Mac’s Brew News – January 10, 2015

Happy New Year to one and all.  I hope each of you had a fun and festive holiday season and were able to enjoy some good beer.  It’s been busy here at Mac’s and I offer you this opportunity of catch up on the latest news.

Mac the Annihilator: brewed 10-14-2014; kegged 11-22-2014.  10.3% ABV.  This was ready for consumption just in time for Thanksgiving at Mac’s Brew Pub.  It turned out pretty good, but not as good as I hoped for.  I think I got the grain bill just right this time, and will make no further adjustments to it, but I might change up some of the hops in the future.  Also, I might mash at a slightly lower temperature to get a lower finishing gravity and a drier beer.

Maktoberfest: brewed 10-28-2014; kegged 11-22-2014. 6.1% ABV.  I brewed a 10 gallon batch and divided it into two 5 gallon portions for fermentation.  I kegged 5 gallons and bottled the other 5 gallons.  The kegged version, like MTA, was ready for drinking on Thanksgiving.  I bottled the other portion 12-04-2014.

It’s interesting to note that both portions were exactly the same (from the same kettle) and I used yeast from the same starter (poured it more or less half and half when I pitched into the two fermentation carboys), but they turned out differently.  Now, I believe some of the taste differences can be attributed to the different serving protocols (draught vs. bottle conditioning), but there is definitely more to it than that.  The bottled version tastes better (that’s unusual!) and finished at a lower gravity resulting in a higher alcohol content (7.2%).  The bottled version is also much more clear

I’m stumped on this one.  I pitched a little more yeast into the kegged portion, but not a whole lot more (there was a little more wort in that carboy as well), so I can’t imagine that affected the final gravity too much.  I might have to check with the Brew Master, Joe Renden, to get his expert opinion.

The kegged version is pretty cloudy, which is unusual for the yeast strain used.  The flavor is malty and somewhat sweet, within the Oktoberfest style range, but not as good as past versions I brewed (third place at the 2013 OC Fair under the name “Whatchamacallit”).  It’s good, but not great.  Now, the bottled version on the other hand, has a much cleaner appearance and flavor.  It is very good, with a lager-like taste sensation and malty caramel notes.  I proudly gave a case to my father for Christmas.  He says he is enjoying it, consuming a couple of bottles a week.

Mac’s Black Forest Stout: brewed 12-11-2014.  This beer is still conditioning in the carboy on 5 oz of cacao nibs.  It is currently 8.6% ABV, and likely to stay there (the fermentation is over).  The flavor is very good – I sampled a little bit of it when I took a hydrometer reading.  I will probably bottle it in about 2 weeks and let it bottle condition for about 3 months.  I plan to enter it into the OC Fair in May.

Red Headed Step-Child: brewed Friday 01-09-2015 (yesterday).  The original gravity was high, but one gravity point lower that it was the last time I brewed this recipe.  That’s to be expected, as I collected an additional half gallon of runoff this time.

Last time I brewed RHSC, I collaborated with Mike Matulich.  This time I collaborated with Martin Gilberstadt and Martin Gilberstadt II.  All three of us really enjoyed brew day, and we each have 5 gallons for consumption.  Well, to clarify, I have 5 gallons, and they have 5 gallons between them.  I plan to oak my portion, like I did last time, but will use French oak, and will use cubes rather than chips (should give a little smoother oak flavor).  I think Gilberstadts are planning on dry hopping their portion.  We will have to get together and sample our creations together.  Martin and M-II, thanks for your company, your assistance, and the great burrito.  I hope you enjoyed the experience as much as I did.  Maybe we could do this again.

I’m not sure what’s up next at Mac’s Brewing.  Maybe a hefeweizen or another IPA.  Possibly a pale ale, or  . . . so many possibilities.

That’s if for now.  Cheers!

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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!

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7 Swans-A-Swimming & Bourbon Barrel Aged Arrogant Bastard

I’m still in a holding pattern for brewing at Mac’s, but I’m able to try some new beer and offer  you my humble opinions on how they perform.  Here are a couple of brews you might find interesting.  Please read responsibly.

7 Swans-A-Swimming: The Bruery, Placentia, CA.  11% ABV.

This is the 7th verse of their 12 days of Christmas series of beers.  7 Swans-A-Swimming is a Belgian style quadrupel ale.  There are no tricks to this beer (see my review of 5 Golden Rings, posted 12-06-2012,  for insight into an unusual winter warmer), it’s a straight ahead Belgian quad, brewed only with water, malt, hops, yeast and some dark Belgian candi sugar.  All in all, it’s an enjoyable quaffing experience.

7 Swans-A-Swimming pours cloudy dark amber/brown with a thin medium tan head that rapidly fades.  I could smell the heavy sweet Belgian aroma as I was pouring this brew into a tulip glass (from The Bruery).  The aroma is sweet, burnt sugar, with a little alcohol, but no hops on the nose.

The flavor is very rich and complex – sweet, toasted caramel, figs, prunes, and raisins.  Fruity and slightly spicy.  This is a little syrupy, but not overly so, and not unpleasant.  Alcohol is apparent (it’s 11% ABV, no surprise here), but not overwhelming.  There is a little bit of cocoa late on the palate and into the aftertaste, along with burnt sugar.  The dark fruit and sweetness really lingers in the aftertaste.  It produces a nice alcohol warming, but is not overly boozy.

This Belgian possesses nice body and smooth mouthfeel.  Carbonation is moderate, commensurate with the style.

Overall, this is a very good beer, true to the Belgian quadrupel style.  At $9.99 for a 750 ml bottle (Total Wine), I would say it’s very reasonably priced for such a massive beer.  I’m not a big fan of the Belgian style – a little too sweet for my taste – so I will not be buying another bottle of 7 Swans-A-Swimming.  However, I can highly recommend this to anyone who likes big Belgian ales (tripels & quadrupels), and I look forward to tasting 8 Maids-A-Milking next year.  Good job, Bruery!

Bourbon Barrel Aged Arrogant Bastard: Stone Brewing, Escondido, CA.  7.8% ABV

I purchased the “Bastard Box” at Costco for $14.99.  This was one of the bombers in the 4 pack, along with Arrogant Bastard, Double Bastard and Lukcy Basartd (not misspelled – buy a bottle and read the description on the back).  I’m enjoying it now, so here’s the low-down on this variation of Arrogant Bastard.

This pours a deep amber with a light tan/khaki creamy head, which fades fairly rapidly.  It is very clear when held up to the light.  The aroma is malty sweet with a healthy dose of citrus hops.  There is no bourbon noted in the aroma (at least initially; see below).

The flavor is all Arrogant Bastard up front – it has a strong maltiness with a lot of hop bitterness.  Those flavors fade to a subdued bourbon vanilla/coconut flavor, which in turn fades to more hop bitterness that lingers on the palate.  It has a nice creamy mouth feel and medium carbonation, which leaves some good lacing on the glass.  I don’t notice the bourbon as much as the oak, and that (the oak)  is more pronounced than Oaked Arrogant Bastard.  The alcohol content is slightly higher than Arrogant Bastard (7.8% vs. 7.2% ABV) but it’s not boozy and I noted no alcohol warming while imbibing.

As this beer warms: I note a little bit of maple syrup and bourbon/vanilla on the nose.  The smooth, sweet, balancing of the bourbon barrel mellows this from the hop bomb that is Arrogant Bastard, and I note more and more difference between this derivative and it’s original.  It’s not just Oaked Arrogant Bastard after all (you know, those Brits might be on to something – drinking their ale at cellar temperature; it really brings out the flavors and the complexity of a beer).  This is really smooth, and well worth the price of admission if you can find it.

Both of these are good beers, and recommended, although I won’t be buying 7 Swans-A-Swimming, just because I’m not wild about Belgian style beers.  I have a bottle of Autumn Maple in the fridge, and will be serving it on Thanksgiving.  It is The Bruery’s version of an autumn beer/pumpkin ale (although, it’s brewed with yams and maple syrup, no pumpkin).  A happy Thanksgiving to all.  We have much to be thankful for.  Cheers!

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Heady Topper & Grapefruit Sculpin

Due to equipment limitations, Mac is taking a short break from brewing (both of my primary fermenters, and one I borrowed from fellow home brewer Mike Matulich, are in use; no additional primary fermentation space available).  But that doesn’t mean beer indulgence comes to an end.  No, in fact I’m enjoying lots of high quality craft brews right here at Mac’s Brew Pub.  Here are reviews of two India Pale Ales for your amusement.  As a reminder, please read responsibly!

Heady Topper: The Alchemist, Waterbury, VT.  8% ABV               heady_topper

If you Google, “Best Beer in the World”, one of the first sites that pops up is Beer Advocate.  They list Heady Topper as the #1 beer in the world.  Rate Beer also has it listed in it’s top 100, but I could not find their numerical ratings (all the beers were listed in alphabetical order by brewery), so I don’t know where in their top 100 Heady Topper falls.  Both of these websites  base their rankings on customer reviews, so these are not necessarily rated as such by experts, but rather by popularity.  Let’s just agree, however, that Heady Topper is one of the world’s great beers.

Heady Topper is not widely available, in fact I understand they only distribute within 30 miles of the brewery.  Now, I know you’re asking, “how did Mac get a can of Heady Topper?”  My answer of course is, I have powerful and influential friends, some of whom travel far and wide and bring back world class beers to California.  In this instance, that would be Scott Vandeventer – a fine fellow, generous to a fault, and a man who recognizes and appreciates good beer.

Heady Topper is a hazy golden color with a white head.  The aroma is citrus (grapefruit) hoppy and tropical fruit.  The flavor is very bright; it’s slightly sweet but grapefruit bitter is the overwhelming flavor sensation.  It has medium body and nice mouth-feel.  This is not the hoppiest IPA I’ve ever had, nor the biggest.  It’s a Double IPA, but the malty sweetness is well balanced by the grapefruit hopiness.  The aftertaste is all citrus/grapefruit.

This beer came in a 16 oz. aluminum can.  The instructions on the can suggest drinking it directly from the can (in order to keep the hop aromas from dissipating in a wide mouthed glass).  I poured about one oz. into a glass in order to view the color of the beer and the head, and to take in the aroma.  I drank the rest from the can, and I think I agree that the direct-from-the-can approach made for a very hoppy experience.

This is a REALLY GOOD IPA.  I was prepared to be somewhat disappointed after reading all of the hype about this beer.  After drinking it, however, I must say Heady Topper matched its reputation.  It’s not as bitter nor as dry as Pliny The Elder, and I think I like it as much, if not more, than Bootlegger’s Knuckle Sandwich (my favorite IPA).  Wish I could try them side-by-side (Scott, do you have another can?  If you do, bring it over and we will share it along with a bomber of Knuckle Sandwich.).  Heady Topper is refreshing and thirst quenching.  Be careful, however, at 8% ABV, a 16 oz serving can do some damage (especially on an empty stomach).

As I said, it’s a great IPA, but not the best beer in the world.  That honor, in my opinion, still belongs to The Bruery’s “Black Tuesday.”  As far as IPA’s go, however, it’s right up there at the top.

Grapefruit Sculpin: Ballast Point Brewing, San Diego, CA.  7% ABVgrapefruit_sculpin

Sculpin IPA, by Ballast Point Brewing, is a world class IPA, and is widely available in Southern California.  It’s on tap just about everywhere in San Diego.  Grapefruit Sculpin, however, has limited availability.

Ballast Point has added natural grapefruit flavors to their flagship IPA to make this beer.  It pours a clear golden yellow with a slight cream colored head that faded rapidly.  The aroma is citrus-hoppy/grapefruit.

The flavor is a nice bitter citrus hoppiness with a slight grapefruit presence, but the grapefruit is not overwhelming.  It has medium-light body and is slightly dry.  The maltiness is subdued; this is all about the hops and grapefruit.  At 7% ABV, it packs a punch, but the alcohol is not detectable in the flavor.  There is a lingering bitterness in the aftertaste, inviting your next swallow.

Grapefruit Sculpin is a thirst quenching and very satisfying IPA.  I purchased a 6 pack of 12 oz. bottles at Total Wine for $7.99 – a very reasonable price for such a nice beer.  If you like IPA’s, this is one you will want to look for.  You can definitely taste the grapefruit vs. the regular Sculpin, but it’s not overpowering.  Good job, Ballast Point!.

Well, that’s it for now, beer lovers.  Again, I must give special recognition to Scott Vandeventer for graciously sharing a “hard to come by” can of Heady Topper.

Stay tuned for more beer reviews in the very near future.  Next up are my thoughts on some special Bastards from Stone Brewing.  Cheers!

 

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Mac’s Brew News 10/26/2014 – A Tribute To Wyatt Earp

“The fighting has commenced.  Go to fighting or get away.” (Wyatt Earp to Ike Clanton, October 26, 1881;  Tombstone, Arizona)

Today is the 133rd anniversary of the gunfight at the OK Corral.  To commemorate this event, Mac’s Brew Pub is proudly releasing this newsletter.  I trust that’s OK with you.

Well, summer is over, and so is my vacation.  I enjoyed the break from the rigors of brewing, but I also missed the challenge and the fun.  My kegerator is almost empty, so it’s time to fire up the brew kettle and make some more beer.  I have only one beer left on tap (Red Headed Step-Child) and that is almost gone, so more home brew is definitely in order.  I can’t complain, though, I haven’t brewed since May and my beer lasted until now – not too bad (beer on tap for 4 months without brewing).  This is what’s going on at Mac’s Brew Pub.

Mac the Annihilator: I brewed a batch of Mac the Annihilator (MTA) on Tuesday October 14, 2014.  I tweaked the recipe a little (much to Mike’s chagrin), so this is Generation II of MTA.  The color is just right (although it’s a little hard to tell when it’s in the fermenter) and the Original Gravity was 1.092.  This should finish out in the high 9% ABV range – at least, that’s what I’m hoping for.

Maktoberfest: On Tuesday October 28, I’m brewing Maktoberfest.  See Mac’s Whatchamacallit in previous newsletters – it’s the same recipe (third place at the 2013 OC Fair).  This time I’m brewing 10 gallons.  I will keg 5 gallons and bottle 5 gallons.  I love Oktoberfest (Marzen) style beers, so this is my “ale” answer to the Marzen style (a lager).  The ale yeast I’m using ferments very clean, like a lager, so the end result is a lager-like ale.

Baby Luke’s Barrel Aged Barley Wine: I was going to let this age one more month, but since there is almost nothing on tap at Mac’s, I decided to keg Baby Luke’s Barley Wine today.  It’s been conditioning/aging on bourbon soaked oak cubes since March 30, 2014 (with a little bit of fermentation going on as well).  It’s 12.2% ABV with a decent bourbon barrel aroma and flavor.  We’ll see how it stands up to carbonation (it’s being carbonated now) – I’m afraid it’s going to be a little too dry as the final gravity was much lower than I intended (1.012).  I might have goofed up by adding the champagne yeast after primary fermentation – it brought the gravity down, but much more than I intended.  Oh well, we’ll see how it tastes.  Baby Luke is now 9 months old and this was brewed in his honor shortly after his birth.  You’re a blessing, Luke; Papa loves you!

Ok, that’s it for this edition of Mac’s Brew News.  It’s nice and short, but all the latest information is here.  I hope that’s OK with all of you.

Speaking of OK, if anyone is interested in the gunfight at the OK Corral and/or Wyatt Earp, there are several good books on the subject.  In my opinion, the most comprehensive and fair treatment of the life and times of the Earps is Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind The Legend by Casey Tefertiller (copyright 1997).  I have read several Wyatt Earp books, but this one is by far the most compelling, well researched and comprehensive treatment of the subject.  I highly recommend it.  The 1994 movie, “Tombstone” is a pretty good  and accurate treatment of the subject until it gets to the vendetta, where it depicts a lot of gratuitous violence.  Up to that point, however, it is historically accurate and very compelling.

As many of you are aware, there are several photos of Wyatt Earp in Mac’s Brew Pub.  I think it would have been fascinating to spend an afternoon with him sharing war stories and a beer.  He truly is an American legend.

Here’s to you, Wyatt (03/19/1848 – 01/13/1929).  YOU ARE AN INSPIRATION!.  From one law man to another – Cheers!!!!!!!

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Southern Charred, 18th Anniversary IPA, Evil Dead Red & Barrel Aged Voo Doo

I did not intend to go this long without a post (2 months), but time got away from me while I was having a busy summer.  I hope to resume brewing again in another couple of weeks.  I already have the ingredients for Mac the Annihilator (I’m changing the recipe again, ever so slightly), then I plan to brew an ale similar to an Oktoberfest.  I know it’s a bit late to brew an Oktoberfest now, but it will ready by Thanksgiving.

Here are 4 beer reviews for your reading pleasure.  Please read responsibly!

Southern Charred (2013 Series): Stone Brewing, Escondido CA.  12.6% ABV

This is an unusual beer.  I don’t know if it will be an annual release, but the bottle I drank was labeled “2013 Series”.  I purchased it in November 2013 and forgot about it in my refrigerator until last month.  2013 Southern Charred is Double Bastard Ale brewed in 2012 and aged in Bourbon barrels.  I like Stone’s Double Bastard Ale, but a little goes a long way because it is such a BIG malty and hoppy beer with a relatively high alcohol content (ABV varies from year to year, but it’s usually between 10.5 – 11.5%).  You may have guessed from reading my posts (both Newsletter and Beer Review categories) that I really like bourbon barrel aged beers.  This one is a very good example of the style.

Southern Charred pours a dark, somewhat hazy amber.  The light beige head is not long-lasting.  The aroma is quite sweet, the bourbon giving it strong notes of coconut and vanilla.  This beer has 95 IBU’s, but you would never know it as the flavor is malty sweet, but not overly so as the high hopping rate balances it out.  The bourbon flavor is in your face, but it’s not boozy or hot from the high alcohol content.  Carbonation is low and it has a velvety smooth mouthfeel.

There is no mistaking that this is Double Bastard Ale – the bitterness of the 95 IBU’s is the first impression.  But then, the coconut/vanilla from the oak barrels and bourbon takes over.  It has a sweet finish, and I think it’s more drinkable than Double Bastard.

Although it’s not boozy, it packs a wallop.  I drank it on an empty stomach and had a good buzz going half way through my first pint – I was drinking it slowly.  This beer is excellent!!  It’s not just another bourbon barrel aged beer.  Well done, Stone!

I bought one bottle (500ml) at Total Wine for $17.99 (I believe).  Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s widely available any longer.

18th Anniversary IPA: Stone Brewing, Escondido, CA.  8.5% ABV.

Every summer Stone releases their anniversary ale, and it’s different each year.  This year’s version is billed (on the label) as, “THE HOPPIEST GOLDEN-BROWN ALE ON EARTH.”  So what about it?

It pours a clear, beautiful, medium copper color with a cream-colored head (with nice retention).  There is a nice hoppy, citrus (lemon) aroma – no doubt it’s an IPA.  The flavor is piney, lemon citrus that fades to a nice tropical fruit sweetness.  This is a full-bodied IPA (not dry) with nice carbonation.  Hints of coffee and cocoa come through just a little in the aftertaste.

Overall, it’s a good beer, but a slightly unusual IPA.  Leave it to Stone Brewing to come up  with something like this – a brown IPA.  Yes, I recommend it, but it’s not my favorite IPA.   It’s not  Stone’s finest IPA or Anniversary Ale either, but it’s better than their 16th Anniversary Ale (2 years ago).  It’s good beer, and I have a couple in my refrigerator for enjoyment in the next few weeks.

Evil Dead Red: Ale Smith Brewing Company, San Diego, CA.  6.66 % ABV.

What can I say?  This is Ale Smith’s Halloween beer.  So, they don’t release a pumpkin ale like everyone else; instead, they release a (blood) red IPA.  How clever of them!

This is a deep amber (or should I say red – but not really like blood) beer with a creamy beige head that has lots of staying power.  The aroma is malty and hoppy, with a slight emphasis on the hops.  The flavor is all about the hops, but there’s more to it than that.

I think this beer has a big malt bill, with lots of crystal malt.  At first there is a great caramel sweetness (crystal malts), but then the hops take over for a piney and citrusy whack in the mouth.  The malt lingers in the aftertaste, and the caramel really comes through as it warms.

Evil Dead Red is well-balanced, but there’s no doubt it’s an IPA.  It has medium body.  I would best describe this as reminiscent of Arrogant Bastard Ale (Stone Brewing), and I think it might be the same as “My Bloody Valentine” by Ale Smith (available at the first of the year, before Valentine’s Day).  It’s available in 22 oz bombers.  I bought it at Costco ($4.49), and will buy it again.

Barrel Aged Voo Doo: Left Coast Brewing Company, San Clemente, CA  10.0% ABV.

I’ve had Voo Doo Stout from Left Coast in the past.  It’s a nice American style stout, well balanced.  I saw Barrel Aged Voo Doo the other day at Total Wine and decided to give it a try.  As I previously mentioned, I’m a sucker for bourbon barrel aged beers.

This one is pitch black with a sparse light tan head.  The foam rapidly fades to a tan ring around the edge of the glass.  The aroma is sweet chocolate with some vanilla hints.  There is very little bourbon in the nose.

The flavor is quintessential stout, but not overly strong.  The chocolate predominates with a slight coffee taste.  I note some bitterness on the tongue from the carbonation.  The chocolate and bitterness fade to a sweet vanilla and just a touch of coconut from the bourbon.

Voo Doo has medium body – I expected more viscosity from a stout with 10% alcohol, but this is not a heavy imperial stout.  I also expected more of the mellow oak and bourbon flavor.  Let this one warm up in order to catch the true character and flavor of this beer.  All of the flavors intensify, but especially the chocolate.  I was surprised, however, that the bourbon flavor did not increase with the beer temperature.  Although it was not boozy or hot, the alcohol did become somewhat apparent as the beer warmed to the mid 60’s.

As the name implies, this is Voo Doo stout aged in bourbon and rye whiskey barrels.  However, the flavors imparted from the oak and the bourbon are very subdued, especially when it is refrigerator temperature.

I sampled this beer from a 22 oz bomber.  I purchased it at Total Wine for $14.99.  This is good beer, a nice chocolaty stout with a high alcohol content that is well hidden.  However, in my opinion the price tag is a little steep for what you get.  The oak and the bourbon should be very apparent and instead they are too far in the background.  Save your money and buy regular Voo Doo.  If you like bourbon barrel aged stouts and don’t mind the price, spend a couple of extra dollars and buy Parabola (Firestone Walker) or Smoking Wood (The Bruery).  I will probably drink regular Voo Doo again in the future, but will not be buying Barrel Aged Voo Doo because of the price.  Again, it’s good beer but disappointing.

I recommend  three of these four beers, but I think only two of them are available (18th Anniversary and Evil Dead Red).  Southern Charred is wonderful, but is probably only available during limited release at the Stone brewery in Escondido (note: I found it available at “Grillin & Chillin Alehouse in Hollister for $39 per bottle; I’m gonna pass on that one).  Barrel Aged Voo Doo is widely available right now; although it’s good (not great) beer, it is over-priced, thus not recommended.  Cheers!

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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!

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Mac’s Brew News – May 12, 2014

The weather is getting warm again so another brewing season at Mac’s Brew Pub is coming to a close real soon.  I’m trying to brew enough beer to last through the summer and fall so I don’t run out before I can get another batch brewed and on tap in November.  I don’t think that’s going to happen.  I’m sure I will still have some bottled Mac’s Brew to drink, but I think the kegerator will probably be empty.  Oh well, they still sell lots of good beer at Total Wine (and they also have quite a selection of craft brews at Costco now) so at least I won’t totally run out of beer.  Here is what’s been happening  at Mac’s.

Red Headed Step-Child: Brewed Saturday 04-26-2014.  OG 1.075.  It seems like everybody is doing collaboration brews these days, and I’m no different.  I collaborated with Mike Matulich to brew this beast.  We had perfect brewing conditions (cool but sunny) and brew day went real smooth.  This is a fairly high gravity beer and we hit in the middle of my target gravity range.  The fermentation is progressing nicely.  I racked the beer to the secondary fermenter on Saturday 05-03-2014.  The gravity was 1.020 at that time (7.3% ABV) so I don’t expect it to drop much (if any) further.  The alcohol content will probably remain the same, or could possibly increase .1 – .2%.  It’s got a real nice “hop forward” flavor, but the specialty malts are very noticeable in the taste.  It should be ready to keg after about 2 – 3 more weeks of conditioning.  Be patient.

Mac’s Bourbon Barrel Stout: This fermentation was over, but the final gravity was quite high and the alcohol was a bit low for the style (just under 8% ABV).  To correct this situation, I added additional yeast to the carboy and have been adding dextrose (corn sugar).  Because dextrose is completely fermentable, all this will add is alcohol – no sweetness.  The flavor is REALLY good and the beer has loads of body.  The (eventual) high alcohol content should be well hidden beneath all that flavor and viscosity (the final gravity will remain the same).  I should be done with the “alcohol boost” by late next week, and hope to get it somewhere around 12.3% ABV.  After that, it’s got about a year of bourbon barrel aging (which will also increase the alcohol content).  Be patient.

Mac the Annihilator: 9.8% ABV.  After extensive dry hopping, I kegged this brew on Monday 04-28-2014.  It’s fully carbonated and is being served in the pub/tasting room.  It’s a very nice Imperial IPA.  Unfortunately it’s much more hazy than Smack Down was, and I’m disappointed in that characteristic.  I was hoping it would clear up a little before I bottled some of it for the fair competition.  Alas, no such luck, but I submitted it anyway.

Mac’s Cherry Wheat: On deck.  This is another collaboration brew.  This time I’m brewing with Mike Young; brew day is Monday 05-19-2014.  This is a very simple recipe and will not be high gravity.  I’m just planning on making a very drinkable moderate ABV ale.  I want something refreshing for the remainder of the summer.  I should have this one kegged and carbonated 3 – 4 weeks after brew day.  Who knows, I just might have two fruit beers on tap at the same time (Mac’s Apricot Wheat is still plentiful).

I entered 4 beers into the 2014 Orange County Fair competition.  My entries are: Aeronautical Amber Ale; Mac’s Apricot Wheat; Mac the Annihilator; Mac’s Bourbon Barrel Stout (2013 vintage).  I bottled each of these (except for the Bourbon Barrel Stout) from the keg, using a counter pressure bottle filler.  This is a great device.  It’s the same thing commercial breweries use to bottle their beer, except I can only bottle one at a time whereas commercial breweries bottle multiples (dozens) at a time.  Anyway, it’s a cool piece of equipment and it’s pretty easy to use.  (Kevin, if you’re reading this, I also bottled some for you, so you can expect a nice delivery from UPS soon.)

I don’t anticipate that any of my entries will win awards. The best chance (I think) is the Aeronautical Amber Ale. It’s really good. The Annihilator is quite good, but it’s too cloudy and the IPA category is the most crowded in the competition (I imagine there will be 200 – 300 in that category alone), so my chances are pretty slim. The apricot wheat is very good, but doesn’t stand out, and the stout is under-carbonated and over-oaked, so it will be graded down for both flaws. I am interested, however, in the judges comments about my beer – it will make me a better brewer and will help me improve my beer.

I’m drinking a Stone Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout while finishing this post.  It has been aging in my refrigerator since August 2008 (yes, almost 6 years).  The years have been kind to this beer.  It’s quite good, but has changed significantly since 2008.  It has mellowed considerably.  It’s 9.2% ABV, and I remember that it used to be quite boozy (at least, it seemed that way in 2008 when I was still somewhat of a novice craft beer drinker).  It’s no longer boozy, even though the ABV remains the same.  I still have a few more bottles in the fridge and will have to drink one every year or so.  The first all grain batch I brewed (in January 2011) was a clone of Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout.  It was very good, but I missed the gravity target significantly and ended up with about 7.75% ABV.  Well, nobody does it like Stone.

That’s it for now.  Cheers!

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Mac’s Brew News – April 16, 2014

Well, I hope all of you came through tax season with minimal damage.  As for me, Uncle Sam and Uncle Jerry were NOT so kind this year.  I’m hoping for a better 2014.

Here is all the brew news that’s fit to print (at least as the brew news pertains to Mac’s Brew Pub).  Mac the Annihilator, Club 57, and Redheaded Step-Child are the latest creations courtesy of Mac.  I’m trying to brew something worthy of my big investment (the new brewing system).

Speaking of the new brewing system, I’m now 4 batches in.  Each time the process has gone a little easier.  I think I’m really getting the hang of it now and the last brew day was problem free.  I think I’m successfully adapting my techniques to the sophisticated equipment; I hope my beer improves as well.  Only time will tell.

The New Brews

Mac the Annihilator: Brewed 03-11-2014.  OG – 1.088.  It’s currently dry hopping in the secondary fermenter so I don’t know what the final alcohol content will be, but it was 9.1% ABV when I transferred it to the secondary.  I anticipate it will finish somewhere between 9.2% – 9.5%.

Everyone (at least every beer aficionado) has heard of (and hopefully tasted) Pliny the Elder, by Russian River Brewing.  Russian River also brews and releases, once a year, the monster IPA, Pliny the Younger.  I have never had Pliny the Younger because I’m not willing to stand in line several hours to get one pint.  However, the beer is legendary and is rated in the top 5 among all beers world wide.

Now, back to Mac the Annihilator.  So, there’s Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger.  Both are huge imperial IPA’s, in high demand, and among the best beers in the world.  And now there’s Mac the Annihilator (it had to be Mac the Something, so why not the Annihilator?).  This is a big imperial IPA, but not too different from Smack Down.  In fact, I used the Smack Down recipe as a baseline, and then modified it just slightly (lowered the Carapils ratio, and raised the Caramel malt ratio).

If it finishes up nice (no diacytl) and in time, I will enter this brew into the Orange County Fair home brew competition.  It has to finish dry hopping and conditioning.  After that I cold crash it, keg and carbonate it and then fill 3 bottles for the fair – all by May 10.  If I can get it into the keg within about 10 days, I should be ok.  The IPA category is probably the most crowded and competitive in the competition.  EVERYBODY is brewing IPA because it’s such a popular style right now.  I hope I can place in that category, but will be surprised if I do.  Oh well, at the very least I’ll get some valuable tasting notes from certified judges, which will help me improve my beer.

Club 57: Brewed 03-27-2014.  OG 1.096.  I just racked it to the secondary fermenter a few days ago.  It’s about 8% ABV right now, and will probably not go any higher.  The gravity is still pretty high, but I mashed at a fairly high temperature and used a lot of “body” malts to give it a thick mouth feel, so the high terminal gravity is not unexpected.

I tasted a very small sample when I transferred it to the secondary.  It’s delicious.  I added cacao nibs to the secondary fermenter to boost the chocolate profile (also used a lot of chocolate malt in the grist).  I might do something to boost the alcohol a little before racking to the tertiary fermenter, but I’m not sure about that.  There will be a little bit of bourbon (and oak) in the beer while it’s aging, so that will boost the alcohol a little.  I plan to age it for about a year, so will not be drinking it till next spring.

So why is it called Club 57?  I’m glad you asked.  I was born in 1957 and I brewed this on my 57th birthday (well, actually the day before my 57th birthday, but it’s close enough).   I used 19.57 lbs of base malt (2 row pale) with a total grain bill of 29.57 lbs.  I used 5.7 oz of Cacao nibs in the boil to add bitterness and chocolate flavor.  As you can see, there are a lot of 57’s related to this beer, so I think Club 57 is an appropriate name.

These are what I have brewed since the last newsletter, but I have more planned before summer vacation.  On Saturday 04-26-2014, I will collaborate with Mike Matulich to brew Red Headed Step-Child.  We’re attempting to brew an American strong ale/amber IPA (a la Arrogant Bastard), so it’s not a typical or straight ahead IPA.  The flavor profile will emphasize the fruity and caramel notes along with the hops, so my recipe calls for a lot of crystal/caramel malts.  Not sure what it is gonna taste like, but it should be hoppy, and that’s good.  It’s gonna be deep red/amber in color but not a true amber ale family member (too hoppy for the style), thus the name, Red Headed Step-Child.

Update on Previous Brews

Mac’s Apricot Wheat: I bottled 5 gallons on 03-15-2014 and kegged the other 5 gallons on 03-19-2014.  It’s 7.05% ABV and is very refreshing.  I added concentrated apricot flavoring to the bottled batch but did not add it to the keg.  I have had both and I prefer the legged version (the kegged beer gets all of it’s apricot flavor from the puree added during fermentation).  I think the apricot is a little too much in the bottled version, but Sheila likes the bottled version better.  The bottles are going to the beach house in July (or at least one of the two cases will be served at the beach), but we are enjoying the keg at Mac’s Brew Pub for now.  I plan to fill 3 bottles from the keg to enter into the fruit beer category at the fair.

Baby Luke’s Barley Wine: 9.25% ABV.  I transferred it to the aging carboy with oak cubes and bourbon on 03-30-2014.  I’m not sure how long I’m going to age it in the “bourbon barrel,” but it will be somewhere between 8 – 12 months.  Just like my grandson, baby Luke, it will change a lot with age, but I’ll just have to wait to see what the change will bring.

Miscellaneous

Mac’s Brewing is just a few miles from the epicenter of the earthquake that struck on 03-28-2014.  We really got shook up, but I’m happy to report we had no loss of beer.  I was actually in the pub at the time the quake hit, and I watched in  horror as everything, including the walls, moved violently.  I had two full carboys, one at high kraeusen, when this happened.  The beer sloshed around pretty good, but the carboys remained in place and there was NO LOSS OF BEER (remember the quote from Benjamin Franklin: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”  Obviously God wants me to be happy because he preserved ALL of my beer).  I have a lot of empty beer bottles (bomber size, various brands and types) on a shelf about 5 feet from the floor.  14 bottles fell off the shelf, but only one broke.  Amazing, huh?  A lot of the wall decorations were knocked cattywhompus, but remained on the walls, with no breakage.  See photos.IMG_7117 IMG_7118

 

That’s it for now.  I think I’ll go have a beer . . . Cheers!

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Mac’s Brew News – March 2, 2014

Mac's Brewing System

Mac’s Brewing System

I’ve been busy the last couple of weeks, learning the “ins and outs” of my new equipment, brewing, trouble shooting and creating recipes. As promised in the last newsletter, I will try to provide additional details of Mac’s activities and brews over the last several months.

I have desired a sophisticated brewing system for the last couple of years. Unfortunately they are quite expensive, so I had to wait and save money in order to purchase what I wanted without sinking into debt. When I retired, Sheila made a very generous donation to Mac’s Brew to help fund a brewing system. After a lot of saving and researching, I decided to purchase a “Single-Tier Brew Sculpture” (with digital controls) from MoreBeer at the end of December, 2013. This decision coincided with an end of the year sale at MoreBeer, so I was able to save a little money.

Not only did I upgrade the quality of my brewing equipment, I also doubled my brewing capacity. I opted for a 10 gallon system (the smallest available), which is more than enough for my purposes. I was previously able to brew only 5 gallon batches. The “Brew Sculpture” is made entirely of stainless steel, which makes maintenance and cleaning much easier. My system is pictured in the photo above, taken on brew day #1.

My first batch on the new brewery was nearly a disaster. The nature of this system (especially the digital controls) allow me much greater precision and control over the process; however, everything is so different from my previous equipment that it seemed complicated. Needless to say, I had some real difficulties, and there is definitely a learning curve involved in brewing on a system like this.

On February 12, 2014, I initiated operations on the new system by brewing Baby Luke’s Barley Wine. It probably wasn’t a good decision to attempt such a big and difficult beer when I had never used the system before. Nevertheless, my arrogance got the best of me and I forged ahead with this endeavor. Now, you may be asking yourself, why was it not a good idea to brew a barley wine on my maiden “Brew Sculpture” voyage. There are several reasons: 1. Barley Wine recipes are notoriously difficult to brew right – even commercial breweries struggle with efficiency when brewing ultra high gravity beers like barley wine; 2. Barley wines are expensive beers to make because of the enormous grain bill – my recipe cost $78.00 for a 5 gallon batch; 3. Barley Wines are typically aged for extended periods to mellow out the high alcohol, which can give the beer a boozy and hot taste – any equipment or procedural problems leading to flavor flaws won’t be known for a long time because of the aging process; 4. Unfamiliarity with equipment, or use of new equipment almost invariably leads to problems and unanticipated headaches – e.g., malfunctioning pumps, leaks, misdiagnosis, wrong connections and improper usage. Why risk those inevitable problems with an expensive and difficult recipe, when you can brew something easy and cheap while learning how to use the new equipment? Like I said, my arrogance convinced me that I could sail through this undertaking without much of a problem. FOOL!

Suffice to say, I had a lot of problems on my first brew day, but Baby Luke’s Barley Wine turned out alright (I hope). My efficiency was much lower than anticipated (see Baby Luke’s Barley Wine description below) and I had a catastrophe while cooling the wort. In addition, I had several other minor catastrophes during the brewing process, but managed to escape with 5 gallons of barley wine in the fermenter. I’m going to have to wait (a long time) to see how it turned out. Enough said about day one at Mac’s new brewery.

When you fall off a horse, you need to get right back on, as they say. I applied that principle to my new brewery, having learned by my mistakes and previous problems (it’s not that I enjoy attending the school of hard knocks, it’s just that I frequently find myself there, seated in study hall). I brewed batch two 13 days later (February 25, 2014). This went much smoother, although I still had some problems during the day. I brewed a “smaller” beer (a wheat beer), but increased the batch size to 10 gallons. See Mac’s Apricot Wheat Ale description below for additional details. I have already started on my recipes for the next two batches (an imperial IPA and a bourbon barrel stout). I hope to brew both of those within the next 3 weeks, depending on any intervening events. After that, I’ll make some refreshing “lawn mowing” beers before taking my annual summer break from brewing.

Ok, so now a little information on the current/recent offerings at Mac’s Brew Pub. I recommend you stop by for a draught pint or two before these kegs dry up.

Mac’s Novemberfest: 6.8% ABV. Brewed 11-01-2013. Kegged 11-23-2013. OG 1.075 FG 1.023
This is an Oktoberfest recipe, but fermented with ale yeast (rather than lager yeast). It’s the same recipe as the award winning Whatchamacallit, but fermented with a different yeast. I’ve brewed this recipe three times now, and each time I have used a different yeast, with slightly different flavor results. It’s a beautiful copper color with a nice sweet malty taste, but well balanced with hops. I should have let this condition about one more week in the secondary fermenter, but was in a hurry to get it on tap for Thanksgiving. Next time I will condition awhile longer, and ferment with the same yeast I used the first time I brewed this recipe a couple of years ago. It’s quite good (several people, who aren’t hop-heads like me, like it better than anything else I currently have on tap, including a commercial keg of Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale).

Smack Down: 9.9% ABV. Brewed 12-03-2013. Kegged 01-05-2014. OG 1.090 FG 1.017.
This is the same Smack Down recipe I brewed last April. This Imperial IPA is what I would call bittersweet, as it is very hoppy, but with a lot of residual malty sweetness. This is another one I should have let condition for another 7 – 10 days before cold crashing and kegging. It’s very good, but suffers from a little diacytl. I might be more picky than many others, because even when I point out the flavor flaw to those who have imbibed, no one has been able to detect it. Oh well, I think I know how to eliminate this the next time I brew it.

Mac’s Aeronautical Amber Ale: 6.1% ABV. Brewed 01-08-2014. Kegged 02-09-2014. OG 1.066 FG 1.020
Ah, yes, Mac’s Aeronautical Amber Ale – You’ll Be Soaring With Pleasure. I brewed this same recipe a couple of years ago; don’t know why I didn’t brew it again until now. It’s really good amber ale. I like my beers on the hoppy side, so I made this a little hoppier than a typical amber. The first time I brewed it, I was trying to create something along the lines of Anderson Valley’s Boont Amber Ale (kinda hoppy). Anyway, this is a little hoppier than Boont, and it is wonderful beer. I might try to keep this one available at Mac’s Brew Pub all the time. It doesn’t taste hoppy to me (did I mention that I like hoppy beers?). In fact, I would describe it as sweet, but well balanced. Sheila, however, said it is hoppy, a comment echoed by a couple of others. Well, what can I say? I brew beer the way I like it (that’s why I brew, after all). This was well conditioned, and has no off flavors. In my opinion, it’s the best I have on tap right now (at least, it’s the one without obvious flaws, but maybe not as tasty as Smack Down).

Baby Luke’s Barley Wine: Brewed 02-12-2014. OG 1.095 (FG & alcohol content TBD)
This is the beer I had so much trouble with on brew day (due to equipment – see above). I was hoping for a significantly higher original gravity (10% – 15% higher), but had very low efficiency on brew day (same thing happened when I started brewing all grain about 3 years ago with my old equipment), so I am not too surprised. This is currently in the secondary fermenter (I added additional yeast, a different variety, into the secondary fermenter to help bring down the gravity that was still too high when I transferred from the primary to the secondary), and will probably be there for another couple of weeks). I then plan to age on oak/bourbon until the beginning of December (maybe longer), so I won’t know how this turns out for several months. Stay tuned . . .

Mac’s Apricot Wheat: Brewed 02-25-2014. OG 1.060. (FG & alcohol content TBD).
Mac’s second brew on the new brewing equipment. This is a 10 gallon batch (I could brew a maximum of 5 gallons on my previous equipment). Brew day went much smoother, but I had some difficulties during the cooling process. Hopefully next time this will not be a problem. This batch is currently in the primary fermenters (had to divide the 10 gallon batch in order to get it into 6.5 gallon fermentation vessels). I added the apricots yesterday, and will probably rack to the secondary fermenters in another 4 – 5 days. When the batch is done conditioning (late March), I will keg 5 gallons and bottle the other 5 gallons to bring to the beach house vacation in July.

Mac’s Bourbon Barrel Stout: 11.8% ABV. Brewed 01-14-2013. Bottled 11-21-2013. OG 1.1054 FG 1.021.
This beer turned out quite nice, although there is room for improvement. The final gravity is a bit lower than I wanted (I was hoping to finish around 1.028 – 1.030) so next time I will mash at a higher temperature (like the first time I brewed it) and I will add some other specialty grains to increase the viscosity of the beer. Also, the oak flavor is just a little stronger than I wanted, so next time I will re-use the same oak cubes from this last batch, in order to mellow out the wood flavor. I only drink this once or twice a month (12 oz bottles), so it should be available at Mac’s for awhile.

I think everyone has heard of Pliny the Elder (a double IPA from Russian River Brewing, Santa Rosa, CA). It’s consistently ranked among the top beers in the world. Russian River also brews Pliny the Younger, a triple IPA that is next to impossible to find as it’s brewed only once a year in limited quantities. This is ranked as the 3rd best beer in the world (Ratebeer.com and Beer Advocate). So why do I mention these in this newsletter? Because you have Pliny the Elder as a top ranked beer, and Pliny the Younger as another impossibly good beer (both are IPA’s). Therefore, I am next going to brew “Mac the Annihilator”, and make my own great Imperial IPA. I tweaked the Smack Down recipe ever so slightly to come up with Mac the Annihilator. I hope to squeeze 10%+ ABV out of this beast. Let’s hope I’m up to the task!

So, Mac the Annihilator is next, and then another huge barrel aged stout. After that, I will turn my attention to some smaller beers for awhile in order to keep the kegerator full for the summer. That’s it for now. I know this newsletter is a little long, but I had a lot of old news to catch you up on. The next newsletter won’t be so lengthy (assuming I publish it in the near future). Thanks for your indulgence, and I hope you appreciate some of the technical “beer geek” stuff.
Cheers!

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