Play Dead Mac


The beer that started it all for me was a MacTarnahans Blackwatch. I still remember trying it and falling in love with dark beer. I also remember thinking that it had a dry dusty aftertaste. It wasn’t very surprising that Obsidian Stout quickly took over as my favorite beer not long after. Sadly my initial experience with MacTarnahans was doomed to be repeated over and over. I’d try one of their beers and find it almost likeable, but still every single one had some quality that either killed it, or there was nothing memorable about the beer.

Now enters Humbug’r. I tried this beer back during Salem Beer and Wines winter seasonal tasting. Like most people I found the art an instant turn off, but I’d told myself I’d like it anyway. After all, all the Portland bloggers keep talking about MacTarnahans attempting to reinvent themselves and make better beer. Also, none of the bloggers I’d read had given an overly positive review of it yet so I thought there would be some hope. After all, they’d all said Grifter was either ok, or good. They’d also said the same of Lip Stinger, and both times I thought the beers had failed.

When we did taste Humbug’r there were some initial positive reactions from some people. For the most part though people found it generic. In fact I think that was the exact word Steve described it with. Even when we compared it to another porter on hand we couldn’t find anything that distinguished it. I walked away with Humbug’r filed away in the not worth buying category and just left it at that.

Imagine my surprise yesterday when I began seeing positive reviews. I swung by Beervana and seeing the title thought for sure Jeff would call it for what it was. Jeff it turns out gave it a B. I thought a C would be generous, but then I thought “Hey, difference in taste right?” Going through the comments though I saw Bill gave it an A. Now I’m thinking  I must’ve had to much to drink that night, or maybe my sense of taste was off. After all, I ranked WinterFish last. (Then again so did everyone else in the group and that beer’s managed a B on Beeradvocate) Still, several of the other people there thought Humbug’r was average. Apparently two other commenters on Beervana weren’t ecstatic fans of it either.

So what is the verdict? Does MacTarnahans new seasonal make the grade? Is it just personal taste? Or is this what Doc Wort was talking about when he would call Portlands bloggers “Cheerleaders”?

As a side note Humbug’r is a B+ on Beeradvocate with one review, and an overall 3.09 on ratebeer. Reading the ratebeer reviews though there is a 2.4, 2.5, and a 2.7. One of which mirrored our experience with Humbug’r. Cathcacr pretty much summed up my opinion with their review.

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4 Responses to “Play Dead Mac”

  1. Beermented says:

    Poor Corporate marketing crap! Running on the popularity and interest of SEASONAL beers. What a joke! A Porter? Come on, can’t they be more original than that? A bad Porter too….. Very desperate corporate attempt for the brainless beer buyers dollar.

  2. Jared says:

    I personaly wouldn’t mind a seasonal porter if it was a good one. When I tried it I was hoping for something between winter warmer and porter, but was willing to settle for a good porter. Instead I got something that almost managed to be good, but crapped out in the end. This beer has no character. I guarantee you that when next years seasonal release comes out and I see it in the store I will have to struggle to remember if there was anything I liked or disliked about this beer.

    It’s sadly not just a corporate brewing problem. Because craft beer drinkers wander around so much on these seasonal releases breweries can get away with average beer made to appeal to just about anyone. The be all things to all people kinda beer. There’s little to no character behind the stuff coming out, and when there is it’s half hearted. For the most part it feels like the brewer developed a recipe, saw that it was good, and decided to release it. Modern brewing lacks any sort of refinement outside of a handful of brewers. Refining a recipe takes time, money, and an audiance. For a straight to the shelves brewery that gets shortcutted.

    Even if it’s a B beer why is B good enough? Magic Hat has money at their disposal to encourage their brewers to make great beer. Instead they let Mac’s aim for mediocrity. It’s almost like what McMenamins does to their brewers. That’s another discussion though.

  3. Joe says:

    This is a good point. I used to go out of my way to try all the winter seasonals I could. Due to lack of consistency and quality I’ve pretty much limmited my purchases to Jubel, wassail, and ebeneezer. Forgive my spelling. I enjoy Wreck the Halls as well but for the most part winter ales are a miss. Pyramid or whatever it’s called these days has been sub par for a long time and Ill never buy their beer.

  4. Beermented says:

    MacMagic Pyramid! ;-}

    Just had all three, the Jubel was thinner than usual? Wassail was good and well balanced, but not very exciting. I’d rather drink a Session Black. Ebeneezer seemed to have gone the way of of Pyramids Snow Cap, kind of worty sweet and disjointed. Anybody try BRRR? I had it when it was in the “W” series. Didn’t like it much then. I used to like seeking out the Holiday Beers every year, but they seem to get more mediocre by the year. Maybe we’re just spoiled. I usually go for the Belgian Holiday seasonals. Some are quite interesting.

    Looking at this years Holiday Ale Fest beer line up isn’t very inspiring either. Waiting for HOTD Jim 2009, but mostly the same ol’ beers that appear every year with a few stand outs. I may pass for the first time in many years. Looking at Washington’s Winter beer fest is even worse.

    This stands out as interesting:

    Barrel Aged Old Baba Yaga
    ABV: 11.5%

    Old Baba Yaga, the witch who guarded the fountain of life and death, held dominion over a wintery forest landscape. This beer is brewed to both celebrate winter’s bony fingers and represent some of the power of Baba Yaga’s fountain. The black depths of this Russian Imperial Stout hold coffee, licorice, and bittersweet chocolate flavors. This beer weighs in at 11.5 percent ABV and is aged in French Oak Cabernet barrels.

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