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Friday, March 29, 2013

New Beer Friday, Pre-KBS Edition (March 29)

Goofing around with Mitten Brewing's Jason Warnes
By Chris Siciliano

The Founders KBS release date for retail outlets like Siciliano's is Monday, April 1. In other words, April Fool's Day. As your favorite retailer of craft beer and just plain decent human beings in general, we promise not to pull any "cute" pranks concerning our supply of your favorite barrel-aged imperial stout. That is, if you contact us by phone or Facebook on Monday, we will not tell you we're sold out when we're not, and we will not tell you we still have some when we don't. We're neither dumb nor cruel enough to toy with your emotions when it comes to KBS.

For the record, this is everything we can tell you right now about our impending KBS delivery: (1a) We know we're getting some (1b) We don't know how much we're getting (2a) The KBS will be here on Monday, April 1st (2b) We don't know what time (3a) Once it arrives, it will not last long (3b) We don't know exactly how long it will last (4a) We do not hold KBS or any rare beers for people who call ahead (4b) We know that's not a perfect policy (4c) It's the fairest policy we can think of (5a) There will be a limit to how many bottles you can purchase, again, for the sake of fairness (5b) We don't yet know what the limit will be (5c) It all depends on how much we get (5d) Please see point (1b) for more information on how much KBS we're getting.

If this exhaustive list somehow failed to answer a question you have about our Founders KBS supply, please don't hesitate to call Siciliano's at 616-453-9674. The store will open at 8 a.m. on Monday. We will post the news to our Facebook page when KBS arrives, providing we have time. In the interim, we suggest you check out these excellent new beers.

New and Returning Beers at Siciliano's

  • Bells Oberon, $1.69/12oz - "An American wheat ale made with European ingredients. Belgium wheat malt and Czech Saaz hops provide a spicy, fruity balance to this seasonal ale" (source).
  • Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shutdown Ale, $1.99/12oz - "We brewed this especially bitter ale in dedication to all the world’s would-be astronauts, in remembrance of the 2005 St. Patrick’s Day Massacre on the Brewery Party Grounds and also in joyous celebration of our 20-day suspension that following January. Do the crime. Do the time. Get the bragging rights. Cheers!" (source).
  • Odd Side Ales Citra Pale Ale, $1.99/12oz - "This light and crisp ale is sure to capture your taste buds. Not quite a pale ale not quite an IPA. This is our flagship beer which is brewed exclusively with citra hops. The aroma is an intoxicating bouquet of grapefruit, tropical fruit, lemon, and pine" (source).
  • Sam Adams Longshot, $1.99/12oz - "Samuel Adams is proud to announce that the annual quest for exceptional homebrews has yet again returned a wide spectrum of flavorful beers that continue to impress. Connecticut resident Zack Adams’ Magnificent Seven and California resident James Schirmer’s Beerflower Wheat triumphed over nearly 1,000 competing homebrews to become the 2012 Samuel Adams LongShot American Homebrew Contest winners. In addition to James’ and Zack’s winning brews, Samuel Adams also honors Employee Homebrew Winner Dave Anderson ’s Strawberry Lager. All three winning brews will be bottled and available nationally in the 2013 Samuel Adams LongShot Variety Six-Pack" (source).
  • Ommegang Iron Throne, $9.29/750ml - "A blonde ale brewed with robust amounts of pils, honey malt, aroma malts and red wheat" (source).
  • Ommegang Gnomegang, $16.99/750ml - "This delectable blonde ale is a co-creation of two famed farmstead breweries: Brewery Ommegang and Brasserie d’Achouffe. It employs five fine malts, two noble hops, and both of the distinctive Chouffe and Ommegang yeasts. You’ll enjoy the smooth drinkability, fruity aromas and flavors, and warming finish" (source).
  • Hofbrau Maibock, $1.99/12oz - "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).
  • Ace Honey Cider, $1.99/12oz - "A totally unique alcoholic beverage with a distinctive taste and rich brown color. Ace Apple Honey has a pronounced honey bouquet with a smooth texture and dry finish" (source).
  • Fullers Bengal Lancer, $5.09/17oz - "Bengal Lancer is an exciting, classic India Pale Ale from Fuller’s. Brewed to 5% ABV (5.3% in bottle), this ale has been inspired by the history and character of this traditional style of beer. Bengal Lancer has returned to pumps for an extended period between Autumn 2011 and Spring 2012. The beer is pale in colour, full-bodied with a distinctive hoppiness that marks it out as a true India Pale Ale" (source).
  • Vicaris Tripel Gueze, $17.89/750ml - "mix of Vicaris Tripel and Boon lambic" (source).
  • Victory Swing Session Saison, $1.79/12oz - "It’s a lively jazz rhythm, a vigorous sway, a change of view or even a roll in the proverbial hay. Now it also means the welcome jolt of joy you’ll experience upon your first sip of this session saison. Bracing, but benign, this Belgian style ale enlivens any experience with a spicy, aromatic start, citrus snap and fresh finish. Swing into spring with taste!" (source).
  • Heavy Seas Black Cannon, $1.99/12oz - "While the style is an oxymoron, this ale is an variation of our "Loose Cannon" IPA with an obvious dark note" (source).
  • Heavy Seas Big Dipa, $6.69/22oz - "Big DIPA – Double IPA, is the first in the Heavy Seas Special Edition Series due to be released in mid June. Hopped 3 times in the brewing process, Big DIPA has an earthy hop aroma. In keeping with the Heavy Seas philosophy we’ve made a big beer with a surprising balance. The best part is that you’ll hardly notice it’s 10.6% ABV (est). The label artwork was created by Kurt Krol, one of our brewers who also helped to develop the recipe" (source).
  • Atwater Maibock, $1.79/12oz - "A traditional german helles bock, golden in color and brewed with only the finest imported malt and hops. The distinct malty sweetness is balanced by a pronounced hop finish. Brewed to Welcome the Spring Season" (source).
  • Shorts Publican Porter, $2.19/12oz - "Rooted from the original purveyor of integral ale. Beer Type: Imperial London Porter" (source).
  • Epic Brainless on Raspberry, $6.69/22oz - "Hints of raspberry bubble gum flavors from the Belgian yeast and fresh raspberries tease the pallet in this Brainless® offering" (source).
  • Epic Hopulent IPA, $6.69/22oz - "Hopulent IPA is a big beer with lots of complex malt flavor and excessive hops. This beer will have changes to the grain bill and seasonal hop changes. The character of Hopulent IPA is over the top, too much of everything—a real HOP HEADS DELIGHT!" (source).

KBS Retail Release 2012 | Video

Last year, WZZM 13 stopped by Siciliano's for our KBS release.
Here's the story they did.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Update: Siciliano's Homebrew Party, Tickets Going Fast!

Homebrew glory
manifest in medal form
By Steve Siciliano

On Saturday, May 11th over 150 people will be gathering in and around the enclosed pavilion in Johnson Park to take part in the 10th Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Party. As in years past, those attending this annual celebration of the enriching hobby of homebrewing will be receiving an armload of wonderful gifts, will enjoy a delicious meal prepared by Three Men and a Grill and will be treated to live entertainment provided by local music legend Jimmie Stagger. All this for the ticket price of $35.00! Medals for the annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Competition will be distributed after dinner and at that time the competition’s 2013 Best-of-Show winner will be announced.

The homebrew party has certainly evolved over the years. I particularly like how it has become a mini outdoor festival that showcases hand-crafted meads, ciders and wines in addition to the shared offerings of bottled and kegged home brew.

Please remember that space is limited and tickets for the party must be purchased in advance, either in person at Siciliano’s or by calling the store at 616-453-9674.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Siciliano's 2013 Homebrew Competition: Enter Now!

Important update! Be sure to check your spam folder for your confirmation email if it does not appear in your inbox after registration.

By Greg Johnson

Now that the competition is upon us, I would like to detail our new online registration process. On Monday, March 25th, homebrewers will be able to submit their entry information on the website, which can be found here: Individuals who have entered beers for previous Homebrew at the W.E.B. and Michigan Beer Cup competitions will be able to use their already existing log in information. Those who are new to the website will need to register with the website before submitting an entry.

Once registered and entry submission is open, a “+” button should appear on the “Entries” on the homepage of the competition portal. To submit a beer, click on the “+” button. A submission form should appear on the webpage asking for information regarding the Entry Name, Assistant Brewer, and BJCP Style. Fill out all applicable information and select the BJCP style that most appropriately fits the beer being entered. In Categories 20-23 (except 22-A Classic Rauchbier), the form will ask for any Special Ingredients and the Base Style of the beer being entered. Providing relevant information will help the judges with the evaluating the entered beer, hopefully, helping the performance of that beer in the competition as well. After all the information is inputed into the form, select the "Add New Entry" button then select the "Finished" button.

The beer should be listed under the “Entries” tab on the website. There, select the check box next to the beer and click on the printer icon underneath. This will download the bottle ID labels which can then be printed out and attached to the bottles with rubberbands.

Once the registration process has been completed and bottle labels printed off, entries can be dropped off at the store or mailed directly to the store along with the $5 entry fee (cash or check only). Mail entries to:
Siciliano's Market
Attn: Greg Johnson
2840 Lake Michigan Dr NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504 
Deadline for submissions is April 14th or the moment we hit 250 total entries. Click here for more details. But if there are any questions about the registration process, please do not hesitate to contact me (Greg) at or call Siciliano's Market directly at (616) 453-9674.

Good luck!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

New Beer Friday, "Spring? Ha!" Edition (March 22)

The Bossman submitted the following mini essay a few days ago and we thought it a rather fitting preamble for this week's New Beer Friday, especially with the final paragraph.

Two new beers at Siciliano's
By Steve Siciliano 

T.S. Eliot states in the opening line of The Wasteland that "April is the cruelest month." I don’t know where Eliot was living when he wrote his famous poem about disillusionment and spiritual emptiness, but it probably wasn’t Michigan.

April in Michigan can certainly be capricious—it can tempt us with a few days of tropical warmth then smack us back to the chilling reality of a northern spring. April in Michigan can also be devious—it can bring us tornados or ice storms, monsoon rains or quickly disappearing, lead-heavy snow falls. But April doesn’t give us a solid week of twenty degree temperatures, bone-chilling winds and relentless lake effect snow squalls. No, the distinction of being the cruelest month in our part of the country goes to March.

When the weather we had this past week comes in November we diffidently accept it. When it comes in December the spirit of the holidays assuages it. In January and February we stoically endure it. But in March, when we are deathly sick of winter and are longing for spring, it simply deflates us.

A few nights ago Barb and I went to Founders. Winter was raging outside and there was no joy on the peoples’ faces. The scene reminded me of the dark hopelessness in the blank stares of the people in Van Gogh’s “The Potato Eaters” (see below).

Later that evening I stood on the back yard deck and lit my pipe. I noticed how the black starkness of the trees contrasted with the slate-grey of the sky. I looked at the big flakes of falling snow and at the high, brown tufts of the ornamental grasses swaying against the unbroken expanse of white. I saw a bright red cardinal land on a branch of a barren maple. “Beautiful,” I caught myself saying.

March in Michigan is indeed the cruelest month, but since in our lifetimes we have only so many Marches allotted to us, we might just as well find something we can appreciate about them, a comforting pint of ale, for instance.

New (and Returning) Beers at Siciliano's

  • Boulder Mojo Risin', $3.29/12oz - "Only 120 precious barrels were brewed, adding more than half a ton of extra malt and twice the amount of Amarillo hops, so prepare your self for a full sensory explosion. The double dry-hop addition elevates the grapefruit-like aroma and flavor to an outrageous intensity, while the added malt raises the alcohol level from 7% all the way to 10% by volume" (source).
  • Silly Barrel Aged Scotch Silly, $14.09/750ml - "Scotch Silly aged for six months in Bordeaux oak barrels" (source).
  • Troubadour Stout, $14.59/750ml - "Imperial stout, refermented in the bottle,roasted malt and strong bitter finish, contains barley malt" (source).
  • Castle Brewery Bacchus, $5.69/12oz - "A typical Flemish beer with a pleasant wine-like taste and a rich past. This dark brown beer, which is matured in oak casks, has a slightly acid aftertaste" (source).
  • Bellegems Bruin, $10.09/750ml - "Originally called "Ouden Tripel", this ancient West Flanders Brown beer has found a new élan as a regional specialty under its current name: "Bellegems bruin". The main ingredients of our Bellegems Bruin are malted barley, wheat, hops, water, and caramelized malts. These are used to brew a bottom-fermented beer. Blending this beer with lambic beer aged in oak for 18 months results in this specific West Flanders Brown beer. Its typical flavour is characterized by a well-balanced, hardly noticeable sourness. This first flavour impression is soon followed by a second pleasant discovery: a slight bitterness followed by a hint of sweetness" (source).
  • Paw Paw Black River, $1.79/12oz - "Black River Oatmeal Stout is a very smooth slightly chocolaty stout. Pleasing mild roast, rich bitterweet chocolate and chocolate ice cream flavor. Terrific mouth feel, clean & drying in the finish. For the stout drinker this is a must try" (source).
  • Paw Paw Saint James, $1.79/12oz - "This session brew was crafted to be a true palate pleaser without compromise. English pale and caramel malts surrender their burnished golden hues and soft sweetness to the beer, while German-style Munich malt provides a delightful toasted malt complexity, and roasted oatmeal contributes its silky smooth texture and nutty flavor" (source).
  • Theakston Old Peculiar, $1.99/12oz - "Its initial sweetness is, apparently, 'of roasted and vinous notes with a subtle bitter aftertaste'. Strong fruitiness, often with banana notes standing out, is derived from Old Peculier’s fermentation process" (source).
  • New Holland White Hatter, $1.79/12oz - "Belgian Style White Pale Ale An innovative hybrid of styles landing between white ale and India Pale Ale. White Hatter brings spice, hops, and fermentation notes together flavorfully. Pairings: seafood, fennel, mushrooms" (source).
  • Left Hand Good JuJu, $2.09/12oz - "Fresh ginger kisses the lithe malty body, copulating with the hop in this pale ale ancestor. Emancipate yourself from the dead of winter, none but the vernal equinox can free the light. A refreshing frivolity. Hey mon. Shuccha fwangaa! Better a witch doctor than a trouble maker. Quit yor’ bitchin’ an’ get to witchin’" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Life & Limb Rhizing Bines, $9.59/750ml - "Rhizing Bines is a collaborative IPA using the best of both coasts: Carolina-grown red fife wheat and Dogfish Head’s continual-hopping from the East and Sierra Nevada’s estate-grown caramel malt and Torpedo dry-hopping from the west" (source).
  • Epic Double Skull Doppelbock, $4.79/22oz - "Originally brewed as liquid bread by fasting monks this Doppelbock is rich and filling. Crisp and delicious for the winter months" (source).
  • Shorts Hopstache, $1.99/12oz - "American Pale Ale dominated by citrus flavors and aromas. Focusing on hop varieties that offer the most fruity and floral characteristics with the addition of grapefruit concentrate" (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 perfectly counterbalancing the sweetness" (source).

Masterpiece of the Week

"The Potato Eaters" by Vincent Van Gogh


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tuesday Review: Cardhu 12 Year Single Malt Scotch

By John Barecki

Cardhu 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch is allegedly the creation of the first female malt producer in Scotland. Helen and John Cummings sited their first still at Cardow farm on Mannoch hill, which sits high above the river spey. According to local and family tradition, the distilling process was carried out by Helen and, after her death, her son's wife Elizabeth Robertson took up the reigns and carried on the pioneering work.

Cardhu 12 Year is no stranger to many whisky drinkers, being one of the main single malts in Johnny Walker blended whisky. The distillery went through only a couple of changes in its past. It survived WWII, functioning on a smaller scale because of barley rationing and yet still went on to become a very popular dram. In fact, in the early 2000s, stocks were being depleted quicker than they could be replenished. In response, Cardhu's parent company Diageo decided to replace the single malt with a blended malt, but the "pure malt" label angered consumers so much so that Diageo decided to pull this packaging from the market for fear of blemishing the single malt designation.

This malt is bottled at 40% ABV (80 proof). Now, the last two whiskys I sampled came in at around 92 to 96 proof, so the initial big boisterous alcohol punch seemed somewhat muted on this one. At first pour I noticed a mouthwatering character, fresh sweet barley, light herbal qualities and just a touch of smoke. It was almost too smooth on the palate, with soft fruity citrus and vanilla followed by a lingering light rhubarb sweetness that finished with a well-rounded dryness, punctuated by another touch of smoke at the end.

This is an enjoyable, easy-drinking single malt, with a well rounded "light" collection of flavors flourishing throughout. If you are looking for that high quality, everyday sipper this one hits it on the head, and at $39.99/750ml, it is not going to strain your budget.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday Musings: Calder Plaza AHA Big Brew Event

By Steve Siciliano

I think it’s fitting that what is shaping up to be one of the largest AHA Big Brew Days in the sixteen-year-history of this national event will take place May 4th at the Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids. The Calder Plaza has been the site of numerous ethnic and community festivals over the years and each summer it becomes the central venue for the city’s annual Festival of the Arts. The homebrewers who will be gathering at the plaza to celebrate the culture of homebrewing are also a part of a strong, proud and vibrant community, and the end results of the activity that binds this particular community together—home-produced, hand-crafted beer—can certainly be considered fermented works of art.

Like the members of the area’s ethnic communities, West Michigan homebrewers are proud of their accomplishments and are eager to share their community’s unique culture and rich heritage with others. This ultimately is what the Big Brew on the Calder will be all about.


  • Tickets for the 10th Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Party will go on sale Monday, March 25th. Please remember that the capacity of this popular event is limited and tickets go quickly. Click here for more information on this year’s party and seminars
  • March 25th is also when we will begin accepting entries for the 2013 Siciliano’s Homebrew Competition. This will be the first year for online registration. Click here for more information.

Friday, March 15, 2013

New Beer Friday, Ides of March Edition

By Chris Siciliano

This Sunday is St. Patrick's Day, and we all know what that means—green attire, Irish beer, the occasional nip of Irish whiskey. And though Buzz readers are mostly beer enthusiasts (dare I say purists), there is nary a one of us I'm sure who has not let green-dyed beer cross his/her lips while celebrating the holiday at some college dive bar or kegger. I know I have. Go on, judge me if you have to.

But did you know another holiday with its own signature drink is separated from St. Patricks Day by a mere 24 hours. March 15 is the Ides of March, a date of religious significance for ancient Romans and also the day that Julius Caesar met his demise at the hands of 60, count 'em, 60 senatorial conspirators. Et tu, Brute?

It's on this day—and perhaps only this day—that you should mark the assassination of a 2,000-year-old Roman emperor by tippling the drink that bears his name, the Bloody Caesar. With clamato and vodka, tell me, how can you go wrong?

On second thought, here's a list of beers that might be more appealing than a big glass of tomato-clam juice.

New Beers at Siciliano's

  • Eerie Brewing Mad Anthony APA, $1.89/12oz - "American Pale Ale: Balanced malt and hop flavor, a great showcase of American Hops. Pale Amber" (source).
  • Eerie Brewing Misery Bay IPA, 1.89/12oz - "Light to medium maltiness with an explosive blast of hop flavor. Light Amber" (source).
  • Eerie Brewing Drake's Crude Oatmeal Stout, $2.39/12oz - "Malt bonanza of roasted, and chocolate malt flavors, with a silky smooth finish" (source).
  • Eerie Brewing Railbender Scottish Style Ale, $1.89/12oz - "Erie Brewing Company flagship beer features a deep malt flavor, caramel sweetness lingering in a soft hop flavor" (source).
  • Eerie Brewing Presque Isle Pilsner, $1.69/12oz - "Excellent malt flavor fronted and followed by German and American Hops, Truly refreshing. Light Gold" (source).
  • Eerie Brewing Fallenbock Oktoberfest Lager, $2.39/12oz - "Robust, roasted, chocolate malt flavor, followed with a clean and crisp finish. Chocolate Brown" (source).
  • Robinsons Old Tom with Chocolate, $4.59/12oz - "With a distinctive ’natural’ milky sweet chocolate palate balanced by underlying hop and roasted malt characters, Chocolate Tom is a superior, rich and warming speciality beer with a dark mahogany colour" (source).
  • Robinsons Old Tom with Ginger, $4.59/12oz - "Ginger Tom is a richly flavoured dark oak coloured ale with distinctive aromas of peppery spice and sweet ginger" (source).
  • Hitachino Sweet Stout, $5.39/12oz - "A perfect mixture of coffee, chocolate, and roasted flavors in the nose and on the palate. No bitterness, but sweet notes throughout to the very finish" (source).
  • Wintercoat Vildmoseol, $20.29/750ml - "Don't try to pronounce this one without at least one under your belt! This beer was brewed for the Lille Vildmose nature center in northern Jutland. The area is characterised by peat bogs, which inspired this brown ale with its subtle notes of peat-smoked malt, the fresh, spiciness of bog myrtle and the bittersweet fruitiness of rowan berries. These 3 ingredients harmonise beautifully with the other malts and hops used. A wonderful beer to drink with game and lamb - and it does justice to pickled herring as well!" (source).
  • Porterhouse Oyster Stout, $4.29/12oz - "Brewed with fresh oyster. A smooth drinking aromatic stout with a discernible but unidentifiable aromatic aspect. Not suitable for vegetarians. This gently flavored stout has a roast malt character, full body and an aromatic character from the Goldings hops. Fresh oysters added during the brewing process, lend a discernible yet unidentifiable note" (source).
  • Morland Old Golden Hen, $1.79/12oz - "Crafted by the master brewer of "Old Speckled Hen", this light golden beer, delivers both flavour and refreshment. Brewed using the finest pale malts, and the rare Galaxy hop to give a light golden colour, subtle tropical fruit notes and a deliciously smooth finish" (source).
  • Meantime Coffee Porter, $4.59/12oz - "Our first formulation of this beer was the first UK brewed beer to carry the Fairtrade logo, and although we have reformulated it to create an even better blend better the malt and roast coffee flavours and can no longer get enough coffee in each bottle to qualify for Fairtrade status, we are still using the same Faitrade Araba Bourbon beans from Rwanda’s Abuhuzamugambi Co-operative. At the Meantime Brewing Co we love flavour, so it wasn’t exactly difficult for us to see how the scents and aromas of coffee and barley would create a perfect match like just like mint and lamb, toffee and banana, peaches and cream, peanut butter and jam. Serve lightly chilled with as many chocolate truffles as your conscience allows" (source).
  • Innis and Gunn Irish Whiskey Cask, $2.79/12oz - "It all began in October 2011 when Innis & Gunn’s Master Brewer and Owner, Dougal Sharp, filled four hundred rare oak barrels, previously used to mature whiskey from a famous Irish distiller, with their specially brewed stout. As the beer matured the flavor seemed to improve more and more and come into its own as time passed. After aging the beer for sixty days, and using a three-step maturation process, it was finally ready to be released" (source).
  • Schlenkerla Doppelbock, $4.29/17oz - "While for the classic 'Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier' traditionally beech has been - and still is - used, the malt for "Schlenkerla Oak Smoke" is kilned with Oak wood. The resulting Schlenkerla Oak Smoke Malt has a smoother and more multi layered smoky note than the intensely aromatic Beech Smoke Malt. The hence complex smokiness in the "Schlenkerla Oak Smoke" is paired with the multifaceted bitterness of finest Hallertau aroma hops. With 8% alcohol and amber color it matures for months in the deep brewery cellars underneath Bamberg into a special treat for smoke beer lovers" (source).
  • Schlenkerla Weizen, $4.79/17oz - "Schlenkerla Smokebeer Wheat is an ale with light smoky aroma. As Bavarian wheat beers, it is being brewed with a mixture of both barley malt and wheat malt. The portion of barley malt is hereby a classic Schlenkerla smokemalt, while the wheat malt remains unsmoked. Served unfiltered with its natural haziness, Schlenkerla Wheat reaches its full aroma through bottle fermentation with fine top fermenting yeast" (source).
  • Petrus Dubbel Bruin Ale, $3.59/12oz - "Petrus Double Brown Ale is a top-fermented dark beer. Brewed with pure spring water and carefully selected hops and malts. The dark beer with its subtle and slightly caramelized flavour is preferably served cool" (source).
  • Dogfish Head ApriHop, $2.59/12oz - "A strong IPA brewed with real apricots and finished with whole leaf Willamette and Cascade hops" (source).
  • Arbor Phat Abbot Tripel, $2.29/12oz - "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. Ask your server for a taste!" (source).

Video Time Capsule of the Week

Want to see how different Siciliano's looked 6 years ago?
Check out this video that Josh Leo, aka wanderwestmichigan,
made way back in 2007. My how things change!

Visit Josh Leo's YouTube page for other videos featuring West Michigan.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The St. Patrick Hat Trick: Three Ways to Celebrate 3-17

The St. Patrick Hat Trick
By Doug Dorda

Ah, the sweet smell of spring tickles the air and we find our restless spirits chomping at the bit to explode out of doors and celebrate the coming of change. For me, St. Patricks day has always served as a wonderful marker for the coming on of the “green” season. The merriment associated with the holiday has always left my mind to wander over grassy fields, rainbow-adorned skies, and nights embraced by gentle rain that beckons the fauna from a winter's nap.

St. Patricks day, and the celebration of Irish heritage that it has become, deserves to be heralded by uniquely Irish spirits, no? In this regard I offer three Irish-made beverages that may have otherwise eluded your radar in celebrations past (not to say that the classics are undeserving of their part in your celebration; I merely mean to offer some new suggestion). Each of these beverages is proudly made in Ireland, and each has eventually found its way to our American shores.

  • Emmet’s Cream Liquer, $12.99/750ml - Fan of a little nosh in your morning coffee? This is the beverage for you. The taste profile of Irish cream has been recreated thousands of times over for countless products in the world of food. Here you will find the classic flavors you love in a bottle that was delivered from the motherland. It also plays a perfect supporting role in a favorite St. Pat's cocktail.
  • Murphy’s Irish Stout, $2.19/16oz - Here lies the epitome of Irish stout flavor. The smooth, roasted, nutty, toasty, and mildly chalky flavor nuances that have adorned celebrations for years will be found here in spades. Considering the fact it weighs in at a mere 4% alcohol, this is an Irish ale that could be enjoyed the whole day through.
  • Connemara Irish Whiskey, $39.99/750ml - In terms of Irish whiskey, Connemara is an intriguingly unique offering in that it is single malt and also peated. Entirely divergent from its malt forward brothers, this whiskey drinks like a black raspberry that has been folded into a mild smoked gouda. If there's a better way to cap the night or toast the warm embrace of friendship, I have not found it.
Whether or not you tip a glass to St. Patrick, to the flourishing heritage of the Irish, or you are simply looking to have a good time on March 17th, any or all of the above mentioned drinks are worthy of your pursuance. From all of us at Siciliano’s Market, Slainte!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Kilchoman Machir Bay Single Malt Whisky | Review

Kilchoman Machir Bay, $56.03/750ml
By John Barecki

Kilchoman distillery is a wonderful new edition to the family of Islay malts now available. Using the term "new" is a rarity in the Islay whisky industry because, before Kilchoman, there had not been a brand new production facility on the island in about 124 years. Since 2005 these guys have been creating something wonderful—even with their "new make spirit," the product not yet three years old and therefore ineligible for whisky designation, the distillers have received high reviews.

Kilchoman produces its malt through a process that you don't see all that often in Scotch production. They are a farm distillery, using grain that is grown on a farm located on site. They employ floor malting techniques used by only a handful of distilleries and they carry out all aging and bottling on Islay. (Some of the distilleries on the island age on the Scottish mainland.)

Machir Bay is the first permanent bottling available from Kilchoman. It is a vatting or "marrying" of 3-, 4- and 5-year-old whisky that has been aged in ex-bourbon (Buffalo Trace) white oak casks in addition to the short 8-week rest in ex-sherry Butts to finish. On the nose, there is a slight heat from the 46% ABV that is surprisingly soft considering the age. Unmistakable peat up front calms down with a nice sweet smokiness, fresh barley and hay, with a slight fruitiness discernable after a short rest in the glass.

On the palate there is a burst of initial peat smoke and citrus, then barley again with a nice sweetness. Just a hint of green quality comes threw but not as much as expected from such a young whisky. A nice vanilla comes out of the bourbon cask aging on the finish, but being that it is young, there isn't a lot on the tail end, just a nice conclusion of all the flavors.

Taking all of this into consideration, I look back on this malt with a true appreciation for the art of whisky making, experiencing the development of something that is wonderful and that will surely impress in the future.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Siciliano's AHA Big Brew Update: Spots Still Open

By Steve Siciliano

While all forty-eight of the ingredient packages that Siciliano’s Market is donating for May 4th’s Big Brew at the Calder have now been spoken for and team captains have been appointed, there are still spots available on a number of brewing teams. Anyone wishing to participate in this event as an assistant brewer should contact me at and I will assign you to a team.

Captains—please be advised that I will be directing all future correspondence to you and ask that you disseminate pertinent information regarding scheduled brewing times, parking information, etc. to the members of your respective teams.

I would like to thank all those who have signed on to help, but in order to make this event run smoothly we are going to need more volunteers. Anyone who would like to help us make The Big Brew at the Calder a huge success can contact me at the above address.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Touring Cantillon: Alternative World for Brewing Beer

The author at Cantillon
By Wes Eaton

Today, brewing processes are guided by the tenets of a modern, positivist science. Like scientists in research laboratories, brewers, cellar-persons, and other producers employ instruments and equipment and utilize human technique and skill to understand and replicate ‘nature.’ While brewing is at its essence a promotion of natural fermentation processes, at the same time, producers want to bracket out the randomness and uncertainties of nature. I'll reiterate my point: Of the upmost importance is the control of nature. The brewery is to become a laboratory in that natural processes are to be disciplined by scientist/producers.

This is the enduring struggle of producing modern beer: warding off naturally occurring organic and inorganic ‘contaminants’ that threaten a target product and production schedule by disciplining natural processes through the tools of technoscience. The struggle is ceaseless as neither opponent, science or nature, will ultimately be victorious. Producers will always need to scrub, sanitize, and otherwise separate their laboratory/brewery from the environment—bacteria, oxygen, and excess heat. Indeed this comprises the work of nearly every stage of the modern brewing process.

The point of presenting modern brewing practices in this way is to demonstrate their embedded cultural values of disciplining and controlling nature. In her 1980 book The Death of Nature, the feminist ecologist Carolyn Merchant argues our contemporary worldview was born during the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century. During this time, Francis Bacon, René Descartes, and other “fathers of science” formulated a new view of nature. Instead of a benevolent, all-providing mother that we are to fear and revere, nature was a mistress that would only reluctantly bear her secrets under the trials of controlled experimentation. Adaptation to uncertainties and unknowns was no longer adequate, instead, we can master and tame the “wicked” randomness of nature.

I thought about this last month in Brussels, Belgium while my wife and I toured and tasted Cantillon, the renowned brewery and “living museum of the traditional Gueuze” and Lambic beer styles. These styles epitomize what American beer enthusiasts now lovingly term “sour” beers. Historically, they largely lost popularity sometime between the World Wars, only to be steadily rediscovered, as the myth goes, by later generations of beer hunters and other actors in the craft beer movement. Cantillon is in tune with this, mandating visitors take an extensive self-guided tour before sampling their sours, the hope being that through this experience, others will spread their story and continue to come back to Gueuze. We began in the back of the stone and wooden barn-like brewery with the century old but still operational Mash Tun, then up wooden stairs to the riveted “cool ship.” Lacking modern temperature control, wort is chilled in this shallow copper ship in the upper rafters, where we noted used malt bags operated as flaps that could be opened and closed, allowing more or less of a cool breeze to enter. Here the beer is left uncovered, inviting wild bacterias and yeasts to inoculate the wort naturally. As cooling is necessary, beer brewing is a seasonal project, only taking place during the colder months of the year.

After a night’s rest, the bacteria laden wort is sent to oak barrels which rest in the adjacent attic wherein the wort is fermented, messily, into ale. Like the breezy attic, the oak barrels allow the beer to “breathe” and evaporate, ultimately reducing the final volume by as much as one fifth. As air increasingly enters the barrels, the active bacterias form oxygen protective skins across the surface of the beer. Workers hand labeling bottles down below later told us the ubiquitous cobwebs found throughout the rafters and in between aging barrels were evidence of the spiders that balance out harmful insects. This is especially important during the warm summer months when brewing is avoided but whole, sticky, sour black cherries are added to selected barrels to make Kriek. This is evidence of one way in which the brewery, as a living organism itself, seeks to adapt rather than dominate nature.

When finished, the raw, still, unblended golden colored ale is deemed Lambic, which tastes acidic, tepid, and much thinner than, for instance, an American style ale. Gueuze is born when minimum three year old Lambic is blended with younger, still fermenting ales, corked and capped in champagne bottles, and left to finish fermenting and therefore ‘naturally’ carbonate on its side along the dank stone walls and amongst hundreds of others. Rather than instruments, cultivated human taste determines when the bottles are ready for labeling and enjoying. After the tour we were offered pours of unblended lambic, Gueuze, and other styles. While sipping I thought about dark corners of the brewery we were not only allowed but encouraged to crawl through, and the times we had to squeeze around producers as they tended to their labor intensive tasks. This simply does not happen in modern breweries.

At first blush the lessons from this experience are rather simple. Here we have a brewery, a production process, and really a culture that has learned how best not only to adapt to its natural environment, but to flourish in a way that enhances it. Like homemade maple syrup, each drop is not only the intended ingredients but the larger local material world captured in liquid form. We could smell the rafters, cellars, barrels, and atmosphere in our glasses precisely because they were intentionally incorporated into the beer, not bracketed out by disciplining nature.

But this is only a first step in a broader evaluation. The next is to note the existence of at least two of what Merchant calls “worldviews” for approaching beer production. On the one hand there is what we might term the “science” model premised on disciplining nature, as observed above. On the other, we have a view that lets nature in by learning to adapt to its incongruence. Spiders, porous oak, seasonal variances, bacterias, and other naturally, locally occurring elements are enlisted to bring about a final product that itself embodies the tensions between the will and imaginations of the brewers and the agendas within the local environment.

So yes, we can tease out possibly two contending world views. But please don’t mistake my mission here. My argument is not that one or the other is better or worse and should be pursued or abandoned. There are multiple points that could be argued on behalf of each “world view.” For instance, to take just one example, in regards to distributive justice, how could inefficient production systems such as Cantillon meet the demands of the burgeoning craft beer culture masses? Instead I want to make two points that will hopefully spur new ways of thinking about craft beer production.

The first is the notion that, even in the most technologically and scientifically sophisticated production facilities, beer is co-produced by both scientific technique and nature. Like a river that is both actively guided by and shaping its respective banks, particular beer products are always the culmination of the enduring struggle between controlling and letting nature in. Secondly, in regards to the two “world views” I promote in this article, no single brewery is entirely on one or another of these paths. Instead, to varying degrees, particular brewery production cultures, standards, and norms, simultaneously draw from the wells of each. This process itself leads to tensions that are constantly negotiated through interactions not only within individual breweries, but between the cadres of investors, distributors, retailers, other brewers, and of course beer fans that make up participants in the craft beer field. My point then is that teasing out these discordant “worlds” can provide a greater appreciation for the many aspects of brewery and beer culture with which we can choose to emphasize, challenge, and ultimately identify.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

New Beer Friday, March 8 Edition

By Chris Siciliano

Do you know what I find amazing? In a state where so many world-class breweries make their home, so many "non-native" world-class breweries still work hard to crack the Michigan market.

One can imagine these breweries shipping their product in with fingers crossed, hoping that native Michiganders will maybe not flat out exchange their sixer of Two Hearted for X or Y new beer (that will never happen), but will rather choose X new beer along with Two Hearted, taking both beers home for a side-by-side comparison, repeatedly, every weekend. And do you know what, that's exactly what happens!

The great thing about this state, in my opinion, is the absence of beer insularity. Sure we Michiganders are proud of our beer—we should be! But it's been my experience that true Michigan beer geeks are just (or nearly) as proud of the beer that's available here as the beer that's made here.

What it all amounts to is a paradise for beer enthusiasts, and each time a powerhouse brewery like Oskar Blues or New Belgium enters the market—both of whom factor heavily in this week's New Beer Friday—it's proof that these great breweries have respect for the beer-drinking public in Michigan. After all, why enter a market with the likes of Founders, Bells, Short's, Vivant, Kuhnhenn, Perrin, Jolly Pumpkin, Right Brain, Greenbush, the Livery, Saugatuck, New Holland, Dark Horse and on and on and on, if you did not believe that the beer buyers in this magnificent state would not see fit to give you love as well?

On that note, we extend a hearty and sincere welcome to Colorado-based Oskar Blues Brewery. Welcome to the party!

New (and Returning) Beer

  • Oskar Blues Gubna, $3.69/12oz - "Emphasizing that complexity of character can arise from simple elements, this ale is made with 3 malts and 1 hop. Its light amber color and slightly spicy malt character are derived from the use of German Dark Munich Malt and Rye Malt respectively. North American 2-row barley combines with the other grains to lay the foundation for the hop onslaught to come. Summit hops are used exclusively in the boil for bitterness, flavor and aroma but it doesn’t end there. Post-fermentation dry hopping allows the 10% ABV monstrosity to gently coax the citrus rind and grapefruit aroma to join the 100 IBUs already present. This beer will greet you with a pungent citrus blast, provide a spicy yet round middle and finish with a brisk, clean bitterness" (source).
  • Oskar Blues G'Knight Imperial Red, $3.69/16oz - "Our “Velvet M-80” is a hefty, dry hopped double-red ale with a nose full of aroma, a sticky mouthfeel, a malty middle and unctuous hop flavors. G’Knight sports a surprisingly sensuous finish for a beer of its size (8.7% ABV, 60 IBUs). It’s brewed in tribute to a fellow Colorado craft beer pioneer and Vietnam vet who died fighting a 2002 wild fire outside of our Lyons hometown. For all the details behind this tribute follow this link to G’Mornin’. G’Day. G’Knight" (source).
  • Oskar Blues Mama's Little Yella Pils, $1.69/12oz - "Oskar Blues’ Mama’s Little Yella Pills is an uncompromising, small-batch version of the beer that made Pilsen, Czech Republic famous. Unlike mass market “pilsners” diluted with corn & rice, Mama’s is built with 100% pale malt, German specialty malts, and Saaz hops. While it’s rich with Czeched-out flavor, its gentle hopping (35 IBUs) and low ABV (just 5.3%) make it a luxurious but low-dose (by Oskar Blues standards) refresher" (source).
  • Oskar Blues Old Chub, $1.69/12oz - "This jaw-dropping Scottish strong ale (8% ABV) is brewed with bodacious amounts of malted barley and specialty grains, and a dash of beechwood-smoked malt. Old Chub features semi-sweet flavors of cocoa and coffee, and a kiss of smoke. A head-turning treat for malt heads and folks who think they don’t dig dark beer" (source).
  • Oskar Blues Dale's Pale, $1.69/12oz - "America’s first hand-canned craft beer is a voluminously hopped mutha that delivers a hoppy nose, assertive-but-balanced flavors of pale malts and hops from start to finish. First canned in 2002, Dale’s Pale Ale is a hearty (6.5% and 65 IBUs), critically acclaimed trailblazer that has changed the way craft beer fiends perceive canned beer" (source).
  • Oskar Blues Deviant Dales, $3.69/16oz - "Deviant Dale’s IPA (8% ABV, 85 IBUs) was born at the crossroads, in a juke joint, as if Dale’s Pale Ale sold its soul to balance Deviant’s foreboding aromas of citrus, grapefruit rind and piney resins with a copper ball-of-fire color and inscrutable finish. The 2011 GABF Silver Medal Winner (American IPA Category) is the Devil incarnate with untold amounts of malt and hedonistic Columbus dry-hopping. Oskar Blues’ southern spirit caught a northbound blues bus to ColoRADo to deliver the boundary bustin’ brewery’s first 16 oz. tallboy can" (source).
  • Bell's Consecrator Dopplebock, $2.69/12oz (limit 6 btls/person) - "Consecrator is a traditional doppelbock-style fermented with a Bohemian lager yeast. Reddish brown in color, with a mild hop profile, Consecrator is a well balanced, full bodied beer with hints of caramel and molasses in its smooth, malty finish. Brewed for a Fat Tuesday release" (source).
  • Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout, $2.19/12oz - "This English style of beer, also known as Sweet Stout or Cream Stout, first appeared in London in the late 1800’s. The early brewers touted the health benefits of the milk sugar in this beer which today relates mainly to the increased amount of calories(no real health benefits…sorry). The milk sugar adds a well rounded sweetness to this dark beer and makes it an outstanding, year ‘round stout" (source).
  • Short's Uncle Steve's Irish Stout, $1.69/12oz - "A true text book Irish Stout. Amazingly light bodied full of rich creamy flavor. Incredibly smooth and easy to drink, an instant Short’s favorite. This one’s for you Steve-O!!!" (source).
  • Short's Controversiale, $1.99/12oz - "Toasted pale ale with tons of citrus hoppiness" (source).
  • Lagunitas WTF, $4.79/22oz - "WTF Ale. A malty, robust, jobless Recovery Ale! We’re not quite in the Red, or in the Black... Does that mean we’re in the Brown? A big Ol’ Imperial Brown Ale to help you with your slipperly slide on into springtime. Rich, smooth, dangerous & chocolatey" (source).
  • New Belgium Rampant, $1.89/12oz - "A burly and bitter Imperial IPA, Rampant pours a pure copper and carries the sheen of a rightly hopped beer. The Mosaic and Calypso hops bring stonefruit to the front seat, and the addition of Centennials nod towards citrus for a well-rounded aroma. The taste expands these hops with heavy peach tones and a profoundly bitter bite. There is some malt sweetness to stand this beer up, and Rampant’s finish is bone-dry" (source).
  • New Belgium La Folie, $15.99/22oz - "La Folie Wood-Aged Biere, is our original wood-conditioned beer, resting in French Oak barrels between one and three years before being hand bottled, numbered and corked for your enjoyment. Brewmaster, Peter Bouckaert, came to us from Rodenbach – home of the fabled sour red. Our La Folie emulates the spontaneous fermentation beers of Peter’s beloved Flanders with sour apple notes, a dry effervescence, and earthy undertones" (source).
  • New Belgium Transatlantique Kriek, $15.99/22oz - "In a never-ending quest to create new beers and defy category, New Belgium Brewing and Brewerij Boon of Belgium have partnered together again to create Transatlantique Kriek - a spontaneously fermented lambic ale made with Polish cherries. This authentic kriek beer began life in the oaken vessels at Frank Boon’s brewery in the Lembeek region of Belgium. After more than two years aging, Boon’s offering shipped across the Atlantic and found its way to the intuitive palate of New Belgium’s Brewmaster Peter Bouckaert. After much sampling and internal consultation, Peter and his brew staff created a full-bodied golden lager to round out the light-bodied kriek. The cherry nose gives way to a pleasingly sour flash across the palate that rolls gently into a slightly sweet finish. Crisp, effervescent carbonation keeps the mouthfeel bright and delightfully tingly" (source).
  • New Belgium Heavenly Feijoa Tripel, $9.19/22oz - "Heavenly Feijoa Tripel combines Dieu du Ciel!’s love of hibiscus flowers with New Belgium’s passion for strange and worldly fruit. Feijoa, also known as pineapple guava, has a sweet, aromatic flavor, which makes the aroma of Heavenly Feijoa Tripel luscious and tropical. The beer has Belgian yeast and Nelson Sauvin hops, combining to make a sweet fruit taste, mild spicy tones and a sharp bite. Hibiscus adds a cranberry tartness and an ambrosial quality to the color" (source).
  • New Belgium Cascara Quad, $9.19/22oz - "Cascara Quad is a dark, strong and surprisingly delicate ale made with dates and coffee cherries. Channeling the Trappist tradition, it’s brewed with an ethereal malt bill, and spiced with the fruit of the coffee bean (cascara). The aroma brings dates, cherries and pipe tobacco right to the nose and builds layers with hints of spice and fruity Belgian yeast. Once on the palate, Cascara Quad starts swinging clove, fig and molasses. Each sip offers sweet warmth, deep complexity and fleeting dryness" (source).
  • Maredsous Triple, $4.19/12oz - "Golden beer with a characteristically fresh bouquet and sweet after-taste" (source).
Picture of the Week

Salute, Grandpa. We miss you already.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tuesday Review: Ommegang Art of Darkness

Brewery Ommegang Art of Darkness
By Doug Dorda

As the winter marches calmly on, we find ourselves often in the embrace of a feeling of stagnation. Though the days slowly get longer, it does seem as though mother nature will not yield her cling to her earthly plot, and regardless of a groundhog's prediction, the winter shall endure until she sees fit to let the levee, of spring, break.

For we, the enthusiasts of craft beer, it is the cold and crisp months that drive us into the loving embrace of porters, stouts, and all other divination of dark ale or lager that helps our wearied souls balk at the night's bitter chill. Yet, how often have we turned toward the darkness as respite from the cold? Does the stagnation of nature help to lead to a stagnation of our choice in nightcap? (Though I doubt that to be the case, it can not be ignored that long winters can exhaust the lust for bold beers.)

Enter Art of Darkness from Brewery Ommegang, a late-to-the-table offering for us Michiganders that seeks to provide the dark side in us all with a welcome touch of light. Though the ale is of wintery high-gravity standard, it surprised me beyond belief due to its apparent dry finish, a most interesting twist in the land of bombastic ales.

The nose is a mixture of heartily spiced breads: gingerbread or molasses. A fleeting note of alcohol mixes with a promise of non-descript fruit that positively begs the quaffer to drink. An immediate explosion of licorice, anise and coriander dominates the palate in an effect that is as pleasant as it is unexpected. Slowly emerging from the intricate sea of massive flavors is a pronounced note of dried figs as well as a melange of other dried fruit that provides the perfect counterpoint to the assault on the fore palate. The experience ends almost abruptly as the intense levels of carbonation within the ale clean the palate and leave you dying for another sip to remember the haunting and flickering flavors that were so vivid only moments before.

This is a beer that boldly stands alongside others of its ilk. Yet it remains unique, worthy of a spot on your table in the winter or, truly, any season. It is the opinion of this author that this beer would pair wonderfully with a savory roast, hearty stew, or a lovingly prepared desert. I found this beer a lively injection of variant to the otherwise “go to” ales of winter. I believe that should you try it, you may come to the same conclusion.

Brewery Ommegang Art of Darkness ($18.59/750ml) is a Belgian Strong Ale.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Siciliano's AHA Big Brew Update: How to Participate

By Steve Siciliano

On Saturday, May 4th, the Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids will be the site of what is shaping up to be one of the largest American Homebrewers Association Big Brew events in the sixteen year history of the nationwide celebration. As the sponsor for this particular event, Siciliano’s Market will be donating and providing the following:

    • The ingredients for forty-eight all-grain batches of “Beer City IPA”
    • Bottled water for brewing
    • A chilling station capable of simultaneously chilling six kettles of wort
    • Platform hand carts for moving brewing equipment to and from vehicles and for transporting kettles of hot wort to the chilling station. 
We are now asking those who wish to participate in this event to complete a sign-up sheet at Siciliano's Market. If you cannot get to the store, we ask that you contact us ( with the following information:

    • Whether you would like to brew one of the forty-eight batches with your own equipment (mash/lauter tuns, propane burners, kettles, etc.) and thus be designated as the captain of a “brewing team”
    • Whether you would like to brew but are unwilling or unable to transport your equipment to the event. In this case you will be assigned to a brewing team
    • Whether you would like to participate as a member of a specific brewing team and if so indicate the name of the captain you would like to brew with
    • Whether you would like to participate as a volunteer helper 
While we will do our best to accommodate everyone who would like to brew, it should be noted that the number of batches and the number of spots per team are limited. Please indicate if you are willing to participate as a volunteer helper if all the brewing spots have been filled.

We will be able to consume homebrew within the designated area of the venue. However, please note there will be no kegging systems allowed; bottles and growlers only. This event will be open to the public and we will be allowed to offer tastings to anyone wearing a wristband. (ID’s will be checked at the gate.) Siciliano’s will be providing the tasting cups as well as educational literature on homebrewing.

The Big Brew at the Calder will be a great way of showing the area, the state and the country what a vibrant homebrewing community there is in west Michigan. We feel that this highly visible event will generate a good deal of buzz as we will be inviting the mayor and the city commissioners and will be sending out press releases to the local media. The Great American Beer Trail will also be filming at the event.

We ask that you join us in making The Big Brew at the Calder a huge success.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Grand Rapids Brewing Company: Good Press Since 1913

The original GRBC sat at the corner of
East Bridge (Michigan St) & Ionia*
Recently, while researching old newspaper archives, I came across a full page article about the Grand Rapids Brewing Company that ran in the August 23rd, 1913 edition of The Grand Rapids Press.

I use the word “article” loosely as the anonymous writer unabashedly praised both the wholesomeness of the company’s products and the wonders of its state of the art facilities. In reality, it was a paid advertisement wrapped in the guise of a feature story—an attempt by the GRBC to counter the anti-alcohol campaigns that were at the time threatening Michigan’s brewing industry. That fact alone gives the piece historical value. It’s a bonus that we find scattered throughout the blatant horn blowing and purple prose a number of interesting details regarding the workings of a “modern”  brewery in the early 20th century. 

The article begins by stating that “in the modern brewery one will find none of the lamentable conditions which are too prevalent in restaurants, dairies, bakeries, etc. Rather one finds the greatest possible cleanliness and freedom from circumstances which breed and propagate disease producing bacteria.” The reader is then informed that six local breweries consolidated to form the GRBC in 1892 and that the company moved into its “splendid” and “stupendously large” plant three years later.

A discussion of the brewing process follows. Readers are informed that “brewing begins with malt” and that malt is barley that has been germinated and kilned after the sprouts had been removed. We learn that the GRBC mechanically elevated its malt to storage bins on the upper floor and that gravity was used to move the grain to the lower level of the brew house. The author states that corn and rice are used in the production of American beer, explaining that adjuncts aren’t utilized by brewers in Germany “not for the reason of securing a fine quality of beer but because corn and rice are not produced in Germany. Indeed, the best authorities today favor the use of corn or rice with the malt.”

The author further educates the reader by stating that hops are another component of beer and that chemical hop substitutes are never used by the GRBC brewers. According to the article, the company purchased hops once a year from Washington, Oregon and Germany, and stored “the vast supply at low temperatures so as not to become rancid.” 

We learn that after the malt was milled it was placed in “cookers” and immersed in hot water. The malt was mashed, the liquid was strained through perforated bottoms and was then transferred into large kettles where it was boiled with the hops. At the end of the boil the liquid passed through a hop jack, was pumped into coolers and was then transferred to the fermentation tanks in the cellar. GRBC had thirty-two open fermenters, each having a capacity of 150 barrels, that were made from California redwood. The brewery’s yeast, the reader is told, was cultivated in a laboratory from strains initially imported from Germany.

After fermentation the beer was transferred into wooden tanks, also located in the cellar, where it aged for six months “during which time it ripened and matured.” The finished beer was then packaged in wooden kegs or sent to a bottling line that was capable of packaging 400 barrels of beer in ten hours. In 1913, the brewery kegged and bottled four beers—Silver Foam, Export, Pilsner and Alt Nuernberger.

After describing the brewing operation the author states that “No one can go thorough the plant of the Grand Rapids Brewing Company and not feel very deeply that the modern brewer is not like his ancestor, a bungling workman and empiricist. Rather he is an educated observer of scientific laws who has an adequate knowledge of chemistry and biology and who follows out well established rules in his everyday work in order to conform to modern tastes and modern economy.” This rather curious statement may have been an attempt by the brewery to distance itself from the anti-German sentiment that was sweeping west Michigan. Most of the area’s breweries had initially been established by German immigrants and the temperance movement was linking the unwholesomeness of consuming beer to the legacy of the German brewers.

In an obvious attempt to refute prohibitionist claims that beer is unwholesome and that the alcohol it contains is, indeed, poisonous, the writer ends the article by providing a quote attributed to a Professor T.J. Clouster of Edinburg University: “Alcohol excites the appetite, improves digestion, stimulates certain nutritive processes and is beneficial in the laying down of fat.” Apparently the GRBC had decided it was time to fight the outrageous claims being spouted by the dry movement with its own sort of scurrilous fire.

*Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Historical Commision