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Friday, May 31, 2013

New Beer Friday, The Muse is Missing Edition (May 31)

Oude Gueuze
Lest anyone think this writing thing is easy, Siciliano's bossman Steve Siciliano contributes the following NBF preamble.

It’s four in the morning, I’m staring at a blank computer screen and I’m wondering where my muse is. She hasn’t been around lately (for some reason I’ve always thought of my muse as a woman) and I have to admit that I’m getting concerned. I’m beginning to think I’ve done something to upset her or, more likely, didn’t do something and the inaction upset her. Perhaps she is angry about that book I never finished, or the countless ideas she gave me for short stories that I never even started. It’s a good thing I don’t have to rely on writing to make my living because if I did I’d be in serious trouble.

Maybe another cup of coffee will help. Maybe it would help if I lit my pipe…

An hour later now and still I can’t get started. Oh, it’s not that I don’t have ideas. I can certainly write about that gueuze Barb and I drank while sitting on the backyard deck recently—about how it had the same color of the evening rays of sunlight that were filtering down through the trees, about its thick, creamy head that looked liked a billowing white cloud, about how its tartness reminded me of sauerkraut and about the funny face Barb made after she took her first sip.

Or I could write about that bar we went to last week on the lower west side where we ran into that young man who parks cars at the cancer center at St. Mary’s. I could write about how he recognized me and then asked me how my dad was doing, and how he put his hand on my shoulder after I told him. Or I could write about going up to my dad’s cabin this past weekend, and how strange it was being up there without him.

These are some of the things I could write about, and there are others, but it’s six a.m. now and I have to get ready for work. I have a real job, you see. This damn writing thing is just a rather silly avocation.

New (and Returning) Beers at Siciliano's

  • Victory Summer Love, $1.79/12oz - "Brewed locally at the Victory Brewery in Chester County, the Summer of Love Ale is a golden ale made with pale malts, German hops and Brandywine River water. This specific style of beer was chosen because it has a broad appeal and will be accessible for casual beer drinkers, but will still retain exciting hop notes. The brew has a vibrant and refreshing pale color derived from its lean and refreshing malt body. And the initially floral aroma of hops segues into a well integrated, refreshing hop dryness of European heritage" (source).
  • Southampton Publick House Keller Pils, $2.29/12oz - "Visit an Old World lager brewery and the brewmaster will insist that you enjoy a "keller" beerdirect from the aging tank. To a brewerthis is beer at its purest: unfiltered, nuanced and gently carbonated. Southampton Keller Pils is just such a brew. And each year we make it with a different hop variety to create a unique interpretation of the pilsener style" (source).
  • Southampton Double White Ale, $2.29/12oz - "A 'double strength' version of classic Belgian-style 'white' ale. A deceptively light ale spiced with Curacao Orange Peel and coriander seed" (source).
  • Southampton Burton IPA, $2.29/12oz - "Burton IPA is our tribute to the original British India Pale Ales. We replicate the unique mineral-rich water for a true character" (source).
  • Southampton Biere de Mars, $2.29/12oz - "Traditional, French-style, Spring beer. Fruity and smooth" (source).
  • Southampton Abbot 12, $12.89/750ml - "Southampton Abbot 12 is our version of a Belgian Abbey-style Dark Ale. This unique style of ale is referred to as "Quadruple" and is brewed by only a few Belgian Trappist breweries. Southampton Abbot 12 is made with imported ingredients and is formulated to allow the beer to age for several years in the bottle" (source).
  • Three Heads Brewing Co. The Kind, $6.59/22oz - "Voraciously hoppy and not overly bitter, The Kind brings enormous aroma and maximum flavor. It's like talking a walk through a pine forest and ending up at a citrus farm" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Festina Peche, $2.59/12oz - "A refreshing neo-Berliner Weisse fermented with peaches" (source).
  • Tailgate Blacktop Blonde, $1.39/12oz - "An American blonde ale that stays true to form. Bold use of magnum and cascade hops creates a soft subtle spice that set this easy drinker apart from the rest. Beautiful golden malts show you we’re not afraid to put something besides water down your gullet" (source).
  • Tailgate Hefeweizen, $1.39/12oz - "This Hefe is one truly crisp and refreshingly unfiltered ale that garnishes well with a lemon or an orange" (source).
  • Tailgate IPA, $1.39/12oz - "This is what beer is all about, a nice little bite at first swallow followed by a blossom of flavors delivered by our hand picked aromatic hops and carried through the end with a full fisted kick of alcohol content that rocks the richtor scale at 6.5%" (source).
  • Heavy Seas Holy Sheet, $6.69/22oz - "From the centuries-old tradition of Belgian Abbey monks comes our Uber Abbey Ale (9%). Aromatic and very full bodied, the beer will pour a deep burgundy in color and feature a rich, robust depth of malt character. Grab a line – Holy Sheet! – or you might be swept overboard" (source).
  • Round Barn Indecision Ale, $1.79/12oz - "A copper colored ale with plenty of malt and hop character, this beer features a dark malt backbone that distinguishes it from anything else. If you can't decide what beer to drink, then Indecision is really your only decision" (source).

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Stop and Smell the Rosés: French Rosé Wine at Siciliano's

Siciliano's wine buyer Sarah Derylo
By Steve Siciliano

I have to admit that I did a little grumbling a few weeks ago when our wine buyer Sarah Derylo advised me that she was planning on adding some French rosés to our inventory. I’ve always been rather standoffish towards rosés simply because I assumed that they were cut from the same cloth as white zinfandels.

Not that there’s anything wrong with white zinfandels. They’re a little sweet for my tastes and some of them are a little one dimensional, but as a wine merchant I appreciate them because they can serve as a gateway for folks taking their tentative first steps into the world of wine.

Sarah, however, assured me that good French rosés can be bone dry and deliciously complex, and after trying a few of them at our in-store tasting a few weeks back I have to agree. I guess this proves that it’s never too late for a young oenophile to teach even a dogged old wine merchant something new.

The following are some of Sarah’s hand-picked French rosés that are currently on the shelves at Siciliano’s Market.

  • Sainte Victoire 2012 Cuvée Rosalie, $16.99/750ml – “A wine with a scent of spring in a pretty pink dress. A delicate nose that is still unusually complex. Notes of orange blossoms and citrus.” A blend of syrah, cinsault, grenache and rolle (source).
  • Chateau de Calavon 2012 Rosé, $17.99/750ml – “Pale salmon color with aromas of fresh strawberries and raspberries. Enjoy as an aperitif or as an accompaniment to your favorite summer dishes.” A blend of cinsault, grenache and syrah (source).
  • Moulin de Gassac Guilhem 2012 Rosé, $9.99/750ml – “Lively and bright pink. Pleasant nose with notes of strawberries and aromas of crushed red fruits.” A blend of grenache, carignan and syrah (source).
  • Chateau la Tour de Beraud 2012 Rosé, $9.79/750ml – “A soft pink color and an excellent aromatic length and depth. Displays fresh, elegant and floral notes overlying aromas of pear and light red fruits. Enjoy as an aperitif or with a meal.” A blend of mourvedre, carignan, syrah and grenache (source).

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Boundary-Work & Craft Beer: The Struggles of American Hops

Photo by Scout Seventeen
By Weston Eaton

As citizens of Rene Descartes’ Western society, we often assume our personal preferences have predominately private, as in individual, origins. And while, over time, we may observe some slight changes in our palate, we generally speak in dichotomous terms, pointing out what we ‘like’ and ‘don’t like.’ I want to suggest another way to think about our sensory capacities, one inspired by craft beer and hop guru Stan Hieronymus’ recent visit to and talk given in my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, aka “Beer City, USA.” Ultimately what I hope to show is that taste and preference are as much collective accomplishments as they are privately decided upon, and, importantly, our ‘private’ tastes are contingent, as in they are situated in a particular time and place.

To tell this story, I first need to introduce the concept of ‘boundary-work.’ Sociologists of science coined this term to refer to a strategy we are all familiar with: the effort to demarcate ‘sound’ science from ‘arm-chair’ or ‘pseudo-science.’ In other words, boundary-work is the effort to identify the uninitiated and keep them in their proper place in the attempt to create a favorable public image for the establishment. Boundary-work is also important in places outside of science, such as in the world of craft beer. For instance, Jim Koch of Sam Adams and Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewers Association, are constantly tending the fences between craft and non-craft beer. These are not real boundaries, of course, but political and economic constructions, and therefore susceptible to contestation. The boundary-work I am interested takes place between two regions, North American and Europe, and their respective hop traditions. At stake is our preference in beer.

On his visit to Grand Rapids, Hieronymus spoke with a group of West Michigan homebrewers as part of Siciliano’s Market’s homebrewing seminar series. Hieronymus’ discussion was centered on hops. He discussed the latest research on hop flavor, aroma, and bitterness, and the emergent science and innovative technological processes associated with the ever-increasing search for the new hop variant that would meet the complex demands of farmers, distributors, brewers, and consumers. What caught my attention, however, was the subtle underlying story of shifting hop attributes and industry preferences. 

While Hieronymus did not use the term, the history of the hop plant in the world of beer brewing can be assessed in terms of boundary-work. For instance, the Reinheitsgebot, the Bavarian Purity Law of around 1500, designated beer as consisting of three ingredients: malt, water, and hops (yeast had not yet been discovered). In the realm of hops specifically, before the introduction of American varieties beginning in the 1970s, four ‘noble’ hop varieties dominated the world of brewing. These hops had the distinct combination of low levels of bitterness but with strong aromatic properties. These characteristics defined not only these hops, but what was known collective as beer. In other words, by today’s standards, raised significantly by American craft brewers who brought American hops onto the global beer scene, there simply were no “hoppy” beers in the sense of a Two Hearted Ale. 

By following this hop story through up to the 1970s, then through today, and crossing shores to North America, we can begin to see the significance of these constructed boundaries, and their relation to what we often take to be ‘naturally’ occurring or individually selected preferences. While the British Colonies brewed an array of ales, with numerous local ingredients, it was not until the Germans arrived that brewing in the New World drew the attention of the world’s famous beer cities. Armed with the recent technological invention of refrigeration, and the accompanying lagering process now perfected into a style of beer capable of mass production, Germans in Mexico, Texas, and especially Milwaukee, began mobilizing and monopolizing the preferred tastes of millions of Americans. 

The key to American lagers, however, was the smooth hop flavor of noble varieties. American hops, on the other hand, were largely labeled with normative, derogatory terms such as ‘rustic,’ ‘inferior,’ and ‘not suitable’ for what was commonly understood as ‘good beer.’ American hop varieties were indeed wild, with citrus, pine, and resin as opposed to the spicy, earthy, and floral attributes of noble hops. One hundred years ago, the beer geeks of the day had not yet encountered these as flavor possibilities, while the brewing establishment had little interest or incentive to risk experimenting with new varieties. This of course changed with the developing of the Cascade hop variety in 1972, the original American “C” hop, and the innovative and infamous use of this hop to develop the flavor of the first distinctly American beer, the American Pale Ale, epitomized by Anchor Brewing Company’s Liberty IPA and Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale. With the introduction of an American Ale, and more generally, a growing appreciation for American hops, the boundary between noble hops as ‘good’ and American hops as ‘bad’ has been increasingly transgressed. As a result, we have a new meaning for the term ‘good beer’. 

To pull the treads of this story together, the ‘preferences’ for subtle bitterness have given away to a diversity of beer flavors and styles, including the strong bitter attributes of American Ales. However, as we can now more plainly see, the term preference is itself misleading if applied to individual choice as it fails to take into account the historical shifts in the landscape of beer styles that are driven by technological innovation, migrations of nationals, experimentation, and continental variations in hops. In other words, what we ‘like’ and ‘don’t like’ are as much representative of this particular juncture in the landscape of beer as they are of individual choice.

Dalmore 12 Year Old Scotch Whisky: Review

By John Barecki

The Dalmore distillery is located in the Highland region of Scotland. They have produced everything from a 12 year old standard up to the most expensive whisky in the world, Trinitas, which contains some of the oldest and rarest whiskies in existence, a few as old as 140 years.

The first thing that intrigued me about Dalmore is master blender Richard Paterson, who for the last 40 years has molded this wonderful whisky to its full potential. Besides being a fun character, Paterson can call on two generations' worth of experience in creating a wonderful array of single malt and blended whiskies. Also intriguing is the stag's head on the bottle and the story that goes with it. In 1263, a predecessor from the Clan MacKenzie saved King Alexander III from a rampaging stag while on a hunting trip. In reward for this the king allowed him to bear the royal emblem of a 12-pointed stag as his coat of arms, which has been the symbol for the distillery ever since.

The emphasis on flavor in these single malts is the exquisite blending of different aging and barrel types. The 12 year begins life with a nine-year stint in ex-bourbon barrels. Then, half the whisky is moved into 30-year-old Matusalem oloroso sherry barrels and, after three years, the whiskies are blended back together. On the nose, there is a sherry-heavy note with dark fruits, chocolate, cinnamon and marzipan. On the palette, the whisky is smooth and "thick cut," with flavors of sticky fruits and nuts and a soft wood note followed by caramel and a spiced citrus coming in at the finish.

Overall, this is an amazing dram full of luxuriant qualities from start to finish. Fusing the best parts of sherry and whisky, the 12-year-old Dalmore showcases a wonderful and decadent complexity that I can recommend to any whisky aficionado.

The Dalmore 12 Year is available at Siciliano's Market for $53.92/750ml.

Friday, May 24, 2013

New Beer Friday, Official Start of Summer Edition (May 24)

By Chris Siciliano

As I write this, it's Thursday, 8:15 p.m. I have one eye on the baseball game, one hand on a Bell's Two-Hearted Ale, and one thought in mind—finishing the latest edition of New Beer Friday so, like many of you, I can turn my full attention to the long three-day holiday ahead.

I find it hard to put in words how much I love this time of year. It's Memorial Day weekend, what many people, especially those of us in Michigan, consider the official start of summer. The threat of snow has finally passed (so we tell ourselves) and there are new leaves on the trees. It's not just morel mushroom season or baseball season, it's sit-on-the-porch-after-work-and-drink-a-beer-barefoot season, it's time-to-take-some-time-off season, it's fishing season, it's BBQ season, it's lawnmower season and lawnmower beer season. The list of seasons goes on and on and all of them together add up to one important fact: it's shaping up to be another fantastic summer here in Michigan.

Have a safe and happy holiday weekend, everyone. Here's the list of the newest beers to arrive at Siciliano's Market.

New (and Returning) Beer at Siciliano's

  • New Holland Black Tulip, $2.39/12oz - "Since the early 1600's, the Dutch have attempted to breed a pure black tulip. Many have tried and a few have come close...but none have succeeded. Call it the Holy Grail of the tulip world. In honor of this elusive flower we have brewed this special elixir. We have combined the finest Belgian malt, rare European hops, an authentic Belgian yeast and finally, the brew is dusted with tulip petals. The resulting blend is nothing less than magical" (source).
  • Shorts Beach Wheat, $1.69/12oz - "Classic wheat beer brewed by Americans in America using a German wheat yeast. 50% of the grain used is malted wheat designating it as a true “wheat” beer. This ale is also known as Hefeweizen. It’s golden in color and light and clean with esters of banana and clove compliments of its Bavarian DNA" (source).
  • Shorts Pre-Mixed 12 Packs, $19.99 - Featuring Huma Lupa Licious, Bellaire Brown and Soft Parade.
  • Left Hand Twin Sisters, $10.09/22oz - "For as long as people have inhabited Colorado’s Front Range, the Twin Sisters have had a strong impact on Colorado residents. The views from atop the 11,428’ peaks are breathtaking and afford sweeping views of the entirety of Rocky Mountain National Park. As an expression of admiration we have crafted an ale that exhibits a profound impact all its own. At 11428 IBU’s (just kidding), Twin Sisters is a mountainous testament to hops, and that they bring. A feeling of ease and relaxation become apparent for all whom would dare to climb it. So for all that enjoy summiting ales with copious hops additions to achieve a felling of contentment and awe, we offer Twin Sisters Double IPA" (source)
  • New Belgium Paardebloem, $9.19/22oz - "Using dandelion greens to bitter a Belgian-style ale blossomed from our brewers collaborating with Red Rock Brewing. These being our sixth interpretation together since 2008, expect a wonderfully complex ale fermented with wild Belgian yeast and blended with just a touch of wood-aged beer. Bitterness imparted from dandelion greens and grains of paradise will have you blowing wishes for sips" (source).
  • Tri City Loon's Summer Beer, $1.99/12oz - "Loon’s Summer Ale is a smooth, clean, light blonde ale. This all-malt beer is perfectly balanced to provide a clean, clear presentation without the heavy cloudiness that is often found in summer wheat-beers. The hops that were selected accentuate the light malt flavor and provide a touch of bitterness. The unique yeast and hop combination give this beer a hint of citrus aroma with a delicate Belgium flavor that provides a refreshing, thirst quenching finish - perfect on a hot summer day at a Loon’s baseball game" (source).
  • Big Sky Buckin' Monk Tripel, $15.79/750ml - No commercial description available.

Big Sky Olde Blue Hair | Featured Beer of the Week

  • Big Sky Olde Blue Hair Barley Wine, $15.79/750ml - "Imagine a tango: a man and a woman dancing, their eyes locked upon one another, then take your first taste of Olde Bluechair, Big Sky Brewing Company’s Barley Wine. A taste of apricots, honey flavors, a sliver of vanilla, and a hint of caramel, round out the Barley Wine. Like so many things in life, Olde Bluehair just gets better with age. Aged for a minimum of 3 months in American Oak Bourbon Barrels" (source).


Thursday, May 16, 2013

New Beer Friday, Beer City USA Edition (May 17)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

As much as we here at Siciliano’s enjoyed the busyness of the past three weeks—the judging of our annual homebrew competition, our sponsorship of the Big Brew on the Calder, showing celebrated author Stan Hieronymus what a fantastic craft beer culture and a vibrant homebrewing community we have here in West Michigan and, finally, the homebrew seminars last Friday and the 10th Annual Homebrew Party on Saturday—I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that this past Sunday the Siciliano’s team heaved a huge, collective sigh of relief.

Personally, I felt like a 50-pound bag of 2-row that had been run through our motorized malt mill. But when on Monday we heard that Grand Rapids was voted Beer City USA for another year, this time by a landslide, we all were immediately and magically reenergized—so reenergized, in fact, that we began discussing how we would make next year’s events even better.

Speaking of the annual homebrew competition, I would like to congratulate Michael Carr of the Cass River Homebrew Club for winning Best of Show with his American IPA. Michael plans on purchasing some shiny new Blichmann Engineering equipment with his $500.00 cash prize and will be brewing his winning recipe in the near future at Perrin Brewing.

I can think of no better way of celebrating the repeat honor of being recognized as the best craft beer city in America by toasting and re-toasting the title with one or more of the following new and/or returning beers at Siciliano’s.

New (and Returning) Beers at Siciliano's

  • New Belgium Rolle Bolle, $1.69/12oz - "Rolle Bolle is a wonderfully fun Belgian yard game and a delightfully easy summer ale. Brewed with monk fruit and soursop it stays true to the Belgian tradition of playing with beer and all that goes into it. Roll on" (source).
  • New Belgium Fat Tire, 1.59/12oz (can) - "Named in honor of our founder Jeff’s bike trip through Belgium, Fat Tire Amber Ale marks a turning point in the young electrical engineer’s home brewing. Belgian beers use a far broader palette of ingredients (fruits, spices, esoteric yeast strains) than German or English styles. Jeff found the Belgian approach freeing. Upon his return, Jeff created Fat Tire and Abbey Belgian Ale, (assuming Abbey would be his big gun). He and his wife, Kim traveled around sampling their homebrews to the public. Fat Tire’s appeal quickly became evident. People liked everything about it. Except the name. Fat Tire won fans is in its sense of balance: toasty, biscuit-like malt flavors coasting in equilibrium with hoppy freshness" (source).
  • Atwater Uber Ursa Imperial Pils, $2.89/12oz - "An interpretation of an original pilsener. Clean, strong, dry, and supper hoppy. In Germany this is called an Ur-Pils. Here in America, we call it an Imperial Pils. Brewed with two-row and Cara pils malts, with Magnum Tettnang and Herkules hops" (source).
  • Avery Karma Ale,  $1.99/12oz - "We believe in Karma. We suspect most of you do, too. It truly is a global concept. Very simply put, "you get what you give." Inspired by this principle and the wonderful farmhouse and pale ales of Belgium, we've created Karma Ale, a decidedly fruity and estery ale, intricate in body and nose, all driven by a unique Belgian yeast strain. Remember, good things DO happen to good people. Here's to being good!" (source).
  • Anderson Valley El Steinber, $2.69/16oz (can) - "Borders. We’ve crossed into uncharted territory with our newest release, El Steinber. In our somewhat unusual take on the style, we add Midnight Wheat malt to give this lager its dark brown color and roasted Indio-Hispano blue corn to lighten the body and create a unique, toasty flavor. German pilsner malt and Saaz hops round out this beer producing a crisp, clean finish and smooth drinkability that is perfect for any occasion" (source).
  • Brooklyn Summer Ale, 1.69/12oz - "Brooklyn Summer Ale is a modern rendition of the "Light Dinner Ales" brewed in England throughout the 1800's right up until the 1940's. They were also called "luncheon ales" or even "family ales", because they were refreshing and flavorful without being too heavy. We brew our Brooklyn Summer Ale from premium English barley malt, which gives this light-bodied golden beer a fresh bready flavor. German and American hops lend a light, crisp bitterness and a citrus/floral aroma resulting in a beer with a very sunny disposition. FOOD PAIRING Excellent with salads, seafood, quiches, and lightly spicy dishes. It's also great at a brunch. SPECS Style: English Style Light Dinner Ale Malts: Two Row British Malts Hops: German Perle and American Cascade, Fuggle, and Amarillo Alcohol: 4.5% by volume Original Gravity: 11 Plato" (source).
  • Abita Golden Ale, $1.69/12oz - "Abita Golden is a crisp, clean continental lager. Just four ingredients is all it takes: American malt, Mt. Hood hops, German lager yeast and pure Abita spring water. As the name applies, Abita Golden has a brilliant gold color" (source).

Vander Mill Cider | Now in 16oz Cans

  • Vander Mill Hard Apple Cider,  $2.99/16oz - "We use a unique blend of Michigan apples to balance acidity and fresh apple flavors. This is a very approachable cider that is lightly carbonated and should be served cold in a pint glass" (source).
  • Vander Mill Blue Gold, $2.99/16oz - "This semi-sweet cider has a very well balance of sweetness and acidity. We use our traditional cider as a base and blend in blueberries. This gives Blue Gold its deep and rich color. A very approachable cider for the novice, and refreshing for all" (source).
  • Vander Mill Totally Roasted Cider, $2.99/16oz - "This cider was specially made for a draft customer in Grand Rapids, MI.. We are using over 4 lbs. of homemade cinnamon roasted pecans in a 30 gallon batch of this limited edition cider to bring you Totally Roasted. You will notice that soaking pecans in cider brings a unique texture and taste to the drink. We use cinnamon and vanilla during the roasting process and follow that up by adding whole cut vanilla beans to the cider. These subtle tastes certainly make this a cider all it’s own" (source).


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Siciliano's Suggests a Six Pack for Summer

A super summer sixer
By Doug Dorda

Lately we hear it more and more: “Hey, can you suggest some summer-y beers?” The requests seem to have been spurred on by the general swath of good weather that we have been seeing over the past weeks. I myself lust for the lazy sun-drenched afternoons, tubing down rivers, extended camping trips, and piling food onto a charcoal grill.

It is no small wonder that people, myself included, take advantage of summer seasonal beer offerings mid-spring in an effort to provide their taste buds with a preview of the season to come. In the spirit of easy strolls on the beach and wild, lingering sunsets, I'm suggesting six of my favorite beers to complement the season of sun.

  • Sam Adams Porch Rocker, $1.59/12oz - A wonderfully crisp and refreshing ale that is imbued with the flavor of tart and slightly sweet lemon. An American take on the Bavarian raddler.
  • Anderson Valley Summer Solstice, $1.99/12oz - Per their website, “A cream soda for adults.” Enough said. 
  • Shiner Ruby Red Bird, $1.49/12oz - If Summer Solstice is a cream soda, this is a ginger ale. Red Bird is packed with thirst quenching ginger and grapefruit that are only too inviting on a hot summers eve.
  • Sierra Nevada Summerfest, $1.59/12oz - A no frills, Bohemian-style pilsner that balances earthy hop notes with an exquisite underlying malt nuance.
  • New Belgium Shift Pale Lager, $1.59/12oz - It’s hard to describe the beer better than they do in this video.
  • Brewery Vivant Farmhand, $2.69/16oz - A farmhouse ale with enough fruity spicy funk to end up drying on the palate while being complex enough to leave the drinker contemplative. 
Bear in mind that this is just one person's suggestions, and I could easily write two more blog posts for two more six packs. I would, however, love to hear from you folks about your favorite summer beers. Please comment with your own six pack suggestions that we might all perhaps discover something new for this summer.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The 10th Annual Homebrew Party: The Boss' Recap

By Steve Siciliano

During the peak of the Homebrew Party last Saturday, Stan Hieronymus walked up to me with a smile on his face and a tasting glass in his hand. I hadn’t seen him for a few hours but I knew he had been busy mingling with the homebrewers, graciously signing both their new and dog-eared copies of Brew Like a Monk, Brewing with Wheat and For the Love of Hops, sharing his encyclopedic knowledge of brewing with them, answering their questions, tasting their homebrewed beer. “This is quite extraordinary,” he said, and then, “How did it all begin?”

I had to think for a moment. It had been ten years since that first party in a Polish Hall on the lower west side. “We thought it would be a good way to bring the homebrewing community together,” I said finally. I just couldn’t think of a better answer.

The party has grown and evolved over the last ten years. It has certainly gotten bigger. I think it has gotten better. But the reason we threw that first party ten years ago remains the same.

This is all about community.

We'll have more pictures from the 10th Annual Siciliano's Homebrew Party in coming days. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

New Beer Friday, Homebrew Seminar & Party Edition (5/10)

Stan Hieronymus
By Chris Siciliano

After hosting a successful event like last weekend's Big Brew on Calder Plaza, you'd think the crew at Siciliano's would take a Saturday off. Not so with this bunch. Another big weekend for area homebrewers kicks off this afternoon (Friday, May 10), with celebrated beer writer Stan Hieronymus signing books at Siciliano's from 3 to 5 p.m.

If you can't make it up to Siciliano's for the signing, don't worry. Stan is also speaking at this year's annual homebrew seminars. The seminars are scheduled to take place from 6 to 10 p.m. tonight in the covered pavilion at Johnson Park in Grand Rapids. Stan and our other speaker, Walter Catton—who is opening a distillery in Holland—will each speak at length and answer questions on their respective areas of expertise.

Enthusiasts interested in attending the seminars are not required to purchase tickets in advance—cost for the seminars is $5 payable at the door. The same is not true for Saturday's 10th Annual Homebrew Party, however. Unfortunately, tickets for this event sold out weeks ago and, at this point, anyone without a ticket will have to wait until next year to attend. If it's any consolation, here's the list of the latest beers to arrive at Siciliano's Market.

New (and Returning) Beers at Siciliano's Market

  • Arbor Demetrius Barrel Aged Sour Double IPA, $17.49/750ml - "Arbor Brewing Company is proud to offer this exclusive, limited-edition, hand-packaged and bottle-conditioned ale in the Belgian Aged Pale tradition. Our interpretation of this rare Belgian style was created by aging our Larry Hoppe Double IPA for six months in gueuze-innoculated oak casks and then bottle conditioning for a minimum of two months. The result is a unique ale with a bright golden hue, moderate carbonation, and a burst of complex fruity, spicy, sweet-tart, and earthy flavors, with a quenching acidity in the finish. As with most bottle-conditioned ales, there may be a thin layer of sediment on the bottom of the bottle. For best results, uncork slowly and decant gently into a glass without disturbing the sediment" (source).
  • Oberon Mini Kegs, $19.95/5L mini-keg - "The five-litre cans feature a new design every year and have become somewhat of a collector's item. This year's look features a canoe paddling through a waterway that's an amalgamation of Michigan rivers and lakes. The design comes from Kent Elliott, Creative Director at Black Lab Five in downtown Kalamazoo" (source).
  • Bardic Wells Apple Clu, $10.49/22oz - "Honey apple wine with hops. Bardic Wells' Clurichaun is a perfect tribute to its mischievous Celtic namesake. With each lightly carbonated sip the combination of honey and hops mystifies the senses. Its potency is wryly belied and by the bottom of the bottle, Clurichaun has elusively worked its magic" (source).
  • Bardic Wells Raz Clu, $10.49/22oz - "Honey raspberry wine with hops. Bardic Wells' Clurichaun is a perfect tribute to its mischievous Celtic namesake. With each lightly carbonated sip the combination of honey and hops mystifies the senses. Its potency is wryly belied and by the bottom of the bottle, Clurichaun has elusively worked its magic" (source).
  • Vivant Big Red Coq, $2.69/16oz - "Citrus with mango & pineapple notes give way to a big malty character. Made with our house Belgian yeast to give it that Vivant-ness you would expect" (source).
  • Right Brain Dead Kettle IPA, $6.49/22oz - "Dead Kettle has a nice hoppy nose with them exploding on the palate. Very refreshing for the hop heads. It’s Dead Kettle, because during the first handful of brews, the kettle would die. So John made due and stumbled onto this. A happy accident. We also got a new guy to fix the burner unit. Oh, dry hops really help" (source).
  • Kuhnhenn Simcoe Silly Ale, $5.89/12oz - "This Pale American Belgo style beer was 2010 GABF’s silver medal winner. It has notes of spicy pineapple, mango bubblegum aromas which comes from the unique marriage of a special Bel-gian yeast and an American Simcoe hop. This beer has an initial soft malt sweetness with orange fruitiness and finishes with a hoppy dryness" (source).
  • Kuhnhenn Aldebaran, $5.89/12oz - "An Imperial Red IPA made with caramel rye malt and many other exotic malts. Made with very generous quantities of Summit and Newport hops, this beer is quite a balanced treat. Our brewers decided they wanted more out of an IPA so they used a Belgian yeast strain giving it a wonderful Belgian like aroma" (source).
  • Unity Vibration Bourbon Peach Kombucha, $7.89/22oz - No commercial description available.
  • Unity Vibration Kombucha Pale Ale, $7.19/22oz - "No commercial description available.
  • Dogfish Head 61 Minute IPA, $2.89/12oz (2 bottle/person limit) - "The continually hopped India Pale Ale brewed with Syrah grape must" (source).
  • Left Hand Twin Sisters Double IPA, $10.09/22oz - "Thanks for purchasing another offering in our series of "Big Mo" Beers. For as long as people have inhabited Colorado’s Front Range, the Twin Sisters have had a strong impact on Colorado residents. The views from atop the 11,428’ peaks are breathtaking and afford sweeping views of the entirety of Rocky Mountain National Park. As an expression of admiration we have crafted an ale that exhibits a profound impact all its own. At 11428 IBU’s (just kidding), Twin Sisters is a mountainous testament to hops, and that they bring. A feeling of ease and relaxation become apparent for all whom would dare to climb it. So for all that enjoy summiting ales with copious hops additions to achieve a felling of contentment and awe, we offer Twin Sisters Double IPA" (source).
  • Southern Tier Plum Noir, $9/2922oz - "Plums are a diverse group of species, with somewhere between 19 & 40 varieties depending upon whom you ask. We’re using what we consider to be the best to brew with. the Italian plum has beautiful dark skin & the flesh is perfect for fermentation. Plum Noir’s mild sweetness is derived no necessarily from the many malts we use. A bit of plum flavor is present as well as earthy, toasted grains, & hints of caramel with mild coffee overtones" (source).
  • Southern Tier 2xSteam Double Uncommon, $1.99/12oz - "Brewed with 2 varieties of hops and 3 types of malts. ABOUT THE BEER STYLE: Double Uncommon BREWED SINCE: 2013 ABV: 8.0% FERMENTATION: Lager yeast at ale temperature, two varieties of hops, three varieties of malts COLOR: Deep Gold EFFERVESCENCE: Light carbonation NOSE: Earthy, woody, slight mint aroma FLAVOR: Lightly toasted malts with woody and earthy hops, subtle but firm bitterness BITTERNESS: Low BODY: Low-medium SERVING TEMPERATURE: 40-45ºF GLASS: Nonic pint, mug AVAILABILITY: Spring-summer / 12oz (6pk and 24 bottle cases) / Draught CELLARING: 40-45ºF" (source).
  • Odd Side Ales Simcoe Sensation, $1.99/12oz - "Session IPA" (source).
  • Atwater Traverse City Cherry Wheat, $1.99/12oz - "TC is the cherry capital of the world and now Montmorency Cherries from this colorful town in Michigan’s 'Up North' have made their way into a wheat beer for the ages, for a taste that’s totally cherry" (source).

LO Nuevo Sorbo A Sorbo 2010 Garnacha | Featured Wine

LO Nuevo Sorbo A Sorbo 2010 Garnacha, $10.49/750ml - "Mildly smoked red bell peppers mingle with freshly ripened cherries in a cascade of medium tannins that leave the palate pleasantly dry." (Tasting notes from Doug Dorda and Sarah "Cheetah" Derylo) 

Vote GR for Beer City USA

Let's Lay Claim to the Title of Beer City USA

By Steve Siciliano

Like every Grand Rapidian who is passionate about craft beer,  I am hoping that our town retains the coveted designation of Beer City USA. I’m not going to present a litany of reasons as to why Grand Rapids is more deserving of this honor than the other cities in Charlie Papazian’s poll. Plenty of folks have already done that, sometimes with extreme jingoism and prejudice, in the comments section on the online polling website. While I certainly believe that our city deserves the Beer City USA designation, at the same time I have to admit that there are other cities around the country that are equally worthy of this moniker. Since this is the case, I see no reason why we have to wait to see if the title is once again bestowed on us—we should just simply claim it.

What I’m suggesting has precedents. Detroiters call their city Hockytown despite the fact that each of the other six original NHL cities can also lay claim to that moniker. Tampa is known as Cigar City even though Miami probably produces just as many stogies. There are many cities around the world that are known as “the city of churches.” The lesson is this—if we want our city to be known as Beer City USA we just need to begin calling it Beer City USA.

I believe that all we need to accomplish this is a coordinated marketing campaign. If a few of our more visible businesses and institutions begin changing their names there will be a trickle down effect. I think Beer City Arena has a nice ring to it, as does the Beer City Grand Hotel, Beer City State University and Beer City International Airport. It wouldn’t take long before we would be seeing Beer City Pizza, Beer City Tool and Die, the Beer City Café, etc. Maybe the last three options are more viable.

Let the other cities around the country slug it out each year for the arbitrary title. Grand Rapids will be the real Beer City USA, in part, because we say it is, and mostly, well, because we know it is.

Help render the bossman's argument unnecessary. Vote now for Grand Rapids as Beer City USA for 2013.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Roadbelly: A New Michigan-Centric Foodie Magazine

By Chris Siciliano

We're helping spread the word about Roadbelly, a hip new Michigan-centric foodie magazine currently in the works from a collection of the area's most creative (hungry/thirsty) people. Here's the description from their website:
Roadbelly is about uncovering real, honest food & drink, and telling the stories. A crew of more than 20 creative, award-winning individuals from photographers, writers, editors to illustrators, programmers and designers have committed to launch RoadBelly. We strive to motivate. We hope to inspire. We are for purpose, NOT for profit. You won’t find any ads in here. Roadbelly is awesome chefs and grassroots eats. Slow food, surly brews, meads, and more. So hitch a ride with us as we seek out pure, edible, drinkable joy.
A free, downloadable preview of the magazine—including a story I wrote on bread/baking—is available now on the Roadbelly homepage, with the first full-length print edition coming this summer. Learn more about the Roadbelly mission by watching the video below.

Roadbelly Website Promo from John Boros Productions on Vimeo.

Monday, May 6, 2013

2013 Big Brew Event on Calder Plaza: The Boss' Recap

By Steve Siciliano

The weather was perfect, the truck with the brewing water showed up on time, the buildings surrounding the Calder Plaza are still standing and Coldbreak Brewing’s custom-built six-manifold chilling station worked admirably. In other words, the major concerns that caused me a sleepless night on the eve of the first annual Siciliano’s sponsored Big Brew on Calder Plaza never came to pass. There were a few minor hiccups of course—hiccups are inevitable when putting on an event of this size and scope—but in the coming weeks we’ll do some hindsight evaluation and figure out the ways that we can make the second annual Big Brew at the Calder even better.

As I was visiting with the brewing teams on Saturday I was amazed by how everyone was so excited to be a part of this event. That alone made all the planning, hard work and that sleepless night worthwhile. The Siciliano’s team did the planning but in the end it was the forty-eight brewing teams that should receive the major recognition for making this event what I consider to be a huge success.

I would like to thank Grand Rapids mayor George Heartwell for taking the time to visit with the brewers and for participating in the country-wide toast to the culture of homebrewing.

Special thanks to Boyd Culver and the Coldbreak Brewing team and to Greg Masck for his truly invaluable assistance. We couldn’t have pulled this off without them.

Mashing in

Stay tuned to The Buzz. More photos from the event are coming soon.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

New Beer Friday, Big Brew on Calder Plaza Edition (May 3)

Forecast: 72 and sunny for Saturday's
Big Brew Event on Calder Plaza
By Chris Siciliano

I don't know about you, but after an especially trying, rain-soaked April, I'm welcoming the month of May with open arms. The promise of better weather (it can't get worse, can it?) combined with a full event calendar at Siciliano's—including our 10th Annual Homebrew Party and the 2013 Homebrew Seminars—has everyone around here buzzing with anticipation.

Kicking off the month, of course, is the first-ever Siciliano's-sponsored AHA Big Brew Event on Calder Plaza. This celebration is just one of hundreds of such "Big Brew" events taking place nationwide this Saturday to celebrate the culture of homebrewing.

Our event in downtown GR will be the one of the largest to date, with 48 teams of homebrewers brewing up 48 identical recipes all in one central, meaningful location—right in the heart of Beer City, USA.

While there is no space for more brewers, the event remains open to the public. Curious beer lovers can stop by Calder Plaza anytime between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to experience the event for themselves, free of charge. Just be prepared to show your ID if you want to sample some tasty homebrew. If you're of age you'll win a wristband and a small tasting cup.

For those who can't make it to Calder Plaza on Saturday, rest assured that Siciliano's Market will be keeping normal business hours, which brings us, finally, to the point of New Beer Friday: the new beers at Siciliano's.

New (and Returning) Beer at Siciliano's Market

  • Founders Double Trouble, $3.09/12oz - "An imperial IPA that was brewed to turn your world upside down. Hops have got you coming and going. Pungent aromatics up front paired with a malt balanced backbone and a smooth bitter finish. 86 IBUs" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Immort Ale, $4.09/12oz - "Vast in character, luscious & complex. Brewed with peat-smoked barley, this strong ale is brewed with organic juniper berries, vanilla & maple syrup. It’s aged on oak and fermented with a blend of English & Belgian yeasts" (source).
  • Dogfish Head SahTea, $14.39/22oz - "A modern update on a 9th century Finnish proto-beer. Brewed with rye, we caramelize the wort with white hot river rocks, then ferment it with a German Weizen yeast. In addition to juniper berries foraged directly from the Finnish country-side we added a sort of tea made with coriander, cardamom, lemon grass, Indian Black Tea, and ramps leaves. The spicing is subtle and balanced and Sahtea is a highly-quaffable, truly-unique brew with a full-mouth feel" (source).
  • Sam Adams Porch Rocker, $1.69/12oz - "Samuel Adams is currently in the process of brewing up a German style called “radler.” The name radler translates to “cyclist,” A 50/50 (ish) blend of beer and lemonade. (Like a shandy). Perfect for any summer day, Samuel Adams® Porch Rocker was inspired by traditional Bavarian Radlers that mix beer with German-style lemonade. For our bright and citrusy Radler, we blended a Helles beer with lemon for a fresh-squeezed lemon taste, effervescent sweetness, and slightly tart, refreshing finish. A light malt character and hint of hops balance out this summer brew" (source).
  • Ommegang Fleur de Houblon, $2.89/12oz - "Nothing is more evocative of summer than the beautiful aroma of flowers, and the favored flowers of brewers are hops. Our brand new summer ale, Fleur de Houblon (Hop Flowers), is brewed to bring the many elements of summer into a refreshing and easy-to-drink Belgian-style ale. Fleur de Houblon is a rich gold color with distinct floral hops in the aroma that follow through in the taste. Whole-cone Bravo hops are used to impart their earthy, fruity, and floral aromas and flavors. The body and flavor are clean and dry, with pleasing complexity and spicy notes from both primary and secondary fermentation with our unique Ommegang house yeast" (source).
  • Anderson Valley Bourbon Barrel Stout, $10.79/22oz (1 bottle/person limit) - "Complexity. Aged for three months in Wild Turkey Bourbon barrels, this luxurious stout has a deep ebony hue and a beautiful mahogany head. The woody, vanilla-like notes imparted by the barrels mingle with aromas of fresh baked bread, toffee, and espresso and envelop the rich chocolate and roasted barley flavors with a fine bourbon character. Our exclusive partnership with Wild Turkey gives Anderson Valley a world class, consistent source of barrelage, allowing our brewers to explore new frontiers in barrel-aged craft beer" (source).
  • Anderson Valley Summer Solstice, $1.99/12oz cans, $2.19/12oz bottles - "Summer Solstice Seasonal Ale is not just your average summer seasonal. This unique copper colored ale is smooth, malty, and lightly sweet, with a delicate hint of spice for that oh-so-drinkable, extra velvety flavor" (source).
  • Harpoon Hoppy Belgian Style Blond, 6.69/22oz - "This is a delightfully drinkable Belgian-style ale with a big kick of American hops. A Belgian yeast strain, Bastogne, was used to brew this beer giving it a fruity/spicy character. A generous dose of hops – including Galaxy, Simcoe, Chinook, and an addition of whole Cascade hops – yields a powerful hop nose and flavor. The finish is sharp and satisfying. It’s a real winner" (source).
  • Hebrew Funky Jewbelation, $12.59/22oz - "The eighth member in Shmaltz Brewing’s Limited Engagement Barrel-Aged series, Funky Jewbelation features a blend of six ales and lagers from the Shmaltz beer lineup aged in bourbon and rye whiskey barrels, and hustles in at 9.4% alc. Funky Jewbelation is an expert mash-up of Jewbelation 15 (aged seven and ten months), Origin Pomegranate Strong Ale (aged 11 months), Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A. (aged 12 months), Messiah Nut Brown Ale (aged 6 months), Coney Island Lager (aged 12 months), and Albino Python (aged 3 months)" (source).
  • Bells Consecrator Doppelbock, $2.69/12oz - "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).

Steve on 1340 AM | Picture of the Week

Steve talks Big Brew Thursday on 1340 AM