Monday, June 29, 2020

Cavalier IDPA Match

Another Saturday and another chance to shoot. This past Saturday I joined some friends for the monthly IDPA match at Cavalier Rifle and Pistol Club. This was the second weekend in a row when I was able to have some IDPA fun. It's a nice respite from all the pandemic pandering.

Our squad kicked off on a stage which had us starting mid-stage facing a wall. The stage was generally symmetrical, with numerous options for engagement. In fact, I noticed the first four shooters all ran the stage differently. For my part, I began by retreating to engage targets from cover at each side of the course. Then moving forward to the center fault line, there was a single target visible through an opening created by walls and barrels. Continuing forward to the center, two more targets were visible through that same opening. 

That was a fun stage, and I was happy to shoot it -0.

Moving on to the next bay, we found an interesting stage, with moving targets and steel. To either side, closest to us, was a swinger on the left and a disappearing drop turner to our right. Down range was a single static target and three steel poppers, one of which activated both movers. Each paper target required three hits each. Since neither mover was visible at the start, the down range targets had priority. However, as soon as the activation steel was engaged the movers took priority. There was a lot of discussion on the best way to shoot it, taking into account priority, timing, and concerns for not having an empty gun when the disappearing target was activated. With all the discussion and thought going into the stage, I neglected to take a picture.

I felt good going in to shoot the stage. The movers were moderately close, and there seemed to be plenty of time to get at least three shots in each. Yet, when the holes in paper were counted I was left 10 down for the course, mostly due to a couple of -3 shots, as well as some -1 holes on the swinger. Moving on…

Another retreating start was featured in the next stage. We began mid-stage, standing in a corner. Backing up range, there were targets engaged around walls at either side of the course. Next moving down the center of the array of walls, we shot a lone target from the fault line at an opening in the wall. Moving forward a couple more targets became visible through the same opening. Two more shooting positions came into play, before finishing the course of fire on a head shot only target while doing a hard lean around cover.

It was a quick stage, and I finished down two points. At least I was back on track after the previous run.

More steel showed up on the following stage. Shot from a single position, the stage consisted of four paper targets and four falling steel, placed at three levels of priority, the steel in the middle. Each paper target required three hits each. 

Rapidly engaging the first two targets, I swung towards the steel. I caught a glimpse of a -1 hit but moved on before it registered. The steel fell quick with one make up shot. The extra shot actually was a benefit in allowing me to reload on the transition to the back paper targets. This turned out to be my best stage, finishing second in SSP and fourth overall for the stage.

To shoot the last stage we engaged two targets close up while moving, again backwards, to engage a target from cover. Then we crossed the bay to enter a tight zig-zag hallway and find the final two targets. I ended -1 for this stage.

During my post match drive home I contemplated the morning's performance. Excepting the disaster of the movers, I was 4 points down for the remaining four stages. So, I was pretty happy with my accuracy. I find it's my movement and transitions that have been hurt the most by the months of limited or no shooting. I did notice myself hesitating and verifying shots before moving to the next position. Last week I caught myself dropping the gun out of shooting position while moving, and getting it back up late. I tried to remember that during this match and transition better. With matches limited and range time even more rare, perhaps I should get back to the discipline of dry firing. My (old) dry fire routine included practicing transitions between targets and positions which would likely help my overall score.

By the end of the match I was worn out from the heat and sun. Nonetheless it was a fun morning of shooting and seeing friends. Now that summer is truly here, heat and humidity on the range will be the order for the day over the next a few months. I'll take that over "social distancing" any day.

Friday, June 26, 2020

A Cigar and Port

Father's Day eve, Colleen and I enjoyed the pleasant weather with an evening on the screen porch, listening to music and thunderstorms. While discussing our beverage options, Colleen mentioned we had a bottle of port in the pantry. I had been preparing to mix up an Old Fashioned, but that port did sound good.

I was looking forward to enjoying the new Bishops Blend from Black Label Trading Company, and the Graham's 10 Year Tawny Port felt like it would be an excellent pairing option. Sure, some may say it's a winter drink, but some people are afraid the wear white before Memorial Day too.

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 vitola. The blend is comprised of an Ecuadoran Maduro wrapper, an Ecuador Habano binder, and a mix of Nicaraguan, Connecticut broadleaf, and Pennsylvania broadleaf filler tobaccos. The smoke gives off flavors of coffee, cocoa, and some interesting dark fruit notes. There's a bit of pepper in there as well. It's a full bodied flavor profile. And extremely enjoyable. The burn was excellent as well.

The dark fruit notes in the port made for a very pleasurable pairing. As we poured repeated glasses of the port, I continually was impressed by cigar, and how well it went with the port. I generally gravitate to bourbon or beer when it comes to alcohol with cigars. Lately I've been experimenting with rum, amaretto, and even limoncello. This particular pairing was indeed a pleasure. 

I soon regretted that the cigar was merely a 5" x 48 Robusto. I picked up three of these at the lounge a few weeks, smoke one there and brought two home. I resisted lighting up the remaining stick in my humidor this evening. I'll save it for another day. Until researching the Bishops Blend for this post, I did not realize just how limited the production was. I wonder if the shop still has any left.

Interested in more cigar content? Follow me on Instagram at VA_SIGFan.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Tröeg's Haze Charmer and an Afternoon Smoke

For a light after work light refreshment recently I retrieved a can of Tröegs Haze Runner Pale Ale from the fridge. The can was part of a package of summer beers sent for review by Tröegs Brewing. Haze Runner is a new year round beer from Tröegs that was released this spring.

The beer has an unfiltered, hazy appearance due to the unmalted wheat used in the brewing, as well as dry-hopping. The glass sports a bright white head, which drops away after a few sips. Citrus and pine lead the aroma. Sipping brings juicy citrus flavors of pineapple, grapefruit and some sweet peach. There's a moderate mix of wheat and oak, and some pine in the finish. The mouthfeel is somewhat chewy with a tingling carbonation. It's an easy drinking beer that goes down fast, and the mild 5.5% ABV suits the fast drink.

Naturally I grabbed to smoke to enjoy as I reviewed the beer. Last month's shipment from My Cigar Pack included the limited Lost & Found No Free Lunch from Caldwell cigars. I wasn't familiar with the stick, though I expected it to be mild. Lost & Found finds cigars that were originally blended by other factories, then repackages them under the new label for charitable purposes. Proceeds from the sales of No Free Lunch will go to relief efforts related to COVID-19.

No Free Lunch features a Dominican wrapper, Indonesian binder, and Dominican fillers, producing a very mild cigar. While the cause is noble, I found the cigar to be rather uninspiring. Your mileage may vary depending on your preferences. At least the cigar flavor didn't overwhelm the beer. I nursed the beer along for about half the stick before boredom stepped in and I switched to the beer alone.

As a year-round offering, I'll keep an eye out for Tröegs Haze Runner at my local stores. It will make a very enjoyable summer refreshment. 

The beer mentioned in the post was an unsolicited gift from the brewery. The review represents my opinion and is provided without compensation.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Rivanna IDPA Match

The Saturday of Father's Day weekend offered a rare, for the year 2020 so far, chance to shoot an IDPA match. On an overcast but warm morning I headed over the Rivanna Rifle & Pistol club for the "monthly" match. About 85 shooters braved all the pandemic posturing to enjoy the outdoors, camaraderie, and a morning of good shooting.

The first of four stages had us starting seated, with our unloaded gun in a box and magazines on the table. We faced an up close non-threat directly in front of us, with five targets downrange to be shot in priority. As a twist, the stage briefing stated the first four targets were shot while seated, while the last and furthest target was to be engaged while standing. All targets required three hits on each.

This is was fast and fun stage, which I was pleased to shoot zero down.  

The next stage involved shooting while retreating. The first two targets were mandated to be shot while standing at the start position, before we began backing up to engage four more targets as they appeared to either side as we passed by the barrels hiding them. Again, each target required a minimum of three hits on each.

Zero down again for me on this stage, though I did lose a bit of time fumbling the reload.

Moving on to stage 3, we found six targets and a couple of non-threats behind a wall. The two center targets were engaged through an opening in the wall. Two more targets were to be found by moving to both ends of the wooden barriade. Again, all targets required three hits, though this time it was specified as requiring two to the body, and one to the head. 

Wow. I was on a roll, with another -0 stage. 

The last course of fire had us shooting from a marked box on the ground, our movement limited to a few feet. Three non-threats placed mid-bay had to be avoided in order to engage the eight targets lined up at the back, each requiring two hits. Now the pressure was on, at least in my own head. Could I complete the match down zero? 

I was to be the next to last shooter on the last stage, but I avoided ruminating on that question while I waited. When it was finally my turn to shoot, I tried to do so deliberately, and at an even pace. It felt good, but the holes in the cardboard where just out of my vision range. I walked down range and listened to the call, "down 1."

Okay, down just one point for the match. No hits on non-threats. And, as I recall, a single make up shot the entire match. Of course, some would say such a clean match simply means I shot too slowly. But, I was pleased with the performance, finishing 4th of 18 in SSP.

I've been able to shoot very little during the covid-related panic and tyrannical restrictions on personal freedoms. For the morning at least, it was a pleasure to be be surrounded with other folks enjoying a good time.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Two Whiskeys, One Cigar

As I prepared for Friday evening, I had a hankering for some Redbreast 12 Year Irish Whiskey. I poured a glass, grabbed a cigar and headed for the porch. For this pairing I selected the Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial in a Torpedo format. The Oliva is one of those cigars I turn to often, and the torpedo is a fun vitola to smoke.

As I headed out the door, I mentioned to Colleen that this might not be the best pairing. I knew the cigar and I knew the whiskey. But I was craving both, so onward I went. The Redbreast is a relatively mild whiskey, with a subtle sweetness of white grapes and honey. It's a good whiskey with which to start a long evening. The Oliva Serie V Maduro is a full bodied smoke featuring rich, creamy chocolate with cedar and nuttiness in the finish. The ligero leaf added to the filler gives it a bit of strength. Both were exceedingly enjoyable, but as predicted, they just didn't compliment each other. But persevere I did.

Once that pour of whiskey was downed, I still had plenty of cigar left. Heading back to my whiskey stash, I went directly for the bottle of Woodford Reserve Double Oak Whiskey. There was no risk involved in this choice, it would be a hit. This fine bourbon tops my list with smooth, sweet oak notes. A slight fruit and vanilla aspect adds to the pleasure. As expected, the match was perfect.

One of the aspects of enjoying beverages, be they coffee, beer, whiskey, or other, with cigars and food is experimenting with pairings. They may not always work, but when you find one that hits the spot like the Woodford and Serie V, it's a great pleasure. Of course, the ongoing hunt for perfection is always fun.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Flag Day & Other American Celebrations

On June 14, 1777, the Second Congressional Congress officially adopted the design of our nation's flag. Flag Day is celebrated each June 14 as proud Americans celebrate the freedoms the flag represents. Given the lack of respect, in fact hatred, so many show for our country's greatness these days, Flag Day offers an opportunity to remember how great this country truly is.

There are other, less official, holidays on today's calendar as well. June 14 is has been designated as National Bourbon Day. And if that doesn't tickle your tastebuds, it's also National Strawberry Shortcake Day

Our flag, some bourbon, and a sweet dessert — it really doesn't get more American than that!

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Saturday Kickoff

Saturday dawned cool and sunny. Perfect for some early morning time on the back porch. While the household slept in a little longer, I allowed myself a bit of decadence and whipped up a cappuccino to enjoy with a Rocky Patel Sungrown Maduro Lancero.

The Sungrown Maduro is one of my favorites, though I usually enjoy the Robusto format.  The 7½" x 38 Lancero packs a stronger flavor profile due to the larger wrapper ratio and concentrated smoke. The cigar format and the USA Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper provide an elegant smoke, but one that requires a bit more concentration to maintain a good burn. The espresso and bitter cocoa flavor profile made an enjoyable match for the rich coffee drink.

Adding some Charlie Parker jazz in the background as I heard the house waking up, completed the atmosphere. I got through most of the smoke and a second cup of coffee before the neighbors fired up a pressure washer and drowned out the music and morning bird sounds. But no worries, it was time to go visit with house guests, before heading off to an afternoon at a local cigar lounge with a friend. 

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Tröegs Sunshine Pilsner

Saturday was an extraordinarily productive day. After breakfast, and on just a single cup of coffee, I went to work on my planned chores for the day. I reframed and hung a new screen door on the porch, transplanted some deck plants to the garden, and upgraded to a new work laptop. All before noon! After a shower and lunch, it was time for relaxation. That was enough productivity for a Saturday!

A few weeks back I received a summer care package of four beers and a bandana from Tröegs Brewing. I decided to grab one of them, and an appropriate cigar, and retire to my newly-doored porch to enjoy a rest. 

A can of Tröegs Sunshine Pilsner seemed appropriate for the sunny afternoon. Digging deep into the humidor, I located a Foundation Charter Oak Connecticut Toro.

Sunshine Pilsner is one of Tröegs' core beers. The beer pours bright straw yellow with a pure white head. The aroma is grass and hay. Sipping the 4.5% ABV pilsner brings notes of bread, grass, and white grape, all backed with a bitter citrus zest. The mouthfeel is crisp and carbonated. Grassy and citrus bitter notes linger in the finish. 

The Charter Oak Connecticut is a cigar I've not smoked in a couple years. I don't smoke a lot of cigars featuring Connecticut Shade wrappers, as they often get a bit bland, and even bitter at the end for me. In addition to the USA Connecticut Shade wrapper, this cigar features a Sumatra binder and fillers from Nicaragua. To my delight, the flavor of the smoke was pleasing to the end.

All in all, this sunny combo worked well together. Neither the beer nor the cigar overpowered the other. Rather than contrasting, the flavors of both, especially in the finish, were surprisingly similar.

If anything, the only downside of the experience was keeping the cigar dry. The cold beer in the humid air created copious condensation on the outside glass, and I frequently reached for the cigar with a wet hand. I nursed that glass of beer nearly through the entire smoke, often almost nodding off in the warm air. Not a bad way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon, if I do say so myself.

The beer mentioned in the post was an unsolicited gift from the brewery. The review represents my opinion and is provided without compensation.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Ending the Week, or Starting the Weekend?

Friday evening I jumped in the car to head over to the brewery to enjoy some music, a beer, and a cigar. The sun was shining overhead. As soon as I started west I could see dark clouds ahead. A quick check of the Dark Sky app on my phone showed storms approaching. So I changed course and headed back home. 

Moving to the porch I lit up a Fratello D.M.V. District of Columbia, made myself a Rye Old Fashioned and waited. I didn't have to wait long. Soon I actually needed to turn on a light on the porch, as the rain and lightening started in force and sunlight vanished.

Turning up the music, I sat back and enjoyed the quickly cooling temps, as well as the light and sound show. The Fratello D.M.V. is one of my favorite smokes. This one was released in 2018 and has aged to perfection. To my knowledge, this vitola and blend was a one-time release; the 2019 release changed the blends for all sizes. I have five four, left in my humidor that I am slowly going through. The medium bodied smoke has notes of leather and spice. It's a great pairing with the drink, and the nearly two hour smoke allows for a couple of glasses of the cocktail.

The storm passed relatively quickly, and I was thankful for the soaking rain for the lawn. As I enjoyed the evening, I got to thinking, was this a fine ending to the work week, or a fitting start to the weekend? I guess it was really both. I'm not sure what happened out at my original destination, but there's a whole weekend ahead to allow for another try.

Monday, June 1, 2020

A Wee Bit of Normality

Around our house we are especially pleased to see the month of May be done. Was it really only 31 days? Seems much longer. Like everyone else of course, we've been dealing with the "COVID-1984" restrictions. On top of that, we've had work being done on our house for the last several weeks. A kitchen renovation was planned long before the Chicom virus was in the news, but the work commenced in May. It's bad timing to be kitchen-less at the same time restaurants are closed. It's bad timing to have construction going on in your house when you are locked down at home. Once the kitchen work was done, we had painters in to refresh the entire first floor. Surprisingly, the painting was more disruptive to life (and work from home) around the house than the kitchen activity. But, that's all done now. This will be the first week in a month we had our house to ourselves. Of course, there's a lot left for us still to do, as we haven't fully moved all our stuff back into place yet.

On Saturday, after some work sorting house out, I picked up a friend and we headed over to the Olde Towne Tobacconist outpost at 1781 Brewing for an afternoon of visiting, beer, and cigars. It was extremely pleasant to sit outside, talk to other humans, and just enjoy the nice weather. Saturday evening, Colleen and I sat in our refreshed living space and enjoyed a relaxing dinner, all the while making plans for the next projects.

Sunday was glorious by virtue of finally being able to go to Mass, as the governor has now granted permission for worship to resume in our part of the state. We had to wear uncomfortable face masks, but it was Mass nonetheless. Even though the church was sparsely populated, we were able to celebrate live and in-person, rather than via an online stream.

In the afternoon we took advantage of the weather to enjoy the outdoor setting at 1781 Brewing. I believe it was the first time in 2020 that Colleen and I were able to get away from the house for an afternoon of relaxation. There was no live music playing as so often happens in the warmer months, but the sun was shining and the beer was good. And there were smiling humans out and about. Patrons were limited to two inside at a time when ordering beer or wine, but the outdoor space was full of "physically separated" families and dogs. 

The cigar lounge is closed on Sunday for sales so I had brought along my own options for smoking. After grabbing a mug of 1781 Brewing Farmhouse Pale Ale, I lit up a Rocky Patel Vintage 2006 Sixty

I typically enjoy darker beers with cigars; stouts, dopplebocks, even a red ale, are frequent choices. But I do enjoy hoppy beers, though they aren't always the best cigar pairings. The Farmhouse Pale Ale is a moderately hopped ale that strikes a nice balance of citrus and fruitiness. The hop notes leave a clean, short finish on the palate.

The cigar is one of my favorites, the Vintage 2006 in the 6" x 60 vitola. A Mexican San Andrés wrapper,  USA Connecticut Broadleaf binder, and Nicaraguan fillers combine to make a flavorful but not overpowering smoke. Dark chocolate, oak, leather and a mild sweetness predominate. It all works extremely well with the mild hop and fruit notes of the beer. It's a long smoke too, requiring a refill of my mug. 

We were later joined by some friends who happened to be out taking advantage of the beautiful environs and new freedoms as well. We enjoyed catching up with them as we wound down the afternoon.

Yes indeed, the weekend brought a bit of normality to our lives, despite the news of the anarchists around the country using a tragedy as an excuse to bring their cowardly violence to bear on innocent people. Let's pray that we are soon able to get back to peaceful living, and the restrictions on free movement and free enterprise will soon be a thing of the past.