Mac’s Brew News – February 14, 2016


Greetings from Mac’s Brew Pub.  I have not published a newsletter since December, therefore I have some catching up to do.  Today is Valentine’s Day, so I salute all you beer lovers out there.  This newsletter is dedicated to my Beautiful Valentine, Sheila.  Happy Valentine’s Day to one and all, but especially to Sheila!

In my last newsletter, I lamented the lack of draught beer at Mac’s Brew Pub.  Since then, I have kept myself busy and the aggravation is slowly improving.  Here is what has been brewed recently.

Mac’s WAD (Wide Awake Drunk): Brewed 11-22-2015; 4.9% ABV.
Mac’s WAD is an oatmeal coffee stout.  As mentioned in my last newsletter, this brew was a collaboration (recipe, cost, & labor) with a terrific young brewer (and friend), Bryce Lowrance.  This is an English style stout, low in alcohol but big in flavor (especially coffee).  Bryce and I brewed 10 gallons together on a weekend in November, and fermented the entire batch here at Mac’s.  After fermenting and conditioning in my fermenter, we split up the batch so that we each got 5 gallons to further our artistry with coffee.

The base recipe is an oatmeal stout conditioned with a lot of cacao nibs.  The mash had a high percentage of oatmeal and was conducted at a relatively high temperature.  The wort was fermented with an English yeast.  Those factors left the finished beer with a fairly high final gravity and a velvety smooth mouthfeel and thick body.  I cold brewed 2 1/2 cups of SUPER concentrated coffee using Modern Times Coffee “Black House” blend, then added it to the keg “to taste” (there was a little coffee left over once I was satisfied with the flavor).  Bryce coarse crushed his favorite coffee beans and added them to the keg for a couple of days (50+ hours).

The results are astounding!  This beer, although fairly puny for a Mac’s stout (i.e., low alcohol content) is right at home in the oatmeal stout low-medium ABV range, and is loaded with intense flavors.  The coffee is front and center for sure, but there are also strong chocolate/cocoa notes.  The coffee is not at all bitter or harsh, but mellow and full.  The only thing I will change if I brew this again (I will) is the amount of coffee – maybe about 10 -15% less next time so the flavor is just a little more subtle (note: Bryce’s version had even more coffee flavor, although it was not overwhelming; it was very good also, but I’m not a coffee drinker, so I prefer a lower amount).

Mac’s PAPA (Paper Ass Pale Ale): Brewed 12-22-2015; 6.2% ABV.
This is my second effort at Mac’s PAPA (see Mac’s Brew News, May 7, 2015 for additional information on this brew, including the name).  I changed the recipe just slightly from my first version, and I dry hopped this one with some Cascade hops.  It turned out wonderful and when I brew it again, I will not change the recipe or protocol.  The alcohol content is just slightly higher (6.2% vs. 6.0%), but the hop aroma and flavor is noticeably improved from the original.  I brewed 10 gallons, so I should have this one on tap for a few months.

Smackdown: Brewed 01-22-2016; 7.3% ABV (currently dry hopping).
I will cold crash Smackdown on Wednesday 02-17-2016 and then keg it a week later.  It should be on tap on 02-23-2016.  This iteration is a little different than last time and should  feature more bitterness and additional hoppy aroma and flavor.

Nutcase: Brewed 02-02-2016; currently in the secondary fermenter.
It’s been three years since I brewed this chocolate hazelnut oatmeal imperial stout (wow, that’s a mouthful).  It was 9.5% ABV when I checked the gravity today.  It should stay at that level.  The last time I brewed this in 2013, it won 3rd place at the OC Fair.  I changed the recipe and protocol a little, and believe it will be better this time.  It will need to condition for about 2 months before I bottle it, so I don’t think I will be drinking this until late spring or early summer.

My next brew will be a honey blonde in collaboration with two other fine brewers, Mike and Chris Boblit.  We plan to brew on Saturday 02-20-2016.  I will recycle the “Sheila’s B(ee)FD Honey Blonde Ale” recipe (see Mac’s Brew News – October 4, 2015 for more about this beer).  I’m not sure if I am going to revise the recipe/protocol at all, but will rename it this time, as “Sheila’s BFD” was a once in a lifetime sobriquet, brewed and named for Sheila’s retirement celebration.

Although it was tough being out of Mac’s Brew around here, I managed to satisfy my desire for delicious beer with a variety of commercial craft brews.  If you follow this blog, you have seen all of the beer reviews as evidence of said consumption.  But hold on, there are more reviews to come in the very near future . . .  That’s it for now, so go love some special beer for the rest of Valentime’s Day.


Mac’s Brew News – December 7, 2015


Today’s newsletter is published in honor of the 2403 Americans killed and the 1178 Americans wounded in the unprovoked attack on Perl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Greetings to one and all.  It’s been a busy couple of months since I last published a newsletter.  Here’s a little news from Mac’s Brew Pub.

In early October we went to Ireland for a little over two weeks.  We started in Belfast, Northern Ireland, for the first four days, then continued on to the Republic of Ireland.  Without boring you with the details, I will say that Ireland is very different from England in regards to the antiquities and national treasures.  Most of the castles and abbeys, etc., are in quite a state of disrepair and neglect.  It’s too bad, but I would guess that it’s a function of the relatively poor economic power of Ireland.

On the bright side, however, I found pubs and beer all over the country.  In fact, I have never seen so many bars and pubs in my life.  The reputation of the Irish being big drinkers is well deserved, it seems.  Not only are there lots of pubs and bars, but they are always well patronized.  We toured the Old Bushmills distillery (in Northern Ireland), Smithwick’s brewery (in Kilkenny), the Guinness brewery (in Dublin), and the Jameson’s distillery (also in Dublin).  Lest you think I only went to Ireland to drink alcohol and experience their most famous exports, I assure you I did a lot of sight seeing as well.  Let me say, however, the Guinness tour was one of the highlights, and I highly recommend it if you ever get over to Ireland.

I did drink Guinness while there, as it is ubiquitous throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland. However, I tried to drink local brews wherever we went, in order to get a taste for the craft brewing phenomenon in Ireland.  This was a good decision on my part, as I tasted a number of high quality local craft brews which I will never be able to find here in the colonies.  I assure you the craft beer scene is vibrant in Ireland, although not to the same extent that it is flourishing in the US.

We went to Sean’s Bar on several occasions while we were staying in Athlone.  Sean’s Bar is the oldest bar in Ireland (and believed to be the oldest bar in Europe); it has been open since 900 AD.  Yes, folks, It has been open for over 1100 years.  It was almost 600 years old when Columbus discovered America – pretty crazy, huh?  While I was there having a beer, I couldn’t help but wonder who was having a drink in the same spot a thousand years ago.

Sean's Bar  c900 AD Athlone, Ireland

Sean’s Bar c900 AD
Athlone, Ireland

We met a fine young fellow, Sean Dillon, at Sean’s Bar.  No, he’s not the owner, or even connected to the bar; he just shares that great Irish name.  He’s an American, and we struck up a friendship with him.  I sent a few bottles of Mac’s Brew to him on the East Coast.  I guess I can now say that Mac’s Brew is enjoyed “coast to coast.”  If you’re reading this, Sean, greetings from Mac.

I think the best pub for craft beer (quality and variety) was Porterhouse Brewing Company, in Dublin.  Porterhouse was recommended to me by a cab driver, and was within walking distance from the hotel where we stayed.  I went to this brewpub every day while we were in Dublin, and still was not able to taste all of the beers they had on tap.  Their Double IPA was outstanding, and highly hopped, like a West Coast IPA.  Porterhouse has a brewpub in New York City . . . hmm, next time I’m in NYC, I’ll make it a point to get over there.

Ok, enough about Ireland; here’s what’s happening at Mac’s.  I’m all out of draught Mac’s Brew.  I have some bottles of my strong beers (stouts and barley wine), but those aren’t for everyday consumption, so I’ve been buying and drinking commercially brewed beers.  See my recent posts for information on some of these fine examples (with several more posts to come).

I brewed a coffee stout two weeks ago.  That was the first time I have brewed in three months (that’s why I’m out of Mac’s on draught).  I haven’t made a final decision on the name of this beer, but have a pretty good idea.  This was brewed in collaboration with Bryce Lowrance.  Bryce is a very talented young brewer, and I felt honored that he wanted to brew with me.  This batch is still in the fermenter conditioning.  As soon as I’m ready to move it out of the fermenter, I will brew a pale ale (Mac’s PAPA).  After that, it’s an IPA, then maybe an imperial stout.  Finally, more beer is on the way to Mac’s.  My poor planning led to this drought – I’ll try to not let this happen again!

Slainte (Cheers)!

Mac’s Brew News – October 4, 2015


Sorry it’s been awhile since my last newsletter.  I didn’t post anything in September – too much going on around here with Sheila retiring.  Now that Sheila is around everyday, Mac has a full time supervisor at the pub.  So anyway, here is what has been happening at Mac’s Brew Pub since the last newsletter.

Maktoberfest: I lagered this one in the refrigerator untill the end of August, then kegged and carbonated it.  I have been serving it since mid-September.  It’s very good, comparable to many of the commercially brewed marzen style beers available.  It’s malty sweet with notes of caramel.  I will brew this again without changing the recipe or fermentation protocol.  It’s 5.4% ABV and a really nice fall beer.

Sheila’s B(ee)FD Honey Blonde Ale:  I brewed this on August 21, 2015 with the assistance of Scott Vandeventer, who supplied the honey (from his apiary).  We brewed an 11 gallon batch with 3 pounds of honey and just a little bit of sweet orange peel and coriander.

It’s always a bit of a crap shoot when brewing a new recipe – it usually takes a couple of revisions of the recipe to get the beer just how you want it.  In this case, however, the beer came out really nice the first time.  It’s 5.1% ABV, with a light citrus/orange aroma.  The flavor follows the nose with a subtle sweet orange taste.  This ale is very low in IBU’s (by design), so the honey and the orange peel create a pleasant but faint sweetness.  It’s a great refreshing beer, especially nice on a hot summer day.

Sheila’s BFD Blonde was on tap for her retirement party at Mac’s Brew Pub on Thursday September 24, 2015.  There were about 60 of Sheila’s co-workers, friends and family in attendance at the party.  The keg of BFD Blonde (5 gallons) was empty in just about an hour, so I guess it was well liked.  It’s a good thing I had 3 other beers on tap for the party – Maktoberfest, Janitor In A Drum, and Anchor Steam Beer (from Anchor Brewing – God Bless Fritz Maytag!) to keep the revelers happy.  I also ran out of Janitor In A Drum during the party (that was not unexpected, as the keg was low before the party even started) and the Maktoberfest is nearly gone also.

Unfortunately I’m not going to be able to brew anything until early November, so I’m going to run out of Mac’s Brew pretty soon and may have to buy another commercial keg for our Thanksgiving celebration here.  You know, it wasn’t that long ago that I had more beer than I could put in the kegerator.  What happened?

Club 57: I drank a 12 oz bottle of Club 57 in early September.  That’s the first time I sampled this brew since the spring.  Last time, it was way too boozy and the bourbon/oak flavor was overwhelming.  It has mellowed out very nicely with age, and is now VERY good, in my opinion.  However, this is not a beer for everyone.  It’s way over the top in flavor and alcohol content (although not “hot”, it’s still quite boozy).  Even those who enjoy stouts may not like this beer because of it’s intensity.  Oh well, to each his own . . .

So, what does the future hold for Mac’s Brewing?  Next up is a coffee stout to be brewed in collaboration with a very talented young brewer whom I recently met, Bryce Lowrance.  Hey, Bryce, we need to get working on that recipe, huh?  It would be nice to have this on tap by mid-December.

OC Fair Update:
In my last newsletter I mentioned that I got shut out at the Orange County Fair home-brew competition.  Well, when I finally got my score sheets, I found out that I actually got an honorable mention for Red Headed Step-Child.  In addition, Black Forest Stout and Aeronautical Amber Ale scored quite well and received very favorable judges comments.  There were 631 total entries in this year’s OC Fair competition (that’s a large competition, even by national standards), so I feel pretty good about how my beers fared.

That’s it for now.  I have a lot of beer reviews to post, but won’t be able to get to those for a few weeks.  Please read responsibly.


Mac’s Brew News – August 2, 2015


I know you all have been wondering what’s going on at Mac’s this summer.  With the new cooled stainless steel fermenter, there has been no need to take a summer vacation from brewing.  I recently brewed a lager, and will be brewing a blond ale in a couple of weeks.  In spite of this, I am (unfortunately) running low on draught beer.  There is still a significant amount of Cherry Wheat and Janitor In A Drum, but the Smackdown is nearly gone (I would be surprised if there’s two pints left in the keg).  I still have some Club 21 and Cherry Wheat in bottles, so I’m going to have to make them last for a few weeks.  By the time the lager and the blond are ready for consumption, the draught Cherry Wheat will likely be gone, leaving me with only three draught selections for Sheila’s retirement party.

Retirement?  Yes, Sheila (Mrs. Mac) is retiring October 5, 2015.  Her last day of work is September 24, 2015, and she will take some vacation time until her official retirement on October 5th.  Congratulations, Sheila!  There will be a retirement party at Mac’s Brew Pub the evening of September 24.  Let’s hope I’m up to the challenge, with at least 3 fine beers on tap.  Here’s what has recently been brewed and what will be brewed in the near future at Mac’s.

Maktoberfest: Brewed 07-07-2015 in collaboration with Mr. High and Mighty (Joe Garcia); currently lagering (cold conditioning).  5.4% ABV.  I have brewed this recipe before, but have never used a lager yeast for fermentation.  My new fermenter allowed me to do just that.  Here is a photo of Mac and his beast of a fermenter:


I fermented this beer for just under 2 weeks at 54° F, raised the temperature for 3 days for a diacetyl rest, then began lowering the temperature 2° F per day for cold conditioning.  Right now it’s resting at 40° F in the refrigerator (I racked it from the fermenter to 2 glass carboys when it got to 48°, and placed them in the fridge for storage).  I will keg Maktoberfest on or after 08-25-2015.  I know this is a good Oktoberfest recipe; it remains to be seen how successful my lager fermentation protocol is.

Sheila’s B(ee)FD Honey Blonde Ale.  To honor Sheila, I’m brewing this beer for her retirement celebration.  I’m collaborating with my friend Scott Vandeventer on this brew (note: Scott is a fine fellow, but he is not a brewer, so this will be his first brewing experience; however, he is a bee keeper, and is supplying the honey made by his “Really Nasty Bees” for my recipe).

I have never brewed a blonde ale before, so this is a new recipe for me.  I need to give some credit, however, to my friend Joe Renden, a true brew master, who won a gold metal at GABF (Great American Brew Festival) for his honey blonde ale a couple of years ago.  Joe gave me some specific guidelines and suggestions for this recipe, so I’m hoping the first edition of this beer will turn out excellent (it better, as it will be served, untested, to a pub full of people at the retirement party on 09-24-2015).

The recipe includes a small amount of sweet orange peel and coriander seed for subtle citrus flavors, and prominently features Scott Vandeventer’s home grown organic honey.  It will be a low alcohol ale, finishing somewhere around 4.5% ABV, with a noticeable, but not overwhelming, honey flavor.

Oh, a little bit about the name of this beer.  Sheila is my honey, and she is retiring from the BFD (Brea Fire Department).  Of course everyone knows this event is a BFD (c’mon people, that stands for Big Fat Deal . . . just ask Sheila).  Now, you can’t have honey without bees, so to acknowledge Scott’s contribution of his honey to my honey’s celebration ale, it will be called B(ee)FD Honey Blonde.

I’m going to have to get busy again with more brewing right after the blonde, or I won’t have enough beer on tap for the fall.  I want to brew Smackdown and Mac’s PAPA again very soon, plus I need to get busy with some stouts (Nutcase comes to mind) and winter warmers.

OC Fair Update: I got shut out!  I’m a little surprised that Black Forest Stout did not place, but it’s really an imperial stout that was entered into the fruit beer category.  I have to accept that it may not have fit well within the style guidelines for the category (or maybe it just wasn’t that good).  I guess I’ll find out when I get the judges notes in a month or so.  Club 57 was too strong and boozy, so I’m not really surprised about that one.  The others I entered only to get judges comments/suggestions and expected no high scores.

Scott, thank you so much for the honey, and please thank your “really nasty bees” for all their hard work, and their willingness to contribute to this collaboration.  Of course, you get to keep 5 of the 10 gallons of ale we produce, but your bees get nothing.  Please treat them right!

That’s it for now.  Cheers!

Mac’s Brew News – June 20, 2015


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

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

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

Here’s what is brewin’ at Mac’s . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mac’s Brew News – May 7, 2015


Mac’s Brew News is published today in honor of my daughter, Rosie (aka “Warhead”) who is 21 years old today.  Happy Birthday, Rosie!  Have a fun day today, and have a blast at your party tomorrow evening.  I can say with confidence that there will be plenty of good beer at the event, including a hefeweizen brewed especially for this occasion (see Club 21 below).

The Princess was born on this day,
It was May ’94, by the way.
Though her beauty was torrid,
Andy dubbed her the Warhead.
But she’s Mac’s Pride and Joy, may I say

It’s been several months since I posted anything on this site.  I apologize for the delay – I had some technical issues and was unable to access Macs Brew for a couple of months.  I just recently regained access, so here’s the latest on what’s happening at Mac’s.

I’ve been quite busy brewing this winter and spring.  Right now I have 5 beers on tap plus two new beers in bottles and one additional brew in the fermenter.  That’s really more beer than I can handle here, so I guess it’s a problem.  Imagine that . . . having too much beer – now that’s a good problem to have.

In March I got a new stainless steel conical fermenter.  It’s heated and cooled, so I can precisely control my fermentation temperatures, which means my beers should taste better.  It also means I can brew lagers now, as I can keep the temperatures in the low 50’s.  I think my first attempt at a lager will be a schwarzbier (black lager).  I currently have an IPA in the conical; it’s the second batch in this fermenter.

So, here’s what’s been brewing . . .

Mac’s Black Forest Stout (update): Bottled 01-21-2015.  8.6% ABV.  It’s very good, with a pronounced cherry aroma and flavor.  It has a high finishing gravity, so it’s somewhat sweet with a full body and velvety smooth mouthfeel.  I think it’s better than the first time I brewed it (2012) and I am hopeful that it will place well in the fruit beer category at the OC Fair.

Red Headed Step-Child: Brewed 01-09-2015; kegged 02-23-2015.  7.4% ABV.  This is the second time I brewed this beer – this time in collaboration with the Gilberstadts (see previous newsletter for details).  Like the last time I brewed this beer, I oaked it again.  However, I used French oak this time, cubes instead of chips, and kept it on the wood for only 8 days.  The oak is very subtle, but gives it a very smooth, mellow character.  This is a very nice and easy drinking beer.  You gotta be careful, though.  At 7.4% ABV, it can hit you pretty hard.

Mac’s PAPA (Paper Ass Pale Ale): Brewed 01-27-2015; kegged 03-03-2015.  6.0% ABV.  So, what’s with the name of this beer (Paper Ass Pale Ale)?  I’m glad you asked.  There’s an old expression, “you talk like a man with a paper asshole.”  My dad used this expression, but I didn’t know what it meant until recently when I looked it up in the urban dictionary.  It refers to someone who talks a lot, but without substance.  He can’t back up his talk; he speaks nonsense, foolishness.  In other words, he’s full of B.S.  This is a perfect description of Mac, who is constantly talking about beer, but is really full of crap in regards to the subject.  Yes, that’s me, and now I have a brew to prove it (my Paper Ass Pale Ale).

This is the first time I’ve ever made a pale ale recipe.  I was aiming for a slightly hoppy pale ale, but not so hoppy as to remind one of an India Pale Ale.  This is a very simple recipe and it turned out quite nice, although I think a little dry hopping would help (next time).  It’s slightly hoppy, very drinkable and enjoyable.

Aeronautical Amber Ale: Brewed 02-16-2015; kegged 03-21-2015.  7.0% ABV.  My old stand-by amber ale recipe.  It’s quite good – well balanced, malty, yet hoppy for an amber.

Janitor In A Drum: Brewed 03-09-2015; kegged 04-27-2015.  6.1% ABV.  This is an English style brown porter, a la Fuller’s London Porter.  I used small amounts of cacao nibs toward the end of the boil and in the secondary fermenter.  It has a nice, but subtle, chocolate flavor, and the nutty flavor from the brown malt is noticeable.

This is my first porter recipe and I’m not sure what to think about it.  It tastes good, but the chocolate is not as pronounced as I wanted it to be.  I entered this into the OC Fair to get the judges comments (I don’t expect it to score high or win an award).  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Oh yeah, about the name of this beer, “Janitor In A Drum”.  A porter is a janitor, and this beer lives in a stainless steel keg.  I think “Janitor In A Drum” is appropriate.  If you’re old enough, you will remember the cleaning product in the 1970’s, Janitor In A Drum.  If you’re not that old, then the name of the beer might sound silly (oh well, your loss).

Club 21 – Warhead Weissbier: Brewed 03-23-2015; kegged 04-14-2015 (5 gallons), bottled 04-25-2015 (5 gallons).  5.7% ABV.  This was brewed to drink for Rosie’s 21st birthday party.  It’s my standard Bavarian hefeweizen recipe, but Rosie helped me brew it, and because it is for her birthday, it’s called “Club 21 – Warhead Weissbier”  If you know Rosie, you may be aware that “Warhead” is one of her nicknames.  It’s a long story; I’ll have to tell you about it over a beer.

We brewed a 10 gallon batch.  The 5 gallons in the keg is for Rosie’s B-day party.  One of the two cases I bottled is being donated to Eddies Barber Shop in Placentia.  My nephew, Russ, created and painted the Mac’s Brew Pub logo prominently displayed in the pub, and he works at Eddies.  They serve beer to the customers waiting to get their hair cuts.  Club 21 will be available to the public while supplies last at Eddies Barber Shop, so here’s your opportunity to get a great haircut (make an appointment with Russ) and have a great beer while you’re there.

Mac’s Citra Smack Down: Brewed 04-16-2015; 7.8% ABV.  Currently dry hopping.  This was a collaboration with Mike Matulich.  It should be in the keg within the next two weeks. It’s a brand new recipe (featuring Citra and Amarillo hops),so I will have to wait to see how it turns out.  I tasted the sample I collected for a hydrometer reading – it’s very good, but dry hopping should vastly improve it and give it more flavor and hoppy aroma.

Club 57 (update): Brewed 03-27-2014; kegged 03-28-2015,  14% ABV.  No, that’s not a typo.  It was a year between brewing and kegging.  I conditioned it for an extended period of time  on oak and bourbon because the alcohol content is so high.  This really helped smooth out the alcohol taste, although it’s still noticeable.  The bourbon flavor had faded over the year, so I added a little more when I kegged Club 57.  I think that might have been a mistake, as the harshness and the booziness form the bourbon is noticeable again.  Oh well, It should be perfect in a few more months.  Unfortunately, it may be a little harsh when judged at the OC Fair in a little over a week.

Orange County Fair Homebrew Competition entries:

  • Club 57
  • Black Forest Stout
  • Red Headed Step Child
  • Aeronautical Amber Ale
  • Mac’s PAPA
  • Janitor In A Drum

I think the only ones with a realistic chance of winning any awards are Club 57 and Black Forest Stout.  The others I entered just to get judges comments and suggestions (especially for new recipes, Mac’s PAPA and Janitor In A Drum) to help me improve my beer.

Well, this newsletter is longer than I intended, so I’ll sign off for now.  Stay tuned, though, as I have a number of beer reviews to be posted soon.  Cheers!

Mac’s Brew News – January 10, 2015

Happy New Year to one and all.  I hope each of you had a fun and festive holiday season and were able to enjoy some good beer.  It’s been busy here at Mac’s and I offer you this opportunity of catch up on the latest news.

Mac the Annihilator: brewed 10-14-2014; kegged 11-22-2014.  10.3% ABV.  This was ready for consumption just in time for Thanksgiving at Mac’s Brew Pub.  It turned out pretty good, but not as good as I hoped for.  I think I got the grain bill just right this time, and will make no further adjustments to it, but I might change up some of the hops in the future.  Also, I might mash at a slightly lower temperature to get a lower finishing gravity and a drier beer.

Maktoberfest: brewed 10-28-2014; kegged 11-22-2014. 6.1% ABV.  I brewed a 10 gallon batch and divided it into two 5 gallon portions for fermentation.  I kegged 5 gallons and bottled the other 5 gallons.  The kegged version, like MTA, was ready for drinking on Thanksgiving.  I bottled the other portion 12-04-2014.

It’s interesting to note that both portions were exactly the same (from the same kettle) and I used yeast from the same starter (poured it more or less half and half when I pitched into the two fermentation carboys), but they turned out differently.  Now, I believe some of the taste differences can be attributed to the different serving protocols (draught vs. bottle conditioning), but there is definitely more to it than that.  The bottled version tastes better (that’s unusual!) and finished at a lower gravity resulting in a higher alcohol content (7.2%).  The bottled version is also much more clear

I’m stumped on this one.  I pitched a little more yeast into the kegged portion, but not a whole lot more (there was a little more wort in that carboy as well), so I can’t imagine that affected the final gravity too much.  I might have to check with the Brew Master, Joe Renden, to get his expert opinion.

The kegged version is pretty cloudy, which is unusual for the yeast strain used.  The flavor is malty and somewhat sweet, within the Oktoberfest style range, but not as good as past versions I brewed (third place at the 2013 OC Fair under the name “Whatchamacallit”).  It’s good, but not great.  Now, the bottled version on the other hand, has a much cleaner appearance and flavor.  It is very good, with a lager-like taste sensation and malty caramel notes.  I proudly gave a case to my father for Christmas.  He says he is enjoying it, consuming a couple of bottles a week.

Mac’s Black Forest Stout: brewed 12-11-2014.  This beer is still conditioning in the carboy on 5 oz of cacao nibs.  It is currently 8.6% ABV, and likely to stay there (the fermentation is over).  The flavor is very good – I sampled a little bit of it when I took a hydrometer reading.  I will probably bottle it in about 2 weeks and let it bottle condition for about 3 months.  I plan to enter it into the OC Fair in May.

Red Headed Step-Child: brewed Friday 01-09-2015 (yesterday).  The original gravity was high, but one gravity point lower that it was the last time I brewed this recipe.  That’s to be expected, as I collected an additional half gallon of runoff this time.

Last time I brewed RHSC, I collaborated with Mike Matulich.  This time I collaborated with Martin Gilberstadt and Martin Gilberstadt II.  All three of us really enjoyed brew day, and we each have 5 gallons for consumption.  Well, to clarify, I have 5 gallons, and they have 5 gallons between them.  I plan to oak my portion, like I did last time, but will use French oak, and will use cubes rather than chips (should give a little smoother oak flavor).  I think Gilberstadts are planning on dry hopping their portion.  We will have to get together and sample our creations together.  Martin and M-II, thanks for your company, your assistance, and the great burrito.  I hope you enjoyed the experience as much as I did.  Maybe we could do this again.

I’m not sure what’s up next at Mac’s Brewing.  Maybe a hefeweizen or another IPA.  Possibly a pale ale, or  . . . so many possibilities.

That’s if for now.  Cheers!

Mac’s Brew News 10/26/2014 – A Tribute To Wyatt Earp

“The fighting has commenced.  Go to fighting or get away.” (Wyatt Earp to Ike Clanton, October 26, 1881;  Tombstone, Arizona)

Today is the 133rd anniversary of the gunfight at the OK Corral.  To commemorate this event, Mac’s Brew Pub is proudly releasing this newsletter.  I trust that’s OK with you.

Well, summer is over, and so is my vacation.  I enjoyed the break from the rigors of brewing, but I also missed the challenge and the fun.  My kegerator is almost empty, so it’s time to fire up the brew kettle and make some more beer.  I have only one beer left on tap (Red Headed Step-Child) and that is almost gone, so more home brew is definitely in order.  I can’t complain, though, I haven’t brewed since May and my beer lasted until now – not too bad (beer on tap for 4 months without brewing).  This is what’s going on at Mac’s Brew Pub.

Mac the Annihilator: I brewed a batch of Mac the Annihilator (MTA) on Tuesday October 14, 2014.  I tweaked the recipe a little (much to Mike’s chagrin), so this is Generation II of MTA.  The color is just right (although it’s a little hard to tell when it’s in the fermenter) and the Original Gravity was 1.092.  This should finish out in the high 9% ABV range – at least, that’s what I’m hoping for.

Maktoberfest: On Tuesday October 28, I’m brewing Maktoberfest.  See Mac’s Whatchamacallit in previous newsletters – it’s the same recipe (third place at the 2013 OC Fair).  This time I’m brewing 10 gallons.  I will keg 5 gallons and bottle 5 gallons.  I love Oktoberfest (Marzen) style beers, so this is my “ale” answer to the Marzen style (a lager).  The ale yeast I’m using ferments very clean, like a lager, so the end result is a lager-like ale.

Baby Luke’s Barrel Aged Barley Wine: I was going to let this age one more month, but since there is almost nothing on tap at Mac’s, I decided to keg Baby Luke’s Barley Wine today.  It’s been conditioning/aging on bourbon soaked oak cubes since March 30, 2014 (with a little bit of fermentation going on as well).  It’s 12.2% ABV with a decent bourbon barrel aroma and flavor.  We’ll see how it stands up to carbonation (it’s being carbonated now) – I’m afraid it’s going to be a little too dry as the final gravity was much lower than I intended (1.012).  I might have goofed up by adding the champagne yeast after primary fermentation – it brought the gravity down, but much more than I intended.  Oh well, we’ll see how it tastes.  Baby Luke is now 9 months old and this was brewed in his honor shortly after his birth.  You’re a blessing, Luke; Papa loves you!

Ok, that’s it for this edition of Mac’s Brew News.  It’s nice and short, but all the latest information is here.  I hope that’s OK with all of you.

Speaking of OK, if anyone is interested in the gunfight at the OK Corral and/or Wyatt Earp, there are several good books on the subject.  In my opinion, the most comprehensive and fair treatment of the life and times of the Earps is Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind The Legend by Casey Tefertiller (copyright 1997).  I have read several Wyatt Earp books, but this one is by far the most compelling, well researched and comprehensive treatment of the subject.  I highly recommend it.  The 1994 movie, “Tombstone” is a pretty good  and accurate treatment of the subject until it gets to the vendetta, where it depicts a lot of gratuitous violence.  Up to that point, however, it is historically accurate and very compelling.

As many of you are aware, there are several photos of Wyatt Earp in Mac’s Brew Pub.  I think it would have been fascinating to spend an afternoon with him sharing war stories and a beer.  He truly is an American legend.

Here’s to you, Wyatt (03/19/1848 – 01/13/1929).  YOU ARE AN INSPIRATION!.  From one law man to another – Cheers!!!!!!!

Mac’s Brew News – July 27, 2014

It’s been quite some time since my last newsletter, but I’ve only brewed one batch since then – I’m enjoying my summer break.  I will attempt to bring everyone up to speed on the happenings at Mac’s Brew Pub without making this too lengthy and boring.

Mac’s Cherry Wheat: Brewed Monday May 19, 2014.  5.5% ABV.  I collaborated with another brewer, Mike Young.  We brewed 10 gallons of wheat ale – it’s a very basic recipe I use for all my wheat beers, 60% malted wheat and 40% malted barley.  Mike Young made an apricot wheat beer with his 5 gallons and I made 5 gallons of cherry wheat.  Unlike my apricot wheat (brewed in February 2014), I did not use any real fruit in the fermenter.  I simply fermented the wheat ale and added concentrated cherry flavoring when I kegged it.  It’s got a nice fruity/cherry aroma with an ever-so-slight pink tinge (from the cherry concentrate).  Initially, the sweet cherry flavor bursts in your mouth, but then fades into a well balanced American style wheat beer taste.  This is a LOW hopped beer (2 oz of Cascade hops in 10 gallons), but it is not overly sweet, especially once the cherry subsides.  Overall, it is well balanced.  There is no doubt you’re drinking a beer (it does not taste like carbonated cherry juice) but the fruity aroma and flavor are both satisfying and very refreshing.  It is very comparable to Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat and is a great summertime beer.

As I previously mentioned, Mike Young made his 5 gallons into apricot wheat – he added pureed apricot to the fermenter.  I haven’t tasted it, but he informs me it’s quite good.  I guess you can see that this is a very versatile base beer; not only do I use it to make fruit beers, I use the same recipe (with different hops) to make Bavarian and American style hefeweizens (of course, I also ferment with different yeast strains).

Red Headed Step-Child: Brewed Saturday April 26, 2014.  7.4% ABV.  As mentioned in my previous newsletter, this was a collaboration brew with my brother-in-law, Mike Matulich.  We brewed a 10 gallon batch; Mike fermented 5 gallons and I fermented 5 gallons.  Mike’s beer tastes different than mine because he dry hopped his (i.e., added hops to the secondary fermenter) while I oaked mine (added oak chips to the secondary fermenter).  Dry hopping adds a lot of hop aroma and flavor to the beer,  so I’m calling his batch, “Bitter Red Headed Step-Child.”  The oak chips in my beer added the soft vanilla and coconut flavors that are characteristic of wood aged beer, so I’m calling my batch, “Spanked Red Headed Step-Child” (after all, I hit it with some wood).

This recipe was meant to be a hoppy beer.  I used a lot of Chinook and a little Cascade hops in the recipe.  My intention was to make something similar to Stone’s Arrogant Bastard Ale (it’s not a clone; I wanted to be in the same neighborhood, but not sleeping in the same bed).  Mike’s version is very reminiscent of Arrogant Bastard and is quite good.  Mac’s version is very different.  The aroma and initial flavor is hoppy, but the hops rapidly fade to the vanilla flavor of the oak.  This beer becomes all about the mellow oak flavor mid palate and in the aftertaste.  My initial reaction to this was that it was too oaky (2 oz of oak chips in the fermenter for 2 weeks) and I was somewhat disappointed.  I was just trying to impart a hint of oak (think, Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale).  Obviously I spanked this step-child way too hard.  However, the more I drink this beer, the more I like it the way it is.  Yes, the mellow oak flavors are well developed and quite pronounced, but it does not ruin the beer, which was intended to be more about the hops (if you get a chance, buy a bottle of Widmer Brothers’ “Downward Spiral” which is an Imperial IPA aged on oak spirals; it’s a VERY good beer).  Don’t know how I will treat this beer if I brew it again (that’s pretty likely), but it’s a good beer either way.

Club 57: Brewed March 27, 2014.  13.4% ABV (beer fermented out to 12.3% then added oak and bourbon).  It has been in the aging “bourbon barrel” since June 6, 2014.  I will periodically sample it to determine how the aging process is going.  It’s currently resting on 2 oz of medium toast American oak cubes (previously used) with the bourbon.  I will probably bottle this late next spring or early next summer.  I tasted a small sample when I racked it to the aging “barrel” (before adding the bourbon soaked oak cubes).  It’s very good – thick and chocolaty with a noticeable booziness already.  I will monitor the oak level in the beer to see if I need to add additional bourbon soaked (previously used) oak cubes.  I might also add additional cacao nibs if I think it necessary.

Now for the rest of the news regarding Mac’s Brew Pub.  I currently have 4 beers on tap: Mac’s Apricot Wheat; Mac’s Cherry Wheat; Mac The Annihilator; and (Spanked) Red Headed Step-Child.  Everyday I struggle to decide which beer to drink for happy hour (5:00 PM – 9:00 PM daily).  I guess that’s a good problem to have, huh?  It’s not entirely unusual for me to have a little (8 oz) of each, but in that case, it’s Mac The Annihilator last (don’t want my taste buds to get annihilated right off the bat).

I previously reported that I entered 4 beers into the Orange County Fair.  As expected, none of my beers won awards, but I’m not disappointed.  I didn’t expect to win anything because, although they were all good beers, none of them stood out (except maybe Mac The Annihilator, but that had obvious flaws and would not stand out much in the IPA category, which is the most competitive).  I’m anxious to get the judges scoring sheets to review their comments so that I can improve all of my beer.

I decided to enter my last 2 brews (Cherry Wheat and Red Head) into the LA County Fair a couple of weeks ago.  The cherry wheat will not win anything and I have no idea about my Red Head – it’s pretty unusual, but does not fit strictly into any one category as defined by the BJCP guidelines (that’s why it’s a “Step-Child”).  Because it’s highly hopped, but also oaked, it may not fare too well, as that combination is kind of a, “No, No.”  I entered it into the Wood Aged Beer category.  However, it was necessary to identify the underlying style – an American Amber Ale.  Because it’s hopped more like an IPA, it’s not really true to the amber ale style.  We’ll see what happens.  The judging takes place on Saturday August 2, 2014 and the LA Fair is in late August/September, so I have to wait for awhile to hear the results.

I will probably resume brewing in late September or early October; I will try to post some beer reviews between now and then.  I hope all is going well with each and every one of you.  If you know the location of Mac’s Brew Pub, you’re welcome to stop by for a draught beer.  Cheers!

Mac’s Brew News – May 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s it for now.  Cheers!