CategoriesTastes

Where to Drink Sahti in Finland

I didn’t go to Finland to drink sahti. But tracking down the traditional Finnish beer made a nice side quest during our visit a few years ago. 

If you’re beer-curious and plan to visit Finland, here are a few reasons you should search for a snort of sahti.

sahti
Brewing a traditional sahti (photo from distantmirror.wordpress.com).

You Like Tracking Down Stuff Even Locals Don’t Know About

During my visit, Finns preferred mugs of whiz-colored lager to earthy-brown brews served in a small silver cup. It’s the stuff a Finn’s mothball-scented grandpa drinks, not the young and hip.

So you won’t find sahti flowing like wine (sorry, but I can resist a “Dumb and Dumber” reference). Be prepared to do some digging and investigating, unless there’s been a sudden hipster resurgence.

I found the Lammin Sahti Oy brand in a kitschy farm setting at Zetor near the city center. And my order surprised the bartender: I explained that trying local/regional food and drink is part of the reason I travel. I guess not many foreigners know about sahti.

You might also find sahti at Bryggeri Helsinki. 

You Like the Smell of a Forest, and Wouldn’t Mind a Taste

My first sip of sahti was like tasting liquid forest — pine, wind, cool air — thanks to its main flavoring ingredients of juniper and rye. The small pour had barely any carbonation.

sahti
Sahti – the taste of the forest in a metal cup.

The bartender served it in a silver vessel that looked like a cross between a ladle and a cup. It’s dark and has a very homebrew look to it. You brewers out there know what I mean!

Oh, it’s also about 8 percent ABV.

Because Fake Sahti Isn’t Even Close

I’ve tasted several sahti-inspired ales in the U.S., including Samuel Adams Norse Legend or Dogfish Head Sah’Tea. They’re barely distinguishable from a brown ale — boring. To be fair, the brewers don’t label them as authentic versions.

And that’s the cool thing about travel: It gives you a chance to taste things you’ll never encounter at home.

Alvar
A glimpse of the beer menu at Alvar in Turku – some fine selections, but no sahti.

You Can Brew Your Own Sahti

Live somewhere with access to juniper? Then you brew your own. This recipe is promising if a bit large; some recipes don’t scale down well, but experimentation is part of the homebrewing fun. And of course, trying the real stuff will give you a better bench mark to judge your brew. 

Also, the story that goes along with the recipe is pretty cool. It’s definitely less scientific and sterile than commercial brewers in the U.S.!

An Extra Hint

I confused a lot of bartenders by asking for "sah-tea." It’s pronounced "sock-tea," like tea brewed in a sock. You can also add a bit of gravel to the "k" syllable. Yes, this seems like a small detail. But it can make the difference in finding this elusive beverage. Some even seemed annoyed by the mispronunciation once they realized what I meant. 

 

CategoriesGear

5 Easy Tips to Eliminate Single-Use Plastic

I’m doing everything possible to kill single-use plastic water bottles since around 2010. During that time, I’ve used everything from the latest stainless-steel marvel to a gourd that I hollowed out myself during an Aboriginal Living Skills School course.

During that time — nearly 10 years — I’ve kept a considerable amount of stuff out of landfills. And I’d like to do even better. So I started thinking about ways to use fewer throwaway products.

single use plastics
Some of the reusable bottles I’ve tested over the years.

Wait: Does this even matter?

Before I go any further, I’m going to address a point people bring up: Does using less single-use plastic do any good? Well, every item you keep out of a landfill is one less thing someone needs to order and buy in the supply chain. That is a statement of intent and a data point to decision makers that says "Hey, people are using fewer disposable items. What should we do about that?" As an individual, you aren’t doing much. Collectively, you’re changing society’s habits.

It’s exactly like in the early 80s when a few people decided they would wear seatbelts or quit smoking. And see where seatbelts and smoking are today? Anyone who argues this point just doesn’t want to change their habits to do something beneficial. End of story.




OK, moving on: I’ve mentioned reusable bottles, tumblers and the like here so I won’t go into more details about that even though bottles are a huge step. But let’s have a look at the rest.

Plastic bags are inevitable. Just do more with them.

I know many of us love re-usable cloth shopping bags. But once in awhile, you’re going to forget them. I’ve given plastic shopping bags a second life by using them to scoop cat litter, transport wet gym clothes and line small trash cans.

Some people even use them as packing material when they need to ship something – a good one for you eBay/Etsy types.  

Reconsider the single-use plastic straw.

First, do you even need a straw? Probaby not. But if you do, skip the paper in addition to the single-use plastic. They get soggy in a hurry. So far, my favorite non-plastic straws have been made out of bamboo. If you want to try a bamboo straw, drop in at Peixoto Coffee in Chandler, Ariz. That’s where I saw one for the first time.

And seriously, is there anything bamboo can’t do? Straws, clothing, food for pandas, even bicycles!

Pack your own utensils.

As the dad of a 4-year-old, it’s never a bad idea for me to have a few utensils in my car. I’ve stashed a few items from REI in my backpack for spontaneous snacks and meals.

single-use plastic
Is there anything you CAN’T do with bamboo?

This is also a great habit for travel. You’ll get some good mileage from a titanium spork or even reusable plastic camp utensils. There are also plant-based alternatives out there made from corn and — of course — the wonder material that is bamboo.

Buy in bulk.

Hit the bulk foods aisle of your grocery store. Fill it up using the vessel of your choice — Tupperware, re-used shopping bags or a decent cloth bag. (NOTE: My wife is way better than this than I am, and I’m noting this to give proper credit.)

There’s a huge chunk of packing material you’ll keep out of the landfill. A helluva lot less plastic and paper.  

Go easy on yourself in reducing single-use plastic.

These are just a few options. And give yourself permission not to be perfect. You’ll run into all sorts of situations where you fall short for one reason or another. But try to have more wins than losses and you break the single-use plastic habit.

What would you add to the list?

CategoriesGear

How To: Choose A Cooler For The Outdoors 

If you are an outdoor type of person that loves going on trips, then you must have a cooler. If you don’t, then you are in big trouble! Fortunately for you, you still have time to solve this issue. In this article, you will read about backpack coolers and how they can change your traveler’s life. Just stick around and you will learn plenty of information about the world of outdoor cold storage.  

coolers
A look at one of the soft coolers available at bestcooler.reviews. (image courtesy of bestcooler.reviews)

How many types of outdoors coolers there are? 

Right now, there are three main types: basic, soft-side, and heavy-duty. You may find other types like disposable (Styrofoam boxes) and ice-less, but we will skip them because they are not useful at storing food and drinks at camp. Here is what you need to know about the basic three types:  

  1. Basic coolers: These have relatively minimal insulation and they only partially seal around the lid. Try not to tip them over as you will cause a mess. Also, these have a great price tag at most hardware stores.
  2. Soft-side coolers: These are a little more specialized for weight-conscious consumers but they tend to have a lesser insulation.
  3. Heavy-duty coolers: This is a freshly new category. They have very thick insulation, locking lids, and tight seals which makes them ideal for long trips and difficult conditions. However, they cost a lot more, too.

What uses can you give a cooler? 

This is a very important question to ask yourself when deciding which type of cooler you need. If you only go on long road trips a couple days each year and you might use it to store soda and beer for some birthday parties, there’s no reason to spend hundreds of dollars on a renowned cooler brand like YETI, Grizzly, or Coleman. However, bear in mind, that if you make regular long trips where you need ice for days, then you must buy a heavy-duty cooler. Furthermore, if all you need to pack for a campsite is your drinks, go for a soft-side cooler with good straps and handles. A cooler of some sort is also great for events like bike races, especially if they’re the 6, 12 or 24-hour brand of event where you need to refuel between laps.

Some coolers can get pretty fancy! (image courtesy of bestcooler.reviews)

What’s the price range like for coolers? 

Another important factor to take into consideration is your personal budget. There is marked cost difference between the three types. Basic coolers range from about $20 to $150 based on their size and features. Soft-side coolers range from an $8 insulated sack to a $400 backpack with dry bags and a flotation device that can keep its content cold for many days. Lastly, heavy-duty coolers start at $50 but they can go up to $1,300. 

Additionally, you need to add to that initial price, the cost of ice. Yes, ice doesn’t come by cheap! Especially during long trips when you may end up buying extra ice. If you have a heavy-duty cooler, you will just buy ice once during a trip. But if you get any of the other two, you might need to stop several times to get ice. 

Which is the best cooler size for outdoor trips? 

Last but not least, we need to discuss the size of the cooler. Even if you are going on a really long trip, you don’t need a 350-quart cooler. Just get a normal size cooler that can cope with your demands. For example, if you are carrying groceries and drinks with some ice, you’re looking for a cooler in the 20 to 50-quart range. When it comes to fishermen, you need a smaller cooler than that!  

cooler
Super-cool vintage cooler that’s probably way too big for outdoor use!

 The best way to determine the right size for your cooler is to plan the menu for one of your typical trips. Buy all the food and drinks, then stack it all and measure the pile. Calculate a ratio of 2:1 (food-ice) for trips longer than two days. Once you do the math, you know which size is better for you.   

Take a closer look at these tips when choosing your cooler. Remember that it is very important not to get carried away when buying a cooler. You really don’t want to buy a heavy duty when in fact you need a basic cooler. All considered, it is not worth it. Follow the instructions to determine which type of cooler will satisfy all your needs. 

 This is a contributed sponsored post that contains a link to bestcooler.reviews.

CategoriesGear

Gravel Bike Versus Road Bike

A few years ago when the gravel bike trend was starting to take off, one of my local Wise Veteran Riders sniffed "I can do all that stuff on my road bike."

Great. Maybe he can hop off the pavement on his road bike and hit some singletrack. But not all of us can plow through loose gravel on 25C tires pumped to 110 PSI without winding up on our heads. 

I see his point, though. Many of us cyclists are too quick to buy new stuff when we can re-purpose old gear. Here’s how to figure out once and for all the Gravel Bike Versus Road Bike conundrum.

Your Road Bike is Really Old

My road bike was a 1999 Lemond Zurich. Beautiful Reynolds 853 tubes welded in the US. Smooth riding. Strong. Relatively light.

lemond zurich gravel bike versus road bike
My Lemond Zurich before repaint and reassembly.

But I got my money’s worth out of it. So if you have 10 or more years on your road bike, maybe it’s time to treat yourself. There’s nothing wrong with that. 

Your Road Bike Can’t Fit Bigger Tires

Age plays into the tire clearance question, as well. My Zurich had rim brakes, so that limited the size of tires I could jam in there. 28c, tops. 

gravel bike versus road bike

Most gravel bikes are rolling 32c and up. I trained on 40c tires from April to November before I popped on a set of 30s for El Tour de Tucson (where I broke my previous record by 30 minutes).

Enormous gravel tires will slow you down if you’re riding on the road most of the time. Don’t worry — ride ’em until they’re worn out, and replace them with skinnier gravel tires in the 30-32c range.

You Want Disc Brakes

I love the disc brakes on my mountain bike. And there are times on long descents when my old rim brakes felt more like I was melting the pads than actually slowing my roll.




Adding discs to a frame like my Zurich would’ve been possible, but not cost effective. I’d have to strip the components and paint, turn it over to a welder, repaint it and then rebuild.

gravel bike versus road bike
In 2018, I set my PR on a gravel bike at El Tour De Tucson.

You Want Stable Handling

For stability, there’s no question about gravel bike versus road bike. When I plow into softer or rockier ground, my Lynskey Urbano doesn’t twitch thanks to its relaxed cyclocross geometry. Lemond made road bikes with steep road-racing angles, and they never fared well on soft or loose surfaces. 

Do some number-crunching over geometry. Wheelbase and standover will reveal quite a bit about how a bike will fit you if you can’t test ride.

Still Want to Convert Your Road Bike? Do This.

Go Tubeless: Tubeless tires are way better at shrugging off flats when use them with sealant. Pluck the thorn or other foreign object out, spin it and add more air. Done.

Schwalbe G-One Tubeless Gravel Tire gravel bike versus road bike
This is a super-awesome gravel tire mounted on a set of tubeless rims.

Get a Flared Drop Bar: A flared drop bar will make you way more comfortable. I was amazed at how much better I felt on long rides, even when I never left the pavement. In fact, I’d say most road riders should consider one.

Bigger Tires, Lower Pressure: Jam on the biggest tire you can, and take some pressure out of it. Drop 20 PSI from your usual pressure and see how it goes. Experiment a bit.

 

CategoriesGearfeatured

This is a huge electric vehicle charging problem. Here’s how to fix it.

It’s easy to ignore a problem that you can’t see. People who live in the Phoenix area can’t deny the brown cloud that sometimes — too often — settles over the Valley. The culprit behind the brown cloud is also hard to deny: gas and diesel-powered vehicles "by a large margin," according to Scientific American.

So we can see the problem, but what can we do about it? It’s obvious. Get some of the gas and diesel vehicles off the road with electric vehicles taking their place. There are two big obstacles to getting more drivers into electric vehicles — the initial cost and figuring out where and how to charge them.

The first one is up to the auto makers. As they figure the technology out, prices will start to drop. They already have, actually. The Tesla Model Y will be unveiled tonight, and it will be the least-expensive electric SUV/CUV by a long shot. You can bet that more automakers will unveil EVs in this class.

arizona electric vehicle charging
The VW ID Buzz is a sign of EVs to come.

The second issue — where to charge — is something Arizona’s elected officials can address. But they haven’t, likely because they’re not connecting the dots.

The Overlooked Electric Vehicle Charging Problem

Here’s the shocker about charging an electric vehicle: The costs vary wildly. Putting 25 miles of charge into my car can vary from being absolutely free all the way up to about $6 at one of the Blink charging stations that have sprouted like barnacles near city and state buildings. Can you imagine the price of gas fluctuating that wildly?

The state of Arizona has no regulations governing EV charging prices. That’s nice at the free end. But at the high end, it completely kills a major incentive for getting out of a gas/diesel vehicle and into an electric vehicle.

Arizona’s Electric Vehicle Charging Costs are a Mess

The ubiquitous Blink network charges members 4 cents per minute to charge. That’s $2.40 per hour, which usually gets me about 15 miles of charge. That costs more than the average price of gas per mile for my old Subaru — at the current $2.23 per gallon, I’d go about 25 miles in the Subaru. Considering that even a less-efficient electric vehicle like my Toyota RAV 4 EV gets the equivalent of 77 mpg, Blink makes it more expensive to operate a cleaner vehicle.

Arizona electric vehicle charging
An old-generation Nissan LEAF getting some electrons.

Charging at home is your cheapest option. You’ll need an EVSE (aka ev charger), a 110-volt adapter and possibly a 240-volt connection if you want to charge faster. But we still need options away from home, and they need to be priced consistently.

Why Arizona’s Electric Vehicle Charging Prices are All Over the Place

Arizona doesn’t have kilowatt-hour pricing like some states. That allows networks like Blink to set any price per minute that they like. For some reason, cities like Phoenix and Chandler along with educational institutions like Arizona State University have contracts with Blink, despite its high prices (and reputation for unreliable charging). In states with kilowatt-hour pricing, Blink prices still tower over the average cost per kilowatt hour; sure, Blink should be allowed to profit for their services. But in California, the average price per kilowatt hour is 15.2 cents, while Blink charges 49 cents per kWh. I wonder what the utilities who actually provide the power think of Blink’s markup.

In Arizona, the average kWh cost is 11.1 cents. Blink’s charging costs about 48 cents per kWh (based on a charging cost of $2.40 per hour, which gets you about 5 kWh of power). It’s clear that charging at a Blink station costs more gasoline, based on the average mpg of gas-powered cars. Another comparison: gas stations average about 5 cents per gallon in profit. That would be like Blink charging 53 cents per hour rather than $2.40 (based on my RAV 4’s 77 empg, 40 kWh battery, charging speed and kWh price for SRP). Put another way, if gas stations marked up at the same rate, your gallon of gas would cost $10.09 per gallon (based on $2.23 per gallon of gas).

arizona electric vehicle charging
Signs like this get ignored way too often. (photo by Mariordo, aka Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz)

Sidebar: Are EVs Cleaner?

EVs have their doubters -- people who ask "are EVs really cleaner?"

Some will even recite talking points about rare-earth minerals (which are not actually that rare) used in batteries, and the environmental cost of manufacturing the batteries. People who raise these issues would like to believe that gas-powered vehicles and their fuel are made from unicorn milk that somehow has no environmental damage.

But hey, as it turns out, the Union of Concerned Scientists has addressed their questions with a very conservative "cradle to grave" analysis comparing EVs to ICE (internal combustion engine) cars. The results are conclusive: EVs are cleaner, especially as electricity grids get cleaner.

I’d also add that areas like Phoenix particularly need EVs. If vehicle emissions are the main source of our air pollution, we must put more of them on the road (I also favor more mass transit options, but that’s a topic for another time).

Fix the EV Charging Problem, Fix the Brown Cloud

If Arizona’s elected officials want to clear up the air, they need to encourage more people to drive electric vehicles. That means preventing networks from gouging customers, especially since the networks don’t even produce the power.

The clear solution: Craft legislation that sets kilowatt-hour pricing, and caps it at a reasonable level. Put it on a level playing field with gas — which is also heavily subsidized, which will ignore for the moment — and electricity wins every.single.time. This will help put more EVs on the road, which will, in turn, fix the brown cloud.

Arizona could offer more incentives to buy electric vehicles. Cities could also do more to ensure that gas and diesel vehicles don’t block charging stations. But those are issues for another post. Fixing the pricing problem helps the consumer/driver without costing the state, cities or residents money.