Beer/Cigar Reviews: Alaskan Winter and Marrero Bellartes

Welcome to another edition of my beer and cigar reviews where we take a look at some notable (and some not-so-notable) beers and cigars. Let’s just get right down to it and as always start with today’s beer selection:

Alaskan Winter

This winter ale from Alaskan Brewing Company is an Old English Ale brewed on Spruce tips. It weighs in at 6.4% ABV, 22 IBU and Alaskan is nice enough to give us the original gravity of 1.066 (16.25 Plato).

Pours a rich golden color with a thin ring of head that recedes fairly quickly. Sharp, floral aroma greets the nose (from the spruce tips) supported by fruity esters and caramel. Flavors of a thick caramel malty backbone supporting a yeasty bread quality and a subtle floral hop bitterness on the back. Medium in body and carbonation; easily sessionable.

If there ever was a “session” winter beer this is it. It’s still got lots of flavor but it’s low enough in alcohol and body that you can kill several and not really feel it. It went well with today’s cigar selection. Rating: 4.25/5.

And now for today’s cigar selection:

Marrero Bellartes

This offering from Marrero features an Ecuadorian Rosado Habano wrapper over Dominican binder and Costa Rican long fillers. The size reviewed is a 6.5″ x 54RG Torpedo vitola.

After two cuts with the Cuban Crafters Perfect Cutter, the draw was absolutely perfect putting off ample medium-bodied smoke. Creamy unsalted nuts dominated the draw while a sweet, spicy retrohale consisting of cinnamon and nutmeg filled the nasal cavity.

Getting into the first third the same flavors retained with an addition of a pleasant sweetness mixing into the draw and a heavy, substantial oak joins in on the nose. Entering the 2nd third the spice takes a back seat and takes on more of a metallic twang. No further changes were noted. I ended the cigar at 1:10:00 for a solid burn time for a Toro-sized stick and bringing in a subtle mild/medium nicotine strength.

Good construction throughout with a fairly straight burn that required no corrections. Ash holds on for a third of the cigar at a time.

All in all, a solid cigar in my book. Maybe not my favorite Marrero but solid nonetheless. It paired really well with the beer but would also be a good companion for coffee, hard cider or rum. Rating: 3.75/5.

And that’s a wrap for today’s reviews. Have you had either? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!


Kinda Funny? Kinda Sad? What?

So I just had the strangest experience while out grocery shopping.

I’ll be the first to admit: I *HATE* grocery shopping. Absolutely detest it. I just get what I need, check out and get out. No wandering about, no nothing. It’s an almost painful experience for me. Alas, tonight was a little different.

So here’s the scene: I’m sacking my groceries at the local Aldi after checking out (note: Aldi does not sack your groceries for you; you have to provide your own bags and bag your own). Well there’s this lady next to me also sacking her groceries, seemingly minding her own business right? Well, out of the blue she erupts in song, and within two words I recognize what song it is.

“All around me are familiar faces, worn out places, worn out faces…”

Of course, I couldn’t resist, I just had to respond “Bright and early for their daily races, going nowhere, going nowhere…”

I think this caught her off guard, but she continued the song, followed by me and so forth until we sang the entire song in an a cappella duet right there in the store for everyone to hear.

I’m sure everyone thought we were batshit crazy (including the employees!) but oh well. It sure is a Mad, Halargian World for sure; and maybe for a few minutes we could share in each others’ pain, suffering and perhaps some level of amusement.

Whatever the case, little things like that make one’s day and just goes to show the uniting power of music. Maybe we aren’t as divided as we think we are? Who knows? Just found it a funny (and perhaps kinda sad) moment in life. The only ones who really appreciate that particular song are the ones who feel the lyrics into their cores.

Holiday Earring Haul!

As usually happens around this time, my mom asked me what I’d want for the holidays. It gets harder and harder to come up with a wish list ever year because I don’t need/want much. I’m a minimalist at heart, but this year was different because I’d added two pairs of ear piercings to my body modification list and, until now, just had my two starter pairs of captive bead rings. Man did I need some variety!

Alas, here’s where it got tricky. Seeing as how I was pierced professionally in a parlor (this really is the best way to get pierced; mall piercing guns are pure unadulterated evil) with a 14g cannula most earrings are too small to effectively take up the hole in my flesh, while huge gauges are way too big (note: I have no interest in ear stretching whatsoever, at least for the time being). As such, I had to look for some stuff in specialty shops.

Well, with some help from mom in the form of a prepaid gift card I decided to make an earring haul! I did have to look around quite a bit as I didn’t want anything overly feminine and 14g, though being a standard, seemed few and far between with the styles I liked, but all in all I made out pretty well I think:


So what all does that consist of? L to R are some tribal double spirals, simple twists, double helix and six pairs of 14mm spiked barbells (1 pair each gold, silver, bronze, black, blue, rainbow). I’ve also got three pairs of “screw studs” (i.e. stud earrings that look like Phillips head screws – one pair each gold, sliver, black) that have yet to arrive. That’s OK though as those will probably take up my 2nd hole exclusively and those won’t be ready to be changed out for awhile yet.

I decided to go with the rainbow barbells for now as they’re funky and cool and this was my first time changing my first pair of piercings. After struggling to remove the captive bead rings (and losing one of the beads down the drain in the process – that’s OK though as I doubt I’ll ever wear them again because they’re so hard to put on and take off) the old earrings slid out and the new ones in like butter (another reason to get pierced professionally – the needle takes a chunk out of you to accommodate the jewelry whereas a gun forces a blunt stud through the tissue merely pushing it out of the way) and I think they look awesome:


They go with the CBRs just fine but I’m sure they’ll also pair with the studs great too; or with double pairs of barbells or even my tribals/swirls. These are universal and I like the spiked ends as they seem to have a more masculine feel.

Man, have I lost it? I’m talking about jewelry like a teenage girl. Oh well; now I know how they feel!

What are some of your favorite styles of earrings? This goes for anyone but especially men as I’m looking for more ideas for “masculine” styles (whatever the hell that means).

Song Lyric Sunday 12/17/17 – Elemental

Song Lyric Sunday arrives again, with a very apt theme – pretending. Like Helen, I have a serious case of holiday blues so I have to say it can be nice to pretend and get away from the real world for awhile.

Which leads me to this week’s selection, which really seems like the subject of the song tries to make him or herself a pretend fantasy world, but is given a harsh welcome to the real world. So here then is my selection for this week, “Elemental” – a 1993 song of an eponymous album by uhhhh…ahem…yeah…(written by Roland Orzabal and Alan Griffiths):

This race is already run
Get off your horse
Get on this train
Hey-ah… Hey-ah…

Welcome to the real world
I said, “Welcome to the real world”
Are we rushing like the wind
Naked out and naked in
Welcome to the free world
I said, “Welcome to the me world”
Are we rushing like the wind

Put your lovin’ arms around

Did you lose your faith in God, no?
Does your conscience always get you down?
Fall to pieces, rough and tumble
Does your conscience always get you down?

These days it’s all in the mind
It’s elemental
Don’t say you’re up when you’re down
It’s elemental

Put your lovin’ arms around

This your new year’s resolution
Put your lovin’ arms around
Nothing doing revolution
Put your lovin’ arms around

Take another leap in the dark
With a humble heart
Do yourself some good
What did you become?
Patience, be sure
Baby… Baby…

|: These days it’s all in the mind
It’s elemental
Don’t say you’re up when you’re down
It’s elemental : | (x2)

As an addendum to this post, I’d like to extend my deepest heartfelt condolences to Roland and his two children for the loss of their wonderful, loving and artistic wife/mother Caroline Orzabal back in July. The band was secretive about the “family emergency” that caused them to postpone four of their shows but it finally came out. Roland and Caroline married in 1982; they were married for 35 years at the time of her death. So sorry for your loss; I do hope your hearts mend and that the music keeps coming.

Anyway, that’s a wrap for this week. So sorry to use my stand-by again, please don’t kill me.

Beer/Cigar Reviews: Rogue Hazelutely Choctabulous and CO Aged 1st Third

Welcome to another installment of beer/cigar reviews where we take a look at some notable (and some not-so-notable) beers and cigars. Today’s reviews are a little different in that it features a previously reviewed product, but after some age as well as a totally off-the-wall concoction. Let’s dive right in with today’s beer selection:

Rogue Hazelutely Choctabulous

This beer is not exactly a new beer for Rogue Ales in Newport, Oregon but it is a fusion of sorts – it’s 60% Hazelnut Brown Nectar and 40% Chocolate Stout. It weighs in at 5.7% ABV, 75 IBU and Rogue kindly provides the original gravity of 14.5 Plato (1.059 specific gravity). At first I was wondering why they chose 60/40 instead of 50/50 but tasting it revealed why.

Pours a very dark chestnut brown color with a frothy tan head that recedes quickly into a thin ring. Aromas, not surprisingly, are dominated by chocolate and hazelnut with undetones of roasted malt and a slight sharp hoppy note. Flavor wise, it is just what you’d expect – as it says on the bottle, a candy bar in a bottle. Dark chocolate and hazelnuts are the star of the show supported by a backbone of roasted and caramel malt, a hint of coffee and a balanced but not overbearing hop bitterness. Medium in body and carbonation, this one drinks very easily and is very sessionable without being too filling or alcoholic.

Overall, a nice balance of flavors but as a lover of “big beers” I have to admit it left me wanting something a little more substantial in both body and feel. It’s still very good mind you; was just hoping given the flavor components that it would be a little richer. Rating: 3.75/5.

And now for our cigar selection for today:

Blanco/CigarObsession Aged 1st Third

I reviewed all the CigarObsession “Thirds” series (blended by David Blanco of Blanco Cigars for Bryan Glynn of CigarObsession) in a previous blog post and as mentioned, loved them all. The 1st Third has been out the longest and the oldest production runs (being the original 6″ x 52RG Box Pressed Toro vitola) have about 2.5 years of age on them now. This review is intended as a comparison between the two and they were blended to take age well so I have to say this did not disappoint.

First light revealed a perfect draw producing plumes of thick medium/full bodied smoke. The pepper in the “fresh” batch was there out of the gate but much less intense. Whereas the fresh 1st Thirds have a substantial earthy note to them with just a hint of cocoa, the aged stick featured the cocoa taking the show right out of the gate with just a hint of the earthiness and the musty aged tobacco taste.

Getting into the first third (don’t laugh!) the pepper died down almost completely leaving just a tinge left as the body settles down to a straight medium. The cocoa is still the predominant flavor but it’s joined with a smooth sweet caramel and a nice creamy note. A hint of the earth shows up on the retrohale but not as much as in the fresh batch. This flavor profile remained consistent until the last third which brought in much of the same sweet spiciness of the fresh 1st Thirds but with much less nasal bite and more sweetness – it was more of a nutmeg than a cinnamon. The cigar ended for me at 1 hour 15 minutes as the smoke started going hot for a great burn time for the size and brought in just a subtle mild/medium nicotine strength – compare this to a big kick in the fresh batch which is more toward medium/full in the strength department.

As expected, flawless construction with a near razor-sharp burn that required absolutely no corrections to the burn line. Ash holds on about 1/3 of the cigar at a time.

So which is better? The earthy, peppery bite of the fresh 1st Third or the mellower, more dessert-like palate of the aged? That’s a matter of personal taste and preference. For me, it totally depends on my mood and what I want at the time. The aged seems a bit mellower in the body department (probably due to the lower level of perceived pepper/spice) but still very flavorful. I’d say this would be a good cigar to pair with your morning coffee, a brown ale or a rum. Rating: 4.25/5.

So that concludes this installment. Have you had either of today’s picks? Let me know what you thought!

Beer/Cigar Reviews: Dragon’s Milk and Toraño Vault P-044

Welcome to yet another edition of my beer/cigar reviews where we take a look at some notable (and some not-so-notable) beers and cigars. I have a cool lineup for you today so let’s just jump right in starting with our beer selection for tonight:

Dragon’s Milk

This is a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout from New Holland Brewing Company in Holland, Michigan. It weighs in at 11% ABV, 31 IBUs and the brewer is nice enough to give the original gravity of 23 Plato (1.096 specific gravity).

Pours a dark red/brown; almost a pitch black. Lets a tiny bit of light through. Bourbon barrel aroma hits immediately supported by notes of dark fruit, chocolate and a hint of brown sugar. On the palate the bourbon is again the star of the show. This is supported by a succulent caramel apple body with a tinge of vanilla. Hints of dark chocolate and coffee on the back with an ample, but not overbearing hop bite. Some alcohol astringency on the back and a substantial burn on the way down. Low carbonation with a thick body. This one is a sipper but drinks well enough.

Yet another solid imperial stout. Easy to please, with character and flavor. Pairs well with tonight’s cigar pick. Rating: 4.5/5.

And now for tonight’s cigar pick:

Toraño Vault P-044

This stick is a 5″ x 50RG Robusto sized stick and features a Nicaraguan Jalapa sun-grown wrapper over an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder and Broadleaf, Dominican and Nicaraguan long fillers.

First light revealed a slightly snug draw but putting off plumes of rich, thick medium/full bodied smoke. Quite spicy out of the gate, supported by straight tobacco and nuts. Getting into the first third the smoke remained medium/full but got more complex as the draw brings in a pleasant dark chocolate and the spice notes morph into a chipotle type smoky  (don’t laugh!) spiciness. The smokiness is especially amped up on the retrohale.

The flavors remained consistent start to finish, for which I was glad as I was enjoying the truly unique and delicious flavor profile. The end for me came at almost exactly 1 hour for an incredible burn time for a Robusto sized cigar and bringing in just a tinge of nicotine strength at a mild/medium.

Absolutely flawless construction with a razor sharp burn that required absolutely no correction whatsoever. Ash holds on to the beginning of the rather large band and held on again for nearly the length of the band after it was removed.

A truly unique bold flavor experience that is sure to satisfy cigar smokers everywhere, and at a price that’s guaranteed to please as well (about $5.50/stick). Pair this with a hearty stout beer, a full bodied cab or a nice dram of bourbon or Scotch for best results. Rating: 4.5/5.

That concludes another session of my reviews. Hope you enjoyed! Have you had either of tonight’s offerings? Let me know what you thought!

Song Lyric Sunday 12/10/17 – Free Fallin’

So Song Lyric Sunday is upon us one again and our theme is falling. Well OK. Again, not an easy topic but I’ll run with it.

This is the first song I thought of for the topic. Though not a song about falling in general, I think it fits. Here then is the song “Free Fallin'” by the late, great Tom Petty (written by Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne)

She’s a good girl, loves her mama
Loves Jesus and America too
She’s a good girl, who’s crazy ’bout Elvis
Loves horses and her boyfriend too

And it’s a long day livin’ in Reseda
There’s a freeway runnin’ through the yard
And I’m a bad boy, cause I don’t even miss her
I’m a bad boy for breakin’ her heart

Now I’m free
Free fallin’
Yeah, I’m free
Free fallin’

Now all the vampires walkin’ through the valley
Move west down Ventura boulevard
And all the bad boys are standing in the shadows
And the good girls are home with broken hearts

Now I’m free
I’m free fallin’
Yeah, I’m free
Free fallin’

Free fallin’, now I’m free fallin’, now I’m
Free fallin’, now I’m free fallin’, now

I wanna glide down over Mulholland
I wanna write her name in the sky
I’m gonna free fall out into nothin’
Gonna leave this world for awhile

Now I’m free (Free fallin’, now I’m free fallin’, now I’m)
Free fallin’ (Free fallin’, now I’m free fallin’, now I’m)
Yeah, I’m free (Free fallin’, now I’m free fallin’, now I’m)
Free fallin’ (Free fallin’, now I’m free fallin’, now I’m)

(Free fallin’, now I’m free fallin’, now I’m)
Now I’m free
Free fallin’
Oh (Free fallin’, now I’m free fallin’, now I’m)
Free fallin’ (Free fallin’, now I’m free fallin’, now I’m)
Now I’m free (Free fallin’, now I’m free fallin’, now I’m)
Oh, free fallin’ (Free fallin’, now I’m free fallin’, now I’m)
(Free fallin’, now I’m free fallin’, now I’m) Free fallin’

As always, hope you enjoyed the song. Until next week!