Mac’s Brew News – June 20, 2015

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Well, it’s time for a new edition of Mac’s Brew News.  It’s been just a little more than a month, so this shouldn’t be too lengthy.  Today’s edition is published in honor of Sheila, who is 29 years old today.

A ravishing beauty is Sheila
Her gaze will induce anesthesia
To her charms I’m resigned
In my heart she’s enshrined
She commands my life like a diva

In years past, I would be on summer hiatus from brewing due to the warm weather and the associated difficulty in keeping fermentation temperatures under control.  However, a few months ago I bought a 14 gallon stainless steel conical fermenter that is cooled and heated.  Maintaining safe temperature ranges are now simply a matter of programming the temperature control unit to appropriate specifications and the temperatures are automatically maintained within ±1° F.  That means I can continue to brew throughout the summer, regardless of the ambient temperature.  Due to the size of the fermenter, I can also brew 10 gallon batches.

Here’s what is brewin’ at Mac’s . . .

Mac’s Cherry Wheat: Brewed on 05-19-2015.  This has become a standard at Mac’s Brew Pub.  It’s the same wheat ale recipe I use for all of my fruit beer, and for Mak’s Bavarian Hefeweizen.  With each of the beers, however, I just add different fruit in the fermenter and or in the keg (in the case of the Bavarian Hefeweizen, I just use a different yeast to ferment).

I brewed a 10 gallon batch with the intention of bringing a case to our annual beach house vacation per Sheila’s request (this is two years in a row that the beach house beer has been brewed per Sheila’s request – happy birthday).  It’s light and refreshing, perfect for a warm summer day thirst quencher, and at 5.5% ABV, one can drink a lot of it and still keep their wits about them.

I kegged 5 gallons on 06-06-2015, and it’s currently on tap.  I bottled the other 5 gallons on 06-13-2015.  One of the two cases will go to the beach for vacation consumption.

Smack Down: Brewed in collaboration with Mike Matulich on 04-16-2015.  This beer (described in the previous newsletter, May 7, 2015) is now on tap in the pub.  It’s a nice IPA, but a little too hop mild.  There are a couple of reasons for this, the main one being the hop straining bag I used on brew day was too fine and did not allow for good hops utilization.  There are a couple of other minor recipe revisions necessary (to dry out the beer, make the body lighter) which will be tried in order to dial this one in just right.

Smack Down has a very nice citrus hop aroma, but the bitterness is too low (this is the result of poor hops utilization as described above).  It’s 6.7% ABV, and is good drinking; there’s no doubt it’s an IPA, but I think it should be a little more bitter and hoppy.  Because this is the first time I brewed this recipe, I was expecting that revisions would be necessary, so I’m not too concerned about the result this time.  All of the problems I perceive have easy fixes.

Maktoberfest: To be brewed on 07-07-2015.  I’m scaling up the recipe to brew a 10 gallon batch, but changing it just a bit to bring down the alcohol content.  Because I can control the temperatures now, I will ferment this with lager yeast for the first time.  It should be ready for consumption in September just in time for the Oktoberfest celebration.

Dark Lord & Black House

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Here is Mac’s review and opinion of two stouts.  As you will see, both are highly recommended.  Please read responsibly.

Dark Lord (2011): Three Floyds Brewing, Muncie IN.  15% ABV

Three Floyds Brewing releases this amazing Imperial Russian Stout on “Dark Lord Day” every year.  It is brewed in Muncie Indiana, and is hard to come by.  It is brewed in limited quantities and not widely distributed (available only at the Three Floyds Brew Pub on Dark Lord Day).  Dark Lord is generally considered one of the best beers in the world, and in fact is rated as the #2 beer worldwide (just behind Westvietern 12, a belgian brewed ale) on ratebeer.com, one spot ahead of Pliny the Younger.

So let’s get down to it now – this is why you tuned in, after all.  It pours opaque midnight black with a very limited cocoa colored foam ring around the edge.  There was no head to speak of, and the little bit of foam faded immediately.  The aroma was sweet, slightly chocolatey and roasty.  The predominant flavor is sweet, with a noticeable amount of chocolate and some notes of dark fruit.  It’s a little like drinking some special dark chocolate.  Although it’s 15% ABV, I noted no booziness in the flavor (note: my bottle was 4 years old, so any booziness should have mellowed).  As already noted, the predominant flavor is sweet, but it is very mellow, like port.  Dark Lord has a very heavy body with a velvety smooth mouthfeel.

So how did I manage to get my hands on a bottle of Dark Lord (2011 vintage), given that it’s not available outside of Indiana?  As I have noted in previous beer reviews (see Heady Topper), Mac has powerful and influential friends.  In this case, Dave Hollandbeck GENEROUSLY provided the 22 oz. bomber for my enjoyment.  Dave, a homebrewer himself, was doing electrical work at Mac’s Brew Pub when he recognized the brewing equipment and we struck up a friendship (such is the world of homebrewing).  HIs unselfish act of kindness in supplying me with this world class beer will not go unrewarded; we plan to collaborate on a brew in the near future.  Dave, you’re the bomb!

Black House: Modern Times Beer, San Diego, CA.  5.8% ABV.

Black House is an oatmeal coffee stout brewed by a small San Diego brewery, in business for a little under 2 years.  I have to say though, for such a new and small brewery (30 barrel capacity), they have certainly come up with a great beer, and with their distribution, will not likely remain small for long.  I bought this beer at Costco, $5.94 for a 22 oz. bomber.  Black House is brewed with coffee (roasted at the brewery), and this bottle was a special release, brewed with cocoa nibs and coconut.

This beer pours black with a nice creamy cocoa colored head that lasts for a couple of minutes.  The aroma is coffee, but not bitter.  Coffee predominates in the flavor as well, but chocolate is also present.  I did not notice the coconut until I read the label, but then it became apparent in the background.  It’s there, but very subdued.

I would describe the flavor as a really nice, slightly sweet mocha flavor, but well balanced with hop bitterness (40 IBU), so it’s not too sweet.  The carbonation level is in the medium range, leaving nice lacing on the glass.  The body is medium to full.

This is a REALLY nice oatmeal stout.  Even those who don’t like stouts should like this one.  The alcohol level is fairly low, although right within the style guidelines for an oatmeal stout, so it’s easy to drink.  Well done, Modern Times!  I highly recommend the special release Black House.

Dark Lord is hard to come by, and is not for the faint of heart.  It is a HUGE beer, with a very complex flavor.  Fizzy yellow beer drinkers, don’t even go there – you won’t like it and i’m sure it’s expensive.  Black House, on the other hand, is a very drinkable beer that just about any beer drinker could like.  I highly recommend both.  Cheers, and a special thank you to Dave Hollandbeck!