Wednesday, August 12, 2020

A Saturday Afternoon the Brewery

I was looking through my photo journal recently and noticed it had been nearly month since I had been able to get out to 1781 Brewery to enjoy a beer or a cigar at the Olde Towne Tobacconist lounge onsite. This past Saturday presented a long-awaited "free" day so, after some chores around the house I headed out for a pleasant afternoon, to forget about the Chines virus and the government machinations to control the populations.

The first stop was to grab my drink. The brewery had several new beers on the menu since last time I was there. I eventually settled on Red Wolves IPA. I also picked up my new mug club member's mug.

There were plenty of new selections added to the shop's humidor since I last visited. Eventually I settled on a Crowned Heads Las Calaveras. This was a cigar I had actually smoked at my last outing, but since it's a limited annual release I figured I might as well grab another. I do have a few of these, in the smaller Robusto format, in my humidor so chose the larger 6" x 56 vitola.

I enjoy a good red ale, and the Red IPA was very satisfying. There's a moderate bite of hop goodness, backed by a strong malt backbone. It paired well with the sweet earthiness and mild spice of the cigar. Fortunately the larger cigar provided time for a couple pints of the ale. It was time well-spent in enjoyable conversation with folks in the lounge.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Mornings on the Porch

It's a rare Saturday morning when I get to laze around the house. That's not necessarily a bad thing, often it means I'm off doing something fun. But last Saturday there were no other plans, so after breakfast I retreated to the screened porch for a decadent coffee and smoke.

It had rained in the early morning, but the humidity and lower temperature presented a pleasant atmosphere. I prepared a creamy coffee and perused the humidor, grabbing a Rocky Patel Vintage 1992. The medium bodied cigar has earthy and leathery notes, which paired well with the creamy coffee.

Putting on some soft jazz, a pleasant hour hearing the last rain fall from the trees, and the birds waking up. The peacefulness was only interrupted by the sound of a tree falling in the woods. I'll have to investigate that sometime.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. I was indeed looking forward to getting some chores done around the house, so heading inside was only mildly regrettable.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Devils Backbone O'Fest

I am an unabashed fan of American craft Oktoberfest beer. I looked forward each year to trying as many of these "local" interpretations as a I can. Sure, the official Oktoberfest doesn't start until September 17, but the beers start showing up on store shelves around here in July. The first Oktoberfest I grabbed to enjoy this season was Devils Backbone O'Fest. After a false start earlier this week, the beer was finally cracked open after the last teleconference on Friday to kick off the weekend.

This year's O'Fest is markedly different from previous releases. Instead of the traditional Märzen-style, this year's version is a modern "festbier" brewed with Munich malts and traditional Hallertau hops. The lager pours a golden-yellow with a short live white head. The aroma has notes of bread and a mild floral sweetness. The flavor follows with lightly toasted bread, with only a hint of bitterness. The finish is clean with a light mouthfeel. It's quite a refreshing drink. While I typically gravitate to the maltier Märzens, I enjoyed this style quite a bit.

Naturally I grabbed a cigar to enjoy with the beer. The evening's choice was a La Aurora 107 Belicoso. The cigar features a brown Ecuadorian wrapper, a Dominican binder, with Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers. The flavor profile included coffee, chocolate, and leather. I found this to be a mild to medium bodied cigar. For my tastes, it came across as somewhat bland. It was a pleasant smoke, but unremarkable.

The evening was one of few lately when we experienced no storms. The temperature was unseasonably moderate, hovering right around 80°, making for a very pleasant start to the weekend.

Friday, August 7, 2020

IPA Day: Beer and a Cigar

I almost missed this. I was getting ready to enjoy my first Oktoberfest beer of the season, when the reminder of IPA Day crossed my social media feeds. The social media "holiday" is celebrated on the first Thursday of August. Figuring I might as well join in, I grabbed a bottle of Stone Brewing Mojay IPA and headed for the back deck.

This beer is the result of a collaboration between Stone and Burgeon Beer, created for the 10th American Homebrewers Association Rally held in 2018. It is said to represent an amalgamation of a New England-style IPA and a West Coast IPA. 

Admittedly, the bottle of beer had been sitting in my beer fridge since Stone's marketing folks sent it last year. The date stamp on the bottle was January 18, 2019 and I hoped the beer had maintained its hop profile. While I hadn't tried this beer before, it seems to have held up. The beer pours a hazy, dull orange color with a thick white head. The aroma is fruity and sweet. Sipping brings notes of bitter citrus rind, fruit sweetness, and some dank pine. Mouthfeel is sticky and the flavors linger on the palate. The name comes from the included Mosaic hops and orange juice resemblance; Mosaic + OJ = Mojay

I had also selected a cigar for this Thursday evening, but taking a sip of the beer before lighting up, I realized I needed to consider a more bold cigar for the pairing. I returned to the humidor and grabbed a newly acquired (literally that afternoon) Rocky Patel Winter Collection in Robusto.

The cigar is a new release from Rocky Patel, and is a continuation of a season-based series released in 2008. The 2020 release features a Mexican San Andrés wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder, and Honduran and Nicaraguan fillers. The bold cigar features dark espresso, nuts, with a touch of sweetness. While it's probable the bitterness of the beer muted the flavors somewhat, I found this to be an extremely flavorful and enjoyable smoke. Despite the wind from my deck fans and the approaching storm, the excellent construction resulted in a razor burn all the way through.

My timing of the smoke was perfect, as I approached the end of the cigar, and the bottle of beer, the summer storm rolled in. My music was soon drowned out by the sounds of rain and thunder, and the blowing rain began coming through the screens. At the same time I was struck by the juxtaposition of the Winter Collection in the midst of the Summer storm. I'll look forward to lighting up another soon.

I'll get to that Oktoberfest beer soon enough.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Evening Bourbon and Rocky Patel

Warm evenings on the deck are the norm for the summer. For one recent after-dinner repast, I faced the warm air with a favorite cigar from Rocky Patel and a tasty rye whiskey in my glass. 

Redemption High Rye Bourbon is a easy sipping whiskey. The flavor profile is not all that complex. There are notes of oak, honey, and a touch of dark fruit. A bit of pepper comes in at the finish, but it's mild for a rye. This is a bottle I reach for often, and at under $30 a pop, it's easy to enjoy regularly.

The Rocky Patel Tavicusa is a smoke that's been mentioned in these Musings previously, and is a favorite. It's a stick that starts with a quick pepper spice and then mellows to coffee and cocoa, with a touch of sweetness. The remaining sticks in my humidor have a couple years age on them, and I get the impression they are mellowing a bit. I might have to finish them soon and restock.

The bourbon and the cigar, and some jazz from the speaker, got me through the evening wind down just fine.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Bell's Hopslam and A Balmoral Cigar

Not too long ago, I found a lone can of Bell's Brewing Hopslam Ale hiding in the back of the beer fridge. I was excited as I thought I had consumed the last of the supply I acquired in Spring 2019. Those cans were some of the last available after Bell's announced they would no longer ship their beers to Virginia

Hopslam is an annual release from the Michigan brewery. The Double IPA at one time seemed like it had almost a cult following, and the retail price reflected the demand. In more recent years, my impression is the price had moderated somewhat. The newer distribution in cans helps to preserve the beer so those cans that get lost in the recesses of the fridge stay pretty fresh.

The beer pours a golden amber with a sticky white head. The aroma bring citrus and honey to the nose. The taste is bitter grapefruit, with a honey and fruit background. The mouthfeel is sticky and oily. It's not a beer to guzzle, but one to sip and savor.

My cigar pairing this time was the Balmoral Anejo XO Nicaragua Rothschild. The Nicaraguan Habano wrapper encased a Brazilian Cuban seed binder and a blend of Dominican Republic Olor, Nicaraguan, and Brazil Mata Norte fillers. The cigar's flavors are somewhat muted by the beer's lingering remnants on my palate. The smoke brought notes of milky coffee, toffee, sweet fruit and a touch of pepper. My glass of ale lasted for about half the smoke, at which time I switched to simple water. The flavors of the medium-bodied cigar stood on their own a bit more once the beer remnants faded. Throughout the smoke, I found this to be a quite enjoyable cigar.

It doesn't appear we will be getting Bell's in Virginia again for awhile, as the legal battle around Virginia's three-tier system stretches on.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

An Old Beer and A New Cigar

How to wind down the weekend? That was the question after dinner last Sunday. It had been a full weekend of good smokes, drinks, and shooting. It was still warm (I'm sounding like a broken record.) but bearable, with proper refreshments. I went back to digging through the old beer stash in the basement and came up with a bottle of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale from 2013. 

I've been neglectful picking up bottles of this annual release. However, I've got quite a few older vintages from various years stashed away, some even older than this one. The Barleywine-style ale is ripe for aging.

The seven year old Bigfoot Ale featured a rich, sweet malt backbone, with a pleasing hop bitterness in the finish. Carbonation was good and the beer left a sweet coating on the palate. I was sorely tempted to dig out another bottle but resisted the urge. 

The cigar selected was the Viva La Vida in Torpedo. This 6 ½" x 54 stick was another from a recent My Cigar Pack shipment. Featuring a dark, shiny Habano Maduro wrapper over a Nicaraguan Corojo binder and Criollo ’98 fillers, the boutique cigar comes from Artesano del Tabaco in collaboration with master AJ Fernandez. The full-bodied smoke has rich notes of leather, coffee, pepper and cinnamon spice, all with a hint of sweetness. Construction was perfect and I got a razor sharp burn and plenty of flavorful smoke all the way to the nub.

Of course, I was inspired to dig up a video of Coldplay performing the song of the same name as I enjoyed the smoke.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Espresso and a Smoke

Sometimes one has to ease in to the weekend, rather than jumping too quickly. Once I finished last week's work, I opted to chill a bit before dinner with an espresso and a smoke. At the very least, the coffee would give me the the boost to begin the weekend with gusto a little later.

After preparing my drink, I grabbed a Balmoral Anejo XO Rothschild Masivo. This cigar was part of the My Cigar Pack June shipment. The Balmoral brand is a new one to me. I enjoyed a Balmoral Anejo XO Nicaragua just a few days prior and was looking forward to comparing this darker blend to that one.

The Balmoral Anejo XO features a shiny Brazilian Sungrown wrapper, Dominican Republic Olor binder, with fillers from Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua. This is a full bodied smoke with notes of charred wood, dark coffee, and pepper. A good bourbon, neat, might have been a more complimentary accompaniment. I opted for only the one double espresso, and finished most of the smoke with simple water. The warmth on the deck was still building in the late afternoon, so the plentiful glasses of cold water were welcome.

The smoke was enjoyable. I would have to say I enjoyed the Balmoral Anejo XO Nicaragua just a bit more. (Review posted later here.) That said, I only had the one cigar of both, so comparisons a few days apart are questionable at best. My cigar finished, it was time for dinner and to contemplate the evening's selections.