Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mornings on the Range

I was looking through my notes, and realized that I had not been to the outdoor range to shoot my pistol for a couple of months. Shooting has been limited to a few USPSA matches, the indoor range, and some shotgun or rifle time. So, during my holiday staycation, I've been making an effort to get out to the range in the morning, before the crowds show up.

When I headed out Monday morning, it was slightly overcast, with a temperature of 45°. The park was empty when I arrived so I grabbed the larger bay and spent most of the time shooting on the move and doing reloading drills. I even snuck in some "rapid fire." (I wish I had thought to bring along those evil steel targets.) It was a very fun and relaxing morning. Interestingly, by the time I was finishing, I heard some rifle fire starting up, but still no pistol shooters had showed up.

Well, that was so much fun, I decided to do it again Tuesday morning. What a difference a day makes! The temperature was about 15 degrees cooler, although the sun was out. Well, sort of. Oddly, half the bay was in deep shadow, while the sun shone on the other half —despite it being the same time of day as yesterday.

I restricted my activities to the sunny side. Even so, the cool temperature and cold fingers made loading mags a chore. Most of the morning's fun was spent shooting at longer distances while stationary. The main reason for that was to make the brass pickup chore quicker. By the time I finished, I was glad I was able to gather brass quickly and get home to some to some hot coffee!

I don't know what the upcoming mornings will hold. I do know it's expected to be much cooler later this week. There's even the possibility of a few snow showers, but I've shot in the snow many times. I do know that we're going to need more ammo. :-)

Of course, the best thing about shooting first thing in the morning is that it leaves the rest of the day open for enjoying some good craft beer. And that's the other focus of this "staycation"!

Monday, December 30, 2013

It's Always 5:00 at BadWolf Brewing

This past weekend, Colleen and I finally made it back to MadWolf Brewing in Manassas. We had visited prior to their opening back in June, but busy life kept getting in the way of a return visit. After fighting the weekend traffic, we arrived at the brewery Saturday afternoon, but first made a stop at Virginia Arms, located in the same shopping plaza. After some quick window shopping over firearms it was time to hit the brewery.

The small tasting room was filled with folks enjoying local beer. After getting a rundown of the six beers that were on tap, we decided that the proper course of action would be to start out with a flight. The 6 ounce servings were well-suited to sharing, while still providing enough volume to get a feel for the beer. We grabbed one end of the retro Pac-Man game table for a place to sit our glasses. After the two hour drive I didn't mind standing for a bit. Colleen and I shared a laugh and memory, recalling that we met over a similar arcade table at a local pub, circa 1980.

The six beers in the flight, in the order we tasted, were Grodammit, a smoky wheat beer, Simcoe Warrior IPA, ESB, UnKolsch, Imperial SMASH Pilsner, and Ryon Orthros, a Belgian Dubbel with apricot. We enjoyed each and every one of them, and a few especially stood out. The Groddammit exhibited noticeable but not overwhelming smoke, with the smoky and wheat flavors well-balanced. The Simcoe Warrior IPA was the hoppiest of the beers. The Simcoe hop citrus bitterness was bold enough to keep your attention, but not so much as to overwhelm. Finally, the Imperial SMASH ("Single Malt and Single Hop") was a mildly bitter pilsner, one that seemed to be a popular choice among the crowd.

After reviewing the beers in the flight, we decided to get some food, and full pints of a couple of our favorites. BadWolf has a free popcorn machine on site, but doesn't serve other food. No worries though, there are plenty of nearby places to get takeout, which you are welcome to enjoy in the brewery. I went next door to Adam's Pizza and placed an order that was delivered to our table at BadWolf in short time. To go with our pizza Colleen ordered a pint of Grodammit, while I opted for the Simcoe Warrior IPA.

As we ate, there was activity at the large chalkboard that lists the beer selections. The Ryon Orthos keg was kicked, and was replaced by a beer from the "coming soon" side of the board, Festivus Ale. Naturally, I had to try a small glass of that one too. Described as an Amber Ale with spices, it reminded me a lot of Anchor Our Special Christmas Ale. The dark reddish-brown ale had subtle "Christmas spices" and a pleasing caramel malt base. Earlier in our visit, I would have definitely gone for a full pint of this. I suspect this one will be a hit at the pub and will go fast. (Why didn't I get a growler to go?)

We enjoyed each of the beers we tried. They were fresh, tasty, and served at just the right temperature. It was obvious that local folks were very much enjoying the local, fresh beer. Despite the constant crowds, the service was friendly and quick. We never lacked for a beer, and our table was kept clean and clear of empty glasses. The atmosphere was relaxed and everyone seemed to be enjoying the afternoon.

The wall clock at the brewery is stopped at a few minutes past 5 o'clock. As the saying goes, "It's 5:00 somewhere," and that somewhere is BadWolf Brewing. I'm looking forward to going back soon.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Celebrating Christmas With Rifles and Whisky

The second day of the Christmas season was a day spent celebrating with a close friend of our family. After a tasty brunch of Scottish Eggs, Baked Beans, and homemade Crumpets it was time for some shooting fun. Another friend had graciously allowed us the use of his backyard range for the afternoon to sight in a couple of new AR-15 rifles. We've only shot the AR-15 a few times, our shooting experiences being mainly handguns and the occasional shotgun, so we were looking forward to a fun-filled learning experience.

We initially set up at 50 yards, since our goal was to sight the rifles at that distance. After everyone had a few rounds of shooting, and numerous trips walking downrange to check the targets, we humbly surmised there was a lot of "operator error" going on. In the interest of openness, I must admit that our son had the best accuracy right from the start. I attribute that to his frequent participation in airsoft battles using an AR-style airsoft replica. It's generally accepted that airsoft practice is beneficial for shooting real weapons, and I think he demonstrated the truth in that.

We moved in closer to use the standard 25 meter military sight-in targets. With that change we were able to get the rifles sighted in. Returning back to 50 yards we enjoyed continued success. Of course, just as we were feeling confident, our friend suggested it was time try shooting standing and unsupported. We'd previously shot offhand at closer distances, and this was a new experience. Less successful, but still much fun.

Eventually the sun, and the temperature, began to go down and it was time to finish the day with the requisite spent brass hunt. It was a truly enjoyable afternoon. As noted previously, shooting the modern sporting rifle is both fun and a fairly new activity for us. Most rewarding personally, is that our son enjoys the rifles much more than the pistols, which I'm sure will lead to more frequent family outings to the range.

Arriving back at the house, it was time to switch our attention to my other favorite topic; tasty beverages, namely of the alcohol-bearing persuasion. While craft beer is my usual beverage of choice, I've been interested in an increased exploration of distilled beverages. To that end, our friend had gifted me a bottle of Lagavulin Distiller's Edition 2013. This single malt scotch whisky was aged for 16 years and finished in casks that were previously used to mature sherry. I was told this particular whisky was chosen specifically due to my fondness for smoky flavors. While Colleen prepared a fitting dinnertime feast, we all sipped on a glass of the Scotch. The sherry influence and the Lagavulin smokiness made a great combination. We tried it "neat" and with a splash of water. Adding the tiniest bit of water quashed some of the alcohol heat, and the smoky aspects were further revealed. This indeed was a fitting way to knock off the chill left from the time on the range.

It was quite a memorable day, spent with family, friends, firearms, alcohol and food. I can hardly wait to see what the rest of the Christmas holiday holds in store!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Beers of Winter - St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

As we did some pre-Christmas beer shopping, Colleen spied a bottle of St. Bernardus Christmas Ale on the shelf. Since this one was absent from her St. Bernardus flight the other evening, Colleen suggested we pick it up for our Christmas celebrations. That's certainly a suggestion to which I cannot object. 

We opened the bottle on Christmas evening after dinner. This seasonal Quadrupel-style from the Belgian brewery is dark red and cloudy in appearance. It reminded me of a dark mulled cider, though with a thick, frothy beige head. The foam dropped fairly quickly, leaving behind a very sticky lacing on the inside of the glass. The aroma was fruity and slightly sweet, with a hint of yeast. The flavor is that of dark fruit, with cherry and plum dominating. There is a slight tartness that comes through in the end. The mouthfeel is thin, and although the carbonation in minimal, there is a lively effervescence to tingle the tongue.

We sipped our Christmas Ale late into the evening, as the family enjoyed a movie. Still being quite full after a wonderful Christmas feast, there was no room for more food to go along with the beer. Despite the rich dark appearance and flavors, the beer was actually quite light and easy to enjoy.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Beers of Winter - Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Brooklyn Brewery's Black Chocolate Stout is one of those beers we buy every year, put in the basement, and forget about. When it's time to enjoy a dark, rich Russian Imperial Stout, we'll dig out an old bottle and enjoy the effects of aging. Such was the case recently when we heard about the passing of Mikhail Kalashnikov, the creator of the AK-47. (And that's how I get to muse about beer and guns in the same post.*)

"Checkered Flag" joined us as we were inspired to raise a glass of a Russian Imperial Stout. (It's the closest to "Russian" I had on hand.) We have bottles of the stout going back at least 7 years, but I didn't dig too deep for this tasting, and opened a couple of 2012 bottles. The beer poured an opaque black with a thick beige head. The foam quickly dropped to a thin ring. The aroma was dark cocoa and coffee. Sipping the beer, over a discussion of guns and defense, we enjoyed the rich dark chocolate and espresso flavors. Even after just a year in the cellar, the flavors were blended and smooth, with very little taste influence from the 10% ABV. The finish left a bittersweet chocolate aftertaste and was very dry.

It was just this past weekend that we picked up some of this year's bottling of Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout. They've been added to the stash in the basement for enjoyment in the years to come. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to enjoying more vintage bottles in the coming Winter months.

*Regarding Mikhail Kalashnikov, it's been quite entertaining to read some of the disparaging comments on other blogs regarding the weapon designer's death, even from pro-gun folks. I have no love of Communism or it's supporters, but there's little denying Kalashnikov's influence on the world. The AK-47 was developed to defend the creator's homeland. (Against the Nazi's no less.) Kalashnikov once stated, "I invented it for the protection of the Motherland. I have no regrets and bear no responsibility for how politicians have used it." Blaming an inanimate object, or it's designer, for subsequent uses by evil men, is ludicrous. Only a deceitful, political opportunist would consider such a thing.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Soldier's Silent Night

Merry Christmas to all who have served our Nation, protecting the freedoms we often take for granted. Thank you and may God bless you always.

Merry Christmas

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas. May the joys and blessings of the season be with you today and all year. Despite the commercialization and secularizing of the holiday, the true reason we celebrate this joyful time is eternal.

Birthplace of Jesus, Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Photo by Colleen, Family Pilgrimage, August 2010
But while he thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: "Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,  because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”  --Matthew 1:20-23

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Christmas Eve Range Trip & Errant Bullets

I was one of the few folks in the office on Christmas Eve, so I decided to take a lunchtime excursion to the indoor range. Arriving at the range, just a few of the lanes were occupied, but I ended up near a lane being shared by three "youths."

It's not that I'm anti-social, or maybe I am, but I prefer shooting alone, or at least with people I know. Controlled competitions being an exception. We've been known to leave the outdoor range when other folks have arrived and asked to share the bay. Since their skills, and intents, are unknown, I'd rather skip shooting than deal with any negligence. However, by design an indoor range is a shared range. I'm always alert to who else is there, especially when the dividers make it impossible to see the goings on nearby.

Well, this afternoon I was having a good time, just relaxing and enjoying time away from the office, when suddenly there were ceiling tile bits and fluorescent bulbs crashing to the floor in front of me. The girl two lanes over had put a round into the ceiling, just 7 yards or so from the line. Laughs and giggles ensued. 

Of course, that commotion was immediately followed by me packing up and making a hasty exit. It's too close to Christmas for a trip to the ER. Or maybe I'm just a Grinch.

 A seasonal target. 

A Dark Beer Evening

We went down to Capital Ale House for dinner and a beer or two last Friday. Due to the crowds, we were seated in the dining area instead of taking our preferred bar seats. The table servers are generally clueless about what's on tap, especially with regard to anything not listed on the (often outdated) beer menu. The dining table servers are well-versed in the food specials, but that's not really why we're there, is it? But, this is not an insurmountable problem, I simply make a point to review the tap handles myself whenever we end up at a table.

During my walk of the tap lineup, I spied a handle for Great Divide Yeti. It's been a while since I had this Russian Imperial Stout from one of my old favorite breweries. My first beer of the evening was an easy choice. This pitch black beer smells of dark roasted malt, espresso, dark chocolate, and a hint of smoke. The flavor is slightly sweet, with espresso and bitter chocolate notes. At 9.5% ABV it's a sipper, and was as enjoyable as I remember. Great Divide produces a number of versions of Yeti, including barrel-aged versions. Sipping my glass of Yeti the other night put me in the mood for tracking down a few of them once again.

My next beer choice was a bit more daunting. Do I repeat a beer I've enjoyed recently, while it's available, or try something new? I noticed on the menu that Sierra Nevada Narwhal was listed as an "upcoming" beer. Since the list was a couple of weeks old, and some of the other upcoming beers were already on, I took a shot and ordered the Narwhal. Unfortunately, our server returned with the news that it wasn't available. But for bonus points, he did return with samples of two other Stouts he suggested I might want to try; Blue Mountain Dark Hollow and Bell's Expedition Stout. Having had the Dark Hollow frequently, and recently, I opted for Expedition Stout. (Although I enjoyed the taster of the Blue Mountain beer as well.)

Bell's Expedition Stout is another dark Russian Stout, but one that takes "dark and bitter" to the next level. The aroma has roasted malt, and dark chocolate, with boozy underpinnings. To no surprise, the flavor profile continues with the same theme. The roasted malt, dark chocolate and espresso flavors are strong. The alcohol level makes its presence known in the flavor as well. A thick mouthfeel and a long-lingering bitter finish completes the picture. It's no secret that I like bold-flavored beers, and Expedition Stout met that preference quite well.

As an added beer bonus, Colleen was enjoying a flight of St. Bernardus beers; Witbier, Pater 6, Prior 8, Tripel, and Abt 12.  She graciously shared the flight with the rest of the table. It was a treat, and very interesting to sample most of the St. Bernardus lineup at one time. The Christmas Ale was listed as part of the flight as well, but was unavailable. Capital Ale House substituted N'Ice Chouffe, the Christmas Ale from Brasserie d'Achouffe, adding to the evening's beer variety. Not be daunted, we picked up a bottle of St. Bernardus Christmas Ale over the weekend for our upcoming Christmas celebrations at home.

As with most evenings at Capital Ale House, we left with full bellies and with memories of great beers.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Family Range Time

So the first weekend of Winter turns out to be more like Spring; warm and raining. Most of the weekend was filled with Christmas preparations. Sunday was especially filled; Mass, last minute gift buying, shopping for beer, hauling in the tree, stringing up a few more outside lights... By the afternoon, there was bit of a break in the chores, and the rain, so I said to the family, "Anyone want to take a chance on hitting the range? The rain might keep folks away." The reply was an immediate and resounding "Yes." So we loaded up the new family rifle and set out for some fun family time.

Lo and behold, the park was empty. If it wasn't going to be dark soon, we could have spent uninterrupted time on the shotgun and pistol ranges too. Our son enjoys shooting the AR much more than the shotgun or handguns, and I am excited that he'll be joining us more often. I'm happy to skip shooting the other weapons, for that reason alone!

We had a great hour or so taking turns shooting and experimenting with stance and sight alignment. It's really fun when we're all learning at the same time. It even came up in conversation that one AR-15 isn't enough for a family. (Do I have a great family or what?)

As we were loading up the car at the end of the day, Colleen noted that the sight of the red range flag was a much more welcome sight than that red flags we experienced for so many days during our vacation in the Outer Banks. Those red flags meant no swimming. This day's red flag meant we were actually engaging in the activity we set out to do!

It was a fun-filled afternoon. Monday morning as I headed off the work and saw the muddy remnants left by our boots on the car floor mats, I had a smile remembering the good family time the day before.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Jingle Bells at the Range

This looks like fun.

With enough "tuned" steel, and enough ammo, one could have a whole concert!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Conference Diversion 2: The Big Hunt

After my final evening working the conference, a coworker and I walked over to one of DC's oldest beer bars, The Big Hunt, for an early dinner. By this time in my week, I was on the verge of exhaustion, but I didn't want to pass up the opportunity to visit this infamous pub. Stepping into the dark room, our IDs were checked, and we made our way to one of the few open tables. I had some trouble reading the beer list (did I mention it was dark?) but I had looked up the menu online, so had some idea of my choices. Despite the crowd, and just one server working the tables, service during our stay was prompt and efficient.

I started out with the featured cask selection, The Movement, from DC's 3 Stars Brewing. Served in a highball glass, this Pale Ale exhibited fresh hopped citrus aromas. The flavor had a "green" edge to it, with a citrus rind bitterness. A bit of syrup-like sweetness came through in the end. The serving was the proper temperature and carbonation expected from a casked beer, and my glass was quickly emptied.

I had previously seen the tapping of William's Winter Warmer from Baltimore's Pratt Street Ale House announced on the pub's Twitter feed, and that was my next selection. The aroma of this Strong Ale was full of dark fruit; plums and raisons, along with dark malts. The taste continued along those same lines. Dark fruit, licorice, vanilla, with roasted malts and a bit of alcohol in the finish. I wasn't disappointed.

The food menu is somewhat limited at The Big Hunt. I was reminded that this was a "bar." In Virginia, there are no bars, only restaurants that serve alcohol. (Okay, I give DC a win in that one category.) I didn't feel like waiting until the pizza happy hour started, so I ordered a spicy buffalo chicken sandwich. The pairing with the William's Winter Warmer may not have been the best choice, but both the food and the beer were tasty.

The long week catching up with both of us, we called it an early evening, opting to not stay around for the free burlesque show advertised for later that evening. Although I had just a short visit, I enjoyed Big Hunt, and it definitely lived up to its reputation.

I was glad I got to visit a couple of good beer stops, in spite of a busy week. I suspect I'll be returning to the same DC hotel in the future. The Big Hunt, and The Black Squirrel, are both on my "do again" list.

A water main break the morning of my departure caused me to be stuck in traffic right in front of The Big Hunt.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Conference Diversion: The Black Squirrel

I spent the past week ensconced in a Washington, DC hotel for a conference, with little time to get out and about. I was however, within walking distance of two "infamous" DC beer bars, and I did manage to squeeze in trip to both. The first of the stops was The Black Squirrel in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. According to their website, they have three distinct pubs within. I peeked into the basement window and spied a long bar, that was unoccupied at the time. Climbing the stars, I entered another pub area with a few folks sitting at the bar. I was greeting promptly by the barkeep Rhyd, who let me know that "Snakes on a Plane" was on the TV. "Well, that's different," I thought. It turned out to be quite entertaining and the subject of much fun conversation and joking.

I started off with Carrack Imperial Red Ale from Mission Brewery. The beer was full of juicy, resinous pine and earthy hops. Roasted caramel and a sticky sweetness was matched with a notable alcohol presence. It was a bold beer that tempted me to have a second glass, which I resisted in order to try a variety of beers.

The Carrack was followed by another West Coast beer,  The Immortal IPA from Elysian Brewing Company. This IPA had a rich citrus aroma. The flavor was a mix of pine and citrusy hops, with a bit of honey-sweet malt to round it out. Immortal IPA is a big smack on the tastebuds, and was a worthy foil to my very spicy Jalapeño Burger. The tasty burger was topped with guacamole, roasted jalapeños, and goat cheese. It was delightfully messy, and left behind a burn that could only be matched by an equally bold beer.

Dinner finished, my West Coast beer exploration continued when Rhyd treated me to a taste of Big Bear Black Stout from Bear Republic Brewing. The aroma of this Imperial Stout was strong with molasses, dark roasted malt, and more than a little alcohol. I would have sworn this was a barrel-aged beer, but there's no mention of that on the Bear Republic website. Nonetheless, the flavor was reminiscent of bourbon barrel aging, with dark chocolate, molasses, roasted coffee. The mouthfeel was thick, with low carbonation. After finishing the taster, I was contemplating ordering a pint. Alas, it was getting late, and I did have a late-night walk through the city ahead of me. I made a note to look for this one again.

I was about to ask for my check when Rhyd suggested I try Jai Alai IPA. He certainly had picked up on my preference for "big" beers. I gave in and ordered just one more beer. Jai Alai was more on the citrus and fruit side of the spectrum than the evening's previous beers. Bitter grapefruit and orange citrus notes, along with the "green" feel of a fresh hopped beer. By this point in my evening I was feeling full and satiated from good food and beer, still I was happy to enjoy another tasty beer.

Four excellent beers, and a spicy, sweat-inducing burger made for an enjoyable evening. Although I don't get into DC very often (nor have much desire to do so) I look forward to the opportunity to return to The Black Squirrel and visit the basement bar, which I understand, has an even more extensive beer list.

And then the evening almost took a turn for the worse...

Halfway into my walk back to the hotel a voice in my head said, "Hey dummy, you left your credit card at the bar." (Yes, my guardian angel uses such terms of endearment frequently.) Within a few minutes of that thought, I noticed I had both voicemail and a text messages from Rhyd about my forgotten property. Kudos to Rhyd! I was reminded of a time a few years ago when I had left my card at a Falls Church pub, with a different outcome. I was never contacted, and had to spend a lot of time on hold when I called them to find out if it was there. I ended up canceling the card, since I couldn't get back to Northern Virginia to retrieve it in a timely manner. I was glad I didn't have to go through that exercise again.

My credit card retrieved, the walk back to the hotel was uneventful. On the bright side, maybe the extra walking burned off a few calories from all the beers.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Samichlaus Toast to St. Nicholas

After our enjoyable evening at Capital Ale House, Colleen and I returned home last Friday and realized we had almost missed our traditional drink of Samichlaus Bier on the Feast of St. Nicholas. The beer's name means "Santa Claus" in the Swiss-German dialect of Zürich. Brewed only on December 6 of each year, by Brauerei Schloss Eggenberg in Austria, the beer is aged for almost a year and released in time for the following year's feast day. Not to be deterred by the late hour, I dusted off a 2007 bottle and poured a nightcap.

As soon as I removed the cap from the bottle I was struck by the strong sherry-like aroma of dark fruit, molasses, and alcohol. The beer had a translucent reddish-brown color and no head to speak of, although there was some tingling carbonation in the mouthfeel. The flavor is strong, and rich with dark plums and raisons, sweetened ever so slightly by molasses and brown sugar notes. Fresh Samichlaus can be syrupy and sweet, however aging seems to mitigate the cloying sweetness.

While I sipped this amazing 14% ABV lager, I kept muttering to myself, 'Oh, this is so good." While not a beer I could drink every night, it is certainly a treat worthy of honoring the good St. Nicholas. Eventually our glasses were emptied and it was time to enjoy a good night's sleep.

Monday, December 9, 2013

From West to East - An Evening of Great Beer

Each month Capital Ale House taps a special beer that's been aged for the past year. The December "Ales From the Crypt" selection was Stone Brewing 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale. It seemed as good a reason as any for an evening out. I don't recall that I ever had release in the Stone Vertical Series, and the beer could only have gotten better with time.

I always enjoy the appearance of a beer, and the Belgian Strong Ale looked quite appetizing in the snifters. Served a touch too cold for my tastes, I admired the beer and let it come up to temperature as we perused the dinner menu, and Colleen arranged the social media photo shoot.

Stone 12.12.12 had a surprisingly mild aroma. We picked up molasses, vanilla, ginger, along with some Belgian yeast. The flavors came out much the same with a stronger presence. Some dark coffee and roasted notes are added as well. The mouthfeel is thick with a long-lingering, dry finish. The beer was quit enjoyable and the well-blended flavors I suspect were only enhanced by the year spent waiting in the cellar.

On a serendipitous note, a friend of Colleen's on FaceBook saw the above picture posted, and inquired back, "Bottle or draft?" Colleen answered and the reply back was "We're our way!" A bit later in the evening we were joined by another couple. As it turns out, the husband is a craft beer fan AND shooting enthusiast. Any guesses what we talked about most of the evening?

As I looked over the row of tap handles, trying to decide on my next beer, I spied a Blue Mountain Barrel House handle, and learned that Dark Hollow Imperial Stout was behind that lever. Dark Hollow is a Bourbon barrel aged Imperial Stout. That aging treatment is apparent in the aroma, as the sweet bourbon and dark coffee notes waft from the glass. The beer is not overly boozy, but neither is the alcohol masked. Tastes of dark chocolate, coffee, molasses and vanilla are also present. The mouthfeel is thick and smooth. This is an exceptional Bourbon barrel stout.

Since we were now joined by friends, it was only sociable that I enjoyed another beer. Also sighted on the tap row was Lickinghole Creek Brewery. I posted on this new new Virginia brewery last year, but have never had the opportunity to enjoy their beers. The beer being poured was Gentleman Farmer Estate Hop Ale. I think this is the first beer from the Goochland brewery to make it to Fredericksburg, so my evening of good beer would conclude with another Virginia-brewed libation.

Gentleman Farmer Estate Hop Ale is an Amber Ale brewed with Cascade, Columbus, Nugget and Chinook hops grown on the brewery's farm. The beer has a thick viscous appearance, and the bubbles seem to rise slowly in the glass. The aroma was very mild, with subtle bready malt and citrus fruit notes. The flavor, and mouthfeel, followed the sights and aromas. I found the beer to have a very clean and refreshing taste. I savored the subtle flavors, especially following the big and bold of the previous beers. I'm looking forward to trying this one again, as well as some of the other Lickinghole Creek beers.

It was a fun evening, filled with good beer and conversation. I enjoyed the California-brewed Stone Epic Ale, but I remain partial to the beers of Virginia. The evening's treats from Blue Mountain and Lickinghole Creek breweries are just two of the reasons for that preference.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

With Regard to Today's Weather

For your entertainment, Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise, and his rendition of Let It Snow...

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Beers of Winter - Sierra Nevada Celebration

This is surely the beer that we most look forward to each year. Long-time readers will know of our love for this Winter seasonal. Sierra Nevada Celebration Fresh Hop Ale takes a somewhat different approach to the Winter beer. Instead of bringing dark, roasted flavors to the party, Celebration treats us to citrus, hoppy goodness.

Celebration Ale pours a rich marmalade-orange color with a thick, sticky head. I always tend to pour the first few servings a little too hard, until I again remember the strength of the foam. I think this year I'll keep my 20 ounce Sierra Nevada glass handy to help avoid any overflow. The aroma of grapefruit and pine foretells the flavor enjoyment to come. The bold taste of citrus, in the form of grapefruit and orange pithiness hits first. Freshly harvested Cascade hops are used to add to the richness. A balancing bitterness comes quickly into play, and there's just enough breadiness in the malt to round it all out. The mouthfeel is "thick" and "juicy." (If that  sounds odd, once you've had the beer, you'll understand.) A fair amount of carbonation adds to the body and helps impart a crisp, clean finish.

I have no doubt that the seasonal nature of Sierra Nevada Celebration adds to the enjoyment and desirability. We like this beer, a lot, and if my bulk purchases are influenced by marketing, and knowing I can only buy it for a couple months of the year, I'm comfortable being manipulated in that manner.

Which reminds me, I need to get back to the store...

Friday, December 6, 2013

Foothills Brewing Arrives in Virginia

We saw the news last month that Foothills Brewing was expanding distribution to Virginia. I've enjoyed some of their beers previously during visits to North Carolina. More good beer available locally is always good news, and when I saw a last minute post on their FaceBook page that Capital Ale House was tapping a few Foothills beers this week, we made plans to stop in.

Three Foothills beers were were available; Torch Pilsner, Hoppyum IPA and Stout. Though I heard many folks asking about it, the infamous Sexual Chocolate Stout wasn't on the list. I started out with a glass of the Torch Pilsner. This Czech Pilsener was a golden-yellow color with a thin white head. Our friend made the comment, " Is that a Bud?", to which I replied, "This is what Pilsner is supposed to be." The flavor was grassy with bitter hops. There was a touch of earthiness and a slightly sweet clean finish. After a night (or day) of heavy beers, I often like to "wind down" with a crisp Pilsner, and this is one I'd choose again.

Next up I ordered the Hoppyum IPA. I'd had this one recently during our vacation in the Outer Banks. Back then, the beer was accompanied by spicy wings, this time it was a hot pretzel and spicy mustard appetizer. This pairing worked go well too. Hoppyum has a rich citrus hop aroma. The taste is what one would expect; citrusy, juicy and resinous. It's a good, classic IPA.

I opted out of ordering the third Foothills selection in the interest of time. However, Colleen and "Checkered Flag" had both ordered the Foothills Stout, so I was able to get a few sips, solely for reporting purposes. The stout has a moderately strong aroma of roasted grain and dark coffee. The flavor is bitter, with more roasted, or even burnt, malt, with coffee and bittersweet chocolate. The finish brings some lingering bitterness.

I'm glad to see Foothills beers showing up locally. I hope we'll see more of them on local tap lists in the near future.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

How to Talk to Santa

I've been dropping hints. And "thinking out loud." Just hoping that Santa might be inclined to slide a Modern Sporting Rifle down the chimney this Christmas. Recently a friend came by with his new AR and we went out to the range to try it out.

Colleen had never shot an AR rifle before. She stood at the 20 yard line and put a few rounds downrange. "That's fun!" she exclaimed.

Santa might be convinced. Just sayin'

New Fredericksburg Brewery

It's true, Fredericksburg is getting another craft brewery! Spencer Devon Brewing will be located in downtown Fredericksburg at 106 George Street, in the space formerly occupied by Fatty J's restaurant. The owner, Shawn Phillips, is a soon-to-be retired Marine Corps veteran. The restaurant and micro-brewery opening is planned for Spring 2014. 

The brewery was recently named as a finalist in the Made in Fred VA business plan contest. You can follow the brewery's progress on their FaceBook page.

Fredericksburg Business Insider has more on the brewery plans.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Beers of Winter - Anchor "Our Special Ale"

For all intents and purposes, it's Winter in Virginia. The calendar claims three more weeks of "Fall," but it's time to accept the reality of the cold, wet, and dark months to come. As much as I already look forward to warmer days, I still cheerfully anticipate the beers of Winter. As a service to you faithful readers, I thought I'd make a point of enjoying and writing about these beers to help pass the time until the days lengthen and the temperatures rise.

While many brewers have a special beer they brew each Winter, those recipes usually remain unchanged from year to year.  Anchor Brewing "Our Special Ale" is one that changes each year, adding to the anticipation of it showing up on store shelves. Also known as Anchor Christmas Ale, each year's release features a unique tree-themed label. I've missed picking up the beer in some past years, but didn't make that oversight for the 2013 release.

"Our Special Ale" pours a deep mahogany brown color with a beige head. The aroma is roasted malt with notes of ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, along with a hint of pine. The flavors follow suit, with caramel and brown sugar coming through as well. Despite the long list of the usual "Christmas spice," the beer doesn't come across as a spiced beer. The spices supplement the winter warmer flavor, without dominating. The 2013 edition checks in at a reasonable 5.5% ABV, making it somewhat unusual compared to a typical "Winter Warmer." There's little alcohol in the flavor, creating a mild but flavorful libation.

I am enjoying the 2013 Anchor "Our Special Ale" very much. If you're looking a Winter-flavor treat, in a balanced, moderately low alcohol beer, pick this one up. A glass of Anchor Christmas Ale, and a slice of leftover pumpkin pie, will had some brightness to a cold (almost) Winter evening.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Beers of Winter - Starr Hill Snow Blind

Stopping by the local beverage emporrium on my way home from work last Wednesday, I had it in my mind to pick up (only) a couple of seasonal beers with which to celebrate over the Thanksgiving holiday. My plan was to let the store displays guide my decision. I would pick just two beers and not give in to temptation and walk out with extra impulse purchases. I headed to the "holiday" beer corner and immediately spied a stack of Sierra Nevada Celebration. My first pick was decided, now to look for something in the maltier range. I noticed that the store employees were clustered around someone doing a tasting so I wandered over. There was a young lady pouring beers from Starr Hill Brewery. She had the Boxcarr Pumpkin Porter and Snow Blind Dobblebock available to sample. After a sip from the tiny medicine cup offered, I had my second choice in hand.

Snow Blind is a new Winter seasonal from Starr Hill. According to the brewery's website it was released on November 15. The bottle is stamped with a bottling date of November 3, freshness is another reason to drink locally brewed beer.

The beer pours a deep, caramel brown, with a reddish tint that shows as the light comes through the glass. The beige head is thin and short-lived. The aroma of the beer is mild with sweet malt, with dark fruit and a hint of licorice. The flavor is earthy, caramel, lightly sweet and toasted, with a touch of spiciness. The finish is dry, clean, and little aftertaste is left behind. At 7.4% ABV there is only faint alcohol flavor noticeable. I enjoyed my post-range trip glass of Starr Hill Snow Blind very much. I think this will be one we keep on hand over the Winter.

Oh, and I did succumb to just one impulse purchase during my shopping trip. I grabbed a bottle of Northern Hemisphere Harvest Wet Hop Ale from Sierra Nevada. But that's a story for another post.

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Better Black Friday

Try as I might, there's just no way I can wrap my head around the desire that some people have to rush out and shop for "Black Friday" deals. After spending a day giving thanks for the stuff we have, why is there a need to rush out and buy more stuff? Instead, we opted for more pleasant sights and sounds on this day after Thanksgiving.

Not the least of the day's pleasures was the much anticipated leftover turkey sandwich. There's just something about turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, and mayo on toasted white bread that's hard to beat. We even had some debate around the table over which was better; the original meal or the leftovers.

After lunch, we decided to take a chance on getting out for some shooting fun. I figured the ranges would be crowded, but maybe we'd time it right and get in. As suspected, all the pistol and rifle bays were jammed packed, but no one was using the shotgun field. Fortunately, I had loaded up the shotgun paraphernalia, just in case, so we spent a short time bustin' clays. Unfortunately, we couldn't get on the pistol range.

After that short visit to the range, there was little left to do except relax and enjoy a good malted beverage. I opted for a Starr Hill Snow Blind to finish off the afternoon. This new Winter seasonal was just the thing to prepare for another welcome Black Friday activity; the afternoon nap.

With the right choices, Back Friday really can be a day of fun and relaxation.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation. 
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington
Although President Washington proclaimed this day of thanksgiving and prayer in 1789, the Thanksgiving Day we celebrate today didn't become a national holiday until1863 when President Lincoln established the last Thursday in November as a day of thanksgiving.

Have A Happy Thanksgiving! I wish you a day filled with family, friends, and fond memories. May God bless your life with His gifts today and everyday.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Walnut Ridge Practical Pistol Match

I'd been watching the weekend weather forecast all week in preparation for the Walnut Ridge Practical Shooters monthly match. At the start of the week, the Saturday prediction for Summit Point, West Virginia showed a 60% chance of rain, and morning temperatures of around 27°. So when I arrived at the range in the morning, the sun, and 43° temperature, was a pleasant and most welcome surprise. Some gusting winds added to the chill, but still, for the end of November I couldn't complain. The predicted cold front arrived later in the day, and I heard the afternoon squads shot in much colder conditions.

For the second week in a row, my match began with a Texas Star. The opening stage for our squad also included two groups of Pepper Poppers on either side of the stage. I've heard that this spinning prop will be showing up regularly at Walnut Ridge matches, and I'm actually glad of that, despite my troubles clearing it this time. The star is used frequently at major matches, but it's a target that I don't get to practice on.

The next stage, sharing the same bay, featured both a drop turner and a swinger, triggered simultaneously, in addition to three falling poppers and two paper targets, all shot from a single position. The drop turner was not visible at rest, but did not qualify as a disappearing target, as the stage designer had provided a shooting location down range, to which a shooter run and shoot only this target, if he missed it from the main shooting box. It was a fun and fast stage.

The next bay we moved to had two typical "run and gun" stages, with the targets carefully placed to make having a plan, and sticking to it, a requirement. On both stages, many of the targets were available through narrow openings, and often from multiple places. I saw lots of variations of shooting plans. I walked the stages many times and got very comfortable with my plan. On the first stage in this bay, that plan went off without a hitch. On the next, I left a popper standing and didn't notice until the RO informed me. Brain fart, pure and simple.

The fifth stage I shot was the classifier, CM08-06 "Six." This being a fast and close course of fire, I fell into the "go fast or go home" trap and threw a miss on paper and some extra shots at the steel. As noted, Walnut Ridge sets up two stages in each of three bays. The course designers took advantage of this with the next, and final stage of the day. The course of fire started out in that same shooting box from the classifier, engaging the same four targets. Then the shooter had to move over to another larger shooting area and engage paper and steel targets while moving across the bay. The second "half" of this stage could have stood alone, but this combo set up added more gunnin' and more runnin' and I think folks enjoyed it. I know I did.

Although I picked up two misses, along with that forgotten steel, I was generally happy with my shooting. The misses were on close targets which is a symptom of impatience, and I have plans for some practice drills to remedy that. Overall I felt good about my stage plans and generally executed them as I wanted. The stages were all fun and offered a variety of challenges. This was last match of the year for Walnut Ridge, and perhaps the end of the season for me as well. Now it's time to spend a couple months practicing and preparing for next year.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Remembering Blessed Miguel Pro

November 23 is the Feast Day of Blessed Miguel Pro. Born on January 13, 1891, in Guadalupe, Mexico, Miguel Pro was ordained a Jesuit priest in Belgium in 1925. He returned to his home country in 1926, in the midst of that country's Cristeros War. After being falsely accused of an attempted bombing, Father Pro was executed by government forces without trial

Blessed Miguel Pro's final request was to be allowed to pray to his heavenly Father.

After which he refused a blindfold and faced the firing squad bravely, proclaiming ¡Viva Cristo Rey!

Father Pro's executioners initially failed at their task, and the deed was finished at point blank range.

I am saddened, but hardly surprised, at the ignorance of the American public regarding the persecution of Catholics, and of the Cristero War that took place in Mexico in 1926 through 1929. Some 250,000 people lost their lives in a persecution that was supported by the government of the United States with both funds and air support. Given the ever-growing intolerance towards Christians, especially Catholics, in the United States, we would do well to remember.

Christ the King, by the intercession of Blessed Miguel Pro, I beg you to answer my prayers. Give me the grace and the strength necessary to follow your heroic example and to live my Catholic faith in spite of all temptations and adversities. Amen.

Images from Wikipedia.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

An Evening of Dark Beer

This week's "Steal the Glass" event at Capital Ale House featured the beers of Founders Brewing Company, served in an etched snifter. I'd been looking forward to the event, and based on the crowded bar, so had others. After perusing the offerings, I started out with Breakfast Stout, Colleen ordered the Oatmeal Stout served on nitro, while our friend Checkered Flag went big with the Backwoods Bastard Scotch Ale. To accompany the beers we put in an order for a couple of appetizers too while we decided on our dinner choices. The Fried Pierogies and Sausage Fritters went quite well with the dark and roasty beers.

Breakfast Stout & Oatmeal Stout
Founders Breakfast Stout pours pitch black with a thin head. Dark chocolate and dark roasted coffee aromas wafted up as soon as the beer was set in front of me. The taste of bitter dark chocolate and rich espresso predominates. As the beer warms, hints of vanilla and smoke come into play. At 8.3% ABV it's a moderate sipper, but still my glass was emptied much too quickly. Now I had a decision to make, order another or try something else?

I stole a few sips of my generous wife's Oatmeal Stout. The creamy, soft mouthfeel of the nitro-pushed beer is a treat. The flavor is similar to the Breakfast Stout though with more of a nuttier, burnt lean. The nitro does tend to soften the harder roasted edges. At a reported low 4.5% ABV, it's definitely an option for my second beer.

Next I turned to our friend's glass of Backwoods Bastard. I've always had an affection for a good Wee Heavy/Scotch Ale. Dark like the others, with a reddish tint, the beer gives off a strong aroma of bourbon. The taste is woody bourbon, brown sugar, and hints of vanilla with roasted malt. Did I mention bourbon? At 10.2% ABV it's a sipper for a full meal, but I think not as my second beer.

Back to the beer menu, I finally settled on a glass of Red's Rye IPA. I've seen this one recently on the CAH list. I've not been a fan of some "rye beers" I've tried, so have shied away from ordering this previously, despite my fondness for IPA. My mistake. This had to be one of the best IPAs I've had in some time, and my favorite drink of the evening.  The beer pours a reddish-amber color with a persistent head of sticky foam. The aroma is that of grapefruit citrus and resinous pine. The flavor boasts juicy citrus goodness. There's a sweetness that keeps iy all somewhat balanced. Although this is a citrus-forward beer, it's not overwhelming and the tastebuds are left unaccosted to continue enjoying the delightful flavors. As the beer warms, the rye imparts some bready aspects. At 6.6% ABV this is a richly flavored beer that is easy to enjoy, especially with my Ale House classic Bacon, Black and Blue burger.

A friend stopped to talk and offered the advice that I needed to try the Founders Porter as well. And many folks at the bar were also enjoying the Pale Ale being poured. So many beers yet to try, but alas, it was time to go. It was a "school night" after all. Perhaps a return trip soon is in order.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fordham Spiced Harvest Ale

After a morning of shooting and an early dinner Sunday, I was relaxing with a book when I had the urge for a beer. I stood for a while in front of the open beer fridge looking for inspiration. So many beers, and nothing was tempting me, and then I spied the bottle of Spiced Harvest Ale that was sent a couple months back by the folks at Fordham Brewing.

The beer pours a slightly hazy amber color with a very thin but persistent white head. Sticking my nose in the glass I was immediately pleased with the smells. "This could be good," I thought, it doesn't smell like potpourri and I detected some pumpkin as well. Taking a sip, there's cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar; all present but not overwhelming. And pumpkin. Underneath it all there is the distinct flavor of pumpkin. The finish adds a bit of sweetness with the lingering spices. 

Perhaps I should have tried this one sooner. I typically grow quickly tired of pumpkin and spiced beers, so much so that I rarely keep them on hand, preferring to try them one-off at the pub, or the occasional brewery review sample. The Fordham Brewing contribution to the Fall "spiced beer" lineup is one that I wouldn't mind drinking again.

Note: This beer was provided by Fordham Brewery. It is through my own free will that I consumed and reviewed it. No compensation was received for this review.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

An Oasis of Sunshine For Shooting

As I headed west on Sunday morning for the November North Mountain Practical Shooters match I was wondering if I'd be able to find the targets once I arrived. The fog was dense, making driving difficult. As I crossed the mountains, suddenly the sky cleared and the sun shown brightly. Ironically, this change happened at the part of the drive where I usually run into rain, even on sunny day. The weather at the range sunny and warm for most of the morning.

The match directors put together a fun seven stage event, including four classifier stages. All the classifiers were newly added to the USPSA ranking system this year. But first up, was a non-classifier steel stage featuring a Texas Star and 5 small square plates arranged in a wall made from a wooden pallet. In an interesting twist, the shooting box was divided diagonally, and the shooter was required to move between sections between the star and the plates. It wasn't a large movement, but just enough to distract.

The next two stages were classifiers, and both required a break from the "2 on each" mindset we're so used to. "The Roscoe Rattle" consisted of two strings of fire. The first string required 6 hits on the center target, and the second string called for 6 hits on the outer targets with a mandatory reload between. "Too Close For Comfort," required just a single shot on each of 5 targets, one with a deceptively close head shot, followed by a mandatory reload and one more shot on each target. I started out too fast on this one and got my only miss of the match on the first target.

After those "stand and shoot" stages, it was time for the only stage requiring substantial movement. After shooting a plate rack, you had to run forward, up a slight incline to engage four paper targets set low to the ground. I found it interesting that some shooters opted to take one procedural penalty and shoot all the targets from the first position, rather than take the time for the 7 yard or so run.

We returned to the classifiers with "Disaster Factor." Six targets were arranged in three vertical pairs with no-shoots in the center. Starting facing up range, the shooter had to turn and put two shots on each target of either the bottom or top row, perform a mandatory reload and engage the remaining targets. "Double Deal 2" saw the shooter sitting with elbows on the table, holding two "playing cards," and the loaded gun set on the table. There were three paper and two mini-popper targets to be engaged.

The last stage I shot was another quick stage with just two paper and three steel targets. The steel targets were a classic pepper popper, a mini-popper and a 6 inch falling plate that were lined up behind one another. For added challenge, the shooting box was exceptionally small which made a standard shooting stance difficult.

All seven stages were completed in less than three hours. The new classifier stages are fun and challenging, as were the rest of the stages. Amazingly, soon after I left the range, the clouds and fog returned, making for a wet drive home. Indeed, the rest of the day was overcast. If I had not gone to the match I wouldn't have seen any sunshine at all on Sunday, so the brief weather change to a sunny morning was an added bonus. I was happy with my shooting, having just one miss and one no-shoot hit. The match was a lot of fun, and a great way to end the season of shooting at North Mountain.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Arrogant Bastard Lineup

Surprisingly, this isn't a post about the 0bama administration, although I have little trouble applying the label to the current leadership in Washington. No, we're talking about this flight of Stone Brewing Company Arrogant Bastard varieties I enjoyed recently at Capital House. The flight consisted of "standard" and barrel-aged versions of Arrogant Bastard and Double Bastard ales. It was interesting to be able to compare the affects of the aging against non-aged versions.

First up, starting from the right side of the photo, was Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale. This 7.2% ABV American Strong Ale is one that I've enjoyed many times in the past. The strong sweet malt base is equaled by piney and bitter hops in a full-bodied beer. Saving a sip of the Arrogant Bastard for comparison I started on the OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale. The non-aged version, and exceptional beer in it's own right, pales in comparison to the oaked version. Woody smoke, oak and a hint of alcohol enhance the rich beer. As I extolled the flavor in my 4 ounce sample Colleen simply smiled in agreement, as she had skipped the flight and decided right away on a pint of the Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale.

Next I moved on to the Double Bastard pairing. Stone Double Bastard Ale is the big brother of Arrogant Bastard, dry hopped and ramped up to 11.2% ABV. The beer is sweeter and more syrupy, but that is well-matched by the boost in citrus hoppiness. The finish is bitter and a little boozy. There's some dark fruit that comes out more so than in the Arrogant Bastard beers. The final beer in the flight was a special Double Bastard (2012 vintage) aged in red wine barrels. This beer had a unique flavor background of astringent red wine. As with the Arrogant Bastard pairing above, the barrel aging seems to takes bitter edge off the ale, adding a smooth garnish to the flavors. For both pairs, I preferred the aged versions over the base, but there was nothing lacking in any of the four beers. Overall, the OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale was my favorite of the bunch. I might just have to pick up a couple bottles next time I'm in my local beer shop.

I decided to finish up the evening with a glass of a seasonal beer fromy Brouwerij Corsendonk from Belgium. Corsendonk Christmas Ale is a Belgian Strong Dark Ale with rich flavors of raison, molasses, brown sugar, as well as some mild spices. The mouthfeel is smooth with hints of Belgian yeast, and a dry finish. The flavor profile was muted in comparison to the Stone beers I had already enjoyed. If I had planned the evening's beers in advance, I probably would have had the Corsendonk Christmas Ale first. Plenty of good food and numerous excellent beers made for quite an enjoyable Friday evening on the town.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Important Skills For the Beer Traveler

I recently came across an entertaining iPhone app that teaches a very important skill — ordering a beer in another language. In case you're wondering, the name of the app, Pivo, is the Czechoslovakian word for beer.

The Pivo - Order a Beer app provides instruction in 59 languages. Each supported language shows the written phrase, along with a phonetic guide to pronunciation. To make sure you get it right, most of the languages also include a video of a native speaker using the phrase. The videos are easily played by rotating the iPhone. Even if you aren't traveling to a distant land, looking through the videos is both interesting and fun. And if you do find yourself in a strange land, Pivo might get you past just grunting and pointing.

Pivo is available for $0.99 from the iPhone App Store.

Monday, November 11, 2013

First "Winter" Seasonal

I received an email update last week from Blue & Gray Brewing that announced the availability of their seasonal Spiced Winter Ale. To make it even more tempting, they were serving a special of St Louis Style ribs with black bean salad and cole slaw. I succumbed to the email temptation and made a date with Colleen for dinner Friday evening.

The Spiced Winter Ale pours an opaque reddish-brown color with a thin beige head. The Blue & Gray seasonal is one of the most heavily spiced beers I've had, and it even shows in the appearance; the beer actually looks thick with spices. The spice aroma is strong and I could pick it up across the table as Colleen took our requisite social media and blog photo.

The flavor was equally strong in "winter spice," as expected. Orange zest, cardamon, allspice, cinnamon all come into play. It's almost overwhelming, but definitely invoking of the traditional holiday scents and flavors. There are some bitter citrus notes under all that spice as well. A drying, bitter finish wraps up the flavor profile.

Soon, my ribs arrived and my glass of Spiced Winter Ale was empty. To accompany the meal I opted for a glass of Stonewall Stout. The stout and ribs combo was doubly appropriate as Friday was also International Stout Day, whatever that means. The mild, dry stout, with its dark espresso and bitter chocolate notes seemed a perfect choice with the meaty half rack of smoky ribs. Extra sauce and extra napkins rounded out the meal.

I'm no fan of the cold, dark, dreary days of Winter, but I do look forward sights, smells and tastes of the beers of the season. The wintery meal at Blue & Gray was a first inkling of the flavors to come with the approach of cold weather.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Buy A Blogger A Coffee

Starbucks has joined forces with Twitter to make it possible to send a friend the gift of coffee. Link up your Twitter and Starbucks accounts and you can send the gift of Starbucks to a deserving friend. Or even a blogger. :-)

I know many folks in the gun community don't like Starbucks for their recent exhibition of spinelessness, but I'll make a deal with Musings readers. If anyone sends a Starbucks card to me at VADavid, I promise I will exercise my 2nd Amendment rights when I redeem your gift. Ironic isn't it?

More info on tweet-a-coffee here.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Five O'Clock Friday: Lunch Break

Err, make that Noon O'Clock. *

Have a great weekend!

*To the humor impaired, relax. It's a joke. I won't get drunk until after dinner. **

**That's a joke too.

Dot Torture Drill: 49/50

Drats! So close!

It was good to get out to the range for some practice this week. Most of my shooting the past couple of months have been at matches. Colleen has been hinting at wanting to do Dot Torture, since it's been over a year since we last did the drill. I accidentally (honest) left them on the printer when we got ready to head to the range, but my dear wife reminded me to go back upstairs and get them.

I had decided I wanted to shoot my carry weapon the next time I got to the range, instead of the gun I typically shoot for fun. I expected the smaller gun would make the shots on the 2 inch circles all the more challenging. I needn't have worried.

We set up at the recommended 3 yards, took a deep breath and started the drill. I dropped my first shot on Dot 2, but grouped the next four very nicely. To have that miss so early in the drill was frustrating, but I had to shake it off. The rest of the drill went well, with a few shots near the edges but still scoring. I probably could have slowed down just a bit for tighter groups, but I find it hard to do slow, carefully aimed fire, even in a non-timed drill. I even made it through the strong and weak hand-only sections without any misses. At the end my score was a gratifying 49/50.

To some extent, getting that close to a perfect score is frustrating. But it's gratifying to shoot well with a gun I don't shoot as often as I should. I was also reminded how much fun the little SIG P239 is to shoot. This was a good practice session and the drill fit well with the range's new prohibition on "rapid" shooting.

I wonder how it would go over if I put the target on my office door...