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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Help Wanted at Siciliano's

Job listing by Steve Siciliano

Are you passionate about craft beer, fine wine and quality spirits? Siciliano’s Market, one of Michigan’s premier specialty stores, is looking for a friendly, hardworking individual to join our elite sales team. Candidates must be willing to work nights and weekends and knowledge of homebrewing and winemaking is definitely a plus. Please send cover letters and resumes to

Friday, February 5, 2016

New Beer Friday, Decisions Decisions Edition (Feb 5)

Tea at Siciliano's
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

I had just wheeled a carboy and four cases of wine bottles out to a customer’s car when a young man walking into the store held the door open for me. “Thanks,” I said pushing the two-wheeler past him. The young man followed me in and stopped in front the display of bulk teas. “Are you going to need some help?” I asked him.

“Possibly,” the young man said. “This is tea, right? My wife loves tea. I’m going to buy her some tea. But first I want to look at the ingredient kits.”

“Beer or wine?” I asked.

“Beer,” he said. “She bought me an equipment kit for Christmas.”

“The ingredient kits are over there,” I said motioning to the right. “I’m going to park this two-wheeler in back.” When I returned the young man was looking at the kits.

“I noticed that you sell good chocolate too. My wife loves chocolate. I put a couple of chocolate bars on the sales counter.”

“You’re a smart man,” I said. “Now, what kind of beer do you want to make?”

The young man took off his green and white stocking cap and ran his fingers through his hair. “Well, I like IPAs but my wife prefers darker beers. Stouts and porters. But I really, really want to make an IPA.” He put the stocking cap back on his head and stroked his chin. “What’s the darkest beer you have?”

“Probably this Imperial Stout,” I said. “But it’s a lot different than an IPA.”

“Oh, I know,” he said. “I guess I’ve got a decision to make.”

After offering the young man a few more suggestions, I was called away to help a customer with cigars then helped a lady choose some wine and another lady put together a mixed six pack of beer. After ringing up a few sales I looked out the window and saw the young man driving away.

“Who waited on the customer with the Spartans cap?” I asked the employees. “He just left.”

“I did,” Sarah said. “Why?”

“What did he buy?”

“Some tea, chocolate, a pound of French roast coffee, an ounce of pipe tobacco and an ingredient kit.” she asked again.

“What kit?” I asked.

“I didn’t notice. Why?”

“Just wondering if he made the right decision,” I said. I walked over to the ingredients kits and smiled after seeing that he did.

New and Returning Beer

  • Rockford Brewing Anniversary Ale, $16.99/750ml - "Brewed with Barley, Wheat, Rye, Oats and Michigan beet sugar! This Belgian specialty has a rich, malty body with layers of molasses, chocolate and dried fruit like raisin, plum and cherry! The Belgian yeast adds a hint of peppery clove to the overall complexity. Served in a snifter to assist with it’s wonderfully, complex nose" (source).
  • New Belguim La Folie, $15.99/22oz (1 per) - "La Folie, French for "the folly," is a beer steeped in New Belgium brewing tradition. This wood-aged, sour brown spends one to three years in big, oak barrels, known as foeders. And when the beer finally hits the glass, La Folie is sharp and sour, full of green apple, cherry, and plum-skin notes. Pouring a deep mahogany, the mouthfeel will get you puckering while the smooth finish will get you smiling. Not a beer for the timid, La Folie is a sour delight that will turn your tongue on its head. Find out why it's considered one of the best sour beers around" (source).
  • New Belguim Kriek, $15.99/22oz (1 per) - "In a never-ending quest to create new beers and defy category, New Belgium Brewing and Old Beersel of Belgium have partnered to create TRANSATLANTIQUE KRIEK, a spontaneously fermented lambic ale made with sour cherries. The 2016 edition of Transatlantique Kriek began life in the oaken vessels of Gert Christiaens’ Oud Beersel, a 130-year-old Belgian lambic brewery. After time spent aging in wood, Oud Beersel’s lambic was blended with tart cherries and shipped across the Atlantic to New Belgium. In concert with Oud Beersel’s cherry lambic, or kriek, we blended in a portion of our own sour Felix from our foeder forest, and created a golden brew to mix in, and round out, the engaging beer. The intense cherry nose leads to a pleasing tart, sweet flash across the palate. Crisp and effervescent, Transatlantique Kriek is a trip worth taking" (source).
  • Angry Orchard Old Fashioned Cider, $1.89/12oz - "The Old Fashioned is made with a blend of American apples and is aged on oak with dried tart cherries, California grown navel orange peel, and charred bourbon barrel staves, offering citrus and cherry aromas with a bright apple flavor and slight vanilla notes. It has lasting tannins and a full, round mouthfeel" (source).
  • Angry Orchard Knotty Pear, $1.89/12oz - "Knotty Pear’s main ingredient is juice from American apples, and also features pear juice, which adds a new dimension to the cider, creating a pleasantly dry flavor. Cardamom imparts a slight spicy flavor. With subtle notes of citrus and mint.  This cider and showcases fresh acidity, lasting tannin, and a pleasantly dry finish from oak aging" (source).
  • Saugatuck Maggie's Irish Ale, $1.89/12oz - "Often served on nitro, our Irish Ale is a smooth, easy drinking, Irish Red Ale. A beautiful mahogany color and well-rounded flavors of caramel and tea with subtle hints of malt characteristics and a dry finish" (source).
  • Arclight Hail to the Darkness, $14.39/22oz - "Elijah Craig Barrel Aged Imperial Porter" (source).
  • Arclight Fornication, $3.59/12oz - "Double IPA made with honey" (source).
  • Arclight Citracation, $3.59/12oz - "Double IPA brewed with Citra Hops" (source).
  • O'Hara's Leann Follain, $2.59/12oz - "True to it’s name, “Leann Folláin” being the Gaelic for “wholesome stout”, our full-bodied extra Irish stout is a fantastic example of how good stout can taste. Flavours of dark chocolate tones with a hint of vanilla combine with the mild mocha aroma. Opaque black in appearance with a tan head, this luxurious stout has a classic European hop bitterness giving a refreshing bite after the chocolate subsides" (source).
  • O'Hara's Irish Red, $2.69/12oz - "This Red stands out in this beer style category. The malt body is as impressive as a bock, albeit in a uniquely Irish way. With an incredibly smooth malt body complimented by caramel tones and perfectly balanced in bitterness, this Irish Red is much more complex than it’s mainstream rivals" (source).
  • O'Hara's Irish Stout, $2.69/12oz - "The flagship of the O’Hara’s brand, this uniquely Irish stout brings one back to how Irish stouts used to taste. First brewed in 1999, it has since been awarded prestigious honours for its quality and authenticity" (source).
  • Great Lakes Alberta Clipper, $3.29/12oz - "Bid farewell to winter’s cruel tyranny with the creamy, bittersweet dark chocolate flavors and fresh raspberry tartness of Alberta Clipper Porter. Named for the intense winter storms that sweep the Midwest and Great Lakes Regions, making us all a little tougher (and a lot colder), Alberta Clipper is the perfect treat to celebrate the return of milder weather and kiss those wintry winds goodbye… at least for a little while" (source).
  • Greenbush Dystopia, $3.49/12oz - "Don't be surround by sameness. Pull back from the droll daily grind with our Russian Imperial Stout that showcases just the right roasty, bitter qualities to help you escape whatever scene you're in" (source).
  • Atwater Cash for Gold, $1.89/12oz - No description available.
  • Oddside Fight Milk, $2.49/12oz - "Imperial Milk Stout. For bodyguards. By bodyguards" (source).
  • New Holland Dragon's Milk reserve Vanilla Chai, $4.29/12oz (4 per) - "New Holland Brewing Co. has taken its top-selling, year-round, bourbon barrel stout – Dragon’s Milk – and infused it with flavors of Vanilla Chai. The Michigan-based brewery is releasing its first 2016 “reserve” batch of Dragon’s Milk to markets around the country with Dragon’s Milk Reserve Vanilla Chai shipping from New Holland’s production facility by the end of January and hitting stores and local watering holes soon after. This reserve blend is aged in bourbon barrels for three months, with the nuanced flavor of Vanilla Chai for a portion of that time" (source).
  • New Holland Blue Sunday, $8.39/22oz (1 per) - "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).
  • Argus Cidery Fermentables Ciderkin, $2.39/335mL - "Based on nostalgic profiles of ciders everyone first experienced, Argus Ferementables Ciderkin delivers a straightforward apple palate, yet finishes dry and tannic.Traditional Ciderkin is made from reconstituted apple pomace that is pressed and fermented wild to produce a low ABV—dry cider style. Expounding on that tradition, we have employed a yeast blend that finishes dry, yet still preserves a prominent stone fruit nose and apple palate" (source).
  • Argus Cidery Fermentables Ginger Perry, $2.39/330mL - "Inspired by our affinity toward spicy ginger beers/ales, Ginger Perry is Argus’s first unpasteurized fermentation utilizing only the pear. Distinctly dry as characteristic of the Argus portfolio, development of this product placed the upmost importance on delivering a balance of ginger, stone fruit, and citrus flavors without palate fatigue after just one. Residual sugar is present, but don’t expect anything too sweet" (source).
  • Haandbryggeriet Haandbakk, $11.99/500mL - "This is a recreation of a Norwegian style naturally soured ale, aged in oak barrels for 18 months for the authentic sour flavour" (source).
  • Haandbryggeriet Dark Force Stout, $10.09/500mL - "From a country far, far away, comes the only imperial Wheat stout in the known universe. This Imperial really strikes back. Made with wheat malt and wheat yeast" (source).
  • Trois Dames Grande Dame Oud Bruin, $7.19/330mL - "A sour brown ale, brewed in the Flemish tradition, that rivals even the best Oud Bruins coming out of Belgium. Elegant and rustic, and full of complex flavors, berries, spice, and a hint of nuttiness, this is a great beer to share with friends on a special occasion" (source).
  • EKU 28, $2.89/330mL - "This world-famous beer has the character and richness to stand in for fine sherry or port. Just the right degree of sweetness - never cloying; wonderfully aromatic and warming. EKU 28 is the one whenever something good and strong is needed" (source).

Video of the Week | Beer Camp Across America

Coming soon to a beer store near you.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

ThermoWorks Products Now Available at Siciliano's

By Joe Potter

“We have the tools. We have the talent!” - Winston Zeddemore, Ghostbusters

We're proud to announce that Siciliano's Market is now an authorized dealer of ThermoWorks products. ThermoWorks is a Utah based company that provides professional-grade thermometers and gauges which are used everywhere from commercial kitchens to food processing plants, and are even employed by researchers and pharmaceutical manufacturers. You’ll also find ThermoWorks manufactured components and sensors inside the products of an ever-increasing number of separate companies. And what’s more, their fast, accurate, and easy-to-use products are particularly useful to the home beer-, wine-, and cheesemaker, while still ridiculously affordable.

Anyone familiar with the brewing process knows the importance of temperature: Steeping grain in water that is too hot releases mouth-puckering tannins. Aerating wort before it has sufficiently cooled results in oxidation and a wet-paper taste. On the all-grain side of things, a difference of just a few degrees during the mash impacts fermentability, sweetness and mouthfeel of the resulting beer. And that’s just on brew day.

Fermentation and the carbonation process are both greatly impacted by temperature. So, how can one expect to control all these variables without an effective way to monitor temperature? That’s where ThermoWorks comes in. We are pleased to introduce our new products, as well as some of their proposed uses, below.

RT801 Digital Fridge/Freezer Alarm Thermometer w/ Probe ($19.00)

    • Range -58 to 158°F
    • Toggle between Internal (ambient) and External (probe) readings
    • Settable High/Low Alarm - Audible and visual alarm sounds if temp leaves pre-set parameters
    • Min/Max Memory - Records the highest and lowest temps achieved since the last memory reset
    • 10,000 hours of battery life
Our thoughts: This unit is perfect for tracking your fermentations. The Min/Max Memory feature allows you to check if your closet or basement is really holding 65° all day long. The probe also allows you easily monitor the temperature inside your lagering chamber or kegerator, and the alarm will alert you if things get out of whack.

TX-1200 DOT® Probe Alarm Thermometer ($39.00)

    • Range -58 to 572°F
    • Extremely simple to use, only two buttons: Up and Down — set your temperature, and alarm sounds when you get there
    • Splash-proof construction, water-resistant probe
    • Pairable with Waterproof Pro-Series® Silicon Probe ($16, also available at Siciliano’s)
Our thoughts: The wide range of this thermometer makes it ideal for monitoring steeping, strike and sparge water, as well as mash temperatures. With care, the included water-resistant probe can be used, but a fully waterproof, immersible silicon probe is also available for an additional $16. With this set-up, you can drop the probe into your pot and walk away — it will alarm when you’ve achieved your desired temperature. You can place the probe inside your mash tun to continuously monitor the temp. While cooling, the large digit display makes it easy to check the wort temp from a distance, so you can focus on cleaning up until your wort’s sufficiently chilled, and forget about repeatedly taking the temperature with your manual thermometer.

RT600C Super-Fast® Pocket Digital Thermometer ($24.00)

    • Range -40 to 302°F
    • Highest accuracy in its class, to ±0.9°F
    • 5-6 second read time
    • IP65 waterproof rating
    • Dishwasher safe to 190°F
    • 4.7-inch probe length for deeper reach
Our thoughts: This little guy is perfectly useful throughout the brew day. In fact, it’s the model that a few of us at Siciliano’s have been brewing with for months. Ultra-quick readings streamline the brewing process, and the confidence you can take in this thermometer’s accuracy allows you to relax a little, not worry, and even enjoy a homebrew. At $24 dollars, the value of this almost-essential tool can’t be beat.

PT220 Dial Thermometer w/ 5” Probe ($6.00)

    • Range 0 to 220°F
    • ±2°F accuracy
    • Recalibrateable
Our thoughts: This is a good option for someone just getting into the hobby. The easy-to-read display is a nice alternative to the traditional (and fragile) glass laboratory thermometer. The recalibration option is another nice feature to ensure you’re taking accurate readings. It’s perfect for extract brewing, where a difference of a few degrees isn’t going to make-or-break your brew. This is also a good affordable option for cheesemakers.

RT817E Thermo-Hygrometer with Outdoor Temperature Probe ($39.00)

    • Large digit display for humidity and temperature
    • Max/Min Memory - Records the highest and lowest temps achieved since the last memory reset
    • 9.8-foot probe cable and outdoor temperature display
Our thoughts: Great for monitoring humidity and temperature inside a humidor or while aging homemade cheeses.

Friday, January 29, 2016

New Beer Friday, Home Brew League Edition (January 29)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

Last May I was chatting with Randy Mosher on the porch of the Johnson Park pavilion when a partygoer walked up and asked to have her copy of Mastering Homebrewing signed. “This is a wonderful event,” the highly regarded beer and brewing author said after depositing his felt-tipped pen in his shirt pocket and taking a sip of an excellent homebrewed Kolsch. “West Michigan sure has a great homebrewing community.”

I’d like to think that the annual trifecta of Siciliano’s homebrewing events have played a small part in helping build and foster that community. The Homebrew Competition, the Big Brew on the Calder and the Homebrew Party provide ways West Michigan homebrewers can expand their circle of friends, get recognized for their homebrewing skills and share their love of hand-crafted beer with other passionate and like-minded hobbyists. With the launch of Coldbreak Brewing’s Home Brew League this March, local homebrewers will have more reasons and more ways to gather together as a community.

Siciliano’s Market is one of the four area homebrew shops that will be participating in this planned annual event. If you have a competitive streak and you’re an avid homebrewer I encourage you to join in the fun. I have a bit of a competitive streak myself so I would love to see a team representing Siciliano’s hoist the inaugural HBL trophy.

New and Returning Beer

  • Sam Adams Nitro IPA, $2.69/16oz - "Our Nitro IPA is boldly bitter yet surprisingly smooth. Nitro can mute aroma and leave bitterness, particularly in IPAs, so to stand up to the creaminess of nitro we used heavy doses of dry hopping to achieve the resinous pine, spice, and citrus hop character we love. A fortitude of hop character remains with notes of resinous pine and citrus for a flavorful, lingering finish" (source).
  • Sam Adams Nitro White Ale, $2.69/16oz - "Nitro beers are known for their captivating cascade and smooth creaminess.  Yet, for many, nitro is solely linked to stout.  We experimented with all sorts of styles and discovered that nitro truly can be the missing fifth beer ingredient. The first sip of our Nitro White Ale reveals a smooth velvety taste with a light wheat character and hints of orange while an undercurrent of peppery spice adds a bright finish to leave you wanting another sip" (source).
  • Sam Adams Nitro Coffee Stout, $2.69/16oz - "Our Nitro Coffee Stout is darkly enticing with its smooth, velvety cream that cascades into a jet black brew revealing a rich, robust character.  The dark roasted malts create notes of bittersweet chocolate with hints of dark fruit while the Sumatran & Indian Monsoon Malabar coffees develop a deep roasted dimension. For a deeper, yet smooth, flavor we steep the coffee beans in cold water to create an extraction that we add to this stout" (source).
  • Pike 51 Chicago Drive By, $18.79/22oz - "Bourbon Barrel Imperial Milk Stout" (source).
  • Bell's Consecrator Doppelbock, $2.79/12oz - "Reddish brown in color with a mild hop profile, Consecrator Doppelbock is a well balanced, full bodied lager with hints of caramel and molasses in its smooth, malty finish. As with our other lager brands, Consecrator undergoes a lengthy lagering period. Unlike the 6 week profile of the other two brands, Consecrator experiences a full three months in the fermenting vessel, giving it an exceptionally smooth character" (source).
  • Blackrocks Potter's Porter, $2.29/12oz - "A beer originally brewed for the man behind the mugs, known by his friends as RAD. This is a Robust Porter that's full of deep chocolate and dry roast flavors. A beer suited to help RAD get through those 24 hours kiln firings. We think you will enjoy it" (source).
  • North Peak Majestic, $1.69/12oz - "Gracefully swaying winter wheat donates its mellow, sweet malt and golden appearance. Cool, pristine waters from ancient glaciers provide the base. Rustling Willamette hops extend a subtle bitterness to the beers personality. Taken together, the ingredients create an easily quaffable, unfiltered brew that shares with you a little bit off the tranquility of Northern Michigan in every swallow" (source).
  • North Peak Burly Belgo IPA, $1.89/12oz - "The February seasonal in North Peak’s line of hand-crafted microbrews, pays tribute to the third-yeti or Abominable Snowman, the human-like creature is believed to be a direct descendent of Sasquatch, otherwise known as Bigfoot. Its story is well known around the world in different mythologies, folk tales and legends, dating back hundreds of years. Yet, its existence remains one of the big mysteries – or some may say debates – of the modern day. Considered one of the most debated creatures, its history runs as deep as its footprints in the Northern Michigan backwoods" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale, $2.59/12oz - "ierra Nevada Bigfoot is an award winning example of the English Barley Wine style. It boasts a dense, fruity bouquet; an extremely rich, intense, bittersweet palate; and a deep, reddish-brown color. This ale is superbly balanced between an almost overpowering maltiness and a wonderfully bittersweet hoppiness" (source).
  • Stone Xocoveza, $2.99/12oz - "Each year we hold an American Homebrewers Association sanctioned homebrewing competition, the champion of which gets their recipe brewed and distributed nationwide by Stone. This year’s winner, Chris Banker, helped keep us grounded to our homebrewing roots by introducing flavors consistent with our regional apalate. His chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg, chile pepper, and coffee-infused milk stout was built to mimic the flavors of Mexican hot chocolate, a beloved specialty from our neighbors to the sout, as our collaborators from Baja California, Cervezeria Insurgente, will attest. Layered with tiers of earthiness, spice, and roast, this creamy, semisweet blue ribbon beer confirms that the spirit of the American homebrewer is not only alive and kicking but thriving at an all-time high" (source).
  • Stone 12th Anniversary Re-Release, $8.99/22oz (1 per)  - " For this anniversary release, we traded in the bitterness of hops for the bitterness of unsweetened chocolate. Flaked oats added body and creaminess while dark-roasted malts contributed pronounced coffee notes, creating an immensely flavorful yet incredibly smooth imperial oatmeal stout" (source).
  • Atwater Going Steady, $1.79/12oz - "A citrus laden sensory smack-down that goes well with just about everything you’ve got goin’. this citrusy session’s got enough Cascade hop and grapefruit flavor to go around, with just enough of the good stuff to make whatever it is you like doing a little bit better" (source).
  • Anderson Valley Hobneelch'n, $8.19/22oz - "Hobneelch’n Hoppy Wheat is light & sessionable with low bitterness and lots of hop aroma and flavor. The hops are Citra and Simcoe, so the aroma is big citrus, pine, and fruit. A mild wheat/biscuit malt finish on the end" (source).
  • Old Nation Sanders Chocolate Stout, $1.99/12oz - "A traditional Irish style commercial stout (with a touch of acidic twang and at 12° Plato OG) with about 1.5 pounds of pure process cocoa/BBL added in the brewing process. Sanders Fine Chocolatiers are a fixture of the detroit community, but also some real beer fans. For that reason, they wanted the beer to taste like stout first, and chocolate second. The beer ends up coming off as a great traditional commercial stout, with some subtle and complex cocoa notes" (source).
  • Rodenbach Vintage, $23.89/750ml - "Rodenbach Vintage is 100% matured old beer, resulting in superior Rodenbach Grand Cru. Its taste is complex, round, intense and refreshing. Typically, the apple tart fruitiness combined with caramel, wild honey and oak with a hint of vanilla, cherry and licorice. Its aroma has hints of caramel and oak, as well as notes of green apples mixed with honey and chocolate. The soft sour, fruity aftertaste is long and nicely balanced like a grand cru wine" (source).
  • Destihl Dosvidanya, $17.89/500ml - "Like a Russian Matryoshka or 'nesting' doll, the secret of Dosvidanya® Russian Imperial Stout lies locked deep within her mysterious & elaborate wooden layers. The hidden soul of this oak bourbon barrel-aged beer that we said Dosvidanya ('goodbye') to several months before revealing, is its rich, robust & roasty maltiness that finishes dry" (source).
  • Left Foot Charley Cinnamon Girl, $8.59/500ml - "We chose the Korjinte/Sumatra cinnamon for this cider. It is stronger, more spicy and textural than Ceylon (some would say Real) cinnamon. The bark of this shrub was aged in the cider to impart that gentle spice and warmth you know so well. A touch of sweetness balances the flavors and the bubbles just make it fun" (source).
  • Left Foot Charley Henry's Pippin, $8.59/500ml - "Pippin is an old word for apple. It was also used to describe someone or something that is excellent. We think this cider is pippin indeed. We blended several different fermentations from our multitude of options in the cellar. Some were fermented in barrels, some in oak tanks and some in stainless steel tanks. Months after fermentation and settling we tasted through and found this blend worked very well" (source).
  • Left Foot Charley Antrim County, $8.59/500ml - "This simple cider was fermented from fruit grown on Ron Boals’ Farm in Antrim County. The blend is 50% Jonathan, 40% Rhode Island Greening, 5% Empire, 5% Jonamac" (source).
  • Short's Love Knife, $1.99/12oz - "One day while looking over popular Belgian beer styles, Tony noted that there were not a lot of Belgian Amber Ales. Therefore, he decided to create a recipe with a malt bill that loosely resembled a typical Amber Ale found in the states. By adding Belgian yeast and American hop varieties, Tony created a uniquely new and different hybridized style" (source).
  • Ballast Point Ginger Big Eye, $6.09/22oz - "We take our year-round production Big Eye IPA and infuse fresh skinned, sliced ginger root into the beer post fermentation. The spicy Centennial hops used in Big Eye go very well with the spicy taste and aromatics from the fresh ginger root. The solid malt backbone of Big Eye also lends itself well to ginger, almost adding a candied component as it blends across your palate" (source).
  • Ballast Point Tongue Buckler, $8.99/22oz - "Our Tongue Buckler Imperial Red Ale doesn’t pull any punches. This is a big brew with hops and malt in extreme abundance. The I.B.U.’s (International Bitterness Units) alone test the limits of your palate. Yet while the timid should take warning, Tongue Buckler generously rewards the bold with an exceptional ale experience" (source).

Video of the Week | Pints for Prostates

Great beer for a great cause.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Aultmore 12 Year Old Scotch Whisky Review

By John Barecki

The full name of Aultmore 12 Year Old Whisky —Aultmore of the Foggie Moss — calls to mind images of a fairy world. The liquid inside the bottle is just as special. Some reviewers have called it ethereal, as if it is of celestial making. In reality it's one of the five releases in “The Last Great Malts of Scotland” from Dewar's, a collection with some very interesting additions that up until now have only made it to the United States in a few blends and independent releases (which are limited). Aultmore for me was an adventure of the palate. It is subtle and boisterous at the same time, and because the distillers do not use peat to kiln their malt, one gets to enjoy the exciting flavors produced in the distillation process and from the effects of barrel aging.

Aultmore 12 Year Old Whisky pours a pale gold. On the nose it is fresh and vibrant with hints of peach and mint. There is also wildflower honey mixed with a slight wood resin note followed by almond, while an overall “green” character flows throughout. On tasting I found a medium to light body with honey and jasmine tea and a bit of apricot covered in a very light caramel. Hints of vanilla and marzipan (almond paste) are quite cooling on the tongue. The finish is dry and refreshing with a little lingering stone fruit, light cereal notes and lime peel, reminding me of a dry fino sherry.

This malt stirs up memories of walking through the woods on a spring day thanks to lots of bright green tones surrounded by earthy and floral scents. It is lively on the palate but also quite complex, a great before-dinner aperitif style that could work wonderfully with ice or as a highball with a bit of club soda on a hot day. Like other reviewers, I would definitely say this whisky has an ethereal quality, and as I stare out at a winter landscape (I'm writing this in January), a sip of the wonderful “spirit” makes me think of the warm days that will soon be coming back to us.

The other whiskies involved in the “Last Great Malts of Scotland" collection look promising as well (see for yourself in the video below). The Aberfeldy, Royal Brackla, Deveron and Craigellachie are all distinct from one another, using old and new processes to create flavors and textures each with a different tale of honey and citrus, maritime sea side tone, fruity to sulfury. They all seem like a wonderful cacophony for the senses. 

Aultmore 12 Year Old Scotch Whisky ($64.99/750ml) is available now at Siciliano's Market.

Friday, January 22, 2016

New Beer Friday, Hop Rhizome Pre-Order Edition (Jan 22)

Rhizome is where the heart is!
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

If you were homebrewing back in 2008 I’m sure you remember the hop shortage that caused prices to spike and forced homebrew shops to place limits on some of the most popular varieties. The contributing factors that resulted in that yearlong scarcity of humulus lupulus were essentially threefold.

In the fifteen years prior to the shortage, hop acreage was steadily declining due to a surplus that began accumulating in the early 1990s. As that surplus began running out, adverse weather in Europe significantly reduced the yield of many European varieties. Finally, and most detrimental from a homebrewing perspective, hop growers continued to honor contracts with commercial brewers which meant that homebrew shops were forced to absorb the brunt of the shortage.

Fortunately there’s been an adequate supply of hops for homebrewers over the past eight years. But now some experts in the industry are saying that another shortage is inevitable. Might be a good time for more homebrewing hobbyists to start planting hop rhizomes.

On that note, we will be taking rhizome pre-orders now through the end of business on Sunday, February 28th. Those wishing to place orders may do so via email (, by phone (616-453-9674) or in person here at Siciliano's. When ordering by email please ensure that you indicate the desired quantity of the specified variety. Price per each rootstock is $5.00 and payment will not be due until the time of pickup.

We anticipate that the rhizomes will be shipped from our Yakima Valley supplier during the first week of April. Those who placed orders will be personally notified when the shipment arrives. The following is a list of the rhizome varieties available this year.

Rhizome Varieties

    • Cascade: 4.5-7.0% alpha. Grows well in all climates. Susceptible to aphid. 
    • Centennial: 9.5 -11.5% alpha. Grows well in all climates. Susceptible to downy mildew. 
    • Chinook: 11.0-13.0% alpha. Grows well in dry, hot climates. Does not grow well in moist climates. Subject to spider mite. Great ornamental hop. 
    • Columbus: 14.5-15.5% alpha. Grows well in dry hot climates. Vigorous but susceptible to mildew diseases. 
    • Golding: 4.0-5.0% alpha. Grows well in mild, moist climates. Does okay in hot climates. 
    • Liberty: 3.0-5.0% alpha. Mild and spicy with subtle lemon and citrus characteristics. Grows well in mild, moist climates. 
    • Mt. Hood: 4-5% alpha. Hybrid of a Hallertau. Grows well in all climates. 
    • Northern Brewer: 8.0-10.0% alpha. Adequate in temperate climates but has difficulty growing when under heat stress. Susceptible to downy mildew. 
    • Nugget: 12.0-14.0% alpha. Grows well in all climates. 
    • Sterling: 6-8% alpha. Hybrid of Saaz. Grows wells in all climates. 
    • Tettnang: 4.0-5.0% alpha. Grows well in a moderate climate. Suffers a little in hot climates.*
    • Willamette: 4.0-6.0% alpha. Grows well in all climates.
*We have eliminated U.S. Fuggle and U.S. Hallertau only because the Tettnang is much more popular. All three varieties are a triploid and are almost identical to each other.

New and Returning Beer

  • Dieu du Ciel Route des Epices, $4.99/12oz - "Routes des épices (French for "Spice Route") is a rye beer brewed with both black and green peppercorns. Initially, the beer reveals flavours of fresh grain and malt, which give it notes of chocolate, caramel, and fruit. The pepper flavour and aroma is fully revealed in the finish, which leaves a pleasant, spicy, tingling sensation on the tongue" (source).
  • Dieu du Ciel Isseki Nicho, $4.99/12oz - "This "Imperial Dark Saison" is a collaboration between DDC and Shiga Kogen. It has the grain bill of an Imperial Stout, hops grown at Shiga Kogen and is fermented with Saison yeast" (source).
  • Freigeist Ehrenfelder Alt, $6.19/500ml - No commercial description available.
  • Kulmbacher Pils, $2.59/12oz - "In two recent blind tastings, German beer drinkers picked Kulmbacher as the best Pils in Germany. Soon thereafter, a panel of beer journalists bypassed local favorites (Beck’s and St. Paulie Girl) and voted Kulmbacher #1 in a tasting sponsored by the newspaper “Die Zeit” in Hamburg. Then, at a third blind tasting of leading Pilsners by students at the University of Bamberg (Germany’s best-educated and most-sophisticated beer town) – Kulmbacher came out on top again" (source).
  • Prairie Ape Snake, $11.39/500ml - "Ape Snake is a dark, dry hopped farmhouse ale. We’ve taken our dark farmhouse base and dry hopped it with Falconer’s Flight and Centennial hops. The combination of yeast and hops create an explosion of flavors, and this beer will continue to develop as it ages. Check it out in 500ml bottles and on draft at your favorite restaurants and bars" (source).
  • Bell's Hopslam, $2.59/12oz, $39.39/Minikeg - "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 Hop Turn, $1.69/12oz - "A Hop Turn is an extreme maneuver in skiing and snowboarding designed to change direction quickly and negotiate the steepest terrain in the world. In skiing the technique is also known as a pedal-hop turn and was invented in the Alps in the early 1970’s when skiers first started to negotiate descents that could go over 60° in steepness and could run for 4,000 feet. The same technique is now used in snowboarding on the steepest chutes in Alaska’s biggest mountain ranges – by the world’s best riders like Jeremy Jones, who is always in search of terrain that is Further, Deeper and Higher. Our Hop Turn IPA also takes its inspiration from Europe – using a Pilsner malt for a distinctive old-world taste. With a floral, peppery, lemony aroma, crystal-clear pale straw color, brisk flavor and lively 7.5 percent ABV, Hop Turn is a radical take on an American IPA" (source).
  • Founders Imperial Stout, $3.09/12oz - "Brewed with ten varieties of malted barley, this stout is smooth as silk, yet complex and rich in body. Serve this guy at cellar temperature. Put another log on the fire, sit back and enjoy the friendship of this ultimate winter warmer" (source).
  • Glutenberg White, $2.99/16oz - "The Blanche is a completely unique interpretation of a classic style of Belgian inspiration. Traditionally brewed with wheat, Glutenberg renewed the style entirely to put forward a 100% gluten- and wheat-free beer, a tour de force of which only we hold the recipe. The Glutenberg White's distinction lies in its quinoa and amaranth composition, which endows it with a noticeable grainy profile, ensuring a steady mouth-feel. Soft and refreshing, with hints of coriander and curaçao, the White is the perfect nectar to quench your thirst" (source).
  • Grizzly Peak Berserker, $3.39/12oz - "Go Berserker and let this rich, thick and dark Imperial Winter Stout penetrate you with it’s dark color and intense aroma of black currants, roasted coffee and hint of Cacao. This strong beer is 9% alcohol by volume but is very balanced and ready to be sipped in front of your fire on a frigid winter night" (source).
  • Saugatuck Blueberry Maple Stout, $1.79/12oz - No commercial description available.
  • Stone Enjoy By Unfiltered, $2.99/12oz, $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).
  • Stone Matt's Burning Rosids, $9.49/22oz - "Fruit and spiciness from the Belgian yeast, followed by a more pronounced smoky woodiness. The finish is malty, with a touch of alcohol. There’s a really nice blend of flavors" (source).
  • Perrin No Problems, $1.69/12oz - "No Problems is our latest addition to the Perrin Brewing can family. Available all year round, this Session IPA comes in at 4.5% ABV and 45 IBUs. Our Session IPA" bursts open with aromatics of fresh citrus fruits, ripened melon and a distinctive floral bouquet. Weaved carefully under the hop bitterness lies a light, semi-sweet malt body, that finishes in a crisp N' clean fashion" (source).
  • Big Sky Slow Elk, $1.69/12oz - "Happens every year; people shootin' cows. That's how the slow elk got its name. Enjoy the creamy texture, great malt complexity and the unequaled smoothness of this northern Rockies oatmeal stout. Stock your fridge the easy way and keep an ear open for the unmistakable bugle of the slow elk ... Moooo! (source).
  • Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shutdown Ale, $1.99/12oz - "Our malty and rich beer with a snappy hop finish truly defies style…Imperial Mild?...Uber ESB?... We do know for sure that it is Unforgiven and Unrepentant" (source).
  • Odd Side Jesse's Party, $2.29/12oz - "Are you cool man?" (source).
  • Odd Side Flash Golden, $2.49/12oz - "Belgian Golden Strong Ale" (source).
  • Victory Anniversary Golden 20, $1.79/12oz - "Complex aromas of melon, pine, green grass, and citrus rind mingle in this crystal clear, blonde ale. Flavors of mango and cantaloupe mix with a touch of malty sweetness, followed by a pleasantly bitter, crisp finish that rounds out this hoppy brew" (source).
  • Victory Blackboard Agave IPA, $2.59/12oz - "Fresh, crisp and clean, this ale offers bold and refreshing flavors. Touched with agave syrup and grapefruit juice, this brew boasts great hop aroma and a light citric bite" (source).
  • Anderson Valley Huge Arker, $16.69/22oz - "True to its Boontling moniker, “Huge Arker” is a massive force of nature that detonates on your tongue. After primary fermentation, the beer is aged in Wild Turkey® Bourbon barrels until it fully matures. The deep mahogany color is evocative of the opulence to follow. Dark luscious aromas of burnished oak mingle with candy sugar, bourbon and hearth-baked bread. The luxurious flavors redolent of honey and molasses are intertwined with the richness of dark chocolate and the ardent warmth of alcohol, underpinned with hints of coffee, vanilla and dark fruits" (source).
  • Bitter Old Fecker Strutter, $14.99/22oz - "India Pale Ale brewed with chamomile, rose petals, juniper and honey and aged in Bourbon Barrels" (source).

Video of the Week | Bitter Old Fecker

Bitter Old Fecker now available at Siciliano's


Friday, January 15, 2016

New Beer Friday, Mark Your Calendars Edition (Jan 15)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

Each year, during the first few weeks of January, the Siciliano’s staff takes advantage of the relative calm after the holiday storm to restock depleted shelves and get some New Year’s projects completed around the store. While the employees have been busy reorganizing, reconfiguring, cleaning and reloading, my wife Barb and I have been doing some preliminary planning on our annual trifecta of homebrew 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 Thirteenth Annual Homebrew Competition – Entries will be accepted from Monday, March 21, through Sunday, April 10th, or until 200 entries are submitted. Judging will be held on Saturday, April 23, at the Guest House on Stocking Avenue. 
    • The Fourth Annual Siciliano’s Big Brew at the Calder – Saturday, May 7, at the Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids. 
    • The Thirteenth Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Party – Saturday, May 21, at Johnson Park on Butterworth. 
I’m also pleased and excited to report that our friends at Coldbreak Brewing are organizing a Home Brew League in which Siciliano’s will be participating. More information on the HBL will be published in The Buzz as it becomes available.

New and Returning Beer

  • Arcadia Hop Rocket, $3.29/12oz - "This Imperial IPA has an assertive aroma of sticky, resinous Summit hops. A complex flavor profile includes notes of grapefruit, lemon peel, and spruce. 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).
  • 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).
  • Deschutes Pinedrops IPA, $1.99/12oz - "This West Coast IPA is like that sweet little Nordic trail off the main trail of Meissner - it takes the high road. Using Pilsner base malt, it is light on malt but not hops. With a hop bill consisting of Amarillo, Centennial, Northern Brewer, and experimental hop X, we packed in the pine along with the citrus notes we love" (source).
  • Right Brain Dead Kettle, $6.49/22oz - "A classic American Style IPA dominated by citrus aroma and flavor. It has strong grapefruit notes and a sharp finish" (source).
  • Perrin Lil Griz, $2.99/12oz - "Deliberately blazing our own trail, we brewed this barrel aged brown ale believing there is room for a new craft beer category: “Sessionable Bourbon Barrel Aged Beers”. Weighing in at 6.8% ABV ( Alc. 6.8% by Vol. ), the rich chocolate notes & creaminess of the flaked oats easily justify this beer bringing home a FoBAB medal this year. We hope you enjoy the ‘Lil Griz" (source).
  • Alaskan Heritage Coffee Brown Ale, $7.59/22oz - "Our latest Rough Draft Limited is a collaboration with Heritage Coffee -- a delicious beer we call Alaskan Heritage Coffee Brown Ale" (source).
  • Arbor Eucher Pils, $1.89/12oz - "Euchre is a true Pilsner style beer – medium-light bodied and crisp yet bursting with noble hop flavor perfectly balanced by a pale malt base.  Authentic German-style pilsners are not bland or watery and ours pushes the category boundaries just a tad at 5.7% ABV and 47 IBUs" (source).
  • Arbor Phat Abbot Tripel, $2.89/12oz - "This traditional Belgian-style triple is strong, fruity, and slightly sour. It starts with a big malt presence, followed up by a pronounced candy sugar sweetness, and balanced with a spicy hop finish. A must-try" (source).
  • Bell's Smitten Golden Rye Ale, $1.79/12oz - "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).
  • Brewery Vivant Ski Patrol, $3.39/16oz (4 per) - "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).
  • Coronado Stingray Point IPA, $2.19/12oz -  - "Named after a San Diego bayside point, sweet honey malt followed by a hoppy citrus bitterness" (source).
  • Green Flash Handshake IPA, $8.89/22oz (1 per) - "Hand Shake IPA is a commemorative collaboration beer brewed to celebrate the one year anniversary of the Green Flash and Alpine Brewing Company union. Brewmasters Pat and Shawn Mcilhenney and Chuck Silva combined peers to create an IPA worth of sharing with good friends. Simcoe, Mosaic, Citra, and El Dorado hops create a fresh, orange, peppery flavor with an earthy bitter finish. So delicious, let’s toast to a beautiful friendship" (source).
  • Green Flash Treasure Chest, $7.89/22oz - "Say Aloha to Treasure Chest 2015, an exotic pink IPA brewed with grapefruit, prickly pear juice and hibiscus flowers. Erupting with fruit-forward complexity, 100% Mosaic hops present aromas of heady citrus and refined stone fruit. The pleasantly bitter flavors of the hops are enhanced by the addition of fresh grapefruit juice. Offering balance to offset the bold citrus notes, prickly pear juice imparts a peppery-sweet kick in the finish. Tropical Hibiscus flowers give this beer a naturally pink hue, a nod to the official color of the Treasure Chest mission" (source).
  • Green Flash Oculus Sauvage, $19.69/750ml (1 per) - "Our Belgian-style Trippel and American Imperial IPA hybrid ale is inoculated with Brettanomyces to create Oculus Sauvage. Highly nuanced, the resinous hops characteristics are refined by barrel-drawn notes of vanilla and French oak tannins. Wild yeast imparts a barnyard funk with hints of apple orchard that linger in the finish" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Tropical IPA, $1.69/12oz - "fruit, including notes of mango, papaya and bitter orange, for a tropical take on the IPA" (source).
  • Atwater Corktown RIPA, $1.79/12oz - "Rye IPA" (source).
  • Weyerbacher Riserva, $20.09/750ml (1 per) - "Over a year in the making, this American Wild Ale is fermented with Brettanomyces yeast and aged with red-raspberry puree in Oak barrels for over 1 year, then bottle conditioned in champagne bottles" (source).
  • Weyerbacher Insanity, $4.29/12oz (1 per) - "Insanity, first released November 2004, is Weyerbacher's latest creation in the world of cutting edge beers. Insanity is made by aging our perfectly balanced Blithering Idiot Barleywine in oak bourbon casks. This incredible combination creates a melange of flavors such as malt, dates, oak, vanilla, and bourbon just to name a few" (source).
  • Short's Swirl Stout, $2.39/12oz - "Swirl Stout is a Milk Stout brewed with cacao nibs, vanilla, and milk sugar.  The aromas are bold and sharp, reminiscent of a decadent chocolate liqueur or Kahlua.  A satisfying blend of sweet creaminess and dark chocolate create the perfect balance. Roasted bitter flavors are noticeable, but it’s a lingering sweetness that ultimately dries the palate" (source).
  • Short's Ale La Reverend, $1.99/12oz - "Ale La Reverend is a distinctively dry and light bodied India Pale Ale with an appealing golden hue. It has a thirst-quenching crispness and is laden with citrus and spruce hop aromas. Semi-sweet malt provides a backdrop for mild earthy flavors and slight grassy notes. Double dry-hop additions allows for a lower alcohol level while still providing the entire hop effect expected of a classic IPA" (source).
  • Short's Juicy Tree, $2.39/12oz - "Juicy Tree is an experimental India Pale Ale made with blue spruce tips, juniper berries, and cranberries. Big aromatics of 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 qualities of American Ale yeast, all contribute to symmetry of this beer" (source).
  • Epic Big Bad Baptist, $12.09/22oz - "It’s Big, it’s Bad, Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, with Coffee and Cocoa Nibs" (source).
  • Southern Tier Backburner, $4.19/12oz - "Long ago, British farmhouse brewers made special ales using the first runnings of the mash. These beers, now called barley wine, are brewed in the tradition of days past. At Southern Tier this long awaited brew is placed on the back burner until the start of the new year. Back Burner Barley Wine is a celebration of things to come and things remembered. It’s conceived in three small batches, using voluminous amounts of barley and hops. The process starts early in the morning and ends late into the night. We hope this rare brew reignites your spirit for another trip around the sun" (source).
  • Ballast Point Peppermint Victory at Sea, $8.99/22oz - "Our Victory at Sea Imperial Porter is a bold, smooth brew with just the right amount of sweetness. We infused this robust porter with vanilla and San Diego’s own Caffe Calabria coffee beans. The subtle roasted notes and minimal acidity of the cold brewed coffee, balances perfectly with the sweet caramel undertones of the malt, creating a winning combination for your palate" (source).
  • W.G. Brewing Ginger Beer, $2.19/12oz - "Alcoholic ginger beer" (source).
  • W.G. Brewing Root Beer, $2.19/12oz - "Alcoholic root beer" (source).

Vidoe of the Week | Pilot Malt House

Pilot Malt House and the homebrewing community —
a winning combination.