Monday, March 31, 2014

Taxes, Then Beer

We spent Saturday morning dealing with the annual task of certifying our income to the Feds so that they could continue funding extravagant trips for the Emperor and Empress (and her mother.) That extortion ritual completed, we decided to relax over lunch at Capital Ale House.

"What's new and exciting?" we inquired after taking our seats at the beer. We learned there was a group of Stouts still available from the Dark Horse Brewing tap takeover earlier in the week. Colleen reviewed that list and ordered a Cream Stout labeled Too. I opted for Ice Breaker Double IPA, a seasonal release from Lost Rhino Brewing. Our bartender smiled when I placed my order, and related that he blamed the morning's grogginess on Ice Breaker.

Colleen remembered the photo

Lost Rhino Ice Breaker starts out with a citrus and pine aroma. The flavor follows with strong citrusy hops with that green "juicy" feel of a hop-rich Double IPA. A dry bitter finish hangs around between sips. Despite the strong flavors, it goes down easily. That, combined with the 9.2% ABV, might account for the bartender's pounding head.

I stole a couple sips of the Dark Horse Too Cream Stout. It's a very smooth, dark roasted stout with a mild sweetness for balance. Strong chocolate and espresso flavors linger in the finish.

The ice now broken, I was contemplating another of the Dark Horse Stout offerings as a fitting accompaniment for my Kielbasa Stuffed Pretzel sandwich, but I was really in the mood for more hops. I noticed a hand-written tap for Mo Pale Ale from Maine Beer Company, and went with that.

Mo is an impressive American Pale Ale. The aroma is quite pleasant and full of citrus and floral notes. The flavor profile wasn't quite as strong as my Lost Rhino beer, but this Pale Ale could hold it's own against an IPA. Fresh citrus and pine hops and a subtle malt base made for a very enjoyable drink. A moderately thick mouthfeel was followed by a clean, dry finish. I definitely need to try this one again.

After being reminded that a large portion of my income is relinquished under threat of force, for reasons having little to do with the welfare of our Nation, having a couple of good beers and enjoying some relaxing time with Colleen was the perfect diversion on a rainy afternoon.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Opening a Beer with a Rifle

Here's an interesting video for a Friday morning, involving two of our favorite subjects. It's entertaining, but still wrong in so many ways.

As much as I enjoy shooting, followed by a good beer, the two should never meet at the range. Granted the video doesn't actually show anyone drinking the beer, as these folks did. Another issue with the operation shown? They spill a good amount of the beer. Even if it is Costco beer, the method is highly inefficient.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Beer and Brains

We all know that drinking beer makes you smarter, but I don't think this is exactly what the researchers had in mind. (I know, bad pun.) Dock Street Brewing in Philadelphia is brewing a special beer for fans of the Walking Dead television series. Dock Street Walker is brewed with wheat, oats, flaked barley, cranberry, and smoked goat brains. The brewer's claim is that the pre-sparge addition of the brains adds "intriguing, subtle smoke notes."

I consider myself an adventurous eater, and drinker, and definitely a smoked beer fan, and I really can't say I wouldn't try this beer. It's definitely more appealing than some ingredient options reported in a previous post.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Beautiful Music with Solo Cups

Those ubiquitous red plastic cups are put to good use in this Gaelic version of 'The Cup Song', Amhrán na gCupán.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Gun Handle KOOLER

What could possibly go wrong?

Use at your own risk. You might end up like this guy with the poorly selected tattoo.

You shouldn't be drinking craft beer direct from the can anyway. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Reilly's Red Ale

When we stopped by the local beer store this weekend, I was happy to see cans of Devils Backbone Reilly's Red Ale. I always like drinking a new Virginia-brewed beer, and this review would be timed just right. I eagerly awaited the end of my work day on the Feast of St. Patrick so I could lift that pull tab.

Reilly's Irish Style Red Ale pours a very attractive, bright copper color. The thin beige head is short-lived. The aroma is the classic Red Ale blend of bready, caramel malt. A slightly sweet malt flavor comes first, followed by toasted, grainy notes, along with a hint of hop bitterness. The mouthfeel is slightly creamy with a very clean finish.

Reilly's Red is a classic "American Style" Red Ale. Easily drinkable with a mild flavor and a mild 5.5% ABV to match. The beer paired well with our "American Style" St. Patrick's Day dinner of corned beef, potatoes, carrots, cabbage and homemade Soda Bread.

The mild ale and traditional dinner was a fitting repast which was followed a wee bit o' Connemara Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey. It was indeed a happy St. Patrick's Feast Day.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Five O'Clock: St. Patrick's Day Gathering

Getting your friends to the pub can be a challenge without a proper technique.

Have a Happy and Safe St. Patrick's Day celebration, however you manage it.

St. Patrick's Day Whiteout

Wait? White? Yep, it's St. Patrick's Day and the world outside is clothed in white. Even though it's not quite Spring officially, and tend to think of this celebration as a foretelling of a warmer season. This year it's a good morning for warming up with Irish Coffee it would seem. Despite the snow, it's still a work day thanks to the wonders of the internet.

Later today we'll celebrate by trying out some Irish Ales we picked up over the weekend, or perhaps a wee bit o' Whiskey. St. Patrick is our parish Patron Saint, so we're obligated to some extra celebration. But first I'll need to clear away some of this white stuff.

Meanwhile, here's a memory of greener pastures from our trip to Ireland a couple years ago.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Pre-St. Patrick's Day Celebration

We found ourselves with some "free time" Sunday afternoon, and decided to head over to Capital Ale House for a quick beer and late lunch. After taking seats at the bar we were handed a menu that listed some intriguing beers from The Bruery one side, and from Allagash Brewing on the other. First world problems for sure, but we were facing tough decisions.

Fortunately, the bartenders at Capital Ale House are eager to assist. We obtained small samples of a few of the Allagash beers; Confluence, a Belgian Ale with Brettanomyces yeast, Saison Rye, and Hugh Malone, a Belgian Strong Ale brewed with Simcoe and Warrior hops. After passing the glasses back and forth, our decisions were make only somewhat easier. Colleen selected the Confluence, and I ordered a glass of the Hugh Malone.

Allagash Confluence and an empty sampler

Allagash Hugh Malone is labeled as a "Belgian IPA," a newish style that we've been seeing more of lately. These beers make the flavor range from "Belgian" to "IPA." I prefer the ones that favor the IPA side of the scale, with a hint of Belgian yeast for added interest. Hugh Malone fit my preferences quite well. The citrus and piney notes were predominant with just a hint of Belgian yeast "funk" adding a fun twist. Colleen's Confluence, with its tart but not overpowering Brett and grassy citrus flavors was equally enjoyable. We accompanied both beers with an appetizer of Spinach, Crab and Artichoke dip served with Pretzel bread bits.

We still weren't done with interesting beer offerings, this time turning our attention to The Bruery side of the menu. Colleen ordered a pint of Autumn Maple. This seasonal from The Bruery is a Belgian Ale brewed with yams. This was an interesting take on a traditional "pumpkin beer," with similar spice, but using yams instead of pumpkin in the brewing process.

For my decision, the friendly bartender again aided by offering small tastes of Humulus Lager and Tart of Darkness. The Tart of Darkness is a Sour or Wild Ale that was very interesting, with a flavorful, juicy tartness. If I weren't having food, I would have definitely ordered a full pint. However, I had placed an order for some spicy wings, so I opted for the Humulus Lager.

The Bruery Humulus Lager is another one of those crossover-style beers; an Imperial Pilsner on one hand, a citrusy IPA on the other. The crisp citrus and fruity hop flavors are accompanied by a crispness one expects in a lager. Just the thing with Capital Ale House's spicy habanero wings.

It was a fun way to spend an afternoon, especially as Monday's weather forecast calls for yet another Winter storm headed our way.

A Quick End to My Match

It's been a long, cold Winter (which doesn't appear to be over yet) and the first Walnut Ridge USPSA match of the season was anxiously awaited. Saturday morning I hit the road early, enjoying a clear dark sky, with Venus shining brightly in the east. When I arrived at Summit Point, West Virginia, the sun was out and making a feeble attempt to warm the air.

The first stage encountered was the classifier "Lightning and Thunder." This stage was the first fixed-time stage I'd ever shot and I was looking forward to the challenge. Three strings of fire are to be completed, each with a 5 second time limit. The first string was shot from 75 feet, and required the shooter to draw and engage three targets with two shots each. The second string is shot from 45 feet, and called for one shot on each target, a mandatory reload, followed by three more shots on the targets. The final string, from 30 feet, mandated engaging all three targets strong hand-only. And that's when it happened...

I am unsure if I got a bad hold on the gun at the draw, or if I snagged the front sight on the holster, or if my hands were cold and I didn't have a good grip, or perhaps it was all three. The buzzer sounded, I went for the draw, and that quickly my gun was on the ground in front of me. I didn't see a dramatic time-frozen, slow fall the ground. As I drew I felt the gun twist and leave my hand. No one said a word. I knew. Game Over. Done. Fini. Disqualified.

After my gun was cleared I went to the safe area and took off my gear. I had driven 2 hours to get here, and I was looking forward to spending time with friends. Despite my disappointment, and embarrassment, I opted to stay and support my squad mates and see the rest of the match. My match was over, but there was no reason to mope or be a poor sport about it. I ran the Nook scoring device for the remaining five stages, relieving other shooters from that task. There were three more classifier stages and two interesting field courses. I was a bit bummed not getting to shoot them, but there's always next time.

I've been playing this game for about 4 years. I've watched many shooters DQ for a number of reasons. I hoped I'd never do it. (I hear at some clubs they actually give DQ'd shooters a coupon for free a ice cream at Dairy Queen.) I would have preferred to shoot, obviously, but made the most of the day. It was a strange feeling to reach for my range bag as I unloaded the car at home and find it still heavy with the day's unused ammo. But hey, I'll still enjoy that post-match beer.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Denson's Grocery and R&B Oyster Bar

I've driven by Denson's Grocery in the past when in Colonial Beach, VA, and and I've followed their postings on Facebook, but never had a chance to stop in. However, we finally made plans last Friday to head over and enjoy dinner with a friend. Being a Friday in Lent, some fresh seafood seemed just the ticket.

Denson's is a surprisingly small tiny shop. Upon entering the store, you are greeted by displays of assorted packaged food, and cases of fresh meats and seafood. And several shelves full of craft beer too! That's right, Denson's Grocery and R&B Oyster Bar is also well-stocked with craft beer. We spent a few minutes looking over the beers before taking a seat in the enclosed patio dining area. All of the food served at Denson's is fresh, and most of it local. The menu varies depending on availability and "catch of the day" will often mean "caught that day." I'm told that the locals will come in and pick out their meat or seafood and Rocky Denson will cook it to order. The large selection of craft beer is also available in bottles to enjoy with your meal. Denson's just added a draft line, serving Devils Backbone Vienna Lager, which was my choice for the evening.

Four varieties of oysters on the half shell were available during our visit. We opted for one that Denson's just started offering, called Holy Grail, from Maryland. These small, but plump and salty oysters were very flavorful. Colleen and I shared a dozen, but we both could have enjoyed a serving to ourselves. The oysters were served with Lemon Zest Mignonette, Tulkoff Cocktail Sauce with extra Horseradish, Lemon Wedges, Saltines and Crystal Hot Sauce. I'm a purist though, and ate most of my share without any embellishments.

For our entrées, we all chose the Lenten seasonal special, a traditional "Midwestern Style" Fish Fry consisting of Cod or Haddock, with Seasoned Fries, Creamy Homemade Cole Slaw and Tarter Sauce. We opted to try both the Cod and Haddock selections, for research purposes of course. Colleen preferred the thick, white Cod, while the thinner filets of Haddock won me over. I especially enjoyed the Cole Slaw, the cabbage shreds were large, and coated in a vinegary sauce. Colleen described it a as "sweet & sour." I might have to ask for a double portion next time I visit.

We all enjoyed our meals very much. I'm looking forward to returning to try more of their fresh foods and cooked-to-order meals. Blue crab season starts in just a couple weeks, and I've heard that Denson's does crabs right, so I'll definitely be back for that.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Five O'Clock Friday: Outta My Way!

I've been not-so-patiently waiting for the weekend. There's good food and beer on the schedule. And the first USPSA match of the year too. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Happy Birthday Mom ✝

I wish I could say that to you in person. I long to feel another of your "mom bear" hugs, the ones that always seemed to last just a little too long. But they were never long enough really. I miss you everyday, but I know you are at peace, and that replaces sorrow with gladness.

Happy Birthday. Requeiscat in pace.

Monday, March 10, 2014

It Was a Dark and "Stouty" Night

Making my regular review of local pubs' Facebook pages last Friday, I noticed that Capital Ale House had two selections from their "Ales From the Crypt" cellared beer series, Stone Russian Imperial Stout and Stone Russian Imperial Stout with Espresso, both from 2013. They also were tapping a pin of Hardywood Park Russian Imperial Stout aged on cocoa nibs. Now this was a trio of Stouts not to be missed.

Colleen started out with a glass of the Hardywood Stout, while I opted for the Stone Espresso Russian Imperial Stout. I also begged a sample of the standard Stone RIS, "in the interest of science." Despite all being similar in appearance, all the Stouts were quite distinct in flavor.

The first thing I noticed was that all the beers were served at a good temperature. That was expected from the Hardywood pin, as it was sitting on the bar, but a pleasant surprise for the two Stone beers. I'm assuming they had just come out of the cellar and hadn't been in the cold refrigerator all that long. 

There was no mistaking the espresso in the Stone Espresso RIS. The rich espresso flavor stood above the other flavor notes. Alternating with a few sips of Stone's standard Imperial Stout only served to illustrate the strong influence of the espresso. Bold tastes of dark chocolate, molasses and roasted nuts were present in both. The year in the cellar seems to have mellowed any burnt notes often found in a Russian Imperial Stout. 

As I was enjoying my Stout, Colleen was also enjoying her Hardywood Park Stout. In fact, we both realized that our glasses were about empty at the same time and we'd have to order again. I typically finish my beer well before Colleen does, but she found the Hardywood very enjoyable it went down quickly.

We were seated right in front of the Hardywood pin, and had been noticing the servers were tilting the 5.4 gallon keg further and further in order to pour another glass. I decided I needed to order a pint for myself, and quickly. The Hardywood Stout had a very "creamy" mouthfeel with less bitterness than the Stone beers, with a hint of dark chocolate. It was a popular drink that evening and folks were disappointed to see the pin finally run dry. We've been enjoying a run of Hardywood Park beers lately and will continue to seek them out, as they've yet to disappoint. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Short Sleeves At the Range

There were still piles of snow scattered about, but the sun was shining brightly when I set up at the range on Saturday. Despite the car thermometer reporting 63 degrees, I was the surprisingly the only one there, other than a lone fisherman across the pond. I did a double check for any "Range Closed" signs but then quickly took advantage of the empty park.

With the first USPSA match of the season just a week away, I wanted to "shake out the cobwebs" and work on some basic movement drills; drawing while stepping into position, turn and draws, reloading on the move. I had one of my PVC pipe shooting boxes with me and set that at the 10 yard line with a couple of targets at the berm. The few magazines were spent stepping into the box, engaging one target from the box, and the second target while exiting that position. A few surrender starts while facing up range mixed it up.

Most of the rest of my time was spent engaging one or both targets from 15 yards, then reloading as I sprinted to the box at 10 yards to engage one or both targets. I decide before each run what combination and in what order (left or right) I'd shoot the targets, mixing it up to avoid getting into a pattern. Running the drill 25 or 30 times allowed me to really see some places for improvement, such as when I was leaving position too soon, or shooting too early when arriving. And for the first time in many months I was actually sweating at the range instead of suffering with cold fingers! 

Since I was the only one at the range, I didn't have to worry about being told I was shooting too fast, and I could practice in private without worrying about other shooters. I was pretty happy with this practice session and think it was even beneficial. This would most likely be the last live fire practice before the first 2014 match next weekend.

Of course, there was no timer, no one was watching, and my score wasn't being recorded— it's not a wonder that I shot well.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

That's Just Low

A Bedford County, PA man was a victim of a burglary recently, the thieves leaving with several antique firearms. As if that loss wasn't enough, before the thieves made off with the guns, they helped themselves to a case of the man's beer.
Someone broke into the house and drank a case of his beer, police said, then stole the guns, several of which appeared to be antiques. They included a dueling pistol - commonly used to settle gentlemen's disputes before the 19th century - a pair of blackpowder Derringer pistols and a circa-1914 shotgun, as well as three more modern rifles.
No word on what kind of beer it was, or if they had a designated driver for the getaway vehicle.

See "Man reports antique gun thefts" for more.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Bergers and Beer

Yes, I spelled that headline correctly. I celebrated Fat Tuesday with a beer and Baltimore's iconic Berger Cookies. I grew up enjoying these decadent delights, picked up fresh-baked at Lexington Market, and they are a fond, and tasty, memory. To my delight they recently have they been available at our local grocery store and the occasional box will find its way into our shopping cart.

Sadly, the government's war on trans fats might push Bergers out of existence. Thanks to the ever growing nanny-state, the cookies which have been produced in Baltimore since 1835, are threatened. You see, they get their flavor from copious amounts of margarine and fudge, which contain contain partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil, sources of trans fat. As long as Americans choose government care over personal responsibility, classic foods such as these, enjoyed by generations, could be changed forever.

But for the time being, we'll thumb our nose at the busybodies and continue to enjoy the foods we choose. Well, when Lent ends anyway.

The Beer Menu Matters Too

I was looking forward to hitting my favorite brewpub last Friday evening. Apparently, so was the rest of the town. When we pulled up, cars were backed up onto the street just trying to get into the parking lot. Apparently the "Mardi Gras" menu was a hit. Good for the pub, bad for us. We turned around to look for another dinner spot. We stopped by another local pub that we hit on occasion, which can usually be counted on to have a decent craft beer selection.

Almost without fail, in any restaurant, my first question concerns the accuracy of the posted menu. In this case I was particularly interested in knowing if there were any beers not listed, so I asked "Is this list complete?" and received a reply in the affirmative. Colleen asked for the "Devil's Backbone" Kilt Flasher but was informed that selection was not available. (The brewery's name is actually Devils Backbone, with no apostrophe.) I had also intended to get the Scotch Ale so I opted for the Port City Porter while Colleen perused the menu further. She settled on the Avery White Rascal.

A few minutes later, the waitress returned to apologize that the White Rascal was also no longer available. We laughed (really, we did) and Colleen selected the Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald "Stout." Edmund Fitzgerald is actually a Porter, not a Stout, though that point was moot, since it too was out. Growing frustrated, we asked what they actually had. At that, the waitress informed us they just added a beer that wasn't listed, Devils Backbone Dark Abby. (I thought we settled the question of completeness previously?) "It's a Stout," she said. I knew better, and quickly told Colleen that she'd like that one, so it was ordered. Dark Abby is a Dubbel, not a Stout. A short while later, the waitress returned with our two beers, and the cider selected by our dining companion.

I relate this tale, not to disparage the establishment, which was one of the first local pubs to actually serve craft beer. The beers we got, though our second and fourth choices, were enjoyable, and the food was tasty. My purpose is to lament the casual attention to detail that beer menus often get, even at places that make a point to "do" craft beer. It's doubtful that a restaurant would put a food menu in front of a customer and not mention the selections that were unavailable. And of course, the entrées would be labeled correctly. They wouldn't label chicken as pork, even if they are both "white meat."

Beer runs out, and selections change, and I accept that. Heck, I pretty much expect it. It's why I start my selection process by inquiring about the menu accuracy. Unfortunately, in this instance it didn't make the process any easier. We still had a fun evening. We had a some extra laughs over the menu and the ordering difficulties, and there was fodder for Musings. And there's always next time.

Update: I noticed on the pub's Facebook page that two days before our visit they announced they had also tapped Old Speckled Hen, Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale, and Great Lakes Conway's Irish Ale. I think I would have enjoyed those. Note to self: Check a pub's FB page before venturing out.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Shooter's Prayer

Last week, on the Feast of St. Gabriel Possenti, I received the graphic below from Miguel over at Gun Free Zone. We had just returned from a long afternoon spent on the range in honor of the Patron Saint of Handgunners, and I found the message especially inspiring.

This provoking illustration is based on a prayer I coined a few years ago. Not only I was thrilled to see the prayer mentioned recently at both Gun Free Zone and Fill Yer Hands, but it's great to see more recognition of St. Gabriel Possenti as well.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Range Time for a Saint

On the Feast of St. Gabriel Possenti, we planned a pilgrimage of sorts to the range. Despite the warm temperatures earlier in the week, Thursday turned out to be quite chilly. That doesn't stop us!  We started out on the rifle range, and despite having to re-stand up the target holders numerous times due to the wind, got in some good work with the AR's. One of the purposes of this trip was to try out the spotting scope I recently bought to do away with those 100 yard walks to check the targets. (It never ceases to amaze me how much "peripheral" equipment this sport calls for.)

We later moved over to one of the pistol bays for some closeup workouts. Precision shooting was the order of the day, as Checkered Flag set the challenge of shooting out the staples that were holding the targets on the cardboard! Our old friend "Buddy" made an appearance as well, although some may find him offensive. My EDC weapon got a good workout as well, along with some practice in drawing from under winter clothing.

It was a fun way to mark the feast day of the Patron Saint of Handgunners. Eventually, the cold temps and windchill convinced us it was time to head home for some warming beverages. There was A LOT of brass to be picked up, which got even more challenging as the daylight waned, and fingers numbed. But soon enough we were standing around the kitchen counter enjoying a variety of good beer and reminiscing about the fun day.

Fr. Z also has a nice post promoting the Patron Saint of Handgunners.

BTW, the St. Gabriel Possenti pin shown in Colleen's photo above is available here.