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Friday, May 25, 2018

New Beer Friday, Congrats Phil Pierce Edition (May 25)

To the victor go the spoils
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

I am pleased to announce that Phil Pierce is the winner of Best of Show for the Fifteenth Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Competition. The president of the Brewsquitos homebrew club took the top honors with his wood-aged beer and was presented the prestigious Siciliano’s Cup last Saturday at the Fifteenth Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Party at Johnson Park. This is the first time that a Brewsquitos member has won the coveted award. Phil also received a $500.00 gift card to Siciliano’s Market and will be brewing his winning recipe at the Mitten Brewing Company.

After being presented with The Cup, Phil carried on the tradition of drinking from the trophy and he quaffed the beer in one long uninterrupted gulp. It was an impressive performance.

After the festivities wrapped up, a few partiers joined Barb and I for Manhattans and Perdomo Craft Series cigars on our backyard deck. Among those in attendance were Jeremy Gavin and Ric Brown who were behind a practical joke involving a forehead and a Prime Time homebrew club sticker after the 2017 party. Needless to say I made damn sure that I didn’t doze off in my chair this year.

New and Returning Beer

  • Arbor Cucumber Lime Gose, $3.19/12oz - "Cucumber Lime Gose is a beer designed for a hot summer’s day! It’s bright acidity complements additions of flaked sea salt, plenty of fresh lime peel and cucumber to bolster the naturally crisp, refreshing qualities of our German-style Gose. Enjoy poolside and let the day drift away" (source).
  • Bell's 30th Anniversary Cherry Stout, $4.19/12oz - "We brewed a version of Cherry Stout in 2001 using oak chips and cherry pits. This time around, we decided to brew with whole cherries and oak chips. Coming in at 9.0% alcohol by volume, this commemorative batch is a celebration of what Cherry Stout means to us" (source).
  • Brewery Vivant Secret Rituals, $5.19/16oz - "A hazy, ripe, fresh delight. featuring Vic Secret, Nelson Sauvin and Citra hops" (source).
  • Brewery Vivant Zaison, $4.69/16oz - "Zaison takes its inspiration from the famous Saison style of beer made in the southern region of Belgium. Traditionally this beer is made in the coolness of the winter months to be enjoyed in the Spring and Summer. Our special Belgian yeast strain gives this beer a little funkiness and is accented with tellicherry black peppercorns and orange peel. Probably one of the strongest summertime beers you will encounter, we recommend using the buddy system, always drink with a friend" (source).
  • Coppercraft Michigan Mule, $3.99/12oz - "Just like its Russian cousin, except way more Midwest! Coppercraft put real, premium vodka and authentic Michigan hard ginger cider that placed it in a metal container that is designed for your active lifestyle. Every part of the Michigan Mule is copper-crafted. Take it everywhere" (source).
  • Decadent Citra, Citra, Citra, $5.69/16oz - "This is a triple dry hopped version of our all Citra DIPA, Citra Citra" (source).
  • Deschutes Twilight, $1.99/12oz - "Summer has its own rules. As luck would have it, it also has its own beer. This clever golden-hued ale pours remarkably crisp and clean. A distinctive malt body complements a refreshing hop profile led by a heady dose of bold Amarillo hops. Enjoy" (source).
  • Ellison Makin Memories Imperial Irish Coffee Stout, $4.39/16oz - "A creamy mouthfeel gives way to a light roasty flavor and finishes with subtle chocolate notes" (source).
  • Evil Twin Lost Souls, $5.19/16oz - "A 7 percent ABV IPA brewed with galaxy and Simcoe hops" (source).
  • Evil Twin Once A Day, $3.89/16oz - "A double IPA brewed with lactose and vanilla" (source).
  • Evil Twin Saus Baus, $5.19/16oz - "India Pale Ale Brewed With Oat And Lactose With Vanilla, Tangerine Puree, And Yuzu Juice Added" (source).
  • Farmhaus Grapefruit Skinny Dip, $1.99/12oz - No commercial description.
  • Farmhaus Skinny Skinny Dip, $1.99/12oz - No commercial description.
  • Great Lakes Raspberry Holy Moses, $1.89/12oz - "In the spirit of Moses Cleaveland's thirst for discovery, our classic White Ale meets fresh, juicy raspberries to forge a pint worth planting a flag in (or an orange slice!)" (source).
  • Maui Waimea Red, $2.39/12oz - "American-style Red Ale brewed with Waimea and Mosaic hops" (source).
  • Revolution Rosa, $1.99/12oz - "A highly drinkable Golden Ale steeped with hibiscus, resulting in a natural tartness and slight pink hue" (source).
  • Rochester Mills Juice Deuce Uncut, $3.89/12oz - "Even more abundant with citrusy, fruity loopy-like hop aroma and flavor, this idiosyncratic Double India Pale Ale is deep orange in color and presents with a pleasantly soft mouthfeel" (source).
  • Stillwater Dry Cry, $5.19/12oz - "Dry-Hopped Sour Ale Brewed With Riesling Grapes" (source).
  • Stillwater Tangerine Haze, $5.19/12oz - "Wild India Pale Ale with Tangerine" (source).

Video of the Week | Long Live Summer!

We thought this was a fitting video, it being Memorial Day weekend and all.


Friday, May 18, 2018

New Beer Friday, Fish Story Edition (May 18)

Like father
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

Well I have to admit that I’m starting to like being semi-retired. Barb and I spent most of this week at our cottage Up North. We would probably still be there if not for the fact we’re hosting a small party this Saturday for a hundred or so of our loyal homebrewing customers. Just a reminder that the annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Party has a new format this year. Go here for complete details.

Since I don’t have much to do at the store these days, I now have more time to while away on rivers. Barb thinks I’m obsessed with fly fishing and she’s probably right. But instead of trying to tamp down my enthusiasm for the sport she has decided to join me. She has taken a few fly-fishing classes through the local Orvis store and has already fished with me this spring on the Rogue, the Betsie and the Little Manistee. One evening this past week she caught a nice rock bass while fishing off our dock. I was fiddling around in the garage at the time and she ran up to show me her catch then raced back to return the fish to the lake. She might be hooked.

Like son
Last week my son Chris was able to break away from his job for a few days and we spent one of them fishing on the Manistee River below Tippy Dam. The temperature never got above fifty and at about two o’clock a sleety rain began falling and continued on and off until we got off the river two hours later. But we were dressed for the weather, our excellent guide Matt from D-Loop Outfitters got us on fish and we were able to hook into a few nice browns.

That evening back at the cottage I grilled a couple of steaks while Chris sautéed some morels that he had found the previous day. A pre-dinner Manhattan warmed us up and the nice Italian red we had with the meal warmed us up even more. While we ate we talked about the fish we landed and about the two big ones that broke our leaders and got away. It was a pretty good day.

Every fish story has a morel

New and Returning Beer

  • Short's Melt My Brain, $2.19/12oz  - "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).
  • Odd Side Passion Juice, $2.39/12oz - "IPA with passion fruit" (source).
  • Odd Side Shadynasty, $2.59/12oz - "An American IPA with a ton of juicy American hops that include Denali, Citra, and Mosaic. A mouthful of resiny goodness and light malt with a semi dry body that hosts a well rounded bitterness. Pours hazy golden with a lacing white head. Classy! Limited small batch production runs" (source).
  • Lion Coffee Stout, $2.49/12oz - No commercial description.
  • Epic Big Bad Baptista, $16.59/22oz - "Big Bad Baptista is a combination of Vanilla, Cinnamon, Mexican coffee roasted by Blue Copper, and Solstice Chocolate cacao nibs. It’s luxurious to say the least, with a pleasant warming sensation generated by the cinnamon and alcohol. Enjoying the interplay of chocolate, malt, oak, and spice is the perfect way to spend a cool evening, with friends around a fire" (source).
  • Tallgrass German Chocolate, $1.89/12oz - "Stout with roasted coconut and cocoa nibs" (source).
  • North Coast Tart Cherry, $2.89/12oz - "North Coast Tart Cherry Berliner Weisse is made with the juice of Michigan Montmorency cherries, whose addition softens the lactic finish of the beer and gives it a springtime blush" (source).
  • Ciderboys Peach County, $1.79/12oz - "The ice chill of the bottle smiles at the heat of the day. Thirst quenching apple and ripe fuzzy peach collide in a fantasy blend. Crank up the piano keys. Dance if you want to. When summer breezes soar under the light of a crescent moon, this is your party" (source).
  • Ciderboys Pineapple Hula, $1.79/12oz - "Taste rides an unexpected wave.  Refreshing sweet tart flavor alive with the inspired pairing of apple and screaming yellow pineapple.  Big citrus taste born of a feeling the wave will never go flat.  You close your eyes at the peak moment a tremendous feeling rushes over you" (source).
  • Ciderboys First Press, $1.79/12oz - "Everything changes when you bite into a bottle of First Press Traditional Hard Apple Cider. Eyes of friends sparkle. Passion overflows with perhaps the best thing on earth ­ the anticipation of sweet, crisp and tart. Taste hard cider fireworks. Revel in its energy. Grin to the skies. Save an extra for yourself" (source).
  • Ridge Cider Berries, $2.09/12oz - "A tart and tangy blush of Michigan-grown strawberries and blueberries" (source).
  • Central State Oatsplosion, $4.09/16oz - "Brewed with an absurd amount of flaked oats of an equally silly amount of Citra and Mosaic hops, this IPA is bursting with juicy fruit flavors and silky smooth texture" (source).
  • Central State Table, $3.29/16oz - "Table is a rustic blonde ale fermented with our unique yeast strains and brewed in the style of French and Belgian style table beers" (source).
  • Central State Fall Kriek, $3.89/16oz - "No, this beer isn't named for the season of Fall. Rather, it's named after one of the waterways meandering through Indianapolis — Fall Creek. We brewed this sour ale with real cherries to be consumed any time of year. Optimally while enjoying the natural beauty all around us every day" (source).
  • Mikkeller SD Passion Pool, $3.89/16oz - "Gose with Passion Fruit" (source).
  • Mikkeller SD Brunch of Nuts, $6.99/16oz - "Imperial Stout brewed with Coffee, Toasted Coconut and Macadamia Nuts" (source).
  • Mikkeller SD Staff Magician, $3.29/16oz - "New England style Pale Ale" (source).

Quote of the Week

"I’ve met SO many wonderful people over the years ... 
It’s one of the many cool things about running a store like this."

—Steve Siciliano

Go here to read Steve's full interview
with MittenBrew.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

2018 Big Brew Retrospective

By Steve Siciliano

Well I’m certainly glad that the high winds that tore through the environs of Beer City USA late last week died down before they could wreak havoc on Saturday’s Big Brew Day. The gusts were strong enough to topple an ornamental pear tree in our backyard so I can only imagine what would have happened to the tents and brewing equipment that were set up in Trail Point’s parking lot. The weather for Saturday’s festivities couldn’t have been much better for the twenty-eight brew teams and the approximate 275 guests who attended the event.

Except for one rather unfortunate incident, I’m pleased to report that the day went off without a hitch. I’ll spare the reader the odoriferous details but I will say that Barb and I were mortified by the repulsive behavior of our eleven-year-old golden retriever. It’s safe to say that Miss Lizzie has attended her last Big Brew Day.

I’d like to thank the homebrewers for their generosity in sharing their handcrafted beer with the public. Special thanks to the folks at Trail Point for once again allowing us to take over their parking lot for this national celebration of the hobby of homebrewing.

Friday, May 4, 2018

New Beer Friday, Big Brew Day Edition (May 4)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

If you enjoy hand-crafted beer, if you like being around fun-loving people and if you're interested in learning about the process of homebrewing, we invite you to join a gathering of passionate homebrewers at Trail Point Brewing on Saturday, May 5, in a country-wide observance of National Homebrew Day.

In 1988 the United States Congress decreed that the hobby of brewing beer be added to the list of National Days. In that same year the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) created The Big Brew Day as a way for homebrewers to gather together and celebrate the national recognition of their hobby. AHA Big Brews are held each year at hundreds of venues around the country on the first Saturday in May.

Five years ago Siciliano’s Market sponsored its first Big Brew Day and the event has since become one of West Michigan’s most popular public homebrewing celebrations. This year twenty-six teams of dedicated hobbyists will be brewing batches of Beer City Rye IPA in the brewery's back parking lot. Samples of hand-crafted, homemade beer will be available to those of legal drinking age and, of course, Trail Point's solid lineup of commercial offerings will be available for purchase in the pub.

New and Returning Beer

  • Anderson Valley Summer Solstice, $2.19/12oz - "Summer Solstice® is a slightly sweet, malty session beer with a creamy mouth feel and clean finish.  With hints of caramel in the nose and a touch of spice, it’s become affectionately known as “cream soda for adults”. The unique flavors and superior drinkability make for the ultimate refreshment on a hot summer day" (source).
  • Bell's Pooltime, $2.09/12oz - "Pooltime Ale is a refreshing Belgian-inspired Wheat Ale with light clove notes. The truly distinguishing feature is the use of 100% Montmorency tart cherries grown in the Traverse City region of Michigan. These cherries add a subtle tartness and bright counterpoint to the other flavors, enhancing Pooltime’s fruity character and making it the perfect beer for all summer activities" (source).
  • Big Lake BBA Darkstar, $4.69/16oz (2 per) - "A breakfast style stout brewed with Kona and Sumatra coffee aged on cocoa nibs" (source).
  • Boulevard Hibuscus Gose, $1.89/12oz - "Our version of an unusual, yet resurgent, beer style. It pays tribute to the pleasantly sour, slightly salty wheat beers that originated in Goslar and became popular in Leipzig, Germany around the late 1800’s. A great introductory sour beer, Hibiscus Gose receives coriander and sea salt during boiling, then we steep dried hibiscus flowers at the end to create a vibrant pink hue (really, though, it’s pink!). The result is a tangy, sweet and sour ale with a refreshing citrus character" (source).
  • Brewery Vivant Lost Minds, $3.79/16oz - "Tart IPA with Citra and Amarillo hops, Grapefruit, and Mint" (source).
  • Brewery Vivant Tropical Saison, $3.79/16oz - "Live the good life. Pair great beer with great food and enjoy it with friends and family. Tropical Saison is a summertime reverie, bringing together the best our Midwest sunshine has to offer. A slightly spicy character, light effervescence, and the addition of real pineapple & mango juice make this beer perfect for a Michigan summer. The hop presence lends a complexity to this brew" (source).
  • Frankenmuth Lighten Up Francis, $1.89/12oz - "Brewed with traditional Hallertauer hops and German Pils malt, Lighten Up Francis! has a light gold appearance, low bitterness, medium-carbonation and well-attenuated white head. The aroma of this American style Kölsch Ale delivers a pleasantly subtle and grainy-sweet undertone. Imbibers will enjoy a subdued hop presence, refreshing crispness and clean aftertaste" (source).
  • Latitude 42 Bubba Kolsch, $2.39/16oz - No commercial description.
  • Latitude Nectar of the Goddess, $2.49/16oz - "Nectar of the Goddess is our Unfiltered American Wheat with Blood Oranges, Passion Fruit and Locally Sourced Michigan Honey. When drinking Nectar of the Goddess you get a unique, unfiltered fruity and tart wheat ale flavor perfect for summer" (source).
  • New Belgium Hemperor, $2.69/12oz - "Get ready: an exciting new offering that’ll change the way you think about hoppy beers is coming your way. The brewers at New Belgium have created a new style of IPA: The Hemperor HPA. With the popularity of hoppy beers, our brewers are always on the lookout for different hop varieties and the complexities and flavors new strains can bring. That’s where hemp comes into the picture. Without getting too nerdy, we found a unique way to recreate hemp terpene flavors in a beer, which complement the inclusion of hop flavors and hemp hearts (seeds) in a brand new, delicious way—not to mention this beer is extremely dank! The flavors and aromas are so unique that it’s a style unto itself, hence HPA®" (source).
  • New Holland Taz, $1.99/12oz - "Inspired by and sourced from the wild world down under, Taz IPA is 'chockers' with some of the world's greatest hops. Galaxy and Nelson Sauvin hops from Australia and New Zealand combine to offer savage bitterness and a touch of fruitiness" (source).
  • Odd Side Grapefruit Wheat, $2.19/12oz - "A wheat beer brewed with grapefruit" (source).
  • Odd Side Tangerine of My Rye, $2.39/12oz - "Rye IPA with Tangerine Peel Added" (source).
  • Pux Kyoodle, $3.19/12oz  - "In 2012 the Schaefer family began planting heirloom and cider apples on the homesteaded family orchard.  At this same time, we started to create small batches of cider.  As the cider started to flow, so did our experience with and enthusiasm for these old cultivars. Currently, Pux Ciders benefit from close to 125 of our apple cultivars. These range from American dessert apples to French and English cider apples. We use these apples to create each unique batch of Pux crafted ciders. We also use other local Michigan products in our ciders, like tart cherries, pears and hops" (source).
  • Short's Anniversary, $2.59/12oz - "Anniversary Ale is a dry hopped, high-gravity, Wheat Wine Ale brewed with peppercorns, blood oranges, and orange zest. Flavors range from the spiciness of green peppercorns to the tang of blood orange zest. Aggressive dry hopping of Simcoe hops amplifies the citrus overtones and spiciness found throughout the beer. Anniversary Ale typifies Short’s Brewing Company by embodying all of the complexities that come along with another year of brewing" (source).
  • Short's BBA Huma, $13.19/22oz - "Bourbon Barrel Aged Huma Lupa Licious is our best-selling American India Pale Ale aged in bourbon barrels. Initial malt sweetness is replaced with flavors of charred oak and sweet vanilla, followed by the standard Huma hop punch to the palate. This new combination creates the sensation of sipping on a sweet Bourbon that finishes like a bitter hop theme park in your mouth" (source).
  • Southern Tier The Psychic Laser, $4.09/16oz - "The third release in our Science is the Art Collection stays with our double IPA theme, but with a twist. We’ve moved away from our house ale yeast in favor of saison’s estery, earthy and spicy notes. We love the way these essential saison characteristics meld with the tropical, fruity, piney and citrusy notes from some of our favorite hops: Mosaic, Equanot, and Simcoe" (source).
  • Witches hat Plum Cobbler Saison, $2.59/12oz - "Saison fermented and aged in freshly dumped port and red wine barrels with Cascara and fresh whole plums" (source).

Video of the Week | Here's to Homebrew!

What do you love about homebrewing?


Friday, April 27, 2018

New Beer Friday, Post Judging Edition (April 27)

The Judging
Preamble by Joseph P. Sprinklehead

When I got to the judging venue last Saturday all the entries in the Siciliano's 2018 Homebrew Competition had been assessed and scored and the volunteers were enjoying a post judging lunch. I walked up to the buffet and put three soft tacos on one plate, a heaping mound of tortilla chips on another, big scoops of salsa and bean dip on a third, grabbed a can of beer, stashed it in the pocket of my hoodie, stacked the plates on top of each other and then walked over to the table where Steve and Barb were sitting.

“Mind if I join you?” I asked.

“There’s no room,” Steve said without looking up from his work.

“Now Steve,” Barb said. “You promised you’d be nice to Joe.”

“Oh alright,” Steve said and sighed. “But don’t go asking the best-of-show judges any questions this year. I warned them about you.”

“Scout's honor.”

I sat down and cracked open the beer and then proceeded to demolish one of the tacos. “Good chow,” I said after a handful of chips and a long swig of PC Pils.

“It’s from the Adobe,” Barb said.

“I love the Adobe’s food,” I said and began working on the second taco. “I go to the one on Fulton three, maybe four times a week.

“That’s nice,” Steve said.

I usually get a burrito.”

“That’s nice.”

“I prefer the beef but once in a while I get the chicken.”

“That’s nice.”

Before starting on the third taco I grabbed the pencil from behind my ear and opened a small notepad. “So how’d it go today?”

“It went fine,” Barb said. “A few minor glitches but we worked through them.”

“Not so fast, Barb,” I said. “A few minor glitches but we worked through them,” I repeated aloud while I wrote. “How many entries?”

“One hundred thirty-two,” Steve said.

“Do you have a tally of the medal winners yet?”

“Twenty-nine gold, thirty-three silver, twenty-eight bronze.”

How many were in the best-of-show round?”


“Would you be willing to tell me who won?”


“Didn’t think so. Would you be willing to tell me what styles?”


“Would you be willing to tell me if the winner is male or female?”


“What would you be willing to tell me?”

“The best-of-show winner lives in West Michigan.”

“Grand Rapids area?”


Before I left I drank two more beers and demolished three more tacos. I sure do love the Adobe’s food.

The Best-of-Show winner for the 2018 Siciliano’s Home Brew Competition will be announced at the Fifteenth Annual Siciliano’s Home Brew Party on Saturday, May 19 at Johnson Park. Go here for complete details.

New and Returning Beer

  • Atwater Coconut Vanilla Java Porter, $1.99/12oz - Coconut vanilla java porter from Atwater.
  • Big Lake Hazy, $2.99/16oz - "A juicy New England IPA made with loads of Citra and Mosaic hops" (source).
  • Big Lake Shandy, $2.79/16oz - "A lemon shandy with a tart finish, perfect for a warm summer day" (source).
  • Copper Can Moscow Mule, $4.39/12oz - "The Copper Can gives you easy access to the world famous cocktail in stylish fashion. So please, sit back, relax, and enjoy responsibly" (source).
  • Destihl Lynnbrook, $2.99/12oz - "Lynnbrook, named after our founder’s family farm, is a wild Berliner-Style Weisse with raspberries added, resulting in a very refreshing beer presenting with fuchsia color and an aroma reminiscent of picking tart red raspberries growing next to an old, abandoned barn, with the raspberry-lemon aroma giving way to hints of brie and barnyard funkiness. The flavor is absent of any hops or bitterness and instead has initial impression of subtle lemon and yogurt supported by tart, fresh raspberries and underlying lactic sourness. The beer’s dry finish helps cut through some sweetness from the fruit" (source).
  • Founders Dank Wood, $3.79/12oz & $11.99/750ml - "What do you get when a big, bold imperial red IPA meets an oak bourbon barrel? A palate stunner that’ll send your senses spinning or, as we like to call it, Dankwood. Rich caramel notes emerge from the depths of the IPA, highlighting strong malt character while the bourbon barrel-aging develops the complexity. A dank, sticky and slightly sweet sipper, Dankwood is the perfect alchemy of wood and hops" (source).
  • Founders Green Zebra, $1.99/12oz - "The soft mouthfeel and dry finish comes courtesy of the addition of sea salt, a traditional gose ingredient" (source).
  • Golden Road Wolf Pup, $2.09/12oz - "Hoppy and refreshing, Wolf Pup is our riff on a Session IPA. Highly drinkable with a wildly aromatic tropical and citrus character, it’s the perfect companion to keep on sippin’ for those long, sunny days. Brewed & Canned in Los Angeles & Fairfield, CA" (source).
  • Goose Island Cooper Project #4, $4.79/12oz (2 per) - No commercial description.
  • Lagunitas Waldos' Special Ale, $2.29/12oz - "In 1971, the Waldos met one afternoon at 4:20 in the front courtyard of their school near the statue of Louis Pasteur. They set out in a '66 Impala armed with a "treasure map" on a journey to find a secret garden near Point Reyes. They met there at the same time every day and continued their quest. They never found the secret garden....But they keep lookin'. The dankest and hoppiest beer ever brewed at Lagunitas was made with help of the Waldos for all treasure hunters" (source).
  • Odd Side Beerjito, $2.19/12oz  - "Blonde ale brewed with lime and mint. Hand crafted to remove gluten" (source).
  • Odd Side Diggity Dank, $2.39/12oz - "Our india pale ale with el dorado, amarillo, sincoe & denali hops" (source).
  • Odd Side Lolly Catcher, $2.19/12oz - "A carefully crafted, comforting concoction of creamy cohesiveness" (source).
  • Odd Side Mosiac Dank, $2.39/12oz - "Aromas of tangerine, grapefruit, and berries give way to a smooth, hazy beer with citrus flavors with a hint of pine" (source).
  • Odd Side Tangy Dank, $2.59/12oz - "The original juicy Dank IPA blended with an oak-aged sour" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Otra Vez, $1.79/12oz - "We combined the classic flavors of lime and blue agave nectar in a tart gose-style beer for the ultimate answer to the heavy heat of the day. The bright lime flavor helps wake up the palate while the mild sweetness of the agave rounds out the tangy zip of the citrus fruit. Light and refreshing, this all-new Otra Vez will have you calling for another round" (source).
  • Southern Tier Barrel House Series BBA Oat, $11.99/16.9oz - "Our classic imperial oatmeal stout aged in bourbon barrels" (source).
  • Southern Tier Peach Gose, $4.09/12oz - "Limited release brewed with peaches, chamomile, cardamom and coriander" (source).
  • Tallgrass Half Pipe, $1.89/12oz - "Half-Pipe is a tart, citrusy and totally rad American pale, perfect for the bright, sunny days of spring and summer. It’s kettle-soured with lactobacillus and generously dry-hopped to balance the tartness with bright hop character and aroma. This beer is inspired by the rad individuals who get air and grind — on rails and curbs — in alleys and ‘burbs. It’s a shout-out to all of the fearless extreme sports athletes. The world is your playground" (source).
  • Weihenstephaner/Sierra Nevada Braupack, $2.29/12oz - "Ausgeprägt fruchtig-hopfiges Hefeweißbier mit der Hopfensorte Hallertauer Tradition sowie den amerikanischen Aromahopfensorten Amarillo und Chinook" (source).

Video of the Week | The Waldos

Now available at Siciliano's!


Friday, April 20, 2018

New Beer Friday, Key West Part II Edition (April 20)

Local iguana expert
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

The first thing you notice when you step onto the tarmac at Key West International Airport is a big red-lettered sign above the entrance to the terminal welcoming you to the Conch Republic. Within minutes of landing my wife Barb and I were climbing into a taxi. “The La Concha Hotel,” I said to the driver.

The La Concha is located on upper Duval Street about six blocks away from Sloppy Joe’s bar, arguably the epicenter of Key West’s alcohol-fueled craziness. The La Concha opened in 1926 as one of the area’s first luxury hotels and Harry Truman, Al Capone, Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams were some of its notable guests.

“It’s supposed to be haunted,” Barb told me shortly after she booked our reservation.

“That’s cool,” I said. “I wouldn’t mind running into a ghost.”

“One of them supposedly hangs out in the elevators.”

“Well, we’ll have to keep our eyes open,” I replied.

While my wife was taking care of the checking in paperwork I looked around and visualized a hulking Hemingway bellied up with a Papa Doble at the lobby bar. We walked to the elevators and as soon as the doors opened Barb leaned forward and took a quick peek inside. “No ghosts,” she proclaimed, sounding a tad disappointed. I smiled and imagined how my wife would react if she ever did see a ghost.

If you like hanging out in saloons, Key West is your kind of town. If you’re walking down Duval or around Key West Bight or the vicinity of Mallory Square you can’t go twenty yards without coming across a watering hole. Barb and I avoid the overtly touristy ones. Sloppy Joe’s is perpetually packed but it’s not our type of joint. It touts itself as Hemingway’s favorite bar but in reality the famous rum-loving writer never tossed back a drink there. The original Sloppy Joe’s where he did drink his daily double Daiquiris was about a block away on Greene Street. The owner moved the bar to its present Duval location in 1938 when the landlord raised the rent. Papa was long gone by then, having moved his writing and drinking ninety miles south to Cuba.

On the other hand Captain Tony’s Saloon, the bar that’s housed in Sloppy Joe’s original location, is our type of joint. It’s a bit touristy but it’s also very much a dive. It’s dark, gritty and smoky (smoking is still allowed in bars in Key West) and is never overrun with tourists even when the cruise ships are in port. I have regularly observed folks take a few hesitant steps inside and then quickly turning and skedaddling. If they overcome their fears and do come in and order a drink you can see the disgust build on their sunburned faces. When they get back home they probably post a scathing review on the internet.

Some of our other favorite haunts are the Bull and Whistle (a good place to sit with your feet propped up on the low window sill and people watch), The Schooner Warf (good raw oysters and steamed shrimp) and, of course, the Green Parrot.

The Green Parrot attracts both tourists and locals but the tourists for the most part are older folks (fifty plus) who are on extended stays in Key West. On one afternoon we got into a pleasant conversation with a couple from Baltimore who told us about a good Beatles cover band that would be playing in the bar the following night. We returned for the show and sat with the very nice couple again. On another night we watched yet another band and sat with some male retirees who were riding Sea-doos the entire length of the Intracoastal Waterway. Not exactly my idea of a good time but hey, to each his own.

There’s a nice cigar lounge about a block from the La Costa where Barb and I spent an hour or so every day for a respite from the heat and the crowds. The fellow who runs the place lost an eye and wears a cartoonish patch (an oversized, bulging caricature of a red-veined eyeball) over his empty socket. After chatting with him for a while I asked how he lost the orb.

“She told me to stay put and I got up,” he laconically replied.

On another day an old salt who could have come straight out of central casting gabbed on for a half hour about how iguanas might eventually inherit the earth.

“The females lay twenty eggs three times a year,” he informed us. “If they ever mutate watch your asses. It’s going to be just like Jurassic Park.”

I’m thinking that the Conch Republic is about the only place you would hear crazy talk like that.

New and Returning Beer

  • Against The Grain 35K, $3.89/16oz - "Not your typical “Jelly of the Month Club” beer. Dark roasted malt and bittersweet cocoa and coffee flavor and aroma burst from this pitch black milk stout. The full body and sweetness are derived from the addition of lactose (aka milk sugar) which is not fermentable by beer yeast. A healthy dose of Nugget and Crystal hops provides a counterpoint to this ale’s rich and complex maltiness" (source).
  • Arbor Pollination Sensation, $2.19/12oz - "Brewed with fresh lavender flowers and wildflower honey, this light bodied ale is fresh and floral with a hint of sugary sweetness to round it out. Pollination is the perfect way to welcome spring" (source).
  • Atwater Street Artist, $3.59/16oz - "A delight for those who are crazy about hops. This Citra IPA is higher on the ABV and sips with a lemon zest" (source).
  • Ballast Point Aloha Sculpin, $2.39/12oz - "With Aloha Sculpin, we used Brux Trois yeast to turn our award-winning IPA into a tropical oasis, with bright and refreshing notes of mango, pineapple, and guava. This yeast also adds a slight haze to the beer, creating a smooth mouthfeel to round out its juicy character. Simply put, this is paradise in the palm of your hands" (source).
  • Dark Horse Sapient, $2.09/12oz - "We brew this trippel with a Trappist yeast strain to hold true to the traditional style. The flavors are incredibly complex with notes of mild fruit that finish with just a bit of clove. Although this beer has a slightly higher ABV, you will find it finishes very smooth and dry on the palette. This makes for a perfect summer sipper" (source).
  • Dark Horse Smells Like A Safety Meeting, $2.19/12oz - "S.L.A.S.M. is our most Aromatic IPA. This India Pale Ale is very reminiscent of the hop’s cousin in the Mulberry family. Lots of hop aroma with just the right amount of bitterness as we like to keep balance around here. Between the secret blend of the most DANK hops we can get our hands on and a "more than healthy" dose of double dry hopping, this beer can be announced to the nose from across the room that someone is definitely having a Safety Meeting" (source).
  • Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze, $15.59/375ml - "A true Geuze - a blend of 1, 2, and 3 year-old lambic, unfiltered and unpasteurized, and aged in the bottle for at least a year after blending. Refermentation in the bottle gives this Geuze its famous champagne-like spritziness. The lambic that goes into it is brewed only with 60% barley malt, 40% unmalted wheat, aged hops, and water, spontaneously fermented by wild yeasts, and matured in oak casks" (source).
  • Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriek, $16.29/ 375ml - "Oude Kriek 3 Fonteinen is produced by ripening of cherries (both the flesh and the seeds) in young Lambic. This process takes between 6 to 8 months. After bottling the beer matures for at least 4 months in a warm room where the spontaneous fermentation in the bottle is done. The head of Oude Kriek is very sensitive to the concentration of the cherry seeds containing oil and may differ from one year to the other" (source).
  • Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriekenlambiek, $17.39/375ml - "3 Fonteinen (Oude) Kriekenlambik is the result of macerating hand-picked whole sour cherries on young lambic for at least four months, in a proportion of one kilogram of fruit per litre of lambic (and possibly blended with some more young lambic). Fruit intensity ranges from minimum 35% to 50%. Aside some selected bars (e.g. 20th Anniversary of Akkurat in Stockholm, Sweden), this sour cherry lambic is available at given times in the lambik-O-droom" (source).
  • Forbidden Fruit Apple, $2.69/12oz - "Captures the true essence of fresh Michigan apples and cherries! Delicious Montemorency cherries leap from the glass, followed by hints of almond on the palate" (source).
  • Forbidden Fruit Cherry, $2.69/12oz - "Hard Cider w/ Michigan Apples and Cherries" (source).
  • Golden Road Mango Cart, $2.09/12oz - "A light, refreshing Wheat Ale with lots of fresh mango and a pleasant, slightly tart finish" (source).
  • Great Lakes Chillwave, $3.49/12oz - "Inspired by the North Coast’s dedicated (and sometimes chilly) surf community, our Double IPA will melt the ice in your beard and never lose its balance" (source).
  • Grimm Vacay, $12.99/22oz - "Hoppy, hazy, and assertively tart. Vacay finds us in our classic dry hopped sour mode — possibly our favorite kind of beer to brew and drink. We decided to take a vacation from the American hop varietals we use frequently, and instead assemble a blend of exciting, fruit-forward neo-German and New Zealand flavors including Huell Melon, Hallertau Blanc, and Southern Cross. Notes of lemongrass, apricot, mandarin, orange flower, black peppercorn. A juicy, puckering refresher with lightly toasted white oak in the background. This beer has never been boiled" (source).
  • New Holland Dragon Milk Reserve Chocolate Cherry, $4.89/12oz - "Chocolate is a flavor that is already present in Dragon’s Milk when it comes out of the barrel, but we’re able to play that up and really bring out the wonderful chocolate smoothness. Obviously, that just couples extremely well with the cherry flavor" (source).
  • Ommegang Double Barrel Aged Double, $5.69/12oz - "A beautiful blend of traditional Belgian-style dubbel aged in bourbon and brandy casks" (source).
  • Short's Sticky Boots, $2.59/12oz - "Sticky Boots is a triple dry-hopped Double IPA. Copper in color with a substantial white head carrying dank aromas of floral and citrus hops. Leading with strong tropical flavors and a juicy mouthfeel, this beer transitions into highlighting the floral hops. Well balanced and easy to drink, Sticky Boots finishes with huge juicy tropical flavors" (source).
  • Stone Scorpion Bowl, $5.49/22oz - "To create a recipe so tropical and fruity without the addition of fruit was no feat our team of brewers would leave up to the gods. They took floral and citrus notes from Mosaic, Loral and Mandarina Bavaria hops to dish up a mouthwatering fruit punch to the palate. Get deserted on your own island or share with others. One thing is for sure: there is no need to light this one. It is already on fire" (source).
  • Stormcloud Whiled Away, $2.19/12oz - "Belgian IPA brewed with a blend of Columbus, Centennial, Cascade, Amarillo and Citra hops and fermented at cold temps with our house Belgian yeast" (source).
  • Stormcloud Rainmaker, $1.99/12oz - "Our GABF bronze medal winning Belgian-style Pale Ale" (source).
  • Strongbow Artisanal Blend, $1.69/12oz - "A cloudy appearance, reminiscent of traditional ciders. The subtle yet charming aroma of farm-fresh heirloom apples is balanced by the pleasantly refreshing texture. The semi-sweet finish indulges your palate with a velvety and crisp apple kick" (source).
  • To Øl Mr. Blonde, $6.99/16oz - "This beer is a bright 6,5% Belgian IPA, hopped with Citra for that refreshing citrus bite, and then loaded up with Gooseberries to give it a grape like tart finish" (source).
  • To Øl Mr. Brown, $6.99/16oz - "t’s not often we brew bock styles, but the idea of mixing aromatic figs and dates together with a shot of coffee and cacao and wrapping it all together in one hoppy showdown was too tempting" (source).
  • Uinta Lime Pilsner, $1.69/12oz - "Crisp, light-bodied and immensely refreshing, our small batch Lime Pilsner combines a subtle malty sweetness with hints of fresh lime for a little splash of summertime, anytime, anywhere" (source).

Video of the Week | A Storm's a-Brewin'

Select labels from Stormcloud now available at Siciliano's.


Friday, April 13, 2018

New Beer Friday, Adventures in Key West Edition (April 13)

The Green Parrot
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

Way back in the early 70s when I was pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Michigan State I made annual road trips to Florida with a dozen or so fellow MSU undergrads. Our usual roosting spot was Daytona Beach. We stayed in campgrounds, ate at fast food joints and spent most of our time doing what young males on spring break generally do — lolling on the beach during the day, consuming copious amounts of alcohol at night and trying continuously to hook up with vacationing coeds. One year the weather didn’t cooperate and in an effort to find the sun we motored south down A1A and eventually made our way to Key West. We probably would have gone further but we ran out of road.

Key West lies at the southernmost point in the contiguous 48 states and the island city’s end-of-the-line geography probably has something to do with its infamous laid back mentality and its propensity for attracting eccentrics. Key West is still that way today but I imagine it was even more so in the early 1970s. Back then there were no docks for the cruise ships. There were less waterfront resorts, less tacky souvenir shops and a lot less tourists parading up and down Duval. But Key West is still a good place to get away from it all, to recharge batteries and to rub shoulders with idiosyncratic and invariably loquacious locals.

Most of my memories of that first trip to Key West have been blurred by the passage of time but I do remember being captivated by the wood-framed, pastel-painted houses with their gingerbread trim, louvered shutters and covered porches. The Caribbean architecture was something I had never seen before. I have a distinct memory of walking down a deserted Whitehead Street one evening and pausing in front of the Audubon House to gape at the tropical gardens behind the white picket fence.

I also distinctly remember the afternoon when some of us piled into a VW bus to test the legitimacy of a dime bag of dope. While the hippy dealers drove us around town we passed around a joint and I remember being scared shitless that we were going to be pulled over by the cops. The grass wasn’t all that good but we bought it anyway.

It was probably later that same night that I made my first visit to the Green Parrot bar. Like many Key West watering holes the Green Parrot is an ancient wood structure that someone converted into a saloon. It too was fairly deserted and inside it was dark and a bit grimy. I played pool with a couple of locals while a warm breeze drifted through the open shuttered windows and Al Green played on the juke box.

My next visit to Key West was with my first wife and another couple twenty-five years later. We stayed in a posh hotel next to Mallory Square and when I got bored one afternoon with laying around the pool I told my traveling companions that I was going for a walk. I hit a number of bars and when I returned about three hours later my wife was understandably livid. I apologized my ass off but it put a damper on the remainder of the trip.

My current wife Barb and I have been to Key West three times now. On our first visit we stayed at a rather seedy joint on Truman Street and while walking back to the motel one night we got tired and sat down on a stack of lumber that was piled up next to the sidewalk. We both ended up dozing off for a few minutes but what the hell. When you’re in Key West you tend to do a bit of drinking. It was on that trip that I realized how much Key West had changed from the early 70s. Whenever we went to the Green Parrot it was so packed we could hardly find a seat.

One afternoon on our second visit we stumbled across a clothing optional rooftop bar. The only naked customers were a couple of rotund fellows who had to be north of seventy. We got the hell out of there but the disturbing visual still haunts me to this day. On another afternoon we found a watering hole on the edge of a residential neighborhood a number of blocks off Duval. There were some interesting characters bellied up and a dog was sleeping on the bar. I got in a conversation with an old guy sitting next to me who for some reason thought I was an undercover cop. After I finally convinced him that I wasn’t he invited Barb and me to smoke a joint with him. Come to think of it, maybe Key West hasn’t changed so much after all.

Look for a post on Steve and Barb’s latest Key West adventure in a future edition of The Buzz.

New and Returning Beer

  • Cigar City Jai Alai, $2.19/12oz - "Jai Alai, a game native to the Basque region of Spain, is played on a court called a fronton. Jai Alai players attempt to catch a ball using a curved mitt whilst the ball travels at speeds up to 188mph! Proving they have a sense of humor the Spanish dubbed this game, with its ball traveling at racecar speeds, “the merry game.” Tampa was once home to a bustling Jai Alai fronton but sadly all that remains of Jai Alai in the Tampa Bay area is this India Pale Ale that we brew in tribute to the merry game. The India Pale Ale style of beer has its roots in the ales sent from England to thirsty British troops in India during the 18th century. Pair Jai Alai India Pale Ale with beef empanadas, deviled crabs and other spicy dishes" (source).
  • Central Waters Peruvian Morning, $4.89/12oz - "Central Waters' 10th Anniversary Imperial Stout infused with peruvian coffee and aged in a bourbon barrel" (source).
  • Coppercraft G&T, $3.99/12oz - "For the first time ever, a Michigan distillery has put real spirit, distilled on-site, and placed it in a convenient container. Gin, hand-made tonic and lime. Premium G&T, designed for your active lifestyle" (source).
  • Destihl Wild Sour Blueberry, $2.99/12oz - "Our Leipzig-Style Gose (Here Gose Nothin’®) is often seen being French-pressed through blueberries for a combination destined to be together, so we’ve done the hard work for you with this edition of our Gose by adding the blueberries at the brewery, which unites another layer of fruity complexity in this sour ale already known for its tart, citrusy, lime-like qualities, slight spicy note from added coriander and a noticeable mineral mouthfeel from added sea salt harvested from the shores of France" (source).
  • Ellison Gnomes, $2.59/16oz - "Beautifully colored Amber Ale greets you with an aroma of fruit and biscuits. With your first sip you'll notice the amount of roasted malts and honey malts that went into making this beer. The finish is pleasantly sweet" (source).
  • Evil Twin Soup Superior, $5.49/16oz - "India Pale Ale Brewed with oat and lactose with vanilla and pomegranate added" (source).
  • Evil Twin/Omnipollo Rainbownade, $5.49/12oz - "The beer is an IPA brewed with grapefruit passion fruit, mango, raspberry and blueberry" (source).
  • Great Divide Samurai, $2.19/12oz - "Samurai is the perfect beer for your zen garden after battle, or your patio after a long day of work. The addition of rice gives a slightly fruity, crisp, refreshing element to this hazy unfiltered ale, creating a light, easy-going beer suitable for the peaceful warrior. This may be your first Samurai, but it certainly won’t be your last" (source).
  • Griffin Claw El Ligero, $2.39/16oz - "Mexican lager brewed with fresh lime" (source).
  • Griffin Claw Faux Pas, $2.79/16oz - "While The Traditional Hefs Call For Tones Of Banana and Clove. This Hef Defies That Standard. As A True Faux Pas - This Hef Was Hit With A Hard Dose Of Hops And In Turn This Hazy Hef Is A True Hefe/IPA Hybrid. It Goes Down Smooth But The 8.5% Shines Thru. Sweet Hazy Bitterness" (source).
  • Griffin Claw Simcoenicity, $2.79/16oz - "IPA dry hopped with whole leaf Simcoe hops. With the malty backbone of Norm’s, the simcoe adds a new level of tropical, piney bitterness" (source).
  • Moosehead Pale, $1.49/16oz - "A true top-fermented ale, Moosehead Pale Ale is medium bodied and fermented at warmer temperatures to impart its floral aromatics" (source).
  • Moosehead Radler, $1.39/12oz - "Moosehead Radler is based on our award-winning lager recipe but features hits of natural grapefruit, grape and lemon juices to round out a truly unique taste profile" (source).
  • New Belgium Tartastic Strawberry Lemon, $1.79/12oz - "A delightful combination of strawberry and lemon purees fill the senses with an enticing balance of sweet and sour fruit" (source).
  • North Peak Arch Angel, $1.89/12oz - "A solid American wheat, with a classic nose that transitions to a faint cherry aroma complimenting its rich amber gold hue. As this well-balanced and deceptively light-bodied wheat beer travels across the tongue, the willamette and perle hops hint at bitterness, followed by a crisp, clean wheat flavor that cuts to a subtle tart cherry finish" (source).
  • Port Nelson the Greeter, $2.99/16oz - "Paying homage to a rather (in)famous surf spot/clothing-optional beach in San Diego, Nelson the Greeter is the newest hoppy offering from Port Brewing. Using the brash flavors of Nelson hops to lead the charge, the Greeter has a strong hop supporting cast using Denali, Lemon Drop, and Mosaic varietals to round out this IPA" (source).
  • Prairie Brett C, $10.09/500ml - "A farmhouse ale brewed with cascade and citra hops, and a touch of sea salt. Conditioned with brettanomyces claussenii" (source).
  • Short's ControversiAle, $2.19/12oz - "ControversiALE is an American IPA brewed exclusively with Simcoe hops originally brewed for the City Park Grill in Petoskey, MI. Earthy, citrus and pine laced aromas are instantly delectable. Large amounts of toasted grains and high alpha hops form a perfect union that creates the cool sensation of toasted sourdough covered with zesty grapefruit hop marmalade. ControversiALE has an enchantingly straightforward hop aroma, flavor, and overall intensity through ample additions of Simcoe hops. While this beer is hopped like an IPA, it drinks like a pale ale. The light, refreshing qualities of this beer make it perfect for springtime" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Summerfest, $1.79/12oz - "Since their invention in the 1840s, Pilsener-style beers have become the world’s most popular style. With a nod toward the original Czech tradition, Summerfest is brewed to feature the best of Bohemian nature. Crisp, golden, dry and incredibly drinkable, Summerfest has a delicate and complex malt flavor and spicy and floral hop character—the perfect warm weather beer" (source).
  • Stillwater Critical Thinking, $3.79/16oz - "Imperial Stout" (source).
  • Tripelroot Pack Light, $2.09/12oz - Pilsner.

Video of the Week | Summer in Michigan

Don't lose hope. Summer is coming!