The Terracotta Warrior Teaser

Brian's Terracotta Warrior ArmyI’ve been looking forward to it for at least a month. And that might be part of the problem. Because when I look back at Sunday with ancient clay warriors, I kind of feel like I saw the movie trailer and not the main feature film. Oh, but wait, let’s not spoil this before I even discuss the event a little bit.

As people in Atlanta probably already know, the Qin Dynasty Terracotta Warrior exhibit has recently opened at the High Museum of Art. (I’m imagining the numerous disappointed sighs out there when they discover that “high.org” is a website for an art museum. Delicious.) I don’t remember the price of admission off the top of my head, but it is a heck of a lot cheaper than tickets concerts headlining ancient musicians.

What are these Terracotta Warriors, some imaginary person asks? They are the larger than life clay sculptures of Chinese soldiers and generals that were created to assist China’s first emperor in the afterlife. (After kicking a lot ass in life, he looked forward to kicking even more in death.)

In spite of sending out folks to track down his subjects to find all manner of immortality herbs and potions, the first emperor decided to hedge his bets. There was at least a 50-50 chance he’d die one day. He needed to prepare for life on the other side. It just wouldn’t do for his army and deathly possessions to fewer than the other kings he met on the other side. I mean, hey, nobody likes to be the butt of jokes. He had options. He could just have his army killed so he could bring them along. But that had been done before. And his warriors, as good as they were in conquering the warrior states, weren’t perfect. They could be a little taller. And maybe a little stronger. But he really could do too much about that. So he decided to make new ones. Taller, stronger, faster and decked out with really nice weapons. He was a clever guy, actually. Not only would his afterlife army be larger than everyone else’s, they’d be taller by several feet. Guess who will be calling the shots in death-land?

One thing that the first emperor didn’t count on was how unpopular he’d be with those who were still alive. His living enemies set fire to his massive burial grounds and stole his warriors weapons. It might have been too big a deal for the recently deceased emperor if all the supports to his subterranean weren’t wood. But they were and the roof collapsed, smashing and scattering his now defenseless warriors. Talk about damage during shipping. After all that work over all those years, and look who still is the laughing stock of the afterlife. (“You made your soldiers out of what?”)

Fortunately for us, a bunch of smart people with penchants for jigsaw puzzles have reassembled an incredible number of these damaged warriors for our viewing enjoyment.  And with the OK of the Chinese government, they’ve decided to take the Terracotta show on the road, visiting museums all over the world. The show stars crossbow mean, generals, musicians, a chariot driver and even a headless guy with a weight problem. (Known as the “strong man”, but I think really just has a thyroid problem.) And to make sure the show is a success, it returns to China after each exhibit to be “blessed”. (I don’t know what that means exactly, but I’m sure it helps.)

It’s a show that’s really worth seeing, even if it is a little anticlimactic. I had hoped to see a room full of clay soldiers, but what I saw was merely a sampling of what has been unearthed and reconstructed. Probably 10 actual soldiers in total. It’s enough to intrigue and impress, but not to give you a sense of the magnitude of this ancient wonder of the world. To be fair, it would be prohibitively expensive and logistically impractical to ship a small room full of warriors all around the world. And they do try to give you this sense with a massive picture on one wall depicting the warriors in their sunken hallways. I guess it’s time for me to start saving up for a plane ticket.

So you’re probably wondering if it’s worth it to go and see the exhibit. Let me help you in your decision making process with a quick list of pro and con bullet points. (Man, am I helpful or what? Make your checks payable to Brian Hewitt.)

Why you should see the Terracotta Warrior Exhibit:

  • You don’t have the money for a plane ticket to China or the vacation time to enjoy it.
  • How often do you get to see 2000 year old Chinese sculpture? Or 2000 year old anything for that matter? Julius Cesar is younger than these things, and he didn’t hold up nearly as well.
  • It’s always beneficial to admire fine craftsmanship. Whether it be a fine premium cigar, and incredible painting or a clay replica of a ancient Chinese soldier.
  • In spite of being made from only 8 different molds, each soldier his striking unique. Different hair styles, clothing and facial features are suspected to represent a variety of the Chinese ethnic groups of the day.
  • There’s more to see than just the warrior. Coins, replica bronze chariots with horses, birds, art, and even a cool model of the ancient assembly line that assembled the warriors.

Why you might be disappointed:

  • If the exhibit in your museum is roughly equivalent to ours, you’ll probably be done in an hour. And that’s with the audio tour (which is an absolute must). But if you don’t have a lot of time, this could be a plus.
  • You’ll only see 9 or 10 actual warriors.

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The Day That Nub Came To Town

After months of waiting, Atlanta finally got some Nub love this weekend. On Friday, Sam Leccia, one-time Oliva cigar rep and brains behind the new Nub cigar line, loaded up the Nub Mini Cooper and drove into Georgia. His destination was La Casa Del Tobacco in Buckhead which locals may know by previous incarnations as “Georgia Cigar” or “Cigar World”.

Nub Mini Cooper
Nub Mini Cooper

In case you haven’t heard about the Nub cigar yet, here’s a quick explanation of these unusual looking stubby smokes. The theory is that these chubby four inch cigars capture “the sweet spot” of the tobacco, which they say generally begins around the 3 1/2 to 4 inch point on a normal cigar. At the same time the larger than normal girth of the stick gives you the same quantity of tobacco as a much longer cigar and keeps the cigar cool at the same time. So in theory, you’re doubling up on the best part of the cigar.

Nate and Eddy Fontana
Nate and Eddy

In the months between the announcement of the Nub and it’s arrival in Atlanta, I had plenty of opportunity to talk with people about both the concept behind the cigar and the cigar itself. As you might expect, early on the buzz was huge. People who had only just seen pictures and a read a quick blurb about the cigar were asking if they could buy boxes of them. But then as time wore on, I started to notice more an more skepticism. Some of it made sense, and some of it just seemed like the natural backlash against the initial feeding frenzy.

Nub Connecticut
Nub Connecticuts

And then a month or so back I finally got my hands on a sampler. I’ll be honest, they weren’t that impressive. The Cameroon had a flaky ash and none of the Cameroon flavor I so enjoy. The Connecticut and the Habano had a better ashes, but the cigars seem to have no soul. Where was this “sweet spot” flavor I heard so much about?

So it was with a healthy dose of skepticism that I headed over to the event. I knew it would be a great time, but I had serious doubts as to whether I’d enjoy the cigars. After taking a quick moment to check out the Mini Cooper and say hi to some of the folks, I picked up a few to smoke there at shop. I decided to start with the Cameroon, both because it because it had been the poorest performing before, and because, oddly to me, Nate, the local Oliva rep who joined Sam on this leg of the journey, said it was probably his favorite.

Nub Mini Cooper
Nub Mini Cooper

I quickly lit it up, and noticed something I hadn’t before. Flavor. This cigar had a very pronounced and very enjoyable Cameroon flavor! Hey, this was great, what’s the deal? So I asked Nate. He told me that some of the early sampler cigars were rushed a bit, and that he had actually had the same experience.

Nub Cameroon Ash Stand
Nub Cameroon Ash Stand

So with a tasty cigar in hand and drink in hand, I sat back and watched the Sammy the Roller show, starring Sam Leccia, a pile of tobacco and the cool rolling table Walt White made for him. It wasn’t like touring a cigar factory, watching torcedors (or tabaqueros) pounding out cigar after cigar. This was more like “cigar hacking.” And I mean “hacking” in a good sense. Sam was creating little Nub masterpieces by stealing wrappers from other cigars to create double wraps, triple wraps, pipe shaped cigars and even more interesting wrapper combinations.

Sam Rolling
Sam Leccia Rolling Another Special Edition

Special Nubs
Special Nubs

And then it got even more interesting. Sam turned the table on us literally and had a number of us roll our own cigar. Yes, I’m happy to say that I tried my hand at making a cigar. After 20 or 30 minutes of applying and re-applying the habano wrapper (and pained grimaces from Sam), I succeeded in making a Nub Habano “gummy bear.” Let’s just say it had the shape of a cigar, with the gooey, vegetable-gluey consistency of a pudding.

Brian Rolling A Nub
Brian Rolling: More Idiot Than Savant

Finally, the evening was winding down. I opted to buy a mixed box of Nub torpedos, now that I found myself enjoying them. (Interestingly, I found myself enjoying the Connecticut and Cameroon more than the Serie V-esque Habano) And I wanted my shot at winning the Mini Cooper. A name was called for the Mini Cooper finalist and it wasn’t mine. But hey, I walked out of there happy, with a box of good cigars and a free t-shirt. And the knowledge that I won’t be rolling cigars for a living any time soon.

Mini Cooper Finalist
And the Nub Mini Cooper Finalist Is…

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Antoni Gaudi’s Barcelona In Pictures 2003

I’ve noticed recently a surprising number of search traffic coming through my blog looking for “Gaudi”. Gaudi, if you didn’t already know is the surname of Antoni Gaudi, a Spanish architect who is responsible from some of the most memorable structures in the world. Many of them located in Barcelona, Spain.

But why on earth am I getting search traffic for Gaudi, you ask? Don’t you pretty much just write cigar reviews? If either of those thoughts came to mind, you have a beautiful, sexy mind. And you’re playing right into my hands. You’re right, I have been spending a lot of time on cigars lately. But I do have other hobbies. Two of them are travel and photography. Back in 2003 I combined all three hobbies and visited Barcelona. You probably didn’t realize it, but if you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you’ve already seen some Gaudi already:

Antoni Gaudi Sun or Star Mosaic

Look familiar? That’s a Sun (or maybe star) mosaic decoration Gaudi designed into the ceiling of one structure at Park Güell in Barcelona. It also happens to be one of my favorite bits of his work I came across while I was there.

This got me thinking. I have a whole bunch of pictures from that trip, why not give those in search of pictures of Antoni Gaudi’s handy work what they want? After a good deal of searching (and a little terror when I thought they were lost), I found ‘em, cropped ‘em and polished ‘em up to make them blog worthy. Though these pictures were taken with my first digital, 2.1 megapixel camera, they’re still some of my favorites. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as well!

Antoni Gaudi\'s Casa Batllo

Casa Batlló, one of a number of intriguing building on the Illa de la Discòrdia block in the Eixample district of Barcelona. This was probably my favorite Gaudi building.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Casa Batllo

A closer look at the alien balconies on the Casa Batlló.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Casa Battlo

The oozing lower windows of the Casa Batlló.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Casa Mila

Not too far away is the similarly wavy Casa Milà.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Casa Mila

The Casa Milà from the sidewalk below. Check out that crazy iron work fencing in what looks like a deck.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Casa Mila

The Casa Milà isn’t just wavy on the outside, the walls, windows, doors and even the stairways on the inside of the building are resistant to straight lines. We couldn’t go in much further than this, as the building is currently in use.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Casa Vicens

Casa Vicens couldn’t be more different that the previous two buildings. Not only is it block and full of straight lines, it doesn’t have an interesting accent mark in the name. (Which makes it a lot easier to type.) Looking at this building still makes me want to play checkers or build legos. Or both. Probably while drinking.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Casa Vicens

A view of the side of the Casa Vicens.

Antoni Gaudi Palau Guell

Palau Güell had a strick policy about photography inside the building, but the rooftop was up for grabs. These are a few of the numerous mosaic chimneys decorating the roof. (I think there are something like seven.) Due to the rather narrow side street it opens up to, a shot of the side of the building was all but inpossible, at least with that old camera.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Park Guell Bench

The famous winding bench at Park Güell. This single bench encircles a large open mezzanine-like area overlooking the entrance to the park.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Park Guell Lizard Fountain

A close up of the mosaic lizard fountain on the steps at Park Güell.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Park Guell

One of the little buildings in Park Güell. This building was under construction at the time, but I think it is used for management of the park. Or a tourist gift shop. One or the other.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Park Guell Sign

The sign on the outer wall of Park Güell.

Antoni Guadi\'s Sagrada Familia

The Sagrada Familia is a massive, unfinished cathedral that Gaudi may be best know for. Even though he didn’t finish it in his lifetime, the construction continued. In fact, it’s still under construction today! (Or at least as recently as 2003.)

Antoni Gaudi\'s Sagrada Familia

The Sagrada Familia is designed to be enjoyed. From every angle. It’s just incredible how much thought went into this structure.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Sagrada Familia

Another shot of the spires of Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, with the city of Barcelona below.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Sagrada Familia

As I mentioned before, the structure is still under construction. In spite of the cranes, this shot gives you a better idea of what the building looks like as a whole.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Sagrada Familia

Before you get sick of looking at the Sagrada Familia, you gotta check out the facade above one of the door. Each of the main entrances have a different, but equally elaborate scene above them.

Joan Miro\'s Woman and Bird

OK, you got me. This isn’t an Antoni Gaudi creation. This sculpture, named “Woman and Bird” was created by Joan Miro, another (a bit less) famous Spanish artist, who I suspect was at least a bit inspired by Antoni Gaudi. This is also located in Barcelona.

Want to see more? Check our my Antoni Gaudi photography galleries.

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Cigar Jedi Tricks: The Tongue Cigar Ash Stand

I am so very glad that I had my new camera in time for the Herf Across CigarLive this Saturday. Because what I’m about to show you, in full 10 megapixel splendor is possibly the most advanced cigar stunts I’ve ever witnessed. I’ve seen a cigar beat a microwave in a battle of wills. I’ve seen an Opus X transformed into a potentially lethal tea and consumed. But never before have I witnessed a Cigar Aficionado with enough command of the force to balance a lit cigar on his… Wait, did I say his? I mean her! I don’t think you’ll believe it if I tell you. You have to see it for yourself. Check it out:

Nestor Placencia Ash Stand

You standard ash stand with a Nestor Placencia Special Selection. Impressive, but it’s been done. We can do better than that.

Dual Aurora Cigar Ash Stand

A dual cigar ash stand, well that’s a little better. (My cigar is the shorter one on the right.) But still, ho-hum, we’ve seen it.

Aurora Hand Ash Stand

An Aurora ash stand on the palm of your hand? Now we’re getting somewhere. I’ve never seen that before. But stick around, it gets even better!

Cigar To Tongue

Oh she’s not really gonna…

Cigar To Tongue!

Ouch! But can she balance it there?

Nestor Placencia Tongue Cigar Ash Stand!

Success! And it only took about five attempts!

Mmm... Like Licking An Ashtray!

Now she’s looking for a kiss! In this case, kissing a cigar smoker IS like licking an ashtray!

Who is this ninja of the rolled premium tobacco leaf, you ask? She’s Sondra Hankamer, the South East representative for Miami Cigar Company. And while she probably has her employer popping antacids like jelly beans, you have to admit, this is one event that people will remember!

I’d like to thank Sondra for the entertainment and cigars, Sean Williams of Primer Mundo Cigars for his fine smokes, Jim the owner of Blue Havana II for hosting the event, and Frank (tx_tuff) and the guys at CigarLive (join it!) for putting together this national event! Talk about an experience!

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Arganese Trip: Dominican Republic in Pictures

It’s been a while hasn’t it? You’ve probably been wondering where I’ve been. Well, the quick answer is the Dominican Republic. I spent four days in the D.R. touring tobacco fields and a cigar factory as a guest of Gene Arganese (of Arganese cigars). As a crazed cigar enthusiast, the trip was the experience of a lifetime. One not to be missed, no matter what the circumstances. When Gene generously offered to cover all expenses except airfare, it was a no-brainer. For full a full discussion the things learned about cigars during the tour, be sure to check out the post I wrote for Stogie Review.

In the week or so since I’ve been back, I’ve been spending the time I usually use to write for this blog processing all the pictures I took on my trip. Without further ado, here’s some of my favorites. (To see all 184 pictures, head over to my Dominican Republic gallery.) Click on any of the following to see a larger, higher quality image in the gallery.

Deck Chairs at Casa Arganese
Deck Chairs on the deck at Casa Arganese

Field Worker
Worker in a recently seeded tobacco field

Arganese Greenhouse
The Arganese greenhouse- Home to thousands of seedlings

La Flor de Tobacco Arganese
La Flor de Tobacco Arganese

Worker hanging tobacco leaves
Hanging the tobacco leaves for drying

El Hombre Muy Guapo
El Hombre muy guapo: The field boss (who will pose when flattered)

Monument to the Heros of the Revolution
The Monument to the Heroes of the Revolution in Santiago

Arganese tobacco barn
The field and the barn

Arganese Cigars
The finished product

Bulls on parade
Santiago traffic: Bulls on parade

Arganese Double Wrap Chairmans
A bundle of the Chairman Double Wrap

A Stinkie Ashtray in the moonlight
A Stinkie Ashtray in the moonlight. How romantic!

Again, these pictures are just the tip of the iceburg! I encourage you to check out the full gallery and take advantage of the slide show capabilities Smugmug offers. (Look for the little button in the upper right corner of the page.) Enjoy!

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Tobacco World Event: Biggest Thing Since RTDA

OK, technically Saturday’s mega herf at Tobacco World in Marietta wasn’t the biggest thing since RTDA (IPCPR). Rumor has it that the Big Smoke in Vegas was bigger. But I’ve always favored the theory that if I didn’t see it, it didn’t happen. (I often wonder if people simply cease to exist when they’re not in my presence. Hey, it’s tough having delusions of grandeur. But at least it’s cozy here at the center of the universe!)

The Tobacco World Guys Running The Show!
Don’t try this at home, they’re professionals!

Mental health issues aside, the event at Tobacco World was awesome. Definitely the biggest thing I’ve been to since RTDA in Houston (pictures, write up), and likely the biggest cigar event in Georgia this year. I’m not sure if it’s a comprehensive list, but the big names I bumped include Rocky Patel, Gilberto Oliva, Nick Perdomo, Erik Espinosa (of 601), Alan Ruben (of Alec Bradley) and Al Argenti (of Cuban Imports).

The Big Boys Posing
The big boys are out in droves!

The most interesting news of the night is the apparent shake up over at Avalon Cigars. As I mentioned in a previous post, I helped Tom Ramsey set up a herf at the local Highland Cigar Company. Well, the word from this event was that Tom is no longer involved with Avalon, and a lady named Tracie Southern is now representing them in the south east. This came as a huge surprise to me, as I thought he was one of the partners in the business.


Local Cigar Reps

Kent, Alec Bradley rep; Tracie, Avalon Cigar rep; Jeff, CAO Rep

The other noteworthy news is about the swag giveaways. There were a ton of them. Swag was raffled off six pieces at a time for hours, with a humidor full of Opus X’s as a grand prize. The noteworthy part was I didn’t win a single thing! I guess my string of good lucks has finally run it’s course. But hey, the event was fun, and I did pick up bunch of great smokes, and met some new people. I definitely picked up some great fodder for some upcoming reviews too!


Rocky Patel and Cigar Rep

Does Rocky Patel ever take a bad picture?

You can check out the entire gallery of pictures from this event here.

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Catching Up: The Avalon Cigar Herf And More

Last week I was discussing the still hard-to-find Avalon Cigars with some of the guys over at the CigarLive cigar forum. (Great forum, by the way, consider joining if you’re a cigar lover and you haven’t already!) Well who sends me a private message but Tom Ramsey the man behind Avalon Cigars. He was planning on making a sales trip to the Atlanta area, and issued a challenge.

If I could put together a herf in short order (about two days), he’d bring the cigars. Of course, I rose to the challenge. In short order, I contacted all the local cigar smokers I’m acquainted with, and picked Highland Cigar Company as the place to herf. With the arrangements in place, Tom called up Highland Cigars to secure the arrangements, and then called mutual friend and local cigar baron Sean Williams of El Primer Mundo cigars to meet up with us. And the rest is an aromatic, hazy bit of herfing history. History I’ve documented with the help of my camera.

Here are some highlights. (Click on an image to see a larger version in the new cigar event section of my photography website.)

The Gathering
Tom and Sean chat and behind them Discdog socializes with the regulars

Tom and Sean
Sean Williams and Tom Ramsey

Tom Presenting Brian Autographed Haint Poster
For setting up the herf, I got an autographed Haint poster

Experimental and Unreleased Avalon Blends!
Experimental and Unreleased Avalons!

The Avalon Cigar Spread
The whole spread, more than enough for all in attendance!

You can see the rest of the gallery here.

As I mentioned above, I’ve set up a new cigar event section in on my photography website. In addition to last weeks Avalon cigar herf, I’ve also put up galleries for the August and September Blue Havana II herfs. Here’s a sample of each gallery.

The Blue Havana II August Herf

It’s a Brian Sandwich!

And on a slightly related note, don’t forget to check out my review of the Avalon Honeyboy Lancero over at Stogie Review.

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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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RTDA Houston 2007 In Pictures

And… I’m back. I wish I wasn’t, but all good things must come to an end. Otherwise those good things would become average things. Since I’m already getting search hits for RTDA pictures, now seems like a good time to put up mine. Hopefully they’re up before everyone has lost interest! Once I have a decent night’s sleep under my belt, expect a more thorough write up of the event. (Yeah, yeah, I know, I’ll be the last one to write up my impressions. But like a good cigar, it’s important not to rush these things. And that’s as good an excuse as you’re gonna get.)

In the meantime, I forgot to mention my first review on the Stogie Review. Head over and check out my thoughts on the Rocky Patel Vintage 1992. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I keep talking about writing up. Well, my friends, procrastination has paid off. When I was asked to fill in for Jerry on Fridays, I had a review all ready to go. Now I just gotta figure out what I’m doing for this week! :)

But back to the pictures. Here’s my RTDA experience, in pictures, roughly in the order it happened. Enjoy!

Downtown Houston

Downtown Houston, as seen from 3rd floor deck of convention center.

Cigar People!

Yours truly, Daniel “Stogie” Lopez, Colin Ganley, Dogwatch Dale “Marzipan” Roush

Gentlemen Revelers

Some gentleman revelers at the Hilton Ballroom

Don Francisco

Don Francisco

Blue Havana II

Jim “Blue Havana II” Luftman (Atlanta-based retailer)

Fumee World Heather

Fumee World Heather Waibel and entourage with Yours truly at Slainte Irish Pub

CAO Booth Babes

The CAO Flavorettes

Graycliff Cigar Roller

Graycliff cigar roller

Rocky Patel

Rocky Patel

Carlos Torano

Carlos Toraño

Tim Ozgener

Tim Ozgener and possibly his biggest fan. :)

Red Rooster Chick

I dunno, but she was colorful…

Gene Arganese

Gene Arganese

Bert and Nathan

Bert and Nathan, my favorite Oliva reps

Kinky Friedman

Yours truly and Kinky Friedman, musician and maverick Texas politician

Cano A. Ozgener

Mr. CAO himself, Cano A. Ozgener at the Escape With CAO event

Sondra Hankamer

Sondra Hankamer of Atlanta-based Ash Cigar Co.

Jesse “Cigar Jack” and Denise Nachtigal

Jesse “Cigar Jack” and Denise Nachtigal overlooking the dance floor

Wow, 18 pictures, and the crazy thing is that I missed so many great photo-ops!

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