Greetings beer lovers. Allow me to impart some wisdom about beer and about Mac’s Brew. Please read responsibly!
It seems like my last newsletter was ages ago. I’m so sorry for depriving all of you, as I know you have been eagerly anticipating the beer news. As I stated in the last update, I had not brewed for quite some time. It ended up being almost five months, but finally I had enough time between vacations that I was able to fire up the brew kettle again on March 7, 2018. I’ve been on a binge since then, brewing five times in an attempt to catch up. Before I give you the details about my recent brews, I need to provide a little background so you can appreciate the full story behind the Imperial Stout.
In May, Sheila and I went to the Kentucky Derby with Rose Evans (Sheila’s mother), Don Evans (brother) and Donna Evans (sister-in-law). You know, this is sort of a bucket list thing, and who wouldn’t want to go to the world’s most famous horse race? I watch it on TV every year, and we all wanted to go. So we went to Louisville, attended the Derby and drank mint juleps.
While at Churchill Downs, we hung out a lot in Aristides Lounge and met a fascinating Australian couple, Peter Chapman and Tasia Hull. Peter owns several thoroughbred racehorses and he came all the way to Kentucky from Australia to attend the Derby. His most successful horse is “Strange Addiction,” who won numerous races, but is now retired. When Peter told me about this animal’s exploits, I asked him if it would be OK to name a special beer after his special horse. He agreed of course, and so my newest BIG brew is called “Strange Addiction” (more on that below).
Thank you Peter, for allowing me to name this extraordinary beer after your extraordinary horse. CHEERS, MATE! [Note: Peter, being a thoroughbred horse owner and involved in the horseracing industry, was much more familiar with horseracing and betting than anyone in our group. He helped us with tips and information for betting at Churchill Downs on Friday (at the Kentucky Oaks) and Saturday (at the Kentucky Derby). Thanks so much Peter, your insight was invaluable!]
Now that you have a little bit of background on one of my latest brews, here’s the lowdown on what’s been happening at Mac’s (probably more than you may want to know).
Don’t Worry, Be Hoppy– Brewed March 7, 2018. 7.8% ABV, 113 IBU
Great name for an IPA, right? Unfortunately after I decided to name this beer, “Don’t Worry, Be Hoppy” I considered that the name had likely been taken by another brewery already. Turns out I’m not so clever, and I was right – there was already such a beer. However, as far as I can tell, the brewery (Riverside Brewery & Restaurant) made this beer in 2014, and has since gone out of business (or at least has changed names). I have found no reference to “Don’t Worry Be Hoppy” IPA since 2014 on Google. That’s good enough for me – I’ll use the handle for now, but won’t be arrogantly boasting about the clever name of this beer. [Caveat: you can find lots of merchandise (t-shirts, etc.) on the internet with a “Don’t Worry Be Hoppy” slogan.]
So what about this beer? It’s a double IPA, my latest recipe makeover for “Smack Down.” This wasn’t just a recipe tweak, however, it was a major overhaul. – that’s why I couldn’t call it “Smack Down” this time. In this case, IPA stands for “India Pale Accident” because it didn’t turn out the way I intended. I completely changed the hops used in the recipe, which resulted in more of a tropical flavor than a citrus flavor. Although I intentionally went away from the three “C’s” (Cascade, Centennial and Chinook), I didn’t expect to get such a tropical note. The flavor and aroma is somewhat on the sweet side, with notes of pineapple and melon. At first I was disappointed, not wild about the flavor, but Sheila LOVED it. She says it is by far the best IPA I’ve ever brewed. After drinking a couple of pints and realizing DWBH follows the hops profile, I have to say I’m really starting to like this beer. There’s no doubt it’s an IPA as the bitterness is very apparent, but the fruity notes really shine through. Enough said about this one.
Mac’s Apricot Wheat– Brewed April 9, 2018. 6.2% ABV, 15 IBU
My annual summertime fruit beer. This year it’s apricot. This is a 10-gallon batch of wheat beer, brewed with German noble hops. It’s just a basic wheat beer recipe; no changes in the last few years. I split the fermentation into two 5-gallon batches to make an American style wheat beer, then added the apricot to one of the fermenters late during the fermentation. The result is a very light and refreshing wheat beer with a strong (but not overwhelming) apricot presence.
Mak’s Bavarian Hefeweizen– Brewed April 9, 2018. 6.2% ABV, 15 IBU
This is the other 5-gallons from the wheat beer brew day. I used a German hefeweizen yeast to get this Bavarian classic with the necessary banana-clove notes. I have this on tap every summer at Mac’s Brew Pub.
The Apricot Wheat and the Bavarian Hefeweizen are both great “lawn mowing” beers – light, easy-drinking, refreshing and not too high in alcohol. I usually have the hefeweizen after I mow the lawn on these hot summer days (twice a week from June thru September – no, this beer won’t last that long, nor will the Apricot Wheat, but it sure is nice while it lasts).
Goldihops (And the Free Beers)– Brewed May 11, 2018. 5.1% ABV, 13 IBU
This is another summertime stand-by. This is one of the only beers for which I have never changed the recipe since the first time I brewed it. Of all the beers I brew, this is the biggest crowd pleaser, and the keg that empties the quickest. It’s brewed with honey (for this batch I used Orange Blossom honey), sweet orange peel and coriander seed, for a subtle orange/citrus aroma and flavor. This year I collaborated with a terrific young man, Johnny Bryant. Johnny has been brewing for over 20 years, so I had to make sure to bring my “A” game to brew day – can’t embarrass Mac (the arrogant and condescending beer geek who talks like a man with a paper asshole), right? Anyway, it was a real pleasure to brew with such a pleasant young man. I hope you’re enjoying Goldihops, Johnny.
Strange Addiction– Brewed May 30, 2018. 11.8% ABV (final ABV is TBD), 78 IBU
This is the monster of Mac’s Brew. I didn’t mention in previous newsletters that I bought a 15-gallon bourbon barrel in November 2017. That means I needed to brew a 15-gallon batch of beer to age in said barrel. Well, Strange Addiction is that beer. This is the same base recipe I have used the last couple of years to brew Wide Awake Drunk (see previous newsletters for more on Wide Awake Drunk). However, in order to make this an Imperial Stout (that just means REALLY big) I use a 10-gallon grain bill to make a 5 gallon batch. That’s not so easy to do on my 10-gallon system, so I bought a larger mash tun and then brewed a double batch on brew day.
So, what is it like to brew a double batch on brew day? I have been putting this off for several months because I knew it was going to be a BIG job. I talked a lot to my good friend and homebrewer extraordinaire, Bryce Lowrance, to get some ideas on how to shorten and make brew day go smooth, as he also bought a 15 gallon bourbon barrel and brewed an Imperial Stout to fill it (Thanks, Bryce, your input was invaluable!!!). Alright, to answer the question I posed in the first sentence of this paragraph, it was the longest, hardest brew day of my life.
I started at 5:30 AM, and finished at 11:00 PM that night. And even at that, I wasn’t really completely done, as all of my equipment was (mostly) clean, but not put away (that took a couple of hours the following day). So what about the wort I made that day? [Not sure what “wort” is? – refer to “Terms and Definitions”, published in this blog on May 4, 2012.] Original Gravity (see “Term and Definitions”) was 1.117. Final Gravity was 1.029 (for 11.8% ABV). It’s currently conditioning in glass carboys on cacao nibs to increase/accentuate the chocolate notes. I tasted it when I racked it from the fermentor to the conditioning carboys – it’s really good, although a bit boozy right now.
After about a month or so in the carboys, I will transfer it to the bourbon barrel, where it will age for several months. How long? Well, that will be determined by taste, as the beer matures in the barrel. With the bourbon absorption from the barrel, I anticipate the final ABV will be somewhere between 13% – 14%. Stay tuned.
This beer was a lot of work!! Was it worth it? That remains to be seen, but I’m confident it’s going to turn out very well. I will say this however, it’s going to be a long time before I undertake another endeavor like this again (a double batch in one day). Now that should make Mrs. Mac very happy!
Note: A shout out and special Thank You again to Bryce Lowrance. As I mentioned, he is a very talented homebrewer. So much so that he is going pro. He has accepted a position as head brewer for Far Field Beer Company, a start-up brewery in Los Angeles. Congratulations Bryce! I’m wishing you and Far Field Beer Company all the best in this endeavor. I’m sure you will be a great success, and I hope to be there on opening day to sample your beer!
Maktoberfest– Brewed June 22, 2018. ABV – TBD, 26 IBU.
My annual Märzen (Oktoberfest) brew. No recipe change on this one; I think it’s dialed in. Malty, sweet, with German noble hops. It’s currently fermenting and progressing as expected. This will be on tap in late August or early September. I’m going to have 10 gallons for myself, so maybe you all should stop by for a pint or two.
Well, so much for the beer I’ve been brewing the last few months. Keeping in mind that this newsletter is already too long, let me mention (briefly) a couple of other newsworthy items.
- I hope to remodel the pub in the next month or two. I hope I can find the time.
- I recently got some new equipment; I know I’m a beer geek, but this is really exciting stuff!More about this in another newsletter.
- I’m not sure what to brew next, but I’m thinking of a couple of other lagers – a schwartzbier (black lager – think Köstritzer) and a Vienna lager (think Samuel Adams Boston Lager).
- Sheila (Mrs. Mac) REALLY deserves special recognition for putting up with me and all the brewing/beer activity here. She really is a keeper (I love you sweetheart!).
Well, that’s it for now. I have so many pages of notes about beers I’ve sampled that I really need to get to writing/posting those beer reviews. So sorry to deprive you beer lovers of this critical information; please forgive.