Mac’s Brew News – July 27, 2014

It’s been quite some time since my last newsletter, but I’ve only brewed one batch since then – I’m enjoying my summer break.  I will attempt to bring everyone up to speed on the happenings at Mac’s Brew Pub without making this too lengthy and boring.

Mac’s Cherry Wheat: Brewed Monday May 19, 2014.  5.5% ABV.  I collaborated with another brewer, Mike Young.  We brewed 10 gallons of wheat ale – it’s a very basic recipe I use for all my wheat beers, 60% malted wheat and 40% malted barley.  Mike Young made an apricot wheat beer with his 5 gallons and I made 5 gallons of cherry wheat.  Unlike my apricot wheat (brewed in February 2014), I did not use any real fruit in the fermenter.  I simply fermented the wheat ale and added concentrated cherry flavoring when I kegged it.  It’s got a nice fruity/cherry aroma with an ever-so-slight pink tinge (from the cherry concentrate).  Initially, the sweet cherry flavor bursts in your mouth, but then fades into a well balanced American style wheat beer taste.  This is a LOW hopped beer (2 oz of Cascade hops in 10 gallons), but it is not overly sweet, especially once the cherry subsides.  Overall, it is well balanced.  There is no doubt you’re drinking a beer (it does not taste like carbonated cherry juice) but the fruity aroma and flavor are both satisfying and very refreshing.  It is very comparable to Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat and is a great summertime beer.

As I previously mentioned, Mike Young made his 5 gallons into apricot wheat – he added pureed apricot to the fermenter.  I haven’t tasted it, but he informs me it’s quite good.  I guess you can see that this is a very versatile base beer; not only do I use it to make fruit beers, I use the same recipe (with different hops) to make Bavarian and American style hefeweizens (of course, I also ferment with different yeast strains).

Red Headed Step-Child: Brewed Saturday April 26, 2014.  7.4% ABV.  As mentioned in my previous newsletter, this was a collaboration brew with my brother-in-law, Mike Matulich.  We brewed a 10 gallon batch; Mike fermented 5 gallons and I fermented 5 gallons.  Mike’s beer tastes different than mine because he dry hopped his (i.e., added hops to the secondary fermenter) while I oaked mine (added oak chips to the secondary fermenter).  Dry hopping adds a lot of hop aroma and flavor to the beer,  so I’m calling his batch, “Bitter Red Headed Step-Child.”  The oak chips in my beer added the soft vanilla and coconut flavors that are characteristic of wood aged beer, so I’m calling my batch, “Spanked Red Headed Step-Child” (after all, I hit it with some wood).

This recipe was meant to be a hoppy beer.  I used a lot of Chinook and a little Cascade hops in the recipe.  My intention was to make something similar to Stone’s Arrogant Bastard Ale (it’s not a clone; I wanted to be in the same neighborhood, but not sleeping in the same bed).  Mike’s version is very reminiscent of Arrogant Bastard and is quite good.  Mac’s version is very different.  The aroma and initial flavor is hoppy, but the hops rapidly fade to the vanilla flavor of the oak.  This beer becomes all about the mellow oak flavor mid palate and in the aftertaste.  My initial reaction to this was that it was too oaky (2 oz of oak chips in the fermenter for 2 weeks) and I was somewhat disappointed.  I was just trying to impart a hint of oak (think, Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale).  Obviously I spanked this step-child way too hard.  However, the more I drink this beer, the more I like it the way it is.  Yes, the mellow oak flavors are well developed and quite pronounced, but it does not ruin the beer, which was intended to be more about the hops (if you get a chance, buy a bottle of Widmer Brothers’ “Downward Spiral” which is an Imperial IPA aged on oak spirals; it’s a VERY good beer).  Don’t know how I will treat this beer if I brew it again (that’s pretty likely), but it’s a good beer either way.

Club 57: Brewed March 27, 2014.  13.4% ABV (beer fermented out to 12.3% then added oak and bourbon).  It has been in the aging “bourbon barrel” since June 6, 2014.  I will periodically sample it to determine how the aging process is going.  It’s currently resting on 2 oz of medium toast American oak cubes (previously used) with the bourbon.  I will probably bottle this late next spring or early next summer.  I tasted a small sample when I racked it to the aging “barrel” (before adding the bourbon soaked oak cubes).  It’s very good – thick and chocolaty with a noticeable booziness already.  I will monitor the oak level in the beer to see if I need to add additional bourbon soaked (previously used) oak cubes.  I might also add additional cacao nibs if I think it necessary.

Now for the rest of the news regarding Mac’s Brew Pub.  I currently have 4 beers on tap: Mac’s Apricot Wheat; Mac’s Cherry Wheat; Mac The Annihilator; and (Spanked) Red Headed Step-Child.  Everyday I struggle to decide which beer to drink for happy hour (5:00 PM – 9:00 PM daily).  I guess that’s a good problem to have, huh?  It’s not entirely unusual for me to have a little (8 oz) of each, but in that case, it’s Mac The Annihilator last (don’t want my taste buds to get annihilated right off the bat).

I previously reported that I entered 4 beers into the Orange County Fair.  As expected, none of my beers won awards, but I’m not disappointed.  I didn’t expect to win anything because, although they were all good beers, none of them stood out (except maybe Mac The Annihilator, but that had obvious flaws and would not stand out much in the IPA category, which is the most competitive).  I’m anxious to get the judges scoring sheets to review their comments so that I can improve all of my beer.

I decided to enter my last 2 brews (Cherry Wheat and Red Head) into the LA County Fair a couple of weeks ago.  The cherry wheat will not win anything and I have no idea about my Red Head – it’s pretty unusual, but does not fit strictly into any one category as defined by the BJCP guidelines (that’s why it’s a “Step-Child”).  Because it’s highly hopped, but also oaked, it may not fare too well, as that combination is kind of a, “No, No.”  I entered it into the Wood Aged Beer category.  However, it was necessary to identify the underlying style – an American Amber Ale.  Because it’s hopped more like an IPA, it’s not really true to the amber ale style.  We’ll see what happens.  The judging takes place on Saturday August 2, 2014 and the LA Fair is in late August/September, so I have to wait for awhile to hear the results.

I will probably resume brewing in late September or early October; I will try to post some beer reviews between now and then.  I hope all is going well with each and every one of you.  If you know the location of Mac’s Brew Pub, you’re welcome to stop by for a draught beer.  Cheers!