Tonight, we are sitting on the world’s best beer collection…

…in a hotel room.  I’m certain of it. And we’re too tired to drink it.

When I came to the States in 1999, American beer was constantly ridiculed as various forms of piss.  Who’d have thought the tables would turn to the point that Belgians and Germans are coming to the US to learn how to make beer?

Four days in the North East with two aficionados as tour guides blew my mind.  Think wine tasting with a hipster vibe.  No shortage of beards, tattoos and piercings.

First stop, Three Penny Taproom in Montpelier, VT.  Quaint downtown.  It’s raining on and off like it will do for the entire trip.  The trees are just starting to bud so they have a smoke ring of red just forming around their gray skeletons.  It’ll look completely different in two weeks. We step into one of those comfortable local joints with whitewashed walls and a collection of signs, pictures and hunting trophies that feels authentically collected and curated.  Not like one of those brand new joints where somebody had to go out and buy all this arbitrary stuff two weeks before opening to make it look like this.

At 8:30 on a Wednesday the crowd is thinning out, so we grab three open stools at the bar and introduce ourselves to Kevin. The bar has a classic comfortable wooden countertop with that delightful bevel for your elbows.  I feel at home already.

The guys are intently studying the beer menu.  The names are almost as much fun as the beers.  I start my tour right with Lawson’s Finest Sip of Sunshine, a lupulin-laden tropical, juicy, hoppy, unfiltered, smooth double IPA that I’ve learnt is an excellent example of the North East IPA style vs. the bright hop riot typical of the West Coast IPAs.  Grapefruit vs. lemon might get you half the idea.

The check ins begin.  Untappd, is a Facebook for beer drinkers to keep track of and score all they’ve sampled (both my guides make it to 1,000 on this trip.  I feel like a novice when I hit 100.)  There are now over 5,000 registered craft breweries, so keeping track of the 50,000 plus brews is not a job for human memory.

 

The elusive BackAcre’s Sour Golden Ale in it’s cradle

While we tuck into some chorizo-stuffed grilled peppers, Jake spots a rare Sour Golden Ale from Backacre Beermakers.  Kevin leans over the bar to tell us this is what those in the know are really excited about. This is beer that will change your mind about beer.  It comes in a wine bottle, is poured into tasting glasses and then lovingly rested in wicker cradle to the sediment at the bottom is not disturbed.  The nose is incredible, and the balanced sour is so refreshing after the IPA.  A worthy competitor to champagne, far more scarce and way less expensive.  At $22 for the bottle it feels like a bargain and it’s a most enjoyable companion to the TPT signature burger with the brilliant unexpected twist of peanut butter.

We climb back in the car, satiated, yet keen to get to Burlington before close.  The Farmhouse Tap and Grill allegedly had a maple-inspired event but they’re on last call.  The bartender recommends a local dive bar around the corner.  Finnigan’s Pub definitely is.  Amongst the skull stickers on the fridge is “Vermont as Fuck”.  Here I get to try the phenomenal Heady Topper.

the delicious Heady Topper

It comes in a silver can with intricate tattoo-like graphics and the all caps instructions around the rim “DON’T POUR THIS”.  Apparently the amazing mix of smells and tastes will be damaged by the act of pouring into a glass.  I sip contently, marveling that we landed barely 5 hours ago in Boston and I’m already having this much fun.

As we stagger out of the bar in the wee hours, we learn that pizza falls from the sky in VT.  A man carrying boxes asks if we want any.  Umm, hell yeah! We tear the slices apart like starving dogs who can’t believe their luck as we walk back to the hotel.

The days start pretty late.  Most tasting rooms don’t open until 12.  On holiday, I like to make room for the coming calories with some exercise before the decadence starts.  After a little more shaky than usual yoga and a bracing run on the bike path alongside Lake Champlain with dog walkers and runners I’m ready for more.

Burlington Beer Co is not actually in Burlington.  It’s in an industrial park about ten miles out of town.  Of course, everything is desolate and deserted except for this parking lot.  There’s not a lot of money in this game and there’s no need for a picturesque vineyard.  The industrial vibe sits well with the hipster aesthetic.

Stepping inside is like entering something from Ken Kesey’s Electric Cool Aid Acid Test.  Trippy music is blaring.  The server is incredibly lean (not surprisingly, many of the brewers and their clientele are hardly svelte).  He’s clad in black, with dark rimmed glasses and a beanie and a chest tattoo peeping out the top of his Henley shirt.  The brewery’s graphics are incredible, line-drawings of wizards, deers and apparitions.  The names and brews are even more creative.

We order tasters of all 12 on draft and get to sni

Samples!

ffing, swilling and checking in.  You Can’t Get Here From There (Key Lime & Kumquat), I See the Vision (Paw Paw & Dragonfruit) and the signature It’s Complicated Being A Wizard are standouts.  The smokey and sweet mushroom tacos and were welcome and unexpectedly good sustenance.

House of Fermentology does not have a tasting room.  Fortunately a few of their creations are on tap at Foam Brewers down by the lake, who are producing some outstanding drops as well.  Like Clockwork is a knockout surprise.  Rites of Spring is a tasty palate cleanser.

We score a last-minute cancellation and treat ourselves to some sophisticated farm-to-table fare at Hen of the Wood.  The rabbit liver pate is a standout amongst beef tartare and heirloom carrot with homemade ricotta starters.  We enjoy a four flight taste of bourbons and rye whiskeys another area of incredible artistry and innovation in the US.  Enjoy them while they last, we’re drinking them faster than they can age them.  Another excellent sour with our main course of pork loin and a delicious couple of desserts round out the meal.

The Growler Garage is a not so well thought out concept but we enjoy chatting with a few locals and helping them finish the antipasto plates from their office function.  In search of more beer and apparently suffering from bottomless stomachs we find ourselves drinking more beers and devouring a superb mushroom and sausage pizza at American Flatbread.  Time to stagger back to the hotel again.

Must be ready to roll by 10am.  We’re going to the world’s best brewery today.  There’s a palpable tension with sticking to the schedule because supplies are limited.  After some more unsteady yoga and a much slower run, I check out and pile into the car for the nearly 2 hour drive to Hill Farmstead.  It’s at the end of a long dirt road on top of a ridge.  There’s still snow on the ground in patches. This feels more like a winery especially with a new tasting room commanding views of the surrounding country.

We arrive ten minutes before 12 and there’s already a line of cars and people assembling their coolers.  You can’t buy these bottles online, so you have to be here to get this golden nectar.  Sean Hill has been producing incredibly finely crafted Pale Ales, IPAs, sours and other exotic varieties and these patrons can’t get enough of it.  First stop is the retail store to see what’s on sale today and what’s in limited supply.  Then into the tasting room to get a number to get in line to fill bottles and start sampling to choose the two pours we will have today.

Liquor licensing in this country is a nonsensical patchwork of state regulations.  Minnesota just allowed liquor stores to open on Sundays.  In the Live Free or Die state of New Hampshire, you can only buy hard liquor from state run stores.  In this tasting room, they don’t want you getting drunk and driving on those windy hill roads, so two pours is the limit and no pours are allowed of the stronger double IPAs.  You can buy bottles to drink on site but they’re 60% more expensive than the takeaways.  Signs everywhere advise you not to open the takeaways on site.

Part of the FOMO tension is driven by this scarcity and these crazy rules.  There is an active trading market for these limited bottles and mules from all over the North East are here to pick up bottles.  The guys have trouble relaxing as they wait for their number and decide how to allocate the precious slots in their luggage to the bottles they can take home.  I just sample everything and wish my nose wasn’t blocked as I’m having trouble picking up the floral, spice and fruit notes of these beers.  There is no bad beer here. The onsite list is reminiscent of a winery with a seemingly endless list of rare bottles. It can’t be long before the best breweries start to charge for samples, much like the wineries.  There’s a constant struggle to keep this market for the everyman and somehow still cover the costs.

Unfortunately, being doubles, Abner and the Double Galaxy are not available for pours.  So I settle down with the creamy dry Pale Ale Harlan, and the wonderful wheat saison, Florence. The sours are such a welcome pallet cleanser on this trip after all the bitterness of the hops.  As we settle down and enjoy our pours and the initial opening wave thins out, we can feel calm descending. I’m struck by the mild irony of Frenchman filling a dozen bottles with American beer while his wife and kids patiently wait in a room and where the only food available is a selection of artisan cheeses.

It’s back to Waterbury to check in and visit The Alchemist’s new out of town tasting room.  It looks like a punk winery, the crowd and the graphics on the merchandise and the building cement the vision.  A black cap with a vibrant green line drawing of hops makes me realize that image has become a symbol of craft beer as iconic as the hemp leaf for cannabis.

At Alchemist they’re milking the success of Focal Banger and Heady Topper for all it’s worth.  It’s all about cranking out these cans at scale.  Locals are dropping in all the time to pick up their limited allocation.  It’ll be interesting to see how long they can stay ahead of the fierce competition.

If I lived in Waterbury I would weigh at least twenty pounds more.  The small downtown has three outstanding brewpubs and restaurants separated by about 20 paces.  We hit Prohibition Pig (Pro Pig as the locals call it) for some beers and fine barbeque. I’m thrilled to find Hill Farmstead’s Double Galaxy on tap and it goes well with some dry rubbed wings, very tasty pimento poppers with chili jam, and a good brisket with duck fat fries.

Across the road is the Craft Beer Cellar.  Just looking at the labels is entertaining.  Boom Sauce, Consolation Prize and Steal This Can crack me up.

We head across the road to The Blackback Pub (try saying that fast after a few brews). Dave stops by our table to check in and gives us some recommendations including the surprising Rodenbach’s Fruitage (raspberries and elderberries, queue Monty Python’s Holy Grail) and lets us know which local brewers he’s excited about.  Asking staff what they’re excited about is my pro trick contribution to this trip.  The nachos with bacon, blue cheese, green onions and maple syrup are so good we go back for seconds.

We unsteadily cross back across the road to The Reservoir for yet more beers.  And then we stumble back across that same road to Blackback for a final round. At this point I’ve clearly had way too much, somehow we’re eating yet more pizza and then ubering back to the hotel.  Alchemist’s Crusher crushes me and I crush the can.  Definitely time for bed.

ice cream 🙂

You can’t live like this forever.  Or even a week.  I’m a mess the next morning.  We’re right next door to Ben & Jerry’s Factory so Tom and I take the factory tour for a change of pace.  Even on a cold rainy morning the humorous graphics and community programs give you the warm and fuzzies about this institution.  A funny graphic video of their history, a guide that somehow bursts with authentic enthusiasm, and a generous sample of Milk and Cookies flavor have us back on track.

We’re heading back to Boston today.  Following up on Dave’s recommendation we stop in at River Roost Brewing in White River Junction and yak it up with the guys behind the bar and Brandon the man behind Big Fatty’s BBQ across the lot.  Big Fatty’s is awesome, with an incredible salad bar and world-class brisket, burnt ends and ribs.  Terrific selection of beers on tap and in their bottle shop.  It’s worth remembering the unplanned surprises are the so often the highlights of travel.

today’s selection

We’re all pretty tired by now so the conversation in the car is thinning out.  We’re rather pleased to finally make it to Trillium Brewing’s Canton MA location.  The lot is packed, there are cars parked everywhere.  Clearly we are in the big city now.  Inside is a noisy zoo, with opposite lines for tasting and purchases reminiscent of United Zone 1 and 2 boarding snaking across the floor and overlapping. Dogs on leash add to the chaos.  Again a two pour purchase limit.  We divide and conquer hitting both line. The beers are really, really good making all the waiting for beers and somewhere to sit worthwhile.  Vicinity, Double Dry Hopped Congress, Double Dry Hopped Summer are a juicy, cloudy, tropical collection of goodness. A decent, perhaps bit too fruity, Raspberry Soak sour to finish. Sadly, we miss out on the Fort Point Pale Ale.

After checking in at our airport hotel and dropping off the rental car we Uber over to Night Shift Brewing in Everett.  Winding through an urban wasteland we reach the industrial oasis of the brewery, and the ever-present BBQ food truck. There’s a line to get in the door! It’s a lively scene inside and we choose our beers carefully and scout for a table.  Morph, Santilli and The 87 are winners here.  Of course, I finish with another sour, the well-balanced Rickey Weisse.

With dying cell phone batteries (the scourge of the modern traveler) and flagging energy we catch an Uber back to the hotel.  There’s an amusing conversation with the driver who has recently graduated from Corona to Stella Artois and has noticed a craft brewery near his home and his thinking he should give it a try.  He can’t remember the name.  It’s something like Brewery he says.  That should narrow it down a bit we later chuckle.

Back at the hotel, it’s time to sort out what will fit and what has to be drunk that night.  Right here, right now, fresh cans and bottles of what is unquestionably now the best beer in the world are ready for consumption.  And we’re too tired to enjoy it all.  It’s time for goodbyes and half formed ideas of the next trip.  Richmond, VA anyone?

Swissalpine 2013: how the Swiss organize a major alpine race

The Swiss have beautiful mountains and brilliant organizational skills. Put those things together and you can have an incredible alpine running event.

Swissalpine 2013 was bloody hot this year (84 fahrenheit, 29 celsius) in Davos and not a whole lot colder on the top despite the odd snow patches. The premier event is K78 (just shy of a 50 miler) which is best characterized as a giant loop starting and ending in Davos,  including a 30 mile warm up followed by a brutal 5000 ft climb, a short dip, another 1000 ft climb to a peak of a nearly 9000ft and then a long 12 mile run down to the finish (starting with a precipitous 2000ft 16% descent over rocks and snow). As the Swiss are particularly precise you can see the exact km marks and elevations here

The exact K42 course profile

The exact K42 course profile

Final approach to Keschhutte - first peak

Final approach to Keschhutte – first peak

Cows on the trail!

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Amazing views up top

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Snow and rocks made for some very technical descents

Having had a ridiculously bad year I opted to downgrade to just the interesting bits via the K42 – see profile pic to right. (The longer explanation of the bad year: over eager training after Boston Qualifying (yay, can’t wait for 2014!) at the incredibly wet and windy 2012 California International Marathon last December set off some persistent left knee issues (jumper’s knee as opposed to runner’s knee) followed by a broken neck (following some ill advised yard work #hiresomeonenextime, #luckytobealive) and then my right knee felt like it was missing out and claimed to be suffering from similar symptoms to the left knee. Despite seemingly endless sports medicine, physical therapy and chiropractic appointments all was not well and preparation was far from adequate and hence K42 not K78)

Those be some big hills up ahead

 

K42 basically skips 20 miles of warm up and “just” does the last 42.2 km (yep a real marathon) of K78. Following a little 5km loop, you do the big climb, dip and descent. No Boston Qualifying times here – add about 30-50% to your current road marathon time (depending on conditions and quality of your preparation)

Coming from the SF Bay Area with a plethora of short (as in 1500-2000 ft) and occasionally vicious climbs, I thought I had some basic level of preparation but the length and steepness of the climbs was certainly both new and challenging. Lets just say there was a lot of “power hiking”

The organization was brilliant – far better than what we typically see in the US. Considering the 9 separate events and probably about 5000 participants there had to be (and I guess the entry fees could fund it).

Highlights included:
1) The amazing number of spectators dotted all over the course in even the most remote locations all clapping or cheering “hopp, hopp, hopp”, “bravo” and/or “superbe” and the big stadium finish in Davos
2) The incredible views
3) The ability to get a massage at the two mountain peaks, following the big descent, and at the finish. Given the cramping brought on by the heat and my lack of muscle endurance this was a huge help in getting across the line without hobbling – never had a massage at 9000 ft before by 2 people at once with a magnesium chaser!
4) Access to showers at the end
5) Extremely clear sign posting at start for all amenities and extremely clear course markings (including ribbons laid on ground on either side of the trail across any trail junctions to avoid wrong turns)
6) starting a marathon at 10:30 (very civilized vs. the usual early waking for nutrition, and concerns about getting to the start)

7) Reasonably-priced day care was available all day for parents who wanted to run but needed someone to look after the kids
8) Return train tickets from anywhere in Switzerland and regional train ticket for 7 days included in entry fee
9) A detailed sheet explaining exactly what would be available at each of the many aid stations (water, bananas, alpine bread, granola bars, electrolyte drinks, soup, coke)

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Celebrating with a beer (burger was on the way)

There were a few things they could have done better:
– more frequent km markers in the final 10km and perhaps at each aid station (there were markers indicating distance to go every 5km and at 2 and 1 km to go.
– more generous provisions at the finish line – non-alcoholic beer, water and bananas does not a finish line party make
– not located luggage delivery (think bag drop) all the way round the back of the building up a flight of stairs (enough climbing already!) and about as far away as possible from the showers
– shuttles to train station for outbound trains (these may have been available but I ended up with an hour to kill after just missing my train)

All-in-all an extraordinary experience to cap off an amazing 2 week vacation. Can’t wait to an the next one!

What’s been your favorite overseas running experience and were there any lessons learned for US races?

TSA Pre – The best gift of the holiday season

tsa_preIf you’re a frequent traveller, airport security is a constant pain if for no other reason than the uncertain duration.   Even with premier access lines for frequent fliers, at airports like SFO, EWR and ORD the premier access lines can take 15+ minutes.  For most of last year, I used to head up to the premier line at International to avoid the monster premier access security lines at United Domestic (and the United Club is better there too).

Life before TSA Pre

Along comes TSA Pre.  Suddenly the barcode on your boarding pass grants access to a lane with no one in it.  You leave everything on except bulky winter jackets (no need to take off shoes, belts and sweaters),  laptop and liquids stay in the bag, and no full-body scanner.  It’s just so civilized.   And so quick.

Life after TSA Pre

Flying out of SFO on New Year’s Day my morning looked grim with another monster queue, when all of a sudden I spy the TSA Pre lane, my hopes are raised, and the lady scans my boarding pass and waves me through.  And I’m through in barely a minute, without having to go through the whole uncomfortable undress and unpack business.  Leaving Chicago on Thursday, same fabulous experience. It really does feel like Christmas.  I guess I’ll be annoyed at any airports that don’t have it now…

Very easy to sign up.  Just Google TSA Pre + [Name of your airline] to find the sign up page.  For United, all I had to do was tick a box saying I wanted in and press submit.

Go on, give yourself the gift that will keep on giving.

Safe travels, all!

Simple tricks for improving your success with New Year’s Resolutions

resolutionRecent research suggests you are ten times more likelihood of succeeding with New Year’s resolutions if you explicitly commit to them (such as by writing) vs. just thinking about them – it’s the difference between intention and commitment.

How incredible is it that 46% of those explicitly making resolutions are maintaining them after 6 months vs. 4% of those who don’t? That seems like pretty good odds to me – you have nearly a one in two chance of long term success with a resolution if you write it down!

If you want to increase your chances of success further, make resolutions some or all of these:

  • Specific (how many, where, what, by when)
  • Realistic (lose 10 or 20 pounds not 100 pounds in weight),
  • Public (fear of embarrassment if fail), Shared (who’d let a friend down – share a goal to run weekly or train for a specific race)
  • Competitive (challenge a friend to beat you in achieving the resolution)

So to increase my own chances of success, related to this blog,  in 2013, I will:

  1. Enter and train specifically for 4 marathons or ultras, at least one international, in locations on my list of places to travel to.
  2. Post on training, racing, eating, travelling, and hopefully useful “life hacks” like this once a week.
  3. Have folks over for a dinner I will cook using at least one new recipe once a month.

So far, (if I can count New Year’s Eve!) I’m off to a good start.

  1. Entered the Napa Valley marathon for 3/1, the Gorges Waterfalls 50k on 3/31 on the Columbia River, and the Swissalpine K78 in Davos, Switzerland.  I’m hoping to get into the UROC 100k on 9/28 from Breckenridge to Vail.  That’ll take me to Colorado destinations like Vail, and Oregon destinations like Bend and Ashford (I’m planning an awesome running and craft brewery road trip around Oregon after the 50k) and a chance to visit Switzerland and see the alpine stages of the Tour de France.
  2. Resurrected this blog with this post and a list of topics.
  3. Cooked for 4 last night from a bevy of new cookbooks that I received for Christmas 🙂 Zuni Cafe’s cookbook Roast Chicken with Bread Salad  along with Roasted Root Vegetables and a Squash, Farro and Black Rice salad from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home.

Ok. I’m committed. What are you committing to?

Here’s to succeeding at our resolutions in 2013 🙂

An unlikely idea for improving airline boarding – help us!

(Inspired by recent experiences and an Economist Gulliver blog post )

I’ve regularly experienced Southwest boarding passengers in 10-15 minutes with no assigned seating. And I’ve regularly experienced large carriers like United that board by rows taking 30-45 minutes. Why? Bags travel free on Southwest so there’s less demand for overhead space. And as others have noted, unassigned is faster and surprisingly better than assigned seating. I’ve never had a bad seat on Southwest with no status, whereas unless I’m Gold status (50K miles/year) or above on a large carrier, getting a good seat is a source of stress, which is only multiplied if you’re travelling with a family – on 5 of 5 recent trips our booking has been split by the airline despite our requests to keep them combined.

On airlines like United, first class and then all the myriad tiers of frequent fliers board, often filling all the overhead space and then having to swim upstream back to front of plane as the remaining non-frequent fliers try to get to back of plane, and discover there is no space for their bags and then they have to swim upstream to check their bags. The last minute upgrades to First Class and serving of drinks and hanging of jackets add additional delays to the boarding process (although the latter two are not an issue on 757s and larger where the “lower classes” don’t have to walk through First to get to their seats).

On deplaning, the problem is reversed as frequent fliers now have to go towards the back of the plane to retrieve their bags against the stream of the deplaning passengers. If you’re a frequent flier, you’re only getting on the plane early to make sure you can get your bag in the overhead near where you are sitting. The whole process is inefficient and unpleasant for everyone.

Idea: (If they don’t want to follow the superior Southwest model, or won’t make the overhead storage bigger and/or enforce a smaller overhead bag) Could baggage handlers load the carry on bag into the overheads near the assigned seats and gate check the bags if they don’t fit? Then board from the back to the front, and from the windows to the aisles. Not a solution for late arriving aircraft and will add tangible costs of extra labor vs. intangibles of delays. But would be a nice service improvement.

A little positive psychology to be thankful for

Holland enjoying the waves in Far North Queensland

As Seth said yesterday, it’s the only holiday that really matters.  I sometimes have to pinch myself to remember the good fortune – our health, families, friends, jobs, house, food, the incredible climate and beauty of the bay area.  Especially given that so many others have had such a challenging year, I feel blessed to have had such a good one.  Every year we do calendars and cards, using a service like shutterfly, and it was such a treat to go back over the amazing photos this year looking for the best ones.  The digital SLR has not only increased the number of pictures 4-5X, but also hugely improved the quality, and pictures of our daughter’s complete and utter joy playing on the beaches in Far North Queensland will grace our cards this year.  (BTW, if you never searched online for coupons, it’s totally worth it.  Shutterfly wanted $25 for shipping – a Gogle search for “shutterfly coupons”reduced that to zero in under a minute).

Personal highlights of the year in rough chronological order include: the alt-MBA, training our new lab puppy, finishing the back garden, switching jobs, the first trip to Oz with Holland, finally starting this blog, discovering yoga, getting serious about trail running again, and several iPhone apps (see previous reviews of balloonimals and stitcher).

Henry reminded me of the ability to download TED podcasts which has filled long training runs with amazing and inspiring tales from people have made a career out of following their passions like Amy Tan, Al Gore, Dave Eggers, Katherin Fulton, John Hodgman, Brian Cox and Brian Greene.

One of my favorites, in tune with the holiday was Martin Seligman, on positive psychology.  The video is embedded below – it outlines the three components of happiness: pleasure, flow and meaning. The good news is you don’t have to be born with a genetic predisposition to have it, 50% of pleasure comes from surrounding yourself with friends and family, and success at flow and meaning will provide much more lasting happiness than pleasure alone.  Check it out – a great intro to the field, and maybe it’ll set you up for a 2010 to be thankful for 🙂

iPhone: Ultimate Kid’s Toy?

Is that a phone or a trumpet?

Is that a phone or a trumpet?

No, she’s not trying to eat the phone. And she’s not playing Ocarina.

It’s an awesome game from those whizzes at IDEO called “Balloonimals”. Outstanding child entertainment for the princely sum of $1.99 (funny how all the free apps on the App Store cause you to think twice about spending $2) The pics tell the story – choose a balloon color, blow up the balloon till it dings, shake (with all the squeaky rubber sound effects of an actual balloon being bent into shapes) and voilà an animal (t-rex, crab, unicorn, dog, snake, fish, kangaroo and baby joey) Tap the animal and it surprises with movement – feet stomping, claw clacking, you get the idea. The pièce de résistance is you can blow up the animals using a bike pump symbol until they pop. Holland plays with this for hours and the laughter and expressions on her face are priceless.

Ideo's beautifully executed ballonimals game

Ideo's beautifully executed balloonimals game

There are a wide range of great learning apps for kids – learning words, shapes and numbers. Couple this with a few movies, TV shows and games and you’ve got a brilliant child minding device in a very tiny package. It’d be nice if you could selectively disable some features like email and the phone when you give it to them, but you should be paying attention, right 😉

This has really cemented the learning for me that the apps are really the killer app for the iPhone. It’s a great phone on an ok network. It’s a phenomenal piece of intuitive design and convergence that has transformed the smart phone market. But the endless creativity of the apps is what blows your mind.