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Friday, March 30, 2012

New Beer Friday - March 30 Edition

Tandem Ciders Smackintosh
By Chris Siciliano

This week we're excited to announce the addition of Tandem to our growing list of awesome Michigan ciders. Just a few weeks back I visited their tasting room near Suttons Bay and could say only nice things about the experience, including this little tidbit:

"Not just another stop on the Traverse City wine trail, Tandem Ciders is a unique experience, a welcoming country pub and tasting room tucked among the glacial moraines and high hilltop orchards of the Leelanau Peninsula." (Read the full review here.)

Fitting that the week we welcome Tandem is the same week The Great Lakes Cider and Perry Association hosts their 7th Annual Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition (GLINT) in downtown Grand Rapids. Good luck to anybody and everybody who has a cider/perry entered in this year's competition. Do let us know how you do!

New (and Returning) Beer & Cider

  • Tandem Ciders The Crabster, $ 9.29/750ml - "Cortland, Northern Spy, MacIntosh, Liberty, Red Crabs and Wild Apples. Gribbles? Crabs? Wild Apples? We roamed the Leelanau countryside in search of some tasty wild apples and mixed them with a few classic apples and some little red crabs. We squeezed them all and fermented the juice to dryness. If you try, you'll get a whiff of the Leelanau County in your nose" (All descriptions courtesy Tandem tasting-room sheet).
  • Tandem Ciders Pretty Penny, $11.49/750ml - "A blend of over thirty varieties of cider and antique apples. At the end of the season Mr. Kilcherman cleans up his barn and we get all those apples. Taste this cider and buy two bottles, one for sooner, one for later. This cider shows why old school varieties are important and should be propagated." 
  • Tandem Ciders Early Day, $11.49/750ml - "Fameuse, Golden Russet, Ida Red, Red Delicious, Sheep’s Nose, and Cortland. We rounded up apples from friends and family (K-town apples are back!) and mixed them with Mr. Kilcherman’s antique delights to create a mellow, deeply flavored cider with a big mouthfeel. The complexity of this blend will keep you sipping and trying to determine which variety makes this cider so darn good." 
  • Tandem Ciders The Sweetheart, $9.99/750ml - "Jonathan, Rhode Island Greening, and Red Delicious. Slightly sweet and crisply tart--is that citrus in the nose? The Jonathan was discovered in an orchard in 1826.
  • Tandem Ciders Smackintosh, $9.99/750ml - "MacIntosh, Northern Spy, and Rhode Island Greening. Everything's better with a little smack. This crowd pleaser is sweet and tart with full apple flavor.
  • North Peak Nomad Dry Apple Cider, $2.29/12oz - "A dry hard cider with a fresh cut apple aroma and dry finish with subtle tartness. Nomad is the perfect combination of craft and nature. Multiple apple varieties round out a mouthful of fresh apples and crisp nose that is remarkably refreshing. It is brewed in Traverse City, MI, on Old Mission Peninsula using locally grown apples" (source).
  • Bell's Oberon $1.69/12oz - "Offers a refreshing mix of malted wheat flavor and fruity notes, wrapped up in a distinctively citrusy hop aroma. Oberon brings a moderate bodied yet full-flavored ale to the table that complements all manner of summer activities" (source).
  • Short's Prolonged Enjoyment Session IPA, $1.69/12oz - "A session pale ale with huge amounts of earthy hop fragrances of green grass that are complimented by a wildly dry finish" (source).
  • Big Sky Heavy Horse Scotch Ale, $1.69/12oz - "A full bodied, full flavored ale. Deep garnet red with a dense, creamy head of tan. Stone Thrower is fermented at a lower temperature and the brewing water is softened to be closer to that found in Scotland. Malts: Pale, Crystal Chocolate, Roast. Hops: Hallertau Tradition, East Kent Goldings" (source).
  • Sam Adams Summer Ale, $1.59/12oz - "Samuel Adams Summer Ale is an American wheat ale. This summer seasonal uses malted wheat, lemon peel and Grains of Paradise, a rare pepper from Africa first used as a brewing spice in the 13th century, to create a crisp taste, spicy flavor and medium body. The ale fermentation imparts a background tropical fruit note reminiscent of mangos and peaches. All of these flavors come together to create a thirst quenching, clean finishing beer perfect for those warm summer days" (source).
  • Scaldis Triple Blond Ale, $10.99/750ml - "Most Triples have honeyed, praline and burnt sugar (caramel) qualities. In characteristic Dubuisson style, Scaldis Blonde Triple is much drier with higher white sugar notes, redolent of vanilla icing, meringue and marshmallow. Married to these lighter, more delicate sugar notes is a heady aroma of white peaches and pears, a hint of astringency and a tight, Champagne-like sparkle. Suitable for cellaring" (source).
  • Crown Valley Wooden Nickel IPA, $2.39/12oz - "The IPA is hopped while in the brew kettle and is dry hopped twice more through the brewing process. During fermentation dry leaf hops were added and they also added dry leaf hops during the finishing process" (source).
  • Crown Valley Farmhouse Lager, $2.39/12oz - "This pale golden beer is light bodied with a crisp and dry flavor. The malt and hop flavors are low in this beer. This lager is very refreshing and thirst quenching" (source).
  • Crown Valley Plowboy Porter, $2.39/12oz - "This is a full-bodied, dark, rich beer. It has a heavy coffee flavor with a slight hint of licorice. It also has a rich roasted malt flavor. It has a smooth finish" (source).
Deal of the Week

  • Lindeman's Faro, $3.19/355ml - Compare at $7/bottle, this beer is "a version of Belgium's 'wild-fermented' wheat beer, which is the result of blending Lambic of 'one summer' with old Lambic and chaptalized with candy sugar. Faro is an intriguing balance of wineyness and sweetness. This was probably the beer being served in Breugel's paintings of Flemish Village Life. Faro is a delicious accompaniment of a whole assortment of desserts. Serve cold at 2-3 degrees Celsius" (source).
While supplies last!


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hey Kevin: "What's up with early seasonal releases?"

After an unexpected three-week hiatus, Hey Kevin returns with another dose of that "information" you just can't do without. Let's get right to this week's question.

Hey Kevin,

I was in Siciliano's the other day and even though it's March the spring and even summer beers are out in full force. What gives?

Lem in Cedar Springs

Hey Lem,

You often hear it said that professional brewers and brewery owners march to the beat of their own drum. The out-of-season-seasonal-beer-release is scientific proof that this and similar statements are absolutely true.

We should not attribute the phenomenon solely to the quirkiness of idiosyncratic beer folk, however. What's happening is far more complicated than that, and to pin it all on mere personality traits is shortsighted.

I'll spare you the physics lesson (mostly because I don't know physics), but the appearance of seasonal beers before they're "due" has everything to do with regular (aka seasonal) distortions in the space-time continuum, particularly the way light bends around conical fermenters in the brewhouse. Such bending will often cause brewers and the beer they make to literally catapult back and forth through time, more so in certain "transitional" months of the year. In the simplest terms, the beer we're drinking now doesn't actually exist. It will at some point, but not yet. Follow me?

To date, there is no way for the individual brewer to anticipate or compensate for time travel, neither in his brewing schedule nor his shaving ritual (another reason why professional brewers tend to have such epic beards).

On a grander scale, the relative intensity of time travel is subject to evolving patterns within a 28-year cycle—we've figured that out at least. In other words, the lag between beer and season will grow more and more extreme at a generally predictable rate until summer beers are released in the dead of winter and vice versa. The phenomenon will then reverse itself, wrap back around the calendar and eventually settle for a short time—just a week or two—in a sweet spot, a space where season and beer are paired in perfect harmony.

According to our best calculations, the next projected balance in the seasonal beer release schedule will occur in November 2030, at which time enthusiasts will enjoy harvest and pumpkin beers at their most logical point in years.

Some in the industry have named this event The Great Equilibrium of 2030 and a number of breweries are planning to release special beers to commemorate the occasion. Expect to see them begin to hit shelves in early 2028.

Hope this helps.


The views expressed in Hey Kevin are Kevin's own and also deeply suspect. Buzz editorial staff accepts no responsibility for college term papers presenting as fact the information found here. Contact Kevin directly with questions or complaints.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Head Cheese - Your weekly ration

Thy cup floweth over with Head Cheese. A nod to the improving economy, call this week's 'toon Siciliano's version of the federal jobs report.

Head Cheese
by Mark Siciliano

Hungry for more Head Cheese? Help yourself to seconds at While there, be sure to vote for Mark in the American Idol-like Best Cartoonist contest, which is going on now. (Update: Mark has advanced to round eight!)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spotlight: High Five Co-op Brewery

What in the world is a co-op brewery? Former Siciliano's staffer and current Buzz columnist Wes Eaton gets the 411 from Dallas McColloch, official spokesperson for GR's cooperative beer movement.

By Weston Eaton

High Five Co-op Brewery is an unfolding story. Just a few months ago twenty-five-year-old Grand Rapidian and cooperative spokesperson Dallas McColloch pitched his vision to Grand Rapids 5 x 5 Night and won. His vision? Begin a brewery whose goals include inclusivity, an opportunity for participative learning, a diverse range of craft beers, and an institutionalized democratic ethos wherein profits are divvied between workers and members—not shareholders and profiteers. By the time we finished our pizza lunch at Harmony, I was ready to join in. And the great thing is, anyone can.

What does it mean to be a part of High Five? Most prominently, becoming a member means actively participating in decision-making processes. This is the democracy aspect. While some members may have the capacity to provide different levels of resources to the co-op, the nominal membership fee entitles all members an equal vote. The inclusivity component means anyone can spend time learning about and performing the tasks and duties it takes to run a brewery. McColloch gave the example of the brewing process itself being a place where greenhorns would be welcomed to learn some of the brewing essentials, such as sanitation and other brewhouse necessities.

In terms of organization, cooperatives are member run and member financed. The term “member” is another word for owner, and, as stated above, anyone can become an active member for a nominal fee. Voting means democracy—and democratizing conventional entrepreneurial models—which for McCulloch is the whole point. No matter your station in life, or financial resources, each member gets one vote. How does the organization operate? Members can join one of three working groups or “committees”, the Hu$tlaz' (Marketing and PR), the steering committee (essential by-laws and operational ends), comprised now of NGO and non-profit savvy individuals, or the brewing committee, which collectively discusses and arranges beer recipes, methods, and menus.

What’s so neat about this organization is that one’s skills can clearly be linked with others in a democratic way. New ideas are introduced to the “floor” at member meetings (intentionally thus far kept under an hour) or at committee meetings and everyone takes an equally critical look at their merit, leading to a majority rule vote. Remember, like membership, participation in these committees is open and encouraged—the only question is, what might you add to the group?

Tying existing High Fivers together (there were forty-five attendees at March’s meeting) is of course a love for craft beer. McColloch’s own connection to craftbeer is one that runs parallel with his vision for a cooperative organization. Raised in Battle Creek on Arcadia Scotch Ale and skater punk music, a career supporting touring musicians afforded many opportunities to travel to Europe and taste the great classics Germany and Belgium have to offer. Familiar story right? Tales of New Belgium’s Jeff Lebesch bicycling across Europe and experiencing “good” beer for the first time come to mind—but that was over twenty years ago. Legends such as Lebesch as well as Michigan’s own Larry Bell, John Haggerty, Joe Short, Nathan Walser, Ron Jeffries, etc., have helped reshape our local beer landscape to such a degree that Michigan is now one of the best places in the world to find diverse craft beers. Such was the environment that McColloch and his generation found when they first began developing their tastes and standards. 

But like so many increasing numbers of others, drinking professionally brewed beer was not an end in itself. Rather, McColloch wanted to brew his own. While this is a familiar story, it’s important to remember that the rising tide of massive popularity in home brewing is a new part of its history. Since the late 1970s when Charlie Papazian first organized the American Homebrewers Association and penned The Joy of Home Brewing, the number of home brewers has boomed exponentially. More precisely, the past five years alone has seen huge growth—just take a look at Siciliano’s recent expansion. For example, I remember not being able to find a hard cider recipe just over seven years ago, and nor more than a handful of folks who knew the basics. While this might be saying more about those in my personal network—i.e. generation—the point is that today McColloch is one of countless others who can site countless sources and methods for brewing ciders. The culture has spread, and with it the diversity of understandings of this practice.

So while home brewing means many things to many people, for McColloch, the meaningfulness of this hobby (lifestyle? culture?) developed hand in hand with his interactions with cooperative organizations—examples being credit unions, Kalamazoo’s food co-ops, co-op restaurants visited while on tour in Europe and especially Western Canada, as well as more collective efforts here in Michigan such as Grand Rapid’s downtown restaurant Barter Town. The result is a specific and tangible value system that sets the importance of people above the indelibility of profits. In other words, his motivation, and that of High Five, is for a redefined localism and community based organization of beer brewing. As explained by McColloch, the cooperative model is the best means to include people as it is inclusive by its very nature, and therefore more concerned with people than with profit. 

What does a redefined or re-appropriated localism and community ethos mean? The topic came up at the end of our discussion when McColloch invited me to a High Five event, a “trash free” tasting party. The co-op extends its aim to minimize exploitation-via-a-collectively-arranged-financial-organization to its impact-on-environment-via-nonessential-waste. So, for High Five, community means higher standards of respect and appreciation and a recognition that undue strains on people and things on multiple levels are wholly unnecessary.

While this is all good, I think McColloch would have folks first start with the more tangible components of High Five. To crystalize this cooperative brewery, its essential uniquenesses are in organization. To most its distinctiveness will be judged not on its social values but on its beers, something I’m sure McColloch will be happy with. So beyond the philosophical elements, McColloch envisions a diverse range of beers, especially often overlooked classics like milds and middle strength scottish ales. His medal-winning Sixty-One minute IPA (Siciliano’s home brew contest 2011) is sure to get a spot on the line-up, at least temporarily. You too could be on tap! Each month the co-op plans to hold a homebrew contest of its own, with the winner upscaling her batch and having her own release party—all part of the co-op’s vision for building an egalitarian learning community.

In the immediate future, High Fivers will be traveling to the only other brewery cooperative in the nation, Black Star in Austin, TX, where plans and lessons will be shared and translated. Look out for High Five in upcoming months, check out their facebook page, and ask yourself, what might I contribute to my brewing community?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Westside store(y): the old shops on West Fulton Street

Our best memories are often place-related and too often those places don't exist anymore. If you, like Steve, have fond memories of a certain localeand of a certain small business in particularin Grand Rapids or elsewhere, we'd love to hear about it. Please share your memories in the comments section below. 

Now a micro-salon, Julie's Hair Place used to be
The Krazy House, a popcorn shop
By Steve Siciliano

I grew up on the lower west side of Grand Rapids where a house on Hovey between Lane and Marion was the center of my childhood universe. When I was very young I wasn’t allowed to venture past those two north-south avenues and so a block-long length of sidewalk served as my playground. I got to know that sidewalk intimately. Even in the dark, with sparks flying off the steel wheels of my clamped on roller-skates, I instinctively knew each section where tree roots created dangerous uplifts that could send a speeding skater tumbling.

When I was old enough to ride a bike my universe expanded. Two blocks west were the ponds, ball fields and wooded hills of John Ball Park. To the east was the Grand River where we fished for carp and sucker off the bridges or for catfish and the occasional bass and crappies from the banks. To the south beyond Butterworth we hunted birds and squirrels with slingshots and BB guns in the expanse of woods that lined the west-flowing river. We thought of Fulton Street, with its collection of shops and stores, as our neighborhood’s northern boundary.

Maybe it’s because I've spent over thirty years in retail that I often think nostalgically about those Fulton Street businesses—the Dairy Queen on the corner of Fulton and Lane where a dime would get you an ice-cream cone, an ice-cold slush or a Dilly Bar; Nawara’s Hardware where the owner would always give deals on the fishing lures displayed in a glass case; the orange and brown A&W root beer stand where they kept the mugs in ice water, where you could get a frothy drought for a nickel and you could take a gallon jug of root beer home for a dollar (a precursor to the growler system employed by breweries today).

On the northwest corner of Lane and Fulton was a little shop called The Krazy House where you could by a bag of butter-soaked popcorn for a dime or Colored Korn or Caramel Korn for a quarter. Up towards the park was Ball Park Shop Rite, a grocery store, and right next to it was Ball Park Pharmacy with its candy and comic books and a soda fountain where you could sit in air-conditioned comfort with a bag of New Era potato chips and a glass of cherry cola.  

The Dairy Queen and hardware store have somehow survived, but the popcorn shop closed long ago and the Shop Rite just this past year. The pharmacy is now a party store and there's a McDonalds where the root beer stand used to be. Change is inevitable but it's not always good. Especially when change leaves nothing but empty space, and memories.

Friday, March 23, 2012

New Beer Friday - March 23 Edition

Ommegang Art of Darkenss
By Chris Siciliano

Apparently March is the new May in Michigan. How long this statement will remain true is debatable. Nonetheless, thanks to the unseasonable weather, I can't help but look suspiciously at all the breweries who released their spring (and even summer) seasonals weeks ago. What inside information do they have on the shifting patterns of global climate, that's what I'd like to know. Something is very fishy here. Very fishy indeed. (I've got my eye on you, Sam Adams and Leinenkugel.)

Ironically, there's no spring or summer beer on this week's NBF. What's here is a good selection of beers sure to appeal to people of all tastes. And for the record, Siciliano's is not accusing any one brewer of manipulating climate for financial gain. That would be absurd...or would it?

No, it would be absurd. Forget I mentioned it. On with the show!

New (and Returning) Beers

  • Southern Tier Oak-aged Unearthly Imperial IPA, $9.29/22oz - "At the Southern Tier Brewing Company, vigorously hopped beer is our standard and inspiration. We continue a commitment to innovation with an aggressive offering. Oak Aged Unearthly is a manifestation of the brewer’s craft; skillfully balancing art and the forces of nature to produce a divine liquid" (source).
  • Leinenkugul Big Eddy Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, $2.99/12oz - "Assertive chocolate, toffee and caramel notes, with a hint of smoke and dark fruity undertones subtly emerging throughout” (source).
  • Arbor Brewing Phat Abbot, $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" (source).
  • Affligem Dubbel, $9.59/750ml - "A reddish-brown abbey ale brewed with dark malts. The secondary fermentation gives a fruity aroma and a unique spicy character with a distinctive aftertaste. Secondary fermentation in the bottle" (source).
  • Ommegang Art of Darkness, $18.59/750ml - "Limited edition Art of Darkness Ale is deep, dark and magical, with champagne-like carbonation and rich matiness from a complex recipe of multiple barley and wheat malts, as well as flaked oats. Using no spices or flavorings, Art of Darkness gains all its rich aromas, tastes, and apparent spiciness from the malts and Ommegang’s proprietary house yeast" (source).
  • Chatoe Rogue Good Chit Pilsner, $7.39/22oz - "Brewed using 5 ingredients: Weyermann acidulated, Rogue Micro Barley Farm Dare Floor Malt, Rogue Micro Hopyard Liberty Hops, Czech Pils Wyeast 2278 and Free Range Coastal Water" (source).
  • Atwater Traverse City Cherry Wheat, $1.79/12oz - "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" (source).
  • Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Cider, $1.59/12oz - "This crisp and refreshing cider mixes the sweetness of the apples with a subtle dryness for a balanced cider taste. The fresh apple aroma and slightly sweet, ripe apple flavor make this cider hard to resist" (source).
  • Angry Orchard Tradition Dry Apple Cider, $1.59/12oz - "Our Traditional Dry cider is made in the style of English draft ciders. This cider is bittersweet and slightly spicy with a bright apple aroma. The dryness makes you pucker and look forward to another sip" (source).
  • Angry Orchard Ginger Apple Cider, $1.59/12oz - "Our Apple Ginger cider is unlike any cider you've had before. The fresh ginger and apple flavors blend together for a sweet, yet slightly tart taste with a distinct ginger aroma. the result is a smooth, refreshing cider that goes down easy" (source).

Picture(s) of the Week

 A refreshingly honest placard outside a bar in Manistee, MI.

The view from Jolly Pumpkin's front door
(Old Mission Peninsula)

Homemade pasta from The Local Epicurean on Wealthy Street


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Head Cheese - Your weekly ration

Pour yourself a tall glass of Head Cheese. This week, Mark pokes fun at people with poor taste. (Say what you will about the sport coat, that mustache is pretty badass.)

Head Cheese
by Mark Siciliano

Hungry for more Head Cheese? Help yourself to seconds at While there, be sure to vote for Mark in the American Idol-like Best Cartoonist contest, which is going on now. (Update: Mark has advanced to round seven!)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Road Trip: Poe's Tavern

Another entry in the bossman's travelogue, this one on the topic of—you guessed it—bars. We're beginning to see a pattern here.

By Steve Siciliano

During our vacation in South Carolina’s Low Country we spent a few days investigating several of the Sea Islands that lie off the coast. The natural beauty of the salt marshes, dunes and shell-covered beaches was a nice counterbalance to our excursions into Charleston and Savannah. If we happened to stumble upon a good bar, a lighthouse, or a historical location it was a serendipitous bonus.

On Sullivan’s Island we un-expectantly found and then explored Fort Moultrie. Built in 1776 to protect the port of Charleston, it was the site of battles during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. The fort also was where a young artillery sergeant and unknown writer named Edgar Allen Poe had been stationed in the early 1800’s. A few miles away from the fort in the beach town of Sullivan’s Island we stopped at a bar that is honoring Poe’s literary legacy.

I have a slight antipathy for bars that feed off the fame of dead writers. Sloppy Joe’s in Key West and the Floridita in Havana, both favorite Hemingway haunts, are nice enough places if you enjoy hanging out with like-minded tourists. I've been to both, have enjoyed perusing their framed Hemingway memorabilia and even had my picture taken with the life-size statue of Papa leaning against the bar in the Floridita. But because they have morphed from idiosyncratic watering holes into commercial shrines I have no desire to return to either. Nor, I suspect, would Hemingway.

Poe’s Tavern somehow succeeds at avoiding this. Despite the restroom walls that are plastered with pages from Poe’s works, despite an eerie portrait of the famous writer painted on the brick fireplace, despite the fact that menu items are named after his poems and short stories, the tavern seems to be a tribute to Poe’s genius more than an exploitation of his fame. And while I’m sure that a good percentage of the tavern‘s clientele is comprised of tourists, I have no doubt that its popularity is due more to the excellent food and solid beer list.

We liked the food and beer so much that we returned two days later. I don’t think Hemingway today would be comfortable having a drink at Sloppy Joe’s or the Floridita. But I can easily imagine an intense fellow with haunting eyes sitting alone at a table in Poe’s, having a pint, and penning a horrifying tale.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Tuesday Review: Tandem Ciders

By Chris Siciliano

Not just another stop on the Traverse City wine trail, Tandem Ciders is a unique experience, a welcoming country pub and tasting room tucked among the glacial moraines and high hilltop orchards of the Leelanau Peninsula.

The day we stopped in, Tandem was offering samples of six or seven ciders, three from the tap, a few more from the bottle, and one, the Pomona—a blend of sweet cider and Tandem's house-made apple brandy—served straight from a small oak cask set up near the door to the production facility.

Every cider we tasted was well made and complex. Though all were good, the clear winners in my book were of the dry persuasion. Among this sub-category I enjoyed the Crabster most, a cider owing its name to uber-sour crab apples, the addition of which (three separate kinds) enlivened each sip wonderfully—this is one tart cider, but in a pleasing, refreshing way, so good I bought a bottle to take home with me ($12/750ml).

More than a tasting room, Tandem offers pints and half-pints of their draft cider for enjoyment on-premise (between $2-4). Inside the small but comfortable pub one call "belly up" or play a game or two of cricket on the dartboard in the corner. If the weather is nice—it was stunning the day we visited—you're welcome to sip your cider outside while partaking in a game of horseshoes. If your mood is more contemplative, you can simply sit and stare at the incredibly peaceful views of the surrounding countryside. The roasted peanuts are complimentary.

Tandem sources all their apples from area farmers, and why not—their neighbors up and down the peninsula grow some of the best apples this side of northern France. The tasting room and production facility are located at 2055 N. Setterbo Rd, Suttons Bay, MI 49682. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday, noon to 6pm, and Sunday, noon to 5pm. Tandem Ciders is closed Monday and Tuesday.

The view

A half-pint of Early Day (or what's left of it)

The bottle I took home

Tandem's ciders are now available for purchase at Siciliano's Market!

Spring's early bounty: finding wild leeks (repost)

This post originally appeared on April 28, 2011. Since spring has apparently come early to Michiganand the leeks are already popping up (trust us)we thought it made sense to republish now rather than wait until April as originally planned. 

By Alexander Atkin

Wild leeks—also known as ramps, spring onion, ramson, and wild garlic—can be found in forests from South Carolina all the way north to where the taiga forest begins in Canada.

Among the first to shoulder out of the cold early Spring soil, leeks are abundant in forests all over West Michigan. Typically occurring in patchy oases, they are easily spied by their bifurcated broad green leaves which look somewhat similar to those of lilies.

Sheathed Leek
Though shallow-rooted, leeks are not particularly easy to unearth. A small garden spade will do the trick. When uprooted, the bulb is covered by a dirt-sodden sheath which is easily removed.

The exposed bulb; oniony goodness
While the entire leek plant is edible, the bulb is most prized. With a pungent garlic-onion aroma and flavor, these wild members of the onion family make a spectacular addition to any dish that might normally call for onions. If cleaned and refrigerated, leeks will keep for months. I usually have some left to enjoy all the way through the fall, if I can manage to use them sparingly.
Chicago's Namesake?

Traveling the area near the southern terminus of Lake Michigan in the 17th century, French explorer René-Robert Cavelier named the area Chicago after the name given to wild leeks by the local natives. The naturalist noted the area's dense growth of the vegetable.

Responsible Foraging

Foraging is a part of humanity as ancient as any other. Taking a few hours to walk in woodlands and find wild edibles is a rewarding experience, and a rare chance to reconnect to once-common traditions now nearly lost in the wake of modern civilization.

Take care to follow a reliable guide as there are sometimes poisonous mimics to certain plants and fungi. However, wild leeks have no closely resembling species, so the risk of mistakenly bringing home something else is very low. If you wish to forage on private lands, be sure to obtain permission beforehand. No wild edible is worth dodging bullets.

Lastly, take only what you and your family can reasonably consume. You may come across patches of several hundred leeks, but there are areas of the country that have known exploitation and local extinction. A good forager always leaves some behind to maintain the species and natural balance of the ecosystem.

Alexander Atkin forages for wild edibles in and around Grand Rapids. On Saturday afternoons you can find him tending bar at Brewery Vivant. Stop in for a beer and maybe he'll tell you his favorite place to hunt for wild leeks and other edibles (but probably not). 

Monday, March 19, 2012

9th Annual Homebrew Contest: Update 3/19

Last year's winner
Attention homebrewers!

A question for you. How goes the peat-smoke pineapple & peanut butter pale ale you devised for Siciliano's 9th Annual Homebrew Contest? Is it in the bottle yet? Is it close?

Not to ratchet up the pressure any, but as of today—March 19th, 2012—you only have about one month left to submit your entry. To reiterate, the deadline for entries is Wednesday April 18th, 2012. By the close of business (10pm) on that day all entries must be at Siciliano's and all paperwork must be complete.

To make things easier for Detroit-area contestants, the good people at Cap 'n' Cork Home Brewing Supply in Macomb, MI have agreed to be an east side drop-off point. Please note the earlier deadline for east side entries—Friday April 13th, 2012—which is necessary to allow contest organizer Greg 'Swig' Johnson the time he needs to go and pick the entries up. Here's the address for Cap 'n' Cork.
Cap 'N' Cork Home Brewing Supply
16812 21 Mile Rd.
Macomb, MI 48044
This year we are expecting a record number of entries (200+), so please be advised, under no circumstance will or can we accept contest entries that come in after the deadline. Feel free to email Greg (Swig) with any questions. And good luck to all of you!

All best,

The Siciliano's Staff

Friday, March 16, 2012

New Beer Friday - March 16 Edition

Founders owners Dave & Mike (left & middle) were on hand
Thursday to greet customers like this one (right)
By Chris Siciliano

No sense pulling punches. The beer everybody is hoping against hope to see on this week's New Beer Friday—Founders KBS—is long gone for another year. We blew through our supply Thursday morning in little over an hour, thanks in part to the people lined up outside Siciliano's before opening (we open at 8am).

Say what you will about standing in line for beer or the general frenzy surrounding the KBS release, I happen to think it's a great thing on all accounts—great for Founders, great for the city of Grand Rapids, great for its beer scene, great for area businesses like Siciliano's and Hopcat, and great for our patrons, who may not have scored as much KBS as they would have liked—or any—but who will no doubt benefit from the success and frenzy in other ways (events and beers like this inspire and make possible other events and beers like this).

At Siciliano's, we saw firsthand the positive impact of KBS. It came in the form of out-of-state beer fans who stopped in last weekend after the brewery release to load up on beer from Michigan's other noted brewers. These pilgrims, some from as far away as Alabama, many from Chicago or Indiana, had only nice things to say about our city and its people. Some said they might not stand in line for KBS again, but many promised to return on vacations (beercations) to our town.

That, to me, is best part of KBS. It helps put Grand Rapids on the map, where more and more it deserves to be.

New (and Returning) Beer

  • New Holland Golden Cap Saison, $1.79/12oz - "A modern interpretation of a traditional farmhouse ale. A soft, pale beer, Golden Cap embodies the flavors and aromas of summer fields. Brewed with an ancestor of wheat called spelt, its straw-colored body, lively carbonation and a unique fermentation profile evoke fresh cut hay and cracked peppercorn" (source).
  • Arcadia Whitsun, $1.79/12oz - "A modern interpretation of a mid-19th century English spring and summer festival ale. It is light golden in color with a rich, creamy head, full bodied and has a lightly toasted caramel flavor. The addition of Michigan star thistle honey contributes a uniquely smooth drinkability to this unfiltered wheat ale" (source).
  • Blue Point Spring Fling, $1.69/12oz - "A perfectly balanced copper ale that delivers a crisp and refreshing taste with subtle hints of nuts and honey" (source).
  • Short's The Golden Rule, $1.99/12oz - "An English style India Pale Ale made with 100% organic malt and hops. English ale yeast and a simple grist bill create this light golden colored brew and provide a template for the discernable hop characteristics of earthy, grassy, and even hay-like flavors that are detected before a bitter finale. Brew unto others as you would have brewed unto you" (source).
  • Heavy Seas Black Cannon, $1.89/12oz - "The style is an oxymoron but this ale is an extension of our Loose Cannon style brewed with black malt" (source).
  • Blue Moon Spring Blond Wheat Ale, $1.49/12oz - "Blue Moon Brewing Company is bringing a completely new beer to the table for spring. Brewed with orange and lemon peel for a little extra zing, Blue Moon Spring Blonde Wheat Ale is a refreshing golden-colored beer with a crisp, citrus finish" (source).
  • Brunehaut Gluten Free Blonde, $3.89/12oz - "Hazy golden with a medium white head. Yeasty and slightly spicy aroma with some earthy and dusty hops" (source).
  • Brunehaut Gluten Free Amber, $3.89/12oz - "Amber copper colour with a beige head. Caramel malts smells with reminiscences to vanilla, some toffee, butterscotch and ripe fruits" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Torpedo 16-oz Cans - $2.59/single, $9.99/4pk - "Sierra Nevada Torpedo is a big American IPA; bold, assertive, and full of flavor highlighting the complex citrus, pine, and herbal character of whole-cone American hops" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Pale Ale 12-oz Cans - $1.59/single, $17.69/12pk - "A delightful interpretation of a classic style. It has a deep amber color and an exceptionally full-bodied, complex character. Generous quantities of premium Cascade hops give the Pale Ale its fragrant bouquet and spicy flavor" (source).
St. Patty's Day

  • Great Lakes Conway's Irish Ale, $1.79/12oz - "A malty Irish ale with a notable toasty flavor derived from lightly roasted malt" (source).
  • Murphy's Irish Stout, $2.09/16oz - "A dry stout brewed in County Cork, Ireland according to the original recipe by Murphy's Brewery since 1856. In comparison to its heavier and more bitter chief competitors, Guinness & Beamish, Murphy's is a lighter and sweeter dry stout. Its flavor is evocative of caramel and malt, and is described as "a distant relative of chocolate milk"(source).
  • Harpoon Celtic, $1.49/12oz - "Harpoon Celtic Ale features a deep amber color. The flavor is malty and complex. Celtic Ale has a moderate hop finish that, along with the generous amounts of malt, makes for a medium bodied, smooth, rich beer. Try serving Celtic Ale with a hearty stew… the beer’s robust character will complement the bold flavors" (source).
Video of the Week

Thanks to WZZM 13 for stopping in at Siciliano's for the release of KBS.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mixed blessing: March temps in the mid to high 70s

Not all in West Michigan are pleased with this week's unseasonably warm temperatures.

By Steve Siciliano

“Sure is a nice morning,” I commented yesterday to the old fella who had come into the store for some wine making supplies. If I was more observant I would have taken a clue from the worn bib overalls and the frayed cap with the “John Deere” logo. I would have noticed the worn hands when I handed him his change, the weathered face, and the old pickup truck out in the parking lot. “Not if you’re a farmer,” he snapped back. “You aren’t going to be happy if it freezes.”

He didn’t expound on the cryptic comment and he didn’t have to. I knew he was referring to the fact that the string of unseasonably warm, mid-March temperatures was disrupting the natural rhythms. That if the warmth continued the area’s fruit trees would begin budding and that there was way too much time left for a cold snap to destroy the possibility of a bountiful fall harvest.

I also knew that when he said “you” he was referring to all of us who aren’t farmers and who don’t think about the fact that 70-degree temperatures in March are a possible bane rather than a fortuitous boon. Perhaps he was even specifically referring to us winemakers and cider makers who fret about pH and fermentation temperatures but rarely give a second thought to the weather.

That evening I sat on my backyard deck for the first time in months. I heard the distinctive, whistled phrases of a cardinal and looking up spotted a splash of red high in the bare branches of a maple. I smoked a cigar and thought about all the people who were outside enjoying temperatures that were approaching the 80’s. Then I thought about that old fella walking through an orchard of waking trees, and worrying.

A screen grab from Facebook highlights the difference
in perspective between farmers/growers and the rest of us.
The grab is from this morning, March 15, about 8am.

Head Cheese - Your weekly ration

After a week hiatus Head Cheese returns with an enlightening cartoon, this one sure to brighten your day. I tell you watt, it would be pretty incandescent of you not to read it carefully, and that's no bulb.

Head Cheese
by Mark Siciliano

Hungry for more Head Cheese? Help yourself to seconds at And while you're there, be sure to vote for Mark in the American Idol-like Best Cartoonist contest, which is going on now. (Update: Mark has advanced to round six!)


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Road Trip: South Carolina Low Country

The boss' recent road trip down South confirms our suspicionthe best part of any vacation is the chance to drink in bars you've never been to.

One of the many beers
from the boss' recent road trip
By Steve Siciliano

I have to admit, as much sightseeing as we did during our recent visit to the South Carolina Low Country around Charleston, we probably spent an equal amount of time just hanging out in bars. That’s certainly not a bad thing. When I travel I enjoy exploring an area’s museums and historical locations and being awed by its natural and man-made wonders. But I also like getting glimpses into the lives of the people who live and work in the locales where I’m sojourning. What better way to do this than by rubbing elbows with them in the local watering holes.

Case in point. If we didn’t stop for a beer in a dilapidated bar on John’s Island we would not have heard the bartender’s frightening story about how she and her family failed to evacuate in time and had to ride out Hurricane Hugo. I would not have seen the terror in her eyes nor heard the fear in her voice, still there despite the fact that Hugo hit in 1989. Nor would we have heard from another bartender in a bar on Saint Helena about how the local shrimpers, themselves struggling to make a living, passed around the hat one night and sent a donation to the victims of Katrina.

If we weren’t at a bar on Folly Beach one evening I could not have listened to the transplanted retiree who had been walking his dog tell me how he was having a hard time selling his home in New York and then his complaints about the taxes and leash laws on Folly Island. If we weren’t at a dive bar one afternoon I wouldn’t have watched two local women chain smoke while playing the video poker machine nor would have I heard their loud argument about which bar in town served the best burgers.

And finally, if we didn’t go to a touristy pub on Sullivan’s Island I wouldn’t have gotten a bit of wisdom from the laid-back bartender: “Us folks here in the South start the morning off slow,” he said. “And then we taper off the rest of the day.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Inside-look: Michigan's emerging hop industry

Brian Tennis, a founding member of the Michigan Hop Alliance, responded recently via Facebook to this article in the Hastings Reminder. We found his impromptu address on "what it takes to succeed at commercial hop growing" a fascinating mini-manifesto (mini-festo?), and one worthy of reposting. Here it is in its entirety, published with both Brian's permission and the understanding that future addresses/updates from him on the current state of Michigan hop farming are from now on always welcome on The Buzz.

By Brian Tennis

The article "Homegrown ingredients also brew economic growth" is an interesting take on the state of Michigan hops. We could not agree more: quality and consistency has been and will continue to be critical as our new industry emerges.

This is no longer simply about being a weekend farmer and drying hops on a screen you grabbed off the house, even though we have all “been there and done that” and had surprisingly decent results. This is also not about spending countless hours hand-picking cones until you developed “hop haze.” Trust us, you really never want to hand-pick an acre of hops more than once in your lifetime.

Commercial hop farming in Michigan is now here and it is real. It is time to step up our game. That is why we have traveled to Yakima Valley, Washington and, more recently, to Nelson, New Zealand to study and learn from some of the best in the business. This is not about tooting our own horn, but knowledge leveraging. You simply cannot take a textbook and hope to learn everything there is to know about farming and/or hop processing. Sometimes there is just no substitute for real world knowledge and hands on experience. We have all had some terrific wins so far in our industry and the proof is in the commercial beers that have been released either on-tap or in the bottle by some of the best breweries in Michigan. This success will only continue if some key goals are established and consistently met.

In our opinion and after talking to almost every commercial brewer in Michigan, we have determined several key areas that we all need to focus on. They include overall quality, price, alpha and beta testing, H.S.I. (hop storage index), packaging (the proper size and the correct bags), form (properly done pellets and whole cone) and proper drying techniques. You could do all of these steps really well except for one and you are done. Brewers cannot afford to gamble with inferior product, no matter how “local” it is. The sense of community may get you in the door, but don’t be surprised if that doors hits you on the way out if the quality is lagging.

It’s also critical to focus on the brewers' needs; if they want ten pounds of a particular hop and you only have a bale, break it down and sell it to them. To quote Bob Farrell, the founder of Farrell’s Ice Cream “give them the pickle.” In other words, give the brewer what THEY want. I have actually heard of a grower walking into a brewery with a 50-pound bag of pelletized hops sealed with duct tape and demanding a yearly contract. This is NOT how business gets done.

I wish everyone who is interested in growing hops all the very best, even if it’s four plants or forty acres. Hops truly are wonderful crop to grow, but be warned, there is a LOT of work and capital involved and you will probably not get filthy rich growing them. Do it for the right reasons. Do it because you’re passionate about it. Do it because you love to get your hands dirty. Do it because you love to create beauty. Do it because you are proud of what you are doing. Personally, the best moment I had all last year was sitting in a well-known Michigan brewery and ordering a fresh harvest ale with hops that we grew and it tasted amazing. Life doesn’t get much better than that. Cheers!

Siciliano's is proud to offer several varieties of hops grown and packaged by the Michigan Hop Alliance. Next time you stop in for homebrew supplies, be sure to check out the selection!

Monday, March 12, 2012

And the (March) winner is....

Thanks to everyone who participated in the latest cartoon caption contest. The top honor this month goes to Scott Wert, who impressed our judges by eloquently reiterating the age-old question, "Does a bear do its business in the woods?"

Scott should contact the Buzz editors for details on claiming his prize (a book on home coffee roasting and one pound of raw coffee beans). The rest of you will have another shot at comedy glory starting April 2, when the next caption contest is scheduled to begin.

Until then, remember to vote for Mark Siciliano's comic strip Head Cheese in the American Idol-like contest happening over at Mark, our cartoonist-in-residence, recently advanced to Round #6 and would like to thank all of you for your continued support.

The March Winner

"No really? Where do you shit?"

First Runner-up, "TH"
"Ok genius, tomorrow we’re heading to Siciliano’s Market to pick up the book Home Marshmallow Roasting, Romance and Revival."

Second Runner-up, Kyle Fish
"Ketchup? For what?"

Third Runner-up, Rachel B.
I promise you, Stan, the pickings will be better next time if you look for a tent with lots of empty cans around it. Those ones can't run off so fast.


Friday, March 9, 2012

New Beer Friday - March 9 Edition

Imperial Hatter & Ren
By Chris Siciliano

On Wednesday of this week Siciliano's officially began accepting entries for the yearly homebrew competition. This is always my favorite part of the process, when hopeful homebrewers drop off their beers with nervous excitement, triple-checking they filled out the forms correctly, praying they didn't do something dumb like grab by mistake that experimental gym-sock lager. Even the most established brewers are sometimes reluctant to part with their entries for fear the results won't go in their favor.

I don't care who you are, what your experience, or how thick your skin, anytime you send something you created out into the world to be judged (like a beer or, I imagine, a kid), you can't help but worry how people will receive it. It's worth it though for the chance at glory, and that's exactly what's at stake here. Well, glory and the right to call your beer Siciliano's Best, a thing no less impressive than winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the Nobel Prize for physics, or the Academy Award for best supporting actor in an animated film or Youtube video.

Good luck to all contestants!

New (and Returning) Beer

  • New Holland Imperial Hatter, $3.99/12oz - "A robust renovation of the India Pale Ale. Assertive dry-hoppying provides an aromatic telltale nose, indicative of the bitter symphony to follow. Bold hop character with lively grapefruit and citrus notes" (source).
  • Aventinus Eisbock, $5.09/300ml - "The aroma reminds of ripe plums with a hint of bitter almonds and marzipan displaying strong characteristics of banana and clove. It is full and warming on your palate. The ideal digestive after a great dish. Goes great with crepes suzette, profiteroles with a dark chocolate sauce, tiramisu and mature Parmesan" (source).
  • Aventinus Wheat Doppelbock, $5.09/12oz - "Dark-ruby colored wheat doppelbock with a creamy fine head. Strong notes of ripe bananas, raisins and plums meet liquorice and roasty aromes. Full-bodied and warming, with a well-balanced and smooth finish" (source).
  • Shipyard Export, $1.79/12oz - "The Shipyard Brewing Company's flagship beer, is a full bodied ale, with a hint of sweetness up front, a subtle and distinctive hope taste, and a very clean and traditional finish" (source).
  • Shipyard Olde Thumper, $1.79/12oz - "A non-tradition English bitter, brewed in the US solely by Shipyard. Hint of sweetness with fruit aromas, smooth texture, dry hoppy finish" (source).
  • Shipyard Fuggles IPA, $1.79/12oz - "This light copper single hop India Pale Ale is brewed only with the Fuggles hops. It has a smooth, dry, and crisp flavor with floral aroma and apple plum palate" (source).
  • Bell's Hell Hath No Fury..., $2.69/12oz - "Originally conceived along the lines of a Belgian Dubbel, Hell Hath No Fury... Ale morphed during development into something entirely different. Blending a pair of Belgian abbey-style yeasts into a recipe more akin to a roasty stout, Hell Hath No Fury... Ale offers up warm, roasted notes of coffee & dark chocolate together with the fruity & clove-like aromas" (source).
  • North Peak Furry Black IPA, $1.89/12oz - "The black IPA is a wonderful winter beer. Its hoppy character is sure to warm you up on a chilly Michigan winter night. Made with Chinook, Columbus and Cascade hops and Pilsner, C-40, Midnight Wheat and Carapils malts" (source).
  • Mt. Pleasant Sacred Gruit Ale, $1.79/12oz - "Pale ale brewed with yarrow, myrtle, and rosemary" (source).
  • Anderson Imperial IPA, $3.09/12oz - "This over-the-top brew is loaded with excessive amounts of malts to balance 20 separate additions of the finest Pacific Northwest hops to create what the late beer critic William Brand described as “The kind of beer that made California craft beer famous” (source).
  • Stone Old Guardian, $6.99/12oz - "We make small adjustments to the recipe every year, just a little it provides an opportunity to try some different hops or malts. For the 2012 release, we made a deliberate effort to move away from the English hop influence of the past few years, taking out the East Kent Golding hops, subbing in a blend of American Chinook, Calypso and Cascade. Yes, that's right, Cascade. This is the first use of Cascade in one of our beers, and we really enjoyed the hints of grapefruit and pine it contributed to the aroma and flavor. We also bumped up the Maris Otter crystal malt by a mere 0.5%, and it's amazing how much of a difference it made in the color and the upfront body. All in all, it's resulted in a well-rounded beer that is ready to drink now, or can be aged at cellar temperatures for many years" (source).
  • Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Sumpin', $1.99/12oz - "Way smooth and silky with a nice wheaty-esque-ish-ness. Just the little sumpin’ sumpin’ we all need to kick Summer into full swing! Ingredients: Hops, Malt, Hops, Hops, Yeast, Hops, Water, and Hops" (source).
  • Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale, $1.99/12oz - "This Special Ale is, in reality, a reconstructed exhumation of the very first ale that we ever brewed way, way back, in 1993. Brewed with a big head, a muscular malty thorax, a silky texture & all strung together with a hoppy sweet nerve sack... yum" (source).
  • Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot, $4.79/22oz - "A malty, robust, jobless recovery ale! We’re not quite in the red, or in the black... Does that mean we’re in the brown? A big ol’ Imperial Brown Ale to help you with your slipperly slide on into springtime. Rich, smooth, dangerous & chocolatey" (source).
  • Atwater VJ Black Imperial Stout, $2.69/12oz - The VJ stands for vanilla java, 11% ABV (source).
  • Short's ControversiALE, $1.99/12oz - "Loaded with hops like an IPA, yet drinks like a Pale Ale, we simply decided to call it a Strong Pale Ale. The fragrant, earthy citrus laced nose is instantly detectable. Large amounts of toasted grains and high alpha Simcoe hops form a perfect union that creates the cool sensation of toasted sourdough covered with zesty grapefruit hop marmalade" (source).
  • Original Sin Newton Pippin Cider, $8.09/750ml - "First harvested in 1740 in Queens, NY. Coveted by George Washington and Thomas Jeferson and planted in their personal estates. Benjamin Franklin had Newtown Pippins shipped to him in London in 1759. Credited with establishing the U.S. fruit export industry. Was popular for use in the making of hard cider" (source).
  • Original Sin Cherry Tree Cider, $8.09/750ml - "Our Cherry Tree cider combines the finest American heirloom apples, which were popular in the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries, with tart cherries. The finished product has the clean, rich flavor of fresh cherries with the depth and elegance that comes from using freshly pressed U.S. heirloom cider apples" (source).
Random Fact of the Week

"Standing anywhere in the state [of Michigan] a person is within
85 miles of one of the Great Lakes" (source).

Lake Michigan. It's closer than you think.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Hey Kevin: An actual expert responds

New Holland Dragon's Milk
Welcome to Hey Kevin. Last week our "advice" & "information" columnist exposed two clandestine organizations whichhe claimsare engaged in a worldwide campaign to discredit the aluminum beer can.

What Kevin failed to address in his column (read it here) are the reasons one might experience a difference in taste between canned and bottled beer. John Haggerty, Brewmaster at New Holland, has been kind enough to answer that question for us. His response came in via email, and we have John's permission to post it.

Hey Kevin,

I just read your column this week and found it to be very funny. However, I also felt like you missed an opportunity to educate people about aluminum cans. I am not sure what you know or do not know about aluminum cans (Editor's note: whatever Kevin claims to know about anything is suspect, always). But I thought I would throw my two cents in the pot and you can do what you will with it. So here goes:

Aluminum cans are lined these days with a material that keeps the beer and the aluminum from interacting thus rendering the can inert - i.e. bottle or can doesn't matter for the purposes of storage of the beer. Your beer, if packaged correctly, should taste more or less the same coming from either container. So then, one might ask why beer tastes different when from a can vs. bottle or some other package (say a keg)? Well, when you put the package to your mouth the aluminum from the outside of the can reacts with your palate and changes the pH of your mouth. This pH change affects they way you perceive the beer to taste. Whereas glass is inert and therefore does not affect your palate and you taste the beer the way it was supposed to taste. So, the long and the short of that lesson is this: if your beer is in a can pour it out into a glass. DO NOT DRINK FROM THE CAN!

There are advantages and disadvantages to either package: cans tend to have a higher likelihood of picking up O2, bottles let in light, cans are lighter weight, etc. The list goes on and on and as a brewer you ultimately have to decide what is right for you and your customers. Neither package is perfect nor is there any definitive right answer on which to use. However, as stated above, you can drink directly from a bottle if you wish (although, that will preclude you from having the olfactory interaction that contributes a tremendous amount to the perception of flavor), whereas you will not want to drink directly from a can.

Really, in either case, you should pour the beer into the proper glassware in order to consume it. It is simply the more civilized way to enjoy beer.

Thanks for letting me weigh in on the topic!


John Haggerty
New Holland Brewing Co.
Holland, MI

Thanks for the insight, John, and thanks also for Dragon's Milk. Seriously. Thank you. (We love that beer.)

Road Trip: Savannah, Georgia

Moon River Brewing Coast IPA
Steve and Barb are currently vacationing with their friends Pat and Marcie MacAulay in Georgia and South Carolina.

By Steve Siciliano

It is said that Savannah, Georgia is the most haunted city in America. I don’t know about that but I do know it’s a must-see for anyone with a penchant for American history and an affinity for 18th- and 19th-century architecture. A solid brewpub , impeccably fresh seafood, massive live oaks draped with flowing, hoary strands of Spanish moss and a famous, hauntingly beautiful cemetery made our visit to this intriguing Southern city all the more enjoyable.

After checking into the Bohemian Hotel, a recently renovated property located in the heart of Savannah’s river district, we walked across the street to the Moon River Brewing Company. Moon River’s taproom and brewing facility are located in one of the historical downtown buildings that allegedly have frequent ghost sightings. If Moon River’s location is indeed haunted the resident ghosts are not negatively impacting the quality of the beer. I had the Wild Whacky Wit, a traditional Belgian wheat spiced with orange peel and coriander, and the Apparition Ale, the brewery’s interpretation of the classic English pale. Both were excellent.

The beer whetted our appetites but before looking for a seafood restaurant we decided to have a drink at the Bohemian’s rooftop bar. I’m quite sure that Savannah native Johnny Mercer had the Savannah River in mind when he wrote the lyrics for Moon River (hear Sinatra's version here). While we gazed down at the wider-than-a-mile river and at the majestic span of the Talmadge Memorial Bridge rising high in the distance, a huge cargo ship slowly made its way upriver.

The next morning we explored the Savannah Historic District. Roughly corresponding to what the city’s boundaries were before the Civil War, the district contains twenty-two park-like squares that were planted back in the 19th century with the now massive, wide-branching live oaks. The squares are dotted with statues, monuments and historical markers and are surrounded by stately old churches and Victorian homes—an incredible experience for someone who loves eclectic architecture and American history.

On the way out of the city we stopped at the Bonaventure Cemetery which was made famous by the John Berendt book and the Clint Eastwood directed movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. A steady rain had begun falling which further enhanced the eerie, melancholic atmosphere. It was probably just the breeze moving low-hanging strands of Spanish moss, but while we were driving out the cemetery gates I could have sworn I saw somebody waving goodbye to us from behind a mausoleum.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Edible mushroom growing kits now at Siciliano's

Siciliano's now carries three varieties of mushroom growing kits ($19.00 each). For details, just keep reading!

By John Barecki

As many Michigan natives know, we live in a state that produces a great variety of edible and medicinal mushrooms. To the untrained eye mushrooms can be though little things to find and identify. For this reason, we decided to offer our customers a chance to grow their own at home.

We now have mushroom growing kits available in the store that will allow you to grow your own edible mushrooms right in your own home. The kits are a fun glimpse into the world of fungi, showcasing how these organisms produce edible fruits from organic material and then recycle what's left back into the soil.

Our new mushroom kits consist of an organically recycled tissue paper roll for the fungi to use as food, a package of inoculated grain spawn that contains the fungi, and a breathable filter bag to store them in. Currently, there are three different kits available: grey dove, golden oyster, and Italian oyster.

In four weeks—about the same time it takes to make a pale ale—these kits will provide you with at least four "flushes" of mushrooms, which you can either cook and eat right away or process to be eaten at a later time. After the kit has gone through its growing cycle it can be broken up and tossed into your garden to inoculate the surrounding area.

Look for more Buzz posts soon explaining the different kits in detail and with pictures of the golden oyster kit in action.

Jeff Carlson's roasted garlic cheddar mushroom bread

Consumate DIYer and all around good guy Jeff Carlson is back with another bread recipe (see his others here and here). This one incorporates a culinary trinity sure to please—mushrooms, garlic, and cheddar cheese—which Jeff adds to the standard no-knead recipe in the following amounts.

    • 454 grams white flour (1 lb)
    • 340 grams water (12 oz)
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
    • 4 oz sharp cheddar, cubed
    • 1/2 bulb garlic, par-baked and chopped
    • 4 oz rehydrated Shitake mushrooms, chopped
Tips & Tricks

  • To learn the no-knead method of bread baking, read this Buzz post - "No-Knead Bread: our take on a new classic" - or watch this video. For best results, do both.
  • Rather than fold cheese, garlic, and mushrooms into prepared dough, add them to the dry ingredients (flour, salt, yeast) and mix until well incorporated. Add the water last. 
  • To par-bake garlic first break the cloves out of the bulb and then spread them on a baking sheet. Bake at 425 for about 10 minutes. Garlic is ready when it's soft to the touch, but not mushy. The garlic will cook a great deal more when it bakes in the bread; the par-baking process makes the cloves easy to peel and chop, and also contributes flavor during the long fermentation. Let the garlic cool before mixing (it doesn't take long).
  • Recommended uses for mushroom water leftover from the rehydration process include soups and stocks. We imagine it would also be a hearty substitute for the plain old H2O in the recipe above. If you try it, be sure to strain the water through a fine mesh screen to separate any sand or grit.
  • Remember, Siciliano's Market now carries a wide selection of bread-making ingredients, including several kinds of flour and whole wheat berries, which you can grind free of charge in our flour mill.
  • If at any stage in the process your dough/bread looks at all like Jeff's (see pictures below), then congratulations, you're right on track.
Three amigos

Add the water last

Sweet dough whisk

The crust

The crumb