Mash, Bourbon Street Rye Pale Ale, and Fogcutter

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It’s been awhile since I posted a beer review, but I have been busy sampling lots of different commercial brews.  Here are my impressions on three of them.  Please read responsibly.

Mash: The Bruery, Placentia, CA12.5% ABV.
Mash is a barley wine style ale aged in bourbon barrels.  Now I like barley wines, and bourbon barrel aged beers, so this should be a “can’t miss” beer, right?  The Bruery didn’t disappoint (I have to say, they never do; although I’m not wild about Belgian style beers, their specialty, you can count on anything from The Bruery to be good, and this is just another really good beer from our friends in Placentia).

Mash pours a cloudy dark amber with a 1/4″ light cream colored head that fades to a  thin ring around the perimeter of the glass (in this case, a “Bruery” tulip glass).  The aroma is sweet, dark fruit, raisin, toffee, caramel, vanilla, coconut and bourbon (faint).

Mash has a thick, heavy body with flavors of toffee, caramel, raisin, figs, vanilla, and coconut.  It then produces a slight bitterness that fades to more coconut, vanilla, and a little bit of booze, with a tobacco like quality lingering in the aftertaste.  This beer is sweet and chewy, but not unpleasant.  The carbonation is not overwhelming, but enough to smooth out the sweetness and cleanse the palate for your next sip.

Mash is very complex.  As it warms, the alcohol becomes quite pronounced in the aroma, but the taste remains very smooth, without the booziness that is noticeable in many other high alcohol beers.  In my opinion, this is one of the best barley wines on the market.  I prefer it to Stone’s Old Guardian (which I also like) – Mash is more in the English style (it’s not a hop bomb like Old Guardian) and is similar to Firestone Walker’s Sucaba.

I sampled Mash from a 750 ml bottle given to me by my daughter, Rosie, for Father’s Day.  It’s currently available at Total Wine for $19.99.  That’s pretty expensive, but well worth it (in fact, I have another bottle in my refrigerator right now).  I HIGHLY recommend Mash!

Bourbon Street Rye Pale Ale: Abita Brewing, Abita Springs, LA.  9.5% ABV.
Bourbon Street is a Pale Ale aged in bourbon barrels.  It is very high in alcohol for a pale ale (I’m sure the bourbon barrel aging has something to do with that).  This beer is a medium to dark orange color with a creamy white 3/4″ head that remains for a couple of minutes before fading to a thin covering over the top.  The aroma is sweet, vanilla, caramel and coconut.

The flavor is sweet malt, caramel and a slight, nice vanilla sweetness.  It is not overly sweet, as the hops balance it, to keep it in the American Pale Ale category.  The balanced sweetness fades to a nice vanilla and coconut in the aftertaste, courtesy of the bourbon barrel.  The vanilla/coconut lingers for quite awhile (very pleasant).

Bourbon Street has a medium carbonation level, commensurate with the Pale Ale style, but it is higher than most bourbon barrel aged beers.  This carbonation helps to keep the sweetness under control, and gets your mouth ready for the next swallow.

I sampled this beer from a  22 oz. bomber purchased from Total Wine for $9.99.  I think this might be limited release, so I’m not sure if it’s readily available.  Overall, this is a very nice beer, and one I can recommend.  I’ve never had a bourbon barrel aged pale ale before.  This one is nicely done.  Good job, Abita!

Fogcutter Double IPA: Lost Coast Brewery, Eureka, CA.  8.7% ABV.
Fogcutter pours a murky golden yellow with a 1/2″ white head, which fades to a fairly thick ring that leaves extensive lacing.  The aroma is mild citrus and floral.  The flavor is typical DIPA – bittersweet.  The malty sweetness is balanced out by the hoppy, citrus flavor that leaves a lingering bitterness in the aftertaste.

Fogcutter is rated at 80 IBU, which is on the lower end of the Double IPA category, but I think it is more balanced than many DIPA’s.  The medium body and carbonation level help lend a balanced feel to the flavor.  The alcohol content (8.7%) is substantial, but not overwhelming and is not noticeable in the taste.  If you drink it on an empty stomach, you will definitely get the effect, but you won’t be wiped out.  Many DIPA’s tend to be out of balance (in my opinion) – too thick and sweet – but Lost Coast has this one dialed in just right!

I had never heard of Fogcutter until I received a 22 oz. bomber from Phil Colias a couple of weeks ago.  As I recall, he randomly selected this beer and had never tried it before.  Well, Phil, good choice, and thank you for the wonderful beer.  I highly recommend Fogcutter and will be buying more in the future.  It’s moderately priced at $8.99 for a 22 oz. bottle at Total Wine.

So, there you have it.  Bourbon Street and Fogcutter are moderately priced; Mash is expensive.  Each of them, however, is worth the price of admission.  I can highly recommend all three of these beers, but especially Mash.  Caveat: fizzy yellow beer drinkers and cheapskates, don’t even bother – you’re not sophisticated enough.

There’s a lot happening at Mac’s Brew Pub and I hope to have a newsletter out in the next couple of weeks.  That’s all I have time for now, but check back soon for the lowdown on Mac’s Brew, and for additional beer reviews.

Sláinte!

Mac’s Brew News – June 8, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, that’s it for now.  Slainte!

Mac’s Brew News – May 1, 2016

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

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

Mac hard at work in the brewery mashing in  SmackDown.

Mac hard at work in the brewery mashing in SmackDown.

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

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

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

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

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

Slainte!

Mac’s Brew News – April 25, 2016

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

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

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

In the tasting room at Anchor

In the tasting room at Anchor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dad, Kevin and Mac at Cloudburst Brewing

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

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

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

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

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

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

With Bigfoot at Sierra Nevada

With Bigfoot at Sierra Nevada

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

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

Enjoying a pint of Pliny the Elder at Russian River

Enjoying a pint of Pliny the Elder at Russian River

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Tart of Darkness & So Happens It’s Tuesday

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The Bruery in Placentia California, has become world renowned in a relatively short time (founded in 2008).  When you taste their beers, you understand why, and might concede their reputation is well deserved.  Today I review two of their somewhat pricey  beers that are seasonal or limited release.  Please read responsibly.

Tart of Darkness: The Bruery, Placentia, CA.  7.2% ABV.
The first time I tasted this beer was in the Tasting Room at The Bruery.  It was just a sample glass, but it was so good, yet unusual, that I was hooked.  I recently looked back through my archives on this blog, but realized I have never published a review of this gem.  For my laziness, I offer my apologies (and shame on me!).

I poured Tart of Darkness into a Bruery tulip glass.  It is dark, in fact it’s nearly black, and produces a 1/2″ light tan head.  The head faded rapidly, leaving a razor thin ring around the perimeter.  The aroma is tart, sour cherries, with a little chocolate.  As it warms in the tulip glass, the chocolate aroma increases, but remains behind the tartness.

The overwhelming flavor is described in the name of the beer – TART.  It is extremely tart, from start to finish, making one pucker.  However, upon reflection and further tasting, the complexity and the subtleties become apparent.  It exhibits a sweetness, so I would describe the flavor as “sweet-tart”.  The chocolate notes and the roastiness, from the dark grains, peek through to moderate the tart and sour cherry flavors.  The chocolate and roasty notes also increase with the beer temperature, but the tartness remains the overwhelming flavor sensation.  That tartness smooths out a bit in the aftertaste, with a little bit of sweet chocolate lingering (though not for long).  Although this is a barrel aged beer, I get none of the oaky, vanilla aromas or flavors.

Tart of Darkness sports a medium body, and the carbonation is well developed for a stout. The alcohol content is only 7.2%, but I drank it on an empty stomach, and it went right to my head.  Nothing wrong with that, I say, let’s get the full effect of this beer.

The tartness of this beer is so overwhelming that the palate is rapidly wrecked, and it becomes difficult to distinguish any other flavors.  However, this beer is EXCELLENT!  You gotta taste it to appreciate this awesome beer.  I’m afraid my description does not do it justice.  I sampled this beer from a 750 ML bomber, purchased at Total Wine for $20.49.  Yes, I know that’s expensive for one bottle of beer, but if you like dark beers and you like sour beers, you really need to buy one.

So Happens It’s Tuesday: The Bruery, Placentia, CA.  14% ABV.
This is a huge Imperial Russian Stout.  Black Tuesday, by The Bruery, is, without a doubt, the biggest baddest Imperial Stout on the block.  However, unless you’re a member of The Bruery’s Reserve Society (I’m not – too expensive), it’s almost impossible to come by.  But, So Happens It’s Tuesday, is Black Tuesday’s little brother.  Although he’s the little brother, he’s by no means whimpy.  Let me explain.

So Happens It’s Tuesday pours pitch black with a 1/4″ cocoa colored creamy head.  The foamy head remained for a few minutes, then faded to a ring and a thin layer on top.  The aroma is complex – brown sugar, dark fruit, raisin, tart cherry, with an almost red wine-like character.

This beer is silky smooth and quite thick, and the flavor is unbelievably rich.  It’s sweet, with noticeable chocolate, and caramel notes.  Those flavors fade to dark, roasty chocolate, which fades to vanilla, coconut and mellow oaky bourbon flavors.  It’s 14% ABV, but the alcohol is well hidden and only slightly noted in the taste.

Like any big stout (especially one as high in alcohol as this), the subtle flavors shine through as this beer warms up.  As big as this beer is, it is unbelievably easy to drink.  Watch out, though, the high alcohol content will kick your butt.  I had a buzz when I was 1/3 of the way through my first glass (a Buery tulip glass).

Even though I live only a few miles from The Bruery, I find it almost impossible to come by Black Tuesday.  In contrast, however, So Happens It’s Tuesday is widely available right now.  It is an awesome beer, and although it is only the little brother of Black Tuesday, I can’t recommend it highly enough.  I purchased a 750 ML bomber of So Happens It’s Tuesday at Total Wine for $19.99.

So there you have it, reviews of two wonderful beers from The Bruery.  I highly recommend both, with one caveat – if you’re a fizzy yellow beer drinker, don’t bother!  Although both are about the same price (Tart of Darkness is 50¢ per bottle more), for my money I much prefer So Happens It’s Tuesday.  Of course, I’m an Imperial Stout lover, and although I like sour beers, they are more of a novelty to me and not to be visited frequently.  The bottom line is that even though these are expensive beers, both are well worth the price of admission.  If you’re interested, though, you better hurry, as there are limited quantities and availability.

I need to interject a few thoughts about Black Tuesday, since it was mentioned prominently in this post.  In my opinion, Black Tuesday is the best beer in the world.  Yes, it is better than Heady Topper (The Alchemist), Pliny the Elder (Russian River) and Dark Lord (Three Floyds).  I have never reviewed Black Tuesday, but that will change someday.  I have reviewed Heady Topper and referenced it’s standing in the beer world (along with MY ranking compared to Black Tuesday).  I refer you to my Beer Review post of November 4, 2014 if  you are interested in additional details.

I previously stated how hard it is go get a bottle of Black Tuesday, but in the last couple of weeks I came into possession of a bottle (2015 vintage).  And how, you ask, did I manage to get my hands on the best beer in the world?  My next door neighbor, Herbert Wang, graciously gave me a bottle (yes, GAVE it to me).  In exchange I have given him some Mac’s Brew (so far, Club 57 and Black Forest Stout) and will give him several more as compensation for his all too generous gift.  Herbert, you are a fine young man, a good neighbor, and a kind soul.  I only hope you enjoy the Mac’s Brew samples half as much as I am going to enjoy the bottle of Black Tuesday.  THANK YOU, HERBERT!!

Black Tuesday is very expensive, and is therefore a special occasion beer (yeah, and it’s also 20% ABV, so for that reason also, it’s not an everyday beer).  I will post a review when I drink it, but it may be quite awhile before that special occasion arises.  If you are intrigued enough about Black Tuesday, you will need to check back with this site often to avoid missing the much anticipated review.

Slainte!

 

Mac’s Brew News – February 14, 2016

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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.

Slainte!

Monsters’ Park & Xocoveza Charred

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It’s that time of the year when dark beers are plentiful and satisfying.  Here are reviews of two more dark beauties, both loaded with flavor and character.  Please read responsibly.

Monsters’ Park: Modern Times Beer, San Diego, CA.  12% ABV.
Modern Times Beer in San Diego makes one of my favorite coffee stouts, Black House.  Monsters’ Park is their Imperial Stout, and it is definitely a monster compared to Black House.  The description on the label states, “Monsters’ Park is a hulking, cantankerous imperial stout sporting a brawny malt bill and a dry, lingering finish.”

Monsters’ Park pours black with a 3/4″ cocoa colored head that faded rapidly but left a nice ring around the top edge that remained throughout the entire session.  The aroma is semi-sweet dark chocolate.  The flavor is sweet coffee with a little chocolate.  The chocolate lingers on the tongue, then fades to a slight sweetness, typical of imperial stouts.  This sweetness, however, is well balanced with hops.

The body and mouthfeel is thick, but the CO2 peel helps to mitigate the thickness just a bit.  There is a nice lingering semi-sweet chocolate note in the aftertaste.  Although it’s 12% ABV, it is not the least bit boozy or hot.  In fact, it is a deceptively smooth, easy drinking stout; but watch out, it will kick your butt!  As it warms, the alcohol aroma appears, but it’s not overwhelming.  At 60° F or above, there is more coffee, more chocolate, and more booze – in other words, more flavor and aroma.  I recommend you let this one warm up to 55° – 60° before drinking; it’s well worth it!

I sampled Monsters’ Park from a 22 oz. bomber I purchased at Total Wine for $12.99.  It’s worth the price, but I’m not sure it’s still available (I sampled it in November – sorry for the delay in posting the review).

Xocoveza Charred (2015 Series): Stone Brewing, Escondido, CA.  10% ABV.
Have I ever mentioned I like Stone beers?  This is another good one.  Xocoveza Mocha Stout is a Christmas Season beer that Stone releases each year.  It’s a stout described (by Stone) as, “an insanely delicious take on Mexican hot chocolate brewed with cocoa, coffee, chile peppers, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.”  Xocoveza Charred is the same beer aged for 3 months in bourbon barrels.

Xocoveza Charred is pitch black with a 1/4″ light cocoa colored head that faded very rapidly to a ring around the edge.  The aroma is sweet, vanilla and oak.  The flavor is a little bit of chocolate, and a little coffee.  Vanilla is evident mid palate, but fades to a sweet chocolate, with vanilla notes lingering.  The oak/vanilla notes are very subdued and could stand some extra emphasis.  This beer features a medium body, but would benefit from additional mouth feel.

Although this is a bourbon barrel aged beer, the vanilla and oak flavors are not pronounced enough.  However, those flavors overwhelm the spiciness of the original Xocoveza Mocha Stout, which is a little disappointing.  This iteration looses the cinnamon/nutmeg and pepper notes that are so evident in the original version, which is too bad.  Since the barrel aging cut down on the spiciness of the original, the vanilla/coconut flavors derived from the bourbon barrel need to be more pronounced to compensate for the loss.

Xocoveza Charred is a very good beer, but does not have the flavor intensity of the original Xocoveza Mocha Stout.  Knowing what the original tastes like, I was a little disappointed because the spices are lost to the barrel.  The original is an excellent beer; barrel aging should improve/intensify the flavor and complexity, but in this case it actually detracts.  Too bad; maybe it should be aged in the barrel for a longer period of time.

I sampled this beer from a 500 ML corked bottle, which I received as a gift from my father for Christmas.  Thanks, Dad!

So what about these two beers?  I can recommend both, as they are high quality, flavorful examples.  Monsters’ Park is an excellent Imperial Stout and worth the cost, if it’s still available (I haven’t seen it around lately).  Xocoveza Charred is very good, but not as good as the original underlying base beer, Xocoveza Mocha Stout.  Charred sells for $18.99 for a 500 ML bottle at Total Wine; the original Xocoveza Mocha Stout is $15.99 for a six pack (12 oz. bottles).  Like I said, Xocoveza Charred is very good, but for the money I recommend the original Xocoveza – you won’t be disappointed (unless you like only fizzy yellow beer).

Slainte!

Tart Cherry Stout & Fyodor’s Classic

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Happy New Year to one and all from Mac’s Brew Pub.  I’m looking forward to a 2016 filled with good beer and brewing.  I’ve been drinking a lot of big dark beers for the last couple of months.  Here are my thoughts on a couple of Imperial Stouts I recently tasted.  Please read responsibly.

Tart Cherry Stout (Smokestack Series): Boulevard Brewing Co., Kansas City, MO.  11% ABV.
Tart Cherry Stout is a Special Release Ale in the Smokestack Series of beers from Boulevard Brewing.  Their Smokestack series is a, “. . . special collection of bigger, bolder, more complex brews,” typically with a higher alcohol content than Boulevard’s core brands.  Tart Cherry Stout is an Imperial Stout fermented with tart cherries, and bottle conditioned.

They beer pours black as midnight with a huge dark tan head.  It is well carbonated (due to the bottle conditioning) and though the head subsided, it remained throughout the session, as did the effervescence.  It has much more carbonation than a typical Imperial Stout.

The aroma has a slight note of cherry, but it’s not tart.  The flavor features cherry and tartness along with chocolate notes.  The high carbonation thins out the texture/mouth feel.  Tartness lingers on the tongue, but it’s not overwhelming.  The aftertaste is also cherry, which rapidly fades to a tart and bitter sensation before the cherry returns and lingers.

Tart Cherry Stout is a nice cherry chocolate stout.  It’s 11% ABV, but there is absolutely no booziness.  However, the high carbonation level detracts from the Imperial Stout experience.  With a beer this big, I expect something thick and chewy with a little bit of alcohol bite.  The high carbonation thins out the body and cuts down on the residual sweetness expected from a big Imperial Stout.  You definitely need to let this one warm up to 60° F for drinking – it will cut down the carbonation and increase the body.  It also increases the cherry flavor, which is not necessary.

I purchased this beer at Costco for $10.99.  It comes in a corked 750 ML bottle that popped like a bottle of champagne when opened.

Fyodor’s Classic (2015 Series): Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, CA.  13% ABV.
This is another bourbon barrel aged offering from Stone Brewing in San Diego, but it’s not just another Stone beer.  It is the 2014 version of Stone’s Imperial Russian Stout aged for seven months in Kentucky Bourbon barrels.  I love Stone’s IRS, but this beer towers over the non-aged version.

Fyodor’s Classic is pitch black and creates a 1/2″ cocoa colored head when poured into a tulip glass.  The head fades rapidly to a thin ring along the perimeter, which left no lacing during the session.

The aroma is sweet vanilla, coconut, bourbon, chocolate and raisin.  the initial flavor sensation is sweet, with a CO2 bite on the tongue.  This swiftly transitions to a slightly sweet cocoa, then to coconut/vanilla (from the bourbon barrel), and finally to a very pleasant semi-sweet dark chocolate and coffee that lingers for quite awhile.

Fyodor’s Classic is well carbonated, but retains a thick, chewy mouthfeel and body, yet it’s not too sweet.  In spite of the high alcohol content (13%), there is no booziness noted, even as it warms.  However, the alcohol immediately starts warming the throat and belly, with warming to the rest of the body right behind..

Fyodor’s Classic is a world class beer.  The aftertaste is where this one really excels.  The taste magically transitions from one flavor to the next, but that transition is so slow and seamless there is no definitive point where one can say, “that’s exactly where it changed.”  This beer is unbelievably complex and wonderful.

I purchased this 500 ML corked bottle of Fyodor’s Classic several months ago at Total Wine for $18.99.  It is a limited edition, but because it’s expensive, it is still available.

I can recommend both of these beers.  Although Tart Cherry Stout is very good, I will not purchase another bottle.  It is definitely worth the price ($10.99 if you can still get it at Costco), but I prefer Imperial Stouts with a little more sweetness, viscosity and body.  Fyodor’s Classic, as previously mentioned, is a top notch beer.  It is worth the hefty price tag ($18.99 per bottle at Total Wine) and is sure to be a treat to any Imperial Stout connoisseur.  The usual caveat applies to both of these beers: fizzy yellow beer drinkers – don’t bother.

Slainte!

Gift of the Magi & Double Bastard in the Rye

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I trust that all of you had a merry Christmas and are all set for a happy and prosperous new year.  Christmas at Mac’s Brew Pub was truly a joy this year, and we are grateful for so much.  I received these two beers for Christmas from my daughters.  Both are special release beers so I thought I should post these reviews right away while they are still available in stores.  Please read responsibly.

Gift of the Magi: The Lost Abbey, San Marcos, CA.  12% ABV.
The Lost Abbey is the Belgian brewing arm of Port Brewing in San Marcos (San Diego).  Although Belgian style beers are not my favorite, I do enjoy some Belgian styles.  Gift of the Magi is a “Biere de Garde” (“beer for keeping” = extended conditioning/aging) – a strong, farmhouse style pale ale.  This beer is only available around Christmas time.

Gift of the Magi pours a hazy copper/amber color with 1″ thick creamy off white head.  The head persists for several minutes before it fades to a substantial ring around the perimeter.  The aroma is sweet with hints of toffee and raisin.  The flavor follows suit – sweet, dark fruit, raisin, and toffee.  It transitions to a bitterness with some caramel, followed by a bitter hoppy finish and finally fades to a slight bitter coffee aftertaste.

This is bottle conditioned with Brettanomyces, which gives it those barnyard notes typical of a farmhouse style ale.  The body is medium, leaning toward heavy, but the carbonation is high, which keeps this beer from being too syrupy.  The alcohol content, at 12%, is high, but is not at all noticeable in the flavor.  Although not evident on the palate, the alcohol packs a wallop – it hit me before I was through my first pint.

Gift of the Magi is very drinkable, in spite of the high alcohol content.  Be careful, however, it gets  you there quickly.  This beer is currently available and I highly recommend it.  Don’t wait too long, however, supplies are limited and it won’t be available again until late next year.  I sampled from a 750 ml corked bottle that I received for Christmas from Kristen and David.  Gift of the Magi is a wise choice, and fit for a King, I must say!

Double Bastard in the Rye (2015): Stone Brewing, Escondido, CA.  12.7% ABV.
According to the bottle, Double Bastard in the Rye is a, “close relative” of Stone’s Southern Charred (see my review posted September 28, 2014), which is Double Bastard Ale aged in bourbon barrels.  I would have to agree there is a lot of similarity between the two, but Double Bastard in the Rye is aged in Templeton Rye Whiskey barrels as opposed to bourbon barrels.

Double Bastard in the Rye pours an opaque dark amber with very little head.  The little bit of foam present fades rapidly to a very thin ring at the edge, which leaves no lacing.  The aroma is Double Bastard Ale – malty, sweet, toffee – with some vanilla.

The initial flavor sensation is bitter, but then vanilla from the rye whiskey barrel immediately kicks in.  It’s sweet and thick, then fades to a bittersweet caramel/toffee flavor that is all Double Bastard.  The bittersweet caramel slowly fades to a vanilla in the aftertaste and then becomes a lingering bitterness.  This has a heavy body with low carbonation, but is not boozy in spite of it’s high alcohol content (12.7%), and is a little easier to drink than the regular Double Bastard.  The hops are evident, though not overwhelming, and help to balance the huge maltiness of this brew.  Double Bastard in the Rye has none of the coconut flavor so evident in Southern Charred, but has more vanilla.  As the beer warms in the glass, the vanilla from the whiskey barrel and the alcohol become more apparent in the aroma and the flavor.

Double Bastard in the Rye is available, but is limited, so if you want to try some, you better get it soon.  I received this bottle (500 ml corked bottle) from my other daughter, Rosie, for Christmas.  It’s very good, although not as good as Southern Charred or Depth Charged Double Bastard Ale (see my review posted December 2, 2015).

So, what about these two beers?  I recommend both, but neither is for the faint of heart.  Double Bastard in the Rye is pretty expensive (as is expected with a barrel aged beer), but worth the price for the experience of drinking one bottle.  Gift of the Magi is more affordable, so you have no excuse – GO BUY A BOTTLE!.  Caveat – as with most of these big beers, fizzy yellow beer drinkers and cheapskates will not like them; so if you’re in either category (or both), don’t bother.

A sincere thank you to Krissy and Rosie.  You know how to spoil your old man.  Cheers!

Hammerland DIPA & Angel’s Share

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If you read my last newsletter, you are aware that I am out of Mac’s Brew (except for some huge stouts and barley wine in bottles) and have been purchasing a lot of commercially brewed craft beer.  Here is a review of a couple more.  Please read responsibly!

Hammerland DIPA: El Segundo Brewing Company, El Segundo, CA.  8.6% ABV.
Hammerland DIPA is brewed in Southern California (Los Angeles County).  It’s a Double India Pale Ale (DIPA), which typically means higher alcohol with a little more hops to balance the extra malt.

Hammerland pours a dark golden color with a 1/2″ white foamy head.  The foam fades away after 2 – 3 minutes, but a nice ring remains throughout the session, leaving some nice lacing in the glass.  The aroma is very nice citrus and hoppy.

The flavor is hoppy, citrus, and quite bitter, but has a nice maltiness commensurate with the DIPA style.  The bitterness fades to malty sweetness as it is swallowed, but then the bitterness kicks back in and lingers at the very end.

Overall, this is a nice DIPA.  Not the best I’ve ever tasted, but quite good.  I sampled this from a 22 oz. bomber purchased at Costco for $7.99.  I notice that it’s always available there, and definitely worth a taste.

Angel’s Share: The Lost Abbey Brewing Company, San Marcos, CA.  12.5% ABV.
When whiskey is aged in oak barrels, part of the batch is lost to evaporation during the years long aging process.  The portion lost to evaporation is called the angel’s share.

Angel’s Share by The Lost Abbey in San Marcos (San Diego County) is a bourbon barrel aged Belgian style strong ale.  It pours a murky dark brown with no head, although the carbonation is fairly high.  The aroma is a little tart, a little sweet, with strong vanilla notes.

The flavor is tart on the tongue, remains tart and sweet, but fades to a sweet vanilla aftertaste from the bourbon barrel aging.  The aftertaste persists and is very pleasant.  The body and mouthfeel is very thick, viscous, and syrupy.  However, this beer is highly carbonated (It’s bottle conditioned in the Belgian tradition), as one would expect with a Belgian beer.  The alcohol content is high, but not noticeable.  When it warms up, the alcohol is noticeable in the aroma and in the aftertaste.

This is a good, high quality beer.  I love bourbon barrel aged beer, but this is not one that I will re-visit.  I was expecting an Imperial Russian Stout when I bought it, but the sweet/tart characteristic is too much for me.  It’s more of an amber or brown ale style (at least in color/SRM). My sample came from a 12 oz. corked bottle I purchased at Costco for $12.99 (that’s not a typo –  this is an expensive beer, which you have to expect with any barrel aged ale).

So, here’s what  you want to know about these two beers:
I recommend Hammerland DIPA.  It’s a very nice Double IPA offered at a reasonable price at Costco.  Angel’s Share is a very good beer, but there’s no doubt it’s a Belgian ale.  Belgians are not to my liking, so I will not buy it again.  However, if you enjoy Belgian style beers, you will definitely like this one (that is, if you also like bourbon barrel aged beers).

Slainte!