Friday, September 25, 2020

Thursday Cigar and Beer

It was an early start to the weekend Thursday when I headed over to 1781 Brewing after dinner for a beer and smoke at the cigar lounge. After a week of very cool weather, one that actually had me turning on the heater for a smoke on the deck earlier in the week, it was nice to sit outside comfortably as the sun set. As usual, the first stop was to fill my mug with a tasty beer. Also as usual, I opted for the Washington's Hare Porter. The mildly sweet caramel and toffee notes, with just a touch of bitterness, go quite well with most cigars I smoke. And the low 5.5% ABV makes it easier to have a refill, should I desire.

In perusing the lounge's humidor, I saw it held a box of Black Label Trading Company Bishops Blend, in the Corona Larga vitola. I have been enjoying the Robusto size sticks I grabbed last July at the shop, but had never tried the slightly larger size. 

As noted previously, Bishops Blend is a limited release from Black Label Trading. This year's edition was created in two sizes, with only 450 boxes of 20 produced in each of the vitolas. The blend is comprised of an Ecuador Habano Maduro wrapper, an Ecuador Habano binder, and a mix of Nicaraguan, Connecticut broadleaf, and Pennsylvania broadleaf filler tobaccos. The smoke is full bodied with flavors of coffee, cocoa, and some interesting dark fruit notes. It is my humble opinion that this Black Label release is one of the best sticks of 2020. 

Most of my previous pairings with Bishops Blend have involved whiskey of some variety. The stick works just as well with the porter, as expected. Besides the tasty beer and smoke, the evening was filled with fun conversation with other folks in the lounge. Inevitably, some of the conversation veered to politics and the social unrest plaguing our country. Despite the presence of viewpoints on opposite sides of the spectrum, the discussion remained civil and even jovial. That's the magic of the cigar lounge.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Undercrown Maduro & Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Continuing the fire pit and power outage story… 

After rebuilding the fire, I headed inside to grab another smoke and a beer. The second cigar choice for the early evening was the Liga Undercrown Maduro from Drew Estate. This cigar has been mentioned before in these Musings and is a long-standing favorite.

I enjoy the Undercrown Maduro in the 5" x 54 Robusto size. The cigar wears a Mexican San Andrés Maduro wrapper, a Habano Connecticut binder, and Brazil Mata Fina and Nicaraguan Habano fillers. It's a creamy smoke featuring notes of rich espresso, cocoa sweetness, and a hint of dark fruit.

Returning to the cellar, I dug out a bottle of Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout from the Winter 2006-2007 bottling. For many years we were very good about buying bottles of this brew each year to stash away. Unfortunately I've let that slip the past few years, and we've also worked through the older bottles. This 14 year old was the most senior of the stash.

The beer still maintains a rich aroma as well as good carbonation. The flavor profile retains its richness as well. There's a mildly bitter, semi-sweet chocolate overall profile. Notes of coffee, vanilla, and some nuttiness come through as well. The 10% ABV is wholly undetectable on the palate. 

The combination of the dark, semi-bitter beer, along with the espresso and chocolate notes of the cigar made for a delectable pairing. Sadly, after a few hours of the ongoing power outage, I had to leave the comfort of the fire in order to turn on the generator. Now I had the hum of generators both in the distance, and up close, disturbing the peacefulness of the evening.

Eventually the power was restored, thankfully earlier than the resolution time initially broadcasted by the power company. Leaving the fire burning, we retired to the house for a late dinner. After dinner Colleen did a little baking and I returned the yard. Not desiring the time around the fire to come to an end, I stirred that coals and put on a few more logs. Colleen soon joined me and we stared into the fire until late in the evening. And now my wood pile was suddenly very empty.

The long afternoon and evening by the fire was a great way to mark the last weekend of the summer. I do think our time spent out back disrupted some of the local deer who like to bed down in the yard overnight. I could hear rustling in the woods on occasion and the light from my flashlight was reflected back by green orbs staring back at me. At least I am going with the assumption those were deer.

The End

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Barrel Aged Cigar & Two Stout Beers

We got the first fire of the season going last Sunday. The last weekend of the summer was cool enough for a fire to be enjoyable, yet still warm enough to not require bundling up. After a late brunch I uncovered the woodpile and prepped the pit. Looking at the amount of wood left from last season, I estimated I had enough for two fire pit sessions before needing to restock. 

After lighting the fire, I grabbed an older stick from the humidor. I've been eying my last Camacho Imperial Stout Barrel Aged stick for some time, and finally brought myself to light it up. These were a limited, one time release, but cigars are meant to be smoked, not just admired. 

The story behind the cigar reads like a travelogue. The barrels used in the aging of the tobacco for this blend first housed bourbon at Heaven Hill Distilleries. The barrels were then sent to Oskar Blues Brewery in Colorado to age their Imperial Stout beer. Next, the barrels were then shipped to the Camacho factory in Honduras. There, the company’s signature tobacco, Honduran Original Corojo, was aged inside for a minimum of six months. The cigar is comprised of 100% Maduro tobaccos. The wrapper is Mexican San Andrés. The binder and fillers include the barrel-aged Honduran Corojo, along with Brazilian and Dominican tobaccos.

As soon as I lit the cigar, I really had few regrets about burning my last one. I knew it would be as enjoyable as I remembered. The 6" x 50 Toro is tightly packed, with a slightly restricted draw, but still produces copious flavorful smoke. Dark, rich roasted coffee and dark chocolate predominate, with a touch of sweet vanilla coming through as well. 

To go along with the stick, I also dug deep into the beer stash and pulled out a Stone Brewing 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. The bottling date stamped on the bottle is 01/15/16. The beer features roasted malt with a sweet, toasted bread graininess. The beer is moderately bitter with a full mouthfeel. It was an excellent match for the flavors of the cigar.

The warm fire added to the enjoyment of the rich beer and cigar. As this would be a nearly two hour smoke, I headed back to the basement to dig for another old beer. I came up with a bottle of Smuttynose Imperial Stout, this one bottled way back in 2006. 

As expected, this stout also paired well with the Camacho cigar. The beer featured roasted malts, dark chocolate, coffee, and some hints of dark fruit. There was very little in the way of hop bitterness. The mouthfeel was creamy and smooth, with a dry aftertaste. After cellaring for fourteen years, the carbonation was still moderate.

As Colleen and I chatted and continued to enjoy the fire, we became aware of the sound of generators in the distance. Soon after that, I received a text notification that our house was without power. At that point, there was little left to do except to feed the fire, grab another cigar to smoke and pull another old beer from the cellar. Apparently I'll need to restock the wood pile sooner rather than later.

To be continued …

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Sam Adams Octoberfest & Hamlet 25th Anniversary

After a fun IDPA match Saturday morning, Colleen and I sat outside during the afternoon to enjoy a beer, some reading, and the cool sunshine. I opted to try a Hamlet 25th Year Robusto. I'm a fan of Hamlet cigars, especially the Tabaquero, but I've never tried this one. The master roller at Rocky Patel, Hamlet Paredes is known for putting out full bodied cigars, but the 25th Year breaks that mold by featuring a mild profile. Hamlet calls it "a cigar for the everyday smoker."

One of the likely reasons I've passed by this cigar in the past was the mild flavor description. I generally prefer medium to full bodied smokes, although I'll grab a milder smoke to have with coffee in the morning. That was my intent when I purchased the 25th Year, but this afternoon my curiosity got the better of me and I opted to try it out. 

The 5½" x 50 stick is wrapped in a golden brown Ecuadorian Habano leaf. The binder is Pennsylvania broadleaf, with Nicaraguan and Honduran fillers. The flavor kicks off with a mild cedar and pepper spice over mild chocolate and creamy coffee. The spice decreases in the later stages, while the chocolate and coffee notes gain an even creamier aspect.

The beer selection for this cool day was Sam Adams Octoberfest. I've been enjoying this seasonal for the past few weeks as it's one I look forward to each year. The caramel and bread sweetness, spiced with just a touch of hop bitterness offers a refreshing drink. 

The malt of the beer stepped on the flavors of the mild cigar to some degree. While I enjoyed the flavors put off by the well-constructed cigar, they were just outside my wheelhouse, and didn't hold my interest in the last third. That, combined with the growing chill in the air as the sun dropped below the trees, led me to abandon the stick with a couple inches left. Despite that, I have no doubt that I'll light another when the appropriate setting and mild cigar mood strikes.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Rivanna IDPA

It was a cool morning as I headed to Charlottesville to shoot the monthly IDPA match at the Rivanna range. It's been a while since we've had a cool weather match, and I had mixed feelings about being reminded (again) about the impending months of lower temps. Nonetheless I was looking forward to shooting the match and visiting with friends.

All four stages this month involved little movement, other than some leaning to see around obstacles. Although I prefer movement stages, the stages were both fun and challenging. The first stage had us facing three tiers of target groups, each with three threat and two non-threat targets in a line. The groups were shot near to far.

It so happened that the shooting order had me following a multi-division Grand Master USPSA and Master IDPA shooter. That invoked no small amount of "no pressure" joking from my squad mates, and even the SO. In truth, I think the situation took some of the pressure off my shooting since I had no stress whatsoever of matching his speed. He was fun to watch and learn from though.

I got my match off to good start, shooting just one down with a raw time of 15.55 seconds, which was still almost twice a slow as the GM's raw 8.67!

The next stage had six targets placed at varying distances, with a couple non-threats up close to shoot around. We started the stage by using both hands to knock over a target stand placed right in front of the shooting box, blocking the view of the targets.

After the requisite "no pressure" ribbing, my turn came and I shot the stage just one down. Or so I thought at first. Upon closer examination, I saw I had knicked a non-threat, apparantly with my "throwaway" 11th shot on the fifth target, likely from moving too quickly to get to the reload and next target. Despite that, I was still pleased.

Rounding the corner to the third stage, we spied the infamous red pickup truck that always adds a bit of challenge and interest to a stage. I has been a while since I've seen this prop towed out. The loaded gun was placed in the truck bed, and all shooting was done from a small area behind the real wheel. There were five threat targets to engage with three shots each, and two non-threats to avoid. The placement of the non-threats, brought them into play on every shot. I shot the stage down 2, and was pleased to avoid the penalty targets.

The last stage had an interesting setup and stage brief. There we saw a simple line of nine distant and open targets, spread in a row with the targets getting closer to us toward the ends of the row. (Aaargh, no picture.) The twist was that the arrangement was meant to represent two assailants moving in opposite directions in an effort to flank the shooter. The targets were to be shot far to near, which also meant swinging back and forth to shoot opposite sides of the array. 

I'd had a pretty good match up to this point. Sadly, the wheels fell off the bus on this stage. We had a lot of time to watch shooters on the stage, and I witnessed a number of raised fingers indicating PE's when a shooter engaged the targets out of order. My time leading up to my turn to shoot was focused on shooting order — I didn't want to be one of those. Fortunately I shot without error. Unfortunately I focused too much on what target was next, and not enough on my sights. I made all the hits on paper, but finished -11 points for the stage. Even while shooting there were times I thought about a make up shot, but I think my brain was too focused on where I would shoot next. Still it was fun.

A combination of quick stages and low attendance, meant we finished shooting in about two hours. The stages were all interesting. Despite a couple errors, I managed 11th of 41 overall, and 4th of 22 SSP. It goes to show, "stand and shoot" can be interesting AND challenging. The weather was pleasant and the people were fun. All in all, a great way to spend a Saturday morning on the last official weekend of summer.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Wynwood Hills Unhinged, a Porter, and the Wood Stove

The weekend was kicked off with a few hours Friday evening spent in the Olde Towne Tobacconist lounge at 1781 Brewing. It had been a couple weeks since I visited and I was looking forward to seeing what was new in the humidor. After filling my mug with Washington's Hare Porter, I headed into the lounge where the proprietor was helping another customer, but she immediately looked over and remarked "I've got some new cigars for you to try." Now, I was excited. 

Shortly, I had received the run down on a number of interesting options for my smoke. I settled on the Wynwood Hills Unhinged. This 4½" x 50 Robusto is one of a series of three cigars in the Wynwood Hills line from C.L.E Cigars. Unhinged features a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. The binder and filler are Honduran and Dominican.

The dark brown, mottled stick gave off plenty of medium-bodied smoke. Notes of leather, cocoa, and a pleasing earthiness paired well with the caramel sweetness of the porter. The cigar had an enjoyable and robust, but not overwhelming, flavor profile.

This was one of the first truly cool evenings this season. As such the wood stove in the lounge was fired up. I really don't look forward to cold weather, but I sure do enjoy sitting around the fire. The combination aromas of cigar smoke and a wood fire are a pleasure to the senses. 

After a couple pints and the stick finished, I returned to the humidor to grab a couple sticks to go. Another of the options presented to me at the start of the evening was a new cigar from Black Label Trading Company. Super Deluxe is a cigar that shipped just this month in very limited quantities. I grabbed a couple and am looking forward to trying them out soon. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Morning Coffee and AVO Cigar

An early morning cigar is a rare treat. An early morning cigar, and a view like this is an even more special time. During a recent long weekend "escape" to a mountain farmhouse, I rose before the rest of the house, made a cup of coffee, and sat down to enjoy the view and watch (and listen to) the cows arrive in the fields.

Among the cigars packed for the trip was this AVO Unexpected Celebration. The Unexpected lineup consisted of four "new" releases that AVO shipped last year. As was later revealed, the cigars were actually a rebanding of existing blends. Celebration is a 6" x 54 Toro with an Ecuadoran wrapper and binder and filler tobaccos from the Dominican Republic. After rolling, the cigars were aged for six years before being released. As it was later deduced, the blend is actually a relabeled AVO XO. 

The Celebration is a medium-bodied smoke that surprised me with a bit more flavor than its appearance indicated. The flavors off the bat were creamy and earthy with some light bitter chocolate and cedar. As the smoke progressed toward the middle, the flavors mellowed a bit, and I was thinking I was in for a boring smoke the second half. However, as the last third approached both the spice and sweetness ramped up a bit and kept things interesting. The hour plus smoke was enough for a couple cups of rich, black coffee. 

Soon the cows had moved on to other pastures and the household was stirring. It was time for breakfast and whatever the day's activities had in store. I do long for more mornings like that though.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

CAO Flathead and Henry McKenna

To start a long weekend recently, I grabbed one of the CAO Flathead 660 sticks and the remains of a bottle of Henry McKenna 10 Year Bottled-in-Bond. It was a great, though bittersweet, pairing. 

The CAO stick is one I've been pairing with my whiskey lately. It just seems to go so well. The full bodied smoke treats one to notes of semi-sweet chocolate and espresso. The burn typically needs some help to stay even on the square box-pressed stick, but this evening it burned extremely well, despite the ultra-high humidity from the heavy rain that was falling.

The Henry McKenna bourbon has gotten several mentions in these Musings previously. It's a whiskey I also enjoy frequently. After the bourbon won the Best in Show Whiskey at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, it's gotten harder to find. Sadly, on this occasion the bottle finally gave its last, and my supply is gone. I'll need to keep an eye on the store shelves for a chance to restock.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Pikesville Rye and BLTC Bishops Blend

On a recent evening, I was looking for a strong and flavorful beverage with which to sit and relax. Opening my liquor cabinet, the obvious choice was Pikesville Rye. This one of my favorite ryes, but one that I enjoy rather infrequently, in no small part due to the 110 poof bottling. The obvious choice to accompany such a bold whiskey was another bold favorite, Black Label Trading Company 2020 Bishops Blend


Historically, Pikesville Rye was first produced in Maryland as far back as the 1890's. Prohibition killed the Maryland rye industry, the lone exception being Pikesville Rye. No longer produced in Maryland, this historical recipe is now made in Kentucky by Heaven Hill. Exhibiting a brilliant copper color, the rye looks as good as it tastes. Rich honey and caramel is backed by the strong spiciness of rye. The 55% ABV is noticeable but smooth and palatable. 

The 2020 limited release of Bishops Blend from Black Label Trading Company is one that's gotten a couple mentions here recently. It's one of my favorite cigars from 2020. I almost cringe when I light another of my dwindling stash, but cigars are meant to be smoked and enjoyed, not sit in a humidor being admired. 

Bishops Blend features an Ecuador Habano Maduro wrapper, Ecuador Habano binder, and a blended filler of Nicaraguan, Connecticut broadleaf, and Pennsylvania broadleaf tobaccos. The smoke features full bodied notes of coffee, cocoa, dark fruit and pepper.

I smoked this one down almost to burning my lips and fingers. Despite any numbness brought on my the rye, I played it safe and put it down before any ill effects. I'll certainly keep my eye out for a chance to restock before they are all gone from the store shelves.

Friday, September 11, 2020

September 11: Never Forget

It's been nineteen years. Memories fade. There's a whole generation that didn't experience the reality of that day. Some never learned history. Some have forgotten history. The events of September 11, 2001 brought horrors to our shores that the world should never be permitted to forget. Today our days are filled with the effects of the Chinese virus, racial tension both real and fabricated, and the Marxist violence in our cities. Yet, none of this compares with the horrors inflicted upon our country by our enemies on that September day. 

Never Forget. Never Forgive.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

September 9 is "Buy a Priest a Beer Day"

A tradition initiated by the folks over at The Catholic Gentleman, "Buy a Priest a Beer Day" seems a worthy event.
On this festive day, faithful Catholics all over the world take their priests out for a beer and get to know them better. It’s a beautiful Catholic tradition that goes back to the time of St. Hopswald of Aleyard, the first man to take his priest out for a beer.

Okay, St. Hopswald wasn’t real, but your priest is real. Priests are people too, and they enjoy socializing over good food and drink as much as anyone. They also have a thankless and difficult job, a job that we couldn’t get to heaven without. Priests are the lifeblood of the Church, and they deserve some appreciation.

So with that in mind, I would challenge you to do something concrete to show appreciation to your priest on September 9th. Yes, it could be taking him out for a beer, or it could be inviting him over to share dinner with your family. Be creative if you want, but give back to your priest somehow, and let him know that his ministry is making a difference.

Even if you can't do it today, most of the priests I know would appreciate the gesture of a beer any day.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Last Labor Day Cigar and Beer Hurrah

After a delightful four day weekend of good beer, whiskey, cigars, and simple relaxation, Monday afternoon provided one last bit of down time before resuming "normal" life. This delightful comb helped smooth the way.

Southern Tier Pumking is one of the few fall pumpkin beers I enjoy. I can even pour more than one in a sitting. Made with actual pumpkins, the beer has a smooth malt and pumpkin gourd flavor. So many so-called pumpkin beers, are little more than brews loaded up with cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. The beer pours a hazy amber color with a thin white head. There's some spice to be sure, but the predominate flavors are graham crackers, caramel, and pumpkin. The 8.6% ABV is almost imperceptible. The beer was enjoyed only slightly chilled as we had just picked up the four pack a few hours earlier in the day.

The RoMa Craft CRAFT 2020 is a smoke I've mentioned in the past. I'm halfway through the box of ten, and still enjoying them. The annual CRAFT series features various combinations of Connecticut Broadleaf and Ecuadorian Connecticut wrappers featuring Mexican San Andrés accents, and also American Broadleaf and Ecuadorian Habano wrappers decorated with Ecuadorian Connecticut leaf. The 5¾" x 46 corona gorda is a great vitola than burns evenly and feels good in the hand.

Four days of pleasant weather, good food, good drink, and good cigars made for a remarkable, if too short, break.

Monday, September 7, 2020

A Guinness and BLTC Last Rites

After the rain storms on Friday, the holiday weekend weather forecast couldn't have been more enticing. Sunny, cool days followed by cooler nights were prognosticated. That certainly came to pass on Saturday. By mid-afternoon I could resist the call no more and headed to the deck. Raise the umbrella to block the sun's glare, put the cushions on the chairs, grab an e-book, and it was time to settle in with a drink and a smoke.

A Black Label Trading Company Last Rites and can of Guinness Draught would make a nice afternoon refreshment. 

The Last Rites is a well-rolled 6" x 60 Grand Toro with a dark Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. The binder is Honduran and the filler is a tasty blend of Honduran and Nicaraguan leaves. It's a full bodied smoke with notes of creamy chocolate, coffee, and cedar throughout. The large ring gauge cigar burned evenly and cooly. This is a cigar I reach for frequently at the lounge, and also bring home regularly.

I was never, and still am not, a fan of bottled Guinness. The flavor just doesn't appeal to me on the few occasions I was offered a bottle. That said, I absolutely loved the Guinness we drank on our visits to Ireland, and accepted that I'd only drink it abroad. Then a friend urged me to try to Draught cans with the nitro capsule. I admit it, this is the next best thing to getting it in Ireland or at least proper Irish pub here at home.

The smooth, creamy Irish Stout made a perfect companion to the dark yet creamy notes of the cigar. Like the cigar, the beer offers a nice balance of bitter roast and sweet malt. Neither wiped out the flavor of the other. The slow burning cigar would provide a solid two hour smoke. That provided enough reason to open another another can of the stout. At just 4.2% ABV, it was an easy choice.

Colleen sound joined me on the deck to do some reading and enjoy a beer as well. We read and talked as the evening approached. Soon, the hungry mosquitos began arriving. We realized we've not really had them much this summer. Then again, until this cooler weather, most of our time has been spent inside the screened porch. I guess it's time to get out the citronella candles.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

La Coalición and an Oktoberfest

My employer treated us to a four day weekend this holiday, so after a fun Friday afternoon spent driving country roads, just to get out of the house, I settled out to the screen porch for a beer and cigar. After a beautiful morning and afternoon, a storm was approaching but I was hopeful it wouldn't be too intense.

I grabbed a bottle of Blue Mountain 13.Five Oktoberfest to enjoy with the smoke. The beer pours a clear amber with just a wisp of head. The aroma is sweet with notes of caramel and bread. As expected the flavor is sweet malt and caramel, with just a touch of bitterness. It's a relatively light flavor profile with a thin mouthfeel. The beer was enjoyable, but lacking the heft that I personally prefer in a Märzen style beer. However, I won't pass by the rest of the six pack either.

In contrast to the beer, Crowned Heads La Coalición is a full-bodied smoke. This is one I've been looking to try for a while, but just never got around to picking it up. This 5½" x 50 Gordito was part of the August pack from My Cigar Pack and I was excited to finally try it. I got rich notes of chocolate, espresso, cedar, and a touch of pepper throughout the 90 minute smoke. The stick burned evenly producing copious smoke, although it did threaten to go out and need a touch from the torch a couple times. I was not at all disappointed in the cigar, though next time I think I'll pair it with a strong stout or a bourbon.

Eventually the skies darkened and that storm came through. The rain fell and the wind blew hard. I actually had to move away from the screen to stay out of the rain being forced through. It was a short burst of weather activity, and in a short while I was back in my normal seat enjoying the cool air and the return of blue sky.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Jefferson's Ocean and CAO Flathead

Another weekend gone by, and more memories of cigars smoked and beverages sipped. One of the winning pairings from the past rainy weekend was this tasty combo.

Jefferson's Ocean Aged at Sea bourbon is one I picked up a couple years ago, but eventually found itself slipping further back on the shelf. It wasn't because it was lacking in any way, I enjoyed it quite a bit, other bourbons simply took focus. (That's probably a sign of buying too many whiskies, rather than drinking too much.) Recently I dug it out and have been pairing it with different cigars. The bourbon spends six to eight years in oak barrels which are then placed on a ship to travel the ocean for another six months. The voyage is said to cross the equator 4 times with stops in 30 ports. Unsurprisingly, the turbulent ocean voyage affects the flavor of the whiskey. The resulting 90 proof bourbon is smooth and mild, with a hint of brine in the flavor.

CAO Flathead Carb 660 is a cigar that I haven't smoked in a couple years. Again, simply because there are so many other cigars to explore. The nearly black, Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper covers an Ecuadorian Connecticut binder and Nicaraguan fillers. The smoke produces rich, semi-sweet chocolate, and espresso flavors. It's a full bodied smoke that packs a bit of strength too. The large cigar offers a good two hour smoke. The stick is very sharply box-pressed, with a very flat head. Box pressed cigars sometimes exhibit an uneven burn requiring touch ups along the way. The combination of the large ring gauge and extreme box shape of the Flathead 660 always, for me, produces a burn will require some maintenance along the way. It's also somewhat of an unnatural shape to dry to draw through. Despite the drawbacks, and it's a very enjoyable smoke and one that consistently gets high reviews.

I recently picked up a 10 pack of the Flathead, and although there's very little of the Jefferson's left, there are plenty of other bottles hiding in my cabinet with which to pair the bold cigar.

Monday, August 31, 2020

I Offended The Twitter

I don't read Twitter that often. For me, it's mainly a consolidation point from which to share blog posts, my beer check-ins on UnTappd, and the cigar pictures I upload to Instagram. As such it took me a few days to realize something was amiss.

I got an error when I tried to share the Glenlivet post but didn't think much about it at the time. Then I kept seeing the same posts at the top of my feed. At first, it didn't stand out, as there is a lot of repeated sharing on the platform. Then I noticed that the timestamps of the posts I saw had stopped on August 26. That's when I noticed that my Following count was zero, down from about 400. Well, that would explain why I saw no new content, but not why I was locked out from posting.

The mystery remain unsolved until I mentioned the issue to Colleen and she tried to view my Twitter feed. That's when I learned the account was "restricted."

I am not sure what caused the outrage. This is a screenshot of the last post Twitter allowed. Do the censors dislike Rocky Patel cigars or scotch?

After that post Twitter blocked me from posting anything further. They also will not allow me to follow anyone. Apparently alcohol, tobacco and firearms melt the Twitter-flakes. Of course, no notification came from Twitter, and my profile page gives me notice of the restriction. I've inquired via their customer support form, but expect no support whatsoever.

Truth be told, for the past week I haven't really missed Twitter either.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Thursday Evening at the Lounge

Ever have one of those weeks? Yeah, I know, every week.  By the time Thursday rolled around I was ready for the weekend. Yet, there I still had Friday to navigate, but I was ready to pretend for a bit, so I headed over to 1781 Brewing for a beer or two and a cigar at the lounge. It had been a few weeks since I relaxed at one of my favorites spots away from home.

Even before left home, I knew my choices for the evening. I had seen posts online from both the brewery and Olde Towne Tobacconist (at the farm) that had peaked my interest.

1781 Brewing Sea Monkey IPA is in the mug, even though you can't see it. This is an annual release and one I remember enjoying last year. I recall last year's version was more of a New England Style IPA, slightly hazy and bitter. The version this year still has a pleasing hop bitterness, but there is some citrus juiciness as well from an infusion of tangerines. Quite delicious. I think I'll have another.

The smoke for the evening was a CAO America, in a big 6" x 60 format. The wrapper is a dark Connecticut Broadleaf with a thin barber pole accent of Connecticut shade. The Brazilian binder encases Dominican Republic, Italy, Nicaragua, and USA Connecticut fillers. The medium bodied smoke produces a creamy flavor with notes of vanilla and cedar. Some pepper spice shows up near the end. 

It was a quiet, cool evening at the farm. I enjoyed the beer and the cigar immensely. The brief respite will help get me through just one more day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Glenlivet 15 and a Rocky Patel

My preferences in distilled spirits lean towards bourbon, but I do enjoy a variety of alcoholic beverages. In addition to the bourbons, the liquor cabinet is well-stocked with a variety of whiskies. On a recent relaxing evening I grabbed a bottle of The Glenlivet 15 to enjoy with my smoke. 

The Glenlivet 15 Year Old French Oak Reserve features sweet fruit, nuts, and moderate spice on the palate. I find it quite smooth and syrupy. 

This evening's cigar choice was the Rocky Patel Winter Collection. The new cigar from Rocky Patel brings dark espresso, nuts, with a touch of sweetness to the flavor pairing. Aesthetically, the dark Mexican San Andrés wrapper contrasted beautifully with the golden amber of the scotch.

The cigar and scotch complimented each other quite well. Sipping the beverage and enjoying the smoke was a pleasant way to relax after a long day, forget about the Chinese virus, and watch the sun set.

Monday, August 24, 2020

August IDPA Match

Range time was extremely limited in August and I was only able to find range time once in the past month. Four weeks from the last outing, I returned on Saturday to the Cavalier Rifle and Pistol Club for the monthly IDPA match. What has seemed like days of endless rain let up for the morning and we got in five very fun stages.

The first stage our squad shot was a simple stage, perfect to warm up on. Two strings of fire were shot while stationary, and both involved two nearby target arrays. Nothing fancy, although a stage that could tempt you to rush ahead of your sights, but I shot it clean.

On the next stage we started standing behind a table, then engaged a single target in the open on the way to the first cover point. From there, we saw a distant, and partially blocked by a non-threat, target. Moving forward there were three more targets to engage from cover. Following that we had a sprint to the final shooting position. Along the way there was ample open space to reengage any targets that needed it. A hard lean around the wall allowed the shooting of the final targets. Another -0 stage.

Moving to the next bay, we saw a four target stage, but one that included a swinging target. The swinger was activated by the shooter pulling a rope at the start. If your timing worked, you could shoot the swinger while transitioning between targets, or wait and shoot at the end. Or both. Rushing my first two shots on the left target caused me to make up two -1 shots and then mistime the exposed swinger. I moved on to engage the other two targets. That left me three rounds on my return to the swinger; I would have liked one more. I ended -5 for the stage.

The next course of fire was probably my favorite of the morning. There were six paper targets placed so that only one was visible from any angle. Shooting the stage meant lots of short, quick moves to find the next target. We started facing a stack of barrels. At the beep we dropped to a crouch to engage two targets through low ports, one to each side of us. Next were two targets to be found by leaning around the front of the barrels, and shooting through a narrow opening. Again, we had to move to both sides of the barrels to see both. The last two targets required backing up to the end of the enclosing wall to one side, then moving to the other side for the last target.

The match progressing quickly, we moved on to the last stage. This one had a seated start, with the loaded, but not chambered, gun set in a backpack on the table. After retrieving the weapon, we engaged two close targets to the left and one in the distance to the right. Getting up from the table, we were presented with two options for engaging the next target. One option involved a shorter movement distance, but a longer shot. Most folks picked the shorter shot. Moving across the course, we were presented another choice; engage two targets through a narrow opening, or take a longer route and engage the same targets with open but more distant shots. Again, the former seemed to be the favorite. The stage ended with a run to a close target from cover. Another fun stage, but another where I rushed the first two close shots.

Most of my shooting felt smooth and I was pretty happy with my performance. I ended up shooting three -0 zero stages, but two with -5 scores. That earned me an 18th out of 46 Overall, and 9th of 28 in SSP. It still would be nice to get in some range practice, outside of a match someday.

It was another super fun match on a beautiful late Summer morning. The temperature climbed to near 80°, but the humidity was only moderate. I enjoyed the stages and the people. It's always good to spend time with people doing what they enjoy, instead of sitting at home cowering in fear because the government tells them they should be sitting at home cowering in fear. We finished shooting by noon, and soon I was enjoying a pleasant drive through the country side on my way home, thinking about my afternoon cigar and beverage choices.

Monday, August 17, 2020

National Rum Day

Never one to miss a celebration, I was happy to lend my support to National Rum Day on Sunday. After we enjoyed an afternoon hike through a local Battlefield park, I decided to pair a rum with my Sunday cigar. I had a bottle of Don Q Oak Spiced Rum in the cabinet, which was paired with a Hamlet Tabaquero Solomon from Rocky Patel Cigars.

I'm not a regular rum drinker. This bottle was purchased for a specific recipe we were trying, but I've since enjoyed it occasionally on the rocks with a cigar. The spiced rum has notes of brown sugar and cloves, over a sweet vanilla and oaky base. The 90 proof bottling is smooth and eminently sippable.

The uniquely-shaped 7⅝" x 58 perfecto is always a pleaser. I had it a few times and enjoy both the flavor, and the fact that is is simply a nice looking cigar. The cigar is tapered its entire length, and sharply closes to a small tip at the head. The first bit hits with a kick, and then the flavors open up as more filler comes into play. The blend consists of a San Andrés wrapper, a Nicaraguan filler, and a combination of San Andrés and Brazilian Mata Fina double binder. Creamy sweetness, milk chocolate, cedar, earth, and oak all come through. Nearing full body by the end, the two hour smoke is a pleasure.

The smoke, and a few pours of rum done, I marked the weekend complete. I was as prepped as I can be for another week of "the grind," all in anticipation of the next weekend!

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Themed Cigar and Beer Pairing

It was a long week at work, er, at home, no, it's work, at home. Anyway, when Friday finally came, my phone became a little quieter, and I could relax and rejuvenate. After dinner, I grabbed a smoke I've been eyeballing in the humidor, along with one of my favorite bourbons, and retired to the back porch to unwind.

The cigar for the evening was Perdomo Reserve 10th Anniversary Maduro. The drink was the Henry McKenna 10 Year Bottled-in-Bond selection. 

The Perdomo Reserve 10th Anniversary was created to celebrate the 20-year history of the brand. (Yeah, I'm confused too.) The cigar is a Nicaraguan puro featuring a six-year-old Cuban seed wrapper which was aged in bourbon barrels for 14 months. The binder and fillers are described simply as more six-year-old Nicaraguan gown Cuban seed tobaccos.  

I had selected the 4¾" x 56 box-pressed figurado when I shopped. I was drawn in by the unique shape and the attractive, dark, slightly shiny maduro wrapper. This is a medium, bordering on full, bodied smoke. Rich earth and cocoa is balanced with a touch of sweetness. Despite the strong flavor, the smoke is smooth with an added hint of spice.

It wasn't until I was sipping the Henry McKenna, that I realized I was drinking a 10-year aged bourbon to go with the 10-year anniversary cigar. The caramel and vanilla sweetness, and oak flavors of the whiskey made a perfect accompaniment to the cigar. The 100 proof bourbon is smooth and goes down easily. Like the Buffalo Trace mentioned previously, this is another once ubiquitous bottle that has surged in popularity and is now hard to find on store shelves. 

The small cigar gave me a good 90 minutes of enjoyment. The temperature outside was quite mild, thanks to yet another storm passing by. I held on to the nub to the very end, squeezing out every bit of joy from the smoke that I could. 

Friday, August 14, 2020

The Martyrs of Otranto

Today, August 14, is the Feast Day of the Martyrs of Otranto. These faithful Christians were victims of muslim brutality and conquest in the Italian city of Otranto in 1480. On August 11, the town, which had been under siege for two weeks, was finally overrun by the Ottoman invaders. Subsequently, all men in the town over the age of 50 were slaughtered, and women and children under 15 were sent away into slavery. (Islam has actively engaged in slavery since its inception and continues to do so to this day.) The leader of the invaders, Pasha Ament ordered over 800 surviving Christian men brought before him and commanded them to convert to islam or face death. The faithful refused to cave in to his barbarous demands.

One of the men came forth and spoke in a manner that we should all pray we could emulate,
My brothers, until today we have fought in defense of our country, to save our lives, and for our lords; now it is time that we fight to save our souls for our Lord, so that having died on the cross for us, it is good that we should die for him, standing firm and constant in the faith, and with this earthly death we shall win eternal life and the glory of martyrs.
Angered that they would not renounce their faith, Pasha Ament ordered all the men killed. On August 14, 1480, the prisoners were brought to a nearby hill and beheaded, while their families and friends were merclessly forced to watch. The first to be executed was names Antonio Primaldo. According to tradition, his body refused to fall over until the entire group had been executed.

The destruction of the town complete, and its population decimated, the moslem invaders continued their march toward Rome. Due to the two-week delay in their conquest imparted by the resolve of the faithful Christians, the forces of Italy were able to mobilize in defense of Rome. Christianity was saved from the barbaric forces of Islam once again. 

A year later, in October 1481, the bodies of the martyrs were found to be uncorrupted and moved to the Otranto cathedral. On December 14, 1771, Pope Clement XIV beatified these brave men. On May 12, 2013 their cause for Sainthood was completed when Pope Francis declared the Martyrs of Otranto to be among the Saints in Heaven.

Martyrs of Otranto, Ora pro nobis!

Relics of the Otranto Martyrs

The islamic war on Christianity, and civilized people as a whole, continues to this day. The scimitar remains the conversion tool of choice. Throughout the world, Christians are slaughtered for their faith every single day. (That whole "religion of peace" meme notwithstanding.)

Even as the global religious persecution of Christian continues, Christianity in the United States faces new threats at home. The newly "woke" have become the useful idiots of anti-Christian Socialist and Marxist organizations. These groups mask their agenda with faux outrage over real injustice, leaving mayhem and destruction in their wake. Churches are ransacked and burned. "Peaceful" protestors brutally attack Christians in the streets. Leftist politicians under the guise of health precautions put forth unconstitutional mandates restricting citizens' freedom to worship. Churches are closed for "safety." All the while, rioting, shopping at Walmart, and abortion clinics are deemed safe.

During these times, may we remain as strong as those holy citizens of Otranto. We can take inspiration from these brave men and pray that we will remain as strong in our faith in the face of evil. I often pray that when the religious persecution comes, there be enough evidence to find me guilty.

Also see "How the 800 Martyrs of Otranto Saved Rome" for more on the martyrs and their place in the history of Christendom.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

A Saturday Afternoon the Brewery

I was looking through my photo journal recently and noticed it had been nearly month since I had been able to get out to 1781 Brewery to enjoy a beer or a cigar at the Olde Towne Tobacconist lounge onsite. This past Saturday presented a long-awaited "free" day so, after some chores around the house I headed out for a pleasant afternoon, to forget about the Chines virus and the government machinations to control the populations.

The first stop was to grab my drink. The brewery had several new beers on the menu since last time I was there. I eventually settled on Red Wolves IPA. I also picked up my new mug club member's mug.

There were plenty of new selections added to the shop's humidor since I last visited. Eventually I settled on a Crowned Heads Las Calaveras. This was a cigar I had actually smoked at my last outing, but since it's a limited annual release I figured I might as well grab another. I do have a few of these, in the smaller Robusto format, in my humidor so chose the larger 6" x 56 vitola.

I enjoy a good red ale, and the Red IPA was very satisfying. There's a moderate bite of hop goodness, backed by a strong malt backbone. It paired well with the sweet earthiness and mild spice of the cigar. Fortunately the larger cigar provided time for a couple pints of the ale. It was time well-spent in enjoyable conversation with folks in the lounge.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Mornings on the Porch

It's a rare Saturday morning when I get to laze around the house. That's not necessarily a bad thing, often it means I'm off doing something fun. But last Saturday there were no other plans, so after breakfast I retreated to the screened porch for a decadent coffee and smoke.

It had rained in the early morning, but the humidity and lower temperature presented a pleasant atmosphere. I prepared a creamy coffee and perused the humidor, grabbing a Rocky Patel Vintage 1992. The medium bodied cigar has earthy and leathery notes, which paired well with the creamy coffee.

Putting on some soft jazz, a pleasant hour hearing the last rain fall from the trees, and the birds waking up. The peacefulness was only interrupted by the sound of a tree falling in the woods. I'll have to investigate that sometime.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. I was indeed looking forward to getting some chores done around the house, so heading inside was only mildly regrettable.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Devils Backbone O'Fest

I am an unabashed fan of American craft Oktoberfest beer. I looked forward each year to trying as many of these "local" interpretations as a I can. Sure, the official Oktoberfest doesn't start until September 17, but the beers start showing up on store shelves around here in July. The first Oktoberfest I grabbed to enjoy this season was Devils Backbone O'Fest. After a false start earlier this week, the beer was finally cracked open after the last teleconference on Friday to kick off the weekend.

This year's O'Fest is markedly different from previous releases. Instead of the traditional Märzen-style, this year's version is a modern "festbier" brewed with Munich malts and traditional Hallertau hops. The lager pours a golden-yellow with a short live white head. The aroma has notes of bread and a mild floral sweetness. The flavor follows with lightly toasted bread, with only a hint of bitterness. The finish is clean with a light mouthfeel. It's quite a refreshing drink. While I typically gravitate to the maltier Märzens, I enjoyed this style quite a bit.

Naturally I grabbed a cigar to enjoy with the beer. The evening's choice was a La Aurora 107 Belicoso. The cigar features a brown Ecuadorian wrapper, a Dominican binder, with Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers. The flavor profile included coffee, chocolate, and leather. I found this to be a mild to medium bodied cigar. For my tastes, it came across as somewhat bland. It was a pleasant smoke, but unremarkable.

The evening was one of few lately when we experienced no storms. The temperature was unseasonably moderate, hovering right around 80°, making for a very pleasant start to the weekend.

Friday, August 7, 2020

IPA Day: Beer and a Cigar

I almost missed this. I was getting ready to enjoy my first Oktoberfest beer of the season, when the reminder of IPA Day crossed my social media feeds. The social media "holiday" is celebrated on the first Thursday of August. Figuring I might as well join in, I grabbed a bottle of Stone Brewing Mojay IPA and headed for the back deck.

This beer is the result of a collaboration between Stone and Burgeon Beer, created for the 10th American Homebrewers Association Rally held in 2018. It is said to represent an amalgamation of a New England-style IPA and a West Coast IPA. 

Admittedly, the bottle of beer had been sitting in my beer fridge since Stone's marketing folks sent it last year. The date stamp on the bottle was January 18, 2019 and I hoped the beer had maintained its hop profile. While I hadn't tried this beer before, it seems to have held up. The beer pours a hazy, dull orange color with a thick white head. The aroma is fruity and sweet. Sipping brings notes of bitter citrus rind, fruit sweetness, and some dank pine. Mouthfeel is sticky and the flavors linger on the palate. The name comes from the included Mosaic hops and orange juice resemblance; Mosaic + OJ = Mojay

I had also selected a cigar for this Thursday evening, but taking a sip of the beer before lighting up, I realized I needed to consider a more bold cigar for the pairing. I returned to the humidor and grabbed a newly acquired (literally that afternoon) Rocky Patel Winter Collection in Robusto.

The cigar is a new release from Rocky Patel, and is a continuation of a season-based series released in 2008. The 2020 release features a Mexican San Andrés wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder, and Honduran and Nicaraguan fillers. The bold cigar features dark espresso, nuts, with a touch of sweetness. While it's probable the bitterness of the beer muted the flavors somewhat, I found this to be an extremely flavorful and enjoyable smoke. Despite the wind from my deck fans and the approaching storm, the excellent construction resulted in a razor burn all the way through.

My timing of the smoke was perfect, as I approached the end of the cigar, and the bottle of beer, the summer storm rolled in. My music was soon drowned out by the sounds of rain and thunder, and the blowing rain began coming through the screens. At the same time I was struck by the juxtaposition of the Winter Collection in the midst of the Summer storm. I'll look forward to lighting up another soon.

I'll get to that Oktoberfest beer soon enough.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Evening Bourbon and Rocky Patel

Warm evenings on the deck are the norm for the summer. For one recent after-dinner repast, I faced the warm air with a favorite cigar from Rocky Patel and a tasty rye whiskey in my glass. 

Redemption High Rye Bourbon is a easy sipping whiskey. The flavor profile is not all that complex. There are notes of oak, honey, and a touch of dark fruit. A bit of pepper comes in at the finish, but it's mild for a rye. This is a bottle I reach for often, and at under $30 a pop, it's easy to enjoy regularly.

The Rocky Patel Tavicusa is a smoke that's been mentioned in these Musings previously, and is a favorite. It's a stick that starts with a quick pepper spice and then mellows to coffee and cocoa, with a touch of sweetness. The remaining sticks in my humidor have a couple years age on them, and I get the impression they are mellowing a bit. I might have to finish them soon and restock.

The bourbon and the cigar, and some jazz from the speaker, got me through the evening wind down just fine.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Bell's Hopslam and A Balmoral Cigar

Not too long ago, I found a lone can of Bell's Brewing Hopslam Ale hiding in the back of the beer fridge. I was excited as I thought I had consumed the last of the supply I acquired in Spring 2019. Those cans were some of the last available after Bell's announced they would no longer ship their beers to Virginia

Hopslam is an annual release from the Michigan brewery. The Double IPA at one time seemed like it had almost a cult following, and the retail price reflected the demand. In more recent years, my impression is the price had moderated somewhat. The newer distribution in cans helps to preserve the beer so those cans that get lost in the recesses of the fridge stay pretty fresh.

The beer pours a golden amber with a sticky white head. The aroma bring citrus and honey to the nose. The taste is bitter grapefruit, with a honey and fruit background. The mouthfeel is sticky and oily. It's not a beer to guzzle, but one to sip and savor.

My cigar pairing this time was the Balmoral Anejo XO Nicaragua Rothschild. The Nicaraguan Habano wrapper encased a Brazilian Cuban seed binder and a blend of Dominican Republic Olor, Nicaraguan, and Brazil Mata Norte fillers. The cigar's flavors are somewhat muted by the beer's lingering remnants on my palate. The smoke brought notes of milky coffee, toffee, sweet fruit and a touch of pepper. My glass of ale lasted for about half the smoke, at which time I switched to simple water. The flavors of the medium-bodied cigar stood on their own a bit more once the beer remnants faded. Throughout the smoke, I found this to be a quite enjoyable cigar.

It doesn't appear we will be getting Bell's in Virginia again for awhile, as the legal battle around Virginia's three-tier system stretches on.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

An Old Beer and A New Cigar

How to wind down the weekend? That was the question after dinner last Sunday. It had been a full weekend of good smokes, drinks, and shooting. It was still warm (I'm sounding like a broken record.) but bearable, with proper refreshments. I went back to digging through the old beer stash in the basement and came up with a bottle of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale from 2013. 

I've been neglectful picking up bottles of this annual release. However, I've got quite a few older vintages from various years stashed away, some even older than this one. The Barleywine-style ale is ripe for aging.

The seven year old Bigfoot Ale featured a rich, sweet malt backbone, with a pleasing hop bitterness in the finish. Carbonation was good and the beer left a sweet coating on the palate. I was sorely tempted to dig out another bottle but resisted the urge. 

The cigar selected was the Viva La Vida in Torpedo. This 6 ½" x 54 stick was another from a recent My Cigar Pack shipment. Featuring a dark, shiny Habano Maduro wrapper over a Nicaraguan Corojo binder and Criollo ’98 fillers, the boutique cigar comes from Artesano del Tabaco in collaboration with master AJ Fernandez. The full-bodied smoke has rich notes of leather, coffee, pepper and cinnamon spice, all with a hint of sweetness. Construction was perfect and I got a razor sharp burn and plenty of flavorful smoke all the way to the nub.

Of course, I was inspired to dig up a video of Coldplay performing the song of the same name as I enjoyed the smoke.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Espresso and a Smoke

Sometimes one has to ease in to the weekend, rather than jumping too quickly. Once I finished last week's work, I opted to chill a bit before dinner with an espresso and a smoke. At the very least, the coffee would give me the the boost to begin the weekend with gusto a little later.

After preparing my drink, I grabbed a Balmoral Anejo XO Rothschild Masivo. This cigar was part of the My Cigar Pack June shipment. The Balmoral brand is a new one to me. I enjoyed a Balmoral Anejo XO Nicaragua just a few days prior and was looking forward to comparing this darker blend to that one.

The Balmoral Anejo XO features a shiny Brazilian Sungrown wrapper, Dominican Republic Olor binder, with fillers from Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua. This is a full bodied smoke with notes of charred wood, dark coffee, and pepper. A good bourbon, neat, might have been a more complimentary accompaniment. I opted for only the one double espresso, and finished most of the smoke with simple water. The warmth on the deck was still building in the late afternoon, so the plentiful glasses of cold water were welcome.

The smoke was enjoyable. I would have to say I enjoyed the Balmoral Anejo XO Nicaragua just a bit more. (Review posted later here.) That said, I only had the one cigar of both, so comparisons a few days apart are questionable at best. My cigar finished, it was time for dinner and to contemplate the evening's selections. 

Monday, July 27, 2020

Cavalier Monthly IDPA Match

Another hot Saturday, and another hot IDPA match. That's the pattern for the summer in Virginia. This past weekend the event was the monthly IPDA match at Cavalier Rifle and Pistol Club. Five very fun courses of fire awaited the 41 shooters who braved the summer sun.

The first stage we shot presented three shooting positions, all from behind the cover of barrels. The layout was symmetrical with three targets available from the two end positions, and one from the middle.

The stage was interesting in that the targets visible from the two end points of cover, were seen from across the stage. You had to remember to engage targets that were in front of you, and the ones that where on the opposite side. Many shooters also failed to keep the engagement priority straight and failed to "pie" the corner, earning penalties. Not a difficult or tricky stage, but you had to have your plan well in mind. 

The next stage as one that involved many points of cover around a zig-zagging array of walls. The course started with three targets in the open, and the next five were lone targets at different shooting positions — one point of cover, one target. It was only one or two steps needed to get to the next opening or corner between the targets, which made for some interesting footwork.

I enjoyed the next stage a lot. The course began with us engaging three pieces of falling steel that were placed behind the -0 zone of IDPA targets. Then we moved to find two targets around the end of a wall. After that we navigated a couple corners in a hallway to shoot the last three targets. These final targets were shot from a low opening in the wall that required us to kneel to see the targets.

Bay 5 at Cavalier typically holds the course that offers the longer shots of the match, so I was not surprised to see that being the case this month again. (I do not walk the stages to get a sneak peak before the match.) Shot from both sides of a partition, the stage had three closer targets, with non-threats, on the right, and three targets at increasing distances to the left.

I felt confident going in to the stage, even though the heat was beginning to affect me. I was thinking about getting through the next two stages and retreating to the A/C of my car. As so often turns out to be the case, the closest of the left targets was the one I rushed, dropping one shot for a miss.

The last stage we shot had a most interesting target set up. It was one that I debated my preferences for shooting right up to the last moment. I was so focused on my plan, and I was feeling drained, that I neglected to get a picture of the stage. I virtually kicked myself for that oversight when I realized it on the drive home.

The stage was shot from behind a table, with the loaded gun and all magazines starting on the table. Directly in front of the shooter was a non-threat. Behind the non-threat stood a target array with a full target and four head-only targets poking out from behind it, two on each side. There was also a head-only target placed on each side to of the stage. Besides the table, walls on either side limited movement. 

The gun was loaded with only six rounds to start. The center open target required six hits, and the six head-only targets all required one hit each. The placement of the non-threat in the center and the walls meant that the center array could only be fully engaged by leaning or stepping from one side to the other. Each outer target could only be seen while engaging the opposite side of the center array. I opted for the straightforward plan of shooting all six of the required hits on the center target first, then reloading and engaging all the head shots.

The fun stage done, I was fully cooked, despite the multiple bottles of water consumed. While the temperature was minutely cooler than last weekend's match, I seemed to be affected a bit more this week. After I shot, I made my apologies and headed for the car. I think it may be the first time in some 10 years of shooting matches that I scooted before the the last shooter was done. A cool shower and even more water once I was home, did make for a quick recovery.

I thought the stages at this month's match were exceptionally interesting and fun to shoot. Some sloppier shooting as the morning wore on had me finishing 16th of 41 Overall, and 9th of 23 in SSP. Looking back, that's a little better than last week, despite the affects of the heat. There's no more shooting for me for a few weeks, so we'll see what August brings.