Thursday, October 31, 2019

Irish Pubs

We enjoyed more than a few pubs during our trip to Ireland. The beer, the whiskey, the food, the music, and the friendly people made everyone of those visits memorable. (Okay, some of those memories might be little fuzzy.

The Field in Kilkenny provided a refreshing lunch on a rainy afternoon.

The lamb stew I had went very well with a properly poured Stout.

Tynan's Bridge House Bar is reputed to be one of the oldest pubs in Kilkenny. 

Our delightful server offered us copious choices of Irish Whiskey.

The aftermath.

Early morning keg retrieval was common activity in every town.

Dingle, the only town on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry was hosting a food festival during our visit. We found seats in John Benny's Pub for a quick lunch of…

…Fish and chips. And a pint.

Murty Rabbitt's in Galway was the site of a dinner feast.

Seafood chowder and brown bread…

…and Shepherd's Pie.

…and a pint.

After dinner we headed down the street to An Púcán for music…

…and more pints and whiskey.

To be continued…

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Saturday Morning IDPA

It's been two months since I was last able to get to an IDPA match, and five weeks since I even touched the gun. Needless to say I was very much looking forward to Saturday's Cavalier IDPA match. As I made the morning drive and was enjoying the colorful fall foliage, I spied a very bright rainbow in the sky directly in front of me. I knew it was going to be a good day.

As is usual for this event, there were five fun stages of shooting fun in store. The first stage had the shooter starting facing wall with the option of going right or left to begin the course of fire. Targets were found by traversing a winding course through the array of walls.

I was the first shooter on the stage and thought I had my plan well in mind. That plan had a momentary hiccup when I remembered where I wanted to do my reload, but failed to fire the extra shot before dropping the mag. I immediately realized my mistake so picked up and reinserted the empty mag before firing the next shot, thus avoiding the penalty. I considered the recovery a win, though my "mental malfunction" earned some good natured ribbing from my squad mates. The joshing was the start of a fun morning of banter among the fun-loving squad.

Shooters started the next stage seated, with the gun and ammo all staged on a table that was by running around a corner behind the chair. After retrieving the magazines and loading the gun, one proceeded to find targets around three places of cover. It was another fun stage, despite eliciting groans of aching knees.

The next stage was quite unique and one that generated a lot of discussion and questions around the shooting requirements. Simply put, the stage brief called for two hits on each body, and one on each head, and all targets engaged in proper priority. The twist was that the "heads" were not connected to the "bodies." In fact, for some targets, the heads were not even visible from the same point as the respective bodies.

The priority of the targets very much was dependent on how the shooter moved along the firing area. Having a good stage plan, and remembering it, was critical to avoid penalties and not skipping targets. In retrospect, it was not has difficult to understand as it was unusual. The priority of targets did manage to trick a few shooters, but I dare say everyone enjoyed it.

Stage 5 had us again starting in the middle of a wall, with a choice of directions to move. There were nine targets lined up at the back of the bay. Getting to the targets meant navigating an array of walls, moving left to right and front to back, depending on the shooter's plan. There was nearly the number of options to complete the course of fire as there were shooters.

The last stage of the match included those "dreaded" steel poppers. It's interesting to me that, even though the steel target zone is larger than some paper scoring zones, steel seems to get missed more. As one shooter remarked, "The thing about steel is you know when you hit it. The other thing about steel is you know when you don't." The entire stage was shot while seated and consisted of three paper targets and three steel. The paper all requiring three hits on each. I did need one make up shot on steel but was otherwise very pleased. The stage was quick and a successful way to close out the match.

I thought this was an exceptionally enjoyable match. Matches are made even more pleasurable when the shooting comes together, and the folks you are shooting with are so much fun. I was also pleased with how I shot on this morning, especially after my hiatus. I had just four points down for the entire match to finish 6th of 36 overall, and 2nd of 19 in the SSP division.

It felt great to be back on the range, and on a morning of pleasant fall weather besides. Maybe I'll even find some time to practice before the next match.

Friday, October 25, 2019

A Fratello Sunset in Killarney

At the beginning of the month we were blessed to make our second pilgrimage to Ireland. For ten fun days we explored historic sites, ate good food, and enjoyed numerous pubs and live music. The scenery on the Emerald Isle is breathtaking. At the same time the tragic history of religious persecution, land theft, and forced starvation imposed upon the Irish people is never far from mind.

I had brought along a few cigars to hopefully smoke on the trip. Unfortunately, smoking is banned indoors in Ireland, even at the cigar shops. For a few days we enjoyed the beautiful and serene setting of the Cahernane Manor House Hotel, in Killarney. The grounds of the manor house offered a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a smoke after a long day of touring, and before an evening of music at a local pub.

This Fratello Bianco Boxer was enjoyed while I watched the sun set behind the distant mountains. 

The view was made even more interesting by the sounds and antics of an angry bull chasing the native elk out of his pasture, as well as the bleating of sheep in another pasture.

Over the coming weeks, I'll share more tales of the places and people, as well as the beer and Irish whiskey that we enjoyed during the trip.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Tailgate Cigar and Whiskey Pairing

The weather was nearly perfect for last weekend's college football tailgate party. The partly cloudy sky allowed enough sun to come through to knock off any full morning chill. Though rain was in the forecast, the precipitation held off until after the game, except for a few last quarter sprinkles. The mid-afternoon kickoff had us starting the festivities late in the morning.

While we snacked and chatted, I lit up a Powstanie Habano Toro This cigar had been hiding in my humidor for over a year. The well-rested stick provided creamy chocolate and woody notes throughout. A touch of cedar spice lingered in the background. Powstanie is a favorite, though I typically reach for the Broadleaf wrapper versions. I think I will pickup a few more of these to stash away.

I had also brought along a bottle of Larceny Bourbon. This wheated bourbon has caramel, oak, and vanilla notes with very little spiciness. The smooth sipping whiskey was an exceptional compliment to the flavors in the cigar.

Perhaps it was the atmosphere, or just my mood at the time, but I felt this cigar and bourbon combination was one of the most enjoyable pairings I've had in a while. 

On top of the tailgate fun, we were treated to a very exciting football game. Our guys pulled out a win in what turned out to be the longest game in ACC history. It was a nail biter at times, but a great cap off to a fun day.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Guns, Beef, and Cigars: A Smoky Saturday

A few weeks ago I found myself with a rare Saturday of free time. Colleen was away for the weekend, there were no shooting matches to attend, no travel plans, and no household chores that couldn't be ignored.

After a quick cup of coffee in the morning, I headed down I-95 to the indoor range. Now that the summer weekend travel traffic is over the drive is quick, relatively speaking. I prefer to arrive right at opening time, to be finished before the range gets crowded. I spent about 45 minutes turning money into smoke and noise. I spent about half my time shooting at an IDPA target set at 12 or 15 yards, trying to get good groups of 3-4 shots as fast as I could reset the sights after each shot. I also spent some time working on accuracy with smaller targets. It was a fun and satisfying session, especially since my range time has been extremely limited the past few months.

Driving home, I realized I hadn't given the rest of the day much thought, being unaccustomed to such an empty schedule. As I contemplated the rest of the afternoon, my stomach made a suggestion to find food, and soon I was seated at a local "BBQ" restaurant. A platter of smoked brisket, smoke-flavored beans, and fried okra took care of my grumbling stomach.

After that tasty lunch, I decided to head over to the cigar lounge for a smoke and visit with the folks there. I chose an Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial in a torpedo vitola for my afternoon enjoyment.

There are notes of rich, creamy chocolate and a bit of spiciness throughout. Cedar and nutty undertones add to the flavor profile. The full bodied cigar went quite well with a vanilla latte grabbed from the nearby over-priced coffee chain. After a couple hours of pleasurable smoke and conversation, I reluctantly took my leave of the shop and headed home. Still with plenty of time left for other serendipitous activities the day would bring.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Fall Tailgating: Beer, Cigars

With the advent of fall, our weekend activities often revolve around college football. Fall also means the store shelves are filled with one of my favorite styles, the malt-rich Oktoberfest lagers. Afternoon tailgating before a game provides the opportunity to combine good beer, good food, and a good smoke.

The tailgate preparations included picking up a six pack of Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest. The brewery collaborated with Germany’s Bitburger Brewery to create the 2019 version of the seasonal release.

Though not visible through the plastic cup, the beer is an attractive copper-red color with a creamy head. A rich malt aroma greats the nose. The flavor profile has toasty malt, caramel, and a sweet breadiness. There's a mild, but pleasant bitterness in the finish, along with thick mouthfeel. Overall, a very enjoyable drink.

I opted to pair the beer with the limited release Fratello D.M.V. in the District of Columbia vitola. The medium bodied cigar features a rich leather flavor and moderate spiciness. The two hour smoke offered the chance to open another refreshing bottle of the Oktoberfest.

Sadly, our team is not having a good season, and the game following the tailgate fun was most disappointing. However, as fans, we will look forward to the next tailgate, along with more enjoyable beer and cigar pairings.