Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Harry's Alehouse Bourbon Barrel Beer Dinner

We capped off last weekend with an enjoyable event at Harry's Alehouse. The "Bourbon Barrel Beer Dinner" promised interesting beers and good food. As we were seated our server let us know that the first course would start in about 20 minutes, and he then tempted us with a couple additional barrel-aged beers that weren't to be featured in the pairings. Naturally, we couldn't resist ordering both the Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout and the Goose Island Bourbon County 2017 offerings.

Checking in at 11.7% ABV, Founders CBS has been brewed only three times since its introduction in 2011. Brewed with chocolate and coffee, the beer is aged in bourbon barrels that previously held maple syrup. An annual release, the Goose Island Stout is also aged in bourbon barrels, and boasts a big 14.1% ABV. Both beers are much hyped and sought after by craft beer aficionados. We enjoyed both, but picked the Founders CBS as the better, and worth seeking out again in the future.

Those palate primers finished, it was time to for the main event to begin. The first course featured Baked Brie en Croute with Tangerine Honey Marmalade. The beer pairing was Alltech Brewing Kentucky Rickhouse Series No. 6 Tangerine Cream. Alltech is a combination brewery and distillery located along Kentucky's Bourbon Trail. The beer was a bright golden color with a creamy citrus aroma, and a moderate 5.5% ABV. The flavor was that of a classic creamsicle, if it was made with a hint of bourbon. This was certainly an unusual, but tasty beer. The flavors of the brie and marmalade was similar and compatible.

Next up was a French Country Salad made with Heirloom Tomatoes, Herbed Goat Cheese, Toasted Walnuts and a Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette. The featured beer for this course was Allagash Curieux. Curieux is a Belgian Triple, 11% ABV,  that has been aged bourbon barrels for seven weeks. Besides the expected bourbon notes, there are hints of coconut and vanilla in both the aroma and flavor. The salad was especially flavorful, and made even more enjoyable by the paired beer.

It was about this time in the event, that we started discussing how this was not a "sampling" dinner. We were being served full courses meals and respectable servings of the beers. It was going to be a long evening!

The main course featured Blue Mountain Barrel House Chocolate & Coffee Aged Dark Hollow. This was paired with a Coffee Crusted Prime Cut Porterhouse with Grilled Asparagus, Duchess Potatoes and Dark Hollow Demi-Glace. Dark Hollow is one of my all-time favorite Imperial Stouts, and this version was extra rich in roasted coffee and chocolate, with hints of vanilla and oak. As much as we enjoyed this spectacular 10% ABV beer, the star of the course was the steak. 

The "coffee crust" added an extra kick to the flavors. The steak was huge, tender and cooked to perfection. We saw several attendees asking for "to go" boxes. Not us. This was a feast to be enjoyed in the moment. Thankfully the service, which up until now had been almost too quick between courses, slowed to allow us to linger over this course.

Eventually it was time for dessert. This was a classic French Apple Raisin Pie with a Cream Cheese Topping. In a break from the beers served previously, the pie was served with a cider. Moonlight Meadery Them Little Apples is a created from fresh cider, blended with honey and sugar at the meadery and allowed to ferment in Rye Whiskey barrels.

The honey sweetness comes through in the flavor of the cider, though I didn't detect the affects of the barrel aging. The pairing didn't come off as well as the others, but that could be simply my preferences for less sweet beverages. That said, I had no trouble finishing any of it.

The dinner complete, Colleen and I decided to linger over coffee and continue our fun date night. Before we left home for the dinner, we had discussed how neither of us felt particularly motivated to go out for the evening. However, in the end, we were delighted to have struck with our plans. It was a most enjoyable finish to the weekend.

This was the third "beer dinner" we've attended at Harry's Alehouse, and I think the best and most extravagant. The service all evening was attentive and friendly. Harry's events are reasonably priced, a lot of fun, and there is no skimping on the servings of food or beer. We're definitely looking forward to the next event.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

What's In A Name?

Observant visitors to these Musings may have noticed a change in the past couple of weeks to the title bar above. The earliest writings on the blog dealt mostly with craft beer, especially the burgeoning craft beer scene in Virginia in general and the Fredericksburg area specifically, hence the original name of the blog. Over time, other topics, including the shooting sports were mused upon with increasing frequency.

Over the years, I've considered adapting the "branding" to better reflect the content. There have been a number of complaints over the years from craft beer fans disapproving of my interests. Interestingly, I've received no complaints from fellow shooters over the beer, food or political commentary. In fact, while socializing at the range, it's not unusual at all for the conversations to veer towards the delights of fine ale.

In order to better encompass the topics at hand, the title of the blog has been changed to "Musings Over a Barrel." That update reflects both of the main topics of discussion here, and allows for future ruminations on other spirits as well. (Someday perhaps I'll also find a new header graphic.) Unfortunately, the complexities of Blogger and RSS feeds means that changing the base URL would come with the added effect of breaking the feeds of current subscribers, as well as web references. Eventually, I may sort that out, but for now the old URL remains.

However, the blog is simultaneously reachable via a new address: For those of you who so kindly link back to this site, I would be most appreciative if you would consider updating your links to Musing Over a Barrel, at the new address.


Monday, January 29, 2018

Stupid Mice

Dear Garage Mouse,

If you are intent on eating my bird seed or grass seed, we'll certainly do battle. But if you start chewing up my target supplies, you will be met with extreme prejudice.

And so it begins.

A Wet IDPA Match

I awoke on Sunday morning to the sound of rain, and it wasn't light rain. Grabbing my phone I quickly checked for any word of the scheduled IDPA match at Cavalier. I saw a post on the club's Facebook page that simply, "Make sure you are ready for some rain." It's been since September when I was last at Cavalier, and I was relieved that the match was on. However driving through the intermittent heavy rain on the way to the range I was admittedly having second thoughts.

Three quick, fun stages awaited the 26 dedicated shooters who showed up despite the wet weather. The first stage our squad shot was a complex course of fire with six different points of cover from which to shoot the 6 paper and 4 steel targets. The winding path through the walls left from last weekend's USPSA match provide some moderate leans and tight shots. I shot the stage 2 points down, but ran the course much slower than I would have liked.

The next stage started by engaging two paper targets on either side of the bay, before moving forward to the end of a wall. From that point we found three steel and two more paper targets. Moving to the opposite side of the wall, we finished on two remaining paper targets.

The final stage was shot while seated. For this course, the shooter and the paper targets were under cover. The four targets requiring three hits each, and four falling steel made for a quick run. I was happy with my run, except a couple of the steel targets jumped out of the way of my bullets, requiring some make up shots.

The match ran quickly with the small squads. We were done shooting in just over an hour. Even with the constant rain, and associated troublesome plastic bags and wet pasters, the match was a lot of fun. Thanks to the dedicated match staff who came out despite the inclement weather we got in a great morning of shooting. After a lot of tire spinning, and back and forth rocking, I was able to extricate my vehicle from the muddy parking area and head home to a warm cup of coffee.

Overall I was pleased with my accuracy, just 4 points down for the match, finishing 9th of 26 overall and 2nd of 6 in SSP SS. I did shoot more slowly than I would have liked, and wasted some time on make up shots that I didn't need. This was just the first match of 2018, there are many more to go and there will be much practice time in between. Now it's time to prepare for next weekend's match, weather permitting.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Saturday Range Time

After a much-needed relaxing Saturday morning sipping coffee, Colleen and I headed down to Winding Brook Indoor Range for a little shooting time. The morning rush was still clearing out, but we got a couple lanes with very little wait.

Starting out with my target set at 10 yards, I gradually worked out to 20 yards. I was using USPSA paper practice targets, and managed to keep most of the hits in the A zone, slipping a few outside at the furthest distance. Using the turning target feature, the sessions capped off by practicing quick hits on the target from low ready. 

At one point I noticed clouds of paint coming off the side wall of the range. Someone a few lanes over had their target at about 5 yards, but was bouncing hits off the wall 15 yards down range. I stopped shooting and looked over as the observant range officer very quickly attended to the situation. When I brought my target in I found a copper jacket remnant embedded in the cardboard. Such are the pitfalls of an indoor range.

It was a fun hour shooting, and even a pleasant couple hours in the car driving to and from the range. That's two visits to the Ashland range this month. If this keeps up I may have to buy a membership. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Five O'Clock Friday: Laughing at Criminals

If they were smart they wouldn't be criminals.

The prayerful thug, John Bell, was on probation for an aggravated robbery he committed in 2015. Another career criminal proving once again that the revolving door probation system presents a real threat to civilized society. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

No Brewery Visit on Monday

Returning from a fun four-day "escape," Colleen and I were passing through Harrisonburg, VA on Monday around lunch time. Remembering there are a number of breweries in town, none of which we've ever visited, I did a quick internet search.

Well, that's disappointing.

We did have a tasty lunch at Union Station Restaurant where I enjoyed a Deadly Rhythm Pale Ale from Pale Fire Brewing. Coincidently, I began the weekend with a Red Molly Irish Red, also from Pale Fire. Both beers were quite tasty. We will need to plan a return to Harrisonburg to check out more Pale Fire beers — when the brewery is open!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

12 Gauge AR-15

Remember when the leftist media warned us about the dangers of the chainsaw bayonet AR-15 accessory?  In another riveting piece on evil "assault rifles" we are shown the dangers to innocent fruit from the 12 gauge loaded rifle.

I can just imagine to smug satisfaction in the newsroom over that exposé. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Book Review: DryFire Reloaded

DryFire Reloaded by Ben Stoeger is the newest addition to my shooting sports library. The book is the latest of several shooting books penned by the repeat USPSA Production champion. This book reflects what Ben is currently teaching in his classes, and doubles as the "homework guide" for those classes.

The focus of the book is geared to the USPSA shooter, but the drills and exercises are applicable to all action pistol sports. After a brief introduction to the basics of dry fire or dry practice, the book is divided into sections based on the skill focus. The sections on Elements and Standards are the areas where most shooters will concentrate. As expected, the drills in the Elements section focus on basic fundamental shooting skills, without distractions or complications; Trigger Control, Draws, Reloads, Target Transitions and Movement are covered. Each skill is practiced in isolation. All exercises include detailed commentary to remind the shooter of the focus of the drill.

The Standards section brings the basics together, with the added element of some strict par times. Classics such as Bill Drills and El Prez are included, along with other multi-target drills. Later chapters introduce more complex stage or scenario setups, where the par times and specifics are left to the shooter.

I spend most of my time on the Elements and Standards, especially the former. I find the breakdown of the skills to be beneficial. Since one of my weaknesses is getting sloppy with trigger pull under speed and pressure, I typically start each dry fire session with both the slow trigger press and speed trigger press exercises. Then, depending on the time I have that day to devote to practice, I add in various other Elements such as Reloads, Draws or Transitions.

As noted, the book's main target audience is the USPSA shooter. Since I'm focusing on IDPA, the exercises are easily adapted. For example, I always wear a cover garment when doing draws and reloads. When practicing reloads, I start with the slide locked back with an empty mag in the gun, and finish by racking the slide to chamber a dummy round, then present the gun to the target. Various props add an element of realism. Hanging different reduced scale targets helps to simulate distance in the small practice area I am using. I always use a timer to initiate the drills, and of course for tracking par times.

I'm making regular use of DryFire Reloaded in my daily (well, almost daily) practice. I find the breakdown of the skills and the commentary to be beneficial. Over the past few weeks, my concentrated practice has even led me to make some adaptions to a few of my "skills." I'm looking forward to putting the practice sessions to the test in the upcoming match season. Whether you are trying to get started with dry fire practice, or just looking for some new practice inspiration or guidance, DryFire Reloaded is a good place to start.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Seven Years Ban Free

On January 18, 2011, I was notified by Facebook that these Musings had been flagged as containing "content that is abusive or spammy" content. As such the posts are unable to be shared on Facebook. Our Facebook "jail time" lasted a little over 24 hours before the restriction was lifted without explanation.

As Seen on January 18, 2011

I have no reason to believe that Facebook is any more accepting of non-leftist views than they were seven years ago. I am surprised to have escaped further bans, at least so far.

Challenge accepted. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Shooting Stock Guns

In the nine or so years I've been attending pistol matches, be it USPSA or IDPA, I've always shot in the "stock gun" divisions. Other than some experiments with sights and adding grip tape, I prefer the guns as they come from the factory. Some of that affinity may come from the fact that I became interested in shooting originally for self defense reasons, and only came to competition as a way to test my skills.

The USPSA Production and IDPA Stock Service Pistol divisions have fairly strict limits on what you are allowed to change on the gun. Sure, I've admired some sweet Limited (USPSA) or Enhanced Service Pistol (IDPA) guns that friends have, but it's still stock that holds my attention. My BUG and CCP guns are also "out of the box." I will also definitively that I've never been tempted in the slightest by the Open gun phenomenon.

Though I often shoot the same guns I carry in competition, I admit to switching holsters and concealment garments when competing. That said, I also practice with my carry holsters and "street clothing" often.

I'd rather spend money on bullets than doodads.

Cartoon found via Twitter.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Saturday Morning Shooting Fun

My son and I headed down to Winding Brook Indoor Range on Saturday morning. We weren't sure what the crowd would be like on a Saturday morning, but we had accepted that we might have a wait. We could have shot without delay but we opted to wait until two adjacent lanes opened up.

Using some IDPA practice targets, I started out shooting multi-shot strings at 7, then 10, then 15 yards. After emptying the first box of 50, I moved the target carrier to 10 yards, and set it to expose the target for 3 seconds, with a 4 second interval. From extended and compressed low ready positions I shot 2, 3, or 4 rounds on the target as it turned. The next 50 rounds were very quickly expended. This is as close as I can get to match-like practice, and that alone made long drive to the range worthwhile.

I finished up with more 15 yard work, and then some close SHO and WHO shots. I was done a few minutes before my son, so spent a little time watching him shoot. He's had a good teacher so does well. :-) He's getting ready to head back to school so this was likely our last chance to shoot together for a few months. We also got in lots of good conversation during the drive time and post shooting lunch making it a super fun and memorable morning.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

John B. Keane On Drink

Irish playwright and pub owner John B. Keane shares his views on alcohol and life.


Friday, January 12, 2018

VCDL 2018 Legislation Tracking Tool

The Virginia Citizens Defense League has posted the 2018 Legislation Tracking Page. This is a handy way to keep track of bills affecting gun owners in Virginia. Follow the page for the latest information as bills work their way through the legislature. Here you'll see who's defending your rights, and who's "goose-stepping toward gun-control."

You can also get legislative updates as they happen via the VCDL Twitter feed.

This is an extremely important year for gun owners. The Governor-elect has stated that his number one priority for his administration is disarming law abiding Virginians and making them the victims of predators.

It's actually not hard to understand why leftists constantly make the absurd claim that disarming law abiding people keeps criminals from committing crime. It's well known that liberal men prefer defenseless victims. In truth, gun control advocates are concerned only about their own power and keeping others subordinate.

Sic semper tyrannis

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Indoor Range Trip

My plans to shoot last weekend were sent awry by the extreme cold. After the match at Sanner’s Lake was cancelled, I hoped for a visit to the indoor range at Winding Brook. In the end though the drive on a cold Sunday morning did not inspire. Instead I got in a couple of long dry fire sessions, and Colleen and I enjoyed a very relaxing weekend at home avoiding the cold.

However, the end result was that I itching to hit the range this week, and so scheduled a lunch break to do just that last Tuesday afternoon. On the first day in what seems a long time, it was above freezing outside when I pulled into the parking lot. As good timing would have it, the only other shooter was sweeping up his brass as I entered. I had the range to myself as another patron did not arrive until I was picking up my brass and preparing to leave.

Despite the relative warmth outdoors, a balmy 48°, upon entering the range I noticed I was seeing my breath fog in front me. I set out a small thermometer I had in my bag and watched the digits drop as I shot. As is often the case in the older facility, the indoor and outdoor temps were essentially the same. (We really do get spoiled with the conditions provided by modern indoor shooting facilities.)

After a couple weeks of intense, but quiet, dry fire, that first live fire shot was admittedly somewhat startling. Cool temps notwithstanding, it was a very productive and satisfying practice session. I have been experimenting with some minor changes in my grip, especially for SHO and WHO shooting, and was quite anxious to try it out in live fire. It's an ongoing trial but I was happy with the results so far.

Despite almost daily dry fire practice, this was my first range trip of 2018. It felt like a good start to the year.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Dry Fire Time

I am thankful for an understanding wife who tolerates the practice targets hung about our home.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Spittle Spirits? No Thank You

Waste not, want not? A distiller in Australia may have taken that idiom to the extreme.
An Australian distiller has taken the concept of recycling to a whole new level by taking the spat-out wine at a wine tasting conference and turning it into a spirit aptly named Kissing a Stranger. 
Peter Bignell, of Tasmanian Belgrove Distillery, was first struck by the idea at the Rootstock festival in Sydney, a gathering of winemakers from all over the world promoting sustainable practices in the winemaking industry. He was in a group tasting wines, and as per tradition in wine-tasting, the majority of it was spat out in a bucket. This practice enables tasters to experience a lot of different wines while avoiding drunkenness. Bignell, however, saw it as wasteful.

Bignell took 500 liters of spit out wine, replete with bits of biscuits and cheese, and obviously saliva, then distilled it into a spirit which he claims tastes similar to brandy.

I'm pretty adventurous when it comes to trying new foods and drink, but this just seems like a gimmick with no redeeming gastronomic value. It reminds me of the brewers who aim for shock value in order to sell a product. I'll pass.

See "Distiller Makes Booze Out of Wine Spat Out by Strangers at a Tasting Event" for more.

Hat tip to Wirecutter.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Five O'Clock Friday: She's A Maniac

I needed a laugh and this provided a good one.

Have a splashing good weekend. And stay warm.

There's A Reason Bears Hibernate

Until recently, I had never heard of a "bomb cyclone." Apparently that is the meteorological term for the conditions that brought the severe cold to the east coast this week. Fortunately for us, the storm brings little snow accumulation, but it is blanketing a large area with extremely cold temperatures.

I've been anticipating shooting the monthly IDPA match at Sanner's Lake on Saturday, and have been watching the weather forecast closely. A few weeks have passed since the frigid match last month, and the memories of the cold have faded somewhat. I was determined to persevere and give it another shot. Heavy winter gloves, complete with chemical hand warmer pockets, were dug out. Boot liners located. Wool cap dusted off. Insulated clothing was brought out from the depths of the closet.

Then I saw this forecast for Saturday morning...

Does that say "feels like" -4° at the match start time? It's time to face fact; I would not have fun in that. The decision was made and I disappointingly submitted my withdrawal request to the match director. Instead, on Saturday morning I'll enjoy the fireplace and an extra cup of coffee. Maybe a visit to a warm, well-lit indoor range later in the day...

One the bright side, I learned something new this week.

UPDATE: Shortly after posting this I received an email announcing "Due to the low temperatures and snow/ice on the range, the IDPA match scheduled for tomorrow, Jan. 6 is cancelled."  If I had waited a day before bowing out I could have gotten away without admitting my weakness.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

American Spirit: A Story of Virginia's Liquor Laws

Here's an interesting video highlighting Virginia's ridiculous liquor laws.

Bottom line, it comes down to government theft, i.e., taxes.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

When The Match Is The Practice

Very often I hear it stated that "Matches are not practice." In fact, I'm currently listening to the 2017 Shooters Summit recordings and that is a common theme among the guests. Yet for some of us, it ends up that way. Even though I can visit a range often and easily, getting in proper "action pistol" practice is nigh on impossible. Sadly, it isn't a lack of a range nearby that presents an issue, it's restrictive and often nonsensical rules put in place that are the problem.

One would expect an outdoor range to offer the best opportunity for practicing shooting skills, either self defense or competitive. The range at the nearby "conservation club" has gotten increasingly restrictive over the years. When we first joined, there were few restrictions other than the ability to set up targets at different distances. As all targets had to be at the base of the berm we worked around it by combining reduced targets with full size targets. For a time, we could even use steel targets. 

First steel went away. Then came a prohibition on "rapid fire," although rapid fire was never defined and left to the mood of the range officer on duty. Using multiple targets became controversial as well; transition drills using two targets set up was allowed, but set up three targets and you were deemed "out of control."

Soon, the allowed number of shots in a string was placed under limits; two shots only, either on a single target (defined as "double tap,") or one shot on each of two targets (defined as a "controlled pair.") That rule also came with a new prohibition on movement. An additional rule warned against having your shot go off at the same time as someone on the same firing line. If an inadvertent simultaneous shot happens you are required to stop and discuss a solution for avoiding a repeat. The rule specifically forbids you from even coming to the range with another person if you plan to shoot on the line together. The irony is that the rules also remind shooters that bays are to be shared. Using a barricade to practice shooting from cover is considered "tactical training" and is also forbidden.

So what about an indoor range? Naturally, no movement or multiple target setups are possible with typical indoor shooting range design. The local indoor range does allow rapid fire, but does not permit drawing from a holster. Practicing with one's carry weapon is complicated as the gun range is, for all intents and purposes, posted as a gun free zone. Armed citizens must handle their weapons at their cars to unload and case them before entering. Once actually in a lane, the gun can be uncased. Upon leaving, the fondling process is repeated in the parking lot.

One can practice holster draws, target transitions, reloading, and movement in dry fire. However, the confirmation of technique really comes during live fire. As Ben Stoeger writes in Dryfire Reloaded, "This dry fire stuff doesn't just exist in a vacuum. You need to be actually shooting the gun..."

Not willing to give in, I continue to shoot matches whenever I can. Sometimes my motivation is more for "trigger time" than competition. Hardly a match goes by where I don't wish I could reshoot as stage. The desire is not to change a recorded score, but for some more practice. When it comes to perfecting a skill, repetition is key.

I even have a garage full of target stands, steel targets and various props, but alas, no earth on which to set them...

Monday, January 1, 2018

Another Year Gone By

Sometimes I think the highlight of the New Year celebration is the knowledge that the days are, ever so slowly, getting longer and we'll soon see more sun, and eventually more warmth. It doesn't take long for me to tire of cold weather! That aside, it's time to review a few highlights from last year.

I was able to spend a little more time shooting this year than I did last year. I managed to attend 25 IDPA matches, including five sanctioned events; the Chesapeake CupVirginia Indoor RegionalMD State ChampionshipCommonwealth Cup, and Potomac Grail.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend any training events during the year. I had hoped to attend at least one self defense related class as a well as a competition based class. I will add both to the "resolutions" for 2018.

A quick look through my beer list on Untappd reveals that I tried about 175 new-to-me beers during the year. That tally can partially be attributed to the growing number of new breweries in the Fredericksburg area. Our beer explorations were enhanced also as a result of frequent weekend trips, the majority made this fall to attend college football games.

In family news, the year ended on a down note. Colleen's mom passed away a few weeks before Christmas. Her dad is currently undergoing cancer treatment, while we look forward to celebrating his 90th birthday this year. My dad suffered a series of strokes just two days before the holiday and is still affected by serious side affects. Your prayers are appreciated for all of them. We also lost our beloved "Colonel" in February after 14 years of faithful companionship.

On a brighter note, our son continues to do well in school and still makes time for the enjoyable parts of his college years Since he turned 21 this fall, it's been fun to share a few good beers with him. He was also able to purchase his first handgun. Now when we hit the range he has his own gun to clean afterwards, though I still gladly supply the ammo.

In looking to the year ahead, I find I have yet to make many specific plans. I am once again attempting to stay regular with my dry fire practice. My dedication last year was woefully irregular. I picked up a few new books that will hopefully assist in adding more motivation. As noted, I'll look to attending a training class or two in an attempt to advance my skills and knowledge.

I'm unsure what adventures the coming year will hold. I expect we'll continue to take some long weekends throughout the year to explore interesting places, and taste good food and drink. Maybe there will be some travel to shoot an interesting match or two.

I'd like say thank you to those of you who have read these Musings over the past year. Once the weather warms and life's current distractions settle, posting should once again be somewhat regular. I hope you'll continue to find something of interest here. I wish you all the best for 2018.

Happy New Year!