Sunday, April 13, 2014

Why Beer?

Over the years cycling has had a transformative effect on my diet. For instance, I acquired a taste for plain water after a lifetime of disliking it. And I started to eat meat again after 10 years of vegetarianism. Just as startling, but hopefully less controversial than the latter, has been my newfound enthusiasm for beer.

Now, I know some feel that that bikes and beer go hand in hand, so this is not exactly a novel concept. But until a couple of years ago I just didn't get it. Why beer? What's so great about it and what does it have to do with cycling? Because frankly, until 2012 I had been unable to touch the stuff. Not only did it taste horrible to me, but drinking even small quantities would reliably leave me with a heavy, unpleasant, bread-coma type of feeling that I wouldn't be able to shake for hours. Beer? Beh. I'd rather have a glass of wine or a cocktail.

So I thought, until one innocent summer evening when I took a sip of Guinness at dinner after several weeks in a row of strenuous cycling. Normally I hated this particular beer even more than the others. But, to my amazement, it now tasted out of this world delicious. I finished an entire pint and felt fine. No bread-coma, no uncomfortable fullness. And thus my transformation into a beer drinker began. I never felt compelled to get into fancy or craft beers. Whatever was on offer would taste pretty good after a long day on the bike - though I would also get cravings for Guinness specifically. There is just something about it that tastes …I don't know, fortifying? As long as I cycle, I love the stuff. And, with equal reliability, if I'm not putting in the miles I soon find it difficult to drink again.

So what is it about beer and bikes? Is it about the ritual of it? Is it about carbohydrates, metabolism and all that?

"It's to do with strength training," a local cyclist explained, and showed me this informative mural. Those climbing muscles are not going to maintain themselves.

Contemplating this bit of expert wisdom, I partook of the dense white foam, which in turn gave way to the dark, strength-replenishing liquid. And as I did this I closed my eyes, losing myself in a deep visceral appreciation. My legs are aching and my mouth is craving beer again. Spring is in full swing.

56 comments:

  1. I think its more to do with the Guinness. And I mean the stuff served in Ireland north or otherwise. Tis a wonderful liquid. Surely you've heard the sickly children were prescribed a pint by the local MD to get weight on them. High in iron as well, maybe, don't know. Some would say its still safer than water...I guess that depends on where you live.
    Thanks,
    Bob

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  2. Why Guinness? Good heavens, girl, it's your cultural heritage!

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  3. Yours is not an isolated experience.
    After Saturday's 100km of serious hills and gravel the first two schooners of pale ale disappeared in quick succession. I'll be stocking up on various porters and stouts as we head into our Australian winter (such as it is) for post-ride hydration. Nothing beats it.

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    1. good to hear Jonathan. Must try that dirt course of yours

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  4. Meat, beer... All good. Now start drinking whisky and smoke some cigars and you'll become a true man!

    Interestingly, Guinness is one of my least favorite beers.

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    1. I drink whiskey already :)
      Quit smoking in my 20s.

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  5. Guinness has a decent amount of trace minerals -- iron, B vitamins, potassium, calcium -- it may be one of those your body wants after riding, and thus it tastes good.

    Coconut water is the weird thing for me -- I first had it on a whim when stopping somewhere on a long ride, and it was marvelous. Then I bought some and tried it when not riding, and it tasted like something a baby had regurgitated -- slightly soured milk. Tried it while riding -- once again, perfectly delicious. The body knows what it wants.

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    1. I tried coconut water before I found electrolyte drinks that I was able to tolerate. At first it tasted okay. Not great, but drinkable. But the weird thing about the C-water, is that the more of it I drank the more I disliked it until eventually I wasn't able to even smell it without feeling nauseated. Something about that sickly sweet aftertaste.

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    2. Here you go:

      http://youtu.be/G8poH4WgZvI

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    3. On coconut water:

      http://youtu.be/G8poH4WgZvI

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    4. I had to drink a coconut once when visiting some friends in Haiti.

      The first sip was "ok", cool and wet, but before I was done I gave up and hid the wretched thing under my chair, at which point my host knocked another one down, machete'd off the end and presented it to me with a smile and a blessing. I don't really drink but I'll take seven pints of Guinness before I drink another coconut. I swear they hold like a gallon and a half each.

      Spindizzy

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  6. Only you wouldn't like water.

    Duh:

    electrolytes
    carbs
    calories
    inebriation

    Not rocket science. Calories out, calories in. Doesn't anyone read anything besides blogs?

    Also duh to those who insist because they don't eat meat and function well cycling you must be able to too. Doesn't work that way, thanks.

    what's with the foam peaks?

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    1. Duh: haven't you ever eaten lemon meringue pie? The peaks let you know the foam, or head in this matter, is of ample constitution. Doesn't anyone read anything besides blogs?

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    2. It's to demonstrate how dense the foam is. There's a whole art/science to this here.

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    3. Jake, Duh. Still doesn't explain how they're made. Aren't you given to answering the question thoroughly?

      Since lemon meringue has peaks as primarily a stylistic element (the peaks are the goal, not a test) I'd say your analogy is off considerably.

      Now, back to the head - what the heck is ample consistency and why does it matter. No, I can't answer all questions here, but maybe you can answer just this one. Apparently you've read up on the subject.

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  7. That's so weird! I wonder what it is about cycling that makes beer taste good to you. I can't touch the stuff, no matter how much cycling I do. Every time I have ever tried beer, of any sort, my nose gets all stopped up and I get a massive headache. Even after just a few sips. Hops allergy perhaps?

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    1. I have heard from others who say they have a hop allergy, but have never read up on it since I read blogs exclusively. ;)

      I have experienced the same thing several times. Being a beer-lover, this caused me considerable displeasure! Thank the Lord, I figured out it was the bar I was allergic to, not the beer.

      I always thought it had more to do with the personalities that are drawn to bicycling, being the same that may be drawn to the tavern culture or the beer culture. But perhaps that's just me and my group of friends. Beer and bikes are both huge parts of my life.

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  8. Make mine a Beamish!

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  9. NPR just had an article on beer, specifically a new brand, that is marketed towards post-workout recovery: http://tinyurl.com/nnj7gnd

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    1. Duh. It's called lite beer, or an energy recovery drink with a squirt of alcohol. NPR covering the edges of edginess once again.

      People have been drinking beer as a recovery agent since it was invented. Glad to see a major "news" source has got right on that. Sheesh.

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    2. bio hydration indeed. I think it means, "drink some fluids for your corporeal self.

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  10. According to my urologist, beer is a near perfect balance of electrolytes, liquid, carbohydrates, vitamins, etc. If you have a problem with alcohol of course it can't be used. But otherwise, beer is the perfect food for cyclists.

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  11. Yeah! Cycling makes us go wild...Hunger for meat like a lion, thirst for beer like a tough sailor... Lust for miles!
    Greetings from Spain.

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  12. I have graduated from no beer at all to sips of my friends PBR. Can't do Guinness yet, but maybe after another summer of cycling!

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    1. How is it you're *starting* with PBR? It took me years of drinking tasty craft brews to work my way down to the economical blue ribbon wonder.

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    2. PBR tastes watery and light, so I can see how it would make a good starter beer for those who find beer too dense and filling.

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    3. PBR + trucker hats + facial hair ftw. Cigarettes and wayfarers. Its the illusion of economy you're after, apparently. Take a good IPA, add water and you'll have a far more cost effective, better tasting result. But then again PBR isn't about the taste, is it.

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  13. I'm probably going to get slaughtered by purists, but try it with a spot of blackcurrant. Mmmmmmmm! As well as the micro nutrients the alcohol will have a mild painkilling effect. Also, a pint of Coca Cola has more calories than a pint of Guinness, but, to be fair, you're hardly going to down seven pints of cola on a night out.

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    1. I would have thought "seven pints ...on a night out" was hyperbole before coming here :)

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    2. Gad, I cannot imagine a gallon of real Guinness even at a long sitting, let alone nearly two!

      Now a pint (Guiness is good, a west coast-style India Pale Ale even better) along with a good burger after 60-100k in the Santa Cruz mountains?
      Oh My Yes.
      Oh, my yes
      Oh yes please

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  14. Beer is carbs/calories and alcohol is a carcinogen. What is needed after a strenuous ride is calcium, amino acids and electrolytes.

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  15. You are being led astray, I'm afraid.

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  16. As someone who has consistently disliked both red meats and beer through most of her adulthood, I was both surprised and horrified to find myself happily downing a pint of Newcastle with a side of cottage pie following successful completion of the Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour.

    There must be something to it.

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  17. France, Italy and Spain produce a fair amount of competent cyclists who prefer wine.

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  18. I drank beer after long days bike messengering around New York...felt like it quenched a thirsty soul.

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  19. As someone said earlier, I think of it as re-hydration :) And it is certainly huge in the mtn biking side of the sport. I have been on the wagon since New Year's Day though - an annual thing. My favorite the last couple of years has been New Belgium (an brewery very supportive of cycling) Ranger IPA. But the Lagunitas IPA is, I think, even better. And then, of course, there is Maker's Mark bourbon. Regardless, welcome to the club - it's a big. I live in San Diego and it either is already or fast becoming the craft brewery capital of the country. Doug

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  20. I was a beer drinker before I was a cyclist, but my comparable experience to yours is soda. I quit drinking soda when I was a teenager and normally just the thought of drinking it gives me revulsion. However, the craving does return on long rides in warm days. I think our bodies just have long associative memories for substances that satisfy certain key demands so if my body wants a cold, calorie rich liquid it just signals "cola".

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  21. Beer's also got a lower ABV than wine or cocktails, so it's less potent, and more refreshing when you're thirsty. If I had a glass of wine at a pub stop while cycling, I might not be able to get back on the bike afterwards!

    Personally, I'm rather fond of a pint of mild when it's cold, and a lager shandy (lager & lemonade) when it's sunny. I know it's a bit declasse, but it's delicious, and in German it's even called a Radler, because it was originally marketed to cyclists!

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  22. I belive real beer (by which I mean Real Ale/Craft Beer) is excellent post exercise and has little to no negative health effects if consumed in small amounts.

    If you visit the New Forest in England you will be spoilt for choice with beer. Nothing better than a pint of Ringwood Best after a long ride.

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  23. OT: As a Releigh, expecially vintage, enthusiast I recomend that you check this (well, I suppose the English do love their Guiness):

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/1939-Raleigh-Gents-Superbe-Safety-Tourist-NOS-/191132084514?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2c805c2922#ht_4604wt_900

    The photos on the Photobucket link are amazing.

    Doug

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  24. Surprised no one has brought up this article, just like everything else you have to read the label. Fortunate to live in the Pacific NW with lots of great local craft beers and no freaking GMOs HFCS or Fish bladder - really Guiness!? http://foodbabe.com/2013/07/17/the-shocking-ingredients-in-beer/

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  25. While beer was the drink of choice for generations of cyclists here in Central Europe, Spritzer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spritzer) has slowly taken that position. Admittedly, local beers (mostly lagers) are not even remotely close to Guiness, but still, dry white wine and mineral water somehow sound even more get-me-my-electrolytes-back type of dring.

    I prefer a bottle of Bordeaux, though.

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  26. Anyone who thinks PBR is the end all be all needs to have his head checked. There are so many other mediocre beers out there that the gathering of so many to one particular terrible example speaks more about the person than the beer. Hipster, in other words.

    All watery beers from major mfgs are essentially decently beer-like. Who really cares...

    But Guinness, there's nothing like it and deserves its rep as such. It's the Cahors of beer, the black strap of yore. I just made that up, no need for NPR citations.

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    1. You're on the right track, GRJ, when you mention hipster. It's all about post-irony, which is one component of the hipster gestalt.

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    2. Most notably, in the example above, hipsters ascribe to establi-thoughts, which is more often about attitude than independent thought. Or so it would seem.

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  27. And smoking. Really. Never was cool, never will be.

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  28. I have never liked beer either, at least not North American pee water. Guiness and similar beers are even provided in the UK and Ireland for mothers post birth to get some nutrients. A lot of beers have wheat which is bad if you cannot eat wheat, I think guiness only has barley. Barley also has gluten but it is chemically different than wheat gluten. I can definitely see that a pint or 1/4 pint for me would hit the spot after a good ride. But I'd definitely prefer a good red wine.

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  29. Replies
    1. If combined with real, freshly squeezed lemon juice, then yes. Otherwise - with Fanta or something similar - better not. Orangina, maybe.

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  30. The old Saturday night program used to be drink and dance until the bar closed, hit the after hours clubs for the real jazz and blues, find some breakfast, change into kit, ride 83 miles with the club on Sunday morning. This was all possible with Guinness and youth. Seven pints? Sure. Martinis reserved for deep winter when nobody could make the ride. No 83 miles after martinis.

    You're near Derry. Do the Undertones still play? Here Comes The Summer is a permanent favorite.

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  31. You will likely find Guinness not as tasty next time you are back in the states. When brewed in Dublin Guinness uses local water and ingredients that are not identical when its brewed elsewhere which is the case when its sold outside the UK and Ireland The fact that it is often less fresh and not stored and poured properly elsewhere makes a difference as well.

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  32. Do you drink it cold or room temperature?

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    1. Room. But then I generally don't like super-cold drinks.

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  33. This one is actually good at room temp, too. Don't know if you can get it in the UK- I found it in Boston in the early 90s, though.

    https://avbc.com/our-beers/barney-flats-oatmeal-stout/


    (I'm dating myself, but I started drinking this one the year it came out.)

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