Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Sunday Relaxation, Cigar and Beer

After burning through the remaining firewood last weekend, we received a new delivery on Saturday. That led to hauling many wheelbarrow loads of wood from the driveway to the rack out back on Sunday. But, it's a wonderful sight now. We're all set for the fall fire pit season.

The weather in the afternoon was exceptional for some post-chore relaxation on the porch. I grabbed a New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale and a Rocky Patel LB1 to enjoy in the down time before dinner.

I didn't think much about how the two would pair. I simply had the urge for a Fat Tire and for the LB1. The Amber Ale has a creamy, mild caramel malt flavor. There's a nice, but low key, toasted bread aspect to it as well. It's a refreshing afternoon beverage.

Rocky Patel LB1 features a smooth Ecuadorian Habano wrapper with a Honduran binder and Honduran and Nicaraguan fillers. The smoke certainly carries a bolder flavor profile than the beer. Coffee, cedar, and earthiness come through first. It starts off on the spicy side before some underlying sweetness begins pushing through. LB1 is a medium to full bodied smoke.

Both flavor profiles are enjoyable. They are compatible but mostly stand on their own without complimenting or contrasting one another. Just fine for an afternoon break.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Blade and Bow Bourbon with BLTC Super Deluxe

After a fun morning of shooting Saturday, I retired to the back deck for some long-awaited treats before dinner. I'd recently picked up a new cigar from Black Label Trading Company, and had an interesting bottle of bourbon waiting in the wings.

Blade and Bow Bourbon is one that, to my chagrin, I've never picked up before. Our state-controlled liquor stores offered it for 20% off in a one-day sale recently and that led me to look into it. Under Blade and Bow's Solera system of aging, older barrels are never emptied fully before refilling. Each barrel of Blade and Bow contains some portion of the last bourbon produced at the iconic Stitzel-Weller distillery before it closed in 1992.

The bourbon is very smooth, with notes of caramel, white fruit, crisp grains and a subtle oak char. There's a hint of spiciness, but it remains a cool, easy drinking bourbon. It will most certainly be a frequent resident of my whiskey cabinet.

Black Label Trading Company Super Deluxe is a new, and very limited, release from the boutique cigar maker. The box-pressed 5 ¼ x 52 Robusto features a Mexican San Andrés wrapper over an Ecuadorian habano binder. The filler tobaccos come from Nicaragua. The cigar was also released in Petite Corona (4 ½ x 48) and a Lancero (7 x 42) vitolas, all box-pressed. The cigar produces deep, earthy and spicy notes. It's a full bodied, bold smoke with copious smoke output.

Anyone following along will notice I've been mentioning Black Label Trading Company cigars frequently. I find their smokes hit my preferences for dark, full-bodied cigars. I'm not sure if Super Deluxe will replace the BLTC Last Rites or Bishops Blend as my current favorites of their releases. However, I still have more Super Deluxe in my humidor to enjoy and confirm or reverse that thought. I enjoyed the Super Deluxe down to the hot nub. Of course, that gave me the time to pour more of the excellent bourbon.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Misty Morning Shooting Games

It was raining lightly but steadily during my drive to the Cavalier Range for Saturday's monthly IDPA match. Despite the weather prognosticators indicating the rain would have stopped by the time I left the house, I was hopeful I'd be shooting in clear skies shortly. The mist was still falling as we gathered, and everyone lamented the sight of plastic bag covered targets. However, the match directors opted to delay the start for 30 minutes or so to let the rain pass. Success! We'd be shooting at un-bagged targets!

The first stage our squad shot had the longest shots of the match; quite the warm up. Three groups of targets were engaged in priority, near to far. All arrays featured a non-threat centered on the group. Two arrays of three had a target hidden being the non-threat, the furthest group was just two partial targets.

Luckily the bags came off for shooting

The amount of movement needed along the fault line depended on the shooter's confidence level with tight shots near the non-threats. Technically, I think you could "see" all the targets from just two positions, although every shooter I watched took a few more steps back and forth. To my surprise, this was my best stage. Despite shooting it down 5, it was a stage win in my division and a 3rd overall finish.

The next course of fire had us starting with just six rounds in the gun. Beginning the run facing a wall, there was an open target, and two targets engaged from cover. Successfully making all six of those shots meant you could reload on the move to the last point of cover to find the last two targets. I was -3 for the run.

The next stage also featured a downloaded start, this time with just one round loaded in the gun. We started with the muzzle of the gun pointed at a spot on a non-threat in front of us. At the signal we were required to fire the one round at our choice of two open targets before retreating to cover and reloading. We then engaged those two open targets from cover. The rest of the targets on the stage were visible from two further points of cover. All targets required three hits each. This was a -0 stage for me.

Next up was the "go fast" stage. We started centered on a wall, with an open target to our right which was shot first. There were five more targets arranged behind the wall, and it was the shooters choice from which side to shoot from first. Target priority meant there were three targets to be engaged from whichever side you started on, and two from the other.

Even though each target required just two shots minimum, I think most shooters fired extra rounds, really fast, to enable reloading while in transition. I was -1 for the stage despite extra shots.

The last stage was a long field course with seven targets, some with non-threat cover. We started touching one end of a wall. The first shots were at two targets at opposite sides of the course, but shot from the same point of cover. We then worked our way down a "hallway" engaging targets from different nooks and angles. It was a good "running" course and I was -4 for the stage.

The weather turned out great, but there was still a fairly small turnout. The possible inclement weather, and ammo shortages, are likely contributing factors. There was also a competing VCDL special event at a nearby range that attracted some of the regulars. 

It was a good day of shooting. I was moderately pleased with how I shot, even though I was 13 points down total. That had me finishing 9th of 32 overall, and 4th of 17 in SSP. Not bad for a slow, old guy. I'm not going to win any major awards, but it's nice to be somewhat competitive, despite bad knees and old eyes.  :-)  Now if I only had the range and the ammunition to put in some practice.

Pasting targets was a challenge at times

Saturday, September 26, 2020

BLTC Last Rites and Lagunitas IPA

After dinner Friday I was in the mood for a nice IPA. I was also in the mood for a good cigar. IPA's aren't always the best companions for cigars, so I had to give my selection some thought. I originally had my eyes on some new cigars I'd not yet tried, but opted for the known. 

I had a few bottles of Lagunitas IPA in the fridge, left from a friend's visit recently. That part of my choice was easy. Now for the cigar. After a few scans of the humidor I settled on a Black Label Trading Company Last Rites.

Lagunitas IPA pours a golden amber with a frothy white head. The aroma is citrus and pine. The flavor profile has robust citrus and pine hop notes, with a caramel malt backbone. The sweet malt and bitter hop aspects are in good balance. There's a lingering bitterness in the oily finish. This is a not a palate killer, but still highly flavorful. 

I felt confident about the cigar choice, having enjoyed many Last Rites previously. The 6" x 60 Toro features a slightly oily Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, over a Honduran binder with Honduran and Nicaraguan fillers. The full body smoke has notes of creamy chocolate, coffee, and cedar throughout.

The bold, mildly spicy cigar cuts through the piney bitterness of the beer very well. At the same time the bold hop flavor of the beer isn't lost in the smoke either. I was very pleased with my selections for this flavorful pairing.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Thursday Cigar and 1781 Porter

It was an early start to the weekend Thursday when I headed over to 1781 Brewing after dinner for a beer and smoke at the cigar lounge. After a week of very cool weather, one that actually had me turning on the heater for a smoke on the deck earlier in the week, it was nice to sit outside comfortably as the sun set. As usual, the first stop was to fill my mug with a tasty beer. Also as usual, I opted for the Washington's Hare Porter. The mildly sweet caramel and toffee notes, with just a touch of bitterness, go quite well with most cigars I smoke. And the low 5.5% ABV makes it easier to have a refill, should I desire.

In perusing the lounge's humidor, I saw it held a box of Black Label Trading Company Bishops Blend, in the Corona Larga vitola. I have been enjoying the Robusto size sticks I grabbed last July at the shop, but had never tried the slightly larger size. 

As noted previously, Bishops Blend is a limited release from Black Label Trading. This year's edition was created in two sizes, with only 450 boxes of 20 produced in each of the vitolas. The blend is comprised of an Ecuador Maduro wrapper, an Ecuador Habano binder, and a mix of Nicaraguan, Connecticut broadleaf, and Pennsylvania broadleaf filler tobaccos. The smoke is full bodied with flavors of coffee, cocoa, and some interesting dark fruit notes. It is my humble opinion that this Black Label release is one of the best sticks of 2020. 

Most of my previous pairings with Bishops Blend have involved whiskey of some variety. The stick works just as well with the porter, as expected. Besides the tasty beer and smoke, the evening was filled with fun conversation with other folks in the lounge. Inevitably, some of the conversation veered to politics and the social unrest plaguing our country. Despite the presence of viewpoints on opposite sides of the spectrum, the discussion remained civil and even jovial. That's the magic of the cigar lounge.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Undercrown Maduro & Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Continuing the fire pit and power outage story… 

After rebuilding the fire, I headed inside to grab another smoke and a beer. The second cigar choice for the early evening was the Liga Undercrown Maduro from Drew Estate. This cigar has been mentioned before in these Musings and is a long-standing favorite.

I enjoy the Undercrown Maduro in the 5" x 54 Robusto size. The cigar wears a Mexican San Andrés Maduro wrapper, a Habano Connecticut binder, and Brazil Mata Fina and Nicaraguan Habano fillers. It's a creamy smoke featuring notes of rich espresso, cocoa sweetness, and a hint of dark fruit.

Returning to the cellar, I dug out a bottle of Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout from the Winter 2006-2007 bottling. For many years we were very good about buying bottles of this brew each year to stash away. Unfortunately I've let that slip the past few years, and we've also worked through the older bottles. This 14 year old was the most senior of the stash.

The beer still maintains a rich aroma as well as good carbonation. The flavor profile retains its richness as well. There's a mildly bitter, semi-sweet chocolate overall profile. Notes of coffee, vanilla, and some nuttiness come through as well. The 10% ABV is wholly undetectable on the palate. 

The combination of the dark, semi-bitter beer, along with the espresso and chocolate notes of the cigar made for a delectable pairing. Sadly, after a few hours of the ongoing power outage, I had to leave the comfort of the fire in order to turn on the generator. Now I had the hum of generators both in the distance, and up close, disturbing the peacefulness of the evening.

Eventually the power was restored, thankfully earlier than the resolution time initially broadcasted by the power company. Leaving the fire burning, we retired to the house for a late dinner. After dinner Colleen did a little baking and I returned the yard. Not desiring the time around the fire to come to an end, I stirred that coals and put on a few more logs. Colleen soon joined me and we stared into the fire until late in the evening. And now my wood pile was suddenly very empty.

The long afternoon and evening by the fire was a great way to mark the last weekend of the summer. I do think our time spent out back disrupted some of the local deer who like to bed down in the yard overnight. I could hear rustling in the woods on occasion and the light from my flashlight was reflected back by green orbs staring back at me. At least I am going with the assumption those were deer.

The End

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Barrel Aged Cigar & Two Stout Beers

We got the first fire of the season going last Sunday. The last weekend of the summer was cool enough for a fire to be enjoyable, yet still warm enough to not require bundling up. After a late brunch I uncovered the woodpile and prepped the pit. Looking at the amount of wood left from last season, I estimated I had enough for two fire pit sessions before needing to restock. 

After lighting the fire, I grabbed an older stick from the humidor. I've been eying my last Camacho Imperial Stout Barrel Aged stick for some time, and finally brought myself to light it up. These were a limited, one time release, but cigars are meant to be smoked, not just admired. 

The story behind the cigar reads like a travelogue. The barrels used in the aging of the tobacco for this blend first housed bourbon at Heaven Hill Distilleries. The barrels were then sent to Oskar Blues Brewery in Colorado to age their Imperial Stout beer. Next, the barrels were then shipped to the Camacho factory in Honduras. There, the company’s signature tobacco, Honduran Original Corojo, was aged inside for a minimum of six months. The cigar is comprised of 100% Maduro tobaccos. The wrapper is Mexican San Andrés. The binder and fillers include the barrel-aged Honduran Corojo, along with Brazilian and Dominican tobaccos.

As soon as I lit the cigar, I really had few regrets about burning my last one. I knew it would be as enjoyable as I remembered. The 6" x 50 Toro is tightly packed, with a slightly restricted draw, but still produces copious flavorful smoke. Dark, rich roasted coffee and dark chocolate predominate, with a touch of sweet vanilla coming through as well. 

To go along with the stick, I also dug deep into the beer stash and pulled out a Stone Brewing 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. The bottling date stamped on the bottle is 01/15/16. The beer features roasted malt with a sweet, toasted bread graininess. The beer is moderately bitter with a full mouthfeel. It was an excellent match for the flavors of the cigar.

The warm fire added to the enjoyment of the rich beer and cigar. As this would be a nearly two hour smoke, I headed back to the basement to dig for another old beer. I came up with a bottle of Smuttynose Imperial Stout, this one bottled way back in 2006. 

As expected, this stout also paired well with the Camacho cigar. The beer featured roasted malts, dark chocolate, coffee, and some hints of dark fruit. There was very little in the way of hop bitterness. The mouthfeel was creamy and smooth, with a dry aftertaste. After cellaring for fourteen years, the carbonation was still moderate.

As Colleen and I chatted and continued to enjoy the fire, we became aware of the sound of generators in the distance. Soon after that, I received a text notification that our house was without power. At that point, there was little left to do except to feed the fire, grab another cigar to smoke and pull another old beer from the cellar. Apparently I'll need to restock the wood pile sooner rather than later.

To be continued …

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Sam Adams Octoberfest & Hamlet 25th Anniversary

After a fun IDPA match Saturday morning, Colleen and I sat outside during the afternoon to enjoy a beer, some reading, and the cool sunshine. I opted to try a Hamlet 25th Year Robusto. I'm a fan of Hamlet cigars, especially the Tabaquero, but I've never tried this one. The master roller at Rocky Patel, Hamlet Paredes is known for putting out full bodied cigars, but the 25th Year breaks that mold by featuring a mild profile. Hamlet calls it "a cigar for the everyday smoker."

One of the likely reasons I've passed by this cigar in the past was the mild flavor description. I generally prefer medium to full bodied smokes, although I'll grab a milder smoke to have with coffee in the morning. That was my intent when I purchased the 25th Year, but this afternoon my curiosity got the better of me and I opted to try it out. 

The 5½" x 50 stick is wrapped in a golden brown Ecuadorian Habano leaf. The binder is Pennsylvania broadleaf, with Nicaraguan and Honduran fillers. The flavor kicks off with a mild cedar and pepper spice over mild chocolate and creamy coffee. The spice decreases in the later stages, while the chocolate and coffee notes gain an even creamier aspect.

The beer selection for this cool day was Sam Adams Octoberfest. I've been enjoying this seasonal for the past few weeks as it's one I look forward to each year. The caramel and bread sweetness, spiced with just a touch of hop bitterness offers a refreshing drink. 

The malt of the beer stepped on the flavors of the mild cigar to some degree. While I enjoyed the flavors put off by the well-constructed cigar, they were just outside my wheelhouse, and didn't hold my interest in the last third. That, combined with the growing chill in the air as the sun dropped below the trees, led me to abandon the stick with a couple inches left. Despite that, I have no doubt that I'll light another when the appropriate setting and mild cigar mood strikes.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Rivanna IDPA

It was a cool morning as I headed to Charlottesville to shoot the monthly IDPA match at the Rivanna range. It's been a while since we've had a cool weather match, and I had mixed feelings about being reminded (again) about the impending months of lower temps. Nonetheless I was looking forward to shooting the match and visiting with friends.

All four stages this month involved little movement, other than some leaning to see around obstacles. Although I prefer movement stages, the stages were both fun and challenging. The first stage had us facing three tiers of target groups, each with three threat and two non-threat targets in a line. The groups were shot near to far.

It so happened that the shooting order had me following a multi-division Grand Master USPSA and Master IDPA shooter. That invoked no small amount of "no pressure" joking from my squad mates, and even the SO. In truth, I think the situation took some of the pressure off my shooting since I had no stress whatsoever of matching his speed. He was fun to watch and learn from though.

I got my match off to good start, shooting just one down with a raw time of 15.55 seconds, which was still almost twice a slow as the GM's raw 8.67!

The next stage had six targets placed at varying distances, with a couple non-threats up close to shoot around. We started the stage by using both hands to knock over a target stand placed right in front of the shooting box, blocking the view of the targets.

After the requisite "no pressure" ribbing, my turn came and I shot the stage just one down. Or so I thought at first. Upon closer examination, I saw I had knicked a non-threat, apparantly with my "throwaway" 11th shot on the fifth target, likely from moving too quickly to get to the reload and next target. Despite that, I was still pleased.

Rounding the corner to the third stage, we spied the infamous red pickup truck that always adds a bit of challenge and interest to a stage. I has been a while since I've seen this prop towed out. The loaded gun was placed in the truck bed, and all shooting was done from a small area behind the real wheel. There were five threat targets to engage with three shots each, and two non-threats to avoid. The placement of the non-threats, brought them into play on every shot. I shot the stage down 2, and was pleased to avoid the penalty targets.

The last stage had an interesting setup and stage brief. There we saw a simple line of nine distant and open targets, spread in a row with the targets getting closer to us toward the ends of the row. (Aaargh, no picture.) The twist was that the arrangement was meant to represent two assailants moving in opposite directions in an effort to flank the shooter. The targets were to be shot far to near, which also meant swinging back and forth to shoot opposite sides of the array. 

I'd had a pretty good match up to this point. Sadly, the wheels fell off the bus on this stage. We had a lot of time to watch shooters on the stage, and I witnessed a number of raised fingers indicating PE's when a shooter engaged the targets out of order. My time leading up to my turn to shoot was focused on shooting order — I didn't want to be one of those. Fortunately I shot without error. Unfortunately I focused too much on what target was next, and not enough on my sights. I made all the hits on paper, but finished -11 points for the stage. Even while shooting there were times I thought about a make up shot, but I think my brain was too focused on where I would shoot next. Still it was fun.

A combination of quick stages and low attendance, meant we finished shooting in about two hours. The stages were all interesting. Despite a couple errors, I managed 11th of 41 overall, and 4th of 22 SSP. It goes to show, "stand and shoot" can be interesting AND challenging. The weather was pleasant and the people were fun. All in all, a great way to spend a Saturday morning on the last official weekend of summer.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Wynwood Hills Unhinged, a Porter, and the Wood Stove

The weekend was kicked off with a few hours Friday evening spent in the Olde Towne Tobacconist lounge at 1781 Brewing. It had been a couple weeks since I visited and I was looking forward to seeing what was new in the humidor. After filling my mug with Washington's Hare Porter, I headed into the lounge where the proprietor was helping another customer, but she immediately looked over and remarked "I've got some new cigars for you to try." Now, I was excited. 

Shortly, I had received the run down on a number of interesting options for my smoke. I settled on the Wynwood Hills Unhinged. This 4½" x 50 Robusto is one of a series of three cigars in the Wynwood Hills line from C.L.E Cigars. Unhinged features a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. The binder and filler are Honduran and Dominican.

The dark brown, mottled stick gave off plenty of medium-bodied smoke. Notes of leather, cocoa, and a pleasing earthiness paired well with the caramel sweetness of the porter. The cigar had an enjoyable and robust, but not overwhelming, flavor profile.

This was one of the first truly cool evenings this season. As such the wood stove in the lounge was fired up. I really don't look forward to cold weather, but I sure do enjoy sitting around the fire. The combination aromas of cigar smoke and a wood fire are a pleasure to the senses. 

After a couple pints and the stick finished, I returned to the humidor to grab a couple sticks to go. Another of the options presented to me at the start of the evening was a new cigar from Black Label Trading Company. Super Deluxe is a cigar that shipped just this month in very limited quantities. I grabbed a couple and am looking forward to trying them out soon. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Morning Coffee and AVO Cigar

An early morning cigar is a rare treat. An early morning cigar, and a view like this is an even more special time. During a recent long weekend "escape" to a mountain farmhouse, I rose before the rest of the house, made a cup of coffee, and sat down to enjoy the view and watch (and listen to) the cows arrive in the fields.

Among the cigars packed for the trip was this AVO Unexpected Celebration. The Unexpected lineup consisted of four "new" releases that AVO shipped last year. As was later revealed, the cigars were actually a rebanding of existing blends. Celebration is a 6" x 54 Toro with an Ecuadoran wrapper and binder and filler tobaccos from the Dominican Republic. After rolling, the cigars were aged for six years before being released. As it was later deduced, the blend is actually a relabeled AVO XO. 

The Celebration is a medium-bodied smoke that surprised me with a bit more flavor than its appearance indicated. The flavors off the bat were creamy and earthy with some light bitter chocolate and cedar. As the smoke progressed toward the middle, the flavors mellowed a bit, and I was thinking I was in for a boring smoke the second half. However, as the last third approached both the spice and sweetness ramped up a bit and kept things interesting. The hour plus smoke was enough for a couple cups of rich, black coffee. 

Soon the cows had moved on to other pastures and the household was stirring. It was time for breakfast and whatever the day's activities had in store. I do long for more mornings like that though.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

CAO Flathead and Henry McKenna

To start a long weekend recently, I grabbed one of the CAO Flathead 660 sticks and the remains of a bottle of Henry McKenna 10 Year Bottled-in-Bond. It was a great, though bittersweet, pairing. 

The CAO stick is one I've been pairing with my whiskey lately. It just seems to go so well. The full bodied smoke treats one to notes of semi-sweet chocolate and espresso. The burn typically needs some help to stay even on the square box-pressed stick, but this evening it burned extremely well, despite the ultra-high humidity from the heavy rain that was falling.

The Henry McKenna bourbon has gotten several mentions in these Musings previously. It's a whiskey I also enjoy frequently. After the bourbon won the Best in Show Whiskey at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, it's gotten harder to find. Sadly, on this occasion the bottle finally gave its last, and my supply is gone. I'll need to keep an eye on the store shelves for a chance to restock.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Pikesville Rye and BLTC Bishops Blend

On a recent evening, I was looking for a strong and flavorful beverage with which to sit and relax. Opening my liquor cabinet, the obvious choice was Pikesville Rye. This one of my favorite ryes, but one that I enjoy rather infrequently, in no small part due to the 110 poof bottling. The obvious choice to accompany such a bold whiskey was another bold favorite, Black Label Trading Company 2020 Bishops Blend


Historically, Pikesville Rye was first produced in Maryland as far back as the 1890's. Prohibition killed the Maryland rye industry, the lone exception being Pikesville Rye. No longer produced in Maryland, this historical recipe is now made in Kentucky by Heaven Hill. Exhibiting a brilliant copper color, the rye looks as good as it tastes. Rich honey and caramel is backed by the strong spiciness of rye. The 55% ABV is noticeable but smooth and palatable. 

The 2020 limited release of Bishops Blend from Black Label Trading Company is one that's gotten a couple mentions here recently. It's one of my favorite cigars from 2020. I almost cringe when I light another of my dwindling stash, but cigars are meant to be smoked and enjoyed, not sit in a humidor being admired. 

Bishops Blend features an EcuadoranMaduro wrapper, Ecuador Habano binder, and a blended filler of Nicaraguan, Connecticut broadleaf, and Pennsylvania broadleaf tobaccos. The smoke features full bodied notes of coffee, cocoa, dark fruit and pepper.

I smoked this one down almost to burning my lips and fingers. Despite any numbness brought on my the rye, I played it safe and put it down before any ill effects. I'll certainly keep my eye out for a chance to restock before they are all gone from the store shelves.

Friday, September 11, 2020

September 11: Never Forget

It's been nineteen years. Memories fade. There's a whole generation that didn't experience the reality of that day. Some never learned history. Some have forgotten history. The events of September 11, 2001 brought horrors to our shores that the world should never be permitted to forget. Today our days are filled with the effects of the Chinese virus, racial tension both real and fabricated, and the Marxist violence in our cities. Yet, none of this compares with the horrors inflicted upon our country by our enemies on that September day. 

Never Forget. Never Forgive.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

September 9 is "Buy a Priest a Beer Day"

A tradition initiated by the folks over at The Catholic Gentleman, "Buy a Priest a Beer Day" seems a worthy event.
On this festive day, faithful Catholics all over the world take their priests out for a beer and get to know them better. It’s a beautiful Catholic tradition that goes back to the time of St. Hopswald of Aleyard, the first man to take his priest out for a beer.

Okay, St. Hopswald wasn’t real, but your priest is real. Priests are people too, and they enjoy socializing over good food and drink as much as anyone. They also have a thankless and difficult job, a job that we couldn’t get to heaven without. Priests are the lifeblood of the Church, and they deserve some appreciation.

So with that in mind, I would challenge you to do something concrete to show appreciation to your priest on September 9th. Yes, it could be taking him out for a beer, or it could be inviting him over to share dinner with your family. Be creative if you want, but give back to your priest somehow, and let him know that his ministry is making a difference.

Even if you can't do it today, most of the priests I know would appreciate the gesture of a beer any day.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Last Labor Day Cigar and Beer Hurrah

After a delightful four day weekend of good beer, whiskey, cigars, and simple relaxation, Monday afternoon provided one last bit of down time before resuming "normal" life. This delightful comb helped smooth the way.

Southern Tier Pumking is one of the few fall pumpkin beers I enjoy. I can even pour more than one in a sitting. Made with actual pumpkins, the beer has a smooth malt and pumpkin gourd flavor. So many so-called pumpkin beers, are little more than brews loaded up with cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. The beer pours a hazy amber color with a thin white head. There's some spice to be sure, but the predominate flavors are graham crackers, caramel, and pumpkin. The 8.6% ABV is almost imperceptible. The beer was enjoyed only slightly chilled as we had just picked up the four pack a few hours earlier in the day.

The RoMa Craft CRAFT 2020 is a smoke I've mentioned in the past. I'm halfway through the box of ten, and still enjoying them. The annual CRAFT series features various combinations of Connecticut Broadleaf and Ecuadorian Connecticut wrappers featuring Mexican San Andrés accents, and also American Broadleaf and Ecuadorian Habano wrappers decorated with Ecuadorian Connecticut leaf. The 5¾" x 46 corona gorda is a great vitola that burns evenly and feels good in the hand.

Four days of pleasant weather, good food, good drink, and good cigars made for a remarkable, if too short, break.

Monday, September 7, 2020

A Guinness and BLTC Last Rites

After the rain storms on Friday, the holiday weekend weather forecast couldn't have been more enticing. Sunny, cool days followed by cooler nights were prognosticated. That certainly came to pass on Saturday. By mid-afternoon I could resist the call no more and headed to the deck. Raise the umbrella to block the sun's glare, put the cushions on the chairs, grab an e-book, and it was time to settle in with a drink and a smoke.

A Black Label Trading Company Last Rites and can of Guinness Draught would make a nice afternoon refreshment. 

The Last Rites is a well-rolled 6" x 60 Grand Toro with a dark Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. The binder is Honduran and the filler is a tasty blend of Honduran and Nicaraguan leaves. It's a full bodied smoke with notes of creamy chocolate, coffee, and cedar throughout. The large ring gauge cigar burned evenly and cooly. This is a cigar I reach for frequently at the lounge, and also bring home regularly.

I was never, and still am not, a fan of bottled Guinness. The flavor just doesn't appeal to me on the few occasions I was offered a bottle. That said, I absolutely loved the Guinness we drank on our visits to Ireland, and accepted that I'd only drink it abroad. Then a friend urged me to try to Draught cans with the nitro capsule. I admit it, this is the next best thing to getting it in Ireland or at least proper Irish pub here at home.

The smooth, creamy Irish Stout made a perfect companion to the dark yet creamy notes of the cigar. Like the cigar, the beer offers a nice balance of bitter roast and sweet malt. Neither wiped out the flavor of the other. The slow burning cigar would provide a solid two hour smoke. That provided enough reason to open another another can of the stout. At just 4.2% ABV, it was an easy choice.

Colleen sound joined me on the deck to do some reading and enjoy a beer as well. We read and talked as the evening approached. Soon, the hungry mosquitos began arriving. We realized we've not really had them much this summer. Then again, until this cooler weather, most of our time has been spent inside the screened porch. I guess it's time to get out the citronella candles.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

La Coalición and an Oktoberfest

My employer treated us to a four day weekend this holiday, so after a fun Friday afternoon spent driving country roads, just to get out of the house, I settled out to the screen porch for a beer and cigar. After a beautiful morning and afternoon, a storm was approaching but I was hopeful it wouldn't be too intense.

I grabbed a bottle of Blue Mountain 13.Five Oktoberfest to enjoy with the smoke. The beer pours a clear amber with just a wisp of head. The aroma is sweet with notes of caramel and bread. As expected the flavor is sweet malt and caramel, with just a touch of bitterness. It's a relatively light flavor profile with a thin mouthfeel. The beer was enjoyable, but lacking the heft that I personally prefer in a Märzen style beer. However, I won't pass by the rest of the six pack either.

In contrast to the beer, Crowned Heads La Coalición is a full-bodied smoke. This is one I've been looking to try for a while, but just never got around to picking it up. This 5½" x 50 Gordito was part of the August pack from My Cigar Pack and I was excited to finally try it. I got rich notes of chocolate, espresso, cedar, and a touch of pepper throughout the 90 minute smoke. The stick burned evenly producing copious smoke, although it did threaten to go out and need a touch from the torch a couple times. I was not at all disappointed in the cigar, though next time I think I'll pair it with a strong stout or a bourbon.

Eventually the skies darkened and that storm came through. The rain fell and the wind blew hard. I actually had to move away from the screen to stay out of the rain being forced through. It was a short burst of weather activity, and in a short while I was back in my normal seat enjoying the cool air and the return of blue sky.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Jefferson's Ocean and CAO Flathead

Another weekend gone by, and more memories of cigars smoked and beverages sipped. One of the winning pairings from the past rainy weekend was this tasty combo.

Jefferson's Ocean Aged at Sea bourbon is one I picked up a couple years ago, but eventually found itself slipping further back on the shelf. It wasn't because it was lacking in any way, I enjoyed it quite a bit, other bourbons simply took focus. (That's probably a sign of buying too many whiskies, rather than drinking too much.) Recently I dug it out and have been pairing it with different cigars. The bourbon spends six to eight years in oak barrels which are then placed on a ship to travel the ocean for another six months. The voyage is said to cross the equator 4 times with stops in 30 ports. Unsurprisingly, the turbulent ocean voyage affects the flavor of the whiskey. The resulting 90 proof bourbon is smooth and mild, with a hint of brine in the flavor.

CAO Flathead Carb 660 is a cigar that I haven't smoked in a couple years. Again, simply because there are so many other cigars to explore. The nearly black, Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper covers an Ecuadorian Connecticut binder and Nicaraguan fillers. The smoke produces rich, semi-sweet chocolate, and espresso flavors. It's a full bodied smoke that packs a bit of strength too. The large cigar offers a good two hour smoke. The stick is very sharply box-pressed, with a very flat head. Box pressed cigars sometimes exhibit an uneven burn requiring touch ups along the way. The combination of the large ring gauge and extreme box shape of the Flathead 660 always, for me, produces a burn will require some maintenance along the way. It's also somewhat of an unnatural shape to dry to draw through. Despite the drawbacks, and it's a very enjoyable smoke and one that consistently gets high reviews.

I recently picked up a 10 pack of the Flathead, and although there's very little of the Jefferson's left, there are plenty of other bottles hiding in my cabinet with which to pair the bold cigar.