Why I Didn’t Run in Hawai’i (part three, the final part)

Hawaiian Islands

Hawaiian Islands

We finished our boat tour of the lava flow into the ocean, full of awe at the spectacle of being so close to flowing melted rock.  Rather than head back to Kona, which would be a two hour drive, then return again the next morning, we decided to spend the night at a bed and breakfast close to Volcano National Park, which would be our next big adventure on the big island.  This also meant skipping the Saturday morning run with the Big Island Running Company, which I had planned to do before realizing how tightly packed our itinerary would be once we got here.

We stayed overnight at the Aloha Crater Lodge, in Volcano Village, close to the entrance to Volcano National Park.  This is a small Bed and Breakfast in a converted house within the rain forest, with very reasonable rates.  They have five rooms, each with room for three to four occupants, and the breakfast is provided in-room, with a coffee maker and a small refrigerator stocked with milk, juice, cereal and fruit.  Being in the rain forest as it is, the room was very humid, but the bed was nice and comfortable.  Close to the lodge there is a lava tube, which is a large cave-like tunnel created by the flow of lava.  They give tours daily of the lava tube, but we decided not to participate, since we would be seeing the same thing on our bike tour of the national park.

Aloha Crater Lodge

Aloha Crater Lodge

We arranged for a tour of Volcano National Park with BikeVolcano.com, a company which offers several different bicycle tours of the park, although not every tour every day.  They require a minimum number of people signed up to do a tour, and one needs to sign up at least 48 hours in advance.  They also will ride rain or shine, since it rains often on this side of the island.  We were able to sign up for their shorter tour, although we really wanted the longer one.

Like any other national park, there is a nominal fee to enter.  We drove up to the visitors center, and had some time before our tour started to look at the exhibits and browse the gift shop.  Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park extends from the summit of Mauna Loa to the sea, with Kilauea being the active volcano.  Our bike tour company pulled up with their trailer to the parking lot.

Jaggar_sign_crop688

Photo obtained from national park service web site.

Naturally, the first order of business was for all the participants to sign a waver saying we wouldn’t hold them responsible if we fell into a volcano, or any other mishap.  We were driven up to the Jagger Museum, where we would see the giant caldera of Kilauea, which has its own name, the Halema’uma’u crater.  Thomas Jaggar was an M.I.T. geologist who started the study of volcanoes scientifically here in 1912, in response to the eruption of Mt. Etna in Italy in 1908, which claimed 125,000 lives.  The caldera is very wide, and has an enormous pool of lava churning in a central pit.  There is an impressive time-lapse video on the park website of the glow from Halema’uma’u as the sun sets, revealing the glow from the central lava lake.

vapors from Halema'uma'u

Vapors coming from the central pit of Halema’uma’u crater

At the Jaggar museum, overlooking the Kilauea caldera.

At the Jaggar museum, overlooking the Kilauea caldera.

Along the edge of the caldera is a hiking trail.  The tiny white dot in the photo is a sign warning hikers to not go off the trail.

Along the edge of the caldera is a hiking trail. The tiny white dot in the photo is a sign warning hikers to not go off the trail.

We had some time to peruse the exhibits on volcanology at the Jaggar Museum, learning about the difference between a shield type vs. a cone type of volcano, how volcano activity is monitored, how geologists collect lava samples (which can be tricky, and dangerous as we saw), and what makes up the airborne emissions from volcanoes  We were then directed to the parking lot and were assigned a bike.  The bikes were Sedona hybrid bikes, made by Giant.  They were adjustable to match our own frames, did not have toe clips, and were equipped with three front rings and seven gears in the rear.  They were set to the second ring in front, and their was a briefing from the tour guide regarding how to shift.  We would be riding on paths and roads around the park, and there were a few hills involved.  We got a chance to practice riding around in the parking lot before we set out.  Our guide was well equipped to give us our tour, as he was a graduate with a geology degree, and he had a special interest in volcanoes.  He also seemed to be very laid back, with long hair and a bright, easy-going demeanor.

Our guide in red, and fellow cyclists at one of the stops.

Our guide in red, and fellow cyclists at one of the stops.

We were taken by steam vents, down old roads partially destroyed by lava flows, and to other crater formations within the park.  One particularly interesting phenomenon is the lava tube.  These are long cave-like channels through the ground which are conduits for flowing lava.  They can be a few hundred yards long, or several miles.  They provide insulation for the flowing lava so it remains molten as it travels through the tube, eventually draining their contents out onto a lava field or into the ocean.  One of the most famous of these is the Thurston lava tube, named after the Honolulu newspaper owner who helped Jagger get his start studying volcanos, and who personally discovered this tube.

Looking into the Thurston Lava Tube.  Note the flat floor, from cooled lava, and the lava level marks on the side walls.

Looking into the Thurston Lava Tube. Note the flat floor, from cooled lava, and the lava level marks on the side walls.

We walked through a portion of this tube, about 100 yards, and exited up through a vent whole.   It is located within dense jungle growth, with steep crevices and sharp rocks all around.  We were told this tube goes on farther, but that section is closed to the public.  A side crater of Kilauea, Pu’u O’o, is the source of the lave we watched flow into the ocean, and it travels there through tubes like this one.

Typical of the ground around the lava tube, it is all crevices and rock with jungle-like overgrowth.

Typical of the ground around the lava tube, it is all crevices and rock with jungle-like overgrowth.

Discovering this lava tube originally would have taken some fearless exploration.  We also cycled to see a steam vent, where steam, not lava vapors, were coming up through a crevice in the ground.  Unlike the vapors from the lava, which contain all sorts of harmful airborne particles and gasses, this steam was just water vapor.  Interestingly, many people treated this crack in the earth like a fountain, and threw coins into it, I suppose, to curry favor with Pélé, the goddess of volcanoes, whose home is Kilauea.  It is considered tabu and a serious crime against Pélé to take anything such as volcanic rock away from Hawai’i.  A popular story told to us tourists is that the main post office in Hilo has a collection of rocks sent back by visitors who took them away, then suffered Pélé’s wrath.

We finished our tour on bikes looking at several other impressive craters, such as the “Ever-Smoking” Crater, with its numerous vents of smoke rising, and the Kilauea Iki crater, near the main caldera of Kilauea, where an eruption in 1959 reach heights of 580 meters (1900 feet) occurred.  A USGS film documenting the eruption was made, and is available in four parts on YouTube.

At a stop along the way, on our bike tour of the Hawaiian Volcano National Park

At a stop along the way, on our bike tour of the Hawaiian Volcano National Park

After finishing our bike tour, we headed back to the gift shop, naturally, where I picked up a refrigerator magnet showing lava flowing into the ocean, and a book on volcanoes, called “Volcano Watching, Revised 2010 Edition”.  It is short, but filled with well-written explanations about the science of volcanoes.  We then headed back to our car for the two hour drive back to Kona, along the southern perimeter of Hawai’i.  We stopped for lunch at a well known bakery and restaurant called Punalu’u Bake Shop.  It is known for its sweet breads, and for excellent sandwiches.  We also stopped along the road at an old cemetery, which had grave stones present from the late 1800’s forward.  The grave sites were notable for many above ground or partially buried stone containers of the caskets, presumably due to the difficulty of digging into rock.  Since there were a number of family members visiting relative’s graves here I did not take any photos.

Arriving back in Kona, we went to our hotel, for a bit of rest before our repeat trip to see the amazing dancing manta rays.  Sea Paradise, our manta ray tour company, has a guarantee (with asterisk) which states one gets a second opportunity for no extra charge if manta rays are not seen.  We were determined not to allow the letdown of the first trip discourage us.  Again, we headed back to the check-in office to sign the usual release forms, and to get our wet suits.  We then drove back to Keauhou Bay, waiting for the boat to load.  We had a beautiful sunset and also watched canoe racers practicing turns around a buoy.

Canoe racers practicing in Keauhou Bay.

Canoe racers practicing in Keauhou Bay.

The drill getting into the boat was the same as last time.  We had to take off our footwear and place them in a container before boarding the boat.  We had a different crew this time, but they were just as energetic and confident as the last crew.  The captain, a young handsome guy who appeared to really enjoy his job, was back at the helm.  As we motored out to the viewing area, we were treated to the now familiar talk on manta rays, what they eat, how they are attracted to the plankton, and how the plankton are drawn to the lights.  We were offered tea or juice on the way out, and masks and snorkels were handed out.  Once at the viewing area, we pulled on our wet suits and prepared for the dip into the ocean.  I was a bit concerned that this would be another hour spent breathing through a snorkel in the dark, with nothing to show for it.  We marched down the ladder into the ocean, Kathleen and I, along with about twenty five other people.  This time, I was stationed at the end of the long floating device with the attached lights, next to one of the crew at the very end who helped keep the float in the proper spot.  I started my vigil.  Yes, the plankton, true to their nature, were amassing under the light.  I could see some fish swimming around in the deeper water, and under them were large lava rocks.  Time was passing.  Not wanting to miss the first glimpse of the undersea marvels, I kept my head down, listening to my breathing sounds as my breath passed through the tube.  One becomes consciously aware of one’s breathing in this setting, and instead of it being automatic, one starts to think about it.  I found myself needing to actively initiate inhalation, then exhalation.  Still, the plankton swam about but no manta showed his or her wide wings.  The crew had moved the barge around to the front of the boat, perhaps hoping, as I sometimes do while fishing, that by changing location we’ll get lucky.  I started to look for ways to distract myself, since I was getting cold, and my right shoulder, injured the week before in a fall in San Diego, was starting to hurt.    I started to name the plankton.  There’s Susie, Fred and George, there goes Samantha and Robert, and look, it’s Kealea and Hunahuna, native Hawai’ian plankton.  I followed the path of my little friends as they swirled and scurried about.  I noticed people had left their posts at the barge, and had made their way back to the boat.  Apparently, I was one of the last to hold out hope of seeing a manta that night, along with Kathleen, who, no doubt, was also determined not to give up.  The two of us, though, came to the same conclusion, no mantas tonight.  We swam around to the stern, but as we swam we noticed, no, not mantas, but a huge school of needle fish which were swimming all around us right at the surface of the water.  They made the trip worthwhile.  They have iridescent colors, swim within inches of one’s face and arms, but never come in contact.  They were quite a marvel, and we stayed in the water a bit longer to enjoy them.  We then got back in the boat, stripped off our wetsuits, gave back our masks and snorkels, and sat down for the return to the dock.  The hot cocoa provided on the boat was very welcome, as I was shivering.  We were disappointed, but not overly so.  Again, you can’t command these creatures, you can only try to lure them, and I know our crew did the best they could for us.  After getting back to our car and changing back to clothes, we drove back to our hotel.

The following morning was our last in Hawai’i.  Unlike many trips, the flight out doesn’t leave until late, in our case, 10:00 PM.  So we still had a full day to enjoy just wandering around Kona, not needing to get anywhere.  Kathleen got her henna tattoo freshened up.  I went for a swim in the cove in front of our hotel, with a rented mask, which cost only $5 at the beach side equipment rental.  I saw myriad numbers of incredibly colored fish, with patterns one might think were made up by Dr. Seuss.  In the afternoon, we went looking for a bookstore, the Kona Bay Bookstore, which was difficult to find by walking, as it was tucked into a semi-industrial area, as we later found.  Instead, we found ourselves at the Kona Brewing Company, where they give tours of their brewery and a free beer tasting.  The last tour that day was at 3:00 PM, and they had two spots left.  We signed up.  The brewery, which was started as a very small operation by a father and son in 1995, has grown to major proportions.  The brewery in Kona now only produces kegs, no bottled beer, and distributes it only to the other Hawai’ian islands.  They also sell beer for growlers (two liter bottles one brings to get filled) at their brewery and there is a restaurant on premises, which looked very busy while we were there.  They have partnered with breweries in Oregon, Washington and New Hampshire to produce the beer in bottles sold in the U.S. mainland and other countries.  After our tour, our group sat around two large round tables in the restaurant.  Fortunately, the tables had umbrellas, since it was raining, although we hardly noticed.  We had a great afternoon, sampling five of their various brews including a coffee stout made with Kona coffee, and chatting with our other tour mates.

Across from our hotel, the start and finish of the Kona Ironman Triathlon Championships.

Across from our hotel, the start and finish of the Kona Ironman Triathlon Championships.

Hawai’i has attracted numerous famous visitors, from all over the world.  Mark Twain traveled as a correspondent to Hawai’i, known then as the Sandwich Islands to non-Hawai’ians, and recorded his thoughts in letters back to the mainland.  Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson, Amelia Earhart, and I’m sure, many other famous people, in the era before modern airfare (not to dismiss Amelia Earhart’s accomplishments), traveled the long journey by steamship to visit the Hawai’ian Islands.  Today, it is still a long trip to get here, but definitely worth the effort.

We left Hawai’i that night, having had an incredible adventure and a lot of fun.  I would enjoy going back to do many of the things we didn’t get to do on this trip, such as see sea turtles, do some volcano hiking, and maybe, just maybe, see a manta ray.  I also might go for a few more runs on my return.  We found the local people of Hawai’i to be very friendly and helpful, and they take very seriously the ecology and care of their island.

Aloha Nō!

Hawai'ian sunset, Keauhou Bay.

Hawai’ian sunset, Keauhou Bay.

Rudolph’s Red Nose Ale, the tasting

For those of you following my blog, you may be aware I put together a Christmas Ale I named “Rudolph’s Red Nose Ale“.  This was a play on words, since I designed it to be a Christmas spiced ale, but with a red tint and styled after Belgian Christmas ales.  It’s not a typical Belgian Red Ale, in that it is not aged in wood, and so doesn’t have the sour characteristic of that style, but it comes fairly close.  The red color comes from a certain type of “crystal” malt, Caramel 80, which gives the beer a slightly sweet flavor and brick red color.  The Belgian Abbey yeast was used to give it a fruity flavor, not too pronounced, but not requiring the actual addition of fruit.  The hops were meant to be in the background, providing bitterness and a bit of aromatic hop flavor, but this is a malty brew and so not meant to taste hoppy like an IPA.  So starting from this:

IMG_1836a

Partial Mash for Rudolph’s Red Nose Ale

We made it to this:

A Bottle of Rudolph's Red Nose Ale

A Bottle of Rudolph’s Red Nose Ale

The label was cleverly created by my daughter Katie, who seems to have a knack for design.

In the glass:

Glass of Rudolph's Red Nose Ale

Glass of Rudolph’s Red Nose Ale

The pour was very nice, a bit underwhelming for the head, which was thinner than I was expecting.  The final alcohol content was 7.35 % ABV, which is around where I was shooting, and appropriate for a Christmas Ale meant to dull the abrasive edges of family get-togethers.  It has a nice slightly fruity and slightly sweet taste, and the spices are also there but in the background.  Reading further, I could have added spices to the secondary fermentation to make them more pronounced, but alas, didn’t think of this or know I could until after it was already bottled.  It’s part of the learning process.  I like the way the reddish hue comes through.

It got a true test on New Year’s Eve.  A group of about fifteen from my running club went for a late afternoon run, then gathered at my house for a pre-New Year’s Eve celebration.  We had a real fire going in the fireplace, and a warm spinach and feta dip accompanied by thin slices of crusty french bread.  There were clementine oranges and some Manchego cheese.  Many of the gathered runners sampled the Rudolph’s, and reports from this discerning crowd were very favorable.

So now I have a great brew to keep me warm the next couple of months, while I come up with a recipe for a spring beer.

Frank

Rudolph’s Red Nose Ale

“To alcohol!  The cause of–and solution to–of all of life’s problems”  Homer Simpson

I did a quick check on Google, asking the question, “Why do runners like beer?”  Not too surprisingly, there are plenty of comments, articles and pseudo-scientific research about how running and beer go together.  There is an entry in a Runner’s World forum asking why runners like Craft (Craft is capitalized in the entry) beers more than the general populace.  This query, posted in March, 2012, got answers ranging from “that’s because runners are snobs” (I’m paraphrasing here), to runners are craft beer fans who like the quality over the Bud/Miller/Coors brews.  There were a few comments on why Michelob Ultra might be marketed to athletes, or at least, to sedentary slugs who see drinking that beer as a first step towards fitness.  Little mention though, at least in the first several pages of hits on Google, on home brewing and running.  So, that’s where I step in.

Last spring I made a beer of my own recipe which I called “Long Run Ale”.  The idea was to make a beer dedicated to my running friends about to run the Boston Marathon.  In order to make it special for runners, I investigated how to make home-made energy gel.  It turned out that two primary ingredients were honey and molasses.  I made the brew as a very hoppy American pale ale, with Cascade and Willamette hops, and honey and molasses as part of the sugar source.  It turned out it was a real hit.  My running friends loved it.

When I wanted to make a Christmas Spiced Ale this winter, I decided to include the “Gu” in the recipe in order to keep it runner oriented.  Not that including honey and molasses makes it sweet.  The yeast convert all the sugar to alcohol and CO2, and the honey and molasses add to the color and impart a bit of flavor.  This is my version of a Christmas or Winter seasonal ale.  It is a partial mash recipe, which means part of the sugar for fermenting comes directly from steeped grains, and partly from malt extract.

Partial Mash:

  • Belgian 2-Row Pale Malt  5 lbs.
  • Caramel 80    0.5 lbs. (for the red color)

Boil 60 minutes

  • Grain extract from partial mash
  • Amber Dry Malt Extract   4 lbs
  • Honey  1 lb
  • Molasses  0.5 lbs
  • Spices:  Nutmeg, Ginger and Clove (I intended to use Allspice, too, but the stores were all out, every one I tried).

Hops:

  • Centennial                0.5 oz. at 60 min.
  • Northern Brewer     0.5 oz. at 30 min.
  • Sterling                      0.5 oz. at 10 min.

Yeast:  Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey

The first step in the brewing is the partial mash. The crushed Belgian 2-Row malt and the Crystal malt are put in a nylon bag and suspended in water heated to 154 degrees Fahrenheit. This extracts the sugar from the crushed grain, dissolving it in the water. The grain is then sparged (rinsed) a couple of times with hot water to extract as much sugar as possible. The grains are then discarded, although they can be saved and used as an addition to bread, for animal feed, or as mulch.

Malted crushed barley

Combined and crushed malted barley and caramel 80 grains.

Partial Mash

The crushed grains being steeped in 154º F water for one hour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sweet liquid which is left is called the wort, not yet beer, but that is its destiny.  Water is added to bring the volume to about 2.5 gallons, and the wort is brought to a boil.  The additional malt extract, which is sugar extracted from malted grain, just like in the mash, above, but prepared and pre-packaged either in liquid (LME) or dry (DME) form, is added to the boil.  Now, all the wort needs is the hops.  Hops are a wonderful aromatic flower which grows on vines, and add bitterness and aroma to beer.  Hops added early in the boil are the bittering hops, in the middle, flavoring, and those added at the end are the aromatic hops.

Wort on the stove.

The wort is boiled and the hops added according to a time schedule.

Once the boil is finished, the wort must be cooled to approximately 70 degrees F as quickly as possible.  There is equipment for this, but I use a very basic method known as putting the brew pot in the sink and swirling cold water around it.  It takes about 30 minutes to bring the temperature down this way.

Brew pot being cooled with cold water.

At the end of the boil, the wort is chilled as quickly as possible to 70ºF.

After the wort is chilled to room temperature, it is ready to pour in to the fermenter.  This is done fairly vigorously, to aerate the wort in preparation for the yeast.  Water is added to bring the volume up to five gallons, and the mix is again aerated to supply oxygen.  Also, a measurement of the specific gravity of the wort is taken, which will be used later to estimate the percent alcohol in the beer.  For this recipe, the O.G. (original gravity) was 1.066.

Package of yeast

The yeast comes packaged with nutrients, and is activated before adding to the fermenter.

Then comes the almost ceremonial “pitching” of the yeast.  This is truly how the magic happens.  In the days before the microscope, beer was made with barley, water and hops (or other spices before hops were used).  The yeast was there, but no one knew it.  Then, Louis Pasteur discovered what was happening at the microbe level.  Now, we have the remarkable choice of numerous strains of yeast, each with their own behavior, which is how beers get certain fruity, spicy or caramel flavors, achieve higher alcohol levels if provided enough sugar from the malt, and may also contribute undesirable flavors.  I chose this particular yeast because it is often used for Belgian style spiced seasonal ales.  Once the yeast is pitched in, the fermenter carboy is sealed with a lid with an escape airlock.  As the yeast go to work, producing alcohol, carbon dioxide is also created which is released through the airlock.  It takes a day or so for the yeast to start converting the sugar to alcohol, and there is nothing more satisfying at this stage than seeing the bubbles merrily making their way through the air lock.  Ales are fermented between 65 and 75 degrees F.  Lagers are fermented at lower temperatures (45-55 degrees F) for longer times (weeks to months) using yeast which are active at those temperatures.

Fermenter.

The fermenter, with lid on and airlock up and ready.

There’s nothing left to do at this point except wait for those marvelous little yeasts to do their job.  After about a week, the beer is transferred, this time with a siphon to prevent aeration, to a secondary fermenter.  The first week is for the major conversion of sugar to alcohol.  The secondary phase is for conditioning, when the yeast are still active, but taking on more complex sugars and initial byproducts of fermentation.

After another week or two in the secondary fermenter, the beer is ready to be bottled.  Bottling day can be busy.  One needs all the bottles cleaned, sterilized and ready to go.  The bottling equipment, including a bottling carboy, siphon and tubing, bottle filler and tubing, and bottle caps all need sterilizing.  I find the first step in this process is to pour a homebrew from the last batch, and then set about tackling all these steps.

Bottle of beer and glass.

A bottle of my last brew, a German Hefeweizen.

IMG_1895

Nice head, nice color, this should augment the bottling day activities nicely.

Bottling is best done with a helper.  It is possible to do it by yourself, but a whole lot tougher, and it is not easy to keep all those parts I mentioned clean and sterile without an extra pair of hands.

The beer is decanted into the carboy used for bottling, which has a spigot at the bottom, and doesn’t require a lid.  Priming sugar, which has been dissolved in boiling water to sterilize it, then cooled, is added to the mix.  This provides the additional amount of sugar needed to allow carbonation to occur in the bottle.  The yeast are still there, and will convert this small amount of sugar to additional alcohol and carbon dioxide, not enough to change the alcohol content significantly, and just enough to provide carbonation in the sealed bottle.  Many tales of exploding bottles are told by home brewers of their early attempts at getting this right.  The amount of sugar needed is readily available in homebrewing books and online.  A final gravity (F.G.) measurement is taken, with my brew having a F.G. of 1.010, which indicates the yeast did their job.  This should be about 7.3 percent A.B.V.   The spigot is then opened and the bottling begins.

Filling the bottles

Filling the bottles takes a bit of concentration and assistance.

Finally, the bottles need to be capped.  My son and I worked together on this, with him holding the bottles so they wouldn’t tilt, and with me working the capping device.

Bottle capping.

Capping the bottles.

The yield from five gallons of beer is about 50 twelve ounce bottles, plus or minus a bottle.  We eked out forty eight and three quarters.  The beer is now ready to be bottle conditioned, which means storing it in the cellar for about four weeks.

Two cases of beer.

The beer is in the bottles, and they are capped and ready to go to the cellar.

IMG_1901

On the shelf in the basement, they will sit and condition, adding flavor and carbonation over the next several weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At this stage I just need to forget they are down in the cellar, and let the weeks roll by.  While I can get an idea of how the finished product will taste, from various whiffs and sips of the dregs, I won’t really know the outcome until it is ready to drink.  We’ll probably uncap a bottle at Christmas time, since the family will be around, but it will be a bit early yet.  Also, higher alcohol beers like this can use a much longer bottle conditioning time before they reach their best flavor, mouth feel and overall presentation.  It is mentioned, the time a homebrew is ready to drink is when you are opening the last remaining bottle from the batch.

Is beer good for runners?  That’s not an easy question to answer.  I do believe in the relaxing and socializing qualities of beer, and nearly all of my running friends like it.  It turns out Ben Franklin was speaking of wine, not beer, in the quote attributed to him about how god loves us and wants us to be happy, but it applies to beer, too.   Pro-temperance zealots have their own reasons for disliking all alcohol, and some trainers will come out strongly against it for their athletes.  On the other hand, there is tremendous support in the running community for beer.  It’s freely distributed at the end of many marathons.  The international group known as the Hash House Harriers is based on the combination of beer and running, and they admit that they are a drinking club with a running problem.  Our neighbor, Philadelphia, has a great group of runners known as the Fishtown Beer Runners, who hold weekly runs which end at the selected pub of the week.  I think the combination of running and beer is here to stay, and I couldn’t be happier.

Frank

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