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!

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 – 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!

 

Baby Luke’s Barley Wine & Supplication

Anyone interested in learning about some good beer, even if it’s hard to find?  Here are two such examples for your reading pleasure.  Oh, and please read responsibly!

Baby Luke’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Barley Wine: Mac’s Brew Pub, CA.  12.2% ABV.

IMG_8338This special release English style barley wine was brewed on February 13, 2014, in honor of my grandson, baby Luke, born January 20, 2014.  It was kegged on October 26, 2014 after aging on bourbon and oak for 7 months.

This barley wine pours a cloudy, dark amber color.  It is low in carbonation, which is commensurate with the English style, so it produces only a slight head, light beige in color. The aroma is sweet bourbon – vanilla, coconut –  and slightly boozy.

The flavor follows the aroma, sweet, but not cloying or syrupy.  Bitterness is noted mid-palate, followed by vanilla and bourbon on the back end.  The bourbon flavor lingers in the very pleasant aftertaste.  This beer warms the throat on the way down, little wonder, as it is 12.2% alcohol after all.

As previously stated, the carbonation level is low (on purpose), and the body is medium to slightly full, with a velvety smooth mouth-feel.  The oak, though not overpowering, lends a slight astringent quality mid-palate.  That strong oaky note rapidly subsides and segues into mellow bourbon flavors.

This beer is good, but not great (you won’t confuse it with Firestone Walker’s Sucaba).  I think my recipe is capable of producing a great beer, and when I brew this again, I will not modify it (well, maybe a little more hops, but not much).  I will, however, change the fermentation protocol in order to end up with a higher final gravity, and will use French oak rather than American when aging it (to cut down on the harsh oaky notes).  I’m not too disappointed, as barley wine is a difficult style to brew.  This beer has some notable flaws, unlike its namesake (baby Luke, pictured above with a death grip on the beer tap), but it’s still pretty good.

Supplication: Russian River Brewing, Santa Rosa, CA.  7.75% ABV

This is a limited release beer that is available for only a short time each year.  I have heard about this in the past, but have never found it for sale or tasted it before.  I finally got my chance when I found it at Total Wine the other day.  I would have purchased more, but was prohibited by store policy (one per customer).

Supplication is a brown ale aged in used Pinot Noir barrels.  It is aged for 12 months with sour cherries, brettanomyes, lactobacillus, and pediococcus (these are special bacteria, used in lambics, which give the beer a funky, sour taste).

Although this is (according to Russian River Brewing) a brown ale, I would describe it as a light amber.  Supplication is bottle conditioned, and is well carbonated, with medium body.  It produces a light cream colored head, which lasts through the entire session.  The aroma is tart cherry.

The flavor is quite tart.  The cherries shine through, but the tart flavor makes one pucker.  The tartness fades to a slightly sweet and oaky flavor on the back of the tongue, which dissolves into a slight bitterness in the aftertaste.  Cherry is also noticeable in the aftertaste, but definitely subdued compared to the bitterness.  As the beer warms, the bitterness fades and the wine barrel comes forward late in the mouth and in the aftertaste.

In my opinion, this beer is REALLY GOOD.  However, you would have to like tart beer in order to enjoy Supplication.  Fizzy yellow beer drinkers, don’t bother – you won’t like it.  At $12.99 for a 12 oz. bottle, it’s not a cheap beer, but worth the price.  I would buy some more, but am doubtful I could find it.

So there you have it.  My opinion, such as it is, about two unusual beers.  If you have high standards, you would probably like them – I do (as Mac’s motto says, “I’ve upped my standards . . . UP YOURS!”).

CHEERS and Happy Thanksgiving!