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Friday, December 19, 2014

New Beer Friday, Return of Kevin Edition (Dec 19)

With Steve and staff extra busy in the days leading up to Christmas, we thought this week, rather than bug them for a preamble, we'd repost something the from the vast Buzz archives. Our pick: A post from March 29, 2012, in which former Buzz advice columnist Hey Kevin explains the phenomenon of out-of-season seasonal beer releases. Enjoy!

Doughnut beer: Never out of season
Hey Kevin,

I was in Siciliano's the other day and even though it's March, the spring and even summer beers are out in full force. What gives?

Lem in Cedar Springs

Hey Lem,

You often hear it said that professional brewers and brewery owners march to the beat of their own drum. The out-of-season-seasonal-beer-release is scientific proof that this and similar statements are absolutely true.

We should not attribute the phenomenon solely to the quirkiness of idiosyncratic beer folk, however. What's happening is far more complicated than that, and to pin it all on mere personality traits is shortsighted.

I'll spare you the physics lesson (mostly because I don't know physics), but the appearance of seasonal beers before they're "due" has everything to do with regular (aka seasonal) distortions in the space-time continuum, particularly the way light bends around conical fermenters in the brewhouse. Such bending will often cause brewers and the beer they make to literally catapult back and forth through time, more so in certain "transitional" months of the year. In the simplest terms, the beer we're drinking now doesn't actually exist. It will at some point, but not yet. Follow me?

To date, there is no way for the individual brewer to anticipate or compensate for time travel, neither in his brewing schedule nor his shaving ritual (another reason why professional brewers tend to have such epic beards).

On a grander scale, the relative intensity of time travel is subject to evolving patterns within a 28-year cycle—we've figured that out at least. In other words, the lag between beer and season will grow more and more extreme at a generally predictable rate until summer beers are released in the dead of winter and vice versa. The phenomenon will then reverse itself, wrap back around the calendar and eventually settle for a short time—just a week or two—in a sweet spot, a space where season and beer are paired in perfect harmony.

According to our best calculations, the next projected balance in the seasonal beer release schedule will occur in November 2030, at which time enthusiasts will enjoy harvest and pumpkin beers at their most logical point in years.

Some in the industry have named this event The Great Equilibrium of 2030 and a number of breweries are planning to release special beers to commemorate the occasion. Expect to see them begin to hit shelves in early 2028.

New and Returning Beer

  • Dogfish Head American Beauty, $14.39/750ml (limit 1 per) - "More than 1,500 loyal fans of the brewery and band suggested an ingredient idea and the Dead-inspired story behind it. Our favorite was granola, from California Dead Head and craft beer lover Thomas Butler. “The components of granola – honey, toasted grains, oats and fruit – offer a lot from a beer perspective,” says Thomas, a chemist by day, homebrewer by night. “The idea is to have a bold pale ale that highlights the oats and honey with a nice ‘dank’ hop selection.” American Beauty is brewed with all-American malts and hops, granola and little bit of soul. It’s malty with a big hop kick, and notes of toasted almond and honey round out the flavor profile and balance out the hop bitterness" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Peircing Pils, $2.59/12oz - "A Czech-Style Pilsner brewed with pear juice, pear tea and Saaz hops" (source).
  • Victory Winter Cheers, $1.79/12oz - "A wheat ale, combining German wheat and barley malts, oats, torrified wheat and whole flower Tettnang and Citra hops, this fruity and warming holiday brew delivers a refreshing finish, with spicy hints of banana, clove and citrus" (source).
  • Big Sky Powder Hound, $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. Available November through March" (source).
  • Fort Collins Double Chocolate, $3.09/12oz - "The most decadent creation ever to be crafted in FCB’s brewhouse. Deep roasty flavors, rich chocolate nose, coffee undertones and impeccable balance are the result of imperializing an already flawless brew" (source).
  • Lagunitas Imperial Red, $4.79/22oz - "This special ale is in reality, the exhumation of the very first ale we ever brewed way, way back in 1993. Brewed with a big head, a muscular malty thorax, a silky texture and all strung together with a hoppy sweet nerve sack…Ick. A dank and roasty treat. Back again in bombers" (source).
  • Lagunitas Sucks, $7.59/32oz - "Originally brewed in 2011 as a Brown Shugga’ substitute, due to construction-induced capacity issues. But we liked it so much it had to make a return trip" (source).
  • Greenbush Jadis, $1.99/12oz - "A Winter White Ale because what else is Winter? The cold sets in and hangs for months it seems. Everything slows down. Time warps… and you’re covered with a wash of white. Thought I meant winter, didn’t you? Jadis will take you away from winter, even if temporarily" (source).
  • Atwater Winterbock, $1.79/12oz - "This malty, sweet, dark amber colored German-style bock beer is brewed with imported malt and hops. Its uncommon smoothness and impeccable taste make it the perfect companion for a cold night" (source).
  • He'brew Rejewvenator, $8.99/22oz - "Born in California now Reborn in New York - it's a Rejewvenator 2014 - with grape! Concord & Merlot, East Coast West Coast mashup - everyone is a winner" (source).
  • He'brew Reunion, $7.19/22oz - "Shmaltz teams up for the fourth year-in-a-row with Terrapin Beer Company and Alan Shapiro (founder of SBS Imports) to create Reunion Ale ’14, a Dark Imperial Brown Ale Brewed with Toasted Coconut, Cocoa Nibs, Vanilla, Cinnamon and Coffee" (source).
  • Oddside Hop Gobbler, $1.99/12oz - "The hop fairies have taken charge on this extra pale ale. A well balanced ale with loads of flavorful hops" (source).
  • Oddside Beautiful Disaster, $4.89/12oz - "Pale ale aged in red wine barrels" (source).
  • Oddside Red Eye IPA, $2.29/12oz - "A ridiculous rampage of ruthless rowdy hops in a rebellious rusty red ale" (source).
  • Anderson Valley Winter Solstice, $1.99/12oz can - "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).
  • Shorts Good Humans, $1.99/12oz - "Good Humans was created to showcase one of Briess Malting Company’s new malt varieties. Originally planned as a one-time thing, it quickly became one of our big successes. Good Humans is a Double Brown Ale made with Carabrown Malt, and then dry hopped with Simcoe hops. The brew has sweet malty esters that are met by huge toasted caramel and toffee flavors. The finish is dry with a bouquet of hops" (source).
  • Southern Tier 2xPresso, $1.99/12oz - "Our 2xStout is considered by many to be a perfect milk stout. We started with that in mind, and added espresso beans and lemon peels for a true Italian style pick-me-up. The result is a stout so black, so rich, so creamy, it’d be at home in a café along a cobblestone street in some neighborhood in Rome. Yet, it’s beer" (source).
  • Shorts Aphasia, $2.19/12oz (limit 2 per) - "A medium bodied dark brown Old Ale with a sizable nose of molasses and alcohol.  Predominantly sweet, with unique flavors of plum, figs, and brown sugar. Further compliments of toasted malt and an increased ABV, aid in a pleasant warming finish" (source).
  • Rouge VooDoo Lemon Chiffon, $14.39/750ml - "Rogue Ales has again collided with Voodoo Doughnut to create Lemon Chiffon Crueller Ale!  This unique artisan creation contains a baker's dozen ingredients including lemon juice, vanilla bean, and marshmallows to match Voodoo's Lemon Chiffon Crueller doughnut" (source).

Video of the Week | Superior Water


Friday, December 12, 2014

New Beer Friday, "Merry Xmas to Me" Edition (Dec 12)

"MerryOldSanta" by Thomas Nast - Edited version of Image:1881 0101 tnast santa 200.jpg.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -
"Any KBS in stock?"
By Steve Siciliano

As soon as I unlocked the door a cherry-red Subaru pulled into the parking lot. An old man with a long white beard got out, hitched his pants up over his considerable midsection, crossed his arms behind his head and had a good stretch. Before walking into the store he replaced his wire-rimmed spectacles with dark glasses and put a red plaid Stormy Kromer on his head.

“What can I help you with,” I asked when he came in.

“Am I the only one here?” he whispered looking around.

“Yes,” I said. “I just opened.”

“Good,” he whispered. “I’m looking for Michigan beer.”

“Well you’ve come to the right place.”

“That’s what I hear,” he whispered and pulled his hat further down on his forehead.

“You don’t have to whisper,” I told him.

“Of course not,” he said. “Can you show me where your Michigan section is? I’m afraid I’m in a bit of a hurry and I’ve got a long drive ahead of me.”

“Where are you from?” I asked him.

“North,” he said.

“Up north?” I asked.

“Way north.”

“The U.P.?”



“Farther yet,” he said.

“Farther than Canada? And you came all this way just to get Michigan beer?’

The old man looked at the five case stack of Breakfast Stout that was sitting in front of the sales counter and smiled.

“Yes I did,” he said. “Merry Christmas to me.”

New and Returning Beer

  • Breckenridge Christmas, $1.99/12oz - "The chill of a Colorado high-country winter calls for a beer with extra flavor and strength. Here it is. At over 7% alcohol, with a sturdy texture and rich flavors of caramel and chocolate, our holiday seasonal is the fermented equivalent of a good fire" (source).
  • Epic Big Bad Baptist, $12.09/22oz (1 bottle limit) - "It’s Big, it’s Bad, Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, with Coffee and Cocoa Nibs" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Ovila Abbey Quad, $3.29/12.7oz - "Ovila Abbey Quad with plums is heady with aromas of caramel, rich malt, and dark fruit-balanced by the spiciness and delicate fruity notes of a traditional Belgian yeast. This beer features sugar plums grown on the grounds of the Abbey, and harvested by the monks in Vina. We hope you enjoy this collaboration ale" (source).
  • Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball, $4.79/22oz - "Laying there, staring up at the ceiling, head pounding, last night was a dim recollection. How did he get home? Was he alone? Looking to the left and right, the answer was yes, maybe. His head was full of ’rag water, bitters, and the blue ruin’.His teeth felt like he’d been chewing aluminum and his breath smelled like a burning tractor tire. There was a wrenching knot somewhere between his liver and East St. Louis and he couldn’t be sure whether or not he’d wet himself. A yellow sine wave rang in his ears so loud nit made his teeth itch and he was sure that if he touched his skin anywhere it would induce a rhythmic retching jag. Even in the face of all that, he found himself smiling at the realization that today represented the fresh breast of a new year- an undiscovered country- and also there was still one warm, half-full, flat redolent Hairy Eyeball on the nightstand. Yes-there is a God" (source).
  • Abita Wrought Iron IPA, $1.69/12oz - "Abita Wrought Iron® IPA embodies the resilient, indestructible nature of New Orleans. This india pale ale is forged with the intensity of Apollo, Equinox and Mosaic Hops. Brewed with pale ale malt for a golden color as bright as iron from a fiery forge" (source).
  • Abita Grapefruit IPA, $1.69/12oz - "Abita Grapefruit Harvest is a brilliant golden IPA with a subtle zest of grapefruit flavor and aroma that enhances the strong hop character. This bright, snappy brew is made with real Louisiana Ruby-Red grapefruits, pale, pilsner and caramel malts and cascade hops" (source).
  • Short's Dan's Pink Skirt, $1.99/12oz - "Dan’s Pink Skirt is an American IPA brewed with Summit and Simcoe hops. Malt characteristics are mild and practically undetectable in the nose. Dan’s Pink Skirt has pronounced floral and citrus aromas, with a pine resin hop bitterness that attacks the pallet" (source).
  • Short's Thirst Mutilator, $1.69/12oz - "Thirst Mutilator is a light straw-blonde lager with sharp doughy yeast esters that gather atop a perfectly retained head. Kilned barley produces perfect bready and flour-like qualities that blend pleasantly with the beer’s mild hop bitterness. Aided by a wonderful effervescence, these delicate flavors fade into a crisp clean refreshing finish" (source).
  • Green Flash Cedar Plank, $6.19/16.6oz - "This hoppy pale ale starts out as 30th Street Pale Ale and then undergoes Spanish cedar aging. Wood aging imparts an intense cedar aroma which dominates the dry hop. The flavor contributions from the Spanish cedar include peppercorn spiciness and a tannic dry mouth feel that makes the hop flavor and bitterness linger in the finish" (source).
  • Brewery Vivant Wizard Burial Ground, $6.29/16oz - "This Tier 5 Single Batch Release is a Bourbon barrel-aged Quadruple ale. The 2015 release is barrel-aged for one year, it will be packaged in 16oz cans and it comes in at 10.4% ABV" (source).
  • Goose Island Festivity Ale, $1.59/12oz - "Every year we brew a brown ale to celebrate the holidays. To make each year’s special, we alter the recipe. This year we wrapped caramel and dark fruit malt flavors inside a creamy toasty brown ale. May your holidays be filled with Festivity" (source).
  • Arcadia Cocoa Loco Triple Chocolate Stout, $2.69/12oz - "This triple chocolate stout is a unique interpretation of the style, combining three different chocolate malts, cacao nibs and 63 percent semi-sweet chocolate, creating a sinfully delicious brew. The addition of blackstrap molasses produces an earthy, caramelized tone in an already complex flavor profile. It's creamy, milkshake-like mouthfeel earns this beer the reputation of being dessert in glass" (source).
  • Greenbush & Small Bar Mr. Hyde, $2.19/12oz - "Maris otter, biscuit malt, carafa iii, crystal 10l, crystal 60l, crystal 120l, pureed dates" (source).
  • Summit-Harvest Fresh IPA, $2.09/12oz - " Harvest Fresh IPA will be the first beer in the Unchained Series from brewer Tom Mondor. It is an exploration of fresh hops picked at the peak of the fall harvest and shipped directly to Summit. Some of these hops will be fresh hop pellets from Roy Farms, pelletized fresh off the kiln floor. This process leaves more wonderful hop oils intact than complete drying and results in more hop character in the finished beer. These fresh pellets will include Centennial, Cascade and Chinook. It will also be brewed with super-fresh, whole-cone Chinook wet hops from Michigan" (source).
  • O'Fallon Cherry Chocolate, $2.09/12oz - "A dark wheat beer that tastes like a chocolate covered cherry…only better! Voted Best Overall Beer at the 2004 Ninth Annual International Beer Fest in Springfield, MO" (source).
  • Einbecher Winter Bock, $2.69/11.2oz - "Doppelbock. Das Einbecker Brauhaus erweitert mit dem neuen Einbecker Winter-Bock sein Sortiment. Die saisonale Bockbierspezialität in der traditionellen Exklusivflasche startet im Oktober 2008 in limitierter Auflage. Einbecker Winter-Bock wird dann für kurze Zeit im Handel und bei ausgewählten Gastronomiepartnern zu haben sein" (source).
  • Left Hand Fade to Black (Foreign Export Stout), $2.09/12oz - "2013 & 2010 Gold Medal Winner at the Great American Beer Festival in the Foreign Stout category. That time of year when the day seems to fade away. Drifting further into the darkness with each passing day. Volume 1 - Foreign Stout - Pours black with licorice, espresso bean, molasses, and black cardamom notes that give way to a feeling of self loathing, burnt opportunities and smoked relationships" (source).
  • Southern Tier Choklat, $9.29/22oz (1 bottle limit) - "At Southern Tier, we’re not surprised that hieroglyphs of the ancient Maya depict chocolate being poured for rulers and gods. Even through the many voyages of Columbus, the mystical bean remained nothing more than a strange currency of the native peoples. Moving through centuries, the circular journey of cacao has been realized in our brewing house, encompassing the complexity of the darkest, bitter-sweet candy together with the original frothy cold beverage of the ancient Maya to bring to you our Blackwater Series Choklat Stout. We have combined the finest ingredients to tempt your senses & renew the power & interrelation of history in every bottle" (source).
  • Oddside Sinister Vertigo, $2.59/12oz (2 bottle limit) - "A spunky imperial stout" (source).

Video of the Week | Hopcat Detroit

Congrats to our pals at Hopcat who are opening their Detroit location this weekend.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Keeping it Simple: Let's Make Hard Cider!

Pure hard cider. Boom.
Former Siciliano's employee and longtime friend Sarah McGrath checks in with this great recipe for making hard cider. 

By Sarah McGrath

Hard cider is possibly the easiest fermented beverage to make. If you've never made cider, now is the time! It doesn't require pressing grapes, mashing grain or boiling wort. All you need is a couple of fermenters, some fresh cider, some siphon tubing and an airlock—most of which you'll find at Siciliano's (you'll have to look elsewhere for fresh/raw cider). Since fall and winter are the traditional times for pressing apples, now is the perfect season to start a batch.

There are a number of fancy things you can do to cider, which are a lot of fun, but I also like to keep it simple. This recipe makes a dry (not sweet), still (not carbonated) cider without added fermentables (like sugar or honey) or flavorings (like oak or bourbon barrel).

And it tastes great!

Equipment List

    • 2 fermenters (one 6.5-gallon ale pail plus lid and one 5-gallon carboy OR one 6.5-gallon carboy and one 5-gallon carboy)
    • 1 rubber stopper and airlock
    • Sanitizer (I like Iodophor)
    • Siphon hose (or even better, buy an autosiphon!)
    • Bottles/caps/capper OR wine bottles/corks/corked

Ingredient List

    • 5 gallons fresh cider without preservatives
    • Pectic enzyme (optional)
    • Wine yeast
    • Campden tablets

Basic Instructions

  1. Sanitize everything
  2. Combine cider, campden and pectic enzyme
  3. Wait 24 hours, then add yeast
  4. Transfer cider to secondary fermenter when fermentation slows (about 1 week)
  5. Bottle when fermentation stops and cider fully clears (about 2 weeks)
  6. Age 6 months or longer if you can wait that long.
  7. Enjoy!

Full Instructions

For starters, always make sure that any equipment that comes in contact with your cider is cleaned and sanitized. You can clean equipment with warm water and dish soap or buy a brewery grade cleanser like EZ Clean or One Step. For a sanitizer, I like Iodophor. Cleaning removes any surface dirt. Sanitizing eliminates bacteria that could spoil your cider. Remember: You can't sanitize dirt! Clean your equipment first!

You can use a 6.5-gallon ale pail (plastic) or a 6.5-gallon carboy (glass). Both work fine. Even though you're making 5 gallons of cider, you need that extra headspace for the foam that accumulates when the fermentation gets going.

Once your bucket or carboy is clean and sanitized, add your cider, pectic enzyme and crushed campden tablets (1/2 tablet per gallon). Then close up your fermenter with a lid and airlock if you're using an ale pail or with a stopper and airlock if you're using a carboy. The cider MUST not contain preservatives, like sorbates, or it will not ferment. That rules out most grocery store cider. Locally, you can get fresh cider from Hill Brothers, Klein or Engelsma orchards. If you're making a lot of cider, it is much cheaper to buy it in bulk. Many orchards are happy to fill your fermenters directly, saving them the trouble and expense of filling gallon jugs.

The pectic enzyme is optional. It ensures that the pectin from the apples won't make your cider hazy. If you don't care about hazy cider (the haze is aesthetic; it doesn't affect the taste), leave the enzyme out. If your cider is raw (not pasteurized), then haze shouldn't be a problem anyway. The campden tablets help ensure a clean fermentation by suppressing bacteria that could turn your hard cider into cider vinegar.

Now you must wait 24 hours for the campden tablets to work. Then add your yeast. Any wine yeast (and most beer yeasts) will work. There are also specialty cider yeasts available (White Labs makes a couple kinds). I like Lalvin's KIV-1116. It's fun to make several batches that are identical other than the yeast strain. That way, you can taste the effect of different yeasts and decide which you like best.

Keep the cider around room temperature, and in a day or two you will see it begin to ferment. You can see small bubbles rising and often, though not always, a foamy head will form. After about a week, depending on the temperature, the fermentation will start to slow and the yeast will begin to fall out of suspension and accumulate at the bottom of the fermenter. If you're doing your initial (primary) fermentation in a carboy you can see this accumulation. Now is the time to transfer (rack) your cider to your secondary fermenter, which has to be a carboy since it excludes oxygen better than an ale pail. You can't just pour the cider from one container to another, you have to siphon it off with a hose in order to leave those dead yeast cells on the bottom of the fermenter behind.

Siphoning is easiest with an auto siphon, which I highly recommend. You can also use a racking cane or plain hose, but, whatever you do, don't use your mouth, and keep everything sanitized! Keep your cider in the secondary fermenter at least until it clears. Then bottle it using your preferred setup. Again, everything must be sanitized first.

Alternatively, you can "bulk age" your cider in the secondary fermenter until you are ready to bottle. Although you can bottle straight from the secondary, bottling is easiest with a bottling bucket, which is just an ale pail with a spigot. Siphon the cider into the ale pail, add another crushed campden tablet, and fill bottles directly from the spigot. I use wine bottles and corks because I have a nice corker. If you don't, it is easiest to fill beer bottles and cap them with an inexpensive capper. The cider can be consumed at any time, but is generally best if you age it for at least 6 months. The more acidic the cider, the longer it takes to mellow. If you bulk age the cider in the secondary, allow at least two weeks in the bottle for the cider to settle. I'm not sure what chemical reactions are behind this process, but the flavor changes perceptibly.

The author with cider
And finally, enjoy!

Editor's Note: You'll find everything you need to make a batch of hard cider—except raw juice—at Siciliano's Market. Contact any one of the many cider houses around West Michigan for raw cider availability. Cheers!

Friday, December 5, 2014

New Beer Friday, KD aLe Edition (Dec 5)

Professor Edward Long
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

This winter the Kent District Library (KDL) is reprising its popular KD aLe program, a series of classes, presentations and events focusing on the enriching hobby of homebrewing and the appreciation of hand-crafted beer.

Siciliano’s staffer Edward Long and local homebrewer Matt Ross are teaming up to give the program’s Beer Making 101 classes at various Kent District Library locations. In addition to the series of beermaking seminars, the KD aLe program is also providing folks the opportunity to sign up for beer tastings, tours and informational presentations at local breweries.

The program’s introductory beermaking classes are free of charge and no registration is required. Dates, times and venues for the Beermaking 101 classes are as follows:

    • Monday, December 8, 6:30 PM: Sand Lake/ Nelson Twp. Branch
    • Thursday, January 15, 6:00 PM: Byron Twp. Branch
    • Tuesday, January 20, 6:00 PM: Caledonia Twp. Branch
    • Thursday, January 22, 6:00 PM: East Grand Rapids Branch
    • Tuesday, January 27, 6:30 PM: Tyrone Twp. Branch
    • Wednesday, February 11, 6:00 PM: Wyoming Branch
    • Thursday, February 19, 6:30 PM: Comstock Park Branch
Click here for a complete listing of the KD aLe program’s events.

In other news, it seems that we just can’t stop tweaking the layout of our brick and mortar store. We recently acquired a number of shiny new chrome-plated racks which are now being used to display our constantly expanding inventory of winemaking ingredients kits. Just a reminder that this Sunday, December 7, is the deadline to submit preorders for this year’s excellent lineup of Winexpert’s Limited Edition kits. Click here for complete details including descriptions and pricing for the 2014 Limited Edition offerings.

New and Returning Beer

  • Black Rocks North Third Stout, $1.99/12oz - "A beauty of a Foreign Extra Stout, full of roasted malt/chocolate flavors. Unlike many other winter stouts that can get a bit unruly, the North Third is very drinkable and smooth (so have a few)" (source).
  • Jolly Pumpkin IO Saison, $15.49/22oz - "Ale brewed with rose hips, rose petals and hibiscus" (source).
  • Perrin Kill 'Em All, $17.19/22oz - A Russian Imperial Stout aged in Van Winkle family bourbon barrels (source).
  • Perrin With Kindness, $17.19/22oz - An English-style Barley Wine aged in Van Winkle family bourbon barrels (source).
  • North Peak Blitzen Festivus Ale, $1.89/12oz - "North Peak Blitzen is a Festivus Ale with raisin, current and berry notes attributed to Bramling Cross hops, 3 types of Crystal malts, Cara and Chocolate malt. A combination of citrus peel and citrus pith flavors are accented by the Hercules, Cascade and Pilgrim hops added throughout the boil. Riwakas’ subtle spiciness in combination with the crisp spiciness from the Rye malt liberates flavors reminiscent of savory holiday cakes. This is a well balanced, rich, Festivus Ale that will warm the palate and soul, awakening memories of holidays past. It is brewed in Traverse City, MI, on Old Mission Peninsula incorporating locally grown hops" (source).
  • Southern Tier Tripel Cafe, $8.99/22oz - "In this beer, we wanted to experiment with green coffee beans. The unroasted coffee beans bring a light coffee bitterness to compliment the citrusy hops, spicy phenols, and yeasty floral esters. Tripel Café is light, with a delicate body and a rounded, soft bitterness. Classic Belgian lacing gives way to pale straw color and highly effervescent mouthfeel" (source).

Review: Forty Creek Barrel Select Whisky

Available now at Siciliano's, $20.99/750ml.
Review courtesy of the Driveling Dorda and friends.


Friday, November 28, 2014

New Beer Friday, Black Friday Edition (Nov. 28)

A wall of kits in need of good homes
Preamble by Doug Dorda

'Tis the season for savings here at Siciliano's, and we have worked to provide the best possible deals to those of you looking to scratch the interested wine- and beer-makers off your list. In the interest of providing you, the shopper, with the quickest means of gathering all equipment necessary for someone to make their first batch of beer or wine, we present to you another year of Doug's Deals. Prices will become effective November 28.

Homebrewing Equipment Kit Deals

Each of these deals will provide you with one version of our beer making equipment kits as well as two cases of clear 12-oz amber bottles, a wine thief and a copy of How to Brew by John palmer. Aside from the ingredients, these deals include all the equipment a beginning brewer will need. Please note the Doug's Deluxe Kit (see below) does not contain a brew pot. This kit in particular should only be considered by those who know that the kit's recipient already has a kettle at least 5 gallons in size.

Doug's Deluxe Equipment Kit Deal, $140
This kit includes the Brewers Best Deluxe Equipment kit along with tow cases of 12-oz amber bottles, a wine thief and a copy of How to Brew by John Palmer. These items sold separately have a combined value of $160. Total savings, $20.

Doug's Beast of a Deal, $170
This kit includes the Brewers Best equipment kit as well as two cases of bottles, wine thief and book. The kit contains everything that can be found in the deluxe kit, but also boasts a 5-gallon stainless steel brew pot by Polar Ware, a test tube and a vial of IO-San sanitizer. For those who need to purchase the complete package, look no further than this deal. Again, the total savings add up to $20, as the separate cost amounts to $190.

Winemaking Equipment Kit Deal

It is important to note that the winemaking deal varies significantly from the beer making deal. The least of the reasons behind that being there is no boil necessary for wine making so a pot is of no concern.

Doug's Winemaking Deal, $130
You get the Vitners Best winemaking equipment kit, two cases of 750-ml green Bordeaux wine bottles and an auxiliary 6-gallon glass carboy. The total cost for the items purchased separately would be $150. That's a savings of $20!

For those of you who simply cannot decide on a gift for that beer or wine lover in your life, we also offer Siciliano's gift cards, which are available in any increment. The cards are good for any of the items that we offer in the store.

If you have any questions with regard to pricing, or any questions about equipment, please give us a call at 615-453-9674.

We wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season.

Disclaimer: These deals are designed to be comprehensive packages for equipment only; ingredients will be sold separately. All of the above listed equipment, and kits will also be available for sale on their own. You do not have to purchase a full deal if you do not wish to.

New and Returning Beer

  • Founders Big Lushious, $14.79/22oz (limit 1 per) - "This deep, rich stout is packed with flavor: roasted malts, all-natural dark chocolate, a subtle suggestion of burnt coffee grounds and a kiss of tart raspberries. It’s big but balanced. At 7.8% ABV, Big Lushious is a sumptuous, extravagant dessert beer fit for enjoying with friends and family around the holidays or to celebrate a special occasion. But really, this beer can make any occasion special. Don’t worry; we won’t call you a lush" (source).
  • Jolly Pumpkin Persimmon Ship, $14.39/750ml - "Combining Indiana persimmons and dragonfruit from Thailand? Who would concoct such a divinely subtle concoction of joy and delight? Only the spookily twisted folks at Jolly Pumpkin and Upland Brewing, that’s who. From the rolling hills of Indiana, to the twisted wrought iron gates and graveyards of Dexter, comes this wonderful blending of oak aged sour ale" (source).
  • Saugatuck Reverent Monk, $2.59/12oz - "A traditional Belgian Tripel with complex flavors of clove, banana, and spicy esters. Deep yellow in color and medium bodied with a sweet finish" (source).
  • Stone Enjoy By 12.26.14 IPA, $7.69/750ml - "You have in your hands a devastatingly fresh double IPA. While freshness is a key component of many beers – especially big, citrusy, floral IPAs – we’ve taken it further, a lot further, in this IPA. You see, we specifically brewed it NOT to last. We’ve not only gone to extensive lengths to ensure that you’re getting this beer in your hands within an extraordinarily short window, we made sure that the Enjoy By date isn’t randomly etched in tiny text somewhere on the label, to be overlooked by all but the most attentive of retailers and consumers. Instead, we’ve sent a clear message with the name of the beer itself that there is no better time than right now to enjoy this IPA" (source).
  • Vivant Pepper in the Rye, $3.39/16oz - "Great friends. Great food. Great beer. Relaxing at a meal together is the best part of our day. This beer is made for enhancing that experience. The flaked rye lends an earthy spiciness and the addition of green peppercorns into the boil kettle give a ping of peppery notes that will turn up the flavor of whatever dish you sit down to at your table. Add a friend or two and you’ve got yourself a memorable evening" (source).
  • Sagarnoa Txopinondo Cider, $11.79/750ml - "Basque cider from the French side of the border! This is a fascinating and wonderful cider. Made in the traditional Basque technique, but because they are in France, they are able to use a broader variety of apple types. In France, the apples used in cider making tend to be less sharp than in Spain. This cider shows the bright, softly sour notes of green apple, with a gentle creamy texture and a dry, refreshing finish" (source).
  • Domaine du Verger Rose Cidre Bouche, $8.59/750ml - Apple hard cider. Product of France.
  • Clos de lal Fontaine Hugo, $12.89/750ml - 100% pure apple cider with no sugar added. Product of France.

Video of the Week | Carhartt & NHBC


Friday, November 21, 2014

New Beer Friday, Too Early for Snow Edition (Nov 21)

Brady the Bulldog loving the snow.
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

“It’s way too early for this!”

I wish I had a bottle of Westvleteren 12 for each time I heard someone yelling, shrieking, screeching, bellowing, muttering and growling those words this week. Throw in a bottle of Kate the Great for every time a colorful expletive was included somewhere within those exasperated statements and I’ll be sipping on two of the world’s most sought after beers through next February.

It is, of course, way too early to be moving twelve-inch plus piles of lake effect snow off driveways, to be constantly scraping windshields, dealing with drifts, negotiating ice-covered roads and knocking thick columns of frozen water off eaves and gutters. Usually we here in the environs of Beer City USA are afforded the opportunity to gradually acclimate ourselves to the trials and tribulations of a West Michigan winter, but it appears that Mother Nature has decided to be unreasonably cruel this year.

We can take a little solace in the fact the forecast is calling for warmer temperatures and for the Big Lake snow-making machine to shut down over the weekend. But then of course there’s that slightly irritating prognostication about an attack of freezing rain. It’s a good thing that we have a nice lineup of new and returning beers this week to help soften the pummeling we’ve been taking from this way too early bout of nasty midwinter weather.

New and Returning Beer

  • New Belgium Frambozen, $1.89/12oz - "Frambozen begins with the aroma of fresh red raspberries, followed by the ripe seductiveness of a fruity brown ale with depth and delicate malt notes. It is deep ruby in color, with flavors just as rich. Every year, New Belgium sends a delegate to the Pacific Northwest to oversee the process of turning freshly picked berries into a pure juice to be added in fermentation. The coming of Thanksgiving at New Belgium is ushered in with the first sighting of our cellar operators scuttling about, covered head to tow in a festive crimson berry wash" (source).
  • North Peak Dubious, $1.79/12oz - "North Peak Dubious is a Dark Chocolate Stout that has the perfect combination of chocolate, roast and black malts resulting in a smooth rich beer. Judicious use of hops bring out a complex, yet subtle bittering finished off with a big Goldings nose. This swirl of aroma, flavor and body is underscored by the rich chocolate that is added at the end of the boil. This medium bodied beer is brewed in Traverse City, MI, on Old Mission Peninsula incorporating locally grown hops" (source).
  • Brewery Vivant Tart Side Of The Moon, $4.39/16oz - "This dark ale is fermented with a blend of two rustic Belgian yeast strains which gives the beer an up front farmhouse tartness followed by hints of coffee, dark chocolate, and black cherries. We aged the beer for over three months to give the yeast time to work its magic and let the flavors meld together. Listen to that lunatic in your head, dust off that vinyl, pour the beer into a glass and sip your way into a happy, chilled out groove" (source).
  • Leinenkugel Big Eddy Cherry Doppelscwarz, $2.99/12oz - "Bittersweet chocolate and coffee-like malt character blends beautiful with the subtle tartness of Door County, Wisconsin cherries to create a decadent, yet amazingly balanced Big Eddy Cherry Doppelschwarz. The result is everything an Imperial Schwarzbier should be…with a cherry on top" (source).
  • Frankenmuth Old Detroit, $1.69/12oz - "A full-bodied, reddish brown ale with medium maltiness and low bitterness" (source).
  • Short's The Curl, $1.99/12oz - "The Curl was one of the first Imperial beers made at Short’s. This American Pilsner has an appealing clear, bright, and golden straw color. Faint esters of grain and aromas of fresh baked bread are prominent throughout the beer. The flavor results from the abundance of flake maize used in this recipe. There are also hefty doses of hops that create a pronounced dryness that seamlessly blends into a crisp, clean finish" (source).
  • Griffin Claw 3 Scrooges, $2.19/16oz - "Brewed with honey, orange peel and spices, this winter ale is perfect for the season" (source).
  • Arbor Fig Jam Quad, $2.89/12oz - "Nothing gets you in the holiday spirit quite like this FIGJAM QUADRUPLE with it’s warming alcohol, figgy undertones, dark dried fruit flavors of raison dates, hints of fresh baked bread, and a beautiful dry finish that leaves you wanting more" (source).

Picture of the Week | The Bandit Queen Ramen Bar

Click here for our own Doug Dorda's review of The Bandit Queen
a new Ramen restaurant in downtown GR.


Friday, November 14, 2014

New Beer Friday, Deer Camp Edition (November 14)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

The deer in the vicinity of Irons, Michigan will have nothing to fear from a group of men who will be gathering in a cabin in the woods this weekend. Instead of stalking whitetail, they’ll be cooking up big pots of stew, chili and chicken cacciatore. There will be loaves of crusty bread, cases of craft beer, jugs of hard cider, some good bourbon and numerous bottles of homemade wine. There will be poker games, a good deal of cigar smoking, and much talking, laughing, bantering and good-natured ribbing around the camp fire.

The men might raise a toast to the relatives and friends who are gone and may reminisce a little about mid-November weekends past. They’ll probably add an episode or two to their collection of deer camp memories.

Here's to another year of deer camp. If you're heading out into the woods this weekend, be careful, have fun, and don't forget to stop at Siciliano's before you hit the road out of town.

New and Returning Beer

  • Arcadia Nut Brown, $1.79/12oz - "Our Nut Brown Ale is a full bodied English-style brown ale with a deep mahogany color. We use six different types of premium malted barley to create a flavor that includes hints of chocolate, raisins, dates and almonds. The malty sweet finish is balanced by a smooth bitterness and a subtle fruitiness in flavor and hop aroma" (source).
  • Frankenmuth Christmas Town, $1.69/12oz - "For many, our little town of Frankenmuth is known as Christmas Town. So, it's no wonder we created an ale to celebrate the Merry Season. Enjoy toasted sweet dark malts and American hops which combine with holiday flavors to create a taste and aroma that is unmistakably Christmas" (source).
  • Dark Horse Too Cream Stout, $2.09/12oz - "Number Too - This beer is made with milk sugar (lactose) which gives this beer a nice creamy mouth feel which mingles with hints of chocolate and roasty flavors" (source).
  • Right Brain Naughty Girl Stout, $7.19/22oz - "Thin mint cookie, meet John Niedermaier A stout made with organic locally-grown whole leaf mint. She’s just back from a stint in the cooler for being too naughty. She might have mellowed out but this stout is still naughty at heart" (source).
  • Odd Side Firefly, $2.59/12oz - "Pale Ale with Habanero and Mango" (source).
  • Odd Side How Now Brown Cow, $1.99/12oz - "A brown ale" (source).
  • Shorts Evil Urges, $2.19/12oz - "Evil Urges is a Belgian dark strong ale with a deep dark brown color. A sharp aroma of chocolate and molasses hits the senses, reminiscent of a rich liqueur. Aided by additions of Belgian amber candi sugar, the initial flavors are sweet and malty, with some unique, dark fruit qualities. This full bodied beer is defined by its roast malt character and slight black coffee bitterness that lead into an intense warming finish" (source).
  • O'fallon Wheach, $1.79/12oz - "Imagine our smooth, clean wheat beer with a touch of peach and you get the idea behind O'Fallon Wheach, our peach wheat beer. Refreshing and crisp, it's perfect for warm summer weather" (source).
  • Big Sky Ivan The Terrible, $3.19/12oz - "Big Sky Brewing’s Ivan the terrible Imperial Stout is brewed according to the traditional style using english hops and the finest american malt. It’s aroma and flavor balance well between esters of dried fruit and roasted cocoa with a slight bourbon presence" (source).

Beer & Spirit Tastings

Video of the Week | Let's Have a Pastie, Eh?

Escanaba in da Moonlight, a deer camp classic.


Friday, November 7, 2014

New Beer Friday, The Big Easy Edition (November 7)

Steve in New Orleans, LA
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

Whenever Harry Winston gets back in town he stops by Siciliano's and we make plans to meet up at our favorite tavern. If no one’s on the pool table those nights we might play a couple of games of eight ball and if the dart board is open we might throw a game or two of cricket. Mostly though we sit at the corner booth and drink a few beers and Harry gives me the low down on his latest travels. The last time I saw him he had just returned from another trip to New Orleans.

“I can’t believe you were in New Orleans again,” I said after we sat down with our Two Hearteds. “You seeing a woman down there?”

“Nope, no woman. I’m in love with that city.”

“As much as you go you must love it a lot.”

“I do,” he said. “I think it’s one the most interesting cities in the world.”

“More interesting than Rio?” I asked.

“Much more,” he said.

“San Francisco?”

“No comparison.”

I tried to think of some of the more exotic places Harry has been. “More than Cairo, Singapore, Casablanca, Istanbul, Mexico City and Tierra del Fuego?”

“Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.”

“What’s so special about New Orleans?”

“There’s just something about it that’s hard to put into words.”

“Try,” I said.

He sat thinking for a moment while he finished off his pint. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve then motioned to Sam for two more beers. “Okay,” he said. “I love being on Bourbon Street in the morning when there’s no one awake and you have to walk down the middle of the narrow street because they’re hosing the sidewalks. I love walking in the Quarter when it’s bustling in the heat of the afternoon and cooling off in some of those hole in the wall saloons on Royal that are so dark you can’t make out the words on the tap handles. I love the Quarter at night when the neon is lit and there’s a damp breeze coming off the river and there’s gutter punks and street performers on every stoop and music coming from every juke joint on Decatur and Frenchmen.

“I love the architecture. The townhouses in the French Quarter with their cast iron railings, the shotgun shacks and Creole cottages in the Faubourg Marigny and the Bywater and the Irish Channel and the way the sidewalks in those old neighborhoods are all heaved and slanted because of the tree roots. I love riding up and down St. Charles on the streetcar and looking at the antebellum mansions in the Garden District.

“I love the food. The jambalaya, the shrimp creole, the gumbo, the po boys and the red beans and rice. I love drinking Sazeracs and Ramos Gin Fizzes in the bars in the Monteleone and Roosevelt hotels. I love sitting on a bench in the Riverfront just as the sun is going down and watching the big cargo ships making their way around the sharp bend in the Mississippi at Algiers Point.”

While Harry was talking he had the dreamy look of a man who was reciting the qualities of his lover.

“It does sound like a pretty fascinating city,” I said.

“It’s hard to put into words,” he said again. “You just need to get down there and see it for yourself.”

“I’ll put it on my list.”

“Put it at the top of the list,” Harry said.

Before we left the bar that night I assured him that I would.

New and Returning Beer

  • Brash Urban Achiever, $15.49/22oz - "Barrel Aged Smoglifter Stout" (source).
  • Victory Moving Parts, $8.19/22oz - "We like to mix it up. New flavors, new ideas, new ingredients; we welcome them all. In celebration of our penchant for prolific experimentation, we present Moving Parts: The Ever-Evolving IPA. Each release in this series (every four months) celebrates a tweaked ingredient or two, creating an endless array of possible flavor profiles. For us, Moving Parts are a good thing" (source).
  • Founders Backwoods Bastard, $3.89/12oz - "Expect lovely, warm smells of single malt scotch, oaky bourbon barrels, smoke, sweet caramel and roasted malts, a bit of earthy spice, and a scintilla of dark fruit. It’s a kick-back sipper made to excite the palate" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, $1.69/12oz - "Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale represents a time honored tradition of brewing a special beer for the holiday season. There are generous portions of barley malts and fine whole hops of several varieties, creating a brew with a full, rich and hearty character" (source).
  • Bells Christmas Ale, $1.89/12oz - "The basic inspiration for Bell's Christmas Ale was to create a sessionable holiday beer, using locally grown malt, which would stand apart from the array of spiced winter warmers that are typically introduced this time of year. In contrast to many other seasonals, Christmas Ale doesn't contain any spices: all of the dry, toasted notes & subtle toffee flavors come from the 100% Michigan-grown barley, custom malted by Briess Malting, while a blend of hops from Michigan & the Pacific Northwest lend earthy, herbal aromas. At 5.5% ABV, it stands as a smooth, highly drinkable beer intended to complement holiday menus, not overshadow them" (source).
  • New Holland Cabin Fever, $1.79/12oz - "Cabin Fever is a roasty brown ale and a hearty, comforting companion for long, mind-bending winters" (source).
  • Finch Pig In The Wood, $12.59/22oz - "A deep red malt-forward ale brewed with plenty of caramel malts and a touch of rye. Brewed and dry-hopped with Palisade and Zythos hops and aged for over six months in Koval barrels, a local Chicago distillery" (source).
  • Dark Horse 4 Elf, $2.19/12oz - "A spiced Winter Warmer brewed with nutmeg, clove, allspice and other holiday flavors" (source).
  • Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Wild Ale, $1.99/12oz - "Another Big Sister of the Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale…. Loads of Malted Wheat for a Curious Malt Foundation and a Light Color, But Our Belgian Yeast Leaves a Huge Flavor and Complexishness" (source).
  • Greenbush Remnant of Dragon, $3.49/12oz - "Imperial red IPA" (source).
  • Saugatuck Serrano Pepper Ale, $2.59/12oz - "An amber ale spiced with fresh Serrano Peppers, pleasing to both the nose and palate. A great beer for casual enjoyment and perfect for food pairing" (source).
  • Traveler Jolly Traveler Winter Shandy, $1.69/12oz - "Driven by a desire to embrace all things wintry, the Jolly Traveler warms the spirit during the months when it’s needed most. Embracing the flavors of the season, Jolly is the first-ever winter shandy with notes of orange, pomegranate and spice" (source).
  • Southern Tier 2XMAS, $1.99/12oz - "Double spiced ale brewed in the tradition of Swedish Glögg" (source).
  • Left Hand Warrior IPA, $6.69/22oz - "
  • Brewed only once a year with fresh hops hand-picked in Longmont, CO and Warrior hops straight off the vine from Yakima, WA. 
  • Warrior is brewed using a unique style called 'Wet Hopping,' which requires only hops that are no more than a day from the vine. 'Wet Hopping' imparts only a mild aroma, but an exceptionally fresh unfiltered hop flavor" (source).

New and Returning Spirits

  • Journeyman Old Country Goodness, $18.99/1000ml - "The taste is in the secret. Let your imagination run wild with this apple cider liqueur to excite your taste buds from a recipe passed down generations ago" (label).
  • Buffalo Trace Buffalo Cream, $19.99/750ml (limit 2) - "
  • Bourbon Cream is handcrafted using Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon, making it a perfect marriage of rich delicious cream and smooth Kentucky bourbon. You can enjoy it chilled, on the rocks, or pour it in a cup of coffee for an indulgent after dinner treat. This liqueur is rich and sweet. The smooth taste of Buffalo Trace Bourbon compliments the creamy vanilla flavor" (source).
  • Glenglassaugh Torfa, $74.99/750ml - "Glenglassaugh Torfa, with its smoky, peaty, phenolic nature, is a unique expression and quite different to the usual type of whisky produced in the Highlands. Torfa has a brooding, edgy character whose personality is to be found at the darker end of the spectrum. Its name takes its inspiration from the Old Norse language with which the Scots dialect spoken in North East Scotland has an affinity and translates to 'turf' or 'peat'" (source).
  • Glenglassaugh Evolution, $79.99/750ml - "Glenglassaugh Evolution is created by maturing the whisky in a unique combination of the finest hand-picked ex-Tennessee first-fill whiskey barrels. This expression shows great depth of character and finesse, a harmonious combination of whisky and oak. Bottled at 50%, natural colour and non chill filtered, Evolution represents the heart of Glenglassaugh’s distinctive personality, and indeed the landscape in which it is set" (source).
  • Glenglassaugh Revivial, $67.99/750ml - "The Revival is the first expression released from Glenglassaugh distillery after being mothballed for more than 20 years. The Glenglassaugh Revival has been matured in a balanced mix of ex-red wine and fresh bourbon casks, vatted and re-racked for double maturation in rich sherry casks. Bottled at 46%, non chill filtered and of natural colour, Revival is a stunning Highland single malt with a coastal charm" (source).

Video of the Week | Sierra Nevada

The story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.


Friday, October 31, 2014

New Beer Friday, Killer Beer Edition (Oct 31)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

I was dumping another load of acorns in the woods behind the pole barn when I saw Tom pedaling down the gravel road on his fat-tired Schwinn. When I walked back to the yard he was sitting on the bike looking at the big piles of acorns that I had spent the morning raking up on the grass and sweeping up on the concrete driveway. “Morning Tom,” I said after setting the wheelbarrow down. “Out for a little exercise?”

A gust of wind shook loose another salvo of acorns and Tom lowered his chin and put the hand that was missing the pinky finger over his head. “Doc said it’d be a good idea after the heart attack,” he said after the pinging, thudding, bouncing and rolling stopped. “It’s afternoon by the way.”

“You should wear a hat in an acorn storm, Tom,” I said. “What time is it?”

He looked up at the October sun filtering through the brown leaves of the tall oaks. “About two I reckon.”

“Can’t be that late,” I said.

Tom squeezed his five-fingered hand into the front pocket of his overalls and extracted a wrist watch that was missing its leather band. “Two-fifteen,” he said matter of factly, then after a pause and just as matter of factly, “It’s going to be another hard winter.”

“Why do you say that, Tom?”

“Lots of acorns,” he said. “Never seen so many acorns.”

“Were there a lot last year?” I asked.

Tom shifted a little on the bicycle seat and looked out at the lake. “Not many.”

“Wasn’t last winter hard?”

“Oh yes,” he said.

I was about to tell Tom the real reason why there are so many acorns this fall but then remembered the morning last summer when he showed me how to catch grasshoppers when their wings were still heavy with dew and how he took me to his secret spot near Bear Lake and how he taught me to fish for brookies while laying on my belly next to the creek. Then I remembered the afternoon I was cutting wood on the edge of the swamp and how I got the truck stuck in the mud and how all the other neighbors kept kidding me and how Tom said “That’s enough boys” and how he pulled the truck out with his old Ford tractor. I remembered sitting on his porch that night sipping bourbon and still feeling stupid and how he kept on saying “shit happens” and me asking him if he ever did anything stupid and him telling me about the day he lost the finger.

When my wife came out of the cottage Tom told her the best way to keep the mice out of the basement and how to get rid of the black ants and repeated his prognostication for the upcoming winter.

“Didn’t you tell him what you read about the acorns?” my wife asked after Tom left.

“No,” I said and dumped another shovelful of acorns into the wheel barrow.

New and Returning Beer

  • Odd Side Ales Grannys Apple Pie, $2.29/12oz - "Ale made with cider and spices" (source).
  • Odd Side Ales Bourbon Barrel Aged Mayan Mocha Stout, $4.79/12oz - "Stout with coffee, cinnamon, nutmeg, and habaneros added then aged in bourbon barrels" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Harvest, $5.99/22oz (Limit 1) - "Each fall, hops reach their peak flavor- bursting with aromatic oils that give ales layers of complex flavor and aroma that can only happen at harvest time. For us, fall comes twice a year- once in each hemisphere. This Harvest Ale features "wet" or un-dried whole-cone hops from Yakima, WA that are plucked from the bine and delivered to our brewery within 24 hours of picking" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Estate Series Harvest Ale, $8.69/22oz (Limit 1) - "Our handmade Estate Ale highlights the flavors of home. From the sun-drenched fields of California’s North Valley comes our Estate Ale. It’s rich with the flavors of the valley—hops with earthy, grapefruit-like flavors and layered spicy aromas, and barley with mild sweetness and smooth, toasted flavors. Enjoy this remarkable homegrown ale, made with organic wet hops and barley grown at our brewery in Chico, and one of the few estate-made ales produced anywhere in the world. Together, these crops grow alongside the brewery to make a truly unique brew" (source).
  • Great Lakes Christmas Ale, $2.39/12oz - "It has a cinnamon and ginger spice flavor, a rich copper color, and a medium body that will fit with any holiday meal" (source).
  • Shorts Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, $2.19/12oz - "Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is a Double Belgian IPA brewed exclusively with Galaxy hops. The nose is an impressive blend of citrus aromas reminiscent of guava and lemons. It also has subtle Belgian yeast esters. An intense, clean bitterness dominates the flavor profile, with little malt character to compete with. A fruity yeast sweetness is noticeable in the finish, alongside a resounding bitterness" (source).
  • Arbor Jackhammer Old Ale, $2.29/12oz - "The Jackhammer is a very dark brown ale with a nice reddish hue. Offering a welcome warming sensation, it has a rich malty sweetness. Fruity esters, expected in this style beer, add to the already complex palate and help to provide an immensely satisfying experience" (source).
  • Stone Coffee Milk Stout, $2.09/12oz - "Though Stone Brewing Co. is well known for massive stouts such as the venerable Stone Imperial Russian Stout (10.6% abv) and the more recent collaborative w00tstouts (13%-13.5% abv), at a mere 4.2% abv Stone Coffee Milk Stout presents a walk on the significantly milder, far opposite side of the stout spectrum. Rather than being as bombastic as it’s MUCH higher alcohol cousins, this beer is even on the palate, bringing on a hint of coffee with a highly drinkable yet quite modest backdrop of chocolate and roasty notes. At a mere 4.2% ABV, it’s the lowest-alcohol bottled beer we’ve released in 15 years (the previous being our 3.9% abv one-off release called Lee’s Mild in 2009), and you can expect a correspondingly modest body and mouthfeel. Additionally, while some milk stouts have more residual lactose sugar, we opted for a less sweet approach to the category, so you’ll notice it finishes fairly dry on the palate. Want more body or a more intense flavor profile? We got that, but this ain’t it. This is the lil’ one in our stable. Enjoy it for what it is and for what it’s not" (source).
  • Stone Stochasticity Project Hibiscusicity, $8.69/22oz - "The recipe for a citrusy, hibiscus-flavored wheat ale that Steele conceived was first brewed on the 10-barrel brewhouse at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station. Originally named “Going Red,” the beer was a special-release offering to promote awareness of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign. The addition of Magnum and Sterling hops provides a balanced bitterness to the beer’s citrusy, berrylike spiciness, while the malted wheat adds a subtle yet sweet bready flavor to complement the tartness of the hibiscus flowers. Giving the beer tropical fruit and banana characters, the Belgian yeast strain Ardennes was used to complete the unique brew. As a result of this serendipitous combination of ingredients, fans will savor a flavorful beer that is complex, refreshing and easy to drink. Stochasticity Project Hibiscusicity may be enjoyed now or cellared for several months or years" (source).
  • Stone double Bastard, $8.69/22oz - "This is a lacerative muther of a beer. The evil big brother of Arrogant Bastard Ale. It is strongly suggested you stay far, far away from this beer. Those foolish enough to venture close enough to taste will experience a punishingly unforgiving assault on the palate" (source).
  • North Peak Hoodoo, 2.79/12oz - "North Peak Hoodoo MidWest Wet Hop IPA is 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" (source).
  • Green Flash Green Bullet, $3.59/12oz - "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).
  • 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 chilie" (source).
  • Arcadia Barrel Aged Shipwreck Porter, 8.59/12oz (Limit 1) - "Aged in in 22 year-old Bourbon Barrels for almost two years" (source).
  • Corsair Old Punk Pumpkin Spice Whiskey, $45.99/750ml - "Pumpkin and spice flavored whiskey aged in American oak" (source).
  • Corsair Pumpkin Spice Moonshine, $39.99/750ml - "Pot distilled pumpkin and spice flavored whiskey" (source).

Video of the Week | Killer Beer

Happy Halloween, everyone.


Friday, October 24, 2014

New Beer Friday, Slows Bar BQ Edition (Oct 24)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

Slows Bar BQ. Coming Soon to GR!
If you live in the Grand Rapids area and you love authentic Southern barbecue you have to be excited about the announcement this week that Slow’s Bar BQ is opening a location in the Downtown Market next spring.

Slow’s has garnered national attention since opening in 2005 in a renovated building in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood a few blocks away from the massive vacant lot that once was the site of Tiger Stadium.

Barb and I visited the Detroit location a few years ago and were impressed by the restaurant’s quality of food and by its extensive selection of craft beer. Click here to read the review of our 2012 visit.

New and Returning Beer

  • New Belgium Accumulation, $1.69/12oz - "Accumulation White IPA was inspired by the white beauty that falls each winter from our Colorado sky. Flurries of Mosaic and Amarillo hops bring soft fruit and citrus flavor, followed by a layer of bitter. Piled high in IBUs, Accumulation will make your winter brighter" (source).
  • Sam Adams White Christmas, $1.69/12oz - "As crisp as the first snowfall of the year, this unfiltered white ale is blended with holiday spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, & orange peel. The familiar citrus and wheat characters of the ale are complimented by the warmth of the spices for a festive brew that’s perfect for the season" (source).
  • Sam Adams Merry Maker, $7.19/22oz - "This rich dark gingerbread stout entices with the aromas of the holidays. The flavor of gingerbread comes alive, beginning with the smooth sweetness and heartiness of dark roasted malts and a touch of wheat. But it’s the intensity and spices of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, & ginger that add a wicked kick for a jolly playful brew full of merry mischief" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Kvasir, $14.39/750ml - "With the help of biomolecular archaeologist Dr. Patrick McGovern, we've re‐created another Ancient Ale, this time from the Nordic climes of Scandinavia. The recipe for Kvasir was developed with the help of chemical, botanical and pollen evidence taken from a 3,500‐year‐old Danish drinking vessel. The vessel, made of birch bark, was found in the tomb of a leather‐clad woman Dr. Pat says was probably an upper-class dancer or priestess. The analysis pointed to the ingredients used in this unique brew: wheat, lingonberries, cranberries, myrica gale, yarrow, honey and birch syrup. The base of Kvasir is a toasty red winter wheat, and the bog-grown berries deliver a pungent tartness. While a handful of hops is used, the earthy, bitter counterpunch to the sweet honey and birch syrup comes from the herbs" (source).
  • Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA, $13.19/750ml - "Blend two Dogfish Head favorites, add maple syrup and carbonate the mixture naturally. What do you get? 75 Minute IPA. The carbon dioxide trapped during bottle conditioning gives 75 Minute IPA a soft and velvety mouthfeel. Dry-hopped with whole-leaf Cascades, this complex IPA has been known to inspire pilgrimages to our brewpub" (source).
  • Southern Tier Krampus, $7.79/22oz - "Dark malts and aromatic hops create the diabolical spirit of this brew. It is finished with lager yeast and aged cold for no less than 30 days. This Imperial Helles Lager will warm even the darkest hearts. This season, replace the cookies with a bottle of Krampus" (source).
  • Southern Tier Old Man Winter Ale, $1.69/12oz - "With the onset of winter, the brewer’s mind turns to providing warmth. For our winter seasonal, Southern Tier offers Old Man Winter Ale, a rich and complex amalgam of hops and barley that will put the feeling back in your toes and lift your spirits above the snow. Old Man Winter throws a deep and inviting hue with a thickness that clings to the glass and the warmth of an open flame. Because of its high alcohol content, Old Man Winter is a heady brew that encourages sipping and pondering its essential richness. Drink it fresh now, or cellar some bottles to see how this old man becomes wiser with age" (source).
  • Greenbush Unicorn Killer, $2.19/12oz - "Ale brewed with pumpkin and spices" (source).
  • Left Hand Nitro Wake Up Dead, $3.19/12oz - "Wake Up Dead lurks in our cellars for over 4 months before being unleashed. Hints of raisins, black licorice, coffee and dark chocolate are followed by earthy, herbal hop notes. Any apprehensions about the rest of your day are quickly forgotten, for whatever the mind expects, it finds. Sometimes you’re not in the mood for what everyone else is having" (source).
  • Bells Winter White, $1.79/12oz, $1.99/16oz can - "A Wheat Ale brewed with American Wheat and a proprietary blend of Hefe and classic Belgian-style yeasts. A refreshing winter alternative created from the subtle fusion of two classic flavors" (source).
  • Leinenkugel Cranberry Ginger Shandy, $1.49/12oz - "Did you know that Wisconsin produces more cranberries than any state in America? Our hometown pride inspired us to brew Leinenkugel’s Cranberry Ginger Shandy. The combination of wheat beer, cranberry and ginger is as refreshing as a toboggan ride" (source).
  • Saugatuck Neapolitan Stout, $2.59/12oz - "A perfect blend of classic dry stout character with brilliant flavors of Neapolitan Ice Cream. Experience the nostalgic flavors of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry all in one glass – because sometimes ice cream just isn’t enough" (source).
  • Shorts Lil' Wheezy, $1.99/12oz - "Lil’ Wheezy is a light bodied, heavily hopped, amber colored lager. Unique earthy hop characteristics are balanced slightly by the full grain attributes. The finish is bitter, and sharply resonates on the palate" (source).

Video of the Week | Dogfish Head Kvasir

Available now at Siciliano's (see above)


Friday, October 17, 2014

New Beer Friday, Local Watering Hole Edition (Oct. 17)

Local watering hole. Pullman, Michigan.
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

“How can you experience the rich fabric of life in a locale without visiting bars?”

—Jim Harrison

When you’re far from home and you go into certain bars you must be prepared to get the once-over by the regulars. I’m not talking about touristy bars or genteel bars or bars in big cities that see an unbroken stream of unfamiliar faces. I'm talking about those out of the way, hole in the wall bars where you go to get a taste of the local color.

The degree of scrutiny you get in these watering holes is directly proportional to the remoteness of the locale—a tavern, for instance, in the middle of nowhere in the Upper Peninsula—or the sheer inexplicableness as to why you are there— a seedy waterfront saloon, for example, a block off the Malecon in the sleaziest part of Havana.

You’re allowed to take mental photographs in these bars as long as you follow some common sense rules. You don’t brashly place quarters on the edge of the pool table the minute you walk in. If there’s country music playing on the jukebox you don’t replace it with heavy metal. You don’t sniffle about the drink choices or get friendly with the women unless they get friendly with you and you don’t stare back at a table of burly dudes after asking them what the hell they’re looking at.

I’ve gone to a lot of these bars over the years and have accumulated an album full of memories.

There was that bar in Seney many years ago where Harry Winston and I drank Blatz out of long neck bottles all night after fishing all day on the Two Hearted and where we ate pickled pigs feet, pickled eggs and pickled bologna. We were listening to an old guy who lost his leg in a mining accident talking about why the U.P. should be a separate state when a dwarf walked in with two of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. The dwarf was wearing a tuxedo and the women were wearing evening gowns.

There was that night playing pool with a bunch of stoned locals at the Green Parrot Bar in Key West back before it was discovered by the tourists. No one could knock me off the table but no one cared because they were stoned and I kept buying the drinks. A warm spring breeze was coming through the open windows and Al Green was playing on the jukebox.

Then there was that time in Old Havana when Barb and I went into a bar down the street from the Plaza de la Catedral where street vendors hawked black berets and Che Guevara t-shirts and where an old woman smoking a foot long cigar asked us for money. We met a young doctor in the bar who told us there was never any food in the government ration stores. When I asked him what he thought of Fidel and Raul he smiled and looked away.

New and Returning Beers

  • Alaskan Smoked Porter, $8.49/22oz - "The dark, robust body and pronounced smoky flavor of this limited edition beer make it an adventuresome taste experience. Alaskan Smoked Porter is produced in limited "vintages" each year and, unlike most beers, may be aged in the bottle, much like fine wine" (source).
  • Alaskan Winter, $1.59/12oz - "Brewed in the style of an English Olde Ale, this ale balances the sweet heady aroma of spruce tips with the clean crisp finish of noble hops. Its malty richness is complemented by the warming sensation of alcohol" (source).
  • Brooklyn Black Chocolate, $2.19/12oz - "This is the famous Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, our award-winning rendition of the Imperial Stout style once made exclusively for Catherine the Great. We use three mashes to brew each batch of this beer, achieving a luscious deep dark chocolate flavor through a blend of specialty roasted malts. We brew it every year for the winter season. It is delicious when newly bottled, but also ages beautifully for years" (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).
  • New Holland Hopivore, $2.59/12oz - "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).
  • Shorts Beard of Zeus, $1.99/12oz - "Beard of Zeus is a super hoppy India style Pale Lager. We heavily hopped the final runnings of a Peaches and Créme batch with Zeus hops and then lagered it. Small amounts of bitter orange peel was added to provide subtle sweet flavors to the beer and enhance the aromas of the Zeus hops" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Snowpack, $18.39/12-pack - "Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. filled its third and final seasonal mixed 12-pack of the year with beers that ward off winter’s bite. Aptly named, Snowpack features two brand new beers and two steadfast recipes. The variety pack starts heading to distributors this week and will be available through January 2015. Whether harnessing the comfort of coffee or borrowing a little bit of summer from the Southern Hemisphere, Snowpack helps uplift those hunkering down for the storm.
      • Boomerang IPA is a blend of American brewing style with Southern Hemisphere flavor. Sierra Nevada added heaps of vibrant Australian hops to this bold beer. With a light, balanced malt body and compelling floral and fruity hop aromas, Boomerang is an intriguing international spin on the classic IPA.
      • Coffee Stout combines the best of Sierra Nevada’s two favorite brews—coffee and beer. The brewery blended the hearty flavors of coffee with dark roasted malts to create a complex and layered mix of dark chocolate, caramel and light fruity notes punctuated with a roasty, dry finish for the perfect cold-weather drink.
      • Porter was part of Sierra Nevada’s inaugural lineup decades ago. Its big malt flavor earned it permanence, and craft drinkers continue to relish the rich, bittersweet and roasted gem. Medium bodied and balanced by crisp American hops, Porter is a great finale to a long winter’s day of work.
      • Pale Ale began as a home brewer’s dream, grew into an icon, and inspired countless brewers to follow a passion of their own. Its unique piney and grapefruit aromas from the use of whole-cone American hops have fascinated beer drinkers for decades and made this beer a classic, yet it remains new, complex and surprising to beer drinkers every day. It is—as it always has been—all natural, bottle conditioned and refreshingly bold." (source).
  • New Belgium Le Terroir Dry Hopped Sour Ale, $15.99/22oz - "Le Terroir: French, meaning ‘from the terrain, soil, land, ground, earth.’ You may have heard it as a wine term speaking of the environmental conditions of the vineyard, the pH of the soil, even the slope of the land. But beer has it too, especially a New Belgium sour beer, which oozes terroir from the pores of the wooden foeders we age it in. They produce a base beer that’s golden-colored with a soft overripe peach aroma and just the right amount of tart. And after 3 years in the foeders, you can bet it has some nice earthy tones. Round out that fruity base with even more unique fruity hops like Amarillo and citra, and this beer may just have more terroir than your classiest wine. And with the hop burp, compliments of the dry-hopping, Le Terroir is definitely classy" (source).

Picture of the Week | Blandford Nature Center

Less than a mile from Siciliano's, Blandford Nature Center
is a great place to walk off all the tasty suds from New Beer Friday.