CAO Cigars and Flying Dog Brewery “Art of Craft” Beer and Cigar Pairings and a Contest!

CAO_FlyingDogA month or so ago a box showed up on my doorstep (ok, it was at the garage….it’s a figure of speech) containing four bottles of beer and a four pack of CAO cigars (with a CAO bottle opener attached).  This represented a pairing event held at the Flying Dog Brewery back in June with Rick Rodriguez of CAO called “The Art of Craft” They put together the following pairing suggestions:


  • OSA Sol and Snake Dog IPA: The zesty spice of OSA Sol meets its match with the citrus and resinous hop aromas and flavors of Snake Dog.
  • CAO Brazilia and Gonzo Imperial Porter: Both big and bold, the bitter coffee and chocolate flavors in CAO Brazilia are mimicked by the same robust notes in Gonzo.
  • CAO Gold and Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA: The wildly complex hop bitterness and fruity sweet Belgian yeast notes in Raging Bitch are soothed by CAO Gold’s caramel creaminess.
  • CAO Mx2 and Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout: Dark and dry is the name of this pairing’s game with Mx2’s rich notes of earth and Pearl Necklace’s dry, roast, and slightly bitter character.


This put me in an awkward position. As many of you know, I gave up alcoholic beverages completely over twenty years ago, so I would either have to jump off the wagon, or figure something else out.  Now, I was a big fan of beer in my twenties, but to be honest, I was more into quantity over quality, and I would make projects out of finding how little I could pay for beer.  One experiment included a two dollar six-pack of Carling’s Black Label (even then it was NOT worth it), and countless cases of National Bruce KramerBohemian in 16oz returnable bottles and good old Rolling Rock, which was practically a boutique brand at the time.  Needless to say, my palate wouldn’t be up to this task anyway. So I asked a couple friends over to drink these beers and smoke these cigars, which was a surprisingly easy sell.  I’ve known Bruce Kramer since the old days of the Usenet cigar group back in the ’90s. Bruce is a certified beer judge and a home brewer, and quite the foodie. Obviously, he’s also been a connoisseur of exceptional cigars for a long time. Bruce also is involved in the production of The Bacon Jams, a spreadable bacon product that is about to be featured on QVC, and is taking the bacon world by storm. He was an obvious choice for a panelist in this project.  As I figured four cigars and beers would be a lot to tackle in one sitting I reached out to another friend with a beer, food and cigars background, local author and food writer, Jim Breslin. Jim recently released a novel called “Shoplandia“, which is a fun book based upon his lengthy career s a producer at QVC ( I read it, loved it and could relate since I worked at QVC myself briefly in the ’80s). He also writes for the West Chester Dish, a local food and restaurant guide here in Chester County, PA. as well as founding and hosting Story Slams locally. Jim also enjoys fine cigars and has been a reader here, I’d like to think I’ve been able to steer him toward some new and interesting cigar choices. You may also remember Jim from my review last fall of his “Stooges and Stogies” event.  I chose to pair the CAO Brazilia with a CAOBrazila_ReedsReeds Extra Ginger Brew, and the CAO MX2 with a Natural Brew Draft Root Beer.  We sat down in front of the video camera and captured our thoughts on these pairings. The video runs about 12 minutes, a bit long for my tastes, but I think these guys made some great tasting observations and it’s well worth the watch.  Please pardon the umbrella pole, but it only really blocked me out, so no big deal.



Let’s give Jim and Bruce a round of applause for helping out, and subjecting themselves to an evening of fine conversation between segments and some free beer and smokes! If you want to check this out yourself, the CAO “Art of Craft” cigar pack will be available alongside each corresponding beer exclusively at 46 Total Wine stores throughout Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, and California beginning July 1. Thank you to Victoria McKee Jaworski and her crew at General Cigar Co. for providing the samples and a great excuse to get three friends together for some smokes and drinks.  Bruce and Jim hadn’t met prior to this, and had an amazing amount in common. Another great story about cigars opening doors to friendships!  Now Bruce and Jim are after me to arrange another beer and cigar pairing evening!



CAO_Signs Contest_3What the heck, let’s give some CAO goodies away!  I have a metal CAO Flathead 660 sign (a pain in the ass to mail, BTW. My problem, not yours!), a CAO Area 9 pack containing six vintage CAO cigars from the original CAO aging rooms, anywhere from 5 to 20 year old! Also a couple of the new Flathead Sparkplugs and a 554 Camshaft. Sorry, I don’t have the 660 Carb that goes with the sign.  Leave a comment with your favorite cigar and beer pairings (I’ll accept soft drink and coffee pairings too!) and I’ll select a random winner on Sunday.


Thanks for watching, and until the next time,





Filed under Contest, Review, Video

Room 101 Big Payback and Matt Booth at the RMCF, an Island Jim and a Tatuaje

Room101_BigPayback_ChavalaAs I’m starting to sort out the videos I took at the Rocky Mountain Cigar Festival last weekend, I figured I’d start off with Matt Booth of Room 101 Cigars and just get it over with. One never know’s what to expect with Matt, always entertaining and after all is said and done, he’s a class guy.  His table was right next to the Halfwheel table, hence the comment a few moments into the video. Last night I smoked the Room 101 Big Payback Chavala, which is a 5″ x 50 classic robusto.  This is a value line for Room 101, made in Nicaragua, and coming in around the $5 mark.  I see this trend of value cigars, with the Tatuaje Tattoo and Illusione‘s Rothchild and Gigante, and it’s not bad.  The Chavala was a really great smoke, it burned perfectly and had a nice tobacco sweetness that I really enjoyed. I think this is a great smoke and will be picking up some more of these in the future.


Here’s the video with Matt.  I really need to better prepare myself for these things….




Friday was my birthday, 51, if you’re counting, so my wife took me out to Cigar Mojo down in King of Prussia, PA and we ordered a couple pizzas and sat around smoking cigars and watching TV!  I selected the new Island Jim by Oscar Valladares Tobacco and Company for my birthday smoke. Island Jim is Jim Robinson who owns the Leaf and Bean shops in the Pittsburgh area. He’s probably a Penguins fan, but I won’t hold that against him. This torpedo with the shaggy foot appealed to me for some reason, and of all the great cigars available in that shop, this one was the one I decided on.  The head of this has a Connecticut band and a Maduro band and is not capped, but does need a cut midway through the Connecticut stripe for a great draw.  I smoked this just about to that Connecticut stripe, it was that good. I don’t have any regrets at all about choosing this for my celebration cigar, it was smooth with a nice sweetness, and a unique flavor I couldn’t pinpoint. I suppose I’ll have to smoke another one eventually to see if I can nail that flavor down. The high point of the evening was having a childhood friend stop in and share a smoke. We’ll call him “Pat Smith”, and we grew up in the same neighborhood and played in our first garage bands together in the ’70s.  I hadn’t seen this guy in over 30 years, and closed the Mojo talking and smoking.  It was a very nice evening, although I wish people in the lounge had taken me up on the pizza offer…we had to bring a whole pie home!


Tatuaje_MummySaturday I selected a special cigar that Will Cooper sent me last year for my birthday, a Tatuaje Monster Series Mummy. This is a 7¾” x 47 cigar that had what I thought was a very Cuban smoking experience. It burned like a Havana, that is to say it was a little loosely rolled and burned pretty fast. The flavor also reminded me of a Havana a little, I can’t say specifically, which line, but the overall experience was reminiscent of a fine Cuban cigar. It has a little zing, but was still smooth and rich. I enjoyed the heck out of this cigar. I don’t have a great deal of experience with the Tatuaje brand, but what I have smoked I liked, and this was a really nice Saturday afternoon smoke. Thank you, Mr. Cooper, for this gift.  Sorry it took me a year to get to, but I think I timed it perfectly!


That’s it for now. Not sure what’s on the block for today, but it’s a holiday weekend, so I’ll be selecting something good for sure. Enjoy the weekend, and thanks for reading along!


Until the next time,





Filed under Events, Review, Video

The 2014 Rocky Mountain Cigar Festival

Last weekend we flew out to Denver, Colorado to go to the Rocky Mountain Cigar Festival.  Friday evening we drove up to a cigar store called Havana Manor where they were having a My Father Cigars and Tatuaje event. It still amazes me that I can walk into a cigar store 2000 miles from home and know a bunch of people. It was a who’s who of the cigar industry there and we had the pleasure of catching up with friends, and if I tried to list names I’d miss someone.  I picked up some L’Atelier cigars and smoked a LAT54 which was delicious. It was a nice time and we met some great folks in addition to those we knew already, and we’d see everyone at the event the next day. The store was expansive, they had two walk-in humidors in the retail area up front, and several large lounge areas in the back. It was a really impressive store.  After a day of travel, we called it a night and headed back to the hotel.



I’ve been hearing great things about this festival for a few years, and we made the decision earlier this year to make the trek to Colorado from Pennsylvania to attend the Rocky Mountain Cigar Festival.  We were invited by Joe Liggett, of Smoker Friendly, who sponsored the event. Joe did an amazing job of organizing this event. There were about 2000 attendees, falling into three categories, General Admission, VIP and Executive VIP.General admission attendees took hope over 40 cigars, and the more costly levels received many more super premium cigars. There somewhere along the lines of 40 cigar companies, a bunch of beer and liquor companies and all kinds of other interesting vendors.  We saw one vendor, Twisted Custom Cutz, with ashtrays made from wine and spirit bottles cut length-wise which were really cool. The event ran from 1:00 (noon for the VIP ticket holders) until 7:00 which left plenty of time to visit all the vendors and enjoy the festival. It looked like it was really going to storm at one point, but after a few drops it passed without incident, the band played on, the cigars were smoked and the food, which was really good, was eaten.  We took a bunch of pictures, which are in the slideshow below, and videos which I will post over the coming weeks.  I’ve included a video here with Joe Liggett which we shot as the event was getting set up and I put on Facebook right away.  I highly recommend this event, it’s easily one of the best in the country.


Click on one picture to open a slideshow.


As I said, it’s a really fun event, the area is beautiful, the weather was great, and there were a lot of great vendors there.  After the event, Drew Estate hosted a herf and gave out hats and more cigars. I enjoyed a Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Dark Corojo El Martillo and had a nice time talking to Willie Herrera, who’s assumed the roll of head blender at Drew Estate recently.  I had run into his predecessor, Nick Melillo, earlier in the day.  There were so many great cigar makers, and I made some new friends and visited with some old ones.  I don’t think that cigars tasted any different in Colorado, I smoked a Villiger Cuellar Connecticut Kremé to start the day which was really good, a geat Joya Red and a Nimmy D Toro. I was careful not to over do it being unaccustomed to the altitude. I kept hydrated, but the difference in the air from home was noticeable. Thanks again to Joe and Smoker Friendly for inviting us to attend this wonderful event! As I said, stay tuned for videos from some of the vendors at the event.


That’s all for today, until the next time,





Filed under Events, Stores, Trip Report

The Woman of the Rocky Mountain Cigar Festival

Since we fly home late tonight and want to get some Colorado sightseeing in today I’ll keep this brief and write a full report when we get home. The Rocky Mountain Cigar Festival was awesome. There were a bunch of terrific vendors there and I got a bunch of video interviews that will be featured over the coming weeks. Stay tuned. Today’s post features a couple pictures of the most beautiful woman I saw at the festival, and my videographer and inspiration, my wife Jennifer.


I’ll fill in captions later as posting via mobile devices is taxing my patience!

Until the next time,




Filed under Events, Trip Report

Visiting Chicago – Casa de Montecristo and a Camacho Ecuador

When we left off I was in Chicago and I mentioned I was going to visit Casa de Montecristo in Countryside, IL.  I set the GPS in the car, which, for some reason, didn’t take the street number for me. I decided to wing it, and set off anyway. I got about ten miles down I-294 and the GPS had lost it. The lady in the dashboard kept telling me to take the next left, then recalculated, take the next left….I was on a highway with no left turns!  She didn’t know what she was doing! I pulled off the next exit and parked in a McDonalds and turned the crazy lady off and see if the iPhone Google Maps app would help me out.  I apparently had gotten of at the right exit, because in a few turns I pulled into the Casa de Montecristo lot.


To everyone who told me Casa de Montecristo was a must visit on my Chicago visit, thank you! The store is beautiful, and the staff is very attentive. Fred showed me around and introduced me to one of the regulars, Conor. Oddly, a gentleman named Justin who I had met the day before at TESA was there making a purchase on his way out of town, he had come in from St. Louis for the previous day’s event and to celebrate his birthday.  Strange walking into a strange shop 750 miles from home and seeing a familiar face, but I shouldn’t really be surprised by now, it happens more times than not, it seems.  The store has cabinet humidors lining the walls for singles, an glass excaparate with  bins of unbanded cigars, a walk-in humidor for boxes, and a “vintage room” off the walk-in humidor.  After a tour of the facilities, I picked out a couple cigars I hadn’t smoked before and had been looking for, the Camacho Ecuador in the Figurado size and the Matilde Renacer in the Robusto size.  I could have shopped for hours, but I neither need more cigars, nor do I have the budget for Illinois prices.


I was ushered downstairs in the only cigar-friendly elevator in the country to the VIP lounge.  Apparently they allow out of towners in the lounge, not that there aren’t nice, comfy chairs upstairs in the store area.  The VIP Lounge is quite luxurious. In addition to the comfy leather chairs, there are booths and a bar, where members can store their own libations and have access to complimentary coffee, sodas and water.  I pulled up a stool next to Conor and we had a wonderful time swapping stories. He had had a cigar brand and we knew a lot of the same people and had visited a lot of the same places.  Once again, you can walk into a strange cigar shop just about anywhere and meet a friend you didn’t know.  As an aside, Conor is hosting a charity event next month,  check out for all the information if you are in the Chicago area or plan to be there.  I lit up the Camacho Ecuador which was a very nice cigar. It burned perfectly and had a great draw and the flavor was very enjoyable.  Conor kindly gifted me a cigar out of the escaparate, a Pete Johnson blend that he said was the original blend of the Black Jar release.  This was a nice smoke as well, however I had to finish it in the car on the way back to the hotel.  The VIP lounge also includes a theater and a meeting room, along with a bunch of TVs and lockers for not only cigars but booze.  I can’t recommend the Casa de Montecristo enough if you find yourself in the Chicago area. I’m sure glad I decided to seek it out and spend my afternoon there.  Great company, great smokes and great facility.


Diesel_Unlimited_d5Tonight I took a walk with a Diesel Unlimited d.5 that I think came from last year’s IPCPR. This cigar is made by A.J. Fernandez for Meier and Dutch and has been on the market for several years. Oddly, I don’t think I’ve sampled this line extension before, but it kind of jumped into my hand as I was looking for tonight’s cigar.  The Unlimited has an oily Honduran ligero wrapper and the filler is Nicaraguan tobaccos from Esteli and Condega and Mexican San Andrés.  This cigar was rich and heavy in flavor and quite satisfying. I would reach for this often, it’s a solid cigar.


I need to get ready to travel again, I’m really looking forward to attending the Rocky Mountain Cigar Festival in Colorado, and will attempt to report from the event, or shortly after. Until then,





Filed under Review, Stores, Trip Report