Saturday, August 31, 2013

Outer Banks Brewing Station

What's a vacation in the Outer Banks without a stop at the Outer Banks Brewing Station? At least for us, it's a required stop. This trip we opted to avoid the usual dinner crowds and stopped in for a late lunch. Four beers were listed on the beer menu; Ölsch (a Kölsch), LemonGrass Wheat Ale, Intergalactic IPA, and Captain's Porter. Our party all opted for our usual favorite styles; the IPA for me, Colleen ordered the Wheat, and our travel companion, Checkered Flag, chose the Ölsch.

IPA, Wheat, Kölsch

The Intergalactic IPA was a cloudy, but attractive orange color with a moderate white head. Keeping with the space theme, and paraphrasing Darth Vader, "the hops are strong with this one." The aroma is full of grapefruit citrus. The taste follows suit with grapefruit, orange and a hint of lemon zest. The finish brings about some grassy bitterness. This is a slightly out of balance, bold, and tasty beer. I spent a lot of time swirling and sniffing the hoppy aromas while savoring my pint.

I grabbed a couple sips of Colleen's LemonGrass Wheat Ale. The aroma is earthy with notes of lemon and pepper. The flavor is that of a hefewiezen with banana and yeast. The lemongrass adds a bit of a zestiness, along with some mild peppery notes. Quite refreshing, and served without a fruit slice thankfully.

The Ölsch has always been on the menu during our visits in the past to the Brewing Station, but I've never ordered it. Towards the end of our meal I realized I hadn't gotten a taste of the Ölsch. I stole a sip and found it to have a nice flavor of sweet, grainy malt. A surprisingly bitter finish comes up in the end. Next time I'll try to do a more complete, um, review of this one.

I enjoyed the pub's "Bratwich" for lunch. The grilled Bratwursts are from the Weeping Radish Butchery, and served with sautéed onions, peppers, sauerkraut and creamy mustard on a hoagie roll. It was quite a tasty accompaniment to the IPA. I would have enjoyed another pint of the Intergalactic IPA, but there was a beach to get to!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Fredericksburg Brewfest

Mark your calendars! October 19 is the date of the Fredericksburg Brewfest and Homebrew Contest. The event will be held at the Fredericksburg Fairgrounds.
Join us for an amazing day of music, food and craft beer! The gates open at 11AM so come early and stay late to enjoy all the day has to offer! 
We will have craft brewers from all over the region sampling some of their award winning beers. They will be pouring some of your favorites as well as a sneak peek in to what will be on tap for 2014. 
The Fredericksburg Brewfest Homebrew Cup will be awarded in late afternoon where certified beer judges will crown the best “Homebrew” entered in the competition. 
For those of you who enjoy a glass of wine or whiskey, we will also have a select number of Virginia Wineries and Distilleries sampling their award winning beverages as well. 
Live bands will be on stage throughout the day with fan favorite, TBA, taking the stage at 4PM to close out the evening. 
Bring your friends, family and join us for Fredericksburg’s premier BEER event!
See for details and to purchase advance tickets.

Crab Cakes and IPAs

We headed over to Red Drum Tap House for dinner one evening while in the Outer Banks. I like this stop as they have a decent selection of North Carolina beers AND a seafood menu. Upon entering I noticed one of the specials was a Crab Cake platter, so my main course selection was made before I sat down. Now to get down to the beer selection.

I opted to start out with Hoppyum IPA from Foothills Brewing Company. We were starting our meal with the spicy Taphouse Wings, and I figured the hoppy beer should be a good match for the spicy appetizer. I could tell right away from the strong citrus aroma that I had made a good choice. The flavor was bitter and resinous, and full of citrus juiciness. Quite frankly, it was my kind of beer. And indeed, it was a good foil to the spicy hot wings.

I finished my glass of beer about the time the main course arrived. I decided to go with Freedom IPA by Natty Greene's Brewing Company to accompany the crab cakes. Another bold American-style IPA, this beer was noticeably different than the previous beer. The citrusy hops were balanced by a hint of sweetness. The sweet malt mitigated the citrus, but did not hide it. My crab cakes were accompanied by a Aioli sauce and the beer made a nice pairing with the garlicky and tart sauce. I enjoyed both of the IPAs very much. They each went especially well with the accompanying foods.

Red Drum is decorated with a lot breweriana. The bar also has a mixed and varied glassware collection, and it's interesting to see what brewery's logo accompanies the beer, such as this National Bohemian glass from a previous trip. This visit, my Hoppyum IPA was served in a thick-walled Dos Equis glass. The Natty Greene's beer came in the usual shaker pint, but with a Sweetwater 420 Pale Ale logo. No glass snobs here, drinking a beer at Red Drum, with its eclectic glass collection, reminds me of drinking at my own home.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Endless River Kölsch

If I'm not tracking down Maryland beers in North Caroline, I try to stick with local beers when visiting. Another new to me beer I tried out during our trip was Endless River Kölsch, from Mother Earth Brewing.

Endless River Kölsh-style Ale pours a clear straw-yellow color with a brilliant, pure white head. As with my Red Sky At Night I lost some of the foam to the strong winds blowing off the ocean. Despite the windy venue, I was still able to pick up the yeast and grain aromas of the beer. The flavor was light with a grainy, toasted bread flavor. There was a buttery biscuit aspect to the taste. The creamy mouthfeel leads into a dry finish, with a very mild bitterness left behind.

I enjoyed my glass of Endless River Kölsch, with some pita chips and humus. The salty chips complimented the flavors of the beer quite well. The moderately low 4.9% ABV made for a refreshing early afternoon beachfront snack.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Red Sky At Night

Nope, not a post about a picturesque sunset. I'm talking about the tasty Saison from Baltimore's Heavy Seas Brewing. Red Sky At Night is a favorite of ours, but one that's been an elusive libation. Last year the brewer was only able to brew a limited quantity, and none of it seemed to make it to Fredericksburg. I knew the beer was back this year, but again, never saw it locally.

Since I knew we'd be traveling to the Outer Banks for vacation, I held out hope that Chip's would have some. A couple years ago I found some other Heavy Seas beers there that I couldn't get locally. (Now as then, I consider this a failure of our local distributor, not the brewery.) Entering Chip's I immediately scanned the shelves and, sure enough, spied 2 six packs of Red Sky. Colleen grabbed one and asked at the counter if we could get a case. The answer was there's two sixers left in the cooler, and two left on the shelf. That's all that was left, so we grabbed what was left.

Back at the beach house that afternoon, we cracked a few open to enjoy before dinner. The beer is as we remembered. It presents a pleasing Belgian yeast and sweet banana fruitiness, in combination with some wheat in the background. There's a bit of mild white pepper in the finish. This is an enjoyable beer with a light mouthfeel.

Taking the accompanying photograph turned in to an adventure, but one that was quite apropos. As soon as I finished pouring my beer, a gust of wind came off the ocean, scattering the foam from my glass into the wind. Three times the bottle blew off the deck railing before I snapped the picture. Despite my desire to drink this "stormy" beer outside, I was quickly forced to retreat indoors.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Wall of Beer

A feast for the eyes.


Chip's Beer & Wine.


Monday, August 26, 2013

O'Connor El Guapo IPA

O'Connor Brewing Company is located in Norfolk, VA but their beers haven't made it up our way yet. When I spied their display at a Tidewater grocery store, the El Guapo IPA was an impulse purchase. I've not had any beers from the brewery previously and figured the IPA would make a good end of day treat.

The beer pours a bright and clear copper red with a thick, persistent head. There's a sweet caramel and floral aroma. I found the flavor to favor the sweet malt, with the pine and citrus hops bringing up the rear. The finish is clean and bitter. El Guapo has a "juicy" aspect to it. I'm guessing it's the agave nectar used in the brewing. It reminded me of the mouthfeel of some fresh hopped beers, though less imposing.

I enjoyed my glass while relaxing late one evening after a long drive to the beach. Although I was not eating anything, I had the thought it would be great paired with some fish tacos heaped with fresh pico de gallo. Must be the Blue Agave nectar speaking.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Guns & Coffee

We travelled alongside this guy on our way to the beach last week. I'll bet his car gets photographed a lot. (By friend and foe.)

For you nanny-state types, relax, my passenger took the photo.

Friday, August 23, 2013

New Belgium Tap Takeover

This Thursday saw another tap takeover at Capital Ale House in Fredericksburg. New Belgium Brewing Company was the featured brewery this week. As I read the descriptions of the six beers I was struck by the out-of-the-ordinary selections. Usually I'll pick one or two beers to enjoy at such an event. However this time, I was truly curious about all of these unusual offerings, and couldn't settle on one that tempted me the most. Five of the beers were also limited or one-time releases, which made the decision all that much harder. So I opted for a flight — six, 4 oz pours of each.

The beers were enjoyed from right to left in the above photo. First up was Coconut Curry Hefeweizen. This was a very interesting, 8% ABV beer. There was a hint of coconut in both the aroma and in the finish. It's mild and not a prominent flavor. The beer was slightly sweet malt with a noticeable alcohol presence. Too be honest, this was the one beer on the list that I was tempted to pass by. It turns out to be one that I enjoyed quite a bit.

Next up was Paardebloem Belgian Ale. This Belgian Strong Pale Ale is fermented with wild Belgian yeast and has dandelion greens in the recipe. It checks in at 9% ABV. The beer is noticeably dry with some sweetness and a bit of woody, funky yeast. Paardebloem was the option I had been tempted to order if I had opted to go the single beer route, and it turns out I enjoyed it a lot.

I was eager to get to the next beer, Yuzu Imperial Berliner Weisse. This beer is listed at 8% ABV. That's high for the style, hence the "Imperial" appellation. The flavor was fairly mild and not nearly as tart as had I expected. It was tasty but I had been looking for a more traditional Berliner Weisse.

Pluot Fruit Beer is a Tripel brewed with wild Belgian yeast and features the pluot fruit; a hybrid of apricot and plums. The beer was quite mildly flavored, fruity, sweet, and, well, that's about it. This one frankly did nothing for me. At 10% ABV, the beer offered me nothing in the flavor to make it worth the alcohol consumption. I left about half my 4 ounce sample unfinished.

Two IPA's rounded out the menu, and these beers were quite different despite sharing a style designation. French Aramis IPA features a relatively new hop from Alsace, France. The beer is quite floral and earthy in both aroma and flavor, with a creamy mouthfeel. I struggled as I sipped, trying to come up with a way to describe the unique flavor. There's an herbal "green" aspect, a bit like a tea. At one point I had a flash of smoking a clove cigarette, but that's not quite it either. Hard to describe, but I enjoyed very much.

My session ended with Rampant Imperial IPA, the most "usual" of the beers, and the only regularly brewed beer of the group. Citrusy and piney, but not overly aggressive. The finish is dry and leaves a sweet malt lingering in the finish. It was a good finale to the flight.

All too soon it was time to leave to meet family and friends for dinner. Had I had the time, I think I could have finally made a decision and picked a beer or two to enjoy as a full pint serving. I think that pick would be the Paardebloem Belgian Ale. Or maybe the French Aramis IPA. No, I think the Coconut Hefeweizen. Aw heck, I'm glad I went with the full flight!

Monday, August 19, 2013

North Mountain USPSA Match

It was still dark when the alarm went off Sunday morning. I could hear the sound of heavy rain falling, and I was sorely tempted to roll over and go back to sleep. But, I was signed up for the North Mountain Practical Shooters match, and if they were going to hold it, I was going to be there. When I arrived at the "apple orchard," the rain was light but steady. Fortunately, by the time we were shooting, the rainfall was intermittent, but frequent enough to require the targets remain covered with plastic bags.

In deference to the expected wet weather, five simple, but quite fun, stages were set up. Movement on the wet grass was kept to a minimum with the stages all shot from single or multiple shooting boxes. The first stage had three paper targets, backed or partially covered by no-shoots, and two US Poppers. It was a good, quick stage to get warmed up on. Next we moved to Stage 2, which consisted of 3 shooting boxes. From the first box, engage three paper and 2 Pepper Poppers; move to the next box and knock down three round plates; the final shooting position had three Pepper Poppers and two paper targets.

Strong-hand and weak-hand shooting came into play on Stage 3. The first string required one round on each of four targets, a mandatory reload, followed by four strong-hand only shots. String 2, from a closer box was a repeat with weak-hand shots after the reload. I had my only miss of the match when I pushed my last strong-hand only shot low, and my only D hit was on this stage as well.

Stage 4 was the largest course of the match. Starting from a box in the center, the shooter saw three paper targets and one US Popper to engage. One of the paper targets presented only the small "head" area. The shooter then moved to either end to enter another box, in my case the left side. There were four targets there, two on either side of a barricade. Then it was quick sprint to the opposite end and four more targets with a wall acting as a vision barrier between the two pairs.

The last stage was the Classifier CM 06-05, "Fluffy's Revenge 2." I felt I shot this one at a good tempo. Alas, I had Alpha-Charlie hits on all three paper targets, but needed no makeup shots on the steel. It wasn't my highest classifier score, but should still work out a bit above my current average.

Overall, I was very pleased with my shooting this day. I've been getting in some good practice lately, focusing on a harder support-hand grip and I think it paid off with better accuracy in this match. The event was a lot of fun and we finished shooting in about 2 1/2 hours. The cool temperature and cloud cover made for pleasant shooting.

It's been quite a while since I've been able to get to a North Mountain match. In fact, I last shot there in September 2012. After shooting this weekend, I'm reminded how much fun the matches are. I need to get back soon.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Flying Dog Tap Takeover

Colleen and I stopped by Capital Ale House this week for the Flying Dog Tap Takeover. Seven Flying Dog beers were being poured that evening; Gonzo Imperial Porter, Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout, Raging Bitch Belgian IPA, Pineapple Saison, Belgian Devil, Belgian Wit, and Snake Dog IPA.

Most of those beers we've tried before, but good beer on draft is always a welcome mid-week diversion. The Gonzo Imperial Porter was being served on nitrogen, so that was my opening selection. Colleen opted for the Belgian Devil Dubbel. The Gonzo, initially served too cold, once warmed a bit presented an aroma of dark chocolate and coffee. The nitro gas created a tiny-bubbled, creamy mouthfeel. The flavors are dark roasted malts, chocolate and espresso, with some citrus hops in the finish too.

Gonzo Porter and Belgian Devil

Colleen's Belgian Devil Dubbel is part of the brewery's limited release Brewhouse Rarities series. The aroma was fruity with a hint of yeast. The beer had flavors of sweet fruit, pears and apples, with a bit of peppery spices. Mouthfeel was light with mild carbonation.

For the next round I ordered the Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout, and after some debate, Colleen decided on the Pineapple Saison. We were hearing conflicting opinions on this one. So, the only way to know was to try it. We laughed when Colleen took a picture of our second round, as it looked a lot like the picture she took of our first round!

Pearl Necklace and Pineapple Saison

Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout is a nice, flavorful stout. The aroma is dark roasted coffee and bitter chocolate. The flavor sweet dark roasted malt, and if I try hard enough I can convince myself there's a hint of saltiness there. The roasted malt and bitter hop notes linger in the mouth. The oyster component of this beer is quite mild, if there at all. Personally, I think I'd enjoy a bit more oyster influence. After all, salt and bitter chocolate is a good combination.

Finally, the Pineapple Saison. Also from the Brewhouse Rarities series, this was a bit of an oddity. As could be expected, the citrus tartness of the pineapple was predominant. There was very little of Saison-like yeasty funk. The beer has a bright, tart flavor profile and was quite enjoyable. I just wouldn't have picked it as a Saison style beer.

Colleen and I had an extremely enjoyable couple of hours spent chatting, enjoying each other's company and some good beers. The tap takeover event provided a good excuse to get away and relax for a bit. My only question is, "When can we do it again?!?"

Friday, August 16, 2013

Stay Safe, Drink Craft Beer

We've heard a lot about the health benefits of beer, especially craft beer. Now, a Johns Hopkins study shows that your chances of ending up in the emergency room might be related to what beer you drink. It seems that factory beers are popular among ER patients.
Though Budweiser has 9.1 percent of the national beer market, it represented 15 percent of the of the E.R. “market.” The disparity was even more pronounced for Steel Reserve. It has only .8 percent of the market nationally, but accounted for 14.7 percent of the E.R. market. In all, Steel Reserve, Colt 45, Bud Ice, and another malt liquor, King Cobra, account for only 2.4 percent of the U.S. beer market, but accounted for 46 percent of the beer consumed by E.R. patients.
Drinking vodka, gin, brandy and cognac may also raise your odds of a visit to the emergency room. Go figure.

See "Budweiser is most popular beer among injured ER patients, pilot study says" for more on the research.

I wonder how many of those emergency room visits started out with, "Hold my beer, I want to try something." Like this perhaps...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Leaning to the Left

I stopped by the range after work for a quick 150 round workout*. When I looked at the grouping on my target I thought, "Well, that's the only part of my life where I lean to the left!"

* Hands at sides, from beep. 2 or 4 hits on target. 7, 15, and 25 yards.

Feast of the Martyrs of Otranto

Today, August 14, is the Feast Day of the Martyrs of Otranto. These 800 faithful Christian Martyrs suffered and died under muslim brutality in the Italian city of Otranto in 1480. The brave men refused to renounced their faith, despite the threat of certain death for not giving in to the invaders. Pope Francis canonized the men in May of this year.

See the previous post, "Martyrs of Otranto" for more information on these remarkable men.

Relics of the Otranto Martyrs
Let us pray that we all may be as strong and as faithful in the face of persecution.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Beer Dissapointment

I had hoped there'd be beer after tonight's meeting. Alas, it was not to be. Such a sad sight greeted me when I opened the cooler.

Hey guys, next month, I got this.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

No Implied Threat

I fixed the screen on the porch door. Again. Hopefully this will help the dog notice that the screen is back in place. There's no implied threat. Really.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Truth IPA

The press release from Flying Dog started out like this, "Full disclosure: This beer came to fruition because we saw a gap in our portfolio and we wanted to increase our market share." Well, being an avowed capitalist, of course I had to try it out. Okay, that, and it's an Imperial IPA.

Flying Dog The Truth pours a copper color with a very thin, and short-lived head. The aroma is sweet and a little boozy. The flavor is like grapefruit pith, citrusy and bitter at the same time. The initial sip caused a bit of a cheek pucker and eye blink, but that may have been more from surprise, as the aroma didn't prepare me for the big flavor. I recovered quickly and went in for another sip. And another. And another. Well, you get the picture. The subtle, sweet malt backbone helps to pull it all together. A bitter, dry finish rounds out the enjoyment. The Truth checks in at 8.7% ABV, but other than a hint in the aroma, it was pretty well hidden behind the robust flavor profile.

This is a big beer, and one that will appeal to fans of bold IPAs. Needless to say I enjoyed my single bottle of The Truth. Finishing the glass was bittersweet (no pun intended) as Flying Dog is being released on August 15, but only in Washington, DC and Maryland. Since this is a year-round addition to their beer portfolio we can hold out hope to see greater distribution in the future.

In classic Flying Dog manner, the brewery stirred up a bit of a controversy with a short-lived ad campaign for The Truth. I saw the ad poking fun at all the breweries expanding operations to North Carolina, and frankly, I laughed. We've covered the recent growth in that state with much anticipation. It seems there are some humor-impared beer fans in North Carolina. But, those sensitive types probably couldn't handle such a bold beer anyway. (And probably stopped perusing these Musings a long time ago.) Their loss, seriously.

Notice for the Bureaucrats: Flying Dog sent me an unsolicited bottle of The Truth. It is through my own free will that I enjoyed the beer. No compensation, other than the pleasure of tweaking some sensitive types in NC, was received for its review.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Homefront IPA

We picked up this bottle of Homefront IPA when we visited Center of the Universe Brewing during our Father's Day road trip. Proceeds from sales of Homefront IPA will go to support Operation Homefront, a charity that provides emergency assistance to our military heroes and their families. The beer is aged on Louisville Slugger bats.

A worthy cause demands a worthy beer. So let's get to the tasting to see how they did. Homefront IPA pours a deep orange color with a thick, frothy white head. The aroma is a mix of citrus and sweet malt.

The flavor is rich with bitter grapefruit citrus, and slightly sweet resinous pine. The pulp-like citrus is balanced by sweet caramel malt notes. There's an interesting balance between the sweet and bitter flavors and neither predominate. Mouthfeel is moderately thick. The finish is clean with a lingering bitterness. I didn't pick up any wood flavors that might added by the maple bats.

I enjoyed Homefront IPA very much. I'm a fan of bitter citrus IPAs, but knowing that the proceeds from the beer are going to a good cause, makes the enjoyment that much greater.

Monday, August 5, 2013

August USPSA Match at Fredericksburg

This past Sunday I finally made to the monthly USPSA match put on by Fredericksburg Practical Shooters. For a number of reasons, I hadn't been able to hit my local match since April. As opposed to some Summer matches in previous years, the weather for this August event couldn't have been nicer. The temperature barely made it to 80℉, and there was even cloud cover to offer relief from the sun for a good bit of the day.

Many of the courses of fire in the match incorporated falling steel, and three stages also included swinging or popup targets. One interesting stage, "Shake It Up," provided a fun scenario. To get to the back half of the course, the shooter had to open and pass through a door. That door was "unlocked" by hitting a falling popper through a port in the wall. In addition, that falling steel also activated a swinging target at the rear of the stage. The stage offered numerous options on target engagement order and reload timing, especially for the Production shooter.

Another fun stage was called "Point the Way," and was arranged in an inverted V. The shooter started on either side and moved towards the center. Targets were arranged to the shooter's left and right, with the targets on the opposite leg engaged through low and high ports. Although there were the same number of targets on either side, the two sides were not mirror images of each other. I selected the longer run, but the one that had fewer targets to be engaged from a squatting position.

The Classifier stage selected for the match was "Steely Speed IV," CM 06-07. The six pepper poppers at 15 yards were all partially blocked by non-falling hard cover. Add to that the challenge of shooting from behind a barricade, and you have an interesting stage. This was a fun stage to shoot, despite its intimidating appearance.

At one point in the match the low morning sun was shining into my face. The combination of the sun and smoke made it quite difficult to see the targets beyond the gun. On top of that there was a lot of what I assume to be unburned powder sparkling in the sunlit smoke in front of the gun. (It's factory ammo.) I blame any missed shot on the distraction provided by the display. "Oooh sparkly."

This was the first event I've gotten to at Fredericksburg since the club started trying out the half-day format. With the crowd split into morning and afternoon sessions, I missed seeing some friends. However, I very much enjoyed the shorter day as opposed to the 7+ hour matches previously held. 

There's always a good mix of challenging shooting to be found at Fredericksburg. It's a large match with 8 stages in all; 6 field courses, 1 speed stage, and the Classifier. It's no surprise that the online registration for the morning session filled in just four minutes last week. Part of the challenge of shooting the Fredericksburg match is beating the registration rush! I'm looking forward to beating that rush again next month and getting another crack at whatever fun stages the match directors have in store.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

New Winery in Spotsylvania. And a Brewery?

Wilderness Run Vineyards is located on a farm not too far from where we live. The owners of the family run business are finalizing plans to open a winery and tasting room in October of this year. The Free Lance-Star recently ran an article about their plans. In addition to grapes, there are 3 1/2 acres devoted to sunflowers and barley at the farm. Which leads to this interesting nugget buried in the article,
Dr. Pagan said the sunflowers are an “agricultural experiment,” but Harry Pagan and his friend Brandon Pallen would like to use the two-row Conlon barley to make craft beers a barrel at a time. They’ve landed bartending jobs at Orion, a nightclub that opens Oct. 3 in downtown Fredericksburg, and plan to pool their earnings to buy equipment.
That's right, there may be a winery AND a brewery on the farm in the future!

See "Tuscan trip was key to a grape adventure" for more information on the planned winery. Wilderness Run Vineyards also has a Facebook page.

Friday, August 2, 2013

August is Virginia Craft Beer Month

Now that you've recovered from IPA Day, it's time to mark another craft beer occasion. The Virginia Craft Brewers Guild has designated August as Craft Beer Month to recognize the growth of the craft beer industry in Virginia. Events around the state will celebrate the many excellent beers being brewed on the Old Dominion.

The month-log celebration will culminate with the Virginia Craft Brewers Fest on August 24. The festival will take place at Devils Backbone Brewery in Nelson County.

Even the Virginia Tourism Board recognizes the importance of craft breweries to Virginia. See the interactive map to over 60 Virginia breweries at

A National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Beer Institute study shows that the beer industry generates nearly 52,000 jobs in Virginia. The industry contributes $2.2 billion in wages and benefits to the state's economy. Maybe the beer industry could give Congress and the president a few tips.

Aaaand, if you can stand the excitement, August 2 is also National Beer Day. So many celebrations and not a single Hallmark card to go with any of them.

Sunshine! Let's Shoot!

I had made plans with "Checkered Flag" to hit the range on Thursday afternoon, but those plans seemed to be in jeopardy when I awoke in the morning. A steady rain was falling, and the prediction was for it to continue all day. While neither of us mind shooting in some rain, the conditions didn't look favorable to outdoor activities.

As the morning and afternoon progressed, there were a few breaks in the rain, but checking the online weather sites, there was no prediction of an end today. We finally decided to tempt fate and head out during a break in the clouds. That turned out to be a good decision. Unlike a few weeks ago when the weather deteriorated before we got to shoot, this time the weather patterns took an unexpected turn for the better!

Clear skies moving in
We spent a few hours working on some fun practice drills; tight accurate shots, multiple target transitions, and running between shooting positions. By the time we were picking up brass, the sun was shining brightly, and the humidity was up. Just another day in Virginia — if you don't like the weather, wait a few minutes, it'll change.

Since we had the place to ourselves, we then moved down to the shotgun range and spent a little time shooting clays off the target stands. I was pretty rusty with the shotgun and it took me a few turns to get back in tune. I'll definitely make an effort to practice with the shotgun more often.

It turned into a very pleasant day, despite the early prognostications. Of course, by the time we were relaxing afterwards with a good beer, the stormy weather, complete with hail, had returned. It's Virginia!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

It's IPA Day

August 1 is "officially" designated as IPA Day.
Founded in 2011, IPA Day is a universal movement created to unite the voices of craft beer enthusiasts, bloggers and brewers worldwide, using social media as the common arena for connecting the conversation.  
IPA Day is not the brainchild of a corporate marketing machine, nor is it meant to serve any particular beer brand. IPA Day is opportunity for all breweries, bloggers, businesses and consumers to connect and share their love of craft beer. It is an opportunity for the entire craft beer culture to combine forces and advocate craft beer through increased education and global awareness 
Okay, I'll play along. The IPA, or India Pale Ale, is indeed one my favorite styles of beer. I typically gravitate to the house IPA first when I visit a new brewpub. It's a fair bet that the style has probably been reviewed on these Musings more than any other.

So, far be it from me to stand in the way of a "universal movement." After an afternoon at the range, I was ready for a good beer anyway. After looking through the beer fridge for something suitable, I opted for a Starr Hill Northern Lights IPA, one of my favorite Virginia beers. After all, not only is August 1st IPA Day, it also marks the start of Virginia Craft Beer Month.

Look through the #IPAday hashtag on Twitter to see how craft beer fans are marking the day.

Look! In the glass! It's a Wheat! It's a Saison! It's...

Three of us decided to hit the Steel the Glass Night featuring Boulevard Brewing this week at Capital Ale House. Two Boulevard beers were featured, 80 Acre Hoppy Wheat and Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale. I was surprised that two similar beers would be the only two options. However, we're always up for trying something new, and discovering a new good Saison-style beer would be a good thing.

When we arrived the bar seats were filled, so we grabbed a table by the window. We ordered three glasses of the Tank 7, and couple Bavarian Pretzels to start our tasting.

The three glasses of unfiltered beer arrived and where poised for the requisite photo. That blogging task completed (Thanks Colleen!) I took a sniff of the aroma and a sip. Well, that's not very "saison-y" I remarked. There was none of the expected yeast funkiness. The flavor was a mild, slightly citrus wheat flavor. We all agreed that this was a pretty weak Farmhouse Ale. We also remarked that it didn't seem like an 8.5% ABV beer. In fact, it seemed very much like, ahem, a hoppy wheat beer! We called the waiter over, assuming he served us the wrong beer. However, he insisted that this was indeed the Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale. (Although he had previously admitted that he had never heard of Saison before this evening.)

We knew we weren't drinking the Farmhouse Ale, and eventually ordered round two. I told the server we wanted "the other beer that was not this one." A few minutes later he returned with three glasses. Setting them down, even he noted "That looks like the same beer." I tasted, and sure enough it was the 80 Acre Hoppy Wheat, again. He took them back and soon returned with three glasses of the actual Tank 7 brew. Smelling and sipping, this was obviously, finally, a Saison. The waiter informed us that the tap handles had been switched earlier!

Boulevard Saison, er, no. Hoppy Wheat

The interesting thing is that we ordered our first beers well after the 4:00PM event start time. That means the wrong beers were being served for over an hour. As noted, the long bar at Capital Ale House was filled to capacity when we arrived, and most folks had Boulevard logo glasses sitting in front of them.

Now that we finally had the correct beers, we were quite impressed with the Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale. The aroma was yeasty and bready with a citrus hint. The taste was rich in the (long-awaited) funky farmhouse yeast. A solid backbone of biscuity malt was accompanied with a touch of citrus, along with a nice white pepper spiciness. The alcohol level is noticeable in the flavor but still muted. The beer has a thick mouthfeel and drying finish. It's a delicious beer, and one that was worth the wait to finally arrive at our table. It's too bad some folks apparently missed out on actually tasting it.

End note: It should go without saying, I am a fan and frequent customer of Capital Alehouse. Generally, the beer, the food and the service are quite acceptable. Given the variety of beer offered, and the problems inherent in any business, I accept things can sometimes go wrong. At least it makes a funny story. And there's beer!