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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Siciliano's AHA Big Brew Update: Location Secured

Photo from Wikipedia
By Steve Siciliano

I am pleased to announce that the Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids has been selected as the location for Siciliano’s Market’s first ever sponsorship of an American Homebrewers Association Big Brew. This annual, country-wide event is scheduled for Saturday, May 4th and gives homebrewers the opportunity to gather at registered AHA sites to brew, promote the enriching hobby of homebrewing and join in a simultaneous celebration of National Homebrew Day. With the AHA convention coming to Grand Rapids in 2014, we feel that a huge Big Brew day event at a highly visible, downtown location will be a great way of showing the area, the state and the country that a vibrant homebrewing community exists in West Michigan.

As the sponsor for this event, Siciliano’s Market will be donating and providing the following:

    • The ingredients for forty-eight all-grain batches of “Beer City IPA.”
    • Bottled water for brewing.
    • A chilling station capable of simultaneously chilling six kettles of wort.
    • Platform handcarts for moving brewing equipment to and from vehicles and for transporting kettles of hot wort to the chilling station. 
Brewers will be responsible for furnishing their own mash/lauter tuns, propane burners, kettles, fermentation vessels, hydrometers, thermometers, and any other hardware they typically employ.

In the next few weeks we will be posting additional information, both online and at the store, as to how you may sign up to participate in this event either as a brewer or volunteer helper. You do not have to be a Siciliano’s customer or a member of the AHA to participate.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Dry Michigan No More

By Steve Siciliano

Beer tokens, 2013 MI Winter Beer Fest
Of the 6000 craft beer lovers who attended the Michigan Winter Beer Festival this past Saturday at Fifth Third Park, a good number of them traveled to Grand Rapids from areas outside of the state. Folks from as far away as Louisiana, Virginia, Connecticut and Colorado shopped at local stores, stayed at west Michigan hotels and visited the area’s breweries, pubs and restaurants. They paid lodging taxes, the six percent sales tax and when they filled up their gas tanks, they paid the 19 cents per gallon Michigan gasoline tax. They consumed and purchased a great deal of Michigan beer which will translate into more excise taxes when the state breweries replenish their inventories. In short, the craft beer industry has turned out to be a huge economic asset for the state.

That’s a good thing because the more tax dollars an industry pumps into government coffers. the less likely it is to be victimized by crippling legislation. Because of the potential for abuse, alcohol always has and always will be a political football, and short sighted politicians have always shown a propensity for siding with powerful self-serving interest groups. That was the case when Michigan banned the production and sale of alcoholic beverages two years before the passage of National Prohibition. The current tag line for The Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s tourism advertising campaign is “Pure Michigan.” An apt slogan for our state back in the early years of the twentieth century would have been “Dry Michigan.”

The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and The Anti-Saloon League at one time were extremely powerful political forces in Michigan and they were instrumental in getting our state to be one of the first to go dry. National Prohibition had, of course, a devastating effect on the entire country’s brewing industry but the destruction it wrought on a national level had a two-year head start in Michigan. That makes what’s happening with the incredible resurgence and growth of craft brewing in our state all the more remarkable.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

New Beer Friday, February 22 Edition

Distorter Porter from Greenbush Brewing
By Hey Kevin

Today the beer gods smile upon us, my friends. Not only is the Michigan Winter Beer Fest just a few short hours away, Siciliano's is pleased to present one of the most beer-packed NBF's in recent memory. This week's list of new suds features 35—count them—35 new beers, including our first-ever delivery from Greenbush Brewing Co.

You'll forgive us then for cutting short the NBF preface for this week. There are simply too many beers to get through. And anyway, what's left to say besides this: Be safe and have fun at the Winter Beer Fest, everyone. Save a turkey leg for your old friends at Siciliano's!

New (and Returning) Beer 

  • Greenbush Brother Benjamin, $3.49/12oz - "This beer was developed as a collaboration with Mark Richman, the lucky winner of the Taste of the Nation "brewer for a day" silent auction item. This is one monster of an imperial IPA, brewed with a bit of honey and beet sugar" (source).
  • Greenbush Closure, $1.79/12oz - "Ready to put the past behind you and reach for something new? Our Closure Pale Ale features a different hop variety each and every time we brew a batch, so when you’re prepared to move on, you don’t have to go very far" (source).
  • Greenbush Distorter, $1.79/12oz - "A stout-ish porter with a touch of porter-ish stout. Accepting the fact that we live in confusing times, Greenbush offers up it’s own "ball of confusion," with Distorter - a robust porter blurring the lines between a porter and a stout. Have a bottle or get therapy" (source).
  • Greenbush Anger, $1.79/12oz - "A haughty black ipa with a bit of pent-up attitude for those "special" days. Our addicting little black IPA using Belgian dark malts and dry-hopped for intense aroma. 7.6% ABV and 85 IBU’s. Release some bottled-up Anger and learn to enjoy life a little" (source).
  • Greenbush Dunegrass, $1.79/12oz - "A justly hopped ipa with absolutely no dunegrass. Combining west coast and noble hops to create our own IPA with a shining finish. And, as an environmental treat, absolutely no dunegrass was killed in order to make our fine beer, so drink up!" (source).
  • Lakefront Wheat Monkey, $1.49/12oz - "Wheat Monkey Ale captures the fresh, unfiltered spontaneity of our brewers’ creativity. Crisp and refreshing year-round, this American Wheat Ale pours a lazy, hazy golden color. Its large, white, foamy head can be attributed to the generous amount of malted white wheat added to the mash. The aroma is enhanced by our fruity house ale yeast and its fresh baked bread flavors are perfectly balanced with a Cascade hop addition" (source).
  • Aiko Super Brew 15, $3.69/500ml - "15 worthy beers competed at the famed Martens Brewery for the honor to be exported to the US. The last, 15th entry came out the winner. Super Brew 15 was selected for its exquisite equilibrium of taste, the result of a harmonious combination of specific beer components and special double fermentation process. This unique beer, known in the Anglo-Saxon world since the eleventh century as Barley Wine, has been prized by true connoisseurs for the past millennium" (source).
  • New Holland Monkey King, $1.79/12oz - "A soft, medium-body saison with subtle pepper character and fruity undertones. Pairings: shellfish, spiced cheeses and citrus-laden vinaigrettes" (source).
  • New Holland Blue Sunday, $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).
  • Troubador Obscura, $4.29/11.2oz - "Troubadour Obscura is a Belgian Dark Strong Ale with 8,5 % alc. and refermentation in the bottle. Poured in the special glass, Troubadour Obscura has a nice creamy foam head. The beer has a malty character with a nice little roasty flavour. Troubadour Obscura has a mild bitterness, which is a bit stronger in the aftertaste. Troubadour Obscura has a mainly malty aroma. The smell of roasted, burned wood is completed by a light chocolate touch. Troubadour Obscura is produced with 4 different types of malt, hops, yeast and water" (source).
  • Troubador Magma, $8.39/750ml - "A Triple IPA wich Czech bittering hops and Simcoe for Dry-hopping. Made by De Proef for Drie Musketeers, Ursel" (source).
  • Reissdorf Kolsch, $4.29/16.9oz - "Reissdorf Kölsch is the beer speciality from Cologne with a tradition starting 1894. A Kölsch with a pleasant, full-bodied, and uniquely light and sweet taste in premium quality, that is brewed for the adepts who prefer something special" (source).
  • Morland Tanner Jack, $2.19/12oz - "A smooth-tasting ale enhanced to offer an elegant happy floral nose, a nutty malty palate and a lingering malty sweetness" (source).
  • Bosteels Tripel Karmeliet, $4.69/11.2oz - "First brewed 1996; claimed to be based on a recipe from 1679 which used wheat, oat and barley. Tripel Karmeliet is a very refined and complex golden-to-bronze brew with a fantastic creamy head. These characteristics derive not only from the grains used but also from restrained hopping with Styrians and the fruity nature (banana and vanilla) of the house yeast. Aroma has hints of vanilla mixed with citrus aromas. Tripel Karmeliet has not only the lightness and freshness of wheat, but also the creaminess of oats together with a spicy lemony almost quinine dryness" (source).
  • Bosteels Deus Brut des Flandres, $34.09/750ml - "First brewed at Bosteels, transfered to the Champagne region of France were it is treated much like a champagne with the bottles inverted and the yeast expunged and bottle recorked" (source).
  • Eerie Brewing Co. Ol' Red Cease & Desist, $2.09/12oz - "Wee Heavy Ale: Powerful caramel malt flavor, finishing climatically with a smooth warming sensation. Deep Red" (source).
  • Kasteel Rouge, $4.59/11.2oz - "Belgian ale with cherries and cherry juice added" (source).
  • Silly Pink Killer, $4.59/11.2oz - "Fruity and thirst-quenching, sweet yet not sickly, Pink Killer is a beer based on malt, wheat and pink grapefruit, which explains its very unique colour and the hint of bitterness typical of this fruit, in turn quenching the biggest of thirsts with a flavoursome taste" (source).
  • Silly Saison, $4.59/11.2oz - "Saison style top fermentation old brown beer. Its taste is remarkable, light and favourably combined to offer a tone that is both modestly sweetened and fruity, leaving the mouth with a refreshing feel as is constantly asked of it" (source).
  • Hue Beer, $2.29/12oz - "Long-standing European influence show through in this clean, export-style Pils lager. Pale golden in color with snowy white foam, Hue is well-hopped enough tot stand up to spicy, intense southeast Asian fare and pairs well with a wide variety o f rice, noodles and curried dishes" (source).
  • Shipyard Export, $1.79/12oz - "The Shipyard Brewing Company's flagship beer, is a full bodied ale, with a hint of sweetness up front, a subtle and distinctive hope taste, and a very clean and traditional finish" (source).
  • Baltika No. 3, $2.59/16.9oz - "Baltika Classic is a foamy, golden brew with a delicate flavor of hops and first-class malt" (source).
  • Baltika No. 4, $2.59/16.9oz - "A dark beer produced using caramel and rye malts. This combination of ingredients endows the beer with a harmonious hint of bread flavors and the specific aroma of caramel malt" (source).
  • Baltika No. 6, $2.59/16.9oz - "A traditional dark beer based on old recipes. "Baltika" brews this beer with the best dark and light malts with the addition of superior hop types and a special strain of yeast. Crystal-clear water and the secret touch of "Baltika"'s brewers make this a beer of unsurpassable quality" (source).
  • Baltika No. 7, $2.59/16.9oz - "The Baltika No. 7 beer is made from selective malt and rare hops and is distinguished for its special softness and fullness" (source).
  • Piraat, $12.89/750ml - "Piraat is a wickedly rich and rounded brew that packs a mighty punch. The powerful glow builds up from inside. Deep golden with a subtle haze. Lots of hops and malt. Mild sweetness. Reminiscent of bread dough, spices and tropical fruits" (source).
  • St. Louis Gueze Fond Tradition, $7.39/375ml - "Belgian lambic gueuze, Tart and effervescent, sour and citrusy with a bret funkiness in the finish" (source).
  • Einbecker, $30.09/5-liter Mini-keg - "Einbecker Brauherren Pils is the slightly tangy Premium-Pils-specialty from Einbecker Brauhaus AG, which is highly regarded by both Pils lovers and real connoisseurs. The unique Einbecker-bottle stands out among other beers on the market, especially with over 600 years of Einbecker experience in the art of brewing fine beers behind it" (source).
  • L'Abbaye Val-Dieu Triple, $9.29/750ml - "Val-Dieu Triple from Brasserie De L'Abbaye Du Val-Dieu is a triple ale from Cistercian Abbey du Val-Dieu with a color of golden plums, very delicate aroma, nutty, clean maltiness, and a drying finish reminiscent of garden mint" (source).
  • Sprecher Abbey Triple, $2.29/12oz - "We started with a Trappist Triple yeast culture and carefully blended Belgian pale barley malt with traditional malted wheat and oats to produce a delectable golden ale. This special brew is aged 12 weeks creating a fruity nad refined taste with a huge bouqet, light body, and a very smooth, non-bitter finish" (source).
  • Stone Old Guardian, $6.99/22oz - "A beautiful bold barley wine. Massive malt and hop notes. Silver Medal winner at the 2000 Great American Beer Festival in the Barley Wine category. Gold Medal winner at the 2002 World Beer Championships in the Barley Wine Category. Look for it in the first quarter of each new year. Can be cellared or enjoyed upon its release" (source).
  • Frankenmuth Imperial Stout, $24.19/1litre - "Frankenmuth Brewery’s 2013 Imperial Stout will be bottled in limited supply and released to the public starting in February. With only 1,313 bottles of Imperial Stout being made in our Michigan brewery, this new brew is guaranteed to go fast! Michigan beer lovers will not want to miss out on these amazing hand-numbered 1 liter flip-top bottles" (source).
  • Right Brain Looping Owl, $8.99/22oz - "A small batch brew of Amber Ale aged in Grand Traverse Distillery whiskey barrels. If you like Bourbon, Cigars, or Smoking Jackets this is the brew for you" (source).
  • Right Brain Fat Lad Imperial Stout, $8.99/22oz - "Toasty-toasty chocolate stout with a big finish" (source).
  • Right Brain Igor, $8.99/22oz - "This rich imperial brown ale is to be respected, not only for its high gravity, but for its complex and moody flavor. Smooth, malty and full-bodied. Dig deep into notes of warm earth and dried fruit and uncover the essence of Igor" (source).
Picture of the Week

Winter, somewhere in Michigan


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Journeyman Distillery: Buy the Whiskey, Keep the Barrel

By Doug Dorda

Photo courtesy of Journeyman Distillery
Home beer and wine makers, have we not all fantasized about filling our very own barrel? Have we not sat in pleasant company and mused over the stylistic variances of fermented ale or vino that could benefit from an aging in a once-used whiskey barrel? Have we not become downtrodden when noticing that the price of said used barrel is often well into the hundreds, not to mention that the 55- or 60-gallon size is a bit cumbersome to store as well as increasingly difficult and expensive to fill. Often times I have mused that it would be so much grander were I able to locate a 5-, 10-, or even 15-gallon barrel to use, but often they cost as much as their larger counterparts.

Recently, while sipping a glass of the Ravenswood Rye from Michigan-based Journeyman Distillery, I discovered that they offer a unique solution to the “small barrel" problem. Often the distillery utilizes barrels that are quite a bit smaller than the traditional 55- or 60-gallon size, opting most commonly for 15- or 30-gallon barrels (they will even use as small as a five gallon barrel on occasion). But how do I get my hands on one of these? This is where things get interesting.

There is a lottery of sorts available to those who are not opposed to rolling the dice. You may put your name in to receive Journeyman's spent barrels on a first-come first-serve basis as the barrels are retired. However, as you may imagine, this method of acquisition is inundated quite often by barrel enthusiasts, and may come with a shaky, if inconsistent time frame by which to expect fruition. A more assured way to get your hands on one of these beauties is to enroll yourself in Journeyman's traveling barrel program.

For those of us with patience and an appreciation for whiskey, this may be one of the more fun “journeys” you will take. A full explanation of the program can be found at the Journeyman website, but my favorite program would have to be the one year journey. For $275 dollars you get to decorate your very own 15-gallon barrel which will be on display in the distillery for one year. You are also allowed to choose one of three whiskeys that will be aged in the barrel for that one year. When time has expired, you will travel back to the distillery to help bottle the whiskey out of your barrel. Not only do you then get to take the barrel with you, but you are also awarded four 750-ml bottles of the whiskey that was aged in your barrel.

Let’s review: $275 gets you a 15-gallon barrel, four bottles of a whiskey that you decide upon (each retailing for $50), and a journey to a corner of Michigan (Three Oaks) you may not have otherwise visited. And did I mention that Greenbush Brewing is just a stones throw away? Quite the adventure in fermentation if I do say so myself.

For those keeping score, the whiskey that you receive accounts for $200 of the initial investment placed toward the barrel. The barrel itself then only costs $75, quite a bit less than many other avenues of requisition. However, can one truly place a price on being able to say this: “Do you like that beer? That all began 18 months ago when I bought into a barrel at Journeyman Distillery. I chose rye whiskey to age for one year as I wanted to add a layer of new depth to my barleywine. I waited what seemed like an eternity to fill that barrel and, as such, you are tasting my vision of the past, brought to fruition in the present. Do you want to try the whiskey that aged in the barrel too?”

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tuesday Review: anCnoc 12 Years Old Scotch Whisky

Illustration by the author
By John Barecki

In an experiment over the next few months, we will be reviewing a handful of Scotch whiskys to try and find the best quality for the lowest price. As I delve deeper into the world of whisky, I tend to find a lot of overlapping ideas with regard to what influences a person's choice when they are standing at the liquor shelf. Being guilty of following the same trends myself, I thought it would be interesting to try to shadow all of the fancy selling points—color, extra maturing in different casks, packaging—to find out what appeals to me and our customers most, while at the same time trying to save some money in the process.

The first in this series is a 12-year-old single malt from the anCnoc distillery (pronounced a-nock). Previously called Knockdhu, the name change was done because of the confusion between it and the the Knockando distillery. Originally opened in 1894, anCnoc was considered the "perfect embodiment of a modern distillery" and, outside of a couple small additions, not much has changed in the way they create their warm flavors and complexity.

Stationed in the eastern Highlands, anCnoc 12 Years Old contains a great complexity not usually experienced in a younger whiskys. This is most likely due, at least in part, to the use of a worm tub, which consists of a coiled copper tube that is submerged in cold water. The worm tub condenses the alcohol vapor back into liquid form. While only a handful of distillers still use this method, the result is a wonderfully well-rounded, heavier character. There is a freshness to the nose, with a hint of smoke and pungent finish. It is medium rich on the palate, sweetness barely coming through, with some spices and fruit. The finish is long and rewarding, combining all the flavors down to a soft fruity end.

While anCnoc 12 Years Old does not surpass some of the longer-aged malts, it still packs a complexity worthy of the best and is available for under $40. anCnoc 12 Years Old is now available at Siciliano's Market for $38.81/750ml.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Is Craft Beer a Social Movement?

By Weston Eaton

Social movements are collective actions organized by institutional outsiders that challenge existing power structures. The civil rights battles of the 1960s and the ongoing struggles of American Indians or the LGBT community are iconic examples. These groups demand recognition not only from the state for their legitimate rights to be treated as equals under the law; more than this, these groups form new collective identities, or a sense of “we-ness,” to challenge dominant cultural mores. There are transferrable lessens here for the craft beer community. In the world of craft beer, home-, micro-, and craft breweries challenge giants like Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors. These challenges are more than battles over market shares. These are challenges over cultural acceptance, distinction, and legitimacy more broadly.

In his 2009 book Market Rebels: How Activists Make or Break Radical Innovations, the young social scientist Hayagreeva Rao uses a social movements lens to understand how it was possible for a craft brewing movement to gain traction in a market so heavily dominated (98% in 2003) by well known brands with well established distribution networks and centralized planning. To understand this question, folks like us who are immersed in beer culture need to take a few steps back. Industrial economics theory points out that, over time, industries concentrate, and in doing so, move from specialists to generalists. This is helpful as it sheds some light on things like the taste of Little Caesars versus the pies at Harmony Brewing, or Coors Light compared to Founders Solid Gold or Bell’s Amber. Furthermore, according to theory, as generalists move more to the center, room opens up at the peripheries. This is the space Rao wants to explore in the world of craft beer.

The craft beer movement is clearly a success, however one might define success. This is important because not all movements, of course, are successful. Understanding how craft beer, as a culture, a market, a lifestyle, became successful sheds light on the way cultures develop and are themselves responded to. Unpacking this requires that we look at the people involved, the contexts they shape and operate within, and the way they work with others to achieve their aims. Rao’s argument is close to arguments I have been making for some time in this column: from home to micro and craft segments, craft beer is by definition less about market share and more an expression of a new identity, one premised on small-scale, authentic, and traditional methods of production. Recently I wrote about the “Local Trap,” the tendency to confuse scale, which is a means, with taste, an end. The point then is that taste, as in both the cultivated tastes of enthusiasts and the way a product tastes, is a significant component of identity.

Now we are nearing the “creation story” of craft beer. WWII vets returned home from Germany, Belgium, and France—where beers were as diverse as dog breeds—only to find what Michael Jackson termed “chicken-feedy” lagers, as in tasting too much like corn. Within this myth, however, is a wedge of pertinence that can give insight into social movements applicability: consumers might be open to alternative tastes. Adding to this was the modern homebrewing movement, championed and popularized by folks like Charlie Papazian who did for home brewing what Carl Sagan did for science. From these ranks were born folks like Sam Calagione, who, like his counterparts, is voracious about creating and defending the standards that separate craft beer from, say, Miller Lite. As Calgione might say, no matter that MillerCoors brands unequivocally outsell 90 Minute IPA, they lack terroir, the sense of place associated with products made within certain locales. In the emerging craft beer identity, generalist victories are not the point.

As I have warned in previous essays, however, this presents a slippery slope. How exclusive ought craft beer culture be? Where do we draw the line, and who draws it? Rao points out that contract breweries like Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams) make substantially different claims about what is at the root of craft beer cultural identities. For Boston Beer, fresh ingredients equal craft beer. For others, like those who drafted the American Craft Brewer Definition for the Brewer’s Association, craft brewers must be small (less than 6 million barrels a year), independent (less than 25% of the brewery is owned by non craft breweries), and traditional (meaning adjuncts are used to enhance, not simplify the product).

These tensions demonstrate a few nuances I would like to add to Rao’s argument. While the craft beer movement is a success, by no means is it homogenous. People who identify with this cultural movement harbor a range of perspectives and interests that are not always harmonious. Moreover, although successful, the cultural, market, and identity battles are clearly ongoing. There is no clear distinction between craft and non craft. Instead, differences are socially constructed by interested groups. For example, as brewing consultant John Haggerty pointed out to me years ago, Budweiser, like Boston Beer, and so many others, indeed uses some of the finest malts and hops and well cared for water in the world of beer.

But it is the intangibility of identity that ultimately can help us make sense of such technical incongruences. Overall Rao’s point is that without the network of “evang-ale-ists,” home brewers and enthusiasts, craft beer would hardly be the market and cultural success it is today. Of course successful retailers, breweries, and brewpubs know this well. My argument is that in thinking of craft beer as a social movement, one that so many of us have been affected by, we can see that this is an ongoing movement, whose boundaries are porous, aims are fluid, champions are varied and contested, and that we ourselves, as home- or professional brewers or industry folk, or especially as beer drinkers, can have a hand in steering.

Like other popular movements, such as environmental movements, one could argue that what’s really going on here is the coinciding of several movements. Steve Siciliano of Siciliano’s Market pointed this out when he discussed the symbiotic relationships that emerge between various players in regional markets. I think this is accurate and, in West Michigan, we certainly seem to be situated at the front lines of this convergence.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sarah Pairs: Bourbon & Board Games

By Sarah Derylo

As a lover of all things fermented I have always enjoyed the challenge of pairing a wine with its culinary counterpart—a French Muscadet, full of salty minerality, with oysters or sea bass, an Italian Nebbiolo along side a wild mushroom risotto, or a zesty Californian Zinfandel standing up to braised lamb.

Wine enthusiasts for centuries have weighed in on finding these perfect combinations, and in recent history beer has finally been given the attention it deserves, being frequently paired these days alongside the world’s gourmet delicacies.

Although the science behind food/beverage pairing is sensible, the fascination with pairing, for me at least, comes form the desire to complete an experience. As humans, we seem to love things pairs: wine and cheese, beer and bbq, scotch and cigars, Lennon and McCartney, Laurel and Hardy, socks. Therein lies the raison d'etre for my new blog series, Sarah's Pairs.

In the months to come, I hope you will enjoy my take on pairings. Some may be unusual; others unexpected. But, hopefully, all will help make for truly complete experiences. First up, Bourbon and board games.

Bourbon and Board Games

Picture this: Standing on the brink of world domination, you stare across the game board, over myriad armies and fleets of tiny plastic airplanes and into the eyes of your opponent. You sip rye whiskey calmly from a rocks glass, strategizing. The dice are rolled and your opponent fate is sealed. You “cheers” an imaginary Winston Churchill—the Allies have just won WWII and, more important, you have just defeated your older brother at Axis & Allies. When the re-match ensues, your heart sinks along with your battleship as you hear that dreaded letter-number sequence called. You pour yourself another glass of rye, a big one.

So many of us have memories of playing board games as kids, but few of us take the time to enjoy this pastime as adults. When it's raining up at the cabin and after the kids go to bed, it’s a sure bet that the Siciliano family will break out Trivia Pursuit, Monopoly, or Scrabble. Then the Bourbon is poured, laughter ensues, rules are broken (Grandma should be used as a lifeline only once), and memories are made. Why pair Bourbon with board games? The warming sensation you get slowly sipping a world-class bourbon pairs perfectly with the feeling of closeness that only your family and friends can provide. Here are some of the Siciliano family's favorite pairings.

    • Eagle Rare 10 Year and Axis & Allies
    • W. L. Weller with Clue
    • Redemption Rye with Scrabble
    • Maker's Mark with Trivia Pursuit (Music Edition)
    • Basil Hayden's with Monopoly
Tasting fine Bourbon between moves, deals, or rolls of the die is a strategy within itself. While you ponder your next move, you are able to give this exclusively American spirit its rightful due. At, you'll find an excellent starting point on how to properly conduct a tasting. Whether or not you should trade Marvin Gardens to your cousin for Reading Railroad, now that's a decision only you came make.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

New Beer Friday, February 15 Edition

Greg & Doug, forever at odds
By Hey Kevin

Hi everybody, it's Kevin, Siciliano's one-time advice & information columnist. I'm thrilled to be filling in temporarily for Chris on New Beer Friday. I'm happier still to report that Siciliano's Market is hosting five beer tastings all within the next six days—talk about a fitting start to GR Beer Week!

Kicking things off is Mt. Pleasant Brewing Company with a tasting at 1 p.m. on Saturday (2/16). Following MPBC is Founders Brewing Co., a terrific little GR start-up from whom we all expect big things. The Founders tasting is on Monday (2/18) at 4 p.m. On Tuesday (2/19), Big Rapids-based Cranker's Brewery will confirm that city's bid for world domination by having a tasting of their own. The Crankers tasting begins at 4 p.m as well.

The tasting free-for-all continues at 4 p.m. Wednesday (2/20), when Dark Horse gallops into town from Marshall, Michigan, six-packs blazing. Our friends at Right Brain Brewery hold the final spot: 4 p.m., Thursday (2/21). On Friday, we let you rest, giving you just enough time to catch your breath before for the big event on Saturday, the Michigan Winter Beer Fest. Speaking of which, have you started planning your pretzel necklace?

New (and Returning) Beer

  • Rochester Mills Red Ale, $2.29/16oz - "This deep red colored ale is full of caramelly sweet malt flavor, yet nicely balanced with a smooth finish" (source).
  • Rochester Mills Cornerstone IPA, $2.29/16oz - "This unfiltered amber ale is packed full of hop bitterness, flavor and aroma. IPA is the most bitter beer style and it is enjoyed by people we refer to as “hopheads.” We dry hop this beer with a combination of English and American hop varieties for a wonderfully aromatic finish" (source).
  • Rochester Mills Milkshake Stout, $2.29/16oz - "This stout is not as bitter as the Sacri-licious Stout. It is brewed with milk sugar(lactose) to impart a fuller body and sweeter palate" (source).
  • Coney Island Human Blockhead, $6.19/22oz - "This might be the most unique barrel aged lager you will find. Brewed like a barley wine but fermented as a lager then aged on fresh wet Buffalo Trace barrels for 5 months" (source).
  • Ommegang Art of Darkness, $18.59/750ml - "Our limited edition Art of Darkness Ale is deep, dark and magical, with champagne-like carbonation and rich matiness from a complex recipe of multiple barley and wheat malts, as well as flaked oats. Using no spices or flavorings, Art of Darkness gains all its rich aromas, tastes, and apparent spiciness from the malts and Ommegang’s proprietary house yeast. There are no secret ingredients or magical incantation. There is only Ommegang brewers’ creating the finest quality dark, strong ale of complex and deep character" (source).
  • Short's Aorta Ale, $2.19/12oz - "Aorta Ale is a double red ale that suggests an intensity of flavor simply by its brilliant deep red appearance. Though Aorta Ale contains only traditional brewing ingredients, subtle aromas of candy, brown sugar, and toasted malt are present. Flavors reminiscent of raisins or figs are noticeable upfront, but 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 of this full bodied beauty. For that reason, we considered calling it an India Red Ale" (source).
  • Lagunita's Sux, $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).
  • Southern Tier Euro Trash Pils, $1.69/12oz - "This beer may have a cheeky name, but don’t be fooled; it is modeled after fine European pilsners to be light and crisp. Aromatic Noble hop varieties, 2-row malted barley and European style pilsner malt contribute to this pale beer’s smooth character" (source).
  • Heavy Seas Small Craft Warning, $1.99/12oz - "We call this beer an Uber Pils - a pilsner style bock lager. Rich, malty, and well rounded but with a firm structure of noble hops. Surprisingly pale in color for such a powerful, complex beer" (source).
  • Tandem Cider  Farmhouse, $11.49/750ml - "Winesap & Northern Spy. A dry cider made with a classic cider apple" (source).
  • Tandem Cider Pretty Penny, $11.49/750ml - "A blend of over thirty varieties of cider and antique apples. At the end of the season, Mr. Kilcherman cleans up his barn and we get all those unique apples" (source).
  • Tandem Cider Early Day, $11.49/750ml - "Fameuse, Golden Russet, Ida Red, Red Delicious, Sheep’s Nose, and Cortland. The complexity of this blend will keep you sipping and trying to determine which variety makes this cider so darn good" (source).
  • Tandem Cider Smakintosh, $11.49/750ml - "McIntosh, Rhode Island Greening, and Northern Spy. Everything's better with a little Smack. This crowd pleaser is sweet and tart with full apple flavor" (source).
Picture of the Week

Market Art, courtesy of staffer John Barecki


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Where Would We Be Without Winemakers?

Two generations, hard at work on the wine presses
By Steve Siciliano

Because we post many more articles in The Buzz about homebrewing than we do about home winemaking, someone not familiar with our store may be justified in thinking that, for us, the latter is an afterthough. That is not the case. Here at Siciliano’s, we love making wine as much as we love making beer, and we certainly enjoy consuming the end results of both life-enriching pursuits. Homebrewing is currently experiencing an incredible growth spurt and is garnering a great deal of national attention. But in all likelihood, its development and growth would have been postponed if not for the groundwork that was laid by its less charismatic sibling.

After Prohibition reared its ugly head in 1919, beer- and wine-loving Americans were forced into illicitly producing their own fruit- and malt-based alcoholic beverages. While it was easy for wine makers to obtain raw ingredients—fruits, vegetables and grapes were easily obtainable—for homebrewers it was an entirely different scenario. The vast majority of Americans did not have access to hops and barley so they turned to what was available—cans of malt based syrup, marketed as a baking ingredient, that a handful of former breweries were producing in an effort to stay afloat. By all accounts, the quality of the homebrewed beer made with those ingredients was quite nasty.

When the 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition in 1933, it became legal once again to produce homemade wine. Because of a clerical oversight, however, the legislation failed to do the same for homebrewing. Since homebrewing remained illegal, quality ingredients remained unavailable; and when commercial breweries began producing and distributing beer again, the activity of brewing beer at home essentially vanished in this country. The legal activity of home winemaking, on the other hand, continued to grow and a network of wholesalers and retailers sprung up to service the home winemakers. When homebrewing again became a legal activity in 1978, the infrastructure to make available the quality homebrew ingredients that were being produced overseas was already in place.

The years between 1919 and 1978 were a dark time for beer in this country. The homebrewing community and, by extension, the craft beer community have home winemakers to thank for keeping a light on.

Book Spotlight: Classic Beer Style Series

By Doug Dorda

I recall fondly the day I declared that I had brewed my last “kit” beer. Not yet an employee, I strode proudly into Siciliano's with a staunch resolve that I was finally going to make the beer that I wanted to make. However, as I took to looking at the ingredients in bulk and their raw form, I was overcome with the realization that I had no idea what I was doing. I desired to make a Scotch ale, but I was woefully unprepared. My heart lifted as Kati (still an employee today, and the reason I began to brew my own in the first place) asked me if I needed any help.

When I finished explaining my predicament, she simply smiled and told me it was going to be okay. She then explained that we could either make a recipe together using the ProMash recipe software on the store's computer, or I could research the style for a time and come back when I knew what I was up to. I opted for plan B (a curious college student does like to read into things after all). Kati pointed me to the Classic Beer Style Series of books that is released by the Brewers Publications, a division of Brewers Association itself.

Imagine my delight as I came to discover that each of the books in the series focuses on one particular style of beer, its historical roots, its significance in culture, and of course the information necessary to accurately and definitively brew each of the styles in question. Each of the titles, from pale ale to Vienna, Marzen, Oktoberfest are authored by experts of not only their prospective style, but also their brewing technique and practice. After reading the book dedicated to scotch ales, I felt as though I had become a scholar on the subject, and as such I was able to work with the employees of Siciliano's to bring my recipe to fruition.

I owe much of what I know about recipe formulation to these books. The information contained within them serves as a constant resource to all of us here at the store, and to countless professional brewers the world over. I have taken the calling these books the Encyclopedia Brew-tanica.

If you are a new brewer that is considering learning to write your own recipes, an experienced brewer who would like to learn holistically about new beer brewing practices, or someone who simly enjoys beer and would like to learn the history of your favorite style, these are books for you. I can not credit them enough for having helped shape the brewer I am today, and it is my hope that they help to bring out the best brewer/connoisseur in you. The books are available in Siciliano's and range in price from $11.95 to $14.95. For a full listing of the style series, with descriptions, please visit the Browse Books page at Or just stop into Siciliano's and spend some time in our ever-growing book department.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sake: Fermentation’s Final Frontier

Eric Fouch is an experienced homebrew and the president of Primetime Brewers, one of the oldest and most respected homebrew clubs in Michigan. In this post, Eric documents his first experiences making sake.

Inoculating rice with koji-kin
By Eric Fouch

Over the last 17 years of my homebrewing “career,” I have brewed almost every fermented beverage there is. Of course, I started brewing beer, then tried my hand at making ciders, meads, perries and wines. I have even made some kombucha and kefir. I say “almost” because I have never made and never plan to make traditional chicha.

The preparation of traditional chicha involves tribal women sitting around a communal pot, chewing either ground corn or manioc root, and spitting the results into the communal pot. The naturally occurring enzymes in human saliva then covert the starches to sugars, and natural yeasts do the fermentation. Not happening. I have, however, written up my experiences making kombucha, kefir, and cheese in the January 2010 edition of the Primetime Brewers Rubber Chicken newsletter, which  you can find on our website,

But here I am writing about making sake, Japanese rice wine. I started looking into this seriously when I saw a homebrew Sake kit at Siciliano’s. That’s just what I need, another hobby or project! But, after a brief exposure to a couple different types of sake at the Wine and Food festival, my interest was piqued.

Truth is, the more I looked into it, the more confusing it got! I can’t really write up the entire process in detail here, as the best instructions I found online were about 10 pages long. So, in this article, I plan to touch on the basics, and cover some of the more obscure, or confusing points, coming at it from the perspective of an experienced homebrewer and hoping to pass along any tips I've learned from my own experience.

This is the basic process, in a nutshell:
  1. Make or obtain koji, a steamed rice that has been inoculated with koji kin, the proper type of sake fungus.
  2. Make steamed rice using the proper process—it’s not what you think it is!
  3. Combine steamed rice, koji, water, sake yeast (in three different additions) and temperature control. 
One thing that threw me for a little bit was the difference between koji-kin and koji. I kept re-reading the instructions I found online, but it just didn’t make sense, not until I noticed another link for making the koji, which added an additional two days and 4 pages of instructions to the process. It was then I realized I have to use the koji-kin (the actual fungi spores) in the kit I bought to make koji (the inoculated rice)!  Now it’s starting to make sense, and it’s pretty darn labor intensive.

Other things that caused a bit of consternation had to do with the rice and the rice preparation.

The Rice: The proper kind of rice was hard to find. It was fairly easy to eliminate one type of rice right away—the ubiquitous “Extra Long Grain” rice. The perfect rice to use is polished rice. 99.9% of the rice you find around these parts is "10% polished," which means it has been de-hulled, and minimally milled to remove the bran. Rice used traditionally and commercially for sake production is 40% to 60% polished, which means that much of the grain has been milled away. The outer portions of the rice grain are not the most desirable for making sake. Short of actually finding polished rice, I found references that said short grain, or pearl rice is acceptable. So off I went for a local source of polished rice or short grain. I visited every Asian supermarket/specialty store I could find in Grand Rapids, Holland, and Zeeland. I found long grain rice, wild rice, black rice, brown rice, red rice, sushi rice (also known as sticky rice), and saffron rice. But no short grain rice! The closest I found was Homai California Calrose rice, which is a medium grain rice. Feeling a bit defeated, I stopped in the Family Fare in Zeeland to grab some lunch. I wandered down the rice isle, and what did I find? Bags of Fancy Pearl Rice!

The Prep: The instructions refer to “steamed rice.” Almost every reference you will find in a cook book, or on the internet defines this as adding 1 to 1.5 cups of water to 1 cup of rice (depending on type of rice), bring it to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. This rice is unacceptable for making sake. Rice for sake is prepared by rinsing the rice thoroughly, soaking the rice for an hour or so in cold water, draining, then steaming it in a basket above the boiling water for 15 minutes. This produces a translucent, al dente rice grain with the proper kind of structure to hold the koji-kin mold, and allow access to the starches without turning into a sloppy, gloppy mess.

Now let’s talk about the water. You think water is important for beer? Water is crucial for making sake.  No iron or chlorine can be present, or the sake is ruined. You can make this same argument for beer as well, but beer is much more forgiving of water quality (in terms of mineral content) than sake is. So the best water to use is distilled water that has some salts—magnesium chloride (Epsom salt), potassium chloride (KCl)—and yeast nutrient added to it.

OK. If you’re still with me after just barely covering those basics—and believe me, I’ve condensed about 14 pages of details so far—now we finally get to the overview of the actual process.

Koji: The koji is made by steaming 3.5 cups or so of short grain rice. Once this is cooled, you inoculate it with the koji kin spores. The inoculated rice is then incubated at 35.5˚C (96˚F). The rice is held at this temp for 48 hours, and has to be stirred, or broken up every 10 hours, or it will form one solid useless mat. Once you’ve prepared the koji, you can store it in the fridge (for a few weeks), freeze it (for a few months) of dry it for long term storage.

Incubating the koji
You are now ready to start making your Sake. I will label each stage with the Japanese word for the process:

Moto (analogous to the yeast starter)

Combine 2.5 cups of water that has been amended with the yeast nutrient and Epsom salts and a half-cup of koji, and put it in the fridge. Steam 1.5 cups of rice, and combine it with the koji mixture from the fridge in your fermenter—a 5-gallon bucket works best. After two days (and lots of stirring) this is cooled to 50-60˚F, and you add the sake yeast. Tweve hours later, bring it back to room temp and stir twice a day for three days. Chill it back down to 50-60˚F and let it rest for 5 days.

Hatsuzoe – First addition

The fermentables are added in steps in order to build up the alcohol slowly and avoid shocking the yeast. Add another cup of koji to the fermenter, and steam 2.5 cups of rice. Add 1.25tsp KCl to 2.75 cups water and combine with the steamed rice. Stir it up to break up the any clumps, and add it to the fermenter. Now the fermentation is maintained at 70˚F. This is stirred every 2 hours for the next 12 hours, then twice a day for the next two days. 

Nakazoe – Second Addition

Do the same thing with 1.5 cups koji, 6 cups rice, 8.75 cups cold water, but only stir after the first 12 hours. 

Tomezoe – The Final Addition

Add three cups of koji to the fermenter, steam 5 pounds (dry weight) of rice, combine it with 1 gallon + 1 cup of water. Once you’ve stirred all the clumps out, add it to the fermenter. Each addition—the Hatsuzoe, Nakazoe, and Tomezoe—double the volume of your fermentation. It should be at about 3.5 gallons now. Stir it. Stir it good. Let this sit at room temp (70F) overnight. Then, lower the temperature of fermentation to 50F and let ferment for three weeks. This will complete the primary fermentation, and produce 18-20% alcohol. 

When primary fermentation is complete, strain out the lees and rice solids using cheesecloth or a straining bag. Secondary fermentation can take place in a glass carboy at this point, since you don’t need access for stirring or adding rice or koji, etc. You have a few options here: You can dilute the sake to whatever alcohol level you want; you can sweeten it with another dose of rice and koji (OK, I just said you don’t need to add any more rice or koji, but this is your choice); you can bottle it right away for a nigorizake or cloudy style sake; or you can fine it and let it clear. Another two weeks in the secondary should finish things up, and then it’s time for packaging, consumption and/or pasteurization. Unpasteurized sake can easily sour, as all the opening and stirring allows lacto bacteria and other organisms to get in. I have had good luck bottling in capped bottles, and running the bottles through the dishwasher for sanitizing.

Having said all this, I am only now starting into my first sake. I have made my koji, and will shortly begin making the moto. I can post follow-ups on my progress and experiences along the way, if anybody is interested. Below is a list of online resources I found and used in my sake research and writing this article:

Stay tuned to The Buzz for more updates on the sake-making process!

The Primetime Brewers are a West Michigan homebrew club, based in Grand Rapids. Members include first time brewers to national award winners. They are an American Homebrewers Association sanctioned club. They participate in AHA functions, such as Learn to Homebrew Day, Big Brew and Mead Day. Dues are $15 for the first year and $20 after that. Membership in Primetime Brewers gets you 10% off homebrew supplies from our local vendors, including Siciliano's Market. Check this website for times and dates of meetings and functions. You do not have to be a member to attend meetings.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

New Beer Friday, February 8 Edition

A common stop in Hey Kevin's wandering
By Chris Siciliano

Before we get to talking beer, I have one small announcement regarding The Buzz. Starting with next week's edition of New Beer Friday, Siciliano's imaginary friend and one-time "advice" columnist Hey Kevin will be stepping in to write the weekly preamble (that's what we call this little intro thing). The arrangement will be temporary, lasting only as long as Kevin decides not to wander off into the wilds of Northern Michigan or rural Pennsylvania, which he has a tendency to do.

Why the change? No specific reason. Sometimes it's just makes sense to switch things up, especially in a long-running weekly series like New Beer Friday. A fresh perspective, that kind of thing. Speaking of fresh perspectives, here's Kevin's advice for men who are embarrassed by their love for fruit beer. It's fitting to refer to it now, given that at least one delicious fruit concoction appears on this week's list of new arrivals. Dogfish Head Noble Rot anyone?

New (and Returning) Beer

  • New Belgium Dig, $1.69/12oz - "Sorachi Ace hops provides a fresh Spring zing with incredible lemon aroma. Nelson Sauvin is next in line with bursts of passion fruit, mango and peach. American favorites, Cascade and Centennial round out this crisp, clean Pale Ale. Dig in!" (source).
  • Rogue Roguenbier Rye, $7.39/22oz - "Brewed using nine ingredients and is made up of 100% Rogue hops, barley and rye: Rogue Dream Rye; Rogue Black, Rogue Smoked, Rogue Caramel 40 and Rogue Barley Farm Dare and Risk malts; Rogue Hopyard Independent Hops; Free Range Coastal Water and Weizen Yeast" (source).
  • Arcadia Barrel-aged Cereal Killer, $7.79/12oz (1 bottle/person) - "A 22-month aged barleywine, brewed in English-style tradition, full-bodied with robust malty flavors like caramel, toffee, molasses and dark fruit notes, subtle citrus finish from the hops. Cellar-aging evolves the flavor into a sherry-like aroma" (source).
  • Arcadia Barrel-aged Imperial Stout, $7.79/12oz (1 bottle/person) - "A 22 month aged Imperial Stout with a rich mouth feel, aroma consists of dark roasted malts and blackstrap molasses with a hint of smoke, flavor notes of coffee, bittersweet cocoa, black licorice and hints of prune. A generous addition of hops provides complexity and an astringent finish" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Noble Rot, $14.39/22oz - "A sort of Saison, fermented with Botrytis-infected Viognier and Pinot Gris grapes. This beer is brewed with Pils malt, organic Hard Red Winter Wheat malt, Warrior hops, Willamette hops, Liberty hops, Saison yeast and Botrytis wine must" (source).
  • Dogfish Head 75 Minutes IPA, $13.19/22oz (1 bottle/person) - "Johnny Cask has entered the building! We’ve retrofitted a 15 barrel tank to perfectly produce a very special cask conditioned ale (so, we have a little time to play around during winters at the Delaware coast). This beer, known as Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA is a blend of 60 and 90 Minute IPAs with a special whole leaf cascade dry-hopping session. Post-hopping the beer gest transferred into firkins and dosed with fresh yeast and maple syrup from the ole family homestead (actually the first batch will be re-fermented with maple syrup from the farm up the road from ours since ours won’t be ready until late March" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Immort Ale, $4.09/12oz (1 bottle/person) - "Vast in character, luscious & complex. Brewed with peat-smoked barley, this strong ale is brewed with organic juniper berries, vanilla & maple syrup. It’s aged on oak and fermented with a blend of English & Belgian yeasts" (source).
  • Sixpoint 3Beans, $3.59/12oz - "Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans... and put them in one vessel. The beans of bygone brewers, united with cacao and coffee, to create a trinity of roasted, rich, and savory flavors" (source).
  • Short's Goodnight Bodacious, $2.19/12oz (1 6-pack/person) - "Goodnight Bodacious rollicks back and forth between the maltiness of a barleywine and the hoppiness of an Imperial IPA. We call it a Double Black India Pale Ale because Double India Black Ale is not yet a recognized category of craft beer for labeling purposes. As you raise a glass, you’ll note that the color is of such unyielding blackness that it will block out even the brightest light of day. It’s also a beer with bite, thanks to our use of four different American hop varieties. Goodnight Bodacious lures you in with its rich, big body and a subtle, prowling bitterness that finally sends you to bed with a warming finish" (source).
  • Short's Good Humans, $1.99/12oz - "Dry hopped double brown ale" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Estate Harvest, $8.99/22oz - "This is one of the only estate-made ales available in the world today. Produced with hops and barley produced on the premises of our brewery in Chico, this ale reflects the flavors of our surroundings in California’s fertile central valley. By growing out own ingredients, we ensure the finest two-row barley and the freshest hops on earth, from the field and into the brew kettle" (source).
  • Widmer Brothers Omission Gluten-Free Pale Ale, $1.79/12oz - "Bold and hoppy, Omission Pale Ale is a hop-forward American Pale Ale, brewed to showcases the Cascade hop profile. Amber in color, Omission Pale Ale’s floral aroma is complemented by caramel malt body, making for a delicious gluten-free craft beer" (source).
  • Widmer Brothers Omission Gluten-Free Lager, $1.79/12oz - "Omission Lager is a refreshing and crisp beer, brewed in the traditional lager style. Perfect for a variety of beer drinking occasions, Omission Lager’s aromatic hop profile offers a unique, easy-drinking gluten-free beer for those looking for a lighter and approachable beer style" (source).
Picture of the Week

Greg & Doug, obviously hard at work.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

National Homebrew Day, Big Brew Update

By Steve Siciliano

Image courtesy of the AHA
Picture the following: It’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon in early May at an outdoor venue in downtown Beer City, USA. The tulips are in bloom and the canopies of the urban trees are exploding in bright spring colors. The sweet aroma of boiling wort emanating from forty-eight batches of “Beer City IPA” is wafting through the downtown streets. At precisely 1 p.m., the assemblage pauses to join in a simultaneous, country-wide toast to the enriching hobby of homebrewing.

A few weeks ago we announced that on Saturday, May 4, 2013, Siciliano’s Market will help celebrate National Homebrew Day by sponsoring an American Homebrewers Association “Big Brew.” We are in the process of securing a downtown Grand Rapids location for this celebration and the venue will be announced as soon as the paperwork is finalized. In the meantime, here are a few pertinent details:

  • Siciliano’s will be donating all the ingredients for forty-eight all-grain batches of “Beer City IPA.” We have been in contact with homebrew clubs in Asheville, North Carolina, to determine if they have an interest in brewing a similar recipe at a Big Brew in their area.
  • You do not have to be a Siciliano’s customer or a current member of the AHA in order to participate. We will make every effort to include, in some capacity, anyone who wishes to take part in this celebration. Volunteers will also be needed to pass out homebrewing literature, aid in clean up, etc. 
We feel that a Big Brew in a highly visible, downtown location would be a great way to begin generating media buzz for the 2014 AHA national convention that is coming to our city in 2014. Please join us in making this a celebration worthy of our “Beer City, USA” moniker, and in showing the area, the state, and the country that West Michigan has a vibrant homebrewing community. 

Stay tuned to The Buzz for more information.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Becoming Enriched Through Homebrewing

A homebrewer weighs out grain at Siciliano's
By Steve Siciliano

Recently I’ve been reflecting about how inadequate the word “hobby” is when it is applied to the activity of homebrewing. Merriam-Webster defines a hobby as “a pursuit outside’s one’s normal occupation that is engaged in for relaxation.” While that may be a suitable definition for some leisurely pursuits, I would argue that activities such as homebrewing are practiced for much more substantial reasons and thus deserve to be defined in a much broader context.

In the daily grind of our lives there are things that we have to do and others that we choose to do. The things that we have to do—our jobs, our responsibilities, our commitments—tend to sap our energy and chip away at our essence. The process of constantly performing mundane duties denatures us in the same way that the processing of wheat into white flour results in the loss of essential nutrients. The things we choose to do on the other hand—our leisurely pursuits, our hobbies—add things back. They rebuild our psyches and feed our souls. They enrich us.

During my years of selling homebrew supplies, I have watched countless folks get consumed by the process of homebrewing. It becomes embedded in their psyches. They embrace it like a religion and it becomes an integral part of their being. They become passionate about brewing and are eager for others to share in that passion. The activity of brewing helps to define who they are. “I’m a homebrewer,” they proudly announce to anyone who will listen. Perhaps “enrichment” would be a more appropriate term for any activity that has the fundamental ability to accomplish that.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Tuesday Review: Super Sunday Edition

In advance of today's big game, staffer Doug Dorda offers up a review featuring two beers you might not otherwise expect to see on the blog. However, it makes sense when you begin to consider the game's long tradition of great beer commercials.

By Doug Dorda

Let's be perfectly honest with ourselves—advertising works. No doubt a billboard, print ad, or high-gloss brochure has enticed each and every one of us to seek out a product, try a restaurant, or visit someplace we would have otherwise passed over. This Sunday, the majority of the American populace will find themselves unified in the viewing of the year's greatest sporting event, which is not only a showcase of two talented teams, but also the time when major brands unveil new marketing campaigns by way of often extravagant commercials.

We all the know the routine—go to the party, gorge on hand-held food items sure to make cholesterol levels spike, and share libations in the embrace of kith and kin. It is in the spirit of this shared experience that we come together as a nation, be it only superficially in a way, and are able to say that we all did the same thing at exactly the same time.

Personally, I love the tradition of the big game. I love having all of my friends around me, I love the dips and chips, I love the excessive volume levels, but most of all, I love the beer. Blessed are those occasions that allow us to simply say, “Yeah, one more, sure, it's (insert holiday or special occasion here)!” I also happen to love the commercials. Though I feel they have lacked for the past few years, one can not deny the majesty of Betty White making her grand come-back via snickers campaign of 2010.

This year, the two things I happen to love most about the Big Game are slated to come together again. You guessed it, beer and commercials. Two of the beers I suspect will do battle on TV tonight might also battle for a slot in our mixed six-packs before the game even starts. They are Budweiser's Black Crown, and Sapphire, released by Becks.

The advertising for these two worked its magic on me before I even saw their commercials, and as such I am sure that many of you will be intrigued to try them as well. At a recent gathering of friends, I cracked each of the two bottles and received a consensus from a sample group that included professional brewers, lovers of craft beer, and novices to beer alike. This is what we had to say:

Of Beck's Sapphire ($1.49/12oz), the group felt the beer to be of a medium body with a smooth finish. There was an interesting semi-sweet note that was picked up, and thought to be a contribution of the sapphire hop that affords the beer its namesake. Our group thought the beer was greatly approachable as well as heartily drinkable, especially considering that it weighs in at 6% ABV.

With regard to Budweiser Black Crown ($1.39/12oz), here the group could not help but remark on the beautiful amber color that the beer pours. It is also important to note that everyone who tasted was able to pick up on a significantly mightier malt note than in any other Bud offering. Having said that though, it was generally felt that the beer tasted like a beefier counterpart to Bud Heavy. It, again, weighs in at 6% ABV.

Knowing our customers, I am relatively certain that some of you would like to try these beers either before or after today's big game. The above reviews are simply meant to offer an inkling of what you might expect from the beers in question. And for awesome commercials from previous games, click here.

Friday, February 1, 2013

New Beer Friday, February 1st Edition

By Chris Siciliano

A week ago today we received news that had ranked Siciliano's Market the number one beer grocer in the United States. As cool as that is, what's cooler still is hearing (in person) and seeing (via social media) the tremendous amount of well wishes that came in from customers and friends.

Beer rankings are one thing—something we indeed take seriously. But to know that many of our patrons honestly feel as proud as we do of all the accolades, well, that's something special. We could not have a finer clientele, and we want you to know that if this recognition means anything, it's that we intend to double down on our efforts to provide the most enjoyable, the most convenient, and the most informative beer and homebrew shopping experience that we can.

The way we see it, a number one ranking is not the prize for a race well run; it's the point to begin proving to everyone that the ranking is correct. With that in mind, here's the latest beers to arrive on our shelves.

New (and Returning) Beer

  • Bells Smitten Golden Rye, $1.69/12oz (one 6-pack/person) - "With wonderfully bitter citrus notes, resinous hop flavors and earthy overtones, this interesting take on the American Pale Ale doesn’t leave a lot of room to wonder if you’ll love it" (source).
  • RJ Rockers Fish Paralyzer, $8.99/22oz - "Fish Paralyzer is a Belgian-style pale ale that is moderately hopped with Tradition and Saaz. The grain bill calls for a combination of specialty malt to produce its sweetness and copper color. The Belgian Ale yeast used provides a strong Belgian essence to Phenolic and spicy flavors and aromas" (source).
  • RJ Rockers Rock Hopper IPA, $8.99/22oz - "This ninety-minute west coast-style IPA has nine hop additions of Warrior and Amarillo and comes in at a whopping 90 IBUs. A tongue-twisting treat for the hophead in all of us!" (source).
  • RJ Rockers Patriot Pale Ale, $2.19/12oz - "Our American pale ale is aggressively hopped with Challenger and Cascade and has a sweet caramel finish. The flavor that launched RJ Rockers – and brewer Mark Johnsen’s personal fave" (source).
  • Herrmannsdorfer Schweinsbrau Dunkel, $5.39/17oz - No description available...yet. Please feel free to contribute your own. Email!
  • Herrrmannsdorfer Schweinsbrau Gold, $5.39/17oz - "No description available...yet. Please feel free to contribute your own. Email!
  • Herrmannsdorfer Schweinsbrau Weiss, $5.39/17oz - "No description available...yet. Please feel free to contribute your own. Email!
  • Harpoon Celtic Red, $1.49/12oz - "
  • Breckenridge Pandoras Bock, $1.99/12oz - "This Irish-style ale features a deep amber color, a smooth, malty, and complex flavor with a moderate hop finish. Our tribute to the classic Irish red ales, Hibernian Ale is the perfect beer for all your St. Patrick’s celebrations" (source).
  • Sam Adams Alpine Spring, $1.59/12oz - "Samuel Adams Alpine Spring is yet another addition to the brewery’s Small Batch series. For this entry, Sammy & Co used the more traditional labeling. Starting in late October, you’ll see the first of the Small Batch hit the market – Tasman Red, Third Voyage, Griffin’s Bow, The Vixen. (Vixen just won GABF gold.) This unfiltered lager is perfect for spring. Noble Tettnang hops, grown in the foothills of the Alps, give the brew a bright citrus and floral aroma flavor. These are balanced by the slightly sweet crisp notes of two-row pale and honey malts" (source).
  • Great Lakes Conways Irish Ale, $1.79/12oz - "A malty beer with a notable toasty flavor derived from lightly roasted malt. Slight fruit and hop accents add to the overall complexity. Available Mid-January to late March" (source).
  • Arbor Framboozled, $18.19/750ml (1 bottle/person) - "Framboozled is our Strawberry Blonde aged for 9 months in a gueuze-innoculated oak barrel, re-fermented for a couple of months with real raspberries, and then bottle conditioned" (source).
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If you're ever in Detroit...