Thursday, December 18, 2014

Stealing the Flying Dog Glass

Tuesday evening the Flying Dog RV was spotted outside Capital Ale House. The occasion was a Flying Dog "Steal the Glass" night, featuring four Flying Dog beers served in an attractive etched glass. How could we resist going in?

The four beers featured were Bloodline IPA, Hoppy American Wheat, Kujo Coffee Stout and Gonzo Imperial Porter on Nitro. All excellent beers that we've had before. I opted for the Bloodline Blood Orange IPA and Colleen selected Hoppy American Wheat.

Bloodline IPA seemed to be the most popular selection, based on comments I heard at the bar. It's a bright, citrusy IPA that's quite refreshing. I posted a full review of the beer previously. Equally enjoyable was the Hoppy American Wheat. A blend of a bitter IPA and a wheat beer, this member of the Brewhouse Rarities series is a unique take on the traditional wheat beer. More info can be found in this previous review.

Flying Dog beer peddlers Adam and Pete were there to talk about the beers. I got a chance to chat with them a bit about Flying Dog's plans for the upcoming year. Let's just say I'm looking forward to enjoying some interesting beers from the brewery in 2015.

And those cool etched logo glasses? We decided we really needed a set of four, so we enjoyed another round of our selected beers with Capital Ale's tasty, and huge, Lamb Gyro Burger. It was a fitting finish to a fun day that included a fun visit to the range.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lunchtime Smoke & Noise

Astute readers would rightly assume by the dearth of posts recently that my time for "fun stuff" has been painfully limited. Being unable to enjoy any trigger time since my range trip on Thanksgiving Day has been especially frustrating. In search of relief, Tuesday afternoon I decided to head up to the Indoor Range in Stafford during my lunch hour. I wasn't sure I'd be able to get in; I had the same idea last Friday, but when I arrived I saw 16 cars in the parking lot, at a 14 lane range, and gave it a pass! On this day, I was in luck as there were only a few other folks there.

I spent about 30 minutes shooting at various distances and speeds. Even with the light turned on above the bench, the shooting booths are still dark. Seeing my black sights against the black target was difficult at times, but it was fun and I was pretty pleased with the holes in the paper.

Given the lack of range availability at the local outdoor club, I'll probably start making the indoor range a regular stop. I am not a fan of being unable to see what's going on in the other bays, but it beats not shooting at all. The range is close enough to my office that I can get there, shoot, and be back at my desk in an hour. (Well okay, a padded hour.)

Smoke, noise, muzzle flash. It all makes for a fun lunch break.

And brass at my feet.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Isley Beer & Cheese Pairing

Thursday evening Capital Ale House set out a Cheese & Beer pairing featuring Isley Brewing Company. Three Isley Beers were paired up with three cheeses; Tall, Dark and Hopsome Black IPA with Lusk Gouda, Off the Boulevard Irish Red Ale with McClure Swiss, and Choosy Mother Peanut Butter Oatmeal Porter with President Brie.

Also included with the cheeses was a couple slices of a very delicious bread with a salt and herb crust. We enjoyed the side of bread as much as the cheese and beer. The bread and cheese platter would stand on its own as an appetizer.

This event was originally advertised to feature four beer and cheese pairings, with an Isley rep in attendance to talk about their beers. We think there was a logo glass included as well that we missed getting. That said, we're quite capable left on our own and enjoyed the beers and making our own commentary.

The first pairing, the Tall, Dark and Hopsome IPA and Gouda, was quite good. I took a few sips of the beer before the cheese plate arrived and really liked the beer. The pine and citrus hops with roasted malts was a tasty combination. It's a beer I'd have again. Interestingly, adding in the Gouda, the flavor of the beer took on a slightly sweeter tone. The flavors were noticeably influenced by the cheese.

Next up was Off the Boulevard Irish Red Ale and Swiss. The Red Ale had a distinctly fruity aspect along with the biscuity malt. After sipping, Colleen and I at the same time remarked, "I taste pears." The ale had a decidedly malty cider slant, in appearance, aroma and flavor.

Finally, we came to the Choosy Mother Peanut Butter Oatmeal Porter and Brie pair. In all frankness, we didn't care for the aroma of this one. In the taste, there was some oatmeal and a hint of sweet chocolate. It was however, the peanut butter than dominated. Mixing our sips with the brie and bread, the peanut flavor was muted somewhat. Choosy Mother is a popular and highly rated beer from Isley. But this unique flavor is like smoked beers I think, you either like them or you don't. The beer grew on me as I sipped, but a full pint probably isn't in my future.

Our beer and cheese tasting completed, Colleen and I settled into a few more good beers and the Thursday special of "Endless Mussels." We took good advantage of the all you can eat aspect of the menu. It was a tasty and enjoyable, if somewhat decadent, evening.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Forcing the Options Towards Good Beer

Twice a month I head off to a meeting of like-minded Catholic men who serve the community and Church. After the business of the evening is completed, food and beverages are set out. The kitchen crew prides itself on the good food, but he beer selection is often lacking. It typically consists of the usual suspects one sees at such a gathering; Miller Lite, Stella Artois, and the occasional Yuengling Lager. I can get by with the Yuengling but would enjoy something different. I am sure many of the other men would as well, but the "buyer" is stuck in his ways.

This week I had a last minute thought before I left for the meeting and filled a six-pack carrier with some beers from my fridge. I opted to stick with "easy" beers such as New Belgium Fat Tire and Brooklyn Lager. My thought was to stick with a similar style, but introduce some new labels.

When it came for the social part of the meeting, I found myself near the end of the line. I watched as other men were digging through the beer cooler and grabbing the bottles I had added. I feared there wouldn't be any left for me. I did eventually retrieved the last bottle of Fat Tire for myself.

I overheard comments like "Where did this come from?" and "Good beer!" I've been thinking it would be worth donating a six pack or two for a few weeks to continue to build up the demand. Eventually, folks will come to expect it, even though there will always be the hard core Miller Lite fan.

The one wrench in the works is I was told the existing stock of Lite and Stella would need to be finished before the supply was restocked. Might be time for a little more subterfuge.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A "Soulful" Evening of Beer

I went out for a quick dinner last night, heading over to Park Lane Tavern. When I arrived I learned they were having a "Steal the Glass" night featuring Green Flash Soul Style IPA. The glass with the premium price point was a simple logo shaker pint, so I wasn't really interested in the glass, but opted to try the beer nonetheless.

Green Flash Soul Style pours a clear and bright copper color with a thin, short-lived head. The aroma is sweet fruit and somewhat resinous. The initial flavor is bitter citrus and pine, with a touch of sweetness showing up as well. The finish is slightly bitter with some lingering resin coating in the mouth. Green Flash beers are typically bold and brusk on the palate. Soul Style while tasty, might be a let down for Green Flash fans used to beers like Road Warrior and Green Bullet.

My glass emptied, but still some food on my plate, I recalled the tasty Starr Hill Soul Shine I enjoyed recently at Park Lane. I opted to continue the evening's "soul" theme with a glass of that cask conditioned beer. At first the flavor seemed somewhat muted, after the more intense Soul Style. Of course, my tastebuds soon adapted and I enjoyed the smooth cask beer while finishing my meal.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Ale at Adventure Brewing

Historically, I simply don't go out on "Black Friday." I prefer to spend the day with good leftovers, and good beer, perhaps preceded by a trip to the range. However this year, Adventure Brewing was celebrating the start of the holiday season with extended hours and the release of their Christmas Ale. This was worth venturing out for. Colleen and I headed up mid-afternoon, and after the tortuous drive through the local shopping mall area (What's wrong with you people?) we found the two-exit drive on the interstate to be quite easy.

Adventure was serving twelve different beers this weekend. They had all eight wall taps going, along with two jockey boxes. For those who are new to Adventure beers, they were offering a 12 beer tasting fight! We'd been to Adventure enough to have tried most of the beers, so we started right into the reason for our visit, the Christmas Ale.

The beer pours a cloudy, copper color with a thick beige head. Brewer Stan told us the beer was still young and would clear up with more time in the tank. Frankly, I expect a spiced Christmas Ale to have a bit of cloudiness to it. The aroma was pretty mild, with cinnamon and allspice over a biscuity malt. The spices revealed themselves more in the flavor. Some bitterness of citrus rind hangs in with the spices. It was quite tasty and I remarked to Colleen that maybe I should have remembered to bring along an empty growler for filling.

But, the real test in my book, is how I feel at the end of the glass. Would I want another? So often with spiced ales, as with pumpkin beers, I enjoy them initially but quickly tire of the unique flavor. Not this time, the ale is flavorful and well-balanced. When my glass was empty, I definitely wanted another pint. The moderately low ABV, I think it was around 6%, made it easy to enjoy a couple in the mid-afternoon. I thought this was one of the most enjoyable spiced ales I've had in some time. I'm already checking my calendar to see when I can fit in another visit to enjoy another pint. Or two.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thankful For a Little Range Time

Cloudy. Sporadic rain. Temperature in the low 40's. Thanksgiving afternoon. That all led me to think it might be a good time to hit the range. And it paid off as I had the place to myself. Due to poor planning I had only brought along one target stand, and a stack of B-34 targets, thinking I would need to be quickly in and out between shooters. Instead I found myself with the freedom to do as I pleased.

Just me

The events of Ferguson fresh on my mind, I decided to set up the one stand in the center of the berm and spent my time shooting on the move. I worked with the entire width of the bay, from around 15 yards out, and in to five. Shoot a magazine of 10 or 15 rounds, reload, move some more. Replace the target and repeat. The only regret is that I didn't have multiple targets to set up.

It was a good way to spend an hour or so. The hits were good, most inside the scoring rings. I had a few that were merely "on paper" but better to work that out in practice than real life. I was happy to get in some self-defense themed practice, without any warnings about "shooting too fast."

My ammo used up, I probably spent as much time finding my fired brass as I did creating it. There was no squatting and picking up a neat pile as the brass was spread all over the bay. At least the sun peaked through creating some sparkle to make finding it easier.

It may seem a bit odd to be at the range thinking self defense on a day devoted to remembering all the good things in our lives, but that's the reality of the world we live in. And I'm thankful I still have the freedom to be prepared.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Starr Hill Soul Shine

We headed out Thanksgiving Eve for a quick meal at Park Lane Tavern. The beer menu at Park Lane is fairly static, but it's the rotating tap list that typically gets my interest. This evening the cask selection was Starr Hill Soul Shine, a Belgian-Style Pale Ale. I find that with this style, it's hit or miss if the beer tends towards "Belgian" or "Pale Ale." Though either end of that spectrum is fine with me.

The beer was served in 20 ounce snifters, and sported a thick creamy head. Copious bubbles were still rising to the top as the glasses were set before us, and we thought at first it was a nitro pour. Reaching for the glass I could tell that it was coming out at a good temperature as well.

The aroma was that of citrus, with some earthy Belgian yeast. There was also a hint of peppery spice. The flavor brought forth more of the Belgian yeast spiciness, but the citrus notes certainly came forward as well. A bit of sweet biscuity malt rounded out the flavor profile. The finish was clean with very little aftertaste.

A prominent feature of the beer was the creamy mouthfeel. Despite this being a Summer seasonal from Starr Hill, it was my first time drinking the beer. I don't know how much of the creaminess was from the cask serving or if the beer has a naturally smooth mouthfeel. It certainly merits further research. In any event, we enjoyed Soul Shine quite a bit, and the cask serving seemed especially well-done. I expect it'll show up again, as Starr Hill beers seem to make the rotating cask list frequently at Park Lane.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Now It's Really the Holiday Season

Thanksgiving Day traditionally marks the start of the Holiday Season. But for me, like many craft beer fans, there's another marker of the season. It's that first glass of Sierra Nevada Celebration Fresh Hop IPA. I had mine a few days before Thanksgiving.

Celebration Ale pours an attractive glowing orange color with a thick cream-colored head. The aroma of grapefruit and pine preps the palate. Grapefruit and orange pithiness hits the taste buds first, followed by just enough breadiness in the malt to round it all out.

This Winter release is one we look forward to each year. It's one of our favorite beers and "this is so good" is my frequent comment as I'm sipping. We'll be enjoying a lot of it in the coming months.

You Are On Your Own

I purposely have avoided writing on the breakdown of civilized society in Ferguson, MO and elsewhere. Frankly, anything I start to write, quickly turns into a rant of vile disgust at what we have witnessed. But, I would like to make one point. (Calming breath now.) If Ferguson teaches us anything, it's the fallacy of "The police will save me" and "Just dial 911" mindset so many people have when it comes to self-defense. The past few days should make it plainly clear that you are on your own when society breaks down. You are your own "first responder."

The riots in Ferguson were not a surprise. That violence was eminent was known for weeks leading up to the grand jury decision. Federal and local law enforcement were put in place. The night of the announcement, we saw pictures of police in riot gear standing at the ready. And what happened? For two days there was widespread rioting, looting and arson. Unimpeded rioting, looting and arson.

Sure there were a few arrests, but look at the pictures of the city now. It's very obvious that peace keepers were unable to prevent the widespread destruction. Indeed it now appears the lack of protection for citizens may have even been by design. In the aftermath of an unexpected event, like a natural disaster, or even another politically or racially charged crime, the violence would likely be far more widespread and be met with the same lack of resistance.

Watching TV Monday evening, we saw first hand just how fast the breakdown in civilized society happened. We are constantly reminded that the violence was from a small minority of citizens. But numbers and percentages mean little to those in danger. If law enforcement cannot protect a small area when the violence is planned openly in advance, how effective will it be when unexpected trouble arises, or spreads over a wider area?

Indeed, when citizens stand in defense, violence can be averted. That's been proven in the past. But we live in a time when many in government are openly hostile to the right of self-defense and few people are prepared to protect their property, themselves, and their families. We should certainly be asking "WHY" the violence in Ferguson and elsewhere was allowed to happen. But the more important concern is "WHAT" are we as private citizens going to do to avoid being victims of the same sort of violence in the future?