Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Corcoran Brewing - A New VA Nanobrewery

Born in a vineyard, Corcoran Brewing Company is a new brewery planned for Waterford, VA, in Loudon County. Said to be the first winery and brewery in the state, Corcoran Brewing is considered a nanobrewery; production is intentionally "very low (one-half barrel at a time) to ensure a true hand crafted, artisan brew."

The brewery's website lists six beers in the lineup: Wheatland (American Hefeweizen), P’ville Pale (American Pale Ale), LoCo I.P.A., Catoctin Ale (English Pale Ale), Corky’s Irish Red and Slainte Stout.

The most current news and updates on the new brewery can be found at the Corcoran Brewing Company Facebook page. Here's hoping we have the opportunity to visit and try the Corcoran beers in the very near future.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fredericksburg Pub To Become Park Lane Tavern

I've heard the rumors, but today the news was confirmed. The Fredericksburg Pub will soon become an independent operation called Park Lane Tavern. The management and employees will stay in place, according to an email from Fredericksburg Pub.
Between June 27th and June 30th the name of this establishment will change to Park Lane Tavern. In addition to the name change, you will notice exciting enhancements to our food and beverage offerings, which we know will add to your overall dining pleasure. We look forward to providing the same upscale service you have always enjoyed as ownership, management and staff remains in place.
The food and beverage menu is said to be "expanded beyond Britain to encompass all of Europe." The new food menu is posted here. I've found the beer selection at the Fredericksburg Pub to be interesting, but somewhat limited. I look forward to seeing what additions or changes they offer under the new theme.

Monday, June 20, 2011

For Fans of Capital Ale House

Capital Ale House has announced that they will be opening a fifth location.

Contact: Matthew Simmons
June 16, 2010

Capital Ale House announces an agreement has been made to open our company’s fifth restaurant to be located at 41-A Court Square, Harrisonburg, Virginia 23801. This location is the current Cally’s Restaurant and Brewing Company. Capital Ale House will take possession and begin renovations on July 12, 2011 with a projected opening in October 2011.

This location will employ 70 staff members and will feature more than 100 fine ales and lager beers from Virginia and around the world on draught, two dining areas, banquet space, darts and billiards and a rooftop deck.

We are proud to join the many great restaurants, shops, galleries, museums, theaters and historic landmarks that make Downtown Harrisonburg a thriving destination.

For more information please contact Matthew Simmons.
That's good news for fans of Capital Ale House's extensive craft beer list. However, as noted in the press release, it does also indicate that a Virginia brewery, Cally’s Restaurant and Brewing Company, is no more. However, Chris Holder from Capital Ale House reports in posting on Facebook that the owner of Cally's has plans to open a production brewery in the near future.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Battlefield Scottish Ale

We had already planned for a Saturday dinner at The Pub, when I saw Lew Bryson's post about the Battlefield Brewing Spotsylvania Scottish 70 on tap at the brewpub. So, my beer choice was settled even before I arrived.

Spotsylvania Scottish 70 pours a dark cola color, with light just passing through at the edges. There's a very short-lived, thin white head. The aroma is very faint, sweet malt. The flavor has mildly sweet malt balanced with some roasted bitterness, which lingers on the palate. Though mild and light bodied, the Scottish Ale is quite enjoyable, and stands up well to The Pub's tasty bacon cheeseburger.

Battlefield's Scottish Ale is highly "sessionable." At just 4% ABV, one can certainly head back to the mines after enjoying a pint. Low alcohol AND enough flavor to be interesting, that's the definition of a session beer. I expect this to be a popular selection at The Pub, while it lasts.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sierra Nevada Considers Virginia Site

The Roanoke Times is reporting that Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is considering a site in Virginia for an East Coast facility.
California-based craft beer brewer Sierra Nevada has a site in the Roanoke/New River Valley area on its short list of places for a $75 million to $100 million East Coast brewery.

The site is No. 2 on the company’s list, behind one in Blount County, Tenn., near Knoxville, said Bill Manley, communications director for the brewer.

Sierra Nevada isn’t fully committed to the expansion yet, Manley said, and will make a decision on whether to go forward – and where – within a month or so.
The article notes that the new facility would include brewing and bottling facilities, along with a restaurant and brew pub.

See the entire article at

Update: There is now a Facebook group "Bring Sierra Nevada to Southwest Virginia" dedicated to the cause.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Good Neighbors, Good News for Norm's

Last month we heard the distressing news that Norm's Beer and Wine in Vienna would be forced to close. The grocery chain Fresh Market had a non-compete clause in their lease for their new store neighboring Norm's. A grass roots movement began in an effort to save the popular Norm's. In a time when hear of independent businesses being forced out by large chains, Fresh Market declared it was going to be a good neighbor. The Washington Post reports:
Just when you thought chain stores were taking over the planet, chalk one up for little Norm’s Beer and Wine store in Vienna. And maybe give a little credit to the chain grocer that once threatened them, The Fresh Market, which has now agreed to let Norm’s stay in its cozy spot just off Maple Avenue at Branch Road.
Fresh Market has lived up to it's Community-focused pledge. Welcome to the neighborhood!

H/T to Tom at Yours For Good Fermentables.

Port City Monumental IPA

This is the third in a series looking at the four beers currently available from Port City Brewing in Alexandria, Virginia.

Port City Monumental IPA is hazy copper in color. A hard pour creates a moderate, but persistent off-white head. The smell is mild, with caramel malt notes. The taste is rich in malt flavor and is slightly sweet. Some enjoyable citrus zest bitterness comes through at the end. The finish is clean with a short-lived aftertaste.

The IPA was the beer I was most looking forward to reviewing out of the Port City beers. It's a fine beer, but in my opinion, the least exciting of the bunch so far. I drank it on several occasions just to be sure of my thoughts. I enjoyed each bottle I opened and I wouldn't advise anyone against buying Monumental IPA, it's a fine, if average, example of the style. Of course, that statement should be tempered by my personal preferences for a little more "extreme" in my IPAs. I might pick it up again, but the Pale Ale and the Optimal Wit would be my first choices from the brewery.

The final beer from Port City is their Porter. I'll probably save that review for cooler weather.

Monday, June 13, 2011

USPSA Mid-Atlantic Sectional Match

Last Saturday I drove up to York, PA to participate in the USPSA Mid-Atlantic Sectional match. This would be my third experience at a major match, and the first one I had to drive any distance to get to. To sum it up succinctly, this was a great match! York IWLA is a great venue with lots of bays, and a very pleasant place to shoot. Except for the malfunctioning chronos all the stages were well-run and quite efficient. But boy, was it hot! The wooded grounds were deceptive in that they didn't actually provide much shade, but the trees cut down the air flow, adding to the challenge.

The courses of fire were fun, interesting and challenging. Stage 3, the first stage our squad shot, required the shooter to start with an "IED" in their weak hand and deposit the device in a "bomb disposal barrel" before engaging the last target. Everyone on my squad chose to deposit the "bomb" before shooting any targets. I'd be interested to find out if any of the "expert" shooters opted to engage any of the targets strong-hand only. Stage 5, with both out & back and bear trap targets was intimidating to me. I've shot very few activated and dissappearing targets, and here we faced TWO that were activated at the same time! But, my hits on those targets were both two-alpha. In fact that was one of my best stages (26-A, 1-B, 1-C). Stage 6 had two popper-activated swingers that I found myself waiting for, using up valuable time. But, I did get my hits on those as well. Stage 7, the "house" course, AKA "Abbottabad Country Cub" was fun with 270 degrees of shooting. I'm glad I also had clear lenses for my shooting glassses to change into from the smoked ones, or not sure I could have seen the targets in the darkened "rooms". Stage 2, with just two poppers and a Texas Star was humbling, to say the least.

Overall, I was pleased with my performance. Unfortunately, I really bombed on two stages and that dragged me down overall, but that did not lessen what was great experience. My goal is to build consistency to reduce the chances of a bad stage dragging down my results. I felt my stage planning was pretty effective this time around, though I did have a couple of moments when I momentarily hesitated during execution. I found it interesting that all the Mikes (misses) I had were on stationary targets, not moving targets. That's a sympton of simply going too fast. Repeat after me, "Front sight. Squeeze."

This was a great match. The shooters on the squad were all very friendly and we had a good mix of skills. I look forward to returning to York in the future.

I posted a video here of some of the stages for your entertainment.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Northern Virginia BrewFest Brewery List

The list of participating breweries for the 4th Annual Northern Virginia BrewFest have been posted. As of June 9, fifty-seven breweries are participating, 15 of which are new to the festival. Among those I'm most looking forward to trying are Epic Brewing (New Zealand), Schlafy Beer (Missouri) and The Breury (California). These are breweries whose beers I've only been able to read about. So, I know where my first stops will be! Of course, there will be lots of Virginia breweries represented as well.

The Northern Virginia BrewFest takes place June 25 and 26 in Leesburg, Virginia. This is always a great festival. For complete details and ticket information see the event website at

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Yard House Coming to Virginia Beach

The draft beer-focused Yard House chain will open its first Virginia location this November in Virginia Beach. The restaurant is known for it's large draft beer selections. Fans can expect around 250 beers on tap, stored in a central keg room that holds up to 5,000 gallons of beer, according to an article posted today at The Virginia Pilot website.

This could be an exciting development for beer fans living in, and visiting, the Virginia Beach area. While the beer list remains undetermined, let's hope that the managers opt to focus on the many excellent craft breweries right here in Virginia.

See Beer-focused restaurant to hire 150 in Va. Beach for more details.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Washington's Cherry Wheat

The seasonal Washington's Cherry Wheat from Blue & Gray Brewing was one of six beers on tap at the Lee's Retreat brewpub during a recent visit. As noted previously, I had opted for the Black IPA, while Colleen asked for a sampler of the wheat beer, followed by a full pint serving, of which she kindly allowed me a few sips.

Blue & Gray Washington's Cherry Wheat pours a hazy golden color with a thin white head. The aroma is as expected from a wheat beer, but with the faint addition of a tart cherry hint. The flavor is wheat, mild butter and caramel. The cherry notes added some zest to the taste. Colleen remarked she was glad the cherry was mildly tart, rather than sweet. The fruit is subtle and adds a pleasing twist. I was already enjoying my Black IPA so I wasn't inclined to switch, but I found I enjoyed this beer quite a bit. I'm generally not a fan of fruit in beer, neither in the brewing nor on the rim of the glass, but I'd certainly be inclined to order this beer again. It would be a refreshing libation for a warm summer afternoon.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Fredericksburg USPSA

This past weekend I shot at the monthly Fredericksburg Practical Shooters USPSA match. The match director made use of some of the stage props that had been built for the recent VA/MD Sectional Championship. Targets were slightly rearranged in each course of fire, and the moving targets taken out, giving us six stages, with a 7th classifier stage thrown in. This mix presented a variety of challenges from close up speed shots to longer shots that required careful aiming. Approximately 130 shooters came out to enjoy the day. Dark skies threatened in the morning, but the sun came out later in the day and left us wishing for some cloud cover.

As usual, the Fredericksburg match was challenging, but overall I was pleased with my performance. There were 48 shooters in Production Division, and my highest stage finish was 15th. I ended up in the top half, or right near the middle, for most of the stages. That's where I expect to be as a C-classified shooter. Still, there were inconsistencies, especially the one stage I totally bumbled and placed 46th. Despite that poor showing I still managed to finish 24th out of 48 shooters in the Division.

Watching the videos of my shooting was, shall we say, enlightening. When I first reviewed the videos, I had a few moments of "oh no" and "that didn't look good" but I started viewing more subjectively. Then I could note areas where I've made improvements, and had actually remembered to do what I had practiced. My repetitive practice on magazine changes is starting to pay off. I've also been practicing skills such as getting the gun up and ready to shoot when I approach a new position, along with getting moving sooner after shooting. Like most things, it's easier to do in practice than in a match.

The match was long, but fun. From the first shot to finishing tearing down the stages at the end was a long 6 hour day. But it was a day filled with interesting, and challenging shooting, with fun and friendly people, not to mention lots of Goldfish® crackers and granola bars. I was great to shoot with some old friends, and make a few new ones too. Next weekend I'll be participating in the Mid-Atlantic Championship Match in York, PA. Hopefully I will successfully put to use some of the lessons from the Fredericksburg match.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Session #52 - Beer Collectibles & Breweriana

I've been remiss in keeping up with The Session, however the fifty-second episode caught my eye. This month's Session is hosted by Brian Stechschulte at All Over Beer. The chosen topic is Beer Collectibles & Breweriana. Brian writes:
So what old or new beer related items do you collect and why? It’s that simple. This is your opportunity to share the treasured objects your wife or husband won’t let you display on the fireplace mantle. You don’t need to be a major collector like this guy to participate. In my mind, just a few items constitute a collection. Maybe you have mementos from a beer epiphany or road trips? You can focus on a whole collection or tell the story behind a single item.
I opted to focus on the "new beer related items" for my post. For several years I've been saving beer bottles. Unlike the beer can collection I built as a kid, I was able to actually consume the contents in building this collection. I can't explain this compulsion, I keep telling myself I'll soak off the labels someday and to store in albums that take up much less room. But that hasn't happened. There are over 400 bottles now, and with each addition that task gets more daunting. I do enjoy looking through the bottles on occasion. Many of them bring back memories of friends, trips, or other good times. Even the ones from beers enjoyed at home often bring back memories of holidays or good foods enjoyed. In some cases I can trace changes in labels or brewery ownership.

I won't keep the assemblage forever. The shelves are filling (not to mention in need of dusting.) But, as long as there's room to squeeze in another bottle, it will keep likely growing.

Update: The Session roundup is posted here.

Black IPA at Blue & Gray

Settling in at Lee's Retreat for a dinner with Colleen, I was ready to order my usual Falmouth American Pale Ale, when the server informed me they also had a "Black IPA" on draught. My curiosity aroused, I opted for this unnamed beer. Blue & Gray Brewery has been turning out some new beers recently and I was interested to see, and taste, what this one was all about.

Blue & Gray "Black IPA" pours a dark, not quite opaque, black with a thin white head. The aroma is mild grapefruit citrus, the beer smells like a pale ale. The flavor is initially the bitter citrus of grapefruit zest. Soon a mild roasted bitterness of the malts comes through. The roasted flavor lingers for some time afterwards. Like the juxtaposition in the name, black - pale, the flavor is hard to describe, though the descriptor "tasty" fits well.

I enjoyed my first pint with our appetizer of Irish Nachos. This dish consists of crispy waffle fries topped with tomatoes, black olives, lettuce and cheese sauce. Strange as it may sound, it works! Another pint of the Black IPA paired very well with a pulled pork BBQ sandwich. A new beer, tasty food, and the house Irish band made for any enjoyable dinner date.

The exploration in new flavors going on in the brewhouse at Blue & Gray is exciting. I look forward to seeing what else Jeff's crew comes up with. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Dogfish Head Midas Touch

As I started writing this post, I thought about Mike over at Another Gun Blog. Mike writes a gun blog, with the occasional post about beer. He's also a fan of Dogfish Head Brewery. (In contrast, Musings is a beer blog, with the occasional post about guns.)

On one of our visits the Dogfish Ale House in Fairfax we were intrigued by the description of Midas Touch:
This recipe is based on ancient findings. Brewed with barley, white muscat grapes, thyme honey, and saffron, it has the smooth dry body of a beer but finishes fruity like a fine white wine. 
However, noticing also the 9%ABV we opted to pass before our long drive home. This would be one of those strange DFH brews I'd have to try another time. While shopping for refrigerator stock recently, Colleen spied a four-pack of Midas Touch and remembered it sounded interesting, so we picked it up.

Dogfish Head Midas Touch pours hazy bronze-yellow color with a very thin head. It really does smell like a mix of honey and white wine. The smell was so un-beer-like I was put off a bit at first. The flavor was slightly sweet, again with notes of honey and white wine. At first I was thinking, "meh" but as the beer warmed the flavor became more enjoyable. A slight spiciness started emerging and the alcohol warmth was more perceived, which was a welcome addition to the flavor profile. The mouthfeel is thin and slightly oily.

Like some of the other off-centered ales from Dogfish, I did enjoy this one, with some reservations. The flavor was interesting, and very drinkable, if not exceptional. Would I keep it on hand as a regular beer? No. Would I order it for sipping after a meal if circumstances were right? Perhaps.

What's your take Mike?

How Dry We Weren't

I recently finished a fascinating account of what Prohibition was really like in the U.S., especially in our Nation's capital. In Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren't, author Garret Peck brings the people and the times alive. This isn't a dry history book, Peck tells us the behind the scenes stories of how Prohibition came to be, how it was largely ignored across all social classes, and how those "thirteen awful years" ended.

Garrett Peck does an excellent job explaining the various forces that came together, at just the right time, to bring about Prohibition. While Prohibition movement was an obvious attack on the consumption of alcohol, the "dry" forces also used anti-German sentiment and U.S. patriotism, racism, anti-Catholicism, among other prejudices, to help push their cause.

Throughout the book, the reader is reminded how ineffective the laws were, especially in D.C. The social elite, and the poorest of the poor, all had easy access to alcohol, though not always of the best quality. It is estimated that bootleggers brought twenty-two thousand gallons of illegal booze into the city every week. And, though hardly surprising, those charged with making, and enforcing, the laws were often the biggest law-breakers.

Numerous photographs from the period help the author bring alive the people and places that earned Washington, D.C. the nickname the "Sodom of Suds." A reporter once described the city as being "so wet it squishes." Many of the names and buildings talked about in the book are familiar to us today, and indeed many of the buildings still stand. The book includes a "walking tour" of local speakeasies and private residences where alcohol freely flowed. This living history is described in an easy to read and engaging manner. I enjoyed Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren't very much and I suspect you will too. You can get it on Amazon.

Disclaimer for the bored bureaucrats at the FTC: A review copy of the book was given to me by the publisher. I was not compensated in any manner to express my thoughts on the book.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tuesday, But Not Tied

Through the serendipity of the calendar, the month of May had a fifth Tuesday. This allowed me to stop in at the "Steal the Glass Night" at Capital Ale House. I'm not often able to go to the weekly event due to other commitments on the first four Tuesdays of any month. And, in one more stroke of luck, the featured brewery this week was one of my favorites; Oskar Blues Brewery of Lyons, Colorado. Three beers were featured, Mama's Little Yella Pils, Dale's Pale Ale, and G'Knight Imperial Red Ale.

I opted to enjoy the both Dale's Pale Ale and G'Knight Imperial Red Ale. The G'Knight is the new name for the beer formerly known as Gordon. The bartender was kept busy reciting "G'Knight which used to be called Gordon." I enjoyed both beers. Dale's Pale Ale is a beer frequently enjoyed around here, but the G'Knight/Gordon is one I've not had in a while. The Oskar Blues brewers do an excellent job of blending the sweet malt of the "red ale" with the strong grapefruit hoppiness of the "imperial". I think I'll be picking up some cans of this soon.

Oh, the reference to "tied"? As I sat there looking at the line of Oskar Blues glassware lining the bar, I couldn't help but thinking of a tied house. We don't have tied houses in the U.S. obviously, but one can daydream.