Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memorial Day

As we enjoy time with family and friends over the long Memorial Day weekend, let's be sure to take a moment to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Their sacrifices help to maintain the freedoms we value and enjoy today.

Good News for Norm's

After fans of Norm's Beer and Wine got word of the possible shutdown of their favorite craft beer store, they began a grassroots campaign to save the store. Apparently, the target of their wrath is listening. Fresh Market, who was given a non-compete clause that would shutter Norm's, issued the following statement:
"As we have learned more about the Vienna community it has become apparent that Norm's Beer & Wine is an integral part of the fabric of Vienna. We will work with Norm so that he can continue to serve his patrons from his existing location. We look forward to being neighbors with Norm's Beer & Wine and together serving the residents of Vienna for many years to come."
That's good news. While it remains to be seen exactly what the agreement will entail, it certainly appears that Fresh Market has heard the voices of Norm's fans.

The Vienna Patch has the complete story here.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Port City Optimal Wit

Next up in our series on Port City Brewing is Optimal Wit. After enjoying the brewery's Essential Pale Ale, I was looking forward to see what else the folks at Virginia's newest brewery were producing.

Port City Optimal Wit is unfiltered and pours a cloudy, straw color with a thin white head. The strong aroma is full of peppery spices. The flavor follows the distinctive aroma. There's a nice blend of spices; pepper, orange zest, cloves, with a small hint of lemon tartness. As it warms a bit a honey scent becomes more evident within the spicy nose. The beer is moderately effervescent, and retains these delicate bubbles to the end. It finishes clean with little aftertaste. The persistent thin head is a bit sticky and leaves lacing behind as you roll the glass.

Admittedly, the wit-style beers are not ones I often choose. However, immediately after pouring an Optimal Wit for Colleen, and stealing a sniff and a sip, I decided I needed to pour one for myself. Another well-done beer from Port City.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Did the U.S. lose some States?

There are many challenges facing our Nation these days. We see divisiveness all around us. While dining out recently I thought that maybe these United States had become less "united."

I was startled by the listings under "Imported" on the restaurant's beverage menu. Blue Moon? That's from the Coors Brewing Company in Golden, Colorado. Sam Adams and Sam Adams Lite? Those are brewed by the Boston Beer Company in Boston, Massachusetts. After checking both my atlas and CNN, I was relieved to find no evidence of any coup or civil war that might have divided the Country. Indeed both Colorado and Massachusetts are still part of the United States, still domestic.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Port City Essential Pale Ale

Port City Brewing Company opened in Alexandria, Virginia earlier this year. In just a few months they've gained a pretty wide distribution, even down into Fredericksburg. The brewery is a production brewery, not a brewpub, though tours and tastings are available. I recently picked up six-packs of a couple of their beers.

The first Port City beer we tried is the Essential Pale Ale. The beer pours a marmalade-orange color, and slightly hazy. The head is white and thin, even with a hard pour. The foam, though thin is persistent. The aroma is somewhat fruity with a bready sweetness. The flavor is grainy, sweet malt with a background of mildly bitter citrus and pine notes. The malt flavors hold the forefront of the flavor profile, with just enough bitterness to keep the sweetness in check. The finish is dry, without any long-lingering aftertaste.

Port City Essential Pale Ale is well-balanced, and mild beer. I suspect this would make a good everyday beer, easily enjoyed by drinkers across the spectrum of beer preferences. I certainly enjoyed it.

Port City currently produces three other beers in additional to Essential Pale Ale; Monumental IPA, Optimal Wit, and Porter. I look forward to trying them out and will report my findings here.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

USPSA VA/MD Sectional Match

This past weekend saw avid shooters from around the East Coast at the Nevco Targets VA/MD Sectional Championship Match, held right here in Fredericksburg. I've been looking forward to the match for several months. The stage layouts looked challenging. It was also the largest match I've shot in a single day; 9 stages, 250+ rounds, all completed before lunch.

The match was challenging indeed. It took me a couple of stages to get "calmed down" and reign in the nerves and shoot at my own speed. After that, the sights were more visible and my shooting improved.

As expected, the match was full of learning experiences. Stage 6, appropriately named "Respect," included moving targets made visible by hits on other targets. The time delay from hitting the activator until the target appeared left me waiting for the target, shooting some other targets while waiting would have been a better plan of attack. Also in this stage was a dreaded Texas Star, to be shot through a low port while kneeling or crouching. Interestingly, I had my highest finish on this stage, despite some extra shots needed to knock all the plates from the spinning Texas Star.

A few of the stages were "memory stages." Rather than simply moving through the stage and shooting targets as you get to them, there are targets that could be engaged from more than one position. The shooter has to make a plan, stick to the plan, and not waste time shooting the same target again, or worse, skipping a target altogether. During the course of the match I managed to make both mistakes. However, in doing so, I learned a few things that will help me improve in the future.

On aptly named, "Hold the door", shooters pushed open doors and held them open with a foot while engaging targets on the other side. This added to the challenge, especially since the two spring-loaded doors where hinged on opposite sides. "106 Miles to Chicago" required the competitor to drop to knee, engage targets under a low port, and then finish the stage shooting targets while retreating up range.

Overall, I was happy with my performance in my second major match. It certainly was a learning experience, I was pushed with new challenges, and made some new friends. And most importantly, it was fun!

A few more photos here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

World Beer Fest Richmond Cancelled

Daniel Bradford of All About Beer Magazine, sponsor of the World Beer Festival has announced that the Richmond event scheduled for June 18 in Richmond, VA has been canceled. In a letter sent out today Bradford writes:

It is with deepest regret that we must announce the cancellation of the World Beer Festival – Richmond 2011.

We enjoyed an excellent response from the Richmond beer community to last summer’s inaugural event. As we prepared for this year’s festival, we were excited about the public response, including both ticket pre-sales and volunteer recruitment. However, we have struggled with the regulatory requirements and trade practices in executing our festival model in Richmond.  Furthermore, internal company issues inhibited our ability to get ahead of these challenges and respond in a supportive partner fashion.

We concluded we could not create the type of beer tasting experience that would meet our standards, a reputation for quality beer tasting events that we have nurtured since 1996.  We would not have fulfilled our commitment to our customers or to the industry we have served for three decades.

We remain committed to the Richmond beer market – beer lovers, beer retailers, beer wholesalers and brewers – offering our assistance and support for any and all quality beer events that spread the word about good beer.

Again, we are deeply sorry about not being able to execute our event and any unfulfilled expectations that this may cause.  We are contacting all advanced sale ticket holders to offer refunds or exchanges for our World Beer Festival – Durham, World Beer Festival – Raleigh or World Beer Festival--Columbia.


Daniel Bradford
Readers will recall that the inaugural World Beer Festival - Richmond had to be postponed from it's original date back in 2009. The World Beer Festival events I've attended in North Carolina have been well-organized and a lot of fun. I hope the organizers can find a way to overcome the trials they face bringing the event to Virginia.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Another New Beer Coming to Blue & Gray

Recently I had the chance to try out a new beer from Blue & Gray Brewing. The brewery's as yet unnamed IPA is likely to become a new favorite when it's available on a regular basis. Now it appears that my favorite brewpub has brewed another new beer. In a recent mailing to publicize the upcoming "King of the Grill" Father's Day Beer Dinner, Jeff included this tease: "We'll also be previewing a new Brown Ale recipe that night." I am not sure if I'll make it to the dinner but I'll certainly be on the prowl for a taste of the brown ale.

The six beer, five course Father's Day Dinner at Lee's Retreat will be held June 19. Watch the Lee's Retreat website for details as they become available.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

25,000 Big Macs?


Here at Musings Over a Pint, we're unabashed about our infatuation with the hamburger. It's the typical food with which we judge a pub. But when Don Gorske of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin ate his 25,000th Big Mac recently, he took obsession to a new level.

To each his own, but when it comes to burgers, I'll take quality over quantity anytime.

Reaching a Shooting Goal

A few weeks ago the monthly USPSA match at Fredericksburg Practical Shooters was a "classifier match." Four of the six stages were classifiers; standard exercises used to rank shooters against the whole of the USPSA membership. This was a good opportunity to take a big step towards my 2011 goal of getting my "C card." It's been less than a year since I shot my first USPSA match last July, and coinicidently, it too was a classifier match at Fredericksburg.

We were given near perfect weather for shooting. The morning started cool, but warmed by the time we started shooting. There was a brief hint of sun that threatened to make things a little uncomfortable, but the skies quickly changed to overcast. It was verging on too dark for the smoked lenses in my glasses, but never quite got there. I was very happy that I saw no rain, until I was leaving the range.

Our squad started off with the two field course stages, stages 3 and 4. These were straightforward 32 round run 'n gun courses. Stage 3 posed an interesting decision for the last shooting position; does my body contort far enough, or do I lean around the wall and shoot weak hand only? For me, it was the latter, because, no, I just don't bend that way any more. Stage 4 had one target "out of sequence" that I actually passed right by during my first walk through, I managed to burn it into memory and remembered to shoot it during my run.

The four classifier stages were shot through quickly. For me, all four classifiers selected were ones I'd never shot previously. I particularly enjoyed the challenges of straying from the comfort zone with two table starts. The head shots on "It's Not Brain Surgery" (09-07) were intimidating, but conquered. "Pucker Factor" (09-04) I thought was a fun stage. "Table Stakes" (09-13) was straighforward and let me prove I can even hit steel; something I seem to often prove otherwise down at Black Creek! Finally "El Presidente" (99-11). Strange as it may seem, I've never even practiced that drill, which is a classic exercise.

Personally, it was a day of "bests." I had just one miss all day, a costly hit on a no-shoot, and completed all four classifiers with "C" percentages. Actually, on a couple of online classifier lookup tools, one of my scores was predicted to be a "B". But when USPSA ran the scores this week, they all showed up as "C". Not sure if the third-party data is bad, but at least my goal was met. I received my C classification in Production this week. It's a low C admittedly, but I look forward to raising it up.

Do I set a new goal of "B" for 2011? That might be pushing it, but let's see what the rest of the season brings. Recent matches have shown me some areas I might easily cut some time; mag changes and position transitions are skills I'll be working on in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to seeing everyone on the range again soon.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

June Festivities

Virginia craft beer fans are in for treat in June. There are two great beer fests are coming up.

First up is the Second Annual World Beer Festival in Richmond on Saturday, June 18, 2011 on Brown's Island. For tickets, visit or stop in at Mekong Restaurant, 6004 W. Broad Street or Capital Ale House (Downtown, Innsbrook & Midlothian).

Produced by All About Beer Magazine, the festival offers two four-hour sessions, from noon to 4 p.m., and from 6 to 10 p.m. General admission to a single session is $40 in advance, $50 day of the event, which includes beer samples, music by local bands, educational sessions by industry experts, and a festival tasting glass.

The following weekend will find fans enjoying the Northern Virginia BrewFest. The 4th Annual Northern Virginia Summer BrewFest takes place June 25-26 and will feature beer from over 50 breweries and a wide variety of food. Your admission ticket includes a sampling glass and four beer tickets. Additional drink tickets are available for purchase. This is one of my favorite festivals, I'm sure you'll enjoy it too.

Tickets to the BrewFest are available online. Advanced tickets are $20, and $30 at the gate. Reduced price tickets are also available for designated drivers.

Two great craft beer festivals in the same month. Make your plans now, and be sure to enjoy responsibly.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Kudos for Blue Mountain

It's always a great day when yet another Virginia craft brewer gets recognized. From Blue Mountain Brewery
One of the cover stories in the June issue of Food & Wine Magazine is a ‘Guide to Amazing Beers Across America’. Blue Mountain Brewery’s own Kolsch 151 was singled out as one of the amazing beers not to miss in your trans-American malt journey.
Click on the picture at the right to see a closeup of the map. Congratulations to the folks at Blue Mountain Brewery for picking up this national recognition.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Norm's Beer and Wine Faces Non-Compete Challenge

Is this a case of the big guy versus the little guy? Norm's Beer and Wine has been a destination in Vienna, VA since 1988. It's the "go to" retail store for Northern Virginia craft beer fans. I've made the drive from Fredericksburg several times for beer that wasn't available locally.

The trouble for Norm's apparently started when the supermarket chain Fresh Market decided to move into the empty space next door. The property landlord offered Fresh Market a non-compete clause for beer and wine which will force Norm's out of the shopping center. Vienna Patch brings us the story:
Norm Yow, the shop’s owner, said he was initially excited when he heard the national supermarket chain Fresh Market was going to open a location right next to his store at 136 Branch Ave. in Vienna.  The lot had been vacant for two years, and Yow believed increased traffic to the strip mall would improve his already thriving business. His landlord, the Bethesda-based company Finmarc, even used the impending arrival of the gourmet chain store as justification to raise his rent at the end of 2008, he said.
But the anticipation turned to chagrin in mid-February, when Finmarc informed Yow that they’d offered Fresh Market, which intends to sell beer and wine, a non-compete clause that would force Norm’s out of the location its been in for 13 years.
Although much of the online "anger" is directed against Fresh Market, some observers note that it was Norm's landlord Finmark who offered the non-compete clause as an incentive to Fresh Market. This story is probably more complex than it appears on the surface. In any event, it would be a great loss if Norm's were to close.

Fans of Norm's can show their support at the Save Norm's Beer and Wine Facebook page.
Read the entire Vienna Patch article here.

Update, May 11: Norm posted an update to the DC-Beer mailing list. I've reposted it here, with Norm's permission.

Thank you everybody for the support! I hope this can be resolved soon and we can just go back to normal!

I wish I could set the record straight, but I'm not really sure where the non-compete originated.  From speaking with one of the owners a couple of times, I've gotten the impression it was not something they were happy about doing, but the new tenant is the 400lb gorilla on the block. That gives me the impression that the idea came from Greensboro.  Also, Finmarc is the property manager, not the owner.  I don't know how much of a role they play in lease negotiations.  There's a company called StreetSense that handled the lease inquiries into the open spaces in the shopping center.  Also, at this point, the only party that can change the agreement is The Fresh Market.

If any news breaks, I'll try to pass it along ASAP.

Thanks again!

Stay tuned for updates as this unfolds. Also, there's now an (unofficial) Save Norm's Twitter feed that you can follow for updates.

Update, May 28: Fresh Market issues a statement saying they will work with Norm's.

Monday, May 9, 2011

More Buzz for Virginia Breweries

Here's a link to an article in The Virginian-Pilot on some local craft brewers. The article focused on four Virginia Beach-area breweries; O'Conner Brewing, Beach Brewing, Gordon Biersch, St. George and Williamsburg AleWerks. Beach Brewing is the newcomer in the group, and is making quite an impression on Virginia Beach craft beer fans.

I thought the last lines of the article were especially telling on why Virginia craft beer is growing :
The craft craze has fostered a spirit of camaraderie, not competition, among the local brewers. O’Connor and Young [of Gordon Biersch], for instance, have borrowed each other’s equipment.

Instead of hurting St. George’s business, O’Connor’s entry into the market increased demand for St. George on the Southside, Halfpenny said.

Likewise, O’Connor said Beach Brewing poses no threat: “It opens people’s eyes and further creates a beer culture.”
See Move over Bud - local craft brews are selling big for the complete article.

Manly Beers? Chick Beers?

Mad Fox Orange Whip IPA, recently reviewed here, is getting many compliments and favorable reviews from fans, especially on the Mad Fox Facebook page, and a local beer enthusiasts group, also on Facebook. One recent comment jumped out at me:
I had it for the first time on Saturday, thought it was kind of a chick version of an IPA. Very drinkable. 
I'm quite found of extremely hoppy and bitter IPA's. If I can describe a beer as a fitting replacement for grapefruit juice at breakfast, I'm happy. I like a long-lingering bitterness in a beer. As noted previously, Orange Whip may be one of the best IPA's I've tasted, and it wasn't mild or meek by any stretch. Yet it was not taste bud wreaking either, which made the "chick beer" comment very interesting.

I'm betting that the comment was made tongue-in-cheek, but it's thought-provoking nonetheless. We've all heard the beer snob jokes about wimpy beers. Maybe times are changing when a hoppy, bitter IPA can be described as a "chick version."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

No Tattoo, Just A Whip

Mad Fox Orange Whip IPA that is.

Yesterday we headed up to Northern Virginia to pick up a friend, with plans to attend the Twilight Tattoo at Ft. McNair in D.C.  No sooner did we get up to NoVa did we learn that the event had been cancelled due to weather. Oh well, there's only one thing left to do; head to Mad Fox Brewing Company for food and drink!

It was actually good timing as I had read on Mad Fox's Facebook page that they had just tapped the Orange Whip IPA the day before. I really wanted to try this one. I ordered my drink right away. My dining partners were undecided so they decided after a few sips from my glass. Colleen also opted for the Orange Whip. My cider-loving friend saw Original Sin Cider on the menu and decided to finally get to try that one.

Orange Whip is a dark copper color with a thin off-white head. Citrus aroma with bit of fruits give a hint of the taste to come. I found the flavor to be a nice blend of citrus and bitter hopping. A mildly sweet, bready malt holds everything together. Orange, pineapple, grapefruit; it's all in there in a delightfully enjoyable beer. This probably ranks as one of the best IPA's I've had. It went quite well with the Frickles, and the Buffalo wings, and the Mad Fox Burger.

Of course, I wanted another, and another. But I also wanted to try the Defender American Pale Ale, available on cask only. The Pale Ale was served cellar temp, and had a nice creamy head. A good balance of malt and bitter hops made for another tasty beer. I enjoyed this one too, but after the Orange Whip my flavor receptors were spoiled!

While we were still disappointed in not getting to enjoy the concert, the unexpected trip to Mad Fox was ample compensation.