Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Another Virginia Brewery

This one isn't new, and you probably won't be getting any beers from it. 
WILLIAMSBURG, Virginia — College students have always had a taste for beer, and archaeologists have uncovered new evidence at the College of William and Mary to prove it. 
The remains of what is likely an 18th century on-campus brewery were discovered just outside of the nation's oldest college building when campus officials were looking to widen a sidewalk.  
School officials say the discovery near the Wren Building will allow them to tell a broader story about campus life in the Colonial era that involved the interaction of slaves, Native Americans, faculty and students.

The brewery is believed to have provided beer for students and faculty at the school during the Colonial era. It's well-known that low alcohol beer was a common replacement for the often unsafe drinking water during that period. The brewery probably existed until the Revolutionary War. Interestingly, the brewery remains were found just a foot below a frequently trafficked area of the campus.

Founded in 1693, the College of William and Mary is the second oldest institute of higher learning in the United States.

See "Remains of 18th century brewery found on Va. campus at College of William and Mary" for pictures and more on this interesting find.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Virginia Beer Month Tally

As promised, I did manage to limit my beer choices to Virginia-brewed beverages for most of Virginia Craft Beer Month. However, a week spent vacationing on the Outer Banks, meant a week focused on North Carolina beers. The weeks prior to vacation were naturally extra busy, which also limited my time for "exploration." Nonetheless, I had no trouble sticking to Virginia craft beers in the time I had.

While the list wasn't extensive, nine of the sixteen were new to me. That's a successful Craft Beer Month in my book.

  • O’Connor El Guapo Agave IPA
  • Port City Optimal Wit
  • Parkway Get Bent Mountain IPA
  • Champion Missile IPA *
  • Starr Hill Grateful Pale Ale
  • Devils Backbone Reilly’s Red
  • Old Bust Head English Pale Ale
  • Old Bust Head Chukker Pilsner *
  • Old Bust Head Wildcat IPA *
  • Old Bust Head Shorthorn Pale Ale *
  • Old Bust Head Vixen Irish Red *
  • Old Bust Head Chinquapin Chestnut Porter *
  • Old Bust Head Gold Cup Russian Imperial Stout *
  • Lost Rhino New River Pale Ale
  • Lickinghole Creek Magic Beaver *
  • Lickinghole Creek Til Sunset  *

* Denotes a beer tried for the first time during Virginia Craft Beer Month.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Chief O'Hara, Turn on the Bat Signal

The Penguin is afoot! According to reports,
Police are still on the lookout for a man dressed up as a penguin. The New York Daily News reported on Monday that a man dressed in a “fancy penguin onesie (that’s a mascot-like costume to you and me)” took it upon himself to enter into a northern England convenience store early this week and steal 10 cans of beer.
Give the cartoon thief credit though. Unlike the Budweiser thief, this entrepreneur stepped it up a bit and walked off with a case of Stella Artois lager.


See "Thief dressed in a 'fancy' penguin suit steals 10 cans of pseudo-fancy beer" for more on this caper.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Full Moon Brewery

Located in the town of Manteo on Roanoke Island, the Full Moon Café & Grill, and Brewery, is a hidden craft beer destination on the Outer Banks. We first visited last year, and declared it a "must stop" during our vacation this year. After a tour of the nearby Elizabethan Gardens, we stopped at Full Moon for lunch. The café itself is quite small, and there actually seems to be more outdoor patio seating than indoor. We did choose to dine inside and were seated right away.



Rather than sample a flight of beers, we opted to focus on full servings of a single beer. Interestingly, we all selected beers that we did not try in our initial visit last Summer. Glasses of Lost Colony English Brown Ale for Checkered Flag, Charon Stout for Colleen, and Over Time Pale Ale for me soon appeared on our table. The English Nut Brown Ale was well done, with a slightly nutty flavor and a mild chocolate hint. Colleen's Irish Stout was equally enjoyable. The bitterness of roasted malt and caramel predominated, with a hint of smoke. The beer finished bitter and slightly dry.

The Over Time Pale Ale seems to be a newer addition to the lineup. Golden amber with a thin white head, the beer has a mild citrus aroma. The flavor leans towards grapefruit citrus, with a touch of pine. It was a well-balanced Pale Ale that finished clean with little aftertaste. I rather enjoyed it, and when my glass was empty, instead of changing beers mid-meal, I opted for a repeat pint.

I started my meal with a cup of a very thick crab bisque. Full of crab meat, and flavor, the soup was a fitting accompaniment to my first glass of Over Time Pale Ale. For the main part of my meal, and to go along with that second beer, I enjoyed a Hunter Wrap — chunks of grilled angus ribeye along with onions, tomatoes, and a white cheddar and horseradish sauce. The wrap was served with tortilla chips and a very spicy salsa. The Pale Ale was a fitting, and cooling, foil for the spice of the wrap and the salsa.

If the Full Moon Café and Brewery was just a bit closer to where we were staying in Southern Shores, I am positive we would have eaten more meals there. The combination of fresh craft beer, tasty food and fast, friendly service is hard to beat. It's become one of my favorite stops in the Outer Banks. We'll be back again the next time we're in the area.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Weeping Radish Farm Brewery

During a recent trip to the Outer Banks, we made a lunch time visit the Weeping Radish Eco Farm & Brewery in Grandy, NC. The brewery is just a short drive from the Outer Banks. Arriving for a late lunch on a Sunday, we had about a 30 minute wait for a table. The dining area is surprisingly small given the overall size, at least in appearance, of the operation. We frustratingly stared at two large, but empty, tables. Two tables with seating for at least 8 were empty our entire wait, presumably saved for large parties. I was tempted to introduce myself to another waiting party of four to make a group to qualify for an empty table.



We passed the time looking at the display of sausages, and perusing the menu with the current beer offerings taped to the checkout counter. When we were seated, the well-tattered food and beverage menu we were handed did not have a complete beer listing. The server informed us that the Hefeweizen was not available, but offered no other information. If we had not noticed the lone 8.5x11" paper taped to the counter, we would have had little info on what beers were being served.

These initial "trials" resolved, we got our much anticipated food and beverage orders placed in short order. Colleen and I both opted for three-sausage platters, served with sauerkraut with a soft pretzel. Between our two platters we tried Bratwurst, Apple Brat, Beer Brat, and Andouille. We were left to our own devices to sort out which was which, but the flavors are unique and easily distinguished. The sauerkraut was cut very fine, and cooked to an almost creamy state, with a very sharp "sauer." It was surprisingly tart for being so thoroughly cooked. In enjoyed it, Colleen found it a tad "too much." I think I was the only one to use the accompanying Curry Ketchup, into which I dipped my soft pretzel. We all shared some spicy Lusty Monk Mustard as well. Our son and Checkered Flag both selected Grilled Bratwurst on a roll, served with fries. All of the food was delicious. The servings were quite ample, and neither Colleen nor I managed to clean our plates.

Tasty food aside, I was there to try the beer. Our first round consisted of Corolla Gold Helles LagerBitter Bee, and Ruddy Radish. The Helles that Checker Flag ordered was the only one of the three I had tried previously. It was light bodied, with mildly sweet caramel malt and a toasted cereal grain base. Colleen's Bitter Bee was one of the beers that interested me. It is described as an IPA made with tulip poplar honey from the Shenandoah Valley. The beer was very floral in aroma and flavor. The overall flavor is mild with just a hint of citrus. It was an enjoyable, if unusual flavor. I did very much enjoy the Ruddy Radish Red Ale that I ordered. I've long felt that Red Ale is an oft-ignored style, even by myself. The Weeping Radish version is predominately caramel and toffee malt flavors, with a touch of citrus.

I had finished my pint of Red Ale before I had eaten much of my meal so ordered a glass of one of Weeping Radish's classics, the Black Radish Dark Lager. It took a while to get my beer. The waitress let me know it was coming during her stop by to refill our water glasses, and I saw her speak to the bartender several times, I assumed to check on that order. She finally poured the beer herself and brought it to the table, though I was halfway through my meal by then. This was one of the first Schwarzbiers I tried, many years ago, and looked forward to revisiting it. The aroma and flavor of roasted caramel and a hint of sweetness make this a smooth and easy sipping beer. It is still my favorite from the brewery.

Beer fans with a taste for the boldness of American-style craft beer may be let down by the Weeping Radish beers, which focus on a milder European-style, but the beers are solid. My impression from this visit is that Weeping Radish is set up for the take-out customer, be it beer, sausages, or farm produce. The seating and service left a little to be desired — the lack of a beer menu was telling. The food however was excellent, so it's definitely worth stopping in for the locally produced sausages.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Shooting Videos - The "Pole Cam"

Watching other shooters is a great way to learn, but watching yourself is even more beneficial. At just about shooting match, there's always a plethora of video cameras in use. I occasionally use first-person video to analyze my shooting. This viewpoint is limited in usefulness. A handheld video camera, or most often a smart phone, used to record a third-person POV is preferred but still doesn't offer the "big picture." At the recent Cavalier USPSA match I benefited from another option, which I'll dub the "pole cam." My friend Alex had his video camera mounted on a monopod with swivel mount, and a few of the shooters were using it to record each other shooting. Alex asked if I wanted to be recorded, and I eagerly accepted his offer.

With the camera mounted on the monopod, and angled down slightly, it can be raised above the shooter for a birds-eye view of the action. This allows a complete picture, from head to toe, to be captured. This is great of for seeing footwork and body positioning. Even when the course of fire has walls, the camera is easily held over the walls, all the while staying out of the shooter's and RO's way.



This point of view also makes it easy to see an entire course of fire at once, and even if not the entire course of fire, at least the surrounding targets. This is very useful especially when analyzing your movement to the next target. With all the targets in view, it's easy to see how efficiently you got the gun on target, and how you moved through the course of fire. Of course, when things aren't done smoothly, it's quite apparent as well.



During the classifier stage, Alex stood behind me, off to the side, and was able to extend the pole out to my side. This gave a point of view that would have been impossible otherwise. It was great for watching the "turn and draw" movement. Of course, for some of us, having a belly height camera at your side can present a less than flattering profile.



When Alex shared the videos with me, I was very happy he made the offer. Perhaps it's a bit narcissistic to want to watch yourself shoot, but a bit a narcissism is assumed with being a blogger. (And of course, I made my family watch them too.) But most importantly, watching yourself shoot is a great learning tool. There's no hiding mistakes or poor performance from the camera. I spent a lot of time stepping through the videos and making note of the good, as well as the things I need to work on. We all like watching the "pros" shoot, but the way to get better is to watch yourself shoot.

This may not be a new idea to many, but I don't recall seeing folks recording other than from "ground level" in the matches I've been too. Other than having a drone hovering overhead, this may be the most useful tool I come across in some time. I may have to add this to my took kit in the near future. There's still the problem of having to implore another shooter to hold the camera, but I think the offer of returning the favor, and sharing the videos, may be a sufficient bargaining tool.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Five O'Clock Friday: Old Timers Bar

Four old retired men are walking down a street in Yuma, Arizona. They turn a corner and see a sign that says, “Old Timers Bar – ALL drinks 10 cents.”

They look at each other and then go in, thinking this is too good to be true.

There’s a fully stocked bar, so each of the men orders a martini.

In no time the bartender serves up four iced martinis shaken, not stirred and says, “That’s 10 cents each, please.”

The four guys stare at the bartender for a moment, then at each other. They can’t believe their good luck. They pay the 40 cents, finish their martinis, and order another round.

Again, four excellent martinis are produced, with the bartender again saying,”That’s 40 cents, please.”

They pay the 40 cents, but their curiosity gets the better of them. They’ve each had two martinis and haven’t even spent a dollar yet.

Finally one of them says, “How can you afford to serve martinis as good as these for a dime apiece?”

“I’m a retired tailor from Phoenix ,” the bartender says, “and I always wanted to own a bar. Last year I hit the Lottery Jackpot for $125 million and decided to open this place. Every drink costs a dime. Wine, liquor, beer it’s all the same.”

“Wow! That’s some story!” one of the men says.

As the four of them sip at their martinis, they can’t help noticing seven other people at the end of the bar who don’t have any drinks in front of them and haven’t ordered anything the whole time they’ve been there.

Nodding at the seven at the end of the bar, one of the men asks the Bartender, “What’s with them?”

The bartender says, “They’re retired people from Florida.They’re waiting for Happy Hour when drinks are half-price, plus they all have coupons.”

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Spencer Devon Brewing Fund Raising

I know I posted about a craft brewery fund raising project very recently, but as the number of Virginia craft breweries grows, we'll probably see more news like this. (Remember, these aren't recommendations, I'm just reporting.) That said, this one is close to home, and that makes it of special interest. Spencer Devon Brewing, which we first learned about last December, has joined the crowd sourcing movement with a CrowdBrewed-based project. Brewer/owner Shawn Philips explains his dream in this video which is posted on his CrowdBrewed project page.


The location for the brewery in downtown Fredericksburg is just on block away from Capital Ale House, an establishment we are known to visit frequently. We certainly won't need to travel far afield to visit the brewery. 

The CrowdBrewed project runs through September 18. An October 2014 opening is currently planned. The Spencer Devon web site is under construction, but you can follow the brewery construction progress at their Facebook page.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

We Are The Church Militant

Unless you get your news from MSNBC, you know about the genocide of Christians currently taking place in the Middle East. Recently, the exiled Chaldean Catholic Archeparch of Mosul, Archbishop Amel Nona, made an impassioned plea,
Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future. I lost my diocese. The physical setting of my apostolate has been occupied by Islamic radicals who want us converted or dead. But my community is still alive. 
Please, try to understand us. Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles. You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home.
Archbishop Nona's warning is chilling. Read it again. Let his unsettling warning sink into your heart. His flock is decimated. We must not allow complacency to be our end as well. Heed the warning.

See "Archbishop of Mosul: 'I have lost my Diocese to Islam - You in the West will also become the victims of Muslims'" for the message from the exiled leader.

Note: This sobering topic is expounded upon further over at the Gabriel Possenti Shooters blog.

Black Bear Bistro

I was first introduced to Black Bear Bistro when Chef Todd offered me an Oyster and Beer Shooter during a visit to Old Bust Head Brewing. The Warrenton, VA eatery was serving food at the brewery the day I visited and I promised myself that Colleen and I would visit the restaurant soon. I followed through on that promise with an early dinner after the Old Bust Head tap room grand opening this past weekend. Interestingly, we saw several people in the restaurant who we had also seen earlier at the brewery.

Naturally, the restaurant's beer selection was my first order of business. In an admirable showing of support, Black Bear Bistro has only Virginia beers, plus one Virginia cider on draft. That's right, all eight tap handles are "native"; Starr Hill, Old Bust Head, Lost Rhino, Legend and Bold Rock Cidery were offered. There are also bottled selections listed on the menu, though I frankly paid that list no mind. Since I had just come from Old Bust Head, and had been enjoying their beer two weekends in a row, I opted to drink another Virginia beer, Lost Rhino New River Pale Ale. That particular beer also has a special place in our hearts, and I raised a silent toast to an old friend.


We perused the dinner menu for a while, and decided to start with an appetizer plate of Fried Oysters. The breaded oysters were browned on the outside and just cooked enough to not be considered raw. The meat was juicy and tender. Three dipping sauce options were offered; Regular, Habanero Bacon, and Sweet Thai. Our server used the adjectives "spicy" and "hot" for both of the first two. Undecided, we asked for both the Regular and Habanero Bacon, for research purposes. I first tasted the "regular" sauce and found it to be deliciously "warm." Next I popped an oyster dipped in the Habanero version into my mouth, and for a moment didn't notice anything. And, then. Bam! There it is. Habanero heat, and a bit of smokiness. There's some serious heat going on there, all the while still quite flavorful. After the oysters were gone, I continued dipping my bread into both sauces.

Yea, that was a whole paragraph on the Fried Oysters. They were that good. Frankly, I might just make a meal out of them someday. But not this time. For my main course I selected the Bistro Crab Cake entrée. This was a fried "pancake" of crab meat set on a serving of Wild Rice, with Broccoli Rabe on the side. The crab cake was meaty and very tasty. I had no problem cleaning my plate thoroughly. Colleen opted for a Grilled Pork Flat Iron Steak set on Mashed Cauliflower and topped with Sautéed Spinach and Mushrooms. The thick pork steak was moist and set on a heaping serving of mashed cauliflower. Colleen must have enjoyed it very much, as there was no offer to share. ;-)

We lingered over our meal for a while, enjoying time together and the delicious food. There doesn't appear to be much happening on a Sunday afternoon in Warrenton, but as it got closer to the dinner hour, the curbside parking started to fill, and folks began coming in for dinner. As we headed out for our drive back to Fredericksburg, it was clear that Black Bear Bistro was a popular place with the locals. I know for sure that we'll be back.