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Friday, May 20, 2016

New Beer Friday, Time to Party Edition (May 20)

The Siciliano Cup
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

Tomorrow afternoon over one hundred craft beer enthusiasts will squeeze into the enclosed pavilion at Johnson Park for the awards ceremony for the Thirteenth Siciliano’s Homebrew Competition. The pleasure of draping gold, silver and bronze medals over the necks of wide-smiling homebrewers and the honor of presenting the Siciliano’s Cup to the beaming Best of Show winner are my favorite parts of the annual Siciliano’s homebrew parties. Having the opportunity to hang out with a group of truly wonderful people who share the common denominator of the love of hand-crafted beer comes in as a close second.

Jimmie Stagger and his bandmates will be providing some great entertainment at the party, the folks from Three Men and a Grill will be cooking up some excellent food and there will be plenty of stellar homemade beers, wines, ciders and meads to sample. I can’t think of too many better ways to spend a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon in Beer City USA.

New and Returning Beer

  • Founders Devil Dancer, $5.19/12oz - "When you dance with the Devil, the Devil don’t change. You do. Massive in complexity, the huge malt character balances the insane amount of alphas used to create it. At an incredible 112 IBUs, it’s dry-hopped with ten hop varieties" (source).
  • Paw Paw The Good, $2.29/12oz - "Double India Pale Ale" (source).
  • The Bruery Tart of Darkness, $20.79/750ml - "Tart of Darkness is a sour stout that we aged in used oak barrels that previously housed beers such as Sucré™ or Black Tuesday®. The result is a perfectly tart yet awesomely dark and roasty sour stout. This very special edition has an addition of tart cherries and sweet vanilla beans. The additional cherries help bring the fruit character of the Belgian-style yeast to the forefront while the vanilla matches flawlessly with the burnt roastiness of the malt" (source).
  • The Bruery Poterie, $31.99/750ml - "Poterie is French for “pottery”, the traditional eight-year anniversary gift. Our eighth anniversary ale, Poterie, follows in the footsteps of our anniversary releases before it, which are loosely based on an English-style old ale, fermented with our house yeast strain and then blended using the solera method. This means that a portion of each anniversary ale is saved in oak barrels and blended in with the next year’s production, providing more complexity and depth of character as the years go by. The result is layered in robust and complex flavors of toffee, caramel, dark fruit, vanilla and oak. Poterie will age gracefully for decades when cellared properly. Best stored and served around 55 degrees in a tulip, wine or hand-sculpted pottery glass" (source).
  • Odd Side Wheatermelon, $2.29/12oz - "The perfect summer treat. A wheat ale brewed with tons of fresh cut watermelon" (source).
  • Avery Twenty Three, $8.19/22oz - "Inspired by Brabant (remember that one?) and the goodness of its marriage of Brettanomyces fermentation and Belgian dark malts, we’ve crafted this celebratory wild ale using three strains of Bretts. Our house strain, Brettanomyces drie, brings loads of ripe stone fruit aromas to the mix. Brettanomyces bruxellensis lends the classic horsey and rustic aspects of a traditional wild ale, while Brettanomyces custersianus delivers massive tropical fruit essences to the flavor party. Add some beautiful, dark and robust Belgian specialty malts for caramel, chocolate and fig elements and you have this — our rendition of a Dark Farmhouse Ale" (source).
  • Great Lakes Steady Rollin', $1.69/12oz - "A single-hopped session IPA brewed with Mosaic hops and inspired by the vibrant landscape of the Great Lakes region, Steady Rollin' is the perfect companion for cutting a new trail or rowing to a secluded bank with friends to kick back and watch the afternoon fade away. Fans of our Chillwave Double IPA will recognize the tropical fruit aromas and flavors of the Mosaic hop, which holds its own in Steady Rollin', adding tropical, fruity, and earthy aromas and flavors" (source).
  • Short's Nicie, $1.99/12oz - "Nicie is an American Wheat Ale brewed with orange zest, lemon zest, coriander, and a hint of peppercorn. Orange-gold in color and light in body, Nicie is infused with the scents and flavors of fresh citrus. The subtle taste of coriander and spice of peppercorn makes this ale both refreshing and complex. Nicie is the perfect accompaniment to a summer day" (source).
  • Short's Hopstache, $2.39/12oz - "Hopstache typifies the boldness that comes from American hop varieties. The aroma is dominated by fruity ale yeast esters and fragrant grapefruit tones. Initial malt sweetness is low, and citrus fruit and floral hop qualities overpower any other perceived flavors. Aided by the addition of grapefruit zest, the finish is a sharp hop shock that electrifies the mouth, but is not overly bitter" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Pennsylvania Tuxedo, $2.89 - "A spruce-infused pale ale, Pennsylvania Tuxedo pays homage to the flannel-suited hunters and gatherers who dwell deep in the backcountry of north-central PA" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Immortale, $4.29/12oz - "Pour this over pancakes. Vast in character, luscious and complex, Immort Ale was born at our brewpub in 1995 and made its way into bottles in 1997" (source).
  • Avery Raspberry Sour, $13.79/750ml - "Sour ale with raspberries added. Aged in oak barrels. Luscious ripe red raspberries are elegantly intertwined with a bountiful amount of lactic acidity and delicate barrel nuances to cultivate this stunning sour ale" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Bitches Brew, $14.39/750ml - "In honor of the 40th anniversary of the original release of Bitches Brew, Miles Davis' 1970 paradigm-shifting landmark fusion breakthrough, we've created our own Bitches Brew -- a dark beer that's a fusion of three threads of imperial stout and one thread of honey beer with gesho root. It's a gustatory analog to Miles' masterpiece" (source).
  • Avery Samael's, $8.99/12oz (1 per) - "Samael is the prince of demons, the angel of death, accuser and destroyer. Filled with enmity towards man, he planted the vine, the forbidden tree of paradise. Behold his venom and vengeance, both sweet and tempting, enticing you, his spellbound victim, within his wings" (source).
  • Oberon Mini Kegs, 23.59/5L - "Bell's Oberon is a wheat ale fermented with Bell's signature house ale yeast, mixing a spicy hop character with mildly fruity aromas. The addition of wheat malt lends a smooth mouthfeel, making it a classic summer bee" (source).

Picture of the Week | Just Chillin'


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Brew of the Month, May Edition: Matt's 30 Minute IPA

By Matt Ross

May’s Brew of the Month recipe was created to fill a void in my palate. Beer of all styles appeal to me and I can appreciate almost anything, but lately I’ve just wanted to punish my tongue with hops. May’s Brew of the Month recipe was crafted to do just that. I present the 30 Minute IPA.

The beer I've been craving has a light malt presence with moderate attenuation and almost no yeast character. It's obviously hop forward but not extremely bitter. I prefer more flavor and aroma, specifically tropical fruit, citrus and pine. I studied award-winning homebrew IPA practices and through my research as well as conversations with other homebrewers, I decided on doing a hop stand, and first wort hopping. These are probably considered “advanced” methods but in my experience, timing and patience are the most important points.

To explain, first wort hopping is an old German technique where you add a small amount of your bittering hops (up to 30%) to the wort in your kettle when you begin draining your sparge water. This does a number of things. According to the folks at Beersmith, it will increase your overall IBUs by 10% but produces a more well-rounded bitter instead of a tongue scraper. It should be noted that this recipe and method were used on an all-grain system. I have read but cannot confirm that similar results are gained in extract brewing when you first wort hop at the same time you add your malt extract.

The grain bill on this recipe is pretty no nonsense with mostly pale malt and a bit of C40, Victory and flaked barley. Total grain weight came to 13.88 pounds and I mashed at 153° for an hour. Prior to draining the mash tun of sparge water, first wort hops (.25oz of AU Topaz) were added to the kettle. Once the sparge water was drained off I took the collected wort and boiled it for 45 minutes. I call this brew the 30 Minute IPA because I did not start adding kettle hops until the 30-minute mark. Starting at 30 minutes I added one ounce of hops every ten minutes until the boil was done. I then began chilling the wort along with the hop stand process.

A hop stand occurs after the boil when you chill your wort down to 175° or lower and add hops. 175° is important because that is the temperature that hops isomerize (create IBUs). In short, you are making bitterless hop tea. Brewers will often stack techniques and whirlpool during this stage but it is not necessary. I went with one ounce of Simcoe for 30 minutes. From here it was a pretty standard fermentation around 65° with US-05 and dry hopping for 5 days in secondary with one ounce each of Citra and Mosaic.

All in all, this beer was very fruit forward. It has intense tropical fruit aroma and flavor that finished with a sneaky bitterness that was not overwhelming. I chose Topaz, Simcoe, Mosaic and Citra because my palate enjoys the big fruit flavor they lend. If you prefer a different flavor profile change up the recipe to make it your own. Hope you enjoyed this edition of Brew of the Month. Brew on.

All-Grain Recipe

    • 12 lbs Briess Pale malt
    • 0.75 lbs Briess Caramel 40L
    • 0.75 lbs Briess Flaked Barley
    • 0.38 lbs Briess Victory
    • 0.25 oz Topaz FWH
    • 0.75 oz Topaz 30 min.
    • 1 oz Simcoe 20 min.
    • 1 oz Topaz 10 min.
    • 1 oz Citra @ Flameout
    • 1 oz Simcoe Hop stand 30min (under 175°)
    • 1 oz Citra Dry Hop 5 days
    • 1 oz Mosaic Dry Hop 5 days
    • Safale US-05 American Ale Yeast

Extract with Specialty Grains

    • 1.5 lbs Briess Amber LME
    • 7 lbs Briess Pilsen Light LME
    • 0.75 lbs Briess Caramel 40L
    • 0.50 lbs Cara-Pils
    • Hops: See Above
    • Yeast: See Above
The staff at Siciliano's is always eager to answer your homebrewing questions. Stop by for help developing custom-made recipes like this one!

Friday, May 13, 2016

New Beer Friday, Big Brew Success Edition (May 12)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

Last Saturday fifty teams of homebrewers brewed over 300 gallons of Beer City Saison under sunny skies on the Calder Plaza in one the country’s largest celebrations of National Homebrew Day. The Fourth Annual Beer City Big Brew on the Calder was another huge success and demonstrated on a very public stage in downtown Beer City USA that the West Michigan homebrewing community is one of the most vibrant in the United States.

Siciliano’s Market, Coldbreak Brewing and Gravel Bottom Brewery & Supply would like to thank the three hundred plus passionate homebrewers for setting up their brewing and tapping systems on the Calder Plaza and for sharing their excellent handcrafted beer, cider and mead with the public during the event.

Special thanks to Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss and First Ward Commissioner Jon O’Connor for leading the gathering in the simultaneous, country-wide toast to the life enriching hobby of homebrewing.

Visit the Siciliano's Market Facebook page to see a full album of photos from the event.

New and Returning Beer

  • Kona Lemongrass Luau, $1.69/12oz - "Ale brewed with ginger with lemongrass and ginger added" (source).
  • Deschutes Hop Slice, $1.79/12oz - "A trio of hops come together in this crisp session IPA. Brewed with Meyer lemon, Hop Slice balances floral hop notes and a subtle citrus kick" (source).
  • Farmhaus Caison, $3.59/16oz - "This delicious take on a saison has been aged for nearly a year, giving it a zesty funk that is great to sip on and really unique for a cider. Currently only available at Tripelroot and Siciliano's Market. Make sure you grab it before it's too late" (source).
  • Right Brain Concrete Dinosaur, $6.49/22oz - "A blend of rye and roasty, chocolaty malts, with plenty of hop flavor and complexity" (source).
  • Right Brain Blue Magic Lavender Wheat, $7.19/22oz - "Blue Magic Lavender Wheat Ale is a uniquely different & refreshing brew. Did we mention it’s magical too? It’s brewed with local honey from Honey Pot Priory & fresh local lavender from Light Of Day Organics. This is a straight forward wheat with dried lavender.  This brew has a floral nose and a wheat finish" (source).
  • Anchorage Love Buzz, $15.99/750ml - "Saison brewed with spices and aged in French oak Pinot Noir barrels" (source).
  • Green Bench Grisettes, $11.99/500ml - "Introducing the first release in our 100% Brettanomyces line, Les Grisettes. At under 4%, Les Grisette is a traditional style farmhouse ale brewed with Spelt, Buckwheat, Rye, and Oats, fermented on our house mixed culture of wild yeast. Grisettes were originally brewed for coal miners in the Hainaut region of Wallonia, Belgium. The name refers to the “gray” garments the women wore that delivered the beer to the miners. They were known as Les Grisettes." (source).
  • Green Bench Saison de Banc Vert, $11.99/500ml - "Saisons, or Farmhouse Ales, were originally brewed as a summer seasonal in the French-speaking region of Belgium. Dry and crisp, our “Green Bench Saison” is packed with fruity esters similar to citrus fruits and spicy, peppercorn-like phenols from our farmhouse yeast strain" (source).
  • Green Bench Saison de Banc Noir, $11.99/500ml - "By combining the the rustic, peppery flavors of our farmhouse yeast strain with the complex dark fruit notes of roasted wheat and dark Belgian candi syrups, we’ve created an intricately delicate “Black Saison” that contains ornate notes of raisins, dark grape, and peppercorns" (source).
  • Prairie Birthday Bomb, $11.39/12oz - "Birthday Bomb! was conceived to celebrate three wonderful years of experimentation and fun loving flavors like the current incarnation with caramel sauce. Made in house by our brewers with nothing but black gloves and a propane tank. The rest is the complex mix of hops and malt with a healthy dose of the signature coffee and spices. You know exactly what we’re talking about." (source).
  • Prairie Vous Francais, $11.39/750ml - "Prairie-Vous Francais is a celebration of simple elegance. This farmhouse ale is brewed to be refreshing. We use barley, oats, and wheat to build a foundation for saaz hops and brettanomyces bruxellensis to play. You’ll find this beer to be slightly tart and a touch hoppy. Prairie-Vous Francais is one of our many farmhouse beers we hope you will love as much as we do" (source).
  • To Øl  Gossip Gose, $5.99/12oz - "We bring to you a German style Gose brewed with a generous amount of rose hip. Sour and crisp - salty and fruity" (source).
  • To Øl  Sur Citra, $5.99/12oz - "Sour pale dry hopped with Citra" (source).
  • To Øl  Sur Simcoe, $6.49/16oz - "Endnu en i rækken af syrlige IPA’er med enkel humleprofil. Her har de udelukkende brugt Simcoe-humle, som tilføre aroma af passionsfrugt, abrikos og gran" (source).
  • Avery Perzik, $2.29/12oz - "A classic saison—dry, crisp, fruity, spicy and refreshing—with a dose of summer—peaches" (source).
  • Odd Side Joker of Tart, $9.69/500ml - "Sour wheat beer with blueberries added" (source).
  • Odd Side Pineapple IPA, $2.29/12oz - "Fresh cut pineapples brewed in an IPA…need I say more" (source).
  • Gonzo's BiggDogg Burning Sun Red, $2.69/16oz - "A smooth, creamy amber ale showcasing Caramel and Bonlander malts. Tastefully hopped for a unique take on a time honored style" (source).
  • Weyerbacher Tarte Nouveau, $2.69/12oz - "We’ve taken our Tarte Nouveau, added blood orange and then bottle conditioned it. The result? The pour has a nice, effervescent head with a big citrus aroma. First sip has a tart bite with a lingering orange/citrus flavor. The finish? Clean and crisp. Available in 750ml bottles only and only available in our tasting room" (source).
  • Weyerbacher Single IPA #1, $2.29/12oz - "IPA #1, features a blend of classic hops, Centennial and Cascade, along with new varieties, Calypso and Equinox" (source).
  • Anderson Valley Salted Carmel BBA Porter, $11.99/22oz - "Aged for 6 months in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels, our Salted Caramel is woody and slightly sweet with notes of vanilla and coconut. It’s smooth with a medium-light body and mouthfeel and a light banana/fruit aroma. There’s some caramel and peanut brittle flavors but not cloying or overpowering" (source).
  • Coronado Berry the Hatchet, $2.29/12oz - "Brewed with raspberry, boysenberry, blackberry" (source).
  • Coronado Stingray, $2.19/12oz - "Named after a serene Coronado shoreline where locals soak up sun and suds. This easy-drinking IPA will transport you to a tropical paradise the moment it hits your lips. Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe and Southern Cross hops provide flavors and aromas of tropical fruits and sun-kissed citrus with soft accents of nectarine and peach" (source).
  • Coronado Orange Wit, $1.89/12oz - "This So-Cal take on a traditional witbier honors Coronado’s main street, which is home to our brewpub and was once lined with orange trees. Bolstered by orange zest, coriander and orange blossom honey, it’s Belgium by way of Coronado. Expect a refreshing, light-bodied brew rife with citrus zing and a hint of earthy spice" (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).
  • Dark Horse BBA Scotty Karate, $4.49/12oz - "It is hard to believe it has been 10 years, since we first released Scotty Karate Scotch Ale! What better way to celebrate the decade than to release a Bourbon Barrel Aged edition of this mighty fine Scotch Ale" (source).
  • New Holland Dragons Milk Reserve Coffee Chocolate, $4.29/12oz - "Indulgence is Dragon’s Milk aged with coffee and chocolate. Rich, indulgent chocolate flavors are seductively punctuated with dark and roasty coffee bitterness" (source).
  • North Peak Mighty Melon, $1.99/12oz - "This sessionable melon ale boasts aromas of watermelon, berry and guava. This exceptionally drinkable beer is the perfect balance of malts, melons and gently-hopped Vanguard, crystal and Michigan chinook hops" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Packs, $31.99/12pk - "Sierra Nevada partnered with a dozen exceptional craft breweries to create 12 different beers for one mixed 12-pack—including 10 bottles and two cans—a first in the craft beer world. These brewers will board the Beer Camp Across America tour bus later this month and hit the open road to take part in the largest craft beer celebration in history. Craft drinkers can explore all dozen beers in full detail at"

Video of the Week | Long Road Distillers

Congrats to our friends down at Long Road, named one of the best
new distilleries in the world by Time Out New York.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Scotch Review: Bowmore Small Batch & Glen Moray 12 Year

By John Barecki & Friends

To spice things up a little bit and to learn more of other peoples' perspectives I thought it would be fun to get some of my co-workers and friends together to try some new whiskies, collect what they experience and compile their findings. I find that listening to what other people are picking up while enjoying whisky and comparing it to your own findings helps you understand the full spectrum of aromas and flavors available in these spirits. The best way I found to do a tasting like this is to accept that we all have our own palates, and that we perceive smells and tastes differently from one another. Some things will ring clear to all in the room while others may clash and pull away as opposites. Either way you come out looking at these wonderful liquids in a new light and have a bit of fun while doing so.

For our tasting, we chose a relatively new expression from the Bowmore and a lovely 12-year expression from the Glen Moray. These two whiskies are imbued with idiosyncrasies of the areas that surround them — not to mention the methods by which they are distilled — but they also take notes from around the world to create their final crescendo.

The Bowmore has maritime/seaside notes with a hint of smokiness from the environment on Islay, as well as sweet and nutty characteristics from the bourbon barrels used for aging. The Glen Moray 12 Year follows a different path, producing fruity and earthy flavors akin to autumn while holding on to a rounder style that is reminiscent of a herbaceous white wine. While both whiskies hold to their different styles and are good examples of the differences between the two distilleries, they do have some things in common. The tasting notes listed here are compiled from the five of us who tasted.

Glen Moray 12 Year

  • Nose — Vanilla and honey, a bit of slightly burnt caramel with floral and earthy notes of fall, apple and candied citrus, a little bit of cocoa and spice.
  • Palate — Velvety mouthfeel, fruity and baking-spice notes, a touch of tobacco and oak with a bit of char on it all surrounded by light vanilla and caramel.
  • Finish — Earth and spice, charred oak with a slight smoke, returning tobacco with ginger and nutty characteristics peppered in.
  • The Numbers — Glen Moray 12 Year (40%ABV) is available at Siciliano's for $37.99/750ml.

Bowmore Small Batch

  • Nose — Earthy, peat smoke and oak, slightly tropical fruit notes with apple chunks thrown in, sweet vanilla and sea side maritime characteristics (mineral and salt). 
  • Palate — Oily, a bit phenolic, sweet, spice and smoke with a vanilla-covered fruity core.
  • Finish — Smoke and earth with bits of black pepper and pipe tobacco, sea spray and brine, long and lingering on the palate.
  • The Numbers — Bowmore Small Batch (40% ABV) is bourbon-cask matured and available at Siciliano's fro $39.99/750ml.
Both of these are fine examples of single-malt Scotch whiskies. With distinct flavors apparent from the use of divergent techniques and aging styles, they touch on the characteristics of “terrior” or a sense of place, showing off aspects representative of the different production areas for both whiskies. More importantly, the end product of this tasting was a success for me. We all analyzed what was in front of us according to our own capacities and found what we liked individually and collectively. Tasting in groups can be quite fun in that it introduces people to something they might not try normally and allows them to experience a range of products in one sitting.  No doubt it can be an informative and effective way of honing your individual palate.

The tasting group.


Friday, May 6, 2016

New Beer Friday, Last Call for Tickets Edition (May 6)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

If you’re planning on attending the Siciliano’s Homebrew Party this year and if you want a nice commemorative T-shirt to be included in your bag of gifts, please be advised that you must purchase your $45.00 ticket by noon on Monday, May 9. We will continue selling tickets at a discounted rate ($35.00) until Monday, May 16, but because we need a two week lead time to order apparel, we will not be able to provide a shirt to anyone purchasing a ticket after the May 9 deadline.

The Siciliano’s Homebrew Party will be held this year on Saturday, May 21, from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the enclosed shelter at Johnson Park. Here are other pertinent details:

    • Bring some homebrew to drink and share. If you are not a homebrewer, simply bring a mixed six-pack or two of your favorite beer from Siciliano's.
    • Tickets must be paid in advance with cash, check or credit card either in person at Siciliano's Market or over the phone. Tickets purchased over the phone may be picked up on the day of the party.
    • Snacks and munchies will be provided and brats, hamburgers and sides will be served from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. 
    • Attendees will receive a logoed Siciliano’s tasting glass along with some other nice gifts when they check-in.
    • Entertainment will be provided by Jimmie Stagger.
    • Score sheets for the Thirteenth Annual Homebrew Competition will be available for pick-up. Medals will be presented and the Best-of-Show winner of the Siciliano’s Cup will be announced at 4:30 pm. Score sheets for those not attending the party will be available for pick-up at the store on May 22. If you live outside the Grand Rapids area and would like your scoresheet (and medal) mailed to you, contact
It appears that the weather is going to cooperate for tomorrow’s Fourth Annual Beer City Big Brew on the Calder. Four years ago Siciliano’s Market sponsored the first Big Brew in downtown Grand Rapids and the event has since become one of West Michigan’s most popular public homebrewing celebrations. This year fifty teams of dedicated homebrewers will be brewing batches of Beer City Saison on this highly visible stage. Samples of hand-crafted, homemade beer will be available to those of legal drinking age and at 1 p.m. mayor Rosalynn Bliss will lead the gathering in a simultaneous, country-wide toast to this life enriching hobby.

We are pleased that Coldbreak Brewing and Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery & Supply have signed on this year as co-sponsors of the event. The Beer City Big Brew on the Calder is free of charge and open to the public.

New and Returning Beer

  • Dark Horse Kamikaze Kaleidoscope, $1.79/12oz - "Kamikaze Kaleidoscope appears hazy straw in color with a bright white head thanks to the healthy amount of wheat in this friendly summer Wit, making it very approachable. Sweet wheat and citrus aromas come to the scene next with a slight hint of Wit yeast that makes this such a unique and drinkable beer. Subtle flavors of Orange and Lemon lace in nicely with a big wheat mouthfeel and a slight tartness thanks to the Wit yeast used in this beer. Finishing dry and clean, this beer will definitely be on your list of summer beers to crush from now on" (source).
  • Founders Sumatra Mountain Brown, $3.09/12oz (4 per) - "Brown Ale with Sumatran coffee added" (source).
  • Stone Enjoy By 5.30.16 Tangerine IPA, $2.99/12oz - "After brewing this intense double IPA with more than 10 different hops and consistently delivering it faster than any bottled IPA on the planet, we decided to do something different with this Stone Enjoy By IPA—we took it to another level, again. Puréed tangerines were added to the batch to create a devastatingly fresh IPA with a tang of tangerine. The flavors yielded by this addition to the recipe meld beautifully with the bitterness of the hops. True to this series, Stone Enjoy By Tangerine IPA is brewed specifically NOT to last, and should be enjoyed within 37 days" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Hoptimum, $2.59/12oz - "Hoptimum is a hurricane of whole-cone hop flavor. Hopped, dry hopped and torpedoed for incredible hop flavor and complexity, Hoptimum is the pinnacle of whole-cone hoppiness and the biggest Imperial IPA we have ever produced. It features resinous hop varieties: Magnum, Chinook, Simcoe and a new experimental hop variety exclusive to Sierra Nevada. With intense hop flavors and aromas of grapefruit rind, pine, herbs and tropical fruit, Hoptimum is an aggressive drinking experience. Originally created as part of our Beer Camp program, Hoptimum throws down the gauntlet to all other IPAs" (source).
  • Goose Island Fulton and Wood Calm Raddler, $1.69/12oz - "Wheat ale brewed with cucumber, lime and mint" (source).
  • Goose Island Halia, $26.09/750ml (1 per) - "Goose Island Halia is a sour peach saison aged in wine barrels with Brettanomyces Claussenii and fifty pounds of peaches per barrel " (source).
  • Deschutes Black Butte XXVI, $17.19/22oz (1 per) - "Our 26th anniversary Imperial Porter was aged in bourbon barrels and dry spiced with Theo Chocolate’s cocoa nibs, revealing hints of vanilla and chocolate. Pomegranate molasses and Oregon cranberries complement the robust flavor with a hint of fruit and just enough tart to make you smile" (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).
  • Short's Ocho de Mayo, $1.99/12oz - "Ocho de Mayo is a light and refreshing Gose Ale with delicate citrus and prominent wheat aromatics.  Initial flavors of big tangy lemon and lime, combine with subtle tastes of blue agave and a lip licking saltiness to create the sensation of drinking a cool carbonated margarita.  An ample dry finish encourages the need to sample again and repea" (source).
  • Southern Tier Hop Sun, $1.69/12oz - "Pour Hop Sun Summer Wheat Beer into a pint glass, give it a long whiff and you’ll realize that this isn’t your average wheat beer. Filtered to a golden clarity and dry-hopped to perfection, Hop Sun is a fantastic session ale in which flavors of wheat, barley and hops co-mingle to a refreshing and zesty conclusion. Hints of lemon and sweet malts waft to the fore as a touch of bitterness contributes to Hop Sun’s bright finish. Enjoy Hop Sun all summer long as a perfect balance to your outdoor recreation. Summer never tasted so good" (source).
  • Atwater Traverse City Cherry Wheat, $1.99/12oz - "TC is the cherry capital of the world and now Montmorency Cherries from this colorful town in Michigan’s “Up North” have made their way into a wheat beer for the ages, for a taste that’s totally cherry. Prost!" (source).
  • Ballast Point Calm Before the Storm, $2.59/12oz - "Calm Before the Storm came from a quest for a warm weather alternative to our Victory at Sea Imperial Porter. Like its more robust cousin, we infuse a punch of flavor using cold brewed Caffé Calabria coffee and a hint of vanilla. But this time, we added it to a lighter-bodied golden cream ale. The end result is a surprisingly bright, coffee-forward beer that’s perfectly refreshing" (source).
  • Odd Side Grapefruit, $2.59/12oz - "A wheat beer brewed with grapefruit" (source).
  • Jolly Pumpkin Saison Z, $15.29/750ml (1 per) - "Why is there a sword and shield wielding bat riding a 4 tusked hog? The same reason we put chocolate, kumquats, amaranth and orange peel in Saison Z, because it’s weird and we do what we wan" (source).
  • Jolly Pumpkin Rojzilla, $14.39/750ml (1 per) - "A 100 bbl foudre of La Roja, aged for a year and a half, blended with a few “normal” sized barrels of varying ages to create a complex mellifluous blend of flavor and sophistication" (source).
  • Jolly Pumpkin Hamajang, $14.39/750ml (1 per) - "Blend of Sea Buckthorn Fandango (collaboration with Mikkel, in oak for 1 year and 4 months) and Innovatorman (collaboration with Jeppe and Charles Psenka, in oak for 1 year and 3 months)" (source).

Picture of the Week | Founders Tasting

A friendly reminder that Siciliano's hosts free tastings with your favorite breweries
on a regular basis. Many bring swag to hand out to our patrons.
Keep an eye on our Facebook page for announcements.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Used Whiskey Barrels, Available Now at Siciliano's

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

By Joe Potter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading, everyone. Brew on.

Friday, April 29, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homebrew, homebrewing.

New and Returning Beers

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

Video of the Week | Bell's Brewery

Brace yourselves — Summer is coming.