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Friday, December 23, 2016

New Beer Friday, Traditions of Christmas Edition (Dec 23)

San & Anita on Christmas Eve
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

Up until a few years ago it was a long standing Siciliano family tradition to gather on Christmas Eve at my parents’ house on the lower west side of Grand Rapids. The small house that Sam and Anita Siciliano bought in the 1950s got progressively smaller over the years as a son-in-law, daughters-in-law, grandchildren, grandchildren’s’ spouses and great grandchildren joined their growing family.

I have many fond memories of those crowded and chaotic holiday get-togethers. The table in the cramped dining room was always packed with traditional Sicilian Christmas Eve fare — broiled fish drizzled with fresh garlic, olive oil and oregano, fried calamari, sautéed calamari, mussels in white wine sauce, pasta in a red sauce with sardines and raisins. In later years there was homemade stromboli for the children. With every bottle of wine that was opened the talking and laughter got louder.

While the adults lingered at the table the children would impatiently eye the gifts piled around the Christmas tree in the tiny living room. Every so often they would scamper back into the dining room and fidget beside their parents. “Can we open presents now?” they would always ask. “Not until grandpa is done eating,” would always be the answer.

Grandpa Sam is gone now and two years ago we finally decided that our family had outgrown that little house. We now hold our holiday gatherings in a hall and we no longer have them on Christmas Eve in deference to family members who want to establish Christmas Eve traditions of their own.

Our holiday gatherings understandably have a different feel to them now. But the holiday tradition that Sam and Anita started so long ago remains alive and that is a testimonial to the enduring values that they instilled in their close-knit and ever expanding nuclear family.

New and Returning Beer

  • Greenbush Delusion Imperial Cream Stout, $5.69/12oz - "Our Imperial Cream Stout is aged in whiskey barrels for months for a mind-blowing experience. This concoction will make you ponder the randomness of the universe" (source).
  • Greenbush Remnant of Dragon Imperial Red IPA, $3.49/12oz - "Ever wake up on the wrong side of the cave and start breathing fire at anyone who crosses you? Grab a pint of our Imperial Red IPA. Because you're not you when you’re a dragon" (source).
  • Short's Aorta Double Red Ale, $1.99/12oz - "Aorta Ale is a Double Red Ale with bold flavors of Cascade hops and sweet malt, and a dark reddish-brown color. Subtle aromas of candy, brown sugar, and toasted malt are released from the depths of this full-bodied beast. Raisins, figs, and burnt caramel are among the sweeter and more forward flavors found in Aorta Ale. This brew finishes with a roasted cocoa like bitterness which is magnified by the high alpha hops" (source).
  • Dutch Girl Dirty Boots Imperial Milk Stout, $9.59/22oz - "One of our most popular beers! Imperial Milk Stout made with seven types of light and dark roasted grains hand milled on site. Named after the owners' dog, Bo" (source).
  • Odd Side Jared's Mom Belgian Style IPA, $2.29/12oz - "Love Belgian IPAs? So does Jarod's Mom. Nelson Sauvin hops are the highlight in this IPA" (source).
  • New Belgium Voodoo Ranger IPA, $1.69/12oz - "Bursting with tropical aromas and juicy fruit flavors from Mosaic and Amarillo hops, this golden IPA is perfectly bitter with a refreshing, sublime finish" (source).
  • Elk Brewing Blonde Express, $1.79/12oz - "A Blonde Ale with Rowster Coffee's Ethiopian coffee beans" (source).
  • Elk Brewing Dankalicious IPA, $1.79/12oz - No commercial description.
  • Elk Brewing Brewtus, $1.79/12oz - "Coffee Porter, cold seeped with Rowsters Ursa Major coffee" (source).

Picture of the Week | Single-Barrel 1792

Siciliano's Single-Barrel 1792 Bourbon ($53.99) is now in stock.
Get your bottle(s) while supplies last!


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

December Brew of the Month: Mark's Ginger Cream Ale

By Mark Iacopelli

The holidays can be a very expensive time of year, but for a homebrewer the beer must flow on. My goal with this recipe was to create something that had a subtle twist on a crowd pleaser style. So I felt like an American Cream Ale would be a simple clean beer for your family members that are not yet initiated to craft beer. I then add a little bit of ginger root to add a zesty and savory element that would pair with most any holiday dish. This is also a budget friendly brew.

The resulting beer is straw in color with almost perfect clarity. The head is snow white with medium retention. On the nose the ginger shines through initially with an almost citrus quality. The corn balances the citrus aroma to round things out. Up front the flavor is bright and savory with a touch of spice both derived from the ginger and from target hops. In the finish it is predominantly a sweet earthiness from maize, however, it still manages to finish dry. The dry finish is a key part to making this beer crisp and sessionable despite being at the peak ABV for the style.

Overall, I am very pleased with this beer, and it is likely going to be a recipe that will stay on rotation in my brewhouse. The base beer recipe will work well with whatever extra flavoring you wish or on its own if ginger is not your thing. Ginger is found so frequently in preparing a huge range of dishes and it is because of that and this beer's crispness that I think it would pair well with almost any food dish.

Vital Statistics

    • OG: 1.048
    • FG: 1.005
    • IBUs: 20.1
    • ABV: 5.6%
    • SRM: 2.8
    • Efficiency: 72% (all grain only)

All Grain ($12.35/5-Gallon)

    • 5 lbs Avangard Pils
    • 1 lb Corn Sugar
    • 1.25 lbs Flaked Maize
    • 1 lb Pilot 6 Row
    • .5 lbs Rice Hulls
    • .25 oz Nugget (60 mins)
    • 1 oz Ginger Root (12 mins)
    • .5 oz UK Target (10 mins)
    • .5 oz UK Target (4 day dry hop)
    • 1 pkg Safale American US-05

Extract w/ Steeping Grains ($22.80/5-Gallon)

    • 6 lbs Light Liquid Extract
    • 1 lb Corn Sugar
    • 1 lb Flaked Maize
    • .25 oz Nugget (60 mins)
    • 1 oz Ginger Root (12 mins)
    • .5 oz UK Target (10 mins)
    • .5 oz UK Target (4 day dry hop)
    • 1 pkg Safale American US-05
Water additions base on Grand Rapids city water (optional): 4 ml 88% lactic acid (mash pH),15 g gypsum (mash pH, hop flavor)

Friday, December 16, 2016

New Beer Friday, Gift Idea Edition (December 16)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

It appears likely that the landscape in the environs of Beer City USA will be covered in white this year for Christmas. According to the National Weather Service, parts of the West Michigan area received up to a foot of snow over the past few weeks and weather forecasters are saying that ten more inches could fall this weekend.

Speaking of Christmas, there’s only nine shopping days left and our hardworking staff of elves (see below) have been busy keeping the shelves at Siciliano’s well stocked with hand-crafted beer, fine wine, quality spirits and premium cigars. We have plenty of bulk coffee and tea on hand for stocking stuffers and our book racks are chock-full of how-to tomes on beer making, winemaking and other DIY hobbies. Of course Siciliano’s gift cards are always a good option for those hard to buy for folks on your Christmas list.

Just a reminder that our beer and wine making equipment kits will remain on deep discount through the end of business on Christmas Eve. Go here for complete details.

Hardworking elves at Siciliano's

New and Returning Beer

  • Dark Horse Plead the Fifth, $3.29/12oz - "Our Russian Imperial Stout is pitch black in color with a faint tan head that immediately identifies this beer as BIG. Aromas of dark fruits, chocolate, caramel and roast also make it even bigger. Roasted coffee and fruity chocolate notes are just the beginning of this beers complex flavor. You have the right to enjoy or remain silent (ha, ha!)" (source).
  • Goose Island Winter Ale, $1.79/12oz - "Layered with rich, nutty chocolate notes and malty, roasted caramel flavors, our brown ale gives you plenty to contemplate on long winter nights" (source).
  • Alesmith Double Red IPA, $3.19/12oz - "AleSmith’s Double Red IPA, previously known as Winter YuleSmith, offers up an intense hop aroma combined with a well-balanced, full bodied, caramel-malt sweetness. A variety of American hops burst with flavors of pine and citrus complimenting the substantial malt backbone to deliver a full-flavored ale with layers of complexity" (source).
  • Gonzo's Big Dog Brewing Yummy Hoppy, $3.39/16oz - "This hoptastic double IPA creation showcases 100% Hop Head Farm’s Hops! Its fruity nose and hoppy spice flavor finish with a juicy bitterness that lingers just right" (source).

Video of the Week

Now available at Siciliano's!


Monday, December 12, 2016

Sacred Springs Kombucha, Coming Soon!

By Matt Ross

Geoff Lamden and Joel Andrus are kombucha wizards. They care for scobys as if they were their children. When they announced the opening of Sacred Springs, their kombucha business, we were more than excited. They are right around the corner in Lowell, Michigan and will be going into distribution soon.

For those not familiar, kombucha is a fermented tea drink. What yeast is to beer, a scoby is to kombucha. Scoby stands for Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria Yeast and is responsible for digesting simple sugars to create tasty beverage with additional health benefits. Like homebrewing, the only thing that limits you regarding flavors is your own imagination. Fortunately, Geoff and Joel have pretty wild ones.

When people are in positive environments they are happier and work more effectively. Sacred Springs is taking this concept to another level. People, animals and even plants respond to positive stimulus. Geoff and Joel are infusing their scobys with positive feelings and good vibrations. Literally. They are blessing their scobys with singing bowls, sacred geometry and didgeridoo. It is an amazing sight to see. Sacred Springs is essentially a 5-star scoby resort, complete with a free breakfast buffet and an all-inclusive pass. Their combination of happy scobys, creative recipes and fresh ingredients makes for a remarkable drink.

They will be starting out with Kalmboocha as their green-tea-and-holy-basil-based flag ship product. Kalmboocha is a light, refreshing drink with crisp effervesces that is designed to cleanse organs of toxins and promote the relief of stress as it passes through the body. It is full of white wine and tropical fruit flavors has a subtle tart on the finish. Expect to see Sacred Springs on our shelves soon.

Geoff and Joel

Friday, December 9, 2016

New Bier Friday, Bier Distillery Edition (Dec 9)

A tour of the distillery with Joel.
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

After my wife wrapped Christmas presents last Sunday (and I watched the Lions wrap up a road win over New Orleans), we decided to take the short drive to Comstock Park to check out Bier Distillery’s new digs on West River Drive.

Joel Bierling began producing spirits at Cellar Brewing Company in Sparta in 2013. When brewery owner Chuck Brown announced plans to move his operation to a new downtown location, Bierling began exploring his options. This past summer he purchased and renovated the 4,000 square foot building just down the road from Fifth Third Ballpark. Joel and his wife Sara opened the facility’s comfortable tasting room this past October.

Besides an impressive lineup of craft cocktails made with artisanal whiskey, rum, vodka, gin and liqueurs, the Bierlings offer a selection of wine and hand-crafted beer. Barb and I tried two of those beers, both pale ales and both excellent, and followed them up with a glass of a very nice 92-proof barrel-aged rye. A selection of snacks and small plates is also available. Made to order paninis are offered on Fridays and Saturdays.

Visit Bier Distillery’s website for hours and more information.

New and Returning Beer

  • The Bruery 9 Ladies Dancing, $12.69/750ml - "Here’s a pick me up for the latest verse in our Twelve Days of Christmas series. Inspired by flavors and ingredients found in tiramisu, including ladyfingers, 9 Ladies Dancing mimics the Italian dessert by whipping together flavor combinations and layers of its own. This includes notes of vanilla, chocolate and coffee – clearly the leading ladies in this rich, dessert-like beer" (source).
  • The Bruery Oude Tart, $20.79/750ml - "Oude Tart is a Flemish-Style Red Ale aged in red wine barrels. It’s pleasantly sour with hints of leather, dark fruit and toasty oak. While this is one of the more classic beer styles that we make, it’s not a style that you can find too often in the United States. Originating in style from the Flanders region of Belgium, near the French boarder, this dark, sour ale has roots deep in brewing history and predates most of the ales that have become popular in contemporary culture. We’re doing our best to keep the tradition alive by brewing and aging this beer here on the west coast" (source).
  • Brewery Vivant Wizard Burial Ground, $6.09/16oz - "Barrel Aged Belgian Quad" (source).
  • Dragonmead Castlebrite Apricot Wheat, 3.09/12oz (2 per) - "Castlebrite is the first fruit beer to come from Dragonmead. This Apricot Ale uses an apricot puree as well as Pale Wheat malt to bring about this wonderfully refreshing brew. This beer starts with a subtle sweetness and slight apricot flavor, and finishes with a palate-cleansing tartness that will leave you wanting more" (source).
  • Dragonmead Jul Ø1, $3.09/12oz - "This spiced winter warmer makes for great sipping. Jul Ol is brewed in the tradition of a Norwegian dark ale. It is spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. This ale is only available in December and January" (source).
  • Dragonmead Sin Eater, $3.09/12oz - "One of the most elusive of the Belgian styles. Dark, sweet and rich with notes of caramel, raisins and dark fruit. This style was consumed by Belgian monks to help them make it through the long cold winters. Not for the faint of heart since this brew goes beyond Final Absolution all the way to removing your sins" (source).
  • Founders Azacca, $1.79/12oz - "Named after the Haitian God of agriculture, the Azacca hop has an intense tropical aroma with hints of citrus and mango. A touch of caramel malt gives a sweet backbone to support the righteous fruit character of this beer. Pouring a burnt orange color and registering at 7.0% ABV, your taste buds will worship this heavenly, hopped delight" (source).
  • New Holland Black Tulip, $2.69/12oz - "Mysterious, alluring and seductive, yet tantalizingly elusive; these are the storied characteristics of the Black Tulip" (source).
  • Unibrau À  Tout Le Monde, $3.39/12oz - "À Tout Le Monde is a 4.5% abv dry-hopped Belgian-style saison that takes its name from a track on Megadeth’s 1994 album Youthanasia, and features the group’s mascot Vic Rattlehead on the label" (source).
  • Boulevard Collaboration No. 6, $12.99/750ml - "Firestone Walker has a tradition of inviting local winemaking friends into their brewery each year to collaborate on a blending project that results in their anniversary ale. Pulling from several barrel-aged beers, they tinker with different blending percentages to create an incredibly complex, yet unique beer. In this spirit, we invited Matt Brynildson into our barrel-aging cave to taste beers with Boulevard Brewmaster Steven Pauwels. Armed with their palates, some graduated cylinders, nearly two dozen tulip glasses and a few bottles of Firestone Walker’s barrel-aged beers, they spent the afternoon tinkering with different blending percentages before finally deciding on just the right blend" (source).
  • Short's Liberator, $2.39/12oz - "The Liberator was made as a 30th birthday gift to Joe Short. As a double IPA, this beast employs a sizable malt bill, but it is the crazy amount of hops added to the boil every 4 minutes, for 120 minutes, that really make this beer special. Fruity, floral, and piney hop flavors penetrate throughout the caramelized malt profile. The Liberator is a well-balanced, full bodied brew that has a bitter finish due to the post fermentation addition of lemon and orange zest" (source).
  • Abita Sweet Orange Harvest, $1.69/12oz - "Louisiana sweet oranges have a rich flavor and zest that naturally complements the pilsner and wheat malts in this smooth brew. The oranges are added in the brewhouse to give the beer a sun-kissed citrus aroma and flavor. All our Harvest Series brews are made with the finest Louisiana-grown ingredients" (source).
  • Greenbush Mr. Hyde, $2.19/12oz - "This beer's strong character leaves no mystery of its true identity, a Coffee Cream Stout brewed with locally roasted Infusco Coffee" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Beer for Breakfast, $2.59/12oz - "A stout tricked out with all sorts of breakfast ingredients including Guatemalan Antigua cold press coffee, Maple syrup harvested from Western Massachusetts and for the quintessential Delaware breakfast touch - Rapa Scrapple and their secret blend of spices" (source).
  • Ommegang Collaboration 2016, $3.29/12oz - "German style Doppelbock with Ommegang Belgian yeast" (source).
  • Odd Side Hop Gobbler, $1.49/12oz - "The hop fairies have taken charge on this extra pale ale. A well balanced ale with loads of flavorful hops" (source).
  • Arcadia Barrel Aged Shipwreck 2016, $8.59/12oz - "The Baltic-style porter has a robust malt character and a slight herbal hop bitterness. Aged for 12 months in 10-year-old Kentucky bourbon oak barrels, this alluring dark liquid features appealing undertones of vanilla, oak, cocoa and coffee. The aging occurs in abandoned mines in Michigan, at a constant temperature of 45F" (source).
  • Elysian Bifrost, $1.99/12oz - "Pours golden with orange highlights. Smells alluringly sweet like caramel apples with a little spice and orange zest. Taste is bold and balanced with a good amount of citrus and earthy hop bitters to offset the malt character. Finishes dry with a bit of fruit" (source).
  • Breckenridge Nitro Chocolate Orange Stout, $2.59/12oz - "Brewed with orange zest and locally sourced Cholaca, pure liquid cacao, and topped by the velvety texture of the nitrogen head, Nitro Chocolate Orange Stout is the perfect wintertime indulgence" (source).

Video of the Week | Beer for Breakfast

Dogfish Head Beer for Breakfast is now available at Siciliano's.


Friday, December 2, 2016

New Beer Friday, Memories of Cuba Edition (Dec 2)

Vivant Tower of Sour,
one of many new beers this week.
By Steve Siciliano

The news of Fidel Castro’s death last week brought back memories of a trip my wife Barb and I took to Cuba about ten years ago with a Grand Rapids based charity called First-Hand Aid.

The organization solicits volunteers to make periodic trips to Cuba to deliver much needed medical supplies to hospitals and clinics. Our group of travelers stayed in Havana with Cuban families during the weeklong visit. We ate meals with them in their homes and drank Bucanero beer and Havana Club rum with them in cafes and bars. We were chauffeured around the country’s beautiful but often crumbling capital city in 1950s-era Fords, Chevies and Buicks. We witnessed first-hand the economic impact that 50-plus years of Castro rule has had on the Cuban populace.

One of my most poignant memories of that trip was of the day we delivered the medical supplies we carried to the island in our luggage to a children's cancer clinic in Havana. The heads of a number of young patients were heavily bandaged and we were told that removing an eye was the only recourse that doctors had for treating certain cancers. The children clutched the little stuffed animals that we gave them while their mothers sat silently on hard folding chairs next to their beds. That same day we went to a ration store that had practically nothing on its shelves.

In November of 1956, Fidel Castro and a group of 81 rebels, among them his brother Raul and a young Argentinian doctor named Che Guevara, departed from Mexico on a leaky 60-foot cabin cruiser. Two weeks later they landed on Cuba’s southern coast and from there revived the revolt against the authoritarian regime of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista that had been quelled three years earlier. Castro and the surviving rebels of that failed attempt were jailed. “Condemn me, it does not matter. History will absolve me,” he famously stated at the conclusion of his trial.

Castro’s second attempt at ousting the cruel and corrupt Batista succeeded but his promise of holding free and fair elections was never fulfilled. Political opponents were summarily executed, personal property was seized, industry was nationalized and a one-party socialist state was created. In response, the United States instituted a trade embargo that continues to this day.

There are those who maintain that the embargo is the root cause of Cuba’s continued economic problems. They argue that the embargo should be lifted and I agree that it should. But we must also remember that it was Castro’s policies that instigated the embargo and it’s the stubborn adherence to these failed policies that is perpetuating the appalling economic condition of common Cuban people.

When viewed in that light it must be argued that Castro’s revolution failed and it is in that light that Fidel Castro’s historical legacy must ultimately be judged.

New and Returning Beer

  • Blackrocks Starman, $1.99/12oz - "Starman is a Pale Ale filled up with Simcoe, Citra, Amarillo, Columbus, and Mosaic hops. Bright aromas of grapefruit, apricot, and citrus, finishing clean and dry" (source).
  • Vivant Plein de Vie Tower of Sour, $9.99/500ml - Foeder-aged sour ale.
  • Vivant Ski Patrol, $3.49/16oz - "Belgian Inspired Wit. Whether you’re stuck on the chairlift waiting to get to the top of a black diamond , or you’re soaking in the hot tub after a long day of destroying some moguls, it’s Ski Patrol Wit to the rescue! This crushable slopes-inspired beer compliments our Michigan winters with a hazy golden pour and a warming spice on the nose. Pack your longjohns and swimwuit. Ski weekend is upon us. Cans are light and easy to pack so you can take them wherever the trail takes you" (source).
  • Griffin Claw Honolulu Blu, $2.19/16oz - A cream ale.
  • Stone Enjoy by 12/25, $8.99/22oz - "In most cases, skipping a step is a bad thing. Not this time. This version of Stone Enjoy By IPA omits the part where we filter out the extra yeast, hop sediment and proteins that build up in beer as a natural result of the brewing process. Though it may sound like it, this missed step was no misstep. By letting this IPA go unfiltered, its peach and tropical fruit hop flavors are amplified while its golden-hued color takes on a hazy appearance. Like its filtered counterpart, this IPA is brewed specifically NOT to last, and is shipped immediately to ensure hopheads get their hands on it as soon as possible" (source).
  • Perrin Hypocrite, $11.49/22oz - "Not everything is as it appears...based on its looks you may be expecting a light flavorless beer, but looks can be deceiving... this Imperial Blonde Ale is packed with unexpected flavors that might make you think you are drinking a rumchata or biting into a piece of tiramisu. We hope you enjoy seeing things for how they truly are" (source).
  • Short's Juicy Tree, $2.39/12oz - "An experimental IPA made with blue spruce tips, juniper berries, and cranberries. Piney evergreen and sweet berries tingle the senses. After some slightly tart and tangy flavors up front, a harmonious balance between pleasant fruit sweetness and bitter pine is reached. A sizable malt bill, ample hop additions, and the floral fruity qualities of American Ale yeast all contribute to symmetry of this beer. The finish is laced with a resiny stickiness that flows naturally into a lasting bitterness" (source).
  • Short's Critterless, $2.39/12oz - "Critterless is an American Sour Ale brewed with mango and cherry. The beer has a pinkish hue and pours with a small white head. The ale’s initial flavors of mouth puckering tartness fade into a pleasant sweetness that is accompanied by aromas of ripe fruit. Critterless finishes dry with a hint of rye spice" (source).
  • Ballast Point Mocha Marlin, $5.99/22oz - "Our Black Marlin Porter is the perfect beer for a mocha mashup. The addition of coffee and cocoa plays perfectly off the roasty, chocolaty flavors of this English porter, while a hint of vanilla smooths it all out. It’s full-bodied, but not too sweet; try it for breakfast…or dessert" (source).
  • Ommegang Gnomegedon, $16.09/750ml - "Ommegang ales are living beers, as exemplified by the secondary fermentation in Gnomegeddon, which is accomplished with Brett yeast - a wild yeast known for its addition of complex barnyard funk to both the flavor and aroma, giving a new edge to one of our most beloved ales" (source).
  • Atwater Teufel Bock, $2.99/12oz - "Our Weizen Dopplebock is dominated with 60% wheat that imparts a nutty-bisquit flavour. Ir is complimented with Perle and Hersbrucker hops for a nice sweet finish" (source).
  • Atwater Christmas, $2.19/12oz - "A German holiday treat similar to gingerbread" (source).
  • Avery Mephistopheles, $9.59/12oz - "Mephistopheles is the crafty shape shifter, the second fallen angel. Amazingly complex, coal black, velvety and liqueurish, this demon has a bouquet of vine-ripened grapes, anise and chocolate covered cherries with flavors of rum-soaked caramelized dark fruits and a double espresso finish. Mephistopheles is the final installment of "The Demons of Ale" series" (source).
  • Avery Certatio Equestris, $14.09/12oz - "Avery Certatio Equestris is modeled after the ubiquitous mint julep. The base sour ale was aged in bourbon barrels with spearmint leaves. The key ingredient in the julep, after bourbon" (source).
  • Lagunitas High West-ified, $2.19/12oz (1 per) - "Ale Brewed with Coffee and then Aged in High West Rye Barrels" (source).
  • Oddside Merry Elf, $1.99/12oz - "Dark ale with candi sugar and orange peel" (source).

Video of the Week | Plein de Vie

A new release in the Plein de Vie series (Tower of Sour)
means we get to post this video again.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Book Review: Tasting Whiskey by Lew Bryson

By John Barecki

There is a multitude of books out right now that can help you to expand your knowledge of whisk(e)y. Many are specific to certain areas of production or are collections of reviews and distillery histories. The book Tasting Whiskey by Lew Bryson ($18.95) gives us information from all of the different areas of production, compiling the histories, processes, lore and tasting notes on everything from the very well known bourbons and scotch whisk(e)y producers to the up-and-coming independent/craft distillers and world wide producers. Bryson discusses many of the different facets of the whisk(e)y world, including what percentages of grains go into a straight rye whiskey compared to bourbon and what the term pure pot still means in Irish whiskey and the history of how it came to be.

Tasting Whiskey contains a few deep dives into specific distilleries from around the world and the wonderful bottles they produce. On top of that Bryson discusses some of the people that have been innovators in the whisk(e)y field and their contributions to it, and the information only grows from there. The author even breaks down the internal structure of the barley grain and what it contributes to the end product, as well as how different stills produce the spirit we all love. Also included is a chapter on the process of barrel aging and the chemical compounds found within the different wood types that add special touches to the smells and tastes of the spirit.

It is hard to sum up a verbal/visual overview of this book. It is a joy to read and the writing itself is comprehensive but not overbearing. Overall, Tasting Whiskey is the most up-to-date companion book for the novice and seasoned individual alike. The information contained within and the concise overview of the realm of whisk(e)y put it on par with offerings from celebrated writers like Michael Jackson and David Broom.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

New Beer Friday, Staff Picks for Turkey Day Edition (Nov 23)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

We have great news for anyone planning on giving the hobbies of beermaking or winemaking as Christmas gifts this year. Beginning on Black Friday, November 25, and continuing through the end of business on December 24, we will be offering deep discounts on our Brewer’s Best and Vintner’s Best equipment packages. These boxed kits are geared toward new brewers and winemakers and include the basic equipment needed to get started in these life-enriching hobbies.

Holiday pricing and complete descriptions of the beermaking and winemaking equipment packages follow.

Brewer’s Best Deluxe Equipment Kit, $75.00 (Regular Price $105.00) - "The complete equipment package. Contains everything a beginning brewer needs except boiling pot, bottles and caps: 6.5 gallon "Ale Pail" Primary Fermenter with Grommeted Lid, 6.5 gallon "Ale Pail" Bottling Bucket with Spigot, 5 Gallon Glass Carboy, "Home Beermaking" Book, Easy Clean No-Rinse Cleanser, Twin Lever Capper, Triple Scale Hydrometer, Siphon Hose and Shut-Off Clamp, Drilled Universal Carboy Bung, Liquid Crystal Thermometer, Lab Thermometer, Brew Paddle, Airlock, Fermtech Auto Siphon, Bottle Filler, Bottle Brush, Carboy Brush and Equipment Instructions" (source).

Brewer’s Beast Equipment Kit, $95.00 (Regular Price $135.00) - "The most complete equipment kit in the homebrew industry is now available from Brewer's Best®. The Brewer's BeAst includes everything your customers need to make the finest batch of beer (by using a Brewer's Best® ingredient kit, of course) in one box. Equipment kit includes: 6.5 gallon "Ale Pail" Primary Fermenter with Grommeted Lid, 6.5 gallon "Ale Pail" Bottling Bucket with Spigot, Easy Clean No-Rinse Cleanser, Auto-Siphon, 5 Gallon Glass Carboy, Plastic Paddle, Carboy Brush, Hydrometer, Liquid Crystal Thermometer, Bottle Brush, Black Beauty Capper, Econolock, Drilled Bung, Lab Thermometer, Bottle Filler, Siphon Hose with Shut-off Clamp, IO-Star, 20 qt. Brew Pot and Equipment Instructions. * Does not include bottles or caps" (source).

Vintner’s Best Equipment Kit, $78.00 (Regular Price $95.00) - "Contains 7.9 Gallon Fermenter with Drilled and Grommeted Lid 6 Gallon Glass Carboy Liquid Crystal Thermometer Easy Clean No-Rinse Cleanser Double Lever Corker Premium Corks (30ct.) Mix-Stir Triple Scale Hydrometer Econolock Drilled Universal Carboy Bung 5 ft Siphon Tubing Fermtech Auto Siphon Combination Bottle Filler Bottle Brush Equipment Instructions" (source).

Staff Picks for Thanksgiving

Beer Picks

  • The Boss: Arbor Brewing Figjam Quad, $2.89/12oz - "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).
  • John: Alaskan Brewing Winter Ale, $1.69/12oz - "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).
  • Sarah: Vivant Stone Fruit Sour, $9.99/500ml - "Foeder Aged Weissbier with all-Michigan grown peaches, plums, apricots, and cherries" (source).
  • Kati: 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).
  • Matt: Big Lake Dark Star, $2.69/16oz - "A breakfast style stout brewed with Kona and Sumatra coffee aged on cocoa nibs" (source).
  • Joe: Breckenridge Brewing Mango Mosaic, $1.99/12oz - "Mosaic hops naturally give off aromas of guava and mango, lending a unique sweetness to the hop character of this pale ale. To build upon the tropical attributes of the hops, we've added a healthy dose of mango. Mango Mosaic Pale Ale is a well-balanced montage of fruit flavors, fresh aromas, and refreshingly crisp goodness" (source).
  • Max: Vivant Verdun, $3.49/16oz - "Our take on a classic French style. Malty, Rustic, and made with some French Hops. The perfect Fall beer" (source).
  • Mark: Stone Brewing Xocovaza, $2.99/12oz  - "Harmoniously layered with cocoa, Mostra coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and milk sugar, this beer is an insanely delicious take on Mexican hot chocolate. Thanks entirely to you and fan demand, it has gone from being a one-time offering to a yearly tradition too special to skip. Feel free to enjoy it long into the winter months because this festive beer will age beautifully and is definitely not exclusive to the holidays" (source).

Wine Picks

  • The Boss: Poggio Anima Lilith Primitivo, $13.99/750ml - "This is a subtly floral expression of this this mighty red grape from Southern Italy. Rich purple in color, inviting aromas of spiced cherries and black fruits complement undertones of tobacco and dried plums. It is a full-bodied wine, warm and soft on the palate with flavors that continue to evolve into the finish" (source).
  • John: Parducci True Grit Petite Sirah, $17.99/750ml - "A heady rush of fresh blackberry, dark chocolate, and white pepper with a caramel twist" (source).
  • Sarah: Moutard Blanc De Blanc, $17.09/750ml - No commercial description available.
  • Kati: Charles de Fere Cuvee Jean Louis Rose Brut, $10.79/750ml - "Jean-Louis Denois, the sixth-generation of a well-established Champagne producing family, decided to create his own sparkling winery in the town of Fère-en-Tardenois, just twenty miles outside of the Champagne appellation. Free of the confines of Champagne, Jean-Louis could refuse territorial limits, selecting cuvées from northerly vineyards for their freshness and elegance, together with cuvées from southern vineyards for ripe fruit, body and smoothness. He boldly believed that regions outisde Champagne also had the potential to create sparkling wines of superb quality. With France’s best cuvées blended to the winemaker’s style, Charles de Fère’s wines consistenly offer finesse, structure, and a complex harmony of flavors" (source).
  • Matt: Donna Vinho Tinto, $6.99/750ml - No commercial description available.
  • Joe: Albert Bichot Beaujolais Villages Nouveau, $9.99/750ml - "Beaujolais Nouveau is the name given to Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages wines which are released almost immediately after harvest. Arguably the most famous expression of the Gamay grape variety, these light, fruity reds are usually the first of the year's harvest in France, and are released annually to huge international fanfare" (source).
  • Max: Brengman Brothers Piccolo Dito Vermouth, $36.99 - "Flavors of orange peel and vanilla yield to chocolate tones, all underpinned by a backbone of astringent bitter herbs. Finishes sweet with a hint of oak though balanced with touch of bitterness" (source).
  • Mark: David el Fin Perfume de Sonsierra, $64.39/750ml - "Notas afrutadas (fresa, grosella, regaliz) y aromas de café, torrefactos y tostados. Equilibrado y redondo en boca" (source).

Whiskey Picks

  • The Boss: Pikesville Straight Rye, $49.96/750ml - "Dry and spicy, with honeyed rye and cloves" (source).
  • John: Westland American Single Malt, $65.99/750ml - "Malted barley is the most complex and flavorful grain used to make whiskey. For centuries, single malt whiskies have been considered solely the domain of Scotland. But a new category of single malt is taking root. One that offers us the chance to make a mark in the world of whiskey. It must be led by your own ideas, done on your own terms and realized through your own hard work. Here in the heart of the Pacific Northwest, we are graced with world-class natural ingredients. Those ingredients inspire us to pursue our own unique American-style single malt to rival the finest whiskies in the world. With each expression we work to create something that both honors the traditions of distilling that we admire and adds something worthwhile at the same time. Something new and distinctly American. The character of our malt provides a wealth of flavor profiles for our whiskies. Regardless of the individual expression, every whiskey at Westland Distillery is underscored by our house style – a sweetness and ease on the palate accompanied by a fruity and complex but ultimately grain-focused finish worthy of its place in this new world" (source).
  • Sarah: Highspire Pure Rye, $39.99/750ml - "Once vanished and now found. Highspire Pure Rye Whiskey was established in 1823 and considered one of America’s best known 100% rye whiskies. Lost during prohibition, Highspire Whiskey is now back and is still made with a 100% rye grain. We have taken original methodologies, added some contemporary craft and created a whiskey that once again stands apart from all others" (source).
  • Kati: Ardbeg 10, $51.99/750ml - "Ardbeg Ten Years Old is revered around the world as the peatiest, smokiest, most complex single malt of them all. Yet it does not flaunt the peat; rather it gives way to the natural sweetness of the malt to produce a whisky of perfect balance. Named World Whisky of the Year in 2008" (source).
  • Matt: Benchmark, $22.99/1.75liter - "The nose bears caramel notes with a delicate stone-fruit backdrop. A robust and sturdy palate with some fine leather notes mingling with dry tobacco, a touch of oak and a hint of dried cherries. The finish is smooth and calming" (source).
  • Joe: Four Roses Single Barrel, $41.98/750ml - "A premium Single Barrel Bourbon with a taste you’ll want to savor again and again. Complex, full bodied and surprisingly smooth with a delicate long finish that’s unbelievably mellow. Contains hints of ripe plum, cherry and other fruits, mild spices, plus sweet aromas including caramel, cocoa, vanilla and maple syrup. Drink straight up or on the rocks" (source).
  • Mark: High West Double Rye, $36.96/750ml - "Perhaps the spiciest American whiskey I have ever tasted, yet at the same time, quite tame and mellow. Complex notes of mint, clove, cinnamon, licorice root, pine nuts, and dark chocolate, with a surprising dose of gin botanicals throughout. A soft underbelly of caramel, sweet corn, and soothing vanilla provides an interesting counterpoint. Very easy-drinking, too (hard to believe it's 46%). Intriguing, and a must-try for rye whiskey aficionados - even if only to satisfy your curiosity" (source).
  • Max: Bain's Cape Mountain Whiskey, $29.99/750ml - "Bain’s Single Grain Whisky is a double matured whisky produced from 100% South African Yellow Maize, you may call this corn. We first mature it in specially selected first-fill bourbon casks for a period of three years, we then transfer it to a second set of first-fill bourbon casks for a further 18 to 30 months to extract a full rich flavor like no other" (source).

Video of the Week | Highspire Pure Rye

Highspire Rye: Available now at Siciliano's!


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

November Brew of the Month: M. Spencer's Strong Bitter

By Max Spencer

With the holidays coming up I wanted to make a crushable yet weather appropriate beer for the long drinking sessions that family gatherings entail. This need inspired me to create a Strong Bitter, better known in America as an ESB (Extra Special Bitter). This very British style of beer incorporates a strong malt backbone with enough hop character and bitterness to be balanced — dangerously drinkable, endlessly enjoyable. ESBs typically have flavors of bread, biscuit, nuts, toffee, fruits, earth, spices, and flowers. To me, this flavor profile screams fall and early winter — a perfect companion for holiday foods too.

I used a technique called first wort hopping as you will see down in the recipes. First wort hopping is an advanced hopping technique that has great practical uses and is easy to execute — it increases the utilization of all the hops that are added to the boil by around 10-15%, increases hop aroma and results in a “softer” bitterness overall. German breweries have traditionally used first wort hopping as a method to get more out of less hops. For all grain, first wort hopping entails adding hops as soon as you start draining your mash into your kettle. For extract, add hops after steeping your grains and adding all or some of your LME before boil.

I ended up brewing an additional gallon of beer to do something a little special with. I took my extra gallon and aged it on oak chips soaked in Calvados — apple brandy from the Normandy region of France. I thought that the flavors of rustic apples and earthy spices found in Calvados would complement my ESB in all the right ways. Feel free to do something similar with Calvados as well, or any form of brandy — especially apple brandy — or even whiskey.

All Grain

    • 9.5 lbs. Golden Promise 
    • 1 lbs. Medium Crystal
    • 0.5 lbs. Amber Malt
    • 0.5 lbs. Melanoidin Malt
    • 0.25 lbs. Pale Chocolate
    • 1 oz. UK Challenger First Wort (60-minute boil)
    • 1 oz. UK Challenger @ 30 minutes
    • 1 oz. East Kent Goldings @ 15 minutes
    • 1 oz. UK Challenger and 1 oz. East Kent Goldings @ 5 minutes
    • Yeast: Lallemand’s London ESB


    • 7.75 lbs. Light Pilsner LME
    • 1 lbs. Medium Crystal
    • 0.5 lbs. Amber Malt
    • 0.5 lbs. Melanoidin Malt
    • 0.25 lbs. Pale Chocolate
    • 0.5 lbs. corn sugar
    • 1.5 oz. UK Challenger First Wort (60-minute boil)
    • 1.5 oz. UK Challenger @ 30 minutes
    • 1 oz. East Kent Goldings @ 15 minutes
    • 1 oz. UK Challenger and 1 oz. East Kent Goldings @ 5 minutes
    • (Alternatively, use the same hop schedule as all grain if you are boiling at full volume)
    • Yeast: Lallemand’s London ESB
Manipulations: For all grain, you can replace Golden Promise with Maris Otter as the base malt if you prefer one over the other. For extract — if you feel like spending a little extra money for authenticity — you can use Munton’s Pale LME in place of the pilsner LME. There are several English ale yeast strains that you could use as an alternative to the Lallemand ESB strain — Safale 04, White Labs 005 British Ale, Wyeast 1028 London Ale, Wyeast 1098 English Ale. Really, any English ale yeast will work. You can use American hops if you wish, but I would recommend a lighter hand on the quantity.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Product Spotlight: The Anvil Brewing Kettle

By Mark Iacopelli

The holiday season is a great time for homebrewers. The seasonal brews are wonderful and Saint Nick is here to bring you those much needed upgrades to your brewing system.

If you have been thinking of making the leap to all-grain brewing and need a bigger pot, want to expand your existing system or would like to transition into electric brewing, the new Anvil Brewing kettle is perfect.

Anvil Brewing Equipment is a sister company to Blichmann Engineering. Their goal is to bring Blichmann quality and durability into a price range that is more accessible. Despite the lower price point almost nothing was taken away, and a couple features added. Stainless steel ball valve, thermometer, laser etched volume markings and dip tube all come standard with this kettle.

This kettle is also clad with induction capable stainless steel allowing you to do electric brewing more safely and inexpensively. The typical route for electric brewing is to drill a number of holes into your pot and install electric heating coils which get in the way of stirring and are difficult to clean. For about $80 on Amazon you can get an 1800w portable induction top and you’re immediately set up for up to 7-gallon boils for 5-gallon batches.

Another unique feature with this kettle is that it doubles as a fermentor. A hole in the lid allows for a grommet and airlock to be used, and the rim can be covered with a silicone seal. This means all you need to do is cool the beer down and pitch your yeast — no transfer necessary.

At Siciliano’s we currently carry the 10-gallon model for $249.99. We can also order in 5.5-gallon through 20-gallon versions by request.

Friday, November 18, 2016

New Beer Friday, 1792 Single Barrel Edition (Nov 18)

Preamble by John Barecki

This holiday season, we here at Siciliano's Market have decided to do something special for our customers. We have purchased a whole barrel's worth of 1792, the flagship bourbon from The Barton Distillery down in Bardstown, Kentucky.

This is a pretty cool opportunity for us to have something that is uniquely our own, being that it is a single-barrel bourbon that does not share its eccentricities with another. Most of your typical bourbons on the shelf (unless specified) will be a blend of several barrels from different years which contain the right flavors and aromas to create a continuity within a finished whiskey, thus pleasing the customer every time. Single-barrel releases differ because, as the name implies, they come from only one source and feature a whole cacophony of flavors and aromas distinct to that barrel.

The bourbon inside the bottle, for those that have not tried the regular small-batch release of 1792, is made from a high rye mash, which imparts a spicy, earthy and fruity quality to the whiskey. In the time it spends in the barrel, it pulls flavors of toffee, vanilla, butterscotch and caramel among others. These are all backed up with a big bodied mouthfeel and long finish. It is quite a lovely bourbon.

We have also gone with a higher bottling strength of 98.6 proof, which concentrates the flavor and aroma a bit more than the 93.75 proof of the small batch, which is still quite good. Most bourbon distilleries rarely have a single-barrel product on the shelf all the time (outside of a couple) and they are usually snatched up quickly. This is a fun gift or collectable for the whiskey lovers out there that like out-of-the-ordinary releases.

We have been notified that our barrel has been bottled and we are gleefully awaiting the new addition to our whiskey collection. We will hopefully have it in store in a few weeks if not sooner. It will be priced at $53.99 and will come with a sticker of authenticity with the Siciliano's name on it. The 1792 small batch bourbon is one of our top sellers and is usually available if you want to experience the original before delving into one of the single-barrel bottlings. 

New and Returning Beer

  • Prairie Christmas Bomb, $9.59/12oz (1 per) - "Christmas Bomb! will bring you great comfort and joy in this dark and roasty brew. You’ll find the coffee, ancho chilies, vanilla, and cacao nibs you know and love, but they brought a friend this time. The addition of cinnamon warms this brew evoking the seasonal spirit of spice and cheer" (source).
  • Libertine Pacific Ocean Blue Gose, $19.99/750ml - "Morro Bay ocean, inspired by Dennis Wilson album by the same name" (source).
  • Mikkeller Rauch Pils, $4.79/12oz - "Doesn’t take much to figure out what’s going on here. Mikkeller’s Rauchpils is a smokey pilsner of a beer. Brewed at De Proef, in Lochristi-Hufte, Belgium" (source).
  • To Øl Pineapple Express, $11.39/500ml - "Stout brewed with Pineapples & Coffee" (source).
  • To Øl Kaffe og Rog, $6.49/12oz - No commercial description.
  • Dieu du Ciel Chemin de Croix, $4.99/12oz - "Chemin de Croix’s rich roasted and chocolate flavours, made evident by its dark mocha colour, are accompanied by fruity esters resulting from the yeast. A resinous bitterness contributes to the overall dryness. Brown malt – rather than roasted malt – invokes the typical signature of the first Porters, often generously hopped for exportation to India" (source).
  • Arbor Brewing Faricy Stout, $1.89/12oz - "This crowd-pleaser has a dark coffee-like appearance with a creamy head and smoky, roasted grain aromas. It is rich and creamy on the palate with chalky, burnt flavors balanced by lush dark chocolates and never turns too dry through the smoky finish. Full-flavored yet highly drinkable—rich and creamy without being thick or heavy" (source).
  • Brewery Vivant Tart Side of the Moon, $4.29/16oz - "One of our most anticipated and highly talked about specialty releases, This hearty dark ale is fermented with our rustic Belgian yeast strain which gives the beer a farmhouse tartness followed by big dark chocolate notes, and hints of black cherries. Fermentation temperatures often climb past 90F which builds the distinctive flavors. No adjuncts are added to this beer-- these robust layers of flavor are yeast driven. Listen to the lunatic" (source).
  • Saugatuck Reverent Monk, $1.79/12oz - "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 Double Bastard In the Rye, $18.99/500ml (1 per) - "Much like the lacerative muther of a beer that is Double Bastard Ale, rye whiskey is not for everyone. Not remotely. Most are not emotionally or otherwise equipped to appreciate its unbridled intensity. So to sequester Double Bastard Ale in rye whiskey barrels is to conceive an experience that no doubt will be treasured by only a select few. It takes a special breed of exceptional depth to thrive under such demanding conditions and emerge with such stunning vibrancy. Something this sublime should never be squandered, however. Those plagued by even a smidge of self-doubt should look elsewhere. This rare treasure is strictly for those possessing the capacity to appreciate what many just like me" (source).
  • Roak Chestnut Porter, $1.99/12oz - "Chestnut Maple Porter" (source).
  • 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).
  • Shmaltz Shtick Pack, $22.89/12pk - A variety 12 pack that includes Messiah Nut Brown, Hanukkah Beer, Slingshot American Craft Lager and Hop Manna IPA.
  • Oddside Chokolat Koffie, $2.29/12oz - "" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Pennsylvania Tuxedo, $2.89/12oz - "A spruce-infused pale ale, Pennsylvania Tuxedo pays homage to the flannel-suited hunters and gatherers who dwell deep in the backcountry of north-central PA" (source).

Video of the Week | Pennsylvania Tuxedo

Now available at Siciliano's


Monday, November 14, 2016

Homebrew Science: Sour Hour!

By Max Spencer

So, what in the hell makes something sour? The simple answer is organic acids. Acids are found in almost every food and drink we ingest, including the beer we love — even non-sour beer. Organic acids are present in malted grains and are created by yeast and other microbes during fermentation2. This is why the pH of beer is relatively low (~4 for non-sour beer, down to ~3 for sour beer). It is beneficial to have acids in beer. Acidity augments flavor, affects viscosity, hinders microbial growth, stabilizes flavor and has an influence on perceived hop bitterness2,4.

This still doesn’t explain what makes something sour. Is there really such a huge difference between a pH of 4 and a pH of 3? Yep, but it’s more complicated than that. pH is a measurement of free protons (H+; hence the H in pH) in a solution. Acids lower the pH of a solution by releasing protons when dissolved. The pH scale is logarithmic, so each number represents a 10x increase in the concentration relative to the number before it. The last thing we need to know about pH is that the scale works in the opposite direction you expect it to — the lower the number, the higher the concentration. So, a pH of 3 is 10x more acidic than a pH of 4, meaning it has 10x the concentration of H+. Despite this, two different beers that share a pH can be vastly different in their sour character and intensity. pH plays a role, but this tells us that there is more to it1,3,4.

Organic acids are comprised of at one least carboxyl group (-COOH) attached to an endless variety of structures. The carboxyl group is where our free protons come from, as the hydrogen on the carboxyl group gladly gives up its electron in exchange for a life of free lovin’ in solution (-COO- and H+). Studies have found that solutions of different acids at the same pH do not result in the same intensity of sourness1,3. The sour character is also distinct between different acids. For example, acetic acid — the main component of vinegar — has an unmistakable vinegar character to our taste buds, while lactic acid tends to be described as “clean” and “tart”1. This reveals to us that it is not only the pH of a beer that causes sourness, but the identity of the acid. The structure attached to the carboxyl group clearly influences beer in a way that is detected by us through our sense of taste — specifically, our taste for sour1.3,4. Despite knowing that different organic acids result in various sour flavors and intensity, the mechanism behind why and how is still unclear4. Ph.D. project, anyone?

Now that we have a better understanding of sourness, how do we get to sour beer? There’s an easy way, and a complex way. The easy way is to add an organic acid to beer until it tastes the way you want. Homebrew shops — including little ol’ us — carry lactic acid solutions that can be used to lower the pH of any beer and add that “tart” flavor common to most sour beers. The traditional way is to use microbes. Brewers, including homebrewers, have access to non-yeast microbes that are used alongside yeast to create sour beers. The two most popular microbes used are Lactobacillus and Pediococcus. They are closely related genera of bacteria that create lactic acid and other byproducts during fermentation, creating a sour character that yeast is incapable of developing on its own. Microbes add a layer of complexity to the flavor of sour beers that pure acid solutions don’t provide. A Belgian lambic or Flanders red would not be the same without the massive diversity of microbes that perform their collective metabolic magic. Microbes create a smörgåsbord of organic acids that can accentuate fruit and malt characters already present in beer and provide a swathe of flavors ranging from funky to fruity5,6.

The major disadvantage of using microbes is the length of time it takes for their character to develop. It can take months or even years for a sour beer to fully develop, but techniques such as kettle souring can drastically shorten the length of time required to achieve sourness via microbes. A kettle soured beer merely takes hours to days for souring to occur. Another disadvantage is the potential for cross contamination. Breweries and homebrewers alike fear occasional infected batches. Using microbes intentionally increases that chance by bringing them into the same space as clean beers. Despite this, if you practice solid sanitation technique or maintain a second set of plastic equipment the chance of infection stays at the same level it would be if you only fermented clean beers.

Whether you’re a homebrewer or someone who just enjoys drinking beer I hope you can go forth with a new appreciation for all things sour. Maybe take a crack at making your first sour, or buy yourself a nice Belgian masterpiece crafted by tradition and dedication. Either way, let us enjoy the spoils of — intentionally — sour beer together. Cheers!

"I went on a diet, swore off drinking and heavy eating, and in fourteen days I lost two weeks." –Joe E. Lewis

Literature cited

  1. Hartwig, P. and M.R. McDaniel. 1995. Flavor characteristics of lactic, malic, citric, and acetic acids at various pH levels. Journal of Food Science 60(2):384-388. 
  2. Li, H. and F. Liu. 2015. Changes in organic acids during fermentation. J. Am. Soc. Brew. Chem. 73(3):275-279.
  3. Makhlouf, G.M. and A.L. Blum. 1972. Kinetics of the taste response to chemical stimulation: a theory of acid taste in man. Gastroenterology 63:67-75. 
  4. Neta, E.R.C., S.D. Johanningsmeier, and R.F. McFeeters. 2007. The chemistry and physiology of sour taste—a review. Journal of Food Science 72(2):R33-R38.
  5. Snauwaert, I, S.P. Roels, F.V. Nieuwerburg, A.V. Landschoot, L.D. Vuyst and P. Vandamme. 2016. Microbial diversity and metabolite composition of Beligan red-brown acidic ales. International Journal of Food Microbiology 221:1-11.
  6. Spitaels, F. A.D. Wieme, M. Janssens, M. Aerts, H. Daniel, A.V. Landschoot, L.D. Vuyst and P. Vandamme. 2014. The microbial diversity of traditional spontaneously fermented lambic beer. PLOS ONE 9(4):1-13.

Friday, November 11, 2016

New Beer Friday, Super Moon Edition (Nov 11)

Preamble Steve Siciliano

I pay little attention to the phases of the moon. I have no idea when it will be waxing, waning, gibbous or full so I’m always pleasantly surprised when I see a fully illuminated, orange-hued orb rising in the evening sky above the eastern horizon.

Watching a rising full moon is one of life’s simple pleasures, and watching the next full moonrise will be thirty percent more pleasurable because it will occur during the moon’s closest approach to the earth in over seventy years. According to astronomers, this “super moon” will appear fourteen percent larger and thirty percent brighter than a typical full moon.

If the skies are clear next Monday evening I know I’ll be sitting outside on the deck enjoying one or two of the new or returning beers that hit the shelves at Siciliano’s this week.

New and Returning Beer

  • Short's Double Magician, $1.99/12oz - "The Double Magician is a Double London-Style Red Ale. Deep mahogany in color with an off white head, The Double Magician has aromas of toffee, light citrus, and just a hint of roast. The Double Magician is medium-bodied with flavors of raisin, toffee, and a slight hop bitterness. The finish is balanced and dry" (source).
  • Dark Horse Tres Blueberry, $2.09/12oz - "Number three in our stout series, this stout is full-bodied and brewed with all malted barley and fresh blueberries added after fermentation. The nose is where you will begin to realize this stout is in a league of its own. Blueberry, chocolate and roasted aromas lead the way to a very pleasant drinking experience which leaves you wanting the next December to arrive sooner than last year" (source).
  • Griffin Claw Bonnie's Raggedy Ass DIPA, $2.99/12oz - "Our 2010 World Beer Cup Silver award winner. Brewed and dry-hopped with American hops, Centennial, Columbus, Cascades and Bravo" (source).
  • Griffin Claw 3 Scrooges, $2.19/16oz - "Nice winter ale, distinct malt profile, mild bitterness" (source).
  • New Holland Hop Tronix, $2.59/12oz - "Mosaic hops generously provide this IPA with dank aroma, yet it finishes smooth and crisp" (source).
  • New Holland Mischievous II, $5.49/22oz - "Mischievous presents flavors derived from its 100% brettanomyces fermentation. This wild yeast contributes earthiness, spice, mineral-character and slight tartness" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Harvest Ale, $2.99/12oz - "Northern Hemisphere was the first wet hop ale and it inspired the wet hop craze here in America. Wet—undried—hops go straight from the fields into our kettles within 24 hours. Because hops are incredibly perishable, using hops wet preserves all of the precious oils and resins for a unique drinking experience as evidenced by the intense herbal green flavors and citrus-like and floral aromas. Northern Hemisphere is part of our five-bottle Harvest series which features single hop, fresh hop, wet hop, and wild hop beers" (source).
  • Stone Double Bastard, $8.99/22oz (1 per) - "Originally brewed to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Arrogant Bastard Ale, Double Bastard Ale debuted in November 1998 as an amped-up version of that already aggressive beer. This heavy ale is appreciated by only a few, and that's just fine with us. We didn't brew this behemoth to please anyone other than ourselves" (source).
  • Stone Bigger Longer Uncut Double Bastard, $9.49/22oz (1 per) - "My arrogance has metamorphosed into a peatier, haughtier, boozier, doubler, more “er” of everything version of itself. Unlike the malted substance, which abetted my materialization, you don’t have chiseled iceberg chunks or fizzy, sugary pop sugar crystals at your disposal to cut me or soften the unbridled intensity of my righteous state that is liquid arrogance. Go ahead. Try me. This Islay whisky barrel-infused ale could put a lion’s mane on a hairless cat" (source).
  • Stone Lucky Bastard, $8.99/22oz (1 per) - "Lukcy Basartd Ale was first released in November 2010 in celebration of the (lucky) 13th anniversary of Arrogant Bastard Ale. This powerfully complex beer is an amalgamation of three Bastards—Arrogant Bastard Ale, Double Bastard Ale and OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale — unceremoniously thrown together and then dry-hopped to excess, providing a fittingly immoderate blast of malty, hoppy flavor. Those Worthy souls who possess the nerve to try it will be rewarded with a delicious assault on their taste buds" (source).
  • Stone Emperial IPA 14 Anniversary Encore, $8.99/22oz - "From the imported white malt to the “Burtonised” water to the rare yeast strain to the most pungent hops Kent has to offer, we used all British ingredients to brew our “Emperial” IPA.  While we may have brewed Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA with our own distinctively modern, San Diego-style touch, what good is history if you can’t rewrite it to suit your tastes?" (source).
  • Frankenmuth Christmas Town, $1.69/12oz - "Christmas Town Ale combines sweet toasted dark malts with American hops to create a medium-bodied spiced ale with a taste and aroma that is unmistakably Christmas. You will enjoy subtle notes of nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and clove with our festive holiday-themed packaging to match the taste. Christmas Town Ale is a must-have brew in the wintertime" (source).
  • Goose Island Fulton Street Blend, $1.79/12oz - "Goose Island is proud to introduce Fulton St. Blend, a coffee ale aged with House Blend beans from our neighbors at Intelligentsia. Named for the street in Chicago that we both call home, Fulton St. Blend is a golden ale infused with rich coffee flavor and aroma" (source).
  • Deschutes Hop Trip, $1.99/12oz - "Each year around Labor Day, Deschutes brewers high-tail it over the pass to Sodbuster Farms near Salem for the hop harvest. After bagging these aromatic jewels, we hustle back and toss them into the brew kettles within hours of picking. Our reward: a pale ale with a uniquely bright citrus punch and fall spice" (source).
  • Petoskey Super Trooper, $2.39/16oz - "Brewed with Columbian coffee beans and donuts from a local producer" (source).
  • Old Nation Bumpy Cake, $9.79/22oz - "Chocolate Fudge Bumpy Cake Double Brown Ale is brewed with cocoa and vanilla, providing a flavor profile reminiscent of Sanders Bumpy Cake components such as devil’s food cake, chocolate fudge and vanilla buttercream" (source).
  • North Coast Bourbon Barrel Aged Rasputin, $23.29/500ml (1 per) - "Every year we age a special batch of our much-loved Russian Imperial Stout in Bourbon barrels. The depth, intensity, and complexity of the flavor profile of this special release, like its predecessors, make it a worthy tribute to Old Rasputin" (source).
  • North Coast Rye Barrel Aged Rasputin, $23.29/500ml (1 per) - "Stout Aged in Rye Whiskey Barrels" (source).
  • Great Lakes Black Out Stout, $3.29/12oz - "Bold and dark as a power-less metropolis, our Russian Imperial Stout commemorates the infamous 2003 blackout that briefly left some 55 million people utterly unplugged" (source).
  • Oddside Mango IPA, $2.29/12oz - "IPA made with mango" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Red and White, $13.99/750ml - "Red & White is a big, Belgian-style witbier brewed with coriander and orange peel and fermented with pinot noir juice. After fermentation, a fraction of the batch is aged in one of our 10,000-gallon oak tanks" (source).
  • Short's Cup of Joe, $2.29/12oz - "Cup A Joe Coffee Creme Stout uses Higher Grounds roasted fair trade espresso beans in every facet of the brewing process. Prominent aromatics of malt, espresso, and cocoa are abundant, and there are robust flavors of cream and coffee. This is the perfect morning night capper" (source).

Video of the Week | Dark Horse Tres

Dark Horse Tres Blueberry Stout is now available at Siciliano's.


*Moon image from Pixabay

Friday, November 4, 2016

New Beer Friday, Civic Responsibility Edition (Nov 4)

A beer for when the
election is finally over.
Preamble Steve Siciliano

Late next Tuesday we’ll finally find out which candidate will have the electoral votes needed to become the next chief executive of the United States. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s happy that this rather unpleasant campaign is drawing to a close. I’m tired of the mudslinging and I’ve had my fill of the daily doses of spinning surrogates on the cable news shows.

Of course I could avoid this self-imposed torture by simply going back to my pre-election routine of watching Discovery, ESPN or the Food Channel. But for the last two months or so I haven’t been able to turn away from this bloody two car pile-up. That’s a bit odd because I’ve never before been this engrossed with politics.

Perhaps it’s because I consider myself a student of American history and we are, as they say, watching history in the making — we’ll either elect our first woman president or place a man in the White House who has never held political office.

Both candidates have bases of avid supporters and legions of ardent detractors and both are their party’s nominee despite well-documented flaws. I find this puzzling. Lately I’ve been wondering if we’ll ever have another modern president with the homespun wisdom of a Truman, the fence mending skills of an Eisenhower or the moral integrity of a Jimmy Carter. Time will tell.

In the meantime we can only hope that whoever wins next Tuesday’s election will prove to be a capable president — one who has the sagacity to deal with the nation’s problems both home and abroad as well as the political acumen needed to begin mending the rift that this polarizing election has created.

New and Returning Beer

  • Austin Brothers Woody Wheat, $1.79/12oz - "American style wheat with a twist. Hints of orange peel and gracious amounts of vanilla will hit both the nose and palate. Medium body and light in color, a session for the whole year. A hybrid wheat, a mix of a hefeweizen and wheat cream ale" (source).
  • Austin Brothers 45er IPA, $1.79/12oz - "Getting its name from being brewed on the 45th parallel; 45’er is a West Coast style IPA with hints of pear, grapefruit, tropical fruits, from adding 2.5 pounds of hops per barrel" (source).
  • Pike 51 For Whom the Sleigh Bells Toll, $18.79/22oz - "Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Holiday Stout" (source).
  • Pike 51 Batch 500, $12.89/22oz - "Celebrating our Batch 500 with this girthy, but smooth Imperial Stout sure to coat the back of your throat" (source).
  • Pike 51 Yay Stout, $5.39/22oz - "Honey wheat stout" (source).
  • Vander Mill Nunica Pine, $2.99/16oz - "Opposites attract in this limited release seasonal specialty. Our Hard Apple cider provides a base of unmatched fruit and acidity, while Columbus hops unveil an earthy bitterness no other cider can match. Gluten free" (source).
  • Dark Horse 4 Elf, $2.09/12oz - "4 Elf is holiday cheer in liquid form. Spicy aromas like cinnamon and clove give this dark brown winter warmer a proper holiday welcome. Balanced between malt, hops, and spice at 8.75% ABV this beer goes great with all holiday foods—from sweet snacks to the roast beast" (source).
  • Grand Armory Nutter Your Business, $2.09/12oz - "Peanut butter stout" (source).
  • Saugatuck Snow Wizard, $1.79/12oz - "An Oak Aged Imperial Brown Ale with tons of oaky, woody flavors. The base brown malt profile provides a huge caramel, coffee and chocolate body with minimal hop bitterness match perfectly with the complex flavor profile of the oak chips" (source).
  • Tapistry Enigma, $3.19/16oz - "Say hello to Enigma, our mysterious Double IPA. Brewed with five different malts, four different hops, and a healthy dose of brown sugar, Enigma is the strongest beer on our list. Surprisingly dry, it’s a high-intensity brew that will puzzle your palate. You'll just have to drink one to understand" (source).
  • Bell's Christmas, $1.89/12oz - "A sessionable alternative to traditional spiced winter warmers, this Scottish Ale features Michigan grown malt from the Bell's Farm in Shepherd, Michigan to impart dry, toasted notes along with subtle toffee flavors" (source).
  • Bell's Winter White, $1.99/16oz - "An alternative to dark and heavy winter warmers and stouts, Winter White is a stylish and refreshing Wheat Ale. Fermented with a Belgian ale yeast, this blend of barley and wheat malts yields a mixture of clove and fruity aromas, all without the use of any spices. Deliberately brewed to retain a cloudy appearance, Winter White is a beer for embracing winter" (source).
  • Perrin Damsel in Distress, $11.49/22oz - "German Roggenbier aged in Jamaican rum barrels" (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).
  • New Holland Dragons Milk Reserve Coconut Rum Barrel, $4.29/12oz - "Coconut complements the roasted chocolate flavor of Dragon's Milk, coaxing flavors that are reminiscent of lazy summer days. Rum barrels add a tropical character" (source).
  • North Peak Blitzen, $1.89/12oz - "North Peak Blizen is a Festivus Ale with a complex malt characteristic and Michigan Chinook and Cascade hops. Rye malt provides a crisp spiciness for well-balanced, rich Festivus Ale" (source).
  • New Belgium Ben and Jerry Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, $1.69/12oz - "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream beer. This winter, dip into the fridge—not just the freezer—to find a dozen ways to sate your sweet tooth. Our newest collaboration with Ben & Jerry’s brings together two different types of pint-makers for one common goal: to fill your glass with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale" (source).
  • Shiner Cheer, $1.69/12oz - "Hints of Texas peaches & pecans with a hint of holiday spice at the end" (source).
  • Deschutes Jubelale, $1.79/12oz - "A dark, malty celebration ale with layered flavors and beautifully balanced hopping. Jubelale pours deep garnet in color, medium bodied, with notes of chicory, earth, spice and fruit. To beer lovers, it’s like Yule fire and family" (source).
  • Deschutes Black Butte XXVI, $17.19/22oz - "Our 26th anniversary Imperial Porter was aged in bourbon barrels and dry spiced with Theo Chocolate’s cocoa nibs, revealing hints of vanilla and chocolate. Pomegranate molasses and Oregon cranberries complement the robust flavor with a hint of fruit and just enough tart to make you smile" (source).
  • Deschutes Black Butte XXVIII, $17.19/22oz - "Every year, we celebrate our anniversary with an imperial, barrel-aged version of our flagship Black Butte Porter. Our brewers love to experiment and they always add some fun new ingredients to this beer like chilies, cranberries, figs and other such treats. This year, to celebrate 28 years of brewing, they’ve added the interesting mix of ingredients above for another multi-layered flavor experience" (source).
  • Bruery Mash and Vanilla, $24.59/750ml - "This is our classic bourbon barrel-aged barleywine – kicked up a notch. We took Mash, already oaky, sticky and sweet, and amplified its barrel character with the addition of fresh vanilla beans. This vanilla prominence is complemented by the woody bourbon flavors and coconut notes that are imparted to the beer as part of its extensive maturation in oak bourbon barrels. Mash & Vanilla is best enjoyed fresh to experience the vanilla flavors at peak strength" (source).
  • Bruery Melange #14, $26.49/750ml - "Our Mélange series is a chance to roll out the barrels, roll up our sleeves and explore flavors that cannot be achieved outside of the art of the blend or by any one beer. French for “blend”, this mélange fuses the mature character of some of our most vintage barrels of barleywine and old ale with the dark depth of our imperial stouts, including both Tuesday-themed releases and Share This. This mélange is one for all, with rich, complex notes and the signature kiss of oak" (source).
  • Bruery Theraux Sour in the Rye, $21.79/750ml - "Sour in the Rye is an American wild ale. A challenging beer to brew due to the substantial amount of rye malt, but you’ll be glad we took the time. The character of the rye asserts itself with clove and pepper in the aroma and flavor, and contributes a full body not generally found in sour beers. Pleasantly sour with notes of tart cherry, rustic earth and vanilla notes from extensive barrel-aging" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Celebration, $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).
  • Great Lake Christmas Ale, $2.39/12oz - "A Yuletide’s worth of holiday spices and sweet honey to keep you a-wassailing" (source).
  • Southern Tier 2xMas, $1.99/12oz - "Double spiced ale brewed in the tradition of Swedish Glögg" (source).
  • Lagunitas Brown Shugga, $1.99/12oz - "Originally a failed attempt at a 1997 batch of Olde GnarlyWine Ale resulting in an all-new-beer-style we like to call…Irresponsible" (source).
  • Anderson Valley Winter Solstice, $2.19/12oz - "Winter Solstice® is our take on the classic style of “winter warmer.” Boasting a deep amber hue and rich mouthfeel, its creamy finish will lift your spirits. Hints of toffee, spice, and caramel tease the senses making this the perfect ale to share with friends and family during the cold days and long nights of winter" (source).

Video of the Week | Bell's Christmas Ale

All I want for Christmas ... is Bell's Christmas Ale!