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Monday, April 14, 2014

Siciliano's Upcoming Homebrew Events: Info & Updates

By Steve Siciliano

On Saturday, April 19, over eighty BJCP-certified judges, professional brewers, experienced homebrewers and industry professionals will gather at the Guest House in Grand Rapids to participate in the judging for the Eleventh Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Competition. Included in this year’s record number of entries are submissions from homebrewers in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Florida, Texas and Montana.

The competition’s Best-of-Show winner will be announced at the Eleventh Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Party on Saturday, May 17 at Townsend Park. Those not attending the party may pick up score sheets and medals at Siciliano’s Market beginning on Sunday, May 18.

If you live outside of the Grand Rapids area and would like your score sheets and medals mailed to you, please contact me at this address: If you are planning on attending the party and have not yet purchased a ticket you should do so as soon as possible as space is limited. You may purchase tickets in person at the store or with a credit card over the phone by calling 616-453-9674. Tickets are $40.00.

We are in the final planning stages for the Second Annual Siciliano’s Big Brew on the Calder. Fifty-three teams of homebrewers will be brewing up batches of “Beer City Brown” on the Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids on Saturday, May 3, from 9 am to 2 pm. The Big Brew event is free of charge and is open to the public. Entertainment will be provided by local music legend Jimmie Stagger.

Friday, April 11, 2014

New Beer Friday, Let the Beer Do the Talking Edition (4/11)

By Chris Siciliano

This week, we're going to get right to it and let the beer do the talking—always a good idea, in our experience.

Enjoy New Beer Friday everyone, and have a great weekend. Here's the list of the latest beers to arrive at Siciliano's.

New and Returning Beer

  • Angry Orchard Elderflower, $1.59/12oz - "This cider has tropical notes from the elderflower balanced by a fresh, bright, fruity flavor reminiscent of lychee, pears, and citrus. This flower compliments the crisp apple flavor resulting in a balanced sweetness that brings the fruit and flower together" (source).
  • Epic Brewing Santa Cruz, $7.19/12oz - "An Epic interpretation of the recent American trend of brewing Black IPAs, our Santa Cruz Brown is a true hybrid. Inspired by our brewer Kyle’s desire to have it all" (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).
  • Big Sky Pygmy Owl Itty Bitty IPA, $1.69/12oz - "Pygmy Owl is an IPA with full fledged hop taste and aroma, yet is remarkably low in alcohol. In fact, it clocks in at only 4.2% ABV. An IPA with full flavor, but without the harsh bitterness. And the best part, you can have more than one without getting that drunkied up feeling" (source).
  • Atwater Hop-A-Peel, $1.79/12oz - Ale brewed with orange peel.
  • Schofferhofer Grapefruit Hefeweizen, $1.69/12oz - "Schofferhofer grapefruit is a unique combination of sparkling wheat beer and refreshing tangy fruit juice. Mix of 50% Schofferhofer wheat beer and 50% grapefruit juice" (source).
  • Oddside Hells Yes, $1.99/12oz - "A Munich helles lager" (source).
  • Shorts Hop Stash, $1.99/12oz - "American India Pale Ale dominated by citrus flavors and aromas. Focusing on hop varieties that offer the most fruity and floral characteristics with the addition of grapefruit concentrate" (source).
  • Saugatuck Darker Than Your Soul, $2.59/12oz - "Dark and roasty with hints of dark-pitted fruit and chocolate" (source).
  • Vivant North French Biere de Garde, $3.59/12oz - "A resurrection of Bière de Garde from days gone by; this ale is composed of 100% French malt and Fermented with our house Bière de Garde strain. This ale is malt-forward with our signature Vivant yeast character" (source).
  • Aecht Marzen Rauchbiere, $5.09/500ml (returning) - "Bamberg’s speciality, a dark, bottom fermented smokebeer, brewed with Original Schlenkerla Smokemalt from the Schlenkerla maltings and tapped according to old tradition directly from the gravity-fed oakwood cask in the historical brewery tavern" (source).
  • Aecht Urbock Rauchbeer, $5.09/500ml (returning) - "A smoked bock beer for Bamberg’s strong beer season (October through December). Matured for months in ancient rock-cellars underneath Bamberg and tapped freshly from the oakwood cask. Similar to, but much bigger than the classic Maerzen style" (source).

Video of the Week | Beer Camp Across America

Well, this looks interesting.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Homebrew Competition Update: Registration Closed

By Steve Siciliano

Entry registration for the Eleventh Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Competition is now closed. I would like to remind everyone who registered entries that we must receive your two 12 ounce amber bottles by Sunday, April 13. If you are shipping your bottles please ensure that they are packaged securely as we have received a few that were damaged in transit.

A total of 228 entries were registered for this year’s competition, the highest total for a Siciliano’s competition to date. The following is the breakdown of the registered entries according to BJCP styles:

    • Premium American Lager 1
    • Munich Helles 1
    • German Pilsner 3
    • Bohemian Pilsener 1
    • Classic American Pilsner 1
    • Vienna Lager 3
    • Schwarzbier 1
    • Maibock/Helles Bock 3
    • Traditional Bock 1
    • Doppelbock 1
    • Cream Ale 2
    • Blonde Ale 1
    • Kölsch 4
    • American Wheat or Rye Beer 4
    • North German Altbier 1
    • California Common Beer 1
    • Standard/Ordinary Bitter 1
    • Special/Best/Premium Bitter 1
    • Extra Special/Strong Bitter (English) 3
    • Irish Red Ale 2Strong Scotch Ale 7
    • American Pale Ale 13
    • American Amber Ale 4
    • American Brown Ale 5
    • Mild 2
    • Northern English Brown Ale 2
    • Brown Porter 3
    • Robust Porter 2
    • Baltic Porter 1
    • Dry Stout 1
    • Sweet Stout 5
    • Oatmeal Stout 5
    • Foreign Extra Stout 1
    • American Stout 2
    • Imperial Stout 9
    • American IPA 20
    • Imperial IPA 11
    • Weizen/Weissbier 5
    • Dunkelweizen 2
    • Witbier 5
    • Belgian Pale Ale 1
    • Saison 10
    • Belgian Specialty Ale 4
    • Flanders Red Ale 4
    • Fruit Lambic 1
    • Belgian Dubbel 2
    • Belgian Tripel 1
    • Belgian Dark Strong Ale 5
    • Old Ale 2
    • English Barleywine 3
    • American Barleywine 3
    • Fruit Beer 7
    • Spice, Herb or Vegetable Beer 9
    • Christmas/Winter Specialty Spiced Beer 2
    • Other Smoked Beer 3
    • Wood-Aged Beer 8
    • Specialty Beer 22
Entries will be judged on their own merits according to BJCP style guidelines by a staff of certified judges, professional brewers, experienced home brewers and industry professionals. Judging will take place on Saturday, April 19.

The Best-in-Show winner will be announced at the Eleventh Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Party on Saturday, May 17. Details for the party can be found here. Those not attending the May 17 event may pick up medals and score sheets at Siciliano’s Market beginning on Sunday, May 18.

Friday, April 4, 2014

New Beer Friday, New Yeast Cooler Edition (April 4)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

If you came into Siciliano’s Market for brewing supplies sometime in the past month, you probably know that we are now keeping the beer yeast in a shiny new three-door reach-in cooler.

To be quite honest I really didn’t think our old set up was all that bad. It was my wife Barb who kept insisting that we needed more space for our yeast and hops. She contended that the walk-in cooler was too small, that it was cluttered and that, especially on busy days, it got claustrophobically crowded. “The walk-in is fine,” I kept repeating, knowing full well that I would eventually capitulate.

I caved about three weeks ago, when staffer Sarah Derylo repeated Barb’s argument verbatim. I realized then that they were in cahoots and further resistance was futile. “All right,” I sighed. “Let’s get it done.”

Of course they were right about needing more space for the yeast and hops, and I have to admit that I like the new arrangement much better. We hope all you homebrewers will agree.

New and Returning Beer

  • Evil Twin Hop Flood, $3.99/12oz - "On a beautiful summer night in July while peaceful Danes rocked at Roskilde Festival and sipped wine in their picturesque summer retreats, an apocalyptic tidal surge flooded the famous Ølbutikken in Copenhagen and drowned thousands of precious beer – Hop Flood is a bitter tribute to the heroic bottles that didn’t make it" (source).
  • Arbor Phat Abbot Tripel, $2.29/12oz - "This traditional Belgian-style triple is strong, fruity, and slightly sour. It starts with a big malt presence, followed up by a pronounced candy sugar sweetness, and balanced with a spicy hop finish. A must-try. Ask your server for a taste" (source).
  • Arbor Strawberry Blonde, $2.29/12oz - "Strawberries are Spring’s first fruit. They announce the end of the long Midwest winter and welcome the lazy days of summer. They herald a season of weekends at the lake, walking barefoot through the grass, and whiling away the afternoon at your local beer garden. Be sure to savor your Strawberry Blonde while it lasts because like a Michigan summer, it’ll be gone before you know it. Food Pairings: Great with tangy BBQ, balsamic vinaigrette, citrusy or spicy dishes, and strawberry rhubarb pie Tasting Notes: This is a sophisticated fruit ale that doesn’t forget it’s a beer. Rich and flavorful medium bodied beer with a fresh, floral strawberry aroma. Citrus, spice, and fruit are blended seamlessly for a subtle yet distinct flavor that never turns too sweet" (source).
  • Dark Horse Sapient Trip Ale, $1.79/12oz - "Why is the Grim Reaper holding a mailbox? Well, that mailbox is from a dead Dark Horse beer. The Grim Reaper better know as "Death" was quite fond of our classic Sapient Summer Wheat Ale. When we changed it into a Belgian Style Triple, Death thought it would only be appropriate to bring something from that beer into this beer. So he picked the mailbox, and we weren’t about to argue with him. You can say what you want about him, but that Death sure has a big heart. So anyway...we brewed this beer with a Trappist yeast strain so it is very traditional. The flavors are incredibly complex with notes of mild fruit and finishes with a bit of clove. Although this beer is higher in alcohol it is very smooth and finishes dry on the palate" (source).
  • Odd Side Bourbon Barrel Aged Citra Pale Ale, $2.99/12oz - American-style pale ale aged in bourbon barrels.
  • White Birch Belgian-style Pale Ale, $5.79/22oz - "This straw colored beer greets with an aroma of noble hops, pears and Belgian esters. The flavor follows nicely with a moderately spicy hop and Belgian yeast effect buoyed by a soft malt body. The finish is crisp and dry. We enjoy this beer with spicy foods, grilled steaks, grilled chicken and mandarin salad. Where you take it is only limited by your imagination" (source).
  • White Birch Hop Session, $5.79/22oz - "Hop Session is in. Starting with a blend of west coast hops for a balanced, bitter effect. We close the session out by dry hopping the beer for a nice resiny mouth feel" (source).
  • Stillwater 'Omnipollo Nebuchadnezzar Remix, $13.79/22oz - "Inspired by the artistry and assertiveness of Omnipollo’s Nebuchadnezzar. I decided on a demure approach. Expressing the lovely hop profile of the original & tying it together with farmhouse yeast & brettanomyces for a fruity, funky fiesta" (source).

Video of the Week | The Cellarman's Half Dozen

On April 1, Greenbush redefined what's possible
in the world of craft beer packaging.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hop Head Farms, Now Available at Siciliano's

By Doug Dorda

There is no better season than spring in which to herald the arrival of a new product. As Mother Nature casts her favor toward the sun once again, a cornucopia of welcome changes is sure to be just around the corner. While we at Sicilianos are unable to coax Demeter, Greek goddess of agriculture, into casting off entirely the veil of winter's scorn, we may be able to offer a salve for the soul with this announcement—we are now proudly offering hops from our friends at Hop Head Farms!

For those who would like a reader’s digest version of why this particular tiding is so tantalizing, we point to the fact that Hop Head Farms is located in nearby Barry County. In short, those of you wishing to support local business, bolster our craft beer industry in a new way, or perhaps brew with all Michigan ingredient beers, we now offer you a way to accomplish one or all of your goals.

We now carry the following varieties of from Hop Head Farms:

    • Cascade – 5.13% alpha acid
    • Centennial – 7.38% alpha acid
    • Chinook – 9.68% alpha acid
    • Willamette – 3.18% alpha acid
The good people of Hop Head Farms have also been more than kind enough to work with German hop growers to bring us a few varieties of hops that we previously were unable to carry. The two that we have brought in are as follows.

    • German Opal – 5.27% alpha acid
    • German Saphir – 2.4% alpha acid
All of the domestically available hop varieties are $2.69 per ounce. Both of the imported varieties are available for $1.99 an ounce. Selections of Hop Head Farms varieties are available in our walk-in hop cooler.

Friday, March 28, 2014

New Beer Friday, Help Wanted Edition (March 28)

Work Here!
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

It was Confucius who said that when you choose a job you love you will never have to work a day in your life. I have a feeling that the members of Team Siciliano would beg to differ with the great sage on this one.

I can say with a great deal of certainty that our employees love helping customers with craft beer, fine wine and liquor, beer and wine making supplies, cheese making supplies, coffee, tea, hand rolled cigars and every other lifestyle enhancing product that we sell here at the store. I also know that there are many times when they are working their tails off.

During an average week the members of our staff price and stock hundreds of cases of beer, wine and liquor. They unload skids of inventory and unpack dozens of boxes. They keep the shelves full, the coolers stocked and the store looking presentable. That’s a lot of hard work. But they are passionate about selling the things that we offer here at the store and that is what makes the job so enjoyable.

We are now looking to add a part time person to our sales team who is equally passionate. We are looking for someone who loves craft beer and fine wine. A knowledge of beer and winemaking would certainly be a plus.

If you would like to join the sales staff of one of the area’s premier specialty stores and if you wouldn’t mind working hard at a job you can love, I urge you to drop a resume off at the store or contact me at No phone calls please.

New and Returning Beer

  • Goose Island 312 Urban Pale Ale, $1.59/12oz - "We are from the city that invented the skyscraper. We constructed our Urban Pale Ale on a balanced malt backbone, so the citrus hop aroma and crisp flavor can stand tall. Recipe Information Style: Urban Pale Alcohol by Volume: 5.4% International Bitterness Units: 30 Color: Marigold Hops: Amarillo, Mt. Hood, Nugget Malts: 2 Row, Crystal 60 Serving Suggestions: Preferred Glass: Nonic Pint" (source).
  • Leinenkugel Summer Shandy, $1.49/12oz - "Beer with natural lemonade flavor" (source).
  • Giradin Gueuze, $6.69/375ml - "Unfiltered" (source).
  • Traveler Beer Company Curious Shandy, $1.79/12oz - "Driven by wanderlust and a desire for discovery, the Curious Traveler™ set out to explore the globe. Always fearlessly inquisitive, he relished opportunities to befriend other travelers and to experience cultures he had only previously imagined. He sampled their wares, their foods and most importantly their libations. Some were good. Some not so good. Others were downright dangerous. Many years into his travels, his pace slowed on a particularly sweltering day. He sought refuge in a small pub to escape the oppressive heat. Before he could even finish wiping his brow, the bartender handed him a glistening glass of ale. The Traveler took a liking to the invigorating lemon shandy concoction. “Quite a refresher!” he said gratefully. The Traveler has never stopped exploring – in fact, he’s on the road this very day. Somewhere. Only one thing has changed: he now makes sure he orders a shandy everywhere he goes" (source).
  • Traveler Beer Company Time Traveler Shandy, $1.79/12oz - "A beer truly ahead of its time. A vibrant wheat beer brewed with real strawberry for a subtle yet complex flavor" (source).
  • Traveler Beer Company Illusive Shandy, $1.79/12oz - "Ale with real grapefruit" (source).
  • Abita Spring IPA, $1.69/12oz - "Spring IPA (March-May) is a West Coast-style IPA with an up-front intense hop flavor and aroma. Amarillo and Centennial hops give the brew a rich and resinous flavor of citrus and spice. This bright pale ale has a malt sweetness that will give way to a pleasant bitter. It pairs well with Mexican or spicy Szechwan Chinese food. Spring IPA is a nice accompaniment for cheeses with strong flavors, like sharp cheddar or goat cheese" (source).
  • Big Sky Olde Blue Hair Barley Wine, $1.579/750ml - "A taste of apricots, honey flavors, a sliver of vanilla, and a hint of caramel, round out the Barley Wine. Like so many things in life, Olde Bluehair just gets better with age. Aged for a minimum of 3 months in American Oak Bourbon Barrels" (source).
  • Left Hand Good JuJu, $2.09/12oz - "Our beer is basically a pale ale brewed from a relative low gravity, with some of the hops which would normally be used in the beer replaced by freshly ground ginger root. The beer is light in body, lower in alcohol, has a distinct ginger aroma, and has a very crisp finish. It was initially brewed as a refreshing alternative to the plethora of wheat beers which are popular in the summertime. Popular demand turned it into a year round beer" (source).
  • Victory White Monkey, $9.69/750ml - "Golden Monkey aged in Chardonnay barrels. 'Our Golden Monkey is beloved by many, so we anticipate some heartfelt responses to our intriguing transformation of this beer,' expressed Victory brewmaster Bill Covaleski. 'The wine barrel aging has had a substantial and delicious impact on the Golden Monkey.' Approximately 100 oak barrels that once held chardonnay varietal white wine from Wente Vineyards of Livermore, CA were filled with Golden Monkey and aged at ambient temperatures in the Downingtown brewery for 3 months. This process is an extension of an experiment dating back 6 years prior, when a single oak barrel once holding white wine from local vintner, Chaddsford Winery, was used in a similar manner to produce a test batch which never left the brewery. Deemed delicious by Victory brewmasters and brewing staff, the White Monkey project was made possible through a collaborative partnership with Wente Vineyards" (source).
  • Anderson Valley Summer Solstice, $2.19/12oz - "Summer Solstice Seasonal Ale is not just your average summer seasonal. This unique copper colored ale is smooth, malty, and lightly sweet, with a delicate hint of spice for that oh-so-drinkable, extra velvety flavor" (source).
  • Blue Mountain Estate Winesap Hard Cider, $7.89/22oz - "Fresh pressed from our sustainably grown Winesap apples, this single varietal cider has a dry refreshing finish, with a hint of tart apple taste. Blue Mountain Cider Company is committed to environmentally safe growing and production practices, which is why all of our apples are certified Salmon Safe. It’s not only easy to drink, but easy on the environment" (source).
  • Blue Mountain Eden Ridge Hard Cider, $7.89/22oz - "This crisp hard cider was created using our fermented "five-apple" blend made from apples grown in the Pacific Northwest. Lightly carbonated with a hint of tartness balanced with fresh apple aromas and sweetness, this cider is an easy to drink beverage that provides a great introduction to the world of hard apple ciders" (source).
  • Blue Mountain Dry Creek Hard Cider, $7.89/22oz - "Dry Creek is our handcrafted semi-dry cider fermented from select apples grown in the Pacific Northwest. This clean crisp cider brings out the true essence of the five primary apples which make up our cider blends. It is lightly carbonated with tartness, acidity and a sparkling dry finish, a sure delight to your taste buds. This cider is a perfect compliment to salmon, poultry and spicy foods.  Pair with a blue cheese or a gourmet pizza and you’ve found a match made in heaven" (source).
  • Blue Mountain Cherry Hard Cider, $8.29/22oz - "Created using our fermented 'five-apple' blend from apples grown in the Pacific Northwest, this lightly carbonated cider has a refreshing balanced apple flavor with a splash of tart cherry freshness.  It is a perfect blend of sweetness and acidity with an unmistakable quality that will surely delight your taste buds. Enjoy it for dessert or use this cider for a recipe of pork loin with a cherry cider glaze. It pairs extremely well with rich chocolate desserts and strong cheeses" (source).

Picture of the Week

Chest freezer turned kegerator
by Siciliano's customer Ross Vander Weide

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Remarkable Legacy of Sammy the Bull

On February 25, the one-year anniversary of the Boss’ father Sam’s passing, his family gathered at Brewery Vivant to toast his legacy.

By Dominic Siciliano

All of us will at some point in our lives begin to consider our legacy. I find myself contemplating how people will remember me more and more now that I have a family and children of my own, and because for the first time in my life I have lost someone significant to me: February 25, 2014, marked the one-year anniversary of the death of my grandfather, Sam Siciliano.

A year to the day after his passing, the family gathered together at Brewery Vivant to enjoy a few rounds of ‘Sammy the Bull’, the beer my cousin Jacob brewed in his honor—Sammy the Bull was our grandfather's nickname as a boy.

The perfect beer to commemorate Grandpa, Sammy the Bull was a little boozy and, just like its namesake, if you spent too much time with it, you could easily find yourself three sheets to the wind.

Jacob and Grandma
That evening at Vivant, I was lucky enough to find myself siting across from my grandmother and Jacob. They are not expressive people like Grandpa, more on the artistic side. Grandma, who rarely drinks, took a sip of Jacob's beer. Folks were laughing at the novelty of it. But I caught a glance she gave Jacob. She knows how much it meant to him—to brew this beer for Grandpa, a tribute to his best friend.

I looked down one way, toward my dad, his brother Mark and their wives, both named Barb. Mark and Barb's kids were there as well as some close family friends. Down the other way my four kids were eating fries and coloring on napkins, and my wife Janelle was directing traffic. I looked across to Aunt Laurie, who was holding Jacob’s daughter Izzy, with Jacob’s sister Sarah sitting next to her. On a sleepy Tuesday night in February, this big goofy family had taken over the brewery and exploded it with food and beer and laughter.

What do you think about when you think of your legacy? How do want to be remembered and honored? I’d say on that Tuesday night we honored Sammy the Bull the right way.

Salute, Grandpa. We all miss you so much.