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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Head Cheese - Your weekly ration

All characters appearing in today's Head Cheese are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, especially those employed by Siciliano's, is purely coincidental.

Head Cheese
by Mark Siciliano


Hungry for more Head Cheese? Help yourself to seconds at thecartooniststudio.com. And while you're there, be sure to vote for Mark in the American Idol-like Best Cartoonist contest, which is going on now.

Deers!
(oops) I mean, Cheers!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Tuesday (Book) Review: Home Coffee Roasting

Boss, book, pipe.
By Steve Siciliano


While Siciliano’s stocks a wide variety of publications related to homebrewing, winemaking and cheese making, folks interested in purchasing an informative book about home coffee roasting are faced with a good news / bad news scenario. The bad news is that we have been able to find just one book that specifically relates to what author Kenneth Davids calls a lost art. The good news is that Davids' Home Coffee Roasting: Romance & Revival is an excellent resource for those currently roasting as well as anyone looking to get into this enjoyable do-it-yourself hobby.

The paucity of books on the subject of home coffee roasting is obviously due to the fact that roasting green coffee beans at home is a relatively obscure but growing hobby. In addition to providing invaluable information on roasting specifics and techniques, Davids explains why home coffee roasting became a lost art; he dispels the notion that home roasting is messy and difficult, and also presents a solid argument as to why anyone who loves coffee will love their  morning joe even more with home-roasted beans.

Before Davids delves into the specifics of the roasting process and the equipment that one needs to be a successful home roaster, he gives a detailed narrative of the complex and colorful history of coffee. While some readers might find this section boring, I was fascinated by the story of how and where coffee plants were discovered and how the roasting process evolved over the centuries. Perhaps the most practical section of the book for the would-be hobbyist is where Davids presents the pros and cons of the options available to home roasters as well as the pluses and minuses of the various home roasting appliances.

Doubtless more books will appear on the subject of home coffee roasting as the hobby grows in popularity. It is hard to imagine, however, that a more comprehensive account could be presented, or that a finer book on this rewarding hobby could be written.

Home Coffee Roasting, Romance & Revival is now available at Siciliano's ($17.95). For more information on our other coffee roasting products, including a list of the varieties of raw (green) beans in stock, please click here.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Learning how to “cleanse” in a dirty world

Christina's Quinoa salad
Former staffer Wes Eaton gives us the dirt on a month-long detox program he and wife recently completed. Wes includes a great-looking Quinoa recipe at the end of the essay. Note that Siciliano's now carries organic Quinoa in bulk ($3.99/lb) as well as the Agave nectar also called for in the recipe. 

By Wes Eaton

I get a lot of strange looks from people when I tell them I’m on a “cleanse.” If they know me, they wonder how I can go day after day without a pint, a sip of wine, some local sourdough, an afternoon square of chocolate, a slice of pizza from Harmony, a morning cup of coffee. People of less acquaintance wonder if I have health problems, or if I feel the need to lose some weight, and fast. The idea of withholding the simple gratifications of good food and drink is somewhat mysterious and perplexing if you see no reason or hear no calling.

When I was younger, I remember my mother would wilt spinach and toss it with vinegar. She liked it because it tasted good, sure, but she also knew that it was good for her, and sometimes she just desired ‘healthier’ foods (why not fresh spinach in a simple salad, I’ll have to ask her). Mind you, she raised us on Butternut Bread, Margarine, and Kraft Mac & Cheese and I’ve had a sweet tooth ever since, one I now nurture with deep red wines, rich ales, and bourbon.

And here I must make a fine distinction as to my motivation to cleanse, as we certainly all must confront our drive to be successful on such a quest. After a hearty season of celebrating, with a follow-up go at moderation, I was still essentially on a trajectory of gourmand decadence. Not in pounds per say, but in my very joints and tissues I felt I was weighted down, a little stiff, and due for an oil change. My hero Jim Harrison often writes about the morning bowl of oatmeal he takes as his penance for partaking too much the night/week before. On my new cleanse, however, not even simple oatmeal was permitted.

In some ways, a cleanse is like a fast. The way substances and toxins, products of immoderation and hedonistic cuisine, build up in one’s body over time, compounded with the unequal and unjust ratio of calories in versus calories expended, I felt I could go a few days without food and be none the worse. This was a romantic—as in fictional—understanding. One gets hungry if breakfast is missed, and by lunch, other options seem worth exploring. After all I did not have a religious calling to sacrifice eating, but rather a desire to freshen up and lose some clinging tension.

I believe in the importance of ignorance, and one of the many ways our Cartesian scientific roots has led us astray is with the false dichotomy between the mind and body, the intangible and the material. The important ignorance here is the conviction that our “self,” as in, how we go about choosing to “be” in this world, primarily comes about from conscious and mental decisions. On the contrary, I feel my whole body is very much part of my mind. And while a fast may lead to religious clarity, or supply the proper lucidity for a vision quest, I needed something more sustainable and doable in the sense of alignment with the other requirements of my life, which presently include reading, writing, and discussingthings that come as a challenge to me on an empty stomach.

The point of a cleanse, however, is not just to counteract individual, personal decisions about what to eat. As any literature on cleansing will remind you countless times, we live in a toxic world. Much of this toxicity can be traced to under adjudicated (as in less than democratic) forms of technologically aided industrial production. Rachel Carson first raised our awareness of the links between environmental degradation and health risks in 1962 with the publication of her book Silent Spring. So a cleanse aims to rinse our bodies of the toxins that come through our skin, or enter with our breath, as well as those we knowingly, or unknowingly, ingest. By cleansing, we heal ourselves of the malicious and creeping side effects that toxins foment.

So unlike a fast, we do eat on a cleanse. But what? There are many cleanse variations. The Master Cleanse, a liquid detox program, prescribes water with lemon, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper for as many days as you can take. Other variations include juice fasting, or blended fasting. Raw Food diets have been associated with countless miracles, and Ayurvedic diets are also associated with detoxification, albeit at a slower pace.

The cleanse I am on, however, is called “Clean” (with a book of the same title). The aim here is to eliminate foods that are difficult to digest or that cause allergic reactions (many of which we are so accustomed to we fail to make the connection between a range of discomforts and our foods). There are two parts to this. First, agitating and loosening toxins from our body. Some of the above practices can do this. But the second part, flushing those toxins by linking them with certain foods is the particular advantage of the “Clean.” This means removing dairy, sugar, most meats, stimulants (caffeine, alcohol), and gluten. 

At first glance this seemed daunting. Not only would I be hungry, but I would quickly need to learn to cook new dishes, and drop the habit of eating out. Instead of BLT’s, egg sandwiches or sandwiches of any kind, spaghetti, risotto, roasts, steaks, burgers, chips and salsa, not to mention IPAs, I would need to get by only on brown rice, raw veggies and fruits, a little fish and lamb, and nuts. While I’ve no room to spell specifics, essentially, going on “the Clean” means fruit smoothie for breakfast (fruit with almond or coconut milk, hemp protein, and cinnamon, for instance), a balanced lunch, such as salad, beans, Dal, veggies, fruit, Quinoa, and another smoothie or bowl of soup for dinner, drinking lots of water, and ensuring twelve hours between “dinner” and “breakfast.”

As I close out the last week of the four week program, I’d like to present some things I felt were key to my success (yes, I made it). The first, and most important, was doing the clean with a partner: my wife Christina. Cooking for one is very challenging, especially when you’re cooking new dishes and can’t fall back on your intuitive stock of kitchen knowledge. Christina studied the Clean book while I simply studied. She selected recipes, made countless lists, trips to Horrocks, winter farm markets, tried new creations, and, most importantly, meal-planned and cooked.

In short, we were thoroughly prepared, which is the second key. The third key was chicken stock, homemade. I often roast birds from the Rakowski’s (regional farmers) and make stock from the carcasses, we used our freezer full for brown rice, soups, and bean dishes, adding savory flavor. The final key was finding dishes that we liked, that were satisfying. For my sweet tooth, mangoes and fresh pineapples have been monumental. For drink, fresh fruit juices and sparkling water. For substance, the indispensable Quinoa. To close, I want to elaborate by sharing a recipe worthy of anyone’s plate. Inspired by a recipe in Clean, Christina made some changes and adapted what’s now one of my favorite lunches.

Christina’s Quinoa Salad
(Inspired by Alejandro Junger) 

    • 3 cups cooked Quinoa (start with one cup dry, try white or red)
    • 1 tablespoon chopper parsley
    • 1 cup currants
    • 1/3 cup chopped raw almonds
    • 1/2 cup diced carrots
    • 1/2 cup mint
    • 1/3 cup chopped scallions
    • 1/2 cup (or more) fresh lime juice
    • 1 1/2 tsp agave nectar
    • 1 tsp ground cumin
    • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1/3 cup olive oil
    • Directions: simply mix together and enjoy.

Former Siciliano's staffer Weston Eaton is currently pursuing a PhD in Sociology at Michigan State University. He lives with his wife and dogs in Grand Rapids, MI.

Friday, February 24, 2012

New Beer Friday - February 24 Edition

Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree

By Chris Siciliano

What could we say about tomorrow's Michigan Winter Beer Festival that isn't already articulated beautifully in the video below? Nothing, actually. So we'll cut short the regular NBF preamble and say only this: those of you attending the festival, be careful, have a great time, taste well and taste often. Those of you without tickets, Siciliano's is fully stocked with delicious Michigan beer—what's to stop you from throwing your own winter festival at home?

New (and Returning) Beer

  • Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree, $3.89/12oz - "We actually took the Crooked Tree recipe and doubled all of the ingredients except the water, just the way a DOUBLE should be made. Big hops balanced with tons of malt give this beer a huge body. Although this beer is as cool as "The Fonz" when first purchased, it gets really mellow and smooth with some age. After a year or two stored in a cool dark place you'll notice the heavy caramel and malt flavors are trying to sneak past the hops" (source). Limit 4 bottles/person.
  • Dark Horse Plead the 5th Imperial Stout, $2.99/12oz - "It's big and full bodied with lots of roasted malts and balanced with heavy hops to put this imperial in a league of its own" (source). Limit 2 bottles/person.
  • Brau Brothers Cherry Bean Coffee Stout, $2.19/12oz - "An eclectic ingredient list features a variety of fermentables. Roasted barley, with coffee and chocolate malt is showcased. However, a sizeable amount of wheat helps with body and head retention. Dark candi sugar, confected at the brewery, is employed late in the boil to build complexity and is reminiscent of dark chocolate and ripe plum. Finally, multiple roasts of Cherry Bean’s organic, fair trade coffee are added to the ale. Partially during the brewing process, in an effort to claim nuance and character only achieved with the heat of the brewing process, and partially towards the end of fermentation, to capture aromatics as well as classic coffee flavor without extensive bitterness" (source).
  • Chameleon Brewing Company, Wisconsin - This brewery "was started by Randy Sprecher, founder of Sprecher Brewery. Crafted to please and tease a wide variety of palates, Chameleon beers are light in body, yet full of complex flavors and aromas." All descriptions from their website.
    • Hop on Top Aroma Hop Ale, $1.79/12oz - An "aromatic non-bitter brew featuring a complex bouquet of dried flowers and hops. Light-bodied and refreshing, Hop on Top has a toasty pale malt finish."
    • Witty White Wheat, $1.79/12oz - "Grains of wheat and barley + hops + drops of wit + a black pepperish spice…ah, Grains of Paradise + notes of orange and coriander + carbonation to bring out the aromatics; ( - % Belgian yeast culture = slight haze)…Mouthfeel = medium body …Eureka! Witty, a light and refreshing wit beer with engaging complexity."
    • Fire Light, $1.79/12oz - "Great for sitting by a campfire, in front of a fireplace, or just relaxing, this easy drinking beer has been lightly kissed by flames for a golden color, and a toasty light malt finish. Fire Light – expertly crafted for drinkability and enjoyment."
    • Ryediculous, $1.79/12oz - "This IPA/Rye hybrid begins with a citrusy, earthy, slightly spicy hop nose. Soon the playfully assertive Cascade and Chinook hops flex their bittering muscles for balance and a clean finish to this medium-bodied ale."
  • Short's Aorta Double Red Ale, $1.99/12oz - "Aorta Ale is a double red ale that suggests an intensity of flavor simply by its brilliant deep red appearance. Subtle aromas of candy, brown sugar, and toasted malt are released to the nose as if from the depths of this full-bodied beast. Raisins, figs, and burnt caramel are among some of the sweeter flavors up front, but they give way to a roasted, cocoa like bitterness that becomes magnified by high alpha hops. In contrast to the initial sweetness, it’s a heightened bitterness that dominates the finish" (source).
  • Sam Adams Whitewater IPA, $1.59/12oz - "We love hops at Samuel Adams, and while we enjoy traditional IPAs, we thought we might spice things up a little bit, literally, by combining the intense hop character of an IPA with the crisp spicy wheat character of a Belgian-style white ale. The resulting fusion-style brew is Samuel Adams Whitewater IPA" (source).
  • Anchor Brekles Brown, $1.99/12oz - "Inspired by the all-malt brown ales in Anchor’s brewing archives, Brekle’s™ Brown has a coppery brown color and unusual depth of flavor with hints of citrus which makes for richness and complexity without heaviness. The classic, all-malt, single-hop brown ale" (source).
  • North Coast Old Stock Ale 2012, $3.50/12oz (new vintage) - "Like a fine wine, North Coast’s Old Stock Ale is intended to be laid down. With an original gravity of over 1100 and a generous hopping rate, Old Stock Ale is well-designed to round-out and mellow with age. North Coast Brewing Co. Old Stock Ale is a vintage dated ale. We produce a small quantity each year and it remains available from release date until our stock is depleted" (source).
Video of the Week

video

Taken at the 2011 Michigan Winter Beer Fest


Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Head Cheese - Your weekly ration

This week, Buzz cartoonist-in-residence Mark Siciliano delivers a homebrew-themed cartoon. Surely this will ring true for some of you.

Head Cheese


Hungry for more Head Cheese? Help yourself to seconds at thecartooniststudio.com. And while you're there, be sure to vote for Mark in the American Idol-like Best Cartoonist contest, which is going on now.

Cheers!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hey Kevin: "What's all this about a pretzel necklace?"

Welcome to the third installment of Hey Kevin, our new advice & (mis)information column. Let's get right to this week's question.

Hey Kevin, 

This is the first time I’m attending the Michigan Winter Beer Festival—I’m so excited! My boyfriend has been to several, and he told me I should wear a pretzel necklace. I thought he was pulling my leg until I Googled it. Looks like it's what all the cool kids wear. My question is, why?

Peg from Benton Harbor


Hi Peg,

Common sense tells us the pretzel necklace is a purely functional device—on one hand, nibbling a few pretzels "resets" the palate between sips of fantastic Michigan beer. On the other hand, the persistent munching of salty snacks stabilizes blood sugar as you wait in line for your next snort of whatever crazy beer Short’s is pouring. That the pretzels hang from a necklace is simply a matter of convenience—from what else would you hang them?

Sounds reasonable, right? Well, cultural anthropologists have a decidedly different explanation. Rather than a result of function, they contend it’s a matter of social status, and that a direct correlation exists between the pretzel necklace—its size and heft, specifically—and the degree to which one self-identifies as a beer geek.

To put it succinctly, the more extravagant the necklace, the greater the beer geek's passion for Michigan-crafted suds (and, oddly enough, the greater the chance a tattoo of our great state will appear somewhere on the body). One can go too far, however. Disingenuous pretzel neckwear can quickly earn one the title of pretzel poser, a pejorative term which ranks among the beer world's most serious accusations.

We should also keep in mind that surrounding the head with baked goods is an important part of the beer geek's bizarre mating rituals—this according to leading anthropologist Dr. Henry St. Thomas of the University of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids campus. To date, there are no less than 140 documented cases in which a couple has met, fallen in love, and married, all thanks to one geek’s attraction to the pretzels dangling irresistibly from the other’s neck. Apparently it’s the golden sheen of the pretzel coat as well as the diamond-like flecks of salt that really get the engines going.

Barley, hops, water -
for some, a sacred trinity symbolized
by the holes in a pretzel
Peg, you said you have a boyfriend. It might seem strange that he would risk the surge in male competition by asking you to wear what amounts to the beer geek version of peacock feathers. Remember though that for many the pretzel necklace has a spiritual significance.

The first known mention of "pretzel necklace" is in an obscure German text from the year 1521. The pretzel, it seems, was the official emblem of the Sacred Order of Reinheitsgebot, a secretive sect of German monks who worshipped beer's holy trinity—barley, water, and hops (remember, back then yeast hadn’t been discovered). This trinity is symbolized by the three compartments or spaces (holes) created by the pretzel's shape. By stringing several pretzels on a chord which they then tied around their necks, the monks were able to keep their sacred trinity always close to heart.

No matter the spiritual implication of pretzels, if you're content with your current love life, you should remain vigilant whenever sporting them at festivals—you never know what well-meaning beer geek will get his (or her) signals crossed. Also, be extra modest when feasting on one of those famous turkey legs (a true favorite at the Michigan Winter Beer Fest). From the male beer geek's perspective, there is nothing more attractive than the female of his kind gnawing a giant drumstick with a Michigan beer in hand.

Hope this helps.

Kevin

The views expressed here are Kevin's own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Buzz staff or its parent company, Siciliano's Market. Have a question in need of answering? Submit it to heykevin@sicilianosmkt.com.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Carolina roadtrip

John Barecki's first contribution to the Buzz just might land him a job with the North Carolina tourism board.

John (left) with the owner of Sam's Quick Shop,
a craft-beer destination in Durham, NC
By John Barecki

During the 1st through the 6th of November, 2011, I was lucky enough to travel down to North Carolina with my girlfriend to visit my sister and her family in Raleigh and our beer brothers in the South. The trip down through Ohio and the Virginia’s was full of fall beauty, with mountains appearing as warm blankets of red and yellow, eventually turning back to green the closer we came to the Atlantic coast. While there, we decided to head to downtown Wilmington, NC, where David Lynch filmed most of Blue Velvet. After perusing the little shops we came to Front Street Brewery, a cozy wood-laden seating and bar area similar to most of the Ionia Avenue bars here in Grand Rapids.

Operating on a 600-bbl capacity system Front Street puts out four flagship ales and three to four special releases, all of which are very drinkable. We were able to try the newest special release, a black-as-night coffee stout with superb smoothness and amazing notes of java. It was definitely one of the best I have had in that style. After a nice flight-sampling of everything else on tap we enjoyed fresh-from-the-coast crab cakes and grilled fish tacos that were both top notch.

Front Street, Wilmington, NC
The following day I decided to see who else provides the community with life-giving liquids (aka beer)—call it my obligation as a Siciliano's employee. We drove to Sam's Quik Shop in Durham, only 25 minutes northeast of Raleigh and not far from Duke University's campus. Arriving at what looked like an old supermarket from the 1970's I wondered what treasures I might find within. Inside there were several shelves stacked floor to ceiling with beers from all over the place. There were also cold beverages in the coolers, a selection of glass wear, and North Carolina wines and meads.

Looking at Sam's was like looking into a mirror version of Siciliano's, minus the brewing equipment. As I chatted with the owner I found out that they have been selling so much Bell's and Founder's that they can't get it fast enough. (It's always good to see our hometown suds doing so well in other places.) I was able to pick up most of the well-known Carolina craft brews such as Duck-Rabbit, Mother Earth Brewing, and Carolina Brewing Co. They also have several non-Carolina breweries which are still unavailable to us in the North, some prized Belgian's, for example, and a nice bomber selection. In general, Sam's Quick Shop is one of those rare finds you wouldn't think would hold such a nice selection. We were pleasantly surprised by the friendly staff and great prices, and I recommend stopping by if you're ever near Durham.

Another shot of Sam's Quick Shop
(notice what the customer is carrying)
Coming to the close of our journey we decided to hit the local farmer's market. We found a lot of local goodies: pecans, beans, and peanuts, all in season, and fresh made bread and local honey. We then headed into downtown Raleigh to a well-known taphouse called The Flying Saucer Draught Emporium. This franchise runs from Texas to North Carolina, all with a large selection of draft-handles and bottles to choose from. We enjoyed a couple pints of Sweet Water 420 Extra Pale Ale, some Carolina Brewing Co. and had some lunch from their small but satisfying menu. I had a tasty sandwich consisting of salmon lox, capers, jalapeno-pesto cream cheese and red onion. It was exceptional. We capped off the night with a round of disc golf at a local park, some great food and good company.

Overall, this trip is in my top ten places to see and experience. We met some really cool people, saw the beauty of the mid-Atlantic coast and experienced some high-quality "liquid" Southern hospitality. I highly recommend taking a trip down South, first for the scenery and second for the variety of places that will entice all of your senses.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Siciliano's 9th Annual Homebrew Contest - It begins

Calling all homebrewers!

It's time once again to get that oak-aged, dry-hopped, brett-infused, maple-flavored, spruce-tip, double-imperial, pale-porter hybrid into the bottle—the Siciliano's Market 9th Annual Homebrew Contest is right around the corner. See below for contest rules and regulations.
Is 2012 your year?
  1. Every homebrewer is allowed one (1) beer entry. All entries must be brewed by the person named on the entry form. Please do not submit beers under the names of significant others, children, dogs, cats, parakeets, and/or imaginary friends. 
  2. Beers are submitted according to the BJCP Stye Guidelines. Ciders and meads are excluded from this contest. If you're not sure which is the correct style category for your beer, contact us and we can help you.
  3. Entries require two (2) plain, unlabeled/unmarked 12oz amber bottles. Please no clear bottles or bottles of any other size.
  4. Entries must be submitted with the correct paperwork (entry form), and with competition bottle-ID forms rubber-banded to the bottle. Find the entry form here and the bottle-ID form here. Contact Siciliano's if you have trouble downloading these files.
  5. The entry fee is $5.
  6. Entries will be accepted from Wednesday, March 7th through Wednesday, April 18th. If mailing in an entry, please include paperwork and submission fee. Ship in a well-packed box to:
Siciliano's Market
2840 Lake Michigan Dr. NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504

The Siciliano's homebrew contest is a prime opportunity for beginner and seasoned homebrewers alike to receive constructive feedback on their efforts. All entries will be judged impartially by industry professionals and/or trained judges according to the standards of style and not in comparison to one another (with the exception of Best in Show). As in previous years, the winner of Best in Show will have the opportunity to brew his/her winning recipe at a local brewery (to be named later).

Finally, what's a contest without a party? The 9th Annual Siciliano's Market Hombrew Party and Awards Banquet is scheduled for Saturday, May 5th, 2012 at Johnson Park in Walker, MI. Be sure to keep a close eye on The Buzz for additional party and seminar* details. Happy brewing everyone, and good luck! 

*This year's homebrew seminar is scheduled for Friday, May 4th. A full list of seminar topics and speakers will be announced in the near future, as will details regarding seminar fees, time, and location.

Friday, February 17, 2012

New Beer Friday - February 17 Edition

Sandwich board outside Vivant
By Chris Siciliano

A special congrats to Jason Spaulding and crew over at Grand Rapids' own Brewery Vivant—the Cherry Street brew-slingers became this week the first and only LEED-certified microbrewery in the country. Nice work you guys; your commitment to sustainability and the environment means that drinking beer is now a moral obligation for all of us. Seriously. We don't know how to thank you.

Lest Michigan's other "beer people" feel left out, we're including in today's New Beer Friday a pretty kick-ass 20-minute documentary from burgeoning filmmaker Alan Torres. Alan's award-winning film, called (you guessed it) Beer People, is "an in-depth look at the people behind Michigan craft beer, the culture surrounding it, and why Michigan brews the best beer in the world" (source). Hey Alan, if you do a sequel, be sure to stop by Siciliano's.

New (and Returning) Beer

  • Epic Brewing, Salt Lake City, Utah - "In 2008, Utah law changed allowing co-founders David Cole and Peter Erickson to pursue their longtime dream of opening a strong-beer microbrewery like those they frequented in the Golden State.Together, they have teamed with brewmaster Kevin Crompton, formerly from Bohemian Brewery. Crompton has been brewing for more than thirteen years and brewed for three Utah breweries and another in Hawaii" (source). All beer descriptions are from their website.
      • Sour Apple Saison, $7.69/22oz - "Sweet, yet dry and tart, apples spiced with coriander, grains of paradise, anise, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger. There is no wrong way to enjoy this Saison Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale!"
      • Brainless Belgian-style Golden Ale, $6.69/22oz - "Brainless Belgian-Style Golden Ale is has a rich and complex malt flavor balanced with a little bit of spicy noble hops and strong influences of fermentation esters from the Belgian yeast used. Various Belgian like Rock Candies, hops and grains are employed to express variations within the style."
      • Brainless on Cherries, $12.09/22oz - "We took our double gold medal winning Brainless Belgian, added cherry puree and aged it in French Chardonnay casks for a secondary fermentation in the barrels. Pours a beautiful deep ruby color with a medium white head. A nice nose of sweet cherries, Belgian malts, and barrel aging."
      • Brainless on Peaches, $12.09/22oz - "We took our double gold medal winning Brainless Belgian, added organic peach puree and aged it in French Chardonnay casks form Sawtooth Winery. Drink from a Pinot glass, serve on the warm side of cold, it develops nicely as it warms displaying more fruit and wine."
      • Galloway Porter, $4.29/22oz - "A dark, full-bodied and drinkable beer, Galloway Porter highlights rich roasted chocolate and coffee-like malt flavors and aromas. It has a very mild hop addition so that the chocolate malt flavor can shine through, 5.4% alcohol by volume."
      • Imperial IPA, $8.59/22oz - "This beer is the epitome of Epic’s IPAs. This hard hitting brew manages to pack a punch while still providing that fantastically complex IPA flavor. Slightly floral aromas hit the nose while resinous flavors dominate the body, finishing with the ideal palate cleansing bitterness."
      • Imperial Red Ale, $6.69/22oz - "A boldly flavored double red ale. Combining caramel malt for sweetness mixed with nice alcohol and plenty of dry and late kettle hop aromas from three killer America strains create a beer that is tough to compare."
      • Smoked & Oaked, $12.09/22oz - "Smoked cherry wood malt brings a smoky sweetness to the caramel malts and a bit of peat flavor with a Belgian-style yeast. The entire batch aging in the whiskey barrels nicely dries out the perceived sweetness of the caramel malt leaving an almost scotch like taste."
      • Spiral Jetty IPA, $4.29/22oz - "Spiral Jetty India Pale Ale is the launching point in our series of hoppy IPA brews. Spiral Jetty IPA has an aggressive hop profile (five different hops used here with two in the dry hop) presenting citrus, floral, resinous or pine aromas and flavors typical of American hops and a nice pleasant, cleansing bitterness on the finish. The dominance of the hops helps to balance the complex malt flavors and the higher alcohol content. Spiral Jetty is our strongest Classic Series ale at 6.6% alcohol by volume, but certainly not our strongest beer."
      • Hopulent IPA, $6.69/22oz - "Hopulent IPA is a big beer with lots of complex malt flavor and excessive hops. This beer will have changes to the grain bill and seasonal hop changes. The character of Hopulent IPA is over the top, too much of everything—a real HOP HEADS DELIGHT! Release one weighed in well over 9% ABV with almost 10 pounds of dry hops in the 10-barrel tank."
      • Capt'n Crompton's Pale Ale, $4.29/22oz - "Made with classic Pacific Northwest Cascade, Centennial, Mt. Hood in the boil and dry hopped with more Cascade hops. Cascade aroma dominates the nose, so be sure to sniff it like a wine snob. Plenty of ultra premium Maris Otter malt and three specialty malts give the beer a nice smooth sailing biscuit like aroma and body, some sweetness, well balanced against 5.8% alcohol by volume."
  • Short's Raisin Apollo, $2.19/12oz - "Enticing hop aromas of pine and freshly cut grass boldly emit from this marmalade colored brew. Subtle sweet flavors are accentuated and complimented by the raisins, leading into a hoppy mandarin orange citrus blast. The finish is dominated by high alpha hops, so the mouth dries slightly and bitterness begins to resonate profoundly. 9% ABV" (source).
  • Newcastle Founder's Ale, $1.69/12oz - "A pale ale with a dry hoppy flavor and aromas. Sweet rather than bitter, with a clean short finish" (source).
  • Buffalo Bill's Orange Blossom Cream Ale, $1.59/12oz - "Cream Ale brewed with honey and orange peel, with orange flower extract added" (source).
Cheetah's Wine Pick of the Week

  • Costa Di Bussia 2009 Barbera D'Alba, $12.79/750ml - According to the label, this wine is "rich in color and body, smooth in scent and flavor, somewhat tannic, this is often the longest-lived Barbera. It goes well with roasted and grilled meats and game." According to Cheetah, "It's goooooood."
Video of the Week



Cheers!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hey Kevin: "I'm a dude and I like fruit beer"

Welcome back to Hey Kevin, our new advice and information column. Let's get started.

Hey Kevin. I’m a dude and I like fruit beer. Problem is, I feel like I have to hide my Lindeman's Framboise when my friends come over. Am I right to feel ashamed? Is there something wrong with me?

“Sid” in Allendale


Hey Sid,

My guess is you hide your fruit beers and love for them because you’re afraid your friends will laugh at you. Is that correct?

Fact is, beers like Dark Horse Raspberry Ale or Short’s Soft Parade are not only excellent, well-made beverages, they’re brewed by dudes no one would ever accuse of being “unmanly”. Have you ever seen the beards on the Dark Horse guys? Très magnifique!

What’s unmanly, Sid, is depriving yourself of something you enjoy for fear society will think you less a man. And what’s ironic is that in most camps this kind of wholesale conformity is considered pretty unmanly in itself. Now there’s a concept that'll blow your mind—drink the fruit beer and worry you’re not a man; deny yourself the fruit beer and remove all doubt of it.

What is it anyway that some people find so unmanly about fruit beers? Is it the fact they contain fruit? That’s just stupid. The US government's food pyramid also contains fruit and it's nobody's reason to feel ashamed. Would a real man’s beer be made from rusty nails and engine oil. Would it taste like repressed emotion and jockstraps? I don’t know about you, Sid, but I can think of nothing less appealing.

In the end my advice to you is to drink what you like, fruit beer or anything else. If your friends laugh at you, it’s because they’re a-holes and their fathers didn’t hug them enough. Also, that’s just what friends do, they bust each other’s chops. It’s when they stop laughing that you should worry.

One more thing, Sid. It’s a good bet most of your friends have experimented with fruit beer themselves. I know I have.

Hope this helps.

Kevin

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are Kevin's own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Buzz staff or its parent company, Siciliano's Market. Have a question in need of answering? Submit it to heykevin@sicilianosmkt.com.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

In defense of big session

The author, serious about session beer
A "session" beer like Pig's Eye Leanwhat does it have in common with Kraft Mac & Cheese? More than you might think.

By Doug Dorda

Occasionally customers will set a case of Hamms or Black Label on the counter with a look of embarrassment. "Please don't judge me," they will say, only half joking. To ask their reason for concern is to hear some version of the following: "Look at the selection of beers you have, and I walk out with this!" Having heard it so many times now I feel it's necessary to inform our customers that we see nothing wrong with drinking affordable, pilsner-style light lagers. In fact it's just the opposite—I also drink these "session" beers, and so do all my colleagues.

It can be difficult to admit to your fellow beer geek that you sometimes stray from the renaissance of flavor and delve back into the world session beers. I'm no stranger to feeling shame when spotted with a PBR in hand by an ale aficionado I respect. What will they think of me? How will they ever respect me again? It's hard not to ask these questions, just as hard not to fret about the answers.

But I can promise you this, no true aficionado will ever judge you. The fact is they probably won't even remark on the beer you have chosen to drink, but rather join with you in conversation and companionship the same as they would had you been enjoying a fine craft selection. At Sicilianos we try to do the same, and we preach that every beer (every beer) has its time and place for enjoyment.

Contrary to the possible negative perceptions of session beers, they actually offer many benefits to the craft beer drinker. First of all, the beers always taste the same. Each time you reach for a PBR, or even a Blatz, it will taste the same as it did the last time you had it. The craft beer world is full of exciting flavors and stylistic variance, but it can also be a hotbed of flavors that don't appeal to your particular palate. A session beer is like a bunt—it may not be a home run, but it's a tried and true way to get you onto first.

Next, session beers are inexpensive. The average cost of a six pack of craft beer is $10-12. Nine days out of ten most of us would proudly pay this price in the name of supporting the industry we have become so passionate about. However, it's sometimes hard to argue against the sheer quantity of session beer we can afford at a similar price point.

As an added bonus, the modest alcohol content in session beers allows for greater let's call it composure over long periods of time. When I attend a barbecue or house party, I will often bring along a session beer so that I can be a member of the festivities for their duration. These beers also act as great "pacing laps" as I'm fond of calling them. When conducting a taste of many different high gravity craft offerings, I will commonly have a session beer to relax my palate and stave off the desire to drink the higher alcohol beers at a rapid pace.

While musing on this topic earlier I was struck by the realization that session beers are a lot like Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (stay with me here). Kraft may not be the sexiest, most organic, or most delicious food item to end up in your grocery cart, but you buy it every now and then because it's simple, nostalgic, and always the same. So it is for session beers. Though we soldiers in the craft beer revolution wave the flag of passion ever stronger in the face of massive business conglomerates, we may still tip our caps in respect of the big boy's achievements by buying a case here and there.

In summation, buy whichever beer you like, whenever you feel like drinking it. You won't see judgement on our faces. In fact, we'll only thank you for your continued patronage of our store, and thusly, the beer industry as a whole.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

One man reacts to the Maillard reaction

Good things happen when you bring heat into the mix.

By Steve Siciliano

I think a lot of us would agree that our lives would be less gratifying without hand-crafted beer and freshly roasted coffee. Despite the obvious differences between these delectable beverages they do share something very basic in common—neither would be as delectable if malted grain and green coffee beans did not undergo a complex chemical process known as the Maillard reaction.

The Maillard reaction is named after French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard and occurs when amino acids and reducing sugars are exposed to heat. To say it another way, and with less clarity, when the reactive carbonyl group of the sugar in some food products reacts with the nucleophilic amino group of the amino acids a complex mixture of poorly characterized molecules are formed that are responsible for a wide range of aromas and flavors. Sheesh!

If you have a PhD in food science the previous sentence probably reads like Shakespeare. For those of us who are decidedly non-scientific all we need to know about the Maillard reaction is this—a whole bunch of good things happen when heat is applied to certain food products, including those that are used to produce satisfying pints of home-brewed suds or steaming mugs of home-roasted joe.

Before cereal grains can be used to make beer they must be malted first. After maltsters apply moisture to raw wheat or barley the kernels are allowed to sprout and then germination is halted with gentle heat. Packed full of amino acids and sugars, the kernels of grain are kilned at various temperatures and voilà—the Maillard reaction transforms them into the colorful, tasty and aromatic array of raw materials that brewers have at their disposal.

Green coffee beans, like kernels of grain, are packed with amino acids and sugars and folks who roast their own coffee are all the time observing the transformative effects of the Maillard reaction. When the green coffee beans are heated, either in a skillet, a repurposed popcorn popper or a home coffee roasting appliance, they begin to yellow and steam. As the roasting process continues the “first crack” can be heard. It is at this stage that the bound water in the beans is released, the sugars begin to brown and aromas and flavors are produced—the Maillard reaction. After the first crack the roasting process can be halted at any time but for darker roasts the heating is allowed to continue until the “second crack”. The longer the Maillard reaction is allowed to continue the fuller the roast becomes.

Obviously we would still have beer and coffee if some French chemist back in 1912 didn’t take it upon himself to study what happens when heat is applied to certain food products, and knowing that there’s something called the Maillard reaction won’t make us better home brewers or coffee roasters. But you never know when esoteric facts about organic chemistry might come in handy. At the very least it could help pass the time if you ever get trapped in an elevator with a food scientist.




Monday, February 13, 2012

And the winner is....

Thanks to everyone who participated in Siciliano's first-ever cartoon caption contest. Today's top honor goes to Jon Waalkes, whose prize-winning caption (see below) best embodies the spirit of the "toon". This according to Mark Siciliano, Buzz cartoonist-in-residence and esteemed judge of this first contest.

Jon "George Carlin" Waalkes should contact the Buzz editors for details on claiming his prize. The rest of you will have another shot at comedy glory starting March 5, when the next caption contest is scheduled to begin. Until then, remember to vote for Mark's comic strip Head Cheese in the American Idol-like contest happening over at thecartooniststudio.com.

The Winner

"She's been tryin' to get me to eat apples,
but in a perfect world man can live on beer alone."


First Runner-up, "TH"
"Thanks for the cider...she tells me it's to die for."



Cheers!

Friday, February 10, 2012

New Beer Friday - February 10 Edition

By Chris Siciliano

Not pictured, Dark Horse & Stone
Joining the rank and file of Siciliano's suds department this week are seven solid beers, two from Michigan, one from California, one from Maryland, and the last three from Massachusetts. Boston, to be exact, where the New England Patriots are licking their wounds after losing Super Bowl XLVI (46) to the New York Giants in the waning moments of quarter number four.

Surely the Pats would have come out on top if only quarterback Tom Brady had agreed to appear in Siciliano's Super Bowl commercial like we (never) asked him to do. Let that be a lesson to the rest of you sports mega-stars out there. Failing to promote Siciliano's in fictional advertising campaigns you can't possibly have heard of is nonetheless bad for you career. Well obviously.

On with the show!

New (and Returning) Beer

  • Founders All Day IPA, $1.79/12oz - "A session ale that has the traditional qualities of an India Pale Ale with significantly lower alcohol. At 4.7% ABV, the beer is highly drinkable, but maintains the intense tropical aromatics and complex flavors consistent with Founders’ portfolio" (source).
  • Dark Horse 4 Elf, $1.99/12oz - A spiced winter warmer from the good people in Marshall, Michigan. It's scored a 90 (exceptional) over on BeerAdvocate.
  • Stone Vertical Epic 11.11.11, $7.69/22oz - "Upfront the banana yeast-derived flavors are blended very nicely with toasted and toffee-like malt flavors, fruity esters, and balanced hints of cinnamon. Mid palate the Perle and Pacific Jade hops and the Hatch green chili flavors come through. The beer finishes dry, and bitter with just the tiniest hint of chili heat and a touch of alcohol" (source). One bottle per customer limit.
  • Sam Adams Alpine Spring, $1.59/12oz - "Brewed especially for the season, this bright citrusy unfiltered lager is both satisfying and refreshing. It’s the perfect transition from winter’s heavier brews to the lighter beers of summer. Borne of our brewers’ many trips to Germany, Alpine Spring features a unique blend of lager attributes: the balanced maltiness and hoppiness of a Helles, the smoothness and slightly higher alcohol of a traditional spring bock, and the unfiltered appearance of a Kellerbier. The beer is brewed with Tettnang Noble hops to add a unique, bright orange-citrusy aroma and flavor" (source).
  • Sam Adams Dark Depths Baltic IPA, $6.19/22oz - "Across the cold and brackish waters of the Baltic, the English Porter was transferred, from a mild ale to a dark and complex lager that confounds definition. Immersed in dark, roasted malts and a bold citrus hop character, these big and contrasting flavors are brought together with the smoothness of a lager for a brew that’s bold, mysterious, and full of flavor" (source).
  • Sam Adams Cinder Bock Rauch Bock, $7.19/22oz - "Unusual and playful this half-breed brew begins with a rush of smoky, almost savory, aromas and flavors. The distinctive campfire smokiness of a rauchbier lingers and beings to reveal the rich and velvety malt smoothness of a double bock with a notes of toffee and caramel. This roguish brew transforms from its bold start to a hearty and satisfying finish" (source).
  • Flying Dog Garde Dog, $1.79/12oz - "Toasted malts with slight earthy and funky characteristics with a subtle clean finish. Pairs with light seafood, French fare (duck confit), fruit, funky cheeses like feta, cambert, and asiago" (source).
Deal of the Week

  • Mas Franch Negre 2004 Montsant Red, $8.59/750ml - A tasty, extremely dry red wine from Spain on close-out from the distributor. Found elsewhere for $30+ (seriously), scored a 90 by Wine & Spirit Magazine, this "blend of Cabernet, Grenache, Syrah, Merlot and Carignan offers smoky, spicy plum, blackcurrant and olive flavours, with a wild herby edge coming through on the finish" (source). Supplies limited.
Picture of the Week

Rodney Lawrence, Siciliano's handyman extraordinaire,
gives new meaning to the term "grain bed".

Cheers!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Hey Kevin: "I can't grow a beard. What now?"

Darwin's beard
Welcome to our new information and advice column, Hey Kevin. Let's get started.

Q: Hey Kevin, Like many obsessed homebrewers, I aspire to become a professional one day. Just one thing worries me. My beard sucks. It’s patchy at best and sorry in general. It seems like a lot of pro brewers wear beards. What are my chances of succeeding in the beer world if I can’t grow a sweet face-coat?

Chuck in Bay City


A: It depends, Chuck. How are you at adapting?

Conventional thinking has it that brewers grow beards in order to identify each other in large groups of people. Recently scientists have uncovered evidence suggesting something else is at work: evolution.

Have you ever seen a bloodhound close up? If not, Google it. The distinctive wrinkly face and folds of skin have a very important job to do—they trap scent from the environment and direct it toward the bloodhound’s greatest tool, its nose.

Though the professional brewer is tracking neither rabbits nor escaped convicts, his face full of whiskers functions in much the same way, trapping scent in the thousands of empty pockets created by the confluence of individual beard hairs. It’s these pockets wherein aromas and even flavors are stored for future reference.

When a brewer scratches his beard, it’s not because his face itches; it’s because he’s working on a new IPA recipe. Said scratching prompts the release of microscopic chemical compounds which are directed toward the brewer’s nostrils, then up into his brain where they are combined to recreate (or rather pre-create) the beer that will eventually find its way into your pint glass.

Compelling research by Dr. Ernest Baron-Shaw of Grand Rapids State University has shown that different flavor and aroma compounds are stored in different subsections of the beard. For example, notes of caramel sweetness are found in the left sideburn, and the distinctive grapefruit quality of certain hops is common to the extreme right quadrant of the mustache. Interestingly, the entirety of the “goatee zone” appears to be a scent-neutral locale, storing different compounds at different times, all depending on the season.

It’s important to note that there are successful brewers who do not have any facial hair at all, particularly women but also many men in the industry. Dr. Baron-Shaw believes (and I agree) that these brewers have necessarily experienced positive biological mutations elsewhere. Studies show, for instance, that members of the beardless population typically score better in the Dalton taste-memory test. Armed with the pronounced ability to remember taste, it would seem the beardless have little reason to store a database of flavor on or near their faces. 

So, the question is ultimately one for you, Chuck. If you can’t grow a beard, in what way can you evolve?

Hope this helps.

Kevin

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are Kevin's own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Buzz staff or its parent company, Siciliano's Market. Have a question in need of answering? Submit it to heykevin@sicilianosmkt.com.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Roast your own, own your roast - raw coffee now at Siciliano's

Yet again Siciliano's has expanded the Do-It-Yourself department, this time adding green (raw) coffee beans as well as roasting accessories.

By Steve Siciliano

I usually avoid clichés like the plague. But when you’re under the gun, when the editor of the Buzz is breathing down your neck, when you have to get down to brass tacks and you’ve already spent too much time beating the bushes looking for the right turn of phrase, it’s much easier sometimes to bite the bullet and use one of those dyed in the wool, tried and true, old chestnuts to effectively, if not originally, express yourself. And so without apology I am, here and now, stating unequivocally that when all is said and done, it doesn't take much to make me happy.

A case in point: last week a young man came to the counter with plastic bags full of bulk organic almonds, quinoa, basmati rice and amaranth. On his way he spied our new home-coffee-roasting section. After I assured him that he didn't need to purchase one of the new home roasters and that he could, in fact, effectively roast in a skillet, he ended up buying a pound of the Ethiopian Guji Natural Sidamo beans.

This rather innocuous incident may be relatively minor in the grand scheme of my life but it made me happy for a couple of reasons. One, I am pleased as punch whenever we sell bulk foods because it validates our decision to stock these items. Two, the fact that it didn't take much convincing for this person to purchase raw coffee beans reinforces my belief that people who already make their own beer, wine, bread, cheese, soy milk, tofu, yogurt, etc, are not averse to expanding their do-it-yourself horizons.

I don't know what kind of success we'll have selling green coffee beans and home roasters but I do know it's pretty exciting to try new things and stock new DYI items. The staff and I are going to have to learn about home coffee roasting on the fly but thankfully the internet is a wonderful resource. Until we acquire some first-hand knowledge that we can share verbally and in writing, the following links should answer a lot of basic questions about this wonderful hobby.
Bean Varieties, 
Roasters, and Books

  • Ethiopian Guji Natural Sidamo, $6.49/lb - "Sweet fruit, perfumey and floral in aroma and flavor. Light acid and medium body."
  • Panama Boquete Classico, $7.09/lb - "Lots of fruit flavor. Very nice sweetness, light and spice notes. Very lively with brightness and body."
  • Costa Rican La Magnolia, $7.09/lb - "Spicy aroma, light black currant smooth chocolate flavor and nice sweetness. Good soft mouthfeel with medium brightness. Very clean in aftertaste."
  • Colombian Excelso EP Huila Valencia, $859/lb - "Sweet and spicy. Jammy, fig notes. Very smooth. Nice caramel and clean finish. Med+ brightness, full bodied."
  • Whirley Pop Popcorn [and coffee] Maker, $38.69 - "You don't need to buy a fancy electrical coffee roaster to roast your own coffee. You can do it old school with a Whirley Pop style popcorn maker/coffee roaster." Click here to see how.
  • Fresh Roast SR500 Automatic Coffee Bean Roaster, $186.29 - "Roast beans for about 20 cups of coffee in less than ten minutes. Easy to use for the novice and fully adjustable for experienced roasters."
  • Nesco Coffee Bean Roaster, $232.49 - This "roaster creates an even roast and uniform color while controlling the roast from light to dark. It is fast and economical --- roasts a batch of beans in less than 20 minutes at half the cost of store-bought."
  • Home Coffee Roasting by Kenneth Davids, $17.95 - This book "provides insightful, easy-to-follow guidelines for every step in the process."
  • Coffee: A Guide to Buying, Brewing, and Enjoying by Kenneith Davids, $17.95 - "An invaluable resource for anyone who truly enjoys a good cup of coffee."
  • The Book of Coffee & Tea by Joel, David, & Karl Schapira, $17.99 - "A passionate guide to selecting, tasting, preparing, and serving the beverages caffeine connoisseurs can't live without."
Our humble roasting department

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cartoon Caption Contest, February 6 Edition

Editor's note: The February edition of this contest is now closed.

Welcome to the first Siciliano's Cartoon Caption Contest! The winner of this round will receive a $25 gift certificate, good for any product in Siciliano's vast inventory. The rules are simple, and as follows.
  1. Study the caption-less illustration (below) provided by Mark Siciliano, creator of the über-funny comic strip Head Cheese.
  2. Come up with a hilarious caption of your own. In fact, come up with as many hilarious captions as you want. Beer- or brewing-themed captions are not mandatory, but certainly won't hurt your chances of winning.
  3. Include your caption in the comments section at the bottom of the post. Note: if you sign in as "guest" be sure to include your name in the comment.
  4. Wait with bated breath for the winner to be announced right here on The Buzz on Monday, February 13th, 2012.
The February 6 Cartoon

"Your hilarious caption here"

You can see more of Mark's Head Cheese at thecartooniststudio.com, where he is currently doing battle with hundreds of other cartoonists in a contest of his own. Voting for Mark in his contest will not win you brownie points in this one (voting over there is anonymous). However, the universe surely takes note of such things and will no doubt dole out the karma accordingly.

Obligatory fine print: (1) Please use your best judgment when participating in this contest. Any caption the Buzz staff deems offensive will be deleted without warning or notice. (2) The winner will be selected by a panel of judges to be named later by The Buzz staff. (3) Siciliano's employees & family are not eligible to win this contest; they are nonetheless encouraged to participate by adding captions of their own, hopefully funny ones.

Friday, February 3, 2012

New Beer Friday - February 3 Edition

By Chris Siciliano

We all know it's Super Bowl weekend. Rather than inundate you further with football cliches and pigskin puns, we here at The Buzz have decided to go a different route. We're not going to mention the Super Bowl at all in this week's New Beer Friday.

Not once.

Forget the fact that the Super Bowl is to beer what Thanksgiving is to turkey, we refuse to point out that your Super Bowl party is the supremely fitting arena for enjoying a selection of great new beers. We won't remind you either that Siciliano's opens at 10am on Sunday, at which time the coolers will be brimming over with sweet, delicious beer, each a perfect candidate for your pre-, during- and post-game quaffing. We will maintain our integrity while everybody else trots out endless Super Bowl promotions, all designed to take advantage of the hoopla and hysteria.

If it sounds like we're bitter it's because we are. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has refused to appear in our Super Bowl commercial, never mind the fact we don't have the $3 mil to get it on air. Hey Tom, if we throw in a case of Hamm's Light, will that sweeten the deal?

New (and Returning) Beer

  • New Holland Envious, $14.39/22oz - "Michigan pears fuel a second fermentation, providing subtle nuance between grain & fruit. A slumber on oak and local raspberries adds depth and tartness" (source).
  • New Holland Blue Sunday Sour, $14.39/22oz - "This unique anniversary libation, heritage-blended from our library of barrel-soured beers, exhibits deeply layered flavors of malt and oak, with a tart finish" (source).
  • Brewery Vivant Kludde, $3.39/16oz - "Belgian folklore’s water spirit who roams the Flemish countryside in the form of a monstrous black dog. This monstrous ale is made with green raisins, star anise and dark Belgian candi sugar. Notes of dried plum, fig and chocolate mingle with the complexity of our two house yeast strains" (source).
  • Acoustic Draft Mead - Michigan-made Acoustic Draft Meads are "hand-crafted from pure water, natural honey, fruit, herbs and spices. Unlike many meads that are produced as still wines of 10 – 14% abv, Acoustic Draft Meads are unique because they are lightly carbonated with tiny bubbles and drink more like ale (at an average of 6% abv.) than wine. All Acoustic Draft Meads are naturally gluten free" (source). Flavors include:
      • Apple BzZz, $3.39/12oz - "Traditionally called a “Cyser”, Apple Bzzz is crafted with 100% MI Apples (Ida Reds, Romes, Golden Delicious) and is a more complex alternative to traditional hard ciders. It has seasonal notes of juicy apples dipped in honey with a delicate middle spiciness and a dry pear-like finish" (source).
      • Honey BzZz, $3.39/12oz - "half the residual sugar of either Cherry BzZz or Apple BzZz makes ‘honey BzZz more like a baby champagne, that is, smaller alcohol and tinier bubbles than regular Champagne" (source).
      • CherryBzZz, $3.39/12oz - "MI Tart Cherries and Star Thistle honey are balanced with herbs and spices for a refreshing beverage that has no earthly comparison" (source).
      • Blueberry BzZz, $3.39/12oz - Description unavailable.
      • JazZz Beri BzZz, $3.39.12oz - Description unavailable.
      • Harmonic BzZz, $3.39/12oz - "This delicious blend of Cherry BzZz, Apple BzZz, and Honey BzZz evokes fruit flavors of pear and plum even tho it only has apple and cherry singing along with the honey" (source).
  • Gray's 56 Oatmeal Stout, $1.69/12oz - "Generous amounts of fresh-rolled oats, paired with aromatic hops and richly roasted barely lead to the unique coffee-like flavor" (source).
  • Gray's Busted Knuckle Irish Ale, $1.69/12oz - "This ale is characterized by its sweet malty flavor and refreshing light sent. The rich red color is very distinctive to the origins of this kind of ale" (source).
  • Angus Brewing Company, Chicago, IL - Established on South Front Street in 2009 (source).
      • Angus Holsteiner Lager, $1.99/12oz - "A copper colored lager beer that is malt accented, very smooth and gently hopped with the finest German Noble hop varieties. Traditionally brewed in Spring and served in Fall at festivals, it is a fine accompaniment to all Germanic styles of food" (source).
      • Motorino, $1.99/12oz - "An Italian-style pale ale" (source).
      • McCaffrey's Irish Cream, $1.99/12oz - "An Irish-style cream ale" (source).
      • Country House Red, $1.99/12oz - "An Irish-style red cream ale" (source).
  • O'Fallon Black Hemp, $1.69/12oz - "his beer was designed to fit the season instead of conforming to the rules of any style category. The unique blend of seemingly enless [sic] ingredients include: toasted hemp seeds, oats, malted rye, wheat, Amarillo and Citrahops and a Belgian yeast strain. Don’t be afraid of the myriad of flavors in the balanced black ale as it is deceivingly soft and sessionable especially during the dark days of winter" (source).
  • Big Sky Bobo's Robust Porter, $1.69/12oz - "Brewed with 6 different malts & generously hopped. Robust doesn’t really begin to describe this beer. Smooth chocolate flavors with hints of coffee, caramel, and vanilla. Hop presence is copious and is matched by rich malt flavors" (source).
  • Great Lakes Conway's Irish Ale, $1.79/12oz - "A malty Irish ale with a notable toasty flavor derived from lightly roasted malt" (source).
  • Atwater Decadent Dark Chocolate, $1.79/12oz - "Slight chocolate notes (duh!) come through this fantastic voyage into Atwater's take on the chocolate craft beer/ale trend" (source).
  • Abita Andygator Helles Doppelbock, $5.79/22oz - "Andygator, a creature of the swamp, is a unique high-gravity brew made with pale malt, German lager yeast, and German Perle hops. Unlike other high-gravity brews, Andygator is fermented to a dry finish with a slightly sweet flavor and subtle fruit aroma" (source).
  • Abita Abbey Ale, $5.79/22oz - "Dark amber in color, the aroma of caramel, fruits and cloves invites you to contemplate the creamy head of this "Dubbel" or double ale. Abita Abbey Ale is a malty brew, top-fermented and bottle aged to rapturous perfection" (source).
Picture of the Week

Steve with Carl Scheidel, the man who makes our maple syrup.
FYI, we just took delivery on the last of it until the sap starts running again in Spring.
If you're low, you might want to stock up.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Announcing Siciliano's Cartoon Caption Contest

By Chris Siciliano

It's a well-established fact that Siciliano's customers are a funny bunch of people. We mean that as a compliment of course. Generally speaking you are (most all of you) clever and witty, and some of you are downright hilarious.

Want proof? Come work an eight-hour shift sometime—we defy you not to bust a gut at the well-timed quips bandied about the store all day. Failing that, scroll back a few months on our Facebook page or blog, paying particular attention to Beer Pun Monday (remember that old chestnut?) and the Name that Mill contest (Millfred Brimley? Barley Sanders? Comic genius.) No matter where you look, evidence abounds that the Siciliano's customer base has a collective funny bone the size of Minneapolis.

With that in mind, we're pleased to announce the start of a new feature on The Buzz. Starting next Monday, we'll be having periodic cartoon caption contests. We will provide you with an illustration on loan from Mark "The Funny Uncle" Siciliano; you'll provide us with your wittiest caption, perhaps beer related, perhaps not. Doesn't matter so long as what you write is funny (and not offensive please).

Winners will receive something, we're not sure what, and will be selected by a panel of experts to be named later. More precise rules and provisions will appear next Monday when the first contest begins. Until then, have a look at three cartoons from Mark's comic strip Head Cheese. These appeared on the Buzz several months ago, but they're worth reposting.


Head Cheese
by 
Mark Siciliano