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.
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.
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.
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.
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.