Monday, December 29, 2014

Holiday Cheer On A Sunday Afternoon

Colleen and I headed down to Capital Ale House for lunch Sunday afternoon. Just before we left the house I saw the pub's update to their Facebook page noting that they had the Redskins - Cowboys game on the TVs behind the bar. Crud, I thought, I hope there's not a crowd. I shouldn't have worried, few people were there watching the game. (And for good reason it seems.) We heard the list of "seasonal" beers from our bartender and settled in to enjoy some holiday cheer.

One of the beers was Hardywood Park Gingerbread Stout, served on nitro. I've had this beer previously, and despite the hype around it, found it good, but not exceptional. Colleen particularly enjoys the nitro serving, so opted for a glass of this seasonal. It was actually quite enjoyable; the nitro seemed to soften the astringency we noted in the past.

My beer of choice was Delirium Noël. I saw this one get tapped during a recent visit to Capital Ale House but didn't have the chance to order a glass. The ruby-red beer has a faint caramel and spice aroma. The flavor is surprisingly mild, with dark fruits and raison, some caramel and bready notes, with a touch of sweetness. The 10% ABV is extremely well-masked.

After what seemed an exceptionally long wait, our food arrived. By then I needed a refill. I decided to  keep with the holiday beer theme and try a glass of N'Ice Chouffe. Darker than Delirium Noël, this Winter Warmer also checks in at 10%ABV. The flavor profile is a bit bolder; with more robust dark fruit flavors, more malt and a tad sweeter. The alcohol was more prominent than the previous beer, but still unsettlingly hidden.

N'ice Chouffe and Gingerbread Stout

Coincidently, another couple sat down next to us, and I heard the gentleman tell the bartender he was "debating between the Noël and the Chouffe." As he was handed two samples, I offered my opinion that the Delirium Noël was the better of the two. That was the one he selected, and he must have enjoyed it as before too long he ordered a second.

Soon we had had enough of the football game (there's a reason I not a fan of professional sports) and Cialis ads, so we headed out into the rain to head home. Despite the wet weather, I remarked to Colleen that it was odd to be walking out into 60° weather at the end of December. Not that I'm complaining. The holiday beers provided good start to another week of vacation.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Day After Christmas, At the Range

A good time was had by all...
Sitting around Christmas evening, I got an email from a friend who was arranging a trip to the range for Friday morning. He had included a few fellow parishioners from our church as well. The temperature was expected to be in the unseasonable 50's the next day, making the range trip all the more attractive.
Read the rest at Gabriel Possenti Shooters.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Afternoon Libation

I pulled this bottle of Gouden Carolus Noël out of the cellar. It's dated from 2011 and has aged nicely. Only moderately sweet, with dark fruit and caramel notes, the 10% ABV is well-muted. I think I'll dig out some cheese to nibble on too.

Likely to be followed by a nap. Very likely.

Merry Christmas

It's Christmas Day and now begins our celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord. We kicked off our celebration with the Vigil Mass last evening, after which the final tree decorations were hung and last minute gifts were wrapped. Then it was finally time to relax and enjoy some snacks (Pickled Herring) and a good beer (vintage 2008 Tröegs Mad Elf). I always look forward to the peacefulness of Christmas Eve evening, however brief it may be. Finally the hectic preparations are done (or finished as well as they are going to be).

I wish you and your family a most blessed and holy Christmas. I pray that the joy of this season continues for you throughout the coming year. While it seems to the world around us is in turmoil, and frankly I fear the worse is yet to come, at least for a bit we can stop and reflect on the promise of peace that will come to us in time, perhaps not now, but in eternity if we prepare well.

Here's wishing you and yours a year of peace, prosperity and happiness. And of course, a year filled with good friends, tasty beer and fun times on the range too.

Merry Christmas!

Birthplace of Jesus, Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Photo by C. Turley, August 2010
Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Elite Shooting Sports

Our son had a swim meet in Manassas on Saturday, which gave me the much-anticipated opportunity to make a visit to Elite Shooting Sports. After dropping off my car load of swimmers at the pool, I drove over to the new state-of-the-art indoor range. Since it was a Saturday morning, I didn't know what the crowds would be like, but it's a big place so I figured there'd be a good chance of getting a lane.

My first stop was the reception desk to complete the initial registration and waivers. Everyone is also required to watch a short safety and orientation video. That completed, I headed over to the sales counter with my new membership card to get a shooting lane. Immediately upon entering the range area I was impressed by the well-lit, temperature controlled, and clean shooting area. I was also struck by just how quiet it was, despite being in active use. The spacious area, modern soundproofing, and thick dividers between each lane all contribute to noise reduction. Each shooting lane features an electronically controlled target system. There is even the option to have your target turn at timed intervals.

Elite Shooting Sports has two 25-yard 12 lane ranges, one 50-yard 10 lane range and a 100-yard 8 lane range. That's 42 shooting lanes! With that many shooting areas, even on this Saturday morning there was no wait to shoot. There is also a shoot house and simulator range available. The range sells targets and ammunition, as well as some shooting-related gear. The facility has classrooms, lounges and even a café. In a very nice touch, right at the exit from the shooting ranges, there are even sinks where you can wash your hands after shooting.

The amazing facilities aside, I was very impressed by the professional atmosphere and the friendliness of the staff. Elite provides a classy place to shoot, but without pretentiousness. Shooters are expected to be safe and well-behaved, and likewise are treated as mature, responsible people. There are no silly signs directing you disarm before entering the building. Of course no gun handling is allowed outside the ranges, but this also means there aren't folks sitting in their cars in the parking lot trying to unload their weapons either. As opposed to many shooting ranges, indoor and outdoor, drawing from the holster is allowed at Elite. Rifles and shotguns are also permitted.

I had a great time during my short visit to Elite Shooting Sports. I only used the 25 yard range this time. I'm looking forward to returning soon and taking advantage of the longer ranges, and bringing along my rifle, and maybe even a shotgun. It's an awesome facility. I am definitely planning to get in some practice drawing from the holster against the timed targets. It's probably a good thing this new range is an hour plus drive from my home, or I'd be spending way too much time, and money, enjoying the facilities.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Flying Dog Plans Farmworks Brewery in Virginia

Flying Dog is one of my favorite breweries, and I always look forward to trying their new beers. I've reviewed so many of the Maryland brewery's beers, I've often wished they were a Virginia brewery! Soon, that wish will have some basis in reality.
Flying Dog Announces Plans for Farmworks Brewery, a Unique Farm Brewery Destination in Virginia
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 18, 2014

Frederick, MD – Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe was on hand at Shadow Farm, a 53-acre farm in Lucketts, Va., last month for a historic announcement on plans for Lucketts Mill Hopworks, the State of Virginia and the mid-Atlantic’s first commercial-scale hops production and processing facility.

Building on that announcement, Flying Dog Brewery out of Frederick, Md., is nearing the final stages of a partnership to create a separate and unique farm brewery destination on that same property. The project, Farmworks Brewery, is set to open in summer 2015.

Jonathan Staples, who launched James River Distillery in Richmond earlier this year, purchased Shadow Farm with the hopes of growing hops and other ingredients necessary for brewing and distilling. The property sits on the north side of Lucketts, just west of Rt. 15. Staples’ unparalleled vision for local agriculture attracted Flying Dog to add a brewing dimension to the operation.

“We are really excited to have Flying Dog on board at Shadow Farm,” Staples said. “They are a world-class brewery and they are the perfect partner to bring Virginia’s agriculture to life through a different and distinct experience that will offer a new array of fascinating beers.”

Farmworks Brewery, which will be owned and operated by Flying Dog, will be situated on approximately 5 acres of the property and will include a 15-barrel brewhouse, cellar, coolship and tasting room and hospitality area, along with an extensive barrel-aging and sour beer facility. With a selection of beers unique to Shadow Farm, it will be a separate and distinct experience than Flying Dog’s existing brewery, which is located just 17 miles north of Lucketts in Frederick.

“At Farmworks Brewery, we plan to bring the same brewing energy, passion and talent that our fans have grown to love from Flying Dog,” Flying Dog COO and Brewmaster Matt Brophy said. “Agriculture is such an important part of brewing, and having access to the resources at Shadow Farm will allow us the freedom to experiment and innovate with a whole new collection of beer styles. It’s a unique setting, and we plan on brewing some pretty unique beers.”

Flying Dog will focus its energy on highly-experimental beers at Farmworks that will include robust barrel aging, wild fermentation and sour beer programs. Farmworks will also utilize the onsite hops and farming resources to craft recipes for beers made with local Virginia ingredients.

Lucketts Mill Hopworks, which will be operated by Cumberland, Md.-based Organarchy Hops, will be supplying Farmworks, as well as other regional breweries, with annual crops of Virginia-grown hops. It will also provide a central location where growers will be able to bring their crops for processing and packaging. The 10,000-square-foot facility will house top of the line equipment and handling procedures required but out of the budget for the small grower.

"Creating this facility opens up the door for all growers to focus on their crop and expanding their yards instead of shelling out thousands of dollars for their own equipment," Organarchy owner Solomon Rose said. "We are now able to assist new growers with processing and supply chain management, as well as work hand-in-hand with area universities on how to grow quality hops in this region." 
This will be a great addition to the Virginia beer scene. The brewery, to be located just north of Leesburg, is set to open in Summer 2015. I'm looking forward to visiting.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Stealing the Flying Dog Glass

Tuesday evening the Flying Dog RV was spotted outside Capital Ale House. The occasion was a Flying Dog "Steal the Glass" night, featuring four Flying Dog beers served in an attractive etched glass. How could we resist going in?

The four beers featured were Bloodline IPA, Hoppy American Wheat, Kujo Coffee Stout and Gonzo Imperial Porter on Nitro. All excellent beers that we've had before. I opted for the Bloodline Blood Orange IPA and Colleen selected Hoppy American Wheat.

Bloodline IPA seemed to be the most popular selection, based on comments I heard at the bar. It's a bright, citrusy IPA that's quite refreshing. I posted a full review of the beer previously. Equally enjoyable was the Hoppy American Wheat. A blend of a bitter IPA and a wheat beer, this member of the Brewhouse Rarities series is a unique take on the traditional wheat beer. More info can be found in this previous review.

Flying Dog beer peddlers Adam and Pete were there to talk about the beers. I got a chance to chat with them a bit about Flying Dog's plans for the upcoming year. Let's just say I'm looking forward to enjoying some interesting beers from the brewery in 2015.

And those cool etched logo glasses? We decided we really needed a set of four, so we enjoyed another round of our selected beers with Capital Ale's tasty, and huge, Lamb Gyro Burger. It was a fitting finish to a fun day that included a fun visit to the range.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lunchtime Smoke & Noise

Astute readers would rightly assume by the dearth of posts recently that my time for "fun stuff" has been painfully limited. Being unable to enjoy any trigger time since my range trip on Thanksgiving Day has been especially frustrating. In search of relief, Tuesday afternoon I decided to head up to the Indoor Range in Stafford during my lunch hour. I wasn't sure I'd be able to get in; I had the same idea last Friday, but when I arrived I saw 16 cars in the parking lot, at a 14 lane range, and gave it a pass! On this day, I was in luck as there were only a few other folks there.

I spent about 30 minutes shooting at various distances and speeds. Even with the light turned on above the bench, the shooting booths are still dark. Seeing my black sights against the black target was difficult at times, but it was fun and I was pretty pleased with the holes in the paper.

Given the lack of range availability at the local outdoor club, I'll probably start making the indoor range a regular stop. I am not a fan of being unable to see what's going on in the other bays, but it beats not shooting at all. The range is close enough to my office that I can get there, shoot, and be back at my desk in an hour. (Well okay, a padded hour.)

Smoke, noise, muzzle flash. It all makes for a fun lunch break.

And brass at my feet.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Isley Beer & Cheese Pairing

Thursday evening Capital Ale House set out a Cheese & Beer pairing featuring Isley Brewing Company. Three Isley Beers were paired up with three cheeses; Tall, Dark and Hopsome Black IPA with Lusk Gouda, Off the Boulevard Irish Red Ale with McClure Swiss, and Choosy Mother Peanut Butter Oatmeal Porter with President Brie.

Also included with the cheeses was a couple slices of a very delicious bread with a salt and herb crust. We enjoyed the side of bread as much as the cheese and beer. The bread and cheese platter would stand on its own as an appetizer.

This event was originally advertised to feature four beer and cheese pairings, with an Isley rep in attendance to talk about their beers. We think there was a logo glass included as well that we missed getting. That said, we're quite capable left on our own and enjoyed the beers and making our own commentary.

The first pairing, the Tall, Dark and Hopsome IPA and Gouda, was quite good. I took a few sips of the beer before the cheese plate arrived and really liked the beer. The pine and citrus hops with roasted malts was a tasty combination. It's a beer I'd have again. Interestingly, adding in the Gouda, the flavor of the beer took on a slightly sweeter tone. The flavors were noticeably influenced by the cheese.

Next up was Off the Boulevard Irish Red Ale and Swiss. The Red Ale had a distinctly fruity aspect along with the biscuity malt. After sipping, Colleen and I at the same time remarked, "I taste pears." The ale had a decidedly malty cider slant, in appearance, aroma and flavor.

Finally, we came to the Choosy Mother Peanut Butter Oatmeal Porter and Brie pair. In all frankness, we didn't care for the aroma of this one. In the taste, there was some oatmeal and a hint of sweet chocolate. It was however, the peanut butter than dominated. Mixing our sips with the brie and bread, the peanut flavor was muted somewhat. Choosy Mother is a popular and highly rated beer from Isley. But this unique flavor is like smoked beers I think, you either like them or you don't. The beer grew on me as I sipped, but a full pint probably isn't in my future.

Our beer and cheese tasting completed, Colleen and I settled into a few more good beers and the Thursday special of "Endless Mussels." We took good advantage of the all you can eat aspect of the menu. It was a tasty and enjoyable, if somewhat decadent, evening.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Forcing the Options Towards Good Beer

Twice a month I head off to a meeting of like-minded Catholic men who serve the community and Church. After the business of the evening is completed, food and beverages are set out. The kitchen crew prides itself on the good food, but he beer selection is often lacking. It typically consists of the usual suspects one sees at such a gathering; Miller Lite, Stella Artois, and the occasional Yuengling Lager. I can get by with the Yuengling but would enjoy something different. I am sure many of the other men would as well, but the "buyer" is stuck in his ways.

This week I had a last minute thought before I left for the meeting and filled a six-pack carrier with some beers from my fridge. I opted to stick with "easy" beers such as New Belgium Fat Tire and Brooklyn Lager. My thought was to stick with a similar style, but introduce some new labels.

When it came for the social part of the meeting, I found myself near the end of the line. I watched as other men were digging through the beer cooler and grabbing the bottles I had added. I feared there wouldn't be any left for me. I did eventually retrieved the last bottle of Fat Tire for myself.

I overheard comments like "Where did this come from?" and "Good beer!" I've been thinking it would be worth donating a six pack or two for a few weeks to continue to build up the demand. Eventually, folks will come to expect it, even though there will always be the hard core Miller Lite fan.

The one wrench in the works is I was told the existing stock of Lite and Stella would need to be finished before the supply was restocked. Might be time for a little more subterfuge.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A "Soulful" Evening of Beer

I went out for a quick dinner last night, heading over to Park Lane Tavern. When I arrived I learned they were having a "Steal the Glass" night featuring Green Flash Soul Style IPA. The glass with the premium price point was a simple logo shaker pint, so I wasn't really interested in the glass, but opted to try the beer nonetheless.

Green Flash Soul Style pours a clear and bright copper color with a thin, short-lived head. The aroma is sweet fruit and somewhat resinous. The initial flavor is bitter citrus and pine, with a touch of sweetness showing up as well. The finish is slightly bitter with some lingering resin coating in the mouth. Green Flash beers are typically bold and brusk on the palate. Soul Style while tasty, might be a let down for Green Flash fans used to beers like Road Warrior and Green Bullet.

My glass emptied, but still some food on my plate, I recalled the tasty Starr Hill Soul Shine I enjoyed recently at Park Lane. I opted to continue the evening's "soul" theme with a glass of that cask conditioned beer. At first the flavor seemed somewhat muted, after the more intense Soul Style. Of course, my tastebuds soon adapted and I enjoyed the smooth cask beer while finishing my meal.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Ale at Adventure Brewing

Historically, I simply don't go out on "Black Friday." I prefer to spend the day with good leftovers, and good beer, perhaps preceded by a trip to the range. However this year, Adventure Brewing was celebrating the start of the holiday season with extended hours and the release of their Christmas Ale. This was worth venturing out for. Colleen and I headed up mid-afternoon, and after the tortuous drive through the local shopping mall area (What's wrong with you people?) we found the two-exit drive on the interstate to be quite easy.

Adventure was serving twelve different beers this weekend. They had all eight wall taps going, along with two jockey boxes. For those who are new to Adventure beers, they were offering a 12 beer tasting fight! We'd been to Adventure enough to have tried most of the beers, so we started right into the reason for our visit, the Christmas Ale.

The beer pours a cloudy, copper color with a thick beige head. Brewer Stan told us the beer was still young and would clear up with more time in the tank. Frankly, I expect a spiced Christmas Ale to have a bit of cloudiness to it. The aroma was pretty mild, with cinnamon and allspice over a biscuity malt. The spices revealed themselves more in the flavor. Some bitterness of citrus rind hangs in with the spices. It was quite tasty and I remarked to Colleen that maybe I should have remembered to bring along an empty growler for filling.

But, the real test in my book, is how I feel at the end of the glass. Would I want another? So often with spiced ales, as with pumpkin beers, I enjoy them initially but quickly tire of the unique flavor. Not this time, the ale is flavorful and well-balanced. When my glass was empty, I definitely wanted another pint. The moderately low ABV, I think it was around 6%, made it easy to enjoy a couple in the mid-afternoon. I thought this was one of the most enjoyable spiced ales I've had in some time. I'm already checking my calendar to see when I can fit in another visit to enjoy another pint. Or two.