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

francis1_nobkgrd

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

francis1_nobkgrd

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!

Mac’s Brew News – July 18, 2016

francis1_nobkgrd

Greetings to all you Mac’s Brew followers.  It’s time to share the latest news from Mac’s Brew Pub.  Please read responsibly.

I’ve been on vacation, and busy with exterior home remodeling.  That doesn’t mean, however, that the brewery is being neglected.  Au contraire, there is much to report and update.  Mac’s Brew is continuing to put out great beer and will soon be brewing even more great and unique beer.

Recalcitrant Redhead: Brewed 05-07-2016; 7.7% ABV / 113 IBU
This beer is an Imperial Red IPA, brewed in collaboration with Dave Hollandbeck.  The aroma is hoppy with strong flowery, citrus notes (grapefruit and orange). The flavor is surprisingly well balanced for an IPA with this much hopping. The initial sensation on the palate is bitterness, but that rapidly changes to sweet from the heavy doses of Crystal, Melanoiden and Special B malts. The sweetness fades to a bitter aftertaste that lingers for some time. The body is well developed and pleasant in the mouth.

This is a pretty complex beer. The color is right for a Red IPA, but the thickness and residual sweetness might be a little high for the style. However, there is no doubt this is an IPA – both the bitterness and hoppy aromas/flavors demand one’s full attention and acceptance of the categorization. At the end of the day, one is left with a bitter taste in the mouth that lingers forever.  There, now, doesn’t that description make you want to stop by for a pint?

Mac’s Apricot Wheat: Brewed 06-06-2016; 5.8% ABV
I’ve brewed this beer before (last time in 2014), but altered the recipe ever so slightly this time.  I added 1% Crystal 15 malt to the grist to give the beer just a little additional color, body and sweetness.  The base beer started as a 10 gallon batch on brew day, but was split into two fermenters to make two different beers – apricot wheat and Bavarian hefeweizen (see Mac’s Brew News – June 8, 2016 for further details).  I ended up with 5 gallons of apricot wheat and 5 gallons of hefeweizen.

I think I got the apricot infusions right this time.  Mac’s Apricot Wheat has just the right amount of apricot flavor. It’s a little tart from the fermented apricot puree (49 oz. per 5.75 gal). The apricot aroma is noticeable, and the apricot flavor is just right.  It’s light, refreshing, and easy to drink.  The alcohol content is low enough that you can drink a few before you feel the effects.

Mak’s Bavarian Hefeweizen: Brewed 06-06-2016; 5.8% ABV
The other half of the wheat beer brew day.  Mak’s Bavarian Hefeweizen is wonderful. The banana/clove ratio in the flavor is just right. The beer is sweet, but not overly so, and is spot on for the German style hefeweizen (try some Paulaner, Franziskaner, or Erdinger, all good weissbiers, if you’re not sure what Bavarian style wheat beer tastes like). The color is a little deeper than previous batches, due (I believe) to the small (1%) Crystal 15 addition. I don’t know if that percentage allows for any taste difference, but I will definitely keep the Crystal addition from now on.  The German yeast is not highly flocculent, so the beer is hazy as per the style guidelines.  Like its apricot brother, this beer is light and drinkable, but is even more refreshing.  This is the one I drink after mowing the lawn on a hot day – it’s a real thirst quencher!

Maktoberfest: Brewed 06-23-2016; 4.9% ABV (so far)
This is the same recipe and protocol used for the last batch of Maktoberfest I brewed last year.  It’s currently 4.9% ABV, and I don’t expect it to go any higher.  I just started the lagering process (cold conditioning) yesterday.  I will continue to lager it for another three or four weeks and then keg it.  I brewed 11 gallons, so I will end up with two 5 gallon kegs.  It should last until Thanksgiving.

I tasted a small sample a week and a half ago when I dumped the trub and took a gravity sample.  It’s very malty, as a märzen should be, with a low hop rate.  It should end up tasting the same as last year’s version.  I will update you once it’s on tap in late August or early September.

I think the next brew will be a barley wine.  I will make a 5 gallon batch and let it condition for 3 – 4 months before kegging and bottling it.  I learned a lot from my first barley wine brew (see newsletter of March 2, 2014, and review of Baby Luke’s Barleywine, November 26, 2014 on this blog).  I’m going to try again, and hope to have it on tap for the holidays this year.  After that, possibly an imperial stout, then another IPA (gotta keep IPA’s on tap at all times if I want to keep Mike as a friend).

Orange County Fair update:
The results are in – Goldihops (and the Free Beers) won a red ribbon (second place) in the Pale American Ale category (Blonde Ales and Pale Ales) at the OC Fair this year.  I’m proud that this beer won an award (I thought this one had a very good chance to score well and win an award).  The other three beers, Mac’s PAPA, SmackDown, and Nutcase, did not win any awards, but I am still awaiting the judging sheets.  I am especially curious to see how well Nutcase scored – I think it should receive fairly high marks.  I submitted Mac’s PAPA and SmackDown with no expectations (just looking for judges comments and suggestions).

Well, beer lovers, that’s it for now.  I hope you enjoyed the newsletter.  I will be posting several more beer reviews as soon as I can find the time.  If I used some terms that you are not familiar with, refer to a very early post on this blog, “Terms and Definitions” (May 4, 2012), for explanation of those terms.

Sláinte!

Mac’s Brew News – June 8, 2016

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There’s a lot to update about what’s going on at Mac’s Brew Pub, but I will keep it brief.  Here’s all the Brew News that’s fit to print.  Please read responsibly.

Recalcitrant Redhead: Brewed 05-07-2016; 7.7% ABV.
I brewed this beer with my young brewing friend, Dave Hollandbeck.  Brew day spent with Dave was a pleasure as well as a resounding success.  This is an imperial red IPA.  It is currently cold crashing, and will soon be kegged and carbonated (as soon as I have room in my kegerator; all four taps are currently occupied).  Anybody interested in coming over to Mac’s Brew Pub to help me finish off Mac’s PAPA?  I think that keg is almost empty; as soon as it is, Recalcitrant Redhead goes on tap.

Mak’s Bavarian Hefeweizen / Mac’s Apricot Wheat: Brewed 06-06-2016.
I brewed one 10 gallon batch of wort, but am creating two different beers from the same wort (see “Terms and Definitions” if you’re not sure what “wort” is).  These will be wheat beers (60% malted wheat, 40% malted barley in the grist), each fermented with different yeast to create two different beers.  I will add pureed apricot to the one fermenter (fermenting with a Chico yeast strain), while the other is being fermented with a Bavarian yeast.  Both should end up around 5.5% ABV, but will taste completely different – oh the marvels of yeast!!  I will end up with 5 gallons of Bavarian style Hefeweizen, and 5 gallons of Apricot Wheat Beer (American style) out of the one brew day batch.  You gotta love it (well, at least I do)!

I plan to brew Maktoberfest on Thursday 06-23-16.  There will be no deviation from last year’s recipe, so I should have some great tasting Märzen on tap in late August or early September.  Did I just say September?  Yes, this is a lager, so it requires an extended fermentation and lagering (conditioning) period . . . but, it will be worth the wait!

I’m not sure what is coming up after Maktoberfest.  Maybe a barleywine or a porter.  I guess I have a little time to decide.  I also need to decide if I’m going to collaborate with another brewer, or do it all myself.  Hmm . . .

I entered four beers in the Orange County Fair competition:  Goldihops, Mac’s PAPA, SmackDown, and Nutcase.  Goldihops and Nutcase are good enough to score well.  I entered Mac’s PAPA and SmackDown just to get judges comments and suggestions.  We’ll see how this all plays out.

Well, that’s it for now.  Slainte!

Mac’s Brew News – May 1, 2016

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My last news letter was rather lengthy, but did not address what’s happening at Mac’s Brew Pub.  Here’s all the Brew News about Mac’s beer that’s fit to print.  Please read responsibly.

SmackDown: Brewed 01-22-2016; 7.3% ABV.
SmackDown turned out wonderful this time. I significantly changed the hopping rate and protocol to create a citrus forward hop bomb imperial IPA. It really is excellent, although next time I will lower the percentage of the crystal malts in the recipe. I brewed 10 gallons, so I should be serving this one for some time to come. When I suggested to Mike Matulich that I was going to change up the recipe a little, he became despondent and threatened me with bodily harm. Don’t worry, Mike, I won’t change the hops at all, so it should have all the same aromas, but with just a slightly lower caramel flavor.

Mac hard at work in the brewery mashing in  SmackDown.

Mac hard at work in the brewery mashing in SmackDown.

Nutcase: Brewed 02-02-2016; 9.5% ABV.
Nutcase is my guilty pleasure – a chocolate hazelnut imperial oatmeal stout. The chocolate leads, and the hazelnut is quite noticeable, but subtle (unlike Belching Beaver’s Peanut Butter Milk Stout, where the peanut flavor is very much “in your face”). I think the blending of the chocolate with subtle notes of hazelnut makes for a much more complex and rewarding tasting experience. The alcohol level is high and is noticeable in the taste, but is not hot or unpleasant. This beer has a velvety smooth mouthfeel and so much body that you almost need a spatula to get it out of your glass.

Goldihops (and the Free Beers): Brewed 02-20-2016; 5.2% ABV.
In a previous newsletter (02-14-2016), I mentioned that I was going to brew my honey blonde ale again. I brewed the recipe again, without alteration, with Mike and Chris Boblit on February 20, 2016. I used store-bought honey this time as I did not have access to Scott’s outstanding homegrown honey. That was unfortunate (no homegrown honey), but the batch turned out VERY GOOD anyway. It’s crystal clear, light, refreshing and very drinkable. This is a great summertime beer, but I have a feeling it won’t even last until 4th of July.

Mac’s PAPA (Paper Ass Pale Ale) and Mac’s WAD (Wide Awake Drunk) are also still on tap although I think WAD is just about gone. That makes five draught beers currently being offered at Mac’s Brew Pub. You should make an excuse to come by for a pint or two of delicious beer. Up next is a red IPA I plan to brew with Dave Hollandbeck on May 7, 2016. Dave is a fine young man who came to Mac’s Brew Pub about a year ago to do some work. We became friends due to our shared interest in brewing beer and decided to collaborate on an IPA.

After the IPA, I will likely brew a hefeweizen to have on tap for the summer, then probably a Marzen (Oktoberfest) so It will be ready for September.  Sometime soon, I want to brew a schwarzbier . . . gotta find more time and more kegerator space!

That’s about all I have to enlighten you with today.  Stop by for a pint or two – enjoy some good beer and good company.

Slainte!

Mac’s Brew News – April 25, 2016

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Greetings to all you beer geeks and fans of Mac’s Brew.  It’s been a couple of months since my last post, so it’s going to take awhile to bring everyone up-to-date.  I have been out of town a lot and have only brewed once since my last newsletter, but there is still a lot I want to share.  I will try to keep it brief.  Please read responsibly.

So, Mrs. Mac and I just celebrated our 35th anniversary.  We went on a three week road trip to the Pacific Northwest, going as far as Seattle, Washington.  The vacation was amazing, if a little long, hi lighted by visits to numerous breweries along the way – some well known, some hardly known.  I made it a point to find local craft breweries in most of the cities where we stayed overnight, and went out of our way to stop at some other breweries.  Altogether it was a memorable trip with numerous hi lights.

Anchor Brewing, San Francisco: This is where the American craft beer revolution began, thanks to Fritz Maytag’s purchase of the nearly bankrupt brewery in 1965.  Excellent tour, and great beer.  The fun time was tempered a bit when we returned to our car to find it had been broken into, but all stolen items were recovered by San Francisco PD (no doubt “Dirty” Harry Callahan was on the case); good job by SFPD.  The tour was very informative, and the beer sampling was extensive and excellent.  This brewery is small and old.  It’s amazing that all of the Anchor brews, which are so widely available,  come from this small location.

In the tasting room at Anchor

In the tasting room at Anchor

Lagunitas Brewing, Petaluma, CA: Dinner and a beer at their brewery/taproom/restaurant while driving to Mendocino.  Very good (both the food and beer).  We had planned to eat lunch here and then have dinner at North Coast Brewing in Fort Bragg, but the car break-in threw off our plans for that day.

7 Devils Brewing, Coos Bay, OR: Lunch and beer at their brewery/taproom/restaurant while spending the afternoon in the quaint downtown area of Coos Bay on Saturday 04-02-2016.  This was the only brewery I could find in Coos Bay, but it has a bright future.  The brewery is small, as is the taproom/restaurant, but the beer is excellent, the food is good and the ambiance is very nice.

Ecliptic Brewing, StormBreaker Brewing, Hopworks Urban Brewery, Portland, OR:  Walking brewery tour by Brewvana Portland Brewery Tours on Monday 04-04-2016.  All three are small breweries with taprooms/restaurants.  As most beer lovers know, Portland has an extensive craft beer scene (the city claims to have more breweries per capita than any other city in the world).  Our Brewvana tour guide, April, was well informed and gave a great presentation, including lots of information about beer in general, the craft beer scene in Portland, and about the Mississippi district of Portland, where our walking tour took place.

Ecliptic Brewing: Just beer tasting at Ecliptic, with a 15 minute tour of the on-site brewery. It’s very small (10 barrel system, if I recall correctly), but the beer is EXCELLENT!  The food was highly recommended so we came back the next evening for dinner at the pub.  We were not disappointed.  This was a great place for beer and food in a relaxed atmosphere.  The Orange Giant Barleywine was my favorite (one of the best barleywine ales I have ever tasted).  The Oort Imperial Stout was also top notch.

StormBreaker Brewing: Good beer in the taproom, but we did not eat any food there.  The menu is extensive for a brew pub, but we didn’t have time to go back and try the food.

Hopworks Urban Brewery Bikebar: The Bikebar was a taproom/restaurant, our final stop on the Portland walking brewery tour.  In addition to sampling the beer here, we ate a lot of appetizers at HUB Bikebar.  This was the largest of the three on the tour (they have two locations in Portland) with the largest selection of beers.  Very good!

ScuttleButt Brewing, Everett, WA: We ate dinner at the ScuttleButt restaurant/taproom with my nephew Joel and his family.  It’s in the harbor area with a nice view; the restaurant is large, and family friendly, with a menu featuring lots of seafood and good beer.

Chuck’s Hop Shop, Cloudburst Brewing, Rueben’s Brews, 74th Street Ale House, Seattle, WA:  This guided brewery & pub tour was planned and hosted by my uncle, Kevin McCaffrey.  We went to one independent taproom, two breweries and one pub over the course of the afternoon.  Seattle, similar to Portland, has a very vibrant craft brewing scene.  Kevin put a lot of effort into planning this tour, but we barely scratched the surface, so I guess I’m just going to have to return someday soon to check out more breweries.

Chuck’s Hop Shop: This is an independent taproom, featuring beer from numerous local breweries.  They also have an extensive bottle shop with craft brews from all over the U.S. and the world.  I almost scored a bottle of Parabola here, but the proprietor sold it out from under me (too involved to give more details now).  When in Seattle, you should go to this place.

Cloudburst Brewing: Open only since January 2016, Cloudburst is small, but was one of Seattle’s most anticipated brewery openings.  Their coffee milk stout, Jump Sturdy, is FABULOUS!  Actually, all of their beer offerings were first rate!  I went here a couple of times while staying in Seattle as it was walking distance from Pike Place Market and our hotel.  I met the brewer, Steve Luke, and had a pleasant conversation with him on my second visit to Cloudburst.

Dad, Kevin and Mac at Cloudburst Brewing

Dad, Kevin and Mac sharing the beer experience at Cloudburst Brewing

Reubens Brews:  This location was the production brewery and taproom.  They had an extensive selection on tap, and everything I tasted was excellent.  This brewery opened in 2012, but is already heavily awarded, including gold at GABF.

74th Street Ale House: We went here for the salmon sandwiches, but they also have almost 20 beers on tap.  You’re right, Kevin, the salmon sandwiches are OUTSTANDING!

The Pike Brewing, Seattle: Sheila and I went to the taproom/restaurant for beer sampling on Friday afternoon, 04-08-2016.  Everyone has heard of The Pike’s Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale, but they also have a large selection of other brews that are very good.  We didn’t get to tour the brewery (next door to the taproom) unfortunately, but the restaurant/taproom is really cool (and very large)!  It’s in the Pike Place Market and is a “must see” when visiting Seattle.

Elk Horn Brewing, Eugene, OR: We played scrabble and drank beer here on Sunday afternoon, 04-11-2016.  The beer was good enough that we returned for dinner in the restaurant/taproom.  Both food and beer are decent.  It’s located just down the street from  University of Oregon.

Sierra Nevada Brewing, Chico, CA: We drove out of our way to get to Chico, but it was well worth the time and effort.  We toured the iconic Sierra Nevada brewery on Tuesday 04-12-2016.  I have toured a lot of breweries, but the Sierra Nevada tour is in a league by itself.  Sierra Nevada is the 7th largest brewery in the U.S., and is by far, the largest brewery I have ever seen.  I know many of you have toured Stone Brewing in Escondido, CA, and have been impressed (like me) with the brewery size and volume of production.  Well, Sierra Nevada dwarfs Stone.  It’s simply amazing – not just the size, but the cleanliness, layout, commitment to the craft, and leadership of Sierra Nevada.

With Bigfoot at Sierra Nevada

With Bigfoot at Sierra Nevada

We had to make reservations in advance to get on the tour, but there was no charge.  They allowed extensive sampling, which unfortunately I had to moderate because I had a long drive afterward.  We ate lunch at the restaurant, which is on-site.  The food, like the tour, was excellent and the atmosphere was really great, much like the Stone Bistro.  I can’t say enough good things about my experience at Sierra Nevada Brewing; it’s simply incredible, and I’m very glad we took the extra time to go there.

Russian River Brewing, Santa Rosa, CA: We stayed two nights in Santa Rosa on our way back home.  On Tuesday 04-12-2016 (after the tour and lunch at Sierra Nevada) we ate dinner at the brewery/taproom/restaurant with my uncle, Dennis McCaffrey.  The food was VERY good, but the big deal here was that I had a pint of draught Pliny the Elder at the brewery!!  It just doesn’t get any better than that.  After dinner, I had a glass of Consecration (sour dark ale aged in Cabernet barrels) – absolutely delicious.

Enjoying a pint of Pliny the Elder at Russian River

Enjoying a pint of Pliny the Elder at Russian River

The Pour House, BarrelHouse Brewing, Firestone Walker Brewing, Paso Robles, CA: I had an afternoon to kill in Paso Robles (Thursday 04-14-2016) when we were heading home after almost three weeks on the road.  I decided to kill the time sampling more beer.  I have been to all three of these places in the past and knew I could get some good beer.

The Pour House:is a non-affiliated taproom, pouring a large variety of good beers.  It’s a little off the beaten path in a nondescript commercial building, but obviously the locals know it well.  One beer there (while Sheila got her nails done) and then on to BarrelHouse.

BarrelHouse Brewing: This place has really good beer.  I had a glass of Curley Wolf (bourbon barrel aged IRS) and Sheila had a glass of Sunny Daze (a citrus blonde ale).  They don’t serve food here (pretzels only), but food trucks frequent the location (or you can bring your own food).  The Curley Wolf is EXCELLENT, but is high in alcohol, so I had to limit myself to one because I was driving.

Firestone Walker Brewing: Less than two miles from BarrelHouse, Firestone Walker is of course one of the best known and highly awarded breweries in California.  The Paso Robles location houses their brewery, with the taproom/restaurant right across the street.  I had a Luponic Distortion IPA with dinner.  The food at the restaurant is very good, and the Luponic Distortion was quite good also.

In addition to visiting all these breweries, we did a wine tasting tour in Sonoma (with Dennis and Stephanie), and went to numerous other memorable establishments along the way: Klub Klondike – “Best Dive on the I-5”; North Star Cafe – “Voted #1 Happy Hour by Betty Ford Clinic;” Voodoo Doughnuts; the original Starbucks at Pike Place Market; and The Buena Vista (for Irish Coffee) to name a few.

Well, this is a short summary of our 35th anniversary road trip and brewery tour.  If you are going to any of these areas in California, Oregon or Washington, you might seriously consider adding some of these locations to your plans.  The hi lights include: Anchor Brewing (San Francisco); Ecliptic Brewing (Portland); Cloudburst Brewing for the beer/The Pike Brewing for the ambiance (Seattle); Sierra Nevada Brewing (Chico); and Russian River Brewing (Santa Rosa).

One other thing I need to add in regards to all of these breweries and taprooms: The beer in Portland is unbelievably cheap.  The pints were typically between $3 – $4 at all the places in Portland, and throughout most of the state.  The tour guide in Portland (April, with Brewvana) explained some of the factors – the breweries are close to the suppliers for malt and hops, and the water is so good and pure in Portland that they typically do not need to treat the water via reverse osmosis, so their production costs are lower than most other regions of the country.  Oh, and there is no sales tax in Oregon, so when the price of your pint is listed as $3.00, you pay only $3.00 (of course, any conscientious person will also add a tip).

A special thank you is extended to two of my uncles – Kevin in Seattle, and Dennis in Santa Rosa.  Both of you helped to make this road trip special and memorable.  I hope to see both of you again soon.  Remember Mac’s Brew Pub is always open with good beer on tap.  For you, Dennis, we will have Coke, and wine for Stephanie.  Thanks again!  And to my nephew, Joel, in Lynwood, thanks for your hospitality.  We enjoyed our time with you; your family is the best!  Thanks to all of you for the special memories.  Oh, and to Kevin and Joel, I left you some bottles of Mac’s Brew – I hope you guys enjoy it; it’s a pleasure to share my creations with two fine fellows who appreciate good beer.

Unfortunately this newsletter is much longer than I intended.  I hope you were able to read through to the end.  The next newsletter, with updates on what’s happening at Mac’s, will be published very soon.

Cheers!