Who’s Herfin’ And What’s Smokin’ 10/5/07

Heed the sage words of Brian!Here again, is the latest installment of news from the internet cigar world. It’s been a very busy week, I recommend grabbing a cold one out of the fridge and lighting up something with “presidente” or a “gigante” in the name for this edition. You’ll be here for a while!

Cigar Reviews

In Other News…
And of course, Heather Waibel’s much anticipated online cigar shop Fumeé World is now open for business. Make sure you check it out. I’ve had a look around it, and I was pleased that it’s designed with the true cigar enthusiast in mind. While most online retailers generally organize cigars only by Manufacturer and then by line, Fumeé World allows you to search by wrapper leaf, by country of origin, by size and even by price. And to top it all off, the site even allows you to combine all these aspects on an advanced search page.

Oh yeah, and one other tip: Before you head over to Fumeé World, stop by The Stogie Review before you head over, they have a 15% off coupon code you can use for your purchase!

And Cigar Jack keeps the cigar giveaway insanity alive by offering you a chance to win an entire box of Olor Del Cibao Cuban Seed Churchills! Madness I say! If you want to know whether or not it’s worth entering, check out my review, or his review of the line.

The Week in Brian
Having recovered from a mild bug and an abundance of work, I contributed my normal Wednesday review to The Stogie Review. On tap this week? The new Ashton San Cristobal Guajiro. The verdict? It’s one you should try. Check out the review for more information.

I thought it was going to be another quiet week, but then all hell broke loose in at the condo’s post office. My good friend Justin from CigarLive (also onetime reviewer at the Stogie Review) bombed me with a beautiful, shiny silver Stinky Ashtray. If you don’t have one already, consider getting one, it’s essential herf gear.

And if that weren’t enough excitement, Mark Neff, the man with the plan over at Cigarmony (Viva la puck!) sent me a fantastic prize for entering a contest to name his brand new cigar lounge and all-around man-room. The winning entry? The Ash Hole. In addition to sending a fine selection of premium smokes, he made my day and sent me another puck. (I was crossing my fingers that it would be a part of the prize!)

Cigarmony Contest Winnings

Contest winnings, thanks Mark!

Speaking of the Ash Hole, at my own peril, I just checked for a the existence of a website with that name. (You never know what you might find with a name like that!) Well anyway, a bit of exploration resulted in my discovery of a brand new smoking apparatus that transforms your empty beer bottle into an ash tray! Unfortunately, from the look of it, it wouldn’t do cigar smokers much good, but if you enjoy the cigar’s smaller, more widely accepted cousin the cigarette, you might want to check it out.

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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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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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The Mystery Of The 5 Minute Browser

Heed the sage words of Brian!I had the weirdest problem recently. Five minutes after booting up my office laptop, in the midst of checking the news online, my browser stopped working. That isn’t to say I couldn’t use the buttons or select items from the menus. Functionally speaking, the browser application was fine. The problem is that pages stopped loading. All of them.

Expecting that it was a network outage or a corporate firewall problem, checked the usual things. I verified that my network cable hadn’t broken or been disconnected. I tried unplugging it and plugging it back in. Still dead. I fired up Innernut Exploder (I use Firefox by default. [Funny Side Note: In getting this link, I've noticed Firefox's website has determined I'm Italian. I have no idea why, and there's no convincing it that I'm not. I wonder if it's flirting with me.]) Still nothing. I checked with some other people in the office. Their connections were fine, and they hadn’t experienced any outages whatsoever. Damn, it’s me.

I often listen to radio programming streamed over the internet while I’m in the office. Every now and then the little embedded applications used by these stations will cause me trouble that can only be resolved by rebooting. So I reboot. And I’m back online, happily getting my news fix. For about five minutes. Then I’m dead in the water again. About this time, I get an email. What the heck is going on? My browsers are dead by my email application is humming right along like everything’s fine. And I can ping Yahoo from the command window.

So I reboot again. This time, I don’t expect this to fix the problem, I just want to establish that this problem is a repeatable and demonstrable, so I don’t look like an idiot when I speak with the help desk. Like clockwork, after about 5 minutes, I’m dead in the water again. So off I go on a help desk adventure. I’ll spare you the details. All you really need to know is that this bug owned the help desk. If you seriously suggest wiping and re-imaging a PC, you are conceding defeat. You are owned. I have to give them credit though, before admitting defeat, they spent hours chasing this problem, trying increasingly more obscure solutions. I’m probably not worth the effort they put into it, if you run the metrics.

I had no intention of reinstalling and reconfiguring this machine. I’ve spent too much time getting it configured just right. I took the problem home, and scoured the internet for a solution. (From another PC, of course.) And I found a lot of possible fixes, which I sent to my Crackberry for use the following day at work.

Here are the valid candidate solutions I found. I’m listing them all here, because what worked for me may not be what works for you. I know you won’t be surprised to hear that there are a variety of things that can cause this problem.

Fix Candidate #1 – IP Renewal:
This is probably the easiest possible fix and least likely to cause trouble. For this reason it was the first I tried. (I’m kind of surprised that neither Help Desk or I thought of this.)

  1. Open a command window (Start -> Run -> “cmd”)
  2. Type ipconfig /release and enter.
  3. Type ipconfig /renew and enter.
  4. Close the window and try the browser. If this was gonna work, it would be now.

Fix Candidate #2 – Flushing DNS Cache:
This is similar to the first, and if the websites and newsgroups I read are any indication, the odds favor it as the winning solution. (There are some additional steps that involve updating registry values to set minimums and maximums for DNS cache, but I’m leaving them out. They’re non-essential, and I don’t want to encourage people to go mucking around in their registry. If you want to know, let me know.)

  1. Open a command window (Start -> Run -> “cmd”)
  2. Type ipconfig /flushdns and enter.
  3. You should get a message indicating success.
  4. Close the window and try the browser. If this was gonna work, it would be now.

Fix Candidate #3 – Hijack This:
This fix is simple as downloading HijackThis (official website on Trend Micro), running it, and deleting the following items, if they appear. If they don’t, this isn’t the fix for you. Because I’m all about saving time, do a search for “win32exe.exe” on your machine before downloading or installing anything.

  • O4 – HKLM\..\Run: [winbin32] win32exe.exe
  • O4 – HKLM\..\RunServices: [winbin32] win32exe.exe
  • O4 – HKCU\..\Run: [winbin32] win32exe.exe
  • O4 – HKCU\..\RunServices: [winbin32] win32exe.exe

After that you need to reboot and delete the file file named “win32exe.exe”.

Fix Candidate #4 – The Repair Install:
I save this one for last for a couple of reasons. To begin with, it sounds kind of stupid. Also, it happens to be the fix that got me back on track. It’s dumb and it works. As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently began the slow, painful process of migrating from one mail client to another in the office. As a part of that transition (which, I’m annoyed to say, is ongoing) I had to install AT&T network client software. And wouldn’t you know it, the install blue-screened. That’s all the background you need for this fix.

  1. Start -> Settings -> Control Panel -> Add or Remove Programs
  2. Select AT&T Network Client from the list and click the “Change” button.
  3. Select the repair install option. (Or uninstall, if you no longer need the software.)
  4. Follow instructions.
  5. Reboot optional. You may find that your browser works immediately.

If you don’t have the AT&T Network Client installed, and are having this problem, have no fear. The word is that these steps can also be used on systems with Symantec AntiVirus or Microsoft Media Connect. Generally speaking, if you have the problem shorty after installing new software, consider re-installing it, or removing it.

I hope in posting this, I’ll save somebody the pain of formatting and reinstalling their PC in frustration. If you do use this information to fix your machine, let me know! I’ll consider the warm-fuzzy payment for services rendered. :)

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6 Mushroom Pictures: There Actually Is Fungus Among Us!

Just look what I found in a neighborhood in Sandy Springs, GA this weekend while my wife and I were making the rounds: Mushrooms! Not the normal pizza-topping variety, we’re talking full-on Grateful Dead album art mushrooms. (Or better yet, Mellow Mushroom pizza art for those of you living in the area.) Anyway, this just proves I should never go anywhere without my camera. You probably shouldn’t either. :) Enjoy!

A Mushroom!

A Mushroom!

A Mushroom!

A Mushroom!

A Mushroom!

A Mushroom!

Check out the entire mushroom gallery here. (The originals are much larger.)

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Tagged: The Things You Can’t Prove Are Lies

Antoni Gaudi’s Sun MosaicOK, I’m back from the 10th circle of hell. Yeah, you read that right, the 10th circle. You’re quite right, there were only nine circles. Until Saddam Hussein started demanding a corner office in the 9th circle. God he’s such a pain. So the devil gave him his old office and built a whole new circle for himself. And he needed some I.T. help. Of course, the devil likes to work with people who both know they are for sale and know what their price tag is. Naturally, that means he hires consultants.

One recommendation. If you’re on your way to hades, by either handbasket or the regular route, don’t forget your MP3 player and your shades. The eternal shrieks of the damned get sort of grating after a while, like an alarm clock left running by a vacationing neighbor, and the hell fire can get kind of bright. Especially if you’re hung over.

Ah yes, I’ve been tagged. I hope this isn’t the payment the red-horned guy was promising me for my work. You can’t ever count on him paying his invoices as agreed.

The Rules
1.) Post the rules first.
2.) If you are tagged you have to tell your faithful blogging public 8 random facts about yourself in a post on your blog. It can be habits, an idea, facts, or just um… stuff.
3.) At the end of your post, choose eight other bloggers you’d like to know something about and tag them.
4.) Leave a comment telling them you’ve tagged them and that they will need to read your post on your blog.
5.) Bend the rules as convenient. (My special addition!)

The Things You Can’t Prove Are Lies

I. I’ve been published at least twice under different pseudonyms. But before you think back on the articles you’ve recently in major publications, it’s only fair I tell you that once was for an underground high school newspaper and the other was for a slightly more high brow (i.e. pretentious) college literature magazine. I still have both.

II. I started seriously enjoying writing in a high school English class. Fed up with all the essay writing, in irritation I wrote a very antagonistic paper as one of my assignments. The plan was to make reading the assignment as much of a pain as it was to write it. As many of my plans do, it backfired; the teacher loved it and started treating me as though I were literary elite. Being the obnoxious bastard I am, I found that the prospect of writing angry for good grades a win-win proposition. I was brimming with pointless teen angst. I aced the class and was put in the advanced class the following year.

In college, to keep it interesting, I made a point of writing my papers in support of whatever view point I thought my professor disagreed with the most or in favor or anything patently absurd. Somehow my textual nettles continued to be well received. And I got pretty good at supporting the unsupportable. (I should have been lawyer!) I was very Swiftian. (Not to be confused with “Swift Boat“.) Of course, I didn’t know it at the time, I was just being sadistic.

III. My crowning achievement in art of the chafing word was contributing three pieces of poetry/prose to the college literary magazine under an ridiculous pseudonym. The incredibly obnoxious ditties made it in and I had the pleasure of hearing one of the editors angrily discussing their inappropriateness. Ah, good times. :)

IV. I’ve been in a small (four seater!) plane when all the electronics went out. In the clouds. I participated in an emergency line of site landing that involved a tight spiral down through a small hole in low cloud cover. Once down, the problem was diagnosed (pilot error), and we got back on and flew the rest of the way to our destination. Same plane, maybe an hour later. Several people still claim to have the “Oh Shit” email I sent them from my Crackberry while I was in the air. Sadly, I don’t.

V. I started smoking cigars with a friend on the Oregon coast in the middle of the night. We’d leave campus after in the evening after classes and arrive well into the night. On the way we’d stop at the “Mecca of Convenience” and pick up some firewood for a bonfire and whatever cigars they had at the counter. They were horrible in the way you would expect a convenience store cigars to be, but an essential part of the evening. (A better cigar probably wouldn’t have burned worth a damn on those gusty nights.) As was the “flaming manhood”, but that’s a story for another day.

VI. I’ve worn a kilt on numerous occasions, but I’m not going to prove it. That will disappoint at least one occasional reader of this blog, as he wants to submit it for Photoshoping on Fark. But I can tell you that I looked dead-sexy. Especially back when I had long hair. Don’t worry, you would agree. (Even if it required adjustments in your blood-alcohol levels.)

VII. I’d much rather be rich than famous. If I suddenly disappear, you’ll know I got my wish. Either that, or I was crushed under a collapsing stack of cigar humidors.

VIII. I won my wife over with my dance moves. Quit laughing, it’s true. She’ll vouch for it. A friend of mine (and at the time, co-worker) from Nigeria and I were really kicking some ass on the floor of a Malaysian dance club when we were approached by my now wife and her friend. The dancing continued well into the early hours of the morning. And again a few weeks later. The rest is very colorful history.

Honestly, I think nearly everybody I know in the blog world has been tagged already. (I was sooo gonna tag Laurie Kendrick, but somebody got to her first.) And the cigar bloggers I know would probably put their lit Arturo Fuentes out on my arm if I tagged them. In keeping with my new rule to bend the rules for my convenience, I’ll let people tag themselves. Wanna be tagged? Leave a comment, and I’ll update this post to make the tagging official. (Brilliant or lazy, you make the call! ;) )

People who have brought this tagging on themselves

  1. Space Chronicles Tiffany

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CAO Event: Customer Service Done Right And Some Cigar News

Antoni Gaudi’s Sun MosaicI just love the way things work out. The day following an immensely unpleasant customer service experience (that I probably over-reacted to), I have on the best customer interactions I’ve had in a long time. It was at the local cigar shop and the brilliant performance was given by the CAO cigar representative on hand. (I want to say his name was Jerry, but my wife is sure it was Jeff. Sorry, man! If you do find this blog, please correct me!)

Now I know what your thinking. (Isn’t it awesome how I always seem to know?) You’re thinking I’m biased in favor of anything involving cigars. That no matter how bad any cigar experience can be, I’m still viewing it through candela-colored glasses. You’re probably right. But in this case it was a great experience. Quantifiably (or qualifiably?) great. Let me tell you why.

The cigar rep didn’t just recite his rap. That isn’t to say he didn’t get it in there, he just worked it seamlessly into the conversation. A conversation in which we were both contributers. Conversation is the key here. That brings me to the next point.

He asked relevant questions and listened attentively to the answers. And that’s saying a lot. How often have you been in any conversation and actually noticed that the person you were talking to was actually involved in the conversation? Most people spend the time you’re talking thinking about what they’ll say next. Even in customer service. I’ve met a number of cigar reps, and while I’ve never met one that wasn’t a nice guy, this cigar rep was the first one that was fully engaged in the conversation. Heck, as I was driving away, it occurred to me that his event was ending soon and it would have been fun to invite him over to the pub nearby for a pint or two and a cigar. How many people in customer service have you met that you’d like to drink with?

He took decisive action to rectify a problem. I didn’t go to the event planning to bring up my less than stellar experiences with CAO cigars. But they did come up in the conversation. I mentioned my joy and embarrassing disappointment with the Sopranos cigar earlier this year. How the first was a beauty and but the ones I shared with my buddies later were like smoking rolled-up notebook paper. He expressed concern and wanted to know more about the cigars and where I’d purchased them. He attempted to troubleshoot the problem. He theorized what may have caused it (an improperly humidified box mixed with one that was). And finally he apologized, and said he wished he had a couple of Sopranos to give me to make up for the experience. And then to my complete surprise, he gave me a big handful of the cigars he did have on hand! Awesome! Hey, I was happy with the concern and the apology.

An experience like this is enough to make a loyal customer out of anyone. So for the foreseeable future, Brian is a CAO fanboy. That doesn’t mean I will suddenly start loving the Vision (sorry, even I can’t do that), but I probably will be smoking a lot more CAO cigars in the future! (Especially now that I have a bunch of freebies!) :)

CAO GoldOK, now for some cigar news! I did my best to get the scoop on what CAO is up to, and here’s what I got.

CAO Sopranos
The word now is that CAO will not be discontinuing the Sopranos line. Because the show is in syndication and there has been buzz about a possible movie, this line is here to stay. So if you’ve noticed a sudden burst of availability in this line of cigars (I have), rest assured, it’s not the last hurrah. It’s a trend.

And now for some bad news. There is no plan, as of this moment, of re-releasing these cigars in less expensive boxes or bundles. Get used to the $10+ per stick price tag. It isn’t going to change. Sorry. :(

CAO Criollo
Apparently the Criollo is done. Unless I completely misunderstood the cigar rep, they’re difficult to find because they’re no longer being made. (He may also have meant that this year’s Criollo is finished. Either way, they’re going to get scarce for a while at least.) I don’t know what to think about this news, because I haven’t tried one yet. But I plan to very soon. Anyway, if you like this cigar and can still find it, now is probably the right time to stock up on it!
[UPDATE: Nothing to see here, move along, move along...]

CAO 65th Anniversary
Another cigar they’re not making anymore is the 65th anniversary. That probably surprises no one, as it was a cigar created to commemorate Cano A. Ozgener’s 65th birthday in 2001. So why am I bringing it up? Well we discussed this cigar at some length. The word is that six thousand of these Nicaraguan puros were made, but somehow, there are still a few available out there. How do I know? I just smoked one of these babies the other night, and I have a box of ten way on the way. If the rest smoke like this first one, I’m going to be putting up a very positive review down the road. Want to know more? Check out the CAO head-honcho’s words on the cigar.

Well that about sums it up. It’s been a long week, and it’s nice to end it on a positive note. 8)

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And The Rockets Red Glare: My Fourth In 12 Pictures

And now for something completely different. How about some fireworks? Enjoy! :)

Fireworks!

Fireworks!

Fireworks!

Fireworks!

Fireworks!

Fireworks!

Fireworks!

Fireworks!

Fireworks!

Fireworks!

Fireworks!

Fireworks!

Not too shabby, considering I wasn’t really prepared for any serious picture taking! (Check out the whole gallery here.)

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Your Chance To Tell Brian Where To Go!

So I’m planning a road trip. But not just any road trip. This is gonna be a multi-day, 2,600+, cigar-smokin’, sight-seeing, exotic-beer drinking extravaganza! You read that right, 2,600 miles or more! Just how far will that take Brian? Well, the plan is to drive from Portland, Oregon to Atlanta, Georgia and hit a bunch of interesting sights along the way. And you know that no road trip is complete without a good crew. The current roster consists of my wife (who thinks this might be a waste of time and money), my good friend, and recent cigarillo aficionado “Monkey Poo” Harris (MPH for short) and myself.

Road Trip 2007

Anyway, the reason for the vague number of miles is that we haven’t yet figured out exactly where we’re going to stop along the way. The simple door to door trip is 2,596 miles. Of course, detours rack up mileage quickly. (Memo to myself, use trip odometer to figure out just how far we go.)

I’ve compiled a list of things I’d like to see, but I have a feeling that I’m forgetting some stuff. As these things go, once you’ve gone on a trip, somebody invariably asks you if you stopped at some amazing, can’t-miss attraction you either forgot about or didn’t know about in the first place. In an attempt to prevent as much of that as possible, I’m looking to you, dear reader, to give me some suggestions. So this is the chance you’ve been waiting for, tell Brian where to go! (Keeping in mind that my car is not fitted with a drill bit.) ;)

Oh yeah, I guess you might find it handy to know a bit about the destinations we’re already considering for this trip. You’re in luck, there is a list. A very, very optimistic list. We’ve got a week (and change) to do this thing, so there’s quite a few places that won’t make the cut due to time constraints. But it’s good to have a list. Lists are fun.

High Priority Sights
A combinations of places I haven’t been, and a few off-the-wall places that should make for some good pictures and funny stories.

Booze or Cigar Related
Yeah, this list is pretty small still. I think we’re going to wing it once we’re on the road. I’m sure there’ll be a ton of interesting pubs and cigar shops we’ll bump into on the way. Feel free to recommend one!

Lower Priority
Places I’ve either been to, or places far enough out of the way we just may not have the time to see.

A thought occurred to me the other night as I was compiling this list. Wouldn’t it be fun (and possibly cost effective) to have sponsors for a trip like this? As long as we’re going to be sipping bourbon, swilling ale and herfing across the U.S. why not make it a dual purpose trip? I could see us having the names of respected coffee, cigar and alcohol establishments (or websites) prominently displayed in the windows, or temporarily affixed to the doors of my car. I know we probably couldn’t give away alcohol, but we probably could hand out some cigars, kinda like honorary cigar reps. I’d be fun, but I have no idea who you’d talk to about something like that. If you happen to be somebody who knows something about that sort of thing, feel free to let me know. :)

Want to sponsor our roadtrip? Here are some ideas:

  • Send us some shirts, we can either wear them or give them out along the way.
  • Send us a bunch of cigars. We’ll smoke some of them and hand out the rest.
  • Send us some cash for gas and accommodation.

Anybody who does, will have name, brand and/or website displayed prominently on Brian’s chariot for at least a week! Is this a great idea or what? :)

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