Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Virginia Losing Great Divide

It was just two years ago that I was excited to report that Great Divide Brewing Company of Denver, Colorado was once again distributing in Virginia after a brief absence. Unfortunately this run of good fortune has ended for some in VA, at least for now. is reporting that Great Divide is pulling distribution from four states and six regions. The brewery issue the following statement:
We are pulling out of MI, RI, DE and CT due to our exponentially increasing orders. Additionally, we are pulling out of DC and southern and central VA. While we are excited to see this massive growth, we simply do not have the production capability to keep up with these orders. We appreciate the loyalty that our customers have shared with us in these states and hope to be back in the future.
While bad news for local Great Divide fans, the reason for this cutback isn't all bad. It means that Great Divide beers are so popular that the brewery can't keep up with demand.

From the statement above it appears that fans in Northern Virginia may still be in luck. Nonetheless, I think I'll have to make a stop on the way home from work and pick up a six-pack of my favorite Great Divide beer, Hercules Double IPA. has more on the details behind Great Divide's decision.

Update: It looks like my home town is spared. As much as we hate to admit it, the Fredericksburg area is considered "northern Virginia." Our local distributor is Hop & Wine Beverage. Those in the area covered by Specialty Beverage will no longer get Great Divide.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Testing The Constitution, Again

Flying Dog Brewery announced today that it had filed suit against the Michigan Liquor Control Commission on First Amendment grounds.
East Lansing, MI — Citing its First Amendment rights and an appalling attempt at state censorship, Flying Dog Brewery, with the support of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, filed suit in U.S. District Court on Friday to overturn the Michigan Liquor Control Commission’s ban on the sale of the company’s best-selling beer, Raging Bitch. The suit also seeks to recover damages from the loss of Flying Dog sales under the statewide ban, which the Commission issued based on its members’ personal distaste for Raging Bitch’s labeling.

The brouhaha began in September 2009, when Flying Dog Brewery applied for a license to sell Raging Bitch, the company’s 20th anniversary commemorative beer, in the state of Michigan. The Michigan Liquor Control Commission barred the sale of Raging Bitch, claiming that the beer’s label — designed by renowned British artist Ralph Steadman — is “detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare.”
You can read the entire press release here.

I've written about Flying Dog Raging Bitch previously. Beside the craft beer news angle, this story has an additional point of interest for me. Flying Dog's attorney for the case is Alan Gura, who fought, and won, the landmark District of Columbia vs. Heller decision. In that case the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution does indeed protect an individual's right to possess a firearm for private use within the home in federal enclaves (i.e., The District of Columbia.)

And there's more. The Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise is headed up by Alan Gottlieb. Gottlieb is also the founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation. The SAF is dedicated to defending the right to keep and bear arms as provided by the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

The United States Constitution has been under increased attack recently, and often ignored completely. I'm pleased to see these experienced crusaders fighting yet another attempt to undermine the rights defined in this important document. Whether you agree with Flying Dog's beer naming conventions or not, this case serves as a reminder that the entire Constitution is to be protected. It's not a buffet from which you can pick and choose.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Starr Hill Pale Ale

Here's another entry for the "go to" beer category. Just a few years ago, fans of Starr Hill Brewery had to travel to the Charlottesville area, or visit the brewery, in order to enjoy Brewer Mark Thompson's beers. Now, thanks to expanded distribution the beers are readily available in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and several other southern states.

Starr Hill Pale Ale pours a translucent, bright orange color with a thick off white head. The slightly sticky foam leaves a persistent coating on the sides of the glass. The faint earthy and citrus aroma gives a hint of the flavor to come. Despite the lighter color and mild aroma, this beer absolutely shines in the flavor category. Pine and citrus hops are well-matched with the mild sweetness of the malt. The beer isn't as extreme as some American Pale Ales, but there's more bitter citrus here than a classic English-style Pale Ale. Starr Hill's interpretation creates a flavorful balance between the floral and citrus hops and the sweet malt. The finish is dry with a bit of lingering bitterness. Starr Hill Pale Ale is one of my favorite Pale Ales, and one that's become a regular in my beer fridge.

Another favorite from Starr Hill, Northern Lights IPA, was featured here a couple of weeks ago.

Friday, March 25, 2011

And the Word became flesh

Nine months before Christmas. Today is the Feast of the Annunciation. On this day we celebrate Mary's fiat, her "yes." That was the day that everything changed. That was the day that God took on our human form. The rest, as they say, is history.

And for those of you keeping track, this Solemnity trumps a Friday in Lent. So you're good to go for that bacon cheeseburger!

Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth. August 2010
Photo by C. Turley.

Medieval Helpdesk - Friday Funny

Oh, the pains of technology.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Blue Ridge Oyster Festival

Here's another fun-sounding, and tasty festival coming up soon. The Blue Ridge Oyster Festival will be held at Devils Backbone Brewing Company in Nelson County on April 23. Growing up near Baltimore, MD I was practically weaned on seafood, and oysters are favorite.

The event will feature fresh steamed and raw oysters, local craft beer from Devils Backbone Brewing Company & Starr Hill Brewery, select wines from Cardinal Point Winery and local food provided by The Rock Barn.  Live music will be performed by Travis Elliott & Tucker Rogers, Misty Strings & Gold Top County Ramblers.

All oysters served at the Blue Ridge Oyster Festival are harvested from Ward Oyster Company’s Aquaculture program.  Find out more information on Aquaculture programs and their impact on the growth of the Chesapeake Bay’s native oyster population. These programs are also doing great things to help restore the commercial oyster industry.

Tickets are $10 in advance,  $15 at the gate. Children 12 & Under FREE.
Price includes admission to the event only. All Food, Beer, Wine & other items are priced separately. See the event web site for more information.

Tasty food and great craft beer, what's not to like?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dominion Hop Mountain

Lately I've been making a point to focus my beer purchases on readily available, year-round beers. Hop Mountain Pale Ale from Old Dominion Brewing Company, in Dover, DE, is one of those "grocery store" beers that's found in many stores around here. As such, it's easy to overlook or take for granted. Indeed I've walked past it many times.

The beer pours a dark, copper-orange color. There's an attractive and thick off-white head that persists. The aroma is slightly sweet, with a hint of citrus. The flavor is initially bitter; think grapefruit rind, but that is offset and balanced by sweet malt. The finish is dry and the bitter citrus notes linger.

Apparently this beer replaces Dominion Pale Ale, brewed when Old Dominion was located in Virginia. Looking back through these Musings, I see that I reviewed Dominion Pale Ale a couple of years ago. And indeed, my notes are similar.

Dominion Hop Mountain is a standard Pale Ale that's a good choice for an "everyday beer." And there's no need to make a trip to a specialty store to find it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Terrapin Beer Dinner

I don't attend many of these sorts of events, but I'm seriously tempted by an email I received about a Terrapin Beer dinner at the Fredericksburg Capital Ale House. I'm not real familiar with Terrapin beers, but admittedly it's the menu that tempts me. This is some serious Southern meat.

The event takes place on Thursday, April 14th at 6:30 pm. The cost is $60 per person.

Food & Beer Menu
1st Course:  Virginia style Brunswick Stew & Cornbread paired with Rye Pale; complex flavor and aroma that is both aggressive and well balanced.- ABV 5.5

2nd Course:  Texas Style Beef Brisket & Jalapeno Mac N Cheese paired with
Hopsecutioner; this Killer IPA earns its name by using six different types of hops while still remaining an aggressive well balanced beer. Gold Medal - 2010 Atlantic City Beer Festival. ABV 7.2

3rd Course:  Carolina style Pulled Pork & Stewed Apples paired with
Hop Karma; a head on collision between a hoppy, west coast IPA and a complex, malty brown ale. ABV 9.8

4th Course:  Memphis Style BBQ Chicken with Jicama Slaw paired with
Monk's Revenge; a classic Belgian Style Tripel and a new age American Double IPA. ABV 9.8

5th Course:  Duck/Alligator BBQ with Fried Okra paired with
Rye Squared; mammoth hop aroma, bitterness and flavor, this beer is not for the faint at heart. ABV 9.5

6th Course:  House made malted Ice Cream & Cayenne dusted Georgia Peach Cobbler paired with Tom Foolery; this dark, spicy, Black Saison is made with a silly amount of rye, wheat and black malts. ABV 7.4

There's no ticket information yet on the Cap Ale House events web site. Calling the restaurant is probably your best bet.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Another March Madness Beer Poll

March Madness themed beer polls seem to be breeding, but who doesn't enjoy sharing their opinions on beers? On top of that you might win a cool prize too!

There's still time to check out the DRAFT Magazine 2011 March Beer Madness Challenge. One lucky participant will win a Beer Meister Kegerator. The first two brackets are open for voting now. Rounds three and four are up next week so you need get your opening selections in soon.

As an added bonus, each participating brewery has selected a favorite charity. The winning brewery gets $1,000 to donate the charity of its choice.

Visit DRAFT 2011 March Beer Madness Challenge to enter your picks.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Caramelized Onion, Olive and Gorgonzola Pizza

Here's a great tasting meatless pizza for your Lenten Fridays. Actually, we make this pizza quite frequently, throughout the year. (Admittedly, it's so good it hardly qualifies as a sacrifice.)

2 - 3 T butter
3-4 yellow onions
1 T sugar
15 Kalamata olives, cut in half
10 oz Gorgonzola, crumbled
1 ball pizza dough
Sea Salt

Pre-heat oven to 450° F.
Peel, then slice onions thinly, separating rings.
Melt butter over med-hi heat in a frying pan, let the butter begin to brown before adding onions.
Sauté onions, for 5-7 minutes stirring as they brown
Sprinkle sugar over onions and continue to brown until nicely caramelized and soft.

Press pizza dough out to cover an oiled pizza pan.
Spread caramelized onions over dough.
Sprinkle Gorgonzola over onions.
Sprinkle Kalamata olives evenly over pizza.

Bake for 15 minutes, until cheese begins to brown.
Sprinkle with sea salt before cutting to serve. Enjoy!

A picture from a friend who liked the recipe too.

Gas - Friday (not so) Funny

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Clancy Brothers - Beer, beer, beer

One more bit of St. Patrick's Day fun.

Irish Horses

Like I said earlier, I like Irish drinking jokes.

But don't act like a horse's a$$ today.

St. Patrick Usurped

Here we go again. It's that time of the year when a Saint revered by many, especially in the Irish-Catholic community, has his good name used as an excuse for drunkeness, insulting marketing, and even bigotry. As a Catholic of Irish decent, and a lover of beer, it pains me to see what this day has become.

Our family will be marking the day with a "traditional" meal of corned beef and cabbage. St. Patrick is also the patron Saint of our parish, so this Feast day is made that much more special. However, I won't be drinking green beer, nor will I be subjecting myself to any "everyone is Irish today" pub parties.

It strikes me as odd that this day, meant to honor a great man and Saint, has turned the way it has. Whether you accept the traditions associated with his life or not, there can be no denying the good he did. (As much as some of these stories cannot be proven, they cannot be disproven either.) Kidnapped as a young boy and sold into slavery in Ireland, he grew to love the Irish people. Late in his life, he was around 60 at the time, Saint Patrick returned to the Emerald Isle to teach and convert the people he had grown to love so much. Certainly that is worthy of our respect.

So, celebrate the memory of St. Patrick. Enjoy a drink or two and some good food. There's nothing wrong with bringing a little revelry into the world. I like a good party as much as the next guy. (And I certainly appreciate a good Irish drinking joke.) Drink your green beer if you must. Dress up in silly clothes. Dye your water fountain green. But please, remember the reason for this feast. Take a moment to honor the man and all the good he did. In our house we'll raise a toast, and a prayer, to St. Patrick in honor of his deeds, and in reparation for the abuse of both his name and his faith that is so prevalent today.

All the children of Ireland cry out to thee:
Come, O Holy Patrick, and save us!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Starr Hill Northern Lights

There are certain beers that I enjoy regularly, my "go to" beers so to speak. Yet despite that, or perhaps because of that familiarity, I often don't think to post reviews of them. An occasional mention in passing perhaps, but that's it. Starr Hill Northern Lights IPA is one such beer. It so happens that I opened one recently and made some notes for you.

Northern Lights pours an attractive amber-orange, the white head makes but a brief appearance, leaving behind a thin layer. Moderate lacing sticks to the glass. The aroma is sweet malt with a bit of citrus. The effect on the nose is mild, but in the mouth the beer really shines. The flavor is full of citrus; grapefruit and orange rind, but tempered by just a hint of sweet malt in the finish

The mouthfeel is slightly resiny, leaving a sticky residue behind on the lips. The bitterness lingers in the mouth for an extended time. While I wouldn't describe the flavor sensation as extreme, I think bold is certainly an appropriate word to use.

Northern Lights was originally a seasonal release by the Crozet, VA Starr Hill Brewery. According the brewery's website, this fine beer used to be called "Stinky." It's now a year-round beer, and for that I am glad.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Sight For Sore Eyes

Readers of these Musings will know that I am no fan of winter in Virginia. I do love those "winter beers" which my favorite breweries release. Those special beers help to make the season bearable. However, "cold, wet, and dark" are more welcome as beer descriptors, than when used to describe winter in these parts. Imagine my delight when I walked out of my office this morning and was greeted by the sight of the fosythia blooming.

Yep, made my day!

"Spring is God's way of saying, 'One more time!'"
--Robert Orben

Monday, March 14, 2011

Seasonal Changes; An Opening and a Finish

Finally. Although I never really took a break from shooting during the winter months, I did miss the excitement and camaraderie of local competitions. After a false start last weekend when the local USPSA match had to be canceled due to weather and range conditions, the match season for me kicked off this weekend. Black Creek Shooters Association holds a monthly static and falling steel match that I was able to attend. This month's match challenged participants with four stages of steel targets, large and (very) small, near and far. As with any good course of fire, the shooter had to think too; shoot a defined set of targets, move to the next box, shoot another set, move... Right off the bat I suffered a brain malfunction and shot the wrong group from the opening shooting box. No matter, it was fun and I kept smiling. It was a fun way to spend the morning outdoors, with a fun group of people. Seventy-seven shooters in all gathered for a morning of responsible, safe sporting. The weather could hardly have been better, which was a welcome break from the recent extended periods of heavy rain we've experienced recently. I'm looking forward many more such events in the coming months.

In a fitting juxtaposition to this spring (almost) start of a favorite activity, I found myself relaxing at the end of the day with my last remaining bottle of one of my favorite winter beers, Heavy Seas Winter Storm. Actually, nicely aged bottle from the 2009 release. Sometimes these things just happen.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Luck of the Irish: $25 Gift Certificate from

How will you be celebrating St. Patrick's Day? Let Local Pages help you decide and you could win a $25 gift certificate good at the watering hole of your choice. Simply go to and search for a local spot at which celebrate. Post the link you find in the comments below. Also include what beverage, preferably a beer, you'll use to toast St. Patrick. I'll randomly select one entry on Tuesday and Local Pages will send the winner a $25 gift certificate to their chosen restaurant.

That's easy. Good luck.

The fine print: The restaurant you select must be listed on Be sure to post the business' Local Pages link in your comment. The winner's name and email address will be provided to Local Pages. You must post with an ID that allows me to contact you. (There's an email address available.) Contest ends Tuesday, March 15 at 6:00PM EDT.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The 9th Annual St. Patrick's Day Festival

It's a great day to be Irish!
The 9th Annual St. Patrick's Day festival and parade at Blue & Gray Brewing Company is tomorrow, Saturday, March 12.

The parade steps off at NOON and includes fire trucks, classic cars, high school marching band, community organizations, Irish dancers, horses, military equipment and local pageant winners. The parade ends at Blue & Gray Brewing. Beginning at 11am there will be Irish songs, Irish and Highland dancers, and a magician with Christian themes performing throughout the day. This is a very family-friendly event. A shamrock facepainter and craft table (free) for the kids will be there too.

Between 10:30am and 2:00pm get your corned beef, cabbage, potato, and a beer (or bottled water) meals for $5.00 ($7.00 day of). Proceeds from meals benefit local Volunteer Fire & Rescue Departments. Get advance meal tokens at Roxbury Mills and at the brewery. A limited number of meal tickets available the day of event. You can also visit historic railroad cars of the Rappahannock Chapter - NRHS on site beginning at 10:00am. The festivities end at 3:30pm.

Lee's Retreat brewpub will be open too.  You can't get the $5 fundraiser meal inside, but the full menu will be available.  It's recommended that you make reservations if you plan to visit the brewpub this Saturday.

Happy Birthday Mom ✝

I so wish I could say Happy Birthday to you in person. I wish I could feel one of your strong hugs, just once more. I know the angels and Saints are celebrating with you today. I love you Mom, and miss you every day.

Jacqueline Turley
March 11, 1937 - September 28, 2010

Laugh! - Friday Funny

Okay, if you don't laugh out loud at this, you have my sympathy.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

WaPo Beer Madness Winner, It's a Secret

The Annual Washington Post Beer Madness Competition has been held, and the winner selected.  The Post asked five readers to join the panel of judges for this year's event. The group got together on two days and worked their way through 64 beers in a blind tasting. Interestingly the beers were placed into brackets based on four "flavor-driven categories."
Malt: These beers derive their sweet, bready, biscuity, toasty and caramel flavors from the specialty grains.

Fruit and spice: Special yeasts are largely responsible for the fruity, peppery and spicy flavors found in these freewheeling Belgian-inspired brews and German-style wheat beers.

Roast: Highly kilned grains give these mahogany-to-ebony-colored brews nuances of coffee, chocolate, licorice and roast.

Hops: The bitter brewing herb dominates these beers, yielding flavors described as citrusy, piny, resiny, herbal and floral.
That's a unique way of grouping for judging, but one that I think mimics how many folks do categorize beers.  It's also a design that will eventually pit hop-heavy beers against malt-rich flavors. Or session beers against high alcohol selections.

Who won? They're not saying. Unlike the Brewing News National IPA Championship, where you make your predictions prior to the judging, in this event, readers make their predictions after the judging is complete. The Washington Post will dole out the results of the bracket eliminations over the next few weeks.

By the way, there where three Virginia beers entered in the competition; Starr Hill Amber Ale, Williamsburg Alewerks Tavern Ale and Port City Brewing Porter.

eBay Auction Leads to Illegal Still in Virginia

Hint for you moonshiners out there: Don't advertise your still on eBay. This is from a VA Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (AKA, the revenuers) press release dated March 10:
EBay Leads Special Agents to Still Bust

COLLINSVILLE – Special agents of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) seized three stills yesterday as part of an undercover investigation into the illegal possession of distilling apparatus.

Daniel Scott Hokanson, 46, of Collinsville, is expected to be indicted on illegal possession of distilling apparatus, also know as a still, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

As part of the investigation, ABC agents monitoring eBay, an online auction site, located an auction for a still, which is typically used to manufacture moonshine and is illegal to possess in Virginia. Undercover agents conducted a controlled buy of the still. Once the still was purchased, agents searched the suspect’s residence where two additional stills were found. One still was operational but inactive and the other still was partially constructed.

ABC agents routinely monitor the Internet as part of investigations into illegal activities involving alcohol,” said Special Agent in Charge Chris Goodman. (emphasis added)
You've been warned.

Saving the Beer - Reaction Time

There's something about this photo that keeps drawing me back to look again. Look at everything going on here, especially the recoil reaction of the crowd. Now look at the guy at the center right. That's a one-handed grab of the bat, and he doesn't spill his beer! Granted this is a split-second view of the action, but it sure is impressive.

See "Sign him up! Fan catches bat, saves beer" at the Seattle Times photographers' blog for the complete story behind the photo.

Photo by David Goldman

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Welcome to Lent

Yes, I do mean welcome. Although we often joke about dreading the sacrifices of Lent, this annual period of preparation for Easter is really something to look forward to. It's a time for prayer, penitence and self-mortification. It's a time for Christians to look at their lives and at the world around them with renewed clarity and vigor.

I am often asked if I'm giving up beer for Lent. No, I am not. Why not? Because beer isn't something all that critical to my life. What's the sacrifice in that? Believe it or not, I don't normally drink beer most days anyway. I seldom share my Lenten sacrifices publicly. I'm enduring them not for public glory. Sure I, and most folks, will give up some foods or meals, but fasting is not meant to be a diet, it's meant as a sacrifice of the things we enjoy. It's a means of suffering, if only mildly, to remind ourselves of the suffering endured on our behalf by our Lord.

I try to make my Lenten sacrifices a positive force. Increased prayer and spiritual reading. Extra time spent helping others. Those are the things that bring us closer to God. For example, if you give up TV, use that time to help someone else, or for personal prayer. I hope you welcome this season and use it to nourish and deepen your faith.

Are you looking to go beyond simply giving up beer and chocolate? Here's an excellent article that will help you examine your goals for this Lent: "40 Ways for These 40 Days".

I hope you have a positive and joy-filled Lent.

And when you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward.  But thou, when thou fastest anoint thy head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not to men to fast, but to thy Father who is in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret, will repay thee.
--Matthew 6: 16-18

A Kegerator That Tweets

SparkFun Electronics was looking for a way to monitor the status of their breakroom kegerator. The Boulder, Colorado-based online seller of electronic parts and gadgets decided solve the problem in their own unique way. Through a series of sensors and circuit boards they monitor the temperature and amount of beer left in the keg. Not stopping there, the kegerator automatically tweets it's status any time a SparkFun employee pours a beer. You can keep up with the SparkFun kegerator Twitter status here.

If you want to learn more about the technology behind the Tweeting Kegerator, you can read it all here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Millennium Ale - Virginia Brewing Nostalgia

Yes, Old Dominion Millennium Ale. I still have a few bottles of Dominion Millennium Ale stashed away in the basement. Old Dominion Brewery is now located in Delaware, but these bottles, dated January 31, 2008 were produced when the brewery was still located in Ashburn, Virginia.

Poured into a brandy snifter, in preparation for an evening of relaxed sipping, Millennium Ale is a dark amber color and nearly opaque. The beige head lasted only a few minutes. The aroma is faint and indistinct, a little bready malt with some apple and pear-like notes. The flavor is sweet at the start and then finishes with a mild bit of bitter citrus hops. After three years I'm pleasantly surprised that the hop notes are still there. A sweet, resiny coating is left behind in my mouth. The bottle label has no ABV noted but I seem to remember it used to be listed in the 11-12% range. The beer still has a pleasing alcohol warmth going for it.

As I was enjoying this Dominion Millennium Ale I couldn't help but think that I'm drinking a bit of Virginia brewing history. The Old Dominion Brewing Company was a Virginia landmark for 20 years. They still make the same good beers, but the Old Dominion name is historical nomenclature now.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Devils Backbone - Interview with Steve Crandall

We've reported on the planned expansion of Devils Backbone previously. I thought readers would be interested in this interview with owner Steve Crandall by a local TV station.

See Devil's Backbone Brewery to expand in Rockbridge County.

Note the improper apostrophe was added to Devils Backbone by the TV station, not me.

Heavy Seas Loose Cannon

On cask.

This is a frequent cask selection at The Fredericksburg Pub. Heavy Seas Loose Cannon Hop3 IPA is a long-time favorite of mine, so how could I resist? Potent fresh hop aroma and flavor. The sticky foam lasts longer than the beer.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Win Some, Lose Some - Shooting Creek Closing

I was shocked to see the headline pop up in the C.R.A.B.B. newsfeed in the sidebar to the right. Eric Delia, who blogs at Relentless Thirst, brings us word that Shooting Creek Brewery in Floyd, Virginia is closing. That's too bad. Virginia's roster of craft breweries has been growing, but it's sad to lose even one. I only had the opportunity to try a couple of their beers, but I know they were popular in their local area. The brewery faced a lot of opposition from neighbors as they were getting started, and worked very hard to overcome those issues. I wish all involved success in future endeavors.

Read previous Shooting Creek news here.

The Session #49 - A Regular Beer

The host for the 49th episode of The Session is none other than Stan Hieronymus, of the blog Appellation Beer. Stan was the host of the very first Session, back in March of 2007. For the theme this month, Stan chose a pretty open topic "A ‘regular’ beer," leaving the interpretation open to the writer.

Blue & Gray Falmouth American Pale Ale is my choice for a "regular beer." I enjoy it frequently on draft, fresh at Lee's Retreat Brew Pub. Falmouth Pale Ale is a classic American Pale Ale. It pours a bright amber orange with a off-white head. The aroma brings mild citrus notes. The flavor is well-balanced between the citrus hops that hit first and the malt backbone. There's some lingering bitterness in the finish as expected. Clean and simple are the descriptors that come to mind.

Why is Blue & Gray's Pale Ale my choice as my regular beer? It's a good beer sure, but it goes beyond the beer. It's enjoying the beer at its source. The Blue & Gray brewery is visible behind a glass wall in the brew pub. You can enjoy your beer while watching the goings on of the brewery. On a recent visit, the aromas from the brewing were wafting through the pub. (It was the boil of Blue & Gray's Classic Lager to be precise.) The brewer Madison spent a few minutes at the bar chatting with patrons before going back to work. This is as close to a beer's source as you can get. I've often said in these pages that the enjoyment of craft beer includes the people and places that go along with it. For me, those things all come together when I'm having a pint of Blue & Gray Falmouth American Pale Ale at my favorite pub.

Update, March 8: Stan has posted a roundup of the Session posts.

TSA - Friday Funny

Ray Stevens pays tribute to the not so friendly skies.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

7 Things

I was tagged for this exercise by Mike over at Another Gun Blog. In order to play, I'm supposed to write seven things that people might not know about me. Okay, here goes.
  1. I am a convert to the Roman Catholic faith. I entered the Church at Easter 2002. It changed my life.
  2. I have an undergraduate degree in Geology. I've never held a paying job in that field. I should have looked for a few oil wells of my own.
  3. Budweiser used to be my favorite beer. I was a regular at a pub where they knew to have a long-neck waiting for me. The less said about that the better.
  4. I used to have hair. Long hair.
  5. One summer I worked in an ice house and spent much of the day in below freezing temperatures. The job also involved delivering bags of ice cubes, and 300 pound blocks of ice in a non-air conditioned van. Speed counts.
  6. I've also worked in a crematory. Actually, I was a horticulturist at a cemetery and my office was next to the crematory so I was often tasked to help move bodies around. Did you know a dead body will sometimes sit up while it burns?
  7. I've ridden a camel in Petra and floated in the Dead Sea. I once assembled a gas grill. I don't intend to do any of those activities again.
Along with this "honor" comes the responsibility of nominating 15 other bloggers to do the same. I nominate:


Hope to hear from you all too. Be sure to post in the comments if you followed through on being tagged.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Whiskey vs. Beer?

I saw this sign and it gave me a chuckle. The building is owned by the A. Smith Bowman distillery, and is located next door to the Blue & Gray Brewing Company.

For the Love of Maple

Recently I came across a press release from Woodchuck Cidery announcing the release of their Spring offering. Woodchuck made use of locally produced maple syrup to create Woodchuck Spring Cider Limited Release. Even though I've had very few ciders the description of the maple syrup and brown sugar flavors was enough to entice me to search it out.

I visited my two local beer shops to no avail. I then used the locater on the Woodchuck web site to search for a source in my area. Nothing! So I wrote the Woodchuck folks and asked. I was pleased to get not one, but two replies with suggestions and I found the cider at the second suggestion. That's customer service!

Upon pouring the bright, straw colored cider I immediately noted the sweet maple aroma. Interesting. My first remark was "Breakfast!" The flavor is very refreshing. The sweet maple syrup and brown sugar flavors do not overpower the cider tartness, but they are definitely the dominant flavors. I'm reminded somewhat of the maple candy, though not as strongly flavored, that we enjoyed during a trip to Vermont many years ago.

Our local distributor is apparently already out of the Woodchuck Spring, so it may be hard to find now, but it's certainly work seeking out.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Winter Beer Feast

As we have done a couple of times previously, (here and here) Colleen and I offered to donate a beer and food tasting event for the annual fundraising auction to benefit our son's school. In previous years, we loaded up the car with food and beer and took the tasting on the road to the winners' homes. This year we hosted it at our house, so we were not as limited in what we could serve. And it was indeed a feast!

The theme for the tasting was "Winter Beers." Each beer was served with a food chosen to demonstrate the variety of food flavors that work when pairing with our favorite beverage. We poured 3-4 ounces of each beer and used of a variety of glassware. There were nine courses served featuring nine different beers. The menu for the tasting and pairing experience is listed below, along with some comments.

Great Lakes Christmas Ale
Winter Warmer (7.5% ABV)
Paired with gingerbread cake with lemon curd
This winter seasonal from Great Lakes Brewing was a perfect match for the gingerbread cake. This was a great start and our guests all commented how good it was, but there was much more to come!

Starr Hill The Gift
Maibock / Helles Bock (6.5% ABV)
Paired with humus, olives, labneh, and pita
This pairing was a nod to the foods we enjoyed on our trips to Italy and Israel. The fresh baked pita with herbs was a hit, as well as the beer.

Sierra Nevada Celebration
American IPA (6.8% ABV)
Paired with Buffalo wings and ranch dressing
The only food that wasn't prepared in our kitchen, the wings were picked up at a local sports bar. This course answered a question I was asked at the start of the tasting, "What beer can I serve with spicy food?"

Gouden Carolus Noël
Belgian Strong Dark Ale (10.5% ABV)
Paired with mixed berries on pound cake topped with custard
The Gouden Carolus Noël came from two bottles I had been saving for a few years. This was a different style of beer than most of the participants had experienced previously, and was enjoyed by all. I think that most were surprised how well it went with the berries. Fruit with beer, not in beer I always say!

Tröegs Mad Elf
Belgian Strong Dark Ale (11% ABV)
Paired with Blue Cheese, Gorgonzola, and Roquefort
This was another beer from our cellar. I've always preferred aged Mad Elf to new, and these bottles had held up quite well. I think several of our guests are planning to put away some of this Tröegs seasonal for the future.

Old Dominion Baltic Porter
American Porter (7% ABV)
Paired with marinated flank steak and garlic ciabatta
This was a last minute addition after I saw it on a store shelf and remembered how much I had enjoyed it previously. Folks were impressed with the beer, but I have to admit, I think the grilled flank steak was the real hit of this course.

Lagunitas Brown Shugga’
American Strong Ale (9.99% ABV)
Paired with crème brûlée
This pairing was one we had never tried previously. As I was, um, refreshing my memory on the flavor of this beer recently, I came across a mention of crème brûlée served with a barleywine and thought it would work here as well. I dare say this just might have been the hit of the menu. One guest admitted that his wife loves crème brûlée and he's always shrugged it off. Now he has to go home and admit that he's been wrong in his opinion. We still have some Brown Shugga’ left, and I'm going to have to convince Colleen to recreate this pairing for dessert real soon.

Williamsburg AleWerks Coffeehouse Stout
Milk / Sweet Stout (5.4% ABV)
Paired with chocolate almond panini
This was a beer that I purchased especially for this event, but had never tried until recently. Like our friend with the crème brûlée, I've been missing out. Everyone commented on the distinctive coffee aroma and flavor of this beer.

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout
Russian Imperial Stout (10% ABV)
Served with Hershey chocolate, and in an ice cream float
Chocolate and Imperial Stout. What more is there to say? Admittedly, we might have gone overboard with this pairing. By this point, everyone was remarking how stuffed they were. We'd been eating and drinking, a lot, for several hours. We served a 2009 vintage, both a small taster with a bit of chocolate on the side, as well as an ice cream float made with vanilla ice cream, Black Chocolate Stout, whipped cream, and a cherry on top.

It was a fun afternoon of indulging in good beer, good food, and lively, interesting conversation. There were five guests for our meal, and everyone had a good time. Some were old friends and we also made a few new friends as well. Is there a better way to spend a day? And to top it off, the whole thing was done "for the children."