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Friday, January 23, 2015

New Beer Friday, Malt 101 Edition (January 23)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

If you're looking for something fun and informative to do this upcoming Monday, January 26, there are still a few spots open in the inaugural class of the Beer Education Series being sponsored by Gravity Taphouse Grille, Beer City USA’s newest multi-tap beer bar.  

Erik May of Pilot Malt House and yours truly are teaming up to conduct this inaugural class, a Malt 101 presentation focusing on malt production and the way various malt varieties are used in the brewing process.

The presentation will begin at 6:30 pm and you must be at least 21 years of age to attend. The $15.00 entrance fee includes a tasting flight of four beers and an appetizer.

Reservations must be made in advance. Contact Angela Steil at 616-719-4944 or if interested.

New and Returning Beer

  • White Birch Berliner Weisse, $5.89/22oz - "Napoleon’s troops referred to Berliner Weisse as the "Champagne of the North" due to its lively and elegant character. Today this style is described by some as the most refreshing beer in the world. Our approach was to brew this beer with Lactobacilius for a refreshing and authentic interpretation of a classic summer refresher" (source). 
  • White Birch Blueberry Berliner Weisse, $7.39/22oz - "Our Blueberry Berliner Weisse is fermented with a great blueberry puree. This New England approach brings a refreshing blueberry flavor and aroma to a German classic. We feel our approach creates an authentic interpretation of the traditional “mit syrup” or with syrup method of serving this classic summer refresher. We hope you enjoy this unique year round beer" (source).
  • Arcadia Hop Rocket, $3.49/12oz - "This Imperial IPA has an assertive aroma of sticky, resinous Summit hops. A complex flavor profile includes notes of grapefruit, lemon peel, spruce and cellared mushrooms. Though the flavor focus is on hops, a trio of malts provides a balance to the beer, creating a delicious level of palatability. Hints of caramel, toffee and freshly-baked biscuits are also apparent in the flavor profile" (source).
  • Arcadia Barrel Aged Lochdown, $8.59/12oz - "Barrel-aged Loch Down Scotch Ale. Our tribute to the Scottish Highlands, this beer offers a gorgeous garnet color joined by the aroma of ripe plums and freshly-baked biscuits. The rich, full-bodied texture reveals notes of roasted chestnuts and caramel in the smooth single-malt style brew. Balanced with just the right amount of hop character, this beer delights with crisp alcohol finish" (source).
  • Smuttynose Durty, $1.69/12oz - "Each bottle and pint features a delicious balance of carmelly brown ale malt flavors and the hop profile of a double IPA. Durty has enough oomph to get you through the frosty mornings and chilly nights, while the light body and hop flavor will awaken your tongue and senses for the coming warm weather" (source).
  • Smuttynose Zinneke, $6.99/Belgian Stout 22oz - "Named in honor of the doggy denizens of Brussels, this hybrid beer is a mix of what we love best in a big, roasty stout, but fermented with a Belgian yeast, which brings out a beautiful fruity nose. We set aside a portion of the batch to age in bourbon barrels to allow the stouts chocolate and caramel flavors to marry with the woods natural vanilla and toastiness. The final blend pairs well with both savory dishes and your favorite desserts" (source).
  • Forbidden Traveler, $1.69/12oz - "Forbidden Traveler is a crisp wheat beer brewed with real apple. Its bright effervescence will catch your eye, while its refreshing aroma will tempt your senses. It’s here for the picking, just take a sip" (source).
  • Bell's Hopslam, $2.99/12oz (1 case limit) - "Starting with six different hop varietals added to the brew kettle & culminating with a massive dry-hop addition of Simcoe hops, Bell's Hopslam Ale possesses the most complex hopping schedule in the Bell's repertoire. Selected specifically because of their aromatic qualities, these Pacific Northwest varieties contribute a pungent blend of grapefruit, stone fruit, and floral notes. A generous malt bill and a solid dollop of honey provide just enough body to keep the balance in check, resulting in a remarkably drinkable rendition of the Double India Pale Ale style" (source).
  • Alaskan Big Mountain Pale, $1.69/12oz - "Pouring clear and light copper in color, Big Mountain Pale has three domestic malt varieties providing firm footing for the distinct flavor and aroma of dry-hopped Simcoe and Mosaic. Notes of Asian pear, pine, and lemon in the aroma are answered by the toasted nut, biscuit and toffee malt. The crisp flavor is distinct from the aroma, with pleasantly strong herbal notes and hints of complex tropical fruit" (source).
  • Alaskan Imperial Red, $2.79/12oz - "Alaskan Imperial Red is a full-bodied deep mahogany ale with ruby red highlights. Citrus notes of chamomile, grapefruit and Meyer lemon brighten the aroma. A zesty array of hop flavors from mango and bitter orange to green mint and hibiscus meld with the nutty, roasted caramel and subtle dried fruit flavors of the complex malt profile to create a surprisingly fresh, yet warming example of the style" (source).
  • Founders Imperial Stout, $3.09/12oz - "A fine companion to end a meal or relax in front of the hearth with, this robust ale will cellar well for years. Brewed with ten varieties of malted barley this stout is extremely smooth, complex and rich in body. We recommend serving at cellar temperature. Sit back and enjoy its richness and complexity, you’re about to drink the ultimate winter warmer" (source).
  • Latitude 42 Honey Amber, $1.69/12oz - "Our American amber ale features locally harvested Michigan wildflower honey from Schoolhouse Honey Farms in Scotts and Willamette and Nugget hops. Malty, sweet and well-rounded (in all the right places)" (source).
  • Latitude 42 I P EH, $1.69/12oz - "Our India Pale Ale is a true classic for Hop heads using only the finest hops from the northwest. We use centennial, citra, simcoe and falconers flight hops to balance out the smooth malty finish" (source).
  • New Holland Blue Sunday, $8.19/22oz (1 btl limit) - "This unique anniversary libation, heritage-blended from our library of barrel-soured beers, exhibits deeply layered flavors of malt and oak, with a tart finish" (source).
  • Fort Collins 1020 Pale Ale, $2.09/12oz - "1020 Pale Ale has a magnificent citrus aroma with underlying tones of pine and grapefruit zest that inhabit the flavor, while a smooth, light body and crisp, clean bitterness from Magnum, Cascade and Chinook hops leave your palate both refreshed and liberated" (source).
  • Breckenridge 72 Imperial Stout, $3.29/12oz - "Brewed with chocolate from Colorado's very own Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Inc., this Imperial Chocolate Cream Stout is full of rich, toasted chocolate notes with hints of dark fruit. 72 Imperial will take you where you need to go. Just sit back and enjoy the ride" (source).
  • Southern Tier Grand Arbor, $9.09/22oz - "Grand Arbor is hazy pale straw in color with a thick rocky white head and persistent lacing. Aromatically earthy with distinct fruity esters and low to moderate noble hop character. Balanced fruity character blends into crisp biscuit notes with a dry tart finish. Interestingly, although we add maple syrup it adds an earthy/woody character rather than an overt sweetness" (source).
  • Dogfish Raison D'extra, $10.19/12oz (1 btl limit) - "
    Our Raison D'Etre, with a little extra. This immodest brew, made with an obscene amount of malt, brown sugar and raisins, takes Belgian-style browns to new heights.
    Raison D'Extra's little brother Raison D'Etre was brewed to be the ultimate beer partner for steak. Plump raisins and beet sugars give the beer a similar DNA and color to red wine.
    D'Extra takes this concept to the next level. What 120 Minute IPA is to 60 Minute IPA, D'Extra is the D'Etre. We're pushing the limits of what a Belgian yeast can do (and we've discovered that's somewhere in the ballpark of 15% to 18% ABV!)
    - See more at:
    Our Raison D'Etre, with a little extra. This immodest brew, made with an obscene amount of malt, brown sugar and raisins, takes Belgian-style browns to new heights.
    Raison D'Extra's little brother Raison D'Etre was brewed to be the ultimate beer partner for steak. Plump raisins and beet sugars give the beer a similar DNA and color to red wine.
    D'Extra takes this concept to the next level. What 120 Minute IPA is to 60 Minute IPA, D'Extra is the D'Etre. We're pushing the limits of what a Belgian yeast can do (and we've discovered that's somewhere in the ballpark of 15% to 18% ABV!)
    - See more at:
    Raison D’Extra is our amped up version of the Raison D’Etre. It is brewed from a similar grist (raisins included) to a massive 42P, giving it 20.5%ABV, along with 20 IBU and a color of 20L" (source).
  • Avery duganA, $6.99/22oz - "
    Lupulin Rapture Incarnate! As fervent devotees of hops, we found ourselves on a quest to create a transcendental IPA capable of quenching our voracious lupulin desires. Our mantra became “unity of bitterness, hop flavor and aroma.” Enlightened, duganA IPA was born: A brutally bitter, dank, piney and resinous ale designed for those seeking a divine hop experience - See more at:
    Lupulin Rapture Incarnate! As fervent devotees of hops, we found ourselves on a quest to create a transcendental IPA capable of quenching our voracious lupulin desires. Our mantra became “unity of bitterness, hop flavor and aroma.” Enlightened, duganA IPA was born: A brutally bitter, dank, piney and resinous ale designed for those seeking a divine hop experience" (source).
  • Short's Carob Stout, $1.99/12oz - "A big bodied stout that receives its distinguishable flavor characteristics from the substantial use of roasted malt, dark specialty grains, and ground carob. Cocoa and chocolate-like aromas penetrate from the black depths of this alluring ale. Robust flavors of roasted black coffee, and even subtle notes of dark fruit, mix with the abundant rich chocolate qualities. As it warms, an ample bitterness from the dark roasted specialty grains and high alpha hops intensifies, provoking a noticeable dryness on the palate" (source).
  • Black Isle Oatmeal Stout, $7.59/16.9oz - "Deep dark chocolate flavoured stout with subtle notes of liquorice. The use of oats confers a smooth mouthfeel to this strong stout" (source).
  • Black Isle Scotch Ale, $7.59/16.9oz - "Believed to have originated from Edinburgh in the 1800s, the brewing of Scotch ales is now more of a focus for the US craft brewers than for those in its homeland. This beer, however, is a distillation of all that is good in Scotland. A liquid fruit cake with a malty foundation and a rich spice finish, this will fill your palate and astound you for minutes as you unlock the multi-layers of flavour" (source).
  • O'Fallon King Louie, $1.79/12oz - "We’ve used a variety of malts to create the perfect balance between soft chocolate, caramel and roasted notes that highlights the featured toffee flavor" (source).
  • Lagunita's Cappuccino Stout, $4.79/22oz - "We get some help from our friends/neighbors at Sebastopol’s Hardcore Coffee just up the road. The coffee beans are freshly ground when we drop them into the brew kettle and whirlpool, giving that deep coffee flavor without taking away from that even deeper beer flavor" (source).
  • Southern Tier Creme Brulee, $9.29/22oz - "We are not the harbingers of truth as some may suggest but it may indeed be argued that our brewing philosophy is tantamount to a dessert with a bellicose past. How, you may ask, would a brewery determine a likeness to hard-coated custard? Our response is simple; it’s all in the power of history, and of course, the extra finesse needed to top off a contentious treat with definition" (source).
  • Southern Tier Goat Boy, $7.79/22oz - "When words don’t say enough we sometimes let our fingers do the talking. Maybe it’s kid stuff, but the sign of the goat has been used by rock stars, sports fans, celebrities & unfortunate politicians to celebrate symbolically. Open this bottle for your turn to flash the eternal gesture of high voltage rock & roll. For those about to bock, we salute you" (source).
  • Bateman's Mocha, $4.69/16.99 - "A fresh coffee and chocolate experience brewed with genuine arabica coffee, fine Belgian chocolate and locally grown roasted malt" (source).

  Picture of the Week | Hopslam 2015


Friday, January 16, 2015

New Beer Friday, Cryptozoology Edition (January 16)

Steve at last year's Big Brew event
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

This is the time of year when Team Siciliano begins doing some preliminary planning on our annual trifecta of spring home brew events.

The following is a list of this year’s pertinent dates. Stay tuned to The Buzz for further information and periodic updates.

    • Siciliano’s Twelfth Annual Homebrew Competition – Entries will be accepted from Monday, March 23 through Sunday, April 12th, or until 250 entries are submitted. Judging will be held on Saturday, April 25th at the Guest House on Stocking Avenue.
    • The Third Annual Siciliano’s Big Brew at the Calder – Saturday, May 2nd at the Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids.
    • The Twelfth Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Party – Saturday, May 16th at Johnson Park.
In the meantime, please enjoy the latest beers to arrive at Siciliano's. This week's list includes a Bigfoot sighting. Tasty.

New and Returning Beers

  • Right Brain Firestarter Chipotle Porter, $7.19/22oz - "Dark porter with chocolate malt. Subtle smokiness and mild heat" (source).
  • Vivant Ski Patrol, $3.39/16oz - Belgian inspired wit with black cardamom & orange peel.
  • Arbor Mr. Delicious, $2.89/12oz - "This beer leads off with a stiff round-house punch of citrusy hops, follows up with a quick kick of bready malts and warming alcohol, and finishes with a powerful and lingering bite of complex layered hops. This popular brew was inspired by ABC founder, head brewer and spiritual leader Matt Greff whose cartoon enhanced image graces the label" (source).
  • Thirsty Dog Barrel Aged Siberian Night, $6.89/12oz - "We took our award winning Siberian Night Russian Imperial Stout and aged it for 11 months in fresh bourbon barrels. The result blew us away. The dark chocolate malt yields a milk chocolate flavor that blends perfectly with the vanilla flavor from the barrel. The bourbon aroma adds the finishing touch" (source).
  • Thirsty Dog Barrel Aged Wulver, $6.89/12oz - "We made this beer specifically for bourbon barrels. The result is our most acclaimed bourbon barrel beer. Bourbon barrel aging and specialty malts create flavors of vanilla and carmel that blend in perfect balance" (source).
  • Blue Moon First Peach Ale, $1.49/12oz - "Ale brewed with coriander with peaches and natural peach flavor added" (source).
  • Odd Side Java Mint Chip, $2.29/12oz (limit 2) - "Craving ice cream? This stout will ease your taste buds. It the perfect marriage of mint-chocolate-chip-ice cream and roasted coffee" (source).
  • Stone Enjoy By 02.14.15., $7.69/22oz (limit 1) - "You have in your hands a devastatingly desirable double IPA. While freshness is a key component of many beers – especially big, citrusy, floral IPAs – we’ve taken it further, a lot further, in this IPA. You see, we specifically brewed it NOT to last. We’ve not only gone to extensive lengths to ensure that you’re getting this beer in your hands within an extraordinarily short window, we made sure that the Enjoy By date isn’t randomly etched in tiny text somewhere on the label, to be overlooked by all but the most attentive of retailers and consumers. Instead, we’ve sent a clear message with the name of the beer itself that there is no better time than right now to enjoy this IPA" (source).
  • Stone Baird Ishii Japanese Green Tea IPA, $9.49/22oz (limit 1) - See video below.
  • B. Nektar Apple PI, $12.89/375ml - "The holidays are over, but it doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy some delicious pie. Ours is made from fresh apple cider, honey, and pie spices. Perfect after dinner sipper" (source).
  • Bell's Smitten Rye PA, $1.79/12oz - "Drawn from one of our oldest recipes, Smitten Ale began as part of a series of rye beers at our Eccentric Café. The combination of sharp citrus & resinous flavors from the hops with the earthy, rustic overtones of the rye malt contribution yield an interesting take on the American Pale Ale" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, $2.59/12oz - "Bigfoot is a beast of a beer, brimming with bold flavors of bittersweet malt and heaps of aggressive whole-cone Pacific Northwest hops. First introduced in the winter of 1983, Bigfoot is a cult-classic beer brewed in the barleywine style, meaning a strong, robust, bruiser of a beer with the refined intensity of a wine. Bigfoot is prized by beer collectors for its supreme cellarability. Under the proper conditions, it can age like a fine wine, developing new flavors and character as it matures in the bottle. Each new release or 'expedition' is vintage dated. Collect your own and see the flavors develop and progress" (source).
  • Sam Adams Double Bock, $7.19/22oz - "Dark ruby color, strong malt and caramel character; very smooth, full-bodied, low/medium bitterness" (source).
  • Abita Macchiato Milk Stout, $4.69/22oz - "The Abita Macchiato gained its inspiration from the Macchiato coffee drink, capturing the perfect balance between sweetness and bitterness. The Abita Macchiato is made with pale, caramel, chocolate and roasted malts. Oats and lactose are added to give the beer a more robust and sweeter taste. The sweetness of the lactose helps balance the bitterness of the brew. The roasted malts give the beer its dark color as well as its intense flavor and aroma. Willamette hops are added to balance out the sweetness of the malts. Finally, PJ's espresso dolce beans are added to the aging tank. This gives the beer a strong coffee flavor and aroma that compliments the existing flavors of the malt" (source).

Video of the Week | Japanese Green Tea IPA


Friday, January 9, 2015

New Beer Friday, The Desk of Steve Edition (Jan 9)

The desk of Steve
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

The first full week of the New Year is always anticlimactic at Siciliano’s. But after a month and a half of nonstop busyness the staff and I actually look forward to these few days of relative calm.

Typically we use the first couple of days of January to catch our breath and then we turn our attention to some much needed cleaning projects.

This past week Barb tackled the floors, the staff attacked the shelves and I spent the better part of a morning cleaning up the cramped corner of the store that serves as my “office.” When my project was finished I sat back and once again resolved to keep the space clear, my bookcase organized and my desk uncluttered. Unfortunately this annual New Year’s resolution lasts about as long as it takes for the spring seasonals to begin showing up on our newly washed beer shelves, which, according to these these calculations, should be any time now.

New and Returning Beer

  • Sierra Nevada Nooner, $1.69/12oz - ". A midday go-to, Nooner is our take on the classic German-style pilsner—one of the original session beers. Nooner is easy drinking yet packed with the big flavor of spicy and floral whole-cone hops. Its brilliant golden color begs you to take a sip and sink your taste buds into an extremely welcoming beer, full of flavor and balanced by a crisp, dry finish" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Hoppy Lager, $1.69/12oz - "Beer Camp is the ultimate brewing experience. We bring beer fans into our brewery nearly every week to create their own beer with us—the more daring the better—and each spring we’ll highlight one of the small-batch standouts. Last year, Beer Camp worked overtime. Along with our fan brews, we made 12 additional beers with 12 exceptional breweries. Choosing one for an encore wasn’t easy. Ever drawn to hops, we decided to reimagine our hoppy lager collaboration with Ballast Point" (source).
  • Great Lakes Conway's Irish Ale, $1.69/12oz - "A malty beer with a notable toasty flavor derived from lightly roasted malt. Slight fruit and hop accents add to the overall complexity" (source).
  • Sam Adams Cold Snap, $1.69/12oz - "Crisp & lively, the hazy smoothness of this unfiltered White Ale is roused by the crackling of spring spices. From a hint of sweetness from orange peel & plum to the peppery bite of fresh ground coriander, the subtle blend of spices creates just the right refreshing kick to signal that spring is on its way" (source).
  • Sam Adams Escape Route, $1.69/12oz - "Escaping from winter’s darkness, this hazy golden, unfiltered Kölsch style creates a fresh start. Our take on the classic hybrid style grom Cologne, Germany, combines the subtle fruit notes of an ale with the smooth crispness of a lager for a bright, refreshing brew to help escape those lingering cold days" (source).
  • Sam Adams Rebel Rider Session IPA, $1.69/12oz - "Bursting with bright citrus, grapefruit, and classic piney west coast hop character, this beer has a soft lingering bitterness and a lighter body overall." (source).
  • Odd Side Chocolade Koffie Sout, $2.39/12oz - "If you’re a fan of chocolate stouts this is the one to try! A great mixture of thick, sweet, dark chocolate fudge, and light espresso bean undertones will immediately appeal to your senses. Your taste buds will dance when the creamy stout takes flight" (source).
  • Deschutes Red Chair, $1.79/12oz - "The citrus punch of a big IPA, minus the one-dimensional hop sledgehammer. Seven select European and domestic malts round out the edges for a complex, copper-colored brew. Like its namesake ski lift, it’s an insider’s ride to fresh thrills" (source).
  • Uerige Doppelsticke, $5.59/500ml - "Uerige DoppelSticke might just be "Germany's interpretation of a barley-wine", ie a third definition next to England's "malt-driven" idea {such as JW Lees Vintage Harvest Ale} and America's "hop-heavy" version {such as Sierra Nevada's BigFoot}. OG - 1085; IBU - 75; Ingredients; Hops:Spalt Spalter, Hallertauer Perle, Spalt Hallertauer; Malts: Pilsner malt, caramel malt, roasted malt" (source).
  • New Belgium Slow Ride, $1.69/12oz - "Kicking back and relaxing with a session beer requires little more than a couch, some free time, and a few pals. Slow Ride Session IPA is up for this easy-going challenge, starting with a pour of sheened gold and plenty of fluffy, white foam. A blend of seven hop varieties, led by exotic Mosaic and Nelson Sauvin, twist together brilliant tropical scents of melon, peach, lime and grapefruit for a vividly fruity aroma. The flavor mirrors the aroma, while balancing a malty-sweet yet clean start and hoppy bitterness in the back. Light bodied and extra quaffable, Slow Ride Session IPA brings the finish line to you" (source).
  • New Belgium Portage, $1.69/12oz - "A great porter just feels right in your hand. And carrying a glass of Portage Porter is no different. An opaque, brown pour, this beer presents with coffee and chocolate aromas, with hints of toast and smoked almonds. The taste follows suit, adding an upfront sweetness and a slight, roasty bitterness to back it up. Creamy and wonderful, this porter sips a medium body and finishes dry and delightful. Portage Porter carts itself towards perfection. Just tip your glass and keep smiling" (source).
  • Cheboygan Light House Amber, $2.19/16oz - "Our German style Alt, Lighthouse Amber, has a brilliant light amber hue. Its light tan head is thick, retaining, and laces the glass all the way down. Lighthouse Amber has a silky-smooth medium body. A Noble hop aroma up front finishes with a Carmel malt nose. Our old world brewing method brings out a light toasted-bread flavor you’ll want to savor again and again. It’s a mouthwatering and thirst quenching delight" (source).
  • Cheboygan Blood Orange Honey, $2.19/16oz - "A unique twist on a great American-style wheat beer, with the addition of fresh local wildflower honeyBlood Orange Honey Can WEB mixed with blood orange zest, and blood orange puree. The result is a medium bodied beer that is very smooth with a residual sweetness, and creaminess from the honey, and an exhilierating nose of citrus from the orange" (source).
  • Shorts Dolly Dagger, $1.99/12oz - "Dolly Dagger harmoniously joins big sweet malt aromatics with signature fruit and spice yeast characteristics. Flavors of toasted grain, caramel, dark fruit, and clove provide a perfect precursor to the substantial bitter contributions from the exclusive use of high-alpha Bravo hops. The end result is a balanced blend of big grain sweetness, intense hop bitterness, and unmistakable yeast qualities" (source).

Video of the Week | Pure Michigan

Here's to the curious.


Friday, December 19, 2014

New Beer Friday, Return of Kevin Edition (Dec 19)

With Steve and staff extra busy in the days leading up to Christmas, we thought this week, rather than bug them for a preamble, we'd repost something the from the vast Buzz archives. Our pick: A post from March 29, 2012, in which former Buzz advice columnist Hey Kevin explains the phenomenon of out-of-season seasonal beer releases. Enjoy!

Doughnut beer: Never out of season
Hey Kevin,

I was in Siciliano's the other day and even though it's March, the spring and even summer beers are out in full force. What gives?

Lem in Cedar Springs

Hey Lem,

You often hear it said that professional brewers and brewery owners march to the beat of their own drum. The out-of-season-seasonal-beer-release is scientific proof that this and similar statements are absolutely true.

We should not attribute the phenomenon solely to the quirkiness of idiosyncratic beer folk, however. What's happening is far more complicated than that, and to pin it all on mere personality traits is shortsighted.

I'll spare you the physics lesson (mostly because I don't know physics), but the appearance of seasonal beers before they're "due" has everything to do with regular (aka seasonal) distortions in the space-time continuum, particularly the way light bends around conical fermenters in the brewhouse. Such bending will often cause brewers and the beer they make to literally catapult back and forth through time, more so in certain "transitional" months of the year. In the simplest terms, the beer we're drinking now doesn't actually exist. It will at some point, but not yet. Follow me?

To date, there is no way for the individual brewer to anticipate or compensate for time travel, neither in his brewing schedule nor his shaving ritual (another reason why professional brewers tend to have such epic beards).

On a grander scale, the relative intensity of time travel is subject to evolving patterns within a 28-year cycle—we've figured that out at least. In other words, the lag between beer and season will grow more and more extreme at a generally predictable rate until summer beers are released in the dead of winter and vice versa. The phenomenon will then reverse itself, wrap back around the calendar and eventually settle for a short time—just a week or two—in a sweet spot, a space where season and beer are paired in perfect harmony.

According to our best calculations, the next projected balance in the seasonal beer release schedule will occur in November 2030, at which time enthusiasts will enjoy harvest and pumpkin beers at their most logical point in years.

Some in the industry have named this event The Great Equilibrium of 2030 and a number of breweries are planning to release special beers to commemorate the occasion. Expect to see them begin to hit shelves in early 2028.

New and Returning Beer

  • Dogfish Head American Beauty, $14.39/750ml (limit 1 per) - "More than 1,500 loyal fans of the brewery and band suggested an ingredient idea and the Dead-inspired story behind it. Our favorite was granola, from California Dead Head and craft beer lover Thomas Butler. “The components of granola – honey, toasted grains, oats and fruit – offer a lot from a beer perspective,” says Thomas, a chemist by day, homebrewer by night. “The idea is to have a bold pale ale that highlights the oats and honey with a nice ‘dank’ hop selection.” American Beauty is brewed with all-American malts and hops, granola and little bit of soul. It’s malty with a big hop kick, and notes of toasted almond and honey round out the flavor profile and balance out the hop bitterness" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Peircing Pils, $2.59/12oz - "A Czech-Style Pilsner brewed with pear juice, pear tea and Saaz hops" (source).
  • Victory Winter Cheers, $1.79/12oz - "A wheat ale, combining German wheat and barley malts, oats, torrified wheat and whole flower Tettnang and Citra hops, this fruity and warming holiday brew delivers a refreshing finish, with spicy hints of banana, clove and citrus" (source).
  • Big Sky Powder Hound, $1.69/12oz - "Powder Hound is our Winter Ale, and since it is our own creation we call it a Northern Rockies Strong Ale. Powder Hound satisfies, with the fine hand selected British hops fully complimenting the smooth malt notes. After a day on the ice or in the snow, enjoy a Powder Hound Winter Ale. Available November through March" (source).
  • Fort Collins Double Chocolate, $3.09/12oz - "The most decadent creation ever to be crafted in FCB’s brewhouse. Deep roasty flavors, rich chocolate nose, coffee undertones and impeccable balance are the result of imperializing an already flawless brew" (source).
  • Lagunitas Imperial Red, $4.79/22oz - "This special ale is in reality, the exhumation of the very first ale we ever brewed way, way back in 1993. Brewed with a big head, a muscular malty thorax, a silky texture and all strung together with a hoppy sweet nerve sack…Ick. A dank and roasty treat. Back again in bombers" (source).
  • Lagunitas Sucks, $7.59/32oz - "Originally brewed in 2011 as a Brown Shugga’ substitute, due to construction-induced capacity issues. But we liked it so much it had to make a return trip" (source).
  • Greenbush Jadis, $1.99/12oz - "A Winter White Ale because what else is Winter? The cold sets in and hangs for months it seems. Everything slows down. Time warps… and you’re covered with a wash of white. Thought I meant winter, didn’t you? Jadis will take you away from winter, even if temporarily" (source).
  • Atwater Winterbock, $1.79/12oz - "This malty, sweet, dark amber colored German-style bock beer is brewed with imported malt and hops. Its uncommon smoothness and impeccable taste make it the perfect companion for a cold night" (source).
  • He'brew Rejewvenator, $8.99/22oz - "Born in California now Reborn in New York - it's a Rejewvenator 2014 - with grape! Concord & Merlot, East Coast West Coast mashup - everyone is a winner" (source).
  • He'brew Reunion, $7.19/22oz - "Shmaltz teams up for the fourth year-in-a-row with Terrapin Beer Company and Alan Shapiro (founder of SBS Imports) to create Reunion Ale ’14, a Dark Imperial Brown Ale Brewed with Toasted Coconut, Cocoa Nibs, Vanilla, Cinnamon and Coffee" (source).
  • Oddside Hop Gobbler, $1.99/12oz - "The hop fairies have taken charge on this extra pale ale. A well balanced ale with loads of flavorful hops" (source).
  • Oddside Beautiful Disaster, $4.89/12oz - "Pale ale aged in red wine barrels" (source).
  • Oddside Red Eye IPA, $2.29/12oz - "A ridiculous rampage of ruthless rowdy hops in a rebellious rusty red ale" (source).
  • Anderson Valley Winter Solstice, $1.99/12oz can - "Each year, when people are starting to unpack their winter clothes and replenish their firewood, our tiny brewery in the coastal redwoods of Northern California makes seasonal preparations of a different kind. As the cold arrives, we release a unique beverage created to add warmth to even the coldest and darkest of winter's days. Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale begins with a very high original gravity to create a hearty and spicy brew with a deep amber hue and a smooth finish. Anderson Valley Brewing Company wishes you the very best for the holiday season and the New Year" (source).
  • Shorts Good Humans, $1.99/12oz - "Good Humans was created to showcase one of Briess Malting Company’s new malt varieties. Originally planned as a one-time thing, it quickly became one of our big successes. Good Humans is a Double Brown Ale made with Carabrown Malt, and then dry hopped with Simcoe hops. The brew has sweet malty esters that are met by huge toasted caramel and toffee flavors. The finish is dry with a bouquet of hops" (source).
  • Southern Tier 2xPresso, $1.99/12oz - "Our 2xStout is considered by many to be a perfect milk stout. We started with that in mind, and added espresso beans and lemon peels for a true Italian style pick-me-up. The result is a stout so black, so rich, so creamy, it’d be at home in a café along a cobblestone street in some neighborhood in Rome. Yet, it’s beer" (source).
  • Shorts Aphasia, $2.19/12oz (limit 2 per) - "A medium bodied dark brown Old Ale with a sizable nose of molasses and alcohol.  Predominantly sweet, with unique flavors of plum, figs, and brown sugar. Further compliments of toasted malt and an increased ABV, aid in a pleasant warming finish" (source).
  • Rouge VooDoo Lemon Chiffon, $14.39/750ml - "Rogue Ales has again collided with Voodoo Doughnut to create Lemon Chiffon Crueller Ale!  This unique artisan creation contains a baker's dozen ingredients including lemon juice, vanilla bean, and marshmallows to match Voodoo's Lemon Chiffon Crueller doughnut" (source).

Video of the Week | Superior Water


Friday, December 12, 2014

New Beer Friday, "Merry Xmas to Me" Edition (Dec 12)

"MerryOldSanta" by Thomas Nast - Edited version of Image:1881 0101 tnast santa 200.jpg.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -
"Any KBS in stock?"
By Steve Siciliano

As soon as I unlocked the door a cherry-red Subaru pulled into the parking lot. An old man with a long white beard got out, hitched his pants up over his considerable midsection, crossed his arms behind his head and had a good stretch. Before walking into the store he replaced his wire-rimmed spectacles with dark glasses and put a red plaid Stormy Kromer on his head.

“What can I help you with,” I asked when he came in.

“Am I the only one here?” he whispered looking around.

“Yes,” I said. “I just opened.”

“Good,” he whispered. “I’m looking for Michigan beer.”

“Well you’ve come to the right place.”

“That’s what I hear,” he whispered and pulled his hat further down on his forehead.

“You don’t have to whisper,” I told him.

“Of course not,” he said. “Can you show me where your Michigan section is? I’m afraid I’m in a bit of a hurry and I’ve got a long drive ahead of me.”

“Where are you from?” I asked him.

“North,” he said.

“Up north?” I asked.

“Way north.”

“The U.P.?”



“Farther yet,” he said.

“Farther than Canada? And you came all this way just to get Michigan beer?’

The old man looked at the five case stack of Breakfast Stout that was sitting in front of the sales counter and smiled.

“Yes I did,” he said. “Merry Christmas to me.”

New and Returning Beer

  • 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).
  • Epic Big Bad Baptist, $12.09/22oz (1 bottle limit) - "It’s Big, it’s Bad, Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, with Coffee and Cocoa Nibs" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Ovila Abbey Quad, $3.29/12.7oz - "Ovila Abbey Quad with plums is heady with aromas of caramel, rich malt, and dark fruit-balanced by the spiciness and delicate fruity notes of a traditional Belgian yeast. This beer features sugar plums grown on the grounds of the Abbey, and harvested by the monks in Vina. We hope you enjoy this collaboration ale" (source).
  • Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball, $4.79/22oz - "Laying there, staring up at the ceiling, head pounding, last night was a dim recollection. How did he get home? Was he alone? Looking to the left and right, the answer was yes, maybe. His head was full of ’rag water, bitters, and the blue ruin’.His teeth felt like he’d been chewing aluminum and his breath smelled like a burning tractor tire. There was a wrenching knot somewhere between his liver and East St. Louis and he couldn’t be sure whether or not he’d wet himself. A yellow sine wave rang in his ears so loud nit made his teeth itch and he was sure that if he touched his skin anywhere it would induce a rhythmic retching jag. Even in the face of all that, he found himself smiling at the realization that today represented the fresh breast of a new year- an undiscovered country- and also there was still one warm, half-full, flat redolent Hairy Eyeball on the nightstand. Yes-there is a God" (source).
  • Abita Wrought Iron IPA, $1.69/12oz - "Abita Wrought Iron® IPA embodies the resilient, indestructible nature of New Orleans. This india pale ale is forged with the intensity of Apollo, Equinox and Mosaic Hops. Brewed with pale ale malt for a golden color as bright as iron from a fiery forge" (source).
  • Abita Grapefruit IPA, $1.69/12oz - "Abita Grapefruit Harvest is a brilliant golden IPA with a subtle zest of grapefruit flavor and aroma that enhances the strong hop character. This bright, snappy brew is made with real Louisiana Ruby-Red grapefruits, pale, pilsner and caramel malts and cascade hops" (source).
  • Short's Dan's Pink Skirt, $1.99/12oz - "Dan’s Pink Skirt is an American IPA brewed with Summit and Simcoe hops. Malt characteristics are mild and practically undetectable in the nose. Dan’s Pink Skirt has pronounced floral and citrus aromas, with a pine resin hop bitterness that attacks the pallet" (source).
  • Short's Thirst Mutilator, $1.69/12oz - "Thirst Mutilator is a light straw-blonde lager with sharp doughy yeast esters that gather atop a perfectly retained head. Kilned barley produces perfect bready and flour-like qualities that blend pleasantly with the beer’s mild hop bitterness. Aided by a wonderful effervescence, these delicate flavors fade into a crisp clean refreshing finish" (source).
  • Green Flash Cedar Plank, $6.19/16.6oz - "This hoppy pale ale starts out as 30th Street Pale Ale and then undergoes Spanish cedar aging. Wood aging imparts an intense cedar aroma which dominates the dry hop. The flavor contributions from the Spanish cedar include peppercorn spiciness and a tannic dry mouth feel that makes the hop flavor and bitterness linger in the finish" (source).
  • Brewery Vivant Wizard Burial Ground, $6.29/16oz - "This Tier 5 Single Batch Release is a Bourbon barrel-aged Quadruple ale. The 2015 release is barrel-aged for one year, it will be packaged in 16oz cans and it comes in at 10.4% ABV" (source).
  • Goose Island Festivity Ale, $1.59/12oz - "Every year we brew a brown ale to celebrate the holidays. To make each year’s special, we alter the recipe. This year we wrapped caramel and dark fruit malt flavors inside a creamy toasty brown ale. May your holidays be filled with Festivity" (source).
  • Arcadia Cocoa Loco Triple Chocolate Stout, $2.69/12oz - "This triple chocolate stout is a unique interpretation of the style, combining three different chocolate malts, cacao nibs and 63 percent semi-sweet chocolate, creating a sinfully delicious brew. The addition of blackstrap molasses produces an earthy, caramelized tone in an already complex flavor profile. It's creamy, milkshake-like mouthfeel earns this beer the reputation of being dessert in glass" (source).
  • Greenbush & Small Bar Mr. Hyde, $2.19/12oz - "Maris otter, biscuit malt, carafa iii, crystal 10l, crystal 60l, crystal 120l, pureed dates" (source).
  • Summit-Harvest Fresh IPA, $2.09/12oz - " Harvest Fresh IPA will be the first beer in the Unchained Series from brewer Tom Mondor. It is an exploration of fresh hops picked at the peak of the fall harvest and shipped directly to Summit. Some of these hops will be fresh hop pellets from Roy Farms, pelletized fresh off the kiln floor. This process leaves more wonderful hop oils intact than complete drying and results in more hop character in the finished beer. These fresh pellets will include Centennial, Cascade and Chinook. It will also be brewed with super-fresh, whole-cone Chinook wet hops from Michigan" (source).
  • O'Fallon Cherry Chocolate, $2.09/12oz - "A dark wheat beer that tastes like a chocolate covered cherry…only better! Voted Best Overall Beer at the 2004 Ninth Annual International Beer Fest in Springfield, MO" (source).
  • Einbecher Winter Bock, $2.69/11.2oz - "Doppelbock. Das Einbecker Brauhaus erweitert mit dem neuen Einbecker Winter-Bock sein Sortiment. Die saisonale Bockbierspezialität in der traditionellen Exklusivflasche startet im Oktober 2008 in limitierter Auflage. Einbecker Winter-Bock wird dann für kurze Zeit im Handel und bei ausgewählten Gastronomiepartnern zu haben sein" (source).
  • Left Hand Fade to Black (Foreign Export Stout), $2.09/12oz - "2013 & 2010 Gold Medal Winner at the Great American Beer Festival in the Foreign Stout category. That time of year when the day seems to fade away. Drifting further into the darkness with each passing day. Volume 1 - Foreign Stout - Pours black with licorice, espresso bean, molasses, and black cardamom notes that give way to a feeling of self loathing, burnt opportunities and smoked relationships" (source).
  • Southern Tier Choklat, $9.29/22oz (1 bottle limit) - "At Southern Tier, we’re not surprised that hieroglyphs of the ancient Maya depict chocolate being poured for rulers and gods. Even through the many voyages of Columbus, the mystical bean remained nothing more than a strange currency of the native peoples. Moving through centuries, the circular journey of cacao has been realized in our brewing house, encompassing the complexity of the darkest, bitter-sweet candy together with the original frothy cold beverage of the ancient Maya to bring to you our Blackwater Series Choklat Stout. We have combined the finest ingredients to tempt your senses & renew the power & interrelation of history in every bottle" (source).
  • Oddside Sinister Vertigo, $2.59/12oz (2 bottle limit) - "A spunky imperial stout" (source).

Video of the Week | Hopcat Detroit

Congrats to our pals at Hopcat who are opening their Detroit location this weekend.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Keeping it Simple: Let's Make Hard Cider!

Pure hard cider. Boom.
Former Siciliano's employee and longtime friend Sarah McGrath checks in with this great recipe for making hard cider. 

By Sarah McGrath

Hard cider is possibly the easiest fermented beverage to make. If you've never made cider, now is the time! It doesn't require pressing grapes, mashing grain or boiling wort. All you need is a couple of fermenters, some fresh cider, some siphon tubing and an airlock—most of which you'll find at Siciliano's (you'll have to look elsewhere for fresh/raw cider). Since fall and winter are the traditional times for pressing apples, now is the perfect season to start a batch.

There are a number of fancy things you can do to cider, which are a lot of fun, but I also like to keep it simple. This recipe makes a dry (not sweet), still (not carbonated) cider without added fermentables (like sugar or honey) or flavorings (like oak or bourbon barrel).

And it tastes great!

Equipment List

    • 2 fermenters (one 6.5-gallon ale pail plus lid and one 5-gallon carboy OR one 6.5-gallon carboy and one 5-gallon carboy)
    • 1 rubber stopper and airlock
    • Sanitizer (I like Iodophor)
    • Siphon hose (or even better, buy an autosiphon!)
    • Bottles/caps/capper OR wine bottles/corks/corked

Ingredient List

    • 5 gallons fresh cider without preservatives
    • Pectic enzyme (optional)
    • Wine yeast
    • Campden tablets

Basic Instructions

  1. Sanitize everything
  2. Combine cider, campden and pectic enzyme
  3. Wait 24 hours, then add yeast
  4. Transfer cider to secondary fermenter when fermentation slows (about 1 week)
  5. Bottle when fermentation stops and cider fully clears (about 2 weeks)
  6. Age 6 months or longer if you can wait that long.
  7. Enjoy!

Full Instructions

For starters, always make sure that any equipment that comes in contact with your cider is cleaned and sanitized. You can clean equipment with warm water and dish soap or buy a brewery grade cleanser like EZ Clean or One Step. For a sanitizer, I like Iodophor. Cleaning removes any surface dirt. Sanitizing eliminates bacteria that could spoil your cider. Remember: You can't sanitize dirt! Clean your equipment first!

You can use a 6.5-gallon ale pail (plastic) or a 6.5-gallon carboy (glass). Both work fine. Even though you're making 5 gallons of cider, you need that extra headspace for the foam that accumulates when the fermentation gets going.

Once your bucket or carboy is clean and sanitized, add your cider, pectic enzyme and crushed campden tablets (1/2 tablet per gallon). Then close up your fermenter with a lid and airlock if you're using an ale pail or with a stopper and airlock if you're using a carboy. The cider MUST not contain preservatives, like sorbates, or it will not ferment. That rules out most grocery store cider. Locally, you can get fresh cider from Hill Brothers, Klein or Engelsma orchards. If you're making a lot of cider, it is much cheaper to buy it in bulk. Many orchards are happy to fill your fermenters directly, saving them the trouble and expense of filling gallon jugs.

The pectic enzyme is optional. It ensures that the pectin from the apples won't make your cider hazy. If you don't care about hazy cider (the haze is aesthetic; it doesn't affect the taste), leave the enzyme out. If your cider is raw (not pasteurized), then haze shouldn't be a problem anyway. The campden tablets help ensure a clean fermentation by suppressing bacteria that could turn your hard cider into cider vinegar.

Now you must wait 24 hours for the campden tablets to work. Then add your yeast. Any wine yeast (and most beer yeasts) will work. There are also specialty cider yeasts available (White Labs makes a couple kinds). I like Lalvin's KIV-1116. It's fun to make several batches that are identical other than the yeast strain. That way, you can taste the effect of different yeasts and decide which you like best.

Keep the cider around room temperature, and in a day or two you will see it begin to ferment. You can see small bubbles rising and often, though not always, a foamy head will form. After about a week, depending on the temperature, the fermentation will start to slow and the yeast will begin to fall out of suspension and accumulate at the bottom of the fermenter. If you're doing your initial (primary) fermentation in a carboy you can see this accumulation. Now is the time to transfer (rack) your cider to your secondary fermenter, which has to be a carboy since it excludes oxygen better than an ale pail. You can't just pour the cider from one container to another, you have to siphon it off with a hose in order to leave those dead yeast cells on the bottom of the fermenter behind.

Siphoning is easiest with an auto siphon, which I highly recommend. You can also use a racking cane or plain hose, but, whatever you do, don't use your mouth, and keep everything sanitized! Keep your cider in the secondary fermenter at least until it clears. Then bottle it using your preferred setup. Again, everything must be sanitized first.

Alternatively, you can "bulk age" your cider in the secondary fermenter until you are ready to bottle. Although you can bottle straight from the secondary, bottling is easiest with a bottling bucket, which is just an ale pail with a spigot. Siphon the cider into the ale pail, add another crushed campden tablet, and fill bottles directly from the spigot. I use wine bottles and corks because I have a nice corker. If you don't, it is easiest to fill beer bottles and cap them with an inexpensive capper. The cider can be consumed at any time, but is generally best if you age it for at least 6 months. The more acidic the cider, the longer it takes to mellow. If you bulk age the cider in the secondary, allow at least two weeks in the bottle for the cider to settle. I'm not sure what chemical reactions are behind this process, but the flavor changes perceptibly.

The author with cider
And finally, enjoy!

Editor's Note: You'll find everything you need to make a batch of hard cider—except raw juice—at Siciliano's Market. Contact any one of the many cider houses around West Michigan for raw cider availability. Cheers!

Friday, December 5, 2014

New Beer Friday, KD aLe Edition (Dec 5)

Professor Edward Long
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

This winter the Kent District Library (KDL) is reprising its popular KD aLe program, a series of classes, presentations and events focusing on the enriching hobby of homebrewing and the appreciation of hand-crafted beer.

Siciliano’s staffer Edward Long and local homebrewer Matt Ross are teaming up to give the program’s Beer Making 101 classes at various Kent District Library locations. In addition to the series of beermaking seminars, the KD aLe program is also providing folks the opportunity to sign up for beer tastings, tours and informational presentations at local breweries.

The program’s introductory beermaking classes are free of charge and no registration is required. Dates, times and venues for the Beermaking 101 classes are as follows:

    • Monday, December 8, 6:30 PM: Sand Lake/ Nelson Twp. Branch
    • Thursday, January 15, 6:00 PM: Byron Twp. Branch
    • Tuesday, January 20, 6:00 PM: Caledonia Twp. Branch
    • Thursday, January 22, 6:00 PM: East Grand Rapids Branch
    • Tuesday, January 27, 6:30 PM: Tyrone Twp. Branch
    • Wednesday, February 11, 6:00 PM: Wyoming Branch
    • Thursday, February 19, 6:30 PM: Comstock Park Branch
Click here for a complete listing of the KD aLe program’s events.

In other news, it seems that we just can’t stop tweaking the layout of our brick and mortar store. We recently acquired a number of shiny new chrome-plated racks which are now being used to display our constantly expanding inventory of winemaking ingredients kits. Just a reminder that this Sunday, December 7, is the deadline to submit preorders for this year’s excellent lineup of Winexpert’s Limited Edition kits. Click here for complete details including descriptions and pricing for the 2014 Limited Edition offerings.

New and Returning Beer

  • Black Rocks North Third Stout, $1.99/12oz - "A beauty of a Foreign Extra Stout, full of roasted malt/chocolate flavors. Unlike many other winter stouts that can get a bit unruly, the North Third is very drinkable and smooth (so have a few)" (source).
  • Jolly Pumpkin IO Saison, $15.49/22oz - "Ale brewed with rose hips, rose petals and hibiscus" (source).
  • Perrin Kill 'Em All, $17.19/22oz - A Russian Imperial Stout aged in Van Winkle family bourbon barrels (source).
  • Perrin With Kindness, $17.19/22oz - An English-style Barley Wine aged in Van Winkle family bourbon barrels (source).
  • North Peak Blitzen Festivus Ale, $1.89/12oz - "North Peak Blitzen is a Festivus Ale with raisin, current and berry notes attributed to Bramling Cross hops, 3 types of Crystal malts, Cara and Chocolate malt. A combination of citrus peel and citrus pith flavors are accented by the Hercules, Cascade and Pilgrim hops added throughout the boil. Riwakas’ subtle spiciness in combination with the crisp spiciness from the Rye malt liberates flavors reminiscent of savory holiday cakes. This is a well balanced, rich, Festivus Ale that will warm the palate and soul, awakening memories of holidays past. It is brewed in Traverse City, MI, on Old Mission Peninsula incorporating locally grown hops" (source).
  • Southern Tier Tripel Cafe, $8.99/22oz - "In this beer, we wanted to experiment with green coffee beans. The unroasted coffee beans bring a light coffee bitterness to compliment the citrusy hops, spicy phenols, and yeasty floral esters. Tripel Café is light, with a delicate body and a rounded, soft bitterness. Classic Belgian lacing gives way to pale straw color and highly effervescent mouthfeel" (source).

Review: Forty Creek Barrel Select Whisky

Available now at Siciliano's, $20.99/750ml.
Review courtesy of the Driveling Dorda and friends.