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Friday, January 25, 2019

New Beer Friday, Homebrew Competition Edition (Jan 25)

By Steve Siciliano

From its humble beginnings sixteen years ago, the Siciliano’s Homebrew Competition has developed into one of Michigan’s most respected competitive homebrewing events.

We are pleased to announce that once again, this year’s Best of Show (BOS) brewer will have the opportunity to brew his or her winning recipe at a local brewery. The BOS winner will also receive a $500.00 gift card to Siciliano’s Market and, per tradition, will have his or her name engraved on the prestigious Siciliano’s Cup. See below for contest rules and regulations for the Sixteenth Annual Siciliano’s Homebrew Competition. Good luck, everyone!

    • Every homebrewer is allowed one (1) beer entry. All entries must be brewed by the registrant on a homebrewing system. Please do not submit entries under the names of significant others, insignificant others, siblings, offspring, distant relatives, estranged roommates, pets, fictional characters, imaginary friends or anyone else. 
    • Beers are submitted according to the 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines. Ciders and meads are excluded from this competition. If you are unsure of which is the correct style for your beer, contact us and we will help. 
    • Entries require two (2) plain, unlabeled/unmarked 12-ounce amber bottles. Please no clear bottles or bottles of any other size. 
    • We are again using Reggiebeer as our competition website. Go here to enter your beer and print bottle labels. 
    • The entry fee is $7.00. 
    • The total number of contest entries will be capped at 200. Do not delay in submitting your entry. Once the cap is reached no additional entries will be accepted. 
    • Online registration for entries will be accepted from Monday, March 18 through Sunday, April 14 or until 200 entries are submitted, whichever occurs first. 
    • Entries must be received by Sunday, April 14. Entries will not be accepted after that date. If mailing an entry, please include paperwork and submission fee. Ship in a well-packed box to: Siciliano’s Market // 2840 Lake Michigan Dr. NW // Grand Rapids, MI 49504
All entries in the Siciliano’s Homebrew Competitions are judged by industry professionals and/or trained judges according to the standards of style, not in comparison to each another, with the exception of Best of Show. Entries that receive scores falling within designated point totals will be awarded bronze, silver or gold medals. A reminder too that we are looking for judges and stewards to help us evaluate all that homebrew. Judging will be held on Saturday, April 27 at 17 Seward Avenue in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Registration for judges and stewards is now open. Please visit this page for sign-up information.

New and Returning Beer

  • Batch Brewing Empire Pale, $2.79/12oz - "American Pale Ale featuring Michigan grown Empire Hops. Light and crisp with a nice floral/fruity finish" (source).
  • Batch Centennial Pilsner, 2.79/12oz - "A German style pilsner brewed with whole Michigan-grown Centennial hops and Weyermann malt. Light straw colored, clear with a bright white foam. Aromas of fresh herbs, grapefruit and freshly kilned pilsen malt. Dry, crisp and lightly bitter" (source).
  • Atwater Bavarian Cream VJP, 1.99/12oz - No commercial description.
  • Brewery Vivant Space Queen Immortal, 5.79/16oz - "Sour Golden Ale aged in oak barrels for one year. Double dry-hopped with with Citra and Amarillo" (source).
  • Brewery Vivant Nordhouse IPA, 3.79/16oz - "Juniper IPA" (source).
  • Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree, 4.69/12oz - "We actually took the Crooked Tree recipe and doubled all of the ingredients except the water, just the way a DOUBLE should be made. Big hops balanced with tons of malt give this beer a huge body. Enjoy right away or let it mellow and smooth with some age" (source).
  • Mitten Doc's No-No, 3.29/12oz - "Our house Double IPA showcases honey malt and a single hop varietal. This batch features Mosaic hops" (source).
  • Cheboygan Cherry Chocolate, 2.99/16oz - "A cordial stout rich in malts, dark chocolate and cherries. Reminiscent of its namesake this ale is the perfect blend of decadent chocolate and tart cherry" (source).
  • Perrin Soops Joos, 4.29/16oz - "Soops Joos is our first double dry hopped New England IPA. Blending an array of exotic hops, this NEIPA finishes super juicy" (source).
  • Petoskey Robusta Nut, 2.79/16oz - "Robust porter, brewed with shredded coconut amd cocoa nibs, meshing nicely with the rich coffee undertones" (source).
  • Pura Still Spiked Water, 1.79/12oz - "The first spiked water that doesn’t need bubbles to keep things interesting. Made with a splash of coconut water and a hint of fruit flavor" (source). Available flavors: Mandarin Orange, Blackberry and Mango.
  • Dogfish Head The Perfect Disguise, 2.79/12oz - "On the surface, The Perfect Disguise looks like a straightforward Kölsch with a crisp Kölsch yeast and traditional German malts and hops … but things aren’t always what they seem. With a quick sniff and a slight sip, you’re greeted by a creamy mouthfeel and full body thanks to the addition of a unique German chit malt - the first hint that this beer may be somewhat different. Hiding deeper behind that German disguise is the double dry-hopping of an American Double IPA, with nearly 4 lbs. of German and American hops per barrel. It brings tropical flavors of citrus, tangerine, mango, gooseberries and peach" (source).
  • Incline Cider, 2.79/12oz - "Utilizing only 100% fresh pressed apples as the base for ciders that stand in a category of their own." Flavors available: Scout Hopped Marionberry Cider, Explorer Hopped Cider, Compass Rosé Hibiscus Cider (source).
  • New Planet Seclusion, 2.39/12oz - "An India Pale Ale brewed with light malts and dry hopped to create a hop forward citrus note. This four-times hopped IPA is robust and aromatic with just the right amount of bitterness" (source).
  • New Planet Tread Lightly, 2.19/12oz - "A well balanced and easy drinking ale with subtle citrus hop character and a crisp, clean finish. As refreshing as a summer ale but made to enjoy all year" (source).
  • Ommegang Saison Rosé, 5.89/12oz - "We’re pleased to announce Saison Rosé, a new limited edition blend that will make you want to “rosé all day.” This blend of saisons, one aged in oak, the other brewed with hibiscus flowers and co-fermented with chardonnay grape juice, is fruity, tart, dry, and incredibly quaffable" (source).

Image of the Week | Best of Show

Homebrewer Phil Pierce celebrates winning Best of Show
at the 15th Annual Siciliano's Homebrew Competition.


Friday, January 18, 2019

New Beer Friday, The Beauty of Beards Edition (January 18)

With Steve out of town, we're taking the opportunity this week to repost one of our favorite Buzz pieces — an explanation from now-retired advice columnist (Hey Kevin) regarding the evolutionary reasons so many professional brewers wear beards. Enjoy!

Darwin's Beard
Q: Hey Kevin, Like many obsessed homebrewers, I aspire to become a professional brewer one day. Just one thing worries me: my beard sucks. It’s patchy at best and sorry in general. It seems like a lot of pro brewers wear beards. What are my chances of succeeding in the beer world if I can’t grow a sweet face-coat?

—Chuck in Bay City

A: It depends, Chuck. How are you at adapting? Conventional thinking has it that brewers grow beards in order to identify each other in large groups of people. Recently scientists have uncovered evidence suggesting something else is at work. Evolution.

Have you ever seen a bloodhound close up? If not, Google it. The distinctive wrinkly face and folds of skin have a very important job to do — they trap scent from the environment and direct it toward the bloodhound’s greatest tool. Its nose.

Though the professional brewer is tracking neither rabbits nor convicts on the run, his face full of whiskers functions in much the same way, trapping scent in the thousands of empty pockets created by the confluence of individual beard hairs. It’s these pockets wherein aromas and even flavors are stored for future reference.

When a brewer scratches his beard, it’s not because his face itches. It’s because he’s working on a new IPA recipe. Said scratching prompts the release of microscopic chemical compounds which are directed toward the brewer’s nostrils and up into his brain where they are combined to recreate, or rather pre-create the beer that will eventually find its way into your pint glass.

Research has shown that different flavor and aroma compounds are stored in different subsections of the beard. For example, notes of caramel sweetness are found in the left sideburn while the distinctive grapefruit quality of certain hops is common to the extreme right quadrant of the mustache. Interestingly, the entire “goatee zone” appears to be a scent-neutral locale, storing different compounds at different times, depending on the season. 

It’s important to note that there are successful brewers who do not have any facial hair at all, particularly women but also many men in the industry. Researchers believe (and I agree) that these brewers have necessarily experienced positive biological mutations elsewhere. Studies show, for instance, that members of the beardless population typically score better in the Barron-Shaw Taste-Memory test. Armed with the pronounced ability to remember taste, it would seem the beardless have little reason to store a database of flavor on or near their faces. 

So, the question is ultimately one for you, Chuck. If you can’t grow a beard, in what way can you evolve? 

Hope this helps. 


New and Returning Beer

  • Abita Mardi Gras, $1.89/12oz - "Mardi Gras Bock is the first of our seasonal brews. Abita Mardi Gras Bock is brewed with pale, pilsner and caramel malts and German Perle hops. Our bock is similar to German maibocks with its rich malt flavor and full body. A perfect choice during Carnival season in New Orleans. Gruyére, Emmental and Swiss are nice cheese choices with Bock. Great with roasted beef or pork. Try it with Mexican food, too" (source).
  • Atwater Voodoo Vator, $3.19/12oz - "VooDoo Vator Dopplebock tempers the sweetness of caramel malt with the crisp, more nutty flavor of Munich malt. Despite the depth of color, burnt flavors are not present. Traditional extended lagering makes the VooDoo Vator deceptively smooth though high in alcohol. Be warned" (source).
  • Bell's Flamingo Fruit Fight, $2.19/16oz - "The name “Larry’s Latest” is a nod to the spirit of innovation and experimentation that Larry started in 1985 and continues within the brewery to this day. Our latest Tart Fruit Ale is brewed with passionfruit and lime zest, resulting in a tart blend of tropical, citrus flavors and aromas" (source).
  • Bell's Hopslam Mini Keg, $37.99/5L - "Starting with six different hop varietals added to the brew kettle & culminating with a massive dry-hop addition of Simcoe hops, Bell's Hopslam Ale possesses the most complex hopping schedule in the Bell's repertoire" (source).
  • Boulevard Bou Lou, $4.69/16oz - "Drawing inspiration from the ingredients and flavors that Tech melded in his original cocktail invention, Bou Lou starts with a wheat beer base that’s enhanced by additions of juicy pineapple and tropical coconut. At 5.5% ABV and bursting with fruit flavor, these 16oz cans are ready to be enjoyed at a show, a party, or wherever you need a refreshing beer that reps KC to the fullest" (source).
  • Boulevard Chocolate Ale, $4.69/12oz - "Smooth layers of dark chocolate intertwine with threads of caramel, vanilla, and nutty malt as the flavor warms and rounds to a bittersweet finish" (source).
  • Detroit Garage Project Test Drive PJDIPA, $4.49/16oz - "Pineapple Jalapeño DRIPA collaboration with Wolf Moon Mixers" (source).
  • Lagunitas Daytime, $1.89/12oz - "The beer in this can has achieved what we all hope for ourselves; to be made new again. There is freedom in burning down the house of expectations and it confers an undeniable lightness to being. We didn't invent these truths; they invented us" (source).
  • Revolution A Little Crazy, $2.09/12oz - "A Pilsner malt base provides a nice toasty flavor with hints of caramel and enough fermentable sugar to make this a rather substantial beer. The Belgian-Style Pale Ale is brewed with Magnum, Cascade and Citra hops in the brewhouse and then dryhopped with a blend of Citra and Cascade. This drives home the aromas of fresh citrus rind to make this a very drinkable and extremely aromatic beer" (source).
  • Roak Blow Your Face Out, $3.59/12oz - "A double IPA loaded with Mosaic and Chinook hops" (source).
  • Shorts Not Unofficial, $2.19/12oz - "Not Unofficial is a dry-hopped India Pale Ale brewed with mango and guava in collaboration with Lagunitas Brewing Company. Golden in color and slightly hazy, this beer has huge aromas of juicy tropical fruit. Medium bodied this beer leads with flavors of mango and guava before finishing with dank hoppiness" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, $2.49/12oz - "Bigfoot is a beast of a beer, brimming with bold flavors of bittersweet malt and heaps of aggressive whole-cone Pacific Northwest hops. First introduced in the winter of 1983, Bigfoot is a cult-classic beer brewed in the barleywine style, meaning a strong, robust, bruiser of a beer with the refined intensity of a wine. Bigfoot is prized by beer collectors for its supreme cellarability. Under the proper conditions, it can age like a fine wine, developing new flavors and character as it matures in the bottle. Each new release or “expedition” is vintage dated. Collect your own and see the flavors develop and progress" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Resilience, $1.79/12oz - "When the Camp Fire started in the hills above our Chico brewery on November 8, 2018, it soon became the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. The fire burned more than 153,000 acres, killed at least 85 people, and destroyed more than 13,000 homes. Many of our employees and community members were severely impacted by this tragic event. In the days following the fire, we announced plans to brew Resilience Butte County Proud IPA, a fundraiser beer for Camp Fire relief. We committed to brewing the beer and donating 100% of the sales to the Sierra Nevada Camp Fire Relief Fund, aimed at long-term community rebuilding support. And we asked every brewery in the country to do it with us. We sent out the “bat signal” calling our friends in the industry, asking our suppliers to donate ingredients, asking other breweries (our competitors) to donate their time and labor costs, and asking our wholesalers and retailers to carry the beer for free. It was a big ask, and we never could have anticipated the response. More than 1,400 breweries signed up to brew Resilience. Our suppliers donated ingredients to every brewery nationwide. Wholesalers and retailers agreed to carry the beer and donate every dollar they received. All of them agreed to do this for free to benefit people they had never met. In all, Resilience Butte County Proud IPA should hit the market in mid-late December more than 17,000 barrels—or 4.2 million pints—strong. Every dollar Sierra Nevada receives will go to those impacted by the Camp Fire. Thank you to the brewing community. Thank you to our suppliers. Thank you to our wholesalers and retailers. And thank you to every single customer who is helping us rebuild our Butte County community—one pint at a time" (source).
  • Ska Euphoria, $2.09/12oz - "This seasonal beer is brewed in the DIY spirit along with our friends from Venture Snowboards. We brew Euphoria with them, and they make a Euphoria snowboard with us. We call it a Ska/Venture venture. Both make winter better, and both are hand-crafted in the mighty San Juans" (source).
  • Ska Modus Hoperandi, $2.19/12oz - "Strong citrus aromas followed by pine rise from the glass. As it moves across your tongue... bitterness... following close behind is a melding of citrus and pine with light caramel sweetness" (source).
  • Ska Modus Mandarina, $2.19/12oz - "A unique twist on Modus Hoperandi, this citrus IPA is dry-hopped with a generous portion of Mandarina Bavaria hops and brewed with sweet orange peels" (source).
  • Ska Moral Panic, $2.19/12oz - "A wealth of Galaxy and Citra hops added post-boil give this Brut IPA low actual bitterness and big tropical flavor. Fruity and citrus notes abound in this smooth and refreshing, Champagne-like brew. Moral Panic Brut IPA is well carbonated and spritz; drinks easy and finished dry" (source).
  • Ska Pinstripe Red, $2.09/12oz - "The balance of this beer is what has made it our flagship. The hops simply meld with the caramel malts into a nice sessionable ale. This beer is brilliantly clear and is a beautiful copper penny color" (source).
  • Ska Rue B Soho, $2.09/12oz - "If where you want to go is beer heaven. At first, your nose is treated to the aroma of bright and crisp citrus. Then your tongue is tickled by the carbonation that delivers flavors of tart and light grapefruit juice. Lightly acidulated, Rue B. Soho is a refreshing lager brewed with Cascade hops and grapefruit" (source).
  • Ska Sour Apple Gose, $2.19/12oz - "Tastes like you’re sipping on a crisp apple juice with a bright tartness that’s refreshing, not drying" (source).

Video of the Week | A Rising Tide

Stories from the Michigan's Brewers Guild.


Friday, January 11, 2019

New Beer Friday, Michigan Beer Champion Edition (1/11)

Last night the Michigan Brewers Guild presented Steve Siciliano with The Michigan Beer Champion Award at the Guild’s annual winter conference in Kalamazoo. According to Scott Graham, the executive director of The Michigan Brewers Guild, this award is given to a person who continually strives to promote or protect the craft beer industry in Michigan. Steve was unable to attend the event so Siciliano’s general manager Sarah Derylo read his prepared remarks and accepted the award on his behalf.

Sarah accepts the Michigan Beer
Champion Award from Isaac Hartman
on behalf of Steve Siciliano
Remarks by Steve Siciliano

When Scott Graham notified me that I was to be honored with the Michigan Brewers Guild’s Michigan Beer Champion Award at this year’s Winter Conference, I immediately asked him if there were any other nominees.

Scott chuckled and assured me that there were.

Needless to say, I am humbled and extremely appreciative to be the second recipient of this award. At the same time, I am well aware that there are many other folks in the craft beer industry who are just as deserving of this high honor.

For those of you who are not familiar with the story of Siciliano’s, I’d like to share a brief history of the market. After a five-year stint as a 7-11 franchisee followed by eight years owning a small convenience store in the Creston Heights area of Grand Rapids, I was ready for a new challenge and in the early 90s began looking for a location where I would be able to focus on selling fine wine.

The party store that I bought on Lake Michigan Drive on the West Side of Grand Rapids seemed an ideal location, the only problem being the store was on the verge of going out of business. After remodeling and restocking I began waiting for what I expected to be hordes of customers.

Five years later I was still waiting.

Recognizing that I had to do something to bring people through the door, I made the decision to bring in some hand-crafted beer from a few relatively obscure local Michigan breweries. I distinctly remember the day that I received my first case of Bell’s Amber. After working out the retail I couldn’t imagine that anyone would pay such a high price for a six pack. I decided to price and sell the bottles as singles. It’s a practice that we continue to this day.

The response to craft beer was positive. It’s not an exaggeration to say that craft beer saved Siciliano’s.

There’re two other instances from those early days that I distinctly remember.

The first was when a customer suggested that I begin carrying brewing supplies. I took the suggestion and filled three feet of shelf space with products I knew nothing about. The rest, as they say, is history, and today Siciliano’s has about a thousand square feet of beer- and winemaking supplies.

That customer was Tom Buchanan and whenever I see Tom, he never fails to remind me about that day. I am proud of the fact that a number of professional brewers in this room purchased their first brewing supplies from our store. I’m also proud of the fact that Siciliano’s has become somewhat of a farm team for local breweries and that a number of our former employees work in the industry.

The other instance I would like to share involves the time a sales rep from a local macro beer distributor told me that craft beer was a passing fad and that I couldn’t do what I was trying to do on the West Side of Grand Rapids. I’m happy to say he was totally and emphatically mistaken on both counts.

Before closing I want to say a few words about the good woman who has been standing not behind, but rather shoulder to shoulder, with this very lucky man. Many of you have gotten to know my wife Barb over the years and know how hard she has worked behind the scenes. Barb has been with me every step of the way and she shares in this high honor.

Finally, I would like to recognize our current and past employees. Siciliano’s wouldn’t be the store it is today without their efforts. As some of you may know, for the past year or so I’ve been easing into semi-retirement and now Barb and I are relying on them even more.

In view of this, it is perhaps appropriate that one of those employees, our very capable General Manager Sarah Derylo, is accepting this award on my behalf.

New and Returning Beer

  • Arbor Brewing Faricy's Dry Stout, $2.19/12oz - "To create our World Beer Cup Bronze Medal winning Irish-Style Dry Stout, we blend black malts with roasted and flaked barley to give it a full body, notes of roasted coffee and dark chocolate, and smooth dry finish" (source).
  • Arcadia Salted Caramel Morning Nightcap, $2.19/12oz - "Coffee Porter brewed with BIGGBY Coffee, now with the flavor of salted caramel" (source).
  • Bell's Hopslam, $3.19/12oz - "Starting with six different hop varietals added to the brew kettle & culminating with a massive dry-hop addition of Simcoe hops, Bell's Hopslam Ale possesses the most complex hopping schedule in the Bell's repertoire. Selected specifically because of their aromatic qualities, these Pacific Northwest varieties contribute a pungent blend of grapefruit, stone fruit and floral notes. A generous malt bill and a solid dollop of honey provide just enough body to keep the balance in check, resulting in a remarkably drinkable rendition of the Double India Pale Ale style" (source).
  • Decadent Winter Spice French Toast, $5.49/16oz - No commercial description.
  • Dogfish Head Raison D'extra, $10.69/12oz - "Our Raison D'Etre, with a little extra. This immodest brew, made with an obscene amount of malt, brown sugar and raisins, takes Belgian-style browns to new heights" (source).
  • Elk Brewing Hefe Bridges, $1.99/12oz - "Unfiltered Hefeweizen" (source).
  • Evil Twin Learn What is to be Taken Seriously, $5.49/16oz - "Erase & Rewind #28" (source).
  • Evil Twin/Prairie Bible Belt, $8.99/16oz - "Let’s face it – we love big, flavorful stouts. As luck would have it, our friend Jeppe at Evil Twin Brewing feels the same way. We decided to brew a beer together that took elements from our favorite stouts we each produce to come together as one beer. Bible Belt takes elements we love from Prairie Bomb! and combines them with Evil Twin Brewing’s world famous stout, Even More Jesus. The end result is a smoky, spicy stout that is sure to please the pallet" (source).
  • Fat Orange Cat Write Drunk Edit Sober, $5.69/16oz - "Citra, Mosaic and El Dorado hops" (source).
  • Founders Blushing Monk, $4.59/12oz - "When our love of fruit and our love of beer come together, Blushing Monk happens. Brewed with a ridiculous amount of raspberries for tart yet luscious raspberry-jam character and fermented with Belgian yeast for subtle fruit and spice esters. Think of Blushing Monk as Rubaeus’ older sibling – more intense, slightly larger and just a little bit more mature" (source).
  • Great Lakes Conway's Irish Ale, $1.89/12oz - "A malty beer with a notable toasty flavor derived from lightly roasted malt. Slight fruit and hop accents add to the overall complexity" (source).
  • Hoof Hearted Thanks for Letting us Play, $5.99/16oz - American Pale Ale.
  • Lagunitas Monzango, $2.29/12oz - "The flesh is weak, but the spirit is willing. So, what's at the heart of it? Is it the patient and diligent servant or the committed messenger, through their many routes and vessels? The salient soldier, slinging suds on the front lines daily, or the very brewers themselves? The answer is... we can't tell you here. From seed to sprout to fruit, and back to seed, we're all tangled on the same vine. And while fruit is momentary, the roots hold on for another season. It's all just a matter of perspective" (source).
  • Odd Side Hop Milk, $2.79/12oz - "Milkshake IPA. India Pale Ale with lactose and vanilla added" (source).
  • Ommegamg Brut IPA, $3.79/12oz - "With Brut IPA, we’ve created a distinctively Ommegang expression of this hop-driven style, using high attenuation and bottle conditioning to achieve a bright, dry, champagne-like character" (source).
  • Omnipollo Fatamorgana, $4.99/16oz - "Drawing inspiration from the fidelity of a saison — rustic, alluringly cloudy and crisp — this imperial IPA was brewed using oats and wheat. Dry-hopped twice and completely untouched post fermentation to preserve aroma and flavor" (source).
  • Rochester Mills Milkshake IPA, $2.69/16oz - "A tropical smoothie hop sensation. This IPA combines the citrusy and tropical hop flavors of Citra & Mosaic hops with ripe mangos, subtly sweet lactose and a hint of vanilla" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Brut IPA, $1.79/12oz - "This is our Brut IPA, a new take on IPA brewed for a bone dry champagne-style finish. Late hop additions give the beer balanced bitterness and a bright pop of citrus flavor. It’s as intriguing as it is drinkable" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Sierraveza, $1.79/12oz - "pired by the classic cervezas served ice cold by the beach, we created our own take on those light and easy beers born south of the border. Sierraveza is golden and crisp, with a balanced malt flavor and a hit of floral hops that will have you calling out for another round" (source).
  • Victory Storm King, $2.79/12oz - "A thundering hop presence collides with massive espresso and dark chocolate flavors in our dense and full-bodied imperial" (source).

Video of the Week | Hopslam

Available now at Siciliano's Market.


Friday, January 4, 2019

New Beer Friday, Angling in Asheville Edition (January 4)

Steve with a nice 'bow.
This past November Steve and Barb took a road trip through Kentucky and North Carolina. Go here, here and here to read about the first three legs of their journey.

By Steve Siciliano

In the morning the high regard we had for our Asheville accommodations ratcheted up another notch when we went downstairs and saw the complimentary breakfast that was laid out in the dining area adjacent to the lobby. It was a smile-inducing sight in view of our disappointing meal the previous night. After mollifying our hunger with scrambled eggs, sausage links, fried potatoes and fresh fruit we were ready for a day of fly fishing on the Laurel River.

During the half hour drive to meet up with our guide I kept one nervous eye on the sky and the other on the temperature. My wife loves fly fishing for trout almost as much as I do but she’s a self-avowed fair-weather angler. That early morning sky was threatening and the temperature was hovering around freezing.

When we pulled into a supermarket parking lot in a small burg northwest of Asheville we immediately spotted a silver pickup with rod racks suspended above the bed and a tall young man leaning against the tailgate. “That’s gotta be Paul,” I said to Barb.

Barb with a nice brook trout.
Paul Kisielewski from Southern Appalachian Anglers (SAA) is an excellent guide. On the drive to the river he told us that he began fly fishing at the age of three, has a degree in business administration from Appalachian State and has been guiding on the area’s rivers since forming SAA in 2003. After tucking his pickup in a clearing on the side of a winding mountain road, Paul rigged up the rods while Barb and I put on layers of clothing and slipped into our waders. “My wife’s a bit anxious in the water,” I whispered to Paul while we were walking down to the river.

“No problem,” he whispered back. “I’ll stay with her.”

Sometimes I think Barb feigns nervousness about wading so she can have the undivided attention of the guide.

As usual Barb started off fast, netting and releasing a twelve-inch rainbow and two nice brookies before I even had a strike and, as usual, I began fretting about getting skunked. But by the time we sat down for lunch at a table Paul set up beside the river, I had netted four nice fish of my own. It ended up being a pretty good day both fish wise and weather wise. By mid-afternoon the sky had cleared and the temperature had reached the mid-fifties. Between us we had landed fourteen nice-sized trout.

That night we Ubered downtown and had an excellent meal at The Blackbird. When we returned to our motel we watched Animal Planet and sipped our nightly nightcaps. The next day we were going brewery hopping in Asheville.

Shore lunch.

New and Returning Beer

  • Alaskan Spruce IPA, $1.79/12oz - "This IPA is brewed with Sitka Spruce tips – a flavorful, Alaskan twist on the American IPA" (source).
  • Blackrocks BA Barbaric Yawp, $5.19/12oz - "A burly Scotch ale clocking in at 8.5% ABV and full of malty, smokey flavors. Pairs great with grilled meats and open flames" (source).
  • Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale, $2.09/12oz - "IN REMEMBRANCE OF THE 2005 ST. PATRICK’S DAY MASSACRE and in commemoration of the 20-day suspension that followed, Lagunitas brewed this especially bitter ale. See, the ABC conducted an undercover investigation of our brewery, finding us guilty of operating a “Disorderly House.” We did the crime. We did the time. We got the bragging rights. Watch the full story below…" (source).
  • Southern Tier Samoa This, $4.09/12oz - "We’re well known for our affection for decadent, flavorful, dessert-like beers, which has put us on an endless quest to brew the ultimate indulgence. Our dessert beers are a fusion of flavors, making each of them a perfect pairing when one craves an exceptional stout full of personality. With booming notes of chocolate, caramel, and coconut, Samoa This is our interpretation of the famous seasonal treat. We went to great lengths carefully crafting each flavor, right down to the savory shortbread-like cookie base" (source).
  • Stone Tropic of Thunder, $2.19/12oz & $2.99/19.2oz - "Imagine you set sail for a three hour tour. Let’s say from the Port of Escondido (work with us here). The weather started getting rough. Your tiny ship (but not lunch, thankfully) was tossed. Long story short: You’re marooned on a remote island somewhere near the Tropic of Thunder. The good news is that the Capt. of the S.S. Stone and her brewing kit were among the small cast of colorful characters that survived the rough voyage with you. Mainstays Citra & Mosaic along with newcomer Cashmere hops are joined by their juicy tropical aromas of citrus, pineapple and coconut (try stringing all that together in a catchy tune). The rescue ship will find you all soon enough. For now, set aside the non-working cell phone and lack of social media (again, work with us here), kick back and revel in your moment of tropical island lagoon serenity" (source).

Video of the Week | Lagunitas

Available now at Siciliano's.