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Friday, March 31, 2017

New Beer Friday, Vessi™ Fermentor Edition (March 31)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

I am pleased to announce that Siciliano's Market has been selected as one of three Beer City USA retailers to have exclusive rights to carry an exciting new product that allows homebrewers to go from pitching yeast to dispensing beer in as little as seven days. The Vessi™ Fermentor is an all-in-one fermentation and dispensing system that's sealed, pressurized and temperature controlled, creating the ideal environment to craft and dispense great tasting beer.

Welcome to Fermentopia

Go from 4 weeks of worry and work to a mere 7 days* with minimal effort – all while exerting more control over the entire fermentation and finishing process.


Vessi™ Fermentor stays pressurized the entire time so that what's inside stays carbonated. This means there's no need to bottle condition or force carbonate your beer, cutting days out of your timeline. Plus, the heating and cooling system helps reach an optimal fermentation and finishing environment faster.


Once the wort's in the tank, there’s no more transferring. In fact, there's no siphoning, lifting or jackets, either. Everything you need is in one convenient tank, with everything on hand to rule the fermentation and finishing process.


Vessi™ Fermentor helps homebrewers control key risks in the brewing process by creating a more controlled environment. Precise temperature and pressure control, and a construction that's designed to minimize exposure to light and oxygen, helps keep your batch safe, which, when it's all said and done, means a better beer.

*Based on a light blonde ale beer at 3.3% ABV and use of clarification agent.

How it Works

1. Transfer Wort, Pitch Yeast

With Vessi ™ Fermentor, you'll start by transferring your cooled wort into the sanitized tank. Once you’ve checked the specific gravity and pitched your yeast, attach the pressure lid. Now you’re ready to set the specific pressure and temperature to ensure optimal conditions for fermentation. Then, sit back and relax while the yeast does its thing. If your beer requires secondary fermentation, it’s time to go for round two. If not, on to the dispensing.

2. Clear Sediment

Once the yeast is finished fermenting, you can clear the sediment from the bottom of the tank using the Sediment Removal System, which transfers sediment out of the tank without opening the unit or depressurizing. This is also a good time to add any aromas or flavors using the Liquid Injection System - designed to force your additions into the tank, while minimizing exposure to light and oxygen.

3. Dispense - Pour, Bottle or Keg

Your beer is ready! For instant gratification, pour straight from the tap. To share with friends and family (or quickly ferment another batch), transfer to bottles or a keg using the bottling and kegging ports. (counter pressure bottle filler sold separately) Once filled, they’re ready to drink (no bottle conditioning or keg carbonation required).

Call Siciliano's Market (616-453-9674) or contact Steve at for pricing. For more information please check out these videos.

New and Returning Beer

  • Bear Republic Hop Shovel, $2.89/12oz - "Hop Shovel is dry, but with a soft and rounded mouthfeel achieved by using a high proportion of wheat and rye. Hop varieties Mosaic, Meridian, and Denali provide an abundance of flavor and aroma" (source).
  • Dogfish Head SeaQuench Ale, $2.09/12oz - "SeaQuench Ale is brewed with sea salt and black limes and it merges three German-style beers: Kolsch, Berliner Wiesse, and Gose" (source).
  • Short's The Curl, $1.99/12oz - "The Curl was one of the first Imperial beers made at Short’s. This American Pilsner has an appealing clear, bright, and golden straw color. Faint esters of grain and aromas of fresh baked bread are prominent throughout the beer. The flavor results from the abundance of flake maize used in this recipe. There are also hefty doses of hops that create a pronounced dryness that seamlessly blends into a crisp, clean finish" (source).
  • Hofbrau Maibock, $1.89/12oz - "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).
  • Arbor Forgotten Oak, $11.99/500ml - "Barrel aged with red raspberries" (source).
  • Arbor Pollination Sensation, $2.39/12oz - "Golden honey in color, Pollination Sensation greets the senses with the fragrance of lush summer meadows,dotted w/ flowers in bloom" (source).
  • Grand Armory Wheezin the Juice, $2.09/12oz - "Fresh, citrusy nose. Excellent, balanced palate with slightly sweet citrus and hops. Terrific bitter finish" (source).
  • Saugatuck Daze on Saison, $1.79/12oz - "Go to a whole new dimension with this off the wall Farmhouse Ale. Dry hopped with copious amounts of Mandarina & Mosaic hops for an interesting twist" (source).
  • Shipyard Island Time, $1.29/12oz - "Shipyard Island Time is an easy drinking session IPA built with a variety of Northwest hops which contribute to the grapefruit and pine nose and spicy hop finish. This refreshing IPA will transport you to your Island Time no matter where you are" (source).
  • Uncle John Apricot, $2.99/16oz - "This is a sweeter blend of our traditional Apple Hard Cider blended with apricot juice" (source).

Video of the Week | Speciation Ales

An interesting new video from our pals at Speciation. Enjoy.


Friday, March 24, 2017

New Beer Friday, Pro-Am Edition (March 24)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

We are pleased to pass on some exciting news for homebrewers who live in the environs of Beer City USA. The Beer City Brewers Guild has finished hammering out the details of an annual brewing competition that will pair Guild members with local award-winning homebrewers. Original collaboration beers brewed by the Pro-Am teams will be judged by a panel of qualified experts and the winning team will be announced at the Guild’s annual HopStock festival.

Homebrewers who reside in the Beer City Brewers Guild area (Kent County, or a township that directly borders Kent County) and who meet the following criteria will be eligible to participate in the inaugural Pro-Am event:

    • Gold Medal Winner – 2016 Siciliano’s Homebrew Competition
    • Category Winner (Top 10) – 2016 O’Connor’s Homebrew Competition
    • Top 3 Finisher – 2016 West Michigan Homebrew Competition
    • Top 3 Finisher – 2017 KDaLe Homebrew Competition
    • Monthly BOS Winning (Individual) Brewer – 2016-2017 Home Brew League Season
Visit the Guild’s Facebook page for periodic updates.

Speaking of competitions, a reminder that entry registration for The Fourteenth Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Competition is now open. Go here for complete details.

New and Returning Beer

  • Right Brain Irish Goodbye, $6.49/22oz - "Smooth, easy drinking Irish Red. Notes of caramel with a slight hop finish. Great choice for someone new to craft beer" (source).
  • Perrin Grapefruit IPA, $1.89/12oz - "Thirst quenching Grapefruit IPA has become Michigan's warm weather requisite for a balanced and refreshing craft beer. With aromas of citrus and tropical fruits, a delicate Grapefruit tartness and a sweet malty backbone ending in a clean finish; This IPA is the first of its kind cheers to short sleeves and long days" (source).
  • Perrin Cherry IPA, $1.89/12oz - "Let your taste buds bloom into the season with our Michigan Cherry IPA made with 100% Traverse City cherries and a well-balanced collage of fresh hops. This fruit IPA balances a subtle sweet kiss of tart cherries alongside a deliberate edge of floral bitterness" (source).
  • Alaskan Summer, $1.69/12oz - "Alaskan Summer Ale balances a softly malted palate with the clean freshness of hops. In the tradition of the style, neither overpowers the other. Both hops and malt come together to refresh and renew the palate. The straw-gold color and easy drinkability are an enjoyable way to celebrate summer" (source).
  • Black Rocks Flying Sailor, $2.09/12oz - "This Red Rye IPA combines Falconer’s Flight and Falconer 7C’s hops, along with Malt and Rye to form the perfect storm of flavor, aroma and color. Pour it in a glass and get shipwrecked in the ruby hues, citrus notes, and distinct Rye bite. So quit playing with your dingey and round the breakwall" (source).
  • Founders P.C. Pils, $1.29/12oz - "A Founders take on a classic Pilsner, featuring Corn & Carapils malt, Chinook, Cascade & Centennial Hops" (source).
  • Latitude 42 Bourbon Barrel Aged Lucifer's Cuvee, $15.99/22oz - "Dangerously devastating, Lucifer’s Cuvee is our Double Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. We then Aged this beer in Bourbon Barrels" (source).
  • Stone Enjoy By 4/20, $8.99/22oz, $2/99/12oz - "Our all-important, hop-driven quest to deliver the most devastatingly fresh IPA on the planet facilitated a paradigm shift in 2012 with the launch of Stone Enjoy By IPA. Not only did we brew this beer with more than 10 different hops, we brewed it specifically NOT to last. Acclaimed for its groundbreakingly short shelf life, this intense double IPA brought forth a whole new concept of what constitutes “fresh” — guaranteeing fans the ultimate level of hoppiness. This devastatingly dank stash of our dry-hopped, hop-bursted double IPA won’t last long. Get your hands on this dank, golden beauty before everyone else gets wind of it" (source).
  • Short's Prolonged Enjoyment, $1.99/12oz - "Prolonged Enjoyment is a Session IPA brewed with Amarillo, Simcoe, and Citra hops. The beers abundant aromatics of intense grass, pine, and citrus complement the great malty backbone and balanced bitterness. At 3.5% ABV, this brew is an incredibly sessionable IPA" (source).
  • Anderson Valley Summer Solstice, $1.99/12oz - "This copper colored ale is a silky, creamy dream. It’s malty, very mildly hopped, and lightly sweet, with a delicate hint of spice for that oh-so-drinkable, extra velvety flavor" (source).
  • Great Lakes Grandes Lagos, $1.69/12oz - "Colorful hibiscus flowers bloom against a picturesque malt backdrop in this refreshing cerveza from south of the border (of Canada, that is)" (source).
  • Epic Son of a Baptist, $2.39/12oz - "Son of a Baptist is an 8% ABV imperial stout. It is not barrel aged like its father, Big Bad Baptist; instead its flavor profile was designed to highlight the complex and often unique flavors of small batch coffees. Instead of sourcing a coffee that would play well in a beer we sought out creative and innovative roasters, then asked them which beans they’re passionate about. Each resulting release of Son of a Baptist is widely different depending on the coffee selected. Some are fruity and sweet with notes of jam and chocolate, others are rich and earthy with a big roasted finish. Each limited release will return to the Roaster’s home market where the beer and the coffee can be sampled side by side" (source).

Video of the Week | Grand Rapids

Big thanks to Keith D. for bringing this video to our attention.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

March Brew of the Month: Mark's Weizenbock

By Mark Iacopelli

Raise your steins to spring! For this month’s brew I decided to do a Weizenbock. I must confess that I was hesitant to brew this beer as I am not a personal fan of many wheat beers or the banana esters found in many german ales. For this reason, this was only my second brew in my years of brewing that is German in origin (the first was a failed Berliner Weisse). That being said the point of homebrewing oftentimes is the ability to brew to one's personal tastes, and this was an opportunity to create a German wheat beer that conforms to what I enjoy.

The recipe design started with my selection of yeast. Yeast character often is the defining feature of German ales, but as I previously stated I try to avoid the banana esters. After reading the descriptions on a number of yeast strains I chose WLP351. This strain is more dominated by its spicy clove character and has little banana. I also fermented cooler in order to restrain the yeast’s ester production for a cleaner-tasting beer. The malt bill was fairly straight forward with some dark wheat at the center, munich for added maltiness, and pilsner malt to aid in starch conversion. I also splashed in a little Carafa I to darken things up and give final product a slight reddish hue. Lastly, traditional Northern Brewer hops were used late in the boil to accentuate the spiciness I expected from the yeast I choose.

The appearance on this beer is a medium brown with ruby highlights, clarity has a slight haze, and the head is pillowy cream colored with medium retention. The nose is bready and slightly sweet from the munich malt and spicy clove from the yeast. With the first sip you get bread and clove flavors that fade away to more subtle notes of vanilla, nougat and banana. The finish is medium dry with a lingering clove. Despite its alcohol strength it is not hot or boozy. This recipe was designed to try to bridge the rich maltiness of winter brews and more bright flavors of spring and summer. I feel this beer does meet those expectations.

The final result is a german wheat beer that fits my current taste, and I am very happy with it. I hope that this article will serve as a reminder that as a homebrewer we don’t have to accept beer the way it is served to us commercially, and we have the ability to create beers uniquely designed for us personally. This beer would pair well with steak and mushrooms or a spicy German sausage on a pretzel bun. It is strong enough to keep the last bit of winter chill away and bright in flavor for your next grill out. Cheers!

Vital Statistics OG: 1.072, FG: 1.015, IBUs: 19.6, SRM: 16.6, ABV: 7.5

All Grain Brewing ($30.61)

    • 6 lbs Weyermann Dark Wheat
    • 5 lbs Avangard Pilsner Malt
    • 2.25 lbs Pilot Munich
    • .25 lbs Carafa I
    • 1.5 lbs Rice Hulls
    • 1oz Northern Brewer 8.50%AA (30 mins)
    • 1oz Northern Brewer 8.50%AA (0 Mins)
    • WLP 351 Bavarian Weizen Yeast or Lallemand Munuch

Extract Brewing ($39.66)

    • 9.75 lbs Wheat Liquid Malt
    • 1.5 lbs Amber Liquid Malt
    • .25 lbs Carafa I
    • 1oz Northern Brewer 8.50%AA (30 mins)
    • 1oz Northern Brewer 8.50%AA (0 Mins)
    • WLP 351 Bavarian Weizen Yeast or Lallemand Munuch
The staff at Siciliano's is always eager to answer your homebrewing questions. Stop by for help developing custom-made recipes like this one!

Friday, March 17, 2017

New Beer Friday, Let's Party Edition (March 17)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

The Siciliano’s Homebrew Party will be held this year on Saturday, May 20, from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the enclosed shelter at Johnson Park. Tickets will go on sale Monday, March 20. Seating is limited so if you plan on attending this homebrew event — one of Beer City USA’s most popular — you are encouraged to buy your tickets early. Here are the details you need to know:

    • Bring some homebrew to drink and share. If you are not a homebrewer simply bring a six-pack or two of your favorite beer.
    • Tickets are $45.00 and must be paid in advance with cash, check or credit card either in person at Siciliano's Market or over the phone. Tickets purchased over the phone may be picked up on the day of the party.
    • 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.
    • Snacks and munchies will be provided and brats, hamburgers and sides will be served from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. 
    • Attendees will receive a logoed Siciliano’s tasting glass at the time of check-in.
    • Live entertainment will be provided Jimmie Stagger.
    • Score sheets for the Fourteenth Annual Homebrew Competition will be available for pick-up. Medals will be presented and the Best-of-Show winner of the Siciliano’s Cup will be announced at 4:30 pm. Score sheets for those not attending the party will be available for pick-up at the store on May 21. If you live outside the Grand Rapids area and would like your scoresheet (and medal) mailed to you, contact
Just a reminder that entry registration for the Fourteenth Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Competition opens on Monday, March 20. Go here for competition details.

A cooler full of homebrew at a previous homebrew party.

New and Returning Beer

  • New Belgium Juicy Melon, $1.69/12oz - "Cool off with this refreshingly fruity summer beer brewed with watermelons and limes" (source).
  • New Belgium Tartastic, $1.69/12oz - "Brace yourself for a refreshingly tart snap. Tartastic's lacto sour profile and fruity, spicy undertones enliven the taste buds with each bright, sessionable sip" (source).
  • Ommegang Short Sleeve, $2.59/12oz - "This beer is brewed with lemon peel, coriander and grains of paradise" (source).
  • Great Lakes Turntable Pils, $1.69/12oz - "Flip that record and wax nostalgic about Ohio's deep-cut music legacy with our refreshing pilsner. Consider this our reissue of a classic style" (source).
  • Southern Tier Tangier IPA, $1.69/12oz - "Where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean is the ancient city of Tangier. This confluence has made Tangier a cultural waypoint for millennia. From Greek heroes to Cold War spies and uprisings, Tangier has inspired thousands of legendary stories. It is written that before his battle with the giant Antaeus, Hercules rested in a nearby cave. But where myths end, our tale begins. Tangier is brewed as a Session India Pale Ale with spicy citrus aromas and stone fruit flavors. These flavors, with the addition of lightly roasted malts and brilliant hop bitterness, make Tangier a beverage as refreshing as it is exotic. The approachable 4.6% abv yields more time to enjoy the synergy between the tangerine peel and spicy, citrusy, Azacca hops. Enjoy Tangier in celebration of your epic adventure" (source).
  • Abita Creole Cream, $1.69/12oz - "Ready for a tasty break from the super-heavy and super-hoppy? Our new Creole Cream Ale is all about easy drinking and interesting flavors. It’s Abita’s unique take on a true American style, brewed with pale malted barley for sweetness and Louisiana-grown Blanca Isabel Purple Rice for a crisp, dry finish. Mild dry-hopping delivers a pleasant fruity, piney aroma that balances the grains. And the welcoming result is a lighter, warm-weather ale that’s not too fancy and always fun — the perfect partner for everything from a front porch jam session to a Sunday sauce piquant" (source).
  • Detroit Brewing Woodward Wit, $1.79/12oz - No commercial description.
  • Ballast Point Bonito, $1.89/12oz - "Our Bonito blonde ale is inspired by our perma-sunny days. This brew draws you in with its golden color and soft malt character, while the light mouthfeel and dry finish keeps you coming back. And what would set a San Diego blonde apart? A subtle hint of hops, naturally" (source).
  • Anderson Valley Ee Tah IPA, $2.19/12oz - "Our Ee Tah! IPA pours to a bright, golden yellow color with aromas of rich tropical fruit, passion fruit with a hint of citrus. Pale, pilsner, and midnight wheat malts give it a solid malt character while Chinook, Citra, and Amarillo hops impart flavors of ripe tropical fruit, peach and apricot leading to a clean hoppy finish" (source).
  • Jolly Pumpkin Apocolocynposis, $14.39/750ml - "A 4.3 percent ABV sour ale brewed with both blackberries and lime. The ale’s name refers to the fear of turning into a pumpkin" (source).
  • Jolly Pumpkin Smashed, Grabbed and Hop Dusted, $14.39/750ml - "Have you ever been smashed, grabbed and hop dusted? It's what can happen should you take a trip to Holy Mountain" (source).
  • Short's Goodnight Bodacious, $2.39/12oz - "Goodnight Bodacious is a Double Black India Pale Ale with the maltiness of a Barleywine and the hoppiness of an IPA. A rich, hoppiness dominates the aroma, with earthy and loamy scents. A medium body presents big, bitter black barley and roasted coffee flavors, with subtle complements of dark fruit and green hops. Strong alcohol flavors and pleasant warming qualities become more noticeable as the beer approaches room temperature" (source).
  • Boulevard Noble Prize, $3.09/12oz - "Pouring brilliant golden in color, Noble Prize opens with aromas of bready, honey-like malt sweetness with subtle floral and black pepper notes from the use of Saaz and Mandarina Bavaria hops. With the flavor of freshly baked bread, the 100% pilsner malt base provides a crisp platform to showcase spicy herbal and earthy noble hop tones provided by first wort and end of boil hopping. The delicate, simple malt bill and cooler than normal fermentation temperature, 49 F as opposed to 55 F for KC Pils, result in an incredibly balanced, complex beer born from an amazingly simple recipe" (source).
  • Boulevard Scotch on Scotch, $4.09/12oz - "Stylistically speaking, Scotch on Scotch is an Imperial Scotch Ale aged on Scotch barrel chips. A massive malt presence is created by layering caramel and amber malts with just a touch of peat smoked malt for additional complexity. Brief resting on oak chips following primary fermentation allows Scotch On Scotch to coax rich woody, char and vanilla notes along with the essence of Scotch whisky into a hearty, warming beer, 
a liquid fireplace of sorts. Hopping with Magnum, Chinook and Northern Brewer hops contributes a spicy earthiness 
to Scotch On Scotch" (source).
  • Boulevard Show Me Sour, $1.69/12oz - " A touch of acidity, some dehusked black malts for a rich, dark color followed by a short time in whiskey barrels before being blended back with fresh beer should make for a nice, round 4% beer that’s unique and inviting. Show-Me Sour is our play on a beer version of a whiskey sour." (source).

Video of the Week | Jimmie Stagger

Siciliano's Homebrew Party: Come for the beer. Stay for the music.


Friday, March 10, 2017

New Beer Friday, Dog Drank My Homework Edition (March 10)

Preamble by Mark Iacopelli

The staff at Siciliano's is pleased release the schedule for our homebrew and winemaking classes in 2017. Locations will be announced prior to each class. Unless otherwise noted, walk-ins are welcome. However, please keep in mind that space is limited. Sign up in person at Siciliano's or call ahead to reserve your spot. See you soon, everyone!

Introduction to Kegging and Draft Maintenance

March 12 (2:00 p.m.): Are you a homebrewer that's sick of bottling? Or a beer lover seeking the convenience of a kegerator? In this class we will go over how to keg and carbonate beer at home, design and build a home kegerator, and best maintenance practices. We will also go through anatomy of commercial kegs and connections for those interested in having their favorite commercial beer on tap at home. Cost: $10

Introduction to Homebrewing (Extract Brewing 101)

April 9 (2:00 p.m.): This class focuses on the basics of brewing your first beer. We will go through the steps and equipment necessary in brewing beer at home. The style of beer we will be brewing is an American IPA. We will also look at the history, characteristics, and tips for brewing a great IPA. Cost: $10

Yeast Heath, Propagation and Capturing

May 21 (2:00 p.m.): Learn about the basic biology of yeast and how it relates to healthy beer fermentation. This class will cover how to grow yeast populations for proper pitching rates using starters, storage, and how to manipulate yeast during fermentation. You will also learn how to harvest wild yeast and microbes from your backyard for truly unique beers derived from your surroundings. Cost: $10

Introduction to All Grain Brewing

June 12 (6:30 p.m.): This class is designed for homebrewers that wish to make the transition into all-grain brewing. We will go through the additional steps and equipment necessary for brewing all grain recipes. This class will also go through the basic techniques for designing recipes. The style of beer we will be brewing is an Belgian Saison, which we will look at the history, characteristics, and tips for brewing a great Belgian Saison. Cost: $10

Introduction to Fruit Winemaking

June 19 (6:30 p.m.): An introduction to making wine from fresh fruit. This class will cover the basic process and equipment of winemaking as well as a variety of other subjects. You will learn how to test your pH, make acid adjustments, sugar adjustments, and how to prepare the fruit for a healthy fermentation. Cost: $10

Off Flavor Seminar

July 10 (7:00 p.m.): Understanding and identifying off flavors in beer is critical in being an educated drinker and brewer. For brewers, proper identification can help trouble shoot brewing problems. For this class we will be spiking beer samples with the six most common off-flavors found in beers to better train our palettes to identify problems. This event is just two days before the next Certified Cicerone exam in Chicago for those needing practice before taking the test. Cost: $30. Deadline for sign up is July 1.

Grape to Glass Introduction on Grape Harvest & Winemaking

August 21 (6:30 p.m.): An introduction to making wine from fresh grapes. This class will cover the basic process and equipment for winemaking as well as a variety of other subjects. You will learn how to harvest your grapes, press the the grapes, test sugar content, make sugar adjustments test pH, and make acid adjustments. Cost: $10

Hops, Harvest and Wet Hopping

September 10 (2:00 p.m.): Join us for an in-depth discussion on the anatomy of hops and chemistry of hops in beer. We will go through how to harvest and use home grown hops, drying techniques, and wet hopping. While we cover this discussion on hops we will also be brewing an all-grain batch of beer with freshly picked wet hops. Cost: $10

Introduction to All Grain Brewing

October 8 (2:00 p.m.): This class is designed for homebrewers that wish to make the transition into all-grain brewing. We will go through the additional steps and equipment necessary in brewing all grain recipes. This class will also go through basic techniques for designing recipes. The style of beer we will be brewing is an American Stout. We will look at the history, characteristics, and tips for brewing a great American Stout. Cost: $10

New and Returning Beer

  • Bell's Third Coast Old Ale, $2.79/12oz - "Third Coast Old Ale starts with a rich, caramel base, and finishes with a heavy hop bitterness. Sharply intense at first, it will age gracefully, adding complexity and subtlety in your cellar. Go ahead, test your patience" (source).
  • Dark Horse Bourbon Barrel Aged Scotty Karate, $4.49/12oz - "It is hard to believe it has been 10 years, since we first released Scotty Karate Scotch Ale!!! What better way to celebrate the decade than to release a Bourbon Barrel Aged edition of this mighty fine Scotch Ale" (source).
  • New Holland Lost Dune, $1.79/12oz - "A refreshing and aromatic summer ale. Tropical notes of Mosaic hops and bright citrus of coriander complement the rounding smoothness of blueberries from Michigan’s dune-laden west coast" (source).
  • North Peak Archangel, $1.79/12oz - "Archangel is a light wheat ale brewed with Michigan cherries from the Traverse City area Crisp with a refreshing tartness, it’s the perfect beer for sunny days and beaches" (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).
  • Lagunitas Doppel Weizen, $4.79/22oz - "This special brew was designed with the help of our Freistaat Bayern brothers who also built the brewhouse upon which we brewed it. It's a new twist on an old tradition" (source).
  • Heavy Seas Alpha Effect, $2.19/12oz - "With a lightning strike of exotic hops, the Alpha Effect is a hazy and dank IPA thundering with juicy hop aroma and flavor. With a hefty 7%, the Alpha Effect has enough malt to balance the ridiculous amount of hops we used to create this category 5 monster. Hazy, but never muddy, this is an expertly brewed IPA" (source).
  • Short's Chief Hopper, $1.99/12oz - "Chief Hopper is a Double IPA hopped with Vic Secret, Simcoe, and Centennial hops inspired by the show “Stranger Things.” Chief Hopper is deep gold in color and has a dense white head. Dank aromas of pine, grapefruit, pineapple, and mango are accompanied by just a hint of malt. Smooth and balanced in flavor, a citrus forefront is matched with equal malt character" (source).
  • Short's Publican Porter, $1.99/12oz - "Publican Porter is a full-flavored London Style Porter with a black, opaque color that leaves a pleasing dark brown lace. Rich, decadent aromas of espresso entice the senses, eventually giving way to subtle biscuit like tones. The use of heavily roasted malt imparts tasty flavors of burnt coffee and dark chocolate, accompanied by a suitable and pleasant bitterness" (source).
  • Oddside I Want My HTV, $1.99/12oz - "Imperial Citra Pale Ale" (source).

Video of the Week | Founders Brewing Co.



Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Speciation Artisan Ales: Take a Sip on the Wild Side

By Max Spencer

Mitch and Whitney Ermatinger — after creating and rewriting multiple business plans over the course of years — decided to found a brewery in the Grand Rapids area that focuses on mixed-culture wild ales after seeing how popular they were in the rest of the country. The result of their hard work and planning is the new Speciation Artisan Ales in Comstock Park. The name Speciation is a reference to the evolutionary process by which new species emerge — an appropriate name for a brewery that uses wild microbes in its beers. “We wanted to create a cohesive brand,” Mitch explained to me during a visit to the brewery, “a theme with a large pool of names to draw from.” The theme of evolution is well suited for wild ales, as wild microbes tend to impart a wide range of characteristics to beer and exhibit variation from batch to batch — from microbe to microbe.

Mitch has a strong history of brewing. He cut his teeth as a homebrewer and employee at O’Connor’s Homebrew Supply before moving with Whitney to Colorado. Once there, Mitch joined the brewing team at Former Future Brewing Company — now known as Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales. Black Project — run by James Howat — specializes in spontaneously fermented beers. It was during this time that Mitch learned a great deal about wild and spontaneous fermentation. James, Mitch and the rest of the team at Black Project won two bronze medals for their wild ales at GABF in 2014 and 2015. Then, in 2016, Harmony Brewing Company hired Mitch to assist them in creating their sour program.

Speciation barrels
The beers released by Speciation so far were fermented using a mixture of lab cultures, wild microbes and a yeast Mitch harvested from a crab apple flower in Holland, Michigan. “We plan on shifting towards 100% wild fermentations as time goes on,” Mitch said, “once we have coolships and a collection of wild yeasts.” Many beer styles rely on malt or hops for their characteristic flavors — but wild and spontaneously fermented beers are all about the microbes. Not that malt and hops do not contribute, but the acidity — AKA sourness — and most of the complex flavors found in such beers are the result of microbial metabolism. A reliance on wild microbes promotes experimentation, as microbes from different sources (various fruits, flowers, etc.) bestow beer with distinct flavors and aromas.

Open fermentation
Mitch has some unique and exciting projects in the works. For the summer, they will be releasing a series of Berliner weisses aged with different fruits. There are also plans for a dark sour, an IPA, and an array of variants using base beers with different additions such as mangoes, honey or rhubarb and vanilla. The most exotic of Speciation’s upcoming ventures is a family of spontaneously fermented beers currently codenamed the Laurentian Spontaneous Series. What makes the Laurentian Series one-of-a-kind is the intended source of the microbes — the Great Lakes. Mitch plans to place coolships on the shores of each Great Lake to capture the terroir of the individual lakes, releasing each separately and together as a blend. Additionally, Mitch has several bourbon, red wine and maple syrup barrels to age beers in — with hopes of incorporating oak foeders soon. Keep in mind that wild microbes can be finicky, and any future releases are subject to change based on results.

Fermentation tank
A new batch of beer is released every second Saturday of every month. The first two batches released were Genetic Drift, an American Saison contained in a solera system and dry hopped with Mosaic and Saaz, and Incipient, a golden sour dry hopped with Belma, Cascade and Mosaic hops. The next slated release, on March 11, is a variation of the Incipient with Black Currants. Currently, releases are handled through a ticket-based system on Eventbrite and leftovers are sold at bottle shops like Siciliano's — so keep an eye out!

Tasting Notes for Genetic Drift

An American farmhouse Saison open-fermented with Brettanomyces bruxellensis var. Drie, Belle Saison, and Speciation’s house strain which was captured from a crabapple tree in Holland, MI. The malt build consists of Pilsner, Vienna, wheat, rye and oats. To top it off, this batch was dry hopped with Mosaic and Saaz. Mitch is utilizing solera techniques (adding fresh wort to containers with already fermented beer) to create future batches of Genetic Drift—which should result in similar beers that steadily change over time due to shifts in the microbial community of the solera.

Appearance: Pale gold, hazy, with a delicate seafoam white head.

Aroma: Rustic, earthy funk. Overripened fruit, mango, pineapple, light stone fruit. Peppery phenols.

Palate: Follows the nose well—rustic, earthy, funky and lightly acidic. Fruit smoothie with tropical and stone fruits. Lemon. A light, grainy malt character. High carbonation. Pillowy mouthfeel with a light-medium body.

Finish: Dry with lingering acidity and bitterness.

Friday, March 3, 2017

New Beer Friday, Reminders & Updates Edition (March 3)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

Spring is coming and with it a number of exciting homebrew events here at Siciliano's. See below for a list of dates, updates, details and reminders.

FOURTEENTH ANNUAL SICILIANO’S HOMEBREW COMPETITION: Online registration for entries will be accepted from Monday, March 20 through Sunday, April 9 or until 200 entries are submitted, whichever occurs first. This year’s Best of Show winner will again have the opportunity to brew his or her winning recipe at Trail Point Brewing Company in addition to winning a $500.00 gift card to Siciliano’s Market and, per tradition, having his or her name engraved on the prestigious Siciliano’s Cup. Go here for complete details.

CALL FOR JUDGES & STEWARDS: Information on how to register as a judge or a steward for the 2017 Competition can be found here.

THE FOURTEENTH ANNUAL SICILIANO’S HOMEBREW PARTY: Saturday, May 20, at Johnson Park on Butterworth.

HOP PLANT PREORDERS: We are taking hop plant pre-orders through the end of business on Thursday, March 16th. Go here for complete details.

Entries in last year's homebrew competition.

New and Returning Beers

  • Short's Cat Pajama's, $2.69/12oz - "Cat’s Pajamas is a Double IPA brewed with Blood Orange and guava. This India Pale Ale is pale orange in color with big aromas of sweet, tropical fruit. Cat’s Pajamas is balanced with flavors of sweet fruit and bitter hops and has a resinous, mouth coating feel. High in ABV, this beer finishes dry with a bit of warmth" (source).
  • Avery Vanilla Bean Stout, $13.79/22oz - "A double dose of vanilla derived from both fresh Bourbon barrels and the trio of Tongan, Ugandan, and Mexican whole vanilla beans is complemented by essences of chocolate, caramel and molasses to round out this luxuriously silky stout" (source).
  • Southern Tier Nu Skool, $1.69/12oz - "We spent over a year prototyping R&D versions of Nu Skool. This final version is one special beer. It is an IPA with a slight malty sweetness, but overall balanced & brimming with tropical, fruity, spicy, piney & citrus character. To contrast our IPA, which most closely resembles a traditional English IPA in malt & hop bills, we wanted to brew an India Pale Ale in a new way. West Coast brewers have been brewing lighter, more “Americanized,” yet still full of hop character & our brewers wanted to try their hand by brewing their take" (source).
  • Lagunitas Davey Murray's Best, $2.19/12oz (2 per) - "This Scotch Ale is sweet, but not cloying. It's strong, but not brash. It's smooth and smokey, like a good dram among friends" (source).
  • Greenbush 400 Divine Rabbits, $1.99/12oz  - "This heavenly brew is sure to satisfy all you offer to it. And by all, we mean ALL. Two or twenty, be sure to keep enough of this agave wheat ale on hand lest you anger the gods" (source).
  • Ballast Point Red Velvet Nitro, $2.59/12oz - "Impossibly reddish in color (due to the beets) with nitro cascade fading into a pink cap of stable foam, great clarity. Seeing the beer in the glass shows the obvious resemblance to a slice of red velvet cake (red cake on the bottom topped with a layer of creamy white frosting). But the similarities don’t end there. The aroma is dominated by chocolate with earthy notes of beets and subtle wafts of roast coco. The flavor is similar to the aroma but with faint roast and hop bitterness coming in at the end balance it out, not cloying or overly sweet. The mouthfeel is medium and the finish is luxuriously smooth" (source).
  • Ballast Point Sea Rose, $1.89/12oz - "American Wheat Ale with Cherries & Pomegranate" (source).
  • Alpine Windows Up, $2.39/12oz - "This IPA is extra dank and resinous. Enjoy its piney aromas and tropical notes from a blend of Citra and Mosaic hops" (source).
  • Arbor Phat Abbot Tripel, $2.89/12oz - "This traditional Belgian-style triple is strong, fruity, and slightly sour. It starts with a big malt presence, followed up by a pronounced candy sugar sweetness, and balanced with a spicy hop finish. A must-try" (source).
  • Brewery Vivant Contemplation, $3.49/16oz - "Clover honey added during the boil contributes color and complexity but adds no sweetness to the beer as the sugars are broken down during fermentation. Look for whispers of apricot and nectarine on the palate, mixed with the floral aroma of the hops grown in northern Michigan" (source).
  • Burnt City Balloon Boy, $1.79/12oz - "Easy to drink, but hard to pin down, Balloon Boy is a refreshing Belgian-style wheat that is fun for the whole family.* Subtle tart citrus up front gives way to a beautifully complex fruitiness. A wheat ale that sits well with every kind of beer drinker" (source).
  • Burnt City Dick the Butcher, $1.79/12oz - "Our take on the American Pale Ale is balanced and refreshing. Classic American hops lend prominent grapefruit notes and just a little bitterness" (source).
  • Burnt City Face Melter, $1.79/12oz - "A righteous dose of hops and hibiscus give this IPA a powerful aroma of citrus and tropical fruit. Citra, Centennial, and Cascade hops team up to provide a strong, yet smooth bitterness. Intense flavor without a harsh aftertaste" (source).
  • Burnt City Freight Handler, $1.79/12oz - "Our milk stout is full-bodied and smooth, with rich chocolate flavors and complex maltiness along with a touch of subtle lactose sweetness" (source).
  • Dark Horse Toonilla, $2.09/12oz - "Cream stout brewed with coffee from Dark Street Roasting Company and vanilla beans" (source).
  • 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).
  • Arcadia Apollyon, $2.29/12oz - "Belgium strong ale with hints of fruits and spice" (source).
  • Arcadia Mango Surprise, $1.99/12oz - "Tropical aromas of mango, pineapple, papaya and citrus gently play off a bright hop profile with a slight malt nose" (source).
  • Blakes Grizzly Pear, $2.09/12oz - "Blake's first pear hard cider, Grizzly melds soft notes of pear & prickly pear cactus balanced with a sharp apple finish with a hint of elderflower. No bears were harmed in the making of this product" (source).
  • Right Brain Broken Nose Double Black India Pale Ale, $6.49/22oz - "A malty American style black IPA with mild citrus and melon notes, a roasty body, and all around soft hop presence" (source).
  • Right Brain Peanut Butter CEO, $8.39/22oz - "Our flagship CEO Stout brewed with house-made peaunt butter" (source).
  • ROAK Blow Your Face Off, $3.29/12oz - "ROAK’s Blow Your Face Out Double IPA was crafted to maximize the dark characters of hops with piney, tropical and stone fruit aromas and flavors. With over 100 IBUs, these hops are ready to explode right out of the bottle. So grab a glass, this beer is going to blow your face out" (source).

Video of the Week | Spent-Grain Mushrooms

Someone needs to bring this to Grand Rapids.