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.
Saturday, August 8, 2020
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Wednesday, July 22, 2020
After that warm IDPA match last Saturday, I was recovered enough after a dinner out with the family to face the heat once again. This time on the back porch for a drink and a smoke. Remember that delicious Bishops Blend cigar I lamented not buying more of? Well, it so happened the shop had a few more left when I returned, and I snagged the last six on the shelf. It was one of those limited releases I decided to light up for my evening repast.
Since I was consuming one of my limited smokes, I figured I'd also dig into one my my, surprisingly, limited Bourbons. I recall when Buffalo Trace was just another ubiquitous whiskey, worthy of any cabinet, inexpensive, and easy to find. I always had it on hand, and had no hesitation to pour it any time, neat or in a cocktail. Then somewhere along the line, it became a thing. The ABC stores started listing it as "limited." It became a topic of conversation among friends when it was found in stock.
As always, the Black Label Trading Company Bishops Blend did not disappoint. The small stick provided about 45 minutes of enjoyment. The cigar's cocoa and coffee notes matched well with the oak, dark fruit, and spice of the bourbon.
It was an enjoyable way to wind down the day. And I still have a little of both treats left for another day.