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Friday, March 27, 2015

New Beer Friday, Meet Smiling Matt Edition (March 27)

Meet Smiling Matt
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

It’s often said that location is critical to the success of a retail store but in my opinion nothing is more important than a staff of good employees. Back when I owned a 7-Eleven on Plainfield Avenue and then the little convenience store in Creston Heights—the first Siciliano’s Market—the hiring process was relatively easy. I conducted interviews, checked references and then hired the person I deemed to be the most honest, friendly and dependable. Being able to explain the difference between a lime and cherry Slurpee and being passionate about light American lagers weren’t prerequisites for employment.

Hiring staff members for the current incarnation of Siciliano’s Market is a little more complicated. I still first look for people who are honest and dependable but the specialized nature of Siciliano’s necessitates that the folks I hire are passionate about the products we sell as the store. It's a plus if they are homebrewers or winemakers; if they’re not they must be willing to learn.

I’m usually methodical when looking for new employees but every so often folks with just the right credentials come along and I pretty much hire them on the spot. Such was the case with our newest Siciliano’s staff member Matt Ross.

I know Matt is passionate about the products we carry because he’s spent a fair amount of time in the store over the past few years. He’s also an experienced homebrewer, and I know he has good communication skills because I’ve seen him in action—last winter he teamed up Siciliano’s staffer Ed Long to conduct a series of homebrewing classes at the Kent District Library. And last, but certainly not least, he’s such a personable young man that we have already tagged him with the nickname Smiling Matt.

I’m very pleased that Matt has joined the elite Siciliano’s sales team. I think our customers will agree that we found another good one.

Reminder(s) of the Week

The window for entering the 12th Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Contest is now open. Rules and entry information can be found on the competition website.

We are returning to the popular Johnson Park on Saturday, May 16 for the 12th Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Party. Tickets are $40.00 per person and are now on sale. Space is limited and tickets must be purchased in advance. Please note that party attendees will again be receiving T-shirts this year and we will be asking for sizes at the time you purchase your ticket. If you are purchasing tickets for a spouse, friend, family member or significant other, you will need to know the correct size. Please don’t guess.

New and Returning Beer

  • Bell's Oberon, $1.79/12oz, $1.99/16oz - "Bell’s Oberon is a wheat ale fermented with Bell’s signature house ale yeast, mixing a spicy hop character with mildly fruity aromas. The addition of wheat malt lends a smooth mouthfeel, making it a classic summer beer" (source).
  • New Holland Black Tulip, $2.59/12oz - "Mysterious, alluring and seductive, yet tantalizingly elusive; these are the storied characteristics of the Black Tulip" (source).
  • Delirium Red, $6.19/11.2oz - "Colour and sight: Deep dark red colour, with a light pink, compact and lacing head. Scent: Soft fruity aroma, with hints of almond and mildly sour cherries. Flavour: Sweet and fruity, with a nice balance between sweet and sour. An excellent dessert beer" (source).
  • Volkan Black Wheat, $3.69/12oz - "We condition the water for the beer with our proprietary Santorini basalt "Lava rock filter" and then blend the beer with flavourful ingredients of exotic hops, fragrant Santorini honey and Citrus Medica-a rare fruit brought to Greece from Persia by the army of Alexander the Great. For each 1€ of profit, Volkan will help reduce the Greek National debt by 50 eurocent" (source).
  • Lakefront Big Easy, $1.69/12oz - "This big bodied, blonde, doppelbock is brewed in celebration of that festival of all festivals, Mardi Gras. Generous amounts of malts are added to this beer to give it a sweet taste" (source).
  • Hofbrau Maibock, $2.09/12oz - "By tradition, the first barrel of Maibock is tapped in the Hofbräuhaus in the last week of April, in time for the merry month of May. The success story of Munich’s oldest bock beer goes back as far as 1614. With its powerfully aromatic flavour and its alcoholic content of some 7.2% volume, Hofbräu Maibock marks one of the high points in the beer-lover’s calendar" (source).
  • Left Hand Great Juju, $9.99/22oz - "Once beguiled by the master, this amber will take you to places where Good Juju can’t follow and you may just find yourself wanting to linger. A pungent ginger beer with a spicy aroma and noticeable ginger heat. The spicy heat is balanced out by a slight candied ginger sweetness with light caramel notes. Yes, it contains alcohol" (source).
  • Shorts Superfluid, $2.39/12oz - "Superfluid is an American Double IPA with a large, but basic malt bill that explodes with resiny hop aromas! The hop flavors are the focus of this beer due to the lack of sweet specialty grains. Tasty qualities of citrus fruit and berries explode on the palate. Superfluid’s perfect bitterness resonates across the palate, complementing the awesome hop intensity" (source).
  • Oddside Lolly Catcher Hefeweizen, $1.99/12oz - "A carefully crafted, comforting concoction of creamy cohesiveness" (source).
  • Stone Enjoy By 4.20.15, $2.99/12oz, $8.99/22oz (1 per) - "You have in your hands a devastatingly fresh double IPA. Freshness is a key component of many beers – especially big, hoppy IPAs – but we've taken it further, a lot further, with this one. We brewed this IPA specifically NOT to last. We've gone to extensive lengths to ensure you get your hands on this beer within an extraordinarily short window, and we've sent a very clear message in the name of the beer itself that there is no better time than right NOW to enjoy this IPA" (source).
  • Stone Russian Imperial Stout, $8.99/22oz (1 per) - "Stone Imperial Russian Stout is so thick, rich and, well, sinful, you might worry that you'll be doomed to the fiery pits just for thinking about a sip. Rest assured, however, that even though this seemingly pernicious brew is indeed as black as sin, we guarantee that no actual sin was committed in making'll have to add that on your own. This massive and intensely aromatic beer abounds with notes of chocolate, coffee, black currants, anise and roastiness, and its heavy palate is nothing to be trifled with" (source).
  • Stone Chai Spiced Russian Imperial, $8.99/22oz (1 per) - "Inspired by the savory flavors and aromas of chai tea, a blend of cinnamon, cardamom, clove, ginger, black pepper and black tea was blended with batches of Stone Imperial Russian Stout, post-fermentation. The aroma primarily showcases the spice and tea qualities, followed by mild clove and roasted barley characters. 2015 Stone CHAI-SPICED Imperial Russian Stout carries rich cinnamon, ginger and cardamom characteristics, followed by flavors of sweet tea as well as coffee from the base beer. As it warms, cocoa and coffee notes will balance out the piquant tea-and-spice medley" (source).

Video of the Week | Tripelroot Stout Madness

Visit the Tripelroot website for more information.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Letter from Doug Dorda: Thanks for a Great Six Years!

By Doug Dorda

It may be said that the greatest gift one can be given is that of family, something I dearly lacked in Grand Rapids before accepting the position at Sicilianos. I hail from the other side of the state, as does my family, and their absence began to weigh heavily on me in the year previous to my employment.

I could have never guessed that this store, a place of my passion and fascination, would also become the birthplace of another family for me. This was a family built on camaraderie, a zeal for food and drink, a passion for infinitesimal details, and a love for the common man who holds the simple enjoyment of life sacred. I don’t just mean those with blood ties to the Siciliano’s, but all who have walked through its doors and shared a moments respite in the truest “mom and pop” environment I have had the good pleasure of knowing.

The words “thank you” have never, and will never, come close to capturing the gratitude I feel for having been welcomed into such a genuine and caring community. Though, after many years, I have decided to leave Siciliano’s as my place of employ, I know full well that, just like my blood family, I will always be a part of the family that embraced me so warmly even before my first days of work at the store. To know that is a gift worth more than all the precious metals on this earth.

From the bottom of my heart, I say this to customers, co-workers, Steve and Barb alike: Thanks for giving me a chance. I love you guys!

Friday, March 20, 2015

New Beer Friday, Farewell Doug Edition (March 20)

Good luck, Doug!
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

It is with mixed emotions that I am prefacing this New Beer Friday with the news that long time staffer Doug Dorda is leaving Siciliano’s Market to take a position as a cellarman at Founder’s Brewing Company.

While I’m pleased that we can add another name to the list of former Siciliano’s employees who are working in the local brewing industry I’m also sorry to see Doug go. His excellent customer service, his knowledge of homebrewing and his passion for craft beer, fine wines and quality spirits have been instrumental in helping Siciliano’s Market maintain its status as one of West Michigan’s premier specialty stores.

I would like thank Doug for his efforts over the past six years and I wish him much success in his future endeavors.

Just a reminder that the window for entry registration for the 12th Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Contest will open Monday, March 23 at 8 a.m. and close Sunday, April 12 at 10 p.m. Complete details can be found on the competition website. Participants will be able to print entry forms and bottle labels off the site after registering their entry.

This year’s Best of Show winner will have the opportunity to brew a double batch of the winning recipe with 2012 contest winner and current pub brewer Russ Smith on Odd Side Ales’ one-barrel pub system. The BOS winner will also receive a $500 gift card to Siciliano’s Market in addition to having his or her name engraved on the prestigious Siciliano’s Cup.

Finally, we are returning to the popular Johnson Park on Saturday, May 16 for the 12th Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Party. Tickets are $40.00 per person and will go on sale Monday, March 23. Tickets are limited and must be purchased in advance. Please note that party attendees will again be receiving T-shirts this year and we will be asking for sizes at the time you purchase your ticket. If you are purchasing tickets for a spouse, friend, family member or significant other, you will need to know the correct size. Please don’t guess.

New and Returning Beer

  • Summit Hop Silo, $3.09/16oz cans - "Introducing Unchained #18, Hop Silo. Brought to you by Summit Brewer Eric Harper, it’s our first Double IPA. With an intense hop profile of citrus with herbal and pine undertones and a supporting backbone of imported UK malts. Available in 16 ounce cans (another Summit first!) and on draught at select bars, pubs and restaurants." (source).
  • Sam Adams Tetravis, $11.19/750ml - "Its deep complexity begins with a molasses sweetness with notes of dark fruits like raisin and fig and develop further with an undercurrent of tart spice from its distinctive Belgian yeast for a truly transfixing brew" (source).
  • De Proef Signature Ale, $17.19/750ml - "A stylish and artistic collaborative brewing effort that combines the enormous talents of Dirk Naudts, at Belgium’s De Proef Brewery, and Tomme Arthur of Port Brewing and Lost Abbey in southern California" (source).
  • Odd Side Paranoia, $2.49/12oz - "An imperial IPA" (source).
  • Weyerbacher Tango, $9.59/750ml - "Tango is a big, bold, Belgian-style dark ale brewed with 1,200 pounds of cherries! Tango pours a beautiful ruby color with a nice fluffy head, offering a very complex aroma of cherries and other dark fruits. The strong 750 ml glass bottle finished with a cork and cage allows the very robust bottle-conditioning responsible for Tango’s effervescence. Dark fruit flavors join the cherries to match up with the strong malt bill with the Belgian yeast adding its 2 cents along the way" (source).
  • Green Flash Green Bullet, $8.29/22oz - "A full-bodied Triple IPA, Green Bullet combines New Zealand grown Pacific Gem and Green Bullet hops. Significant pine and citrus hoppiness hit the palate at first sip, accentuated by tropical notes of mango and pineapple, ending with a moderately aggressive, bitter finish" (source).
  • New Holland Incorrigible, $4.79/22oz - "Incorrigible celebrates the beauty of mischief. Wild yeasts and bacteria run free in our sour-aging cellar, the House of Funk, creating vibrant sour and acidic character in this delicate, yet complex wheat beer. The refreshingly tart session beer will tease your palate with a subtle, layered nuance" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter, $1.69/12oz - "Hop Hunter IPA harnesses the complex flavors of just-picked hops through an all-new method of steam distilling wet hops before they even leave the fields. This revolutionary technique captures and intensifies the natural flavors, creating a unique and intensely aromatic beer. Our custom process gathers pure hop oil which, when combined with traditional whole-cone hops in the brew kettle and makes for an incredible IPA experience" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Nooner, $1.59/12oz or $18.39/12pk cans - "Gather your friends, pack the gear, and head out to wherever the day may take you. A midday go-to, Nooner is our take on the classic German-style pilsner—one of the original session beers. Nooner is easy drinking yet packed with the big flavor of spicy and floral whole-cone hops. Its brilliant golden color begs you to take a sip and sink your taste buds into an extremely welcoming beer, full of flavor and balanced by a crisp, dry finish" (source).

Early Sign of Spring | New Rosé Wines

  • Pellehaut Rosé, $9.19/750ml - "Salmon pink color, slightly pale. Intense nose, very fragrant, characterized by cherry and strawberry which mix of floral notes. Beautifully balanced palate, fresh but not excessive acidity. A beautiful "Harmony" between 5 varieties each bringing their qualities" (source).
  • Bargemone Rosé, $16.89/750ml - "Pale cherry color, the rosé wine of Bargemone offers aromas of flowers and red berries, which make it harmonious and balanced" (source).
  • Villa Des Anges Rosé, $9.89/750ml - "A light-bodied wine, intensely crisp and vividly fresh, it offers complex aromas of strawberries and red currants, with a hint of quince" (source). 
  • Lancyre Rosé, $18.09/750ml - "At Lancyre, rosé has its own special place, firstly because we enjoy it – and not just on summer’s evenings on the patio – but also because it’s a wine that needs attention, finesse and meticulous care. So we grow vines especially for our rosé on two plots of red clay for fruitiness and hard limestone for minerality" (source).

Infographic of the Week

View the expanded infographic on the Brewer's Association website


Friday, March 13, 2015

New Beer Friday, Credit Where Credit's Due Edition (3/13)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

I’m very proud of the fact that Siciliano’s Market has garnered accolades as one of Beer City USA’s premier craft beer purveyors but I’m equally pleased that our shop is quietly developing a reputation as one of the best places in town to purchase unique spirits and affordable boutique wines.

Because I’m the one who writes the checks around here, I could take at least some credit for the quality, depth and breadth of our adult beverage selections. But if I'm completely honest, I must admit that there are three members of our staff who deserve to get the majority of recognition.

The almost Herculean task of ordering our massive amount of craft beer is the responsibility of certified cicerone Kati Spayde. Kati not only orders the bulk of our beer, she works closely with the local wholesalers to ensure that we receive our fair share of allocations, and she does a great job of keeping up on the dozens of one-offs and seasonal releases.

Ever since John Barecki took over the liquor orders two years ago there has been a dramatic uptick in the quality and number of interesting spirits on our shelves. John is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to bourbons, ryes and scotches, and he is currently focusing on bringing some highly rated aged rums and tequilas into the store.

And last but certainly not least, if you like our offerings of fine wine you have Sarah Derylo to thank for that. Sarah takes great pride in stocking interesting yet extremely affordable wines that can’t be found in the large box chains and grocery stores.

I’d like to publicly acknowledge Kati, John and Sarah for their hard work, passion and dedication. I know for a fact that Siciliano’s Market would not be the store it is without them.


New and Returning Beer

  • Sam Adams New World Golden Tripel, $11.19/22oz - "Pale gold in color, this ale is big, flavorful and complex. A special Belgian yeast strain adds tropical fruit and spice notes to the crisp dry ale, while Saaz hops add a subtle herbal note" (source).
  • Ommegang Glimmerglass, $2.89/12oz - "The name given to our lake by James Fenimore Cooper - is a beautiful body. Nested between gentle mountains, it reflects any object held up to it, just as it reflects our joy at the arrival of each spring. To help celebrate, pour new spring saison offers a perfect balance of maltiness and hops, with a touch of yeasty fruitiness and a whiff of pepper" (source).
  • Saugutuck Hop On a Blonde, $2.59/12oz - "We took our classic Oval Beach Blonde and increased the malt profile to boost up the body and the ABV, plus we added a boatload of hop additions to amp up the flavor and bring this beer to a whole new level" (source).
  • Southern Tier Where The Helles Summer, $1.69/12oz - "Where the Helles Summer? is a classic German style lager.  These beers originated in the 19th century as a response to Pilsener beers from Czech brewers. Helles is German for “bright.”  In the brewing world we translate it as “light” – light in color and light in alcohol. Where the Helles Summer? is a clean & bready “beer drinker’s beer” balanced with austere noble hop varieties. It’s malt-forward and forward thinking to the warmer days just ahead" (source).
  • North Peak Maylem, $3.39/12oz - "Deep copper in appearance, this brew will also please hop-hunters looking for a break, but still in need of bold flavor and aroma, thanks to Amarillo, Willamette and Celia hops" (source).
  • North Peak Furry, $1.89/12oz - "North Peak Furry Black India Pale Ale is a complex, easy drinking yet remarkable American Black IPA. Furry is clean and crisp throughout with a Centennial hop finish" (source).
  • Shiner Prickly Pear, $1.69/12oz - "This small batch brew is the third in our Limited Edition Brewer’s Pride Craft Brew Series. A combination of Citra and US Golding hops gives this refreshing lager its citrus flavor and floral aroma. The brew’s signature tartness comes from the fruit of the prickly pear, a cactus native to our brewery’s landscape that’s hearty, rugged and unmistakably unique - qualities we surely appreciate" (source).
  • Oscar Blues Pinner, $1.69/12oz - "How do you cram as much hop & malt flavor and aroma as possible into a beer but make it crushable too? That’s the challenge we answered with PINNER Throwback IPA. At 4.9% ABV and 35 IBUs, this drinkable IPA uses several varieties of hops to target the ever-evolving flavor. With tropical fruits, citrus juices, pineapple and spice berry up front in the aroma and flavor, the biscuit & toasted bread at the back balance out all the hops and make a great finish to go on to your next can of PINNER. It’s the perfect beer for a little sip, sip, give" (source).
  • Dark Horse Sapient, $1.99/12oz - "Why is the Grim Reaper holding a mailbox? Well, that mailbox is from a dead Dark Horse beer. The Grim Reaper better know as "Death" was quite fond of our classic Sapient Summer Wheat Ale. When we changed it into a Belgian Style Triple, Death thought it would only be appropriate to bring something from that beer into this beer. So he picked the mailbox, and we weren’t about to argue with him. You can say what you want about him, but that Death sure has a big heart. So anyway...we brewed this beer with a Trappist yeast strain so it is very traditional. The flavors are incredibly complex with notes of mild fruit and finishes with a bit of clove. Although this beer is higher in alcohol it is very smooth and finishes dry on the palate" (source).
  • Brasserie Les 3 Fourquers Lupulus, $11.09/750ml - "Lupulus is a blonde ale with an alcohol proof of 8,5 %, refermented in champagne bottles and in casks. The choice not to filter the beer, as well as not to pasteurize it ensures its taste and aromatic quality" (source).
  • Short's Moher Stout, $2.39/12oz - "Moher Stout is a medium bodied double Irish Stout, black in color with a rich brown lace.  Light roast malt and bitter cocoa aromas lead into a big creamy mocha flavor.  Aided by the addition of flaked oatmeal, the finish is exceptionally smooth, with only a slight dryness and moderate roasted bitterness" (source).
  • Kona Castaway IPA, $1.69/12oz - "Take a sip of this copper-colored India Pale Ale and you’ll taste bold, citrusy hops with a touch of tropical mango and passion fruit, balanced by the rich caramel malts. Castaway IPA has a clean, crisp finish that’s as refreshing as the wind in your face when you set sale for adventure" (source).
  • Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager, $1.69/12oz - "Abita Strawberry Harvest is a lager brewed with pilsner and wheat malts and Vanguard hops. Real Louisiana strawberry juice is added after filtration resulting in a crisp lager with a sweet strawberry flavor, aroma and haze. It is wonderful with desserts or lighter fare such as salads and pastas. Fresh cheeses such as Burrata, chèvre, Crescenza, mozzarella or Teleme pair well with Strawberry Harvest" (source).

Video of the Week | Coldbreak Brewing

Check out these jockey boxes custom built by


Friday, March 6, 2015

New Beer Friday, Beer Fest Success Edition (March 6)

Beer fest tokens circa 2013
By Steve Siciliano

I’m sure I’m not the only Grand Rapidian who’s happy that February is in the rear view mirror. According to the National Weather Service, the average temperature in the environs of Beer City USA last month was 13.3 degrees, making it the coldest February in GR’s recorded history. Even in mild winters February can be a hard month to slog through in West Michigan. Unless, of course, you’re one of those hardy folks who enjoy skiing, snowmobiling, fishing on frozen lakes or going to outdoor beer festivals.

Judging from the positive comments I heard last Sunday morning from festival attendees who stopped by Siciliano’s to stock up on Michigan beer on their way out of town, the Tenth Annual Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival was another huge success. The frigid temperatures last weekend may have done nothing to cool the enthusiasm of these diehard craft beer lovers but they did make dispensing beer rather difficult. It’s a good thing that we had plenty of replacement parts on hand at the store so that the breweries could keep the suds flowing through constantly freezing and consequently breaking kegging systems.

Just a reminder that general registration for the 12th Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Contest will open on Monday, March 9 at 8 a.m. and will close Sunday, April 12 at 10 p.m. The window for entry registration will open Monday, March 23 at 8 a.m. and close Sunday, April 12 at 10 p.m. Complete details can be found on the competition web site. Once your entry is registered you will be able to print entry forms and bottle labels directly from the site.

New and Returning Beer

  • Arcadia Whitsun, $1.79/12oz - "Brewed in the style of a mid-19th century English Festival Ale, this unfiltered wheat beer displays a translucent orange color topped with a creamy, white head. Wheat enhances the mouthfeel of the beer and produces pleasant bread-like notes while Michigan honey provides a caramelized sweetness in the flavor profile. This beer is spiced with orange peel and coriander and small amounts of three hop varieties pleasantly counterbalances the sweetness" (source).
  • Rogue Rooster Sauce, $14.39/22oz - "ROGUE Sriracha Hot Stout Beer, made from Huy Fong original hot chili sauce and sun ripened Rogue Farms ingredients, is ready to drink with soups, sauces, pasta, pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, chow mein, or anything you'd like to wash down with a spicy kick" (source).
  • Odd Side Project Mayhem, $2.59/12oz - "Belgian IPA" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Aprihop, $1.99/12oz - "A strong IPA brewed with real apricots and finished with whole leaf Willamette and Cascade hops" (source).
  • GreenBush Indespensible, $2.19/12oz - "Indispensable, our 8.4% IPA with mandarina hops is now on tap" (source).
  • GreenBush 400 Divine Rabits, $1.99/12oz - "This heavenly brew is sure to satisfy all who you offer it to… and by all, we mean ALL. Two or twenty, be sure to keep enough of this Agave Nectar Wheat Ale on hand lest you anger the gods" (source).
  • Great Lakes Chillwave, $3.29/12oz - "Hop-forward with a balanced blend of Mosaic and Nugget hops" (source).
  • Saugutuk Back Yard IPA, $1.79/12oz - "A refreshing IPA, light-bodied with a hoppy burst of flavor. This 4.5% ABV Session IPA is ‘the perfect beer if you like to do stuff" (source).
  • Leinenkugel Grapefruit Shandy, $1.49/12oz - "Weiss beer brewed with honey with natural flavors added" (source).
  • Leinenkugel Summer Shandy, $1.49/12oz - "Beer with natural lemonade flavor" (source).
  • Boulder Shake, $1.89/12oz - "Our twist on the traditional robust American Porter, Shake Chocolate Porter is dark black in color with rich, sweet aromatics and flavors of dark chocolate, coffee and caramel. This unique brew blends five different grains, including Chocolate Wheat, that along with cacao nibs create a devilishly delicious chocolate finish with a velvety mouthfeel" (source).
  • Abita Spring IPA, $1.69/12oz - "Spring IPA (March-May) is a West Coast-style IPA with an up-front intense hop flavor and aroma. Amarillo and Centennial hops give the brew a rich and resinous flavor of citrus and spice. This bright pale ale has a malt sweetness that will give way to a pleasant bitterness. It pairs well with Mexican or spicy Szechwan Chinese food. Spring IPA is a nice accompaniment for cheeses with strong flavors, like sharp cheddar or goat cheese" (source).

Reminder of the Week | Bread-Making Supplies

Remember, folks. Siciliano's is now carrying bread-making supplies!