Monday, June 21, 2021

Rivanna IDPA June Match

It has been many months since I last was able to get to one of the monthly IDPA matches at the Rivanna Rifle and Pistol club outside of Charlottesville, VA. Tony delight, everything aligned this month and I was excited to shoot and to see some old friends again. Given that I had missed the May match at the Cavalier club, I was looking forward to just getting in some range time. Even the weather cooperated; mostly overcast skies helped to moderate the warm temperatures. 

The first stage our squad shot was a "standards" stage. There were three groups of three overlapping targets shot from ever shrinking shooting boxes as we moved through the stage.

In an interesting twist, the center target in each array was declared "hard cover" for the targets behind it, meaning shoot throughs didn't count. That bit me on the last target array on the limited count stage. With that 5 second penalty, I was -6 on the stage.

Next up was a scenario called "Room Clearing 101." We began sitting at a table with our unloaded gun and the first loading device on the table, and our hands on the laptop keyboard. The course required us to load the gun, engage a steel popper activator and a drop turner target while seated. Next we moved forward down the "hallway" to engage a target around a corner, before moving down the next hall where we encountered five more threat targets through an opening in the wall.

After the miss on the previous stage, I was very pleased to shoot this stage clean, with zero points down. Seeing the -0 holes on the drop turner target was especially satisfying.

Moving onto to another range, we saw an elaborate setup featuring two vehicles that made up the next two stages, "Fender Bender" and "Fender Bender-er." The stage brief stated that we were involved in a rear end accident while driving through Southeast DC. 

In the first scenario of the duo, we were said to be the driver of the car that was hit. We began standing at the rear of the car, with a hand on each vehicle, as it we were leaning over inspecting the damage. We were then attacked by gang members. There was a target to be engaged over the trunk, and another further away to the left in the open. Leaving the start position, we rounded the vehicle, engaging two low targets on the move. Heading down range we found two more threats behind a wall. Next we moved across the stage to find more threats from cover.

At the final shooting position I felt at the time I had pulled a shot wide on the first target. After engaging the last target I swung back to do a make up and found my gun at slide lock. A too quick calculation had me deciding to end the run. Sadly the wide shot was not just a -1 or -3, it was a miss altogether. In retrospect, I should have taken the time to reload and fired another shot. I can certainly reload and reengage in much less than the 5 seconds the miss cost me.

In the next scenario, we played the role of the person driving the truck that caused the accident. For the start we placed our firearm, loaded with just three rounds, on the seat of the vehicle. We started by leaning in the driver side door, with our strong hand on the seat's headrest, while holding a cell phone to our ear with the other hand. Again, the idea was to defend from attackers taking advantage of the situation.

After engaging a partial target through the car with three rounds, we moved to the back of the vehicle to engage a target on the move before hitting a stomp place to activate a very fast clamshell. Moving down a hallway we then engaged a series of target arrays from cover on both sides of the aisle. I was just two points down on the disappearing clamshell target, which made me very happy. Unfortunately I had dropped on shot low into hard cover on that first target shot while leaning through the car, making me -8 for the stage. I also found out later I had been issued a -3 PE for a foot fault. Oh well, that's how the game goes sometimes.

It was a good size crowd that came out for the almost-summer match. The stages were all very interesting, each with it's own unique challenge. Overall, I was very pleased with my shooting, especially given the lack of range or match time recently. The misses on three stages hurt my overall standing of 23 out of 47 shooters. I was first of the just three CCP shooters in attendance. Despite the final scores, it was a great time with fun folks and interesting shooting opportunities. I'm already looking forward to next month's Rivanna match.

After a long cool shower at home, I headed over the the Olde Towne Tobacconist lounge at 1781 Brewing to relax. A delicious, and somewhat gluttonous burger, some refreshing draft beer, and a cigar culminated an exceptional Saturday.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Just Cigars

It's been a while since I added to these Musings. That's not because nothing's been happening. Or, truth be told, it's more like because nothing has been happening. When I'm not working, we've been doing just that — nothing.

Nothing, as in relaxing and enjoying the down time. Some of that has been necessitated by a long period of dull and wet weather. I skipped shooting last weekend for lack of desire to be running through water. Fortunately the screen porch is fit for other activities.

Rocky Patel Sun Grown Maduro, a humidor staple

Fratello DMV Maduro Selection (Maryland)

Fratello DMV Maduro Selection (Delaware)

Montecristo Open, a Cuban brought back
from Ireland a few years back

Liga Sun Grown Maduro

And that's the story.
There's more cigar content over at Instagram. I tend to be more active there. 

Monday, May 17, 2021

Bluebirds at the Range

Last week I made a quick run to the outdoor range for a little stress release. While I enjoyed the time spent shooting, it wasn't the most interesting part of the outing. As I fired my first shots my electronic ear protection allowed me to hear the unmistakable chatter of a Bluebird behind me. I turned and saw this male Eastern Bluebird fluttering against the passenger side window of my vehicle. He seemed quite annoyed. 

As I watched, he would occasionally perch on the window ledge or the mirror. I could get pretty close to the car to watch before he flew off.

A few minutes later he was back. This time his interest focused on the driver side. His mate made an appearance as well. They both would fly around the car, before flying off together but returning again and again.

At times, their attention was focused on the windshield. Other visits they perched on the back window. I became fascinated by watching the antics of the pair.

I was at the range for a little over an hour. The curious, or upset (?) birds continued their visits the entire time. When it was time to leave, I was apprehensive about opening the back hatch to load my gear, not wanting the birds' curiosity to extend to inside the vehicle. I gathered all my belongings at the back the car and loaded quickly. As I packed up, I could see the male Bluebird watching from the windshield, perched on a wiper.

It was a very interesting encounter with these beautiful birds. However I did need to wash the car afterwards as the visitors had left a more than a few calling cards as a mementos.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Fratello Friday

And finally it was Friday, and I opted to make it a Fratello Friday by breaking into my box of Fratello DMV Maduro Selection cigars. I've been looking forward to trying them since I picked up the box last month. I selected a Virginia band for my first smoke from the box, then pouring some Angel's Envy bourbon I retired to the back porch.

The Fratello DMV series is a limited annual release from Fratello to honor the company's origins in the DC, Maryland, Virginia region. The December 2020 version features four different cigars; Delaware was added to the list a couple years ago. All the cigars for this release are 6 x 50 toros. The details of the blends are kept secret. While the binder and filler tobaccos are the same in all, four different maduro wrappers finish the cigars. In all, just 600 boxes were released.

I've long been a fan of Fratello, with a few of the original 2018 DMV Virginia and DC versions still holding a place of honor in my humidor. The torpedo shaped 2020 Virginia features a chocolate brown wrapper that is smooth and shiny. The initial draw was a little tighter than I prefer, but it soon loosened up. The cigar is medium bodied. The predominate flavors are wood, earth, with a touch of sweetness. A tiny bit of cedar crept in at the end. 

After the beautiful and warm spring weather last weekend, the past week was almost fall like, with cool air, and plenty of wind and rain. I eventually turned on the propane heaters just to take the edge off while I smoked. At one point the rain started and got heavy enough that I was getting some mist hitting me through the screen. However, I had the heaters situated just right, and opted to weather the storm, so to speak.

One aspect of the experience that stood out to me was the amazingly sharp burn line that held nearly the entire stick. I kept stopping to look at the cigar in wonder as the burn line was almost fake looking. Whether attributable to construction, happenstance, or a really lucky light, it was a sight to behold.

The previous years' "Virginia" vitolas featured a bolder flavor with more spice, while this version was more moderate, but certainly not mellow. I get bored quite quickly with really mild smokes, and this kept my interest. I enjoyed the stick down to the hot nub, finally risking one last puff that nearly burned lips and fingers.

I'm looking forward to enjoying the rest of the Maduro selections. I will pace my myself to not empty the box too soon, but I will certainly smoke rather than "collect" them.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Saturday Pleasures

Last Saturday began with more purge-related chores, this time focusing on the garage. Even though I've stuck to my vow made years ago that our cars would be parked in the garage, the space for them as gotten ever tighter. After several hours of work, we had made significant progress. I am happy to say we can easily walk around the vehicles now, and the cars' proximity sensors complain just a bit less when entering the space. 

After a run to the local Goodwill shop (not all the unneeded items are being disposed of) we stopped for a much anticipated lunch. We were looking forward to the advertised "Burger of the Week" at Harry's Alehouse. The tasty burger was topped with creamy Parmesan-garlic sauce, crispy onion rings, and bacon, all served on a potato roll. But the most exciting part was that our Marxist-leaning governor has "granted" permission for his subjects to dine while seated at a bar for the first time in over a year. 

An appetizer of fried pickles, the burger, and refreshing beverages, enjoyed at our favorite seats, all combined for an extremely pleasant afternoon. I went back to an old favorite, Bell's Two Hearted IPA for my libation.

Arriving home, we headed to the porch to listen to music and relax, where I enjoyed one of my favorite smokes. I've written about the Black Label Trading Company Bishops Blend a number of times in the past. I had smoked the last of my stash of the 2020 release, but I recently picked up the last of the remaining stock at my local shop, so I get to enjoy this one a few more times. And enjoy I did, right down to the still tasty nub.

At the end of the day, we had a welcome sense of accomplishment, and relief, at the progress made in our purge project. That joy was magnified by the sense of normality of enjoying some tasty beer and food, all free from arbitrary restrictions and senseless rules.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Chores and Rewards

This past week we embarked on a long overdue "purge" of unneeded and unused items our house. After 21 years here, there was just too much "stuff' accumulated. We don't intend on moving anytime soon, but there are ongoing renovations to make room for. We rented a 20 yard dumpster and set about decluttering. 

Each afternoon or evening during the week, we spent time hauling items from the basement, the garage, and the storage area under the deck. It's a remarkably satisfying, if exhausting, process. Each day ended with aching muscles, and more than a few cuts and scrapes. The major lifting is complete, and the next few days will involve only tossing in some odds and ends before the container is hauled away. 

On Friday evening, after what seemed an extra long week, I headed over to 1781 Brewing for an Oliva Cigar event at the Olde Towne Tobacconist Lounge. There I took advantage of the promotion and picked up a box of one of my favorites, as evidenced here, the Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial Torpedo

I'm excited to smoke these, even if I did have to change the shelf layout in my small humidor to squeeze in the box. Among the freebies with my purchase, was this Oliva Serie G box-pressed torpedo. I opted to smoke it right away while I enjoyed a pint of 1781 Brewing Washington's Hare Porter. The cigar features a Camaroon wrapper with Nicaraguan binder and filler. Despite the ever increasing winds churning up, the box-pressed cigar burned well. The medium bodied sweetness of the cigar worked well with the porter. 

Despite the evening starting out around 70°, the wind and sudden rain shower quickly dropped the temperature to the low 50° range. Too cold for my short sleeved short, so I called it an early evening.

The clean up work continued through the weekend and beyond. However, there was still time made for more fun treats before the work week begins again. More to come on that soon.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Friday, Cocktails, and a Fratello

By lunch on Friday afternoon, I had in my head already my desire for the evening wind down. I often look forward a cigar and drink to kick off the weekend, but for some reason on this day, I was hankering for something specific. After dinner, it came to be. 

There it is. One of my few remaining "vintage" Fratello DMV Virginia cigars from the 2018 debut and a classic Old Fashioned.

This evening's Old Fashioned was prepared with Maker's Mark Cask Strength Bourbon. I treated myself to two Luxardo cherries to go along with the slightly heavy-handed whiskey pour. Fortunately I remembered to make some "rocks" of ice during the week. 

The original Fratello DMV Virginia is one of my favorites. It has 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. After nearly 2 ½ years in the humidor, the wrapper still has a beautiful chocolate brown sheen. The flavors remain bold and stood up quite well to the strongly-flavored cocktail.

It's a little bitter sweet as a I watch my stock of the DMV Virginia dwindle. But, it sure is more enjoyable than just staring at them in the humidor.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

He is risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Happy Easter!
On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.
-- John 20:1-9

It's Easter, the fulfillment of Our Lord's promise of eternal life. Today marks the ultimate triumph of good over evil. The Resurrection confirms that our daily struggles are not for nought, that our final reward is eternal. Easter is our reminder to be hopeful, and vigilant, never surrendering to evil.

The Prince of Darkness is hard at work in this world. His minions do his bidding willingly, if naively, deceiving with false promises, and twisting the truth until evil is mistaken for good. The newly "woke" invoke his aid to create false guilt. Acquiescence to immorality is falsely promoted as "love and acceptance." All the while, morality and true love are deemed "hateful." Indeed, Satan's greatest trick is convincing the world that he doesn't exist. Through never ceasing attacks on our faith, attacks on our freedoms, attacks on the sanctity of life, we witness the battle against evil that continues still. 

Yet today, the empty tomb reminds us that there is hope. The promise of Easter gives us the strength to persevere. On this most glorious of days, we are reminded that we must continue to face oppression and persecution head on. We must not acquiesce or even compromise. Diluted or relabeled, evil is still evil.

Here's wishing you a blessed and joy-filled Easter. May the joy of the Resurrection remain in your life all year long.

Mass at the tomb of Jesus
The Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem
Photo by Colleen, 2010

Friday, April 2, 2021


A 3:00 thought for Good Friday.
The ancient greyness shifted suddenly and thinned like mist upon the moors before a wind.

An old, old prophet lifted a shining face and said:

“He will be coming soon. The Son of God is dead; He died this afternoon.”

A murmurous excitement stirred all souls. They wondered if they dreamed

save one old man who seemed not even to have heard.

And Moses, standing, hushed them all to ask if any had a welcome song prepared.

If not, would David take the task?

And if they cared could not the three young children sing the Benedicite,

the canticle of praise they made when God kept them from perishing in the fiery blaze?

A breath of spring surprised them, stilling Moses’ words.

No one could speak, remembering the first fresh flowers, the little singing birds.

Still others thought of fields new ploughed or apple trees all blossom-boughed.

Or some, the way a dried bed fills with water laughing down green hills.

The fisherfolk dreamed of the foam on bright blue seas.

The one old man who had not stirred remembered home.

And there He was, splendid as the morning sun and fair as only God is fair.

And they, confused with joy, knelt to adore

Seeing that He wore five crimson stars He never had before.

No canticle at all was sung. None toned a psalm, or raised a greeting song,

A silent man alone of all that throng found tongue — not any other.

Close to His heart when the embrace was done, old Joseph said,

“How is Your Mother, How is Your Mother, Son?”
-- Sister Mary Ada

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Spring Weather and an IDPA Match

Last weekend we enjoyed what is often referred to as "false spring" in Virginia. The weather was warm, the humidity low, and the pollen count high. It provided near perfect conditions for shooting. (This week we are back to cold, windy and wet, and with pollen.) A smaller contingent than usual gathered for the monthly IDPA match at Cavalier Rifle and Pistol Club. As usual, five interesting and fun stages awaited us. 

As I plan to do for all of 2021, I was shooting the Compact SIG P320. I'm getting used to the 8 round count in the magazines when planning my stage runs, and psychologically, the lower round count forces me to stop including possible makeup shots in my plan.

The first stage we shot was a quick stage with three paper and one steel target. We began with the gun loaded with just three rounds. The first target required two hits to the body and one to the head. After reloading we moved to engage the remaining targets from cover. I shot the stage clean with a -0 run.

Another out of the ordinary start position was used on the next stage. We began facing up range with our elbows on a table, the unloaded gun was placed on a barrel behind us, and all magazines were placed on another barrel further down range. Seven paper targets were engaged from four points of cover among the walls. My "no makeups" stage plan bit me a bit here as I had a -3 hit one target that I did not make up, and finished -4 on the run.

Again, our next stage again offered more variation from normal. We saw a field of eight targets arranged across the bay, some hidden by barrels, high and low, with half being head only targets. The stage was shot in two strings. The first string mandated a single shot on each target, while the second string was shot support hand only, with shots to the four full targets. The starting position was the loaded gun in hand, with the barrel tip resting on the top of a cone placed mid-stage. 

The target placement was such that some movement was required to see all targets. Since the start was in the center we had to traverse most of the shooting area. On the first string, stepping to the left allowed one to see six targets, before moving to the right for the last two. Given the close proximity of the targets, most of the shooting could be done on the move. For the second, WHO string, I moved left to get the far left target behind the barrel, before moving across the stage and engaging the required targets. I was -1 on the stage, for a head shot just outside the center circle.

Our next stage again required the gun to be downloaded to six rounds, and placed on a table with the rest of our magazines. We started facing the right berm, a few steps from the table. After retrieving the gun, three targets were engaged. Grabbing a magazine from the table, we needed to reload while at the same time retreating up range. At the final point of cover, there were two more targets to be engaged. I shot this one -2.

The last stage was the only one with a full gun "normal" start, but it still added a unique twist. Four of the targets in the course were partially blocked by non-threats. On those targets, the head area of the threat targets were painted as hard cover. Even though head shots would typically be the safest as they were furthest from the penalty targets, they were unavailable for scoring.

Despite that extra challenge, I shot the stage -0, and it was actually my best overall finish of the morning. It was a fun stage, with lots of movement. I was relieved to finish the day on a high note.

It was a beautiful morning for shooting. Despite a cool start to the day, it warmed up quickly. I was a little overdressed but still comfortable. I even managed to acquire my first sunburn, though mild, of the year. I was generally pleased with my shooting. Even with the -3 hit, I was -7 total for the match. Despite that, I finished mid-pack, 17th of 31 Overall. I think I still move fairly efficiently, but have slowed over the years in finding the sights and getting the shots off. Perhaps a little more dry fire, or actual practice might help in that area. 

After a pleasant drive on country roads home, there was plenty of time to enjoy the mild weather with a cocktail and cigar on the screen porch. Couldn't ask for much more on that almost-spring Saturday.

For those curious, that's an Old Fashioned made with Maker's Mark Cask Strength paired with a Rocky Patel LB1 in toro.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Friday, March 26, 2021

Range Time

One of the non-medical casualties of the Chinese Virus in 2020 was the number of times I was able to hit the range, outside of an IDPA match. I dropped my indoor range membership due to their feel-good-only "health" restrictions. That significantly cut my shooting opportunities. This year I am going to make an effort to shoot at the local "conservation organization" range more often, despite the erratic, ever-changing, and often secret rules imposed by the range director.

Now that we are in Daylight Saving Time, the range is open past 4:00 so it's easier to find time to shoot. Given the price of ammo, it's likely fewer folks are using the range. Hopefully, this will lead to more rounds downrange in 2021.

On a recent afternoon, I blocked off my calendar so I could spend a little time refreshing my shooting skills. Putting up a cardboard IDPA target, I spent most of the time shooting from the 10 yard line. A lot of my rounds were fired aiming for the head of the target, or doing body to head transitions. That's a frequent pattern in IDPA matches. Sadly, we not allowed to fire more than two rounds in a string, before pausing for an as-yet defined period. No movement is allowed either, so it's really just trigger pull practice.

I did force myself to spend some time on SHO and WHO shooting. So it really was practice, not just fun. I was shooting the Compact SIG P320 that I plan to stick with for the matches this year. I feel I actually shoot it better than the Full Size version. This was especially apparent when doing the single hand shooting. 

I also expended some valuable rounds shooting from 15 and 25 yards. I was surprisingly pleased with the results there. I did stare at the 50 yard berm, remembering some successful longer range pistol shooting from a few years back. Maybe I'll try my luck there on a future visit.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Long Weekend Getaway

We recently escaped the daily routine around the house for an extended weekend in the southern reaches of Virginia. We found a small cabin rental near Galax, Virginia, located next to a charming stream. The cabin sat at the end of a long, gravel single lane road. Peaceful seclusion at its finest.

One of the first things we noticed upon arrival was that the fire pit by the stream was already stacked with kindling with a pile of firewood left nearby. It was the perfect place to relax after a long day of driving. The Crowned Heads La Coalición provided the perfect accompaniment to a cool glass of Legend Brown Ale

On the second afternoon of the trip we made an extended visit to a local craft brewery, Creek Bottom Brewing Company. We had a great time enjoying great food and beer, so expect a review of this brewery in a future post. Returning to the cabin, we once again retreated to the stream side fire pit. This time I lit a cigar I have been looking forward to with much excitement.

Crowned Heads Le Careme Belicosos Finos LE 2021 is a limited edition of the wonderful La Careme. La Careme is one of my "keep on hand" stick, if possible. I say "if possible" because the cigar has been unavailable for a while, in any vitola. The Belicosos Finos Limited Edition was last released in 2019. After seeing an availability announcement, I was fortunate enough to get in a pre-order for a box of the 2021 release. The cigars arrived a few weeks ago and I brought one along to enjoy on the trip. It's a great stick and I look forward to enjoying the rest of the box, over time.

We did a little sightseeing during the trip but spent most of our days hanging out at the cabin. The view and the sounds of the water, and the many birds flitting about were quite enjoyable. We even spied a mature bald eagle sitting over the stream. The early morning dew added to the mystique and beauty. 

It wasn't all time by the fire. The deck on the house offered a nice view, which at one point included a point of Guinness Stout and an Oliva NUb Maduro on a sunny afternoon. 

The Shot Tower State Park provided a brief respite from the drive on the trip home. The 75 foot tower was visible from the highway and we saw it on the drive down, so vowed to check it out. There appeared to be a nice walk along the New River adjacent to the park, which was noted for further exploration on a future visit.

The five day getaway was a most welcome break. While much of the time was spent reading or just sitting around, it was devoid of chores, and despite reasonable internet connectivity, no work-related interruptions. It wasn't until we started planning possible excursions for 2021 that I realized how little time off I'd taken in 2020. Hopefully, we'll make up for that in the coming year.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Another Trip Around the Sun

A year ago I celebrated my first "Chinese Virus" birthday. In what would quickly evolve into a political agenda, we were just beginning the "two weeks to flatten the curve." This past weekend, a full year later, another birthday has come and gone, with little change in how we marked the occasion.

The day started with Holy Mass, after which Colleen prepared our usual Sunday bacon and eggs breakfast. Our dinner plans were for an assortment of smoked meats from a local BBQ place. Picking up our to-go order mid-afternoon, we stopped by the Starbucks to claim my free birthday froufrou coffee. Those errands complete, as we did last year, we spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the fire pit.

I had loaded up fire pit earlier in the day, so it was a simple matter of lighting the kindling. We enjoyed the coffee while the fire progressed. About the time the coffee was consumed, the fire was going strong and I broke out the beer and a cigar.

I selected a Padrón Black No. 200 Natural to enjoy for this afternoon celebration. This particular stick was a limited release included in the 2020 Cigar Rights of America variety pack. The tobaccos used in the 5½ x 56 Robusto Gordo are undisclosed. The wrapper is dull brown and on the dry side. The draw was extremely loose, with copious smoke production. The predominant flavors are dark chocolate, espresso, and a robust level of spice and black pepper. When I made the comment that I wasn't expecting the level of pepper, Colleen remarked that she could smell it in the smoke. The cigar burned well, even when I left it to run inside the house. The wrapper began blowing up heading into the last third, though I suspect that may have been caused by setting the cigar down several times on the edge of the fire pit while tending to the fire. It continued to smoke well until the final splitting near the end at the under two inch point.

Our beer selection for the day was Legend Brown Ale. This English Brown Ale is, in my opinion, an easily overlooked ale. It's the Legend Brewing beer most often seen on draft around here, but I pass it by due to its ubiquitous nature. However, I recently picked up a six-pack and, again, questioned why I don't enjoy it more often. The brown ale features a malt and nut aroma. Mildly sweet caramel, molasses, nuts and some roasted malt come out in the sipping. The finish is short and clean. It's an easy sipper and at a moderate 6% ABV, just right for an afternoon of relaxation. The slight sweetness of the beer offset the robust spiciness in the cigar.

The cigar finished, we headed inside for an early dinner. The smoked pulled pork, brisket, ribs, and chicken, along with sides of green beans, coleslaw, and potato salad made for a fitting feast. And we still have leftovers for a meal later in the week!

My was hunger satiated, but I was still in the mood for more relaxation by the fire. The sun would be up for a couple more hours, though by this time I did need a jacket. I returned outside, stirred the coals and added more wood. Soon I had a suitable fire going again and lit another cigar.

The second smoke was the Black Label Trading Company Bishops Blend. This 2020 limited release was one of my favorites from 2020. As noted in previous posts, this cigar is features an Ecuador 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. Sadly, I have but a single stick left. I typically don't hoard cigars, even limited releases, but I may hold the last one for another special occasion.

We're low key people, so the low key celebration was most pleasant. I do look forward to the day when our personal freedoms are not arbitrarily limited by politicians seeking to exert control and push a political agenda under the guise of "health and safety."

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

It's the Feast of St. Patrick


It's that time of the year when a Saint revered by many, especially in the Irish-Catholic community, is adopted by people of all descent. As a Catholic of Irish decent, I can find little fault with people bettering themselves. :-)

I don't drink green beer, and am very confident that neither did St. Patrick. But do as you wish. For my celebration I will stick with a dark Stout or a good Irish Red Ale. And surely a wee pour or two of Irish Whiskey will be enjoyed.

However, in the midst of your celebrations, try to give thought to the man behind the Feast Day. Whether you accept the traditions associated with St. Patrick's life or not, there can be no denying the good he did. (As much as some of these stories cannot be proven, they cannot be disproven either.) Kidnapped as a young boy and sold into slavery in Ireland, he grew to love the Irish people. Late in his life, he was around 60 at the time, Saint Patrick returned to the Emerald Isle to teach and convert the people he had grown to love so much. Certainly that is worthy of our respect.

Our family has long had a devotion to St. Patrick. Our admiration was made all the more tangible when we were blessed to make two pilgrimages to the Emerald Isle, in 2012 and again in 2019. During those visits I was reminded just how much the Irish love Patrick. He's more than just a marketing ploy there.

Odd is it may seem, we actually have to remind people, and pubs, that St. Patrick was a man, not a woman. His name is Patrick, which comes from the Irish, Pádraig. Shorten his name to Paddy if you must. However, we do not celebrate "St. Patty's Day." Patty is a shortened version of Patricia, a girl's name. Feast-related debauchery is one thing, but transgendering our Saint is unacceptable. As much as it pained me, I refused this year to take advantage of more than one "holiday discount" from businesses who tried to lure me with discount codes of "STPATTY" and the like. 

So, celebrate the memory of St. Patrick. Enjoy a drink or two and some good food, hopefully with friends. There's nothing wrong with bringing a little revelry into the world, we certainly need it. I like a good party as much as the next guy. And I certainly appreciate a good Irish drinking joke. Drink your green beer if you must. Dress up in silly clothes. (But, remember St. Patrick was a man, not a leprechaun.) Then remember the reason for this feast. Take a moment to honor the man and all the good he did. In our house we'll raise a drink of uisce beatha, "the water of life," and a prayer, to St. Patrick in honor of his deeds and his country.

All the children of Ireland cry out to thee:
Come, O Holy Patrick, and save us!

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Old Beer, Cigars, and the Fire Pit

Sunday afternoon was sunny and the spring allergies were tingling, but the temperature still needed "tweaking" to enjoy the outdoors. We decided to "de-winterize" the fire pit with the first fire of 2021. After clearing out some leaves, I got a fire going and settled in to enjoy a drink and a cigar. 

I dug out a couple of bottles of aged Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout for Colleen and I. These were bottles stored from 2008. We were putting away a lot of high ABV beers in those days for aging and they are most delightful now. I really should get back into that habit. The aroma coming off the glass was rich chocolate and coffee. I could detect it coming up from the glass on the table next to me, despite the smoke from the fire. The flavor was simply delicious. Creamy, dark chocolate, a touch of bitterness, with no alcohol detectable on the palate. I am going to miss these old bottles when they are gone.

The cigar selected was the Tatuaje Great Pumpkin. This stick was part of the 2020 Cigar Rights of America sampler I picked up over the winter. It is an attractive 6 x 52 Belicoso version of a cigar that Tatujae typically produces for events only, and consists of a Mexican San Andrés wrapper with Nicaraguan binders and fillers. 

I was looking forward to smoking this cigar and had been awaiting warmer weather, and the time to enjoy what would likely be a two hour plus smoke. Initially, I got some nice but mild milk chocolate notes, with just a touch of pepper. I struggled to get a lot of smoke through the cigar, so the flavors were muted. I tried relighting its few times, but the tobacco never really got going. Sadly, after about 20 minutes I tossed the cigar into the fire. I've smoked plenty of Tatuaje cigars, and have always enjoyed them. One bad stick is certainly not a condemnation of a brand or line. These are hand crafted items, made from leaves, and every now and then one will be not be right. It's a disappointment, not a condemnation. Life's too short to fret or struggle over one cigar, so I simply moved on to another selection.

Still having plenty of afternoon left, I grabbed an Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial from the humidor. This blend is one of my (many) favorites, especially in the Torpedo vitola.

Like the Tatuaje, this full-bodied cigar has a Mexican San Andrés wrapper with a Nicaraguan binder and fillers, and is spiked with Nicaraguan Jalapa Valley ligero leaves in the filler. It produces notes of rich, creamy chocolate, with a touch of spiciness. Cedar and nutty undertones add to the flavors enjoyed. The ligero leaf serves to contribute a bit of strength. The aged beer and rich cigar made for a very flavorful and enjoyable pairing.

We enjoyed the fire for several hours. A lot of that time was spend watching the numerous birds flitting around in the woods. There were quite a number of bluebirds catching insects in the leaves, and a pair of red tail hawks possibly nesting nearby. Ah, the signs of spring…

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Even More Repetition - ThisTime It's Okay

As we begin the second year of "two weeks to flatten the curve," life can seem a bit repetitive. How many times have you thought, "What day is it?" But sometimes more of the same, isn't necessarily a bad thing.

After doing a bit (a very small bit) of pre-spring yard work this weekend, I enjoyed a relaxing cigar on the deck. After opening each drawer in the humidor several times, I finally selected a Foundation Tabernacle to smoke. More indecisive searching followed in the beer fridge, before I grabbed a Lost Colony Hatteras Red Ale. The Red Ale was a leftover from our fall trip to the Outer Banks. 

Both the beer and the cigar have been mentioned in these Musings previously. The Tabernacle is especially persistent in its appearances. Knowing I've mentioned these things previously, I looked through previous postings and came across this post from December. That's when the déjà vu hit me and I did a double take. That picture…

As I've lamented often of late, "I really need to get out more." One other interesting note, the temperature during that December outing was actually warmer than it was for the March setting.