Monday, May 30, 2016

A Memorial Day Prayer

May we never forget to honor those who have sacrificed to preserve our freedoms.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Decisions, decisions...

Finally, the weather is pleasant, the sun is shining and the grill will be fired up shortly. But first, what's on tap tonight? To answer that question, Colleen and I headed over to Maltese Brewing to pick up a growler fill. Of course, we had to first do some research to decide what to get for the evening.

We opted to try pints of Raspberry Wheat and Pineapple IPA. The Pineapple IPA a regular at Maltese, and may be their most popular beer; it's one of my favorites. The Raspberry Wheat is a newer offering and brewed with fresh raspberries, which give the beer just hint of tartness. The fruit flavor is mild and combined with the wheat base, it's a very refreshing and flavorful beer. But then again, I really do like that Pineapple IPA...

And now, the fire pit is prepped for an evening fire, and a growler of Raspberry Wheat awaits.

Memorial Day

As we begin the unofficial start of Summer, please take a moment to pray for those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms. Celebrate the holiday with food, fun and friends, but do it remembering the reason behind it. Without our fallen heroes this great country, and indeed the world, would be a much different and lesser place.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Ballast Point to Build Virginia Brewery

Somehow I missed this announcement the other day. Perhaps so many breweries are starting call Virginia home that the news doesn't stand out any more. Ballast Point Brewing, the makers of the popular Sculpin IPA series, like the Habanero Sculpin reviewed earlier, is planning to build a new east coast brewery in Virginia. Brewbound has the information...
The Commonwealth of Virginia is quickly becoming the San Diego of the East.

Ballast Point today confirmed plans to purchase a massive 259,000 sq. ft. building in Botetourt County, Virginia, where it will build its first East Coast production facility.

According to a press release from the office of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the company plans to spend $48 million to build the new outpost. Ballast Point spokeswoman Hilary Cocalis told Brewbound the new location will include a large-scale production brewery, distribution warehouse and retail taproom. The company — which was acquired by Constellation Brands for $1 billion last November — is also considering a restaurant component, she added.

The exact timeline and production details are not finalized, but construction is expected to begin later this year. I'm looking forward to visiting, and I hope the restaurant component comes through as well.

See "Ballast Point to Build $48 Million Brewery in Virginia" for more information.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Spring Flowers on the Range

Colleen sent me this photo she took at the range from a few years ago. The plant is a native orchid called "Showy Orchis" or Galearis spectabilis. I actually remember quite clearly the day we saw the blooms when were shooting and she stopped to take some pictures.

The blooms appear in April and May. I don't recall seeing the plants last time I was at the range, so I wonder if they survived some recent range renovations. Perhaps I'll just have to go shooting after work today to check it out.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Cavalier IDPA Match

The way the calendar worked out this month, the Rivanna and Cavalier IDPA matches fell on the same weekend, so I shot the former on Saturday and the latter on Sunday. It's been a while since I could make it to Cavalier for their monthly IDPA match, so I was quite eager to return despite the busy weekend. Driving to the range I encountered heavy rain, and that's when I realized I left my jacket at home, and the rain jacket I (usually) keep in my range bag had not been returned to its place after its last wearing. Fortunately the heavy rain was short-lived, and we faced only intermittent rain during the match.

The stages in the match were not especially difficult, but they offered different and enjoyable challenges, including some inconveniently placed non-threats and head shots. On stage one, we started off by engaging a close target offering a partial head area. Three more targets were engaged between some barrels, before the stage ended with another head shot target, and a full target seen by a hard lean around cover.

Stage two started with a close partial target and a distant target, before we headed down range to engage two more targets from behind cover. At the final position were two more targets, one partial and one full. It seemed pretty simple but the target positioning required attention as some no-shoots were placed behind cover so that the head area appeared first, and tempted a shot if you weren't careful.

The next stage had six targets arranged on either side of an "alley" created by barrels. We started down range at the berm, and the course was shot while backing up and engaging targets as they became visible. The stage seemed straightforward, but the some of the targets had non-threats over them, and I almost shot one before catching myself.

At stage four we found six targets in a line, with a couple non-threats interspersed, along with a shooting area marked with rope and barrels. For this stage all magazines were downloaded to six rounds; we started with a loaded gun and two magazines left on the barrels.  At the start we engaged each target with one shot each while advancing to the first barrel. Retrieving a magazine from the barrel, the targets were engaged again while moving right to left. Finally, the third magazine was grabbed and the targets were engaged again while retreating. I felt myself let the gun move as I stepped a few times but knew I had no makeup rounds.

The final stage of the match used the same six targets. This time they were shot from behind cover, three targets from each side of the barrel stack. I ended up shooting low on most of the targets, even though they were only about 12 yards out. I try to learn from each match and this is something I need to work on. As I've noticed in the IDPA classifier I tend to shoot low when leaning around a barricade. Other than a bunch of -1 hits, all shots were on target. 

Despite the intermittent rain, the morning shooting event made for a pleasant outing. The match ran smoothly and quickly, and I felt like I shot well. By just a little after 11:00 AM I was in the car and heading home. That left plenty of time for an afternoon nap, something that was greatly needed after two early morning starts this weekend.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Rivanna IPDA Match

So, it's been raining nearly every day for something like four weeks now. Saturday was no different when I left in the early morning to drive to Charlottesville for the monthly IDPA match at the Rivanna Rifle and Pistol Club. Fortunately the club has an indoor range where the matches are held during inclement weather, so other than making driving tedious, the heavy rains wouldn't dissuade the dedicated shooters.

Four stages that tested accuracy and unusual shooting positions awaited us. Stage one had two sets of two stacked targets with the outside edges hidden by hand cover. The stage was shot on the move between four shooting positions arranged in a rectangle. At the start we engaged each target with one shot each strong hand only while moving forward. Then moving to the left engaged the targets weak hand only. From the left position each target was shot freestyle while retreating. Finally while moving to the right, and back to the starting position, we engaged the arrays with a headshot to each target. Besides concentrating on the shooting positions, at each direction change we were also required to do a tactical reload, stowing the partial mag. That also meant that we had to retrieve a previously stowed magazine to complete the headshot string. This was a great stage with which to get your brain working.

Stage two, in the same bay, had us shooting from a prone position, between a barrel and a large wooden spool. There were five targets requiring three shots on each. It was a fun stage, and I welcomed the chance to shoot from such a seldom-used position.

Moving to the second indoor bay, next third stage had an array of four targets centered by a non-threat target. Shooting from a stationary position, the targets required two body and one head shot each. The lower head shots required extra care in aiming as they were partially blocked. Finishing that array we retreated up range, around a barrel stack and then headed back downrange. Arriving at the second position there were three more targets to be engaged in tactical sequence with two shots each.

The final challenge of the match was a seated stage; magazines on the table and the unloaded gun in a lidded "IDPA box." There were four targets down range requiring three body shots each, in tactical sequence, followed by a head shot on each. After missing head shots in both stages one and three, I was happy to finally get "warmed up" and make all four on this stage.

The match was very challenging and required concentration on both the shooting sequences and the front sight. The lower light level of the indoor range added to the difficulty. While I didn't shoot as accurately as I did at last month's match, I had a lot of fun with the challenges and was moderately pleased with the results. (I think I will work on shooting partially obscured targets in some upcoming practice sessions.) The match director did an excellent job of packing fun stages into a small space. While there was a bit of consternation over the difficulty from some shooters, most folks I think welcomed the opportunity to do something a bit out of the ordinary. And it was a chance to shoot, despite the dreary weather. We were out for a late night the evening prior, and I was sorely tempted to sleep in on Saturday, but at the end of the day, I was very glad I opted to make the rainy morning drive.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Restaurant Disappointment: Molly Malone's

In these musings, I generally try to focus on fun stuff, rather than spend my time reliving the not-so-wonderful experiences. However, on rare occasions, there's a fail so great it can't be ignored. Such was the case of our recent disastrous visit to Molly Malone's Capital Hill Saloon in Washington, DC.

Molly Malone's is our regular stop when we attend the Evening Parade at the Marine Barracks at 8th & I in Washington, DC. It's become our custom to enjoy dinner and a beer there beforehand. The restaurant is right across the street from the Barracks, and for years we've enjoyed good food and good service, and there's an interesting beer list to boot. We were once again looking forward to a fun evening last Friday. Alas, Molly Malone's part in that outing was a major disappointment.

Arriving after a long drive, we were seated quickly, but at a table that had not yet been wiped down. The hostess set the menus right on top of the crumbs and liquids left by the previous party. There were other open tables available so it was not the case that no other tables were available. A short while later I placed my hand on the seat only to find a well-chewed plastic straw on the cushion.

We ordered our drinks, and after a 15 minute wait, the beers were finally delivered to our table. We placed orders for an appetizer and our entrees at this time. After the waitress left, we realized that two of the three beers were not what we ordered, and my glass had a large chip in the rim. It took a few minutes to track down our server to get replacement beers. With our proper beer order and undamaged glass in hand, we waited for our appetizer to arrive.

And waited. And waited. As the passage of time became increasingly irritating, we noticed that very few people had food at their tables. Other than a large crowd standing at the bar, most of the tables were empty. I heard the lady at the table behind us complain to her server about the slowness of the food service. Her party eventually left without eating. When another couple at a nearby table finally got food, we heard them tell the server their order was wrong, but they would eat it anyway as they had waited long enough. Other waitresses passing by remarked to us, and seemed stunned, that we had still not yet received our dinners.

Over the next 45 minutes, we stopped our server several times to ask about our food. She kept saying she would check on it, and offered an excuse that they "share the kitchen with another restaurant." Eventually our appetizer of mozzarella sticks arrived, with the promise of the rest soon. About 15 minutes later, the Fish & Chips platters that Colleen and I ordered arrived, along the sides of fries that our son and our friend ordered. However, they did not get their main food at this time. Again, we flagged down the waitress to inquire, only to be told she had no idea when the rest of the meal would come out, and could not even promise us that the food would arrive at all.

Eventually the chicken wings ordered by "Checkered Flag" were delivered. They were barely warm, and the extra Blue Cheese dressing requested (and charged for) was never delivered. Neither was the supposed included ranch dressing for dipping. Two more times I inquired about my son's order of chicken tenders, and again no answer was available. We'd now been in the restaurant for an hour and a half. We had get going to make the activity across the street, so I asked the waitress for our check, and to speak with a manager. After she passed by a few more times, I again asked for our check. A few minutes later, I flagged down another server and asked again for the manager. It was at this time that a patron who had been standing at the bar when we arrived told us he ordered food before we sat down and had still not received it.

Eventually I spoke to a manager, while my family ran across the street to check in at the gate before the deadline to keep from losing our seats. The manager ended up comping the two cold sides of fries, and gave another discount that covered most of the Fish & Chips dinners. However, that did little to assuage the after-dinner mood. We did not eat full meals, the food we did get was at best lukewarm, and we had to rush to get to our seats at the Evening Parade.

Our evening at Molly Malone's was a great disappointment. From the time we were seated, to the time we left, very little was done right. It was notable how empty the restaurant was, other than the groups drinking at the bar. Perhaps that should have been a hint to us of things to come. We were let down by a place we had enjoyed many times in the past, and we will not return in the future. There are plenty of other dining establishments along "Barracks Row." Next time, we'll try someplace else and start anew.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Range Trip: Fun with AR-15's

On Thursday afternoon, I joined Colleen, our son, and "Checkered Flag" at the range for some AR-15 time. Those three had gone over earlier, while I remained at home for work-related calls. Fortunately I arrived in time to join in the fun exercise for the day — setting a bunch of shotgun clays on the berm, and shooting them as a group, in a bit of a friendly duel. Our son was delighting in hitting the clays more quickly than the rest of us. Colleen caught him looking to see where I was preparing to shoot at the start.

I hit my fair share, but more than once I found myself sighting in and then seeing the clay disappear before I pulled the trigger. Youngsters and their good eyes!

Our son was shooting the AR he built last weekend. (Proud dad alert.) Parts have been arriving at the house over the past few months, and he put it together as soon as he got home from college. I expect we'll be having a lot more fun with the rifles over his summer break.

Of course, if he keeps showing up his old man, I'll let him buy the next case of ammo, and the clays.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Ancho Lime Paradise Lager

At the end of yet another cool, wet day, I figured it was time to warm things up a bit. I cracked open a bottle of Flying Dog Ancho Lime Paradise Lager. This beer is the second release in the brewery's Heat Series. The first offering, Oaked Chipotle Ale, was the subject of a musing last month.

Ancho Lime Paradise Lager pours a bright golden color with a pure white head. The aroma is that of faint bread, with some citrus lime hints detected as well. The immediate flavor is mildly sweet corn and bread, with a lime zest. As I stood up to pass the glass to Colleen, I remarked "Well, I don't get much heat.... Oh, there it is." The Ancho, or dried poblano peppers, provide a mild pepper burn that comes late to the back of the tongue and throat. It's short-lived, and only mildly cumulative.

The deep-in-the-throat tingling burn reminded Colleen of the burn from a mild sore throat. Perhaps not the most flattering description, but somewhat apt. Of course the burn from the beer is much more pleasant that any sore throat I've ever experienced.

The Ancho Lime Paradise Lager grew on me as I sipped. As with the previously mentioned Oaked Chipotle Ale, the heat aspect of the beer is mellow, just enough to provide an interesting twist, but not overwhelm. The ancho heat, the zest of the lime, and the sweet corn flavors all combine for a refreshing drink. It was a treat on the rainy, cool Spring evening. I suspect it will be even more fitting at the finish of a hot Summer day.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

A Rain Respite: Range Time

Due in part to 15 days straight with rain, it's been over three weeks since I made it to the range. When I saw the sun peak out Friday afternoon, I grabbed my range bag and quickly headed out to get in some shooting time. The target supplies were already loaded in the car, where they've been for a week now, just in case. I expected the bays to be muddy, but I managed to find a space that was mostly grass and gravel. There was standing water, but at least I wasn't slipping and sliding in Virginia red clay.

While anticipating the wet conditions, I also knew it would be a good bet that I wouldn't be spied on by the range officers. I hung a couple of targets and prepared to get in some practice on target transitions and multiple shot strings.

I started out shooting my EDC gun, from concealment. I'm making an effort to start every practice session a few magazines "as I carry." That done, the next hour was spent shooting on the move, shooting strong and weak-hand only, distance shots, and even long strings of fire. It was glorious!

Eventually the ammo boxes were empty and I was starting to feel the 200 trigger presses in my hand. Searching the puddles for my brass was an adventure. I was surprised how quickly some of the casings were sinking into the saturated ground.

Besides all the rain, the past couple weeks have been extremely busy at work. A few hoped for range visits were cancelled due to extra long meetings and phone calls. It was great to finally get out to the range and spend some time being distracted from all that "life" stuff. Self defense and competition goals aside, just getting out and shooting is a relaxing pastime.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Five O'Clock Friday: Voting Conundrum

Six months until...

But, let's not think about that now and enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Heavy Seas "Steal the Glass" Night

Last Tuesday evening Capital Ale House held a “Steal the Glass” night featuring four Heavy Seas Brewing beers. I had previously acquired a Heavy Seas glass, but I was still interested in trying out the new seasonal from the Baltimore brewery, TropiCannon, one of the featured beers.

TropiCannon is a variation of Heavy Seas Loose Cannon, one of my longtime favorites from the brewery. The brewery description says that TropiCannon mellows the piney malt aspect of the beer, and ramps up the citrus notes. In addition to altering the hops used, the brewers added dried grapefruit, orange and lemon peel in the brewing process as well as mango, blood orange and even more grapefruit post-fermentation.

The aroma of TropiCannon is something I would describe as “candy fruit.” I was immediately reminded of orange candy, an aroma was somewhat off-putting. On top of the aroma, my first sip impression was somewhat disappointing. The citrus notes had a faux sweetness to my palate.

After drinking about half my glass, I did start to enjoy the flavor of TropiCannon a little more. However, the flavor profile of this “variation” of Loose Cannon admittedly was not what I was expecting. The citrus aspect had an artificialness to it, not unlike what I’ve experienced the few times I’ve tried to drink a kid’s “juice box."

Heavy Seas Cutlass, Siren Noire and Smooth Sail were also on the menu for the evening. Colleen and "Checkered Flag” both enjoyed pints of the Siren Noire Imperial Stout, adding to our collection of “stolen” glassware. I was tempted by Smooth Sail Wheat Pale Ale, which I’ve not tried previously, but then I spied DuClaw El Kabong the menu and opted to try this habanero-flavored beer from another Maryland brewery.

Despite the featured TropiCannon not being a flavor that suited me personally, we had a fun evening of beer, food and conversation. It was a fitting way to spend what was yet another rainy evening.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Setting Records

Rain records that is.

I've been driving around with targets and other range gear in my car for a week, hoping for a break. We saw some sun briefly on Saturday, and just my luck, the ranges were closed for a maintenance day. So I used the only sun in weeks, to mow the grass that desperately needed mowing.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Overheard: Weapons Discussion

Passing by a room full of developers this morning, I overhear what sounds like a weapons discussion going on. I slow down and hear "... but the aiming point will change." Coming to a full stop outside the door, I soon pick up more of the conversation.

"But sometimes I get packet loss and it seems like I'm walking in mud. And when I die I don't even know it."

Gamers. Sheesh.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Missing the Range

I ran across this on Facebook today.

I get it, I really do. But I laughed anyway.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Lots of Beer, No Food, at Adventure

Adventure Brewing has been on a roll recently, releasing a new beer each week. Colleen and I visited on Saturday to catch up on the recent releases. We figured we'd settle in for the afternoon, take advantage of whatever food truck was on site, and try out the brewery's latest offerings. Alas, there was no food vendor in the parking lot when we arrived around lunch time. Asking inside we were told that there "might be" one later. Well, that's not comforting. We opted for a flight of five new beers we hadn't tried while we decided our course of action for the afternoon.

First up in the flight (left to right in Colleen's photo) was Black Sail Scotch Ale. This is a rich, malty beer, with mild roasted and smoky flavors. I found it very enjoyable, and I was already thinking of ordering a full pint after the flight. Next up was Smoked Belgian Ale, a take on Adventure's Belgian Dubbel. The faint smoke flavor added an interesting twist. Flower Outage Saison, brewed with peppercorns and nasturtium flowers, was next in the flight. This beer was a collaboration done with Crooked Run Brewing. It had a nice, refreshingly floral sweet flavor. Colleen liked this one a lot.

Okay, so far so good, all tasty beers so far, but there's the food question still. Well, they do have chips and salsa listed on the menu. That should tide us over. But alas, they're out of chips. So I inquire about other food options, and learn they have some pre-made "wraps and salads" in the cooler. Salads!?!?

On to the fourth beer in the flight, Kiss by a Gose. This one is another Crooked Run collaboration. The kettle-soured Gose is made with rose hips and pink Himalayan salt. The salty and tart flavor combination was a serious flavor detour from the previous beers, and it took a few sips to adjust. An interesting flavor, but not one I would enjoy in large quantity.

The beer that had my curiosity up was the final of taster of the flight, White Chocolate Stout. Described as a "golden stout made with lactose, cacao nibs, and coffee beans" the beer looked like anything except a stout. Franky, I'd never heard of a golden stout previously. The "stout" had a pleasing coffee aroma to it, and the flavor too had a nice sweetened coffee aspect. Colleen and I were both reminded of the Cocka Doodle Brew Coffee Ale we enjoyed at Parkway Brewing last fall. The difference was that this "coffee" was sweetened, rather than black. I could have easily enjoyed a pint of this Stout next.

But now we had a decision to make. There was still no food truck, and a pre-packaged salad wasn't going to cut it. Reluctantly, we closed our tab earlier than planned. Fortunately a quick lunch at Allman's Bar-B-Q satiated our hunger and we  headed off to another local brewery try out more good beer.

I offer this one word hint for any brewery with a tasting room; FOOD. Even something as basic as chips and pretzels would be appreciated by your fans, and requires little effort to keep on hand.