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Friday, January 10, 2014

New Beer Friday, Rare Beer & Spirits Edition (January 10)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

Every so often Siciliano’s is able to procure a few bottles of ultra-rare beers and spirits that have limited distributions in the West Michigan market. I want to place added emphasis on the word “few”. To cite some examples, we have never been allotted more than two Samuel Adams Utopias at one time, no more than one fifth of Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20-year-old Bourbon and no more than six bottles of the special releases of the Goose Island Bourbon County varietals.

Obviously I am pleased that Siciliano’s is one of the handful of area stores that receive allocations (albeit minuscule) of these super limited releases; however, we have always struggled with the issue of trying to decide what to do with them.

It has been our policy to price these ultra-rare products at our standard mark-up and sell them on a first-come, first-serve basis. The intrinsic flaw of this policy is that only a lucky few ever get the opportunity to purchase them since they are invariably snatched up as soon as they go on sale. I’m sure that most of this snatching is done by customers who just happen to be lucky enough to be in the store at the time, but it’s probably true too that the rarities are sometimes purchased by savvy folks who monitor release dates, know exactly where to find them and, in some cases at least, may be acquiring them for reasons other than personal consumption (i.e., to resell them at a profit).

While I have always been cognizant of the shortcomings of the first-come, first-serve policy for the super rare products, I thought it was better than maintaining a “preferred” customer list or drastically inflating prices and leaving things up to the law of supply and demand. Recently, however, some of the Siciliano’s staffers convinced me that we should try something new.

After much pondering we have decided to begin drawing names for the few bottles we obtain of the ultra-rare beers and spirits. Starting immediately, those interested in acquiring one of these products can personally fill out an entry form in-store, and in February we will begin holding one monthly drawing for a single, random bottle from our cellared cache of ultra-rare products. That cache currently includes such rarities as Samuel Adams Utopias, Pappy Van Winkle 12, 15 and 20 Year Bourbon and Goose Island Halia, Juliet, Gillian and Backyard Rye.

Those wishing to participate in the monthly drawings need to only enter once and their names will be kept in the hopper for as long as we hold the drawings (or for as long as they wish to participate). Winners will have the option of either purchasing or declining the drawing’s predetermined item. If they choose to make the purchase they will have a specified time to personally do so. If they decline, another name will be drawn and their name will go back into the hopper for future drawings.

We think that a name draw will help level the playing field somewhat and give more folks at least the opportunity to acquire these ultra-rare products. We also think it’s going to be fun. We hope that you do too. Feel free to leave your opinion in the comments section below.

Complete rules for the Siciliano’s rare beer and spirits drawing are as follows:

    • Drawings for a specific, predetermined, ultra-rare item will occur on the third Thursday of each month (provided there are bottles in the cellared cache) and the winner will be announced the following day on Facebook and in the New Beer Friday preamble. Winners will also be notified via phone and email.
    • Entrants must be at least twenty-one years of age.
    • No purchase is necessary to enter the drawings.
    • Entrants must personally fill out an entry form in the store. Only one entry is needed for all subsequent drawings. No names will be accepted via phone calls, emails, etc. Only one entry is allowed per person.
    • Entries will be accepted on an ongoing basis.
    • Winners will have the option of purchasing or declining that drawing’s predetermined, specified item. If the winner chooses not to purchase that predetermined, specified item, their name will go back into the pool. If the item is purchased, the winner’s name will be withdrawn from the pool for the next three drawings and then reentered.
    • Winners will have two weeks to personally purchase the item in-store and will be required to show a valid I.D. (No proxies allowed). If the item is not purchased within the specified time period, another name will be drawn.
Until the first official drawing in February, please enjoy this week's list of new beers at Siciliano's.

New (and Returning) Beer

  • Innis & Gunn Oloroso Cask Aged, $7.09/22oz - "We have sourced rare oloroso sherry casks to mature this limited brew. The casks started their life in Spain but were also used to mature some pretty tasty scotch whisky before they came to us. The beer is rich and spicy with lots of nutty caramel sweetness drawn from the wood" (source).
  • Smuttynose Durty, $1.69/12oz - "Smuttynose is proud to introduce our eighteenth Short Batch Beer, "Durty," a brown IPA! There’s no denying that IPA is king of the craft beer world right now. The style is getting so popular that even the big brewers are attempting their own versions, while IPA sub-styles, like session IPA, double IPA, white IPA and black IPA, continue to be created and defined. Brown IPAs combine the caramel and nutty-biscuity flavors of a brown ale, with an American IPA-sized does of hops; it’s pretty straight-forward, but pretty delicious. On to the beer...Durty is a big beer (8.4% abv, 55 IBU) packed full of big hops. We’ve used Polaris, a new German high alpha variety for bittering, followed by American hop icon, Nugget, for the flavor additions and finally, a boatload of Simcoe post-fermentation for dry-hopping. The malt selection isn’t too different from Old Brown Dog, but it’s a bit heavier on the nutty character and dark cocoa notes" (source).
  • Newport Storm Yoko, $1.79/12oz - "Cyclone Yoko is like enjoying a day at the beach… in a 12oz bottle! The latest in the Cyclone Series by Newport Storm, Yoko is a dark ale with coconut flakes, reminding one of warm beaches and sunny surf. Using a „depth-charge‟ method, much like a French press, schemed up by Brew Master Derek Luke, we were able to take the floating bits of real coconut and sink them to the bottom of the bright tank to craftily infuse the natural flavor into the beer, that would bring out the tropical essence, without using any extracts. “We discovered that by “dry flaking” a beer with an insane amount of shaved and toasted coconut after fermentation, we achieved a coconut flavor and aroma that paired perfectly with the darker base beer,” explains Luke. “The addition of German Chocolate Wheat enhances the richness and compliments the silky mouth-feel of the coconut" (source).
  • Newport Storm Xavier, $1.79/12oz - "Not afraid of a challenge, we created our most complicated and technical brew yet! With the help of some gumption, nerve and a microbiology background, we were able to do in just 2 months, what it normally takes brewers years to accomplish! The brewing crew at Newport Storm craftily cultivated this tricky scientific process to make a beer that your taste buds will dancer over! Essentially the same sciences behind what makes sour cream or yogurt sour are working in Xavier, where we use other microorganisms other than yeast to purposely give the beer a tart flavor. Sour ales are a very distinct style of beer that isn’t super common just yet, but is definitely gaining in popularity" (source).
  • Newport Storm Winter Ale (Blizzard Porter), $1.79/12oz - "A full bodied, dark porter with a profound toasted flavor balanced with ample hopping. Dedicated to the Blizzard of 1978, this porter is perfect for a winter day. A hint of roasted chocolate and a spicy aftertaste warm the soul of this brew" (source).
  • Mendocino Smoked Double Porter, $6.09/22oz - "This extra select brew is hand crafted to perfection. A premium American classic from a pioneer brewing legend" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye, $1.59/12oz - "Ruthless IPA is brewed with this rustic grain for refined flavors – combining the peppery spice of rye and the bright citrusy flavors of whole-cone hops to create a complex ale for the tumultuous transition to Spring" (source).
  • Tri-City Charity Island IPA, $1.69/12 oz - "Charity Island IPA has a bold and assertive hoppy characteristic. Brewed with 100% malted barley, the five hop additions give an aroma with a rich citrus, floral, and resinous bouquet. The crisp flavor is in perfect harmony with the malt backbone with a refreshing, clean, and dry finish" (source).
  • Saugutuk Continuum Imperial IPA, $2.59/12oz - "A continuously hopped Imperial American IPA brewed with Centennial, Cascade, Nugget,and Summit hops. Experience the beauty of bitter and the serious of citrus" (source).
  • Bell's Smitten Golden Rye Ale, $1.69/12oz - "Drawn from one of our oldest recipes, Smitten Ale began as part of a series of rye beers at our Eccentric CafĂ©. The combination of sharp citrus & resinous flavors from the hops with the earthy, rustic overtones of the rye malt contribution yield an interesting take on the American Pale Ale" (source).
  • Sam Adams Rebel IPA, $1.69/12oz - "Introducing Rebel IPA, the first all-American hops, West Coast style IPA from the same brewers that started a craft beer revolution in 1984." (source).

Video of the Week | Sierra Nevada Big Foot Ale

Coming soon to a Siciliano's Market near you!

Cheers!

12 comments:

  1. I'm a fan of the new system. Curious though--if you are selected to win and you choose to purchase the item will your name remain in the drawing for future purchases?

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  3. Copy/pasted from my Facebook reply:

    Just my two cents: A slight variation of this raffle policy would be to use something like Brown Paper Tickets and sell entry into this raffle. Then donate all the money raised to a local charity. Make it something simple like $1 per ticket with a max number per person being 5 tickets or something along those lines. I wouldn't mind paying a couple bucks for the chance to buy a Utopias or a Pappy especially if the money goes to charity and I'm sure I'm not alone in this thinking. You could even set up a specific raffle on each bottle if you wanted.

    The idea came from Upland Brewing Company who has done this with their sour releases in the past.

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  4. I enjoy the idea specified above. However, I don't think sales should be online...this would only allow people to have all of their friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances sign up for them, and only come in to your store if they need to pick up a rare bottle. However, if money is involved, less people will have "raffle mules".

    Additionally, I feel it would be advantageous to not advertise the raffle openly (and perhaps this will be how it is done). If it is on display, or openly mentioned in the store, then people will toss their name in just for the heck of it. If it is kept to the people who inquire about certain items, or ones that follow your blog/facebook, then you raise the likelihood that someone will get it for personal consumption, is a supporter of sicilianos, and isn't a truck chaser.

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  5. I'm a fan but this sounds onerous for all involved specifically for beer. Per above you got Gillian from goose island. That beer is a strawberry sour beer which will continue to develop in the bottle for years. In my opinion because strawberry is a delicate flavor it should be consumed fresh. Others may choose to wait. Another flavor is coffee, Some may enjoy an aged coffee stout and others may not. How will this work when say you get a few cases of a ultra rare coffee stout, perhaps from founders. If you're only pulling some bottles at some time you will be preventing your customers from making the choices themselves. Additionally some releases are small and sell quickly but the beer has a definite best by date(as in the case of an IPA). I am concerned how all this will work out, but I will put my name in the hopper regardless because I could get something I really want like pappy 20 or a bottle of BCS Backyard Rye.

    I understand you're in a tough spot being the middle man between artisan producers who can't craft more products and consumers who want more of those products than are produced. Best of luck.

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    1. Items included in the drawings will be the ones that are ultra-limited, meaning those that we get six bottles of or less. If we get a case of something we will handle it the way we've always done--place it on the shelves and put a limit on the per person purchase.

      If a rare product is time sensitive we will ensure those get into the draws first.

      Hope this clarifies things.

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