Mac’s Brew News – January 26, 2019

Greetings All.  You’re on this blog site because you’re interested in good beer, and especially good beer from Mac’s Brew.  To satisfy your demand for beer knowledge, here’s all the news you need to know (for now).  Please read responsibly!

As I mentioned in my last newsletter, I’ve been so busy that brewing here has slowed down to the point that I currently have only three beers on tap (in 2018 I only brewed 8 batches/85 gallons of beer).  I know, that’s just not right, but I’m taking steps to correct that problem.

We had a Thanksgiving celebration here, with extended family present.  Then on December 15thRosie graduated from Art Center College of Design (in Pasadena).  We had a graduation party that night with family and friends in attendance.  With these two parties, we emptied 3 out of 6 kegs, which is why we currently have only 3 beers on tap.  But, the 3 beers are very good.  I brewed an IPA three weeks ago, but it won’t be on tap until February.

In early February Sheila and I are leaving for Santa Rosa.  Yes, for the second year in a row, I will be going to Russian River Brewing on a Pliny the Younger quest.  Last year there were four people (including me) in our party and we had a great time. This year our party has grown to nine people, and we plan to trek over to another Santa Rosa brewery after having our ration of PTY at Russian River.

I was fortunate to meet three young fellows on Black Tuesday at The Bruery this past October.  These men were from Santa Rosa and suggested that I visit three small breweries in town – Plow Brewing, Cooperage Brewing, and Moonlight Brewing. It just so happens that all three of these breweries are close to each other, and just a few miles away from RR. Unfortunately we won’t have time to visit all three, so we’ve chosen to visit Cooperage Brewing.

If you were not aware, Russian River Brewing has opened another facility (brewery and bistro) a few miles up the road from their Santa Rosa location.  We are hoping that the new facility (much larger than their SR brewpub) will draw off a significant portion of the crowd from Santa Rosa, resulting in shorter wait times.  I’ll let you know how that works out for us.  And, by the way, this year Sheila is attending the PTY madness with us at Russian River (last year she went wine tasting while I was beer tasting).  She will be the sole female in our group that day, but I have no doubt she will be able to hold her own (and she loves IPAs).

I’m sure you’re all anxious to know what is currently being offered at Mac’s.  Here is the current and soon-to-be available beer list.

Maktoberfest: Brewed June 22, 2018.  5.5 ABV, 26 IBU
This is one of my most requested and sought after brews, second only to Goldihops (Honey Blonde Ale).  It’s really easy drinking with the low alcohol and bitterness, and Oktoberfest style beers are very popular.  I brewed this alone, so I had 10 gallons for consumption at Mac’s Brew Pub, and that’s why it’s still on tap (since the beginning of September 2018). For additional description, see my newsletter of September 17, 2018.

San Andreas Malt: Brewed September 19, 2018.  5.4 on the Richter Scale, 43 IBU.
This is a California Common style lager brewed in collaboration with my friend, Jeff Nash (see Newsletter of September 17, 2018, for additional information on this beer style).  This was a new recipe and first time brewed.  That usually means tweaking the recipe and process for subsequent batches in order to get the beer I envision.  However, this turned out fantastic and I don’t plan on changing anything with future batches.  It’s a medium amber color with a slightly malty aroma, but not sweet.  The flavor is clean, crisp and hoppy, but with a nice moderately rich malt foundation (bread, toast, caramel and grainy) and dry finish that makes it well balanced (but definitely on the hoppy side).  It’s very similar to (but not a clone of) the standard bearer in this style category – Anchor “Steam Beer”.  San Andreas Malt is so good it’s shaking my world!

Wide Awake Drunk: Brewed November 7, 2018.  5.0% ABV, 45 IBU.
This is an annual fall brew at Mac’s.  It’s an English style oatmeal stout with cold brewed coffee and conditioned with cacao nibs for a nice mocha flavor.  It’s dispensed on nitrogen, so it’s creamy smooth with very little carbonation bite. It really tastes like a big stout, even though it’s only 5% ABV.  This brew was a collaboration with my young brewing friend, Dave Hollandbeck.  [Note: Dave, I need to get you over here to have WAD on nitrogen.]

Reefer Nearness: Brewed January 6, 2019.  7.1% ABV (so far), 127 IBU.
Designed and brewed in collaboration with another young brewing friend, Bryce Lowrance, this is a West Coast style IPA using Nugget hops for bittering, and Azacca and Idaho 7 hops for aroma and flavor.  It’s currently dry hopping and in the final stages of conditioning.  When I last checked (11 days ago) it was 7.1% ABV, but could possibly go just a bit higher – I’ll know when I keg it on January 31st.

I’m sure you all want to know where the name of this beer (“Reefer Nearness”) comes from, so here’s the story.  Is there anyone in this country who hasn’t seen, or at least heard of the movie, “Reefer Madness” (a 1936 propaganda film)?  Of course not.  What is not so widely known, however, is that hops (Humulus Lupulus) are a close cousin of cannabis.  Yes, it’s true (next time you have a chance to smell some hops, note the pungent “skunky” aroma), but of course hops have no THC, the psycho-active component of marijuana.  My point is this: hops are very NEAR TO MARIJUANA.  Because of this close relationship I’ve always wanted to name an IPA something along the lines of “Reefer Madness”, but of course it’s not actually reefer.  Thus, “Reefer Nearness– The Bitter Pill That Makes Life Sweet” was born.

Reefer Nearness is still conditioning, so I have not yet tasted it.  I only hope it’s good enough to cause as much of a stir as its namesake (“Reefer Madness”).

I think my next brew will be Goldihops.  I plan to brew it in mid-February after returning from Santa Rosa.  I need to start looking for a brewing partner for this one.

In 2018 I did not enter any brewing competiions – we were too busy travelling.  I plan to enter some of my brews into a couple of competitions this year. The American Homebrewers Association national competition is coming up soon and I think I will enter San Andreas Malt and Maktoberfest.  I’m considering Wide Awake Drunk, and I may enter Reefer Nearness, depending on how it turns out.  If I can get Goldihops brewed in time, I will also enter that into the national.  The Orange County Fair competition is coming up in May, so I have to start thinking about entries for that competition as well.

Well, that’s all I have time for now, and of course, that’s about all you have time to read today (sorry this got so lengthy). Check in again soon, or subscribe to macsbrew.com to get all the latest news and beer reviews.

Sláinte!

Mac’s Brew News – December 23, 2018

Greetings Beer Lovers.  It’s been awhile since my last newsletter, but now it’s time to bring you all up to date about what’s happening at Mac’s Brew.  Please read responsibly!

Fall is a busy time at Mac’s Brew.  Football games, travel, brewing beer – it all adds up to a very hectic schedule.  My favorite football team laid an egg this season.  Oh well, better luck next year.  I brewed only two batches of beer this fall (San Andreas Malt and Wide Awake Drunk).  Both are currently on tap.  More about those in my next newsletter.  Our travels were the highlight of the fall season.

Sheila and I went to Italy for a couple of weeks in October, along with Rose Evans (mother-in-law), Don Evans (brother-in-law) and Donna Evans (sister-in-law).  While there, I went on a craft beer quest – after all, I need to keep current on worldwide beer trends.  Good craft beer is not easy to find in Italy, but it is available if you seek it out. Most everyone has had Birra Moretti and/or Peroni – two well known Italian Pilsner Lagers that are available everywhere in the United States.  Of course they are ubiquitous in Italy, and I did drink some of it while I was there (they were the only things available in some of the restaurants where we ate). Those are typical Pilsners, although I would argue that they only rank as so-so in that style category.  Oh well, it was beer.

As a side note, just a couple of short years ago, Don was strictly a Coors Light drinker.  He has significantly expanded his horizons since then, and has become quite a discriminating craft beer lover (I hope I had something to do with that transformation).  Donna, on the other hand, is still a Coors Light girl.  To her credit, however, she was game and sampled much of the craft beer that Don and I drank in Italy.  Some she didn’t like at all, and several others drew this comment from her, “Well, I don’t hate it.”  And then there was actually one that she liked (noted below).

Now, about the beer in Italy (Craft and otherwise) . . . here is what you need to know about it.  I will provide very limited details of the beers I consumed while in Italy. Rather than giving you detailed beer reviews, I will just touch on the highlights and include them in this newsletter. I list them in the order I found/drank them, and offer just a few details of each one.  [Note: This is not an exhaustive list.  I had some non-craft beer that is not included here – I have no notes, and it was pretty forgettable.]

Our first stop in Italy was Venice.  As everybody knows, instead of streets, they have canals in Venice, as the city is built on swampland.

Theresianer Vienna: Antica Birreria Di Triesta.  5.3% ABV
(Silver at 2011 Chicago World Beer Championship; Bronze 2015 International Beer Challenge)

I can’t find my notes on this beer. This is a Vienna Lager.  Think Samuel Adams Boston Lager, but not that good. Sorry I can’t be more specific, but know that it’s decent beer, and shines compared to Birra Moretti.  I drank this at the bar in the Hotel Bauer in Venice (its where we stayed).

La Rossa: BirraNatura.  6.0% ABV
La Rossa means red.  A lot of Italian breweries put out a “La Rossa”, including Birra Moretti (the best La Rossa I had in Italy).  I don’t have my notes from this tasting, which occurred at the train station in Venice.  It’s a dunkle lager, but (because I couldn’t read the Italian printing on the bottle while drinking this one) I don’t know much more than that.  I can say this, however, it was altogether forgettable.

We took a high-speed train from Venice to Milan, then hired a shuttle to take us to Bellagio, on Lake Como.  The following three beers I drank at Far Out in Bellagio. Far Out is a small restaurant tucked in an alley just up from the lake, and adjacent to our hotel.  The restaurant offers a selection of craft beer. Don and I went there after dinner on Friday evening, 10-12-18, to sample the beer.   The proprietor, Roberto, was a gracious host who knew craft beer and made suggestions.  He spent quite a bit of time with us and informed us about a craft beer bar (Gambrinus – more on that below) within walking distance.  We enjoyed our experience there so much that evening that we returned there for lunch the following day with Sheila, Rose and Donna. They enjoyed the food and beer as well, and Roberto again treated us as if we were royalty.  Salute, Roberto!

Roberto and Mac at Far Out in Bellagio.

MILF Passion: Birrificio Legnone.  7.0% ABV
An English style Strong Ale.  Deep Amber in color with a light beige head.  Quite malty, and pretty good.  I drank three bottles of this at “Far Out” restaurant/bar in Bellagio (Lake Como).

Yes, I really had MILF Passion in Italy.

Monkey Planet IPA: Birrificio Legnone.  7.0% ABV
An American style IPA, but of course, brewed in Italy.  It was decent, though not terribly exciting.  There’s no doubt it is a mild IPA, but Americans are spoiled by the HUGE selection of outstanding IPAs we enjoy in our country.  This is one of two IPAs I found in Italy.

Spiga Di Legno: Birrificio Legnone.  5.0% ABV.
Golden Ale; very mild.  Low alcohol, easy drinking.  I visited this once, but that was enough.  Donna, a Pilsner drinker, really liked this one.

On Saturday afternoon, 10-13-18, while the girls were shopping, Don and I went to Taverna Gambrinus.  We sat outside in their beer garden and sampled some of their wide selection.  It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon, and this is where I had the best Italian beer of the entire two-week excursion in Italy.  Don and I returned to the tavern on Sunday evening for a nightcap or two, and spent our time inside the bar talking to the owner, Fabio.  The place was rather small, but charming, and they had a large selection of craft beer (ok, not like Yardhouse or Heroe’s, but there were about a dozen beers on tap).  Over the course of my two trips to Gambrinus, I sampled the five beers listed next.

Don and Mac at the Beer Garden. Don is drinking Bibock; Mac is having Nigredo. Salute!

Sampling the selections on Saturday afternoon at the Taverna Gambrinus Beer Garden.

Nigredo: Birrificio Italiano.  6.5% ABV
This is a dark lager (schwartzbier), but a bit higher in alcohol than is typical for the style.  Good beer, not great.

Reale Extra: Birra del Borgo.6.4% ABV
American style IPA (hoppy).  Very good.

Bibock: Birrificio Italiano.  6.2% ABVB
This is a German style Bock beer.  It’s malty but mild and balanced.  Not as big as most German bocks, but very tasty. Both Don and I really liked this beer.

Big Sharp: Draco’s Cave.  8.6% ABV
This is a barrel aged strong ale with Brettanomyces. It’s sour but not overwhelming. Oak is noticeable in both the flavor and aroma.  It’s chestnut brown with an off white 1” head that lasts for quite some time in a tulip glass.  It’s very drinkable, not too sour.  This beer is EXCELLENT, and was the best beer I had while in Italy.

Big Sharp – the best beer I had in Italy.

Ghisa: Birrificio Lambrate.  5.0% ABV
This is a smoked stout on nitrogen.  It’s chocolaty with just a hint of smoke. It’s creamy smooth, which adds to the enjoyment of this stout.  I’m a sucker for nitrogen stouts, but this one was pretty forgettable.  Guinness, anyone?

Mac in front of Taverna Gambrinus.

After Bellagio, we moved on to Milan.  I really didn’t find any local craft beer there, but drank some “Craft” type offerings from Birra Poretti and Birra Moretti.  I found one craft beer while on a day trip to Verano.  There we ate lunch with our tour guide for the day, and our driver (for our entire stay in Milan), Fabio Marsala.

2969 Monpier de Gherdeina: Birrificio Gardena SRL.  5.0% ABV
This is a Helles style lager, brewed by Birrificio Gardena in the Dolomites region of Italy (near the German/Austrian border). The printing on the bottle was in both Italian and German.  It is dry hopped with Citra and Amarillo hops, which gives it a hoppy aroma, but the taste is more on the malty side.  This beer is pretty good, but the flavor is light.

In Milan Don and I each had a 1 liter Birra Porettiat a sidewalk café outside of Basilica Milano.  It’s a Pilsner lager, available everywhere, and not memorable.  Think Budweiser or Coors, but not as good.  I’m not going to waste any words describing this beer.  If you’re interested, you mightfind it at any Italian restaurant in the U.S.

Don and Mac having liters of Birra Poretti in the Duomo, Milano.

We ate dinner at a restaurant called Mozzarella e Basilico (right behind our hotel) where we had some pretty good Birra Morreti.  In addition, the servers brought us some delicious variants of Lemoncello – melon flavored and pistachio flavored liquor.

La Rossa: Birra Moretti.  7.2% ABV
As I already mentioned, there are a lot of “La Rossa” beers in Italy.  This was by far the best La Rossa I had.  It was a draft pour at Mozzarella e Basilico.  Deep amber in color, with lots of dark fruit and raisin notes.  Smooth drinking and the relatively high alcohol content was well hidden.  Very good beer.

From Milan we flew down to Sicily, where we stayed in Palermo.  Rose’s grandparents immigrated from Bisacquino and Santo Stefano, two little villages on the island of Sicily.  We went to the Roman Catholic Church in the village square (Bisacquino) where Rose found baptismal and wedding records of her grandparents and earlier ancestors dating back to 1829.

In Palermo we stayed at Grand Hotel Villa Igiea, one of the nicest hotels in town.  They had a bar where Don and I found several Italian Craft beer offerings (all were in 750 ml bombers).

Ulysses: Birraficio Dell’Etna.  5.7% ABV
This is a “Birra Bionda” (American Pale Ale). It’s hazy yellow with a subdued citrus hoppy aroma.  The flavor was grapefruit, but not strong.  It’s a nice enough pale ale, but will not be challenging Sierra Nevada anytime soon.

Polyphemus: Birraficio Dell’Etna.  6.6% ABV
A “Doppio Malto” (Double Malt) ale.  Based on the aroma and flavor, I would say it’s a Belgian Dubbel.  It’s cloudy light brown with a light head.  It has a sweet/spicy aroma and flavor – not too strong, but definitely Belgian.  I’m not a fan of Belgian style beers, but this was pretty good.

Ephisto: Birraficio Dell’Etna.  6.5% ABV
Birra Rosa Doppio Malto (a Belgian Dubbel Amber, bottle conditioned).  It’s hazy red with a white head.  Spicy sweet Belgian aroma and flavor.  The spicy-sweet notes are pretty strong.  It’s definitely a Belgian.  Not my style.

Alla Siciliana: Birra Moretti.  5.8% ABV
Blonde Ale with flower blossoms.  Alla Siciliana is deep yellow with a white head.  It has a sweet aroma with just a bit of orange. The flavor is clean and somewhat fruity, with light spicy and orange notes.  Very tasty beer.

On Saturday 10-20-18 we went into downtown Palermo to see the famous Opera House.  Around lunch time we stopped at a sidewalk café.  I had an ice cream sandwich with pistachio and hazelnut gelato. It wasn’t like our ice cream sandwiches in America.  They cut a bread roll in half and put scoops of gelato between the two pieces of bread. Delicious, if not unusual.  I also had another Italian craft beer.

La Rossa: Birra Vulcano.  6.0% ABV
The label says this is a Belgian Amber ale. It’s amber in color, but I didn’t really detect any signature Belgian flavors or aromas.  It’s sweet with some notes of raisin and dark fruit. Carbonation level is high (it’s bottle conditioned).  Pretty good beer.

The beer (Birra Vulcano) was forgettable, but the ice cream sandwich was delicious. In Palermo.

Well, that just about sums up my quest for craft beer in Italy, but I add one final beer tasting.  On the Alitalia flight home, I had my last Italian beer of the trip. I’m not sure, but it could be the same beer I had on tap at the sidewalk cafe in the Duomo in Milan.

Luppoli 4: Birrificio Angelo Poretti.  5.5% ABV
I just had to try it.  It’s a light colored Pilsner style lager with a nice sweet aroma. The flavor is mild, slightly sweet. I could have had more, but one was quite enough.

My Final Italian beer. It’s likely to be awhile before I have another.

We had lots of fun in Italy – the uniqueness of Venice, the beauty of Lake Como, the bustle of Milan, and the terror of driving in Palermo.  I could write a lot about the sights, but this is a beer blog, after all, and so you all get to hear about the craft beer scene (or rather, the relative lack thereof) in Northern Italy and Sicily.  By far, the best beer in Italy was in Bellagio at Far Out (thanks, Roberto!) and at Taverna Gambrinus (thanks, Fabio!).

I need to give a shout out here to our wonderful driver in Milano.  Fabio Marsala drove us all around the region for four days in a Mercedes Benz van.  He worked long hours, took us to out-of-the-way places, made food and restaurant recommendations, and was always kind and courteous.  Fabio, if you ever read this, know that all five of us (Rose, Sheila, Don, Donna and I) really appreciate your attentiveness.  You’re the bomb!

Our last night in Milano. Donna, Rose, Sheila and Don with our fantastic driver, FABIO.

That’s it for now, beer lovers.  Stay tuned for more beer reviews coming soon.  Merry Christmas.

Salute!

Mac’s Brew News – September 17, 2018

Greetings, beer fans.  It’s been way too long, but I will try to catch you up without getting too lengthy.  Please read responsibly!

Well, where to start?  How about an update on a couple of items from the previous newsletter . . .

Maktoberfest– Brewed June 22, 2018.  5.5% ABV, 26 IBU. (Now on tap)
I brew this malty German Märzen each year in late June to have on tap during the Oktoberfest season.  It features a caramel sweet flavor with enough German noble hops to give it some balance.  This is an easy one to like.

Strange Addiction– Brewed May 30, 2018.  12.1% ABV (so far), 78 IBU.
When I last wrote about Strange Addiction in the previous newsletter, it was conditioning in glass carboys on cacao. I finally racked it to the bourbon barrel on Friday September 7, 2018.  It conditioned in the carboys for about 2½ months, which was about a month longer than I had planned, but there’s a good reason for the extensive cacao aging.

At the end of June I was planning to add some fresh bourbon to the barrel for a few weeks to get it ready for the stout. I first thought to fill it with water to confirm that it was watertight.  Good thing I didn’t just put the bourbon in the barrel without checking – that would have been an expensive mistake.  It leaked like a sieve.  Yes, I let it sit dry for too long (I bought the barrel at the end of November, 2017), and who knows how long it had been dry before I got it?  It took me about a week of filling the barrel with water and draining it each day before it was leak-proof.

On July 5, 2017 I finally added the bourbon to the barrel – 1.75 liters of Maker’s Mark (not the good stuff, their lower end bourbon).  I rotated the barrel daily to infuse the entire barrel with fresh bourbon.  I thought the entire amount of bourbon would be absorbed, but it never was, and although I couldn’t really tell how much was still in the barrel, it sounded like a lot when I would slosh it around each morning.  Finally on Friday September 7 I decided enough was enough, and removed the remaining bourbon so I could fill the barrel with beer.  Much to my surprise, there was only 300 ml of bourbon left when I drained it.  [Now, the question is, how much of that 1450 ml was absorbed by the oak, and how much was lost to evaporation.  I can’t know for sure, but I’m thinking most was absorbed, as it wasn’t really in the barrel for that long, and it was well sealed.]

I racked the 15 gallons of Strange Addiction to the barrel and topped it off with the 300 ml of bourbon that I had just removed. I also checked the gravity to see if it had changed at all during the 2½-month conditioning.  I expected no change, as I had not seen any evidence of slow fermentation during that time.  I was very pleasantly surprised to find it had dropped a couple of gravity points to 1.027, which raised the alcohol level to 12.1% ABV.  Now if I can just be patient for a few months and let this beast develop the sweet bourbon and oak notes; that’s not going to be easy.  I’ll start tasting it in early January to assess its progress.

Strange Addiction’s home for the next few months.

Strange Addiction is aging in this “Few Spirits” bourbon barrel

So much for the old news.  Let’s get to the recent stuff.

Hurricane Mac: Brewed July 30, 2018.  7.0% ABV, 110 IBU. (Now on tap)
I’ve brewed numerous IPAs (my own recipes), but not one of them has been to my satisfaction.  Although most of them were pretty good, they just never turned out like I wanted them  . . . until now.  Finally, I nailed an IPA.

Hurricane Mac is a Category 5 Tropical Fruit Hop Storm. It’s a New England style IPA (juicy and slightly hazy), with overwhelming tropical fruit and citrus notes. In spite of the relatively high IBU level (this is per BeerSmith, my brewing software, and I suspect it’s not really that high), I used only 1½ oz. of hops in the boil (12½ gallons volume post-boil).  Instead, I saved most all of my hop additions for whirlpooling and dry hopping – 21 oz. of Citra, Mosaic and Zythos.  It’s not a bitter bomb.  In fact, as I noted, it’s actually a tropical and citrus fruit bomb.  It’s delicious, and very refreshing (but watch out, at 7% alcohol, it can put the hurt on you).

San Andreas Malt: Brew day September 19, 2018.
This is my first attempt at a California Common style lager.  So you’re not sure what that style is?  Think Anchor Steam Beer (thanks to Fritz Maytag for rescuing this style from the dustbin of history when he purchased Anchor Brewing in 1964).  Although this is not a clone of Anchor Steam, I am hoping to get it pretty close – caramel malty, but dry, with noticeable hop bitterness and flavor.

What’s more common in California than earthquakes, huh?  That’s why I’m calling it San Andreas Malt.  We’ll see how it turns out.  I’ll brew in a couple of days, then ferment and condition for several weeks (it’s a lager, so fairly lengthy cold conditioning is required).  This is a collaboration brew with Jeff Nash (he’s been brewing for awhile, but it’s his first foray into all grain brewing).  I should have it on tap in early November.

I put on my annual Beer Appreciation Party on Saturday September 8, 2018 (we missed it last year due to extensive backyard remodeling and construction).  There were about 60 people in attendance.  The theme this year was IPAs.  Sheila and I provided some; several attendees supplied many more. We served samples of 13 different IPAs over the course of the evening – from Anchor’s Liberty Ale (the first post Prohibition American IPA), to Hurricane Mac, to Pliny the Elder (the IPA game changer, and still the IPA standard bearer).

Of note, Don and Donna Evans came from Utah to attend the party, and Rose Evans came from Arizona to attend.  Now that’s a real commitment to beer!  Don brought Underbite Double IPAfrom Big Dog’s Brewing Company in Las Vegas, Nevada.  It’s a double IPA that’s not available in California (or anywhere outside of Nevada).  There is an interesting story behind this beer getting all the way to Mac’s Brew Pub, the brewer, (Amanda Koeller), and the dog who inspired it (Sorrel). I will enlighten all of you when I post a beer review on Underbite Double IPA very shortly.  You won’t want to miss it.

Don Evans (with Mac) presenting Underbite Double IPA at Mac’s Beer Appreciation party, September 8, 2018.

Well, that’s all I have time for right now, and this newsletter is getting longer than I had intended.  Check back real soon, because I plan to post some beer reviews, including the review of Underbite (since I just teased you with a little introduction) in the next few days.

Sláinte!

Mac’s Brew News – June 26, 2018

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.

Don, Donna, Rose, Sheila and Mac in Aristides Lounge at the Kentucky Derby

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).

Strange Addiction – Peter Chapman’s racehorse.

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!]

Don, Mac, and Peter at the Kentucky Oaks, Friday May 4, 2018

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.

15+ gallons of Strange Addiction – Mac’s Imperial Oatmeal Stout.

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.

Sláinte!

Mac’s Brew News – February 18, 2018

GREETINGS, BEER AFICIONADOS. The holidays are over, and I’ve been on two vacations since the beginning of 2018. Now it’s time to bring you some beer wisdom. Please read responsibly!

I haven’t brewed since October (Lights Out, black IPA). I was too busy with our outdoor fireplace project and then the holidays. In mid-January, we went to Italy and Spain for a couple of weeks, then the first week of February I went to Santa Rosa to score some Pliny the Younger. I’m hoping to brew in the next couple of weeks. I really need to get going because I’m running out of beer at Mac’s (only 4 beers on tap right now, with two taps empty and a third nearly empty).

Ok, so what about Italy and Spain? Sheila and I were on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean, with stops in Italian and Spanish ports of call. We were travelling with Rose, Don and Donna Evans.

Well, the beer scene there leaves much to be desired. There is a well known craft brewery in Northern Italy (Baladin), but we never made it to the north, and I was unable to find Baladin anywhere in Tuscany, Rome, or Southern Italy, including Sicily. The beer was pretty much limited to Peroni and Birra Moretti (both are so-so, uninspiring lagers available stateside; don’t waste your time – I didn’t). Heineken was also widely available. Now if you’re looking for wine, that’s a different story – it’s everywhere, and it’s very good. I much prefer red wine, with it’s more complex and robust flavor, to white, and I certainly had my fill of it in Italy.

On board the ship, they had a great black lager (Köstritzer, 4.8% ABV), a porter (Carnegie Porter by Carlsberg, 5.5% ABV) and a Belgian double amber (Grimbergen Dubbel Ambree, 6.5% ABV), so I was able to have some good beer for part of the trip. My go to beer on board was Köstritzer, but I also drank the Carnegie Porter on occasion. Don (my brother-in-law) and Sheila drank the Grimbergen almost exclusively (it was good, but not my style). Donna stuck with a light colored draft Pilsner (I believe it was Carlsberg). Note: Donna – we gotta coach you up and expand your horizons; there’s a lot of good beer out there waiting for you to sample.

In Spain the beer situation is a little better, but still underwhelming. San Miguel brews some decent beer, but doesn’t offer much variety. In Madrid I drank some Cruzcampo Gran Reserva. It was a good (not great) amber lager that had a little more flavor than a typical pilsner. I had never heard of Cruzcampo, but have since learned it is Spain’s largest beer producer. This Gran Reserva was the best beer I found in Spain, but I don’t plan on looking for it at home.

Mac and Don having a San Miguel and tapas in Madrid. January 26, 2018

Now let’s talk about some real beer. On February 5, 2018, I left home on a pilgrimage to Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, California, in order to secure some Pliny the Younger – a triple IPA. This beer is consistently rated among the top five beers in the world. It is brewed once a year and is served on tap only, beginning the first Friday of February and for two weeks thereafter. There are a VERY few locations in Orange County where this wonderful beer is also available during this time, but the waiting lines are prohibitively long, so I have never tried.

If you want to get some PTY at Russian River, plan on going to the brewery during those two weeks in February, and waiting in line for a couple of hours (or up to 6 – 8 hours on the weekend). I went with my father, Bob Waddell, and met my uncle, Kevin McCaffrey (from Seattle, WA), and cousin, Jordan Schiller, at Russian River Brewing.

Mac, Kevin, Bob and Jordan waiting in line at Russian River Brewing. February 7, 2018

Going to Santa Rosa and drinking PTY was a bucket list thing for me, and is something Uncle Kevin and I have been talking about doing for 3 – 4 years now. After driving over 500 miles and waiting in line for more than two hours, I must say the reward (three ½ pints of PTY) was worth all the effort, and I will definitely do it again in the future. Pliny the Younger is marvelous!

Mac and Jordan drinking Pliny the Younger at Russian River. February 7, 2018

If you’re an IPA lover and have ever had Pliny the Elder, you know how good it is and how loaded it is with juicy citrus flavors. We shared a pint of Pliny the Elder to taste alongside our Pliny the Younger. Although PTE itself is a hard and hoppy punch in the mouth, it tasted washed out compared to PTY. I say that to say this: If you like Pliny the Elder, you’re gonna love Pliny the Younger. You just gotta have some. It’s hoppy and bitter, but has a huge malt foundation that sweetens the bitterness and creates a very complex IPA. The hoppiness is bigger than PTE, but I would also say it’s more balanced due to the increased maltiness. The body is also heavier, thicker and smoother, lending additional complexity to the brew. The ABV is 10.25%, compared to PTE, which is 8.0%. The higher alcohol is not prevelant in the flavor, but is definitely warming in the throat and thus is more noticeable. If you’re and IPA lover, this beer is a dream come true.

Bob and Kevin raising a glass of Pliny the Younger at Russian River Brewing. February 7, 2018

After heaping all this praise on Pliny the Younger, in all fairness, I must ask myself, “Do I rate it so highly due to the ‘mystique’ surrounding the beer?”

  • Is it really that good, or am I responding to all the hype, the difficulty obtaining it, and the time and effort involved?
  • Would I rate it so highly if it was easy to obtain (like, for example, Lagunitas IPA)?
  • If I didn’t know that it is annually rated among the greatest beers in the world, would I still gush over it?

Of course my answer is only speculation, but I believe I’m being objective when I heap all the afore mentioned praise on Pliny the Younger, and when I say it is definitely as good as advertised, possibly even better. I have an idea . . . why don’t you go to Russian River Brewing next February, have some PTY and decide for yourself. Then you can be the judge.

Well, I need to close out this newsletter before it gets so long that you lose interest. I need to come up with a recipe for my next brew (an IPA), and spend some time posting more beer reviews. Sooooooooo, that’s it for now, but check back soon for more of Mac’s beer wisdom. Better yet, subscribe to Macsbrew.com now and you’ll be notified whenever a new post is added.

Sláinte!

Mac’s Brew News – December 18, 2017

Greetings, beer lovers. Sorry I’ve been away so long. I have been busy with some backyard remodeling projects. These projects have cut into my time for blogging and brewing. Now that I have a little time, I’ll catch you up on what’s developing at Mac’s Brew Pub. Please read responsibly!

Rob Gundling is a friend of mine; he also owns Phantom Ales in Anaheim. Phantom Ales is a small craft brewery and homebrew supply shop (best prices around for brewing supplies!!). Rob sampled Fat Ass in a Glass and liked it enough that he requested the recipe in order to brew it at Phantom Ales. I gave him the recipe with the proviso that he allow me to participate on brew day.

Rob and I brewed a 3-barrel batch of Fat Ass on August 9, 2017.   It finished at 12.2% ABV and was on tap at Phantom about a month later. Rob chose to name it “Duck Waddle” (c’mon Rob, “Fat Ass in a Glass” is a great name for a big beer – but you’re running a business, so I get it). I brought a bottle of Fat Ass to Phantom so Rob and I could sample it along side of Duck Waddle. They tasted very similar, although there were some subtle differences. I thought Duck Waddle was very good (though it would have benefited from some aging), and it sold out in a couple of months. I don’t know if he will ever brew it again, but let’s hope he does.

Thanks, Rob! I appreciate that you were willing to take the chance and brew this recipe. And to any of you homebrewers in North Orange County who are not purchasing your supplies at Phantom Ales, you’re paying too much.  Oh, and the beer is very good too, so get on over there for some good times. ( http://phantomales.com)

One of the backyard projects I just recently completed was a barbeque island. The island includes a two-tap Perlick kegerator. I have reserved this kegerator for nitrogen dispensing – that means I will be pretty much limiting it to stouts and big beers. I have to say, it’s really cool to have nitrogen beers at home. That dispensation adds so much character to certain beer styles.

Well, I currently have 6 beers on tap at Mac’s Brew Pub, although I haven’t brewed anything for two months (too busy). Here is what’s currently being served.

Maktoberfest – Brewed 06-23-2017. 5.3% ABV
I brewed 10 gallons, and am currently on the second keg (5 gallons). It’s delicious and much in demand.

Smack Down – Brewed 08-19-2017 7.9% ABV (123 IBU)
I brewed this in collaboration with Dave Hollandbeck. This is a completely revised recipe. I cut way back on the crystal malts and changed the hop varietals, leaving this version much less malty sweet, and more citrusy. It’s the best Smack Down I have brewed, but still is not where I want to take it. More revisions to come.

Goldihops (and the Free Beers) – Brewed 07-24-2017. 5.5% ABV
I brewed 10 gallons with my neighbor, Barry Pulis – 5 gallons for the neighborhood block party, and 5 gallons for Mac’s Brew Pub. Same old recipe. The keg lasted about two hours at the block party, and the keg at Mac’s is almost empty.

Lights Out IPA – Brewed 10-22-2017. 7.3% ABV (122 IBU)
This Black IPA is a collaboration brew with Bryce Lowrance, a talented and award winning young brewer whom I am proud to call my friend. This is Bryce’s recipe, and I gotta say it’s a keeper. It’s got the roasty and slight chocolaty notes of a small stout, but with the hoppiness of an IPA.

This style (Black IPA) was quite popular a few years ago, but has kind of lost some of its following. It’s not as widely available as it once was. When Bryce offered his recipe for our collaboration, I jumped on it. It turned out wonderful – slightly sweet and roasty, but without the grainy bitterness of a typical stout.  Then add lots of hop character, and it’s a great flavor sensation. Good job Bryce!

Phat Head – Brewed 06-03-2017. 11.7% ABV.
This is my chocolate coconut imperial oatmeal stout. I brewed this in early June, then conditioned it for four months. I added the toasted coconut when I kegged it in mid-October. It’s on nitrogen in my outside kegerator.

This beer is REALLY good! Very chocolaty and thick like a milkshake. The coconut flavor was very pronounced, but faded after about a month (when it was first put on tap, it was like drinking a mounds candy bar). I toasted another ½ lb. of coconut and added it to the keg a week ago. I plan to leave it in the keg for another week to infuse additional coconut flavor, and am hoping that it will stand up to extended keg storage.

Wide Awake Drunk – Brewed 09-30-2017. 5.4% ABV
This is my annual coffee stout brew. This year I brewed it in collaboration with Martin and Marty Gilberstadt. I think this is my third collaboration with Gilberstadts – it’s always such a pleasure to brew with these guys.

Wide Awake Drunk is also on nitrogen. As always, I added cold brewed “Black House” coffee from Modern Times Brewery/Coffee Roastery. There’s a reason why I keep brewing the same recipe year after year without revision – it’s really good. This year however, it’s better than usual because it’s on nitrogen. Thick and creamy from the oatmeal and nitrogen, it’s like a mocha latte. Come over to Mac’s and get some if you have the time.

Well, that’s what’s on tap at Mac’s right now. If any of these sound appealing to you, come on down to Mac’s Brew Pub for a pint (or six). Unfortunately, with the backyard projects (not quite done yet), the holidays, and upcoming travel plans, I’m not going to be able to brew again until late February. That means I’m going to end up with empty faucets on my kegerator before I have more beer available. It also probably means I won’t have anything to enter into any homebrew competitions in 2018. Oh well, such is Mac’s plight. So much for being retired and having all the time in the world. . .

That’s about all I have time for this newsletter. And I know you’re glad, because you have only so much time for reading superfluous drivel such as this. I have numerous beer reviews to publish, but I have to find the time. I promise to get to that real soon. That’s it for now. Christmas is one week from today, so Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

Sáinte!

Mac’s Brew News – July 5, 2017

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AMERICA!!

Well, it’s been way too long since I posted a newsletter.  I was kept busy with the Vendome Beer Panel, and couldn’t seem to find the time to compose a newsletter.  I don’t know what happened with Vendome, but they haven’t had a beer panel in a couple of months.  During that time I’ve kept busy brewing . . .

I provided the beer for Nathan Roberts’ wedding reception on May 13, 2017.  I brewed a Pale Ale (I originally called it “Prothalamion Pale Ale”, but eventually settled on “Hoppy Wedding Day”) and a Honey Blonde Ale (“Honeymoon Sweet”).  I was honored to brew the Beer for Nathan and Nicole’s wedding, and received nothing but positive feedback.  Unfortunately, I ended up with very little beer at Mac’s because it all went to the event. The good news is I brewed two wheat beers a few weeks before the wedding, and  I have brewed three batches since then (see below).  It’s good to have lots of beer at MBP again.

I recently bought a counterflow wort chiller, hoping to speed up and simplify the wort cooling process.  So far it has done just the opposite of what I wanted.  It’s more time consuming and complicated, and uses more cooling water than the immersion chiller system I was previously using.  So far it’s proving to be a costly mistake, but I’m hoping I can figure out some way to make it more efficient.

I entered three beers in the American Homebrewers Association national competition – Fat Ass in a Glass, Wide Awake Drunk and Paper Ass Pale Ale.  This competition is so large (just under 9000 entires this year) that I did not expect any of my beers to progress past the first round, but was hoping to score well and get judges comments to help me improve my brews.

All three scored quite well, but Wide Awake Drunk and FAIG scored extremely well.  In fact, Wide Awake Drunk scored higher than any beer I’ve ever entered into competition (including two second place winners at the OC Fair in years past), but it was entered into the most crowded category of the competition.  FAIG scored just two points lower than WAD.  I received very positive feed back on both entries.

I decided to enter those two beers into the OC Fair Homebrew Competition as well.  I haven’t received my score sheets yet, but I was notified that Fat Ass in a Glass won first place in it’s category (same category entered in the national competition, Strong English Ale).  So my uncle, Kevin McCaffrey, was apparently right – after consuming a glass of Fat Ass, he commented it could very well be called, “Fine Ass in a Glass.”  Thanks for the kind words, and vote of confidence, Kevin!  The blue ribbon validates your observations and opinion, and I’ve been gloating for several days now.

So what am I serving at Mac’s Brew Pub these days?  I’m glad you asked.  It’s summertime, and we have summertime beers available right now

Anchor Steam Beer – When I had only two of four taps dispensing beer (because of the wedding), I had to buy a commercial keg to increase the selections.  Anchor Steam Beer is a “no brainer” when it comes to deciding what to put on tap.  Although not technically a summertime beer, it’s a light and refreshing lager, the beer that launched the craft beer revolution in the mid 1960’s.  It’s been on tap here since June 1st, and is running low.  Fortunately I have something to take it’s place when it runs out later this month.

Mak’s Bavarian Hefeweizen – My go-to refreshing “lawn mowing” beer.  I never get tired of this one.

Mac’s Cherry Wheat – I alternate cherry wheat and apricot wheat for my fruit beer selection each summer.  This year it’s cherry.  This beer and the hefeweizen listed above, were brewed in the same batch, but fermented separately with different yeast in order to get drastically different flavors (then cherry was added to the one to get cherry wheat).  This is really thirst quenching and refreshing.

Aeronautical Amber Ale – As the name implies, you’ll be soaring with pleasure when you drink this one.  I haven’t brewed this recipe in at least two years, but on May 26, I brewed this with Rick Pullen, Reid Pulled and Mike Pierson.  I changed the recipe just a little because they don’t like their beer as hoppy as I do.  It tastes just a bit more malty, and not as bitter as previous renditions, BUT I think I actually like it better this way.  It’s more true to the American Amber Ale style, and is really delicious.

Chocolate Coconut Imperial Oatmeal Stout – I brewed this on June 3; it’s still in the secondary fermenter with cacao.  Last time I checked, it was 9.6% ABV.  I plan to age this for a few months before kegging and adding the coconut.  It should be on tap in September.

Maktoberfest – Ah yes, my annual Oktoberfest lager.  I brewed this on June 23.  It’s still in the fermenter, where it will stay for another couple of weeks.  This will be on tap late August or early September.

Goldihops (and the Free Beers) – To be brewed in a few weeks.  Half of the batch (5 gal) will go to our annual neighborhood block party.  The other half will be on tap here.

I’m not sure what’s going on with Vendome.  There hasn’t been a beer panel since late April.  I’m not sure if they plan to resume the beer panel, or if it’s run it’s course and is finished.  I enjoyed the opportunity to serve on the panel and assess the many fine beers they provided.  A huge THANK YOU to Vikki Dawson at Vendome Wine and Spirits!

Well folks, that’s it for now.  Fat Ass in a Glass is nearly gone, so you better get over to Mac’s Brew Pub real soon if you want a bottle.

Cheers!

Mac’s Brew News – March 12, 2017 (Farewell to Valiant Brewing)

Well folks, this is just a quick note to pass on some sad news . . .

I heard at church this morning that Valiant Brewing in Orange, California, is closing it’s doors at the end of this month (March, 2017).  After hearing the rumor, I went home and checked on line to confirm.  Unfortunately, the news is true.

Valiant brewing, after 4 years in business in Orange, California, is permanently closing it’s doors at the end of March.  That’s really unfortunate, as they truely are one of the great breweries in Orange County.  The owner/head brewer, Brian Schroepfer, opened Valiant on February 13,2013.  I went to the tasting room late that same year (2013) and was immediately impressed.  Their quality and selection has improved since then to become what it is today.  One of their IPAs, Citcoe Drive, was proudly served at my annual beer tasting party in September 2016.  Really good stuff!

Unfortunately, Brian refused to consider outside investors for his brewery (I understand, Brian – you could lose control of your creativity, your dream, and your “manifest destiny”).  If you ever read this, Brian, understand that I would have invested money with no strings attached, just to keep your brewery doing what it does so well (brewing great beer).  When I found out you were closing, my wife suggested that I buy Valiant Brewing.  I don’t think I would have done it, but that’s irrelevant, as the equipment was already sold.

After getting this sad news, I immediately went down to Valiant Brewing with Bob Waddell and Russ Matulich to have some excellent beer this fine Sunday afternoon.  After a Coconut Imperial Brown Ale and a Chernny Medved with coffee (Chocolate/Cherry/Coffee Imperial Russian Stout), and a few sips of California Gloom (a New England style IPA), I left with a growler of the Coconut Brown Ale.  It doesn’t get any better than this!

To Brian Schroepfer and Valiant Brewing, a sincere thanks for 4 years of “blood, sweat and beers.”  You will be sorely missed, but never forgotten!!

Mac, Russ and Bob at Valiant Brewing
March 12, 2017

Cheers!

Mac’s Brew News – January 7, 2017

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Happy New Year to all you beer lovers (and those of you who aren’t beer lovers, but have the good sense to read this blog)!  I hope you had a good holiday season and are ready to face the new year.  I have a little news to pass along, so relax and enjoy these insights, along with a glass of beer.  Please read responsibly!

As I mentioned in my last newsletter, I had surgery in mid October, so I was unable to brew in September and October.  I resumed in mid-November, but because of the brewing gap, I ran out of Mac’s Brew right after Thanksgiving.  That’s right, there was no beer on tap for a short time, but the problem has since resolved, with two ales currently on draught.

Fat Ass in a Glass: Brewed 08-13-2016.  10.5% ABV
Fat Ass is HUGE.  It’s a very malty English style Barley Wine, with a high alcohol content.  I kegged this beer on 12-21-16, after a 3 month conditioning period that really helped to smooth it out and mitigate the alcohol taste.  This is very good – quite malty and a little sweet, with just enough hops to give it some balance and keep it from being syrupy.  The alcohol is noticeable in the flavor, but is not harsh or unpleasant – it provides a nice warming sensation (and of course, it will easily get you where you want to go).

Now, this is not an everyday beer.  In fact, it’s a sipping beer, perfect for consuming on cold evenings, or lazy Sunday afternoons.  It’s on tap now, so stop by Mac’s Brew Pub for a glass.  After all, who can resist a beer called “Fat Ass in a Glass”?

Wide Awake Drunk: Brewed 11-15-2016.  5.0% ABV
This is the second time I have made Wide Awake Drunk, a coffee stout.  I brewed it in collaboration with Sam Simpson, a talented brewer I met through our mutual friend Dennis Bauer (Dennis is not a brewer, but he is a beer connoisseur, and likes Mac’s Brew, which makes him an all around fine fellow).

I experimented with this one a bit.  Sheila had some very aromatic herbal tea, “Caramel Almond Amaretti”, that had a wonderful coconut, almond aroma.  The flavor followed the aroma, but was more subdued.  I decided to include 6 oz. of this tea in the cold brewed coffee concentrate before adding the mixture to the finished beer.  I added a portion of the resulting coffee/tea brew to the beer, but it didn’t turn out as expected, or to my liking.  I ended up cold brewing a little more “Black House” coffee and adding that to the mix to bring up the coffee aroma and flavor.  The caramel and almond aroma is pleasant, with mild notes in the flavor, but the almond flavor is a little “imitation” tasting, which is disappointing.  After a couple of weeks, the tea flavors have mellowed and the coffee is now more prevalent along with the cocoa flavor.  I think it’s very good, if not a little unusual, but I prefer this one without the tea.

Mac’s PAPA: Brewed 12-17-2016.  Estimated ABV – 6%
Ah yes, the old stand by, Paper Ass Pale Ale.  I collaborated with Martin and Marty Gilberstadt on this brew (we previously collaborated on Red Headed Step-Child; see Mac’s Brew News – January 10, 2015).  This recipe is dialed in, so no changes from the last time I brewed it (about a year ago).  It’s dry hopping right now, and should be on tap in about 10 days.

Smack Down (Generation III): To be brewed 01-21-2017.
I will be collaborating with Dave Hollandbeck on this Imperial IPA.  I am going to drastically revise the recipe from the last time I brewed this (August 2016).  The grain bill will remain the same, but I will change the hops to give this a very different flavor profile.  It seems like I change this every time I brew it.  Eventually I’m going to get it just right.

In my last news letter, I mentioned the QuickCarb keg carbonator I had recently purchased.  I used it for “Fat Ass in a Glass” and “Wide Awake Drunk” a couple of weeks ago.  What a great device!  In one afternoon, I kegged and carbonated both beers, and was serving them that evening.  What will they think of next?

My friend and neighbor, Barry Pulis, has a kind hearted brother, Randy, who is a beer connoisseur, and therefor a friend of mine.  Randy gave me a bottle of “Black Tuesday”, from The Bruery, for Christmas.  This gift is way beyond generous – it’s very expensive; it’s very hard to come by; and it’s the best beer in the world (my opinion).  I will be drinking this with Bob Waddell and Mike Matulich in a few days to celebrate USC’s Rose Bowl victory over a very good Penn State team on January 2, 2017 (the three of us attended the game and are just now catching our breath).  Thank you, Randy and Barry.  I REALLY appreciate your thoughtfulness.  You’re always welcome at Mac’s Brew Pub, where the beer is (usually) plentiful and the conversation always engaging!

Well, that’s it for now.  I have several Beer Reviews I need to publish, so check back soon.  Oh, and come by Mac’s Brew Pub for a pint or two.

Sláinte!

Mac’s Brew News – October 14, 2016

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It’s been three months since my last news letter.  Sorry for the delay.  Here is the latest news from Mac’s Brew.  Please read responsibly.

I have brewed two batches since my last report – both in August.  I was too busy in September (plus the fermenter was in use for the first three weeks with the IPA I brewed at the end of August), and now I am recovering from surgery a few days ago, so I won’t be brewing again until November.  The good thing is I have enough beer to last for awhile, so I shouldn’t run out here.

Maktoberfest: Brewed 06-23-2016; 5.1% ABV
Same recipe as last year with no revisions.  And like last year, it’s REALLY good.  Strong malty caramel notes with German noble hops give this the classic Märzen (Oktoberfest) flavor.  I allowed for an extensive lagering period (5 weeks) and then kegged 10 gallons on August 19, 2016.  I have already drained 1 keg while sharing this wonderful beer with family and friends (I served it at our annual beer appreciation party, and took growlers to our neighborhood block party, my Beer & Brats event in early October, and my Brother-In-Law (Don) in Utah, and sent bombers to Kevin McCaffrey in Seattle.  I’m glad that I still have enough to last until Thanksgiving.

Fat Ass in a Glass: Brewed 08-13-2016; 10.3% ABV
This is an English style barley wine.  I used the Baby Luke’s Barley Wine recipe with several revisions, to brew this.  I decided to forgo the bourbon barrel aging in order to properly assess the base recipe this time.  Big beers are notoriously hard to brew.  I learned a lot when I brewed Baby Luke’s Barley Wine two and a half years earlier, and incorporated that knowledge into this brew.  This is where keeping lots of data and good notes pays dividends.

This beer is so big that its name is well deserved, “Fat Ass in a Glass.”  It is currently in the tertiary fermenter, conditioning until mid-December.  I tasted a sample when I racked to the secondary fermenter – very much the flavor of a barley wine, but quite harsh from the high alcohol content.  I also tasted a very small sample when I moved it to the tertiary vessel (09-27-2016).  The harshness had subsided somewhat, but it was still in need of further conditioning.  I hope to be drinking this by Christmas.

SmackDown (Generation II); Brewed 08-26-2016; 7.8% ABV
I have brewed this IPA many times, revising the recipe a little each time.  It’s getting closer to where I want it, but it’s not quite perfected yet.  This version was brewed in collaboration with Mike Matulich, so we each have 5 gallons in our kegerators.

SmackDown is an Imperial IPA.  The high alcohol content is well hidden behind the huge “punch-in-the-face” hoppy aroma and flavor.  It’s 96 IBU, which places it in the middle of the IBU range for the style category.  It’s bitter, but not overly so, and is easy to drink (if you like IPA’s).  The huge hoppy aroma and flavor derive from the extensive hopping during the post boil hop stand (Citra and Cascade) and the dry hopping regimen (11+ oz. of Columbus, Amarillo and Citra hops in 11 gallons of beer).  It really does smack you down with hoppiness (have I ever mentioned that I like hoppy beers?).  The one disappointment is how hazy this beer is; I believe that is a direct result of the extensive dry hopping.

Orange County Fair update: As previously mentioned in the July 18, 2016 newsletter, Goldihops (my blonde ale) won 2nd place in the American Pale category (blondes and pale ales) at the Orange County Fair homebrew competition.  I have now received my judging sheets from the OC Fair.  All four of my entries scored very well (Goldihops, SmackDown, Mac’s PAPA, and Nutcase) and I received lots of very positive comments.

I recently purchased a QuickCarb keg carbonator by Blichman Engineering.  I used it for the first time last week when I carbonated SmackDown.  I can now do in 45 – 60 minutes what used to take me 6 days to accomplish (carbonate a keg of beer).  This device is easy to use and is very effective.  Is it necessary?  No.  Is it worth the money? Yes, without a doubt; no longer do I have to wait a week for carbonated beer.  It’s not cheap, but it’s not overly expensive either, so In my opinion, it’s worth the cost ($180).  My compliments to Blichman Engineering – they consistently design and manufacture high quality equipment for homebrewers.

I have several collaboration brews lined up for the near future.  I just need to finish my recovery so I can get back to brewing.

Well, beer lovers, that’s it for now.  Stop by Mac’s Brew Pub for a pint or two if you get the chance.  There’s plenty of beer on tap.

Sláinte!