Sunday, July 15, 2007

Racing, Utica Style!

If there are two things in this world that could rightfully be considered to be mutually exclusive (if not diametrically opposed), it would be the consumption of decent beer and morning road races. Yet, once a year, in the beautiful city of Utica, New York, the two converge in a beautiful miasma of athleticism and beer known as the Boilermaker.

The Boilermaker is one of Utica's biggest events; additionally, it's one of the largest 15k (that is approximately 9.3 miles, for our American readers) road-races in the country, and habitually brings in some of the best distance runners in the country. Prior to the kickoff of the 15k race, there's a smaller, fitness-oriented 5k race (3.1 miles). I had signed up for the race earlier in the spring with the thought of using it as an impetus for fitness, as I've been wont to do over the past few years. Unfortunately, a knee injury (sustained on the stairs of Beerjanglin's Schenectady headquarters) precluded this from happening; I did, however, head out to Utica last weekend to take in the sights and sounds of the Boilermaker (as well as to provide some vocal support for Mr. and Mrs. Sailorman, longtime friends who were running).

I arrived in downtown Utica at about 8 am. Sadly, by the time I ascertained parking for my trusty Mercury Mystique, I'd missed the conclusion of the 5k race. I met up with Mr. and Mrs. Sailorman in the courtyard of the FX Matt Brewery. The FX Matt Brewery? That's right. The race concludes under the auspices of the FX Matt Brewery, and the post-race party occurs in the brewery's spacious courtyard.

I can't say I had too many expectations for the brewery (I'd never been, believe it or not), but I had hoped that I could get in to a tasting room, perhaps get a growler fill of one of Saranac's tastier summer beers, or some Brooklyn - for which FX Matt does a good amount of contract brewing - or even a a smooth, refreshing draft of super-fresh Utica Club pilsener. However, the number of people in the courtyard precluded this from happening (I would conservatively estimate, by 10 am, the presence of about 5,000 people). On the upside, the brewery (unsurprisingly, one of the major sponsors of the Boilermaker) provided an unlimited number of complimentary drafts - from a number of beer trucks - of their Pomegranite Wheat beer. Which was tremendously refreshing; if you're going to be drinking a brew in the mid-morning, a dash of antioxidant-rich fruit in an ice-cold unfiltered wheat beer is not a bad thing. (We justified it to ourselves as being akin to a bowl - or three - of Special K with fruit. We're good at making justifications, by the way. It's what we do.) While not the best beer we've ever had, nor even close, it was the right beer for the right time.

Ultimately, the jury's still out on FX Matt for me - I need to get a full tour of the premises to really form an educated opinion on the brewery. That being said, it's pretty promising - the prominent "Utica Club Pilsener" sign on the roof of the brewery hints at a rich history, and the mere willingness to deliver free Pomegranite Wheats to the public allows us to have the optimism that they're moving into the future with a positive, graceful stride.

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