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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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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Herfs Galore Before Hitting The Road

I’ve made promises to some people to get up some pictures of the recent Blue Havana II herf, but I just haven’t had the time. The road trip approaches, and I’m scrambling to get ready for that and keep up with all my obligations (blog-ligations?). But good news! Jim has already uploaded his gallery of herf pictures, so I’m sorta off the hook. (At some point I will definitely upload the pictures to my online photo galleries, I’m just not sure when.)

The Blue Havana II August Herf
Blue Havana himself, DiscDog, CgarDan and Shelby07 at the Blue Havana II herf

By all accounts the herf was a success and a great deal of fun. Relying heavily on Jim’s pictures, I think we had a total attendance of 15 or 16 people, with ten of them participating in the box pass. His innovative live “Twice Around the Block Pass” was like Christmas in August for the attendees. I don’t think anybody walked away without a treat. (And if you did, it was your own fault, you had two shots at the box!) If you’d like to see how it went down, you can find the complete list of puts and takes, as well as the original box contents on this thread at CigarLive.

Though it was billed as a Camacho “cigar tasting”, last night I joined DiscDog (Every board known to man and a few besides), NNexus (CigarLive) and Justin (Is he on the board yet?) again for what was basically another herf at Highland Cigar Company. A little foolishly, I didn’t bother to bring a supply of cigars along, assuming that there’d be a sample cigar or two at a cigar tasting. I was wrong, at this event, you only get a taste of what you buy. (Of course there was a buy-3-get-a-cigar-of-lesser-value-free deal.) Which, if you think about it, is a bad idea. How on earth would somebody new to Camacho know what to buy? The Triple Maduro is still pretty new, do you really want to buy three to find out if you like it? Unless you’re selling dog rockets and you know it, you only stand to benefit by giving out a freebie or two.

Compare this to the Oliva Serie V event I blogged about a while back. There was a lot of buzz about this cigar, but a lot of words of caution also regarding it’s potency also. Allowing people to try it before they buy it, has resulted in them selling their entire stock out at each event. Heck, I wasn’t planning on buying any, but I walked out of there with all the double robustos they had left! And I know a few people who were initially intimidated by the cigar left the event with a handful and a big smile on their face.

The badness of the no-sample plan is magnified by offending a true connoisseur and cigar board veteran like DiscDog. His opinion of a cigar may affect as much as thousands of dollars in sales. Rumored to have the most splendiferous cigar collection in the state of Georgia (I should know, I’m actively spreading the rumor), he not only didn’t buy a Camacho that night, he didn’t even smoke one of his own. Instead he broke out one of the finest, most exotic cigars any of us had seen in a very long time: A Partagas Culebra, constructed of three, full-sided churchill cigars intertwined.

For a cigar that looks a lot like you’re burning Dilbert’s tie when smoked, it had fantastic construction, easily sporting a two inch ash that even held on even through the bends of the cigar. (Keep an eye on NNexus’ signature on CigarLive, you might get to see what I’m talking about.) I had a puff or two off one of the curly beasts and it had a great smooth flavor with an subtle edge-of-the-tongue spice and a sweetness that built up as the cigar smoked. (Actually, I can’t verify the sweetness, the Camacho Select I was smoking made it impossible for me to tell in the second sample.)

You never saw a happier group of herfers. Did I say “happier”? I meant higher. Those guys were buzzing something fierce by the time the rounded the first bend. Man, I really wish I hadn’t forgotten my camera.

OK, I’m off. The next post you read is likely to be from the road, somewhere between here and Portland, Oregon.

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Giveaways Galore! The Pre-Release CAO America And More!

The CAO AmericaMan, where does the time go. I can’t believe it’s already been another week. Frequent visitors to my blog will have noticed it’s been unusually quiet this week, will probably be a little concerned about my health. Have no fear, I’m as healthy as an ox, in roughly the same shape, and probably nearly as rational. I’ve just been making my noise and mess on some other blogs. That and working two jobs. I know, I know, the world’s smallest violin is playing just for me.

Here’s what I’ve been up to. Earlier this week, I reviewed the Joya De Nicaragua Celebracion Consul for my buddy Stinkie on CigarBeat. I don’t wanna spoil it for you, but a nearly impervious draw kinda spoiled it for me. And then on the Stogie Review, I continued my video boycott with a text and photo-heavy review of the pre-release CAO America Potomac. Judging by the overwhelmingly positive response to the review, it’s definitely one you want to check out. But be sure to come back here, because you’re gonna want in what’s coming up a bit later in this post. And of course, these reviews will be added to my cigar review index to make sure they’re always easy to track down.

If you’re in the Atlanta area (or anywhere in the south with the desire for a cigar and a road trip), you should join me and a bunch of the guys from the area and the CigarLive forum for the herf at Blue Havana II in Alpharetta, GA. (It looks like his site might be down at the moment, but it’s there! [UPDATE: Link updated!]) It’s happening this Saturday starting at 6:00pm and going until Jim gets tired of all of us and kicks us out of his shop! For more information, check out the official thread on CigarLive. I’ll be there, and if you’re really nice (we’re talking serious brown-nosing, here) I might let you have one of my Gran Habano Corojo #5’s. Trust me, it’s worth that dirty feeling you’ll have inside. ;)

To get things humming again on this blog, I’m starting up another giveaway contest! The last one was so much fun (and generated so much traffic, I won’t kid ya), that I’ve decided to do it again. But this time, I’m giving away two (2, count ‘em, 2) pre-release CAO America Potomacs!

Why do I keep mentioning “pre-release”, you ask? The reason is that it’s been pointed out to me by one of my CAO friends that these won’t be available for around 2 months! That doesn’t mean they’re still rollin’ ‘em like mad (though they might be), it means that the supply is sitting in a warehouse getting some age, which is generally a good thing.

The CAO America Potomac Giveaway rules:

  1. You are allowed two entries to this giveaway. Please note you must be 18 or older to enter. (Sorry, I don’t make the laws, I just try to follow them!)
  2. Your first entry is commenting on this post. Please include the text in your comment “I am 18 or older.”
  3. You may enter a second time by posting a link to this contest on your blog that pingback/trackbacks to this post.
  4. The winner will be drawn on September 2nd, 2007. (Or shortly after. Or whenever entries slow down enough that making everyone wait becomes a pointless exercise. Totally my discretion here.)

Oh but wait, I’m not finished yet. Well, I am, but Stinkie over at CigarBeat isn’t! He’s got two (again, count ‘em, 2) giveaways running on his cigar blog and forum. So this week, you’ve got an excellent chance to really cash in on the generosity of the Brothers of the Leaf (BOTL for short).

Stinkie’s Giveaways

[UPDATE: And now Cigar Jack is in the action, and he's giving away not one, not two, but six (6!) Arganese cigars to some undisclosed number of lucky commenters! Head over now, and enter, the odds are great!]

Best of luck!

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