Monday, March 30, 2020

STILL No Range Time But Cigars Are Still A Go

The last time I was able to enjoy some range time was the Sanner's Lake IDPA match at the beginning of the month. Subsequent plans to shoot Cavalier IDPA and the next Sanner's Lake matches have been cancelled indefinitely. The upcoming MD State and VA State IDPA matches are in doubt as well. Despite the fact that the DHS has ruled that shooting ranges are "essential services," our leftist Governor has ordered them be closed, thus also quashing any practice indoor practice opportunity.

At least the government can't control the weather (yet) so the back deck was a fitting place for social distancing this weekend. Chores, cigars and a few good beverages, would once again provide a pleasant distraction. Spending so much time isolated on the deck led to me being tired of looking at the rusty fan housing, so I resolved to clean and repaint it. The first round of paint done Saturday morning, I settled in with a Camacho Connecticut, paired with a Bold Rock cider. Both the smoke and the drink are on the lighter side of my usual preferences. However, for mid-afternoon relaxation, they proved more than satisfactory. I may revisit both in the near future.

Saturday evening, while Colleen was enjoying a virtual gathering with a group of her friends, I again escaped outside. This time, my pairing choice was Basil Hayden's Dark Rye and a Rocky Patel Tavicusa. This hiatus from the worldly chaos offered more kick than the afternoon pairing. I hope my neighbors enjoyed the loud Joe Bonamassa music blaring from my speakers. Coincidently, the bottle of rye was picked up during our traditional beverage run after the last IDPA match I was able to shoot. The rich, full of flavor of the smoke was an exceptional match for the unique taste of the whiskey.

Our governor has also made it illegal for the faithful to attend religious services, so we started Sunday morning watching a live-stream of Holy Mass in our living room. (Like guns, religion has long topped the left's hit list.) The virtual substitute for the real thing absorbed, it was time to finish the fan painting project. That was followed by a bit of yard work, which was a welcome reminder that spring is upon us.

Once again, I shortly found myself on the deck for a relaxing and distracting afternoon smoke. The warm sun on my back, the first cigar of the day was Crowned Heads Four Kicks 2019 Limited Edition while sipping on some iced tea. The full bodied smoke was enjoyed while listening to a bevy of birds singing in the woods, including some very vocal Pileated Woodpeckers and a distant Bard Owl.

The restful interlude was followed by a few more quick chores around the yard. Later, after dinner I retired to my spot on the deck, basking in the warmth and admiring that newly refreshed fan. (Simple pleasures for simple people.) Colleen joined me in enjoying the sunshine, while we listened to the neighborhood owl who was still being quite vocal. Hopefully we'll enjoy the sight of him soon.

For a quick "dessert" I grabbed an Oliva Serie G Maduro to enjoy with my after dinner coffee. The small cigar was good for a quick 40 minute smoke.

And then the weekend was over. Good drink, cigars, and a few spring-cleaning chores were good distractions over the two days. I'd really like to share the news of a trip to the range or a brewery, but I suspect this will be the extent of our adventures for some time to come.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Happy "Chinese Virus" Birthday

On Saturday I marked another trip around the sun. I'd been looking forward to simply relaxing on Saturday, even more than any celebration. We've experienced several days of warm Spring-like weather with temps in the 70's and 80's this week, until Saturday when the thermometer barely cracked 50°. Disappointing but tolerable. The need for social distancing as our country deals with the Chinese virus pandemic would not be allowed to add more than a minor inconvenience to the day.

The morning started off as usual, with breakfast followed by some yard chores. After lunch, we made use of the local Starbuck's drive-thru to take advantage of my free birthday coffee, this time with extra espresso added. Retiring to the screen porch I enjoyed the coffee, some light reading, and a Rocky Patel Vintage 1992.

It got a little chilly in the shade of the porch, but the sun would intermittently pop through the clouds to take the edge off. Once the smoke was finished, I took some time to prep the fire pit for use later in the day. Time around the fire pit was on my short list of birthday plans, and would be unaffected by isolation.

Typically, we dine out for birthday celebrations, but that would not be possible this year. We did the next best thing, and placed a to go order at one of our favorite restaurants. We are making an effort to support them during this crisis, and I joked with the manager that we'll probably be eating their food more than we do during "normal" times!

A couple months ago I had picked up a bottle of Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon. This is one of my favorite whiskeys, but one that's reserved for special occasions. I had also reserved a favorite cigar for this celebration, a Fratello Navetta Inverso. The cigar had been resting in my humidor since last fall, also for just the right time and whiskey pairing.

Soon, the trio of the fire, the bourbon, and the cigar was providing copious warmth, both externally and internally. Colleen joined me fireside and we enjoyed a few hours of relaxation, conversation, and simply forgetting the concerns of the rest of the world.

Eventually, I let the fire die down. It was a tough decision to call it quits, but another treat was in store for the evening. We had some Irish Whiskey Bread and Butter Pudding left from our combination St. Patrick and St. Joseph Feast Days celebrations earlier in the week. This is another one of my favorite celebratory pleasures.

World pandemics aside, it could not have been a more enjoyable celebration. Birthdays these days seem all the more treasured. In these times of "social media" and "social distancing" even those Facebook and text messages from friends were treasured. For one day at least, the demands of work and plummeting 401k's seem just a little more distant.

And it's officially Spring, so brighter days are coming soon!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Surviving COVID-19 with Beer and Cigars

What else shall I do? I don't need to run out to shop for hand sanitizer or toilet paper. My work schedule, though from home, is filled with frequent conference calls and check-ins as we negotiate the (temporary) displacement of the normal routine. But, life goes on and so does the enjoyment of cigars and adult beverages.

After a busy Thursday, and presumably my last day in the office for a while, I escaped the cacophony of pandemic news and planted myself in a comfortable chair at the Olde Towne Tobacconist lounge at 1781 Brewing. With a tasty brew in my mug, I lit a Micallef "To Be Named Maduro." This pre-release cigar is currently available at Micallef retailers for review by enthusiasts. The final name will be nominated and voted on by the company's "Ambassadors" social media group.

The ale for the pairing was 1781 Brewing L'Automne Imperial Irish Red Ale. This beer has malt and caramel sweetness with a nice dry finish. Both the beer and the cigar are medium bodied in flavor, with the beverage coming in as the more dominant profile. The cigar had nice leather and coffee notes, but was milder than expected. Overall, a quite enjoyable combination.

After dinner Friday, the temperature was approaching 70°, allowing for a pleasant outdoor respite on the screen porch. Perusing the basement beer fridge, I realized that I have been remiss in keeping it well-stocked, and the choices were limited. I found a lone Old Bust Head Caramel Macchiato Stout hiding in the backRoasted coffee notes were topped by vanilla and caramel sweetness. I grabbed a Man O'War Armada by AJ Fernandez from the humidor to go along with the beer. The cigar has an Ecuadorian wrapper over Nicaragua filler and binder. For my tastes, beer started out too sweet. However, has I progressed with the smoke, the moderately full wood and spice notes countered the cloyingness of the beer.

We had plans to attend an afternoon event featuring Irish music, food, beer, and cigars on Saturday. However, giving in to "social distancing" we opted to stay home. Though a bit cooler than Friday, it was still warm enough to allow for another beer and cigar paring on the back deck. Staring again at my bare beer fridge, I located a Tröegs Nugget Nectar. Though not a traditional red ale, this Imperial Amber Ale is one my favorite seasonal beers.

The previously selected cigar choice for the afternoon event was the Alec Bradley Filthy Hooligan Shamrock. The venue may have changed, but I was still going to light that stick. This is a limited release that sports three different Honduran wrapper leaves creating a unique triple striped barber pole. The flavor was medium bodied with espresso, leather, and wood. It's probably a great match for an Irish stout, however it was also most enjoyable with the bitter hopped Red Ale. I have another, so perhaps after I restock the fridge I'll try the Stout pairing.

Sitting in the sun, reading a book and listening to music made for a most enjoyable afternoon. The pleasure was only slightly marred by having to grab my laptop and sit on another call before I finished the smoke.

I suspect this will be the routine for a while, so I'm hoping warm temperatures prevail in the coming weeks. There are certainly worse ways to weather this storm. Alas I do need to go on a beer run to restock that supply.