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Friday, October 25, 2013

New Beer Friday, Cut to the Chase Edition (October 25)

Still life with Luke
By Chris Siciliano

Our apologies for a third straight abbreviated NBF preamble. Truth is, sometimes you just have to let the beer do the talking.

Please enjoy this week's list of new beers along with this photo of Luke. Both the list and Luke are compliments of the Siciliano's, just because we like you.

New and Returning Beer

  • B. Nektar Dwarf Invasion, $8.19/500ml - "This mead is the Non-Imperial version of our Imperial Funky Monky. A smaller mead, but big on flavor. Tart Balaton cherries, honey, and Styrian Golding hops" (source).
  • Rogue Beard Beer, $7.39/22oz - "Beer brewed with yeast taken from the brewmaster John Maier’s beard" (source). Seriously.
  • Atwater Blueberry Cobbler, $2.89/12oz - "Blueberry Cobbler is deceptively complex outing that features bready malts the dryness of fermented blueberries, light vanilla and blueberry aromatics. Strong, yet the flavors play well together" (source).
  • North Peak Hoodoo Midwest Wet Hop IPA, $2.89/12oz - "North Peak Hoodoo Midwest Wet Hop IPA is the first of it’s kind. Brewed with fresh from the farm Michigan hops for exceptional flavor. Hoodoo is hops from start to finish with a little malt in the middle, just enough to keep Hoodoo from going Voodoo on you. not to worry - pretty much nothing but hops" (source).
  • Dark Horse 4 Elf Winter Warmer, $2.09/12oz - "A spiced winter warmer brewed with nutmeg, clove, allspice and other holiday flavors" (source).
  • Goose Island Harvest, $1.69/12oz - "Our latest creation is brewed in the style of a traditional American Extra Special Bitter (ESB). As Summertime fades, the sun shines less bright, and evening comes a little sooner. Harvest time arrives – it’s a time to reap the benefits of a great Summer. Fresh picked cascade hops from Washington and the richest Midwestern malts makes Goose Island Harvest Ale an extra special beer worthy of your devotion" (source).
  • Arbor Espresso Love Breakfast Love, $2.29/12oz - "Oatmeal and 20 pounds of fresh roasted coffee from the Ugly Mug Cafe contribute to a mildly chalky espresso character balanced by a rich, sweet, creamy maltiness. Coffee finish dissolves into chocolate with a slight roasty bitterness" (source).
  • Thirsty Dog Raildog Smoked Black Lager, $1.99/12oz - "Rail Dog was made for the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad's 40th anniversary. It's a crisp, clean lager with plenty of smoke character" (source).
  • Warsteiner Oktoberfest, $1.49/12oz - "A truly German import brewed according to the German Purity Law, as are all Warsteiner beers, in limited quantities especially for Oktoberfest celebrations. This special edition has a well-balanced, mild and smooth taste with a uniquely soft, hoppy aftertaste and 5.9% alcohol.  So bring a bit of Germany with you to your next Oktoberfest celebration and bring a Warsteiner Edition Oktoberfest" (source).
  • Southern Tier Pumking, $7.89/22oz (limit 1 bottle/person) - Pumking is an ode to PĂșca, a creature of Celtic folklore, who is both feared and respected by those who believe in it. PĂșca is said to waylay travelers throughout the night, tossing them on its back, and providing them the ride of their lives, from which they return forever changed. Brewed in the spirit of All Hallows Eve, a time of the year when spirits can make contact with the physical world and when magic is most potent. Pour Pumking into a goblet and allow it’s alluring spirit to overflow. As spicy aromas present themselves, let it’s deep copper color entrance you as your journey into this mystical brew has just begun. As the first drops touch your tongue a magical spell will bewitch your taste buds making it difficult to escape the Pumking" (source).

Event of the Week | Detroit Fall Beer Fest

Is anybody going to this?


Thursday, October 17, 2013

New Beer Friday, ALCS Game 5 Edition (October 18)

"I've got my eye on you, Dirt Wolf."
By Chris Siciliano

Since, like last week, the Detroit Tigers are playing on Thursday night (the time I typically piece together New Beer Friday), I see no other choice than to cut short this week's NBF preamble.

Let's all keep our fingers crossed that these abbreviated introductions continue for at least one more week, which necessitates the Tigers wining two of the next three games against Boston. In the meantime, have a gander at the latest beers (and whiskey) to hit the shelves at Siciliano's.

New and Returning Beers

  • Oskar Blues Ten Fidy, $4.19/12oz - "This titanic, immensely viscous stout is loaded with inimitable flavors of chocolate-covered caramel and coffee and hide a hefty 98 IBUs underneath the smooth blanket of malt. Ten FIDY (10.5% ABV) is made with enormous amounts of two-row malt, chocolate malt, roasted barley, flaked oats and hops. Ten FIDY is the ultimate celebration of dark malts and boundary-stretching beer" (source).
  • Shorts Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, $2.19/12oz (limit 2/person) - "A double Belgian IPA brewed exclusively with galaxy hops. These specialized hops ate loaded with flavors of tangerine and passion fruit" (source).
  • Victory Dirt Wolf, $2.59/12oz - "Wildly assertive, intentionally untamed and dangerously satisfying, DirtWolf Double IPA is the culmination of Victory’s double IPA series experiment with whole flower American-grown hops. With two-row German malts and a well-balanced combination of whole flower Citra, Chinook, Simcoe and Mosaic hops, this 8.7% abv brew blends the powerful citrus aroma and fruity flavors, with the piney, earthy and mildly floral characteristics found in these intriguing hop varieties. Replacing Victory’s Hop Wallop® Ale, which will take a hiatus from the market for the time being, DirtWolf Double IPA will launch the brewery’s entry into four-packs when it begins to hit markets in October". “So a wolf and a prospector walked into a bar…,” joked President and Brewmaster, Bill Covaleski. “No, in all seriousness, Hop Wallop will be missed, but isn’t necessarily gone forever. We developed that brand 10 years ago as our flavorful response to the hop-bomb vogue of the time. But as brewers who enjoy experimenting with beer styles and ingredient varieties, we looked for the opportunity to do other interesting recipes as time passed. Making the decision to put Hop Wallop aside for a few years allows us to bring this delicious new double IPA, DirtWolf, to the market in bottles" (source).
  • Bell's Cherry Stout, $2.69/12oz - "This unique ale begins its life as a powerful and richly sweet stout to which Michigan tart cherries are added. The resulting black brew is complex, sweet and tart with a distinct cherry finish. It will improve with cellaring" (source).
  • Anderson Valley Winter Solstice, $2.19/12oz bottle, $1.99/12oz cans - "Each year, when people are starting to unpack their winter clothes and replenish their firewood, our tiny brewery in the coastal redwoods of Northern California makes seasonal preparations of a different kind. As the cold arrives, we release a unique beverage created to add warmth to even the coldest and darkest of winter's days. Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale begins with a very high original gravity to create a hearty and spicy brew with a deep amber hue and a smooth finish. Anderson Valley Brewing Company wishes you the very best for the holiday season and the New Year" (source).
  • Big Sky Powder Hound Winer Ale, $1.69/12oz - "Powder Hound is our Winter Ale, and since it is our own creation we call it a Northern Rockies Strong Ale. Powder Hound satisfies, with the fine hand selected British hops fully complimenting the smooth malt notes. After a day on the ice or in the snow, enjoy a Powder Hound Winter Ale" (source).
  • VanderGhinste Oud Bruin, $4.49/12oz - "VanderGhinste Old Brown in 1892 was originally called "old triple" and was the first beer that Omer Vander Ghinste on the market. It is a South West Flemish brown beer of mixed fermentation that is typical for this region. As basic ingredients for VanderGhinste Oud Bruin is used malted barley, wheat, caramel malt, hops and water. Creates a top-fermented beer made. By cutting this beer with beer of spontaneous fermentation, at least 18 months old, aged in oak barrels (= foeders), one obtains this specific South West Flemish Red-brown beer . The typical flavor is characterized by a harmonious balance of fruitiness of high fermentation with the gentle acidity of spontaneous fermentation beers and has a pronounced thirst quenching and refreshing aftertaste. VanderGhinste Old Brown belongs to the HORARB (Supreme Council for the authentic Flemish Red-brown beers) and strive for a European recognition after this type Reddish brown beers" (source).
  • Two Beers Pumpkin Spice Ale, $7.19/22oz - "One of our fall seasonal beers, brewed in true small batch tradition. This beer is brewed with pumpkin, nutmeg, clove, allspice and cinnamon" (source).

Whiskey of the Week

  • New Holland Bill's Michigan Wheat, $39.26/750ml - "This wheat whiskey is distilled from wheat grown and malted in our home state of Michigan. Its biscuity sweet malt and toasty character is an homage to craft distilling icon, Bill Owens" (source).

Friday, October 11, 2013

New Beer Friday, Abbreviated Preamble Edition (Oct 11)

By Chris Siciliano

Due to the 8:07 p.m. Thursday night start of the American League Divisional Series game 5, featuring the Detroit Tigers (hooray!) and the Oakland A's (boooo!), your regularly scheduled New Beer Friday preamble will not be written at its regular time.

Tune in next Friday when we return to regularly scheduled NBF preamble programing. In the meantime, please enjoy the this week's list of new beers, and go Tigers!

Update: Tigers Win!

New and Returning Beers at Siciliano's

  • Arbor Buzzsaw, $2.29/12oz - "A big, bold hop-forward west coast style IPA. The malt character is subdued to showcase a blend of Simcoe, Amarillo, and Centennial Hops creating a lingering dry finish with notes of pine, grapefruit, and apricot" (source).
  • Dark Horse One Oatmeal Stout, $2.09/12oz - "Number one in a series of five stouts produced for the fall and winter seasons. This beer is full bodied with hints of chocolate, roasted barley, coffee flavors and a nice creamy head" (source).
  • Goose Island Pepe Nero, $3.19/12oz - "A black rye saison that combines a roasted/smoky malt character in balance with a pepper spice from the yeast. Finishes dry with a refreshing level of carbonation" (source).
  • New Holland Hopivore, $2.39/12oz - "Michigan grown hops are the story in this seasonal harvest ale. Hopivore is wet-hopped with hops added to the brew just hours after harvest, creating rare, fresh flavors" (source).
  • New Holland El Mole Ocho, $8.19/22oz - "Our exploration into the flavors of mole, the legendary sauce of central Mexico. Malty aroma and rich, cocoa-laden body laced with an invigorating tinge of dried chilies and coffee" (source).
  • Thirsty Dog Barktoberfest, $2.89/12oz - "A traditional old world German Oktoberfest made with German grains, yeast and hops" (source).
  • Greenbush Unicorn Killer, $2.19/12oz - "Flavored ale brewed with pumpkin and spices" (source).
  • Morte Subite Kriek, $6.49/375ml - "The Kriek Mort Subite is brewed according to the ancestral lambic recipe. This original Belgian beer ferments spontaneously. Enriched with cherries, it matures soft and slowly in oaken casks. To be served cool" (source).
  • Morte Subite Framboise, $6.49/375ml - "Pale orangey/pink colour with a semi-hazy appearance; earthy fresh raspberry aromas with notes of cider and rye bread; quite flavourful; a smooth creamy mouthful of earthy/woody malt and sweet raspberries essence with a refreshingly tart acid finish" (source).
  • Fullers Honey Dew, $5.09/16.9oz - "Served chilled, Organic Honey Dew offers both refreshment and an unbeatable taste. The real organic honey in the brew gives a gentle sweetness that appeals to a wide range of people, even those who perhaps wouldn’t usually drink beer, making it a very popular choice!" (source).
  • Fullers Black Cab Stout, $5.09/16.9oz - "Brewed with a combination of five different malts, some heavily roasted for a near jet black appearance, and beneath its dark exterior features luxurious red berry notes, toasty aromas on the nose and culminates in a dry, bitter finish" (source).
  • Big Sky Biere De Noel, $15.79/750ml - "A strong Belgian-style dark ale, brewed in small quantities for the holidays" (source).
  • Shorts Curl, $1.99/12oz - "Brewed with 40% more ingredients to bump any ordinary pilsner to an imperial level. We hop the kettle four times, using a good amount of Amarillo hops to balance the malty sweetness from the pilsen malt and lots of flaked maze. At 7.5% ABV and 50 Bittering Units, this beer is still very quaffable and packed full of flavor thanks to the help of our house American lager yeast. This beer was brewed upon the request of every ones favorite beer tender, Jeremy “the curl” VanSice. 50 IBU's" (source).

Picture of the Week 

Old Fitzgerald whiskey bottles barrels behind
Griffin Claw Brewing Company in Birmingham, Michigan


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Odd Side Ales Mayan Mocha Stout: A Review

Eric Traver is a craft beer enthusiast and accomplished homebrewer. Winner of a gold medal in Siciliano's 2013 Homebrew Competition, he lives and brews in Clarkson, Michigan. Read more of his writing on his blog,

Odd Side Mayan Mocha Stout
By Eric Traver

This past summer I had the opportunity to travel west to a grand Michigan town that offers a safe haven to boaters and vacationers along the picturesque Lake Michigan shoreline. This town, aptly named Grand Haven, is home to Odd Side Ales, a brewery known for churning out some of the great eccentric beers being produced today.

As I set out on my cross-state journey, I was eager to check Odd Side off my "to visit" list of Michigan breweries. (It should be noted that with new breweries popping up everyday, crossing every brewery off my list will be no easy feat to accomplish). The unfortunate thing about this story is that while in Grand Haven to visit friends, I never had the chance to make it into the ex-piano-factory-turned-brew-pub to sample their offerings. No matter. I knew my path would soon cross again with Odd Side's.

The place we met was a bottle of their Mayan Mocha Stout ($2.19/12oz at Siciliano's). This stout is brewed with coffee, cinnamon, nutmeg and habaneros, a combination of ingredients that intrigued me. It seemed to be an uncommon but perfect combination for a cool autumn evening nestled up with a bowl of hearty venison chili. Being a homebrewer, I have been greatly influenced by other brewers who use unique combinations of ingredients—Short’s and Dogfish Head come readily to mind—and I have come to appreciate brewers who take risks. Let’s dig into the risk that Odd Side took to create a stout that is spicy in more ways than one.

Mayan Mocha Stout pours black, as in no-light-shall-pass black, with a thick dark tan head that holds up for a short time. Roasted barley and coffee take the lead in the aroma department as expected from an American stout. The spices and pepper were not prominent in the aroma, which I like, and I’ll let you know why shortly. The first sip is like a dance to the Mayan Gods in your mouth. The combination of coffee and cinnamon mixed with the carbonation level and the mild sting from the habanero peppers is hugely surprising. The aroma completely hides the complexity of the beer until it rests upon your taste buds. It is this surprise which is what makes this beer so enjoyable. And don’t let the habaneros scare you away. The sting only lasts momentarily paving the way for the lingering flavor of coffee and vanilla.

Pair this complex beer with a bowl of spicy chili or a pulled pork sandwich. I guarantee you will not be disappointed, and don’t be afraid to drop an unmarked pint of this on one of your stout loving friends. It will surely catch them off guard and leave them wanting more.

Odd Side Ales Mayan Mocha Stout is available at Siciliano's Market for $2.19/12oz.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Winexpert Limited Edition Kits Now Available for Pre-Order

By Steve Siciliano 

Each year Winexpert releases five unique, super-premium wine kits that are not part of the company's regular portfolio. These kits are available only on a pre-order basis and are released during the first four months of the year.

We are now taking orders for the 2013 Limited Edition offerings. The following are the individual varieties along with the respective pricing and release dates. Complete descriptions are available at

    • South African Shiraz Cabernet with grape skins, $178.95 – Available January
    • South African Chenin Blanc Roussanne, $147.95 – Available January 
    • Pacific Quartet, $147.95 – Available February
    • Oregon Pinot Noir, $153.95 – Available March
    • Red Mountain, Washington Cabernet Merlot, $153.95 – Available April 
Please note that we must receive pre-orders by Sunday, December 8, 2013 either by phone (616-453-9674), email ( or, of course, in person at the store.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday Musings: Classic October Weekend

Crushing grapes for wine, more fun
than raking leaves
By Steve Siciliano

Well it was a mixed bag for sports fans in the Great Beer State over the weekend. The Tigers did take one of two out in Oakland in the AL Division Series but losing that Saturday night game 1–0 isn’t a good sign for a team that’s been struggling with its offense. The Spartans and the Wolverines won but the Lions lost to the Packers for the twenty-third straight time in Wisconsin. I’m sure the Redwings played, but I have no clue how they did and really have no desire to look. Just can’t get into hockey during the first week of October.

The weekend weather was also a sack of diverse elements. The Sunday afternoon rain was perfect—it provided a good accompaniment for napping and Lions watching and it came down just hard enough and long enough to assuage any feelings of guilt about not raking up the steadily accumulating falling leaves. Saturday would have been a good day for yard work, but Barb and I were busy helping the steady stream of folks who showed up behind the store to take advantage of the free use of our wine and cider making equipment. It sure was a lot more fun than raking.

Just a reminder—this Saturday, October 12, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., will be the last time this season that our wine- and cider-making equipment (crushers and presses) will be available free of charge.

Also this Saturday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. the folks from Vander Mill Cider will be setting up in the parking lot behind the store to sell fresh squeezed cider. According to Paul Vander Heide, the unpasteurized, non-sulfated cider is a blend of Jonathan, golden, gala and Ida red with a PH of 3.5 and a brix between 12 and 14.

Price of the cider will be $3.50 per gallon. Please bring cash and your own containers.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

New Beer Friday, Big Weekend Edition (October 4)

By Chris Siciliano

Just in case the 20 beers gracing this week's edition of New Beer Friday aren't enough to keep you occupied for the next few days, we're also passing along news of two great events happening this weekend in West Michigan. The first is Brewery Vivant's 3rd Annual Wood-Aged Beer Festival, described thusly on their Facebook page:
[Wood-Aged Beer Fest] is back and bigger than ever. It's our fall gathering celebrating 20+ Wood Aged and Sour beers! Expect old favorites and newcomers alike, along with fantastic festival style eats from the Vivant kitchen. This is the big one folks, not to be missed.
The cost for the festival is $10.00/person payable at the door. It's a small price to pay for the chance to mingle with friends over some of Vivant's finest beers.

Now, if barrel-aged suds don't tickle your fancy, we suggest you attend Vander Fest 2013 in Spring Lake, Michigan, instead. This annual celebration of cider is...
...a very unique festival for Michigan. We feature more Michigan ciders than most other festivals you might attend. We also require our brewing participants to bring with them a sepcialty product that they design just for our festival. All of these specialty beers will either contain cider, or have a similar fall theme to them. The food that we offer you is like no other festival you have experienced. We are bringing some of the highest quality crafted food that Michigan has to offer. You aren't going to find "typical festival food" here.
Among the cideries participating in Vander Fest this year are Vander Mill, Sietsema, Virtue, Robinettes, Tandem and many others. To see the complete list of cideries and breweries attending the festival, visit the Vander Fest Facebook page, where you'll also find instructions for purchasing tickets.

New and Returning Beer (and Cider)

  • Virtue Sidra de Nava, $21.59/750ml - "Virtue’s Sidra de Nava is more tart than the dry ciders of England or funky cidre from France. It’s lemony nose and bracingly tart dry finish are a happy intersection of cider, dry white wine and fresh squeezed lemonade. It’s the most refreshing of drinks, pure sunshine in a glass" (source).
  • Green Flash West Coast IPA, $2.89/12oz, $6.19/22oz - "This West Coast-Style India Pale Ale is extravagantly hopped, full flavored, medium bodied and copper colored. A menagerie of hops is combined throughout the brewing process to impart specific characteristics. Hops used include Simcoe for a unique fruitiness and grapefruit zest, Columbus for strong hop pungency, Centennial for pine and citrus notes, and Cascade for floral aroma" (source).
  • Green Flash Green Bullet, $3.59/12oz, $8.99/22oz - "A full-bodied Triple IPA, Green Bullet combines New Zealand grown Pacific Gem and Green Bullet hops. Significant pine and citrus hoppiness hit the palate at first sip, accentuated by tropical notes of mango and pineapple, ending with a moderately aggressive, bitter finish" (source).
  • Green Flash Le Freak, $7.99/22oz - "Le Freak is a modern ale created by converging two beer styles, Belgian Trippel and American Imperial IPA. The use of two yeast strains further marries the styles and American hops give the beer its modern flare" (source).
  • Green Flash Imperial IPA, $6.79/22oz - "San Diego-style IPA, as it has come to be known by many, is a super-hoppy, high gravity, yet highly quaffable ale. Green Flash Imperial IPA is created in this new tradition, with intense hop flavors and aromas from a unique blend of Summit and Nugget hops. It’s all about the hops!" (source).
  • Green Flash Hop Head Red IPA, $2.89/12oz - "Resinous hop characteristics emerge from an enormous hopping with Columbus, Nugget and Amarillo overtaking the rich caramel malt base. To add luscious
hop flavors and enticingly floral hop aromas, we dry-hop the brew with bucket loads of Amarillo hops. Welcome to the world of Red IPA" (source).
  • Green Flash Double Stout, $2.89/12oz - "Golden naked oats mashed with dark crystal and robust roasted malts create a luscious black brew with a satin smooth finish. Layering UK Target hops in the boil adds a pleasant, earthy complexity while higher fermentation temperatures enhance the overall flavor with fruity esters. An old-world style, done the Green Flash way. Big, bold, flavorful and complex – Double Stout" (source).
  • Bell's Wheat Love Ale, $2.09/12oz (limit 2/person) - "Bell’s Wheat Project (2005) is an experimental foray into the development of complex flavors in beer. The Project comprises five new ales, four in series and one specialty strong product. The first four, Wheat 2, Wheat 4, Wheat 6 and Wheat eight are all made using 55% Wheat (either wholly or mostly malted) and 45% Barley malt. The barley malt makeup is exactly the same in each of the four and consists of three different malts. The total amount of grain in each of the four is also exactly the same, so each of them should have a virtually identical original gravity. The type and amount of hops in each of the four is exactly the same. And the processing through the brewhouse and fermentation is also exactly the same. The changing factors between the ales are the composition of the 55% of wheat used and the type and number of yeast strains used. In Wheat 2 the 55% of wheat is made up of two different kinds of wheat malt, and this ale is made with two different yeasts. Wheat 4 is made with four different wheats and four yeasts. Wheat six and eight made with six and eight wheats and yeasts respectively. The final product, Bell’s Wheat Love Ale, is made with the eight yeasts of Wheat eight and is a strong, but relatively light colored, “wheatwine.” 2. Basic Content List for the Wheat Series Wheat Two Wheats: White, Dark Yeast: Bell’s house ale strain, WLP410 Belgian Wit II Wheat Four Wheats: White, Victory, Toasted sprouts, Torrefied Yeast: WLP550 Belgian, WLP570 Golden, Wheat Two blend Wheat Six Wheats: White, Dark, Toasted sprouts, Torrefied, Red, Caramel Yeast: WLP500 Trappist, WLP530 Abbey, Wheat Four blend Wheat Eight Wheats: White, Dark, Victory, Toasted sprouts, Torrefied, Red, Caramel, Chocolate Yeast: WLP4000 Belgian Wit I, WLP565 Saison, Wheat Six blend" (source).
  • Bell's Expedition Stout, $2.99/12oz - "The darkest beer we make; this Imperial stout contains double the malt and five times the hops of our Kalamazoo stout and is perfect for cellaring as its complex character will evolve over time. Available October-March" (source).
  • Bell's Double Cream Stout, $2.09/12oz - "Sweeter and smoother than Kalamazoo Stout. A beer for special winter occasions. Great with chocolate desserts. Available October-March" (source).
  • Bell's Java Stout, $2.69/12oz - "The satisfying elements of both stout and coffee come together in this full-bodied treat. A marriage of Sumatra's best with rich chocolate and roasted malt provides for a truly enlightening beer" (source).
  • New Holland Pilgrim's Dole, $3.99/12oz - "It is a barleywine-style ale made with fifty percent wheat malt, or what we at New Holland call wheatwine. Pilgrim’s Dole blends warming and slightly sweet flavors with a unique caramelized character" (source).
  • Thirsty Dog Citra Dog, $2.19/12oz - "American IPA bursting with citrus aromas and flavors. You’ll find evidence of tangerine, grapefruit, orange and mango in the aroma from the multiple additions of a single hop variety, Citra. There is also a nice malt balance in this bitter, full bodied, doglicious IPA that is a citrus lovers delight" (source).
  • Harpoon Saison Various, $6.69/22oz (limit 1/person) - "Barrel aged blend of six different saisons" (source). 
  • New Belgium Le Terroir, $9.19/22oz (limit 1/person) - "Le Terroir is a French term meaning ‘Of the Earth.’ Used to reference the environmental conditional that affect the brew, we like to think about the terroir of our foeders. These wooden barrels age our sour beer in varying temperatures, humidity and vibrations. The terroir of New Belgium, so to speak. Add in another variable by dry-hopping with peachy, mango-like Amarillo hops, and we created a beer that changes every time we brew it" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, $2.59/12oz (limit 4/person) - "Punkin' Ale is a full-bodied, spiced brown ale brewed with baked pumpkins, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar. Dogfish Head Punkin' Ale is named after the annual Punkin' Chunkin Festival held near Lewes, Delaware the weekend after Halloween" (source).
  • Shorts The Village Reserve, $1.49/12oz (limit 2/person) - "Fermented as “beer” from wort extracted from fully modified two-row pale malt which provides a beautiful straw color. This beer is aggressively hopped with Perle and Centennial hops. Its light body and low alcohol allow the hops to become more prominent throughout the beer. The floral aroma is attributed to heavy handfuls of centennial hops at the finish of the boil. Hearty handfuls of hops lend a grape fruity tone in the flavor and finish of the beer" (source).
  • Shorts Kind Ale, $1.99/12oz (limit 2/person) - "A seasonal beer made each fall to celebrate a successful growing season. True to tradition, we commemorate the earth’s agricultural environment by using freshly picked hops to “wet hop” this brew. Straight from the fields on Leelanau Peninsula to our kettle, local hops impart a mellow earthiness to this ale that lead to moderate bitter tones and a subtle sweetness in the finish" (source).
  • Odd Side Ales Black Citra Not So Pale Ale, $1.99/12oz - "A perfect collision of juicy tropical notes with a roasted malt finish" (source).
  • Right Brain Northern Hawk Owl, $2.59/16oz - "This amber ale is malty with a rich biscuity finish. Brewed using Maris Otter malt which lends a nice floral & slightly sweet finish. Delicious, expecially when you are on the prowl for hawks!" (source).

Two-Part Question of the Week 

1. What's your all-time favorite beer?
2. Would you rather have only that beer for the rest of your life, or
any and all other beers EXCEPT your favorite?
Please leave your answer in the comments section below.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Contesting Common Assumptions: Technological Development and DIY Products

Satisfaction gained from 'primitive' do-it-yourself activities (like homebrewing) challenges the idea that technical innovation always leads to increased social good.

Gathering fuel for maple syrup evaporation.
Propane would be easier; wood is more fun.
By Wes Eaton

Recently I have been considering questions of how new technologies and their related social practices come into being. By “technologies” I am referring to a whole range of technical artifacts, from small, handheld objects like sledgehammers and iPhones to larger technology systems like highways and nuclear power plants, and by “come into being” I mean how technologies are transformed from ideas into material things and social activity around those things. Recent research on technologies tells us that many common understandings of these processes are missing out on what’s really going on. For instance, it's common to hear people make the argument that technological innovation always provides societal benefits, and that technologies are getter better or more efficient all the time.

What are these common claims missing? Essentially, they are glossing over the work it takes to introduce new technologies and champion certain designs and arrangements over others. Some social researchers like to point out that “natural science” scientists are also “social” scientists, meaning that scientists such as engineers not only invent material things, like smart phones, but they need to convince others, in this case consumers, that their product, out of so many other options, is worth uptake. Their job is considered successful when consumers say, “This product, as compared with others, is the most efficient and provides social benefits.” The point then is to recognize that seeing some technologies as beneficial or more efficient than others is itself an accomplishment, the achieving of which requires the imposition of some technological designs—and human preferences—at the expense of others. In other words, there is a power struggle going on that often gets covered up with assumptions that one choice is “naturally” better than the other.

Let’s see how this works in the realm of food-related do-it-yourself (DIY) activities, such as food preserving, preparing, and beer- and wine-making. I have three points to share. First, if we look at our own DIY hobbies, we see that efficiency and “natural” design choices do not hold up. For example, in an earlier article, I discussed my hobby of making maple syrup annually each spring. Compared to larger producers, I use a smallish pan, about 2’ x 4’, and evaporate syrup outdoors over a wood fire and on top of cinder blocks. My sap team and I set out and haul around about sixty 3-gallon buckets and tap as many trees. So while there are many more trees that could be tapped, more “efficient” methods of transporting sap to the syrup pan, and more productive evaporative designs—all of which are within our present capacities—the point of this illustration is to note that certain scales of operation are more conducive to enjoyment, regardless of their efficiency. We could think about home brewing in a similar fashion, asking, how big do we want to get with this practice?

Second, when we do “scale up” and perhaps open a brewery, a bakery or a winery, we get a glimpse at the way technical artifacts—in this case food/beverage products—are transformed from a range of possibilities into claims about “this is naturally best.” A clear example of this is the “default” categories all around us that we see as “natural.” For instance, in written language, authors used and continue to use the words “men” and “man” in reference to all types of people, and white people generally grace the cover of cereal boxes and play the lead roles on television. I find this to be particularly interesting in the realm of beer. The word “beer” for instance is closely associated with cans of, say, Budweiser. Craft beer of course works to challenge these default positions, first by raising awareness of alternatives and then by challenging the construction of the definition of “beer” itself.

The point I want to emphasize is that upsetting these taken-for-granted realities is a struggle and challenge since, once instilled, these common understandings are difficult to disentangle from what we perceive to be "reality," which is itself comprised of countless default positions. This is not a trivial point, and one that I feel innovative brewers, marketers, and PR agents take to heart. Much like Plato’s “Ideal Forms,” we use default understandings—which we may see as “inherent”—to make sense out of what a thing should be. For example, when people taste a Bell’s Two Hearted Ale for the first time, if the beverage is thought of as a “beer,” the experience will most certainly be shocking. I know it was for me! Why? I learned “beer” was a fizzy yellow corny beverage that made you belch. While this is changing, I am identifying it as a hurdle for artisan producers of multiple products.

I have one final point related to efficiency arguments. Craft producers are in a unique position in that they are using “traditional,” in the sense of less-than-the-most-efficient practices and technologies, to produce their products. For instance, American Imperial Stouts and massive IPAs require excessive amounts of ingredients, ingredients that could likely be used alternatively to produce multiple batches of more typical products. Whether or not this is a “waste” is a matter of one’s perception of (a range of) resources. Ask your local brewer about this. At the same time, breweries, especially Michigan breweries, are rapidly increasing their production, which means more and more of these massive beers need to be produced. Doing so requires both the inefficiencies of traditional practices, but also the capacity to do so on increasingly large scales.

To bring this together, the point that I want to share is that technologies—and in this case I discussed food products—are not driven by efficiency or social benefits alone. Specifically, for food products, the equivalent argument is that product design choices, despite competitive markets, are not only about efficiency and quality, but instead reflect political tensions between competing visions. It is only the (temporary) winner who has people saying, for instance, “now THIS is a beer!”