Going To The Dogs

Since I moved to Knoxville TN 2 years ago I’ve found it difficult to find a decent neighborhood pub.  Having the right combination of location, draft beer selection, food, and environment is something you all can relate to.  Too far and it’s inconvenient, limited draft selection and what’s the point, bad food and you won’t go back, and the wrong environment will drive everyone away.  So last night I decided to give a new sports bar in the area a try.  Double Dogs opened its doors on December  13th here in Knoxville.

Double Dogs on Hardin Valley

They are located at 10639 Hardin Valley Rd. near the Pellissippi Parkway.  When I arrived the parking lot was packed, a good sign.  The building supports numerous glass roll-up garage style doors so I assume in the summers there will be a nice open air feel.  The table area is surrounded by walls of flat screens with every imaginable sports programming playing.  The bar travels the length of the room and faces not only a wall of flat screens but a nice selection of draft beers.  Of course the standard American mass produced lagers are there but they also have a decent selection of smaller regional brews.  Included in the draft beers are Yuengling, Fat Tire, Purple Haze, Killians, Sam Adams Seasonal, New Castle, Guinness, Blue Moon, and Stella Artois.


Their bottle selection expands even further.  The food menu seems fairly diverse with chicken pot pies, to peel and eat shrimp, salads, nachos, and burgers.  The quality is very good and service is quick.  The servers are all very friendly and the patrons are a mix of sports fans to families looking for a quick meal.


If you’re tired of fighting the Turkey Creek crowd and are looking for a neighborhood sports bar then give Double Dogs a try.  For the West Knoxville crowd it a nice alternative to the typical.

Beverage of the Gods

Beer has a long a controversial history steeped in religion. Some historians have speculated that prehistoric nomads used grain and water to make beer, even before they learned to make bread.  It has been postulated that beer was part of Noah’s provisions on his famous ark journey.  The earliest known proof of beer making was from 4300 BC when the Sumerians wrote detailed beer recipes on clay tablets.

Sumerian Clay Tablet. Looks like an Ale.....

They believed beer was a divine gift and offered it to their gods.  By 2000 BC the Sumerians went the way of the Dodo when thy Babylonians absorbed them into their culture.  By then, record show that they had over 20 different recipes for beer.  In their culture, beer was a commodity and even used for pay.  The higher your class status the more beer you got, talk about a reason to strive for more in your career. Egyptians commercialized the brewing of beer and was used for medical purposes, included in burial provisions, and was served to royalty in gold goblets.  In fact during those ancient times numerous cultures used grains to create beer.  Africans, North and South American Indians, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, and Romans all had recipes for beer.   Romans brewed “Cerevisia”, Ceres was the goddess of agriculture and Vis meaning strength in Latin.  The Romans in 55 BC introduced beer to northern Europe. From that point forward the Europeans took the practice in the early middle ages and converted it from a family tradition and centralized production in monasteries and convents.  Beer before then was not the same as we know today.  Hops were first introduced into the beer making process around 1000 AD.  By 1200 AD beer brewing was established as a commercial enterprise in Germany, Austria, and England.  In 1489 Germany established the first brewer’s guild named Braueri Beck.  Most beers until relatively recent times were what are now called ales. Lagers were discovered by accident in the 16th century after beer was stored in cool caverns for long periods; they have since largely outpaced ales in terms of volume.

Sounds about right....

Jump to the industrial revolution and the invention of the steam engine and beer was finally industrialized. Pasteurization was added in 1857 with Louis Pasteur’s discovery of yeast, 30 years before it was used in milk.  Further innovations in the brewing process came about with the introduction of the thermometer and hydrometer in the 19th century, which allowed brewmasters to increase efficiency and attenuation.  In modern times thousands of breweries present prior to prohibition fell to the consolidation of breweries and the application of industrial quality control standards and led to mass-production and mass-marketing of light lagers.  Smaller microbreweries now service the market with fuller-bodied beers.  The brewing industry today is a huge global business.  Advances in refrigeration, transportation, marketing, and commerce have resulted in a truly international marketplace.  Consumers now have hundreds of choices between various styles of local, regional, national and foreign beers.  Here’s to variety!

Mmmmmmmm, Variety.......


The Trails of Tsali

Near the begining of the Left Loop

Just over the hill in North Carolina Tsali offers great trails for us Mountain Bikers.  The lake views from the Left Loop, Overlook and Mouse Branch Overlook are nothing short of spectacular.  I took my family for a long weekend.  We rented a cabin near Bryson City just a few miles down the road from the Tsali Recreation Area .  Most of the reviews I read before going talked about the challenging trails and indicated that they were not for beginners.  After riding the trails I disagreed.  Both my son and I were a little underwhelmed.  We did however still have a great time and I would recommend the trip.  The Tsali trails alternate horse/bike every other day , so you can only ride one side of the park on a given day. Tuesday, Thursday and Sat are Mousetail and Thompson while the remainder of the week is Left and Right loops.  On any day you can ride 20+ miles of good to great trails regardless.

Left Loop

More Difficult, 11.9mi, Hilly, Some Obstacles

Longest Tsali trail. Starts with a roller coaster ride along the lakeshore that you can control! Trail dips into a cove, crosses a creek, then emerges to zoom along the lakeshore time and again. Toward the overlook, the trail moves into the interior hills of the peninsula. Here, there are rolling sections, and 2 relatively long climbs, followed by 2 steep downhills; the second downhill has several great jumps. Further on, a very muddy creekside climb is followed by a fast, rolling cruise that connects to Overlook Loop (see top of map). The Left Loop is completed with a ride along County Line Road (doubletrack/gravel) which is shared with Right Loop.  This part can be a bit of a yawn.  The good news is that it is mostly slightly down hill and has intermitent water bars that make for good jumps.

Mouse Branch Loop

Moderate, 6.5mi, Hilly, Some Obstacles

Has one long, fast singletrack downhill, with a gradual climb up to it. Good views, trail passes over neat clearcut hills–in one spot, you can see the trail snaking over on the next ridge. Watch how quickly the forest can change as you go in and out of coves and along ridges. Connects to Mouse Branch Overlook Loop

Mouse Branch Overlook Loop

Moderate, 2.5mi, Climbs Moderately, Some Obstacles

A new addition. One way trail (counter-clockwise). Good view from the overlook, not as spectacular as the one from Overlook Loop but well worth the ride out there. You can see some neat islands down in the lake. This extension also has some great downhills, which makes it even more worthwhile.

Right Loop

More Difficult, 11mi, Hilly, Few Obstacles

Shorter loops possible using connector trails. Some lakeshore riding, lots of hilly interior riding with a few steep, challenging spots. Has lots of great jumps. Has a few creek crossings, one of which is done on a brand new bridge. Sections are fast, buffed, winding, narrow, sidehill singletrack that clings to the side of a mountain. Be sure to keep a finger on the brakes in those outside curves–to avoid a trip off the side of the mountain! Intersects a side out-and-back trail to Windy Gap overlook–worth riding for the trail itself, not really the “overlook”. Also intersects Overlook Loop and Left Loop (see descriptions below). Loop is completed with a fast, smooth ride along County Line Road (doubletrack/gravel) which is shared with Left loop.

Thompson Loop

Moderate, 7.7mi, Hilly, Few Obstacles

Some stream crossings and old logging roads. Mixed pine and hardwood forests at Tsali are easily recognized on this trail. Some old homesites. Neat part of forest with tall hemlocks and rhododendron, not typical of the heavily logged areas at Tsali. More great lakeshore singletrack riding with long, gradual hills. Some really great fast gravel road sections.

Go to the picture section of BikesNBeers Facebook link to see more photos of Tsali.  Happy trails!

Beer is a Health Food

Numerous scientific studies have shown that the consumption of beer is linked with numerous health benefits.  I knew it!  In seriousness there are a number of ways beer can be good for you in moderation.

1)      Moderate alcohol increased HDL levels (The Good Cholesterol) – An article on the AHA website describes the benefits of increasing HDL concentrations and its effect on coronary heart disease.  In effect the article describe that the increases in HDL through moderate alcohol intake results from increased transport rate of some lipoproteins.

Never to early to protect your heart

2)      Alcohol is an anti-inflammatory agent – Scientists at Innsbruck Medical University have succeeded in demonstrating the anti-inflammatory effect of beer extracts.  Inflamed blood vessels are responsible for plaque build-up and can lead to strokes and heart disease.  Additionally, it has been shown that moderate beer drinkers have fewer cases of rheumatoid arthritis.

Keep limber

3)      Alcohol acts as a blood thinner – Much like aspirin alcohol will thin the blood.  The health effects of this are reflected in the reduced risk of coronary thrombosis (clotting).  An article by the Mid America Heart Institute describes some of these effects.

To your health

4)      Alcohol has antioxidant compounds – Antioxidant compounds inhibit oxidation which can terminate the chain reactions caused by free radicals.  In cases of chronic diseases alcohol can offer protection from cell damage.

That's a little to radical....

5)       Alcohol can combat viruses and bacteria – Some of these can include H. pylori, a bacterial cause of stomach ulcers; common cold viruses; the hepatitis A virus; and microbes that cause food poisoning, such as salmonella, E. coli and viruses in tainted oysters.

Just in case....

6)      Reduction of Kidney Stones – Alcohol could reduce the development of kidney stones up to 40% with each beer consumed daily. Drinking beer can help prevent kidney stones because it helps prevent calcium deposits from being formed in your kidneys. Stouts, porters or other beers with lots of hops are best.

No Kidney Stones here....

7)      Hops slow growth of cancer cells – A study out of Ohio State University suggests that phytochemicals derived from hops and found in beer can influence the growth of prostate cancer cells in vitro.  Pull out that IPA.

Mmmmm Hops....

Let’s face it, eating and drinking is two of life’s greatest pleasures.  However, every one of these benefits relies on moderation.  So the next time you’re out for a ride, have a few beers afterwards to refuel the tank, you may just be improving your health.

My health feels improved

The Most Toy’s…..

How many bikers do you know who only have one bike?  I venture to guess your answer would be not many.  I like most of you have a multitude of bikes lined up like eager little soldiers waiting to attack the trails like Marines at Omaha Beach.  Now how many times have your non-riding friends question your reasoning for having so many bikes?  I feebly justify mine by saying there different bikes for different riding (cross-country, freeride, all mountain, single speed, etc).

My Soldiers

Do I actually need all those bikes, no, but I choose to spend some of my discretionary income on them.  Now hoarding is a dangerous practice and one that many bikers are prone to.  However, for many of us bikes are nostalgic and remind us of our childhood.  I know that when I was child I had friends who seemed to have all the toys and of course I wanted them too.  When it comes to bikes, don’t you wish you had one of those early FUJI, Klein’s or Ritchey’s?  Or maybe some ARAYA or Campy hoops?  Hoarders love to collect stuff and the more stuff we have the better, but do I actually fall into the category when it comes to bikes?  Maybe.   Do I plan to thin the herd? No.  With 5 mountain bikes and a road bike I pale in comparison to many bikers out there who not only have more bikes than that but also have boxes of parts, frames, wheel sets, etc.   So my question is to you is how many toys are too many?  Do you have a garage full of bikes you never ride?  Do you have that classic MASI racer or equivalent?  I would love to hear your story/opinion.

Hell’s Angels and a Yuengling

Hell’s Angels by Hunter S. Thompson is the ultimate biker book that recounts the author’s adventures riding with the infamous Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang as they brawled, boozed and tore through small towns like Vikings.

It’s rumored that Thompson wrote the last half of Hell’s Angels in 48 hours with a bottle of Wild Turkey bourbon. That story inspired me so much that after tearing through the take out Chinese food I brought home tonight….like a Viking.  I grabbed a cold Yuengling (an old stand by from America’s oldest brewery) from the fridge and wrote this blog in 5 minutes.  Take that Thompson!  For those of us who like to roll down the road on a big V-twin Hell’s Angels makes for interesting reading.  For those who have never given Yuengling a try I like the traditional lager.  It is a rich amber color with a medium-bodied flavor.  The lager is brewed with a roasted caramel malt for a subtle sweetness (not as sweet as Newcastle Brown Ale).  This is a great beer for mass quantity consumption.

Is Bigger Really Better?

First off ladies, get your mind out of the gutter, that’s not the “bigger” I’m referring to.  I’m talking about 26’ers vs. 29’ers.  I’ve been riding Mt. Bikes for close to 20 years now, and for the most part 29’ers back then had not caught on yet.  Geoff Apps, an English off-road cycling pioneer, had created an early 29’er prototype in the early 80’s but it never really caught on due to lack of available tires.  Then in the early 90’s companies like Bianchi, Diamondback, and Specialized dabble with 29’ers, but again a lack of variety of tires and forks doomed those early pioneers.  Then in the late 90’s the White Brothers created the first production suspension fork and companies like Surly and Karate Monkey introduced accompanying framesets.  Finally Gary Fisher was the first major manufacturer to come out with 29’er, and hit it big with their single-speed “Rig” in 2004.  Since then nearly every bike manufacturer has at least one 29’er as part of their lineup.   As for myself I continued to ride 26’ers until 2008 when my riding buddy, and co-blog author, Throttle had been riding Gary Fisher 29’ers for about a year at that point and convinced me to take the plunge.  My first impressions were that they were somewhat large and cumbersome, kinda like the first time you were with a “Big Girl”.  Sure they seemed to roll over obstacles easier but the tradeoff for agility didn’t seem to be worth it.  But as I rode that 29’er more over the next year I grew to handle it better and the differences seem to fade away.  The one major drawback I saw at that time seemed to be the limited suspension travel that came with 29’ers.  Most at that point had a max of 3”-4” and it did not seem to be very deep.   I guess I should qualify that my previous bike was a freeride bike with a very deep 5” of travel.  Hence going back to a pure cross-country bike was a bit of an adjustment particularly with my riding style.

2008 Kona Hei Hei 2-9

I purchased two 29’ers that year, a Kona Hei Hei 2-9 full suspension and a KHS Solo One SE single speed rigid.  Both are tons of fun when it comes to pure cross-country.  But of course after that year my yearnings for more freeride style riding returned.  So in 2009 I purchased a 26’er all-mountain bike (Kona Coilair Deluxe) with 6.5” in front and 7.5” in the rear.  As I started to ride that bike I realized how much more nimble it was compared to the 29’ers.  And the increased suspension made up for the roll-over capabilities of the 29’er.  Plus the 26’er, being an all-mountain bike, gave me many more options when it came to mixing it up on the trails.

2009 Kona Coilair Deluxe

So I am now convinced there is a place for both.  The 29’er is lighter and for cross-country racing makes more sense.  But for pure fun on the trails I have to go with the 26’er.  The debate within the mountain bike community still rages on and the advantages/disadvantages of either have not necessarily been objectively investigated.  Other than a few studies with very little scientific rigor there seems to be no clear proof as to which is better.  If you’re like me you might just find there’s a place for both in your arsenal of toys.

See you on the trails.....

Winter Doldrums

Our riding definitely stagnates a bit during winter.   Shorter days, frigid mornings, and soupy trails just make it difficult to get out there with any regularity.  Add to that we’ve had a wetter and colder than normal December and January that has dropped over a foot of snow in the valley and well more than that in the mountains. It’s frustrating since our main form of cardio exercise is tied to Mt. Biking.  Sure we can treadmill during the winter but the mind-numbing boredom that comes with that activity is often hard to bear.  So when we get a decent day we head to the trails to get that chilly yet satisfying ride.

Throttle Pedaling through the Snow at Concord Park

Throttle and I headed over to Concord Park yesterday for a somewhat slushy snowy ride.  Concord Park is well known to Knoxvillians and is popular in the winter months due to its water shedding abilities.

Concord Park

The trails were in decent shape with many patches of snow but with the warmer weather the snow provided decent traction.  Some of the off-camber sections were exciting to say the least.

Alex at IC King

Today we went for a ride at IC King conditions were not ideal, there was a lot more mud than I had envisioned but all in all a decent ride.  The hills were in decent shape but the low lying trails were definitely soupy.

Muddy after the ride

Makes for some tough pedaling

Winters normally aren’t bad in TN and compared to many places they’re not bad. The worst of it will be over in late march as spring begins to reemerge to another glorious riding season.  Until then we’ll pick the days we can get out and do our best to prepare for the upcoming race season.  And hopefully with our new svelte forms we’ll fair a little better this year.

Crazy Scots, Unconventional Beer

BrewDog has only been around for 3.5 years but in that time has created some of the most memorable beers in modern times.  BrewDog is the brainchild of two young Scots who were tired of the mass produced lagers and ales that are common to the UK.  In their short tenure they have really challenged the conventional thinking in the industry.  Start with their End of the World ale which earlier this year garnered the title of world’s strongest beer (55% ABV) as well as the most expensive at $770 per bottle.   To add to the character of this beer it was also packaged in road kill, to be exact, either a squirrel or weasel.  The beer was a blond Belgian ale infused with nettles from the Scottish Highlands and Fresh juniper berries. It was a limited run of only 11 bottles and was sold in short order, and at present there is no indication of another run.   They are also the creators of another strong beer called Tactical Nuclear Penguin.  This beer is a Ÿber-imperial stout and has a 32% ABV.  Now they claim that no penguins were harmed in the making of this beer but I’m not sure PETA has had a chance to confirm this.

Just recently they have announced their next limited edition seasonal called Alice Porter.  Alice Porter is a 6.2% ABV Porter with dark malts, vanilla and a blend of English and Japanese hops.  The run will be from January through March of 2011 and will sell for $3.65 per bottle.  In their own words “BrewDog is about breaking rules, taking risks, upsetting trends, unsettling institutions but first and foremost, great tasting beers”.  Based on that philosophy it sounds like a beer I have to try, mine is already on order.  If you’d like to learn more about BrewDog you can check them out here.

Bikes, Automobiles, Airplanes, and Jock Straps

The bicycle has been the breeding ground for numerous technologies throughout its history.  The modern version of the bicycle (Chain-driven upright) was developed over 125 years ago.  The machining and metalworking techniques used in the development of the bike would eventually feed the auto and airplane industry.  Inventors Wilbur and Orville Wright and Henry Ford started as bike mechanics and used those skills in the development of their industries.  Many of the components developed in the bike industry were key in those industries and include the pneumatic tire, spoked wheels, and ball bearings, gears and brakes, just to name a few.  Other influences on the auto and aircraft industry including mass production and even advertising.  At one time in the late 1800’s, 10% of all magazine advertising was for bike companies.  This advertising was commonly targeted toward specifics market segments and even included promotions of yearly model changes, sound familiar?

The industry was also heavily responsible for improvement of our road infrastructure.  The League of American Wheelmen (LAW) were a driving force 100 years ago when they posted hazard signs on roads, reviewed routes and inns, and lobbied for road improvements.  Possibly a predecessor to organizations such as AAA?

Bicycles were also responsible for new inventions such as specialized lights, shoes, and even cameras.  One of the most famous of inventions was the Bike Web, by Charles Bennett.  Mr. Bennett invented the Bike Web to provide comfort and support for bicyclists riding on the cobblestone streets of Boston.  Mr. Bennett’s company later became known as the Bike Company, who is still today’s market leader in, you guessed it, Jockstraps.

There were also a few major social impacts.  When doctors realized the health benefits off bicycling and encourage its use, many women who were once “Straight Laced” and bound by Corsets became “Loose”.  In fact, women suffrage leader Susan B. Anthony said that the bicycle did more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.  The bike also had an influence on rural communities and gave residents the ability to travel to neighboring communities and avoid having to marry their cousins.  Geneticists have said that the most important event in recent human evolution was the invention of the bicycle.

Bicycles are truly an engineering marvel.  It can support over ten times its weight and its design works as if an extension to the human body.  It makes cyclists thermodynamically more efficient than any animal or machine.  The addition of wind fairings makes the bicycle capable of exceeding the speed of a cheetah, the world’s fastest land animal.  Additionally, cyclists get the equivalent of 1100mpg, not too shabby.

If the last century is any indicator, then the bicycle industry will continue to have a major impact on both social and economic facets of our society.  As for me, I’m just going to keep pedaling and try not to hit that……doh!