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.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Old Bust Head Tap Room

Old Bust Head Brewing celebrated the grand opening of their new tap room this weekend. Even though I had visited the brewery just last week, Colleen and I made plans to go see the new tap room, as well as enjoy the good beers. We initially thought about going on Saturday, but I arrived home later than planned, and very tired, from Saturday's USPSA match, so we postponed our visit until Sunday. That was fortuitous, as I later learned that the crowd Saturday was so large they were turning people away! Sunday at the brewery was crowded as well, but we had no problem getting seats or beers.

The Old Bust Head tap room is huge, with seating for 200 plus people, as well as a small stage. Seating is at heavy wooden benches and tables. Outside tables are also available. There are hooks at the large walnut bar for purses, a feature that Colleen always looks for, so I suspect they will eventually provide seating at the bar as well. And there's free Wi-Fi too. It's immediately obvious that Old Bust Head is set up to deal with large crowds. There is an exceptionally long line of tap handles behind the walnut bar, as well as multiple chalk boards listing the current beers on tap. Even though the line was long, both times I stood in it, the wait was surprisingly short. It reminded me of an airline check-in line, you waited in one line for the next available agent server, and moved forward when your turn came. Of course, the reward at the bar was much more pleasant than what awaits at the airport line.

Since I had tried most of the beers last weekend, I opted for a glass of Gold Cup Russian Imperial Stout, a beer that was released for the grand opening. As an added treat, the Stout was served on nitro. Colleen opted for a flight of four beers; Bust Head Old English Pale Ale, Chukker Pilsner, Wildcat IPA, and Chinquapin Chestnut Porter.

The Gold Cup Stout was exceptionally well-done. The bittersweet chocolate and espresso flavors made a rich-flavored beer, with a creamy, smooth mouthfeel. A mild roasted bitterness stayed behind on the palate. The 10% ABV was masked and not noticeable in the flavor. I enjoyed this beer very much, but opted to have just one. I enjoyed a pint of the lower ABV Shorthorn American Pale Ale while Colleen continued on her flight tasting. As I was last week, Colleen was very enamored with the Chestnut Porter.

We had plans to enjoy dinner at Black Bear Bistro in Warrenton before heading home, so after we finished our beers we headed out, but not before Colleen won an Old Bust Head koozie in one of the free raffles. I expect we'll be making regular visits to Old Bust Head, the beers are excellent and the drive not that long.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

August Cavalier USPSA Match

Fifty-five degrees. That's what the dashboard thermometer read as I started my drive down towards Montpelier, VA for the Greater Richmond Blasters USPSA match at the Cavalier Rifle and Pistol Club. Hmm, better check the calendar, it is August, correct? The temps did eventually get into the 80's but still, there were no complaints about the weather. I took an even more rural route to the range than I did last month, but got there in about the same time, and avoided any roadway that was wider than two lanes. (And I probably couldn't tell you how I got there.) Some of my squad mates arrived late due to traffic on the abomination that is I-95.

The first stage our squad shot, Stage 5, started with the shooter's hands on the edge of a wall that divided the stage. After engaging some paper targets and steel poppers that were strategically placed behind barrels, you had to retreat back up range, around the wall and engage similar targets from the other side. New shooters were cautioned about muzzle awareness while retreating up range.

Stage 6 had the shooter starting on the left side in mid-bay, and engaging four paper targets while backing up range. The right side of the course consisted of a zig-zagging path downrange, stopping mid-course to push open a door, through which more targets were engaged. A quick squeeze around another wall and the course ended with a quick finish engaging four close range targets.

Stages 1 and 2 shared the end of the club's rifle range. Stage 1 was a quick stage with 4 paper targets engaged from one side of a barricade, then from the opposite side, two forward falling steel poppers and 2 more paper targets. Stage 2 was the classifier, CM-03-11 "El Strong & Weak Pres."

Stage 3 was a simple stage, offering many options of engagement. A barrel stack was positioned at the center of two walls in a wide "V". The barrels partially obscured 5 pepper poppers, along with 6 paper targets with varying amounts of hard and no-shoot covering. A couple of outlying targets on either side were engaged from the start position up range. Most shooters were assured of a standing reload at the barrels — the decisions came mostly with the steel targets — engage some of the steel from near the start position, or from near the barrel, and from what side? For a seemingly simple stage, the options were many.

The final stage we shot was probably the most fun, and quite unusual. The shooter started seated in a chair, facing up range. The unloaded gun, along with all ammunition to be used, was placed on a table behind the shooter. At the start, the shooter rounded the barrels behind him, loaded whatever magazines he needed onto his belt, loaded the gun, and ran the course. My plan had me shooting ten rounds between reloads, which meant shooting to slide lock. All reloads were planned on the move, so that wasn't a time loss issue. My problem came after my first reload, when I had a feed issue and had to run the slide to get the gun back in battery. Fortuitously, I had decided at the last moment to take the time to pick up an extra mag off the table, which I now needed due to losing a round here. The stage finished with five close and fast targets, four of which were mostly obscured behind a barrier, forcing shots over the wall for two and then a drop to the knees to shoot under for the last two.

It was a fun match with some interesting challenges. I didn't shoot as well as I would have liked, finishing 14th out of 28 Production shooters. Still, it was a great time shooting with some old friends, and meeting a few new ones as well. I'm looking forward to next month already. Perhaps I'll even settle on the right country roads for the best route. I've now gone to the Cavalier USPSA match twice, and have not managed to take the same route in either the drive to or from the range. I think I've now found my preferred route to take, so perhaps next month there will be no stress, at least for the drive.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Tin Cannon Brewing Kickstarter

Yes Virginia, there is another brewery coming. Tin Cannon Brewing is a nano-brewery located in Gainesville, Virginia. Brewers Aaron Ludwig and John Hilkert have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to build out the taproom.

The brewery is planning a November 7 opening. Visit the Tin Cannon Brewing web site to keep up with the progress. You can also follow along on Facebook or Twitter.

More information on the Kickstater campaign is here.