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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Used Whiskey Barrels, Available Now at Siciliano's

Brace yourselves, folks. Barrels are back at Siciliano’s — for a limited time.

By Joe Potter

KBS. Bourbon County. Dragon’s Milk. No Rules — You know the beers. You know you want to clone them. Now, here’s your chance.

By a stroke of luck, Siciliano’s has acquired a very limited quantity of ex-whiskey barrels, retired by Journeyman Distillery of Three Oaks and Breuckelen Distilling of NYC. The barrels are 15 and 25 gallons in size, and are available for $175 on a first-come-first-serve basis.

However, if you’re like me, before you go out and drop $175, you want a little background info on barrels and what to expect:

First off, these barrels will need to be rehydrated before their first use. When a barrel is empty, the wood dries out and shrinks, causing leaks. When filled, the wood swells and the barrel becomes watertight again. To rehydrate a barrel, you can take it outside and fill it with clean water for a day, being sure to periodically replace water lost to leaking, evaporation or absorption by the wood. Alternatively, hot water can be used to speed up the process. If you don’t intend to fill the barrel with beer right away, a holding solution of 0.6 oz citric acid and 2 oz potassium metabisulfite (both available at Siciliano's) per gallon can be used to keep the barrel wet and promote sterility.  

Secondly, these are charred barrels that have previously housed cask-strength distillate of ~120 proof. This means they (theoretically) are sterile and free of any funkifying microorganisms.
However, if you would like to sanitize the barrel prior to use, I would strongly advise AGAINST using a burning sulfur stick (which is a common practice for treating wine barrels). The extremely high proof of the spirit leaves flammable alcohol vapors inside the barrel, and exposing them to an open flame could effectively create a bomb. If you do feel the need to clean and sanitize the barrel before use, I’d recommend a liquid-based method such as Barolkleen and Star San to avoid an explosion/fire/great personal harm.

Third, it’s important to note that barrels do have a shelf life (sort of, depending on what you’re into). Many homebrewers find that after one to three uses of a retired barrel, the beer stops pulling spirit character. Imparted oakiness will also diminish with use. Further, even with regular cleaning and sanitation between batches, many homebrewers note a perceptible tartness in their beer after a few barrel fills. This is due to wild yeast and bacteria which have begun to take hold inside the cask. It is, therefore, a common practice to age one or two “clean” beers in the barrel before retiring it as a souring vessel. If you’re a sour fan, that’s great news — you can get a couple batches of BBA beers and then continue to use the barrel for your funky beers. If you’re not into funk, sell your barrel to someone who is when you no longer have use for it. Everybody wins!

(At this point, a curious homebrewer might ask, “Isn’t it possible, that once a barrel stops imparting spirit flavor, one could simply refill it with high proof whiskey, replenishing its spirit character and wiping out any souring microbes harbored inside?” My answer is, “I think so?” It seems to me that it would be possible to “refurbish” a barrel by refilling it with distillate, but unless you or someone you know is running a still, that could prove expensive and impractical.)
A barrel-ager should also be aware that liquid can be lost from the inside of a cask due to evaporation and absorption by the wood. A practice called “topping up” is required to refill the lost space inside the barrel in order to prevent oxidation. A similar beer should be used for this, or you may even experiment with using a cheap whiskey. One could even employ a sort of solera system where, for example, five gallons of beer are removed from the barrel for consumption/bottling and 6 gallons of freshly brewed beer enter for aging. This mixing of both old and new is common for sherries and ports.

One final note: with these barrels being smaller than the standard 55-gallon cask used in most commercial operations, the ratio of barrel surface area to volume is much higher. This means that barrel will impart spirit and wood characters much more quickly (as little as a few months), and frequent sampling should be performed to avoid overdoing it.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Brew on.

Friday, April 29, 2016

New Beer Friday, Hinting at a Winner Edition (April 29)

Judges, judging.
West Michigan Homebrewer is Best-of-Show Winner in 2016 Siciliano’s Competition. Story by roving freelance reporter Joseph P. Sprinklehead.

A West Michigan homebrewer has won Best of Show (BOS) in the Thirteenth Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Competition according to an unnamed source involved in the competition’s judging last Saturday at the Guest House in Grand Rapids. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the source told this reporter that the 2016 winner of the Siciliano’s Cup resides in West Michigan and is very active in the local homebrewing community.

“I’m sorry but I can’t tell you anything more than that. I can't give you a name,” the source recently told me over a few beers at Trail Point Brewing Company, looking nervously over his shoulder from time to time. “There will be hell to pay if The Boss finds out I talked to you.”

Stewards, stewarding.
Siciliano’s Market owner and competition organizer Steve Siciliano wouldn’t confirm or deny the information but did agree to provide some details about the 2016 competition. Out of the 172 entries submitted, a total of 121 were awarded medals with the breakdown as follows: 21 gold, 38 silver and 62 bronze.

“It was a strong competition,” Siciliano said. “There were some very high scores and the BOS round was very close. Folks will just have to wait until the party to find out who won the Cup.” The BOS winner will also have the opportunity to brew on Trail Point’s seven-barrel system and will receive a $500.00 gift card from Siciliano’s Market.

The awards ceremony and the presentation of the Siciliano’s Cup will be the highlight of the Thirteenth Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Party on Saturday, May 21 at Johnson Park. Tickets are $45.00 and must be purchased in advance at the store or with a credit card over the phone by calling 616-453-9674.

Homebrew, homebrewing.

New and Returning Beers

  • Texas Corners 1st Anniversary Ale, $9.99/22oz - "Double IPA crafted for our 1 year Anniversary. Brewed with Amarillo, Citra, and Mosaic hops lending tropical fruit tones" (source).
  • Green Flash Cosmic Ristretto, $8.49/22oz - "Live long and drink Cosmic Ristretto. This highly revered brew will go down in history as one of the first graduates of our Genius Lab program into our front line. Marvel at its rich black appearance with bruleed edges and mocha-colored beer foam. Breathe in its coffee aroma and sweet malts, and savor its smooth, espresso, chocolate flavor. Don’t fight its gravitational pull. This bold, complex, java-centric Baltic Porter with Espresso is irresistible. Houston, we have a problem, my glass is empty" (source).
  • Shipyard Blood Orange Wit, $1.99/12oz - "Shipyard Blood Orange is a crisp, refreshing Belgian style wheat ale with a subtle orange aroma and hints of coriander and citrus on the finish" (source).
  • Shipyard Blue Fin Stout, $1.99/12oz - "A classic Irish stout.  Full-bodied yet smooth and spectacular in appearance" (source).
  • Shipyard Melon Head, $1.99/12oz - "This beer is a crisp, quenching wheat ale with a refreshing essence of fresh watermelon" (source).
  • Shipyard Monkey Fist, $1.99/12oz - "Shipyard Monkey Fist IPA is edgy, aggressive and unique in style.  This beer is brilliant copper in color and exploding with flavorful hop character but able to maintain a beautiful balance" (source).
  • Shipyard Smashed Blueberry, $2.99/12oz - "A hybrid between a Porter and a Scotch Ale, this beer has a rich mouth feel and a body of complex intensity.  Up front, there are notes of coffee and chocolate; beautifully accentuated by the aroma of blueberries.  The finish features a delicate balance of sweet fruit and dry hops.  To fully experience all the flavors, this beer is best enjoyed at 55 degrees Fahrenheit" (source).
  • Stone Encore 6th Anniversary, $8.59/22oz - "We celebrated our first five years in business by releasing anniversary India pale ales, with each subsequent IPA brewed to be hoppier and more intense than the previous. For our 6th anniversary in 2002, we extended this concept by making an intensified version of Stone Smoked Porter. We cranked up the malts and hops a notch or three and conditioned it on French and American oak, which accentuated our porter’s distinctive smokiness and amplified its chocolate and roast coffee flavors while also adding subtle notes of toffee, cherries, dried berries and vanilla. We’re proud to give those who missed out—as well as those who didn’t—a fresh shot at experiencing this smoky, dark-as-night wonder" (source).
  • Shiner Prickly Pear, $1.69/12oz - "Doubly good in triple digits, our unique summer seasonal is made with the fruit of the prickly pear, a cactus native to Shiner, Texas. With a tart, citrusy flavor and a crisp finish, it’s the best use of cactus yet" (source).
  • Shiner Wicked Ram IPA, $1.69/12oz - "Over the past hundred years, our brewers have certainly engaged in their fair share of mischief. This beer, however - our first India Pale Ale - has taken a dose of wickedness to brew. Starting with 2-row, caramel, and wheat malts, which provide a bright copper color and fuller body, we then add Crystal and Bravo hops for aroma and a classic IPA bite. We finish it off by dry hopping with Centennials for an even more aromatic flavor" (source).
  • New Belgium Heavy Melon, $1.69/12oz - "Hot summer nights, jam out to the cooling waves of Heavy Melon Ale, our newest seasonal track. Brewed with juicy watermelon and zesty lime peel, this crushable ale rips with a blast of melon notes. Ripened fruit aromas of melon, papaya and citrus climax with an enticing aroma, and set up an invigorating wash of fruity sweetness, grassy bitterness and the slightest touch of tartness. Super crisp and refreshing from start to finish, Heavy Melon Ale shreds through the summer heat" (source).
  • Big Sky Shake A Day, $1.69/12oz - "This beer is Big Sky’s interpretation of an American IPA (BJCP 21A).  It’s a hoppy, bitter, strong pale ale showcasing some of our favorite hop varieties.  The balance of this beer is definitely hop-forward with just enough malt to support the aggressive hopping rates.  We used Simcoe, Cascade and Galaxy hops throughout the process at a rate of 3lb/bbl imparting aromas of citrus, pine and tropical fruit.  The base is a combination of Pale 2-row and light Munich malt for a subtle grainy-malt flavor with a clean, dry finish.  Fermented with an American yeast strain, this beer was a true departure from our regular brand portfolio" (source).
  • Rogue 4 Hop IPA, $2.09/12oz - "An approachable and aromatic session IPA" (source).
  • Rogue 7 Hop IPA, $2.59/12oz - "A bold and balanced IPA" (source).
  • Abita Bourbon Street Coffee Stout, $9.29/22oz - "Bourbon Street Stout is an Imperial Stout that is aged in small batch bourbon barrels. Our Imperial Stout is brewed with a combination of pale, caramel, chocolate and roasted malts. Oats are also added to give the beer a fuller and sweeter taste. The roasted malts give the beer its dark color as well as its intense flavor and aroma. After fermentation the beer is cold aged for 6 weeks. This is necessary for all of the flavors of the malt and hops to balance and produce a very smooth flavor. After the cold aging the beer is transferred into the bourbon barrels. It is then aged for another 8 weeks to absorb all of the flavors from the barrels. The result is a stout that brings out the roasted flavors from the malt and the warming toasted, vanilla, and bourbon flavors" (source).
  • Odd Side Havana Lime, $1.99/12oz - "Ale with lime and habanero added" (source).

Video of the Week | Bell's Brewery

Brace yourselves — Summer is coming.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Anchorage Brewing Company Whiteout Wit

Review by Matt Ross

To pick up where we left off with Anchorage Brewing, I present my review of their Whiteout Wit. Traditionally this is a pretty straight-forward style that thrives on subtly: pilsner and wheat malt, conservative hop additions and wit yeast. Spices are optional. Anchorage took these basic guidelines and indulged in all departments. They added lemon peel, coriander and black peppercorn. They also added brettanomyces. It is aged in French oak Chardonnay barrels. It is also 6.5% ABV. Up front it seems like there is a lot going on.

The first thing you notice is the pour. This beer is very carbonated. Pleasantly carbonated. The color is stunning. It is a beautiful hazy pale straw in color. The aroma is subtle but dramatic. If you are not paying much attention it would be easy to overlook. Up front it had a wonderful bright sour pineapple from the brett. Upon closer investigation I found earthy and mild citrus character mixed with white wine. The first sip was a roller coaster. For everything that was put into this beer I was shocked at how well it was balanced. The brett was not too tart. You could taste each spice’s unique addition. Overall I found this beer to be incredibly quaffable and fun to drink.

Witbier is a style that is notoriously tough to make well. In my opinion Anchorage knocked this one out of the park. They did their own take on a classic and it paid off. This is a great beer for sitting on the porch and watching time pass with friends. Siciliano’s is currently selling the Whiteout Wit in 750-ml bottles for $14.39 while supplies last. Despite this beer referencing a “whiteout,” it is perfect for shaking off the cobwebs from winter hibernation and to welcome spring. Brew on.

Friday, April 22, 2016

New Beer Friday, Siciliano's Cup Edition (April 22)

The Siciliano's Cup
By Steve Siciliano

Tomorrow a group of BJCP-certified judges, commercial brewers and industry professionals will gather at the Guest House in Grand Rapids to judge the 172 entries that were submitted in the 13th Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Competition. Each of those entries will be evaluated according to BJCP style guidelines, many will be awarded gold, silver or bronze medals, and the name of another Best of Show winner will be added to the Siciliano’s Cup. The BOS winner will also have the opportunity to brew the winning recipe on Trail Point Brewery’s seven-barrel system and will receive a $500.00 gift card from Siciliano’s Market.

The awards ceremony and the presentation of the Siciliano’s Cup will be the highlight of the 13th Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Party on Saturday, May 21, at Johnson Park. If you entered the competition but will not be attending the party you may pick up your score sheet (and medal) at Siciliano’s Market beginning on Sunday, May 22. If you live outside of the Grand Rapids area and would like your score sheet and medal mailed to you, contact me at this address:

Tickets for the 13th Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Party are $45.00 and may be purchased in person at the store or with a credit card over the phone by calling 616-453-9674.

In other news, everything is set for the Fourth Annual Beer City Big Brew on the Calder sponsored by Siciliano’s Market, Coldbreak Brewing and Gravel Bottom Brewery & Supply. On Saturday, May 7, forty-eight teams of homebrewers will be brewing up batches of Beer City Saison on the Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Samples of homebrew will be available for those who have attained the legal drinking age and food will be available for purchase from Patty Matters food truck. The Big Brew event is free of charge and is open to the public. Watch the video below for more information.

Finally, we have a few hop rhizomes left from this year’s pre-order that we are selling on a first come first serve basis for $5.00 each. Call 616-453-9674 for the specific varieties.

New and Returning Beer

  • Founders Palm Reader Pale Ale, $1.79/12oz - "Palm Reader is made with Michigan-grown Crystal and Zuper-Saazer hops. Derived from Saaz, a traditional noble hop hailing from the Czech Republic, these Zuper-Saazer hops, grown locally at Hop Head Farms, impart intense and fruity aromas. Combined with the citrus notes of the Crystal hops and the simple malt bill, this beer is crisp, bright and delicious" (source).
  • Alaskan Kicker Session IPA, $1.69/12oz - "Inspired by 24 hours of daylight, Kicker Session IPA is an anytime brew with fruity Citra and Amarillo hops and a burst of bright citrus Simcoe hop aroma" (source).
  • Left Hand Good Juju, $2.09/12oz - "Fresh ginger kisses the lithe malty body, copulating with the hop in this pale ale ancestor. Emancipate yourself from the dead of winter, none but the vernal equinox can free the light. A refreshing frivolity. Hey mon. Shuccha fwangaa! Better a witch doctor than a trouble maker. Quit yor’ bitchin’ an’ get to witchin'" (source).
  • Southern Tier Three Citrus Peel Out, $7.79/22oz - "3 Citrus Peel Out is an Imperial Wheat Ale brewed with blood orange juice, tangerine and grapefruit peels. 3 Citrus Peel Out is the newest in the company’s seasonal Imperial Series. It features an 8.5% ABV, a grain bill consisting of 35% wheat, CTZ & Mosaic hops and a walloping amount of citrus. Over four and a half pounds of tangerine & grapefruit peel per barrel accompany tropical flavors from Mosaic hops and an added boost of blood orange juice during fermentation. This refreshing brew sits around 30 IBU and its nice citrus pith complements the bitterness. Residual sweetness helps accentuate the fruity character and masks the 8.5% ABV well" (source).
  • Lagunitas Lucky 13, $2.19/12oz - "An ultra-mega-mondo red ale first made for our anniversary in 2006 to celebrate thirteen years of brewing ultra-mega-mondo ales" (source).
  • Odd Side Chilling The Most, $1.99/12oz - "Dry hopped lager" (source).
  • Odd Side Troll Toll, $1.99/12oz - "Session IPA brewed with lactose" (source).
  • Short's Melt Your Brain, $1.99/12oz - "Melt My Brain is an experimental Golden Ale brewed with coriander, juniper berries, limes and blended with Short’s made tonic water to create the tasting experience of drinking a gin and tonic cocktail. Delicate aromas of citrus and pine flow into bold bright flavors of sweet lime with a slightly sticky bitterness. Refreshing and clean, a tasty tonic effervescence provokes the palate for more" (source).

Video of the Week | Big Brew News


R.I.P. Prince

Monday, April 18, 2016

Brew of the Month, April Edition: Spencer's Spring Porter

By Max Spencer

To me, spring is about earth. I cherish when the wind first carries the scent of wet dirt and the herbaceous aroma of freshly emerged plants every year. With the first days of spring here I wanted to create a beer that I felt embodied the primal essence of the season. After a fair amount of deliberation, I decided to make a dry porter with mint and star anise in honor of spring.

While mint is primarily used in winter beers, I feel it is more appropriate in a springtime ale. In addition to a cooling sensation on the palate, fresh mint adds a lot of herbaceous flavors beyond the one-note taste found in mint gums and toothpastes. Star anise adds another layer of complexity by providing earthy and spicy tones reminiscent of licorice or fennel.

The resulting brew poured opaque dark brown with a solid beige head. The mint and anise dominated the nose, lending the pleasant spice and earth tones I was looking for. Anise and chocolate flavors from the malt kicked off the palate, finishing strong with bold herb and spice notes derived from the mint. The body was dry and effervescent from the addition of honey, which I felt was appropriate in attempting to illicit the effect of a cool spring breeze. I enjoyed this brew and the process of designing it. The mint and anise worked great together and added a level of complexity without taking away from the beer itself.

All Grain ($38.87)

    • 5 lbs. of Munton’s Maris Otter
    • 5 lbs. of Breiss Pale 2-Row 
    • 1 lbs. of Crisp Pale Chocolate
    • 0.7 lbs. of Breiss Caramel 60°L
    • 0.5 lbs. of Breiss Chocolate 
    • 1 lbs. of Non-Pasteurized Honey

Extract w/ Specialty Grains ($39.26)

    • 5 lbs. Breiss Pilsen Light LME
    • 1.5 lbs. Breiss Amber LME
    • 0.8 lbs. of Crisp Pale Chocolate
    • 0.6 lbs. of Breiss Caramel 60°L
    • 0.5 lbs. of Breiss Chocolate 
    • 1 lbs. of Non-Pasteurized Honey

Boil / Hops

    • 0.25 oz U.K. Challenger @ 60 minutes
    • 0.5 oz U.K. Challenger @ 30 minutes
    • 0.75 oz U.K. Challenger @ 15 minutes
    • 0.5 oz U.K. Challenger @ 5 minutes
    • 2 oz fresh mint @ 5 minutes
    • 2 oz star anise @ 5 minutes
I preferred the beer as is without extracts, but if the two ounces of mint and anise are not enough for your own tastes I would recommend using the anise and/or spearmint extracts from Beanilla ($7.59 each). Be careful when adding these extracts as a little goes a LONG way. I suggest investing in a pipette ($0.99) and adding a few drops at a time followed by a gentle stir until it tastes how you want it.

The staff at Siciliano's is always eager to answer your homebrewing questions. Stop by for help developing custom-made recipes like this one!

Friday, April 15, 2016

New Beer Friday, Bottle Some Delicious Edition (April 15)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

Winexpert has announced that two new port-style wines are being added to the company’s portfolio of seasonal releases. Peppermint Mocha and Red Velvet are the latest offerings in the company’s popular dessert wine category and will debut with perennial favorite Chocolate Raspberry in special releases this fall.

Each of these three gallon kits will retail for $109.00 and are available only on a pre-order basis. Orders may be placed in person at Siciliano’s Market, by calling 616-453-9674 or via email at this address. Deadline for ordering is Tuesday, May 10th.

Descriptions for the 2016 Winexpert dessert wine offerings are as follows.

    • Chocolate Raspberry Dessert Wine: Warm cherries and plums are supported by a racy zing of bright raspberry and luscious chocolate.
    • Peppermint Mocha Dessert Wine: Dark chocolate and cool peppermint blend seamlessly with the rich coffee notes and dark fruit.
    • Red Velvet Dessert Wine: Rich and velvety notes of dark berry with a hint of moist sponge cake enveloped in decadent cocoa.


The Siciliano’s Homebrew Party will be held this year on Saturday, May 21, from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the enclosed shelter at Johnson Park. Tickets are $45.00 and are now on sale. Seating is limited so if you plan on attending one of Beer City USA’s most popular homebrewing events you are encouraged to reserve your spot early.

We have been busy making final preparations for the Fourth Annual Beer City Big Brew on the Calder. On Saturday, May 7, forty-nine teams of homebrewers will be brewing batches of “Beer City Saison” on the Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Beer City Big Brew on the Calder, sponsored by Siciliano’s Market, Coldbreak Brewing and Gravel Bottom Brewery & Supply, is free of charge and open to the public.

We have a few hop rhizomes left from this year’s pre-order that we are selling on a first-come first-serve basis for $5.00 each. Call 616-453-9674 for the specific varieties.

New and Returning Beer

  • Bell's Oatsmobile, $1.79/12oz - "Aromatic. Approachable. Unique. Intriguing. Happy-go-lucky. Full-bodied. And we’re not just talking about the horse. This hop-forward session pale ale uses a blend of classic and modern Pacific Northwest hops, including Mosaic, Equinox and Glacier, for a pungent blend of peach, mango and tropical aromas. The signature ingredient - oats - are what makes Oatsmobile Ale stand apart, and gives it a body that you don’t see in most other session Pale Ales" (source).
  • Griffin Claw Clubhouse, $2.19/16oz - "In addition to their line of signature favorites, Griffin Claw is now making something super special for baseball season. Their Clubhouse Cream Ale, a new brew concocted in honor of our home team, will be available in cans inside Comerica Park all season long" (source).
  • New Holland Dragon's Milk Chocolate Coffee, $4.29/12oz (4 per) - "“Indulgence” is Dragon’s Milk aged with coffee and chocolate. Rich, indulgent chocolate flavors are seductively punctuated with dark and roasty coffee bitterness" (source).
  • New Holland Incorrigible, $5.49/22oz (1 per) - "Incorrigible celebrates the beauty of mischief. Wild yeasts and bacteria run free in our sour-aging cellar, the House of Funk, creating vibrant sour and acidic character in this delicate, yet complex wheat beer. The refreshingly tart session beer will tease your palate with a subtle, layered nuance" (source).
  • Saugatuck Daze on Saison, $1.79/12oz - "Go to a whole new dimension with this off the wall Farmhouse Ale. Dry hopped with copious amounts of Mandarina & Mosaic hops for an interesting twist" (source).
  • Moosehead Raddler, $13.99/12pk - "A hugely popular beer-based mixed drink in Eastern Europe, Radlers are seen as an incredibly refreshing alternative for beer drinkers looking to try something new. Moose Light Radler is Moosehead’s take on the traditional Radler - a recipe developed using award winning light lager infused with a hit of natural fruit flavours" (source).
  • B. Nektar Tuco-Style Freakout, $8.19/500ml - "Tart lime engulfs the tongue followed by a creamy sweetness of honey and agave. Medium bodied with a lime pith bitterness on the semi-dry finish. A zip of acidity adds to the wonderful balance of the sweet, tart, and bitter flavors" (source).
  • B. Nektar Stupid Man Suit, $8.19/500ml - "Crisp apple and cherry forward. The sides of the tongue garner the tartness of dry apple and unripened berries while a mild sweetness rounds and balances. Medium body with a dry, refreshing finish" (source).
  • Abita Shotgun IPA, $4.69/22oz - "The shotgun house is a New Orleans classic. Fire a shotgun through the front door and it will pass out the back door and never touch a wall... or so the story goes. Shotgun Double IPA is wall-to-wall hops with plenty of pale malt. First hopped in the brewhouse with multiple varieties, including Amarillo, then dry hopped with Simcoe, Sitra and Cascade. A blast of intense flavors and aromas of pine, citrus and tropical fruit" (source).
  • Boulevard Heavy Lifting IPA, $1.69/12oz - "Heavy Lifting is our newest year-round beer based on our popular Tasting Room beer Mid-Coast IPA. Mid-Coast became a favorite among hopheads for its big, bold hop presence. Heavy Lifting takes that legacy further in fine style, exploding with flavor and a huge helping of five remarkably zesty and piney hops" (source).
  • Boulevard Sixth Glass, $9.99/750ml - "Our quadrupel ale, also meant for the mature connoisseur, is a deep and mysterious libation, dark auburn and full-bodied, its sweetness deceptive" (source).

Video of the Week | Bell's Oatsmobile

Now available at Siciliano's.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Mellow Corn Straight Corn Whiskey Review

In a mellow mood
By John Barecki

Corn plays an integral role in the world of whisk(e)y, helping create well-known flavors in American sprits thanks to its high utilization in Bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and the evolving moonshine category. The use of this grain is also explored on the soil of many other countries including Japan, Scotland, Ireland and South Africa.

The flavors and aromas of corn whiskies can range from sweet and creamy to earthy and savory. They open your palate to what one integral part of the whole can do and they allow you to experience the multiple facets of a single grain. Mellow Corn is an interesting example of the effect corn can have on its own and also teaches your tongue to recognize its flavors in whiskeys you taste later on. 

One other reason you should think about trying Mellow Corn is that it is bottled in bond. The Bottled in Bond Act was created to ward off imposters in the early days of American distillation and continues today. In short it is a set of rules enacted in 1897 that must be followed while producing whiskey. The spirit must be made from one distillation season, by one distiller at one distillery. The spirit must also be aged in a bonded warehouse (under U.S. government supervision) for no less than four years. Outside of adding water to proof down the new spirit, the law prohibits the addition or subtraction of any substance (flavoring and colorant) or the utilization of any process to alter the original character of the end product.

Most often the products that fall under the Bottled in Bond Act are quite good. Rittenhouse Rye and Old Grand Dad come to mind and there are some higher-end examples as well, for example (when you can find it), the Colonel E.H. Taylor line made by Buffalo Trace Distillery. 

I took my time with Mellow Corn, enjoying all the interesting things going on inside this retro bottle, from the sweet to the savory to the earthy. It is in a sense similar to an eau de vie or un-aged fruit brandy in that it really shows the eccentricities of the single ingredient. 

    • Nose: New leather, woodsy spices, nutmeg, vanilla with a touch of a solvent-like aroma that is more pine sap, with a sour but slightly fruity note.
    • Palate: Medium to thin body, sweet corn front, earthy, lightly cooked maple syrup, tree sap, vanilla and light caramel; reminiscent of early season sweet corn with a dash of pepper. 
    • Finish: Relatively short, the earthy tones hold on with a light menthol mist; slight fruity notes linger in the middle.
Overall, Mellow Corn is a fun and feisty whiskey, featuring flavors you will find in most Bourbons, being that Bourbon is made from at least 51% corn and because the barrels in which they age Mellow Corn were once reserved for Bourbon. On its own, Mellow Corn has complexities that dance across your tongue. A touch of water will help bring out the earthy characteristics of the grain.

This whiskey has been in Heaven Hill's arsenal for quite some time now. Sadly it often gets pushed to the wayside because of its outdated look (which is making a comeback) or the oddball color, which is natural (see Bottled in Bond Act). But there is now a resurgence in the market mainly thanks to the emerging cocktail scene. This is a whiskey for those of you who either want to enjoy bourbon to its fullest extent or to expand your knowledge of the effect individual grains can have on whiskey. It's also a good way to create interesting but familiar flavors in your mixed drinks.

If you are interested in furthering your experience with single-grain corn spirits, I would suggest the Bains Cape Mountain single grain whiskey from the James Sedgwick Distillery in South Africa as well as the Nikka Coffey grain whisky from Japan and the single grain expression from the Teeling Distillery in Ireland, which uses old wine barrels for further aging.

Mellow Corn Straight Corn Whiskey (Heaven Hill Distilleries) is available now at Siciliano's Market for $12.99/750ml.