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Friday, March 30, 2018

New Beer Friday, Trip to Traverse Edition (March 30)

Russ Springsteen, Right Brain
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

The unseasonably warm weather we had back in late February prompted my wife and I to make the spur-of-the-moment decision to head north and spend a few days in the environs of Traverse City. We like visiting the Traverse area in the off season. The Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas are beautiful in summer and fall but I think they’re equally lovely when ice is lining the edge of the bays and the grape vines, cherry orchards and hop fields are blanketed in snow. The fact that there’s less traffic during the winter months is a nice bonus.

We took our time traveling up M-37. Because Barb and I usually take this route to our cottage, the roadside landscape has become so familiar there’s a tendency to disregard it. But the wintry hues and tones seemed to heighten my perceptions and it almost felt like I was seeing the familiar farms, barns, fields and silos for the first time. When we were just south of Baldwin we stopped at the M-37 Meat Shack and picked up a few meat sticks for me, some blistering hot jerky for Barb and a box of cheese nips that we both snacked on the rest of the way to Traverse.

We pulled into the city about five o’clock and promptly made our way to Nolan’s Cigar Bar on East Front Street. After a cigar and a Manhattan at Nolan’s we drove to Black Star Farms just south of Sutton's Bay.

Black Star Farms is our favorite place to stay when we’re sojourning in the Traverse City area. The rooms are roomy, the breakfasts (included in the price) are superb and guests can help themselves to nightly hors-d’oeuvres and estate-produced wine in the lounge. It’s rarely crowded during the off season and there was one time when Barb and I had the entire place to ourselves.

The next morning after a breakfast of fried eggs, thick cut bacon and buckwheat pancakes we strolled around the grounds and visited with the horses that are boarded on the property. Barb was slightly miffed that the horses were more interested in their breakfasts than having their foreheads petted. After bidding goodbye to the aloof, hay-munching equines we drove to RPM Records in Traverse.

RPM Records is hands down the best record store we’ve been to. The shop has a massive selection of new and used vinyl and there’s a laid back golden retriever named Leland who, unlike the horses, was appreciative of Barb's attention. We found some good buys, among them a copy of Buddy Holly's greatest hits for $7.00.

Our next stop was the Orvis store in downtown TC. I was in the market for a new fly rod and after finding exactly what I was looking for proceeded to peruse the selection of waders.

“Do you need new waders?' my wife asked me.

“I do,” I said, immediately realizing that my answer sounded more like a whine than a reply.

“Then buy them,” she said.

I looked quizzically at my normally frugal wife and restrained myself from feeling her forehead. Barb also ended up buying waders along with a gizmo that supposedly hones your fly-casting technique. She's looking forward to taking a beginning fly-fishing class next month at the Orvis store in GR.

After putting our packages in the truck we had a beer at North Peak and then took a leisurely drive up and down the Old Mission Peninsula.

“What do you think the people who live in these mansions do for a living?” Barb asked.

“I’m sure they don’t own a beer store,” I replied.

When we got back to town we decided to stop at Right Brain Brewery. “Two-dollar tacos today,” the bartender told us after we took a seat at the bar.

‘I’ll take one,” I said.

“I’ll take one too,” said my wife.

While we were sipping our beers and waiting for our two-buck lunches brewery owner Russ Springsteen spotted us and came over for a chat. After we downed the tasty tacos Russ gave us a tour of his brewhouse.

Nolan's Cigar Bar
When we left Right Brain it was just about cocktail hour so we headed back to Nolan’s. Before going into the humidor I walked up to an older fellow who was standing behind the counter in the smoke shop. “Are you Mike?” I asked him.

I had heard that Mike Nolan’s eyesight was pretty bad and he peered closely at my face. “I am,” he said.

“Steve Siciliano,” I said and stuck my hand out. Mike has owned his shop for forty years and he’s in the process of selling the business to his two managers. Barb and I had met Andy and Ben on a Perdomo factory tour a few years ago. I asked Mike how the transition was going.

“Should be final in a couple of weeks,” he said.

“Ben and Andy are good kids.”

“Oh, they’re all right,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

Mike insisted on buying Barb and I a cigar. “Make sure you tell the bartender that you’re in the industry,” he told me. “You’ll get a discount.” After a Manhattan we walked the two short blocks down Front Street to Georgina’s for dinner.

It was just getting dark when we pulled into Black Star’s parking lot. Before going to our room we stopped at the deserted lounge and I poured two glasses of Black Star’s excellent Cabernet Franc. We sipped the wine and talked about music and fly-fishing. It was a nice night cap, and a pretty good way to end a pretty good day in a beautiful area of northern Michigan.

New and Returning Beer

  • Abita Hop On, $1.89/12oz - "Abita Hop-On is a full-bodied “juicy pale,” packed with Cascade, Citra and Ekuanot hops to deliver refreshing tropical and citrus notes. It pours a vibrant light gold while the unique brewing process produces a distinctive haze. It’s also super food-friendly, great with seafood ceviche, fresh fruit or a nice aged cheddar. Give Hop-On a try and enjoy our brewmaster’s latest journey" (source).
  • Boulevard Grand Cru, $4.49/12oz - "Grand Cru, a term that brewers have borrowed from vintners for years, literally translates to “great growth,” but has come to be used to represent a special blend or a release that is of the highest quality. To create our Grand Cru, brewers selected lots of Bourbon Barrel Quad and a double mashed imperial stout aged in freshly-emptied whiskey barrels to express the most distinctive elements of each beer, creating a delicious whole that’s even greater than the sum of its parts" (source).
  • Deschutes Pacific Wonderland, $1.99/12oz  - "We’ve always believed the best way to respect tradition is to brew the unexpected. So when we set out to create a sessionable lager befitting of the Pacific Northwest, our sense of exploration led us to this dry-hopped wonder befitting of everyday adventure. Citrusy Mandarina Bavaria hops combine with the crisp, bright character of a traditional lager to deliver a beer that is truly refreshing, and undoubtedly worth sharing" (source).
  • Founders PC Pils, $1.39/12oz - "Pleasantly crisp, perfectly clean and profoundly crushable, PC Pils is our take on the classic Pilsner style. While Noble hops have been the preferred choice of Pilsner brewers around the world, we went with some of our favorite American varieties. Piney Chinook, pleasantly citrus Cascade and punchy Centennial make this an easy-drinker with floral hop characteristics. Pretty cool, if you ask us" (source).
  • Great Lakes Cloud Cutter, $1.89/12oz - "Bursts of juicy citrus zip across friendly, lightly filtered wheat skies in our high-flying tribute to the historic Cleveland Air Races" (source).
  • Hofbrau Maibock, $2.19/12oz - "Hofbräu Maibock has the longest pedigree of all Munich’s Bocks. Its aromatic flavor and alcoholic content of approximately 7.2% by volume makes it one of the best creations from Hofbräu’s brewing kettles. Hofbräu Maibock marks one of the high points in the beer-lover’s calendar" (source).
  • Mikkeller SD Big Hazy, $5.49/16oz - "Imperial IPA Brewed with Lupulin Powder" (source).
  • Mikkeller SD Drinco de Mayo, $2.99/16oz - "Mexican Lager, Abv 4.8%. This special brew was made in collaboration w/ Silenus and Insurgente" (source).
  • Mikkeller SD Traeblood, $6.79/16oz - "Imperial maple stout" (source).
  • New Belgium Honey Orange Tripel, $2.69/12oz - "For this recipe, our brewers drew inspiration from Belgian Golden Strong Ale, a style we love. We sought out the very best ingredients, sourcing wild honey from the African Bronze Honey Company, a member of the Fair Trade Federation and a certified B-Corp. The Seville orange peel is freshly ground 24 hours prior to the day we brew by the Old Town Spice Shop, less than one mile from our Fort Collins, Colorado brewery. In the end, we created a big, sweet and citrusy Belgian-style Tripel with thoughtfully sourced ingredients" (source).
  • North Coast BA Old Rasputin, $23.29/500ml - "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).
  • Ommegang Hand of the Queen, $12.99/750ml - "A beer brewed for Tyrion Lannister. As one who knows a great many things, Tyrion knows and loves wine above all else, so Hand of the Queen is a big, bold barleywine, a beer fit for those who seek knowledge and truth, both great and small" (source).
  • Right Brain Blue Magic, $1.99/12oz  - "Blue Magic Lavender Wheat Ale is a uniquely different & refreshing brew. Did we mention it’s magical too? It’s brewed with local honey from Honey Pot Priory & fresh local lavender from Light Of Day Organics. This is a straight forward wheat with dried lavender. This brew has a floral nose and a wheat finish" (source).
  • Rogue Kulture Clash, $14.39/750ml - "A clash of beer and kombucha cultures create this unique sour ale" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada BFD, $2.19/19.2oz - "There are days when you want a beer—just a beer—that hits all the right spots. Well, this is it. No snifters required, no special occasions—just an unfussy, uncomplicated, hoppy blonde ale brewed to fit in no matter where it goes. This isn’t beer for collecting, this is beer for drinking" (source).
  • Watermark Homage, $3.49/16oz - "Traditional German Hefeweizen" (source).
  • Watermark King Prawn, $4.69/16oz - "King Prawn, our New England style IPA and dry hopped twice with mosaic hops" (source).

Video of the Week | Watermark, In a Can

From Watermark to Siciliano's.


Friday, March 23, 2018

A Formal Call for Homebrew Judges (2018)

This is a formal call for judges and stewards for the Fifteenth Annual Siciliano's Homebrew Contest, one of Michigan's premier homebrew competitions. This a BJCP registered event.

The following is pertinent information regarding the judging for the 2018 Siciliano's competition.

    • Date: Saturday, April 21
    • Location: 17 Seward Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
    • Check in for judges & stewards: 10 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
    • Judging: 11:15 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
    • Best-of-Show judging: 3:30 p.m.
    • Competition organizer: Steve Siciliano,, 616-453-9674
Coffee and pastries will be provided in the morning and there will be a lunch and liquid refreshments at the conclusion of the judging.

If you plan on participating in this year's competition either as a judge or a steward please go to this website. After logging in you will be able to register as a judge or a steward.


After logging in, click on the 4/21 Judging Session and indicate whether you will be participating as a judge or a steward. If you are registering as a judge, click the "Update Judging Preferences" button after indicating your judging preferences and dislikes.

Preregistration is encouraged as it will help reduce lines at the check-in table on the day of the judging.

Please ensure that you arrive at the judging venue by 10:30 a.m. so that the competition staff can organize flights and complete table assignments by the 11:15 judging start time.

Please be reminded that your participation as a steward or judge does not preclude you from entering a beer in this competition.

Friday, March 16, 2018

New Beer Friday, Homebrew Party Edition (March 16)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

The annual Siciliano's Homebrew Party will be held this year on Saturday, May 19, from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the enclosed shelter at Johnson Park. We are making major changes to the format of one of Beer City USA's most popular home brewing events. The following are the pertinent details:

The event will be free of charge and participants do not need tickets to attend. The party will be family friendly (children are welcome) and will be more of an open house and picnic style format. Participants should bring their own food, paper plates and eating utensils and some homebrew to drink and share. If you are not a homebrewer simply bring a six-pack or two of your favorite beer. In addition to securing the venue, Siciliano's will be providing solo cups and bottled water.

The Best-of-Show winner of the Siciliano's Cup will be announced at 4:00 pm.
Just a reminder that entry registration for the Fifteenth Annual Siciliano's Homebrew Competition opens on Monday, March 19. Go here for competition details.

New and Returning Beer

  • Evil Twin Hazelnut Imperial Biscotti Break, $4.39/16oz - "Imperial Biscotti Chili Hazelnut Break is an 11.5 percent ABV imperial stout brewed with both coffee and chili along with hazelnut and vanilla extracts. While the stout is similar to the beer Evil Twin created exclusively for New York-based DeCicco Family Markets in 2013, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, owner of Evil Twin, told Tenemu in an email it is “not 100%” the same beer" (source).
  • Evil Twin Kolata IPA, $3.89/16oz - "IPA with lactose, pineapple and coconut" (source).
  • Evil Twin Molotov Surprise #3, $3.29/12oz - "This triple IPA w/ peaches is the newest addition to the rotational "Molotov Surprise" series" (source).
  • Evil Twin No Hero, $2.99/16oz - "An alien-like outsider, always flirting with oddity and exploring anxiety and paranoia. A style chameleon, a wonderful labyrinth and truly a transcendent genius. It’s impossible not to idolize out of proportion. This is a stout. It may not be a hero but it’s attractive, clever and hungry for stardom" (source).
  • Evil Twin Rhubarb Compote, $5.49/16oz - "Rhubarb is without a doubt my favorite vegetable. i have wanted to brew with it for years but never got around to it. until now! i don’t know about you, but this is my most anticipated evil twin beer in a long time" (source).
  • New Belgium Blackberry Whiskey Barrel-Aged Oscar, $15.99/375ml - "Oscar Aged in Blackberry Whiskey Barrels is a dark sour ale aged in blackberry-flavored whiskey barrels. It's part of our Wood Cellar Reserve series, a collection of rare, small-batch wild and sour ales expertly aged by the most award-winning sour brewery in America. From individual barrel expressions, fruit and spice experimentation and fermentation explorations, the Wood Cellar Reserve represents our most ambitious efforts in our two biggest passions – wood and beer. The beer inside contains the longest, continuous souring culture in America and will develop in the bottle for up to five years. Each batch is bottled-conditioned and 100% naturally carbonated, allowing for the perfect texture and carbonation that our blenders intended for this beer" (source).
  • Omnipollo Belgo, $5.19/12oz - "Belgian-style IPA" (source).
  • Omnipollo Fatamorgana, $4.09/12oz - "Drawing inspiration from the fidelity of a saison — rustic, alluringly cloudy and crisp — this imperial IPA was brewed using oats and wheat. Dry-hopped twice and completely untouched post fermentation to preserve aroma and flavor" (source).
  • Petoskey Robusta Nut, $2.59/16oz - "Robust porter, brewed with shredded coconut amd cocoa nibs, meshing nicely with the rich coffee undertones" (source).
  • Revolution Galaxy-Hero, $2.39/12oz - "Brewed for the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, this IPA shoots a raygun blast of Galaxy hops into your mouth and leaves a crisp, dry finish. This IPA has big hop flavors and aromas of tropical fruit and citrus" (source).
  • Stillwater Strobe Lights, $5.69/16oz - "Double dry-hopped india pale ale" (source).
  • Stillwater/Oliver Trendsetter, $4.09/12oz - "Kettle sour IPA, dry hopped with Pacific Gem and Hallertau Blanc. Notes of dried apricot, overripe plum and caramel fruit cake … an Autumnal delight" (source).
  • Stillwater/Oliver Whipped Nitro Mango IPA, $5.49/16oz - "Nitro Double IPA brewed with over 500lbs of pureed mangos, vanilla bean, and lactose, then double dry hopped with over 130lbs of Citra and Simcoe hops" (source).
  • Short's Obliviate, $2.59/12oz - "Obliviate is a caramel brown colored Belgian Quadrupel with fruity aromatics of black cherry and apple, alongside the looming presence of notable alcohol vapors. Sweet brown sugar and hard candy flavors transition quickly to a warming, almost hot mouthfeel. The lingering effect of the high alcoholic strength creates a slight dryness, as if it evaporates from the palate" (source).
  • Blackrocks Murray Project, $3.39/12oz - "Named after our mash tun (which has a giant Bill Murray headshot on it), the Murray Project is an explosion of bright, tropical aromas with a malt profile that would have goldilocks saying just right" (source).
  • Boulder Shake, $1.99/12oz - "Our twist on the traditional robust American Porter, Shake Chocolate Porter is dark black in color with rich, sweet aromatics and flavors of dark chocolate, coffee and caramel. This unique brew blends five different grains, including Chocolate Wheat, that along with cacao nibs create a devilishly delicious chocolate finish with a velvety mouthfeel" (source).
  • Lagunitas Lucky 13, $5.19/22oz - "From the first day of the first mash of the first recipe in the first brewhouse in the first space to these coordinates on the cone of space-time; We have worked hard to walk in the footsteps of our hero brewers. Now we have found our own voice as brewers but our admiration for the Great Ones has not dimmed one bit. If we walked well down the hero’s path, perhaps we too have been an inspiration for others. Beer is a Bronze Age business and we feel honored to leave our footprints on it’s path into history- at the same time leaving our flavors on your buds. Obey those Buds! Thanks for your trust over the years and we hope you enjoy this specially brewed Hi-Gravity Auburn offering. Beer Speaks, People Mumble" (source).

Video of the Week | MumblePhone

What happens when you put your phone number on beer bottles? This.


Friday, March 9, 2018

New Beer Friday, Semi-Retired Edition (March 9)

Coup d'état mastermind
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

Well I guess it's time for this old merchant to finally admit that I've officially passed into the state of semi-retirement. I've been preparing for this transition for a while now. I put a management team in place and for the past year I've been grooming their skills. I've gradually — albeit somewhat reluctantly — surrendered most of my operational duties. I've given Sarah, Kati and John the authorization to make decisions. I'm confident that this store can effectively run without me.

But I have to admit that I've been struggling with the prospect of assuming a diminished role, of kicking myself to the curb, of putting myself out to pasture. To be honest, the thought of total and absolute retirement scares the hell out of me. I've been a merchant for thirty-seven of my sixty-seven years and I guess I'm afraid of losing a part of my identity.

I realize that I'm in the minority when it comes to my attitude about hanging up the spikes. Most folks my age are already retired and almost all of them couldn't wait for the day they could say adios. I have a good friend who's a postal worker and he's counting down the days. But it's hard to just walk away from something you've spent more than half your life building.

The stark realization that I'm now officially semi-retired smacked me like a two-by-four upside the head a few weeks ago after my wife and I returned from a Caribbean cruise. The first day back to work I saw that I had essentially been eliminated from the schedule.

"Why don't you just keep plugging me in for a few hours each day?" I asked Sarah.

"I'm getting ready for the time you and Barb are gone during the winter," our GM replied matter of factly.

So there you have it. My GM is trying to push me out. She might think that the coup d'état is complete but she couldn't be more wrong. She can't get rid of me that easily and I adamantly refuse to go gently into that good night of retirement. If I'm in town I'm still going to work every day. What else do I have to do?

Last Saturday I got to the store about nine-thirty. The morning paperwork was done and Kati and John were restocking beer and tidying up the shelves. I sat at my desk, turned on the computer and perused the sports pages. When it got busy I helped on the register and hauled beer- and wine-making equipment out of the warehouse. After wheeling out a stack of bottles to a customer's car I picked up a shoe and a flattened beer can that were laying on the edge of the parking lot. I made a mental note to mention it to the leader of the coup. A little thing like picking up a discarded sneaker is simply what a head honcho has to do.

New and Returning Beer

  • Atwater Whango Mango, $1.59/12oz - "American-Style Wheat Beers are similar in malt bill to their German Weizen cousins, but exhibit much less yeast characteristic. These may be filtered or unfiltered and exhibit low to medium hop bitterness and aroma" (source).
  • EB Lager, $1.79/12oz - First brewed in Detroit, Michigan in 1884, it's quality and taste appealed to the factory workers, construction workers, and the downtown executives. As always, quality and the great taste and no bitter aftertaste of E-B.
  • Mikkeller SD Windy Hill, $3.49/16oz - Windy Hill IPA with citra and amarillo hops.
  • N.I.P. Batch 15, $2.99/12oz - "Lupulin powder is one of our favorite things to play with. Juicy and not overly bitter, the differences in hops are really allowed to shine. In this particular iteration of that idea we took a bunch of citra and ekuanot and allowed them to play their little dance of cyro hop powder. Grab some of this hoppy science experiment that we did and let us know what you think" (source).
  • N.I.P. Batch 19, $2.99/12oz - "Rice can get a bad rap as an adjunct in craft beer because of the fact that Budweiser likes to use it, but we think it can be a part of some really delicious brews. One of our favorite ways to utilize this grain is in a nice juicy IPA. Because rice doesn't have a ton of flavor by itself, it allows us to get the alcohol to where we want it to be, which is obviously on the higher end, while still allowing the hops to really shine. This particular guy has a ton of citra and mosaic hops to create a deliciously drinkable, yet still high octane brew" (source).
  • N.I.P. Batch 20, $2.99/12oz - "With the weather still being a little chilly we wanted to make something dark, but we weren't really feeling a stout. So why not take some fun specialty malt and make an off the wall black gose! Throw a metric fuckton of blackberries in there, some key lime, and some black Himalayan sea salt and the result is this banging brew. Surprisingly drinkable for the color with a perfect balance of acidity, this is the perfect beer to kick off the turn of the seasons" (source).
  • North Coast Beachmaster, $3.29/12oz - "Beachmaster, an Imperial IPA, is a tribute and companion to our flagship beer, Ruedrich’s Red Seal Ale, honoring the mighty Northern Elephant Seals that frequent our coast from Mexico to Alaska. Artist Mike Patrick, whose work has appeared on several of our labels including Red Seal Ale, Old No. 38 Stout, and North Coast Steller IPA, created the bull Elephant Seal illustration" (source).
  • North Coast Stellar IPA, $2.29/12oz - "Our location, on the northern California coast, is in close proximity to the migratory path of gray whales and the southern habitat of orcas. The plight of Steller sea lions and their declining populations is an issue that resonates with us. This is also the birthplace of whale activism. In the spirit of the Mendocino Whale Wars of the late 1960s and early 70s, North Coast Brewing is pledging our support to marine mammal research conducted in coastal areas throughout the Pacific. For every case of North Coast Steller IPA sold, North Coast Brewing makes a contribution to marine mammal research" (source).
  • Terrapin Hi-5, $1.99/12oz - "This IPA features 5 tropical, orange, & citrusy aromatic and flavorful hops, a medium body with biscuit and caramel malt notes that bring balance to the beer. This California Style IPA’s big citrusy aroma and huge hop presence will keep you in awe sip after sip" (source).
  • Terrapin Hopsecutioner, $1.99/12oz - "Light copper in color, this IPA has an aroma. of fresh pine and citrus. A strong malt backbone provides balance to an assertive hop bitterness" (source).
  • Terrapin Recreationale, $1.39/12oz - "This hopped up session ale is light bodied with a present hop bitterness and a crisp finish. Dry hopped with Galaxy hops, this beer presents a subtle peach and passionfruit aroma" (source).
  • Tripelroot Pure Mackinac, $2.99/12oz - "Double IPA brewed with Mackinac hops, developed by Great Lakes Hops in Zeeland, MI and grown by Egypt Valley Hopyards, in Ada, MI" (source).

Video of the Week | North Coast

Good beer for a good cause — North Coast Stellar IPA.


Friday, March 2, 2018

New Beer Friday, Bowling with Elvis Edition (March 2)

Steve's conch lunch
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

I think it was late summer last year when my wife first mentioned going on a February cruise with some of her New Jersey relatives and a group of their Garden State friends. I have to admit that I wasn't captivated by the idea. I love to travel but the prospect of being mostly confined to a floating hotel for a week and visiting touristy and pretentious ports-of-call appealed to me as much as a case of the shingles.

When I travel to foreign lands I like visiting locales where I can get a true feel for the culture and that usually translates into going to areas where there aren't hordes of marauding tourists. But as I've gotten older I've grown wiser and one lesson I've learned is the importance of keeping my wife happy. I told Barb that a cruise sounded absolutely wonderful.

Other than a few downsides, it was.

There was only one pool on the ship and so on the days we were at sea the pool area was unbearably crowded, it was almost impossible to find a deck chair and you had to stand in long lines to get a drink. And whether the ship was in port or at sea the massive main cafeteria was continuously crowded and you had to be as agile as an Olympic athlete to keep from being trampled by the voracious throngs trying to get to the food tables.

But the food was superb, not only in that massive cafeteria but also at the French, Italian and Japanese restaurants we dined at. There was a nice raw bar on the ship where one afternoon my buddy Mike Deangelo and I consumed three dozen oysters each along with side dishes of excellent ceviche and tuna tartare.

Barb was savvy enough to book shore excursions that got us away from the madding crowds. One was to an island off Belize where we hung out with some American expats at a watering hole called the Pickled Parrot. After leaving the bar our group got caught in a torrential but brief rain shower and we had to take shelter with some locals under a stand of low hanging palm trees. Later we found a hole in a wall café where we lunched on conch and Caribbean lobster at unbelievably low prices.

There was a cigar lounge on the ship and that's where I hung out every night with Tommy Batista from Brooklyn, Paul from Pennsylvania and a number of other cigar aficionados. While we smoked our cigars we put a good dent in the lounge's quality inventory of scotch, bourbon and rum.

On one blustery evening at sea we went to a show which featured Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins impersonators. Later that night Elvis and Jerry Lee showed up in the cigar lounge and much, much later that same night Barb and I rolled a couple of games with the two rock legends on a bowling machine in the game room.

I blamed my high percentage of gutter balls on the rocking and rolling of the wave-tossed ship.

New Beer Friday

  • Abita Creole Cream, $1.89/12oz - "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).
  • Anchor Brewer's Pale, $1.89/12oz - "We asked Anchor’s brewers to create a beer just for them. What they came up with was Brewers’ Pale Ale, a bright and fruity American Pale Ale bursting with hop aroma and flavor. It was so good that we just had to share it. We couldn’t be more excited to introduce you to this latest brew on Anchor’s roster of beers" (source).
  • Avery Uncle Jacob, $15.19/12oz  - "Jacob Spears, our 6th Great Grand Uncle, is credited as the first distiller to label his whiskey “Bourbon.” He built his distillery in Bourbon County Kentucky in 1790 — 203 years before we began brewing. While obviously a bit too late to produce Uncle Jacob’s wash, we’ve instead created something far more complex. In his honor, we present this robust, silky smooth, full-bodied and altogether extremely American rendition of an Imperial Stout aged for 6 months in the very finest Bourbon barrels. This explains a lot about our penchant for big brews! It’s in our blood" (source).
  • Ballast Point Tart Peach, $1.89/12oz  - "Our Tart Peach Kolsch is a fresh take on one of our very first beers. The juicy aroma and flavor of ripe peach complements the subtle fruitiness from the Kolsch yeast in this bright, refreshing ale. Add a tickle of tartness to round out the senses, and you get a new brew that’s interestingly delightful" (source).
  • Brewery Vivant Contemplation, $3.79/16oz - "A favorite at our pub in Grand Rapids, this beer represents Belgian artistry at its finest. Sourcing top quality, Michigan-grown hops and Michigan-harvested honey make this golden ale a harbinger of Springtime. The honey introduced to the boil contributes color and complexity but adds little sweetness to the beer as those sugars are consumed during fermentation. Look for whispers of apricot and nectarine on the palate, mixed in with the floral aroma of hops grown in northern Michigan. This is a beer worth pondering upon each sip" (source).
  • Dark Horse Rain in Blood, $2.19/12oz - "Our tribute to the late Jeff Hanneman and the greatest band of all time, Slayer. This pale ale is brewed with fresh blood oranges and blood orange juice that is hand squeezed at the brewery. It should be enjoyed fresh and paired with delicious heavy metal. SLAYER!" (source).
  • Founders Solid Gold, $1.39/12oz - "Our brewery was built on an attitude of no regrets. An attitude of taking risks to bring the best beer possible to our fellow renegades and rebels. Never brewing to style, but always brewing what we want to drink. Our take on a classic, Solid Gold is a drinkable premium lager brewed with the highest quality ingredients. Challenging what a lager can be? That’s something we won’t regret" (source).
  • Griffin Claw Downtown Bourbon Brown, $3.59/16oz - "Brown Ale Aged in Bourbon Barrels with Espresso Beans" (source).
  • Heavy Seas Alpha Effect, $2.39/12oz - "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).
  • Lagunitas Cappuccino, $5.19/22oz - "Coffee is my shepherd; I shall not doze. It maketh me to wake in green pastures. It leadeth me beyond the sleeping masses. It restoreth my brain, It leadeth me in the paths of consciousness for it's name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of sleep, I will fear no artificial sweetener for thou art with me; Thy cream and thy sugar they comfort me. Thou preparest a carafe before me in the presence of my zzz's, Thou anointest my day with sunlight; My cup runneth over. Surely richness and flavor shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of Cappuccino forever... Let us sip... or whatever..." (source).
  • Odd Side Troll Toll, $2.19/12oz - "West Coast Session IPA with Lactose" (source).
  • Original Sin Black Widow, $2.39/12oz - "Wild blackberries are native across the Atlantic and pacific coasts of the United States. They grow bountifully throughout summer and ripen to a plump juicy black color in August. They belong to the rose family, as you might expect from their thorny brambles, along with raspberries, strawberries, the stone fruits, and almonds. Any forager can use blackberries to make wine or infuse whiskey, or enjoy in 12 oz cans with freshly pressed New York apples from Original Sin" (source).
  • Original Sin Dry Rose, $2.39/12oz - "Freshly pressed New York apples make all the difference in this blush-colored cider" (source).
  • Rochester Mills Blueberry Pancake Milkshake, $2.59/16oz - "One of our fan favorites from the 12 Days of Milkshake Stout, Blueberry Pancake Flavored Mikshake Stout™ is a unique brew that surprises the senses combining the distinct scent and taste of blueberries layered with the familiar taste of Milkshake Stout™ and a pleasant aftertaste of pancakes. Blueberry Pancake bridges the gap and appeals to non-beer drinkers as well. Limited Release and by special arrangement" (source).
  • Sam Adams Rebel Anytime IPA, $1.29/12oz - "Rebel Anytime IPA has a huge citrus hop aroma that gives way to grapefruit, tropical fruit, and floral notes. The light-bodied mouthfeel balances the hops for a bright, crisp IPA that’s perfect for anytime whether you’re unwinding after work or enjoying a day at the beach" (source).
  • Sam Adams New England IPA, $2.69/16oz - "The slight sweetness is perfectly balanced by the pineapple and grapefruit hop character, without being overly bitter. Clocking in at 6.8% ABV and a low 35 IBUs, the unfiltered IPA provides a burst of fruited hop aroma and leaves drinkers wanting another sip. In comparison to West Coast style IPAs which have prominent hop bitterness and a light, dry mouthfeel, New England IPA’s are generally known for a juicy, luscious mouthfeel and opaque, hazy appearance - and are best enjoyed fresh" (source).
  • Saugatuck Maggie's Irish Ale, $1.89/12oz - "A beautiful mahogany color and well rounded flavors of caramel and tea with subtle hints of malt and a dry finish" (source).
  • Short's Cats Pajama's, $2.59/12oz - "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).
  • Victory Home Grown, $1.99/12oz - "Six varieties of American whole flower hops pack bold and juicy flavors into this crisp, drinkable lager. Meet Victory Home Grown. Your NEW American Lager" (source).

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