Mac’s Brew News – January 26, 2019

Greetings All.  You’re on this blog site because you’re interested in good beer, and especially good beer from Mac’s Brew.  To satisfy your demand for beer knowledge, here’s all the news you need to know (for now).  Please read responsibly!

As I mentioned in my last newsletter, I’ve been so busy that brewing here has slowed down to the point that I currently have only three beers on tap (in 2018 I only brewed 8 batches/85 gallons of beer).  I know, that’s just not right, but I’m taking steps to correct that problem.

We had a Thanksgiving celebration here, with extended family present.  Then on December 15thRosie graduated from Art Center College of Design (in Pasadena).  We had a graduation party that night with family and friends in attendance.  With these two parties, we emptied 3 out of 6 kegs, which is why we currently have only 3 beers on tap.  But, the 3 beers are very good.  I brewed an IPA three weeks ago, but it won’t be on tap until February.

In early February Sheila and I are leaving for Santa Rosa.  Yes, for the second year in a row, I will be going to Russian River Brewing on a Pliny the Younger quest.  Last year there were four people (including me) in our party and we had a great time. This year our party has grown to nine people, and we plan to trek over to another Santa Rosa brewery after having our ration of PTY at Russian River.

I was fortunate to meet three young fellows on Black Tuesday at The Bruery this past October.  These men were from Santa Rosa and suggested that I visit three small breweries in town – Plow Brewing, Cooperage Brewing, and Moonlight Brewing. It just so happens that all three of these breweries are close to each other, and just a few miles away from RR. Unfortunately we won’t have time to visit all three, so we’ve chosen to visit Cooperage Brewing.

If you were not aware, Russian River Brewing has opened another facility (brewery and bistro) a few miles up the road from their Santa Rosa location.  We are hoping that the new facility (much larger than their SR brewpub) will draw off a significant portion of the crowd from Santa Rosa, resulting in shorter wait times.  I’ll let you know how that works out for us.  And, by the way, this year Sheila is attending the PTY madness with us at Russian River (last year she went wine tasting while I was beer tasting).  She will be the sole female in our group that day, but I have no doubt she will be able to hold her own (and she loves IPAs).

I’m sure you’re all anxious to know what is currently being offered at Mac’s.  Here is the current and soon-to-be available beer list.

Maktoberfest: Brewed June 22, 2018.  5.5 ABV, 26 IBU
This is one of my most requested and sought after brews, second only to Goldihops (Honey Blonde Ale).  It’s really easy drinking with the low alcohol and bitterness, and Oktoberfest style beers are very popular.  I brewed this alone, so I had 10 gallons for consumption at Mac’s Brew Pub, and that’s why it’s still on tap (since the beginning of September 2018). For additional description, see my newsletter of September 17, 2018.

San Andreas Malt: Brewed September 19, 2018.  5.4 on the Richter Scale, 43 IBU.
This is a California Common style lager brewed in collaboration with my friend, Jeff Nash (see Newsletter of September 17, 2018, for additional information on this beer style).  This was a new recipe and first time brewed.  That usually means tweaking the recipe and process for subsequent batches in order to get the beer I envision.  However, this turned out fantastic and I don’t plan on changing anything with future batches.  It’s a medium amber color with a slightly malty aroma, but not sweet.  The flavor is clean, crisp and hoppy, but with a nice moderately rich malt foundation (bread, toast, caramel and grainy) and dry finish that makes it well balanced (but definitely on the hoppy side).  It’s very similar to (but not a clone of) the standard bearer in this style category – Anchor “Steam Beer”.  San Andreas Malt is so good it’s shaking my world!

Wide Awake Drunk: Brewed November 7, 2018.  5.0% ABV, 45 IBU.
This is an annual fall brew at Mac’s.  It’s an English style oatmeal stout with cold brewed coffee and conditioned with cacao nibs for a nice mocha flavor.  It’s dispensed on nitrogen, so it’s creamy smooth with very little carbonation bite. It really tastes like a big stout, even though it’s only 5% ABV.  This brew was a collaboration with my young brewing friend, Dave Hollandbeck.  [Note: Dave, I need to get you over here to have WAD on nitrogen.]

Reefer Nearness: Brewed January 6, 2019.  7.1% ABV (so far), 127 IBU.
Designed and brewed in collaboration with another young brewing friend, Bryce Lowrance, this is a West Coast style IPA using Nugget hops for bittering, and Azacca and Idaho 7 hops for aroma and flavor.  It’s currently dry hopping and in the final stages of conditioning.  When I last checked (11 days ago) it was 7.1% ABV, but could possibly go just a bit higher – I’ll know when I keg it on January 31st.

I’m sure you all want to know where the name of this beer (“Reefer Nearness”) comes from, so here’s the story.  Is there anyone in this country who hasn’t seen, or at least heard of the movie, “Reefer Madness” (a 1936 propaganda film)?  Of course not.  What is not so widely known, however, is that hops (Humulus Lupulus) are a close cousin of cannabis.  Yes, it’s true (next time you have a chance to smell some hops, note the pungent “skunky” aroma), but of course hops have no THC, the psycho-active component of marijuana.  My point is this: hops are very NEAR TO MARIJUANA.  Because of this close relationship I’ve always wanted to name an IPA something along the lines of “Reefer Madness”, but of course it’s not actually reefer.  Thus, “Reefer Nearness– The Bitter Pill That Makes Life Sweet” was born.

Reefer Nearness is still conditioning, so I have not yet tasted it.  I only hope it’s good enough to cause as much of a stir as its namesake (“Reefer Madness”).

I think my next brew will be Goldihops.  I plan to brew it in mid-February after returning from Santa Rosa.  I need to start looking for a brewing partner for this one.

In 2018 I did not enter any brewing competiions – we were too busy travelling.  I plan to enter some of my brews into a couple of competitions this year. The American Homebrewers Association national competition is coming up soon and I think I will enter San Andreas Malt and Maktoberfest.  I’m considering Wide Awake Drunk, and I may enter Reefer Nearness, depending on how it turns out.  If I can get Goldihops brewed in time, I will also enter that into the national.  The Orange County Fair competition is coming up in May, so I have to start thinking about entries for that competition as well.

Well, that’s all I have time for now, and of course, that’s about all you have time to read today (sorry this got so lengthy). Check in again soon, or subscribe to macsbrew.com to get all the latest news and beer reviews.

Sláinte!

Zombie Dust & Lucille

Hello Beer lovers.  It’s time to learn more about the wide, wide world of beers. Here are a couple of ales that are not widely available on the West Coast, but if you’re travelling and see them, by all means buy them.  Please read responsibly!

Zombie Dust: 3 Floyds Brewing, Munster, Indiana.  6.2% ABV, 50 IBU.
Zombie Dust is a Pale Ale brewed by 3 Floyds Brewing in Indiana.  This beer is very well known and highly sought after, yet it’s difficult to get because it’s not widely distributed (not really available outside of the Midwest). It was rated the 8thbest beer in America in 2018 by the American Homebrewers Association.  I’ve had it on one occasion, which is what generated this review.

Zombie Dust from 3 Floyds Brewing.

There’s a lot of hype and hyperbole surrounding this beer.  Beers that are difficult to come by have a mystique, and they tend to be rated high due to that mystique.  I’m not immune from this phenomenon (see my review of Pliny the Younger in the Macsbrew February 18, 2018 Newsletter for some thoughts on this), so keep that in mind while reading this review.

Zombie Dust pours hazy orange/gold with a ¾” white head that persists for quite awhile.  The aroma is citrus, grapefruit and a bit of orange peel.  The flavor is bitter, grapefruit, pine and apricot. The malt is noticeable in the mouth, although it’s not overly sweet or heavy.  There is a nice lingering bitter apricot aftertaste.

This pale ale is not dry.  As I mentioned, there is a good malt foundation, giving it a slight sweetness (compare to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which is much more dry) but no heaviness is noted.  The body is medium with a viscous mouth feel, and the carbonation level is moderate-high. At 50 IBU, this pale ale is actually on the low end of the IPA bitterness scale, but the bitterness is well balanced by the malty sweetness.

Zombie Dust is very good.  It’s definitely one of the better Pale Ales I’ve ever tasted, and I would love to have it again.  That probably won’t happen anytime soon as I have no plans to travel to Indiana in the near future.

Lucille IPA: Georgetown Brewing, Seattle, Washington.  7.2% ABV, 85 IBU.
This IPA pours a hazy, deep golden-yellow color with a white 1” foamy head that remains for a couple of minutes.  The aroma is citrus, apricot and grapefruit.  The flavor is bitter grapefruit and pine resin with some tropical fruit notes.  It goes down pretty dry and bitter, with no maltiness noted.  The aftertaste is grapefruit with a lingering bitterness. Lucille has medium body and mouth feel, with a medium carbonation level.

Overall, Lucille is pretty bitter, yet easy to drink. The relatively high alcohol content is well hidden – I didn’t note it in the taste at all – but is very effective on an empty stomach.  This is a nice IPA in the classic Northwest style.

Lucille, by Georgetown Brewing

Neither Zombie Dust nor Lucille are available in Southern California.  So how did I manage to obtain these two worthy beers?  Zombie Dust was given to me by my young brewing friend, Dave Hollandbeck.  His family lives in Indiana and he makes an annual trek there in March to visit his family and score some Dark Lord from 3 Floyds (for more information on Dark Lord and on Dave Hollandbeck, see my review of Dark Lord, posted June 9, 2015). Dave was kind enough to give me a 12 oz. bottle of Zombie Dust, because that’s the kind of thoughtful young man he is. Cheers Dave!

As for Lucille, Kevin McCaffrey gave me a sixer when we met in February 2018 at Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, to indulge ourselves with Pliny the Younger.  [Note: The six-pack of Lucille is LONG gone; my notes for this review are from February 28, 2018.]  Kevin is a thoughtful uncle, who pampers his grateful nephew.  Cheers, Kevin!

I strongly recommend both of these beers.  The trouble for you (and for me as well) is finding them.  If you’re wondering why I bother to review beers that are not readily accessible to you beer lovers who follow this blog, the answer is simple – I love great beer, and when I get my hands on it, even though it’s hard to come by, I feel compelled to pass along the experience.  The solution to this problem is easy: get in your car and drive to these locations (or get in your car, drive to the airport and then fly to these destinations). If you’re not willing to do that, then you’ll just have to taste them vicariously through my descriptions in this blog.  As long as I have relatives like Kevin, and friends like Dave, who so generously give me World Class beers from far away locations, I will graciously accept them, drink them, and review them.

Well beer friends, that’s it for now.  But worry not, more reviews are coming soon.

Sláinte!

Bits & Bobs, and Black Imperial IPA

I’ve been telling you that I have lots of notes on beers I have sampled in the last year, but have not taken the time to post the reviews.  Today I start catching you all up on what’s good to drink out there.  Today it’s two beers from Reuben’s Brews in Seattle. Please read responsibly!

Bits & Bobs: Reuben’s Brews, Seattle WA.  7.0% ABV
“Bits and bobs” is a British term that means “bits and pieces”.  In this case, Reuben’s will be releasing this on a seasonal basis, but it will be different each year, based upon the bits and pieces the brewers have learned since the last release.  This is a review of the 2018 version, released in January 2018.  I drank a bomber of this in early March 2018.  Unfortunately I didn’t realize this was a one-off seasonal, so I apologize for the lengthy delay (it almostmakes this review meaningless and obsolete).  It probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway, as this is not available outside of the State of Washington.  Since you can’t get this version any longer, I guess my description is just going to have to satisfy you.

Reuben’s Brews Bits & Bobs. Forgive the wine glass – that was the only thing available at The Gosby House in Pacific Grove.

Bits & Bobs is an IPA.  It pours a crystal clear, pale, yellow color with a ½” white head of foam that fades after about a minute, to a thin covering and a ¼” ring. The aroma is citrus – orange, grapefruit and lemon.

The flavor is bitter grapefruit and lemon, but it’s not overly bitter.  Some malty sweetness makes an appearance late on the palate.  The lingering aftertaste is bitter, but not unpleasant.  It’s clean and dry, very crisp for an ale, with medium-light body and moderate carbonation.  This beer is very drinkable.

Black Imperial IPA: Reuben’s Brews, Seattle WA.  8.1% ABV.
Reuben’s calls their Black IPA a Cascadian Dark Ale (in case you’re not aware of it, Cascadian Dark Ale is another style name for Black IPA). This one pours midnight black with a 1” creamy beige head. The aroma is hoppy, with citrus and chocolate notes.

Reuben’s Brews Cascadian Dark Ale

The dark malts predominate in the flavor over the hops, but just slightly so.  It’s roasty and chocolate with slight peppery notes from the rye malt.  The hops kick in mid palate, with citrus and grapefruit bitterness.  It fades to a mellow combination of roasty and bitter, with a lingering bitterness in the aftertaste.

The body is medium, which was somewhat of a surprise given the creamy thick appearance of the head.  Carbonation level is medium.

This is an Imperial IPA with the typical bittersweet profile, except the sweetness from the malt is quite subdued.  Instead, roastiness mixes with the hoppy bitterness to create that bitter chocolate citrus flavor that is so common in these Cascadian Dark Ales.  This is one of the better ones – very good!

Mac enjoying a Reuben’s Brews Black Imperial IPA in front of the outdoor fireplace at Mac’s Brew Pub, April 27, 2018.

I can highly recommend both of these beers. Bits & Bobs is released annually in in limited quantities in January and February.  Of course it will taste different each year as the recipe is revised yearly.  Black Imperial IPA is released annually in November and December.  Black IPA’s have faded in popularity and are getting hard to find these days (e.g., Stone Sublimely Self Righteous Black IPA was discontinued a couple of years ago; see my review of SSR posted 11-26-2012).  Get this one while you still can.  It won a gold medal at the 2015 World Beer Cup.

Both of these beers (22 oz. bombers) were given to me by my uncle, Kevin McCaffrey, who lives in Seattle (thank you Kevin for your generosity).  See you on February 6, 2019 at Russian River Brewing.  We’ll have Pliny The Younger again, and raise a toast to The Younger, The Elder, and to Mac’s Brew.

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!