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Friday, September 26, 2014

New Beer Friday, Walter Mitty Edition (Sept 25)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

I guess I have a touch of Walter Mitty in me because I often have fantasies about being something a bit more exciting than a fine wine and craft beer merchant. I’ve daydreamed about being a suave CIA spy operating in some steamy third world country, an expatriated writer living in Paris, a hard drinking Key West charter boat captain trying to forget his shady past and a world weary bar owner in Tangier who constantly gets enlisted to help mysterious and beautiful women get out of jams.

Besides those completely improbable imaginative soarings, I’ve also daydreamed about being a pipe smoking, tweed wearing college professor who orates brilliantly on the prose of Hemingway and Faulkner to classrooms full of adoring students. And so when I was asked to teach a series of Wine Making 101 classes in the Kent District Library system this fall, my dreams of being an erudite, somewhat eccentric pedagogue resurfaced and I enthusiastically agreed. So far I’ve taught five of these classes at five different KDL braches and have two more to go.

I must confess that I’m surprised by how many folks are still using libraries. I used them a lot too before Al Gore invented the internet. The fact that all the branches have been packed with patrons when I was there is an indication that the folks at KDL are doing what it takes to keep libraries relevant and are using our tax dollars wisely.

I’d like to thank those fine folks for giving me the opportunity to fulfill, albeit on a very small stage, one of my Walter Mittyesque fantasies.

Now if only the director of the CIA would give me a call.

* * *

Heath MacDonald, the owner of Morgan Vineyards in Coopersville, Michigan, has informed me that he has a good amount of DeChaunac and Frontenac grapes available for purchase at forty cents a pound.

Winemakers may pick these grapes on Saturday, September 27th and Sunday, September 28th between the hours of 9am and 3pm. Please note that you are required to pick the grapes yourself and you must supply your own containers.

Contact Heath at 616-638-9353 for more information.

New and Returning Beer

  • Shorts White Falcon, $1.99/12oz - "White Falcon is a Belgian White Ale hopped assertively like an American India Pale Ale. Its pale yellow color is lightened further by an appropriate haze from the use of malted white wheat. An intense, fruit-filled nose comprised of notable hop aromas, distinctive yeast esters, and pronounced lemon and orange zest is prominent. Flavors of soft grain and earthy hops mingle with an overall fruitiness, amplified by coriander and other lively spice qualities. An agreeable bitterness heightens in the finish before turning unmistakably dry" (source).
  • Shorts Bonafide Legit, $1.69/12oz - "A light bodied American Pale Ale brewed entirely with Northern Michigan grown Summit hops.  An excellent sharp aroma of strong floral and fruity characteristics stings the senses with hop laced anticipation. A sticky hop filled mouthful of damp earthy pine with notable herbal accents coats the entire mouth, followed by a big resiny bitterness that lingers well into the finish, drying the palate and resonating boldly" (source).
  • Rochester Mills Oktoberfest Celebration Lager, $2.19/16oz - "A malty, German-style lager with low to moderate hop bitterness, featuring a medium body and brilliant amber color" (source).
  • Paw Paw Coconut Porter, $1.79/12oz - "Full bodied, smooth & creamy. Hand toasted coconut gives it that Almond Joy satisfaction" (source).
  • Thirsty Dog Bernese Barley Wine Ale, $3.59/12oz - "Like Mr. Buck, the Bernese Mountain Dog on the label, this is a BIG beer. A complex, dry-hopped, and unfiltered barley wine ale that will only get better with age. The malt aroma, possible only in a barley wine ale, together with deep malty flavors melds perfectly with the hops for a truly unforgettable experience" (source).
  • New Holland Carhart Woodsman, $1.59/12oz - "Celebrates craftsmanship and hard work. Locally-grown Cascade hops bring a brightness to this barrel-aged American pale ale. Malt sweetness and toasted oak combine for a smooth, refreshing finish" (source).
  • Grizzly Peak Humongous, $3.39/12oz - "Just the way Paul Bunyan likes it: a huge-bodied beer with big flavor that's as smooth as his axe blade. Humongous follows its traditional imperial red-roots with multiple hop additions, adding complexity and layers of bursting hop flavors. Columbus, Citra, Michigan grown Cascade, and Michigan grown Chinook hops impart 69.9 IBUs that give Humongous balance and poise. A deep amber color, this 9.6% ABV brew could even knock Babe the Blue Ox on his butt with its smooth hoppy goodness" (source).
  • Founders Dark Penance, $3.09/12oz - "A heavy malt foundation includes Crystal malt for sweetness and just enough Midnight Wheat malt to push the color to black. The bitterness is huge, but balanced by malt sweetness and alcohol burn. The hop flavors and aromas range from citrus to floral to pine thanks to a delicious blend of hand-selected Chinook and Centennial hops" (source).
  • De Cam Oude Lambik, $45.09/750ml - "Aged in vats of more than 100 years old, De Cam's Oude Lambiek is a blend of unpasteurized 3 year old lambics specially selected by brewer/blender Karel Goddeau for their character and roundness. Still without a head, OUDE LAMBIEK should be chilled and enjoyed like a fine white wine but prized for the wondrful, rare, spontaneously fermented Belgian Ale that it is" (From the label).
  • Vanberg et Famille Lambikx Oak & Chestnut Barrel Aged, $30.09/750ml - "The first Kriek Lambic in our LAMBICKX line! This stunning ruby-colored lambic has a wonderful aroma of almonds, macaroon and cherry stones. It is dry, with an elegant fruit palate. Lightly sparkling to still" (source).
  • Vanberg et Famille Lambikx French Oak, $25.09/750ml - "The beer you hold in your hand reflects the specific conditions present when it was brewed and during its years of aging in cask. Those conditions cannot be replicated and this beer can never be made again. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience and is now all yours. Enjoy it!" (source).

Photo of the Week | Apple Crushing

Remember folks! Our fruit crushers and basket presses
are free to use for the next two Saturdays.


Friday, September 19, 2014

New Beer Friday, Klein Cider Edition (Sept 19)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

On the next three Saturdays (starting tomorrow), we will be offering the free on-site use our fruit crushers and basket presses in the parking lot behind the store. It’s generally been a good fruit growing season here in West Michigan so in addition to home winemakers, I expect to see a number of cidermakers showing up with bushels of apples.

I admire the enthusiasm of these ultimate do-it-yourselfers because using our equipment to extract juice from apples is not easy. The fruit must be first sliced and diced with the manual crusher and this most definitely is a two person job. While one person holds the crusher steady the other cranks the handle and it isn’t long before the one doing the cranking is sweating. Depending on how many apples you have and how many breaks you take, the crushing could take a few hours.

After the apples are crushed they need to be pressed, and unless you’re using commercial equipment, apples are rather reluctant to give up their juice. And then there are the bees. They generally leave you alone because they’re after the sweet juice not you, but if you have the slightest tinge of apiphobia it is disconcerting to have them constantly buzzing around in your space.

It’s a good thing that there are a number of commercial apple mills in West Michigan who are willing to sell their juice to those of us home cidermakers who would rather have someone else do all the hard and tedious work.

This year Klein Cider Mill will be selling fresh squeezed juice in our back parking lot on Saturday, October 11, and Saturday, October 26, between the hours of 10 am and 1 pm. The price for Klein’s award-winning cider will be $3.50 per gallon and you must supply your own containers.

For a directory of apple orchards and cider mills in West Michigan check out this link.

New and Returning Beer

  • Shorts Wowee Zowee, $1.99/12oz - "Wowee Zowee is a refreshing golden ale infused with fresh mint and mango. An abundance of green mint and fruity aromas pour off of this light bodied ale, opening up the senses with a tingling cool freshness. The first taste offers a minty blast up front, followed by some pleasant, fruity, mango sweetness. The enjoyable balance of both flavors turns slightly tart and bitter as it resonates, but with ample carbonation, the overall finish is crisp and clean" (source).
  • Founders Breakfast Stout, $2.69/12oz - "The coffee lover’s consummate beer. Brewed with an abundance of flaked oats, bitter and imported chocolates, and Sumatra and Kona coffee, this stout has an intense fresh-roasted java nose topped with a frothy, cinnamon-colored head that goes forever" (source).
  • North Peak Hooligan, $1.99/12oz - "With North Peak’s Hooligan Hoppy Pumpkin Ale you will never have to choose between your favorite pumpkin beer and IPA again. Hooligan is brewed with real pumpkin and fresh spices to give you all the spicy pumpkin goodness you could ask for. And did we mention the hops? Hooligan is brimming with hops! It is brewed in Traverse City, MI, on Old Mission Peninsula incorporating locally grown hops" (source).
  • Dark Horse Scotty karate, $2.09/12oz - "For those of you who don’t know who 'Scotty Karate' is… He is a local one man band who plays an amazing slurry of honky tonk influenced, punk country songs. His voice is amazing as well as his high energy shows. (Check him out So, we decided to make a beer and name it in his honor. This beer is a big, full bodied Scottish ale. It is 9.75% alc. but it is very smooth and balanced. " (source).
  • Goose Island Rambler IPA, $1.59/12oz - "A bold ale with a mix of herbal, woody, and citrus aromas from Mt. Hood and Amarillo hops" (source).
  • Goose Island The Muddy, $3.19/12oz - "Brewed with molasses, brewer’s licorice, and Belgian dark rock candi sugar, The Muddy is an imperial stout with amplified sweetness for a taste as distinctive as the Chicago blues that inspired its creation" (source).
  • Bells Third Coast Old Ale, $2.79/12oz - "Third Coast Old Ale focuses on malt, offering notes of burnt caramel & other earthy malt flavors. Designed with vintage aging in mind, the malt aspect is matched to a heavy complement of hops. Sharply bitter at first, this will fold into the malt character over time and balance out the maltiness" (source).
  • Anderson Valley Highway 128, $1.99/12oz - "The refreshing tartness in this divine, bright golden-colored ale gives way to earthy undertones and hints of citrus followed by a slight sea salt-like dryness and tangy, effervescent finish" (source).

Video of the Week | Brewery Vivant, WABF


Friday, September 12, 2014

New Beer Friday, The Big Sale Continues Edition (Sept 12)

By Steve Siciliano

I’d like to remind everyone that our annual homebrew and winemaking Customer Appreciation Sale is currently in full swing and will continue through the close of business on Sunday, September 14.

If you're already a homebrewer or winemaker, you're going to want to take advantage of the 15% discount on most equipment and supplies and check out the items on the deeply discounted list. If you're thinking about taking the plunge into these life-enriching hobbies, now's the time to do it as the beer and winemaking equipment kits are both heavily discounted.

Don't forget that we will be offering free German wieners, sauerkraut and draft root beer to all our great customers on Saturday, September 13. In the meantime, check out this week’s list of the new and returning beers that we have managed to squeeze onto the shelves of our still jam-packed store.

New and Returning Beers

  • Brewery Vivant Tree Bucket, $4.39/16oz - "Somewhere there is a Belgian Monk who’s head is spinning. A Belgian brewer would never put this much hop into a beer. However, we are not Belgian are we? We can do whatever we want. This is an unconventional beer. Belgian candy sugar, classic Belgian yeast, and a boat load of hops, plus some dry hopping in top of that. A very unique take on a Double IPA that will make it stand out in a crowd" (source).
  • Shipyard Pumpkinhead, $1.79/12oz - "Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale is a crisp and refreshing wheat ale with delightful aromatics and subtle spiced flavor" (source).
  • Founders Mosaic Promise, $1.79/12oz - "Mosaic Promise showcases a single malt—Golden Promise—and a single hop—Mosaic. The traditional barley’s depth of flavor and the versatility of the hops’ bittering, flavor and aroma characteristics are the strong pillars that comprise the structure of this clean, rich, golden beer. We can brew complex beers with the best of them, but we recognize that there’s also beauty in simplicity. The beer clocks in at 5.5% ABV and 50 IBUs" (source).
  • Right Brain Smooth Operator Cream Ale, $2.59/16oz - "Made with crystal clear water from Lake Michigan, but never watered down. We’ve searched around the world and have yet to find a beer quite like this. A brilliant straw-colored ale, with a crisp and clean body, subtle malty profile, and satisfying finish reminiscent of a honey-dipped biscuit" (source).
  • Dogfishhead Punkin' Ale, $2.59/12oz - "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).
  • Motor City Brewing Works Pumpkin Ale, $1.79/12oz - "Motor City Pumpkin Ale is a special combination of oven roasted Detroit grown pumpkins and spices, along with a traditional Belgium yeast for a wonderful rich, earth and spicy undertone" (source).
  • Anderson Valley Fall Hornin' Pumpkin Ale, $2.19/12oz - "With a brilliant, deep copper hue and creamy beige-colored head, our Fall Hornin’ Pumpkin Ale has inviting aromas of caramelized malt and baking bread with highlights of cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin and seasonal spices. The pleasantly creamy mouthfeel and silky body embrace the sweet caramel flavors and tang of spices (with just a hint of hops) that ends in a smooth, round finish" (source).
  • Southern Tier Tier De Garde, $9.09/22oz - "Tier de Garde is a Belgian Style India Pale Ale brewed with grapefruit peel. It is the third in our acclaimed Belgian Style Series. Tier de Garde is akin to a Belgian Tripel crossed with an American IPA. Deep copper in color with a thick, rocket white head and persistent lacing. It is noticeably hazy with yeast and sediment visible. Carefully pour it into your favorite glass. Citrusy, hoppy and spicy with some sweetness in the aroma, while being dry and effervescent on the tongue. The flavor is bitter and spicy, peppery and grapefruit zest is apparent. Also expect floral and apricot/pear notes" (source).

Video of the Week | Advice for Homebrewers

Just beginning your homebrew career? Your pals at Founders have some advice.


Friday, September 5, 2014

New Beer Friday, Est! Est! Est! Edition (September 5)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

When Barb and I were in Italy last October we visited Montefiascone, a town fifty-nine miles north of Rome located on a high hill overlooking Lake Bolsena. You won’t see many tourists in Montefiascone. The town has no ancient Roman ruins, famous buildings, grand fountains or amazing museums. But my grandmother was born there, and that was reason enough for us to take a day off from our exploration of the Tuscan hill towns.

On the drive from Tuscany to Montefiascone I talked about Felicita Fulvi. I told Barb about my grandmother’s delicious gnocchi, about the Italian cookies she made every Christmas and how she crocheted afghans upon the arrival of each new grandchild. I related how in the summers she would send visitors home with overflowing bags of home grown tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and zucchini. I told Barb about the early summer evening shortly before my grandmother died when I saw a golden ray of light fall on her smiling face while she was watching her grandsons picking raspberries in her garden.

While we were walking through Montefiascone’s narrow, cobblestone streets we came upon the cathedral of Santa Magherita. Walking down the aisles in the quiet church, it felt good to know that a young Felicita had most certainly been there many years before.

Outside another church was a stone crypt with the words Est! Est! Est! above the carved image of a cleric. I knew the story: a German bishop traveling to Rome sent his attendant ahead with the instructions to write Est! (Latin for “It is”) on the doors of inns that served respectable wine. The attendant thought the wine in a Montefiascone inn was so good that he tripled the cryptic message. Apparently the bishop agreed. According to the legend, he never made it to Rome and lived the rest of his life in Montefiascone.

The story most likely is apocryphal, but the fact that it supposedly occurred in my grandmother’s home town was a pleasant and serendipitous surprise.

* * *

This year there will again be specific days and times when we offer the free use of our wine- and cider-making equipment in the parking lot behind the store. On three consecutive Saturdays beginning September 20, our motorized crusher/de-stemmer, manual apple crusher and fruit presses will be available for free on-site use. Siciliano’s staff members will also be demonstrating basic wine- and cider-making techniques on those days and will aid in sugar and acid adjustments.

Anyone wishing to use the on-site equipment on days other than the three Saturdays (September 20, September 27 and October 4) may do so for a nominal fee. Call the store at 616-453-9674 for more details.

New and Returning Beer

  • Hacker-Pschorr Superior Festbier, $3.09/500ml - A limited edition golden Octoberfest lager (source).
  • Short's Noble Chaos, $1.49/12oz - "Noble Chaos is an Oktoberfest/Marzen (German-style amber lager) with a subtle hop bouquet and toasted caramel malt flavors. It is a well-balanced beer that finishes fresh and clean. With a pleasant nose and medium body, this brew is a taste of the fall season" (source).
  • Schlenkerla Helles, $4.70/17oz - "Brewed with fine Bavarian aroma hops from the area around the city of N├╝rnberg. It’s lagered in century old caves underneath the historic Schlenkerla brewery and maltings. Schlenkerla Helles is boiled in the same copper kettles and bottom fermented by the same yeast as the historic Schlenkerla Smokebeer. Its subtle smokiness without using smoke malt makes “Helles Schlenkerla Lager” a unique representative of the classic lager beer style “Bavarian Helles”. Editor’s note: Since this is not intended as a smoked beer, and is not billed as such, it has been classed here as a Helles, despite some samples having residual smoke character" (source).
  • Arbor Violin Monster, $2.29/12oz - "A geographical approach to the werewolf legends results in the identification of a major werewolf area stretching from mid-Germany into the Netherlands and Belgium. With this in mind, we have created a strong, dark, spiced using ingredients from those regions. Brewed with Midnight Wheat, warming spices, and a hint of brown sugar, the Violin Monster is black as night and packs a punch at 9.3%" (source).
  • Summit Extra Pale Ale, $1.69/12oz - "Summit Extra Pale Ale is not a beer brewed only for beer snobs. Just the opposite. It’s a beer for everyone to enjoy: construction workers, stock brokers, farmers, sales people, clerks, teachers, lawyers, doctors, even other brewers. Its light bronze color and distinctly hoppy flavor have made it a favorite in St. Paul, Minneapolis and the rest of the Upper Midwest ever since we first brewed it back in 1986" (source).
  • Saugatuck Pumpkin Chai, $1.89/12oz - New fall seasonal from Saugatuck Brewing Company.
  • Weinstephaner Oktoberfest, $1.99/12oz - "A full rich bodied, hoppy, seasonal lager. Especially brewed for the Festbier season. This beer truly represents the Bavarian way of celebrating. Deep gold color, great mouthfeel and lots of flavor" (source).
  • Bell's Best Brown, $1.99/16oz cans - "A smooth, toasty brown ale, Best Brown Ale is a mainstay in our fall & winter lineup. With hints of caramel and cocoa, the malt body has the depth to stand up to cool weather, but does not come across as heavy. This balancing act is aided by the generous use of American hops" (source).

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