightly grassy hops. The mouth feel is pretty astringent. For me, I found this to be a good, change of pace IPA.

BevMo! Holiday Beer Fest

Announcing the first ever BevMo! Holiday Beer Fest to be held at Fort Mason, Herbst Pavilion in downtown San Francisco on Sunday November 15th, 2009 from 1pm to 4pm.

According to Jeff Moses, the event organizer, it’s for beer connoisseurs everywhere to come and taste over Holiday, Seasonal & Special, soon-to-be-released, Beers for the 2009 California-style winter season. In case there was any confusion, the event is not limited to “winter warmer” seasonals, as he cited well over 30 styles he expects to be available at the event.

According to Jeff, “the beauty of the event for attendees is to taste all the holiday beers and other many other great beers (including many, many Belgians(there will be at least 100 special beers to taste), all in one place.”

Tickets are $35, and more information and online purchasing can be found at www.nightthatneverends.com/bevmo_holiday.html

Running motivation can come from unlikely sources

This post was written for the folks at Run Reviews, a website that reviews treadmills.

One of the hardest things in running is simply getting started. Every day. There’s always something else to do, or things just don’t feel right, and before you know it, another day has passed without getting the daily run in. How can one find the daily motivation to run and exercise?

The standard answer to this is to find some big goal and train for that. It might be to run a certain time in a race, or to complete a run of a certain distance. Lot’s of people start running with the goal of finishing a marathon. Others do it to get down to a certain weight by some future date. And goal setting in this manner, where the goal is specific and time bound, does work. In fact, I have simply entered races two or three months in advance simply to give myself another reason to run over that time. So if you are looking to find extra incentive to run, setting a specific, challenging goal for yourself is a good way to do it.

But not everyone can be training for the big race all the time. Sometimes in our lives, family, work, and other important commitments take priority. What to do then? Instead, think about all the things you like to do in your life that would be better if you are in good running shape. Of course, “good running shape” means different things to different people, but you probably have a good idea what that means for you.

Perhaps you’d want to have more energy to keep up with your kids, or to maintain your energy at work. If you’re like me, if you’re not running, you tend to gain weight and no longer fit into your clothes, and get tired easily. I happen to enjoy drinking craft beer and eating ice cream, two foods that by themselves, do not compose a healthy diet. But I enjoy them both in moderation, knowing that as long as I’m still running, the negative effects of these foods are largely, if not totally cancelled out. Life, for me and a lot of other people, would be pretty bad without craft beer and ice cream.

So you don’t have to be training for the big race to find your running motivation. Simply find the the little things in life that matter to you, and ask yourself how running would help you enjoy those things more. Once you find those things, the motivation to run will start taking care of itself.

Brewed For Thought Presents Jack and Tony’s Barrel-Aged Beer Dinner

Wanted to let everyone know about Jack and Tony’s Barrel-aged Beer Dinner. You can read more details at Brewed for Thought , but here’s a brief summary below:

Jack and Tony’s Barrel-Aged Beer Dinner
October 15th @ 7pm ($60 per person – Reservations recommended)

Blackened tiger prawns with cajun remoulade – Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale
Mushroom stuffed chile relleno with smoky tomato coulis – Deschutes Brewing Mirror Mirror
Roast pork loin with sun-dried tomatoes and white cannelini bean stew – Russian River Brewing Consecration
Chocolate three ways: stout float, mini pot de creme and bourbon soaked chocolate cake – Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
For reservations, please contact Jack and Tony’s at (707) 526-4347.

The Session #32: I cannot run like a Kenyan, but at least I can drink like one

For this months Session, Girl Likes Beer asks everyone to “..pick your favorite beer made east from your hometown but east enough that it is already in a different country. It can be from the closest country or from the furthest. Explain why do you like this beer. What is the coolest stereotype associated with the country the beer comes from (of course according to you)?”

For runners, “Kenyan” is an adjective to describe how distance running performances relate to world class levels. For example, “John Smith’s 10,000 meter time was so fast, it was almost Kenyan.” This started happening in the 80’s, when Kenya started regularly sending distance runners to international track meets. The rest of the world, except for Ethiopia, didn’t have a chance, and Kenyan distance runners quickly dominated the world scene. Major marathons like the Boston and New York marathon often resemble Kenyan inter-squad competitions, rather than the the international marathons that they are.

While Kenya is known for great distance running, it is barely known for beer. However, Kenya does have is a brewing history I recently learned about. Kenya Breweries was founded in the early 1920’s by two brothers, and by the 50’s, Tusker Golden Lager became their flagship beer using Kenyan grown barley. I discovered Tusker this summer, and upon learning it was from Kenya, was intrigued enough to give it a try.

And I’m here to say, Tusker satisfies this Mzungo. (Mzungo is Swahili for “white man”.) It’s a bit of a change of pace for the lagers I’m used to, very clear tasting with a light hoppy bitter crispness. Yes, there’s a little skunkiness in there, that somehow adds to the flavor complexity, rather than detracting from it. It has this tingly fizziness to it, like mineral water, and the beer has a refreshing palate cleansing mouth feel to it.

Back in the day, I dreamt about running as fast as the Kenyans, blazing across the rolling African countryside. Today, I’m content to plod around my suburban neighborhood, and knock back a couple Tuskers after a run.

It’s About Time I Write About El Toro

El Toro is only my favorite place to get a beer in the Bay Area, so I ought write about it by now. OK, Morgan Hill is not technically the Bay Area, but it’s close. Morgan Hill is not the chic, hip, happening place people want to go to, but if you ask me, that’s part of its charm.

The brewpub opened in 2006, but Geno and Cindy Acevedo of El Toro have been brewing since 1994. They do great standard session beers, and they do great beers with that have their own unique twist on a style, that few other breweries attempt. With about 20 taps, there’s something for everyone. And the food is pretty good, too. Frankly, if this place was in San Francisco, everyone would be talking about it. But it’s not, and too few people have heard about it, or have even been there. Luckily, I live in the South Bay, and El Toro is only a 20 minute drive from where Linda and I live. We were fortunate to spend dinner over the weekend, and enjoy some of their beers. Here’s what we thought of the beers we had.

El Conejo Red IPA
There’s a little sweetness in this red IPA, and plenty of roasted malt. Centennial and Amarillo hops give it a tropical fruit, pineapple character to it. The bitterness of the roasted malt coupled with a healthy dose of hops gives this brew a very strong bitterness and astringency. Unique and different, it’s just a little too much bitterness for my taste, but Linda, the wine loving closet hop-head can’t get enough of this.

El Toro Awesome IPA
Here’s to truth in advertising. El Toro uses Columbus, Centennial, Cascade and Amarillo hops to give this the classic citrus, slightly floral West Coast IPA bitterness, with just a modicum of malt. The slight sweetness what little malt there is works well here.

El Toro Blackraspberry Ale
Fruit beers are often dismissively labelled a “chick beers” by card carrying beer geeks. I’m afraid I was not secure enough in my manhood to order this, so left it up to Linda to get this one. We both like the slight tartness and the clear, slightly earth black raspberry fruit notes, without the cloying sweetness that ruins many a fruit beer in my opinion. El Toro also has Peach and Raspberry Ales on tap, and perhaps next time, I’ll have the guts to order one of these brews.

El Toro Negro Oatmeal Stout
Plenty of roasty, coffee-like malt goodness you look for in a stout, but we found it light and smooth, with little or no sweetness, despite the rich flavors. We also picked up some bitter chocolate in there. Very easy drinking and enjoyable.

Can’t wait ’til I get back there.

On Running With Pain

Here’s a guest post from Miki, who writes for runreviews.com, a site where you can read all kinds of treadmills reviews.

I have to admit, I’m from the old school “No pain, no gain” camp. Anyway, her contribution to Bay Area Beer Runner is timely, as I am currently seeing a chiropractor to deal with some chronic knee and foot pain I’ve been dealing with for several months now. So without further ado, here’s Miki’s passionate article on running with pain.

Never do that. Never run if you feel any kind of pain. Don’t ignore it. You already know you can only make it worse. This is s a golden rule for all kind of sport addicts: to not ignore pain’s signs. There are 99% chances it will not fade away unless you pay attention. By ignoring you only develop a greater injury which can lead to a greater future damage.

Don’t find surrogate cures. Pills only reduce discomfort on a short run, but they definitely don’t cure your injury. Go straight to the problem’s source. It’s always best to investigate the cause of the problem so that you effectively solve it. Be rational about your inflammations and dull pains. Try not to wear your new pair of shoes during a race for the first time. This is the best way to go if you don’t wish blisters to pop out. Sports are most prone to blisters; there are various efficient ointments at preventing them. Just go to the drug store and investigate your options.

Be cautious. Always have with you a bandage you can use if you get injured. It’s a recommended quick way of stopping inflammation. Never use the sentence “It will pass, oh, it will pass”. It can not pass unless you give it a reason to. If you wish to remain an athlete than make sure it passes by giving your injury the right medication. Pain is one concept neither of us embrace. But it is real, you can definitely feel it and for sure it’s not a piece of candy. Sometimes it can be impossible to endure, other times it’s dull and passes quickly.

Still, there is one thing that I’ve learned from my experience: never think you can treat it by yourself, especially if the pain you have been feeling has been there for a few days. We are not all doctors so we should let medical professionals take care of things that are not in our area of expertise. Meanwhile, avoid running while aching. You will only hurt yourself even more. Find a hobby that can make you feel less sad until recovery ends. If you care for body, your body will care for you too. Keep it safe and it will react as you wish it to. Hydrate and make sure it receives natural energy. This way you will give yourself the insurance of a successful sport’s life.