Monday, January 31, 2011

Musings Featured at Fredericksburg Patch

Musings Over a Pint got a nice write up over at Fredericksburg Patch today. Author Michael Theis was very complimentary. (Blush)

See: Weekly Blog Highlight: Musings Over a Pint

Fredericksburg Patch focuses on Fredericksburg area news and events. You can also find numerous reviews of local restaurants. Check out the site here or on Twitter.

Monticello to Offer Jefferson Inspired Ale

Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the U.S., built a brewhouse at his Monticello estate after his presidency ended. Now visitors will be able to enjoy an ale inspired by Jefferson's recipe.
RICHMOND, Va. – Thomas Jefferson is renowned for his many interests, including architecture, horticulture and inventing gadgets.

Among the third president's lesser-known pursuits was making beer, and modern-day visitors to his mountaintop estate at Monticello can soon get a taste of the past.

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation says it's working with Starr Hill Brewery in Crozet to offer Monticello Reserve Ale, inspired by what was produced and consumed regularly at Monticello. Brewing beer was among the plantation's important activities, and the drink was one of the "table liquors" served with meals, Monticello officials said.

Starr Hill's master brewer Mark Thompson will brew Monticello Reserve Ale using a combination of lightly hopped wheat and corn, as Jefferson did in his day. Local ingredients will be used, including some hops grown at Monticello.

The unfiltered wheat-style beer will be make its debut at the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center on February 21. It will later be sold at Monticello and Charlottesville-area restaurants.

See Jefferson's Monticello makes ale inspired by past for more of the Monticello Reserve Ale story.

Beer in Colonial Virginia is a previous post about another historical brewing in Virginia.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bad Dog(fish) !

We spent Sunday afternoon visiting a friend in Northern VA, and as we have often in the past, opted for lunch at the Dogfish Ale House in Fairfax. Before we even arrived I had my sights set on a 75 Minute IPA. In fact, this was to be the choice of all three drinking members of our party. However, our request was met with "We're out of 60 Minute." Without the 60 Minute IPA to blend with the 90 Minute, there's no 75. Well, time to peek at the chalkboard. We're here for a Sunday afternoon lunch, before a 90 minute drive home, so I'm not keen on a 9, 12, or 18% beer. It seemed our choices were limited. I decided on a Shelter Pale Ale. This is a beer that I don't recall trying in the past so I figured I'd make the most of the situation and try something new. The rest of the group opted for Iced Tea.

My beer arrived and I eagerly stuck it to my nose to check the aroma. Soap? Let's try again. Yep, the beer or the glass smells like dirty dish water. The flavor was mildly bitter but tinged by a metallic flavor. Colleen smelled the beer and wrinkled her nose, took a sip and declared it "icky." My friend neglected to taste it after taking a sniff. I drank a bit more of the beer with my food, but finally left the beer unfinished.

I opted for Dave's Border Burger for my lunch. The burger was topped with pepper jack cheese, ripe avocado, pico de gallo and fried jalapenos. Cooked to a juicy medium doneness, the burger was delicious and filling. It was very satisfying even if enjoyed with just a glass of water.

Whether a key beer was out of stock due to the snow storm this week, or just poor planning, it was a disappointment. The offensive odor given off from my glass didn't inspire a second choice. The food was good and the company excellent. Unfortunately on this trip, the beer experience just didn't make the grade.

And to top it all off, the picture at the right was taunting me throughout my visit.

St. Gabriel Possenti

St. Gabriel Possenti was a Catholic seminarian in Isola del Gran Sasso, Italy. In 1860 he used his marksmanship skills to drive off a band of gangsters who were terrorizing the town.

From the St. Gabriel Possenti Society website:
In 1860, a band of soldiers from the army of Garibaldi entered the mountain village of Isola, Italy. They began to burn and pillage the town, terrorizing its inhabitants.

Possenti, with his seminary rector's permission, walked into the center of town, unarmed, to face the terrorists. One of the soldiers was dragging off a young woman he intended to rape when he saw Possenti and made a snickering remark about such a young monk being all alone.

Possenti quickly grabbed the soldier's revolver from his belt and ordered the marauder to release the woman. The startled soldier complied, as Possenti grabbed the revolver of another soldier who came by. Hearing the commotion, the rest of the soldiers came running in Possenti's direction, determined to overcome the rebellious monk.

At that moment a small lizard ran across the road between Possenti and the soldiers. When the lizard briefly paused, Possenti took careful aim and struck the lizard with one shot. Turning his two handguns on the approaching soldiers, Possenti commanded them to drop their weapons. Having seen his handiwork with a pistol, the soldiers complied. Possenti ordered them to put out the fires they had set, and upon finishing, marched the whole lot out of town, ordering them never to return. The grateful townspeople escorted Possenti in triumphant procession back to the seminary, thereafter referring to him as "the Savior of Isola".

The St. Gabriel Possenti Society is dedicated to promoting St. Gabriel Possenti as the Patron Saint of Handgunners. The society is also promotes the study of the historical, philosophical and theological bases for the doctrine of self-defense.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

New Belgium Beers in Virginia

Local beer blogs and Twitter have been alive with the news that New Belgium Brewing Company beers will be available in Virginia later this year. (Along with Maryland and DC.) This has been a persistent rumor for several weeks, however DC Beer this week posted a press release from the company confirming the company's plans to expand their distribution to the area later this year.

What I find interesting is that much of the chatter focuses on Fat Tire Amber Ale. However, Fat Tire is just one of many beers produced by the New Belgium Brewing Company. It may be their most popular beer with the general public, but certainly not the only one. Personally I look forward some of the brewery's other beers being available here. Greg Kitsock writes in the Washington Post that Ranger IPA, Sunshine Wheat, Mothership Wit, 1554 Enlightened Black Ale and Hoptober Golden Ale are among the possibilities for distribution here as well. The company is in the very early planning stages with regard the expanded distribution plans.

I first reported on the East Coast distribution of New Belgium beer when Fat Tire was being poured at the World Beer Festival in Durham in the fall of 2008.

Were Virginia Beers Slighted?

Over at the Houston Press Beer blog, Katharine Shilcutt posted a map of the United States showing a beer for each state. When I saw the headline, I wondered which of Virginia's award-winning breweries she would select to represent the Commonwealth. Starr Hill? Blue Mountain? Devils Backbone?

Imagine my surprise to see a a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon covering Virginia on the map. Okay, so The United States of Beer is just entertainment, but I was still disappointed to see PBR listed as "a fitting beer" for Virginia. In the comments Ms. Shilcutt defends her selection thusly, "And for anyone wondering about Virginia and Pabst Blue Ribbon, keep in mind that PBR is also known as 'the People's Beer of Richmond.'" That's a cop out for a lack of research in my opinion.

Flying Dog Brewery makes the cut as the representative beer for Maryland.  Not to say they aren't deserving, and I am very fond of the beers, but Flying Dog has been in Maryland only since 2008. I think Clipper City/Heavy Seas would have made a better choice. When I was growing up in Maryland, National Bohemian was the beer associated with Baltimore. In fact, National Boh is making a comeback in Maryland.

PBR for Virginia? Sorry, that doesn't do it.

How did your state fare?

Click the image to go to the full-size map at the source.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Matrix in 5 Seconds - Friday Funny


Williamsburg AleWerks Coffeehouse Stout

We recently took the time for a little more research for our upcoming Winter beer tasting. After all, it's only fair to our guests that we have fresh thoughts in mind on the beers we'll serve. (The sacrifices we make are incredible.)

Coffeehouse Stout is a Winter seasonal from Williamsburg AleWerks. The stout pours opaque black with a very thin and short lived beige head. The head leaves little to no lacing behind. The aroma is that of fresh brewed, medium-bodied coffee. The flavor is roasted coffee with a mild sweetness as expected in a milk stout. This is a medium bodied stout with the pleasing aftertaste of bitter coffee. It's a mild stout that I found myself drinking pretty quickly. That's okay though, at just 5.40% ABV I could certainly have another.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Blue Lab Brewing Grand Opening

Through the magic of Google Alerts, I recently learned about another new(ish) Virginia brewery. Blue Lab Brewing Company opened in Lexington, VA in November 2010. They describe themselves as "Lexington, VA and Rockbridge County's first and only micro-brewery!"

The brewery's web site lists four beers currently on tap;  IPA, Amber, Pale Ale, and Bourbon Barrel Stout. The tasting room fills 1 and 2 liter growlers to go. Blue Lab also has a regularly updated Facebook page where you can keep up with current events at the brewery.

Even though they've been open for a couple of months, Blue Lab will celebrate their grand opening this week. They will be tapping special beers on Friday and Saturday. In addition, at 2:00PM Saturday, January 29, Lexington Mayor Mimi Elrod will "cut the leash" to officially open Blue Lab Brewing Company.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Beer Steins - Discount for Blog Readers

The beer stein had its origins in the 1500's. Originally made out of stone, glass steins were introduced at the 1892 Oktoberfest for hygienic reasons. Beer steins can be found in a wide variety of materials; glass, porcelain, pewter, even wood. They may be ornately decorated or plain. The traditional pewter lid with the thumb lever was a means of keeping insects out of the beer. These days, most beer steins do not have lids, but the classic lidded stein is still much in demand by collectors.

I get emails about beer steins from readers of the Musings very frequently, so I know many folks enjoy collecting, and using, these fanciful containers. Therefore I am pleased to announce a special offer for readers of Musings Over a Pint, thanks to

1001 Beer Steins is offering fans of Musings Over a Pint a 15% discount on purchases from Peruse their extensive selection of traditional steins and other mugs and glasses. Then simply enter the Coupon Code: 15OFF when you check out.

Thank you to for their sponsorship of Musings Over a Pint.

Winter Weather Coming

A winter storm is on its way. That much we know. The rest is anyone's guess. I've been following the alerts issued by the National Weather Service for Fredericksburg today. Here's the timeline and the predictions for snow and ice accumulation.

Wed Jan 26 07:01 AM EST:  3 TO 5 INCHES
Wed Jan 26 12:07 PM EST:  5 TO 10 INCHES
Wed Jan 26 01:07 PM EST:  5 OR MORE INCHES
Wed Jan 26 01:15 PM EST:  3 TO 5 INCHES
Wed Jan 26 03:16 PM EST:  4 TO 8 INCHES
Wed Jan 26 04:51 PM EST:  3 TO 6 INCHES
Wed Jan 26 06:54 PM EST:  4 TO 7 INCHES

As you can see the predictions are all over the place. That's usually the case for Fredericksburg as we frequently are on the dividing line between major accumulations, or none.

Well, no matter. We've got all the food and beer, and other essentials we need to get through it. And, no, we didn't rush out to the grocery store to stock up. Hope everyone stays safe and warm.

NASA image aquired Jan 26, 2011 at 20:15 UTC.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Starr Hill The Gift - Late Winter Treat

I picked up a six pack of The Gift from Starr Hill Brewery this past weekend when we were shopping for beers for a Winter Beer Tasting we're hosting in February. I was surprised I had missed picking this up earlier this Winter; Starr Hill released this seasonal beer last November. After a long, but rewarding day in the cold, it seemed just the thing with which to relax. Besides, I had to do my research for the tasting party now didn't I?

Starr Hill's Winter seasonal pours a copper-orange color with a thin head. The aroma is sweet and bready. The flavor has a mild bitterness with a sweet finish. The sweetness of the beer evoked a comment from both Colleen and I, however it was not cloying at all. The Gift is not a heavy Winter Bock, rather a pleasant, easy-to-drink medium bodied beer. The 6.5% ABV gave the beer just a hint of warmth.

I enjoyed this Winter beer from Starr Hill. I find myself tempted to pick up some more before it's gone. Or perhaps, I'll keep the remaining bottles for myself and not serve them at the tasting next month. But that wouldn't be nice. Would it?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Moo Thru For Ice Cream

"Real ice cream from real dairy farmers." That's the sign that caught our eyes as we drove out to Warrenton for our son's swim meet. We vowed we would stop on the way home later that day.

Moo Thru opened this past Summer and sits at the corner of Routes 28 and 29 in Remington, Virginia. The ice cream store is operated by local farmers Ken and Pam Smith, who run a nearby dairy farm. The shop sells hand dipped ice cream, soft serve ice cream, milkshakes, sundaes, ice cream cakes and fresh milk. The milk, whole, skim, and chocolate, comes in returnable half gallon glass bottles. All of the ice cream made on the premises using milk from the Smith's Holstein cattle.

We stopped at Moo Thru that evening on the way home, despite the 17° temperature. We made a concession to the cold and opted for hand dipped chocolate malts to eat in the car while we drove. The malts were rich and thick, with a topping of whipped cream. With so many places selling only ready-mixed shakes these days, this was certainly a treat. While we were the only ice cream customers at the time, several people came by to exchange their empty milk bottles for full ones. Fresh bottled milk is a rare sight these days.

I look forward to the next time we pass through Remington and can stop in again. That's when I plan to try out some of the many ice cream flavors Moo Thru produces. Maybe I'll pick up some fresh milk too.

Visit the Moo Thru web site here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Catholics and Guns

There's an article published by U.S. Catholic that's been getting a lot of press recently. Entitled "Gun control: Church firmly, quietly opposes firearms for civilians," this article quotes from the November 2000 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops document "Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice". The implications of the U.S. Catholic article have raised questions among some Catholic gun owners and others.
"As bishops, we support measures that control the sale and use of firearms and make them safer -- especially efforts that prevent their unsupervised use by children or anyone other than the owner -- and we reiterate our call for sensible regulation of handguns."

That's followed by a footnote that states: "However, we believe that in the long run and with few exceptions -- i.e. police officers, military use -- handguns should be eliminated from our society."

That in turn reiterates a line in the bishops' 1990 pastoral statement on substance abuse, which called "for effective and courageous action to control handguns, leading to their eventual elimination from our society."

That has led many in the press to make the claim that faithful Catholics may not own guns, or that it may be sinful to do so. A respected gun rights writer tries to make hay by framing this as a Catholic teaching. Even some whom we would expect to use more care have erroneously implied that this view marks the "Catholic Church's position on gun control".

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Blatz, Memories

Jay Brooks posts an ongoing, and very interesting, series over at the Brookston Beer Bulletin called "Beer in Ads." Recently he featured a poster for Blatz Pilsener Beer. The accompanying slogan is “The End of the Hunt For Good Taste.”  When I saw the headline in Jay's Twitter feed I had a flashback to college.  There was a lot of Blatz beer showing up in the dorm in those days. However I suspect its popularity had more to do with finances than with the culmination of any flavor hunt.

Thanks for the memories, Jay. I think.

By the way, the poster is from 1944. I was in college many years later. By that time Blatz was brewed by the G. Heileman Brewing Company, who obtained the label from Pabst. See this article for more information on this piece of American brewing history.

See more of Jay's Beer in Ads series here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

SAVOR 2011 Breweries Announced

I've never attended the SAVOR event. Frankly I'm not inclined to do so for a number of reasons. However, I know many readers do, and it's reported to be a fun event overall. The Brewer's Association has announced the lineup of breweries for this year's event, to be held June 3 and June 4 at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

The only Virginia brewery included in this year's event is Mad Fox Brewing Company*. (Really.)

See the entire SAVOR brewery lineup here. Visit the SAVOR site for details on ordering tickets. Ticket pre-sale begins March 1, 2011. Pre-sale tickets are available exclusively to members of the American Homebrewers Association and the Brewers Association, and past SAVOR ticket buyers. Tickets go on sale to the general public March 3.

Hat tip to DC Beer.

*Update, January 26: Devils Backbone Brewing Company was selected by lottery to participate in SAVOR.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Happy Birthday, Colleen

Regular readers will recognize my lovely wife Colleen as the talent behind all the delicious foods we review on Musings Over a Pint. But, she's much more than that. She's a loving and wonderful wife and mother. Even after 26-plus years of marriage, I love her more each day.

Happy Birthday Colleen! This is for you.

Musings On The Go

It's now easier to read Musings Over a Pint on your mobile device. When you access from your smart phone, you will automatically by redirected to a mobile template. You can read and make comments from the mobile version, and view reduced sized images. If you want to view the full-sized version from your phone, simply click on the "web version" link.

I hope you enjoy taking these Musings with you wherever you go.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Privatization, the ongoing saga

We've been following this story for three years now, and it's ever-changing. A couple weeks ago, it was reported that Governor McDonnell's plan to privatize Virginia's Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) stores had been watered down due to political pressure. The Governor's latest proposal would privatize the retail stores only, while leaving the wholesale and distribution channels under the control of the state.  Since Virginia would still monopolize these channels, we would not see the benefits of a competitive market. I didn't see that as much of a change from the current system.

Apparently, neither does Senator Mark Obenshain (D-Harrisonburg). Today the Senator stated he would be filling McDonnell's privatization bill, at the request of the Governor. He also noted that he would file and co-sponsor a second bill that would privatize both the wholesale distribution system and the retail stores.

The Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog has more on Senator Obenshain's bill.

Breaking! Musings Ban Lifted

It would appear that the people have been heard. Just in the past hour, Facebook has removed the "abusive content" flag from Musings Over a Pint. As with the imposition of the ban, I've received no notice or explanation from Facebook as to why they imposed this restriction.

The outpouring of support I received in the past 24 hours was very uplifting. Words of support and encouragement came from both sides of the aisle. It was indeed very refreshing. From what I've read when researching this tactic Facebook employed to block the expression of opinions, I have reason to suspect this won't be the last time I see it imposed, unfortunately.

My sincere thanks go out to everyone who helped spread the word, and who wrote Facebook in support.

Blessing of Beer

We're all familiar with the quote attributed to Ben Franklin, "Beer is proof that God wants us to be happy." We're also well aware that he never said it. But it's an agreeable sentiment nonetheless. Did you know that the Roman Ritual of the Roman Catholic rite does provide an official blessing for beer? A priest friend who knows my interest in beer sent this along recently.

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.
P: The Lord be with you.
All: May He also be with you.

Let us pray.
Lord, bless + this creature, beer, which by your kindness and power has been produced from kernels of grain, and let it be a healthful drink for mankind. Grant that whoever drinks it with thanksgiving to your holy name may find it a help in body and in soul; through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.

It is sprinkled with holy water.

As the smart readers of the Musings know, beer goes better with cheese. So of course there's a useful cheese blessing too.


P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.
P: The Lord be with you.
All: May He also be with you.

Let us pray.
Lord God almighty, if it please you, bless + and sanctify + this creature, cheese (or butter), which by your power has been made from the fat of animals. Grant that those of your faithful who eat it may be sated with a blessing from on high, with your grace and all good things; through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.

It is sprinkled with holy water.

These Musings Banned on Facebook!

Almost since the beginnings of "Musings Over a Pint" I've been sharing the posts on my Facebook account. Yesterday, when I tried to share on Facebook the previous blog entry I was informed that this site has been reported as containing "content that is abusive or spammy" and is now banned from being linked to on Facebook.

In recent months I've been occasionally sharing my thoughts on my faith, politics, self-defense, in addition to my musings on craft beer. These things are as much a part of who I am as my love of craft beer. I realized that I might lose some readers. But what I didn't count on was the anonymous repressive actions of someone who disagreed with my opinions.

The ban applies to all of, not a specific post. It seems there is someone who prefers to take cowardly actions against any opinions with which they don't agree, rather than contacting me directly. Of course, that only serves to prove they have no valid argument against my beliefs and that their only defense is to block others from reading them. Our forum should be one where differing opinions are treated with respect - disagreement is taken directly to the author, not sneaking in silently and unjustly cutting off the ability to post that which interests ME because it is not the same as YOUR opinion!

I wrote this on January 1:
There are those among us who think it is their place to tell us what to eat, what and how to teach our children, who we give our money to...

I left out "who want to tell others what they can and cannot read" when I wrote that list.

Just as disappointing is Facebook's blind acceptance of what is reported as "abusive." On Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg's own Facebook page he lists his interests as "openness, making things that help people connect and share what's important to them, revolutions, information flow, minimalism". Apparently that "openess" only applies to topics that Facebook elite deem appropriate.

Currently this filter is only in place for automatic posting using the Networked Blogs application, and for sharing via a "Share This On Facebook" button or link, both of which examine the content before posting. For the time being, I've found a way around Facebook's opinion filters, so I'll get some posts up despite the ban.

[See my note in the comments for a way to let Facebook know this need to be corrected.]

Update: Ban lifted.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Whiskey Tasting by the Dram

Taking the time to learn more the world of whisky is something that's been on my radar recently. However, tasting a wide range of whisky is not as easy as picking up a mixed six-pack of new craft beers to try. So it was fortuitous that I received an offer to review a Drinks by the Dram sampler from Master of Malt.

The folks at Master of Malt have taken numerous whiskies from their extensive offerings, packaged them into 30ml wax-sealed containers, and made the individual samplers available at a fraction of the cost of a full bottle. Drinks by the Dram makes it easy to taste a wide range of whiskies at a reasonable price. No more relying on tasting notes alone before making what can often be a substantial investment. Even some of the more rare or exclusive offerings from Master of Malt are available by the dram.

The sampler I received contained three different whiskies. I opted to split each dram with two other people, and share the experience. Even though the sample was small it was enough for all of us to get a feeling for what each whisky offered.

The first tasting was of Johnny Drum Green Label 4 Year Old. This had a sweet aroma and was smooth to drink. This struck me as a nice, classic Kentucky bourbon.

Next we opened the Master of Malt 12 Year Old Lowland. This had a woody, honey-sweet scent. It was the smoothest going down and had a sweet finish. The Old Lowland was the unanimous favorite of the three samples we tried.

And finally, Laphroaig 10 Year Old. Laphroaig was completely different from the others. The smell was burnt peat combined with an overwhelming medicinal odor. The initial flavor was strong peat, which immediately brought back memories of the peat brick fires we have in the backyard fire pit. That pleasantry is quickly replaced by the lingering medicinal flavor. Reading the comments on the Master of Malt website I gather that this iodine flavor is an acquired taste, but something that is enjoyed by fans of this whisky.

While we aren't experienced whisky reviewers, we very much enjoyed this self-guided introduction. The Masters of Malt website is also a great reference and has descriptions, along with user-submitted tasting notes, for a large assortment of whiskies. We enjoyed perusing the site as much as tasting the drinks.

Master of Malt is located in the U.K. however they do ship to the United States. I intend to spend more time on the site and hope to order a few more drams to try in the future. You can visit the Master of Mail web site here for more information.

Shooting and Sipping; in the proper order

We spent a recent afternoon at our local pistol range enjoying one of our favorite past times. It was a great day as the whole family was there, along with a good friend who also shares our love of shooting, and of good beer. It was a fun couple of hours practicing various shooting drills. It was all good, safe, fun, and practical, at the same time.

And what better way to relax afterwards than with a good beer? After we got home, put away the gear, and cleaned up, I brought out a bottle of Brooklyn Local 2. (Obviously my young son sat this part out.) The beer was enjoyed with olivada and humus. Local 2 is a very nice Belgian Strong Dark Ale with notes of dark fruit, raisons and brown sugar. We've had this bottle for over a year and being a bottle re-fermented ale, it's aged very nicely. Having split the corked and caged bottle three ways, my only regret was the basement stash consisted of just one bottle.

Shooting and craft beer are two things we enjoy quite frequently. As with many things in life, there's a proper of order of things, and the two never mix. But there's no reason we can't make a day of both.

Friday, January 14, 2011

2011 Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines

Call this a public service announcement. The Brewers Association has released their 2011 Beer Style Guidelines. Of debatable use to craft beer fans in general, the guidelines are invaluable for judging beer competitions and as a reference for brewers. If you are itching to know the precise difference between Ordinary, Special, and Extra Special Bitters, or if you need party trivia such as knowing there are thirteen different Belgian-style beers, this guide is also for you.

You can download the 2011 Beer Style Guidelines here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lee's Retreat - Neighborhood Brewpub

One thing I've often lamented is that in the rural/suburban area where I live, there's no such thing as a true "neighborhood pub," in the sense that it's feasible to walk to and from the local pub. When I was traveling regularly to Denver, I could get some sense of that from the close proximity of downtown pubs and my hotel. Well, that comfort still eludes me locally, but there is a local spot that gets close. Lee's Retreat is the brewpub opened last Summer by the Blue & Gray Brewing Company. Not within walking distance of home, but very close to my office, so it's becoming my after work stop.

 A true brewpub, the brewery is visible through the glass wall, and the the only beers served are Blue & Gray's own. That's about as fresh beer as you can get! The food menu has a mix of typical pub grub; such as wings, burgers, or fish & chips. There are larger entrées such as steaks and ribs, and usually a chef's special or two. Last week the pub featured a steak and quail combo platter.

Being a fan of your standard pub fare, I tend to order the Spicy Blue Buffalo Wings or the Gorganzola & Bacon Burger. The wings are meaty and have enough heat to bring a little sweat to the top of my head. (That's my standard rating scale for spicy food.) The burgers are hand-formed and served on an English muffin, with crispy waffle fries. It's a very good meal.

Lee's Retreat has something else going for it besides the local beer and good food. It's a friendly place! After just a few visits, you'll be recognized as a regular by both the bartender and other patrons. And, as one would expect from your neighborhood pub, you can always see the proprietors, Jeff and Lori Fitzpatrick going about their business.

BTW, Lee's Retreat has a kid's menu, and there are usually families having dinner, so don't hesitate to bring the whole family. (It's non-smoking too.) They also will fill growlers and have bottles available to go. Maybe I'll see you for happy hour this Friday!

Monday, January 10, 2011

A National Tragedy and the Blame Game

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know about the tragedy that befell our Country this weekend. A deranged person (I won't add to his Google rankings by using his name) attempted to assassinate U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. As a result she is critically wounded, 6 others are dead, and fourteen other innocent people wounded; all their lives changed forever. While many of us focused on prayers for the victims, a certain portion of our society instead focused on using the crisis for their own political gain. And so began the blame game.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Session #47 - Cooking With Beer

Wow, has it really been that long since I last participated in The Session?

The January Session is hosted by the folks at Beer 47. For this month's topic they chose "Cooking With Beer."
We all know beer is great for drinking but what about using it as an ingredient in cooking? Wine is used as an ingredient for numerous dishes and recipes yet beer seems to be under utilized in cooking. However, with the rise in popularity of craft beer and advocacy from the likes of The Homebrew Chef, I think this trend is slowly changing. For the month of January, Beer 47 will be hosting The Session #47 and encouraging beer bloggers from all over the internet to discuss Cooking with Beer.

For my long-overdue entry, I decided to create a virtual Session meal based on recipes featured in the past on Musings Over a Pint.

We'll start off our meal with an appetizer, Red Pepper Crostini and Olivada, served with Heavy Seas Red Sky at Night. Technically the beer is not an ingredient in the food, however the trio of crostini, olivada, and the Saison Ale go together to make a single dish. In fact, when the seasonal Red Sky at Night is available we quite often serve this exact combination. When something works, why change it?

For the main course we're serving Slow Cooked Pale Ale Spicy Beef. This simple recipe has become a staple in our household. It's a crock pot recipe, so it is easy to prepare and it especially fitting for those days when we know we'll be needing a quick dinner that evening. The ingredients are things we typically have on hand. Certainly there's always a Pale Ale in the fridge! We've served the spicy beef to guests on numerous occasions and it does not disappoint. I've even taken the leftovers on a sandwich to work the next day. Serve with a nice Pale Ale.

What's a meal without a dessert? For dessert I've selected Beeramisu, which Colleen first made for our Christmas dinner. The recipe is an amalgamation of Tiramisu recipes, and inspired by a dessert tried at Mad Fox recently.  I expect we'll be serving this version of Beeramisu often. The dessert is made a little in advance to allow the flavors to blend, but should be enjoyed within a day. Leaving it to sit in fridge for more than a day causes the beer flavor to fade, and the Kahlúa and rum flavors to strengthen which changes the flavor, not for the best. I recommend a good dark roasted coffee to go along with dessert.

So that's our meal for this edition of The Session. I hope you enjoyed your stay.

Update, January 16: The Session roundup has been posted at Beer 47.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Privatization of Virginia ABC Stores - Plan B

It's good to have a Plan B in case Plan A fails. But that's only useful if Plan B accomplishes the original goal. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports on Virginia Governor McDonnell's latest attempt at getting the state out of the liquor sales business. But does it accomplish that goal? From the article:
Bob McDonnell is quietly planning to roll out early next week his second try at dismantling Virginia's 76-year-old liquor cartel. The proposal, prepared as part of a $75,000 study by PFM Group, the national financial-management consultancy hired by the Republican in November, is closely held. But it apparently draws on the approach of another of the 18 states in the liquor business: Ohio.

Booze is sold by privately owned stores, which receive a commission such as the ones Virginia pays retailers for selling lottery tickets, hunting and fishing licenses and collecting the sales tax. Also, Ohio — as Virginia does and possibly would continue —sets prices and serves as wholesaler and distributor, purchasing spirits and supplying stores.
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Under this proposal, the Commonwealth of Virginia would no longer act as a retailer, however it would control the selection and prices; just like it does now. I've expressed support for privatization in the past as I believe a private enterprise would increase the selection available to the consumer, and control costs. However, this plan would appear to do neither of those. We'd have private retail stores, however the state would maintain its monopoly on the sale of alcoholic beverages. (Of course, the Governor's goals might not be the same as mine.)

See "Second time the charm for liquor plan?"

Electronic Beer Menus Anyone?

There's a new trend emerging among some upscale restaurants; wine lists and other menus are made available via interactive listings on Apple iPads®. From Restaurants uploading menus on iPads for diners:
The bar is buzzing on a busy night at Chicago Cut steakhouse as regulars Keith and Peg Bragg sit at a high table scanning the wine list.

Within seconds, they have all bottles under $40 at their fingertips using an iPad supplied by their server.

"You can very quickly look through to see the price per bottle," said Keith, a finance executive, as he scrolled through rows of selections. "You can read the wine tasting note, how long it has been aged."

Having dealt with many outdated beer menus at many pubs, I know the frustration of trying to order from out of date lists. I also understand the issues faced by proprietors trying to keep lists up to date. I wonder when some technology savvy bar owner will provide an electronic version of the traditional pub chalk board. Keep the beer list updated at a single source, put a few iPads out with spill-proof covers, and patrons can peruse current offerings at anytime. Take it a step further and add ordering capabilities and eliminate the wait for the busy barkeep to come by to take your order.

While I'm dreaming, let's have photos, brewery notes, consumer reviews...

Click to read the entire article on iPads in restaurants.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Blue Mountain Brewery - Sustainable Community

The video by Green Urban Vision features Blue Mountain Brewery. It gives an interesting insight to the "green" initiatives being undertaken by the Nelson County brewery.

Celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany

Each year we hold an open house to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. As is her style, Colleen prepared a groaning board worthy of the day; Cookies & Cream Trifle, Lemon Cookies, Sausage and Cheese Balls, Gingerbread Bars, Olivata, Mhammara, Italian Appetizer Bites, Sesame Noodles, Hot Artichoke Dip...  All home made of course.

This was a feast day after all!

Compared to all her work, I had the easier task as the beverage side of the menu fell to me. This year I selected Avery Elle's Brown Ale, Starr Hill Pale Ale, Starr Hill Northern Lights and Great Lakes Christmas Ale. Of course, anyone brave enough to venture into the basement where the kids were playing video games was free to raid the beer fridge as well. One friend opted to choose from a selection of various Hefeweizens I had put out with his preferences in mind.

The Great Lakes Christmas Ale proved quite popular. Most folks had not heard of the beer, but everyone who tried it liked it, and many went back for seconds, and thirds. The Starr Hill Pale Ale was the next most popular beer it would appear from eye-balling the empties. The guests in general were not craft beer fans per se, but folks absolutely willing to taste new things.

The only sad note of the event was the opened but not consumed Starr Hill Northern Lights I found at the end of the evening. I'm going to go with the assumption that it was simply forgotten. The well-known, and oft-stated, rule of beer at our house is no one is forced to drink a beer they don't like. If you were willing to try something new, and you don't like it, get something else. I know that attitude is anathema to some craft beer fans who think you drink a beer no matter what, else you foist a global insult to some unnamed beer entity. But beer is meant to be enjoyed. Not worshipped.

For a few hours on Sunday our home was alive with good friends, good food, and good beer. It was a super fun way to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, and it kicked the new year off in style.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Virginia Breweries Expanding

The Richmond Times-Dispatch posted a brief article this week on three breweries in Nelson County, all with plans for growth. "Craft breweries in Nelson County are growing" reports on the plans at Blue Mountain Brewery for expanded kitchen and dining areas. Also mentioned is the new production facility for Devils Backbone Brewing, which I previously covered here. The third brewery discussed, Wild Wolf Brewing Company started brewing in November and is now planning to add a brewpub.

I know very little about Wild Wolf, which apparently started out as a home brew supply shop. I only recently heard about the brewery and look forward to learning more.

Read "Craft breweries in Nelson County are growing" for more information on these breweries' plans.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Starting The New Year Off Right

Colleen and I wound down 2010 as we typically do; enjoying a good beer, watching a movie with our son, and calling it a night as soon as midnight rolls around. I hadn't selected a special beer in advance of the evening, so I dug deep in the beer fridge and came up with a bottle of Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout. Like many of the beers I've put away, I don't know where or when I picked it up, but it was an unexpected surprise. We enjoyed the beer with some artery-clogging queso and chips. Not exactly a standard pairing but sometimes you just have to run with the mood.

2011 also started in a typical fashion; the celebration of Holy Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Shortly after Mass I made my way the outdoor pistol range to partake in another passion. I had the range to myself and spent the next hour and a half practicing my target transitions and running sprints between shooting positions. Without even making a New Year's resolution I got in some good exercise to start the year.

Later that evening, the muscles in my legs began revolting, and it was confirmed once again that I really do need to exercise more. But no problem, those aches were easily soothed by ending this day with yet another good beer. This time I selected a favorite Virginia beer, Starr Hill Northern Lights. I've long been a fan of Northern Lights. It's a good IPA that's "up front" enough to satisfy my hop-head cravings, yet balanced enough to keep drinking without killing the taste buds.

The beer, it always comes back to the beer.

A Microbrewery on Campus

This really isn't as far off base as some might assume at first. Selling the "fruits" of a technical course to the public is not that unusual. We've seen it at cooking schools, barber and beautician schools, auto mechanics, among others.

From the Culpeper, VA Star-Exponent:
Appalachian State University's plan to move toward selling beer made at a campus brewery will probably be criticized by some and joked about by others. But if coupled with education about the dangers of alcohol abuse, this program could become an important part of the region's transforming economy.

ASU trustees unanimously voted this month to pursue state and federal permits to establish a brewery that would allow the university to sell beer made by professors and students in brewery classes, the Winston-Salem Journal's Monte Mitchell reported.

continued ... >

See the complete article here.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sweetwater Tavern - Centreville

Last week we visited a friend in Centreville and stopped in for a quick lunch at the Sweetwater Tavern there. I was looking forward to having a Great American Restaurants Pale Ale. The GAR Pale Ale won a Gold medal at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival in Denver.

The restaurant was quite busy with the holiday week lunch crowd. When we pulled into the parking lot I was concerned as we had limited time for lunch. But, we had no reason to worry, there is plenty of seating and indeed we were seated right away. The server was prompt and attentive. I ordered my beer as we perused the menu, quickly settling on the Cheddar Cheeseburger. The GAR Pale Ale was quite enjoyable. The aroma was bready malts with a slight citrus aroma. I immediately noticed the distinct grassiness flavor of dry hopping; and indeed the Sweetwater web site mentions dry hop in the description. The beer left behind a pleasing bitter aftertaste. Since I was just having one beer, I had to nurse my drink to last through the meal. My burger was cooked to perfection with a hint of smokiness.

While I regret not being able to stay longer and try out the other four house beers on tap, I am glad we made the trip. I caught a glimpse of brewer Nick Funnell in the brewery. Just like seeing the chef in the kitchen, knowing the brewer is there hard at work makes the beer all the more appreciated. I do think I'll get back soon for a more extensive dining and drinking experience at Sweetwater Tavern.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

It's seems almost cliché to say it, but I do wish all of you a Safe and Prosperous New Year. May 2011 bring you much success and an abundance of joy. I hope everyone was able to mark the passing of 2010 with loved ones, friends, and a good beer or two, that's great!

I'm not going to write the standard summary of the previous year's events. My year was marked by the unexpected passing of my mother on September 28. The other happenings of 2010, both accomplishments and setbacks, are dwarfed by that event. However, I try to find peace in the belief that mom will be eternally rewarded for all her sacrifices and suffering. We miss and love you Mom.

What will 2011 bring? It's hard to say. Our freedoms are being attacked at home and abroad, in the name of "diversity" and "progress." There are those among us who think it is their place to tell us what to eat, what and how to teach our children, who we give our money to, and demand we be submissive while they bargain away our freedoms to oppressors both at home and abroad. Now, perhaps more than anytime in the past, the enemies of freedom are bringing the war to us. Often times they are naïvely supported by the very people we elect to protect us.

However, we must remain optimistic. Americans have long been innovators and survivors, and we will triumph in the long term. There may be dark times ahead, but it is my belief that Americans will see through the deceptions and once again freedom, and The Constitution, will reign supreme in the land of the free. I pray that day is not too far off.

I'll leave you with this parable from Bearing Drift.
An exchange student explained that he had been shot while fighting communists in his native country. They wanted to install a communist government. In the midst of his story he asked “Do you know how to catch wild pigs?” He explained that this was not a joke.

Put corn on the ground in the woods. The pigs will come every day to eat the free corn. When they get used to that, put a fence along one side of the area. When they get used to the fence, they will resume eating the corn. Then, put up another side of the fence. They will get used to that and resume eating.

Continue until you have all four sides of the fence with an open gate. The pigs will soon come through the gate to eat. Slam the gate on them, and catch the whole herd.

Suddenly, the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They will run around and around, but they are caught. Soon, they will go back to eating the free corn. They are used to it and have forgotten how to forage for themselves, so they accept their captivity.