Mac’s Brew News – May 12, 2014

The weather is getting warm again so another brewing season at Mac’s Brew Pub is coming to a close real soon.  I’m trying to brew enough beer to last through the summer and fall so I don’t run out before I can get another batch brewed and on tap in November.  I don’t think that’s going to happen.  I’m sure I will still have some bottled Mac’s Brew to drink, but I think the kegerator will probably be empty.  Oh well, they still sell lots of good beer at Total Wine (and they also have quite a selection of craft brews at Costco now) so at least I won’t totally run out of beer.  Here is what’s been happening  at Mac’s.

Red Headed Step-Child: Brewed Saturday 04-26-2014.  OG 1.075.  It seems like everybody is doing collaboration brews these days, and I’m no different.  I collaborated with Mike Matulich to brew this beast.  We had perfect brewing conditions (cool but sunny) and brew day went real smooth.  This is a fairly high gravity beer and we hit in the middle of my target gravity range.  The fermentation is progressing nicely.  I racked the beer to the secondary fermenter on Saturday 05-03-2014.  The gravity was 1.020 at that time (7.3% ABV) so I don’t expect it to drop much (if any) further.  The alcohol content will probably remain the same, or could possibly increase .1 – .2%.  It’s got a real nice “hop forward” flavor, but the specialty malts are very noticeable in the taste.  It should be ready to keg after about 2 – 3 more weeks of conditioning.  Be patient.

Mac’s Bourbon Barrel Stout: This fermentation was over, but the final gravity was quite high and the alcohol was a bit low for the style (just under 8% ABV).  To correct this situation, I added additional yeast to the carboy and have been adding dextrose (corn sugar).  Because dextrose is completely fermentable, all this will add is alcohol – no sweetness.  The flavor is REALLY good and the beer has loads of body.  The (eventual) high alcohol content should be well hidden beneath all that flavor and viscosity (the final gravity will remain the same).  I should be done with the “alcohol boost” by late next week, and hope to get it somewhere around 12.3% ABV.  After that, it’s got about a year of bourbon barrel aging (which will also increase the alcohol content).  Be patient.

Mac the Annihilator: 9.8% ABV.  After extensive dry hopping, I kegged this brew on Monday 04-28-2014.  It’s fully carbonated and is being served in the pub/tasting room.  It’s a very nice Imperial IPA.  Unfortunately it’s much more hazy than Smack Down was, and I’m disappointed in that characteristic.  I was hoping it would clear up a little before I bottled some of it for the fair competition.  Alas, no such luck, but I submitted it anyway.

Mac’s Cherry Wheat: On deck.  This is another collaboration brew.  This time I’m brewing with Mike Young; brew day is Monday 05-19-2014.  This is a very simple recipe and will not be high gravity.  I’m just planning on making a very drinkable moderate ABV ale.  I want something refreshing for the remainder of the summer.  I should have this one kegged and carbonated 3 – 4 weeks after brew day.  Who knows, I just might have two fruit beers on tap at the same time (Mac’s Apricot Wheat is still plentiful).

I entered 4 beers into the 2014 Orange County Fair competition.  My entries are: Aeronautical Amber Ale; Mac’s Apricot Wheat; Mac the Annihilator; Mac’s Bourbon Barrel Stout (2013 vintage).  I bottled each of these (except for the Bourbon Barrel Stout) from the keg, using a counter pressure bottle filler.  This is a great device.  It’s the same thing commercial breweries use to bottle their beer, except I can only bottle one at a time whereas commercial breweries bottle multiples (dozens) at a time.  Anyway, it’s a cool piece of equipment and it’s pretty easy to use.  (Kevin, if you’re reading this, I also bottled some for you, so you can expect a nice delivery from UPS soon.)

I don’t anticipate that any of my entries will win awards. The best chance (I think) is the Aeronautical Amber Ale. It’s really good. The Annihilator is quite good, but it’s too cloudy and the IPA category is the most crowded in the competition (I imagine there will be 200 – 300 in that category alone), so my chances are pretty slim. The apricot wheat is very good, but doesn’t stand out, and the stout is under-carbonated and over-oaked, so it will be graded down for both flaws. I am interested, however, in the judges comments about my beer – it will make me a better brewer and will help me improve my beer.

I’m drinking a Stone Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout while finishing this post.  It has been aging in my refrigerator since August 2008 (yes, almost 6 years).  The years have been kind to this beer.  It’s quite good, but has changed significantly since 2008.  It has mellowed considerably.  It’s 9.2% ABV, and I remember that it used to be quite boozy (at least, it seemed that way in 2008 when I was still somewhat of a novice craft beer drinker).  It’s no longer boozy, even though the ABV remains the same.  I still have a few more bottles in the fridge and will have to drink one every year or so.  The first all grain batch I brewed (in January 2011) was a clone of Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout.  It was very good, but I missed the gravity target significantly and ended up with about 7.75% ABV.  Well, nobody does it like Stone.

That’s it for now.  Cheers!