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).