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Friday, December 2, 2016

New Beer Friday, Memories of Cuba Edition (Dec 2)

Vivant Tower of Sour,
one of many new beers this week.
By Steve Siciliano

The news of Fidel Castro’s death last week brought back memories of a trip my wife Barb and I took to Cuba about ten years ago with a Grand Rapids based charity called First-Hand Aid.

The organization solicits volunteers to make periodic trips to Cuba to deliver much needed medical supplies to hospitals and clinics. Our group of travelers stayed in Havana with Cuban families during the weeklong visit. We ate meals with them in their homes and drank Bucanero beer and Havana Club rum with them in cafes and bars. We were chauffeured around the country’s beautiful but often crumbling capital city in 1950s-era Fords, Chevies and Buicks. We witnessed first-hand the economic impact that 50-plus years of Castro rule has had on the Cuban populace.

One of my most poignant memories of that trip was of the day we delivered the medical supplies we carried to the island in our luggage to a children's cancer clinic in Havana. The heads of a number of young patients were heavily bandaged and we were told that removing an eye was the only recourse that doctors had for treating certain cancers. The children clutched the little stuffed animals that we gave them while their mothers sat silently on hard folding chairs next to their beds. That same day we went to a ration store that had practically nothing on its shelves.

In November of 1956, Fidel Castro and a group of 81 rebels, among them his brother Raul and a young Argentinian doctor named Che Guevara, departed from Mexico on a leaky 60-foot cabin cruiser. Two weeks later they landed on Cuba’s southern coast and from there revived the revolt against the authoritarian regime of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista that had been quelled three years earlier. Castro and the surviving rebels of that failed attempt were jailed. “Condemn me, it does not matter. History will absolve me,” he famously stated at the conclusion of his trial.

Castro’s second attempt at ousting the cruel and corrupt Batista succeeded but his promise of holding free and fair elections was never fulfilled. Political opponents were summarily executed, personal property was seized, industry was nationalized and a one-party socialist state was created. In response, the United States instituted a trade embargo that continues to this day.

There are those who maintain that the embargo is the root cause of Cuba’s continued economic problems. They argue that the embargo should be lifted and I agree that it should. But we must also remember that it was Castro’s policies that instigated the embargo and it’s the stubborn adherence to these failed policies that is perpetuating the appalling economic condition of common Cuban people.

When viewed in that light it must be argued that Castro’s revolution failed and it is in that light that Fidel Castro’s historical legacy must ultimately be judged.

New and Returning Beer

  • Blackrocks Starman, $1.99/12oz - "Starman is a Pale Ale filled up with Simcoe, Citra, Amarillo, Columbus, and Mosaic hops. Bright aromas of grapefruit, apricot, and citrus, finishing clean and dry" (source).
  • Vivant Plein de Vie Tower of Sour, $9.99/500ml - Foeder-aged sour ale.
  • Vivant Ski Patrol, $3.49/16oz - "Belgian Inspired Wit. Whether you’re stuck on the chairlift waiting to get to the top of a black diamond , or you’re soaking in the hot tub after a long day of destroying some moguls, it’s Ski Patrol Wit to the rescue! This crushable slopes-inspired beer compliments our Michigan winters with a hazy golden pour and a warming spice on the nose. Pack your longjohns and swimwuit. Ski weekend is upon us. Cans are light and easy to pack so you can take them wherever the trail takes you" (source).
  • Griffin Claw Honolulu Blu, $2.19/16oz - A cream ale.
  • Stone Enjoy by 12/25, $8.99/22oz - "In most cases, skipping a step is a bad thing. Not this time. This version of Stone Enjoy By IPA omits the part where we filter out the extra yeast, hop sediment and proteins that build up in beer as a natural result of the brewing process. Though it may sound like it, this missed step was no misstep. By letting this IPA go unfiltered, its peach and tropical fruit hop flavors are amplified while its golden-hued color takes on a hazy appearance. Like its filtered counterpart, this IPA is brewed specifically NOT to last, and is shipped immediately to ensure hopheads get their hands on it as soon as possible" (source).
  • Perrin Hypocrite, $11.49/22oz - "Not everything is as it appears...based on its looks you may be expecting a light flavorless beer, but looks can be deceiving... this Imperial Blonde Ale is packed with unexpected flavors that might make you think you are drinking a rumchata or biting into a piece of tiramisu. We hope you enjoy seeing things for how they truly are" (source).
  • Short's Juicy Tree, $2.39/12oz - "An experimental IPA made with blue spruce tips, juniper berries, and cranberries. Piney evergreen and sweet berries tingle the senses. After some slightly tart and tangy flavors up front, a harmonious balance between pleasant fruit sweetness and bitter pine is reached. A sizable malt bill, ample hop additions, and the floral fruity qualities of American Ale yeast all contribute to symmetry of this beer. The finish is laced with a resiny stickiness that flows naturally into a lasting bitterness" (source).
  • Short's Critterless, $2.39/12oz - "Critterless is an American Sour Ale brewed with mango and cherry. The beer has a pinkish hue and pours with a small white head. The ale’s initial flavors of mouth puckering tartness fade into a pleasant sweetness that is accompanied by aromas of ripe fruit. Critterless finishes dry with a hint of rye spice" (source).
  • Ballast Point Mocha Marlin, $5.99/22oz - "Our Black Marlin Porter is the perfect beer for a mocha mashup. The addition of coffee and cocoa plays perfectly off the roasty, chocolaty flavors of this English porter, while a hint of vanilla smooths it all out. It’s full-bodied, but not too sweet; try it for breakfast…or dessert" (source).
  • Ommegang Gnomegedon, $16.09/750ml - "Ommegang ales are living beers, as exemplified by the secondary fermentation in Gnomegeddon, which is accomplished with Brett yeast - a wild yeast known for its addition of complex barnyard funk to both the flavor and aroma, giving a new edge to one of our most beloved ales" (source).
  • Atwater Teufel Bock, $2.99/12oz - "Our Weizen Dopplebock is dominated with 60% wheat that imparts a nutty-bisquit flavour. Ir is complimented with Perle and Hersbrucker hops for a nice sweet finish" (source).
  • Atwater Christmas, $2.19/12oz - "A German holiday treat similar to gingerbread" (source).
  • Avery Mephistopheles, $9.59/12oz - "Mephistopheles is the crafty shape shifter, the second fallen angel. Amazingly complex, coal black, velvety and liqueurish, this demon has a bouquet of vine-ripened grapes, anise and chocolate covered cherries with flavors of rum-soaked caramelized dark fruits and a double espresso finish. Mephistopheles is the final installment of "The Demons of Ale" series" (source).
  • Avery Certatio Equestris, $14.09/12oz - "Avery Certatio Equestris is modeled after the ubiquitous mint julep. The base sour ale was aged in bourbon barrels with spearmint leaves. The key ingredient in the julep, after bourbon" (source).
  • Lagunitas High West-ified, $2.19/12oz (1 per) - "Ale Brewed with Coffee and then Aged in High West Rye Barrels" (source).
  • Oddside Merry Elf, $1.99/12oz - "Dark ale with candi sugar and orange peel" (source).

Video of the Week | Plein de Vie

A new release in the Plein de Vie series (Tower of Sour)
means we get to post this video again.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Book Review: Tasting Whiskey by Lew Bryson

By John Barecki

There is a multitude of books out right now that can help you to expand your knowledge of whisk(e)y. Many are specific to certain areas of production or are collections of reviews and distillery histories. The book Tasting Whiskey by Lew Bryson ($18.95) gives us information from all of the different areas of production, compiling the histories, processes, lore and tasting notes on everything from the very well known bourbons and scotch whisk(e)y producers to the up-and-coming independent/craft distillers and world wide producers. Bryson discusses many of the different facets of the whisk(e)y world, including what percentages of grains go into a straight rye whiskey compared to bourbon and what the term pure pot still means in Irish whiskey and the history of how it came to be.

Tasting Whiskey contains a few deep dives into specific distilleries from around the world and the wonderful bottles they produce. On top of that Bryson discusses some of the people that have been innovators in the whisk(e)y field and their contributions to it, and the information only grows from there. The author even breaks down the internal structure of the barley grain and what it contributes to the end product, as well as how different stills produce the spirit we all love. Also included is a chapter on the process of barrel aging and the chemical compounds found within the different wood types that add special touches to the smells and tastes of the spirit.

It is hard to sum up a verbal/visual overview of this book. It is a joy to read and the writing itself is comprehensive but not overbearing. Overall, Tasting Whiskey is the most up-to-date companion book for the novice and seasoned individual alike. The information contained within and the concise overview of the realm of whisk(e)y put it on par with offerings from celebrated writers like Michael Jackson and David Broom.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

New Beer Friday, Staff Picks for Turkey Day Edition (Nov 23)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

We have great news for anyone planning on giving the hobbies of beermaking or winemaking as Christmas gifts this year. Beginning on Black Friday, November 25, and continuing through the end of business on December 24, we will be offering deep discounts on our Brewer’s Best and Vintner’s Best equipment packages. These boxed kits are geared toward new brewers and winemakers and include the basic equipment needed to get started in these life-enriching hobbies.

Holiday pricing and complete descriptions of the beermaking and winemaking equipment packages follow.

Brewer’s Best Deluxe Equipment Kit, $75.00 (Regular Price $105.00) - "The complete equipment package. Contains everything a beginning brewer needs except boiling pot, bottles and caps: 6.5 gallon "Ale Pail" Primary Fermenter with Grommeted Lid, 6.5 gallon "Ale Pail" Bottling Bucket with Spigot, 5 Gallon Glass Carboy, "Home Beermaking" Book, Easy Clean No-Rinse Cleanser, Twin Lever Capper, Triple Scale Hydrometer, Siphon Hose and Shut-Off Clamp, Drilled Universal Carboy Bung, Liquid Crystal Thermometer, Lab Thermometer, Brew Paddle, Airlock, Fermtech Auto Siphon, Bottle Filler, Bottle Brush, Carboy Brush and Equipment Instructions" (source).

Brewer’s Beast Equipment Kit, $95.00 (Regular Price $135.00) - "The most complete equipment kit in the homebrew industry is now available from Brewer's Best®. The Brewer's BeAst includes everything your customers need to make the finest batch of beer (by using a Brewer's Best® ingredient kit, of course) in one box. Equipment kit includes: 6.5 gallon "Ale Pail" Primary Fermenter with Grommeted Lid, 6.5 gallon "Ale Pail" Bottling Bucket with Spigot, Easy Clean No-Rinse Cleanser, Auto-Siphon, 5 Gallon Glass Carboy, Plastic Paddle, Carboy Brush, Hydrometer, Liquid Crystal Thermometer, Bottle Brush, Black Beauty Capper, Econolock, Drilled Bung, Lab Thermometer, Bottle Filler, Siphon Hose with Shut-off Clamp, IO-Star, 20 qt. Brew Pot and Equipment Instructions. * Does not include bottles or caps" (source).

Vintner’s Best Equipment Kit, $78.00 (Regular Price $95.00) - "Contains 7.9 Gallon Fermenter with Drilled and Grommeted Lid 6 Gallon Glass Carboy Liquid Crystal Thermometer Easy Clean No-Rinse Cleanser Double Lever Corker Premium Corks (30ct.) Mix-Stir Triple Scale Hydrometer Econolock Drilled Universal Carboy Bung 5 ft Siphon Tubing Fermtech Auto Siphon Combination Bottle Filler Bottle Brush Equipment Instructions" (source).

Staff Picks for Thanksgiving

Beer Picks

  • The Boss: Arbor Brewing Figjam Quad, $2.89/12oz - "QUADRUPLE with it’s warming alcohol, figgy undertones, dark dried fruit flavors of raison dates, hints of fresh baked bread, and a beautiful dry finish that leaves you wanting more" (source).
  • John: Alaskan Brewing Winter Ale, $1.69/12oz - "Brewed in the style of an English Olde Ale, this ale balances the sweet heady aroma of spruce tips with the clean crisp finish of noble hops. Its malty richness is complemented by the warming sensation of alcohol" (source).
  • Sarah: Vivant Stone Fruit Sour, $9.99/500ml - "Foeder Aged Weissbier with all-Michigan grown peaches, plums, apricots, and cherries" (source).
  • Kati: New Belgium Accumulation, $1.69/12oz  - "Accumulation White IPA was inspired by the white beauty that falls each winter from our Colorado sky. Flurries of Mosaic and Amarillo hops bring soft fruit and citrus flavor, followed by a layer of bitter. Piled high in IBUs, Accumulation will make your winter brighter" (source).
  • Matt: Big Lake Dark Star, $2.69/16oz - "A breakfast style stout brewed with Kona and Sumatra coffee aged on cocoa nibs" (source).
  • Joe: Breckenridge Brewing Mango Mosaic, $1.99/12oz - "Mosaic hops naturally give off aromas of guava and mango, lending a unique sweetness to the hop character of this pale ale. To build upon the tropical attributes of the hops, we've added a healthy dose of mango. Mango Mosaic Pale Ale is a well-balanced montage of fruit flavors, fresh aromas, and refreshingly crisp goodness" (source).
  • Max: Vivant Verdun, $3.49/16oz - "Our take on a classic French style. Malty, Rustic, and made with some French Hops. The perfect Fall beer" (source).
  • Mark: Stone Brewing Xocovaza, $2.99/12oz  - "Harmoniously layered with cocoa, Mostra coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and milk sugar, this beer is an insanely delicious take on Mexican hot chocolate. Thanks entirely to you and fan demand, it has gone from being a one-time offering to a yearly tradition too special to skip. Feel free to enjoy it long into the winter months because this festive beer will age beautifully and is definitely not exclusive to the holidays" (source).

Wine Picks

  • The Boss: Poggio Anima Lilith Primitivo, $13.99/750ml - "This is a subtly floral expression of this this mighty red grape from Southern Italy. Rich purple in color, inviting aromas of spiced cherries and black fruits complement undertones of tobacco and dried plums. It is a full-bodied wine, warm and soft on the palate with flavors that continue to evolve into the finish" (source).
  • John: Parducci True Grit Petite Sirah, $17.99/750ml - "A heady rush of fresh blackberry, dark chocolate, and white pepper with a caramel twist" (source).
  • Sarah: Moutard Blanc De Blanc, $17.09/750ml - No commercial description available.
  • Kati: Charles de Fere Cuvee Jean Louis Rose Brut, $10.79/750ml - "Jean-Louis Denois, the sixth-generation of a well-established Champagne producing family, decided to create his own sparkling winery in the town of Fère-en-Tardenois, just twenty miles outside of the Champagne appellation. Free of the confines of Champagne, Jean-Louis could refuse territorial limits, selecting cuvées from northerly vineyards for their freshness and elegance, together with cuvées from southern vineyards for ripe fruit, body and smoothness. He boldly believed that regions outisde Champagne also had the potential to create sparkling wines of superb quality. With France’s best cuvées blended to the winemaker’s style, Charles de Fère’s wines consistenly offer finesse, structure, and a complex harmony of flavors" (source).
  • Matt: Donna Vinho Tinto, $6.99/750ml - No commercial description available.
  • Joe: Albert Bichot Beaujolais Villages Nouveau, $9.99/750ml - "Beaujolais Nouveau is the name given to Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages wines which are released almost immediately after harvest. Arguably the most famous expression of the Gamay grape variety, these light, fruity reds are usually the first of the year's harvest in France, and are released annually to huge international fanfare" (source).
  • Max: Brengman Brothers Piccolo Dito Vermouth, $36.99 - "Flavors of orange peel and vanilla yield to chocolate tones, all underpinned by a backbone of astringent bitter herbs. Finishes sweet with a hint of oak though balanced with touch of bitterness" (source).
  • Mark: David el Fin Perfume de Sonsierra, $64.39/750ml - "Notas afrutadas (fresa, grosella, regaliz) y aromas de café, torrefactos y tostados. Equilibrado y redondo en boca" (source).

Whiskey Picks

  • The Boss: Pikesville Straight Rye, $49.96/750ml - "Dry and spicy, with honeyed rye and cloves" (source).
  • John: Westland American Single Malt, $65.99/750ml - "Malted barley is the most complex and flavorful grain used to make whiskey. For centuries, single malt whiskies have been considered solely the domain of Scotland. But a new category of single malt is taking root. One that offers us the chance to make a mark in the world of whiskey. It must be led by your own ideas, done on your own terms and realized through your own hard work. Here in the heart of the Pacific Northwest, we are graced with world-class natural ingredients. Those ingredients inspire us to pursue our own unique American-style single malt to rival the finest whiskies in the world. With each expression we work to create something that both honors the traditions of distilling that we admire and adds something worthwhile at the same time. Something new and distinctly American. The character of our malt provides a wealth of flavor profiles for our whiskies. Regardless of the individual expression, every whiskey at Westland Distillery is underscored by our house style – a sweetness and ease on the palate accompanied by a fruity and complex but ultimately grain-focused finish worthy of its place in this new world" (source).
  • Sarah: Highspire Pure Rye, $39.99/750ml - "Once vanished and now found. Highspire Pure Rye Whiskey was established in 1823 and considered one of America’s best known 100% rye whiskies. Lost during prohibition, Highspire Whiskey is now back and is still made with a 100% rye grain. We have taken original methodologies, added some contemporary craft and created a whiskey that once again stands apart from all others" (source).
  • Kati: Ardbeg 10, $51.99/750ml - "Ardbeg Ten Years Old is revered around the world as the peatiest, smokiest, most complex single malt of them all. Yet it does not flaunt the peat; rather it gives way to the natural sweetness of the malt to produce a whisky of perfect balance. Named World Whisky of the Year in 2008" (source).
  • Matt: Benchmark, $22.99/1.75liter - "The nose bears caramel notes with a delicate stone-fruit backdrop. A robust and sturdy palate with some fine leather notes mingling with dry tobacco, a touch of oak and a hint of dried cherries. The finish is smooth and calming" (source).
  • Joe: Four Roses Single Barrel, $41.98/750ml - "A premium Single Barrel Bourbon with a taste you’ll want to savor again and again. Complex, full bodied and surprisingly smooth with a delicate long finish that’s unbelievably mellow. Contains hints of ripe plum, cherry and other fruits, mild spices, plus sweet aromas including caramel, cocoa, vanilla and maple syrup. Drink straight up or on the rocks" (source).
  • Mark: High West Double Rye, $36.96/750ml - "Perhaps the spiciest American whiskey I have ever tasted, yet at the same time, quite tame and mellow. Complex notes of mint, clove, cinnamon, licorice root, pine nuts, and dark chocolate, with a surprising dose of gin botanicals throughout. A soft underbelly of caramel, sweet corn, and soothing vanilla provides an interesting counterpoint. Very easy-drinking, too (hard to believe it's 46%). Intriguing, and a must-try for rye whiskey aficionados - even if only to satisfy your curiosity" (source).
  • Max: Bain's Cape Mountain Whiskey, $29.99/750ml - "Bain’s Single Grain Whisky is a double matured whisky produced from 100% South African Yellow Maize, you may call this corn. We first mature it in specially selected first-fill bourbon casks for a period of three years, we then transfer it to a second set of first-fill bourbon casks for a further 18 to 30 months to extract a full rich flavor like no other" (source).

Video of the Week | Highspire Pure Rye

Highspire Rye: Available now at Siciliano's!


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

November Brew of the Month: M. Spencer's Strong Bitter

By Max Spencer

With the holidays coming up I wanted to make a crushable yet weather appropriate beer for the long drinking sessions that family gatherings entail. This need inspired me to create a Strong Bitter, better known in America as an ESB (Extra Special Bitter). This very British style of beer incorporates a strong malt backbone with enough hop character and bitterness to be balanced — dangerously drinkable, endlessly enjoyable. ESBs typically have flavors of bread, biscuit, nuts, toffee, fruits, earth, spices, and flowers. To me, this flavor profile screams fall and early winter — a perfect companion for holiday foods too.

I used a technique called first wort hopping as you will see down in the recipes. First wort hopping is an advanced hopping technique that has great practical uses and is easy to execute — it increases the utilization of all the hops that are added to the boil by around 10-15%, increases hop aroma and results in a “softer” bitterness overall. German breweries have traditionally used first wort hopping as a method to get more out of less hops. For all grain, first wort hopping entails adding hops as soon as you start draining your mash into your kettle. For extract, add hops after steeping your grains and adding all or some of your LME before boil.

I ended up brewing an additional gallon of beer to do something a little special with. I took my extra gallon and aged it on oak chips soaked in Calvados — apple brandy from the Normandy region of France. I thought that the flavors of rustic apples and earthy spices found in Calvados would complement my ESB in all the right ways. Feel free to do something similar with Calvados as well, or any form of brandy — especially apple brandy — or even whiskey.

All Grain

    • 9.5 lbs. Golden Promise 
    • 1 lbs. Medium Crystal
    • 0.5 lbs. Amber Malt
    • 0.5 lbs. Melanoidin Malt
    • 0.25 lbs. Pale Chocolate
    • 1 oz. UK Challenger First Wort (60-minute boil)
    • 1 oz. UK Challenger @ 30 minutes
    • 1 oz. East Kent Goldings @ 15 minutes
    • 1 oz. UK Challenger and 1 oz. East Kent Goldings @ 5 minutes
    • Yeast: Lallemand’s London ESB


    • 7.75 lbs. Light Pilsner LME
    • 1 lbs. Medium Crystal
    • 0.5 lbs. Amber Malt
    • 0.5 lbs. Melanoidin Malt
    • 0.25 lbs. Pale Chocolate
    • 0.5 lbs. corn sugar
    • 1.5 oz. UK Challenger First Wort (60-minute boil)
    • 1.5 oz. UK Challenger @ 30 minutes
    • 1 oz. East Kent Goldings @ 15 minutes
    • 1 oz. UK Challenger and 1 oz. East Kent Goldings @ 5 minutes
    • (Alternatively, use the same hop schedule as all grain if you are boiling at full volume)
    • Yeast: Lallemand’s London ESB
Manipulations: For all grain, you can replace Golden Promise with Maris Otter as the base malt if you prefer one over the other. For extract — if you feel like spending a little extra money for authenticity — you can use Munton’s Pale LME in place of the pilsner LME. There are several English ale yeast strains that you could use as an alternative to the Lallemand ESB strain — Safale 04, White Labs 005 British Ale, Wyeast 1028 London Ale, Wyeast 1098 English Ale. Really, any English ale yeast will work. You can use American hops if you wish, but I would recommend a lighter hand on the quantity.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Product Spotlight: The Anvil Brewing Kettle

By Mark Iacopelli

The holiday season is a great time for homebrewers. The seasonal brews are wonderful and Saint Nick is here to bring you those much needed upgrades to your brewing system.

If you have been thinking of making the leap to all-grain brewing and need a bigger pot, want to expand your existing system or would like to transition into electric brewing, the new Anvil Brewing kettle is perfect.

Anvil Brewing Equipment is a sister company to Blichmann Engineering. Their goal is to bring Blichmann quality and durability into a price range that is more accessible. Despite the lower price point almost nothing was taken away, and a couple features added. Stainless steel ball valve, thermometer, laser etched volume markings and dip tube all come standard with this kettle.

This kettle is also clad with induction capable stainless steel allowing you to do electric brewing more safely and inexpensively. The typical route for electric brewing is to drill a number of holes into your pot and install electric heating coils which get in the way of stirring and are difficult to clean. For about $80 on Amazon you can get an 1800w portable induction top and you’re immediately set up for up to 7-gallon boils for 5-gallon batches.

Another unique feature with this kettle is that it doubles as a fermentor. A hole in the lid allows for a grommet and airlock to be used, and the rim can be covered with a silicone seal. This means all you need to do is cool the beer down and pitch your yeast — no transfer necessary.

At Siciliano’s we currently carry the 10-gallon model for $249.99. We can also order in 5.5-gallon through 20-gallon versions by request.

Friday, November 18, 2016

New Beer Friday, 1792 Single Barrel Edition (Nov 18)

Preamble by John Barecki

This holiday season, we here at Siciliano's Market have decided to do something special for our customers. We have purchased a whole barrel's worth of 1792, the flagship bourbon from The Barton Distillery down in Bardstown, Kentucky.

This is a pretty cool opportunity for us to have something that is uniquely our own, being that it is a single-barrel bourbon that does not share its eccentricities with another. Most of your typical bourbons on the shelf (unless specified) will be a blend of several barrels from different years which contain the right flavors and aromas to create a continuity within a finished whiskey, thus pleasing the customer every time. Single-barrel releases differ because, as the name implies, they come from only one source and feature a whole cacophony of flavors and aromas distinct to that barrel.

The bourbon inside the bottle, for those that have not tried the regular small-batch release of 1792, is made from a high rye mash, which imparts a spicy, earthy and fruity quality to the whiskey. In the time it spends in the barrel, it pulls flavors of toffee, vanilla, butterscotch and caramel among others. These are all backed up with a big bodied mouthfeel and long finish. It is quite a lovely bourbon.

We have also gone with a higher bottling strength of 98.6 proof, which concentrates the flavor and aroma a bit more than the 93.75 proof of the small batch, which is still quite good. Most bourbon distilleries rarely have a single-barrel product on the shelf all the time (outside of a couple) and they are usually snatched up quickly. This is a fun gift or collectable for the whiskey lovers out there that like out-of-the-ordinary releases.

We have been notified that our barrel has been bottled and we are gleefully awaiting the new addition to our whiskey collection. We will hopefully have it in store in a few weeks if not sooner. It will be priced around the $40 mark and will come with a sticker of authenticity with the Siciliano's name on it. The 1792 small batch bourbon is one of our top sellers and is usually available if you want to experience the original before delving into one of the single-barrel bottlings. 

New and Returning Beer

  • Prairie Christmas Bomb, $9.59/12oz (1 per) - "Christmas Bomb! will bring you great comfort and joy in this dark and roasty brew. You’ll find the coffee, ancho chilies, vanilla, and cacao nibs you know and love, but they brought a friend this time. The addition of cinnamon warms this brew evoking the seasonal spirit of spice and cheer" (source).
  • Libertine Pacific Ocean Blue Gose, $19.99/750ml - "Morro Bay ocean, inspired by Dennis Wilson album by the same name" (source).
  • Mikkeller Rauch Pils, $4.79/12oz - "Doesn’t take much to figure out what’s going on here. Mikkeller’s Rauchpils is a smokey pilsner of a beer. Brewed at De Proef, in Lochristi-Hufte, Belgium" (source).
  • To Øl Pineapple Express, $11.39/500ml - "Stout brewed with Pineapples & Coffee" (source).
  • To Øl Kaffe og Rog, $6.49/12oz - No commercial description.
  • Dieu du Ciel Chemin de Croix, $4.99/12oz - "Chemin de Croix’s rich roasted and chocolate flavours, made evident by its dark mocha colour, are accompanied by fruity esters resulting from the yeast. A resinous bitterness contributes to the overall dryness. Brown malt – rather than roasted malt – invokes the typical signature of the first Porters, often generously hopped for exportation to India" (source).
  • Arbor Brewing Faricy Stout, $1.89/12oz - "This crowd-pleaser has a dark coffee-like appearance with a creamy head and smoky, roasted grain aromas. It is rich and creamy on the palate with chalky, burnt flavors balanced by lush dark chocolates and never turns too dry through the smoky finish. Full-flavored yet highly drinkable—rich and creamy without being thick or heavy" (source).
  • Brewery Vivant Tart Side of the Moon, $4.29/16oz - "One of our most anticipated and highly talked about specialty releases, This hearty dark ale is fermented with our rustic Belgian yeast strain which gives the beer a farmhouse tartness followed by big dark chocolate notes, and hints of black cherries. Fermentation temperatures often climb past 90F which builds the distinctive flavors. No adjuncts are added to this beer-- these robust layers of flavor are yeast driven. Listen to the lunatic" (source).
  • Saugatuck Reverent Monk, $1.79/12oz - "A traditional Belgian Tripel with complex flavors of clove, banana, and spicy esters. Deep yellow in color and medium bodied with a sweet finish" (source).
  • Stone Double Bastard In the Rye, $18.99/500ml (1 per) - "Much like the lacerative muther of a beer that is Double Bastard Ale, rye whiskey is not for everyone. Not remotely. Most are not emotionally or otherwise equipped to appreciate its unbridled intensity. So to sequester Double Bastard Ale in rye whiskey barrels is to conceive an experience that no doubt will be treasured by only a select few. It takes a special breed of exceptional depth to thrive under such demanding conditions and emerge with such stunning vibrancy. Something this sublime should never be squandered, however. Those plagued by even a smidge of self-doubt should look elsewhere. This rare treasure is strictly for those possessing the capacity to appreciate what many just like me" (source).
  • Roak Chestnut Porter, $1.99/12oz - "Chestnut Maple Porter" (source).
  • Breckenridge Christmas, $1.99/12oz - "The chill of a Colorado high-country winter calls for a beer with extra flavor and strength. Here it is. At over 7% alcohol, with a sturdy texture and rich flavors of caramel and chocolate, our holiday seasonal is the fermented equivalent of a good fire" (source).
  • Shmaltz Shtick Pack, $22.89/12pk - A variety 12 pack that includes Messiah Nut Brown, Hanukkah Beer, Slingshot American Craft Lager and Hop Manna IPA.
  • Oddside Chokolat Koffie, $2.29/12oz - "" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Pennsylvania Tuxedo, $2.89/12oz - "A spruce-infused pale ale, Pennsylvania Tuxedo pays homage to the flannel-suited hunters and gatherers who dwell deep in the backcountry of north-central PA" (source).

Video of the Week | Pennsylvania Tuxedo

Now available at Siciliano's


Monday, November 14, 2016

Homebrew Science: Sour Hour!

By Max Spencer

So, what in the hell makes something sour? The simple answer is organic acids. Acids are found in almost every food and drink we ingest, including the beer we love — even non-sour beer. Organic acids are present in malted grains and are created by yeast and other microbes during fermentation2. This is why the pH of beer is relatively low (~4 for non-sour beer, down to ~3 for sour beer). It is beneficial to have acids in beer. Acidity augments flavor, affects viscosity, hinders microbial growth, stabilizes flavor and has an influence on perceived hop bitterness2,4.

This still doesn’t explain what makes something sour. Is there really such a huge difference between a pH of 4 and a pH of 3? Yep, but it’s more complicated than that. pH is a measurement of free protons (H+; hence the H in pH) in a solution. Acids lower the pH of a solution by releasing protons when dissolved. The pH scale is logarithmic, so each number represents a 10x increase in the concentration relative to the number before it. The last thing we need to know about pH is that the scale works in the opposite direction you expect it to — the lower the number, the higher the concentration. So, a pH of 3 is 10x more acidic than a pH of 4, meaning it has 10x the concentration of H+. Despite this, two different beers that share a pH can be vastly different in their sour character and intensity. pH plays a role, but this tells us that there is more to it1,3,4.

Organic acids are comprised of at one least carboxyl group (-COOH) attached to an endless variety of structures. The carboxyl group is where our free protons come from, as the hydrogen on the carboxyl group gladly gives up its electron in exchange for a life of free lovin’ in solution (-COO- and H+). Studies have found that solutions of different acids at the same pH do not result in the same intensity of sourness1,3. The sour character is also distinct between different acids. For example, acetic acid — the main component of vinegar — has an unmistakable vinegar character to our taste buds, while lactic acid tends to be described as “clean” and “tart”1. This reveals to us that it is not only the pH of a beer that causes sourness, but the identity of the acid. The structure attached to the carboxyl group clearly influences beer in a way that is detected by us through our sense of taste — specifically, our taste for sour1.3,4. Despite knowing that different organic acids result in various sour flavors and intensity, the mechanism behind why and how is still unclear4. Ph.D. project, anyone?

Now that we have a better understanding of sourness, how do we get to sour beer? There’s an easy way, and a complex way. The easy way is to add an organic acid to beer until it tastes the way you want. Homebrew shops — including little ol’ us — carry lactic acid solutions that can be used to lower the pH of any beer and add that “tart” flavor common to most sour beers. The traditional way is to use microbes. Brewers, including homebrewers, have access to non-yeast microbes that are used alongside yeast to create sour beers. The two most popular microbes used are Lactobacillus and Pediococcus. They are closely related genera of bacteria that create lactic acid and other byproducts during fermentation, creating a sour character that yeast is incapable of developing on its own. Microbes add a layer of complexity to the flavor of sour beers that pure acid solutions don’t provide. A Belgian lambic or Flanders red would not be the same without the massive diversity of microbes that perform their collective metabolic magic. Microbes create a smörgåsbord of organic acids that can accentuate fruit and malt characters already present in beer and provide a swathe of flavors ranging from funky to fruity5,6.

The major disadvantage of using microbes is the length of time it takes for their character to develop. It can take months or even years for a sour beer to fully develop, but techniques such as kettle souring can drastically shorten the length of time required to achieve sourness via microbes. A kettle soured beer merely takes hours to days for souring to occur. Another disadvantage is the potential for cross contamination. Breweries and homebrewers alike fear occasional infected batches. Using microbes intentionally increases that chance by bringing them into the same space as clean beers. Despite this, if you practice solid sanitation technique or maintain a second set of plastic equipment the chance of infection stays at the same level it would be if you only fermented clean beers.

Whether you’re a homebrewer or someone who just enjoys drinking beer I hope you can go forth with a new appreciation for all things sour. Maybe take a crack at making your first sour, or buy yourself a nice Belgian masterpiece crafted by tradition and dedication. Either way, let us enjoy the spoils of — intentionally — sour beer together. Cheers!

"I went on a diet, swore off drinking and heavy eating, and in fourteen days I lost two weeks." –Joe E. Lewis

Literature cited

  1. Hartwig, P. and M.R. McDaniel. 1995. Flavor characteristics of lactic, malic, citric, and acetic acids at various pH levels. Journal of Food Science 60(2):384-388. 
  2. Li, H. and F. Liu. 2015. Changes in organic acids during fermentation. J. Am. Soc. Brew. Chem. 73(3):275-279.
  3. Makhlouf, G.M. and A.L. Blum. 1972. Kinetics of the taste response to chemical stimulation: a theory of acid taste in man. Gastroenterology 63:67-75. 
  4. Neta, E.R.C., S.D. Johanningsmeier, and R.F. McFeeters. 2007. The chemistry and physiology of sour taste—a review. Journal of Food Science 72(2):R33-R38.
  5. Snauwaert, I, S.P. Roels, F.V. Nieuwerburg, A.V. Landschoot, L.D. Vuyst and P. Vandamme. 2016. Microbial diversity and metabolite composition of Beligan red-brown acidic ales. International Journal of Food Microbiology 221:1-11.
  6. Spitaels, F. A.D. Wieme, M. Janssens, M. Aerts, H. Daniel, A.V. Landschoot, L.D. Vuyst and P. Vandamme. 2014. The microbial diversity of traditional spontaneously fermented lambic beer. PLOS ONE 9(4):1-13.