Beer Shoot-Out – California Porters

California Porter Shoot-OutSeeing that I had three Porters in my beer fridge, that was reason enough to do a side-by-side comparison. It could even be captioned as a Northern California beer shoot-out, since the three beers are brewed in Chico, Blue Lakes and San Francisco. Three of us sat down to pick a winner.

Anchor Porter (Anchor Brewing Co., San Francisco, CA)

I have an admitted bias toward Anchor Brewing Co. Anchor Steam was my first introduction to craft beer. The first time I had an Anchor Steam, I was both elated and angry; elated because I had found how good a beer can be, and angry because I realized I had been drinking swill for so many years.

But despite my love of Anchor Brewing beers, this Porter falls short. If I had not had the other two beers for an immediate comparison, it might not have fared so badly, but it really wasn’t even close. The Anchor Porter has a bad aftertaste not present in the other two, leading all three of us to rate it a distant third. Sorry Anchor, my old friend, I can only give you an 80 on The Morris Scale for this one.

Steelhead Porter (Mad River Brewing Co., Blue Lake, CA)

There was a split between the three of us as to the remaining two beers. Two of us ranked the Steelhead Porter the best. To me, it was the most flavorful by far, with a really nice malt taste and creamy mouthfeel. This will be a go-to Porter for me from now on, with a score of 95.

Sierra Nevada Porter (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA)

My beer Goddess ranked this number one, but I suspect that was specifically because it did not have as much complexity as the Steelhead. No question the Sierra Nevada Porter was a good beer, but it lacked that malt taste I found so appealing in the Steelhead, and had a thinner mouthfeel. I’ll give it an 89.

So in this Northern California Porter shoot-out, the Steelhead Porter is a clear winner.

Tonight’s Tasting: Man O’ War Ruination and Ruination IPA

Ruination Cigar and IPAIt was a year ago that I came up with the clever idea of pairing a Ruination cigar with the Ruination IPA, and today I finally got around to it.

Man O’ War Ruination Robusto (5.5″ x 54)

I reviewed the Ruination Torpedo previously, and it became one of my favorite cigars. As with the Torpedo, the construction and burn of this Robusto were flawless. The initial puff puts you on notice that this is going to be a full-bodied cigar, with a strong taste of spice and leather. This cigar gains even more complexity and smoothness as you smoke it. By the end, you’ll be sorry the experience is over because the cigar is so tasty.

I’m not impressed with the entire Man O’ War series, but this one is great. It receives a strong 92 on The Morris Scale.

Here is how Cigars International describes the Man O’ War Ruination:

Strap on your bike helmets gents. Behold, Man O’ War Ruination, a supremely flavorful handmade offering superior layers of bold, Cuban-esque flavors balanced by velvety smoothness that pours forth with raw spirit and intensity. Ample flavor abounds, driven by its bold mixture of Cuban-seed Nicaraguan and Honduran long-leaf ligeros. These hand-selected tobaccos have been picked from the plant’s highest priming, bringing maximum flavor and richness. To conceal this deep, dense blend of tobaccos, an oily Habano Ecuador ligero leaf was chosen as its wrapper – one that’s thick and juicy, even outshining the flavorful core within. An explosion of spice greets you up front, as Ruination deliquesces into softer notes of oak, earth, toast, wood, and leather. The velvety smoke coats the palate, leaving a long and satisfying finish filled with the wonderful lingering aroma of toast and charcoal. Toward the nub the roller-coaster continues….closing with a concentrated, layered, full-bodied finale. Nothing short of a religious experience!

I wouldn’t describe it as a religious experience, but it is damn good.

Ruination IPA by Stone Brewing Co.

I was slow to come to the IPA religion. The concept always bothered me, because historically IPAs were really bad beers. The entire point was to come up with the longest surviving beer while trying to keep it palatable. When the IPA craze caught on, the competition seemed to be to make them as hoppy as possible with no thought of making a good beer.

Beers like the Ruination IPA are what won me over. It still has the extreme hoppiness of an IPA, but not at the cost of taste. The Ruination IPA brings up the malt level to keep the hops from getting out of control, and adds a nice palate of citrus flavors. This IPA has real drinkability, not just hop shock for its own sake. I give the Stone Ruination IPA a 95.

Here is how Stone describes its own beer:

So called because of its truly “ruinous” effect on your palate, this massive hop monster will change forever your preconceptions of what defines good beer. This is Stone IPA’s big brother, and we mean BIG. We essentially began with our already-awesome Stone IPA, threw in an extra-large helping of malt, and added a lot more hops. And then some more. And then even more, resulting in a vibrant blast of citrusy bitterness that hits you on the first sip. Just one taste and you’ll know why we call this indelicate jewel “A liquid poem to the glory of the hop!”

That description makes it sound like a hop monster, but it’s not. Oh it’s very hoppy, but it presents as a very crisp beer without being exceedingly bitter.

Beer Fest Review: OC Fest of Ales 2013, Anaheim

OC Fest of Ales 2013

I missed last year’s OC Fest of Ales, but made it to this year’s Second Annual event in downtown Anaheim. The event starts with a 5k run, and I had a passing thought to participate in that as well, but then I came to my senses and stuck to just the beer fest.

The weather for the event could not have been more perfect. We just broke out of a minor heat wave in SoCal, and this was the first weekend with temps in the mid 70s. The VIP admission began at 10:00 a.m., and at that hour it was nice and cool with overcast skies. The haze burned off around 1:00, but even then the temperature stayed in the 70s.

With the event held in conjunction with a 5k, I thought parking might be an issue, but it was zero problem. There were garage parking structures immediately adjacent to the event, but they all had signs saying parking was limited to two hours. I suspect that was waived for the event, but just in case we parked at a shopping center about half a block away.

There was no delay getting into the event. Indeed, anyone 21 or over could get a wristband and enter the event to check out all the beer merchandise and buy food at the many food vendors, but to sample the beer you needed to have purchased a ticket. The standard ticket came with a wristband for 10 beer samples, while the VIP ticket offered unlimited beer and food tastings. (In retrospect, it may not have been intended that the food tastings be unlimited, but no one turned me away.)

At this event, the VIP admission really added to the value beyond just getting in an hour early and more beer tastings. An entire section of the event was reserved for the VIP attendees, where there were numerous booths offering pairings of food and beer. Slaters 50/50, one of my perennial favorites as these events, was ensconced in the VIP section. So too were The Bruery, Noble Ale Works, Hangar 24, Lagunitas Brewing, Bootlegger’s, Cismontane and a number of others. See the picture below for the full listing of the “VIP Experience”. In addition to Slaters 50/50, food tastings in the VIP area were provided by local restaurants including Tony’s Deli, House of Blues-Anaheim, American Tavern, Crow Bar, Side Door, Roy’s of Anaheim and The Kroft..

Overall, there were more than 80 craft beers offered by Ace Cider, Alcatraz Brewing Co., Anaheim Brewery, Craft Brewing, Rough Draft, Tap It Brewing Co., Bootleggers, Bravery Brewing, Coronado, Firestone Walker, Golden Road, Manzanita Brewing, Mission Brewing, Monkish, New Belgium, Noble Ale Works, Packinghouse, Sierra Nevada, The Bruery, Tustin Brewery, Pizza Port San Clemente, Ballast Point, Hangar 24, Karl Strauss, Lagunitas Brewing, Black Market Brewery, Valiant Brewing, and Stone Brewing Co.

I saw two great bands perform – Amber Foxx (Rockabilly) and Mo50 (modern/classic rock). PopRoqs (80’s) was also scheduled, but if they were there I didn’t happen to see them.

Just off the street where the beer fest was held, there is a museum called Muzeo (I figured out all on my own that was probably a museum before confirming the fact). The current exhibit was entitled “Lateral Acceleration”, with a collection of still photography, film and motorcycles, showing the “motorcycle culture of Southern California”, as they put it. Admission is normally $10, but it was free with your armband from the OC Fest of Ales. That provided a nice break during the beer fest.

I can’t offer a single suggestion to make this beer festival any better. It provided a great showcase for (mostly) local breweries and restaurants, and the execution was flawless.

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OC Fest of Ales
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OC Fest of Ales VIP Experience

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2013-09-21 14.06.12 

OC Fest of Ales

 

Beer from Every Faucet!

Although they characterized it as a prank, I’d call it a mission of mercy. Some blokes plumbed their friend’s house so that every faucet produced cold beer. Sure, it would make cooking and cleaning a little weird, and I can only imagine the foam that would be created by the dishwasher, but I could adapt.

 

Cigar Review: Joya de Nicaragua Rosalones Robusto (5" x 52)

Cigars DirectCigars Direct provided me with another fine selection of cigars for review, including a big, fat Room 101 Serie SA Gordo (6″ x 60) and an Obsidian White Noise Toro Extra (6.5″ x 54). After letting them relax a few days in my humidor, I decided to pull one out for review with a morning cup of coffee on the Lido Deck. I couldn’t commit to two hours for the aforesaid monsters, so I instead went with the Joya de Nicaragua Rosalones Robusto (5″ x 52).

This Nicaraguan puro had no flaws, and burned evenly throughout. It was a mellow smoke at commencement, with some spice but not much complexity. Indeed, had I rated this cigar based on the first third, I would have noted that it was pleasant enough, but not given it much of a recommendation. However, this stick truly grew into its own as I continued, and by the end I was very impressed. Still, it did not measure up to two of my other favorites from Joya de Nicaragua, the Fuerte Serie B, which I gave an impressive rating of 95, and the Antaño Dark Coroho Doble Fuerte, that earned a 93. Although it finished nicely, for being a little slow at the start I can give the Rosalones only an 86 on The Morris Scale.

Other than through the Cigar of the Month Club, this stick does not appear to be available from Cigars Direct, but they go for about $4 a stick at Cigars International. Here is how CI describes the Joya de Nicaragua Rosalones:

Joya de Nicaragua Rosalones Cigar Review

 

Welcome to America, Rosalones!

Staying true to its roots, Rosalones is a Nicaraguan puro, composed of select, extensively aged tobaccos. This well-blended bouquet results in a tamer Joya de Nicaragua specimen that many will find damn near perfect. It all begins with a dark, slightly marbleized Nicaraguan Criollo wrapper. Teaming up with this juicy leaf, awaits a long-filler core of Nicaraguan tobaccos secured within a Nicaraguan Habano binder. On paper it sounds much more powerful than it is. But it’s no walk in the park either, because like a finely tuned automobile, this baby balances strength and smoothness to a ‘T’. Unfolding from the cool, slow burn are hints of pepper, coffee, and earth, before segueing into a delicious raisin-esque note. If the horsepower of other JDN offerings have kept you at bay in the past, you just found the perfect median.This delicious medium-bodied cigar from Joya de Nicaragua was once reserved exclusively for the European market (enthusiasts overseas don’t have quite the appetite as we Americans do for full-bodied muscle). But Rosalones isn’t the red headed stepchild of the family either. There’s still that chewy, spicy core of Joya de Nicaragua wrapped up in each cigar.

Beer Fest Review: OC Brew Ha Ha 2013

OC Brew Ha HaMy faith in beer festival organizers has been restored. After the disastrous Beer Loves Music beer festival at the Yost Theater in Santa Ana, I was set for a great beer fest, and found it at the OC Brew Ha Ha. Anyone running a beer festival really should attend a Brew Ha Ha function to see how it’s done.

I went in expecting great things from this beer fest, which supports the Fallen Firefighters Fund. Last year’s Orange County Brew Ha Ha was great, as was the Brew Ho Ho at the Phoenix Club in Anaheim, put on by the same people. It appears that the organizers are cigar friendly, because each event has included a cigar garden. Indeed, this event was custom made for my tastes, because it included beer, cigars and motorcycles, with a number of motorcycles on display in the middle of the event. (I didn’t actually see anything about the bikes, so for all I know a group of riders just found a really good place to park, but they were all suspiciously clean and polished. It made a nice display, intended or not.)

My recollection is that event was held at Irvine Lake last year, but for 2013 they moved it a short distance to the east to Oak Canyon Park. Both venues are good, but I prefer Oak Canyon Park, because it is more spread out and offers more shade. The only downside to the location is that it is a long distance off the main road, down a narrow road, so a bottleneck of cars is inevitable. That part was a little frustrating, and I felt for the people who had come in cabs, sitting there with the meter running, but the organizers had lots of people working the parking lot and the cars were parked as quickly as possible. Parking was free.

My beer angel and I entered on VIP passes, arriving about 30 minutes after the event had started, and the time in line was less than five minutes. The organizers sent out a number of emails about the event, and in one explained that attendees could arrive up to an hour early, check-in, and wait in a holding area until time for admission. I didn’t get to witness that first hand, but it is a great idea. As I have complained here before, as with last year’s beer festival at Union Station, the time spent getting into beer festivals can eat up half the time of the event.

It was a very warm day, but as I said there was plenty of shade, and misters were placed throughout the grounds to provide some relief. There were igloos full of cold water everywhere, and free fountain drinks.

The selection of beers was tremendous, with over 70 breweries present, each offering two, three or even four different beers. Here is a list of the breweries  They used a wristband system, tearing off a stub for each beer. I never like that system because I prefer to take small pours in order to try more beers. I will say though, I had 20 tabs with the VIP admission (and between you and me not all the booths were tearing the tabs, especially toward the end), and I did not even go through all my tabs. If you did run out of tabs, you could buy more at $5 for 3 tastes.

After about an hour of beer tasting, we headed over to Slaters 50/50 for a great burger, and then to the Grey Cloud cigar garden. A very tasty selection of cigars was offered, including my choice, the Flor de las Antillas Toro, rated the number one cigar by Cigar Aficionado last year. It was my first time smoking one of these cigars, and while is was a little on the mild side for my taste, it was very complex and flavorful. I can certainly understand why it was ranked so highly. One great cigar. Here is a video about the cigar. I relaxed in the shade for a few minutes, enjoying my cigar, and then returned to the beer drinking, cigar in hand. I was careful to puff only when away from the crowd, and received only two comments, both of them positive, complimenting the smell of the cigar.

I forgot to count the precise number of food trucks, but I’d say there were at least eight, and the lines were not bad. One of the food trucks was a converted fire truck, selling pizza. That was very cool and especially appropriate, given that this was a fundraiser for firefighters. I felt bad for the truck selling shaved ice, because I did not see a single customer the entire day. On such a hot day, you’d expect shaved ice to be a popular choice, but I guess beer drinkers are already hydrated from all the beer and water and don’t want to take a break for a snow cone.

OC Brew Ho Ho 2013

Speaking of cool trucks, the sound stage, apparently provided by Red Bull, is a tour bus that opens up to a stage. There were three bands, according to the organizers. I only saw two – The Slidebar and Reel Big Fish – and both were very good. I was so impressed with Reel Big Fish, which has a horn section, that I bought one of their CDs.

OC Brew Ha Ha 2013 was a complete success. If you are in the area, don’t miss this one next year, and be sure to attend the second annual OC Brew Ho Ho, set for December 7, 2013. While not on the same scale as Brew Ha Ha, it’s a great beer fest in its own right, offering a tremendous selection of special seasonal beers.

Aaron Morris at Brew Ha Ha 2013

OC Brew Ho Ho 2013

OC Brew Ho Ho 2013

OC Brew Ho Ho 2013

The Beer and the Cigar: A Perfect Compliment

Neptune CigarGuest columnist Luzzie Normand provided the following article to discuss pairing beer and cigars, and to promote her cigar site, NeptuneCigar.com. I spent a little time on the site, and I like what I see. One cool feature is that when you click on the “cigars” button, you can sort by strength. The cigars descriptions also show ratings from Cigar Aficionado, Cigar Insider and Cigar Magazine, as well as the rankings from visitors to the site. I’ve noticed that some sites will show, say, a 97 rating on a cigar, but when you drill down a little you realize that is the rating from a single visitor to the site.

I was also impressed by the prices I checked. For example, I picked one of my go-to cigars, the Alec Bradley Tempus (6 x 52). A box of 20 goes for $162 at Famous Smoke Shop and Cigar.com, but it’s only $155 at Neptune with free shipping, AND it comes with a free 10-cigar sampler of Alec Bradley seconds (perfectly fine cigars with appearance defects). Show some love and check out NeptuneCigar.com.

Like any respectable woman, I love beer.  My deep appreciation for beer is one that is only rivaled by my equally respectable appreciation for a cigar, sweeten the deal with a back porch and a sunset and you might just have described the happiest place on Earth.  Cigars have traditionally been heralded as the complementary hand prop to a nice whisky or scotch.  While this still holds true, a lesser known fact is just how well certain beers can go with certain varieties of cigars.  Not only are they a new alternative to customary libations, they are usually significantly cheaper, making that relaxing evening with a cigar and drink in hand a lot less disastrous to your bank account.

Like pairing a nice wine with a meal, pairing a quality cigar with a nice beer takes a little foresight and the occasional bit of homework.  You won’t want to open up that glass beer case and pick a six pack of beer with a fancy label to compliment that cigar you bought with the equally fancy label.  Beers and cigars have a slew of tastes, aromas and nuances that, when matched up correctly, can really bring out the best of both worlds.

For the sake of brevity, I’m going to limit my discussion of beers to two types, ales and lagers.  Yes, there are more, but for pairing’s sake, these two varieties offer the most distinct complements to a cigar.  Venturing outside of these beers runs the risk of either the beer or the cigar competing for taste, texture in aroma.  Rather than engaging in a sensory brawl, play your cards right and consider some of the pairings below.

Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA and an Arturo Fuente Maduro

A nice IPA deserves a cigar that is going to be on the fuller and rich end of the spectrum.  The smoke to compliment an IPA should pack a little more punch to play off the lightness of the ale.  The perfect matchup? Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo IPA and the Arturo Fuente Maduro.  IPA’s are known for completely saturating the palate and you will want a cigar that is up to the task of really playing off that.

The citrus and pine notes of the Torpedo offer a great flavor profile that will enhance the smoke from the Arturo Fuente Maduro (which scored a pretty impressive 87 with Cigar Aficionado). The Maduro will really develop some of the sweetness that comes from the tail end of the Torpedo.  Along with that sweetness you will also finish with a little bit of spice which will be the perfect setup to re-introducing the IPA back to your palate.

Samuel Smith Taddy Porter with Alec Bradley MAXX Nano

Samuel Smith Taddy Porter gives all the sweetness right up front and finishes with dryer notes.  You won’t get any of that hoppy taste with a rich Porter like this and that should be music to your ears when looking to pair with a nice cigar, such as the Alec Bradley Maxx Nano.

I like to take a good swig of the porter and really hold on to it for a few moments to pick up on some of the great chocolate and licorice notes.  Let this wash down and then follow it up with the Nano.  I find that the Nano really brings out the lingering licorice tastes that were left behind and further develops the ones that exist within the Nano.  The Nano provides a really nice, rich smoke which makes that next swig of Taddy all the better.

Bitburger Pilsner with Camacho Connecticut Churchill

Pilsner’s are famous for giving any hint of sweetness at the beginning of its flavor profile, and the Bitburger doesn’t deviate from that, well, too much.  Bitburger is a great choice for a Pilsner due to its lighter, almost grassy and citrusy notes.  You won’t get a lot of foam and the carbonation is low so it won’t interfere with your follow up smoke from none other than the Camacho Connecticut Churchill.

The Camacho really works with the flavors of the Bitburger.  Playing of the subtleness of the pilsner, the Camacho really swoops in and gives you a great, full-flavored experience.  The dry finish of the pilsner is the perfect setup for the silky pull you’ll get from this cigar.  Try to really focus on those spicy notes of the cigar, I find that it really enhances the next sip of pilsner.

Luzzie Normand is a cigar enthusiast and freelance blogger. When she isn’t blogging, Luzzie enjoys writing her own serial comic books and slinging ink at tattoo shops.

A Strategy to Win Cigar Auctions

Cigar Auctioneer ReviewQuite some time ago I tried cigar auction sites and found them to be utter nonsense, but a friend said he gets some pretty good deals there so I decided to give it another try. I spent a couple of hours on the sites over three days to see if there were any deals to be had, and quickly found what I think might be the best strategy. I tried out two sites – Cigar Bid and Cigar Auctioneer – but I found myself preferring Cigar Auctioneer for no particular reason I can identify.

After a few minutes on the sites, I rediscovered the reason I had previously given up on them. Most of the cigars I checked out had been bid up to more than what I could buy them for normally, or so close to that point that the hassle of dealing with an auction didn’t make it worthwhile. In other instances, the starting bid was so high that even if I won at that price, it would not be much of a deal.

But both sites allow you to view all the auctions that are ending that day, and the one day auctions. There I found some fertile ground.

The “normal” auctions are an entire week, and those are the ones that don’t appear to offer much value. I’ll use as an example one of the real deals I got. Cigar Auctioneer was offering a box of Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Dark Corojo cigars, with an opening bid of $70. That would be a good price indeed, since the street price for these cigars is about $160. But the auction had just begun and had seven days to go. In that amount of time, too many people are going to see that offer and bid it up. By that time that auction is over, the cigars will end up going near retail price. And the fact that some auctions start at a dollar doesn’t appear to make much of a difference. With a week to bid on the item, it will still end up near retail price.

But by limiting yourself to the one day auctions and those that are ending today, you eliminate wasting your time on all the cigars that will ultimately sell for retail. Yes, when you look at the auctions that are ending today (as opposed to those that only last one day), you are seeing the conclusion of all those auctions that started seven days ago and likely have been overbid, but you may see a few that have fallen through the cracks. Perhaps you have a favorite cigar that is not popular, or just has not been discovered by the masses. You might pick a deal up at the end of the auction, and you avoided wasting your time on bids early on.

The real deals seemed to come from the one day auctions. I played with these for awhile, and found that even though some of the items had multiple bids, bidding only a dollar more resulted in a successful bid just about every time. This was very telling. Both sites offer automatic bidding. If an item is at $10, and you bid $50, then it enters your bid for $11 and will keep making you the high bidder if anyone else bids, up to your high price of $50.

This means that if the bid was at $10, and my bid of $11 was successful, that means no one had submitted an auto-bid. To get the best price possible, the people bidding on the cigars were doing so in one dollar increments. And therein I found my successful strategy, although “strategy” is probably more of a descriptor than it deserves.

If these bidders have so much time on their hands that they can afford to sit there and bid up the auctions one dollar at a time, God bless them, but I don’t have that kind of time. What I did was to pick out the cigars I wanted, determine what I would be willing to pay for them, and then knocked off another 20% to make it a real deal. So, going back to those Joya de Nicaraguas, those are a favorite of mine, but I can’t even keep up with the review cigars I receive, so I probably would not buy a box. But if I was in a cigar store and they were selling boxes for $100, I’d definitely pick up a box. So, take the $100 price, knock off another 20% to make it a real deal, and I decided to bid $80 for those cigars in a one day auction. At that point, the box had 11 bids, and had been bid up to $55 (apparently this had started at $1), with he auction set to end in about six hours.

I actually bid $83, because people tend to think and bid in even numbers. The first bidder gets priority, so if I bid $80 and an earlier bidder had also bid that amount, he would win the auction. I bid an odd number to hopefully avoid that scenario. When I entered by $83 bid, it was taken at $56, again meaning that everyone was bidding in one dollar increments (otherwise it would have jumped to whatever number was necessary to beat the other auto-bidders).

Cigar Auction Win

Then I walked away and never looked at that auction again. I’d set my best price, so there was nothing to watch. I wanted to avoid the temptation of getting caught up in the bidding. A few days later, I received four boxes in the mail, having won four out of seven auctions. I won the box of Joyas for just $75. The other three wins were various samplers. One was a sampler of 12 cigars, that included a $25 lighter. Half the cigars were ones that I recognize and enjoy, and the others were just unknowns. I bid $25, figuring that if I won, I would be getting 12 cigars free with the lighter. I got that one for just $17. The other two were a six-pack and a ten-pack of some of my favorite cigars, and both of those were won for less than $15. At retail, these would have been $42 and $60, respectively.

So deals can definitely be had on the cigar auction sites, if you limit yourself to the auctions that are about to close and keep yourself in control. Interestingly, all three of the auctions I lost were the auctions with the greatest amount of time remaining, and I lost each of them by one dollar. Since they were all successful bids initially, that means I wasn’t beat by other auto-bidders, but rather the people upping the bid one dollar at a time had sufficient time to outbid my auto-bid.

One final tip. If you want to experience the thrill of the auction, you’ll be presented with many opportunities when you visit the “closing today” page. I found I was typically shown at least a dozen auctions that were set to close in the next ten minutes. Feel free to go crazy, but I would not buy anything without checking the price on Famous Smoke Shop’s regular site (the company that runs Cigar Auctioneer). I think the reason so many auctions get overbid is because people are basing their bids on the MSRP, which is shown on the auction page. But, of course, MSRP bears no relation to reality. For example, I was watching the “Rocky Patel Anthology #1″ sampler, which showed an MSRP of $123, but the price on Famous Smoke Shop site was $86. Note also that on the Cigar Auctioneer site (and probably on Cigar Bid but I couldn’t find confirmation), if a bid is received in the last two minutes, five minutes are added to the auction, but only ONCE. If you are going to try to snipe a bid, do so just before the last two minutes so you don’t reset the clock.

Indian is Back (Again)!

Indian is an iconic name among motorcycle enthusiasts, but the owners of that name have long struggled. Considered to be the first American motorcycle company, Indian went bankrupt after World War II when it switched to smaller motorcycles that the public rejected.  That began a revolving door of companies who bought and tried to implement the Indian brand. California Motorcycle Co. was the latest such company, and it came out with a new version of the Chief in 1999.  It lasted four years before taking its own trip to bankruptcy court.

Now, Polaris has become the latest owner of the name, purchasing the brand in 2011. Polaris just might have the clout to make it work. Polaris has successfully manufactured and sold motorcycles under the Victory brand since 1998. Although I’ve never owned an Indian, I really like the brand and history, and I am pulling for this latest owner. Here is the press release:

STURGIS, SD- August 5, 2013 – Indian Motorcycle, America’s first motorcycle company, today announced the highly anticipated details for the all-new 2014 Indian Chief family of motorcycles. Before thousands of motorcycling fans at the site of the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame in downtown Sturgis at 9 p.m. on Saturday, August 3, Indian Motorcycle unveiled the three models that comprise the Indian Chief line up. The reveal ceremony and party signaled an inflection point in motorcycling history with the renewal of America’s oldest and most legendary brand.

2014 Indian Chief Classic (starting MSRP: $18,999)

The new Indian Chief Classic is a pure, powerful cruiser forged from key heritage design elements yet wrapped in advanced design, engineering and technology. It features iconic styling like valanced fenders, rich genuine leather saddle, classic tank-mounted instrumentation, tear-drop fuel tank design, and sculpted and lighted front fender war bonnet. The 2014 Indian Chief Classic comes standard with a host of premium features including endless chrome, keyless ignition, ABS, cruise control, throttle-by-wire, true dual exhaust, high quality chrome laced spoke wheels, brake caliper covers, cast aluminum frame with integrated air intake, and much more.

The Indian Chief Classic, like all 2014 Indian Chief models, is powered by the all-new, clean sheet design Thunder Stroke 111 engine. Offering 111 cubic inches of pavement pounding power and 119 ft-lbs of torque, this class-leading power plant draws powerful design cues from heritage Indian Motorcycle engines merged with brilliant engineering and advanced technologies. The Thunder Stroke 111 is a 49-degree, air-cooled V-twin with 6-speed overdrive transmission, and features unmatched premium exterior finishes and touches. It offers owners the peace-of-mind that comes from over two million miles of on-road and test-lab verification and Polaris Industries’ sixty years of engineering prowess.

2014 Indian Chief Vintage (starting MSRP: $20,999)

The new Indian Chief Vintage is a soft bagger that takes iconic Indian Motorcycle styling to a whole new level with handcrafted detail and a signature heritage aesthetic. The Indian Chief Vintage offers top-quality quick release soft-sided leather bags, leather fringe, chrome fender tips, vintage chrome badging on the front fender and a quick-release windshield for easy installation or removal. It includes the same premium standard features as the Indian Chief Classic, and sports the same iconic design elements like valanced fenders, laced wheels, whitewall tires, tank-mounted instrument cluster and extensive chrome finishes throughout. It is also powered by the new Thunder Stroke 111 engine.

2014 Indian Chieftain (starting MSRP: $22,999)

The first Indian Motorcycle of its kind, the 2014 Indian Chieftain maintains the legendary Indian Chief styling, while taking this progressive machine to new heights with advanced features and premium comfort. Unlike any Indian Motorcycle ever made, the Chieftain features a fairing with integrated driving lights, and its power windshield is an industry-first for a fork-mounted fairing. Standard features include hard saddlebags featuring remote locks and quick-release anchors, a high-output audio system featuring integrated Bluetooth smartphone connectivity, and a tire pressure monitoring system.

Beer Festival Review: Beer Loves Music 2013, Yost Theater, Santa Ana

Beer for BoobsThe Beer Loves Music Beer Festival was held at the Yost Theater in Santa Ana on August 3, 2013, a day that will live in infamy.

I’ve been to many, many beer festivals, and this was the most ill-conceived, disorganized one I’ve ever attended. Wait. I misspoke. This was the most ill-conceived, disorganized event of any type that I have ever been to.

The event sounded good on paper. Take a cool indoor venue, line up some good bands, and serve unlimited quantities of 50 different kinds of beer. As a bonus, give some of the proceeds to breast cancer research.

The implementation, on the other hand, was to sell an apparently unlimited number of Groupon tickets, have a few really slow moving people at the door admitting them, and then try to cram all those people into an indoor venue with limited space and no access to the beer.

I’ve learned by now that some of these events are slow to admit people, so I time it to arrive about 30 minutes late, assuming the line will be gone by then. We implemented that plan, but when we arrived at 6:35, the line was still around the building. We went and had dinner and returned at 7:30, but the line was still staggering. The only thing that saved us was that the one representative who apparently cared about the event decided that printed Groupons would be accepted with no need for scanning, and grabbed us out of the line. Thank God I printed my Groupon.

But the victory was short lived. Rescue from that line just put us into another line within the building, trying to get into the theater area. Then there was a line just to get the plastic cups for the beer. All the while I saw people pouring out of the building, so I knew this was not going to end well.

I explored the entire venue (very slowly forcing my way through the crowds), and found just three tables serving beer, each of them with two taps, and each of them with lines at least 40-people long. The organizers either really lied about the 50 beers, or I just did not see the other tables due to the crowds. We decided to do whatever it took to get a beer – just one – before leaving, even if it meant standing in line. We came down the stairs, rounded a corner, and there like a shimmering oasis in the desert (an extremely crowded desert) was a beer table with just two people in line. We eagerly handed over our cups and were rewarded with two cups of beer foam on top of about an inch of room temperature beer. As we continued around the corner with our treasures, we saw that this table also had about 40 people in line. We had just unknowingly approached it from an angle where we could not see the line. I’m surprised we were not lynched.

I will say this. The Yost Theater appeared to be a nice venue, and the one band we heard was very good. Although I had never been there before, I did some research and knew that it was basically a club, so I anticipated it would be crowded like a club. But this was ridiculous.

The flyer for the event said “Beer for Boobs”, which I thought was a reference to the breast cancer research. Now I realize what they really meant. You’d have to be a total boob to attend this event. Do not ever go to a Beer Loves Music event.