|Sam Siciliano, the Boss' late father|
My father started working at Siciliano’s Market back when the store still had fountain pop, to-go coffee, a hot dog rotisserie and a lotto machine. That was about sixteen years ago. I was just starting to carry a scattering of homebrewing supplies and a few craft beers, but in those days we were more apt to sell a bag of chips and a jumbo of Budweiser rather than a bag of dry malt or a 22-ounce bottle of Solsun. They were the lean years. I was working twelve hour days, and since my father had recently retired and could use some extra cash, it seemed like a win-win situation for him to open the store for me four days a week.
For awhile it was. As soon as I got to the store on the days he worked he would go off to the back room and put away the previous day’s bottle and can returns. The first time I handed him his pay he counted it carefully.
“What’s the matter, pop,” I said. “Don’t you trust me?”
The next week I intentionally shorted him. He counted the bills, looked up at me, and then counted them again. After counting them a third time, he fanned them down on the counter and tapped at them with his plump, slightly deformed index finger.
Before retiring, Sam Siciliano was a furniture springer and then later an upholsterer. He worked in a factory during the day and for a few hours each night he did side jobs in his cramped Michigan basement. It was probably the forty plus years of pulling and tying twine and cutting thick fabric with heavy shears that caused the tip of his right index finger to curve at a forty-five degree angle. Because of that finger, he was never very fast at running the cash register, and that got to be a problem as the store grew busier.
“I think it’s time we make a change, pop,” I told him one day after handing him his pay.
“Are you canning me?” he asked.
“No, pop. You’ve got a job here as long as you want.”
After that day his main job at the store was putting bottle and can returns away. On light days he would take out the trash and vacuum. Over the years I watched him age. As he grew older I noticed how hard it was for him to bend down, how he was moving more slowly, how he had to sit and rest more often. One day when I walked into the back room I saw him sitting down while separating the returns.
“I think it’s time we make a change, pop,” I told him a week later.
“Are you canning me?”
“No, pop. You’ve got a job here as long as you want. I just think it’s time we get you a little help.”
He continued working but he never thought that just cleaning and vacuuming were enough to earn his pay. “Payday again?’ he began saying every time I handed him the bills. “Thanks for carrying me.”
“I’m not carrying you, pop.”
He continued even after the spot on his tongue was diagnosed as cancer. One time when I walked into the warehouse I saw him sitting and staring at the wall. I watched him for a few moments then softly closed the door and left him alone with his thoughts.
He finally stopped coming to the store when the chemo and radiation made him so weak he couldn’t drive. Each time I visited him it seemed that he had gotten a little older, a little weaker, a little more frail. “How’s the store doing, Steve?” he never failed to ask me during those visits. “It’s doing good, pop,” I would always answer.
“I’m glad. You and Barb work hard.”
A few weeks ago Barb told me that she was having a hard time remembering the sound of her mother’s voice. That happens after someone you’ve been close to has been gone for awhile. But I’m going to do my best to delay the inevitable with my father. And so sometimes when I have a free moment at the store, I mentally repeat like a mantra the words he spoke to me so often while he was dying.
“How’s the store doing, Steve?”
“It’s doing good, pop. It’s doing good.”
New (and Returning) Beers
- New Holland Four Witches Black Saison, $8.19/22oz - "The Four Witches art, illustrated by Kyle Bice, develops on Golden Cap’s theme, with a nod to Wizard of Oz, as L. Frank Baum wrote the book while summering in Holland, MI. White and dark roasted wheat provide deceptively delicious body, and a playful reference to Oz’s contrast between good and wicked witches. Caramel rye and barley continue the story, along with a unique yeast character and mild spicing" (source).
- New Holland Black Hatter, $4.79/22oz - "A blackened version of Mad Hatter brewed with black malt for a dark, roasty sweetness to the base of the flavor profile. Finishes with a strong Centennial hop character from dry hopping" (source).
- New Holland Farmhouse Hatter, $4.79/22oz - "Fermentation character from Belgian-born yeast, envelopes bright hop character with a spicy, tart farmhouse funk" (source).
- New Holland Oak Aged Hatter, $4.79/22oz - "Mad Hatter aged in Kentucky barrels. Round, smooth wood character brings a new dimension to dry-hopped, aromatic hoppiness" (source).
- New Holland Michigan Hatter, $4.79/22oz - "Michigan Hatter celebrates our local agriculture with its Michigan-grown Cascade hops from the Leelanau Peninsula. Bright and aromatic, with delicious malt notes underneath a citrusy showcase of hops" (source).
- New Holland Rye Hatter, $4.79/22oz - "Rye lends spiciness to the caramel-malt base, while creating a creamy texture. Dry-hopping contributes a fresh citrus finish. Pairings: blue cheese, blackened seafood, herb-roasted poultry" (source).
- Brewery Vivant Contemplation, $3.39/16oz - "Ale Brewed With Michigan Honey & Locally Grown Hops" (source).
- North Peak Archangel Summer Wheat, $2.19/12oz - "A solid American wheat, with a classic nose that transitions to a faint cherry aroma complimenting its rich amber gold hue. As this well-balanced and deceptively light-bodied wheat beer travels across the tongue, the willamette and perle hops hint at bitterness, followed by a crisp, clean wheat flavor that cuts to a subtle tart cherry finish. Asked to describe the flavor of Archangel, the most accurate response is: 'it tastes like more'" (source).
- Mount Pleasant Second Wind Wheat, $1.79/12oz - "Too many times it’s been overheard, I would have another, if only I could catch my second wind? Now there is no excuse. This wonderfully different ale often takes its drinkers by surprise with its complex flavors created by the one of a kind weizen yeast. Its smooth, easy to drink and simply delicious. This gorgeous, medium bodied beer starts out with yeasty character and finishes off, happily, with a delicate spicy flavor. The adventurous will pair this beer up with everything from pizza to a hearty Rueben. Some of our patrons also insist that Second Wind Wheat is our best summertime beer, so pack a few for your next beach visit. Just one sip, and you will understand why some say its sweet summertime in a bottle" (source).
- Dogfish Head Black and Blue, $14.39/22oz - "Black & Blue is golden Belgian Ale made with over 300 lbs of fresh blackberries and blueberries. With a deep purple full body and a long-lasting lacy pink head, this ale is both attractive and delicious! It is tart and fruity, like our brewers! The subtle bitterness of Hallertau and Saaz hops shines through the fruit forward flavor and sets the palate aglow. (30 IBUs). This tasty brew has smooth but noticeable alcohol warmth. Belgian yeast gives this brew a characteristically dry spicy finish. The beautiful interplay of fruit, spice, and alcohol is complimented by a soft malt profile, and a high level of carbonation" (source).
- Left Hand St. Vrain, $10.09/22oz - "Simply admiring our hazy golden Belgian-style Tripel in your wide-rimmed glass doesn’t even begin to reveal its complexity. The spicy aroma that streams upward with hints of wild flower honey and orange blossom is your first clue of the depth of St. Vrain Tripel. The sweetness from the malt makes itself known immediately, progressing to bittersweet honey and dried fruit flavors, and finishing out with the lingering earthiness from the Styrian Golding hops. The warming effect of the 9% ABV is your final indication that the initial simplicity masks St. Vrain’s beautiful intricacy" (source).
- Great Lakes Wright Pils, $1.69/12oz - "A classic pilsner style beer with a flowery bouquet and elegantly dry finish" (source).
- Southern Tier Creme Brulee, $8.19/22oz - "We are not the harbingers of truth as some may suggest but it may indeed be argued that our brewing philosophy is tantamount to a dessert with a bellicose past. How, you may ask, would a brewery determine a likeness to hard-coated custard? Our response is simple; it’s all in the power of history, and of course, the extra finesse needed to top off a contentious treat with definition. By comprehending the labyrinthine movement of time, one would not think it strange to trace the errant path of an ordinary object such as a cream dessert only to discover that it has been the cause of cultural disputes since the middle ages. The British founders of burnt cream and from Spain, crema catalana, both stand by their creative originality and we respect that, but it was the French Crème Brûlée, amid the strife of contention, that survived to represent our deliciously creamy brew" (source).
- Avery 20 XX India Pale Ale, $8.19/22oz - "What else? What else would you expect from us, a bunch of severely hop obsessed brewers, to celebrate such a glorious occasion? Anything other than a massively hopped IPA would be an affront to our rich history of loving excessive use of that beautiful flower, Humulus Lupulus" (source).
Picture of the Week | New Holland Hatter Series
Happy Father's Day
from the Staff at Siciliano's