Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July Walnut Ridge USPSA

On Saturday I headed over to the Walnut Ridge USPSA match held at Summit Point, WV. The match was fun, as always, with some interesting stages, as always. Six courses of fire, including a classifier stage, awaited us.

The first stage I shot was the classifier "Front Sight 2." It was a simple course of fire, with fairly open, and close targets. Should have been easy, right? I dropped my first shot of the match right into the no-shoot! Well, it could only get better from there! And it did, thankfully.

The next stage was a longer course that used most of the width of the bay. The shooter ran along the narrow free fire zone, engaging targets as they became visible. There was a long shot thrown in the middle, visible through a narrow opening which required the shooter to apply the breaks in the midst of otherwise quick course. I was happy with my hits on this fun stage, especially since I didn't let the previous stage get into my head!

One of my favorite setups of the day was fairly straightforward, but with plenty of leaning required to see all the targets. Four falling steel targets and two paper were engaged through a narrow center area, but not without some footwork adjustment. I enjoyed this one and I felt I got into my positions well, without having to send time hunting for my targets.The targets arrays at either end required a reaching lean to finish. In fact, there were several stages in the match that required a deep lean around a wall at the end. Often we saw shooters taking their last shots as they "fell" out of the shooting area. 

Another stage I found especially interesting was the sixth and final stage I shot. We started on the right side of the course of fire and moved left across the course. (Moving to the left is generally anathema to me, in life and shooting.) Most of the targets were visible while you were looking towards the right. If I could run backwards as fast as forwards I might have shot the stage while running backwards. The stage provided an extra challenge for right-handed shooters to make sure the gun didn't break 180 while reloading. It was fun to shoot the stage as it forced me out of my comfort zone of always trying to shoot left to right. I was pleased with my performance here too.

In fact, I was pretty happy with most of my shooting that day. There was that opening dropped shot on the Classifier, and too many misses on another stage, where some missed steel broke my concentration, and my plan. But otherwise, I walked away smiling from the rest of the stages. Well, truth be told, I smiled after all the stages. It's more fun that way. :-)

Near the end of the match we watched as some dark clouds move in, but fortunately no rain fell. I don't think the afternoon shooters were as fortunate though. My usually pleasurable drive back from West Virginia saw continuous, and often heavy rain falling. But all in all it was a very enjoyable day. The weather was pleasant, the people fun, and the shooting challenging.

Update: The match results have been posted. I had stage finishes running from 5th to 12th, with an overall finish of 7th out of 17 Production shooters. I'll take it. :-)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Brewer's Alley, Frederick, MD

We were passing through Frederick, Maryland on Sunday when I remembered the Western Maryland town was home to Brewer's Alley Restaurant & Brewery. This is a place I've been wanting to visit for some time, so we made an unplanned stop on our way back to Virginia.

We arrived mid-afternoon and the bar area was quite crowded, but the dining room was nearly empty. An outside seating area had a number of folks enjoying the pleasant weather as well. Of course, our first order of business was deciding which of the house beers to try. We still had a 2 1/2 hour drive ahead of us so we were quite limited in how much we could experience. I decided on Brewer's Alley India Pale Ale, an English-style IPA. The beer was dark amber with a very thin head. The aroma was caramel malt with some floral hops. The flavor was a nice balance of sweet malt with both citrus and piney hops. Nothing overpowering, but still quite flavorful and enjoyable.

Colleen opted for the Gettysburg Wheat. This unfiltered wheat beer is brewed with peaches and lemon zest. The beer was brewed to commemorate 150th Anniversary of Battle of Gettysburg. The attractive amber-orange beer had an aroma of biscuity malt with a faint citrus fruit note. The typical wheat beer flavor was accented with a subtle peach flavor and a mild tartness. I enjoyed the sips I stole of Colleen's beer.

For the food portion of our meal we started out with the Brewer's Beef Nachos from the appetizer menu. This was a mountainous platter of Tortilla Chips, topped with Ground Beef, Cheddar-Jack Cheese, Pico de Gallo, Sour Cream and Shredded Iceberg Lettuce. The nachos were roasted, in the wood-fired pizza oven I suspect, to a nice brown with just the right amount of toasted edges. The dish was simple but quite tasty.

We weren't aware of how large the nachos "starter" would turn out to be, but we had already been tempted to also order the Apple Goat Cheese Wood-Fired Pizza. Fortunately we had opted for the "small" size. The menu description describes the pizza as "Gala Apples, Onion Marmalade, Garlic Butter, Proscuitto Ham, Goat Cheese and White Cheddar Cheese." The pizza appeared to have Granny Smith apples but given that's my favorite variety, it was fine. The pizza was very delicious, and our thoughts to take leftovers home were quickly forgotten.

We enjoyed our meal very much. The beers, the food, and the service were all excellent. I don't get out to Western Maryland very often, but when I do next, I'll try to make plans to enjoy even more of the good beers, and food, being served at Brewer's Alley.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Heritage Brewing Reaches Kickstarter Goal

Just six weeks ago I posted about the Kickstarter Project by Heritage Brewing. A few weeks ago it appeared the fund raising was progressing slowly. However, this weekend I received an email letting me know that the brewery's initial goal had been reached. Reaching that $20,000 goal took just 60 days. Aren't craft beer fans great?

As a (small) contributor to the project, I understand I have a Heritage Brewing pint glass and merchandise voucher on the way. I can't wait to put them to use at the brewery!

Congratulations Heritage Brewing!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Blue Mountain Tap Takeover

Thursday evening, Capital Ale House dedicated 10 of its tap lines to beers from Blue Mountain Brewery. I headed over after work, and since my family was off on a day trip, I hung around for several hours enjoying the opportunity to try a few new beers.

My first selection was the Steel Wheels ESB. ESB is a style I'm particularly fond of, but not one that's commonly brewed by a lot of breweries. Blue Mountain's version is dark caramel in color with a thin head. The flavor is predominately sweet, caramel malt. I also picked up some faint bitter chocolate lurking in the background. The finish was dry. I enjoyed this one quite a bit.

Next up was one of the barrel-aged selections from the Blue Mountain Barrel House. Local Species is a Belgian-style Pale Ale. The reddish-amber beer had a thin white head, and was, in my opinion, served much to cold. I grabbed the snifter to have a sip and was shocked by the chill on the glass. I let it sit for a few minutes to warm a bit. The aroma was fruity with hints of yeast and lemon. My first sip evoked a "Oooh" exclamation, followed by an immediate second sip. I would enjoy this one I could tell right off. The taste was a flavorful blend of grapefruit citrus and funky yeast. Some bourbon notes came through at the end. The slightly sticky finish left a bit of lemon tartness behind.

Now I had a decision to make. Do I order another glass of the tasty Local Species, or do I continue my exploration with a different beer? I opted to try another Barrel House selection, the ÜberPils Imperial Pilsener. The bright, straw-colored beer had a strong grassy, sweet aroma. The taste is predominately sharp grain with a touch of bitter citrus. The alcohol warmth is noticeable and not masked. I've had a couple of these "Imperial Pilsner" style beers, and I must admit, I just don't get them. They take the crisp, sharp flavors of the Pilsner and add in a very noticeable alcohol aspect. There's just not enough to the base beer to cover that addition. I do enjoy a good alcohol "burn, when matched with a strongly-flavored beer, but in a pilsner it becomes medicinal tasting to me.

I did order one of Capital Ale House's giant Bavarian pretzels with spicy mustard to go along with Pilsner. The brown mustard certainly cleared off the alcohol notes of the ÜberPils.

Finally, I opted to end my stay with a glass of one of the brewery's flagship beers, Full Nelson Pale Ale. Although I've enjoyed this one frequently, I wanted something more moderate in ABV, but flavorful enough to stand up to the spicy mustard as I finished off my pretzel appetizer.  The mild citrus and fruit aromas, belied the citrus and bitter hops to follow in the flavor.

The evening proved to be an enjoyable mid-week diversion. I've made a mental note to find and enjoy again, Blue Mountain Local Species, which was the beer highlight of my visit. A surprise of the evening came when I looked over to see who had sat down at the bar a couple seats over from me. It was a cross-country teammate from college, who I had not talked to in at least 30 years! We had a good time chatting and catching up. It turns out he's a regular at Capital Ale House, and we share similar tastes in beer, and politics.

I only got through four of the 10 beers being featured. But I did have to get home at some point!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Beer Labels in Motion

Is this the beer label of the future? Check out the Beer Labels in Motion web site.  Trevor Carmick is creating some mesmerizing animated GIF based on craft beer labels.

I'll never look at a bottle of Yeti the same way again.

There are lots more at Beer Labels in Motion. Follow the artist on Twitter for updates too.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Beer & Kidney Stones

Don't fret. The news is good. A study of 195,094 people over an eight year period has shown that what you drink may be more beneficial in preventing kidney stones than how much liquid you consume. Daily Health News reports on the findings.
Beer reduced kidney stone risk by 41%.
White wine reduced risk by 33%.
Red wine reduced risk by 31%.
Caffeinated coffee reduced kidney stone risk by 26%.
Decaf coffee reduced risk by 16%.
Orange juice reduced risk by 12%.
Tea reduced risk by 11%.
Not only beer, but apparently my fondness for caffeinated coffee may prove to be a good thing in the long run. Another interesting finding in the report is that diet colas did not appear to increase the risk, although diet non-colas and sugar-sweetened colas did.

The researchers theorize that the diuretic effect of caffeinated and alcoholic beverages is a contributing factor in their benefits. So perhaps the healthful conclusion is to not fret about those frequent beer-induced bathroom breaks.

See "Best and Worst Drinks for Preventing Kidney Stones" for more.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

It's Noon on Hump Day

We're half way to the weekend.

Not promoting GEICO, but this makes me laugh every time I watch it.

Sam Adams Octoberfest Quandry

I saw over at that Sam Adams Octoberfest is already now available for the 2013 season. That's a week earlier than last year. Normally, this would be exciting news as I've always looked forward to this seasonal beer. However, I recently learned that Boston Brewing wishes to avoid any reference to "religion or religious themes" in it's marketing. This creates a problem, as all my money has a reference to God on it, thereby limiting its use in their market.

I guess I'll wait for the release of the excellent Oktoberfest beer from Fredericksburg's own Blue & Gray Brewing.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Beer and History, More Meetings Needed

Over at Mental Floss, there's a post entitled "10 Things Created Over a Couple of Beers."
After a few beers at the bar, even the most ridiculous ideas start to seem like The One That Will Make Millions. Sometimes, though, those ideas actually pan out. Here are a few reasons to take your next tipsy brainstorming session a little more seriously.
In 1966, lawyer Herb Kelleher’s client, Rollin King, owned a small commuter air service in San Antonio. King and his banker had been discussing the idea of running a quick commuter service between San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. They pitched the idea to Kelleher, and the triangular flight route was sketched out on a cocktail napkin. Since then, Southwest has expanded to a few more cities. 
It totally makes sense that the Pet Rock was conceived of after a few rounds, doesn’t it? After a bar conversation about what a commitment pets can be, Gary Dahl spent two weeks writing The Pet Rock Training Manual and started selling the low-maintenance pal for $3.95 not long after.
Read the whole thing...
The article goes on to list other interesting circumstances that supposedly came to be over beer. Whether or not beer contributed or not could be a topic of debate, but it's a thought-provoking article.

Absent from the list is any mention of the early talk and planning that led to America's independence from a tyrannical government which took place in colonial taverns, undoubtably over more than few pints. Perhaps it's time for Americans to once again spend more time meeting in their neighborhood pubs.

No Shooting, But There's Cider. And Steak.

It's no secret that I am a fan of Summer. And Spring. And Fall. Well, to be more accurate, I just don't like Winter. But every now and then, Summer gets on my bad side too.

This past Sunday, we invited Checkered Flag over for an afternoon of shooting and grilling. Since we hadn't shot together for a while, we planned to make up for that with lots of activities. I loaded all the target gear into the car — the PVC stands for large paper targets, the standard USPSA targets and stands, the steel targets, and even the shotgun clay target stands. There was hardly room in the car for guns and ammo after all that.

We knew there was a line of storms coming in from the West, but hoped we could beat them. Arriving at the range, we set up target stands and started loading up magazines. No sooner did we finish those preparations, did we hear thunder in the distance. Checking the Spark alerts on our iPhones, we saw that the lightening strikes were 24 miles away. Then 19. Then 2.4. Time to leave! We quickly loaded everything back into the car and headed home.

We pulled into the garage just as the storm hit. A few minutes later our power went out. With shooting plans kiboshed, there was but one thing to do. I grabbed a flashlight and headed for the beer fridge. Opening the door only briefly, I quickly found a bottle of Fox Barrel Pear Cider. We enjoyed that in the dark while the grill heated up in preparation for a stack of thick porterhouse steaks.

Fox Barrel Pear Cider is made from pear, obviously, rather than the traditional apples, with the addition of honey, orange peel and coriander. (Sorry no picture, the lights were out.) The flavor was very light. I didn't notice much in the way of the spices, just a mild pear flavor. I prefer a more robustly flavored cider, but the cold and bubbly drink was very refreshing. I did work up a sweat at the range just from unloading and loading the gear in the high temperature and humidity, so the cold cider was a welcome relief.

The cider and steaks didn't make up for the missed shooting opportunity, but they came close.

Monday, July 22, 2013

WTOP Top 10 DC Area Breweries

The results of the WTOP listener voting for the Top 10 area breweries are in, and the results are very interesting:
1. Port City Brewing (VA)
2. Franklin's Restaurant, Brewery & General Store (MD)
3. BadWolf Brewing Company (VA)
4. Lost Rhino Brewing Company (VA)
5. Dogfish Head Brewery (DE)
6. Flying Dog Brewery (MD)
7. Mad Fox Brewing Company (VA)
8. DC Brau Brewing Company (DC)
9. 3 Stars Brewing Company (DC)
10. Sweetwater Tavern & Brewery (VA)
I am not too surprised that Port City came out on top. Their beers are quite good and they've received numerous accolades the past couple of years. I was surprised to see BadWolf so far up the list, simply because they are a very young brewery. The brewery opened only a month ago, on June 19. In fact, due to VA ABC regulations they are temporarily closed.

Well done Jeremy and crew!

An Afternoon of Beer & Food

On Saturday, we hosted the Beer and Food Tasting Event we had donated to our school's fundraising auction. Even though we've now put on this event for six years, the days leading up to it are filled with both anxiety and excited anticipation. Choosing just eight beers from the hundreds available is tough enough, but planning the accompanying food menu is a challenge too. The hardest part isn't picking what we're going to serve, it's narrowing it down! Even though planning, and beer shopping, starts weeks in advance, changes happen right up to the day of the event. But the work and stress all pays off when folks arrive and the fun begins.

Table ready for people, food and beer
We had eight people in for the tasting. Over the course of 4 hours we enjoyed eight different beers accompanied by eight different plates of food. I picked beers that showed the wide range of flavors available in craft beer, and purposefully selected beers that are easily found in the area. Colleen did an excellent job with the food. After deciding the type of food we wanted with each beer, she searched for recipes. One of the things that makes this exciting, is that she also uses this as an opportunity to try new recipes, so most of the recipes we've not had before. The menu pairings are based on our prior experiences with beer and food. With few exceptions, we don't repeat things we done previously. If I do say so myself, this menu was one of the best we've put together. All the combinations worked very well, and a few of the pairings were especially notable.

Vienna Lager
Devils Backbone Brewery, Roseland, Virginia
Vienna Lager (4.9% ABV)
Paired with Artichoke Dip and Tortilla Chips

Schwartz Bier
Devils Backbone Brewery, Roseland, Virginia
Schwartzbier  (4.9% ABV)
Paired with Antipasto Platter

Port City Optimal Wit 
Port City Brewing, Alexandria, Virginia
Belgian White Ale (5.0% ABV)
Paired with Peaches and Cream French Toast Casserole

Festina Pêche
Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, Delaware
Berliner Weissbier (4.5% ABV)
Paired with Goat Cheese and Salmon Bites

Grateful Pale Ale
Star Hill Brewery, Crozet, Virginia
American Pale Ale (4.7% ABV)
Paired with Pork BBQ and Cornbread

Hercules Double IPA
Great Divide Brewing Company, Denver, Colorado
American Double/Imperial IPA (10% ABV)
Paired with Salty-Sweet Bacon Panini

Morning Glory Espresso Stout 
American Double / Imperial Stout (9.0% ABV)
Paired with Chocolate Lava Cake

Horn Dog Barley Wine
Flying Dog Brewery, Frederick, Maryland
Barley Wine Style Ale (10.2% ABV)
Paired with Blue Cheese, Sugared Walnuts and Pears

The two opening beers were chosen with a specific purpose in mind. Both beers are lagers, from the same brewery, both are equal in alcohol content, but the beers could hardly be more different. I wanted to address the false adage that dark beers are "heavy" and/or high in alcohol. Devils Backbone Schwartzbier is light bodied and very flavorful beer. One guest even commented before I made my pitch how she was expecting the beer to be heavy, and that she didn't usually like dark beer.

The Dogfish Head Fêstina Peche with Goat Cheese and Salmon Bites was a very popular serving. We'd never tried this combo, and in fact it's been a couple years since I drank this beer, but my memory of it was spot on. The sour, fruity beer stood up well to the strong flavors of the goat cheese and smoked salmon.

We served another grilled sandwich, this time a hearty, Salty-sweet Bacon Panini, with Great Divide Hercules Double IPA. I selected Hercules specifically for the shocking, strong flavor of the beer. One participant took a sip and immediately let out a "eeww"exclamation, so it worked. We all had a good laugh. The flavor of the beer held up well to the strong brie and bacon fillings.

The wrap up course of Flying Dog Horn Dog Barley Wine with Blue Cheese, Sugared Walnuts and Asian Brown-skinned Pears was a fitting, and surprisingly refreshing pairing. I selected a barley wine style ale specifically as a digestif. By this point in the feast everyone is quite full. Even though the beer is high in alcohol, it's a refreshing sipper especially in combination with the sugar-coated walnuts and fresh, juicy pears.

At the end of the afternoon even the more experienced craft beer drinkers in the crowd had a new appreciation and awareness of the variety available. And the one person who noted she really wasn't a beer drinker at the start, concluded that she actually does like it. It's just a matter of finding the right beer!

As good as the beers were, I have to admit that it's the tasty foods prepared by Colleen which make the event special. It's not just the beers that folks talk about, the tasty delights that Colleen prepares always impress. As one participant noted, "I liked the beer, but it was even better when I had the food with it." And that's why we do it.

All done but the cleanup

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Manny Bragg Keeping Perspective

I previously mentioned the need to have fun when shooting, and shaking it off if stage goes awry. Here's a guy who's one of the best in the sport, and he shows us how to laugh off a bad stage, with style.

Watch Manny Bragg have a laugh at his own expense at the 2013 Pro-Am Shooting Championship.

Missed steel, bobbled reloads, gun jams, I've had them all, but I haven't finished like that! Keeping it fun.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Five O'Clock Friday: Irish Watch

Perfect for a Friday night on the town.

Have an enjoyable, and safe weekend.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hey, I Know That Door!

WTOP Radio in Washington, DC is doing their annual "Top 10 Best of Washington" survey of local beers. (Go vote.) I noticed the picture they used for Lost Rhino Brewery was the picture I took for my Face Plant IPA review. Investigating further, I was thrilled to discover they apparently got the photo from the Lost Rhino Facebook page, where it is (currently) the brewery's profile pic. Cool.

I used to worry about getting a proper picture for a beer post. But getting that perfect photo delayed getting to the drinking of the beer, which was the purpose in the first place. So I started setting the beer on the kitchen table for a quick snapshot. Over the years, I've taken hundreds of beer photos on that spot. A friend who's often present when I open a new beer calls it the "classic Musings beer shot."

It must be okay, as I've seen the easily recognizable pictures pop up in many places. Local stops such as Blue & Gray Brewery, Park Lane Tavern and Capital Ale House have used the pics in email or Facebook campaigns. grabbed one for their 20 Best Beers of the World list. I've seen the photos used other places online, but I haven't kept track of them. 

Those might be the most photographed french doors in Fredericksburg!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Reason To Drink Indoors

From The Washington Times:
Roughly 20 percent of people are more frequent meal tickets for mosquitoes than the rest of the population, and Smithsonian Magazine set out to investigate: Why? 
Beer drinkers beware. Mosquitoes love the brew. 
A Smithsonian Magazine blogger wrote: “Just a single 12-ounce bottle of beer can make you more attractive to the insects, one study found.

It's too hot to drink outside anyway.

See more at "Bad buzz: Mosquitoes love to bite beer drinkers, study".

Simulating Distant Targets

One of the limitations at my local range is that all targets must be placed at the base of the berm. This rule means that although we can shoot from any distance from 0 to 25 yards, all the targets must be set along the same line. It makes it impossible to set up distance change up drills. The other day I was lamenting this restriction, and suddenly hit me, "I can do this! Or at least fake it well enough."

A while back I posted about some 1/4 scale USPSA targets I had purchased for dry fire. After I cleared out a little more room in the basement I switched to full size targets, and forgot about the small ones. Recently I took the small targets to the range to do some experimenting.

I set up a couple of standard USPSA targets, and the 1/4 scale targets, at the berm as required. The two full size targets were set close to each other, while I set up a wider swing to the "distant" target. In theory, standing at the 5 yard line will equal a 20 yard shot on the scaled down targets. Comparing the sight pictures between the real and scaled distances it appears to be a pretty close approximation.

I started out drawing to put two shots on the fake "20 yard" target. Interestingly, I found myself getting a bunch of low C and D hits, just like I often do in long range targets in a match. I was aiming for "brown" when I should aim for "A." Moving back to the 20 yard line I did the same drill with the full size target and got the hits in about the same time as at the simulated distance. After spending some time working on the sight picture and trigger press to center the hits, I moved on to the distance change up exercises.

The rest of my time was spent doing a six shot drill — drawing and putting two shots on each target. Initially, I found myself shooting the small target much too quickly, with the expected results. Eventually I convinced myself that I had to slow down to get A zone hits, and not simply aim for anywhere on the reduced target. After a while I started to get better accuracy and faster times. It was such a good, and fun, exercise that I broke out the "emergency" box of ammo I keep on hand so I could shoot even more.

Sure, I could approximate the same drills by cutting out the A zone of a standard target and use it as the distant target. Or use any style of smaller targets. Or cover part of the target with a no-shoot or hard cover target, which I've also done. However, I did like having the sight picture of the full target at a distance. It gave a good representation of the situation seen often in matches. And it was fun. A compromise for sure, but given the limitations of the range, a good semblance of the real thing.

Add in a few walls and I think I can come up with some interesting "fake" stages...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

BadWolf Closed Temporarily

BadWolf Brewing Company posted this notice on their website:
Our apologies for the terrible news. BadWolf WILL BE CLOSED temporarily until ALL of our labels are approved. It may be 30 days but hopefully not, we are trying to expedite the process. Even though we ONLY do onsite consumption, and no bottling nor distributing, we have discovered VA ABC still requires labels for EVERY SINGLE BEER BREWED even though the beer is behind the counter in kegs in our small operation. This means, we must pay for a label for every beer brewed which could mean less varieties for everyone. This out of date law does not help local small breweries in Virginia Tell your local delegates we need to change the law to allow small breweries the ability to brew a small variety of batches without paying $30 for every new beer and waiting for up to 30 days for each label approved. BadWolf brews 5 new beers a week so we would have to approve 5 new beer labels every week? If this doesn't get fixed, we may be stuck brewing the same beers for several months and have only a few seasonal rotating beers. We do not want to deprive our happy customers! Also, on another note regarding laws, we need to lower the VA license fee for breweries from $2,150 to the same price as a winery $189 and allow us to drop off our kegs to local restaurants and retailers as wineries do. Let's change the Virginia Winery Distribution Company to the Virginia Wine and Craft Brewery Distribution Company.
BadWolf is a small batch brewery. This means they may brew many small and one-off beers. That's the beauty of nano-brewing. Virginia's archaic ABC laws make that nearly impossible. Let's hope BadWolf can get their current beers "approved" quickly. And then let's work to fix the law.

I notice that one provision of the regulation states "A brewery licensee or a wholesale beer licensee shall upon request furnish the board without compensation a reasonable quantity of each brand of beer sold by him for chemical analysis." Free samples for people who can't tell the difference between bottled water and beer? I guess we should be thankful the revenuers didn't go in with guns drawn!

Kirkland's Kölsch

After a fun morning of shooting, I decided to open the growler of Kirkland's Kölsch we ever so carefully brought home Friday evening from Blue & Gray Brewing.

Kirkland's Kölsch pours a golden-yellow color with a very thin, short-lived head. The aroma is faint sweet malt. The flavor is grainy, grassy malt with a touch of sweetness. A mild bitterness completes the flavor. The finish is dry with just a hint of lingering sweet grain.

This summer offering from Blue & Gray was a refreshing and lighter libation that hit the spot after being outside in the sun and humidity earlier in the day. Tired and slightly sunburned, I wasn't in the mood for anything "big." This locally-brewed Kölsch hit the spot as an "appetizer" while dinner cooked. And another glassful made for a fitting dessert.

That's some fancy glassware, eh? :-)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Cedar Mountain Pistol Match

After what seems like weeks of non-stop rain, the skies finally cleared in time for the Saturday morning fun match at the Cedar Mountain Youths range. Due to the spate of poor weather and other commitments it's been a couple weeks since I was able to get behind the gun so I was really looking forward to some trigger time.

Requiring just 87 rounds over six stages, the match offered a variety of challenges. The first stage I shot was fairly straightforward; two paper targets and a falling popper, followed by two more paper targets, and a popper that fell to reveal a small steel plate. The poppers at Cedar Mountain fall forward, and they are slow to start moving. You have to call your shot because waiting for the steel to start moving will eat up precious time.

The next stage consisted of three groups of targets shot from three positions. Pretty straightforward, except for the no-shoot covering more than half of the A-zone of one target! Next we moved on to a longer field course, but one with a twist. The shooter started seated and had to carry a large bucket into the free-fire zone. Before the last shot was taken the bucket had to be left at the center front of the course. Most of the paper and steel targets were required to be engaged thru small ports in the wall, requiring a bit of bobbing and side-stepping to see them all. This was probably my favorite stage of the match.

Another interesting stage started with the unloaded gun laying on a table. At the start, the shooter grabbed the gun and loaded on the move to the firing area. The first array of targets were required to be engaged shooting below a stick extending from the wall and the middle array through a small port. These positions required most of us to bend over or duck at least a little. The last array of targets were engaged while shooting under an even lower bar, ending the course in a kneeling position.

A stage with six targets set in a straight line, at various heights with hard cover and no-shoot cover, requiring one shot on each target from three positions, moving closer after each group, offered a "speed shoot" opportunity. The same speed and accuracy requirement came into play on our final stage, a simple plate rack with five 8" and one 6" plate. The rules stated a mandatory reload sometime after the first shot and before the last shot. Combined with the smaller target thrown in, it gave a cadence-breaking twist to the standard plate rack.

Cedar Mountain holds theses monthly fun shoots as fundraisers for their youth programs. The events are a great opportunity to introduce new shooters to the sport in a relaxed, low-pressure atmosphere. Even the more experienced shooters will enjoy shooting some stage designs that might not be permitted in sanctioned or formal matches. I look at it as a good practice opportunity. But the best part of the day, for me, was finally getting out on the range and shooting!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Buckle Up For Safety

After dinner at Blue & Gray Brewing, we brought home a growler of Kirkland's Kölsch.

I'm happy to report the cargo arrived safely at home. More to come...

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Beer Logic: Male vs Female

Seen on the Facebook:

Woman: Do you drink beer?

Man: Yes.

Woman: How many beers a day?

Man: Usually about 3.

Woman: How much do you pay per beer?

Man: $5.00 which includes a tip.

Woman: And how long have you been drinking?

Man: About 20 years, I suppose.

Woman: So a beer costs $5 and you have 3 beers a day which puts your spending each month at $450. In one year, it would be approximately $5400… correct?

Man: Correct.

Woman: If in 1 year you spend $5400, not accounting for inflation, the past 20 years puts your spending at $108,000, correct?

Man: Correct.

Woman: Do you know that if you didn’t drink so much beer, that money could have been put in a step-up interest savings account and after accounting for compound interest for the past 20 years, you could have now bought a Ferrari?

Man: Do you drink beer?

Woman: No

Man: Where’s your Ferrari?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Devils Backbone STG at CAH

Enough abbreviations? It was a special "Steal the Glass Night" featuring Devils Backbone at all Capital Ale House locations Thursday evening, but the Fredericksburg venue was the place to be. Brewer Jason Oliver traveled from Nelson County to visit and talk to folks about his beers.

Four Devils Backbone beers were on tap for the evening; Turbo Cougar, Schartz Bier, Vienna Lager and 8 Point IPA. We started off our evening with the Turbo Cougar Blonde Bock, which was the only one of the beers I had not previously tried. Golden yellow with a thin, short-lived head, Turbo Cougar is a malty, medium bodied lager with a lingering bitterness in the finish. My impression is it's a classic lager (not the watery factory beer version) taken up a notch. I downed my first pint quickly. Another glass made a fitting accompaniment to the spinach, artichoke and crab meat dip, with pretzel chips appetizer we enjoyed. (Thinking back, between the beers, the extra helping of pretzel chips, and visiting with friends, we never did get around to dinner!)

After the Turbo Cougar pints, Colleen and I both decided to order the Schwartz Bier next. This is a beer I had for the first time just recently, but one that I've enjoyed greatly. I couldn't pass up the chance to try it on draft. The rich espresso, dark chocolate and smoky flavors blend to create a flavorful, but moderately light beer. We're planning on featuring this dark lager in an upcoming food tasting event we're hosting, and I felt I was honor-bound to do some additional "research."

We're getting a collection
Colleen and I sat at the bar for several hours enjoying the time talking to each other, and also visiting with friends. Of course, we were fortunate to spend time chatting with Jason too. Jason also reminded me of my neglect in paying him a visit on his home turf. It's true, every time I've seen him in the past is when he's been visiting in Fredericksburg. Colleen and I committed to visiting this Summer.

It was a fun evening enjoying good beer and conversation. And good beer is even more fun when you get to drink it with the brewer! Thanks for visiting Jason.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

I Don't Need A Reason

I don't agree with everything Colion Noir posts, but he's spot on with this.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Difference of Opinion

We went out for a few beers and dinner the other night. I could tell we were in for an interesting evening right away.

Me: "Is there anything special tapped that's not on the beer menu?"
Waitress: "There may be a couple things."
Me: Waiting...
Waitress: "But most people just order from the menu. There's a lot on it."
Me: Blink
Waitress: "It's usually the opposite. There might be some beers on the menu we're out of."
Me: "Um, thanks."
Waitress: Leaves without naming those other beers or taking any orders.

We finally got in a beer order, from the menu. When Colleen's hefeweizen arrived, it had an appearance similar to weak chocolate milk. We had enjoyed this same beer recently so I know it's not supposed to look like that. It's properly hazy, not sludgy.

Waitress: "If you're wondering why the beer looks that way, it's the bottom of the keg. But believe me, that's the best part."

The backlighting flatters the beer
Everyone's entitled to their own opinion on beer I suppose. We were out for a fun evening, so we laughed it off. (Either that or we were too shocked to react.) But the food, the company, and the other beers, were excellent.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Because It's Fun

I've been feeling introspective lately regarding why I shoot USPSA matches, and why I spend time practicing. A few years ago I found myself attending three or four assorted matches each month, and practicing at the range frequently. I was getting better too! Then commitments to other activities, and family stuff caught up, and shooting became a bit more irregular. I missed it. I did manage to take some classes, which, while beneficial, added to my consternation over not getting to take part in the sport as frequently as I wanted.

This year I've managed to shoot a match or two each month. I get to the range several times a month to practice, and I try to dry fire on occasion too. Am I progressing as I did a few years ago? Hardly. Do I expect to? Nope. Am I having fun? YES. You see, I'm getting back to the "roots" of why I started shooting competitively in the first place; because it's fun. I have no delusions of winning a major, or even local match. I won't make Master (but maybe, just maybe, I'll make B someday.) Heck, I'm taking TripleFlex for my knees, and my back protests when I bend over to reset steel poppers at matches, so keeping my expectations realistic goes a long way towards happiness!

When I go to a match I'm there to have fun taking on challenges I can't get at the practice range. I'm there to have a good time with like-minded folk. I'm there to enjoy the weather (if it cooperates.) I've gone back and re-read some of my previous match posts, and noticed that the people, the travel, the atmosphere, were as much a part of my memories as the actual shooting.

When I'm competing, I'm competing against myself, against previous performances. If I don't shoot some challenge or scenario like I wanted, that becomes a challenge for next time. Believe me, matches are a lot more fun when you laugh off a bad stage and move on. Later, when I hit the range to practice I'll try to work on those issues. AND I'll also spend some time just putting holes in paper — for the fun of it.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Juice Pouch for Adults

Everyone is familiar with the "juice-pouch" so popular with kids. Well, make it bigger, fill it with beer, and now you've got a party. That was my thought when I heard about the Beer Pouch.

Well, that's not quite the idea, but it sure sounds fun, yes? Actually, the Beer Pouch is an interesting take on the traditional growler. The Beer Pouch holds 64 ounces of beer like a standard glass growler, but in a collapsable, light-weight container.

There have been numerous occasions when I've been at a brewpub, without a growler in-hand. The standard glass container is not very convenient to keep in the car, always at the ready. Perhaps I should stuff a beer pouch under the seat, just in case.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Sunday Sermon

When a strong man armed keepeth his court, those things are in peace which he possesseth. --Luke 11:21

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Sam Adams Goes PC

"Political Correctness," an insipid ideology that leads to a weakening of conviction. It also requires no small amount of hypocrisy on the part of those who pursue such a doctrine. The beer company that lays claim to the name of the Founding Father Samuel Adams, has shown they are not immune to the trap of political correctness.

Boston Brewing Company used the Declaration of Independence to promote their beer in an ad that ran on July 4. Even though it wasn't a direct quote, they conspicuously opted to leave out the words "endowed by their Creator."

Quoting the "guidelines" of the Beer Institute Advertising Code, Boston Brewing states "Beer advertising and marketing materials should not include religion or religious themes." The feigned moral superiority notwithstanding, the Declaration of Independence does include the text the brewer opted to omit. The hypocrisy of their claimed attachment to history and freedom is blatantly obvious.

I wonder if Sam Adams will still accept payment in US currency bearing the words "In God We Trust."

Deviant Dale's IPA

It seems we're on a bit of a Colorado beer memory tour. To that end, I enjoyed a pint of Oskar Blues Deviant Dale's IPA the other evening. I first had this amped up version of the brewery's iconic Dale's Pale Ale at Oskar Blues in Longmont last year. At the time, the beer hadn't yet made it to Virginia. However, it appears the new Virginia brewery has helped improve that distribution limitation.

Deviant Dale's pours a thick looking dark orange with creamy head. The foam is long lasting, leaving a sticking coating behind on the sides of the glass. The aroma is strong with sweet malt and a hint of fruitiness. The flavor is a mix of bitter and sweet, with the sweet malts being the predominant aspect. The pine and citrus hops help to provide balance, but this IPA leans to the sweet rather than citrus. An oily, resinous coating of sweet malt lingers in the mouth afterwards.

I couldn't help but contrast Deviant Dale's with my old Colorado favorite, Great Divide Hercules. The Hercules focus is on the bitter citrus, with the sweeter flavors providing a supporting role. Two beers, two interpretations. At 8% ABV, Deviant Dale's isn't as extreme as some India Pale Ale's, but it's still worthy of respectful sipping.

My beer didn't have to travel far to get to Virginia. The 16 ounce "tall boy" can (How cool is that?) prominently notes the Brevard, North Carolina point of origin. Turning the can over to get the last drops into my glass, I noticed the April 1 canning date, complete with an April Fool's Day joke.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Ill-Placed Bottle Opener

I remain intrigued by the often clever designs people come up with for keeping bottle openers handy. After all, who would want to be caught unprepared? However, I think I see a design flaw here.

That's right, the bottle opener is embedded in the bottom of a shoe. Quick, stop what you are doing and take a look at the bottom of your shoe. Go ahead, I'll wait....

Now think about this. After walking down the boardwalk to the beach, or across the street to the city park, you're going to stick a bottle you intend to drink from into whatever filth has been stuck to the bottom of your shoe?

I'll stick with the trusty Blue & Gray Brewery bottle opener on my keychain.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Piers Morgan Must Go

He spews these disgraceful posts on Twitter as we celebrate Independence Day.

It's time to remove Piers Morgan from our shores. He can leave voluntarily, or by force. 

Independence Day

As we celebrate Independence Day, the 237th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it's a good time keep in mind the words of that document.
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. (continued ...)

Our forefathers were pretty explicit. We have certain rights which are granted by our Creator. Government derives power from the consent of the governed. Despite these establishing words, there are those in this Country in power who wish to restrict, redefine, and even remove basic God-given rights from the free citizens of these United States — rights which are not the government's to give or to regulate. Under a false label of "freedom" they seek to restrict liberty and create a compliant, and dependant, population.

On this joyful anniversary of the birth of our Nation, take time to recall the struggles of those who went before us, and pray for our own victory over the evil that gathers against us now. Let us celebrate the independence of this still great Nation and enjoy good times with friends and family, good food and good beer too, but let us also not be lulled into compliance. Our God-given rights and freedoms are under a serious threat, unmatched in history, that won't be overcome by being complacent. We must continue to resist these attacks and preserve the gift of freedom we have enjoyed for 237 years.

"Occupants of public offices love power and are prone to abuse it."  --George Washington

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Lost & Found: Anti-Tank Missiles

Some people have all the luck. I felt lucky when I found a box of 9mm ammo I had forgotten about. These folks in Leesburg found anti-tank missiles in their shed.

No word on who lost them.

Meanwhile across the pond: This U.K. couple is so shook up they are ready to move out of their home after finding some corroded ammo their pond.

Five O'Clock Wednesday: Time to Celebrate

It's sort of like a Friday.


Blue Mountain Kölsch

As the warm days of Summer take hold, the day's length may be getting longer, but the day's activities also increase, leaving less time for enjoying our favorite beverage. It's time to look for refreshment in the form of tasty and lower ABV beers. Blue Mountain Kölsch 151 is one such libation that fills the bill perfectly.

Kölsch 151 pours a transparent straw color with a moderate white head. The aroma bready malt with a touch of sweetness. The flavor is crisp and sharp with a slightly sweet grain base. The hop profile is grassy, with a touch of citrus. A bit of bitterness comes through in the finish, but the aftertaste is short-lived and clean. The overall impression is crisp and refreshing.

The brewery's web site describes Kölsch 151 as their "lightest beer." It's a "light beer" done right, quite unlike those flavorless "lite" liquids the factory brewers promoted as suitable Summer refreshments.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Inter-Rain Range Trip

As I was enjoying a cup of coffee Sunday after Mass, it started raining pretty hard outside, and I could hear thunder in the distance. Dang I thought, are my plans to get in some shooting today being kiboshed?

When one's in need of some group therapy, a little rain won't be a hindrance. Besides, the inclement weather might keep the crowds away. At a break in the showers I quickly loaded the car and headed out. As expected, the range was empty when I arrived. My main goal for the day, besides just having fun, was to practice my reloads and target transitions. Setting up three targets, I shot either one or two shots on each target, performed a reload, and repeated the same shot sequence.

The sun came out for a short time

Since it was practice, I started really pushing to see fast I could get the shots off, and quickly move between targets. Two destroyed target holder clips, and a broken target stick later, I had a good idea what that speed limit was! Dialing it back I finished my drills, and got in bit of "just shooting" too. After a fun 200 rounds I decided to pack it up and head home as I noticed the skies were starting to darken again.

After cleaning up at home, I opened a good beer, and put some steaks on the grill. (Did you expect anything else?) That's when the rain started up again. Even though I finished my grilling duties in the rain, I was happy to be able to get in a bit of fun between the passing storms.

Monday, July 1, 2013

More Virginia ABC Fail

The Keystone Cops are at it again. This time it wasn't a pittance of a moonshine bust, but a college student buying sparkling water. The University of Virginia student spent a night in jail after being accosted by Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) agents, and reacting as any normal person might.
When a half-dozen men and a woman in street clothes closed in on University of Virginia student Elizabeth Daly, 20, she and two roommates panicked. 
That led to Daly spending a night and an afternoon in the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. Her initial offense? Walking to her car with bottled water, cookie dough and ice cream just purchased from the Harris Teeter in the Barracks Road Shopping Center for a sorority benefit fundraiser. 
A group of state Alcoholic Beverage Control agents clad in plainclothes approached her, suspecting the blue carton of LaCroix sparkling water to be a 12-pack of beer. Police say one of the agents jumped on the hood of her car. She says one drew a gun. Unsure of who they were, Daly tried to flee the darkened parking lot.

Fortunately, no one was shot or killed, but how long will that luck hold out with such massive incompetence at play? I get that underage alcohol purchase is illegal, but does that justify jumping on the hood of a car and pulling a gun? Of course the girls ran. That's what they should do in such a situation! Perhaps the VA ABC agents should stick to rediscovering the inoperable stills they previously destroyed.

See "Bottled-water purchase leads to night in jail for UVa student" for more on this incident. Astonishingly, the VA ABC office is turning to Facebook in a feeble attempt to explain away their strong-arm tactics.

Update July 15: The ABC has pulled their post, and subsequent public comments from their Facebook page. Apparently the heat in that thread was too much for them. There are other threads, so far, on the VA ABC Facebook page.

A Fitting Tribute

A few weeks ago I shared the news of our friend Greg's passing. Greg was a dedicated homebrewer who was recently awarded a Silver medal for his IPA in the National Homebrew Competition. The last time I spoke to him he was preparing to submit his entry for the final round of judging. The final results of the competition were published this weekend. Until I saw them I was unsure if he had submitted his entry before he died. He did. Greg's beer took First Place in the India Pale Ale category.

First place out of 584 entries! Seeing that listing brings bittersweet memories. It's also a fitting tribute to a good man. I am sure Greg is smiling. Although he brewed many styles, his Pike Ale IPA was his favorite. Requiescat in pace, brewer.

The complete National Homebrew Competition results are here.