Underbite Double IPA

Well, I’ve got tasting notes on lots of beers I’ve sampled in the last several months.  Here is one review for your beer drinking pleasure.  Please read responsibly.

Underbite Double IPA: Big Dogs Brewing Company, Las Vegas NV.  8.7% ABV.
In my last newsletter I mentioned this beer, and promised a review, plus the story behind the brew and how it ended up at Mac’s Beer Appreciation party.  Now, I know that was a tease, but here’s the story, and I didn’t make you wait long for it.

On Saturday August 11, 2018, I attended the Festival of Flavors at the Brianhead Resort in Brianhead Utah with my brother, Don Evans.  This was a beer, spirits and wine tasting event (held annually at the resort). There were several Utah breweries in attendance, including Wasatch, Talisman, Squatters, and others.  While there, Don introduced me to his friends, Charlie and Amanda Koeller.  It turns out Amanda is one of the three brewers at Big Dogs Brewing Company in Las Vegas, Nevada.

While talking with Charlie he showed me a photo of his dog, Sorrel, a Bordeaux Mastiff (think Tom Hanks’ dog, Beasley, in the movie Turner and Hooch), and explained that the photo inspired the drawing on the Underbite Double IPA can (which he also showed me a picture of).  With my curiosity piqued, I spoke to Amanda, and immediately formed a bond of friendship when I discovered that she was a brewer at Big Dog’s Brewing Company.

Amanda explained how she came up with the recipe for Underbite IPA the night before it was brewed, putting the finishing touches on the recipe well after midnight.  It was supposed to be a one-off brew, but demand for the beer was very high, and Big Dogs decided to add it to their core line-up.

I told Amanda that I found IPAs difficult to brew exactly how I envisioned them, and was impressed that her first iteration of this brew was spot on and so wildly successful.  Unfortunately, Amanda said Big Dogs beer is not distributed outside of Nevada, so I was not going to be able to get it in California.  Lucky for me however, the story doesn’t end there.

That night, long after the event was over, Amanda and Charlie came over to Don’s cabin in Brianhead and brought Sorrel, along with a couple of Underbite Double IPAs to share.  Although I had already had enough beer for the day, how could I turn down the opportunity to drink this IPA with the designer/brewer and the dog whose face graces the can?  Of course I sacrificed and had a can of Underbite with them (see photo).  I REALLY enjoyed the beer, and Amanda agreed to give Don a case of it to bring to Mac’s Beer Appreciation party.

Amanda Koeller (the brewer), with Sorrel (the inspiration) and Mac, enjoying Underbite Double IPA.

Don proudly served this beer at the party, and it was thoroughly enjoyed.  Fortunately for me, there were several cans left over.  I retained the excess Underbite and have been enjoying it at Mac’s Brew Pub.  Now YOU get to vicariously enjoy this beer through my description, but if you want to taste it for yourself, you’ll have to go to Nevada, or come over to Mac’s before it’s all gone.  NOW, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it . . . but enough of that, here’s what you’ve really been waiting for – the review of Underbite Double IPA

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Underbite pours a slightly hazy straw yellow color with a ½” head that fades after a couple of minutes to a thin ring around the perimeter.  The aroma is tropical fruit, apricot, citrus and lemon.

The flavor follows the nose – citrus, grapefruit, lemon, and pine, with a dry finish and a bitter grapefruit/lemon aftertaste.  The bitterness lingers on the back of the palate.  There is some malty sweetness to this beer, as is typical with a Double IPA, but overall the sensation is bitter and dry.

Underbite has a medium carbonation level with medium body and mouth feel.  The alcohol content is fairly high at 8.7%, but is well hidden, and not noticeable in the flavor.

This beer is very refreshing and easy to drink. It’s a typical bittersweet DIPA, but it leans more toward bitter, less toward the malty end of the style range. One could put a lot of it down on a hot day, but be careful, that high alcohol content could put the hurt on you.

Very well done, Amanda!   And Sorrel, thanks for inspiring her.  I highly recommend this beer.

Underbite Double IPA is available in 12 oz. cans. Unfortunately for most of us, it’s only available in Nevada.  But, next time you go to Las Vegas, pick up a sixer or two and bring it back home with you (and in that case, what happens in Vegas WON’T stay in Vegas).

I normally review more than one beer when I publish beer reviews, but this one got quite lengthy because of the associated story.  Stay tuned, however, I’ll post more beer reviews soon.

Sláinte!

Mac’s Brew News – September 17, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strange Addiction’s home for the next few months.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sláinte!

Mac’s Brew News – June 26, 2018

Greetings beer lovers.  Allow me to impart some wisdom about beer and about Mac’s Brew.  Please read responsibly!

It seems like my last newsletter was ages ago. I’m so sorry for depriving all of you, as I know you have been eagerly anticipating the beer news.  As I stated in the last update, I had not brewed for quite some time.  It ended up being almost five months, but finally I had enough time between vacations that I was able to fire up the brew kettle again on March 7, 2018.  I’ve been on a binge since then, brewing five times in an attempt to catch up.  Before I give you the details about my recent brews, I need to provide a little background so you can appreciate the full story behind the Imperial Stout.

In May, Sheila and I went to the Kentucky Derby with Rose Evans (Sheila’s mother), Don Evans (brother) and Donna Evans (sister-in-law).  You know, this is sort of a bucket list thing, and who wouldn’t want to go to the world’s most famous horse race?  I watch it on TV every year, and we all wanted to go.  So we went to Louisville, attended the Derby and drank mint juleps.

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

While at Churchill Downs, we hung out a lot in Aristides Lounge and met a fascinating Australian couple, Peter Chapman and Tasia Hull.  Peter owns several thoroughbred racehorses and he came all the way to Kentucky from Australia to attend the Derby.  His most successful horse is “Strange Addiction,” who won numerous races, but is now retired. When Peter told me about this animal’s exploits, I asked him if it would be OK to name a special beer after his special horse.  He agreed of course, and so my newest BIG brew is called “Strange Addiction” (more on that below).

Strange Addiction – Peter Chapman’s racehorse.

Thank you Peter, for allowing me to name this extraordinary beer after your extraordinary horse.  CHEERS, MATE!  [Note: Peter, being a thoroughbred horse owner and involved in the horseracing industry, was much more familiar with horseracing and betting than anyone in our group.  He helped us with tips and information for betting at Churchill Downs on Friday (at the Kentucky Oaks) and Saturday (at the Kentucky Derby).  Thanks so much Peter, your insight was invaluable!]

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

Now that you have a little bit of background on one of my latest brews, here’s the lowdown on what’s been happening at Mac’s (probably more than you may want to know).

Don’t Worry, Be Hoppy– Brewed March 7, 2018.  7.8% ABV, 113 IBU
Great name for an IPA, right?  Unfortunately after I decided to name this beer, “Don’t Worry, Be Hoppy” I considered that the name had likely been taken by another brewery already.  Turns out I’m not so clever, and I was right – there was already such a beer. However, as far as I can tell, the brewery (Riverside Brewery & Restaurant) made this beer in 2014, and has since gone out of business (or at least has changed names).  I have found no reference to “Don’t Worry Be Hoppy” IPA since 2014 on Google.  That’s good enough for me – I’ll use the handle for now, but won’t be arrogantly boasting about the clever name of this beer.  [Caveat: you can find lots of merchandise (t-shirts, etc.) on the internet with a “Don’t Worry Be Hoppy” slogan.]

So what about this beer?  It’s a double IPA, my latest recipe makeover for “Smack Down.” This wasn’t just a recipe tweak, however, it was a major overhaul. – that’s why I couldn’t call it “Smack Down” this time. In this case, IPA stands for “India Pale Accident” because it didn’t turn out the way I intended.  I completely changed the hops used in the recipe, which resulted in more of a tropical flavor than a citrus flavor. Although I intentionally went away from the three “C’s” (Cascade, Centennial and Chinook), I didn’t expect to get such a tropical note.  The flavor and aroma is somewhat on the sweet side, with notes of pineapple and melon. At first I was disappointed, not wild about the flavor, but Sheila LOVED it.  She says it is by far the best IPA I’ve ever brewed.  After drinking a couple of pints and realizing DWBH follows the hops profile, I have to say I’m really starting to like this beer. There’s no doubt it’s an IPA as the bitterness is very apparent, but the fruity notes really shine through. Enough said about this one.

Mac’s Apricot Wheat– Brewed April 9, 2018.  6.2% ABV, 15 IBU
My annual summertime fruit beer.  This year it’s apricot.  This is a 10-gallon batch of wheat beer, brewed with German noble hops. It’s just a basic wheat beer recipe; no changes in the last few years.  I split the fermentation into two 5-gallon batches to make an American style wheat beer, then added the apricot to one of the fermenters late during the fermentation.  The result is a very light and refreshing wheat beer with a strong (but not overwhelming) apricot presence.

Mak’s Bavarian Hefeweizen– Brewed April 9, 2018.  6.2% ABV, 15 IBU
This is the other 5-gallons from the wheat beer brew day.  I used a German hefeweizen yeast to get this Bavarian classic with the necessary banana-clove notes.  I have this on tap every summer at Mac’s Brew Pub.

The Apricot Wheat and the Bavarian Hefeweizen are both great “lawn mowing” beers – light, easy-drinking, refreshing and not too high in alcohol.  I usually have the hefeweizen after I mow the lawn on these hot summer days (twice a week from June thru September – no, this beer won’t last that long, nor will the Apricot Wheat, but it sure is nice while it lasts).

 Goldihops (And the Free Beers)– Brewed May 11, 2018.  5.1% ABV, 13 IBU
This is another summertime stand-by.  This is one of the only beers for which  I have never changed the recipe since the first time I brewed it.  Of all the beers I brew, this is the biggest crowd pleaser, and the keg that empties the quickest.  It’s brewed with honey (for this batch I used Orange Blossom honey), sweet orange peel and coriander seed, for a subtle orange/citrus aroma and flavor.   This year I collaborated with a terrific young man, Johnny Bryant.  Johnny has been brewing for over 20 years, so I had to make sure to bring my “A” game to brew day – can’t embarrass Mac (the arrogant and condescending beer geek who talks like a man with a paper asshole), right?  Anyway, it was a real pleasure to brew with such a pleasant young man.  I hope you’re enjoying Goldihops, Johnny.

Strange Addiction– Brewed May 30, 2018.  11.8% ABV (final ABV is TBD), 78 IBU
This is the monster of Mac’s Brew.  I didn’t mention in previous newsletters that I bought a 15-gallon bourbon barrel in November 2017.  That means I needed to brew a 15-gallon batch of beer to age in said barrel.  Well, Strange Addiction is that beer.  This is the same base recipe I have used the last couple of years to brew Wide Awake Drunk (see previous newsletters for more on Wide Awake Drunk).  However, in order to make this an Imperial Stout (that just means REALLY big) I use a 10-gallon grain bill to make a 5 gallon batch. That’s not so easy to do on my 10-gallon system, so I bought a larger mash tun and then brewed a double batch on brew day.

So, what is it like to brew a double batch on brew day?  I have been putting this off for several months because I knew it was going to be a BIG job.  I talked a lot to my good friend and homebrewer extraordinaire, Bryce Lowrance, to get some ideas on how to shorten and make brew day go smooth, as he also bought a 15 gallon bourbon barrel and brewed an Imperial Stout to fill it (Thanks, Bryce, your input was invaluable!!!).  Alright, to answer the question I posed in the first sentence of this paragraph, it was the longest, hardest brew day of my life.

I started at 5:30 AM, and finished at 11:00 PM that night.  And even at that, I wasn’t really completely done, as all of my equipment was (mostly) clean, but not put away (that took a couple of hours the following day).  So what about the wort I made that day? [Not sure what “wort” is? – refer to “Terms and Definitions”, published in this blog on May 4, 2012.]  Original Gravity (see “Term and Definitions”) was 1.117. Final Gravity was 1.029 (for 11.8% ABV). It’s currently conditioning in glass carboys on cacao nibs to increase/accentuate the chocolate notes. I tasted it when I racked it from the fermentor to the conditioning carboys – it’s really good, although a bit boozy right now.

After about a month or so in the carboys, I will transfer it to the bourbon barrel, where it will age for several months. How long?  Well, that will be determined by taste, as the beer matures in the barrel.  With the bourbon absorption from the barrel, I anticipate the final ABV will be somewhere between 13% – 14%.  Stay tuned.

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

This beer was a lot of work!!  Was it worth it?  That remains to be seen, but I’m confident it’s going to turn out very well. I will say this however, it’s going to be a long time before I undertake another endeavor like this again (a double batch in one day).  Now that should make Mrs. Mac very happy!

Note: A shout out and special Thank You again to Bryce Lowrance.  As I mentioned, he is a very talented homebrewer.  So much so that he is going pro.  He has accepted a position as head brewer for Far Field Beer Company, a start-up brewery in Los Angeles.  Congratulations Bryce!  I’m wishing you and Far Field Beer Company all the best in this endeavor.  I’m sure you will be a great success, and I hope to be there on opening day to sample your beer!

Maktoberfest– Brewed June 22, 2018.  ABV – TBD, 26 IBU.
My annual Märzen (Oktoberfest) brew.  No recipe change on this one; I think it’s dialed in.  Malty, sweet, with German noble hops.  It’s currently fermenting and progressing as expected.  This will be on tap in late August or early September.  I’m going to have 10 gallons for myself, so maybe you all should stop by for a pint or two.

Well, so much for the beer I’ve been brewing the last few months.  Keeping in mind that this newsletter is already too long, let me mention (briefly) a couple of other newsworthy items.

  • I hope to remodel the pub in the next month or two. I hope I can find the time.
  • I recently got some new equipment; I know I’m a beer geek, but this is really exciting stuff!More about this in another newsletter.
  • I’m not sure what to brew next, but I’m thinking of a couple of other lagers – a schwartzbier (black lager – think Köstritzer) and a Vienna lager (think Samuel Adams Boston Lager).
  • Sheila (Mrs. Mac) REALLY deserves special recognition for putting up with me and all the brewing/beer activity here. She really is a keeper (I love you sweetheart!).

Well, that’s it for now.  I have so many pages of notes about beers I’ve sampled that I really need to get to writing/posting those beer reviews.  So sorry to deprive you beer lovers of this critical information; please forgive.

Sláinte!

Mac’s Brew News – February 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sláinte!

8 Buffalo, Mocha Machine, Consecration & 7Th Anniversary

Have you been wondering what to spend your beer money on? I’ve got notes on lots of beer I’ve tasted in the last several months, but haven’t had time to post any reviews. Here are a few examples that any true connoisseur should find tasty and worthy. Please read responsibly!

8 Buffalo: Beachwood Brewing, Long Beach CA. 12% ABV
This beer is a bourbon barrel aged Imperial Russian Stout. It’s released seasonally, and should be available soon (this review is based upon a bottle I aged at Mac’s for several months). It is available in 22 oz. bombers.

8 Buffalo pours pitch black with a ¼” cocoa head that immediately fades to a thin ring. The aroma is vanilla, oak, and bourbon with chocolate notes. The flavor is strong chocolate, roasty, sweet, vanilla and fades to toffee and bitter cocoa. There is a lingering bittersweet chocolate in the aftertaste.

This stout has a thick mouth feel and heavy body with a low carbonation level. The alcohol, although 12%, is not noticeable in the flavor, but immediately produces a nice warming sensation. The effects are also felt right away.

As this beer warms, the foam ring around the perimeter increases to about ¼” and thin film develops across the top. The aroma becomes a bit sweeter, and the alcohol becomes slightly noticeable. The flavor develops a bit more bitter chocolate with less vanilla. The bourbon barrel aging becomes less noticeable and the aftertaste sweetens.

This is an excellent beer – very complex. I can highly recommend this one to those who appreciate Imperial Stouts and/or bourbon barrel aged ales.C

Mocha Machine: Beachwood Brewing, Long Beach, CA. 9.2% ABV.
This is Beachwood’s Imperial Porter with coffee and chocolate. This is brewed on a rotating basis, so it’s not always available, yet is not too hard to find. I sampled this from a 22 oz. bomber.

Mocha Machine pours black with a ¼” tan head that lasts forever. The aroma is MOCHA – sweet, coffee, vanilla. The flavor is also mocha, semi-sweet coffee, chocolate and vanilla. It fades to a pleasant coffee aftertaste that lingers.

No hoppiness or bitterness is detected, but it’s not overly sweet or out of balance. The coffee is front and center, but is not unpleasant or bitter. It’s very good. I would describe it like an iced coffee, slightly sweetened. Very well done, Beachwood!

Consecration: Russian River Brewing, Santa Rosa, CA. 10% ABV.
I’ve never had anything bad from Russian River Brewing. This is no exception. Consecration is a sour dark ale aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels with black currants added.

Consecration pours a clear mahogany brown with a fizzy cream-colored head that fades immediately. It is very highly carbonated (it’s bottle conditioned in a Belgian style bottle with cork and wire cage). Only a slight ring persists around the perimeter during the session.

The aroma is TART, tart and more tart – cherries with some sweet notes. The flavor is sweet black cherry for a brief moment, then a tart attack. Red wine, currents and plum flavors are noted. Did I mention that it’s sour? There’s no way you’re going to miss the brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and pediococcus added to the aging barrel. The aftertaste is tartness with some wine and a dry finish.

The carbonation level is high on the tongue, and Consecration has a medium to light body. The alcohol is not at all noted in the flavor, but the effect sure is noticeable. After 1/3 of a glass, it kicks in with a nice warming buzz.

I had this on tap at Russian River, and have had it more than once from a 12 oz. bottle. Consecration is excellent, and I highly recommend it. Caveat: if you don’t like sour beers, you won’t like this one, so don’t waste your money or torture yourself – leave it for those who appreciate the style.

7TH Anniversary: Black Market Brewing, Temecula, CA. 12.3% ABV.
As the name states, this is Black Market’s 7th anniversary release. It’s an Imperial Stout, aged in bourbon barrels and blended. I’ve had this bottle for a while, so I presume the 8th anniversary version will be released soon (if it’s not already available).

7TH Anniversary pours dark brown with a ½” tan head that fades after about a minute to a very substantial ring. The aroma is sweet, vanilla, oak, chocolate, nuts, brown sugar and some alcohol. The flavor is chocolate, vanilla, dark fruit, coconut and sweet cherry. It’s quite sweet, and the high alcohol content is well hidden.

The aftertaste is vanilla, coconut and oak – in other words, bourbon barrel. The throat warms after swallowing, and while enjoying the strong vanilla and milk chocolate aftertaste. The body is very viscous, thick, heavy and velvety smooth.

This is a dessert beer. Obviously with this much alcohol, it’s sipped (not guzzled). As it warms, the aroma becomes sweeter and more brown sugar is noted. Some very pleasant bitterness creeps in to the flavor at the back of the palate and the aftertaste is not quite as sweet.

7TH Anniversary is a very good beer. I currently have another bottle (a 22 oz. bomber) aging in the cellar and will consume it sometime in the future – it should age very nicely.

Well, there you have it; three dark beers (two imperial stouts and one imperial porter) and a sour for your (reading) consumption. I can highly recommend all four of these beers, but Consecration is the most unique of the bunch. If you like sour beers, there is no reason why you wouldn’t love it. If you don’t like sour beers, or haven’t really tried them, this would be a good one to cut your teeth on – start with a really good example of the style and it might just win you over right away. I should warn you, however, fizzy yellow beer drinkers need to stay away from these. They are much too complex for your tastes. Leave these beers to the big boys!

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!

Black Butte XXIX and Double Bastard – Bigger, Longer, Uncut

It’s been awhile since I posted a beer review. I don’t know what happened to the Vendome Beer Panel – they stopped doing them (or they stopped inviting me to participate). I guess that horrible task of sampling free beer is over.

Here are reviews of two limited release beers. Please read responsibly.

Black Butte XXIX: (2017) Deschutes Brewing, Bend, OR. 12.2% ABV.
This is Deschutes’ 29th birthday reserve. It’s an imperial porter brewed with cocoa, cinnamon and cayenne, then 50% aged in bourbon and rum barrels. [NOTE: refer to previous posts for reviews of Black Butte XXVIII (March 28, 2017) and Black Butte XXVII (March 5, 2017).]

Black Butte XXIX pours black with a ¼” light tan head that fades rapidly to a thick ring. The first whiff is spiced rum, then spiced rum, followed by more spiced rum with sweet chocolate, vanilla, bourbon and cherry.

The flavor is sweet rum, chocolate, coconut, vanilla, dark fruit, and cinnamon with cherry at the end. The cayenne is slightly noticeable in the aftertaste, giving just a bit of heat in the throat. The bourbon is very subdued, almost non-existent, but the rum is right in your face, along with strong notes of dark chocolate.

The mouth feel is thick and silky smooth with medium to low carbonation. The high alcohol content is completely absent in the flavor (too bad), but very noticeable in its effect. As it warms there is even more aroma of rum. The flavor is a bit sweeter with rum notes even more prevelant. The cinnamon is subtle, but makes an appearance (not so much when cold). The dark fruit (raisin, plum) fades a bit, and a little coffee emerges. The alcohol is still not apparent.

Black Butte XXIX is excellent! It is complex and very enjoyable. This is an impressive beer; good job, Deschutes!

I sampled XXIX on August 20, 2017 from a 22 oz. bomber that was bottled on June 12, 2017. The bottle cost $16.49 at Total Wine.

Double Bastard – Bigger, Longer, Uncut: Arrogant Brewing, Escondido, CA. 13% ABV.
First a very short history lesson – Arrogant Brewing split off from Stone Brewing in 2015. I believe Arrogant Brewing pushes the boundaries and makes the more “over the top” ales, including Double Bastard (an excellent Strong Ale). Today’s beer is Double Bastard Ale aged in Islay Scotch Whisky barrels. I will refer to it as “BLU” (Bigger, Longer, Uncut).

BLU looks like regular Double Bastard, but that’s where the similarity ends. It pours a deep amber color with a ½” beige head that fades after about a minute to a substantial ring. The aroma is smoky Scotch, sweet, tobacco – it smells like you’re walking into a tobacco shop.

It tastes sweet with notes of chocolate, vanilla, brown sugar and tobacco, followed by smoke/peat, Scotch Whisky, and smoky chocolate, with a lingering smoky/peaty essence in the aftertaste. As this beer warms, the aroma intensifies – close your eyes and you would think you’re sniffing a shot of Scotch. In the flavor, however, the smoke seems to fade, or is overtaken by sweetness, to wit, vanilla and chocolate (especially dark chocolate). The peat subsides and the sweet notes of chocolate and toffee take over. This seems counter-intuitive to me – I would think the peat/smoke would become more pronounced as the beer warms, but it’s just the opposite as the complexity of the underlying beer shines forth.

The body and mouth feel is thick and smooth. Carbonation is on the low side. As the beer warms (60°+), alcohol becomes noticeable late on the palate, but is not hot or unpleasant. In fact, I would opine that the alcohol is well hidden in the flavor (but not in it’s effect!).

Double Bastard – Bigger, Longer, Uncut is all about the Scotch. At first I was a little put off by it (the Scotch), but the more I drank it, the more I liked it. In my opinion, this is a beer that should not be consumed ice cold. Let this one warm up to cellar temperatures (55° – 60° F) to really appreciate the nuances and complexities. Double Bastard is a huge beer with huge flavor, and is able to stand up to the intensity of the Islay Scotch barrels.

I sampled BLU on August 27, 2017, from a 22 oz. bomber, given to me by my neighbor and good friend, Rob Lansley. It was bottled on October 14, 2016, so it had been aging for almost a year. I’m a little surprised that the Scotch flavor is still so pronounced after nearly a year in the bottle.

So there you have it. I highly recommend Black Butte XXIX. Anyone who appreciates a good imperial stout would enjoy this beer. I don’t drink much rum, but it really adds additional character and depth to this beer. I can also recommend Double Bastard – Bigger, Longer, Uncut, but with one admonition – you may not like it if you don’t like Scotch Whisky. As I stated, I don’t care much for Scotch, but after my initial disdain, I really enjoyed this big beer (thank you, Rob!). In fact, I got another bomber ($11.99) to share with . . . anyone interested? This is a great candidate for aging – maybe I’ll get one more bottle to age for a few years in my cellar.

Well, what are you waiting for? Get off your couch and go buy some good beer. Both are available at Total Wine right now, but are limited release and will be gone soon. Don’t miss out. (Caveat: fizzy yellow beer drinkers, don’t bother.)

Sláinte!

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!

Vendome Beer Panel – April 27, 2017

The latest Vendome Beer Panel was a little different. Each member of the panel chose a beer for tasting. Here are reviews of six beers from five different breweries. All of them are good, but none earned a top score of “5” on my scorecard.

If these reviews intrigue you or pique your interest, take a trip to Vendome Wine and Spirits in Fullerton and use my code, “VEN10C” or mention my name “CARL” to get a 10% discount off the price. Enough of the fine print though, here’s what you want to know.

The Vendome rating system:
0 – I wouldn’t offer this beer to my worst enemy.
1 – I wouldn’t pay for this beer, but it’s alright.
2 – Tasty, but easily forgettable.
3 – I’ve had better, I’ve had worse.
4 – I can see myself buying this beer and ordering seconds.
5 – Just hook up the beer straight to my veins.

Propeller-Head: Unsung Brewing, Anaheim, CA. 6.0% ABV. Rating – 4
This is a coffee infused amber ale. It pours a medium amber color with a light beige head. The aroma is sweet coffee. Propeller-Head has a light coffee flavor, slightly sweet and caramel, with no bitterness noted. There is a well balanced sweet but hoppy aftertaste. Ultimately this is all about the coffee: it predominates the aroma and flavor, and lingers in the aftertaste, but it’s not too strong.

Coffee beers are very popular right now and it seems that every brewery is making them. Some are good, but some aren’t to my liking. I think coffee works well in the darker beers, but not so well in the lighter colored beers (especially IPAs). Propeller-Head is very good. The caramel flavors in this amber ale stand up well to the coffee, and make for a very pleasant beer.

Bursted Cascade: El Segundo Brewing, El Segundo, CA. 6.0% ABV. Rating – 3
Bursted Cascade is a single hop IPA. It pours a golden, slight orange color, with a white foamy head that rapidly fades to a 1/8” ring around the perimeter. The aroma is citrus (as expected from Cascade), but not real strong. The flavor is grapefruit, but again, not too strong. The body is fairly light, with medium carbonation.

Bursted Cascade is a very drinkable, refreshing, thirst quenching beer. I would describe it as on the light side as far as hoppiness for an IPA. The alcohol content is fairly low at 6%, so it’s easy drinking. Overall, it’s a nice beer, but I think it could use some additional bitterness and hoppiness.

Knuckle Sandwich: Bootleggers Brewing, Fullerton, CA. 10% ABV. Rating – 4
This is the beer I chose for the Panel. Knuckle Sandwich is a Double IPA with a very high alcohol content. It pours a deep amber color with a thick beige colored head. The aroma is bittersweet – caramel malt with citrus notes. The flavor is citrus and pine, followed by malty sweet caramel. The malty sweetness lingers in the aftertaste, but is balanced by the bitterness.

Knuckle Sandwich is a typical DIPA, in that it can accurately be described as bittersweet. The malty/caramel sweetness stands out, but it’s not cloying or overly sweet. The body is full to heavy, and the carbonation level is medium. The alcohol level is high, but not noticeable in the flavor. Be careful, because a 22 oz. bomber can do some substantial damage. Overall, this is an excellent beer.

Hop Juice: Left Coast Brewing, San Clemente, CA. 10% ABV. Rating – 4
This is a triple IPA. Hop Juice pours light orange with a white head that persists for about a minute before fading to a substantial ring. The aroma is slightly bitter, but not overpowering. The flavor starts malty sweet, followed by a very nice grapefruit that fades to a clean citrus bitterness. The body and carbonation level are medium.

Hop Juice is 10% ABV, but that high alcohol content is even more well hidden than Knuckle Sandwich. This is quite easy to drink and overall, is a very good beer.

Asylum: Left Coast Brewing, San Clemente, CA. 11.8% ABV. Rating – 4
I think Left Coast Brewing likes to make big beers. Asylum is a Belgian style Tripel. I don’t typically drink Belgian style ales, but tend to tolerate, or even like, dubbels and tripels. This one is no exception, and I found that I really liked Asylum.

Asylum pours light orange with a white head. The aroma has the typical Belgian spicy sweet notes. The flavor is very sweet and fruity, with the Belgian yeast spiciness very subdued, and only in the aftertaste. The body is heavy with a thick mouth feel, but is mitigated by the high carbonation level. I found this fruity Belgian style ale very pleasant to drink.

Imperial Russian Stout: Stone Brewing, Escondido, CA. 10.6% ABV. Rating – 4
Oh how I love dark beers, and just about anything from Stone Brewing. Imperial Russian Stout pours black as midnight with a cocoa colored head that fades to a 1/8” ring around the perimeter. The aroma is sweet, chocolate and brown sugar. The flavor is sweet as well – chocolate, dark fruit and raisin – but also brings some bitter, roasty coffee. The aftertaste is chocolate, vanilla and sweet, but with some balancing bitterness and lingering coffee roastiness.

The body is heavy and the mouth feel is smooth, thick and viscous. Alcohol content is high, but is only slightly noticeable on the palate. This is one of the great non-barrel aged stouts available. I love Stone IRS and highly recommend it.

Well, that’s it for now, beer lovers. I can recommend all six of these beers (caveat: Bursted Cascade is nice, but doesn’t stand out from the hundreds of other IPAs on the market). I would say my favorite of the bunch is the Stone IRS. If you have an interest in drinking any of these, they are available for purchase at Vendome Wine and Spirits in Fullerton. Be sure to mention my discount code, “VEN10C” or my name, “CARL” to get a 10% discount off the purchase price.

Sláinte!

Vendome Beer Panel – April 13, 2017 (Continued)

As I mentioned in the Vendome Beer Panel review of April 13, 2017, one of the beers we were supposed to review was Split Shot Espresso Milk Stout from Elysian Brewing. Unfortunately Split Shot was not delivered in time and the Beer Panel was unable to review it with the other Elysian brews that evening. Fortuitously, it was delivered the following day to Vendome and I purchased a bottle for tasting and review. Here is what you want to know about Split Shot.  Please read responsibly!
(Note: See my previous post, dated April 15, 2017 for an explanation of the Vendome rating system.)

Split Shot: Elysian Brewing, Seattle WA. 6.0% ABV  28 IBU   Rating – 4
This Milk Stout pours black with a ½” tan head that fades in about 30 seconds to a substantial ring and very thin cap. The aroma is sweet coffee, mocha and chocolate. The flavor follows suit – coffee, mocha and chocolate, fading to a nice sweet “coffee with cream” aftertaste. There is very little bitterness. The flavor is sweet, but not overly so or out of balance, and is to be expected with the lactose. The body is fairly thin, with medium carbonation.

Espresso is a very strong, dark coffee, but the addition to this stout is subdued, mellow, and well balanced with the lactose. The coffee flavor dominates, but is not overwhelming. I would like to see Elysian put this on Nitro – it would be awesome! Overall, Split Shot is very good and I highly recommend it. Well done, Elysian!

If this description interests you, go over to Vendome Wine and Spirits in Fullerton to purchase Split Shot. Be sure to use my code, “VEN10C” or mention my name “CARL” to get a 10% discount off the price.

As an aside, but related to this review, I met the man responsible for Split Shot when I was in Seattle (April 2016).  For several years, Steve Luke worked for Elysian Brewing, developing  recipes and experimental beers.  Split Shot and Space Dust IPA are two of his creations.  In January 2016, Steve opened his own brewery, Cloudburst Brewing, located two blocks from the famous Pike Place Market in Seattle.  See Mac’s Brew News – April 25, 2016 for additional information about my visits to Cloudburst Brewing.

Steve Luke, the Brewmaster at Cloudburst Brewing. Keep up the good work, Steve!

Mac with a Jump Sturdy (Milk Stout on nitrogen) at Cloudburst Brewing

Well, that’s it for now, but check back soon – more beer reviews in the next couple of weeks, and I hope to get out a news letter very soon as well.  Now go buy some (Elysian) beer.

Sláinte!