Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Kilkenny's Pub, Knock

One of the pubs we visited during our pilgrimage to Ireland was Kilkenny's Pub in Knock. Located on the main street, just a couple of blocks from the Marian Shrine, we discovered it during our quest for lunch. Kilkenney's was established in 1888, and the owner is the fourth generation to run the pub. We enjoyed a long conversation with the proprietor and his wife. They also run a B&B next door.

The pub offers a limited food menu, including breakfast served all day. Our son opted for a pepperoni pizza that was very delicious. The other food item offered was described as a "ham and cheese sandwich with onion and tomato, with fries." And this is where I learned a lesson about ordering food. I asked for "the ham sandwich" and another member of our group asked for the "ham sandwich with fries." When our food arrived, we received exactly what we asked for, a ham sandwich, a ham and cheese sandwich, and the ham sandwich with fries. My lunch may have been the only meal the entire trip that did not involve potatoes.) The food was all very well-prepared and quite tasty. We had a laugh about our orders, remembering that the priest who was the spiritual leader on the trip often reminds us that "Words mean things." As we would see other places as well, the pubs here will prepare your meal as you want it.

At this stop I decided to take a break from the Guinness I'd been enjoying so far on the trip and ordered a Smithwick's Ale. The beer looked as good as it tasted. I've had Smithwick's in the States, but I found the "local" version to be much more tasty. Perhaps it was the environment adding to my enjoyment.

We enjoyed a long conversation with the very friendly proprietors, discussing their pub, the Irish economic situation, US and Irish politics, and various other issues. Unfortunately, we had too little time to spend in Kilkenny's, a theme that would be repeated often during the trip. Fortunately, there would be other pubs and sights to explore.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Something From the Cellar

After returning hime from a recent range trip, I dug through some of the boxes in the basement and pulled out an older bottle of Dogfish Head Chicory Stout. The date stamp indicated the beer was bottled on October 9, 2009. Although this is a low-alcohol beer, at just 5.2% ABV, I suspected it had held up just fine. And I was right.

The beer poured very dark, but slightly translucent, brown with a large beige head. The aroma was that of dark chocolate and espresso. The flavor brings out more roasted coffee and bitterness. The chicory bitterness seems to increase in the aftertaste and lingers pleasantly in the back of the mouth. Mouthfeel is thin with a light body. This is not a heavy stout, but still one that packs significant flavor.

I've been getting itchy to break into some of the beers I've put away over the past 3-5 years. Although the beers I've managed to "cellar" are young in comparison to the collections of some craft beer enthusiasts, I am sure there are many treats to be had. Most beers set aside for aging fall into the robust, high-alcohol realm; just right for upcoming winter evenings. I suspect we'll be opening more old beer soon.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Drinking Guinness At A Distillery

It was somewhat ironic that my first pint of Guinness in Ireland was enjoyed at a whiskey distillery, on the second day of our Ireland pilgrimage. As mentioned previously, I was having lunch at the Kilbeggan Distillery when that first of many pints was consumed. Of course, we had already tasted the Kilbeggan Whiskey.

Waiting to be topped off
I've never been a big fan of Guinness. Not that I disliked it, it just wasn't a "go to" beer for me. However, I readily admit, that of all the beers I consumed in Ireland, it was the most enjoyable. In fact, whenever I decided to try another Irish-brewed beer, I was presented with a tough decision. I wanted to experience other local beers, but also lamented missing out on having another fresh-drawn Guinness. Several other members of our group also commented that they had a new appreciation for this classic Irish beer.

So, when will I have another? Hard to say. Since our trip to Italy, I've been unable to enjoy espresso the same way I did there. Likewise, perhaps Guinness will have to wait until I return to Ireland once again.

Pre-Sandy Shooting, and The Curmudgeon

It's been a few weeks since I've gotten out to shoot, and I wanted to get in at least a little trigger time before next weekend's planned Steel Match. I feared with Hurricane Sandy bearing down on Virginia, the range trip didn't seem likely. However, by Sunday afternoon the rain still wasn't on us, though it was hitting folks not too far east of here. With the outdoor furniture secured, the chainsaw verified to be working, and the beer fridge stocked, there was still some time to get over to the range for a quick visit.

The steel targets were loaded into the car since they'd be quick to set up, and would be unaffected by any wind or rain. I managed to get about 50 rounds downrange before the club curmudgeon came up behind me clucking his tongue. "You ain't s'pposed to be shootin' steel targets" he opined. I informed him the rules allowed approved steel targets and the Range Master had in fact approved these, first earlier this Spring, and again when the new rules were posted last month and I reverified. In hindsight I should have asked him about the steel spinner I saw him plinking earlier with his 10/22, or about his lack of ear and eye protection when he approached my position as I was shooting. But frankly, I just wanted the old guy to move along so I could get back to shooting, there wasn't much daylight left.

I explained a bit about steel targets to him, which was met only by a blank stare, head shaking and frequent spitting of tobacco juice onto the ground. After a while he mumbled something about "it's your thing" and slunk away. I shot a couple of more mags, but my mood was fouled as I have an admittedly low tolerance for such irritating people. I decided to pack up and head home to enjoy a good beer, in peace, and await the so-called Frankenstorm.

I gotta find my own private range, some place I can shoot and avoid dealing with people!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Monks of Birra Nursia

The Benedictine Monks of Norcia have opened their new brewery in Norcia, Italy. Birra Nursia is located within the walls of the Monastery of San Benedetto, in the Umbria region of central Italy. Due to the strict Benedictine rule of enclosure, the brewery will only be open to the public once a year. However, the beers are for sale at the monastery gift shop and at local restaurants. When we someday get back to Italy, perhaps we'll get to try out these beers. Meanwhile, we'll enjoy this video tour of the brewery and the inauguration day celebration.

More monks brewing more beer! All seems right with the world.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

There's the Bunratty Mead Label

I was half asleep as our bus made it's way through the Irish countryside when I spied a sign for the town of Bunratty in county Clare. Wait, that sight looks familiar. Then I recalled we had tried some Bunratty Mead a few years ago. I managed to grab a cellphone shot of the Bunratty Castle as we drove by.

Compare that photo to the Bunratty Mead label. 

We didn't get to stop though. Will have to keep that on the wish list for a future stop.

COTU Grand Opening Announced

Center of the Universe Brewing has announced the dates of their grand opening celebration. Virginia's newest craft brewery sent out this press release last week.

Ashland, Virginia, October 22nd: Center of the Universe Brewing Company is excited to announce their grand opening dates: 
Friday, November 16th at 5pm
Saturday, November 17th at 12pm
 Come celebrate the opening of the first brewery in Ashland. Along with plenty of fresh COTU beer, there will be local food, music and games.
COTU will be pouring four beers to start:
1. IPA – West Coast style IPA with lots of flavor and hop aroma
2. Pale Ale – Classic Pale Ale brewed with a little honey malt and continuously hopped with Cascade
3. Kolsch – Light, easy drinking session beer modeled after the beers of Cologne, Germany.
4. Details to be released later
“It's taken us over two years, thousands of emails, and hours of conversations with a few generous brewery owners around the country to get to this point.  I feel like a little kid on Christmas Eve.” 
 – Chris Ray, President of Center of the Universe Brewing Company
The Center of the Universe Brewing Company began back in 2009 when Chris Ray and his brother Phil Ray began brewing beer in their houses. The hobby turned into an obsession, and the obsession has led them to open up a craft brewery in Ashland, Virginia. Located in the heart of Central Virginia, it is affectionately known as “The Center of the Universe”.

Find a Google Map to the brewery here, and previous posts about Center of the Universe are here

Friday, October 26, 2012

Killbeggan Distillery

One of our first alcohol-related stops on our Ireland pilgrimage was the historic Killbeggan Distillery in County Westmeath. Opened in 1757, it is the oldest licensed distillery in the world. This stop was a late addition to the schedule per the request of the pilgrimage spiritual director. Traveling with a priest who is also a fan of finer beverages has many benefits! The working distillery is also a museum of sorts. The plant is powered by a waterwheel and an ominous looking, and sounding, system of gears and pulleys. There's also a steam engine for "backup" but that has only been put into use a few times.

After a tour of the distillery and enjoying all the delightful aromas, we were treated to a tasting of Killbegan Irish Whiskey. A few folks in our group were selected to sample a couple of other whiskies produced by Cooley Distillery, the owners of the Kilbeggan Distillery. Even though I wasn't selected for that treat, I did notice that the guide had poured a few extra samples of Irish whiskey, and I certainly didn't want that to go to waste.  ;-)

After the tour, we adjourned to the attached restaurant for lunch. Ironically, it was at the distillery's restaurant that I was finally able to have my first Irish pint of Guinness Stout. And it was the first of many I would enjoy during the next week, but that's a topic for another post.

The Irish name for the town of Killbeggan is Cill Bheagáin. The name means "the church of St Bécán," referred to as the "Little Church" by the locals.

The Waterwheel

Mash Tun

Barrels of Aging Whiskey

Pot Stills

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dublin, it's down there somewhere

Approaching Dublin last week, I was watching our flight path on the seat back monitor. I started wondering if perhaps the pilot was already hitting the Guinness.

In reality, the airport was fogged in so flights were backed up, putting us in a hold pattern over the Irish Sea. As we finally approached Dublin I could see the smokestacks of the Poolbeg Generating Station sticking up through the very low clouds! Our eventual landing was most interesting as I watched out the window, wondering when the runway was going to appear. A few extra Hail Mary's were invoked on the way in!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Back From Ireland

Did you miss me? Our family just returned from a 10 day pilgrimage in beautiful Ireland. I had a bunch of posts scheduled in advance that hopefully kept you entertained while I was gone.

We had an absolutely marvelous time. We took in the sights and enjoyed plenty of good food and drink! There was lots to learn about the history of the country, especially with regard to persecution of the Irish people and the Catholic Church, along with the current economic crises they are facing. While fascinating, these issues were strikingly poignant considering threats we face today within in our own country.

The landscape, the people, the food (and the drink) were all wonderful. I'll be writing more about our trip in the coming weeks.

Guinness, Fish & Chips at The Lobster, Waterville, Ireland

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Nobama Beer

I was told "religion and politics do not belong in craft beer." Apparently the folks at Huebert Brewing didn't get the message either. Their Nobama beer has proven very popular.

The Huebert's beer isn't available outside of the Oklahoma City area so I won't be adding it to my bottle collection.

I did pick up this bit of election year beer memorabilia at the World Beer Fest Durham in October 2008.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Hackathorn 1 2 3 4 5 Drill

I'm not sure where I first came across this drill, but the "Ken Hackathorn 1 2 3 4 5" drill is a fun exercise. I recently found it in my notes and we decided to run it during a recent range trip.

This is a 15 round drill so it's not too ammunition-rich to be run multiple times, but it's long enough to test things like consistent grip, target transitions, and for most folks, reloads.

Set up three USPSA targets, 1 yard apart at 10 yards. At the start signal take the following shots:

One shot at T1
Two shots at T2
Three shots at T3
Four shots at T2
Five shots at T1

The version of the drill I found called for a draw from concealment, with all A-zone shots within 20 seconds or less. We ran it drawing from an open holster. While it sounds short, 20 seconds it a long time to get off 15 shots. I started out running it way too fast before realizing that I was leaving 5-6 seconds to spare. We didn't record times, or score the targets other than noting how many non-A hits there were before pasting for the next shooter.

While I could have loaded enough rounds to shoot the drill without reloading, I loaded either 10 rounds as I would for a USPSA match, or 8 rounds to match my M1911-toting companions. We didn't top off between turns, so a reload from slide lock would come up at random times adding to the stress.

No, none of us ever shot it perfectly in the 5 or so times we did it last week. But it was a lot of fun and a great learning tool. This will be one drill we will undoubtably return to often.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

C&M Dry Fire Targets

I've written about dry fire practice previously. For most of my indoor dry fire, the aiming point is typically a small sticky note. Striving to get the sights settled on that 2 1/2" square surely can't hurt but I wanted to use something a bit more representative of a match. I also needed to add more movement to the practices, and that required a little more room, and some more realistic target setups.

I recently came across some scaled down targets made by Charlie Myers at C&M Targets. The targets are 1/4 scale, so setting them at 3 yards simulates a full size target at 12 yards. This seemed like just the thing to set up some field courses in a small space.

Before I ordered, I had a question about the targets and emailed Charlie. He responded quickly and even sent along his phone number in case I had other questions. Charlie's ordering system is pretty unique, and says a lot about him and the shooting community. After I notified Charlie of my order via email, he sent the targets on the way and followed up with an email with the total cost with shipping; he didn't wait for payment. Naturally I got my check in the mail with equal haste!

The set I purchased included 10 USPSA style targets and 4 pepper poppers. The targets have perforated scoring zones, and are even white on the reverse to be used as no shoots. The cardboard is sturdy and I expect it will hold up well under use. I've set up a few different scenarios in my back yard, stapling the targets to the lattice under the deck. Eventually I'll rig up some stands to make the targets freestanding. I suspect as the weather turns colder, I'll make use of my basement. After all, I only need 1/4 the distances I'm simulating.

I'm very pleased with the practices I've had with the C&M targets. I still do my stationary dry fire drills, but have added some more variety, and fun. Even though the match season is winding down, I'll have a interesting variety of dry fire drills to work on while preparing for next Spring.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Eisbock, That Reminds Me...

I have a bunch of boxes stacked in a dark corner of the cellar that hold beers I put aside "for a later date." It's not an overly extensive selection, there's a definitely a good party or three lurking back there. Recently I came across this article, "An American 'Ice' Beer With Serious Punch." The article gives a brief history of the Eisbock style and also reviews an American version created by Gordon Biersch.

Reading that article flickered a memory. I put a few bottles of Kulmbacher Eisbock away years ago. Could they still be there? I headed to the cellar to check. Sadly, I must have succumbed to temptation already as I was greeted by a thick line drawn through the listing on the side of the box. However I'm seeing lots of other long forgotten beers to tempt me.

I might have to look around for that Gordon Biersch Braumeister Selekt Weizen Eisbock. Sounds like just the thing to break out the next time we burn some peat bricks in the fire pit.

Gone! :-(

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's Free Wi-Fi

Free Wi-Fi, and electric power, at the local coffee shop is a great convenience for catching up with email or the news while on the road. It's even fun to sit and "surf" while enjoying coffee and a snack. But I think sometimes folks might go to an extreme.

Faces blurred to protect the innocent, and guilty.

I'd say this industrious person was settled in for the long haul. Reminds me of this cartoon.

Found here

Monday, October 15, 2012

SureFire Timer For Dry Fire

A shot timer is an essential piece of equipment if you are serious about your training to shoot better. I don't use a timer every time I practice, but do use one occasionally to check on my progress. Beyond gathering speed statistics, using the starting beep to begin your drill helps condition you to respond quickly on demand. I frequently use the random start setting on my timer to add the element of surprise.

But what about when you're doing dry fire practice? Standard shot timers won't pick up the click of the hammer falling on an empty chamber. The usual recommendation for timing your shots for dry fire is to set a par time on your timer, then try to beat the second beep when you complete the draw or "shot." I find that method cumbersome for determining your time exactly. That's where the SureFire Shot Timer for the iPhone comes in. The sensitivity setting on this app can be easily adjusted to pick up the clicks when doing dry fire.

After turning up the sensitivity, and selecting random start in the settings, the iPhone can be placed on a nearby chair, or used in a belt or arm case if you have one. I use this app frequently to test my time to draw from the holster and get the first shot when I'm doing my dry fire practice. If you so desire you can even email your times to yourself directly from the app. A word of warning, a high sensitivity setting can also cause the app the pick up the sound of the gun going back into a Kydex holster.

What about live fire you ask? I have had mixed results using the SureFire Timer at the range. The noise canceling microphone on the iPhone sometimes interferes. The latest update to the app is said have fixed previous issues, but frankly I've never tested it, preferring to use my standard timer in the range.

Update: Unfortunately, as I looked for a link to the app, I learned that the SureFire Shot Timer is currently not available in the iTunes store. That's too bad as I find the app very useful for dryfire. I have found references to it online as recently as August of this year, so it's removal must have been recent. Perhaps it's something to do with the release of the iPhone 5. That's disappointing as this is a useful tool. Let's hope the folks at SureFire will bring it back soon. There is an undated press release describing the app on their website.

Update, October 29, 2012: As of this update, the app is back in the iTunes store here.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Virginia GABF Winners

Virginia Craft Brewers brought home a Lucky 13 awards from the Great American Beer Festival held this week in Denver, CO. The big winner was Devils Backbone which walked away with the Small Brewpub and Brewer title and 8 category medals.


Small Brewpub and Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year
Devils Backbone Brewing Company - Basecamp, Roseland, VA
Devils Backbone Brewery Team

Individual Awards:
Category: 17 Gluten-Free Beer, 20 Entries
Gold: Nikki’s Gluten Free Honey Pale Ale, Rock Bottom Arlington, Arlington, VA

Category: 21 Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer, 51 Entries
Bronze: Local Species, Blue Mountain Barrel House, Arrington, VA

Category: 28 American-Style or International-Style Pilsener, 26 Entries
Bronze: Gold Leaf Lager, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. - Outpost, Lexington, VA

Category: 35 Vienna-Style Lager, 36 Entries
Gold: Vienna Lager, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. - Outpost, Lexington, VA

Category: 39 American-Style Dark Lager, 12 Entries
Silver: Old Virginia Dark, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. - Basecamp, Roseland, VA

Category: 41 Bock, 33 Entries
Silver: Elixer Maibock, Mad Fox Brewing Co., Falls Church, VA
Bronze: Turbo Cougar, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. - Outpost, Lexington, VA

Category: 43 Baltic-Style Porter, 31 Entries
Silver: Danzig, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. - Basecamp, Roseland, VA

Category: 48 English-Style India Pale Ale, 54 Entries
Bronze: Monumental IPA, Port City Brewing Co., Alexandria, VA

Category: 65 German-Style Sour Ale, 29 Entries
Gold: Berliner Metro Weiss, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. - Basecamp, Roseland, VA

Category: 76 Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout, 16 Entries
Bronze: Ramsey’s Draft Stout, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. - Basecamp, Roseland, VA

Category: 77 Foreign-Style Stout, 25 Entries
Bronze: Ramsey’s Export Stout, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. - Basecamp, Roseland, VA

Congratulations to all the Virginia winners. It looks like there are a few more Virginia beers I need to search out. You can see the entire awards list here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Homecoming Date Night

It's the night of the Homecoming Dance at the boy's high school, and I have a date! No, not for the dance, but with my lovely wife. Colleen and I took advantage of our son's night out to have a date of our own.

Park Lane has a decent, though not overly exciting, beer menu, so I usually look for the rotating taps or cask offerings. One of the rotating beers this evening was Starr Hill All Access Saison, which Colleen selected. Darker in color than expected,  with a bigger malt profile than some Saisons we've enjoyed, she found it pleasant. For my selection I opted for the seasonal Sam Adams Oktoberfest. The sweet and slightly toasted malt base with a just hint of bitterness makes for an enjoyable libation. I look forward this offering from the Boston Beer Company each year, and had not yet enjoyed it on draft this season. Served in a 20 oz version of the classic Sam Adams glass, it looked as good as it tasted.

Having nowhere to go until the dance ended, we ended up lingering over our dinner and beers, sitting and talking for a long time. It's a rare evening when we are able to just sit and enjoy each other's company. Certainly far, far more exciting any Homecoming date I had as a teenager!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Five O'Clock Friday: We Made It!

It was a tough challenge to get through the week, but it's finally the weekend.

Whatever you did to make it to Friday, now it's time to enjoy it.

Fredericksburg USPSA Wounded Warrior Match

After mostly recovering from the trek to shoot the North Carolina Sectional on Friday, I was up early Sunday to take in the monthly Fredericksburg Practical Shooters USPSA match. In a stark contrast from the warm temps of North Carolina a couple of days prior, Sunday morning dawned cool and wet. At the scheduled match start time a steady rain was falling. A vote was taken among the shooters and it was decided if the rain didn't stop by 10:00AM, the match would be postponed until Monday, the Columbus Day holiday, since many folks had the day off. By the appointed time it was still raining, and we were all checking the radar on our phones. It looked like there might be a break coming, so the decision to postpone was delayed. Fortunately by 10:30 the rain stopped and the match proceeded. I was very happy with that decision since I was working on Monday. I was looking forward to shooting this match as it would probably be the last USPSA match for me this year.

Match Directors Alan and Vince had pulled out all the stops for this final match. They apparently went way into the back of the Conex containers and found all sorts of moving targets. Unfortunately, complex targets setups can lead to complex problems. Some squads were delayed on several stages by prop malfunctions. That, and the delayed started made for a long day, but everyone seemed to take it in stride and enjoy the opportunity to shoot the variety of moving targets. I suspect, and hope, we'll see these props again next year now that there have been some lessons learned.

On Stage 1, "Down The Beaten Path," there was a stomp plate that activated a drop turner, and at the same time on the opposite side of the course, a clam shell with a target that was quickly covered by a no-shoot except for the head area. There was no way I was going beat both targets, so a head shot was required on the second target. Stage 2, "Annie Get Your Gun" incorporated no-shoot targets placed in front of, and behind, the poppers, exposing only the "head" area of the steel.

Stage 3, "Hide 'n Seek" had  several movers, along with some longer static shots. A popper activated  swinging no-shoot target arrays in front of two static paper targets. I ended losing some time waiting on the targets to be exposed. Stage 6, "Shake It Up," had perhaps the most unusual prop set up. Hitting a popper on one side of the bay exposed a popper on the other side, which in turn activated a triple-target swinger which was shot through a small port in a wall. The original plan had a door over the port that was also activated by the swinger. That malfunctioned, so "in a sign of sportsmanship" we were asked to not shoot the triple-swinger until it had been activated.

There were a total of 8 stages in the match; 7 field courses and 1 classifier. (Flicker photo album here.) I was mostly happy with my performance. As usual I finished about in the middle of the pack, with stage finishes ranging from 8th to 24th on the 7 field courses, and claiming 85.60% of the match points before penalties, and 79.01% after accounting for some no-shoots and misses.

The Match Directors wanted to create a memorable match to close out the season. Despite a few issues, I think they were successful. It was an exciting and challenging match and I'm glad we managed to get it in despite the threatening weather.

This match was also the annual fundraiser for the Wounded Warrior Project. Shooters paid an additional $5.00 entry fee, as well as any optional donations. The extra entry fee was matched by the Fredericksburg Rod & Gun club. In total, $796 was raised for this worthy cause.

Stage 8: Mirror Mirror

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Fire and A Stout

On a recent cool evening, one of the first of the season, we decided it was time to enjoy a peat fire. We had also spent a couple of hours before dusk out at the range so I had the urge to not only warm my outside by the fire, but my inside with a rich Imperial Stout.

While Colleen and a house guest were deciding on a beer, I went to the cellar and grabbed a bottle of North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout. It sounded like my two companions were leaning towards a brown ale, so I also brought up a Sierra Nevada Tumbler. This hoppy Brown Ale is a tasty beer, just not what I was looking for at this time.

I poured the two beers and offered both for tasting to the others. They both expressed delight with the brown ale so I figured that was settled. But then they each had a sip of my Old Rasputin. Big smiles ensued and I knew I was going to be bringing up more stout from the cellar. (Which reminds me, I think I poured the last three.)

I went ahead and enjoyed a few sips of the brown ale. It was as enjoyable as always, but just not what I was craving for this occasion, so it was left unfinished. Perhaps it was only fitting that the glass I pulled out for the last stout pour was a logo Sierra Nevada glass.

Both the burning peat and the Russian Imperial Stout were a fitting finish to the day.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

NC Sectional Championship

Last Friday I travelled down to Creedmore, NC with a couple of shooting buddies to participate in the USPSA NC Sectional Championship match. We planned to meet at 0500 to depart. I woke up with a start at 4:40 AM realizing I had overslept. I rushed out the door to be only a few minutes late to the rendezvous point. (Later I realized that I had set the extra early alarm on the clock radio for Saturday, rather than for Friday.) We arrived at the Sir Walter Gun Club even before check-in was open so we headed out in search of breakfast. We found a wonderful diner nearby and had a hearty meal for a great price. Back at the range, we still had time to walk through the stages.

In previewing the printed course of fire drawings, while I was excited to shoot the match, the stages did not strike me as especially interesting. However, that initial impression was totally incorrect. The nine stages (Flicker photos) were all excellent, challenging, and most importantly, fun! There was a variety of challenges, including many moving and strategically hidden targets. Most of the stages required plenty of movement by the shooter. The gun club has many large bays that they made good use of to provide opportunities to get in the "run" part of "run and gun." Also interesting, and initially uncomfortable, was that a lot of the courses were run right to left, which can be challenging to right handed shooters, especially when performing reloads. Another aspect I found interesting was the number of shots that were taken down the edge of the 180° line. The stage designers took advantage of  the full 180° of shooting. There were a couple of places where I had to look further left or right than I am used to.

I started out the day strong, completing the first three stages with good accuracy. I did remark that I felt I could be timed with a sundial. After that, I started struggling with accuracy and had to force myself to slow down. It was a frustrating to not be able to find my stride, or apparently the front site, in the later stages.

Stage 7, "Pick 'em Up," had an interesting prop where the shooter hit a large button above a small window. That action opened the port and activated a "Max Trap" that exposed the target for very short time, requiring a fast response by the shooter. It was interesting that I could pull that off with fast A zone hits, yet still have a C hit on a stationary target. I remarked that perhaps I should treat all targets as disappearing!

Another interesting prop setup was found on Stage 4 "BPS The Delivery." This course of fire started out with a series of very tight shots, leaning out over the side fault lines. (And yes I shot the "no-shoot" on the edge, twice.) Then the shooter had to carry a package across the field and place it down a "mail slot." That action exposed two ports through which more targets were engaged. Behind both those ports were more Max Trap disappearing targets.

The final stage we shot, Stage 5, "The Swamp," had perhaps the longest shots in the match. During the morning walk through, my plan had been to take the four mini-poppers at the beginning, despite their distance. By the end of the day, I was discussing it with other shooters and we felt we were too tired to risk relying on making those shots. So, I took the last 2 poppers at the end of the course of fire. That added movement to one more shooting position at the end, but shortened the distance to two of the small poppers. Surprisingly, I shot the initial two mini-poppers dead on, while still nicking an up close no-shoot.

The Sir Walter club has a reputation for putting on an excellent monthly match. I know of shooters from Northern Virginia who make the drive every month, but this was my first time at the club. They certainly put on an outstanding Sectional match. There was a long list of match sponsors supporting the match and offering "goodies" for the shooters. Through random selection I received a $75 certificate from Precision Delta, which I'll be putting towards an ammo purchase soon.

Despite a disappointing performance, the match was a lot of fun, and that's what matters. The road trip with shooting friends Alex and Clay was a blast too. We frequently joked during the long drive, "Who's idea was this anyway?" (I checked the Facebook messages guys, and I think I hold the blame.) There was plenty of friendly ribbing and fun conversation. I'm looking forward to the next time.

I was quite exhausted by the time I returned home that evening. Although I made predictions of a night cap for the evening, I settled for a refreshing bowl of ice cream before hitting the sack. But not before I reset the Saturday morning alarm time!

Monday, October 8, 2012

I'm Officially Hoplorati

Andy, who blogs over at In Search of the Tempestuous Sea, is on a mission to help the hoplorati show off their allegiances. Beside some great blog graphics, like the one I have used in the right hand column, he's created a very cool hat. Andy's been generously passing them out to some local bloggers. It seems that all the cool kids are wearing them; MSgt B, Nancy, AGirl.

Recently Andy awarded me with my very own Hoplorati cap. Coincidently, it's been just over a year since I remarked on my need for a new favorite hat, and now I've found it. The cap arrived at a good time too — it made it's debut at the NC Sectional match this weekend, and a number of folks remarked on it.

If you want your own Hoplorati wear, go here. The hat is well-made and there is some other good looking Hoplorati-themed apparel there too. I'm thinking for the upcoming winter I'll need a long-sleeve T-Shirt. And maybe a Polo...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Five Years of Musing

Today marks the five year anniversary of Musings Over a Pint. It doesn't really seem that long ago, but I even did the math a couple of times to be sure. :-) It's been a fun run, and it continues to be. I've met many wonderful folks and had some fun experiences as a result of putting my ramblings to paper, er, bits. To everyone who reads these Musings, you have my heartfelt appreciation and thanks.

Musings Over a Pint has gone through some changes over the years. The content has evolved to more accurately reflect who I am. Initially the content focused almost exclusively on craft beer, specifically in Virginia, and even more specifically the Fredericksburg region. Together we watched Virginia become a craft beer powerhouse. My enjoyment of craft beer is strictly as a consumer. Good beer is a good food that I enjoy very much, if not as often as I'd like. I don't work in the industry, nor do I home brew. I simply share my thoughts as one fan to another.

Frankly, as much as I love craft beer, if that's all I get to talk about, it gets boring. I occasionally muse on my feelings regarding faith and politics. That upsets some folks. Someone once told me that politics "has no place in craft beer." I'm not even sure how to parse that, having missed that warning label on the beer bottles.

I also use this blog as as a journal of my adventures in the pistol shooting sports. This is an interest that I've had for not quite four years, but one that provides me much enjoyment and takes up a significant of amount of my "free" time. As with craft beer, I'm interested solely as a "consumer." I'm far from an expert but I hope that by sharing my experiences, someone else will benefit, or at least be entertained. I've enjoyed meeting many upstanding folks through the shooting sports. Oddly enough, very often when I meet Musings readers at shooting events they want to talk about beer!

So, here we are, five years later. That's 1347 posts and some 1853 comments later. But those are just numbers. What matters to me is the chance to laugh or vent, and to share fun experiences. I've also gotten to do some things that I probably wouldn't have it if wasn't for exposing my thoughts in these Musings. But what is most important are the interesting and fun people I've met, in person or virtually, through this blog.

I guess I'll keep doing it for a little while longer.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Five O'Clock Friday: Relaxing?

I'm in North Carolina today shooting the Infinity Firearms NC Sectional Championship, but I expect to be home in time for a relaxing nightcap. As is typical, Saturday will be devoted to chores and errands. And then on Sunday, I've got plans for more shooting at the Fredericksburg USPSA match. (We're gonna need more ammo!) I'm guessing by Sunday evening I'll be relaxing — whether I want to or not!

Hope your weekend is fun, and relaxing.

Where's Jim Lehrer?

They say sometimes life imitates art. Watching Wednesday's presidential debate, I was reminded of this scene from The Avengers movie.

The only character missing is Jim Lehrer. Although one might assume he's represented by the floor tiles.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Trigger Time: When It Rains, It Pours

After a drought (not draught) of range time, I managed to squeeze in two trips to the range this week. Being optimistic for more trigger time, I left the car loaded with the target paraphernalia from the weekend trip, so I was prepared when a friend visited during the week and we made a quick after-work trip to turn some money into noise. It was a bit of rain falling so we set up the two steel targets. With three of us shooting, we sometimes had to ask, "Was that hit from me or you?"

It wasn't all play though. I spent a lot of time working on my initial push out and trigger prep. While I still want to perfect my technique more, I was comfortable enough to fairly consistently be able call a bad shot. Breaking the habit of listening for the ding of the steel is good progress. The second part of my practice was spent shooting both targets and working on transitioning between the targets. I tried to call the shots so that I could quickly follow up with a makeup shot before swinging to the next target.

But all work and no play makes Jack (and David) a dull boy. As I've noted previously, sometimes I find it fun to just shoot steel fast and enjoy the sounds of lead on steel. And with three of us shooting at the same time, we made some beautiful noise. Not a bad time for a rainy afternoon. :-)

And for those concerned, there was no draught to be had afterwards. However, a trip to the beer fridge resulted in clearing out a few bottles of Port City Optimal Wit, Hennepin Saison, and Tröegs Nugget Nectar. Do we know how to live or what?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Has Brewing Jumped The Shark?

Craft beer brewers are a creative bunch. Their quest for interesting ingredients to use in brewing brings us new and tasty drinks to enjoy. But sometimes I have to stop and wonder if a quest for shock factor has usurped sensibilities. Let's look at some recent unique ingredients used in beer.

Saliva: Dogfish Head Brewery, no stranger to odd ingredients, has brewed a Chicha beer. Chicha comes from corn that is chewed and then spat out. The enzymes in the chewer's saliva convert the starch in the corn into fermentable sugar. All things considered, this method, based on ancient customs, is pretty mild in comparison to recent developments.

Beards: Rogue Ales Brewery has created a beer called New Crustacean. The beer is brewed with yeast cultured from the brewer's beard. John Maier's search for yeast in his beard started out as a joke, until they found a viable yeast within. You can expect to see the beer in the shelves next year.

Rocky Mountain Oysters: It started out as an April Fools joke by Wynkoop Brewing Company, created in response to the popularity of Oyster Stouts, made with real oysters. But now, with the release of their Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout, life is imitating art. Yep, those are real rocky mountain oysters.

The Grotesque: A while back we were treated to the news that a female brewer claims to have created a beer with a yeast culture taken from her, um, well, never mind. You can read about it yourself if you are so inclined. (Warning, possibly NSFW.)

Maybe the Reinheitsgebot law wasn't such a bad idea.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Some Practice At The Range

Between the temporary range closure, and a busy schedule, it's been three weeks since I made it out to the range for some live fire practice. I've been doing my dry fire practice religiously, and did get to both a USPSA match and an IPDA event in the interim. However, I wanted to work on a few specific skills, so I was happy to find the time to shoot a bit Sunday afternoon.

I decided this day to work on getting the first shot off quickly and accurately after the draw. This is something that I've been concentrating on during dry fire. While there might be just 6 or 7 draws during a match, saving even 1/4 or 1/3 of second each time can add up. Take into account any lost points from an innaccurate hit, and it's a skill not be ignored.

In order to gain that fraction of time, I've been trying to be better at prepping the long double action trigger pull on that first shot. During our recent class, the instructor admonished me for not beginning the trigger pull until the gun is on target, so I've been working on that in dry fire too. I was pretty pleased with the results on the range, though there's still much more work to do to speed that up.

I also spent a little time doing 25 yard drills. These shots were taken at a pace closer to what I'd do in competition, rather than slow fire, while still taking care to maintain a smooth trigger press. I hit 16/20 in the A zone at this distance, with the remainder just outside in the C scoring area. I'm seeing regular improvement at the longer distances, which I'll take as tangible proof of the value of the dry fire practice.

It was a good afternoon at the range. I was happy with how I shot, and the weather was extremely pleasant. As is often the case, I left thinking, "Now if I only shot that well during a match..." But as someone told me recently, "When you're shooting by yourself, you're the best shooter on the range." I look forward to putting the skills I've been practicing to use at the NC Sectional match later this week.