Thursday, October 29, 2020

Hatteras Red Ale & CAO Pilón

Lost Colony Brewing Hatteras Red is a tasty Irish Red Ale from the Manteo, NC brewery. I've enjoyed it in the past at the brewery during visits to the Outer Banks, but this time I grabbed cans to go from a local shop. Poured into a beach-friendly plastic cup, the ale has a deep ruby red color. It features a sweet caramel malt backbone with mild roasted notes. A tease of bitter hops completes the profile. A nearly sessionable 4.9% ABV makes it perfect for an afternoon of easy drinking.

The afternoon's cigar was the CAO Pilón. The complex flavor profile of cocoa, espresso, nuts, and cedar meshed well with the sweet and toasted notes of the red ale. This stick didn't seem as tightly packed and slow burning as a previous sample, and the smoke lasted about an hour. That was more than enough time to enjoy a few cans of the low ABV beer.

This pairing made for a delightful repast as we rested after a day of sightseeing. Even reminiscing about it now relaxes the mind. Better yet, I think I brought a few cans home from the trip as well!

Monday, October 26, 2020

Stinky Cup Holder Ashtray

The cup holder ashtray from Stinky Cigar was something I purchased on a whim a while back. After losing more than one cigar off the table at the brewery when I went to refill my beverage, I ordered this to hopefully alleviate the issue. Designed for the cup holder in a car, the ashtray will not stand on its own when the lid is open, however it has still proven useful in many instances.

The ashtray will stand up securely when placed in an empty coffee mug. It also works great on the beach when set in the sand. The springy metal clips will hold the cigar without damage, and keep it secured from blowing away. 

The tight fitting lid will prevent any ash odors from escaping between uses. Even when smoking in the strong breeze of the Outer Banks of North Carolina I could set the cigar down to refill my beverage or grab a snack without worry.

Note: I am not affiliated with Stinky Cigar, just a satisfied customer.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

A Fratello Morning by the Ocean

When my schedule allows, one of my favorite ways to kick off the day is with a cigar and coffee in the morning. During a week at the Outer Banks, I was able to have that pleasure on a number of occasions. The first few days of the trip, the winds were high which made sitting on the beach or even the ocean side of the rental house unsuitable for smoking. Fortunately, we had a porch around back too. 

Lighting a Fratello D.M.V. Virginia to enjoy with my coffee, I was able to avoid the heaviest of the winds, but still spy the ocean around the side of the house. My Stinky cup holder ashtray, dropped into an empty mug, secured my cigar easily when I went inside to refill my coffee. 

The D.M.V. series is an annual release from Fratello created as a tribute to the D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware region where the brand got its start. The cigars are available in limited numbers only in this region. The original Virginia and District of Columbia 2018 vitolas are some of my favorites. I stocked up when they were available and have been slowly smoking through my stash.

The Virginia 2018 sports an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, an Ecuadorian binder and a blend of filler tobaccos from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and the USA. The 5 ½ x 52 stick is medium to full bodied with notes of roasted coffee, earth and some spice. It's also a medium to full strength stick, one that gave me a small bit of a buzz when enjoyed early in the morning. The strong, sporadic winds coming around the house created the need for a few burn touchups, but otherwise the stick weathered the storm, so to speak.

A good cigar, enjoyed with a beautiful view, is a pleasure that's hard to beat.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

RoMa Craft CRAFT 2020

As handcrafted items, the skill that goes into creating a fine cigar should not be overlooked. The smoking experience is enhanced with an appreciation of the talent of the many hands that are part of the process. RoMa Craft's CRAFT series was created with the intent of honoring that time honored craftsmanship. 

The RoMa Craft CRAFT 2020 release 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 cigars highlight the skills of the rollers at the Fabrica de Tabacos NicaSueño factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.

The 2020 release features five different patterns in a box of ten cigars. Distribution was limited to a mere ten retailers nationwide, and fortunately one of my local shops was included in that group. To get the full effect I picked up a full box when they were released in June and have been enjoying them immensely.

The CRAFT 2020 are medium to full bodied smokes with notes of nuts, wood, earth, and cedar. The cigars are similar, featuring some of the same tobaccos. I've noticed the flavor shifts as the burn moves through the different wrappers. The 5¾" x 46 corona gorda is a great vitola that burns evenly and feels good in the hand. I've enjoyed them with bottled tea, beer, cider, and bourbon.

There are just a few sticks from the box left in my humidor. But, I will not regret smoking the last one. Cigars, even the limited and special release ones are meant to be smoked. There's always another great cigar waiting in the wings.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

1781 Fimbulvinter Stout & Tatuaje "Karloff"

I found time to spend an evening at the Olde Towne Tobacconist cigar lounge over at 1781 Brewing on Friday. I was taking a week off from work, and the lounge visit was just one of many activities planned for the break. It had been a month since I visited the brewery and there were new beers, and cigars, to be tried out. The weather in the evening was quite cool and breezy, but that was not going to be a problem as the wood stove was burning warmly and the large doors were open to the outdoor seating area which was now enclosed in a plastic barrier. It was quite cozy.

One of the new beers on tap was the 1781 Fimbulvinter. This semi-regularly released Imperial Stout is rich with notes of dark roast coffee, bitter chocolate, and molasses. It's a growler-worthy favorite of mine, and a great cigar beer. 

I was pretty set on the cigar I wanted to try out this evening. I'd seen an announcement that the October 2020 release of the Tatuaje Monster Series Karloff had arrived at the shop earlier in the week. Interestingly, as I approached the shop's humidor, the proprietor remarked, "David, have you tried the Karloff?

Each October, Tatuaje releases another cigar as part of its Monster Series. This year's version features a Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler. The 6 ⅝ x 49 stick has a closed foot. The cigar is full-bodied but still has a creamy, smooth, milk chocolate and nut flavor profile. It paired well with the stout and burned evenly the entire one hour smoke time. I'm honestly contemplating a box purchase. 

I ended up staying at the lounge for several hours, enjoying great conversation, more beer offerings, and even a second cigar. It was a pleasant evening to kick off the beginning of a long-anticipated vacation. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Blade and Bow Bourbon & LFD Double Ligero

It was an uncommon weekday evening when we ate an early dinner, probably because lunch was missed, which allowed for a slow drink and smoke in the early evening. I poured a bit of Blade and Bow Bourbon, and lit a La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero.

I suspect this bottle of Blade and Bow will need to be replaced soon. I've become quite enamored with this whiskey. The caramel, white fruit, oak, and subtle spice make this a pleasant sipper, alone or with a cigar.

The LFD Double Ligero is one of my favorite smokes. This particular one was a Crystal Tubo vitola which comes individually packed in a glass tube. The Double Ligero is typically a bold, strongly flavored smoke with notes of pepper, dark wood, and coffee. As I smoked this particular stick, I noticed that the flavors seemed somewhat subdued. Still full flavored for sure, but not quite what I was used to. The stick was acquired as part of a monthly cigar shipment some months back. I wonder if it was from older, more aged and therefore mellowed stock. Of perhaps it simply had to do with the size. This particular vitola measures a slim 5 ⅜ x 52. Most of the LFD Double Ligero sticks I've smoked were up to 7 x 60 in size. I suspect the larger vitolas allow for more prominent ratios of the flavorful ligero leaf.

Despite the ramblings of this blog, while I frequently enjoy a weekday cigar, rarely is it paired with a strong drink. This weekday diversion was most welcome and enjoyed. The cigar lasted just under an hour and the time was simultaneously spent with with leisure reading.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

A Rainy Afternoon, a Pumpkin Ale, and a Cigar

Several days of steady rain killed the idea of yard work or visits to enjoy the outdoors at a local brewery. Instead I passed time over the weekend relaxing on the porch, listening to the sounds of the rainfall, and enjoy cigars on the deck. For one such interlude, I grabbed long time favorite, the Rocky Patel Sun Grown Maduro and settled in to appreciate a lazy afternoon. 

The Sun Grown Maduro features a chocolate brown, dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper that surrounds a Nicaraguan binder and filler. This cigar has a robust flavor profile featuring cocoa and espresso notes. There's just enough cedar spice to add an accent, but not predominate. The 5 x 50 box-pressed stick burns evenly and slowly.

I opened a Southern Tier Pumking to go along with the smoke. It seemed like a fitting choice for the cool, rainy afternoon. This happens to be one of the few "pumpkin beers" I will bring home from the store each fall. Pumking pours a bright orange color with a thin head. The aroma of pumpkin pie and sweet malt is apparent immediately. The expected pumpkin pie spices are present, but the aroma of pumpkin flesh is there as well. The flavor is that of real pumpkin pie — the bready crust, the sweet pumpkin flavor, and just enough cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla to complete the picture. The 8.6% ABV is well-masked but gives just a welcome hint of warmth in the finish.

One of my frequent laments about pumpkin beers is that the flavor becomes boring or blasé quickly. Despite my preference for this one over many others, near the end of of glass, I was getting tired of it. That's about par, I have consumed three bottles of the four-pack, and the fourth will likely sit for a while or be shared with a friend.

On the other hand, the Rocky Patel Sun Grown Maduro never fails to satisfy and I smoked it down to a hot nub. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

CAO Pilón and 1792 Small Batch

I swear the last week lasted 10 days. On Friday, I finally had a chance to sit and relax with a drink and a cigar. And more importantly, sit for a couple of undistracted hours and chat with Colleen. It was the first real down time we've had since last Friday.

I grabbed a CAO Pilón from the humidor. I had never tried this one, and figured the smallish 5 x 52 Robusto would allow time for a followup smoke. (I was wrong.) Scanning the whiskey cabinet, I opted for a long-ignored bottle of 1792 Small Batch Bourbon.

CAO Pilón is a newer release from CAO. The name Pilón comes from a traditional fermentation method of arranging tobacco leaves in circular pattern into a round pile called a pilón. The process ferments the tobacco at a slower rate than the modern, large rectangular stacks, and is said to enhance the resulting flavor. CAO employed this technique in producing the Pilón cigars. 

The cigar was very densely packed. After cutting the cap, the end appeared almost a solid mass of tobacco, and the draw was quite tight. After lighting, and smoking for about 10 minutes the draw loosened  though it remained moderately snug the entire smoke. The flavor profile was complex, with notes of creamy cocoa, espresso, nuts, and cedar. There was a touch of pepper which built as the smoke progressed but never took the forefront. The burn was razor straight the entire length of the cigar. I did have to relight the stick twice, but that was more my fault for engaging in talk and not puffing. Amazingly, the cigar lasted a full two hours before it was too short to hold, but the smoke was never hot.

1792 Bourbon is a flavorful, and inexpensive bourbon. It's a high rye bourbon which adds a touch of spice to the flavor. The overall flavor profile is moderately strong with oak, caramel, and vanilla. The finish is dry, leaving the palate ready for another sip. I had forgotten how much I enjoy this bourbon.

I was very pleased with the Pilón. I'm looking forward to smoking the others I have. The pairing of the CAO Pilón and 1792 Bourbon hit the spot. I'd rank the combo as one of the best I've had of late. That said, I will still enjoy exploring many other combos in the future.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

LFD 50th Maduro & German Chocolate Cake Lager

I've been eyeing a couple large vitola cigars in my humidor, waiting for the time to enjoy them. With no trips planned, no major errands lined up, and (sadly) no shooting last weekend, the opportunity arose to spend some time with some of those more time consuming smokes.

I kicked off the weekend with a La Flor Dominicana TAA 2019 50th Anniversary Maduro. The cigar is a limited-edition release available only to retailers who are part of the Tobacconists' Association of America (TAA). I obtained it a couple months ago as part of a LFD sample from a local shop. This 6½ x 54 stick features an extreme rectangular box press shape. The dark Mexican San Andrés Maduro wrapper encases a Dominican binder and Dominican Criollo filler. The two large gold bands give the cigar a striking appearance. 

The beverage of choice this evening was Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery German Chocolate Cake Lager. This flavorfully-named beer starts life as a traditional German-style Doppelbock. The classic German-style lager is then conditioned over cocoa nibs, toasted coconut, vanilla, and pecans. The aroma is dark chocolate, vanilla, and a hint of coconut. The base dopplebock is the predominate flavor with a mild caramel sweetness. The added cocoa and nuttiness that come through are a pleasing addition. The vanilla aspect is on the mild side. The 8% ABV is muted with little alcohol presence in the flavor.

When I first saw this bottle I assumed it was a stout, and was intrigued to read the label further to find otherwise. The LCCB variation of the style was done very well. Oft times augmented beers tend to come off cloying or candy-like, especially went comes to vanilla additions. 

The 50th Anniversary Maduro was a medium-bodied smoke. The tightly packed stick gave off notes of cocoa, coffee, and earth. The flavor profile has a creamy, sweet aspect to it as well. The box-press presented some issues with the burn, requiring several touchups to keep it even, though that was not unexpected. The flavor profiles of the beer and the cigar were quite compatible and played well together. This large stick burned for a long two hours and 15 minutes. The bottle of beer I split with Colleen gave out well before that. Fortunately, the beer fridge offered many more options, all stories for later.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Thirteen Years of Blogging

It's been thirteen years since I started rambling in these Musings. That seems like forever in blog years. What started as Musings Over a Pint eventually expanded to include much more than just beer interests. 

It's been a fun adventure, and remains so after all these years. I still consider it mainly an exercise for my own enjoyment, and I regularly go back and reminisce on older posts. Every so often I get a hint that a few other people enjoy it too. The post count pales in comparison to that of some blogs I read, but the 3,114 posts made here so far represent no small amount of time spent with a computer on my lap.

I'm looking forward to many more years of jounaling this adventure, assuming the prohibitions and added taxes against alcohol, tobacco, and firearms continually pushed by democrats don't squelch the fun in the future.


Saturday, October 3, 2020

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Vintage 2007

Friday evening I decided to treat myself to something from the "old stuff" stash in the basement. My choice, after much deliberation, was Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Ale. This particular bottle was from the 2007 release. 

The beer poured a deep reddish-brown color with a very thin beige head. The aroma was dark fruit and sweet malt. My mouth watered at the delightful aroma. The flavors of the beer continued along the path started by the aroma. Dark fruits like dates and raisons came to mind. There was a hint of molasses in the sweetness. There was almost a port aspect to the finish. After thirteen years, the bold hoppiness of "fresh" Bigfoot had faded. The mouthfeel was on the thin side, with low carbonation. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed this special libation immensely.

It's always a little bittersweet to consume one of the aged beers. But the enjoyment of the beer is usually worth it. After all, beers are meant to be enjoyed, not collected.

In looking through the stash, we have a few more bottles of pre-2010 Bigfoot stored away. Unfortunately, we didn't save any of the more "recent" vintages. This winter I plan to stock up on this and a few other beers I favor for aging, and hopefully resume the yearly stocking for enjoyment down the road.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Mid-Week Cigar, and Chai Latte. Wait, What?

I often lament that the first four days after a weekend are the hardest. After making it through three of those days, I decided to celebrate with a quick smoke. I selected a Rocky Patel Cigar Smoking Championship Mareva for the moment.

This Rocky Patel stick was developed as the official cigar for the 2020 Cigar Smoking World Championship. The cigar was released in three sizes, but the 5⅛ x 42 Mareva vitola is the size used in the slow smoking competition.

The blend features Mexican San Andrés Maduro wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder, with Honduran and Nicaraguan tobaccos as the fillers. The cigar has fairly strong notes of cocoa and espresso. A pepper and cedar spiciness lingers just under the dark chocolate notes, ever present but not overwhelming. The body is medium to full. The burn is even with copious smoke output.

The beverage pairing came from an instant Chai Latte pod I found in our pantry. Not sure where that box came from, but on a whim I decided to try it out. It was drinkable. The warm creamy beverage, with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg flavors, among other spices, actually made for a tasty pairing with the cigar. It's quite a switch for this black coffee guy, but I'll admit to having enjoyed it. I might even try a fresh made one at the coffee shop sometime, if I can bring myself to say "Chai Latte" out loud. :-)

For those curious, my smoking time on the cigar was just under an hour. I understand the record for slow smoking this particular stick is somewhere around three and a half hours! That just seems like work to me. I'll smoke for enjoyment, thank you.