Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Brewer's Alley: A Return Visit

We were up in the Frederick, MD area on Sunday to drop off our son and three of his friends at a camp they are attending this week. After three hours on the car with four active teenage boys I was ready for a beer. Last year when we made this same trip, we visited Brewer's Alley and we decided to repeat this year. Since we had more time to spend this visit, we were able to try a few more beers. Colleen ordered a pint of the Hefeweizen, while I opted for a sampler tray of six beers. The hardest part was deciding which six!

I was pleased that the beers, both the cask and "standard" servings, were served up at a nice temperature. Carbonation was low across the board as well, which made for proper tasting. First up was the Kölsch. The flavor was mild, with a grainy aspect, and little bitterness. The next beer was the India Pale Ale, served from cask. It was well balanced, with a sweet caramel base with bitter and piney hops. I enjoyed this English IPA very much, and for a moment, regretted not having a full glass to drink.

Next up, the Oatmeal Stout. This one has a nice roasted grain flavor with a lingering sweetness at the end. A smooth mouthfeel capped it off. 1634 Ale is a Rye Ale, and was next up in the rotation. Described as a "celebration ale" by the brewery, the beer had a sweet molasses base, with mild spices in the background.

New Moon Ale was another cask selection. This was a very flavorful American Strong Ale. The rich caramel sweetness at the start, was followed fruity and pine hops. There's a hint of alcohol at the end, but it didn't overwhelm the other flavors. I really could have enjoyed more of this one too.

Our final selection was Bad Old Man Gose. This beer was released to mark the 150th Anniversary of the Ransom of Frederick. The beer started off with a fruit tartness that gave way to a distinct saltiness. It was an interesting beer, that we both enjoyed, but found hard to describe.

Along with the beers, of course there was food. Colleen ordered the plate of Fish Tacos. They looked quite tasty, and the accompanying Roasted Jalapeño Salsa made a zesty dip for my fries as well. Since we were in Maryland, I went with the Roasted Jumbo Lump Crabcake Sandwich. The thick patty of lumpy crab meat, seasoned with OLD BAY® naturally, could barely hold itself together - there was little in the way of filler! Quite tasty indeed.

We lingered for a while to let the dinner and beer settle, before setting off on the three hour drive ahead of us. The drive home was pleasant, and with just the two of us in the car, the conversation was very enjoyable.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Shooting and Craft Beer

Visitors to these Musings, know that we frequently follow our shooting range time with the enjoyment of good beer. In fact, we encourage it, in the right order. During our recent visit to Old Ox Brewery, we saw that the Silver Eagle Group indoor range was a neighbor of the brewery. I recently learned that the brewery and the range have teamed up to bring the opportunity to others, with a "Date Night hosted by SEG & Old Ox Brewery":
Have you been looking for the perfect excuse to hire a sitter and get some quality time with your honey? We’ve partnered with our new neighbor, Old Ox Brewery, to give you an exciting date night!  The evening will start with classroom instruction before heading to the range to practice your skills.  SEG staff will be on the range to provide assistance and recommendations.  Once everyone has built up an appetite, we’ll head across the parking lot to the tasting room at Old Ox Brewery for pizza and beer. 
Each person will get to sample four different craft beers and select a pint to enjoy over pizza. Additional pints will be available for purchase. Old Ox Brewery will only be open to date night participants so you can skip the lines and receive personal attention. 
Best targets of the night will earn the winning couple SEG swag and an additional free pint!

This event will be held from 6:30 to 9:30PM on Wednesday, August 13. Sounds like a fun evening. I hope it's successful. We once tried to organize an event at Blue & Gray Brewery after a Fredericksburg USPSA match, but there wasn't enough shooter interest to make it worthwhile.

Note: I am not connected with the brewery or the range. I'm just sharing news on what I think will an interesting event. Though if anyone wants to invite me on a "date," I might be persuaded. ;-)

Deutschland Downtown

Downtown Fredericksburg that is. Deutschland Downtown is a soon-to-be-opened German restaurant in Old Town Fredericksburg. Even before they open, there's a strong local following as the proprietors have been running a mobile food cart, serving German fare locally for some time now. In fact, we've been anticipating the opening of this bier garden and restaurant for a couple years.

The past two weekends, Deutschland Downtown has been hosting a "soft opening," announced via their Facebook page, in order to help train the staff. On Saturday evening, Colleen and I eagerly stopped in. There was a crowd in the dining room when we arrived, and we took one of the last available tables. They were serving a limited menu, and also had three beers on draft. There was some wine listed too, but I paid it no mind.

The beer selection this evening included two imported German beers, Warsteiner Premium Verum, König Ludwig Weiss, and an American, but German-founded beer, Yuengling Lager. I started off with the Warsteiner, a German Pilsner, served in a proper, brewery labeled, Pilsner glass. A classic Pilsner, the light bodied beer had a mildly sweet, biscuity malt with a sharp, crisp and clean hop finish. It went down easily. With my meal I tried the König Ludwig Weiss. This beer was also served in a proper Hefeweizen glass, complete with the brewery logo. The aroma is banana and wheat, with a hint of citrus. The taste is a delightful balance of sweet honey, banana, and clove backed by a yeasty malt. The mouthfeel is creamy with a dry finish. I enjoyed this one quite a bit. I opted to skip the Yuengling.

For our meal, Colleen selected Wiener Schnitzel, served with Sauerkraut and Spätzle. I went with the Currywurst, which was served with Sauerkraut. I didn't try anything off of Colleen's plate, but she was very impressed with her selection. She declared each dish "very good" repeatedly and was very impressed with the Schnitzel. I heard raves about the Schnitzel on the drive home, and regretted not stealing a bite. My sausage was very tasty, although it was missing the spicy ketchup-based sauce described in the menu. The crispy Sauerkraut was well done; not overly bitter, and mixed with tiny bits of sausage. I would have liked a side of Spätzle or perhaps German Potato Salad, to go along with the meal, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

We also opted for a dessert of Apple Strudel, mine topped with a vanilla sauce, while Colleen had hers with hazelnut ice cream. Both provided a deliciously sweet finish to the meal.

We had a very enjoyable evening, doing our part to help the restaurant prepare for its opening. They have a few kinks, as expected, to work out in the service, but nothing that greatly detracted from our pre-opening dinner. The food was all quite tasty, and we're very much looking forward to experiencing the full menu. Hopefully, they will expand the German beers menu too. I predict Deutschland Downtown will be a popular addition to the Fredericksburg dining scene. And I expect I'll be raising a Maß or two in the outdoor biergarten soon.

Good news! According to a Sunday evening posting on Facebook, Deutschland Downtown will be open for business on Thursday of this week.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Well-Stocked Beer Fridge

After our trip to the range the other day, it was time to enjoy some good beer while a delicious dinner was prepared by Colleen. Our beer fridge is kept well-stocked with a variety of beers, which doesn't make the decision any easier. It's a long-running joke here that goes something like this:
"What do you want to drink?"
"What do you have?"
"We have everything."
The "we have everything" line is a reference to hearing a waitress make the claim despite having only a full "factory beer" menu, which set up the challenge for me to prove her wrong.

"Checkered Flag" is a Hefeweizen fan, so I offered him a Gordon Biersch Hefeweizen that I knew I had in the fridge. I got Colleen's order, Heavy Seas Red Sky at Night, and headed for the basement. After the folks upstairs heard me digging through bottles for a long time, they asked "What can't you find?" "The Gordon Biersch," I replied. As I climbed the stairs, I was ribbed that apparently I didn't have everything. True, I didn't have the Gordon Biersch Hefeweizen, but I went one better, and brought up Ayinger Bräu-Weisse, an authentic German Hefeweizen. I countered the retorts with "No, but I can still fill your style request."

Yes, I know that's not the "proper" glass.

This bottle of Ayinger Bräu-Weisse from Brauerei Aying in Germany was a gift from a non-beer drinking friend. I'd actually been saving it to share with "Checkered Flag" since I knew he'd enjoy it. And enjoy it he did. Colleen and I both stole a small portion of the bottle as well. Pouring with a thick head over a cloudy body, the beer has the aroma of spice and wheat. A "thick" wheat and yeast base is suffused with banana, clove, and mild peppery spice. This is an excellent Hefeweizen. In fact, Colleen subsequently declared that we should keep this one on hand all the time. I guess I'll go beer shopping this weekend.

Friday, July 25, 2014

If it ain't raining...

After a month away from the practice range, I finally made it back this week. Adding to the fun, I was joined by Colleen and "Checkered Flag." I realized it had been two months since we'd all been to the range together. We had made plans to go after work a week ago, but when the time arrived, so had the rain. In fact at times the rain was best described as a "deluge." We loaded up the car anyway and headed over, "We'll see what happens when we get there." We're seldom dissuaded by weather, although this winter the range began closing when it snowed, much to our disappointment.

Since it was raining, I grabbed some well-used USPSA cardboard targets. I figured they'd get trashed and we'd just throw them away afterwards, though not in the range trash cans. Sure enough, the targets we're soon drooping over from the water. At one point, the tops of the targets fell over so far I was making head shots into the back of the target. I also had some Shoot-N-C Targets in my range gear box, a Christmas gift from my son, and we made use of those to help see our hits.

Since my usual range and match gun was in the shop it was a good time to get in some good practice with my carry gun. I shoot it occasionally at the range, but not a lot. On this day I got 150 rounds through it. I worked on shooting on the move, shooting strong hand and weak hand only, also on the move, in the 5-7 yard range.

I even got in some "bad breath distance" practice, getting fast, point shooting hits while transitioning to a two hand grip and moving "off the X." This is something I think most folks, myself included, fail to practice regularly. Yet, it is probably the most likely scenario in a self-defense situation. Also, if you've never shot your weapon at a point blank target, you will be shocked at the difference in what you hear and feel from the percussion off the target. I suspect many folks will also be surprised that getting a rapid draw, and good hits, while moving requires practice — practice that's best done before your life depends on it.

It was a very rewarding practice session. The rain, combined with my aching muscles from taking a tumble down the stairs the day before, helped keep it "real." On top of that, it was simply fun to get back out with Colleen and a friend for some range time. I also remembered how much I enjoy shooting that SIG Sauer P239. Often when I write these range journal posts, they conclude with my leaving the range just as the foul weather is moving in. This time it was different; as we finished and began cleaning up to leave, the rain stopped and the sun began peeking through. However, in keeping with tradition, we arrived at home to relax with some craft beer before dinner.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Shooty Car Accoutrements

These came by way of a Kickstarter project. Figured I'd put them on the car for the drive to last weekend's match.

.40 S&W.  And now my vehicle is illegal in D.C.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Old Ox Brewery

We headed to Ashburn Sunday afternoon, our targeted destination was Old Ox Brewery. Opened just three weeks now, I've been seeing many references the brewery on various social media and wanted to check them out. We made our way to Ashburn, the "back way," to avoid the interstate. Arriving in an industrial park full of non-descript and similar looking buildings, we drove around for awhile before finding the brewery. Old Ox is located at the end of the street, and is not easily visible until you arrive in front of it.

The Old Ox facilities are quite spacious. There's a large brewing area visible behind the tasting room. Seating is provided both indoors and out. Old Ox is located next to the W&D Trail, and we saw numerous bike riders taking a short break before continuing on their ride.

The brewery offers three serving sizes; 2 ounce toasters, as well as half and full pints. That's a great option I'd like to see at more brewery tasting rooms. Four beers were on tap this day, so Colleen and I both opted to start out with flights of tasters. Our friend "Checkered Flag" made his final beer decision right away and opted for a pint of a Saison.

The first beer in the flight was Alpha Ox, a "session" IPA. This IPA checks in at just 4.5% ABV. At the first sip I struck by the "green" hop bitterness and slightly oily mouthfeel. I asked at the counter and got confirmation that the beer was dry-hopped with Amarillo, Centennial and Simcoe hops. The dry-hopped profile is quite evident. I enjoyed this IPA, though my companions found it too bitter.

Moving on to the next beer, Golden Ox, a Belgian Blonde. At 6.5%, this was the "biggest" beer of the flight. The flavor is mild with a pleasing Belgian yeast and sweet malt profile. Despite a more conservative profile than the previous beer, the crisp flavor refreshed the palate and made itself known even after the bitterness of Alpha Ox.

Black Ox, a Rye Porter was next in the lineup. The 6.0% ABV, the Porter has a slight cereal graininess to it. It's smooth with a mild roasted malt base. We all enjoyed this one very much, and especially after it had warmed it evoked exclamations of "Ooh, that's good" from us and others around us.

Finally I moved on to the Saison d'Ox, which "Checkered Flag" had already been enjoying. He was very enamored with the beer. Colleen had also "tasted ahead" and liked it. When I got to my sample, I was impressed as well. Easily drinkable at 5.7% ABV, it had a wild yeast flavor along with a fresh citrus tang. Despite my affection for IPAs, this one was my favorite of the four.

When all the preliminary tasting was said and done, Colleen and I both opted to enjoy a full glass of Saison d’Ox. A half pint for her, a full pint for me. The tasting room sells snack sized bags of chips and pretzels. No other food is served, though delivery from some local food places is available. I grabbed a couple bags of chips for us to munch on while we all enjoyed the Old Ox Saison. One of those snacks was a very spicy, red pepper flavored chip that the beer cut through nicely and made for a very simple but enjoyable pairing.

We had a great visit at Old Ox Brewery and were impressed with all of the Old Ox beers. I look forward to trying more from them when I get a chance. We also appreciated that the beers were all relatively low in ABV.  Perhaps that's a nod to all the bicyclists stopping in for a refreshment during their ride. :-) Even on a Sunday afternoon, there was a steady flow of folks stopping by for a beer, as well as growler fills. Last call came at 6:00PM and that's when we headed out in search of dinner before beginning the trek home.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cavalier USPSA Match

For the second weekend in a row, I headed off to a new (to me) USPSA match. On Saturday I shot the monthly match put on by the Greater Richmond Blasters, at the Cavalier Rifle and Pistol Club in Montpelier, VA. The trip to the range took just over an hour, with most of the drive being on tree-lined country roads. I attended an IDPA match at Cavalier a couple years ago and don't recall the drive being as easy. I'm guessing I had better directions this time.

The first stage we shot consisted of a short winding path past groups of targets, many of which partially covered by white no-shoots. At the end of the path was a Texas Star that was partially obstructed by a wall.

And No-Shoots

Another fun stage started with the shooter's hands on a barrel in the center of the free fire zone, and required moving to both sides of the course at the start to engage targets while leaning around walls. A Y-split in the course tempted the shooter into a corner to engage falling steel. In what was a common theme at the match, even on shorter courses of fire, there were many options on how to engage the targets.

And No-Shoots

The next stage was a long L-shaped course with target arrays strategically placed behind vision barriers. On this course too, the theme of copious no-shoots continued. I succumbed to the allure of the "hoser stage" and ran the course a little too fast. Although I avoided all the penalty targets, I dropped too many shots into C zones.

And No-Shoots

Next up was a fun stage that began with hands on a wall on either side of the course. The stage finished with the shooter taking a knee or squatting to engage the final targets under a wall.

The final bay held both a "speed shoot" and a Classifier. The former consisted of three steel poppers, one of which activated a drop turner and a popup target. Both were disappearing targets, so any misses meant points not earned, but there was no added penalty for the miss. I was first up on this stage, and even though I had seen the action of the targets once during the walkthrough, I was surprised just how much time one had to make the shots once I was behind the gun. I rushed my shots on the first target and found myself waiting for the second target to appear. If I had it to do over, I would have shot the targets in a different order and taken more time for better hits.

The last stage was the Classifier CM 13-02, "Down the Middle." Shooting last this time, I saw lots of folks get hits on the black, so I prepared myself to make carefully aimed shots. And I got decent hits on this one, but a light primer strike on the first shot cost me time for remedial action. Still, this stage saw my best stage finish of the match, placing 4th out of 18. Yet, as in the last match, the high stage finish on the Classifier was still not good enough to help my overall classification. And, that's misfires on the last two Classifiers I've attempted. As of this posting, my gun is in the hands of my friendly neighborhood gunsmith for a long overdue refurbishing.

This was a very fun match. Despite the generous use of no-shoots by the course designers, I walked away from the match with no penalties or misses, and a 9th place finish. I've been hoping to get to the Cavalier USPSA match since they started up last year. I'm glad I finally made it. The match is well-run, fairly close by, and held on a Saturday. A Saturday match is a plus in my book. The (hopefully) temporary suspension of events at Walnut Ridge, a match I enjoyed very much, has left a gap in the calendar. Another Saturday match, even closer to home, is a welcome addition. Next month's match is loaded into my calendar. I look forward to going back to Cavalier soon.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Genocide Against Christians

In solidarity with victims of Christian genocide in Iraq whose houses are marked with an Arabic letter "n" for Nazarene, this is my mark and your mark, too, in witness together with them and all Christians in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 
Muslim Terrorists,
I'm a Christian, too.

Numerous sources are now reporting, that for the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is empty of Christians. Genocide has been completed:
This evening, our brethren the Syrian (Syriac) Catholics and Chaldean Catholics, who worship in the language of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and all other Christians are gone from Mosul. There may be some hidden in various places, but all public signs of their presence are gone. The seat of the Syrian Catholic Archeparchy of Mosul was completely burned down by the terrorist "Islamic State" this very evening, July 18, 2014, several converging reports seem to confirm. 
After two thousand years, it is finished. It's over.
Such has been the fate of Christendom wherever islam spreads. To believe that the oppressors don't intend the same for our own country requires a willful ignorance of history.

You can show your solidarity by making the symbol above your profile picture on social media.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Nothing Significant To Report

It's been a long week. Work and family commitments kept us busy. No good beers were consumed. No lead was put down range. Hence, the dearth of blog posts.

But, have no fear. I've got range time and brewery visits planned for the weekend. There will be fun times to report soon.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Southern Maryland Practical Shooters Match

I went to Maryland. With a gun. On purpose. I've been hearing good things about the USPSA match put on by the Southern Maryland Practical Shooters in Lexington Park. Despite an already busy weekend, I made the trip across the Potomac on Sunday morning to shoot this match.

The match is held at Sanner's Lake Sportman Club. The match was set up on the static pistol range and in the club's "IDPA bays." In order to keep the match duration down, given the Summer temperatures, the organizers set up three short Classifier stages and three fun field courses. The bays used at Sanner's Lake are small, which limits the length of the courses. However, the course designers make up for that by making use of copious blue barrels and no-shoot targets to limit sight lines and create some tight shots. Those tight shots combined with "up close and personal" targets, forces one to watch speed, and the front sight.

I succumbed to those tight shots on the first stage, "Steely Fields." The short, L-shaped course started off with an extremely close target at starting position. The course finished with movement across the bay shooting both paper targets and steel poppers. The short course was also a bit of a memory stage. Going too fast cost me a couple of misses and even a hit on a no-shoot. Okay, time to settle down.

Next up was "Tunnel Vision." This was another L-shaped course, this time run from front to back of the bay. Again the targets were placed amongst barrel stacks that limited from where they could be engaged. I ran this one much better, with 16 A's and 2 C's, plus the steel, even though my time was purposefully slow.

The next two stages were Classifiers. CM 13-08, "More Disaster Factor" and CM 99-12, "Take Your Choice" where set up back-to-back on the pistol range. Interestingly, I had my best stage finish on "More Disaster Factor," finishing 4th out of 26. Also interesting, my hit factor was still below my current average. A single, inexplicable miss on "Take Your Choice" killed that one for me.

Next up was a field course called "Yard Dog." Most of the targets were set up on one side of the shooting lane, separated by walls, with two targets obscured behind barrels at the end. A tight squeeze  between those barrels and a wall gave access to the final to targets. It was a fun course, and again I was very pleased with my hits, though many folks shot it faster. The club has a shoot house set up in this bay as well, but it was not in use for this match.

The final stage was the popular Classifier CM 99-24 "Front Sight 2." A light strike on the first shot of my second string interrupted me and I came back too fast and pulled a miss. There would be no classification bump from this one either.

Other than the one Classifier stage, all my other stage finishes were in the teens and even 20's, with an overall finish of 13th. My classification average will definitely move a few percentage points backwards, making it harder to finally break into B. But, once I shook off the disappointment, I realized I did have fun shooting the match. And that's what it's really all about. I was also thankful for the foresight of a short match. It was indeed HOT and HUMID! I was packed up and in the car for the drive back to Virginia by 12:30. And boy did that air conditioning feel good.

I did have some unsettled feelings about going into Maryland, where the political leaders do not recognize the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution. However, it occurred to me that our Nation is currently led by a man who sees the entire U.S. Constitution as an obstacle to his own ambitions, so to cross the border into Maryland seemed a minor concession.

If my schedule allows it, I expect I'll go back for some other matches in Southern Maryland. It's an easy drive through the countryside from Fredericksburg, as long as there are no issues on the Nice Bridge. I laughed that the toll on the bridge is paid only when traveling southbound. To my mind it does hurt less to pay to return to Virginia, rather than to pay to enter Maryland.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Cedar Mountain Practice

After a very late evening, with that tiring drive, I got up early on Saturday to head over to the Cedar Mountain Youths range for a practice match. When my alarm sounded in the morning, I thought long and hard about getting up, but I was still looking forward to a morning of shooting, despite being tired.

The match organizer had set up six stages, all loosely based on USPSA Classifiers, with adaptations. This is not a sanctioned USPSA match, and it's strictly for fun and practice. For CM 99-28, "Hillbillton Drill," which calls for steel poppers, the "poppers" were drawn on white no-shoot targets. Missing the popper graphic and hitting the white earned you the penalty. CM 99-56, "On The Upper Pad II" was modified such that we had an easy hit on a Classic USPSA target required in place of the steel. (No steel targets are permitted at Cedar Mountain.) On CM 13-05, "Tick-Tock" and CM-13-06, "Too Close For Comfort," we shot Comstock instead of Virginia Count. Familiar stages such as CM 99-22, "Nuevo El Presidente" and CM 99-08, "Melody Line" were set up no modifications.

I started out shooting the first few stages well, but fatigue eventually started coming into play. I found myself not paying close attention to my front sight, with the resultant poorly aimed shots. At one point I found myself putting two shots on a target instead of the one called for. I sure didn't feel "up to my game."

Nonetheless, it was a fun morning. There were only nine shooters in attendance, so we finished quickly. Those who do not shoot USPSA got a nice introduction to the sport, and I spent more than a little time explaining how the classification system works. Some of us stayed around and shot a couple stages again; it's all good practice. I think I actually shot "Tick Tock" better than I did when it was for score a couple months ago at Walnut Ridge.

The traffic leaving the range was certainly more bearable than the traffic on I-95 the day before. After a shower and short nap, it was time to clean my gun and reload the range bag. The next morning I would be up early again, this time for a USPSA match in Southern MD.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Traffic, Evening Parade, and More Traffic

Friday Evening we made the trek to Washington, DC to take in the Evening Parade at Marine Barracks Washington. The Barracks, known also as "8th and I" are rich in history and tradition, and is called "the oldest Post of the Corps." But before we could enjoy the pageantry of the parade, we had to get there! Traveling up I-95 on a Friday evening, is an adventure to put it mildly. We finally arrived at a Northern Virginia Metro station and took the subway the rest of the way into the city.

Our first stop was for dinner and a beer at Molly Malone's, located right across the street from the Barracks. We've gone to the Evening Parade several times, and dinner at Molly Malone's has become part of our "tradition." The Irish pub fare is served quickly and is quite tasty. The beer menu is decent too. On this evening, they listed Heavy Seas Loose Cannon Hop³ IPA. This is one of my longtime favorite beers, but one that I've not had on draft in several years. I was happy to enjoy it again. It was as "juicy" and as hoppy as I remembered. My glass was nearly empty when my Fish and Chips arrived, so I treated myself to a second round with the meal.

After dinner we crossed the street to the Marine Barracks. The Evening Parade includes appearances by the U.S. Marine Band and the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps. Alpha and Bravo Companies, which make up the ceremonial infantry units of Marine Barracks Washington are present as well. Alpha Company includes the Marine Silent Drill Platoon. The silence of the audience during the Silent Drill Platoon's performance is almost as amazing as the drill team itself. Our seats this year were at the top of the bleachers, near the center, so we had a good view of the parade grounds, as is shown in Colleen's photos.

As opposed to previous years, the temperature and humidity was moderate, and a slight breeze made its presence known on occasion. The full moon rising up behind the Barrack's flag pole, added a special feeling to the evening. As an aside, that flag pole flies the flag of our Nation as it appeared from 1795-1818, with 15 Stars and 15 Stripes. Ft McHenry, Maryland is the only other location authorized to fly this flag, which inspired our National Anthem. The pageantry, precision, and Esprit du Corps of the Marine Evening Parade is a sight to behold.

Soon we were back on the Metro, heading to our car for the drive south on I-95. And what a drive it was. The never-ending construction would affect the trip home even more so than during the drive up. After spending some 30 minutes getting from three lanes down to one, we passed the paving work and the road opened back to three lanes. Only to stop again just a few miles later in order for traffic to be once again constricted down to one lane. That process took another 40 minutes. Why there is no one working for VDOT who has the common sense to keep the traffic in one lane through the entire construction zone is beyond me. Once we were in one lane, the traffic flowed below the speed limit, but it moved, and that would have been preferable to the repeated merge delays.

We finally arrived home some four hours after the parade. I had plans to be up early the next morning to go to a practice match at the Cedar Mountain Youths range. That practice session would definitely be affected by my lack of sleep. Despite the long trip, it was a fun time with good food, good beer, and an exciting ceremony. I'm sure we'll do it again.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Five O'Clock Friday: Heading Home

My replacement is here.

More Starr Hill Glasses

We headed over to Park Lane Tavern earlier this week for an unplanned, on a whim, dinner out. When we arrived, I saw a sign that they were sponsoring a Steal the Glass night. We quickly learned that the featured brewery was Starr Hill from Crozet, Virginian. Well, this was a nice surprise.

It turned out they had not one, but two, Starr Hill beers available; Double Platinum IPA and The Love Hefeweizen. As an added bonus, the IPA was the rotating cask selection. Our server quoted us the price of the beer, both with and without the glass to "steal," and we opted to pay the extra to get the promotional glassware. In what should be no surprise, I opted for the cask IPA. Colleen and Checkered Flag selected the Hefeweizen.

The Double Platinum IPA came out at just the right temperature and sporting a creamy, full head. The aroma is pine and floral hops. A herbal and pine hop profile combined with a sweet, caramel malt base make this an easy-drinking IPA. There's a pleasing "sharpness" to the taste, but it does not overwhelm. The Love is a light-bodied Hefeweizen. I didn't drink any this round, but have reviewed it previously.

More logo glassware is not something we really need more of in the house, but it's fun to have around. I claimed a Starr Hill monic pint glass at Park Lane last year and I use that frequently. I'm enough of a beer-nerd that I often try to use a matching brewery glass, if I have one. There are even a few "free" glasses I've picked up that have become favorites. Now we just need a little more cabinet space.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Strangeways Tap Takeover and STG

Up until Tuesday evening, I'd never had the opportunity to try the beers from this Richmond, VA brewery. I had been looking forward to the Strangeways Brewing Tap Takeover and Steal the Glass event at Capital Ale House for some time. The anticipation made even greater since the event had already been postponed once.

During the drive downtown Colleen and I wondered, how crowded would it be? Would we be able to get a seat at the bar? Walking in, I was shocked to see a large, and noisy crowd. And then I saw that Brazil and Germany were engaged in some sort of kickball tournament, and folks were watching the action on the TVs behind the bar. We found what may have been the last two seats at the bar and ordered our flights of six Strangeways beers.

First up was Strangeways Albino Monkey, a Belgian-style Witbier. Slightly cloudy, the flavor was mild and wheat-rich. The second beer in the the flight was B-Sides Honey Bock. The sweetness of honey was noted in both the aroma and the taste. The honey flavor gave way to sweet malt and hint of bitter hops. This was probably my favorite of the group. Soon the small glass was empty and we moved on to the next, interesting beer.

Strangeways O.T.I.S. is described as a Cucumber Melon Sour. I was very intrigued to try this, but didn't know what to expect. The American Wild Ale is brewed with cucumbers, honeydew, juniper berries, and tangerines. I got a hint of the cucumber and melon only briefly, and the tartness took over. Wow, that was good. Another sip... A refreshing and palate cleansing drink. I'd have it again, but I think one glass would suffice in a sitting.

Phantasmic East Coast IPA was next in line. The malt-heavy IPA had fruit notes mixed in with the piney hops. Clean finishing, it left little bitterness behind. Strangeways Woodbooger is described as a Belgian-style Brown Ale. The aroma was caramel, chocolate, brown sugar and roasted malt. The dark roasted malt flavors were offest by a rich mocha sweetness, the sweet and bitter aspects of the beer taking turns at dominance.

Finally, we arrived at Strangeways Freeze Ray, a 10.24% ABV Eisbock. I was looking forward to this one as Eisbocks are uncommon, especially among the US craft breweries. Freeze Ray is a rich, dark dobblebock with a creamy mouthfeel and a smooth chocolate and malt flavor profile. The high alcohol level is completely masked, with no alcohol burn. This one could be dangerous!

Neil Burton, the owner of Strangeways, and Chris Holder, one of the owners of Capital Ale House travelled up from Richmond to attend the event. Neil is a native of Fredericksburg, so this was a homecoming of sorts for him. It was great to meet him and hear his story on how he came to own a brewery. I hadn't seen Chris since before the Fredericksburg CAH location opened, though we've emailed back and forth often. I was good to catch up and talk beer for a bit.

The drama on the TV ended not too long after our arrival. The bar emptied for a short time before more folks started arriving for the Strangeways event. Colleen and I enjoyed our dinner while discussing the beers and current life events. We enjoyed all of the beers and I look forward to trying more from this brewery. Perhaps an extended visit to the brewery is in order. They keep 25 house beers on tap! After a couple hours, we noted that severe weather was building in the area, so I opted to not order a full pint of one of the Strangeways beers, and we headed home. Of course, that did relieve me of having to make a tough choice; B-Sides Honey Bock, or O.T.I.S. Sour, or ...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Independence Weekend Run 'n Gun

Though a couple days late for the 4th of July, but still on the holiday weekend, the Fredericksburg Practical Shooters match on Sunday, July 6 was a great way to celebrate our right to bear arms and have some fun at the same time. As I pulled into the range that morning, the dashboard thermometer read 59°. Fifty-nine degrees. In July. In Virginia. The temps eventually rose to near 90°, but the low humidity and a light breeze made for an unseasonably pleasant day.

Our squad started on Stage 6, "Deja Vu All Over Again," which was a fairly straightforward course, and the only field course with no moving targets. It provided a good warmup for the rest of the day. Stage 7, "Yankee Doodle Dandy," started with an unloaded gun picked up from a barrel. Pushing through a swinging bar across the path released a swinging target. Further down the course, shooting a popper activated a drop turner and unlocked a door which the shooter pulled open to reveal the final targets. I forgot a reload and ended the stage with an empty gun, but fortunately no makeup shots were needed. It was a quick and fun stage, and also my highest stage finish at 5th of 30. (First person video here.)

Stage 1, "Down And Dirty" was a very interesting, and challenging, stage. There were two arrays of three targets that were exposed by pulling on a cable. The shooter had to hold the heavy targets up while shooting them, which meant shooting strong or weak hand-only. There was also a stomp plate that activated an upside down target swinging in an opening. The habit of shooting at the top half of the target would lead to D hits instead of C. (It also led to some double-takes from the ROs when scoring.) I didn't finish well on this stage but had a big grin on my face after shooting it. (Video here.)

"Fast and Furious" included six steel poppers, one of which activated a clamshell target, which in turn activated a swinger. Due to some prematurely pasted targets I got a reshoot on this stage. I strayed from my plan slightly on the second run, but still managed a 7th place finish. Stage 3, called "Over the River," began with some long shots on paper and steel, followed by a quick sprint down an L-shaped path. The stage ended with some closer targets, and a swinger activated by another push bar across the path. Some overly fast shooting on the short range targets earned me a couple of D hits but I still managed a 6th place finish on the stage. (Video here.)

Next up was the classifier stage, "Triple Choice," CM99-47. Shot from just 25 feet, the five targets had varying degrees of hard cover, and required three strings of fire; free style, strong hand only, and weak hand only. I had two hits on hard cover, i.e. misses, so no classification boost this time.

The final stage we shot, "Prison Break," included three ports to shoot through, and those ports were obstructed by wooden "bars." The second port had an array of three steel poppers, one of which activated a three target swinger in another barred window that randomly moved two no-shoots in front of the other targets. Taking an extra shot on a target gave me an empty gun at one point, which was followed by a jam, costing me valuable seconds lost to remedial action. Despite that I was pleased that I managed to get into position well to see the various targets through the bars.

Overall, I was quite happy with my shooting on this day. The D hits hurt, and I consider D's to be the same as a miss. The classifier stage and the issues on the last stage notwithstanding, I finished 9th out of 30 in Production, and that field included two Grand Masters. But more importantly, I was felt good about my course execution and movement throughout the day. I've set up a small "field course" in my basement and have been working on target transitions, as well as movement and arriving in position ready to shoot. There's still much that can be improved upon, but was good to see the apparent payoff of those practice hours.

After six hours of standing and walking, interspersed with short sprints through a course of fire, I was bushed. Getting old ain't fun, but those aches and pains are evidence of a great time. All in all, this was a fantastic match. The courses of fire were very interesting and fun to shoot. Kudos to match directors Alan and Clay for coming up with some challenging stages that offered a lot of variety. I think I would actually rank this as one of my favorite days at Fredericksburg. Interesting stages and great weather, what's not to love?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Flying Dog "Art of Craft" Cigar Pack

While we're not regular cigar smokers here at the Musings, I have been known to enjoy a smoke on occasion, usually always in conjuction with a good beer. I would frequently take a break at a beer fest to enjoy a cigar from a festival vendor. The cigar booth at the events I've attended have always been quite busy. It's that popular combo that probably inspired Flying Dog Brewery to team up with CAO Cigars to create the "Art of Craft" cigar pack.

Looks like a party

The "Art of Craft" includes four CAO cigars, and a fancy Flying Dog bottle opener. The cigar pack will be available at Total Wine stores in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, and California, displayed alongside the corresponding beers. Flying Dog offers the following suggested pairings:
  • OSA Sol and Snake Dog IPA: The zesty spice of OSA Sol meets its match with the citrus and resinous hop aromas and flavors of Snake Dog. 
  • CAO Brazilia and Gonzo Imperial Porter: Both big and bold, the bitter coffee and chocolate flavors in CAO Brazilia are mimicked by the same robust notes in Gonzo. 
  • CAO Gold and Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA: The wildly complex hop bitterness and fruity sweet Belgian yeast notes in Raging Bitch are soothed by CAO Gold’s caramel creaminess. 
  • CAO Mx2 and Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout: Dark and dry is the name of this pairing’s game with Mx2’s rich notes of earth and Pearl Necklace’s dry, roast, and slightly bitter character.
I'm looking forward to trying out these pairings that were sent over by the brewery. Cigars are not quite as sharable as a bottle of beer, but I think there's a party-in-waiting here. Perhaps one Summer evening around a peat fire on the deck...

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Next Revolution

As I sit down to down some words for this Independence Day, I find that the ongoing illegal and tyrannical actions of the current administration weigh on my mind, as they have in previous years' posts on this day. If anything, the offenses against freedom, have increased over the years.

The egomaniacal ramblings of the current president have become more bold and more frequent. Negotiation with, and the release of known terrorists endangers Americans at home and abroad. The opening of our borders to criminals and disease is a threat to safety and the economy, the likes of which we have never before seen. The IRS scandal and ongoing coverup is an abuse of power that is chilling in magnitude.

Lest I be accused of partisanship, it should be noted that in a ruling just two weeks ago, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the president violated the Constitution. And it was not the first such ruling. Many on the Republican side of the aisle shy away from impeachment proceedings, which are the proper response to continued violations of the oath of office. To refuse to proceed makes them just as guilty of ignoring the law as the president.

Today we mark the occasion when our forefathers stood up to a tyrannical monarch. Two hundred and thirty eight years later we are faced with an egotistical, power-hungry, and I dare say treasonous president, who promotes his power-grabbing agenda despite the will of the people and Congress. Hardly a week goes by that I don't read about someone who now regrets their previous support of this president. To those who cast a vote while ignoring the obvious, I reply that a simple apology doesn't cut it. The damage is done. The willingness to put "free stuff" over freedom must end.

Try as I might, there are few celebratory words to be said. Today we will, as a nation, mark the anniversary of our independence. We will enjoy the fireworks, the beach, the shooting range, the burgers and the beer. But we must prepare ourselves, a second revolution is at hand. It might not be fought not with arms, but preferably in the courts, the Congress and the voting booth, but it will be fought.