29 October 2009

BEER REVIEW: Rogue Ales - Chocolate Stout




Rogue Ales – Chocolate Stout is an American Stout style made with Northwest Harrington and Klages, Crystral 135-165, Beeston Chocolate, rolled oats, and barley malts; Cascade hops; imported Dutch bitter-sweet chocolate adjuncts; Rogue’s Pacman yeast, and “free-range coastal water” (as opposed to the domesticated variety I guess…).  It is 15 degrees Plato (a measure of the dissolved solids in beer), 69 IBU, 77 AA (Apparent Attenuation), and 135 degrees Lovibond (a measure of color mostly replaced by the Standard Reference Method {SRM}).

Rogue – Chocolate Stout poured with an opaque, ebony color that revealed ruby notes when held to a light.  It had a chocolate-brown, creamy, slightly sweet head with a deep, semi-sweet to bitter-sweet chocolate nose.  It had a crisp feeling on the tongue and the back of the throat that accompanied a crisp flavor of bitter-sweet chocolate and left a bitter / residual alcohol finish. 

This was a good beer but not exactly what I was expecting.  By no means a statement about the quality of this beer of course, just that my taste leans more toward a sweeter and chocolaty flavor in this style.  Remember, taste is highly subjective!

BEER REVIEW: Clipper City - The Great Pumpkin Imperial Pumpkin Ale

The latest Fall seasonal from Clipper City’s Mutiny Fleet is The Great Pumpkin – Imperial Pumpkin Ale.  Clipper City didn’t really provide much information about how it was brewed, except to say that it is made with, “hops and secret spices”, three kinds of malts, and 3 ounces of spice per barrel.  It is 8.5% ABV, 25 IBU, and like the rest of the Mutiny Fleet, is distributed in 22 ounce bombers.

The Great Pumpkin poured with a translucent, cloudy, amber to light-orangey color with lots of adjuncts floating throughout the liquid column and an apparently moderate carbonation.  It developed an off-white, creamy / fluffy head that was mildly sweet and laid down rather quickly but left behind decent lace.  The aroma was of sweet pumpkin and spice, which became more reminiscent of pumpkin pie as it warmed.  The first sip revealed a light crispness on the front of the tongue, which progressed to a creamier mouth-feel throughout. 

As I continued to drink, it seemed to present what were perhaps estery taste characteristics and developed what I thought was an astringent quality.  I never detected much in the way of pumpkin flavors and it left a bitterish, astringent finish that lingered for longer than I liked.  Since the IBU is relatively low, this could be contributed to the 8.5% ABV (since I also detected the edge of a buzz) but I think more likely it was some other, or combination of, factor/s.  At any rate, Clipper City’s – The Great Pumpkin Imperial Pumpkin Ale didn’t quite live up to my expectations.  I was hoping it would fall in line with some of this year’s other fall and pumpkin seasonals which overall, have been pretty good.  While it was in no way a, “spit out” beer, to my taste it really didn’t make the grade.  I didn’t mind drinking it but don’t think I will buy it again.

25 October 2009

CIGAR REVIEW: Alec Bradley - Select Cabinet Reserve (SCR)




The Alec Bradley – Select Cabinet Reserve (SCR), released earlier in 2009, is a slightly mellower compliment to their Tempus.  Alan Rubin, President of Alec Bradley Cigars, describes the SCR as having fewer spikes and peaks in the flavor profile, and having more balance than the Tempus.  Made in Honduras at Fabrica de Tabacos Raices Cubanas S. de R.L., the SCR is being released in five vitollas: Robusto (5 x 50), Gran Robusto (5 ½ x 60), Corona (5 ½ x 42), Torpedo (6 1/8 x 52), and Churchill (7 x 48) in boxes of twenty cigars each.  They are made with a Trojes, Honduran wrapper; Trojes, Honduran and Indonesia Embetunada binders; and Honduran and Nicaraguan fillers.  They are reasonably priced, varying approximately in the $6 - $12 range depending on the taxes and other penalties in your area.  For this review, I smoked the Robusto.

The SCR had a good-looking wrapper that I place around Colorado Rosado in color without mentionable flaws and a slightly toothy texture.  The body was firm and didn’t have any soft spots or knots.  It had a sweet and mild tobacco pre-light aroma with what I thought was a distinct cedar note, which I originally attributed to marrying in my humidor.  I made a straight-cut with scissors and tested the pre-light draw and taste, which was smooth with slightly sweet and woody notes, respectively.

The SCR lit easily and produced an attractive blue smoke, which was very smooth during retro-exhalation.  It burned with remarkable evenness and left behind a medium-grey ash, which was crisp and held on for over two inches before dropping off on its own.  As I smoked the first one-third, I detected a woody flavor and the slightest spicy tingle on top of the tongue about ½ inch from the tip.  As it approached the end of the first third, a subtle spice emerged which enveloped the tongue and the inside of the lips.  Right around 1 ½ inches in I thought I began to detect subtle leathery notes as well but was not able to be certain. 

Throughout the middle third the SCR maintained its excellent balance and woody flavor, which seemed to take on a more distinctly cedar quality.  This made me wonder about the pre-light cedar aroma, which I had originally attributed to the humidor, but was now thinking may have been more a characteristic of the cigar itself.  A little past half-way, the burn became a bit uneven and required some touching up; however, at the time it was pouring rain so the humidity was maxed-out and in all likelyhood was the culprit.  Especially when you consider how even it had been up to that point.  Once into the final third the spice became more pronounced but never the least bit overwhelming, and the aforementioned woodiness and overall balance continued to dominate through the slightly spicy finish.

In my opinion, the Alec Bradley – SCR is an excellent, medium bodied smoke, which is best defined by its balance and somewhat mellow character.  It is a good cigar for mid-day but still has all the qualities to make it just right for later in the evening and even after-dinner or with a beverage of choice.  George Sosa, National Sales Director, told me that Alec Bradley is an, “up and comer.”  I have to not only agree, but say they are defining their place in the world of premium cigars.

22 October 2009

CIGAR REVIEW - NEW RELEASE: Quesada 35th Anniversary


In July 2009 Jorge Armenteros (President – Tobacconist University) posted what he called a “heads up” about an excellent new cigar that was going to be released in the Fall, the Quesada 35th Anniversary from Matasa. Well when Jorge speaks about cigars, I listen and I went straight to my premium brick & mortar tobacconist and ordered them. The 35 is not only the latest from Matasa, but a rather unique offering from them as well. It commemorates the 35th anniversary of Matasa and was actually created by the fifth-generation of the Quesada family to be in the cigar business, who family patriarch Manolo Quesada calls, “the young ones”. It is also their first, I believe, to bear the family name.


The Quesada 35 is made with an Equadorian arapiraca wrapper; a Cuban seed, criollo-98 binder from their 2008 crop grown in the Dominican Republic; and an interesting filler consisting of one leaf of the aforementioned 2008 crop blended with Havana Vuelta arriba ligeros from the Navarrete region of the Dominican Republic, and some ligeros from the Esteli region of Nicaragua. It is being released in a 6 x 49 box pressed Toro vitolla in a limited edition of only 1000 boxes with 20 cigars each.

The first thing I noticed was the attractive triple banding, which was black, silver, and gold, and complimented the wrapper perfectly. The wrapper itself was a beautiful oily, maduro color with no noticeable flaws. The body was smooth, very firm (indicating a well packed cigar), and had no indentations or soft spots. The pre-light aroma was distinctly smooth and sweet and was more pronounced at the foot. I made a straight cut with scissors and tested the draw, which was smooth with a nice, moderate resistance (another indication of being well packed), which also revealed a pleasant ‘woody’ taste on the lips.


After lighting, the Quesada 35 presented a remarkably smooth start and as it began to warm developed an exceptionally smooth draw. It produced copious amounts of light grey smoke and left a similar colored, soft ash with dark highlights. At about ¼ inch in it began to develop a slight spicy tingle on the tip of the tongue along with what were perhaps mild coffee notes. Retro-exhalation was relatively smooth with a spicy sensation all the way at the back of the sinuses and at about 1½ inches in it began to present notes of slightly bitter chocolate or unsweetened cocoa. In the middle-third the spice began to pick up subtly and could be felt around and even under the tongue. In the final-third the spice began to mellow but remained at the tip of the tongue and the unsweetened cocoa flavor intensified.


The Quesada 35th Anniversary is definitely a very good cigar. It is medium to full in body with balance and some complexity. The only thing I didn’t like was that I had a heck of a time keeping it lit and actually used up my lighter by the time I reached the end. Of course this doesn’t take away from all the fine qualities I mentioned above, but this sort of thing can be a distraction when trying to enjoy a cigar. Keep in mind that this certainly could have been an individual fluke, others have said theirs burned flawlessly. Give it a try and enjoy it for yourself.


“Smoking is an enchanting experience that can instantly bring you back to a favorite moment or a fond memory. It is something that only those who love cigars can appreciate and understand.”
- Patricia Quesada
One of “the young ones”

20 October 2009

BEER REVIEW: Dogfish Head - Punkin Ale


Another entry in the Fall seasonal category is Dogfish Head's - Punkin Ale. This beer was first introduced at the Punkin Chunkin contest in 1994 as a homebrew by Dogfish's owner before he even founded the brewery. Since then, it has been released each year around September as a seasonal and, according to Dogfish, is usually gone by Thanksgiving. It is a brown ale brewed with real pumpkin meat, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. They didn't list any information about the malts or hops, but did say it is 7% ABV and 28 IBU.

Punkin Ale pours clear with a nice amber color, creamy off-white head, and leaves good lace behind. It has a crisp, malty nose which was very pleasant with no overpowering pumpkin aroma. The first sip revealed a crisp mouth-feel all around which became creamier as the beer warmed. The flavor is full-bodied with some complexity and presents hints of spice around mid-tongue with a pumpkin and cinnamon follow through. The balance of this beer is excellent and the pumpkin flavor is subtle throughout.

I must say I have been pleased with this season's pumpkin ales in general, although I have tried some that weren't that good. Of all the ones I have tried though, Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale is right up near the top. Don't let the 7% ABV or the fact it is a pumpkin fool you, this beer is extremely drinkable and I absolutely recommend it.

14 October 2009

BEER REVIEW - NEW RELEASE: Troegs - Java Head Stout


Troegs Brewery states their new Java Head Stout, just released in September, is based on their original Oatmeal Stout, but in addition to oats, this one includes a blend of roasted espresso and Kenyan coffee beans. Well, I like beer and I like coffee, so I figured I would give it a try, besides it has a pretty cool label. Java Head Stout is made with pilsner, crystal, chocolate, and roast malts; cluster, chinook, and cascade hops; and unfiltered ale yeast. It is 7.5% ABV, 60 IBUs, and is sold as a 22 ounce “bomber.” Troegs further states that before fermentation, it is passed through whole-leaf hops and coffee beans in a process they claim is like French pressing, which gives it a coffee nose and subtle coffee flavor.

As it poured, it cascaded nicely like some good stouts do and presented a very nice, dark black color which light didn’t penetrate. It developed a very tall head, which was tan in color and long lasting, left behind lots of persistent lace that frankly, never went away, and gave off a sweet, citrusy aroma. This struck me as perhaps a little odd because stouts are supposed to have a roasty, malt aroma. The sweetness could however have been attributed to the malt and Troeg’s did say there should be some citrus notes in this beer but I didn’t detect any roasted aroma at all. As I drank, it revealed a pleasant crispness and a little bit of hoppy bitterness, but primarily a citrus-dominated flavor. One of the main flavor characteristics when judging a stout is its roastyness so again, I thought this was a little odd but hoped that maybe its flavor profile would continue to develop. Troegs states that there should be notes of cocoa, citrus, and java, but as I continued to work my way to the bottom, the flavor remained consistent and I never detected any cocoa or java, strange for a beer with java in its name.

While the stout style does cover a bit of a wide range, it is defined by certain commonalities. Some of the more important of these are the aforementioned roasty aroma and flavor, as well as a certain balance, none of which I thought were present here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this was a bad beer; if you like the characteristics I mentioned here then you should try it yourself and you be the judge. I’m just saying that for a beer titled Java Head Stout, I think they missed the mark. Too bad, I was looking forward to it because their Dead Reckoning Porter is very good. At least it had that cool label.

13 October 2009

CIGAR REVIEW - NEW RELEASE: Alec Bradley - Prensado


Last Friday I had the distinct pleasure and privilege of smoking with Mr. George Sosa, National Sales Director of Alec Bradley Cigars, and was fortunate enough to be one of the first to receive their newest release, the Prensado. Not only is Mr. Sosa one of the company’s three principal executives, he is also a retired U.S. Navy – Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician, so naturally he and I hit it off right away and he is also the only other person in the industry I have ever met who knew the answer to the riddle of why do Bomb Technicians like box-pressed cigars? If you want to know, you have to ask.

The Prensado was d├ębuted by Alec Bradley at this year’s IPCPR convention in New Orleans and is their strongest cigar to date. It is being released in five vitollas: Corona Gorda, Robusto, Churchill, Gran Toro, and Torpedo. It is made with a Honduran – Corojo 2006 wrapper, a Nicaraguan – Jalapa binder, and Nicaraguan and Honduran fillers. It is box-pressed and has a maduro-colored, oily wrapper that had a little veiny character to it. The body had a mild pre-light aroma with a hint of sweetness and more pronounced aromas at the foot. Interestingly, the filler blend could be clearly seen at the foot as a swirl of light and dark tobaccos. The body was also firm with no soft spots or defects and passed the squeeze test with flying colors.

I made a straight-cut with scissors and tested the draw, which was smooth with light to moderate resistance. The pre-light taste was primarily a pleasant tobacco flavor with notes of slightly bitter cocoa. Once lit it started out mild but shortly began to develop a little spice at the tip of the tongue with stronger notes at the back of the throat. It burned with an attractive blue smoke from the foot and a light grey smoke from the draw, leaving a crisp, semi-dense “zebra-ash”, meaning it was alternately a distinct light and dark grey in color. The early spice, while the dominant flavor characteristic, was mild to moderate and never overwhelming although it did make retro-nasal exhalation a little difficult. This isn’t a big deal of course and is by no means a comment on a cigar’s quality, I just like to do it in order to try and maximize my appreciation of all a cigar has to offer. As it progressed, the spice mellowed in the middle third and maintained a consistent and pleasant flavor throughout. Once into the final third the spice began to reemerge and progress a little farther along the tongue leaving a mild peppery finish.

My overall opinion is that the Alec Bradley – Prensado is a well made, quality cigar. I enjoyed every minute of it and found it to be a good choice for relaxing alone or with friends. The bi-phasic characteristics of a premium cigar were definitely present in this one and in good proportions to each other.

As always, I wish you Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

09 October 2009

EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT: Baltimore Beer Week


It is officially Baltimore Beer Week! It runs for ten days from 08 through 18 October and includes over 300 separate events. There will be beer dinners at local pubs and restaurants, appearances by brewers, and tastings at numerous locations. There is just far too much going on for me to list it here. Just go to the web site and there are lists of events with the locations for each which are spread all over the area so something may be convenient to you. Come out and support this event if you can and have a great time doing it.

Baltimore Beer Week
www.baltimorebeerweek.com

05 October 2009

EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT: Honeygo Harvest Fest Beer Gala

Honeygo Wine & Spirits (one of my favorite liquor stores) is holding a beer tasting on Monday, 12 October 2009. You are invited to come and try some Fall and other seasonal beers, as well as a few new beers being offered. Their first event was very good and I had a great time at it and they promise that this one will be even bigger and better. Tickets are only $15.00 each and allow you to sample any of the styles being offered.

Honeygo Harvest Fest Beer Gala
Monday, October 12 2009
19:00 - 21:00 hours
Honeygo Wine & Spirits
5004 Honeygo Center Drive
Perry Hall, Maryland 21128
410.529.5500

EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT: Butts for Ta-Tas Breast Cancer Fundraiser


On Saturday, 17 October 2009 The Humidour Cigar Shoppe is hosting the Butts for Ta-Tas fundraising party. Proceeds from this event benefit breast cancer research. You are invited to join in a fun-filled evening of cigars, food, drinks, and friends as we support a worthy cause. There will be great deals and hundreds of premium cigars available at discount prices. Cigars will be provided by Ashton, CAO, Camacho, Drew Estate, Oliva, and Rocky Patel and each cigar representative will be competing to raise the most money for the cause. If you are in the Maryland-Delaware-Virginia-Pennsylvania area please come and join the party.

Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door and space is limited. If you have never been to a Humidour event before, they are always great and the shop is a big supporter of worthy causes and charities.

Saturday, 17 October 2009
18:30 - 21:30 hours
(Thats 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm for those who asked, or one-bell of the Second Dog Watch to three-bells of the First-Watch for non-lubbers)
The Humidour Cigar Shoppe
10721 York Road, Cockeysville, Maryland
410.666.3212
www.humidour.com

01 October 2009

CIGAR REVIEW: Padron, Family Reserve No. 45


Hello fellow lovers of the leaf, I recently returned from overseas, just in time to attend a very special event. I had the distinct pleasure and privilege of meeting Jorge Padron, President of Padron Cigars and son of founder, Jose Padron. I missed the opportunity to meet him last year when he came through Baltimore because I was deployed again so I made sure my schedule didn’t conflict this time, though it was a close one. I had been very much looking forward to this event, not only because it was an opportunity to meet Mr. Padron, but also because he was bringing with him the new Padron Family Reserve No. 45. Ever since reading the posting about them by Jorge Armenteros in the Tobacconist University Forum, I have been anticipating the opportunity to enjoy what was certain to be a fine cigar.

Jorge Padron was an extremely personable man. He had a very genuine smile on his face the whole time and shared several stories with me. Two of my favorites were the stories of when, after graduating college, he told his father that they should replace the plain brown bands on their cigars with something more flashy to increase sales, following which his father put him in his place in no uncertain terms; and of how his cousin, who he says the family just refers to as the “crazy cousin”, defused a bomb someone had placed in their Miami facility about thirty years ago.

So on to the good stuff. The 45 is a Nicaraguan puro made from tobaccos aged at least ten years! Now that’s good anejamiento. It is being offered as a box-pressed, parejo (6 x 52 – Toro vitolla) in both natural and maduro, which frankly can’t be visibly differentiated. The appearance was beautiful. The wrapper was dark and consistent with no visible flaws. Its construction was just right; firm yet slightly flexible, and recovered immediately from the squeeze test, all characteristics of a high quality, well-made cigar. It also had a very interesting feel, not silky but perhaps best described as sleek with a fascinating texture that close examination revealed to cover the whole wrapper. I enjoyed the pre-light aroma very much, which can only be described as subtle and understated with a hint of sweetness.

I made a punch-cut and tested the draw, which was perfect. It offered just the right amount of resistance without effort and the draw-volume was excellent. It lit easily and evenly, signaling that the best was yet to come. From the very first puff the 45 was full-bodied, robust, balanced, and strong, but in no way overpowering. It produced copious amounts of thick, blue-grey smoke, characteristic of quality tobacco, that you didn’t want to blow out as much as let it just roll out of your mouth. It had a creamy overall mouth-feel while producing a spicy tingle all around the tongue. It burned evenly without any problems or even a re-light and produced an attractive, firm and dense, light-grey ash with dark undertones. As it continued to smoke, the flavor and strength mellowed but lost none of the complexity or balance all the way to the end, and I smoked it down to the nub. Jorge told me he smoked about one thousand cigars while trying to reach the right balance and flavor for the 45. It shows because in my opinion, this cigar has umami.

My overall opinion of the Padron Family Reserve No. 45 is that it is an outstanding cigar. I recommend you enjoy it slowly and on a full stomach because the strength in the beginning was undeniable. It is complex and balanced throughout and deserves your attention while being smoked. In my area, after taxes they came out to $27 and change each. I really wanted to buy a whole box and let them continue to age in my humidor but I just couldn’t get away with it right now so I grabbed a handful and will be sorry to see the last one go. Bravo-Zulo to the Padron family for the 45.

I wish you Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.