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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Epic Brewing Company Glutenator: Review

Available now at Siciliano's
By Doug Dorda

Having thus far detailed the umbrella flavor profiles of gluten-free (GF) beers fermented with sorghum and kombucha—they being either sweet and fruity (New Grist, Bard's, Redbridge) or savory and tart (Unity Vibrations)—the gluten intolerant may wonder if they are to be subject to an endless rearranging of the aforementioned fermentables to the constant avail of, “It’s all I have available to me.”

To their extreme credit, Epic Brewing Company noticed the trend and saw fit to enter into the arms race of ale-ternative offerings. Enter Glutenator, an ale fermented with millet, sweet potato, molasses and brown rice, effectively allowing it to stand apart from its brethren and become something unique in a seemingly unidirectional world.

Aromas of sweet potato and molasses dance lively out of the glass and provide the opening act for the enjoyment of this ale. Not to be outdone, a lively cascade (see what I’m getting at here) of american hops burst through the fermentables' assertions and guide imbibers to new taste perceptions in GF beers. For all the aromas of molasses and yam, one may wonder if it lingers on the palate, or would be perceived as “large bodied.” I’m here to confirm that this is simply not the case. Glutenator plays across the tongue with a medium-light body, mingling tastes reminiscent of fruity esters akin to those found in many of our favorite Anglo-Saxon styles of beer. One may also be surprised to discover that the levels of carbonation in the ale work to breed a sense of familiarity in a drinker's mind and further the illusion that this ale may have been fermented with either wheat or barley.

The question I have been attempting to provide answers for with this series remains this: “Do any of these gluten-free beers taste like traditional beer?” And often the response is a muddled philosophical delve into past beer preferences, etc. Glutenator, however, provides a new answer to the question at hand. This GF offering provides a beer that tastes similar to the beer we intend when we cast these words toward a friend, “I just want a beer, man.” Here is a beer that can be found wondrous if tasted academically, and simply enjoyed when we want for nothing but a chair and a little of Michigan’s beauty to behold. I mean to say this, you may taste this ale and find yourself blissfully unaware of its gluten free origin. Also, here is an ale crafted to exist outside of stylistic definitions and is therefore unencumbered by preconceived notions of how it should taste. It simply is, and simply is good.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Steve's Monday Musings: A Royal Obsession

King George III
By Steve Siciliano

Any American with access to a television, radio or the internet is now undoubtedly aware that a royal birth occurred last week in England. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I didn’t even know that Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge were expecting.

The extensive news coverage afforded in our country of the blessed event across the pond is a good indication of to what extent many citizens of The United States are captivated by Britain’s monarchy. I find this fascination ironic as our founding forefathers to a man had a deep distaste for King George III, Great Britain’s reigning sovereign during the time of the revolution. Compounding this incongruity is the fact that the royal couple decided to name their little bundle of regal joy after that irascible old coot.

There is little doubt that there is a fascination, perhaps even an obsession, with Britain’s royal family in this country. This quite possibly is due to the fact that Americans would love to love their country’s leaders but find that somewhat impossible to do after they’ve elected them. The machinations of political office have a way of transforming even the most lovable into the unlovable.

Perhaps what we need in this country is royalty of our own—a fatherly king or motherly queen who remain distanced from politics; a titular figurehead who is elected every four years along with the president and vice president. Personally I would cast my vote for the most Falstaffian of candidates—someone who loves drinking copious amounts of beer and wine and who is not afraid to be photographed with a barbecue sauced smeared face at a county fair.

The hundred million or so in yearly tax payer dollars that it would take to maintain the sovereign would certainly be a small price to pay for not having to live vicariously through Britain’s royalty. I imagine that manufacturing one or two fewer cruise missiles per year would free up the funds.

Friday, July 26, 2013

New Beer Friday, Steve's Famous Chicken Edition (July 26)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

We’re in the midst of grilling season and while I like my burgers, brats, steaks and dogs as much as the next guy, I have to admit that during the dog days of summer my favorite grilled meat is chicken. Slathering the fowl in barbecue sauce is always good but even better in my book is dipping breast filets in an olive oil wash, coating them in Italian bread crumbs and then grilling them over high heat to a dark golden brown.

I like to accompany the grilled chicken with a side dish of pasta. When vine ripened tomatoes are in season, Barb and I will use the ripest and juiciest to make fresh sauce with sweet onions, basil and a touch of sugar. Since the good tomatoes are still a couple weeks away we recently dressed our fettuccine with a simple mushroom sauce we concocted with a one ounce package of Earthly Delights Stir Fry Mix dried mushrooms. We reconstituted the mushrooms in vegetable broth then sautéed them in the broth along with a touch of olive oil and seasoned them with garlic salt and red pepper flakes. When the pasta was served, we topped it with grated Parmesan a handful of fresh, chopped basil.

Pair this light, flavorful and healthy dish with a bottle or two of good pinot noir. Or, if you're feeling especially adventurous, try it with something off this week's list of new (and returning) beers.

New (and Returning) Beers

  • Jolly Pumpkin IO Saison, $15.49/22oz - "Ale brewed with rose hips, rose petals and hibiscus" (source).
  • Arcadia Cellar-Aged 3 Year Cereal Killer, $10.49/22oz - "Clear amber to copper pour with a thin beige head. Nose consisting of apple, plum, caramel and booze. Malty and caramelly flavor with a light fruit finish" (source). user tasting notes.
  • Founders All Day IPA, $19.89/12pack cans - "The beer you’ve been waiting for. Keeps your taste satisfied while keeping your senses sharp. An all-day IPA naturally brewed with a complex array of malts, grains and hops. Balanced for optimal aromatic and a clean finish. The perfect reward for an honest day’s work and the ultimate companion to celebrate life’s simple pleasures" (source).
  • North Peak Wanderer, $1.99/12oz - "North Peak Wanderer is a Session IPA. This exciting new style is balanced with malt and hop characters and has a clean finish. The combination of full hop flavor and lower alcohol gives Wanderer a a wonderful drinkability! Wanderer has a light, clean and refreshing body, and is hopped with Perle, Willamette, Centennial and Citra hops that gives Wanderer a Citrus and Pine finish. Wanderer is rounded out with a generous amount of dry-hopping with Citra hops to fill the nose. It is brewed in Traverse City, MI, on Old Mission Peninsula incorporating locally grown hops" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Tumbler, $1.59/12oz - "Sierra Nevada uses malt within days of roasting at the peak of its flavor to give Tumbler a gracefully smooth malt character. Two-row pale, crystal 40, chocolate and smoked malts give it a malty complexity. Challenger hops in the boil add balancing bitterness, while more Challengers and some Goldings give just enough hop flavor in the finish to balance all that malt" (source).
  • Great Lakes Brewing Co. Silver and Gold, $3.29/12oz - "Our silver anniversary isn’t about gold medals. It’s about 25 years of passion and heart. Silver & Gold IPL represents our past and present, from original brewmaster Thaine Johnson’s Dortmunder Gold recipe and engineer Charlie Price’s vision for our Brewhouse to our ever-growing family of beers. Silver & Gold IPL is for our neighbors who’ve shared pints and stories, for the fans who’ve challenged us to be exceptional from day one, and for us-a bottled reminder of how far we’ve come. Brewed with a complex blend of American hops and a mixture of specialty malts, Silver & Gold IPL is bold yet well-balanced, dry yet refreshing. With respect for tradition and a nod to the future, we toast to the next 25 years" (source).
  • Paw Paw Brewing Co. K.U.A. Extra Pale Ale, $1.79/12oz - "American style pale with great aroma & citrus notes" (source).
  • Midland Brewing Copper Harbor Copper Ale, $1.79/12oz - "Copper colored, clear Ale with off white head. Smooth, crisp, easy drinking. Lite hop aroma, slight grainy flavor. Delicate malt finish. Great opportunity to expose the non craft beer drinker to craft beer" (source).
  • Midland Brewing Co Dublin Street Stout, $1.79/12oz - "A full bodied American stout that is creamy, smooth, and full of malt. Black patent and chocolate specialty malts lend roasty, chocolate, and coffee notes, as well as a pleasantly dry finish" (source).
  • He'brew Hoppy Variety Pack, $24.39 (no splits) - "Four hop-centric, 12 ounce beers in one Hoppy Variety Pack equals a very happy hophead. The Hops In HE’BREW Hoppy Variety Pack® is made up of Genesis Dry-Hopped Session Ale®, Hop Manna IPA®, Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A.® and HE’BREW’s debut seasonal lager — David’s Slingshot Hoppy Summer Lager®" (source).

Question of the Week

Do you have your own name or term for hangovers?
If so, what is it?


Friday, July 19, 2013

New Beer Friday, Perfect Fall Evening Edition (July 19)

Given the brutal heatwave we're currently experiencing here in Michigan, we thought what better time to revisit Steve's meditation on fall, written in October 2011.

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

If I was an artist I would try to capture the colors on canvas—the golden light from the lowering October sun filtering through the browning leaves on the walnut tree, the greenness of the freshly mowed lawn, the splashes of red, yellow and orange on the tall backyard maples, the fading purple of a few stubbornly clinging clematis and the black speck of a hawk floating high overhead against a cloudless blue sky.

But there’s no way a painting could capture the sound of the occasional ground thumps of the heavy, green-jacketed walnuts. Nor could it catch the intermittent squadrons of sparrows bursting from the thick crown of one maple and lighting in another, nor the wide, lazy circles being made by that high floating hawk.

Barb and I sat on our backyard deck sharing a bottle of homemade Noiret that paired wonderfully with the sights and sounds of that perfect October evening. Ellie May, our idiosyncratic but lovable lab/terrier, incessantly snuffled around the deck following the movement of whatever animal it was that had made its home underneath.

Every so often I would yell “squirrel” and we laughed while Ellie interrupted her snuffling to bolt out to the walnut tree. Miss Lizzie, the four-year-old golden retriever we recently adopted from the Human Society, lay heavily at our feet. Lizzie has the typical sweet face of a golden retriever but the body of a potbellied pig. It’s obvious that whoever had Miss Lizzie before us fed her a steady diet of people food.

Later there would be a bottle of homemade Foch with pasta and grilled chicken and a Tigers’ playoff game for dessert, all of it a nice way to end a perfect evening in October.

This preamble originally appeared on The Buzz on October 6, 2011. The list of this week's new beers originally appeared below, just now.

New (and Returning) Beers

  • Brewery Vivant Trebuchet, $4.39/16oz - "Somewhere there is a Belgian Monk who’s head is spinning. A Belgian brewer would never put this much hop into a beer. However, we are not Belgian are we? We can do whatever we want. This is an unconventional beer. Belgian candy sugar, classic Belgian yeast, and a boat load of hops, plus some dry hopping in top of that. A very unique take on a Double IPA that will make it stand out in a crowd" (source).
  • Atwater Traverse City Cherry Wheat, $1.79/12oz - "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).
  • Odd Side Ales Oh Me So Hoppy To Wheat You, $1.99/12oz - American pale wheat ale. 4.5% abv. No commercial description available.
  • New Belgium French Aramis, $4.79/22oz - "Made with Bravo, Czech Saaz and French Aramis hops, French Aramis IPA is the latest great beer brewed up in the New Belgium Hop Kitchen. This dry IPA is perfect for refreshing afternoons of summertime drinking" (source).
  • Newport Storm Summer Heffeweizen, $1.79/12oz - "In 2012, we changed the style of our summer offering from an IPA to an unfiltered Hefeweizen ale. Over 80% of the grains this brew are derived from malted wheat which lends an exceptional softness to the palate. Naturally underlying, but not overpowering, banana esters arise on the nose, providing an exceptional addition to enjoying this beer’s experience. We LOVE these flavors and they are brought out by the yeast, so we made a decision to leave this beer 100% unfiltered. Hence, there is a natural yeast sediment in the bottles that you can chose to decant off of or swirl up to be poured into your favorite tasting glass. Lastly what makes this beer truly unique is addition of hops after this beer’s fermentation: we have chosen the perfect combination to give a 100% natural citrusy lemon aroma and taste alleviating the “obligatory” orange wedge garnish" (source).
  • Newport Storm Hurricane Amber, $1.79/12oz - "The first offering from the Coastal Extreme Brewing Company blends some of the world’s finest ingredients into a delightful beer. In producing our amber ale, we selected the highest quality European and American malts and hops. This ale has a malt character which is delicately balanced with its hop profile so that consumers of all levels enjoy drinking it. Hurricane Amber Ale is a full flavored beer which clearly has more taste than other domestic and imported light beers while at the same time does not overpower the drinker with heavy body or excessive bitterness. So find yourself a cold ’Hurricane’ and ENJOY! SPECS: 16 SRM, OG 1.046, FG 1.007, 5.2% abv, 24 IBUs. Malts: Pils, Munic, Crystal. Hops: Tettnanger, Magnum" (source).
  • Newport Storm Rhode Island blueberry, $1.79/12oz - "Our Year round blueberry brew is a hybrid Kolsh style. Fermented at colder temperatures, but using our American Ale strain minimizes conflicting fruity esters. We feel that the addition of juice from real, hand pressed, Rhode Island Blueberries shouldn’t have to compete with the natural fruit background of the yeast. Pale Malt makes up the base of the grist bill, but this brew also calls for a large amount of malted wheat, an ingredient that lends a soft mouthfeel to the beer. Further there is enough caramalt to ensure a sweetness everyone will enjoy. Hops are chosen to compliment and balance the brew as it is bittered with a small amount of Magnum and flavored with English Pilgrim to lightly accent this truly unique Ale" (source).
  • Newport Storm Will West Coast IPA, $1.79/12oz - "Newport Storm has always done things a little differently, but we like to think it’s for the better! Cyclone Will is no exception- this beer is as big and bold of a hopped-up beer as we’ve ever brewed! Following true West Coast IPA style, this latest in the Cyclone Series is nothing but pounds upon pounds of delicious hops! Named after the 4th founder of Newport Storm- Will Rafferty- who hails from the West Coast himself!" (source).
  • Newport Storm IPA, $1.79/12oz - "After 13 years of brewing excellence, we deemed it time to produce a year round IPA style. Because a well made, well balanced IPA is a work of art, we took our time with this one and added our own local spin onto it. First we needed a substantial malt backbone to not only create the 6.5% abv, but to compliment later lupulin additions. Heavy doses of Munich Malt and Cara malt help to add body, mouthfeel and a touch of sweetness. Canadian wheat malt also lends to the great foam and head retention. 5 different hops are added at 7 different times in this brew, and the majority of the massive, complicated, but delightful hop profile is derived from Columbus and Cascade hops from the kettle boil (bittering, flavor, and aroma additions). The real icing on this masterpiece, however, comes from literally searching the near and far: Brewmaster Derek Luke married Annie Sherman, a Kiwi citizen in late 2011, visiting New Zealand for their honeymoon. Upon return, Derek came back raving of the legendary Motueka hop. Craving to satiate the “near and far desire,” this hop is added in conjunction with Chinook hops grown right here in RI from Ocean State Hop farms during the lengthy dry hopping process. The result: A fantastic IPA 100% produced locally with local hops, yet worldly in its own right!" (source).
  • Boulder Brewing Company Hoopla Pale Ale, $1.89/12oz - "Hoopla Pale Ale is dry-hopped with generous amounts of Glacier hops for a fruity, floral hop aroma and flavor that will have your taste buds dancing! Its lively hop character is wonderfully balanced with a crisp, clean finish from the unique blend of US and German grains, making Hoopla the perfect companion to festival season" (source).
  • Boulder Brewing Company Buffalo Gold, $1.89/12oz - "Buff Gold has been a Colorado favorite since 1989. A true gold ale that is an easy drinking, lively carbonated stampede of flavor. Silver medal World Beer Cup 2000. Malt: US Light Caramel and 2 Row Malted barley. Hops:Nugget,Williamette, and Cascade" (source).
  • Boulder Brewing Company Sweaty Betty, $1.89/12oz - "Sweaty Betty Blonde is a refreshing, unfiltered Bavarian-style Hefeweizen. The Weinstephan yeast gives this brew subtle hints of clove and banana with an attractive, hazy blonde color. For the best flavor, rouse any settled yeast by swirling the bottom of the bottle" (source).
  • Boulder Brewing Company Single Track, $1.89/12oz - "13.2P" (source).

Question of the Week

What's your best cure for a monumental hangover?
Let us know in the comments section down below—who knows,
you might just save somebody's weekend.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Trattoria di' Stagione: A Review

By Steve Siciliano

Bombay Cuisine owner Balwinder Bal clearly has had some difficulty in getting another business to take root in the space adjoining his popular Eastown eatery. Bal had previously operated a sports bar in the adjacent location and he followed up that venture with a restaurant that focused on southern American comfort food. Bal’s third attempt might just prove to be the charm as he has now partnered with former Tuscan Express chef/owner Dan Chudik to open Trattoria di’ Stagione, a restaurant that is offering some of the finest Italian cuisine in the Grand Rapids area.

Just as he did at Tuscan Express, Chudik makes the pastas and sauces for Trattoria di’ Stagione from scratch and he is using only fresh, local ingredients in the preparation of the restaurant’s seasonal Italian dishes. Barb and I have been so impressed with Chudik’s culinary talents that we have visited the trattoria three times since its May opening.

On one of those visits we began our meals with a breadcrumb stuffed, oven roasted artichoke—a traditional Sicilian dish that I have never seen outside my mother’s kitchen. On another we opted for a more ubiquitous Italian restaurant appetizer, but rather than being deep fried and accompanied with a side of red sauce, the pieces of calamari were lightly sautéed in olive oil with tomatoes, chilies and lemon and were served with chunks of fresh avocado.

The trattoria’s entrees have been just as innovative and just as expertly prepared—linguine with clams (Manila clams, white wine, garlic, chilies, parsley), pappardelle (with roasted mushrooms and fresh asparagus) ravioli (stuffed with porcini mushrooms and covered with a mushroom cream sauce) and a gnocchi dish that rivaled my Italian grandmother’s.

Dan Chudik is proving once again that having a surname that ends in a vowel isn’t a prerequisite to cook innovative and outstanding Italian cuisine. Because that cuisine is being combined with a professional wait staff and a small but affordable wine list, I have a feeling that Trattoria di’ Stagione will be a part of the Grand Rapids restaurant scene for many years to come.

Trattoria di' Stagione is located at 1420 Lake Drive in Eastown, Grand Rapids. Visit their website or Facebook page for hours of operation and other useful information.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

New Beer Friday, Clown Shoes Edition (July 12)

By Chris Siciliano

No doubt about it—the hottest arrival on this week's New Beer Friday is Clown Shoes Beer Company out of Ipswich, MA.

Technically, this beer belongs on last week's NBF, as it came in sometime during the day last Friday. However (and here's us pulling back the curtain on the vast goings-on behind the scenes at Siciliano's), most New Beer Fridays are actually written on Thursday night. From time to time—last week for example—the latest, greatest new beers don't make the list right away. Our sincere apologies for showing you how the sausage gets made.

But I digress. Here's a little about Clown Shoes, courtesy of their own website.
Something’s happening, and it involves clown shoes and beer. Clown Shoes? Very long story, but to condense it a group of us submitted the name to the Beer Advocate contest that resulted in The Wrath of Pecant. Our submission didn’t crack the top 5. This burned me up inside. While driving one day the epiphany came: I could make my own Clown Shoes beer. In no way did I expect to create a brand, figuring it would be one batch of beer for fun and then done. But folks are digging the brews and a group of us are having a great time. Clown Shoes has come to mean a lot to me on a lot of levels. Clowns are questionable but the shoes make me laugh. They remind me about humility and to find humor in life. Our mission now is to produce beer without pretension while being free and a little crazy.
Enjoy New Beer Friday, everyone, brought to you lovingly from the not-too-distant past, a.k.a., the waning hours of Thursday night.

New (and Returning) Beer

  • Clown Shoes Tramp Stamp Belgian-style IPA, $2.79/12oz - "Like a stamp on a tramp, this beer is about not so subtle seduction. Soft but complex malts, Chambly yeast, sweet orange peel, Columbus, Amarillo, and Centennial hops have merged to create a bodacious Belgian IPA" (source).
  • Clown Shoes Hoppy Feet Black IPA, $2.79/12oz - "Hoppy Feet has been lovingly crafted by combining premium malt with lots of Amarillo and Columbus hops. Grapefruit and Pine are balanced on the nose and on the palate by a nutty, dark chocolate, roasted backbone" (source).
  • Clown Shoes Clementine White Ale, $2.79/12oz - "Clementine is beer conceived in a dream, in the middle of a blistering beatdown of a day. We used Clementine, sweet orange peel, coriander, and summit hops to smack that mean day upside the head with a refreshing clown shoe" (source).
  • Clown Shoes Crunkle Sam, $12.09/22oz - "We brewed Crunkle Sam, an American Barleywine Ale dry hopped with Citra hops, to celebrate America. America, we love you: thank you for allowing Clown Shoes to set off a few fireworks in the craft beer world" (source).
  • Clown Shoes Porcine Unidragon, $15.09/22oz - "This is Blaecorn Unidragon made with Beechwood Smoked malt, which adds a natural meaty note (there is no actual meat in the brew). Aged 100% in bourbon barrels. Little piggies run, squeal to the heavens: Clown Shoes wishes you luck" (source).
  • Clown Shoes Chocolate Sombrero, $10.39/22oz - "Roasted dark malts plus extra chocolate malts plus ancho chile plus cinnamon plus organic vanilla extract plus a chocolate eating, beer drinking, Clown Shoes wearing, multi limbed, gorgeous and glorious Mexican wrestler on the label. That’s the recipe for a Chocolate Sombrero!" (source)
  • Clown Shoes Vampire Slayer, $10.39/22oz - "In a world full of uncertainty, hardship, and people trying to hold us back, do we need Vampires, too? Clown Shoes says "No! Die, monsters, die!" Our second anniversary ale incorporates signature dark malts, holy water, and malt smoked locally with hickory, ash, and vampire killing stakes" (source).
  • Clown Shoes Muffin Top Belgian-style Triple IPA, $10.39/22oz - "Intense flavors, reminiscent of candied fruits, mixed with American hops and sweet orange peel to create a unique take on a Belgian-Style ale" (source).
  • Clown Shoes Blaecorn Unidragon, $12.09/22oz - "What should we call our Russian Imperial Stout? Black Unicorn? Soul Dragon? Nohhh. Let’s combine them and create the ultimate mythical creature: Blaecorn Unidragon. Imbued with a monstrous amount of dark malt and aggressive hops, Blaecorn Unidragon is a powerful and complex brew designed to improve with age" (source).
  • Rogue Honey Kolsch, $11.49/22oz - "Situated just across from 40 acres of Rogue hops, 119 colonies of bees were carefully kept and fed and the honey was uncapped, extracted, filtered, and finally infused into a refreshing Honey Kolsch ale" (source).
  • Shorts Spruce Pilsner, $1.99/12oz (limit 2 bottles/person) - "Imperial Pilsner Brewed with Northern Michigan Spring Blue Spruce tips & healthy doses of high Alpha Hops, aromatic earth tonic of the resinous piece pungens and humulus lupulus" (source).
  • Brooklyn Silver Anniversary Lager, $14.39/22oz - The Brooklyn Brewery is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. We are fortunate to be a part of the incredible cultural renaissance Brooklyn has enjoyed during the last quarter century. Four great Brooklyn artists whom we met along the way—Fred Tomaselli, Roxy Paine, Joe Amhrein and Elizabeth Crawford—have created special labels for our Silver Anniversary Lager beer. We are saluting our beginnings with a special doppelbock version of the Brooklyn Lager we introduced in 1988. This beer is re-fermented in the bottle and will taste great today or years from now. The original was inspired by the beers of 19th Century New York and Vienna" (source).
  • Cerveza de los Muertos Dia de los Muertos Hefeweizen, $1.79/12oz - Sorry. No commercial description currently available.
  • Cerveza de los Muertos Amber, $1.79/12oz - Sorry. No commercial description currently available.
  • Cerveza de los Muertos DOA IPA, $1.79/12oz - Sorry. No commercial description currently available.
  • Cerveza de los Muertos Blonde Ale, $1.79/12oz - Sorry. No commercial description currently available.
  • Cerveza de los Muertos Porter, $1.79/12oz - Sorry. No commercial description currently available.

Pointless Beer "Fact" of the Week

"In Great Britain alone, 93,000 liters of beer
are rumored to be lost each year in facial hair" (source).


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Good Vibrations, Sweet Sensations: A Review of Unity Vibration

By Doug Dorda

Good vibrations, sweet sensations
Adorning the same shelf as gluten-free (GH) beers based off of sorghum fermentability, there may be found another class of "alternative beer" that is based upon an ancient drink famous for its ability to enrich a drinker's vitality and improve his or her overall quality of life. I’m speaking of the GF beers offered by Unity Vibration, a Michigan-based company that produces non-alcoholic as well as alcoholic kombucha

Those familiar with kombucha are sure to note that the beverage is characterized by a pronounced acetic acid bite that is the object of lust for those who regularly enjoy the fermented tea. Those who can not quite grasp what acetic acid may taste like will be pleased to discover that the taste is very similar to those found in many wild fermented beers, or most closely to the profile of “sour” that one may experience while drinking a lambic, the most prolific of which being those made by Lindeman's

While kombucha often contains little to no alcohol, the folks at Unity Vibration have allowed the organic cane juice—the sweetener of their beverage—to ferment three times, ultimately yielding a higher alcohol content. The first fermentation is comprised of creating the kombucha tea. The second blends the fermented tea with organic raspberries, ginger, peaches, or juniper, and the mixture ferments again in bourbon barrels. The final fermentation takes place in the bottle and is responsible for the creation of carbonation.

It is important to note that all of the additives in Unity Vibrations beer are raw, organic and, of course, gluten free. Having noted that the beverage is now alcoholic and wonderfully flavored by one of many choice organic fruits or roots, the question that remains is this: Do the beers taste like beer?

Earlier I made mention that the acetic acid produced during kombuchas fermentation makes the taste of these GF beers similar to the taste of fruit lambics. Those who did not know better may even assume that the raspberry offering of Unity Vibrations could be a pour of Lindemans framboise. However, we again find ourselves at the mercy of perspective as pertains to these offerings. Did you, as a classic beer drinker, adore and long for the sweet/sour bold and yet delicate nuances of wild beers in the Belgian universe? Those who answer yes will be more than happy to discover that the same family of contrasting flavors are presented in a package devoid of gluten thanks to the people at Unity Vibration. 

Personally, I find each of their offerings, being ginger, raspberry, peach bourbon, and juniper pale, to be wonderful beverages if not entirely reminiscent of classic beer as we (non-celiacs) know it. Each raw and organic flavoring promised by the label of the beer is found, and never found wanting. Never will you taste one of these beers and cry “artificial!” as pertains to the taste in question. I find that each beer begins with a cane juice sweetness on the palate that quickly gives way to a showcase of its particular flavor and dries nicely before the finish thanks to the savory acetic acid that wonderfully contrasts the fore-palate.

Unity Vibration produces the ginger and raspberry in both 12oz and 22oz bottles, while the peach bourbon and juniper pale come in 16oz sizes. I highly recommend that both the gluten intolerant and tolerant give them a try.

Friday, July 5, 2013

New Beer Friday, Hombrew Convention Edition (July 5)

Philadelphia City Hall
Preamble By Steve Siciliano

Last week my wife Barb and I traveled to Philadelphia to attend the American Homebrewers Association’s national conference. This was our first AHA conference and we were highly impressed. The topics of the seminars were wide ranging, the speakers were excellent and the various social activities over the course of the four-day event were efficiently run.

Barb and I made some valuable contacts with the folks who run the AHA and we got some good insights and ideas on the various ways Siciliano’s might participate next year as a sponsor when the convention comes to Grand Rapids. We met and socialized with a lot of like-minded folks who are passionate about craft beer and the enriching hobby of homebrewing. Since it was also our first visit to Philadelphia, we made sure we set some time aside to explore the City of Brotherly Love.

I like big cities and Philadelphia is certainly a big one. I liked the cacophony of its busy streets, the fast moving streams of people, the street entertainers and the idiosyncratic neighborhoods. I liked coming across the quiet pools of humanity lounging in its sculpture-filled squares and tree-shaded parks. I liked how its gleaming new buildings are juxtaposed with its historical, soot-stained old.

There are a lot of bars in Philly. We hit dive bars, craft beer bars, gay bars, Irish pubs, bars that call themselves cocktail lounges and a joint in South Philly called The Happy Birthday where the bartender and all the patrons were chain smoking. In an incredibly crowded Monk’s Café, Barb and I squeezed between fellow conventioneers and shared a bottle of Cantillon gueuze. In the gay bar I drank Allagash White, in the cocktail lounge a Yuengling out of a long neck bottle and in the Irish pub a perfectly poured Guinness.

Wherever we went we made it a point to talk to the friendly locals. In one bar we were schooled on how the Philadelphia accent is different from the South Philadelphia accent and in another we learned how passionate Philadelphians can be about sports.

“How are the Phillies doing this year?” I asked a bartender.

“They suck!”

“How did the Flyers do?”

“They sucked.”

“How are the Eagles going to be?”

“They’re gonna suck!”

When I told him I was a Lions fan he shook his head sympathetically and bought me a beer.

Speaking of beer, here's the latest to arrive on the shelves at Siciliano's.

New (and Returning) Beers at Siciliano's

  • Petrus Aged Red, $5.19/12oz - "Oud Bruin fermented with cherries" (source).
  • Timmermans Blanche Lambic, $7.29/750ml - "There is no other beer like Timmermans Tradition Blanche Lambicus anywhere in the world because it is the only white lambic beer. By adding spices such as coriander and dried orange zest, a light, fruity beer is created. It is subtly spicy and deliberately made cloudy. Should ideally be drunk from an authentic stoneware pot" (source).
  • Dominion Hop Mountain Pale Ale, $2.29/12oz - "Hop lovers, this is the beer for you. Four different styles of American hops are artfully staggered against a sturdy malt backbone to create a unique, drinkable and balanced Pale Ale" (source).
  • Three Heads Brewing Co. Loopy Oatmeal Red Ale, $3.39/12oz - "WE LOVE HOPS! Their tantalizing aromas. Their diverse and succulent flavors of citrus and spice. All the amazing ways they can be used in brewing. 3HB dedicates the Loopy to our favorite plant, the Humulus Lupulus. Enjoy the waves of tropical fruit intertwined delightfully with a creamy, velvety malt blend. Come get Loopy with us!" (source).
  • Three Heads Brewing Co. Too kind, $2.79/12oz - "Our mamas always taught us that you can never be too polite. In their honor, we decided to test that theory with the Too Kind. It has everything you love from the Kind IPA but jacked up to an out-of-this-world level. A hop exuberance of pine, citrus and love that plays nice with others" (source).
  • Stawski Lager, $1.99/12oz - "After searching for over 50 years for a lager worthy of my family name, I am proud to present the finest imported lager available. From my family to yours, enjoy!" (source).

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