Your NetFlix Fix: Another Free Month of NetFlix Up For Grabs!

Sign up for a free month, and you too will happily strum your guitar!Based on the positive response and good volume of traffic to the last time I did this, I’m putting it up again. NetFlix has sent me four free trial month cards, and they’re up for grabs for anyone who’s interested! As before, I don’t know if these codes are reusable (I assume they are) and I don’t get anything in return for passing these out. Well, aside from a little bit of traffic, and maybe a few new readers. And that works for me.

So here’s your NetFlix Fix:

You need to go here to sign up. (http://www.netflix.com/tellafriend in case the link doesn’t work for some reason.)

And you need to use one of the following codes:

  • M74162026215
  • M57814578885
  • M41920954495
  • M37078264715

You have until October 31, 2007 to get your fix. Enjoy!

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Boycott Bullshit: No Cigars Means No Smoking!

Happy Shootin’ DudeThe sometimes loved, sometimes loathed angry, irritable Brian returns today to discuss an issue that’s bothered him for a while now: Bullshit smoking policies. In particular, a policy that both wastes your time and insults you with surprising efficiency.

As I’m beginning this post, I’m on my third attempt at getting lunch. The previous two establishments I’ve tried failed a very simple test and have officially been added to Brian’s Bullshit Boycott list. That’s right, I sick of this ridiculous crap, and I’m not gonna sit idly by and let the anti-cigar bigots continue to operate in ignorance under the radar.

Who’s on the list and how did they get there, you ask? I’ll tell you. And I’m naming names and pulling no punches. I’ve spotted bullshit and and I’m calling the bullshitters out on it. They got on my list by failing a simple two question test.

Brian’s Bullshit Detector Test

Question 1: Do you allow smoking?

If they answer no, they pass the test. I support a business’s right to go the non-smoking route. To be honest, there are places I just don’t want to smoke a cigar or smell second hand smoke. (I know, I know, that’s sacrilege. A crime almost worthy excommunication from the world of premium tobacco. I’ll do my “Hail Don Pepin” penance later.) For some reason, a sushi bar comes to mind here. (You thought I was gonna fail ‘em if they said no, huh?)

If the answer is yes, then the follow up question is asked.

Question 2: Do you allow cigar smoking?

If the answer is yes, then they’ve not only passed the test, they’ve probably just been added to my unofficial list of favorite places. However, if the answer here is no, you’ve just detected bullshit.

OK, so you’ve detected something foul in the state of Denmark, now what? Do you walk away? Do you quietly sit down and abide by the rules? Do you kick the unwitting test-taker in the Jimmy? No. (And please don’t assault the wait staff, they don’t make the rules, they only follow them.) Here’s what you do.

How to deal with a bullshit peddler

Step 1: Educate.
Because they’re not yet sure if you’re a customer yet, you have a captive audience. Tell them that cigars are made of exactly the same thing as cigarettes. In fact, it’s made of fewer things. And cigar tobacco has been aged to reduce the amount of nicotine and other chemicals naturally present in the leaves! (Cigarettes, on the other hand have been processed to increase the amount of nicotine, and contain additives to improve their burn.) Cigars both smell better and release fewer chemicals into the air, making them arguably less of a health hazard. You might be surprised, they might actually agree with you, even though they can do nothing about the policy.

Step 2: Announce your intentions.
Tell them simply, “If you don’t allow cigars, you don’t allow smoking. I cannot support an establishment with such biased and hypocritical policies. I’m taking my business elsewhere. Please pass this along to the management.” Bonus points if you take the time to fill out a comment/complaint form. Doing this makes it more likely that management will actually get your feedback. Kudos to you if you take the time to do it!

Step 3: Leave.
When it comes to the world of commerce, few things speak louder than money. If you continue to patronize a shop with ridiculous and discriminatory smoking polices, you are supporting those policies.

And the Crusader Step: Revisit And Repeat
This step is for true Knights of the Premium Leaf. Brothers of the leaf that want to go above and beyond the call of duty can return to the same establishment in three to six months and repeat the process. You never know, they might change their policies to reflect the feedback they’ve received from cigar smokers, and you might find a new cigar-friendly establishment. If you do, give them your business, and tell them why you’re there! Otherwise, you have the opportunity to strike another blow for cigars and cigar smokers in your community.

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a war in progress. And I’m not talking about Iraq. I’m talking about the war on cigars. This might sound like a tremendous hassle, but if we want to continue to exercise our right to smoke cigars, it’s time we all adjust our dangling man-orbs and make our feelings known the way they’ll be most appreciated. With our wallets. It’s the most powerful weapon we have. (And if you haven’t done it recently, why not head over to the RTDA website and tell your congressman to knock it off with the excessive and punishing cigar tax increase?)

Oh yes, and I said I’d name names. These establishments are the first on the newly created Brian’s Bullshit Boycott list:

  • Taco Mac at Lindberg (Most of them have a stict no-smoking policy, which is fine, but this one allows cigarettes, but no cigars! Bullshit!)
  • Everybody’s Pizza in Virginia Highlands
  • Highland Tap in Virginia Highlands

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Olor Del Cibao: Meet A Dominican Staple

Olor Del Cibao CigarsAs I teased in an earlier post, today I’m reviewing a line of cigars that has recently been introduced to the United States. That’s right, I’m reviewing the entire line. So what you’re reading right now might be the most ambitious cigar review ever done. Or it could turn out to be a huge mess. Only time will tell.

Olor Del Cibao (“Scent of Cibao“) cigars are created in the Dominican Republic by Tabaccars Corp, and have been a popular cigar among the locals for a while now. But up until recently, these cigars were unavailable in the United States. That all changed when Tex Cigars discovered them on a trip to the island. Impressed by their quality and excited by their lack of exposure in the United States, they decided to be the first to introduce them to the American market.

That pretty much brings us up to the present time. These cigars are now available in the United States, and I’ve been asked to review them. But before I get to my experience with the Olor Del Cibao cigars, I need to send out my sincere thanks to Jarrod of Tex Cigars. I really appreciate the opportunity to try out a new line of cigars, and am flattered that I was one of the people you selected to review them.

Now down to business. To make things interesting, I’m going to work from my least favorite to the best of the line. A cigar countdown, if you will. And the list begins with…

Olor Del Cibao King RobustoThe King Robusto
It’s truly unfortunate that the King Robusto comes in last in my ranking. Reportedly, it was this cigar that put the wheels in motion to bring Olor Del Cibao to the United States in the first place.

What makes it even more unfortunate is that it’s here in last place not because it lost in a fair fight with the other cigars. It lost because of a flaw in the cigar. And unfortunately, I only had one of these King Robustos, so I couldn’t give it an opportunity to make up for it’s flaw.

Cigar Stats:
Size: 5 x 50
Wrappers:
Sumatra
Binder:
Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic
Price: ~$3.40

The Pre-Smoke
Since this is the first cigar to be reviewed, and the band is the same on all the cigars, we’ll take a look at it now. As you can probably see in the pictures, it’s predominantly black with gold outlines and decorations surrounding a large white shield bearing the line’s name. In spite of the decorations on the band, it doesn’t come across as overly ornate. It’s a straight forward band made for a value priced cigar. It gets the job done, and looks pretty good in the process.

Over all, the King Robusto was a pretty good looking cigar. I had a light oily sheen to it’s slightly lumpy Sumatran wrapper and it was mostly firm to the touch and nicely packed. Well, that is until my fingers hit one spot midway up the cigar. Noting this I figured I might be in for a bit of a problem. (I was right, but we’ll save that for another section.)

The Burn
I was a bit surprised not to experience the burn issue I expected. For the most part, the King Robusto has a nice, even burn line. I had thought that I’d have a tunnel, or a some canoing, but that wasn’t the case. The ash was nice light color, and seemed reasonably solid. I did notice that the cigar seemed to burn a lot faster than I would have expected, and it didn’t hold an ash much longer than 3/4 of an inch.

The Flavor
This cigar started out with a nice array of flavors. I tasted a great deal of creamy nuts, coffee and even some sweet toffee and berry in the first third of the cigar. I don’t mind telling you I was impressed at this point. But then something happened. The cigar started to develop a pungent buildup in the head, and the flavors I enjoyed were over taken with a chemical taste, very sharp cedar and bitter hops.

I was caught off my guard, I had no idea what was happening. And I puffed through a good portion of the second third with a sour look on my face. And then I noticed a tarry buildup in the leaves at the head. In a desperate attempt to reclaim the cigar from the evils that had overtaken it, I dabbed the buildup away with some tissue. It did help, and the cigar was once again fairly good. But it was only a pale shade of it’s first third glory from that point forward.

The Price
Assuming my experience was the result of one terrible leaf or some other rolling problem, I think this cigar is probably a good buy at this price. Weighing in at under four bucks, you’re entering daily smoke territory for a lot of smokers.

The Verdict
If this is the cigar that inspired the import, I have to assume that I got one bum smoke. So if I were to judge it on the first third, I’d say it’s definitely a cigar that’s worth picking up. But if I stick to evaluating the cigar based upon this one smoking experience, I have to say I’d pass on it in the future. So it all rests on the next King Robusto I try!

Liked It: Loved the 1st third, suffered through the rest.
Buy It Again: Yeah, I’d buy one again just to see if it performed better.
Recommend It: Yes. I think at this price, it’s worth exploring.

Want to try the King Robusto? You can order them from Tex Cigars here.

Olor Del Cibao Dark MaduroDark Maduro
The next cigar in the hierarchy is the Dark Maduro. This almost oscuro colored cigar gets the bronze metal because it also had some issues. Fortunately, these issues where no where near as significant as those suffered by the ill-fated King Robusto.

Cigar Stats:
Size: 6 x 46
Wrappers:
Dominican Republic
Binder:
Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic
Price: ~$3.40

The Pre-Smoke
As soon as you see it, you know this cigar is properly named. As I wrote in my notes, this cigar looks like it spent some time working on an oil rig. The wrapper has a dark, mottled, oily look to it that just says tasty to me.

In spite of having some large veins in the wrapper, it was actually a pretty smooth cigar to the touch. The veins were mostly flush with the rest of the wrapper. I also found the cigar to be nicely and consistently firm, without any of the soft spots that were present in the King Robusto.

The Burn
This cigar started off with an even burn line and a great looking solid white ash, but sadly that wasn’t the story for long. By the second third, the burn line got a mind of it’s own and I began to notice a pretty heavy amount of smoke coming off the lit end. And it wasn’t long before the ash developed problems with flaking and splitting.

Early on in the burn, I was actually impressed with the volume of smoke I was getting with each puff on the cigar. Without much effort I was getting huge, billowing clouds of coffee flavored smoke. The room quickly filled with it’s tasty aroma. Usually you can’t smell the smoke from your cigar. That wasn’t the case this time.

By the time the cigar entered the final third, the story changed. Suddenly the cigar that had been a tasty smoke bomb became a slow burner with a very light volume of smoke. There was never a build up of tar, and the cigar seemed to give up on the idea of burning. I gave up on it too when I had to relight it each time I went in for a puff.

The Flavor
The Dark Maduro opened up with rich, dark cocoa that was quickly dominated by a good coffee flavor. As it progressed through the first third I detected some caramel, some more cocoa and then a great nougat flavor. In the second third and into the final third that nougat flavor continued, and was joined by sweet wood and raisins. The cocoa and coffee flavors were present at points through out the rest of the smoke.

I also noticed the cigar wasn’t as oily as was visually implied. Initially there wasn’t any noticeable oiliness, but it did appear in the final two thirds.

The Price
As with the King Robusto (they’re the same price), I have no complaints about the price.

The Verdict
Though the issues with the burn were irritating, there’s just no getting around the fact that this was a very tasty cigar. I suspect the problems I had with this cigar might be avoided by letting it spend a little time in the humidor to make sure it’s properly and consistently humidified. (I think the head was more humidified than the foot, hence the vastly different burns.) And a little bit of aging never hurt a cigar.

Liked It: Yes, in spite of the somewhat erratic and obnoxious burn.
Buy It Again:
Yes
Recommend It: Yes

Want to try the Dark Maduro? You can order them from Tex Cigars here.

Olor Del Cibao Double Shade PresidenteDouble Shade Presidente
It was a tough decision deciding which cigar would be awarded the Silver medal. Unlike the previous two cigars, the remaining two cigars were considerably more behaved and consistent. But before I give too much away, let’s take a closer look at this large dos capas cigar.

Cigar Stats:
Size: 8 x 50
Wrappers:
Connecticut & Sumatra
Binder:
Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic
Price: ~$3.80

The Pre-Smoke
The first two things you notice about this cigar is it’s considerable size, and the great barber pole effect of the wrapper. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, I’m a sucker for a good looking cigar. And this is a pretty good looking cigar.

On closer inspection, I noticed that the double wrappers appeared to be lacking the normal oily sheen you see in many cigars. The wrappers had some fine spidery veins, and were without noticeable blemish. In testing the firmness of the cigar, I found that it was a little soft at the foot, and firmer as you progress to the head. I was a little disappointed when shortly after clipping the head, the cap fell off.

The Burn
Almost immediately after lighting it, the Presidente let me know who was in charge with a burning end that reminded me of an incense stick. Or maybe a brush fire. Either way, it was one smoky cigar. And as a result, the cigar burned a lot faster than you’d expect from a cigar this size and ring gauge. But the good news about it is that it was consistent. I never experienced the issues at the end of the smoke that I did with the Dark Maduro.

Another thing you look for in a doubly-wrapped cigar like this is inconsistencies in the burn between the two wrappers. They’re two very different leaves, with different compositions, so it makes sense that a problem might arise here. Well the Presidente had no such issues. The burn line was nice and even the whole way. And it produced an attractive ash that was probably the longest and most solid of the bunch.

The Flavor
In the first third of this cigar, I tasted a pleasing array of flavors including creamy peanuts and almonds and some faint caramel. As it blazed into the second third the nuttiness continued and was joined by faint thistle, cinnamon and sweet wood. And in the final third some of the nutty flavor remained, but it became more earthy and leathery with a lot of cinnamon in the mix.

Though the size of this cigar is a little intimidating, don’t worry. This cigar has a light body and will be gentle on you.

The Price
As you might expect, this gargantuan, double-wrapped cigar is more expensive than the rest. But what you probably wouldn’t guess is that it’s only going to cost you about 40 cents more a stick. The only way that isn’t a deal is if you prefer fuller-bodied cigars, or if you just like smaller quicker smokes.

The Verdict
You can probably tell by now that I really enjoyed this cigar, even with it’s chimney-like volume of smoke. And it was hard decision giving it the silver, because I can see myself picking up more in the future. Based on my inspection of the cigar, and the way it burned, I’d say it was a little dry. I have high hopes for an even better performance in this cigar with a little time resting in the humidor.

Liked It: Yes
Buy It Again: Yes
Recommend It:
Yes

Want to try the Double Shade Presidente? You can order them from Tex Cigars here.

Olor Del Cibao Churchill Cuban SeedChurchill Cuban Seed
And that brings us to Brian’s gold medal winner, the Churchill Cuban Seed. And to get to this spot, you gotta figure that it not only performed well in the burn, but had a great flavor profile as well. Well, let’s see how it did.

Cigar Stats:
Size: 7 x 50
Wrappers:
Dominican Republic Cuban Seed
Binder:
Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic
Price: ~$3.40

The Pre-Smoke
As I was looking the Churchill Cuban Seed over, I noticed something odd about the band. If you take a close look at the picture to the right, you’ll probably see what I’m talking about. Yep, the band was misprinted! You know how I said I really enjoy a great looking cigar earlier? Well, I also don’t get that hung up cosmetic flaws in a cigar that performs well.

So I chuckled and continued my inspection. I noticed that this cigar has a lot of veins criss-crossing the wrapper, which resulted in a slightly lumpy feel and a rugged look. I tested the firmness and happy to find it nicely and consistently firm from head to foot.

The Burn
By now you’ve noticed I’ve had some interesting burn experiences with the Olor Del Cibao line. Well this cigar broke out of that mold, smoking nicely and evenly the whole time. The only issues this cigar had was a little bit of unevenness in the burn line in the final third, and a flakier quality to the ash as it progressed.

The Flavor
The Churchill Cuban Seed opened up with a nice creamy coffee flavor, and as I smoked through the first third I noted a wide variety of other tasty notes. Earth, almonds, creamy peanuts, and some spice greeted me on my way through. In the second third the nuttiness continued, and a very enjoyable subtle spiciness was present throughout the continued flavor transitions. As I smoked into the final third, the spiciness was joined by cinnamon and leather. At one point I had the distinct impression of a graham cracker flavor.

The Price
Same low price as before, but for a better cigar. If it was a deal before, it’s a steal now! :)

The Verdict
I think the cat’s out of the bag on this one. You know I enjoyed it. The flakier ash and uneven final burn doesn’t come close to discouraging me. It had just too good a flavor profile. If I could only buy one of these cigars, this would be the one.

Liked It: Yes
Buy It Again: Yes
Recommend It: Yes

Want to try the Churchill Cuban Seed? You can order them from Tex Cigars here.

Whew, we made it. We got through the entire cigar line. I hope you’ve enjoyed my monster cigar review as much as I enjoyed doing the research! I encourage you to leave a comment and tell me what you think of the cigars and the review format!

[UPDATE: I've just been informed that Tex Cigars has a sampler deal for these cigars. You can get one of each for $9.99. At $2.50 a stick, these are a steal!]

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I’ve Been Negligent

Happy Shootin’ DudeHi everyone. I just wanted to put in a quick note thanking Matt over at Matt’s Cigar Journal for making my little blog of randomness and cigars a prominent feature in his clever cigar giveaway contest. If you haven’t already entered it, you should go check it out and see if you can win his favorite cigars! You still have around a week to get your entry in (it ends on September 26th). Be ready to do a bit of work for them. (Well, if you can count reading some prominent cigar blogs work!)

Also, I’d like to thank Jarrod over at Tex Cigars for providing a selection of a new line of cigars for an upcoming review. That’s right, I’m going to be posting a brand-spanking-new cigar review here very soon. You’ll definitely want to check back for that. In the meantime, if you’d like to get a sneak peak and find out what you’re in for, check out his descriptions of the Olor Del Cibao line here.

In meantime, be sure to go check out my brand new review a great cigar made by Atlanta’s hometown cigar manufacturer El Primer Mundo. If you can find the Rosado Oscuro in your local cigar shop, pick one up and give it a try, you won’t be disappointed! If you can’t, ask them about it.

That’s about it. I hope everyone had a great Talk Like A Pirate Day! Take a moment now to shiver your timbers if you missed out on it yesterday! (Other wise ye’ll be walkin’ the plank ye scurvy knave! Yarrr!)

1 Pound of Beans + 15 Hours = A Month Of Joe

Toddy Coffee Maker In ActionI just spent fifteen hours making a pot of coffee. That really doesn’t sound like something anyone should brag about, does it? Unless maybe you’re waiting in line to hop on the short bus. No, as you’ve probably guessed, I didn’t spend the last fifteen hours waving jazz-hands in the air yelling “coffee’s brewin’! coffee’s brewin’!” while pouring thimbles of water on coffee grounds. Quite the contrary. In that period of time I watched a movie, smoked a couple of cigars, slept, scanned a few websites and even forgot to shower. Not a lot of coffee-related activity, you’ll notice.

At this point, you must be intrigued. “Why on earth haven’t you taken a shower yet? And what sort of coffee takes fifteen hours to brew?” You must be asking. Ignoring the first question (‘cuz that’s none of your beeswax), it isn’t the coffee that’s particularly special. It’s an interesting Starbucks blend named Arabian Mocha Sanani that I selected because it’s extra bold and happens to be a variety I haven’t tried before.

The special bit is the brewing method. I cold brewed a pound of coffee. That’s right, I brewed an entire pound of coffee. All at once. In a big white bucket with cold, filtered water.

Essentially this is what I did:

  1. Add water to bucket.
  2. Add coffee to bucket.
  3. Repeat until all the coffee is in the bucket, or the bucket is full. Don’t pour coffee or water on floor or counter. (My wife’s addition to the instructions.)
  4. Wait 12 hours. (I always mess this one up, both because it’s easy to do and because waiting longer results in more potent coffee.)
  5. Pop the cork in the bottom of the bucket and drain tasty dark nectar into a carafe.

Sounds simple, huh? And because I’m withholding information, it probably sounds decadent and wasteful. “One whole pound of coffee in one shot,” you think. “Dear god, Brian, that makes my venti-froo-froo-frappucino look cheap!” And while I think nothing lights a $20 cigar quite like a fifty-dollar bill, what I’ve actually made here is the ultimate lazy cheapskate’s coffee. (And I was kidding about the fifty. We all know Benjamin burns better than Grant.)

I’ll explain. What this process produces is a coffee concentrate, not something you want to drink straight. A cup of this stuff is a express train to Heart Explosion City, with a single stop in the twin cities of Diarrheaville and Yack City. It’s not a train you want to ride. Anyway! What you have at the end of this twelve plus hour process is enough coffee concentrate for around a month’s worth of coffee drinking. (Your results may vary, of course).

A big selling point of brewing coffee this way is that it’s less wasteful than your traditional drip coffee pot. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve brewed an entire pot of coffee only to let the drain drink half the pot. You make this coffee one cup at a time. Which means that you don’t make anything you won’t be drinking. Immediately, the caffeine elite will point out that there are special funnel-shaped brewing cones that will allow you to make a cup at a time also. I know, I have one of those too. They’re OK, but kind of a hassle. (And of course, there’s also those spendy “pod” coffee makers out there.) But the main difference here is the smoothness of the coffee.

The biggest selling point, and the reason I originally bought this “Toddy” coffee maker, is it makes incredibly smooth, low-acid coffee without the need of a chemistry set and without sacrificing the flavor of the coffee. I went through an annoying period of time last year where my stomach was constantly in an uproar about everything and anything I ate or drank. Suspecting the culprit might be strongly acidic coffee, I went in search of an alternative. I tried my dad’s secret trick of sprinkling a little bit of salt on top of your coffee grounds just before brewing them, and unsurprisingly I wound up with salty coffee. And then finally I tracked down the Toddy Coffee Maker, which I’d heard rumors about for a while. And it helped. It didn’t fix the problem, but it helped. (It turns out I wasn’t the coffee, and it wasn’t food allergies. I was eating too much fiber. Yes, you can overdo it. My doctor still thinks I’m nuts.)

And I’ve used it ever since. It’s convenient, the coffee’s smooth and tasty, and you can even drink it when you’re hung over. If you’re looking for an alternative to your normal cup of joe, or you have digestive issues, I’d recommend picking one of these up. (Alternately, Toddy sells pre-made concentrate at their online store, so you can try the result out before you buy it.) I still have a soft spot in my heart for my French press and for Americanos, but the Toddy is hard to beat when it comes to convenience.

The only real drawback to the Toddy is that you will have to buy new filters from time to time. They are reusable, but eventually the little fibrous discs get gunked up and stop working. They aren’t that expensive (you can get two of them for about four dollars), but I’d really prefer to have a permanent filter. Because they’re specialized filters, I do have some concern that should the company eventually go out of business, I’ll be stuck with a coffee maker I can’t use. For now that doesn’t appear to be a likely, as they’ve received a lot of major press coverage, and are sold at the Seattle’s Best Coffee shop in my local Border’s. And at $37.50 for the whole system, if I’ve probably already gotten my money’s worth out of it!

Oh yes, and another thing, I wasn’t paid or bribed to write this review. (Though I did try to see if I could get some swag or coffee if I wrote a review for them. No dice. Hey, you can’t blame me for tryin’!) I just want them to continue to do well so I can keep buying my coffee filters!

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Jury Duty: Pauly Shore Not Included

Happy Shootin’ DudeIf my wife was less organized, there might have been a warrant out for my arrest today. On Monday I was sitting in the office doing the things I do for money and my phone rang. It was my wife with some bad news. “Hey, you have jury duty, remember? You need to call this number after 5:00 PM for instructions,” she said and gave me the number. This seriously couldn’t come at the worst time. I’m juggling two jobs, two blogs and trying to beat a business paperwork deadline at the same time. And I think I might be coming down with a cold. And that’s really gonna make my next cigar review difficult.

Crap. Not only do I not have time to watch a bitter couple slug it out in divorce proceedings or listen to a irresponsible booze hound trying to weasel out of a DUI, I don’t have time to do anything about it. So I was told at the juror check in desk. If I had been on top of things, I could have written in for a deferment.

So I spent the morning weighing my options. I’m not 70 or older and I didn’t bring a wig and a walker with me. Looking around, I don’t see any walkers or people wearing gray wigs, so that’s out. I’m not pregnant, and as much fun as that’d be to fake, I’m not committed enough to shave the goatee to pull it off. No kids either, though don’t people make up kids all the time for tax purposes? I wonder how they do that. (That might come in handy now and then again at tax time. Fake kids: the gift that keeps on giving.) OK, short of pleading with the judge, should I get selected as a juror, I’m stuck here in the jury pool stable, crossing my fingers, and waiting on the roll of some mysterious computerized dice.

At that point, the question became, can I get the entire room to participate in a highly coreographed song and dance routine? Looking around I figured my odds were fifty-fifty. I might make it as far as croud surfing while singing the chorus of Cuban Pete before an angry group of potential jurors give me the beating they’ve wanted to give Pauly Shore for well over a decade. The “chick-chicky boom” would be the sounds of peoples sensible shoes digging into my ribs at high velocity. The odds were better than even that I’d deserve it for that.

So that pretty much left me blogging on my crackberry, feeling irritable and drinking coffee. Speaking of irritability and coffee, I have one big beef with this jury duty thing. I had to pay for coffee while I was there. We’re not talking about fifty cents here, we’re talking Starbucks rates. A buck fifty for a cup of dark water? Gas station quality at best, and none of the froo-froo additives? C’mon! The least you can do is provide us with some caffeine so we can stay awake for all this nonsense. Newsflash, some of us don’t function well at 8 AM without some joe. (For me it’s a lot like being in a different time zone.)

If your going to deprive us of our ability to earn our living for the day, you can at least set up a coffee pot in that huge room I like to call the “juror stable”. Am I really asking too much? Don’t you just hate it when you help someone out and are forced to pay expenses that arise from the effort? “Thanks for showing up! Coffee? Yes, we have some I can sell you!” It’s kind of like asking your friends to come over to help you move, and then when everybody’s worn out and hungry from moving your crap all day, you sell them pizza and beer. With a steep mark-up.

And while we’re discussing things that irritate Brian, here’s another pet peeve. We were informed that we’re not allowed to make or receive phone calls in the juror stable. That means that the ringers should be turned off. And if that weren’t completely obvious, they told us that they should be. No excuses. Of course within 30 seconds of the announcement several phones rang back-to-back at full volume. Within ten minutes the lady behind me answered the phone to say “I can’t talk right now” and proceeded have a short conversation anyway. People, if you really can’t talk, press the damn button that sends the call to voicemail. Don’t answer it, because that means you can talk. It’s not a crime to let a call go to voicemail! You’re paying for it, use it. People will understand! This sort of brainlessness isn’t limited to the action-packed world of jury selection, I’ve seen (well, heard) the same brilliance in meetings and in movie theaters. Is it too late to implement an IQ test as part of the requirements of getting a cellphone?

And for the love of God, when a phone rings, do something about it. Either answer it or send it to voicemail. Please, please do something to make that obnoxious noise go away. Don’t just sit there staring at the phone, trying to puzzling out where it’s coming from (“Hmm… Is the 541 area code Tuscaloosa? That reminds me I should call Bob…”) while the ringer blares Barbie Girl. Worse still, do not dance to that ringtone you foolishly paid four bucks to download. We don’t want to hear it, we don’t want to see you jam, make it go away, or we’ll make the phone go away. I won’t tell you where, but I can promise you’ll spend a lot more time standing in the future.

Let me tell you, the end of the day could not come soon enough. The good news is that by 3 PM, my civic duty had been fulfilled, and I walked out of the court house a free man, with a slight case of caffeine withdrawal, a headache and cigar in my teeth. But I was happy. I paid good money for this unexpected afternoon of freedom. It cost me eight hours of pay. But I was off the grid, and I was going to make the most of it.

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Are You Smarter Than A Beauty Queen?

Last weekend my hard-herfin’ friend Cigar Jack put up a fun little weekend quiz, and I just couldn’t resist. I just had to see if I could still pass the 8th grade. If I could do that, I could be certain that I’m a bit brighter than this infamous pretty Einstein:

Go on, you know you want to watch it again. It’s the train wreck du jour. She has important things to say about The Iraq. (How much you wanna bet her quarterback boyfriend drives an IROC, and she was thinking about this car when she answered? As in, “when I’m done with this show, my boyfriend and I are heading to the back seat of The IROC.” Just a theory I’m toying with.)

Now that you’ve watched it again (admit it, you watched it twice) and reveled in the brilliance that often accompanies life’s aesthetic lottery, why not head over and try your luck with the 8th grade science quiz? (Unless you’re chicken… Don’t worry, it isn’t an oral exam!)

88% B+!

I got an B+ (88%), which honestly, was probably about as well as I would have done back in the day. How did you do?

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The Cross-Country Pub Crawl

Brian and Wife at Cooper Smith’sIt wasn’t planned. Originally, when I was thinking about the roadtrip, I envisioned a rolling herf. A sedan with a perpetual haze and rich smell of tobacco permanently infused into the vehicle’s upholstery. Well, that’s not quite the way things worked out.

It may have been our lack of luck in finding decent tobacconists in our travels. (Google maps, it seems, is unable to distinguish between convenience stores and cigar shops.) Or it could be that my co-pilot, Mr. “Monkey Poo” Harris didn’t like to smoke while he was driving. Either way, the air was a lot less hazy in that cabin than I expected. That isn’t to say we didn’t smoke some good cigars. We definitely did. But what stole the show was the brew pubs and their small scale microbrews.

It started out by accident. We pulled over in Hood River, OR to stop for lunch, and noticed a sign for the Full Sail Brewing Company and decided to stop in to have some good pub food and a beer. Once we were in there, we decided, what the heck, why not do a sampler? And then it happened again in Salt Lake City, UT. After that it became a mission. And then after a few more, we started keeping score. By the end of the trip, we had done samplers at seven different brewpubs in seven different states, and had ranked them from best to worst after several lengthy discussions.

So here’s where we went, what we drank and what we thought of it, beginning with the pub we liked the least, and working up to our favorite. Enjoy!

Squatters Sampler

#7 Sqatters Pub Brewery
Salt Lake City, UT
In spite of the great atmosphere and funny drink names (“Poligamy Porter”) the brews just didn’t cut the mustard. But it’s not entirely their fault, unless you blame them for opening up shop in a city (or state?) that doesn’t allow draught beer to have a higher alcohol content than 3.2%. So as you might expect, these initially promising beers had a very watery, unsatisfying finish. The beers we had here quickly became a yardstick by which we compared other breweries offerings.

5 Seasons Sampler

#6 5 Seasons Brewing
Atlanta, GA
It pains me that a local Atlanta brewpub ranked so low in our esteem. Between the ill-prepared, overpriced food (Four bucks for a small plate of cold edamame? C’mon! And those crutons were very stale!), poor service (our waiter was clearly hating his job) and uninspired beer, we had no choice to put this almost at the end of the list. Almost the end. The beer here, while nothing to get excited about, at least it wasn’t like drinking colored water. There is hope for this place, the two beers they were out of when we visited may be fantastic. And maybe that waiter will wake up and realize his calling isn’t food service.

Bluegrass Sampler

#5 Bluegrass Brewing Company
Louisville, KY
The funny thing about this brew pub is that the best beers they make weren’t available in the sampler! We had several great ones at an Irish pub next door, including a tasty stout that didn’t appear on the menu and isn’t listed on the website. Overall, these beers were kind of hit and miss. Aside from the tasty Bourbon Barrel Smoked Porter and the stout with the long name I’ve forgotten, the most memorable was the Dort which tasted very much like bananas. Very much. Mr. “Monkey Poo” Harris also was very keen on the Drunkelweizen.

Granite City Sampler

#4 Granite City Brewery
Sioux Falls, MN SD
This pub was another complete surprise. By the time we rolled into Sioux Falls, we were dead tired, and would have settled for any place to get a burger before hitting the sack. We walked in, and hot damn, it was a brewery. It was around this time that we realized that our calling on this trip was to sample and review as many beers as possible.

We were a little conflicted about putting this on the list, though. It wasn’t that the beer wasn’t good. In fact, it was all very tasty. The thing is that the establishment isn’t a pure microbrewery. It’s part of a chain. And in an effort to maintain a consistent quality in their beers, their wort/unfinished-pre-beer is shipped in, and the final stages of the process takes place locally. Mr. Monkey Poo is a bit of a purist, but I’m a bit of a slacker. And since I’m the one writing the blog, I’m gonna let ‘em slide on this technicality. They were very nice (the manager came out and talked with us at length about the beer and the business) and the beer was good. That’s enough for me.

I’d say more about the beers specifically, but I can’t seem to get to their beer list on the website! I can say that I don’t recall disliking a single one.

Full Sail Sampler

#3 Full Sail Brewing Company
Hood River, OR
I’m probably a bit biased, as an Oregon native from Portland, but there’s plenty of Portland beer available, so there’s no need to artificially inflate the ratings of an single Oregon beer. As with Granite City’s brews, the entire Full Sail line was very enjoyable, but there was clearly a star of the show. Since I’ve been away, a beer called Session seems to have become a very, very popular brew in the area. And I can see why. I tasted it and was immediately in love. Light, flavorful, crisp and refreshing. An excellent summer beer. I liked it so much, I bought a case of the little grenade-shaped bottles it comes in and drove it all the way out to Atlanta. And that’s saying something. There were only three beers I brought back with me, and the other two were Golden Valley’s Red Thistle Ale and New Belgium’s Fat Tire. That’s very good company to be in. (To be fair, Bridgeport is available out here, otherwise I would have brought that out here too. Though the porter isn’t, and I couldn’t find any… :( )

Funny thing about the “grenade” shape. One of those babies went off between Kentucky and Tennessee! My trunk still smells like beer!

Yazoo Sampler

#2 Yazoo Brewing Company
Nashville, TN
This taster almost didn’t happen. When Google maps lead us to an old warehouse with no signage in a sketchy part of Nashville (complete with bridges and rough looking vagrants hanging out under those bridges), we nearly left. When we walked in and there was no seating, we nearly left. When we discovered that they didn’t sell food, we nearly left. Fortunately, less sober heads prevailed and we worked out way up to the bar and snagged a table at the same time.

As you can probably tell from the picture above, the “samplers” we ordered were less like samples and more like a round of drinks for a sales department lunch. Immediately we had a warm fuzzy for the place, and it wasn’t too long before warm and fuzzy was all we had going on.

It’s hard to say a beer stood out here, they were all excellent. I know I really enjoyed their “Hop Project” super-duper experimental IPA (I forget the exact name), as well as the ESB and the porter. Heck, I just love that they make a porter. I don’t see a lot of those anymore, and it’s a tasty beer.

So there’s good news and bad news about this place. The bad news is that it looks like you can only get their beer in Tennessee. The good news (for me that is), is that it’s close enough for me that I’d consider a quick weekend trip up there to pick up a Growler or two.

If you happen to be passing through the area, don’t miss this gem!

CooperSmith’s Sampler

#1 CooperSmith’s Pub & Brewing
Fort Collins, CO
As soon as I saw they had chili beer on menu, I knew I’d found a special place. That’s right, chili beer. As in hot chilis. I know that probably sounds weird, but believe me it’s good. It’s good enough that it’s on their menu year round! It’s more of a distinct jalapeño flavor in the aftertaste than a noticeable flavor during the drink. Think of it like drinking alcoholic nachos. No, on second thought, don’t. Oh yeah, and I forgot about the Cherry ale!

As was the case with Yazoo, the sampler came out looking like the drink order for a group of Irish salesmen. (Kiss me, I’m Irish!) To be honest, I don’t think any of us remember a lot about this evening, other than loving the beer, and the staggeringly large list of available brews. According to the website, there are 14 different beers on tap; several of those being variations on the Pale Ale. That’s what I’m talkin’ about! I really wish more brewpubs did that. Why have one Pale Ale, when you can have three?

In addition to having one of the largest lists of beers we saw the whole trip, it had a great atmosphere and very accomodating staff. We sat al fresco even though the seating area was closed, drinking our many beers, watching college-aged skateboarders falling down stairways and tripping over their baggy crack-pants in the surrounding pedestrian mall. Good times. And to think we probably would never have gone there if New Belgium had been open when we rolled into town!

And with that we’re done. I’ll leave you the way my esteemed friend “Monkey Poo” Harris left us most evenings. Abruptly out cold. Cheers!

Monkey Poo Harris, Out Cold
“Monkey Poo” Harris has left the building…

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And The Winner Of The CAO America Potomac Is…

The CAO AmericaOK, OK, I’ve kept everybody waiting long enough. Though the contest officially ended this past Sunday, in the hustle to catch up with all the obligations I put on hold for last week’s roadtrip, the contest was put on the back burner for a couple of days. (I actually drew the winners yesterday, I just didn’t get around to posting the results until today!)

This time around it really paid off to enter! Because I was out of town, I didn’t have as much time to promote the contest as I did with the previous. As a result we had around 20 fewer entries for the CAO America cigars than we did for the Serie V! (Or maybe the Oliva buzz was bigger. Or maybe people are getting tired of my random thoughts, who can tell?) According to my quick-and-dirty calculations, you had whopping 2% chance to walk away with one of these pre-release beauties, while you only had a 1.4% for the Oliva Serie V.

Enough of the statistical geekery, it’s time to announce the lucky guys that gain from my goofing around! And the first winner is…

Comment #16: Joe Drinker!

Cool! That saves me having to find an excuse to send him a cigar. (I have been thinking about it. And I know he’s been hoping I’d offer. The cigar-tension has been thick between us. Wow, OK, this is starting to sound weird! It must be time to stop writing parenthetically.) Given his background in graphic design, this aesthetically pleasing stick might just be the perfect cigar to send his way. (Whaddaya think about my “post-whoring contests” now? LOL!)

And now, the second winner is…

Comment #9: Mike Philippovic (mphilipp)!

Mike just happens to be a Brother of the Leaf (BOTL) that made his way over to my blog from the Cigar Live forum. And as luck would have it, somebody I also ran into briefly at the pre-RTDA herf at Slainte Irish Pub in downtown Houston! (A brief aside: If you live in the area or happen to be traveling through, you should meet up with these Houston guys, they’re herfin’ machines!)

I’ll be emailing the lucky winners soon to get shipping details, and with any luck these cigars will be on the road tomorrow. (If you’re one of the winners, and you haven’t seen an email from me yet, check your spam filter! Or you can always use the form on the About page to send me your details, just be sure to use the same email address you used to enter so I can be sure it’s you!)

Of course to maximize the enjoyment of the cigar, you can always wander over to the Stogie Review, where I have been promoted to a regular reviewing fixture, to check out my thoughts on the America, while smoking your own! C’mon, you know you wanna.

I’m happy to say that I got to smoke another of these with a friend of mine on the roadtrip, and I found it to be even tastier than it was when I reviewed it. I could have been the experience of being on the road or the extra weeks of age. Whatever the cause, it was a damn fine smoke, with a lot of surprisingly caramel flavor where previously I had tasted paper. With any luck, the lucky winners will enjoy theirs as much as we enjoyed ours!

And to everyone else, sorry, I’m all out! Of CAO Americas, that is… ;) Keep checking back, I just might do this again! In the meantime, you can try your luck again over at Cigar Jack’s blog. You still have a week to enter his Arganese cigar giveaway!

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And I’m Back: A Quick Note

Brian and Monkey Poo HarrisAbout 3500 miles, a few cigars and a lot of microbrew samplers later, I’m back from the roadtrip. I had hoped to in some way document the adventure on a more “live” basis, but at best our internet access was unreliable, and often complete non-existent. (Who knew my Crackberry’s data service provider didn’t cover the vast open stretches of Wyoming?)

Also, a quick word of thanks to Emon of Emonome and Nicole of Pinch My Salt for the road-trip t-shirts. As you can see in the picture, we put ‘em to good use! In fact, we even did some wash along the way and wore ‘em again a bit later in the trip!

This post will have to be short, I have a lot of catching up to do. Have no fear, the trip not only recharged the batteries, it also provided a great deal of blog worthy material and pictures. The first will probably be our review of the five microbreweries we visited in five different states. But for now, it’s time to finish unpacking, washing and returning email…

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