Saturday, December 31, 2016

Merry New Year!

If you choose to venture out tonight, be safe and be alert. I wish you all a healthy, prosperous, and blessed 2017. The future is certainly looking brighter for freedom-loving Americans than in recent years. Let's keep up the momentum in 2017!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Another Trip to the Range

It had only been a little over 24 hours since my son and I were at the range, but since I'm on a "staycation" I decided to squeeze in another outing yesterday. This time I opted to visit the local indoor range in order to get in some practice doing quick followup shots. Where we shoot outdoors, we are allowed to draw from the holster and even shoot on the move, however the rules call for a couple seconds or more between shots; the actual required delay depending on the whim of the range officer. One can't draw or move indoors, but you can shoot fast if desired — go figure.

I had a short wait to get checked in at the range, as the proprietor was processing paperwork and explaining the rules to first timers. It seemed there were a lot of Christmas guns in play, as well as apparent first time shooters. That time was spent observing and sizing up the other folks using the range.

I set out my target between 7 and 10 yards, and varied the number of shots in the fast followup from one to four, depending on how I felt. Shooting in the low light of the indoor range added to the challenge, and I frequently brought my target in to check the hits. I was pleased to see decent groups, at least keeping all the hits within the -0 zone of my practice IDPA target. Eventually I grew tired of hunting down the lone range stapler to change my target, and switched to using some stick-on splatter targets.

Shooting at the indoor range is seldom without some paranoia on my part. I keep an eye on the other targets around me to see how accurate the folks in neighboring lanes are being. I step out of my lane regularly just to see who's around and what they are doing. Watching a woman enter the range and adjust her hearing protection with the same hand holding her rental gun was a gut-wrenching moment. Despite some distractions, it was an enjoyable time. I go through ammo much faster than at the outdoor range with it's multi-second shot delay rule, but still found the practice beneficial, and fun.

After I finished shooting, I used my phone to go online and check out Facebook statuses of some local breweries with new beers I wanted to try. I figured I go have a beer somewhere. (Vacation, remember?) Sadly they were all closed for at least another hour. I guess that's the drawback of being off during the week. Not wanting to wait around, I headed home to raid my own beer fridge.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Annual "Day After Christmas" Range Trip

For the third year in row, a group of us gathered at the range the morning after Christmas for a bit of shooting fun. We had a smaller crowd than in years past; just two friends, my son and myself. (The rest of you missed a good time.)

I packed three different pistols that my son and I took turns shooting. He's been mostly a rifle shooter, but now that he's approaching the age when he can buy a handgun, it's a becoming a more pertinent topic. I suspect before long he'll be outshooting me with the pistol too. As a good dad, I'm working on his appreciation of SIG Sauer craftsmanship. 😀

We enjoyed about an hour of shooting before a large family showed up and wanted to share the range. When it comes to strangers at the range I'm anti-social, so we packed up the gear and let the new folks have the range. We had brought along the rifles too, but the rifle range was full by this time. The boy has a long break before he heads back to school, so I'm looking forward to shooting more in the coming weeks.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

The first Christmas gift received today was the joy of sleeping in. We celebrated at the Midnight Mass, so the extra sleep was welcome and appreciated. I am sure the rest of the day will entail good food, good drink, and even an extra nap or two. I hope your day is as wonderful.

I wish you all a joyful and holy Christmas. May the joy of the season remain with you all year long.

Birthplace of Jesus, Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Photo by Colleen, August 2010
Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Christmas Childhood Favorite

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

Monday, December 12, 2016

Seasonal Chores, Gun Range, and Craft Beer

Yea, pretty much a typical weekend.

Our weekend was focused on getting the Christmas lights hung. But first, I needed to trim some of the shrubbery in front of the house — there always seems to be a "pre-chore" to the chores. That led to blowing leaves out of the beds, which led to blowing leaves out of the rest of the yard.

Finally, it was time actually get to the lights. Hmm, that string doesn't light. Wait, this one only lights halfway. I have to wonder, how do Christmas light strings go bad between packing them up in January and unpacking them in December? So, it's off to the hardware store for more lights in order to finish the task. I must say, it looks good once we're finally done so it was worth all the extra work.

After Mass on Sunday, Colleen asked "Are you going to the range?" I hesitate and she tells me she's going to do more decorating. "So you should go," she says. Who am I to argue?

I packed up the little Walther .380 that I'm considering shooting in IDPA BUG matches next year. I've not shot it in a few years, so figure it'll be fun. Anticipating the sting, I jerked the first shot, but the next 11 from 7 yards were right on.

I ended up putting 50 rounds through the little gun, shooting from 7-15 yards. I was pretty pleased, even if I did walk away with a bit of blood on the web of my hand. The tang on the handle digs in a bit. It's not too bad, but 50 rounds was enough "fun" with that gun. A bit more shooting with the SIG P226 rounded out the quick trip.

Returning home, it was time to sort through more extension cords and finish the window candles. That task completed, we decided to head over to Harry's Alehouse for a snack, and a beer or two. Having this place so close to home is going to be detrimental to my wallet, and my waistline. We opted for a couple appetizers; Pulled Pork Tostadas and Grilled Texas Wings. Either appetizer would make a full meal, and the tostadas were especially tasty.

Founders Nitro Oatmeal Stout &
Stone Enjoy By 12.25.16 Unfiltered IPA (Virginia Prototype)

Standing outside admiring the lights on the house Sunday evening, it truly seemed like winter. It felt cooler than the 37° shown on the wall thermometer, and is but a preview of the weather to come. The trips to the range may be less frequent, but at least it's always warm at the pub.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Five O'Clock Friday: Stormtrooper "Pew Pew"

In lieu of actual shooting content, I present this for your enjoyment...

Hope you hit your target this weekend!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Harry's Alehouse

After what seemed a long wait, Harry’s Alehouse finally opened a couple weeks ago. We made two visits to Harry’s last week, and excepting a couple minor hiccups, we liked what we found. Our first visit was for a weeknight dinner, and we opted to sit in the dining room. Harry’s features 24 rotating taps, and I was most interested in seeing what sort of variety would be offered. Our waiter reviewed the menu with us, pointing out beers that were sold out, and ones that had been added. I made my selection, only to have the waiter return minutes later to tell me it was no longer available. Another selection made, and another selection reported out. After the third time, a manager came to the table with a couple samples of other beers, and offered a sincere apology. The beers were turning over more quickly than the staff could keep up. I ended up with a very tasty beer, Space Cake IPA from Clown Shoes Brewing, and chalked the miscues up to opening pains and trying to sort out inventory. To be fair, Colleen got her first pick of beer.

Sierra Nevada Celebration & Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout on Nitro

After a delicious appetizer of a Fried Green Tomato Stack, we both opted to try a couple of the burger varieties for our main course. The burgers were quite flavorful and served with crispy hand cut fries. After dinner, we loitered awhile over our beers, and vowed to return.

We paid another visit this past Sunday, this time taking seats at the bar. As the bar area is our preferred seating at any pub, we took note of the ample seating space, the wide bar, comfortable foot curb, and to Colleen’s delight, a hefty purse hook. Since our last visit, Harry’s had modified their beer menu, adding boxes so tapped out beers could be marked and newly tapped beers in the “upcoming” section could be marked as available. This made making my choice much easier. The Big Papi IPA from Commonwealth Brewing Company served as an introduction to a brewery I had not tried previously. Harry’s is a verified Untapped venue, and I suggested to the bartender they make use of that and display an electronic “live” tap list. He let me know that they are doing that now, but the TV screen was currently in use for Sunday football. When I last checked on Untapped, the list was a few days old, so on another visit I’ll check on how well it’s working.

This visit Colleen and I shared a Bavarian Pretzel with Cheddar Beer Dip. We devoured that appetizer quickly, with plenty of cheese sauce left over. We opted to save the remaining sauce for dipping the fries which we knew were to come with our meals. We both opted for sandwiches this time; Colleen picked a Shrimp Po' Boy, and my selection was a Beer Fish Sandwich. Once again we found the food to be well-prepared, tasty, and of generous proportion.

Oskar Blues Death By Coconut Porter & Commonwealth Brewing Big Papi IPA

The staff at Harry’s is quite friendly, and our service has been prompt. The beer selection is limited to drafts currently, and they have a pretty decent selection of American craft beer. For those opposed to drinking beer with flavor, they also currently list both Bud Light and Miller Light, which seems redundant and a waste of at least one draft line. 😉 Most of the beers are offered in 12 ounce servings, rather than pints. (I wish more American pubs would offer the pint and half pint options we enjoyed in Ireland.) In my opinion, the price point on the craft drafts is a bit high; ranging from $6.00 - $11.00 a glass during our visits. On the plus side, Harry's does seem to be offering some selections not commonly seen in the area.

After much anticipation, we are excited to finally have another local option for enjoying good beer and food. The food is reasonably priced, and there’s quite a variety of what I consider to be good “pub grub.” Everything we’ve tried so far was, simply put, delicious. The service has been attentive and friendly in both the dining room and at the bar. We've long lamented the dearth of good dining and drinking establishments on this side of town. Harry’s Alehouse is a welcome addition to our neck of the woods, and I look forward to more visits and seeing what the future holds as they become more established. I expect we'll become "regulars" at Harry's.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Traditions of the Feast of St. Nicholas

Today, December 6 is the Feast day of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. St. Nicholas, was a wealthy and generous man. His generosity towards others led to him being the inspiration for the tradition of Santa Claus and gift giving. He is also one of several Patron Saints of brewing. It's not entirely clear why Nicholas was chosen as a Patron Saint of brewing. Tradition states that Nicholas was having a beer at an inn where the inn keeper had murdered three boys and packed their bodies in a barrel of brine. Nicholas was offered some salted meat with his beer. Due to a local shortage of food, Nicholas became suspicious, found the bodies, and brought the boys back to life. He died on December 6, 345 A.D. or 352 A.D.

Inspired by this feast day, is Samichlaus Bier. Samichlaus is an 14% ABV doppelbock that at one time was billed as the world's strongest beer. The name means "Santa Claus" in the Swiss-German dialect of Zürich. Brewed only on December 6 of each year, the beer is aged for almost a year and released in time for the following year's feast day. Samichlaus was originally brewed by Brauerei Hürlimann, and later by Feldschlösschen Brewery. It is currently produced by Schloss Eggenberg of Switzerland.

We have a tradition of opening an aged bottle of Samichlaus Bier on the evening of December 6. Tonight I'll dig through the boxes in the cellar and find something old to enjoy. Even if you can't get your hands on Samichlaus Bier, raise a pint to St. Nicholas today for his generosity and the traditions of giving he inspired.

Another tradition surrounding this Feast involves children leaving their shoes out the evening before, and St. Nicholas would fill them treats such as candies or fruits so the children know he had visited. It is from this tradition that we get the Christmas stocking.

Big kids sometimes get treats too.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Holes in Paper

I know many readers of these Musings will understand the satisfaction of an afternoon on the range. Personally, I find it a relaxing diversion. This afternoon, after yard work and errands, I was able to get in a quick visit to the range before it got dark.

In playing around with my cell phone camera, I realized there was something mesmerizing about the holes in the target too.

There were no drills or intense training involved, just loading mags and shooting — some slow, some fast, at 15 yards to keep it interesting. I put 200 rounds down range, enjoying the satisfaction of not thinking about anything but the shooting.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Flying Dog Sea Salt Caramel Brown

As is often my first thought when I see a new Flying Dog "Brewhouse Rarities" beer, when I picked up Sea Salt Caramel Brown I wondered just what sort of flavor experience the brewery had come up with this time. I do love caramel. And salt. And ale. So, we'll see...

The beer pours the deepest brown color with a beige, frothy head. The aroma is quite strong, with caramel, toasted bread and a distinctive saltiness. The flavor brings more of the same. There’s also a notable alcohol warming aspect, almost like sherry, that is more than expected from the moderate 7% ABV. The beer has a thick mouthfeel and a dry finish.

Sea Salt Caramel Brown paired well with a Hot German Potato Salad and Sausage skillet dish Colleen made for dinner. I found it to be an interesting and enjoyable beer. It reminded me of one of those rich, boozy, desserts one might order after a fancy dinner out. Like such a treat, one in a sitting was sufficient for me.

This review was made on an unsolicited sample from the brewery. The drinking was done of my own free will.