Mad Pecker Brewing Co. (San Antonio, TX): Lechuza Negra, Jazzy Belle, Built to Pourter, Triangulum

I have been hearing about Mad Pecker Brewing Company for a while now from my buddy (and fellow reviewer) Aaron “Beer Metal Dude” Mendiola, who is a co-owner, MPB’s media guy, and also “the “Hey go get that over there” guy when the brewing is going on” according to their website. Aaron told me that MPB would finally get their public debut at an event at Branchline Brewing (another company I have reviewed before here in San Antonio), so I had to come out and do some reviews. While there Aaron introduced me to MPB’s two other co-owners and the brewers behind their beer, Jason Gonzales and Stephen Urias. MPB is looking to do some more off-the-beaten-path brews, as well as a focus towards IPAs.

Mad Pecker Brewing Company, San Antonio, TX
Mad Pecker Brewing Company, San Antonio, TX

About the Brewery (from madpeckerbrewing.com/about-mad-pecker-brewing-co/):
So what exactly is Mad Pecker Brewing Co.? For starters it’s not much of a Brewing Co… yet. But it sure does look cool on paper! Right now it’s a passionate home brewer’s work in progress to step up from home brewing status to production nano-brewery status. A nano-brewery is fancy industry talk for a small brewery in terms of its limited production and distribution but is fully licensed and regulated. Be advised that this is by no means an indication to the quality of beer that gets produced. In fact, because the production output is minimized, it gives us a more intimate connection with what we brew and how it reaches you. However, before we can legally sell a single drop of beer, there are legalities with TABC which must be fulfilled as well as finding a suitable location and agreements with establishments to sell our beers. Until then we will build the brand itself and perfect our craft of brewing tasty beers.

Mad Pecker, in embroidery.
Mad Pecker, in embroidery.

Lechuza Negra

About the Beer (from the tasting guide):
Malts: 2-Row, Carafa III, Hops: Amarillo, Apollo, Cascade, Galaxy, Summit Yeast: Ale

Style: Cascadian Dark Ale
ABV: 6.9%
IBU: 70

 

So what is a “Cascadian Dark Ale” you may ask. It’s a fancy term for a Black IPA. I asked Aaron about this choice of the more flowery description of this beer, and he said it was because a lot of people say that they don’t like Black IPAs (me included), but by using the more “scientific” term he thought people that didn’t really know would give LECHUZA NEGRA a chance that otherwise might shy away. I, on the other hand, was not fooled by you MPB, and knew what a CDA was. I still tried it (as well as all the other offerings) anyway.

LN sits in the glass radiating a deep chocolate brown with a mild khaki-tan head. The bubbles stick around for a while, and when they do dissipate they leave behind very nice remnants of their former selves on the side of the glass. Taking a whiff I get a pretty mild hop aroma, a little roast, and a little sweet malt. Not the heavy bitter hit that I usually expect from a Black IPA, which already gives me hope that this is not your average CDA.

Lechuza Negra Cascadian Dark Ale
Lechuza Negra Cascadian Dark Ale

Upon sipping the LN, I’m immediately impressed. I tried to go into this open minded, and not tell myself I wasn’t going to like it, but I just usually don’t like CDAs. This one I actually was surprised to not immediately dislike. Most CDAs are very roasty, like a porter or a stout, with a bunch of bitterness and not enough aroma, and this is just a huge turn-off for me. LN is dark, but it is much more mild on that whole roastiness factor that is probably my biggest issue with this style of beer; I just don’t think that flavor really melds well with hops on my palate, and I was thankful to find that LN doesn’t up the roast. LN does bring the hops bitterness with a vengeance, but it does a good job of balancing that heavy hop hit with a good strong malt backbone to balance it out. I am amazed to say that this is a CDA I would actually drink again… hell, this is a CDA I’d actually buy.

The selections provided by MPB for the evening
The selections provided by MPB for the evening

The drinkability factor for LN is much higher than a lot of CDAs, as it does balance its hops and malt very well without having to bring all that porter-like roast to the party. The body on LN is smooth and a bit velvety, and it is easy to put back; the hops build after a few sips, but not to a point of being obscenely overwhelming. If you don’t like IPAs, this will not be the beer for you. If you are looking for an 18-35 IBU porter (like it looks like), this will not be the beer for you. If you do like a good IPA and are interested in trying a different spin on the style that works a lot better than a lot of other iterations of this variation, LN is the one (for me, at least).

 

Overall 7.5 / 10

Brewery site: http://madpeckerbrewing.com

Beer page: http://untappd.com/beer/147604

 

Jazzy Belle

About the Beer (from the tasting guide):
Malts: Pilsner, Flaked Rye, Malted Rye, Flaked Wheat Hops: Amarillo, Strisslespalt Yeast: French Saison

Style: Rye Saison
ABV: 5.5%
IBU: 30

 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m really starting to love Saisons. It’s a style that has really grown on me this year, and I’m glad to see it is getting more and more play from brewers. It’s not surprise then that brewers are starting to make more interesting variations of this old-world style, from Black Saisons to Dry-Hopped, to Absinthe inspired (see review here), to JAZZY BELLE, a Rye Saison. I mostly think of Rye as an addition to a Red Ale or an IPA, as it brings a distinct spiciness that balances the maltiness of a Red or accentuates the hoppiness of an IPA; it is not an addition I had ever considered to be in a Saison as this is a style that is traditionally not heavy on the malt, not heavy on the hops, and according to the BJCP guidelines has “moderate to no herb, spice and alcohol aroma.” Rye being a spicy, aromatic addition just never occurred to me as an option with this beer.

Jazzy Belle Rye Saison
Jazzy Belle Rye Saison

JB dons a lemon yellow suit to sit in my glass, and tops it off with a big white hat that hangs out for a long time. When the head does finally recede, it leaves behind artifacts on the glass, a web of lace that reminds me where my beer was before. It has a nice golden tinge to its hue that reminds me this is a Saison, but it also has a bit deeper henna stain that makes the rye noticeable. My nose tells me that this is a Belgian beer, with that very Belgian-esque ester emanating as well as a bit of spiciness that I assume is coming off the rye, as there does not seem to be any actual spice components to the JB.

The first quaff brings me an amazingly light and just slightly funky flavor. I really think that all Saisons should have a touch of Brett, as I love a little funk in my Saison. JB doesn’t have any Brett, but it does have an oh-so-slightly earthy and funky background note that I like, and would love to see accentuated by a little Brett (maybe a special edition MPB? Funky Belle?). To go with this initial lightness, there is a definite floral, and somewhat spicy component to the piquancy that I like. Unfortunately, this is all followed by a strange astringency; it’s not bitter, it’s not alcohol; it’s an odd flavor that coats the roof of the mouth and sits like chalk on the tongue. I don’t know where this quality comes from, but if the JB could have this removed it would be a much, much better Saison. As it sits now, that last little aftertaste kicks me in the teeth and after a few sips it builds and makes me almost forget how good that first upfront flavor profile was.

Mad Pecker on the Branchline board
Mad Pecker on the Branchline board

The substance of the JB is smooth, thin, and very lightly carbonated. This makes it an easy to drink beer, and it would be a good almost-session beer, if it were not for that 5.5% alcohol, which might be a bit much to drink more than 3 or 4 of these. JB would be a good choice for a hot day, or for out at your local sporting event (I assume, I don’t give much of a crap about sports, but I could see myself enjoying this beer whilst others hoot and holler and dudes in matching uniforms), if it just weren’t for that last little hit on the end. This beer has the potential to be amazing, but right now has a flaw that is keeping it from reaching its potential.

 

Overall 6 / 10

Beer page: http://untappd.com/b/mad-pecker-brewing-co-jazzy-belle/433791

 

Built to Pourter

About the Beer (from the tasting guide):
Malts: Golden Promise, Chocolate, Black, Flaked Oats, Victory, Special B, Brown Sugar Hops: Magnum, EKG Brewed with cold coffee at kegging

Style: Coffee Porter
ABV: 4.7%
IBU: 27

 

Sometimes coffee beers work, sometimes they don’t. There have been some beers that I absolutely LOVE that include coffee in their ingredients, like Jester King and Mikkeller’s WEASEL RODEO (even better as WHISKEY BARREL RODEO), and Founder’s BREAKFAST STOUT. There are others I really did not like, such as Bell’s JAVA STOUT, and Ballast Point’s VICTORY AT SEA Imperial Porter. It’s just a crapshoot, so I continue to try them with mixed results. For my palate, what makes a good coffee beer is when the coffee is integrated into the flavor, not standing out in the forefront. That’s my biggest problem with JAVA STOUT, is that it tastes like a cup of bitter black coffee, and I can’t talk myself into adding cream and sugar to my beer.

Built to Pourter Coffee Porter
Built to Pourter Coffee Porter

BUILT TO POURTER mimics a cola in my glass; it’s a deep black with very fine bubbles that build a halo on the edge of the meniscus and just don’t go away, but never really conglomerate into much of a head to speak of. Like a soda. And like a soda, the BtP leaves behind basically no lacing at all. This would be a good beer to get away with drinking in front of teetotalers because unless they actually take a sniff or a sip, they would totally believe that’s a Coke in your glass. Once I bring the BtP up to my nostrils, my brain is screaming “coffee!” because that is all I am getting from the aroma whatsoever. Looks like a soda, smells like a coffee; my neurons are firing in overtime to try and figure out what the hell it is we are about to imbibe.

Taking a sip, and my brain confirms it, “it’s coffee.” As a matter of fact, if my brain and I got in a shouting match, and I said, “No, brain, you’re wrong; it’s beer” I think my brain would have a real hard time backing down on this point. The BtP smells, and tastes, like an iced coffee. I get very little of the other flavor characteristics that one would expect from a Porter (chocolate, nuttiness, licorice, toast), and I find the body to be much thinner than what I would expect from the style. So my brain says to me “Ha ha, I’m right, you’re wrong, it’s coffee, stupid.” My brain’s a jerk sometimes. On the tongue rally all I can get is just that strong (thankfully not too bitter) coffee component, I get not much of any hops or malt or anything else, so I guess maybe my brain has reason to be right on this one (even though I know it’s wrong).

Jason and Stephen behind the bar (and myself and my buddy Roger from my movie CLUSTER on the other side)
Jason and Stephen behind the bar at Branchline (and myself and my pal Roger from my movie CLUSTER on the other side)

The body on BtP is very thin, and very zesty, with very mild carbonation. It again looks like a soda, and the itty bitty bubbles keep coming, but never really come together, and the mouthfeel is really very mild for the style. This is a Porter, not a Stout, so I don’t expect thick and chewy, but I do expect a bit more to chew on than this. The thin body and mild carbonation bill makes this an easy beer to put down; it sits light in the stomach. If you are a lover of iced coffee, BtP may be your new favorite beer. If you’re not (I can’t stand the stuff, just the smell of my hot coffee gone cold turns my stomach), this will not be a beer you’ll be coming back to.

 

Overall 5 / 10

Beer page: http://untappd.com/b/built-to-pourter-mad-pecker-brewing-co/461794

 

Triangulum

About the Beer (from the tasting guide):
Malts: Pilsner, Munich, C-40 Hops: Citra, Galaxy, Motukea Yeast: Ale

Style: IPA
ABV: 6.1%
IBU: 60

 

Right away I was down with TRIANGULUM for a few reasons; first off, I like me a good IPA and this was the only “traditional” IPA MPB brought to the tasting, and secondly the label art was based on Lambda Lambda Lambda. So that’s awesome. Nnnnnneeeeeerrrrrrrdddddddssssssss!

TRIANGULUM pours nebulous saffron with a delicate head that rapidly fades to a halo. That halo then tops my glass for the rest of the time I’m enjoying it, and leaves behind a bit of web on the glass to remind me where I’ve been before. Inhaling TRIANGULUM I get sweet, sticky hops. It really has almost a caramel scent to it, almost like the glass is filled with nectar instead of beer. I’m sure this is coming from the malt bill of the beer, specifically the C-40, and damn I like it. There is also that hop scent evaporating from the glass, and it’s of a very tropical nature. There is not that “normal” citrus or pine really coming from TRIANGULUM, it’s much more mango and passion fruit and more tropical fruits than your average IPA.

Triangulum IPA
Triangulum IPA

Partaking in the TRIANGULUM, what hits me at first is that sugary sweetness. This is a very malt-forwards IPA, which is surprising for its color; most of the malt-heavy IPAs I’m acquainted with front with a deeper hued body, and the TRIANGULUM keeps it golden. The candy in this glass does not gone so extreme as to be cloying, but it is pronounced for sure, and the caramel I picked up on the nose comes through on the tongue. The sweet is followed by a beautiful array of tones from the interesting amalgamation of hops. TRIANGULUM has Citra (known for some citrus and tropical flavors), as well as Galaxy (which brings the passion fruit note, and is one of my favorite cultivars out there right now), and then the lesser know New Zealand entry Motukea, which brings a bit of lemon lime characteristic, as well as the general “tropical” note. TRIANGULUM has a heavy bitterness without being overly so, and this comes mostly from that heavy caramel malt balancing the high hop hits. I did find as I drank more and more of the TRIANGULUM that the bitterness did have a tendency to build up in the back of my throat, and I’m not sure how many of these I could drink in a row (but damn, I’m willing to find out if MPB is willing to test me).

Mad Pecker Brewing Co.: Aaron Mendiola, Jason Gonzales, and Stephen Urias
Mad Pecker Brewing Co.: Aaron Mendiola, Jason Gonzales, and Stephen Urias

The feel of TRIANGULUM is rich and thick for an IPA. It reminded me of SNEAKY PETE, in that it really is a bit heavier than many beers of this style. I wonder if it might actually age well, unlike the vast majority of IPAs. That substantial malt base makes me think that if I could talk MPB into giving me a 4-pack of bottles I’d probably drink two nice and super-fresh (the fresher the better), and then throw two in my cellar just to see what happens. It might be a train wreck, or it might be amazing. TRIANGULUM is a filling beer, heavy without being a stout, and would not be one I could drink all night long but would be a welcome addition to a super-spicy plate of nachos. As far as drinkability, TRIANGULUM goes down easy if you enjoy humulus lupus, if you’re not a hophead then you should steer clear of this one as if it were an Alpha Beta coming to kick your ass out of the Greek Games.

 

Overall 7 / 10

Beer page: http://untappd.com/b/triangulum-mad-pecker-brewing-co/452755

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