Thursday, October 31, 2013

I've Got Some Catching Up To Do

I often get asked questions about how much beer I drink. Some people think that since I'm public about my appreciation for good beer, I must drink a lot. It's about quality folks, not quantity. The Boulder County, Colorado government, in a part of the country that is no stranger to craft breweries, has a "Drinking Limits for Health" guide on their web site.
In Boulder County, more than 15 percent of residents regularly exceed the recommended alcohol limits. Drinking limits to maintain health (low-risk drinking limits) are: 
  • Women: No more than 3 drinks on any day, and no more than 7 drinks in a week.
  • Men: No more than 4 drinks on any day, and no more than 14 drinks in a week. 
To stay low risk, keep within both the daily and weekly limits. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, or who are breastfeeding should not drink. Both men and women over the age of 65 should have no more than 3 drinks on any day and no more than 7 per week.
Wow! I don't even get close to hitting either of those thresholds. I might even not be drinking enough to stay healthy. I'm going to have to reevaluate.

The web page also has a quiz you can take to check your own drinking levels.

I passed...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hitler Hears About the Obamacare Website

Offered with no apologies to the sensitive types out there...

Adventure Brewing Finds a Home

The Fredericksburg area's newest brewery is one step closer to reality. Adventure Brewing posted to their Facebook page recently that they had signed a lease, and submitted their Brewers Notice to the federal government. The brewery will be located at 33 Perchwood Dr, Fredericksburg, VA 22405.

Musings readers are familiar with my fondness for enjoying a good beer after some fun at the range. As such, when I looked at the Google map of the new location I couldn't help but notice the brewery will be located just around the corner from the local indoor range. I haven't gotten out to The Range in some time, but I might be tempted to make a combination trip!

The Fredericksburg Business Insider also has information on the brewery's progress.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Walnut Ridge Match - Yep, Summer's Over

It's been a few months since I got over to the monthly Walnut Creek Practical Shooters USPSA match at Summit Point, West Virginia. Last time I made the early morning drive it wasn't dark (or cold) for the start of the drive. The cold and dark early morning made me briefly wonder why I do this, but I was still looking forward to the match and the friends. My dashboard thermometer read 27° when I arrived at the range, but we saw a "warmer" 32° by the time we fired the first shot. Fortunately it warmed further to a tolerable temperature as the morning progressed.

The first stage I shot was called "Goblin's Run." The shooter started seated, with the loaded gun on a table. It was a pretty straightforward stage from there, the final shots made on a swinging target. A good stage on which to shake off the cold.

Next up, "Don't Go Outside," was very well laid out and required the shooter to make full use of the free fire zone; going in and out of the corners and "jags." For me it took some extra thought to plan out. There were targets that were obviously, at first, engaged from certain positions. But as a Production shooter limited to 10 rounds in the magazines, I saw traps of standing reloads if I took the obvious route. There was also one target that had to be engaged from a extreme lean around the left side of a wall. The Walnut Ridge stage designers frequently place targets in positions that put the shooter off-balance, adding to the challenge. Most often I try to end a stage on those shots, but in this case my plan put the target in the middle of my run. I had a good run on the stage, despite one D hit.

The third stage our squad shot was the Classifier, "Can You Count?" I had never shot this popular standard stage, but was looking forward to it. The directions are to draw the gun, put five shots on a close target, perform a mandatory reload, then put five hits on a second target. It's truly a "go fast or go home" stage. After the first string, the RO stated, "That was a sub 5 second run." I ran the second stage and as soon as I finished I saw a lone hole out in the C zone. "D'oh," I exclaimed to the amusement of my squad mates. But, again the time on the string was good. My total time for the two strings was 9.40 seconds, with 19 A's and 1C, for a hit factor of 10.4255. I think that's good enough to add a B-Classifier to my records. Given my recent string of poor Classifiers I was VERY happy with this one, and it also gave me a 6th place finish on the stage.

"Black Cat Alley" had 28 paper targets and 2 Pepper Poppers arranged in a long line among some angled walls. Most of the paper targets were arranged in pairs, one on top of the other, leaving only a portion of the top target exposed. While there were no hard cover or no-shoot targets, shooting too low would put an extra hit on the lower target and earn a miss on the top. I took my time on this one, but did have my only miss of the match on this stage.

"Freddy's Revenge" was an interesting stage that was essentially a U-shaped run with targets on both sides of the "legs." Depending on how a shooter decided to run it, they could be shooting while moving backwards, or running up range past a target and turning around to shoot. Either way there were targets that could be engaged at point blank range. Targets frequently had pasters blown off, or the target destroyed by muzzle blast. I opted for a conservative approach and crossed the "U" at each end to avoid retreating back up range. Granted, it was fun to shoot the targets point blank while running past them, hitting 20 A's, 2 C's and 1 D. That seemingly good run was actually my second lowest stage finish of the day.

The final stage for me was "Trick Or Speed." From a single shooting box, there were three arrays of targets to be engaged; five falling steel poppers, a Texas Star, and finally three paper targets. A mandatory mag change was called for between each array. I struggled on the last two plates of the star, but at least finished with 6 A hits on the paper.

I was extremely pleased with how I shot on this chilly Saturday in West Virginia. Just one miss and two D hits, gave me a 13th place finish out of 25 Production shooters. I finished three of the 6 stages in the top ten. But most exciting personally, was earning a personal record of 90% of the available match points. It was a fun match and a very satisfying day of shooting. I'm glad I didn't let the cold and dark deter me from playing.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Tab Clearing: For The Love of (Bad) Beer

Like most readers of these Musings, I love a good beer, and many of us will make extra effort for a chance to drink a new or special beer. But other folks are making the news for doing some pretty extreme stupid things for beer, and some bad beer at that.

This good citizen in Memphis was trying to purchase a refreshing 16 ounce Heineken when the hapless clerk over charged him by 1 cent. The green bottled beer fan was so upset at this slight, he called emergency services, twice. His third call to a non-emergency number cost him $250 in bail money. That's not good beer money budgeting.

Six adults and two children escaped a house fire in Columbus, Georgia, but getting out alive was not enough for one resident. The determined drinker went back into the burning house to rescue his beer. I'm sure some readers are thinking about a special bottle or two they might be tempted to save from destruction. Sadly, in this case the man went back inside retrieve a few cans of Bud Light

They say there's no accounting for taste.

Friday, October 25, 2013

There Are Still Virginia Beers to Discover

When I sat down at the bar at Capital Ale House Wednesday evening, I asked David the bartender for beer suggestions. I knew he could give a better rundown on what's new and good than I could get looking through the extensive, and quickly outdated, beer menu. He listed off a few new beers, but I decided to order a glass of the Green Flash Green Bullet I had enjoyed last week.

Colleen started out with a big glass of Sixth Seal Stout, from a Virginia brewery I'd never heard of, Apocalypse Ale Works in Forest, Virginia. The dark beer had a light mocha colored head and aromas of dark chocolate and coffee. The flavor was slightly sweet, with dark chocolate, espresso and a hint of citrus bitterness. I stole a sip two three many sips from her glass. It was a nice find and a flavorful beer.

After finishing my Green Bullet IPA, I was torn between two beers for my next selection. Although pumpkin beers aren't my favorites, I was tempted to have Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale. CAH was also pouring Get Bent Mountain IPA by Parkway Brewing Company of Salem, Virginia. Parkway is another Virginia brewery I've not experienced. Colleen helped me out by offering to order the Pumpkin Ale for herself. She's a team player! 

Weyerbacher Pumpkin Ale has a decent balance between the actual pumpkin flavor and pumpkin pie spice flavor. The flavor is a little bit on the boozy side as well. I enjoyed the few sips I had from Colleen's glass. It's beer worth seeking out, but not one of which I could enjoy multiples. 

The Get Bent Mountain IPA is an excellent, citrus-rich IPA. The aroma was strong in juicy and pithy citrus. The flavor was more of the same. The citrus notes are a combination of juicy citrus fruit and bitter zest. The slightly sweet malt backbone helps to keep some balance, but this is a classic citrusy IPA lover's beer. The moderate 7.2% ABV is very well hidden.

Of course, it wasn't all about the beer, we had to eat too! Since I was enjoying big, bold beers, I decided to go big and bold with my food selection, with "The German," off the burger menu. This burger is topped with sauerkraut, melted Havarti cheese, and a grilled bratwurst! The sandwich is served on a pretzel bun, with a side order of warm German potato salad and red cabbage. I've noticed a preponderance of pretzel rolls or buns on many menus lately. It seems to be a new fad, but one that I am very happy to see. I like the flavor and texture of the pretzel breads quite a bit. Oh, did I mention, there was a burger and a bratwurst?

Great food and great beer, and a great time spent with my wife. I must say we're both enjoying taking some breaks from our busy lives to enjoy a bit of time together trying out new beers.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

North Mountain Halloween Match

There was "frost on the pumpkin" when I stepped out of my car at the North Mountain parking area for their October USPSA match last Sunday. Shiver! It was my first frost sighting of the season, and I'm really not ready for Winter, but fortunately the sun warmed things up quickly. As I glanced over at the range I could see that match directors Dan and Elaine were in a Halloween mood. Spider webs, goblins and pumpkins were the order of the day.

The first stage I shot was a "memory stage," consisting of 10 USPSA targets. After a bit of study, the challenge proved to be fairly straight forward, as long as you had your plan well in hand. For a Production shooter the stage was balanced with 5 targets engaged from two shooting positions, just don't forget any targets.

The next stage was not so Production friendly. With a minimum of 22 rounds needed, the options were to shoot from three positions, or engage all the targets from just two positions and do (at least) one standing reload. It was a interesting choice, on a fun stage. The steel plate "pumpkins" where perched above no-shoot "goblins."

Next up was an interestingly themed stage that had two shooting boxes. From the first box, the "pumpkin" plate rack was engaged. Moving forward to a second shooting box there were four paper targets guarded by two frowning ghosts. The fun, or evil part, depending on your point of view, is the targets were marked with black "spider webs." And those black areas were hard cover, meaning a hit in the black counted as a miss. 

The next stage had three "tunnels" through which we engaged the target arrays. The portals were placed such that we had to merely stoop for two of them, and the large middle obstacle required a deep squat or kneel to engage the targets. The first group had two paper and a steel popper shot through the open-ended barrel laid on it's side. After completing the end array, you moved to the middle tunnel which was a large black drain pipe set on the ground. Two pepper poppers were engaged which released two swinging paper targets. Shooting the steel and swingers from a knee was only part of the challenge — I had to then get back up in order move to the next position!

The final stage was the classifier, CM 98-03, "Six." This stage provided a fast finish to the match. Two on paper, a pepper popper and smaller US popper, followed by two more shots on paper. Three or four seconds and it's all over, for better or worse.

The November North Mountain match provided courses of fire that were fun to shoot and fun to look at. Kudos to the match directors for their time and imagination in setting up a seasonally themed shooting event.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Responsible Decision Making?

The problems with the obamacare website could have been predicted by anyone looking into CGI Federal, the company behind the debacle. The parent company of CGI Federal was fired by the Canadian government for failing to meet its contractual agreements.

Given the historical failures of the developers, you'd think the web site would have been tested before launch. Ah, but it was. Just days before the October 1st launch, the site failed under the load of a few hundred users. Despite numerous warning signs of eminent failure, the public launch went forward, with the expected results. The companies incompetence was more evident after reports that the website contains copyrighted software code, used in violation of the licensing agreement.

The public's experience with the obamacare web site is so bad, the administration won't answer questions about successful sign ups. They did however trot out a successful enrollee for the press to fawn over; until it turned out that Chad Henderson didn't really sign up, he was just a shill from the Obama election campaign. Most recenty, HHS Secretary Sebelius tried to claim the White House didn't know about issues with the site "until days into" the launch, despite widespread reporting and complaints.

Are these really the people you want making decisions regarding your healthcare?

It hardly seems responsible for this administration to award such a critical project with no public notice and no competitive bidding. Some explanation of the sweetheart deal for CGI Federal might be in the early access to the White House and president Obama granted to company executives. But there might be another explanation for the Obama administration's fondness for the Canadian company. It turns out the same company was also behind the failed Canadian gun registry program. Is the administration hoping to leverage that project as well?

Are These "Real People" Targets?

I was recently taken to task for shooting at "pictures of real people." I recalled that fallacious accusation when I unpacked the targets I ordered for the fun day at the range coming this weekend.

Do these qualify as "pictures of real people"? After all, they do remind me of the current president's cheerleaders.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fredericksburg Brew Fest

The first Fredericksburg Brew Fest took place this past Saturday at the Fredericksburg Fairgrounds. I picked up a couple friends early and we arrived to claim our place near the start of the line before the gates opened. Once in, we picked up our shaker pint festival glass and list of breweries. Even though the pours were officially set at two ounces, it was nice to be drinking from a proper size glass. For those who wanted more than a sample of a particular brew, tickets were available for purchasing full pours too.

Sixteen breweries were offering some 40 different beers. The admission price included 24 beer samples. In addition to the breweries, a distillery and a local winery were in attendance, as well as assorted food vendors. The first tent we stopped at was that of The Traveler Beer Company from Vermont. They were pouring their seasonal Jacko Traveler Shandy. I don't drink too many pumpkin beers, typically l I find them to be either too sweet, or too rich in pumpkin pie spices and lacking in actual pumpkin. This was not the case with the Jacko. The beer is brewed with real pumpkin and it shows in the flavor. The accompanying spices are present but subtle. Despite my pre-tasting doubts, I enjoyed the Jacko Traveler beer quite a bit. In fact, it was the only beer at the festival that I went back for seconds on. Apparently others enjoyed it as well, when I passed by the booth later in the afternoon, I noticed they were out of the beer.

Throughout the afternoon we wondered the festival enjoying the beer and conversation. Sofie and Matilda Lambicus from Goose Island, Sierra Nevada Flipside Red IPA, Widmer Marionberry Hibiscus Gose, and Highland Thunderstruck Coffee Porter were among some of the new-to-me beers I enjoyed. Of course, I would partake in many old favorites as well.

Crowds, but no waiting.

The Bowman Distillery was also pouring samples of two of their small batch whiskeys, though these samples would cost you two of your beer tickets. Master Distiller, Brian Prewitt was on hand to talk about the samples being poured. I tried both beverages of the offerings. One of these was a 7 year old bourbon that spent some time in oak barrels in which Richmond's Hardywood Brewery had aged one of their beers. The brewery - distillery collaboration produced a remarkably smooth and flavorful whiskey. Something tells me I'm going to have to finally make the time to take that distillery tour.

The festival drew a large crowd, and by late afternoon there were constant crowds at the booths, but the lines moved quickly and very little time was spent waiting for your next sample. A brief rain shower did nothing to dampen spirits or keep folks away. This first-time event for Fredericksburg was well-organized and made for a very enjoyable afternoon. I am looking forward to it becoming an annual event.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Couple of "Big" Beers

So, it was only Tuesday. Why save all the fun for the weekend? If your life is like ours, weekends are usually too busy for relaxing over good beer anyway. Since we had a free evening, Colleen and I invited Checkered Flag to join us for dinner and beer at Capital Ale House. There was no Steal the Glass night or other promotion going on, but I had my eye (and tastebuds) set on trying a couple of special tappings I'd seen announced on CAH's Facebook page.

First up was a Stone Brewing collaboration, 10 Barrel/Bluejacket/Stone Suede Imperial Porter. Colleen and I both let out a quiet "Ooh" as the beers were set in front of us. I picked up the molasses and dark coffee aromas right away, even before I lifted the glass. It was a test of patience while Colleen grabbed the requisite photo. Yes, the beer tasted as good as it smelled and looked. It presented a complex blend of flavors, and I was hard pressed pick out a dominant trait. Roasted malt, milk chocolate, dark fruits combined with a touch of honey sweetness made for a rich porter. The mouthfeel was smooth and creamy, with a slightly sticky, but otherwise clean finish. At 9.6% ABV, Suede Imperial Porter is a sipper, one to slowly enjoy.

To accompany the Seude Porter, we ordered a Capital Ale House appetizer that we'd never tried, Fried Pierogies. The fried potato and onion pierogies were topped with applewood smoked bacon bits, melted Havarti cheese and herb sour cream. This combo went quite well together.

By the time we ordered dinner, my glass of Suede was empty. The second beer I planned to try was Green Flash Green Bullet Triple IPA. I'd heard mixed reviews of this one, but being a hop fan I knew I wanted to try it. I hesitated though as it was quite a different beer than the Imperial Porter I had just enjoyed. After consulting with the helpful gents behind the bar, I decide to stick to my plan.

The Green Bullet had a pleasant citrus and pine aroma. That's what I was hoping for — I was in the mood for a citrus-rich DIPA, not a sweet one. The flavor didn't disappoint either. Rich grapefuit and orange citrus was capped by a bit of resinous hop bitterness at the end. I was quite surprised at how smooth the beer was. Despite the bold hop flavors, the beer didn't overwhelm the taste buds. I'm a big fan of "in your face" beers, but was still pleased that this one wasn't in that realm. The finish was amazingly clean, with very little aftertaste left behind. That the beer checks in at 10.10% ABV is quite hidden and the alcohol is very well masked. But don't be fooled, sip this one with respect.

I paired my Green Bullet with a favorite dish from Capital Ale House, the Stuffed Pretzel sandwich. A split and grilled kielbasa is served with melted Havarti cheese, sauerkraut and sweet mustard on a soft pretzel roll. The accompanying fries were served with a spicy mayonnaise. The rich food flavors all holding their own against the citrusy beer.

My "big beer" evening was quite enjoyable. It was fun spending time chatting with Colleen, a friend, and the folks at Capital Ale House. But like all good things, the evening finally came to an end. I will admit that I slept very well that night.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Range Time: Government "Robbery"

We made it out to the range Monday afternoon. After setting set up a few targets, we enjoyed a good laugh over the "government official" targets.

Enough joking about that, time to shoot. Given the recent rule updates, practice was limited to standing and shooting. The small circles shot at distance really test trigger control and sight alignment, so it was still a beneficial expenditure of ammo, even if there was no "rapid fire" or running. But more important to me than the practice, this was the first time since June that Colleen and I have been to the range together. It was a long overdue excursion.

Did you figure out the laugh over the targets?

Hint: the hair.

Got it?

I guess I should give former former Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner credit for helping me shoot accurately. 

I jest. Really.

Et tu, Bison?

No further comment necessary. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Virginia Winners at GABF

The winners at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver were announced this weekend. Fourteen medals were awarded to Virginia breweries. That's up from the count of thirteen last year. In addition to the beer awards, Devils Backbone and brewer Jason Oliver were recognized as the Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year.

2013 Great American Beer Festival Virginia Winners

Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
Devils Backbone Brewing Co - Basecamp, Roseland, VA Jason Oliver

Category 21: Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer, 49 Entries
Bronze: Rum Barrel Belgian Dubbel Style Ale, Three Brothers Brewing, Harrisonburg, VA

Category 25: Aged Beer, 31 Entries
Bronze: COLOSSAL ONE, Port City Brewing Co., Alexandria, VA

Category 27: Smoke Beer, 79 Entries
Bronze: COLOSSAL TWO, Port City Brewing Co., Alexandria, VA

Category 28: American-Style or International-Style Pilsener, 29 Entries
(No Gold Medal Awarded)
Silver: Gold Leaf Lager, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. – Basecamp, Roseland, VA

Category 35: Vienna-Style Lager, 30 Entries
Silver: Oktoberfest, Port City Brewing Co., Alexandria, VA

Category 36: German-Style Märzen, 51 Entries
Gold: Rhinofest, Lost Rhino Brewing Co., Ashburn, VA
Silver: Octoberfest, Great American Restaurants, Centreville, VA

Category 39: American-Style Dark Lager, 22 Entries
Gold: Old Virginia Dark, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. – Basecamp, Roseland, VA

Category 43: Baltic-Style Porter, 16 Entries
Bronze: Danzig, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. – Basecamp, Roseland, VA

Category 53: Imperial India Pale Ale, 149 Entries
Bronze: Notch 9 Double IPA, Smartmouth Brewing Co., Norfolk, VA

Category 56: English-Style Mild Ale, 35 Entries
Bronze: Ale of Fergus, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. – Basecamp, Roseland, VA

Category 65: German-Style Sour Ale, 46 Entries
Silver: Berliner Metro Weiss, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. – Basecamp, Roseland, VA

Category 68: Belgian-Style Witbier, 66 Entries
Gold: Optimal Wit, Port City Brewing Co., Alexandria, VA

Category 70: Belgian- and French-Style Ale, 71 Entries
Gold: Azreal, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. – Outpost, Lexington, VA

I want to also recognize the lone winner from Maryland. Our friends at Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Maryland completed the local sweep in the German-style Märzen category (36) with a Bronze for Dogtoberfest.

Also recognized during the Denver event was Mekong Restaurant. The Richmond Vietnamese restaurant was recently selected as the best beer bar in America in the "Great American Beer Bar" voting sponsored by the Brewers Association.

Congratulations to all the breweries and brewers. You can find a complete listing of all the GABF awards here. There's a few Virginia beers on the winner list I have not had, so it's time to get to work!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Kaine: Responding to Constituents is Nonessential

I emailed both of my US Senators regarding the UN Arms Treaty recently signed by the traitor John Kerry. I received the following auto-reply from Senator Tim Kaine:
Thank you for contacting me. 
Unfortunately, a lapse in funding has required the nonessential operations of the federal government to temporarily close. I will be unable to respond to your message until the situation is resolved. 
As we continue to discuss and debate the many significant challenges facing our Commonwealth and country, I do appreciate you taking time to contact me. Hearing from Virginians helps me better understand my constituents and the issues facing them. 
I encourage you to visit my website at for regular updates about my activities, as well as my positions on issues that are important to Virginia and our nation. 
Thank you again for contacting me.
I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that the Senator considers responding to his constituents to be a "nonessential" activity. It is surprising that he openly admitted it, rather than simply ignoring voter input as usual. (Will he send a promotion touting his honesty next?) Any elected official who claims they can't do the job of responding to constituents should be removed from office — by whatever means necessary to fix the problem.

It's worth noting that on the same day I received this email, Kaine was still posting to his Twitter feed. Apparently Twitter is an "essential" part of being a Senator.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Blue Mountain Recognized for 'Farm to Pint' Efforts

Virginia's Blue Mountain Brewery and Hop Farm was recently recognized for its commitment to using local ingredients in their beers and supporting the local agriculture industry. The brewery made the Farm Flavor Top Ten listing of Farm to Pint breweries, as reported by the Augusta Free Press:
Blue Mountain Brewery has been named one of 10 awesome farm-to-pint breweries by, a national website that highlights the best in recipes, cooking tips, farmers guides and more that follow food’s journey from the farm to your kitchen. 
For the inaugural list of some of the best farm-to-pint breweries across the United States, editors looked at breweries with a commitment to source the best local ingredients for their beers while also supporting their local agriculture industry.

Blue Mountain not only uses their own locally grown hops, they also feature ingredients from local farms in their brewpub food menu. The Farm Flavor website has more information on all ten recognized breweries.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Five O'Clock Friday: Opening Time

A bar owner locked up his place at 2 AM and went home to sleep. He had been in bed only a few minutes when the phone rang. “What time do you open up in the morning?” he heard an obviously inebriated man inquire. 
The owner was so furious, he slammed down the receiver and went back to bed. A few minutes later there was another call and he heard the same voice ask the same question. “Listen, the owner shouted, “there’s no sense in asking me what time I open because I wouldn’t let a person in your condition in. 
“I don’t want to get in,” the caller interjected. “I want to get out.”

H/T to Common Sense Evaluation for the laugh.

Enjoy your weekend, but don't fall asleep in the pub.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Flying Dog Secret Stash Harvest Ale

What wonderful timing. I walk into the house, thinking I'd like something interesting to drink that evening, and then I spied a package on the porch from Flying Dog Brewery. "I hope it's the Harvest Ale," I thought. I was right! Typically I set brewery-supplied samples aside until I am in the mood to "work," but I was looking forward to this release, so after a short chill time in the fridge, I opened it up.

Flying Dog Secret Stash Harvest Ale is a Saison/Farmhouse Ale, and as such, pours with a rapidly growing head. I forget what type of beer I was dealing with initially, and started pouring a little too quickly and had to wait for the beer to settle a bit before continuing. The foam on top of the beer is thick and stiff, with large bubbles, and is quite persistent. The beer itself is a cloudy, beige-yellow color. The aroma is strong in wheat and yeast, with a hint of citrus and spice. The flavors are built around a strong wheat and saison yeast base. Initially there's a hint of honey sweetness, followed by citrus and spice. There's a zest and pithiness that tingles the tongue. A drying finish and lingering bitterness wraps it up.

I was really enjoying this beer, but knowing Colleen's fondness for Saisons I also wanted to let her have a taste too. Fortunately she arrived home before I finished the glass, so I shared the remaining beer. I didn't tell her what is was or who it was from. She sniffed, tasted, gave a smile, and asked if we could get more. Yea, we'll look for more.

Secret Stash Harvest Ale is a seasonal release made with local ingredients, so the recipe varies from year to year. This year's batch is brewed with locally grown wheat, and Cascade, Centennial and Chinook hops grown by Black Locust Hops and Organarchy Hops in Maryland. The brewery held a hop tasting and selection event with local farmers in August to select local hops for use in the beer. It will be showing up on shelves in MD, DC, VA, PA, NJ and NY soon. I'll be watching for it.

The beer reviewed here was a promotional sample from the brewery. My impressions are provided of my own free will.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Fredericksburg USPSA Match

Quick, check the calendar. Is it really October? It sure didn't feel like it based on the 90° temps, and humidity to match, that we experienced at this "Fall" match on Sunday. Despite the unseasonably warm weather, the match was a lot of fun. Six field courses, plus one Classifier stage, were set up to create a very challenging event.

Our squad started on "Pit and the Pendulum". This course of fire featured the swinging bridge that gets dragged out for matches with some regularity at the Fredericksburg club. After engaging three targets from the starting area, the shooter ran onto the bridge to engage a couple of targets from the unstable platform. Allowing the bridge to stabilize, and then swinging smoothly to the next target minimized the movement. Leaving the bridge was a bit tricky as it absorbed your forward momentum. After hitting solid ground, there were a couple of Pepper Poppers and swinging target that appeared, upside down, in front of the shooter.

The next stage I shot had a name that evoked a smile from me, "Oktoberfest." You started the stage with your strong hand holding a stein (of water) that was set on a barrel mid-stage. Apparently a number of my squad mates were familiar with my fondness for brewed beverages, as I took some ribbing on this one. You could hit a couple targets from the start, including a tight shot between two no-shoot targets. A quick detour out of the shooting area to hit a stomp plate released a swinger hidden behind a wall, that the shooter engaged later in the course of fire. This stage also added the twist of requiring three shots on each target, rather than the usual two.

"Hide and Seek," was appropriately named. Targets were strategically placed such that the shooter had to use most of the large free fire zone to find them all. There was a couple of Pepper Poppers that barely made themselves visible around the walls. Interestingly, I had one-for-one shots on those tight poppers. It was an open target that I managed to "Mike."

"Yes You Can," offered a challenge of having two clamshells activate from a single Pepper Popper. The targets exposed, then hidden by the rising no-shoots, were set far enough apart that the shooter had to choose one or the other to engage. Of course, at rest the targets left only head shots exposed. Some shooters chose to just wait for head shots on both targets, rather than risk hitting the no-shoots that quickly covered the targets.

Stage 4 was the Classifier, CM 03-10 "Riverdale Standards." The stage challenged strong and weak hand shooting, as well as speedy reloads. That's enough said about this one. :-)

"Topsy Turvy," brought out another tricky prop in Fredericksburg's arsenal, the hanging handles. At both ends of a long wall metal handles were attached. A Pepper Popper and a single paper target were placed at each end of the course. The fault lines were set far back from the end of the wall, so the shooter had to hang onto the handle with one hand, and hang way out, engaging those end targets single-handed. As if that wasn't challenging enough, hitting the falling steel, opened a port in the wall at the opposite end of the wall, through which additional targets were engaged. This meant the shooter, starting at either end, had to make a return trip to hit the targets through the now opened port near his starting point. It's not too often you are forced to shoot both strong hand and week hand only on a field course.

The last stage our squad shot was called "Twist and Shout." There was a drop turner on this course of fire, though while not exceptionally quick to start moving after the activator was hit, was exposed only a short time and was only partially visible from where its activator was hit. The target was also visible later from another part of the stage, and many shooters took advantage of that, even though it added some extra time and extra shots later. The stage also featured a small round plate, that could be hit from two places, neither of which were very close, nor wide open.

I was pretty happy with how I shot most of the stages, as far as planning goes, and even my hits on the most challenging targets. I had too many misses on some fairly easy targets. In looking back on the match, it seems that most of those missed shots were on entering or leaving a shooting position. (And I believe I've noted this weakness previously.) I need to work on getting settled upon entering a new shooting position, and especially, take care not to pull off too soon when preparing to exit a position. (Patience has never been one of my stronger virtues.)

Overall, this was a technically challenging match. There were long, tight shots and plenty of moving targets. Many of the stages required some serious thought to come up with a shooting plan, and then to execute it well. Of course, it wouldn't be enjoyable without fun folks to shoot it with as well. We had a great squad and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, even when their plan didn't go as well as hoped. I came home tired, dusty, and a little bit sunburned. But I couldn't have hoped for a more enjoyable day.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Six Years of Blogging

Well, Musings Over a Pint is six years old today. I do appreciate all those who stop to read these musings. I certainly have enjoyed writing them, and I admit, I write mainly for my own entertainment. Last week I sat down and started looking through all the posts, starting from Day 1. I enjoyed reminiscing about all those trips, beers, shooting events, and other adventures. And of course, the occasional rant. If I ever turn this thing off, I'll keep those posts around just for the memories.

Besides the memories, the 1,713 posts in these six years have brought about new friends, both in person and online. Blogging has opened up many opportunities to try new beers and visit places I might not have otherwise. Even though I occasionally stress over a post, it been a lot of fun and I look forward to the next adventure. A big "thank you" to everyone who visits. I'm honored by your presence.

Cheers! Here's to more fun times ahead!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Irish Music, Oktoberfest, and a Barrel Aged Beer

The email from Jeff at Blue & Gray warned that this might be the last weekend for the Baron von Steuben Oktoberfest seasonal. As noted a couple weeks ago, I hoped to get back to the brewery to enjoy it again, so we headed over to Blue & Gray Brewing on Friday to enjoy some good beer. Since it was the 1st Friday, Irish music was expected as well. We took a table outside and started out with a couple of pints of the Oktoberfest. Colleen and I enjoyed the unseasonably warm weather while sipping our beers under the stars.

Talking to our waitress, we learned that a batch of Kirkland's Kölsch that was aged in a single malt whiskey barrel from Copper Fox Distillery was tapped and available. She was quite enthusiastic in describing the beer, so when Checkered Flag arrived to join us for dinner we ordered three half-pints to accompany our entrées. As the glasses were set on the table, the server exclaimed, "Oh, that smells so good."

She was correct. The beer had a pleasant malt whiskey aroma. The whiskey was strong in the flavor as well. Though predominant, it was extremely pleasant and drinkable. The taste was there, but the alcohol burn was mitigated by the beer. I could still detect the presence of the Kölsch, but it served mainly to "soften" the whiskey. All three of us enjoyed the barrel aged beer very much. Aging beer in whiskey barrels can be hit or miss; too long and the beer flavor is overcome, tap it too soon and it just gives the beer an off flavor. However, I think Blue & Gray hit this one just right.

The Irish music? Unfortunately, this night we supplied our own thanks to iTunes Radio. We're having a run of bad luck catching the house band. Last month we enjoyed dinner inside, only to learn the band was playing outside, and we caught only a few songs at the end of the evening. On this night, for whatever reason, they didn't show up. Checkered Flag commented it was like searching for Brigadoon. But, in any event, the beer, the food, and the company were all excellent.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Elusive Blue Mountain Oktoberfest

A few weeks ago when we visited Blue Mountain Brewery, I was disappointed they were out of their Oktoberfest beer. Then, last week, Park Lane Tavern was advertising a Steal the Glass event featuring the beer, so I planned to try again for a taste. Shortly before that event was to start, they replaced the featured Blue Mountain beer with Sam Adams Oktoberfest -- I suspect a scheduling or supply issue. (Fortunately I saw that announcement before I left the house.) The STG event was rescheduled to this week. Colleen and I took advantage of that on Wednesday and finally got our pints of Blue Mountain Oktoberfest, and a couple of really nice Blue Mountain Barrel House snifters too.

Blue Mountain Oktoberfest pours a brilliant amber-orange color with a persistent head. The aroma is malty with toasted grain. The flavor presents a big, rich toasted malt base with toffee and some nuttiness thrown in. That malty base is balanced with a very pleasing earthy, hop bitterness. The bitter hops linger a bit in a clean finish. Our overall impression of this beer was succinctly summed up by Colleen after her first sip, "This is good."

After I finished my snifter full, we still had some time to linger so I ordered a standard pint of the Oktoberfest. The long hunt for this elusive beer was well worth the effort. I wonder if I'll get a crack at another pint this season...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Dominion Octoberfest

While doing out grocery shopping this weekend, I checked the beer aisle for any Oktoberfest beers still in stock. After enjoying the Oktoberfest beer at Blue & Gray's celebration last weekend, I was in the mood for some more Märzen style beers. Lo and behold, not a single Oktoberfest to be found, except the ubiquitous Sam Adams seasonal. Well it is almost October after all, the season's all but over! However, upon arriving home, I remembered that I had a bottle of Dominion Octoberfest in the fridge. It was part of a sample box sent from Old Dominion Brewing last month. I opened that bottle after dinner Sunday evening.

The beer pours a reddish-orange color. I had to pour hard to build up the off-white head, which dropped quickly to a persistent, but thin ring. The aroma is very malty, with toasted, sweet bread hints. The flavor turns on the malt aspect full bore. It's bready, slightly sweet, with an ever so slight hop bitterness. There's a bit of sharpness in the finish, but overall the flavor is malt, pure and simple. It's bready, but not overly sweet. The mouthfeel is creamy, with low carbonation. 

I guess I've been lax in picking up stash of Oktoberfest/Märzen beers this season. So many beers, so little time. I'm glad I had this bottle to open to satiate my craving a little bit. Officially, Oktoberfest runs through this coming Friday, but my marking of the "season" may be shortened.

The beer reviewed here was a promotional sample from the brewery. My impressions are provided of my own free will and mind.