Mac’s Brew News – May 23, 2012

I decided to Try Phat Pliny again (it’s been over three weeks since I last tasted it and found it was not yet carbonated).  I had one this evening (Wednesday May 23, 2012).  It’s fully carbonated (what a relief – I was kinda worried after tasting it a few weeks ago and finding the CO2 level quite low) and has a great taste.  It’s got an intense hoppy aroma, with an over-the-top hoppy flavor.  However, it also has a big malty sweet taste that is quite evident.  I guess you could say it’s bittersweet.  It’s not nearly as dry as Pliny the Elder, which is exactly what I wanted to accomplish.  The color is a shade darker than Pliny the Elder, but the flavor is right on.

I had one after work today, on an empty stomach.  It’s 10.1% ABV, and it went right to my head (now that’s not necessarily a bad thing).  This is a really big beer, but it is very drinkable.  I could consume several if eating something along with it.  Any IPA lover would truly enjoy this brew.  Anybody care to join me for one?

Right now I have Phat Pliny, Mak’s Dunkelweizen, Mak’s Bavarian Hefeweizen, Black Forest Stout and Little Levi’s Bourbon Barrel Stout at Mac’s Brew Pub.  Phat Pliny, the dunkel and the hefe are being served.  The two stouts are only being sampled at this time, but should be ready for consumption in another couple of months.  Let me know if you are interested in coming to the pub for some beer tasting – I might be able to arrange something.

I will probably bottle Mac’s Cherry Wheat on Friday (May 25, 2012) and brew a red ale on Monday (May 28, 2012).  I might lay off for awhile after that and then resume in late summer.  I need to have plenty of beer on hand for the two plus month hiatus (wouldn’t want to run out now, would we?).


Mak’s Dunkelweizen, & Samuel Adams Limited Editions

Here’s a few tasting tidbits for everyone . . .

Mak’s Dunkelweizen: I tasted Mak’s Dunkelweizen on Sunday May 20th.  It has a very different flavor profile from Mak’s Hefewiezen.  The aroma is not so fruity (banana), and neither is the flavor.  It still has the banana/clovey flavor, but not so intense as the hefe.  The flavor is much more complex.  The dark/crystal grains give it more malty flavor, with a hint of cherry.  Yes, I would describe this as a light amber hefewiezen (well, that’s exactly what it is).  It’s not quite as dark as I had hoped, but I attribute that to the last minute grain bill revision (my supplier did not have all of the specialty grains I wanted) – I was afraid it would be too dark.  I erred on the side of caution, and ended up a little light.  Now don’t misunderstand me, no one would mistake it for a hefe, it definitely looks like a dunkel, it’s just not as dark as I wanted it. I think the hop profile is good – it’s not hop bitter, but you can taste a slight  grain bitterness.

I tasted this side by side with Mak’s Bavarian Hefeweizen.  The hefe (that I raved so much about) was fairly bland next to this dunkel, so I think I accomplished my goal (a hefe with some carmel notes) and would rate this a very good beer.

Samuel Adams Cinder Bock: I saw this SA limited edition brew at Total Wine last week and bought a bottle to try.  It is a “Rauch Bock”, described (by SA) as “Smokey and rich with a bit of mischief”.  It is sold only in 22 oz bottles.  This definitely has the rauch beer flavor (smokey), but then (as is described on the label) the heavy & rich malty nature kicks in.  At first I thought it was too much – like syrup (thick, smooth, sweet).  When I drank the second glass (from the same bottle – 22 oz, remember?) I thought it was pretty darn good.  Maybe I liked the second glass better because it’s 9.5% ABV (you know, the more you have the better they taste).  I really liked the Samuel Adams Bonfire rauch beer (had it in the fall SA variety pack).  That was a true rauch beer, and I rate it as excellent.  Cinder Bock is a hybrid, but overall, I would recommend it.  The smokiness is not overwhelming, and the flavor is unusual (smokey at first, then malty sweet).  Give it a try.

Samuel Adams Dark Depths: Like the Cinder Bock, I bought this limited edition beer at Total Wine last Week. It’s a Baltic IPA, described on the label as “Dark, fierce and blustery.”  What is a “Baltic IPA”?  It’s another hybrid beer –  a Baltic Porter combined with an IPA.  So what is it?  It’s a porter fermented as a lager (I guess that would be considered a black lager).  Then, it’s hopped like an India Pale Ale (IPA), for a very unique flavor.  It’s chocolatey sweet, but then your palate is blasted by the hops.  Wow, this is a really good beer.  Dark Depths is 7.6% ABV, and is also sold only in 22 oz bottles.  I highly recommend this one, but you better buy it soon, as it’s a limited edition brew, and won’t be around for long.

That’s it for now.  I hope to bottle Mac’s Cherry Wheat this weekend.  Also, maybe I’ll brew a red ale . . . we’ll see about that.


Mac’s Brew News – May 6, 2012

It’s been a few weeks since I published Mac’s Brew News, but please don’t think things have been slow at Mac’s Brew Pub.  On the contrary, I’ve been busy, as you will see.  I posted some terms and definitions yesterday on this site (see the “Terms and Definitions” category).  This was the result of a suggestion from my good friend Marcos.  Thanks, Marcos.

Mak’s Dunkelweizen – I bottled Mak’s Dunkelweizen on Tuesday May 1, 2012.  It’s 7.0% ABV –  a bit higher than expected.  There’s no mistaking that it’s a German style hefeweizen, but the crystal malts give it a different flavor.  It’s quite good.  It’s conditioning in the bottles right now, and will be ready to drink at the beginning of June.

Mak’s Bavarian Hefeweizen – Yesterday was tasting day at Mac’s (beer appreciation day).  Sheila and I had a couple of these beers and watched the Kentucky Derby (we watch the KD every year in honor of our youngest child, Rosie, who was born on Kentucky Derby day 1994; a free Mac’s brew to the first one among you who can name the 1994 KD winner).  This beer is REALLY good.  The ABV is a little high for a hefeweizen, but there is no alcohol flavor at all.  This beer is highly carbonated and is very cloudy, due to the high wheat malt content and the presence of yeast.  It is quite fruity, with the signature banana/clovey taste.  It has a lot of malt character as well, and I think it compares well to any high quality commercially brewed German style hefeweizen available (when you try it, you might think you’re drinking a Paulaner).  It is so far superior to the German hefeweizen I brewed last year that you wouldn’t even know the two recipes were quite similar.  After tasting this (I had a sneak preview on Tuesday May 1) I decided to enter it into the OC Fair home brewing competition.

Phat Pliny – I tasted it on Monday April 30, 2012.  Great taste, but the carbonation is still quite low.  I’m not sure why that happened, but I have a feeling that the yeast is worn out – they made this a 10% beer, and they just might be at the end of their useful working capacity.  This would probably be better suited to forced carbonation (keg the beer and carbonate with a CO2 tank) rather than bottle conditioning.  Oh well, next time . . . . .  For now, I have put it away for another month and will sample it again at the beginning of June.

Mac’s Cherry Wheat Ale – This is my 2012 family vacation creation (a Waddell family tradition – I bring a couple of cases of Mac’s brew to our annual beach house vacation; every year it’s something different, but always some kind of fruit beer).  I brewed it on Tuesday May 1, 2012.  It’s an American style hefeweizen, with cherry added to the fermenter (and some cherry flavoring will be added to the bottling bucket).  The recipe is very similar to Mak’s Bavarian Hefeweizen; the grain bill is exactly the same, but it has a little extra hops (about 1/3 oz more).  The additional hops will not be noticeable, but the flavor profile will be quite different from my Bavarian hefe because of the different yeast strain used.  It is still in the primary fermenter.  Yesterday (Saturday May 5th), I added the fruit (pureed sweet cherry).  The fermentation, which had slowed way down, took off again after I added the cherry.  Oh yeah, those little critters (yeast) sure love all that sugar.  This will boost my gravity – I calculate it should raise it from 1.062 to 1.064.  This boost will increase the potential alcohol content, so I am anticipating about 7% ABV when it’s all finished (that’s what I got from my dunkelweizen, which had the same OG – 1.064).

I’m thinking I will brew a red ale later this month, then (probably) take the summer off.  I’ll see what the weather looks like in June – I could possibly brew one more time before summer really hits Fullerton.  I’ve been brewing a lot since January, and a break sounds kind of nice right now – what do  you think, Sheila?

This week I will be delivering my entries to the Orange County Fair competition and hoping for the best.  The four beers I entered are: Little Levi’s Bourbon Barrel Stout; Mac’s Black Forest Stout; Mac’s Aeronautical Amber Ale; and, Mak’s Bavarian Hefeweizen.  All of these are good beers, but they will be in competition against a few thousand other brews.  If none of them win any ribbons, who cares, I’ve still got lots of good beer to drink all summer long, and I’ve already won Sheila’s admiration for Mak’s Bavarian Hefeweizen.

That’s it for now.  Cheers,



ABV: Alcohol by Volume.  This is measured as a percentage (e.g., Arrogant Bastard Ale is 7.2% ABV).

Alpha Acid: The compound in hops that lend the bitter taste to balance the malty sweetness in beer.

Ale: Beer fermented with ale yeast.  Ale yeast ferments at room temperature 60° – 75° F at the top of the fermentation vessel and creates a fruity, flavorful profile.

Boil Gravity (BG): The gravity of the wort collected from the mash tun, measured right after mashing, but before boiling.  Taking this measurement allows the brewer to assess the efficiency of the mashing process.

Conditioning: Secondary fermentation, when the yeast refines the flavor of the beer.  This process continues in the bottle during bottle conditioning.

Dry Hopping: Adding hops to beer in the fermenter (usually the secondary fermenter, or after primary fermentation is complete)

Ethanol: The type of alcohol in beer.  Ethanol is a waste product of yeast consuming malt sugars in wort.  This is the compound that makes you happy when you drink.

Fermentation: That mystical/magical process where yeast converts wort to beer.  The yeast eats the sugar in the wort (at least it eats the fermentable sugars) and produces two desirable waste products – alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2).  If these two by-products sound familiar to you, go to the head of the class.  Alcohol is an important ingredient in beer (duh!) and what would beer be without carbonation (CO2)?

Final Gravity (FG): See “Terminal Gravity”

GABF: The Great American Beer Festival.  This event is held each year in Denver, Colorado.  It it the apex of American brewing.  Winning a gold medal at GABF is like winning the National Championship.  It doesn’t get any better than this.  If you win gold here, you are at the top of your game, SECOND TO NONE!

Hops: The cone like flowers from the hop vines (Lupus Salictarius, meaning wolf among scrubs; so named by a Roman Captain, Pliny the Elder, in the first century A.D.) that brewers use to bitter and flavor beer.  Hops are available in pellets (most common), plugs, or whole.  There are numerous varieties of hops – some used for bittering, some used for flavor, some used for aroma, and some for all three.

International Bitterness Units (IBUs): Measurement of how much of the alpha acid is isomerized from the hops and dissolved into the beer.

Kraeusen (pronounced kroi-zen): The foamy, nasty looking layer of yeast and crud covering the top of the wort in the fermenter.  It’s typically a creamy color, with brown and/or green patches.  The crud is composed of wort protein, hop resins and dead yeast.  The kraeusen layer is typically a couple of inches thick, and subsides as primary fermentation winds down.  The crud is pretty much insoluble, and sticks to the sides at the top of the fermenter (above the beer), so does not affect the flavor of the beer.

Lager: Beer fermented at cold temperatures using lager yeast.  Lager yeast ferments at the top of the fermentation vessel at approximately 45° – 60° F, and creates a very clean, crisp flavor profile.  Taste a black lager (schwarzbier) next to a porter or stout (ales) and you will taste the difference between a lager and an ale.

Malt: Barley grain that is modified to produce enzymes and starches that are useful to the brewer.  The grain is steeped in water, held for awhile at controlled a temperature and humidity until the seed starts to germinate.  The germination is halted by drying the grain in a kiln.  Some malt is kilned ,toasted or roasted at higher temperatures to create different flavors and colors (specialty malts).  These specialty malts release sugars with differing degrees of fermentability and sweetness, allowing the brewer to make different tasting beers – ambers, browns, stouts, etc.  Other grains are also malted, (e.g., wheat and rye) and their use will create different flavor profiles.

Mash: Grain (typically barley and/or wheat, but there are other grains used as well) mixed with a measured amount of hot water (at a specific temperature) for a specific amount of time.  This process (called saccharification) converts the starches/sugars in the malted grain to soluble, fermentable sugars.

Mash In: The process of combining the grain with the measured amount of water at a predetermined temperature to start the mash.  Hopefully you have made accurate calculations to get the initial mash temperate correct.

Mash Tun: The vessel in which the grain is mashed.

Original Gravity (OG): The term used (expressed as a number value) that describes the sugar concentration in wort.  This value is measured by hydrometer or refractometer after boiling the wort, before fermentation.  In general, the higher the OG, the higher potential alcohol yield.

Pitching: Adding yeast to the fermenter.

Priming: Adding a small, measured amount of sugar (usually corn sugar) to the fermented beer when bottling.  The yeast that is still in the beer will consume the sugar and produce CO2 (a by-product).  Because the beer is contained within an enclosed bottle, the CO2 can not escape and the beer is carbonated.

Racking: Gently transfering beer from one vessel to another.

Terminal Gravity (TG): Also typically called final gravity (FG).  This is a measurement of the sugar concentration in the beer after fermentation.  If the brewer knows the OG and the TG, he can calculate the alcohol content of the beer ([OG – TG] x [constant value of 131] = alcohol content by volume).

Trub (pronounced troob): The crud (sediment) left at the bottom of the fermenter.

Wort (pronounced wert): The solution of sugar-water produced by mashing.  The wort is boiled for a specific amount of time (usually 60 or 90 minutes) with hops.  The boiling serves two purposes – pasteurizes the wort, and changes the compounds in the hops to give beer its bitterness.  The boiled solution (with the hop bitterness, flavor and aromas) is still called wort until it is fermented, when it becomes beer.