Sunday, March 22, 2020

Happy "Chinese Virus" Birthday

On Saturday I marked another trip around the sun. I'd been looking forward to simply relaxing on Saturday, even more than any celebration. We've experienced several days of warm Spring-like weather with temps in the 70's and 80's this week, until Saturday when the thermometer barely cracked 50°. Disappointing but tolerable. The need for social distancing as our country deals with the Chinese virus pandemic would not be allowed to add more than a minor inconvenience to the day.

The morning started off as usual, with breakfast followed by some yard chores. After lunch, we made use of the local Starbuck's drive-thru to take advantage of my free birthday coffee, this time with extra espresso added. Retiring to the screen porch I enjoyed the coffee, some light reading, and a Rocky Patel Vintage 1992.

It got a little chilly in the shade of the porch, but the sun would intermittently pop through the clouds to take the edge off. Once the smoke was finished, I took some time to prep the fire pit for use later in the day. Time around the fire pit was on my short list of birthday plans, and would be unaffected by isolation.

Typically, we dine out for birthday celebrations, but that would not be possible this year. We did the next best thing, and placed a to go order at one of our favorite restaurants. We are making an effort to support them during this crisis, and I joked with the manager that we'll probably be eating their food more than we do during "normal" times!

A couple months ago I had picked up a bottle of Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon. This is one of my favorite whiskeys, but one that's reserved for special occasions. I had also reserved a favorite cigar for this celebration, a Fratello Navetta Inverso. The cigar had been resting in my humidor since last fall, also for just the right time and whiskey pairing.

Soon, the trio of the fire, the bourbon, and the cigar was providing copious warmth, both externally and internally. Colleen joined me fireside and we enjoyed a few hours of relaxation, conversation, and simply forgetting the concerns of the rest of the world.

Eventually, I let the fire die down. It was a tough decision to call it quits, but another treat was in store for the evening. We had some Irish Whiskey Bread and Butter Pudding left from our combination St. Patrick and St. Joseph Feast Days celebrations earlier in the week. This is another one of my favorite celebratory pleasures.

World pandemics aside, it could not have been a more enjoyable celebration. Birthdays these days seem all the more treasured. In these times of "social media" and "social distancing" even those Facebook and text messages from friends were treasured. For one day at least, the demands of work and plummeting 401k's seem just a little more distant.

And it's officially Spring, so brighter days are coming soon!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Surviving COVID-19 with Beer and Cigars

What else shall I do? I don't need to run out to shop for hand sanitizer or toilet paper. My work schedule, though from home, is filled with frequent conference calls and check-ins as we negotiate the (temporary) displacement of the normal routine. But, life goes on and so does the enjoyment of cigars and adult beverages.

After a busy Thursday, and presumably my last day in the office for a while, I escaped the cacophony of pandemic news and planted myself in a comfortable chair at the Olde Towne Tobacconist lounge at 1781 Brewing. With a tasty brew in my mug, I lit a Micallef "To Be Named Maduro." This pre-release cigar is currently available at Micallef retailers for review by enthusiasts. The final name will be nominated and voted on by the company's "Ambassadors" social media group.

The ale for the pairing was 1781 Brewing L'Automne Imperial Irish Red Ale. This beer has malt and caramel sweetness with a nice dry finish. Both the beer and the cigar are medium bodied in flavor, with the beverage coming in as the more dominant profile. The cigar had nice leather and coffee notes, but was milder than expected. Overall, a quite enjoyable combination.

After dinner Friday, the temperature was approaching 70°, allowing for a pleasant outdoor respite on the screen porch. Perusing the basement beer fridge, I realized that I have been remiss in keeping it well-stocked, and the choices were limited. I found a lone Old Bust Head Caramel Macchiato Stout hiding in the backRoasted coffee notes were topped by vanilla and caramel sweetness. I grabbed a Man O'War Armada by AJ Fernandez from the humidor to go along with the beer. The cigar has an Ecuadorian wrapper over Nicaragua filler and binder. For my tastes, beer started out too sweet. However, has I progressed with the smoke, the moderately full wood and spice notes countered the cloyingness of the beer.

We had plans to attend an afternoon event featuring Irish music, food, beer, and cigars on Saturday. However, giving in to "social distancing" we opted to stay home. Though a bit cooler than Friday, it was still warm enough to allow for another beer and cigar paring on the back deck. Staring again at my bare beer fridge, I located a Tröegs Nugget Nectar. Though not a traditional red ale, this Imperial Amber Ale is one my favorite seasonal beers.

The previously selected cigar choice for the afternoon event was the Alec Bradley Filthy Hooligan Shamrock. The venue may have changed, but I was still going to light that stick. This is a limited release that sports three different Honduran wrapper leaves creating a unique triple striped barber pole. The flavor was medium bodied with espresso, leather, and wood. It's probably a great match for an Irish stout, however it was also most enjoyable with the bitter hopped Red Ale. I have another, so perhaps after I restock the fridge I'll try the Stout pairing.

Sitting in the sun, reading a book and listening to music made for a most enjoyable afternoon. The pleasure was only slightly marred by having to grab my laptop and sit on another call before I finished the smoke.

I suspect this will be the routine for a while, so I'm hoping warm temperatures prevail in the coming weeks. There are certainly worse ways to weather this storm. Alas I do need to go on a beer run to restock that supply.