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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Meet the Newest Siciliano's Staffer: Luke Horning

Luke Horning
By Steve Siciliano

It’s been awhile since we’ve seen any new faces around here. Now, I’m not talking about customers, thank goodness—since news hit that named us best beer grocer in the United States, we've been fortunate, humbled, and honored to see many new faces browsing in the beer department. No, the face I’m referring to belongs to our newest staff member, Luke Horning.

Luke is a native Ohioan who is attending classes at Grand Rapids Community College. What are his credentials for having a job at a world-class beer and homebrew store? Well, I’m glad you asked. Luke has a passionate interest in both craft beer and homebrewing and he recently finished internships at the Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland and the Buckeye Brewing Company in Bedford Heights.

We’re pleased to have Luke as a member of our team. Please join us in welcoming him to both the Siciliano’s family and the Grand Rapids craft beer community.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tuesday Review: Glenmorangie Sampler Pack

The four whiskys reviewed here are available on their own for around $40 to $60 per bottle. Siciliano's Market is currently offering a 4-pack sampler containing one 100ml bottle of each whisky for the price of $31.48.

Glenmorangie Sampler Pack, $31.48
By John Barecki

In Gaelic, Glenmorangie means "glen of great tranquility." The whisky produced at this distillery comes from the home of Scotland's tallest stills, which contribute to lighter, purer spirits. In the 1990s, after changing hands a couple of times following their recreation as a brand, Glenmorangie became the best selling single malt in Scotland. The single malts from here are painstakingly crafted, with some benefitting from the use of extra maturation in specifically produced and exotic wood barrels.

Glenmorangie distillers start the whisky process by traveling to the Ozark mountains in Missouri, searching out oak trees that grow on the north-facing hills. These are chosen because the trees grow slower, leading to wood with a finer grain which in turn allows for the whisky to render even more flavor from the wood. The wood is then cut into staves and allowed to air dry (as opposed to kiln drying). The staves are loaned to the Jack Daniels distillery to obtain bourbon-aged qualities.

Glenmorangie are true pioneers of maturing whisky in different types of wood. By combining their flagship single malt with everything from port wine pipes to Sauternes barrels, they create a whole spectrum of flavors, many of which I've tried to document in my reviews below.

The original Glenmorangie 10 Year has a crisp sweetness leaning on citrus and soft nutty toffee. It is quite creamy, with great lemony citrus and slight caramel that gradually moves to honey in the background. A slight spice accompanies the medium-length finish, followed by some nice vanilla tones ringing out at the end. It makes a great first impression that will cater to Highland whisky fans. The next three styles have the original 10 Year as their base. The finished whisky is put into various exotic barrels and left to slumber for an extra two years, achieving a cacophony of different flavors and aromas that tantalize the senses.

Lasanta in Gaelic stands for warmth and passion. As you consider the work and patience it takes to create sherry, you start to understand the intricacies of this malt. The distillers use Oloroso sherry barrels in the second maturation, allowing the spirit for two years to dig into history. The color is one that a lot of single malt consumers drool over, even though that shouldn't be a deciding factor in your purchase. In the first couple of sniffs there is the ever-present nuttiness found in sherry, and this moves into a light cinnamon with red raisin. On the tongue, the Lasanta is creamy, medium-spiced going to nutty toffee and dark fruit. As this one finishes the sweetness recedes to a slightly spicy dry finish, citrus and hazelnut.

The Quinta Ruban is matured in port pipes, the barrels used in the manufacture of port wine. Spending the extra time in the wood creates a dram like no other. The honey and citrus that are present in the 10 Year are accentuated by the fruitiness imparted by the port wine. It has a fresh and fruity nose and in the mouth you'll find a minty chocolate, followed by a slightly nutty character that envelopes the tongue with a creamy smoothness. The Quinta Ruban lingers like liquid silk, leaving dark chocolate and traces of light orange behind.

Last but not least I come to the Nectar D'Or, which is extra matured in French Sauternes barrels. Sauternes, a dessert wine, is made by selecting Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes that have been infected by botrytis cinerea, also known as noble rot. This "rot" causes the grapes to concentrate flavors and aromas, creating a symphony on the palate. The effect the barrels have on the spirit is intoxicating to the senses. Scents of citrus rind and dates swirl around slight coconut. You are drawn in on the first sip, with a luxurious mouthfeel that contains candy ginger and almond. Nectar D'Or has a deep, syrupy complexity containing lemon, honey, and vanilla creme. It lingers on the palate with a luscious sweetness, as all the flavors gently subside into a smooth finish.

Please visit Siciliano's Market to browse the whiskey and whisky department, which it seems is growing more exciting all the time. 

Craft Beer Community, Craft Beer Culture

Russ Smith & Sierra Nevada's Jim Macielak,
soon after Russ was presented the trophy
for 2012 Best of Show.
By Steve Siciliano

Lat Saturday, Barb and I joined Russ Smith and a group of his fellow Muskegon Ottawa Brewers at Vitale’s in Comstock Park to celebrate the tapping of a keg of On the Rocks Scotch Ale, the beer that Russ helped design and brew last August at a Sierra Nevada Beer Camp.

As I sipped my second pint, I reflected on how good it felt to have played a small part in the process that brought this beer to fruition. Russ was given the opportunity to attend the three-day camp at Sierra Nevada because his homebrewed beer won Best of Show last year at the Siciliano’s Homebrew Competition. But the ultimate credit goes to Sierra Nevada owner Ken Grossman for recognizing the importance of fostering and maintaining a relationship with the homebrewing community.

Ken, himself a former homebrewer, and the folks at Sierra Nevada get it. They realize the role that homebrewing played in the revival of craft beer in this country and they recognize that its continued growth is in no small part due to the growing number of homebrewers. There is a unique and wonderful synergy going on between the legion of passionate hobbyists and the ranks of the brewing professionals.

It is this synergy that lies at the heart of what is commonly referred to as the “craft beer community” and the corresponding concept of the “craft beer culture.” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, culture is the “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.” When applied to the craft beer scene in this country, this definition works perfectly.

After leaving Vitale’s, Barb and I stopped at Perrin where this year’s Best-of-Show winner will be given the opportunity to brew the winning recipe. I enjoyed a beer feeling happy that I was a member of a wonderful community, and also knowing that I was sharing in the values of a rather unique, rich and fulfilling culture.

Friday, January 25, 2013

New Beer Friday, January 25 Edition

The first-ever Buzz picture
By Chris Siciliano

Tomorrow marks the two year anniversary of The Buzz: Siciliano's Market News & Notes. Funny to think that it all began nearly 400 posts ago with this shout-out to a far more impressive anniversary:

"On January 26th, 1837, our still-young nation welcomed the newest and most appendage-like state into the Union. Who could have guessed that 174 years later [now 176 years later], the 26th state in order of admittance would be among the best in terms of beery goodness."

If you're interested, you can go here to read the first-ever Buzz post in its entirety. But be sure to check out the latest arrivals to the beer department before you go. Thanks for reading, everyone—two years, 398 total posts, and counting!

New (and Returning) Beer

  • Right Brain Naughty Girl Scout, $7.19/22oz - "We all look forward to those Thin Mint cookies from the Girl Scouts — and Right Brain has managed to capture the best elements of these in liquid form. There’s a strong peppermint flavor, complete with some minor chocolate and roasted malt overtones. The light alcohol content makes for an easy-drinking, smooth brew that’s perfect for any holiday or winter occasion" (source).
  • Right Brain Firestarter Chipotle Porter, $7.19/22oz - "Dark porter with chocolate malt. Subtle smokiness and mild heat" (source).
  • Right Brain CEO Stout, $7.19/22oz - "Chocolate, Espresso and Oatmeal (CEO): A local favorite and it's back Get the executive treatment! Just the right amount of Great Northern Roasting's espresso roast will open your eyes to the posh non-corporate world of gourmet beer" (source).
  • Right Brain Northern Hawk Owl, $6.49/22oz - "A medium-bodies Amber Ale with a mild sweet finish. Marris Otter malts infuse this brew with notes of caramel and walnuts, making it easy to drink and extremely versatile in food pairings" (source). 
  • Shiner FM 966 Farmhouse Ale, $1.49/12oz - "A few centuries ago, during the cold winter months, farmhands in Europe brewed a ‘seasonal provision’ Farmhouse Ale to be enjoyed once spring rolled around. In the farmlands of Shiner, TX that tradition lives on. Which is why our tribute to this style uses Golding, Sterling and Meridian hops for a sweet yet lightly spiced flavor. Our incredibly refreshing farmhouse ale bears the name of the farm to market road just to the south of where our brewery has proudly stood for over 100 years" (source).
  • Sam Adams Double Agent IPL, $1.49/12oz - "Brewing innovation is about asking "what it?". What if we gave an IPA a new identity and used some of our favorite West Coast hops, with their grapefruit, piney, & tropical fruit character, in a lager? The result is this boldly hoppy & and flavorful brew with the crisp smoothness of a lager. Cheers!" (source).
  • Sam Adams White Lantern, $1.49/12oz - "Belgian style white ales have a long history of unique ingredients, as brewers experimented with spices discovered during the spice trade. For our hazy brew we found a refreshing combination of crisp wheat, the tangy sweetness of tangerine & orange peel, and the subtle spiciness of coriander & grains of paradise. Cheers!" (source).
  • (Sam Adams) New Albion Brewing Co. New Albion Ale, $1.59/12oz - "First brewed almost 40 years ago by Jack McAuliffe, a Navy veteran, this American Pale Ale was the product of Jack’s desire to replicate the quality, great tasting beers he had enjoyed while serving in Scotland and other parts of Europe. Brewed solely with American Cascade hops (why? Because that was all that was available to Jack at the time), New Albion Ale is a golden American Pale Ale that holds a distinct citrus hop note and subtle piney character. A delicious brew, it’s no wonder New Albion Ale inspired so many of the Pale Ales we drink today" (source).
  • Dark Horse Fore Smoked Stout, $2.09/12oz - "Brewed with all malted barley and peat malt (smoked malt). This beer is full bodied with chocolate, roasted barley flavors, and a smokey almost BBQ finish" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, $2.59/12oz - "Sierra Nevada Bigfoot is an award winning example of the English Barley Wine style. It boasts a dense, fruity bouquet; an extremely rich, intense, bittersweet palate; and a deep, reddish-brown color. This ale is superbly balanced between an almost overpowering maltiness and a wonderfully bittersweet hoppiness" (source).
  • Lagunitas Sucks, $1.99/12oz - "A ‘Cereal Medley’ of Barley, Rye, Wheat, and Oats…. Full of complexishness from the 4 grains, and weighing in at 7.85% abv, Then joyously dry-hopped for that big aroma and resinous hop flavor" (source).
  • Innis & Gun Spice Rum Cask, 2.79/12oz - "We are delighted to present this unique limited bottling of Innis & Gunn finished in oak barrels which previously contained navy rum. Maturation in special oak barrels imparts Navy rums with the sweet, spicy character for which they are renowned. We have long wondered what flavours might be imparted to our beer by finishing it in these same barrels and earlier this year we decided to find out. We brewed a special batch of Innis & Gunn beer and matured it in oak for 60 days. Every single drop spent half of that time in American oak barrels before being refilled into selected navy rum barrels to finish the lengthy maturation. Once the beer had absorbed the unique character the barrels were emptied, the beer blended and then maturation continued for a further 47 days until all of the flavours had married together and mellowed" (source).
Picture of the Week

It's the perfect weather for this beast.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

From Hobby to Hired: Many Pro Brewers Begin with Siciliano's

Former Siciliano's employee,
current head brewer, Jacob Derylo
By Steve Siciliano

Over the past fifteen years I’ve had the pleasure of watching a handful of our homebrew customers make the transition from passionate hobbyist to brewing professional. Three of them also happen to be former employees. Jacob Derylo took up the hobby while working at Siciliano’s during the early years. Today he is producing highly acclaimed Belgian beers at Brewery Vivant. Matthew Blodgett and Alex Atkins both honed their brewing skills while employed at the store; today, each earns his living as an assistant brewer—Matt at Founders and Alex with Jacob at Vivant.

The first customer I watched make the leap to the pro brewing ranks was Tom Buchannan, who is now the head brewer at Jamesport Brewing Co. in Ludington. Tom was a loyal customer despite the fact that our inventory back then consisted only of cans of malt extract, a few one pound bags of specialty grains, one type of dry yeast, and a half dozen varieties of hops.

I have yet to make a trip up to Cranker’s in Big Rapids, but when I do, I’ll be sure to drink a pint with good friend and head brewer Adam Mills. Adam would often bring his four young children into the store and they would patiently sit on sacks of grain while he gathered up the ingredients for his homebrew recipes.

Max & Chris from the Mitt
Bill White, Chris Andrus, Max Trierweiler, and Jason Warnes are other customers who have turned their homebrewing avocation into a profession. Bill is the now the owner and head brewer at White Flame in Hudsonville. Chris and Max opened Mitten Brewing on the west side of Grand Rapids last year and just recently they hired Jason as a brewer. Another former customer, Seth Rivard, is a partner and brewer at Rockford Brewing.

One of the most iconic of our former homebrew customers to make brewing a profession is Nate Walser. Nate began his professional brewing career with a short stint at New Holland, later moved on to Founders, and then spent time as the head brewer at Perrin Brewing Company in Comstock Park. I’m quite sure that no one who knew Nate back when he was boiling five gallon batches on his kitchen stove had any idea that he would have such a tremendous impact on the West Michigan craft beer culture.

Last Saturday I took a minute to observe the buzz of activity in the store’s homebrew section. While I watched customers weigh and grind their grains, choose their yeast and gather their hops, I wondered if perhaps one of them would be the next to make the transition from passionate hobbyist to brewing professional. If history tells us anything, it's that the possibility is very real.

Who will be the next to go pro?
Is it you?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday Review: Knappogue Castle 12 Year

By Doug Dorda

This pot-stilled single malt whiskey has not only captured my imagination, it has quickly become one of my favorite Irish offerings. The liquor stands boldly alongside its more popular cousins—Scotch and Bourbon—delivering a flavor profile that is wholly unique to the three.

Knappogue Castle 12 Year ($32.42/750ml) is aged in American Bourbon barrels, similar to Scotch, and as such it is colored a captivating pale gold. It is important to note that this color is solely derived from the Bourbon cask aging. The aromatic bouquet of the aqua vitae (water of life) is a complex symphony of cinnamon, sweet malts, biscuit, citrus fruits, and the presence of ethanol. The aroma sets the stage for a deeply complex drink that is smooth, even haunting on the palate. In short, this whiskey does not disappoint.

In a continuing effort to educate myself fully on the potential tastes of all things fermented, I took my first sip unencumbered by water or ice. Cinnamon and nutmeg steal the show at the front end of the palate, but they quickly strike a balance with warm vanilla and toffee notes that are no doubt a contribution from the char inside the Bourbon barrels. Caramel, biscuit, and roasted notes coalesce mid palate to offer a sensation of sweet milk chocolate that may also be likened to a roasted marshmallow. It is important to note that throughout the palate the whiskey lays like a pure silk; it can be confused with a lightly diluted honey due to the way its slowly lingers on corners of the tongue.

When finally diluted with water, the fruit notes dominate the nose, and all or most of the ethanol dies off. Certain flavors in the whiskey will then be heightened or subdued depending on your rate of dilution. However, all the while, the Knappogue Castle 12 Year will remain smooth and warm upon the palate—the whiskey equivalent to a hot cocoa after a day of being in the snow.

Knappogue Castle has a history that some readers may find intriguing. If you have time for quick tale, as well as a love and respect for restoration projects, I suggest you spend some time here:

Knappoge Castle 12 Year ($32.42/750ml) is available now at Siciliano's.

Monday, January 21, 2013

2013 Hop Rhizomes | Pre-Order Starts Now

By Greg 'Swig' Johnson

Attention all homebrewers! The time has come to pre-order hop rhizomes for the upcoming spring planting season. This year we have 10 varieties of rhizome available for pre-order. The deadline for pre-ordering is Monday, February 25th, with delivery expected to be in early April (weather depending). So prepare the twine and shovels, because the details are on their way:

Deadline to order

    • Monday, February 25th

Tentative arrival date

    • Early April (based on Pacific Northwest weather)


    • For orders numbering between 1 and 9 rhizomes, cost is $5 per rhizome; for orders of 10+ rhizomes, cost is $4 per rhizome.


    • Cascade
    • Centennial
    • Chinook
    • Columbus
    • Glacier
    • Golding
    • Northern Brewer
    • Nugget
    • Tettnang
    • Willamette

Ways to order

    • *Preferred* ~ By email (, please provide variety & amount of each rhizome desired; include your name, email address and/or phone number where you can be reached.
    • By using the in-store order form. 


Any general questions can be directed by phone or in person at Siciliano's Market or by emailing me, Greg, directly, at Any questions specific to orders, please send directly to my email address.

Friday, January 18, 2013

New Beer Friday | January 18 Edition

By Chris Siciliano

It's official. Celebrated beer writer Stan Hieronymus has signed on to be the keynote speaker at Siciliano's 2013 Homebrew Seminars. Many of you already know of Mr. Hieronymus from reading one, two, or all three of his canonical books on brewing—Brew Like a Monk, Brewing with Wheat, and For the Love of Hops.

For people not familiar with the author, his work is something we recommend looking into. Even non-brewers will likely find useful information about the process and history of brewing. Take it from the folks at All About Beer, who had this to say about Brew Like Monk:

“Brew Like a Monk is as comprehensive guide on the world of Beglian brewing as there is. Aimed at brewers, both amateur and professional, it is also a wealth of informtion for non-brewers. Hieronymus’ skill as a writer and passion for beer merge in this book, and his effort is as rich as the beers and brewing culture of which he writes. It is surely a mystical, literary trip through Belgium and its brewing art” (source).

Sound interesting? If so, then the next time you visit Siciliano's, make sure stop off in the books department on your way to the beer or homebrewing section. All three of Mr. Hieronymus' books are currently for sale.

New (and Returning) Beer

  • Saugatuk Pathfinder, $1.79/12oz - "A sessionable pale ale brewed exclusively with Cascade hops. Well balanced with full flavor for a refreshing journey, start to finish" (source).
  • Atwater VJ Black Imperial Stout, $2.89/12oz - "Brewed in Detroit. Single Batch Series" (source).
  • Founders Furniture City, $6.99/22oz - "Furniture City Stock Ale is a malt-forward beer brewed with seven different varieties of malts and grains. Our version of this historic style of beer pours a deep mahogany and is smooth and easy to drink" (source).
  • JK's Scrumpy Northern Neighbor Hard Cider, $6.79/22oz - "We invite you to celebrate a collaboration of a few passionate American and Canadian farmers. The fruits of their labor are presented in this bottle, a family reunion of sorts. This delightful cider is made from Michigan apples and a unique Canadian prairie apple, the Saskatoon. Gathered by J.K. from family orchards in Michigan and Saskatchewan, this natural cider has been carefully fermented here at Almar Orchards using our traditional methods. We hope you enjoy sharing this cider that knows no borders with friends, family, and neighbors" (source).
  • Becks Sapphire, $1.49/12oz - "Introducing Beck’s Sapphire, our new pilsner brewed with rare German Sapphire (Sapfir) hops for a distinctively smooth taste and brewed to 6 percent ABV. Beck’s Sapphire represents a new standard for beer. To serve this uniquely smooth pilsner, our engineers spent over two years developing an exclusive, sleek black glass bottle. This bottle not only protects our beer from light better than common brown bottles, it also provides a distinguishing image for Beck’s Sapphire. As with all Beck’s beers, Beck’s Sapphire is brewed according to the German Purity Law of 1516 and uses only four natural ingredients" (source).
  • Blue Moon Valencia Grove Amber, $1.49/12oz - "Maybe it’s not time to shed that winter coat just yet, but we’re hoping this beer gets you one step closer. Valencia Grove Amber is for all those in-between days when you try to coax spring out by wearing short sleeves or flip-flops. You’re still cold. We get it. Cozy up with roasted malts, Valencia orange peel, and a touch of wheat for a hint of citrus that’s ripe for the season" (source).
On Special

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, $3.19/22oz (formerly $5.19)
Samuel Smiths Organic Best Ale, only $1.49/12oz bottle!

Picture of the Week

Answer to this week's Facebook quiz:
Lily's Seafood Grill & Brewery in Royal Oak, MI


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2013 Homebrew Seminar, Party, Competition Updates

By Steve Siciliano

We are very pleased to announce that Stan Hieronymus, author of For the Love of Hops, Brew Like a Monk and Brewing With Wheat, will be the keynote speaker at the 2013 Siciliano’s Homebrew Seminar scheduled for Friday, May 10, at the enclosed pavilion at Johnson Park.

Stan will be arriving in Grand Rapids on Thursday, May 9, in order to have time to visit a few of our “Beer City, USA” breweries. In addition to giving a presentation on hops at the Friday seminars, Stan will also be holding a book signing at Siciliano’s on Friday afternoon and will be attending the Saturday party.

Other highlights of the 2013 seminars will be a Belgian beer tasting and a presentation by Walter Catton, formerly of New Holland Brewing, on distilling.

In other news, this year’s winner of Best of Show will have the opportunity to brew his/her winning recipe at Perrin Brewing Company and will receive a gift certificate in the amount of $500.00 from Siciliano’s Market. Just a reminder, this year’s competition will be capped at 250 entries. Refer to this Buzz post—Siciliano's 10th Annual Homebrew Contest: It Begins!—for more information on the competition and party.

Tuesday Review: Ardbeg Corryvreckan Scotch Whisky

By John Barecki

Recently I decided to try Corryvreckan, a higher-end version of Ardbeg Scotch, one of my favorite single malts and the smokey pearl of Islay. Corryvreckan is named after the third largest whirlpool on the planet and is just north of Islay. According to legend, a brave soul was swallowed up by this natural wonder while trying to impress a local princess. How fitting that Corryvreckan the whisky would take its name from such a powerhouse. At 57.1% alcohol (a little over 114 proof), dark and powerful water is not hard to imagine.

The whisky pours a deep amber gold, brought on by the use of French oak burgundy barrels. The first sniff fills your head with a torrent of stormy sea air and crackling fire. Branching wood notes appear after a peppery blast in the beginning, moving on to a more fruity, almost candy-like citrus (lemon, tart, marmalade). On the palate, the whisky starts with a zing, a little hot from the high proof, but also surprisingly clean in the way it presents itself.

After the first impression subsides, a rich, luxuriant mouthfeel combines sweet, sour, savory and smokey, all in one blow. Think sweetened peaches with a dash of cayenne and black pepper. With the addition of water, the spicy front becomes softer and allows you to enjoy the darker depths. Its finish is long and layered, peppery, ending with peat smoke to reveal fruit and golden malt sweetness similar to that of the Ardbeg Ten Year.

At $85.76/750ml, the price tag for Ardbeg Corryvreckan Ardberg may be a little steep. But if you're an avid whisky fan, this one is defiantly worth treating yourself.

Check in next Tuesday for staffer Doug Dorda's review of Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old, pictured above with the Corryvreckan.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

New Beer Friday | January 11 Edition

By Chris Siciliano

'Swig' Johnson / Lagunitas Sucks
After a one-week hiatus, New Beer Friday returns with a bevy of new beers, all of them good, many superb, and one in particular commanding special attention.

I'm referring of course to Bell's Hopslam, and if you're enthusiast enough to read this far into something called New Beer Friday, you probably know already that Hopslam came out earlier in the week.

In fact, Vegas oddsmakers tell us there is a good to excellent chance that some of you are quaffing a pint of Hopslam right now, even as you read these words. To that we say good, drink up and enjoy. For the time being at least—who can say for how long—there remains in Beer City plenty of Hopslam for all.

By the way, the return of New Beer Friday and Hopslam are not the only noteworthy stories to come from Siciliano's this week. Did you hear we're having a party, holding a contest, and writing a book? Exciting times we live in, no?

New (and Returning) Beer

  • Bell's Hopslam, $2.99/12oz - "Starting with six different hop varietals added to the brew kettle & culminating with a massive dry-hop addition of Simcoe hops, Bell’s Hopslam Ale possesses the most complex hopping schedule in the Bell’s repetoire. Selected specifically because of their aromatic qualities, these Pacific Northwest varieties contribute a pungent blend of grapefruit, stone fruit, and floral notes. A generous malt bill and a solid dollop of honey provide just enough body to keep the balance in check, resulting in a remarkably drinkable rendition of the Double India Pale Ale style" (source).
  • Goose Island Night Stalker, $10.09/22oz (1 bottle/person) - "Night Stalker, as an homage to the Chicago-based television show. Night Stalker is a jet black, dry hopped Imperial Stout, extremely rich and full flavored with malt and chocolate followed by a bright dry hopped aroma. It is the same base as our Bourbon County Stout, but instead of aging in Bourbon barrels, we dry hop it like madmen" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye, $1.59/12oz - "Ruthless IPA is brewed with this rustic grain for refined flavors – combining the peppery spice of rye and the bright citrusy flavors of whole-cone hops to create a complex ale for the tumultuous transition to Spring" (source).
  • Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout, $4.79/22oz - "Our Original Stout, brewed with real Hardcore Coffee from Sebastopol" (source).
  • New Holland Night Tripper, $8/22oz - "Night Tripper is an Imperial Stout brewed for a Fat Tuesday release. Dark, mysterious and poetic, Night Tripper's abundance of roasted malts, combined with flaked barley create a rich, roasty beer with deeply intense and lush flavors. Night Tripper's layered, nuanced tones invite intrigue and reward a curious palate" (source).
  • Gulden Draak, $5.69/12oz - "Gulden Draak is a high fermentation beer with secondary fermentation. For the secondary fermentation, wine yeast is used. The white bottle, the black banner, the golden dragon and the red letters, constitute a stylish result that has no equal among the many Belgian special beers. Gulden Draak can be drunk as an aperitif or dessert, or whenever you have the time to sit back and relax. But this barley wine is also perfect with and in stews, especially the Ghent variety. It is also a plus in sauces for red meat, such as a bordelaise. It is particularly suited as a dessert beer, especially in combination with dark chocolate" (source).
  • Crown Valley Cowboy Coffee Porter, $2.09/12oz - "Cowboy Coffee Porter is full bodied and smooth with rich undertones of roasted coffee and chocolate malt" (source).
  • Lagunitas Sucks, $1.99/12oz (1 six-pack/person) - "A ‘Cereal Medley’ of Barley, Rye, Wheat, and Oats…. Full of complexishness from the 4 grains, and weighing in at 7.85% abv, Then joyously dry-hopped for that big aroma and resinous hop flavor" (source).
  • Victory Baltic Thunder, $6.49/22oz - "This dark lager still features a reminiscent roasted character that embodies the fullness of toffee, along with subtle fruit flavors derived from its higher temperature fermentation. Long, cold aging tempers this complex beer into a well-rounded delight that warms with its significant alcohol strength. The final packaged product will be released in 25.4 fluid ounce bottles" (source).
  • Shorts Publican Porter, $2.19/12oz - "Defined as an imperial London porter, Publican Porter contains only traditional brewing ingredients" (source).
  • Big Sky Cowboy Coffee Porter, $1.69/12oz - "Roast malt flavors, a crisp hoppy edge, and infused coffe flavors" (source)
  • Atwater Andiamo Birra, $1.69/12oz - An artisan lager (source).
  • Frankenmuth Winter Bock, $1.69/12oz - "A special seasonal offering made with six varieties of roasted malt. It features a dense rocky head, a tawny color, hints of toffee and a warming finish" (source).
Picture of the Week

Hopslam cap in an ideal setting, off the bottle, that is.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Siciliano's to Publish Annual Homebrew Recipe Book

By Steve Siciliano

Starting this year, homebrewers receiving the highest scores in the Siciliano’s Homebrew Competition will be given the opportunity to see their award-winning recipes in print. Beginning with the 2013 competition, Siciliano’s Market Press will publish—with the brewers’ permission—the recipes of gold and silver medalists' in an annually produced, high-quality publication.

The Siciliano’s Homebrew Competition has grown steadily over the years with last year’s competition drawing 220 entries. Entries are judged according to BJCP style guidelines by certified judges, brewing professionals and hobby enthusiasts.

The tentative blueprint for the annual, large-format paperback will include a short introduction and a discussion of brewing styles (all grain, partial mash, extract with specialty grains) followed by the recipes for each of the three techniques. Bios and photos of the award-winning brewers will also be included. Please stay tuned to The Buzz for more information. Updates will be posted as warranted.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Siciliano's 10th Annual Homebrew Contest - It begins!

It's that time of year again. Time to get your oak-aged, dry-hopped, brett-infused, maple-flavored, spruce-tip, double-imperial, pale-porter hybrid into the bottle—the Siciliano's Market 10th Annual Homebrew Contest is right around the corner. See below for contest rules and regulations.
Is '13 your lucky 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. NEW RULE FOR 2013: The total number of contest entries will be capped at 250. Don't delay in submitting your entry. Once the magic number is reached, no additional entries will be accepted.
  7. Entries will be accepted from Monday, March 25, through Sunday, April 14, or until 250 entries are submitted, whichever happens first. 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 brewer of the beer named Best in Show will have the opportunity to brew his/her winning recipe at a local brewery. This year we are also awarding the winner a $500 Siciliano's gift card.

Finally, what's a contest without a party? The 10th Annual Siciliano's Market Hombrew Party and Awards Banquet is scheduled for Saturday, May 11, 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 10, and will also be at Johnson Park. A full list of seminar topics and speakers will be announced in the near future.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Tuesday Review: Perrin Brewing Company

By Steve Siciliano

A pint at Perrin Brewing Co.
Apparently the oft repeated phrase “location, location, location” doesn’t pertain to brew pubs. At least not when the pub has solid beers, an inviting atmosphere, good eats, and friendly service—the winning combination that is keeping the taproom busy at the recently opened Perrin Brewing Company.

Perrin is located north of Grand Rapids on 7 Mile Road in an industrial park setting that seems more conducive to an apple processing plant or a Farm and Fleet store. Despite its somewhat incongruous locale, the pub has developed a cadre of loyal regulars. Since it opened, Barb and I have been making the twenty-minute drive to the taproom on a fairly regular basis.

We do so, of course, to enjoy the solid lineup of head brewer Nate Walser’s beer. But that’s not the only reason. If the lifeblood of a taproom is its beer then its heart is the staff, and tap room manager Kurt Schmiege and assistant manager Kelly Gustafson have assembled and trained a good one. It’s obvious that the emphasis here is on knowledge of the draught offerings and fast and friendly service; and if the continuously packed taproom is any indication, patrons are not being disappointed. The fact that you can get good burgers, sandwiches, sweet potato fries, zingy dipping sauces and excellent humus in the pub is a bonus.

Last Friday Barb and I made another trip to Perrin and we were lucky to find a parking spot. Inside, every seat was occupied so we squeezed in at the end of the bar. While I stood enjoying Nate’s brown ale I looked around the taproom—at the attentive wait staff buzzing around taking good care of the customers, at the continuous line of folks queuing up at the bar, at the crowd of people sharing the common denominator of the love of good beer.

We here at Siciliano’s lift a pint to Perrrin’s owners, to Nate and the brewers, and to Kurt, Kelly, and the wait staff for yet another solid contribution to West Michigan’s growing beer culture.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Save the Dates! Siciliano's Homebrew Competition & Party

Medals from the 2012 competition
By Steve Siciliano

Now that the busyness of the holiday season is over, it’s time to begin focusing on upcoming projects here at Siciliano's. At the top of our to-do list is the finalization of details for the 2013 homebrew seminars, the annual homebrew party (our tenth), and the 2013 Siciliano's Homebrew Competition.

This year’s party will be held on Saturday, May 11th, in the enclosed shelter at Johnson Park. The homebrew seminars will also be held at the shelter and are scheduled for the evening of Friday, May 10th.

Like last year, tickets for the party will be $35.00 per person and reservations must be made in advance. We will begin selling tickets on Monday, March 25th. Please don’t procrastinate if you’re planning to attend; tickets are limited and sell out every year. The $5.00 entry fee for attending the homebrew seminars may be paid at the door.

Entries for the competition will be accepted from March 25th through April 14th.

Additional and exciting information regarding the party, seminars, and competition will be posted on The Buzz within the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Left Hand Fade to Black Vol. 4 | A Beer Review

Left Hand Fade To Black Volume 4,
Rocky Mountain Black Ale, $2.09/12oz 
By Doug Dorda

Each year, as the cold months creep in and the light of day wanes faster from the sky, Left Hand Brewing Company releases its seasonal offering under the title of Fade to Black. The style itself changes from year to year with the one caveat being that the bottle will always house a “black” beer of some sort. This year's salute to the short days of winter is touted by the website as a “Rocky Mountain Black Ale.” As with the other offerings prior to this one, my intrigue was piqued, and I now offer my perceptions.

Volume 4 pours—you guessed it—black. In fact, it pours a hearty black that only reveals itself as translucent brown when tilted at extreme angles toward a light. The quickly dissipating head is a creamy tan that consists of tightly coalesced C02 bubbles that disperse the aromas quite nicely. Intense levels of orange, tangerine, and all other members of the peel-to-eat citrus fruit family parade proudly within the nose. If the ale is allowed to warm slightly, the citrus aromas give way, though only a little, to nuances of chocolate, licorice and toast, which allows for expectation of complexity as the taste approaches.

Contrary to the hearty presence of citrus in the nose, the taste is an immediate rush of deep molasses, lightly burnt toast, chocolate, and just a hint of smoked pepper. This is not to say that these flavors are in any way overpowering, for indeed they are dutifully balanced and well dampened by a large amount of C02 that leaves what would otherwise be a large-bodied beer pleasantly dry on the palate. The finish also announces the return of citrus as well as a mild black peppercorn note that is alarmingly complimentary to the whole of the beer.

Overall, I feel that this is an ale best paired with winter food fare, or perhaps a fireside chat. As I swirled the beer in my mouth I began to unconsciously set a menu with blue cheeses for a starting dish, a main course of roasted chicken served alongside sauteed mushrooms, and a dessert of dried and candied fruits. For all intents and purposes, this beer seems as though it would be well suited to accompany any dish that might be served with a hearty red wine.

As always, I implore you to try the beer for yourself, and perhaps plan a dinner to go with it. After all, the days will not get considerably longer for some time now – perhaps it is time we created reasons to enjoy the gradient Fade to Black.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year Sale on Selected Wine Ingredients Kits

By Steve Siciliano

Selected kits, now on sale!
We had such a good time over the holidays giving our customers great deals on beer- and wine-making equipment kits that we don’t want the fun to stop.

Well, that’s one reason we’re having this January sale, but to be completely honest we want to liquidate inventory on selected wine ingredients kits. Recently our good friends at Winexpert redesigned and repackaged their Vintner’s Reserve and World Vineyard line of kits and in order to make room for new inventory we’re marking down the price on selected ingredient kits by 25%! We have a fair amount of these kits in stock and this fantastic sale will continue until every last one of them is gone.

While this 25% off on selected ingredients kits is going on we are extending the sale price of $85.00 on the Vintner’s Best Deluxe winemaking equipment kit. Regular price for the equipment package is $95.00.

*Please stop by in person or call 616-453-9674 for details on specific kits available. Sale prices are valid for in-store purchases only.