Gift of the Magi & Double Bastard in the Rye


I trust that all of you had a merry Christmas and are all set for a happy and prosperous new year.  Christmas at Mac’s Brew Pub was truly a joy this year, and we are grateful for so much.  I received these two beers for Christmas from my daughters.  Both are special release beers so I thought I should post these reviews right away while they are still available in stores.  Please read responsibly.

Gift of the Magi: The Lost Abbey, San Marcos, CA.  12% ABV.
The Lost Abbey is the Belgian brewing arm of Port Brewing in San Marcos (San Diego).  Although Belgian style beers are not my favorite, I do enjoy some Belgian styles.  Gift of the Magi is a “Biere de Garde” (“beer for keeping” = extended conditioning/aging) – a strong, farmhouse style pale ale.  This beer is only available around Christmas time.

Gift of the Magi pours a hazy copper/amber color with 1″ thick creamy off white head.  The head persists for several minutes before it fades to a substantial ring around the perimeter.  The aroma is sweet with hints of toffee and raisin.  The flavor follows suit – sweet, dark fruit, raisin, and toffee.  It transitions to a bitterness with some caramel, followed by a bitter hoppy finish and finally fades to a slight bitter coffee aftertaste.

This is bottle conditioned with Brettanomyces, which gives it those barnyard notes typical of a farmhouse style ale.  The body is medium, leaning toward heavy, but the carbonation is high, which keeps this beer from being too syrupy.  The alcohol content, at 12%, is high, but is not at all noticeable in the flavor.  Although not evident on the palate, the alcohol packs a wallop – it hit me before I was through my first pint.

Gift of the Magi is very drinkable, in spite of the high alcohol content.  Be careful, however, it gets  you there quickly.  This beer is currently available and I highly recommend it.  Don’t wait too long, however, supplies are limited and it won’t be available again until late next year.  I sampled from a 750 ml corked bottle that I received for Christmas from Kristen and David.  Gift of the Magi is a wise choice, and fit for a King, I must say!

Double Bastard in the Rye (2015): Stone Brewing, Escondido, CA.  12.7% ABV.
According to the bottle, Double Bastard in the Rye is a, “close relative” of Stone’s Southern Charred (see my review posted September 28, 2014), which is Double Bastard Ale aged in bourbon barrels.  I would have to agree there is a lot of similarity between the two, but Double Bastard in the Rye is aged in Templeton Rye Whiskey barrels as opposed to bourbon barrels.

Double Bastard in the Rye pours an opaque dark amber with very little head.  The little bit of foam present fades rapidly to a very thin ring at the edge, which leaves no lacing.  The aroma is Double Bastard Ale – malty, sweet, toffee – with some vanilla.

The initial flavor sensation is bitter, but then vanilla from the rye whiskey barrel immediately kicks in.  It’s sweet and thick, then fades to a bittersweet caramel/toffee flavor that is all Double Bastard.  The bittersweet caramel slowly fades to a vanilla in the aftertaste and then becomes a lingering bitterness.  This has a heavy body with low carbonation, but is not boozy in spite of it’s high alcohol content (12.7%), and is a little easier to drink than the regular Double Bastard.  The hops are evident, though not overwhelming, and help to balance the huge maltiness of this brew.  Double Bastard in the Rye has none of the coconut flavor so evident in Southern Charred, but has more vanilla.  As the beer warms in the glass, the vanilla from the whiskey barrel and the alcohol become more apparent in the aroma and the flavor.

Double Bastard in the Rye is available, but is limited, so if you want to try some, you better get it soon.  I received this bottle (500 ml corked bottle) from my other daughter, Rosie, for Christmas.  It’s very good, although not as good as Southern Charred or Depth Charged Double Bastard Ale (see my review posted December 2, 2015).

So, what about these two beers?  I recommend both, but neither is for the faint of heart.  Double Bastard in the Rye is pretty expensive (as is expected with a barrel aged beer), but worth the price for the experience of drinking one bottle.  Gift of the Magi is more affordable, so you have no excuse – GO BUY A BOTTLE!.  Caveat – as with most of these big beers, fizzy yellow beer drinkers and cheapskates will not like them; so if you’re in either category (or both), don’t bother.

A sincere thank you to Krissy and Rosie.  You know how to spoil your old man.  Cheers!

Hammerland DIPA & Angel’s Share


If you read my last newsletter, you are aware that I am out of Mac’s Brew (except for some huge stouts and barley wine in bottles) and have been purchasing a lot of commercially brewed craft beer.  Here is a review of a couple more.  Please read responsibly!

Hammerland DIPA: El Segundo Brewing Company, El Segundo, CA.  8.6% ABV.
Hammerland DIPA is brewed in Southern California (Los Angeles County).  It’s a Double India Pale Ale (DIPA), which typically means higher alcohol with a little more hops to balance the extra malt.

Hammerland pours a dark golden color with a 1/2″ white foamy head.  The foam fades away after 2 – 3 minutes, but a nice ring remains throughout the session, leaving some nice lacing in the glass.  The aroma is very nice citrus and hoppy.

The flavor is hoppy, citrus, and quite bitter, but has a nice maltiness commensurate with the DIPA style.  The bitterness fades to malty sweetness as it is swallowed, but then the bitterness kicks back in and lingers at the very end.

Overall, this is a nice DIPA.  Not the best I’ve ever tasted, but quite good.  I sampled this from a 22 oz. bomber purchased at Costco for $7.99.  I notice that it’s always available there, and definitely worth a taste.

Angel’s Share: The Lost Abbey Brewing Company, San Marcos, CA.  12.5% ABV.
When whiskey is aged in oak barrels, part of the batch is lost to evaporation during the years long aging process.  The portion lost to evaporation is called the angel’s share.

Angel’s Share by The Lost Abbey in San Marcos (San Diego County) is a bourbon barrel aged Belgian style strong ale.  It pours a murky dark brown with no head, although the carbonation is fairly high.  The aroma is a little tart, a little sweet, with strong vanilla notes.

The flavor is tart on the tongue, remains tart and sweet, but fades to a sweet vanilla aftertaste from the bourbon barrel aging.  The aftertaste persists and is very pleasant.  The body and mouthfeel is very thick, viscous, and syrupy.  However, this beer is highly carbonated (It’s bottle conditioned in the Belgian tradition), as one would expect with a Belgian beer.  The alcohol content is high, but not noticeable.  When it warms up, the alcohol is noticeable in the aroma and in the aftertaste.

This is a good, high quality beer.  I love bourbon barrel aged beer, but this is not one that I will re-visit.  I was expecting an Imperial Russian Stout when I bought it, but the sweet/tart characteristic is too much for me.  It’s more of an amber or brown ale style (at least in color/SRM). My sample came from a 12 oz. corked bottle I purchased at Costco for $12.99 (that’s not a typo –  this is an expensive beer, which you have to expect with any barrel aged ale).

So, here’s what  you want to know about these two beers:
I recommend Hammerland DIPA.  It’s a very nice Double IPA offered at a reasonable price at Costco.  Angel’s Share is a very good beer, but there’s no doubt it’s a Belgian ale.  Belgians are not to my liking, so I will not buy it again.  However, if you enjoy Belgian style beers, you will definitely like this one (that is, if you also like bourbon barrel aged beers).



Mac’s Brew News – December 7, 2015


Today’s newsletter is published in honor of the 2403 Americans killed and the 1178 Americans wounded in the unprovoked attack on Perl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Greetings to one and all.  It’s been a busy couple of months since I last published a newsletter.  Here’s a little news from Mac’s Brew Pub.

In early October we went to Ireland for a little over two weeks.  We started in Belfast, Northern Ireland, for the first four days, then continued on to the Republic of Ireland.  Without boring you with the details, I will say that Ireland is very different from England in regards to the antiquities and national treasures.  Most of the castles and abbeys, etc., are in quite a state of disrepair and neglect.  It’s too bad, but I would guess that it’s a function of the relatively poor economic power of Ireland.

On the bright side, however, I found pubs and beer all over the country.  In fact, I have never seen so many bars and pubs in my life.  The reputation of the Irish being big drinkers is well deserved, it seems.  Not only are there lots of pubs and bars, but they are always well patronized.  We toured the Old Bushmills distillery (in Northern Ireland), Smithwick’s brewery (in Kilkenny), the Guinness brewery (in Dublin), and the Jameson’s distillery (also in Dublin).  Lest you think I only went to Ireland to drink alcohol and experience their most famous exports, I assure you I did a lot of sight seeing as well.  Let me say, however, the Guinness tour was one of the highlights, and I highly recommend it if you ever get over to Ireland.

I did drink Guinness while there, as it is ubiquitous throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland. However, I tried to drink local brews wherever we went, in order to get a taste for the craft brewing phenomenon in Ireland.  This was a good decision on my part, as I tasted a number of high quality local craft brews which I will never be able to find here in the colonies.  I assure you the craft beer scene is vibrant in Ireland, although not to the same extent that it is flourishing in the US.

We went to Sean’s Bar on several occasions while we were staying in Athlone.  Sean’s Bar is the oldest bar in Ireland (and believed to be the oldest bar in Europe); it has been open since 900 AD.  Yes, folks, It has been open for over 1100 years.  It was almost 600 years old when Columbus discovered America – pretty crazy, huh?  While I was there having a beer, I couldn’t help but wonder who was having a drink in the same spot a thousand years ago.

Sean's Bar  c900 AD Athlone, Ireland

Sean’s Bar c900 AD
Athlone, Ireland

We met a fine young fellow, Sean Dillon, at Sean’s Bar.  No, he’s not the owner, or even connected to the bar; he just shares that great Irish name.  He’s an American, and we struck up a friendship with him.  I sent a few bottles of Mac’s Brew to him on the East Coast.  I guess I can now say that Mac’s Brew is enjoyed “coast to coast.”  If you’re reading this, Sean, greetings from Mac.

I think the best pub for craft beer (quality and variety) was Porterhouse Brewing Company, in Dublin.  Porterhouse was recommended to me by a cab driver, and was within walking distance from the hotel where we stayed.  I went to this brewpub every day while we were in Dublin, and still was not able to taste all of the beers they had on tap.  Their Double IPA was outstanding, and highly hopped, like a West Coast IPA.  Porterhouse has a brewpub in New York City . . . hmm, next time I’m in NYC, I’ll make it a point to get over there.

Ok, enough about Ireland; here’s what’s happening at Mac’s.  I’m all out of draught Mac’s Brew.  I have some bottles of my strong beers (stouts and barley wine), but those aren’t for everyday consumption, so I’ve been buying and drinking commercially brewed beers.  See my recent posts for information on some of these fine examples (with several more posts to come).

I brewed a coffee stout two weeks ago.  That was the first time I have brewed in three months (that’s why I’m out of Mac’s on draught).  I haven’t made a final decision on the name of this beer, but have a pretty good idea.  This was brewed in collaboration with Bryce Lowrance.  Bryce is a very talented young brewer, and I felt honored that he wanted to brew with me.  This batch is still in the fermenter conditioning.  As soon as I’m ready to move it out of the fermenter, I will brew a pale ale (Mac’s PAPA).  After that, it’s an IPA, then maybe an imperial stout.  Finally, more beer is on the way to Mac’s.  My poor planning led to this drought – I’ll try to not let this happen again!

Slainte (Cheers)!

Depth Charged Double Bastard Ale & 2015 Barrel Aged Narwhal


Mac’s Brew Pub is out of Mac’s Brew, so I’m drinking a variety of high quality commercial beers (refer to the upcoming newsletter for the lame excuse as to why I’m out of Mac’s Brew).  Here are reviews of a couple limited release beers I recently sampled.  Please read responsibly.

2015 Depth Charged Double Bastard Ale: Stone Brewing, Escondido, CA.  11% ABV.
This is Stone’s Double Bastard Ale brewed with espresso coffee beans.  I have never posted a review of Stone’s Double Bastard Ale, but let me give you just a brief description: it’s a huge malty and hoppy extreme version of Arrogant Bastard Ale that is very high in alcohol; it’s not for the faint of heart.  Depth Charged Double Bastard is a more balanced version of the original, owing to the coffee addition.  Let me explain.

Depth Charged pours a deep amber color, very clear, with a slight head, beige in color, that rapidly fades to just a ring around the perimeter of the beer.  The aroma is sweet and malty, with strong coffee and some caramel notes.  The flavor is smooth with Double Bastard caramel maltiness and a bit of coffee.  The coffee flavor is subtle, but knocks down the over-the-top bittersweet Double Bastard malty/hoppy flavor. There are nice coffee, chocolate and caramel notes in the aftertaste.  This beer has a heavy body with a thick creamy mouthfeel, and goes down very smooth.  The carbonation level is good, but not high, and keeps it from being too heavy and syrupy.  As this beer warms, the coffee shines through brighter, making it even nicer.

In my opinion, Depth Charged is much more drinkable than Double Bastard, as the smack in the mouth bittersweet heavy flavor is mitigated by the espresso.  This is much more balanced (bitterness/sweetness) than the original as it is a bit more bitter than Double Bastard, and is more mellow.  The alcohol level, at 11%, is high, but it’s not at all boozy.

Good job, Stone.  This beer is very complex and enjoyable.  It’s really an amazing, fantastic beer.  You gotta taste it to appreciate it’s depth.  Unfortunately, it was brewed only once, so if you want some, you better look for it right away.  My sample was a 22 oz. bomber, which was part of a 4 bottle “Bastard Box” I purchased at Costco for $19.99.  I HIGHLY recommend this beer, and hope Stone will continue this along with their annual Double Bastard release!

2015 Barrel-Aged Narwhal: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA.  12.9% ABV.
Barrel-Aged Narwhal is an imperial stout.  It pours midnight black with a 1/2″ tan head that fades after a couple of minutes, leaving a tan ring around the edge.  The aroma is sweet chocolate and vanilla.  The flavor initially follows the nose – sweet chocolate – then a transitions to slight bitterness, with coconut and vanilla from the bourbon barrel aging.  The carbonation is evident mid-pallate, but not late, and it does not clear the sweet chocolate flavor.  It is a little boozy from mid-palate on, but not hot or unpleasant.  The aftertaste is sweet chocolate, which fades to a slight and pleasant bitterness.

This is a very good beer.  It’s a limited edition brew, so you better get it soon if you’re inclined to drink some.  I bought a 750 ml bottle from Total Wine for $18.99 (as I recall).  I highly recommend this one; it was worth the cost, but I won’t be buying another bottle this year (pretty expensive).

So, the bottom line is this: I highly recommend both of these beers, but especially the Depth Charged Double Bastard Ale.  You won’t be disappointed with either beer (caveat: fizzy yellow beer drinkers – don’t bother; you won’t like either one).