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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Spotlight: Unsung heroes of the Siciliano's staff

Dustin & Ren, back room masters
By Steve Siciliano

If you’re as old as I am, you will remember how things were before Michigan implemented a deposit law. Back then you could casually discard the container of whatever American lager you were drinking (this was, after all, 1978) without fretting about that wretched ten cent deposit. Those were the good old days. Out camping for the weekend? Leave a three-day pile of those worthless suckers behind in the woods. Out boating? Leave a watery trail of high floaters bobbing in your wake. On a road trip? Toss the carcasses of the dead glass and aluminum soldiers out the window.

I’m kidding of course. Those definitely were not the good old days. Not only was there no good craft brews back then, we seemed to have little regard for the environment. I don’t know if the deposit law was the main factor in making Michiganders more environmentally aware (you may be surprised to hear that besides Michigan, only ten other states have enacted deposit laws), but I have no doubt that it had a positive impact on cleaning up our state’s landscape. Michigan’s deposit law is a good thing, and this coming from a business owner who has to deal with returns on a daily basis.

Ren pontificates while Dustin laughs

We get a boatload of returns at Siciliano’s. I’m not complaining. We get a boatload of returns because we sell a boatload of beer. But the sheer number of empties we get does present some difficulties. There have been more than a few times when I've had to carve a path through the bottle room to get to the warehouse before our two backroom employees -- Ren & Dustin -- can whip it back into shape. Believe me, the other employees and I certainly appreciate them for doing that.

Our back room guys are not only responsible for sorting and putting away returns, they also do a good deal of the pricing, stocking, cleaning and organizing which allows the rest of us to concentrate more fully on helping our customers. Because these guys toil for the most part behind the scenes and their duties are anything but glamorous, I think it’s about time that we give them some recognition.

Dustin in his element: the bottle room

Our main “bottle boy”, Dustin Olsen, has been with us now for about two years. Dustin is a graduate of Grand Rapids public schools, has a mind like the proverbial steel trap, and a sense of humor that can best described as quirky. He has a keen interest in Ham radios and would probably talk to us for hours about transistors and resistors if we didn’t gently suggest that he get back to work. He delights in walking up to us, cracking a silly joke, then leaving us rolling our eyes in the wake of his big, booming laugh. Since he began working at the store he has developed an interest in the technical aspects of fermentation, has made some very passable beers and mead, and is now delving into the art of soda making. Dustin, 27, lives with his grandmother in Wyoming, MI.

Ren in his domain: the warehouse

Our other back room guy is Ren Hanselman. Ren, 53, is an inspiration to anyone familiar with his story. When he was sixteen he was in a severe automobile accident, suffered a fractured skull, and was in a coma for sixteen days. Despite the severe nature of his injury he graduated from high school, went on to community college, eventually graduated from Ferris with a degree in occupational safety, was accepted into the army, and was ultimately given an honorable medical discharge. Ren is a jack-of-all-trades. He helps Dustin with the returns, does the bulk of the pricing, bags ice, shovels snow in the winter, cuts grass in the summer, and breaks down our weekly shipment of beer- and wine-making supplies.

Needless to say, the contributions Dustin and Ren make are invaluable. We are indeed fortunate to have them on our staff.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Siciliano's DIY Kegerator Contest - Rules & Regulations

Longtime Siciliano's staffer and certified cicerone Kati Spayde takes the lead on our next and newest competition, this one involving homebrew dispensing systems.

Swig & Chug's set-up
By Kati Spayde

Not to revel in my own geekdom, but the other day I was reading This Old House magazine, an issue dedicated specifically to projects TOH readers had completed in the last year. Inside was a photo of the front of a kegerator. A man had found an antique furnace door, refinished it, drilled holes for his shanks and turned it into the front of his draft system.

Not only was this a gorgeous display of craftsmanship, it got me thinking: we have some pretty creative customers here at Siciliano's, many of whom have invested serious time and effort into their kegerators. It seems a shame to let their handy-work go unrecognized. Therefore...

The Siciliano's DYI (Did It Yourself) Kegerator Contest is born!

We want to hear about your draft systems. Send us pictures, tell us the stories behind them -- who/what inspired it, where did you find the parts, what obstacles were overcome. In short, we want to hear you brag about the beauties you've created. The staff at Siciliano's will select finalists from all the entries that come in, but then we're handing it back over to you to vote American Idol-style for the Best of Show winner.

Siciliano's DIY Kegerator Contest
Rules and Regulations
    • All entries will be judged on creativity, craftsmanship and general awesomeness.
      • One entry per person
      • Unit cannot be a store-bought, as-is kegerator
        • Entries may include built-in bar units, free-standing units, jocky-boxes and any other system you can dream up just as long as it pours beer
        • Entries must include at least one photo and a written description not to exceed 500 words
          • Email entries to

            • Grand Prize: $50 Siciliano's gift certificate
              • First Runner Up: $20 Siciliano's gift certificate
              All entries must be received by Wednesday, August 31st, at 1159pm. Finalist will be announced on Friday September 2nd. Judging for Best of show will begin September 2nd right here on The Buzz (

              By entering the contest, participants grant Siciliano's permission to post photos and/or descriptions of their kegerators on this blog. Photos and/or descriptions will be used in no other way and for no other purpose than the one identified here. Contact Siciliano's with questions and/or requests for more information (616-453-9674). Ask for Kati.

              Good luck, everyone!

              Friday, June 24, 2011

              New Beer Friday - June 24th Edition

              This week Siciliano's added a few new labels to its constantly evolving inventory of craft beer and/or other interesting products. Besides four new/seasonal beers, just our second all-time order of bread-making supplies arrived in-store, and with it nine new products never before seen on Siciliano's shelves. Some of these new products might prove useful not only to bakers, but to the more adventurous homebrewers among you as well (the raw agave nectar for example).

              Without question, though, the most interesting arrival this week is Doug "the Chug" Dorda's sweet new Michigan/hop tattoo. Talk about devotion! (Old Chug better hope we don't open a Siciliano's down South and transfer him.)

              New beers this week

                  • Arcadia Whitsun, $1.79/12oz cans - Esquire named Whitsun one of the Best Beers of Spring, 2011. Now that it's available in cans, Siciliano's names it one of the Best Beers of Summer, seeing as how you can take it to the beach and all.
                  • Anderson Valley Summer Solstice, $1.89/12oz can, $2.19/12oz bottle - According to the folks at Anderson Valley, Summer Solstice "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."
                  • Palm Belgian Amber Ale, $1.69/12oz bottle - From the Palm website: "This smooth-drinking, amber-colored, top-fermentation beer has a sensible alcohol content [5.4%]." All depends on your definition of sensible, I guess.
                  • Lilja's Hell Hound Imperial Brown Ale, $1.69/12oz bottle - From Sand Creek Brewing Co. in Black River Falls, WI.
              New bread/baking ingredients

                  • Unhulled, non-malted, organic whole barley, $0.99/lb
                  • Organic Chick peas/garbanzo beans (dried), $2.59/lb - hummus anyone?
                  • Organic whole yellow corn (dried), $1.09/lb - perfect for cornbread or grits.
                  • Blue poppy seeds, $2.89/lb
                  • Organic millet, $1.29/lb
                  • Organic Amaranth, $2.79/lb
                  • Organic Kamut, whole berry, $1.19/lb - an ancient relative of wheat, for use in bread or obscure beer recipes.
                  • Raw organic Agave nectar, $7.89/12oz-bottle - an interesting addition to any homebrew experiment.
                  • Buckwheat, $2.99/lb
               Quote the week

              This week's quote comes from TV's Cliff Clavin...

              “Well, you see, Norm, it’s like this. A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it’s the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members.

              In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Now, as we know, excessive intake of alcohol kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine.

              And that, Norm, is why you always feel smarter after a few beers.”

              Have a brilliant weekend, everyone!

              Thursday, June 23, 2011

              Beer, booze...and books?

              By Steve Siciliano

              Let’s play a little trivia.

              Before Siciliano’s Market began selling beer and wine-making supplies, before there was the walk-in humidor, the extensive inventory of craft beer, the wide assortment of coffee and bulk tea, the nice selection of premium wine, the collection of pipes and pipe tobacco, the cheese-making supplies and, finally and most recently, the flour mill and the bread making supplies, which of the following items could one find upon stopping in the store?

                  • Spaghetti-o's
                  • Lottery tickets
                  • Dirty magazines
                  • Used books
                  • All of the above
              Give yourself a gold star if you said all of the above. When I bought the store nineteen years ago the first three items were inherited, all part of the mix. We sold a lot of dirty magazines and lottery tickets back then but, I have to admit, I can’t recall ever selling a single can of spaghetti-o's. The sad truth is that other than the raunchy magazines, the lottery tickets, and a rather paltry amount of mass-marketed beer and hard liquor, we didn’t sell much of anything. Those were the lean years, the dark ages of Siciliano’s. In an effort to get more people coming through the doors, I thought it would be a good idea to use the vast amounts of open space (yes, believe it or not, back then we had lots of open space) to sell used books. There were more than a few people who thought I was crazy and they were probably right. Working twelve-hour days and being constantly worried about paying the bills can make you a bit daffy. But my admittedly bizarre attempt to establish a used book store within the structure of a “party store” wasn’t sired solely by desperation. I had always thought that it would be wonderful to own a bookstore.

              In view of the direction that the store has grown, there’s little doubt that it’s fortunate that the used book thing didn’t work. But in recent days while watching customers browse through the dozens of titles displayed on our new, beautiful, custom-made book racks, the thought suddenly occurred to me that because our recent expansion has allowed us to build and properly display a rather respectable and sizable book inventory, I guess that means in addition to everything else that the store is—a homebrew shop, a craft beer store, a tobacco shop, a wine shop, a specialty foods store—it can now also be called a bookstore.

              Ever since we began selling beer and wine making supplies, we have always carried and sold a good amount of books related to those wonderful hobbies. (I’m not going to suggest that we have made John Palmer rich, but I am quite certain that we have contributed nicely to his children’s’ college education.) Over the past few years, however, we have been steadily adding titles that focus on the growing interest in “how to” subjects. The problem was that because we had to squeeze these books into our already cramped space, they were scattered throughout the store. It wasn’t intentional, but we were treating our book inventory as an afterthought, rarely if ever giving it the attention it deserved.

              That has changed since the expansion. All the books are now in one location, and a prime location it is, up towards the front of the store. There, on the aforementioned racks, one can find the books on beer making and wine making in addition to those on cheese making, bread making, cider making, mead making, ice-cream making, yogurt making, sausage making and even soap making. Believe it or not we have a book on how to make dog treats. We have cookbooks, books on curing and smoking meats, books on canning, books on gardening, books on whiskey and books on bee keeping. We even have a New Age novel written by an unknown local author.

              It feels wonderful to have a bookstore and I have a feeling that our inventory of books will continue to grow. I think we have enough room for one more of those beautiful, custom-made racks.

              Steve Siciliano is "an unknown local author". His first novel Putting Butterfly Wings on the Thinker is now available at Siciliano's Market in Grand Rapids, MI.

              Tuesday, June 21, 2011

              The Return of Harry Winston

              After an extended absence, Steve's close friend and confidant Harry Winston is back, this time with an enigmatic, Bourbon-fueled post. We've come to expect nothing less from old Harry. He's quite the character. Enjoy!

              Been laying low lately. I have this little place, a hut really, on a lake up north and it’s there where I go whenever I need to be alone. No telephones, no television, no radios. No electricity, no running water. I never bring anything to read and there’s nobody to talk to but the squirrels and birds, chipmunks and loons, hawks, beavers and the occasional eagle. One day I drifted for hours in my old wooden boat watching a high drifting eagle. The eagle and I had a nice long-distance conversation. I go there whenever I need to not think. The Crazy Hippie made a sign that I put above the door that says “No Thinking Allowed”. But I’m back now. I’m back, I’m thinking again, and I’m thinking I’m going to be okay. The other day when I stopped in Siciliano’s, the Perch joked that he’d been checking the obits to see if I was dead. Well, I’m not dead but I should be. I came close, I came real close.

              I’m not going to get into details. Maybe someday I will. Jimmy told me that I should put it all down, that I should write a book. He’s a big fan of Chandler and Hammett, Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade. He loves watching old Bogart movies. Jimmy thinks it would make a good story and it probably would. The story of a hard-boiled private eye who wasn’t as tough as he thought he was, who had a weakness he didn’t know he had, who got mixed up with a very smart, very evil woman.

              Tonight I’m getting drunk. I have a wound that has to be closed and to close it I’m going to need a little anesthesia. I’m finishing my fourth Knob Creek on the rocks and I’ve just motioned to Jimmy for another. When he brought the last one over he wouldn’t put it down until I gave up my keys which means tonight I’ll be sleeping in his office on an ugly couch that he bought at some antique store on Bridge Street between his third and fourth marriage. When I told him once how ugly that couch is he laughed and said the only reason he keeps it is because his fourth wife hated it. Here he comes now with the Bourbon. That a boy Jimmy. Put it on the table then go back to your Bogart movie. But keep keeping an eye on me. And keep that sawed-off pool cue ready in case there are any sharks out there who smell blood and want to even a score.

              I’ve known Jimmy a long time, seen him drunk plenty of times, but not once because of a woman. He’s got the right attitude when it comes to women. Hell, when you get right down to it I guess he’s got the right attitude about everything. “Shit happens,” he always says. “Shit happens, Harry,” he said that day fifteen years ago. Not “I’m sorry, Harry”, or “Hang in there, Harry,” or “You’re better off without her, Harry”. I guess that’s what I get for having a god damn Taoist as a friend. Don’t commiserate with someone’s pain just tell them that shit happens and to go with the goddamn flow. He pissed me off so much I stopped coming around the bar for six months. All I wanted was a little sympathy but I got nothing but “shit happens.” All four of his wives left him and not one time did it bother him. He told me the first one left because he worked too much, the second because he smoked too much, the third because he snores. Yeah, whatever, Jimmy. He gave me some other bullshit reason why the fourth one left but right now I can’t remember it. Maybe it was because of the couch. Maybe it was because he’s a Taoist. Maybe that’s why they all left him. Maybe they got sick of him telling them to go with the flow. Tonight I’m getting drunk because of a woman. Actually I’m getting drunk because of two women. The one who wounded me fifteen years ago and the other who recognized that the wound created a chink in my armor, that it became my Achilles heel, my kryptonite, or whatever other goddamn thing you want to call it.

              Samantha Lowe was smart and she was evil. I say "was" because she’s dead. She’s dead and Charles Brewster is headed for prison. I should be the one who’s dead. The only reason I’m not is just pure luck. Samantha Lowe wanted me dead and she came real close to getting her wish. I’ve said before that you have to be smart in my business but I never saw it coming, never saw how they set me up. I’m getting drunk because it’s time to finally examine a fifteen year-old wound and stitch it up and if it takes a little anesthesia to do it well so be it. For fifteen years I’ve been afraid to look. Maybe you know how it is. Maybe you had once been cut and you knew it was such a bad cut that you were afraid to look. Well it’s time now that I look.

              There, I did it. Doing it was Jimmy’s idea. He told me that when you discover a weakness you have to examine it before you can eliminate it. Well I examined it and I’m quite sure that I eliminated it. I guess time will tell. The next time he looks over at me I’m going to give him the A-OK, the old thumbs up. Thanks for the tip, my friend. I’m going to finish this drink and then I’m off to bed. Or off to the couch. That big, over-stuffed, lovely old couch.

              Monday, June 20, 2011

              Grey collar : The American craft beer drinker's ethos

              By Doug "the Chug" Dorda

              Made of (beer) cheese
              The other night, while sitting on my porch and staring at the moon, I poured myself a Liberty Ale and allowed my mind to wander. Amidst the orchestral notes of crickets and wind, I felt that primal sense of peace familiar to anyone who has taken the time to simply sit and think. In that moment of blissful simplicity, I could not help but smile as I raised my glass and the boquet of northwestern hops filled my senses. The aromatic assault triggered memories of days gone by, my journey to beer, and summers filled with nothing but possibility.

              It's curious that such a simple thing -- a pint of ale -- can incite reminiscence of an entire lifetime's accomplishments. As I sipped it, I began to think in more general terms, or rather what it is that people do to make a living. Musing over the stereotypes of blue- and white-collar designations, I struggled to understand whether or not the distinction applies to the realm of craft beer. Sure, there will always be people with more money than others, and of course there will always be those who work harder than others. However, I began to notice a commonality in the two classes – each being perfectly capable of enjoying the “finer” things in life. Often times I've found myself lost in conversation over a pint at Founders, still coated in grain dust after a shift at Siciliano's, while my companion has only just left an office cubicle. We don't discuss our social status, or net worth, but simply revel in the appreciation of a finely crafted ale.

              While I sipped my Liberty Ale I realized something. We that choose to drink craft beer -- the ecclectic many, the renaissance people, the purveyors of craft and expression -- we are people who have committed ourselves to seeking out and admiring what others have worked so hard for us to enjoy. With each bottle poured and pint savored, we make a silent oath to ourselves and to others: we will find decadence every day, even in something so simple as a well crafted beer. The color of one's collar is not important in this world, as we are all equal and free in our pursuit of whatever it is that brings us joy. The society created is a true melting pot of cultures, creeds, and all other forms of classification that are almost otherwise ignored the moment a conversation about beer perks up.

              As I finished my pint I could not help but feel truly grateful to be involved with this “grey collar” society. The passionate and heartfelt people who comprise it are some of the most wonderful people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. My pint emptied, I smiled, for in this world there is no shortage of possibility. I look forward to having more enthralling conversations, and seeing all of you fellow beer enthusiasts out and about.

              The Chug
              Known in various circles as Dancing Doug, Doug the Chug, Yeti, and Pretty Boy Doug, Siciliano's staffer Doug Dorda is a man not easily defined by only one name. He lives, writes, brews, and drinks in Grand Rapids, MI.

              Friday, June 17, 2011

              New Beer Friday - June 17th Edition

              What's the old saying - you can't step in the same river twice? Seems true enough. Just as true would be to say that you can't shop the same Siciliano's Market twice, not with all the new stuff that comes in every week, new craft beer in particular.

              Here's the list of this week's new arrivals, some hitting the shelves for the very first time, some for the first time this year. Whichever the case, we hope you enjoy!

              This week's new beer

                • Great Lakes Lake Erie Monster, $3.29/12oz - Bittered with Simcoe, flavored with Fuggle, at 9.1% ABV this is, according to the GLBC webstite, "an unfiltered imperial India pale ale with hug hop flavor." (Editor's note: At the time of this writing, we also have a limited supply of sixtels available, $92.00 per 1/6 barrel. Get yours while supplies last!)
                • Steenbrugge Abbey beer, 4 varieties, $8.29/750ml - "In 1084, Arnold of Tiegem founded St. Peter’s Abbey in thriving West Flanders. Legend tells that Arnold, during working hours, would brew beer with which he then used to heal ailing builders. Therefore, not only was his beer much sought after; he himself was declared Patron Saint of Belgian brewers. Luckily, the secret of Steenbrugge Abbey beer’s full-bodied flavor was kept and has since been handed down through generations of brewing masters" (source). Varieties available:
                    • Blond
                    • Dubbel bruin
                    • Tripel
                    • Wit
                • Brewery Ommegang Mixed 8-pack, $21.49 - Don't have time to peruse Siciliano's vast beer selection? With this pre-mixed 8-pack, Ommegang does the choosing for you. Package includes two 12oz bottles of each of the following beers:
                    • Belgian Pale Ale
                    • Abbey Ale Dubbel
                    • Hennepin Farmhouse Saison
                    • Three Philosphers
                • Southern Tier Mocha Stout, $9.29/22oz - an imperial stout brewed with chocolate and coffee (11.2% ABV).
                • Magic Hat Wacko Pale Ale, $1.59/12oz - According to the Magic Hat website, this beer is "the liquid song of summer", not to be confused with "the semi-porous vibrato of mid to late June", which is something altogether different.
              Quote of the week

              "I fear the man who drinks water and so remembers this morning what the rest of us said last night." -Greek proverb

              Thursday, June 16, 2011

              Expansion update: Done!

              By Steve Siciliano

              The boss has some final thoughts on the seemingly never-ending expansion.

              If you remember the sitcom Murphy Brown, you will recall that almost every episode had a scene where Murphy was mildly exasperated by a contractor named Elgin who was the comedic focus of a never-ending house painting project. During our recently completed expansion here at Siciliano’s, there were times that I felt that I was a character in a sitcom, that there were a group of devious writers coming up with fresh, weekly ideas on how to exasperate me, and that there was a distinct possibility that our project, like Murphy’s, would never end. But the project did end, and now that things have returned to normalcy, it’s time to look back, wince at some things, laugh at others, and have a beer or two to celebrate.

              When Barb and I first decided to expand into the vacated space we had no idea that things would get so complicated. We knew we had to receive permission from the Michigan Liquor Control but had no idea we would have to go before the Grand Rapids Planning Commission, that in order to get on the Commission’s May 12th agenda we would have one day to fill out an ungodly form, that we would have to send letters out to the surrounding businesses and homes, that we would have to hold a neighborhood meeting, that the police department would investigate, that the fire department would investigate, that the health department would investigate, and that the latter two would require that changes be made to the existing store. In addition there was the building inspector, the electrical inspector and the plumbing inspector. If someone from the FBI, the CIA, or the ASPCA would have shown up carrying clipboards I wouldn’t have blinked an eye.

              Then there was the hiring of the contractors, the coordination of the contractors, the pleading with the contractors, the sweet talking to the contractors and, a few times, the mildly voicing of displeasure at the contractors. Most of these contractors were good, some were exceptional. I got to know the names of their wives, children and dogs. I listened to their stories.

              In the end the expansion turned out pretty much the way Barb and I envisioned it. (Barb’s contributions to the project from beginning to end were invaluable). We would like to express our appreciation for everyone’s patience during the four plus months when the store was in disarray, and for all the positive comments we are hearing now that everything has been put back together.

              Wednesday, June 15, 2011

              Siciliano's gift-giving guide, Father's Day edition

              These are things your old man does NOT want for Father's day:

                  • The collected works Danielle Steel
                  • The latest Kenny G album
                  • To bail you out of jail
                  • A rash
                  • The first Kenny G album
                  • Any Kenny G album
                  • Tickets to the Ice Capades
                  • A mani/pedi.
              These are things your old man DOES want for Father's day

                  • A mixed 6-pack of Michigan microbrews
                  • A Siciliano's gift certificate (any amount available)
                  • A beer-making equipment kit
                  • Designing Great Beer by Ray Daniels
                  • A new Meerschaum pipe with 2oz. of Black Cavandish pipe tobacco
                  • Sierra Nevada Ovila Dubbel
                  • A Chemex coffee maker
                  • Cigars (promotions below)

              Cigar Specials

              Partagas 3-pack, $18.69 (buy 2 get 1 free). Package includes one each of the following cigars:

                  • Partagas Gigante
                  • Partagas Black Label Gigante
                  • Partagas Spanish Rosado Gigante
              About Partagas Gigante (from the box): Grown in the subtropical climate of Cameroon on the west coast of Africa, Partagas wrappers are unequaled in their rich flavor. To complement their special character, the binders are grown in the famed San Andres Valley of Mexico. The flavorful blend consists of select tobaccos grown in the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

              Partagas "Man of Distinction" Collection, $24.89 (buy 3 get 1 free). Package includes one each of the following:

                  • Partagas Naturales
                  • Partagas Black Label Robusto
                  • Partagas Spanish Rosado San Agustin
                  • Partagas Decadas No. 11
              About Partagas Decadas No. 11 (from the box): This flawless limited reserve cigar was created as a showcase for the exemplary 10-year-old Cameroon wrappers. The result being an exquisite, medium-bodied beauty that will be treasured by cigar lovers everywhere.
              La Gloria Cubana, Serie R Collection, $23.00 (buy 2 get 1 free). Package includes one each of the following:

                  • Serie R No. 7
                  • Serie R No. 6
                  • Serie R No. 5
              From the box: These are cigars to please all the senses. You'll notice their extra-bold bouquet even before lighting up. Their blend of aged Dominican and Nicaraguan filler, rich Nicaraguan binder, and flavorful Ecuadoran wrapper yield a rich full-flavored smoke unmatched by any other cigar.

              La Gloria Cubana, Artesanos de Tabaqueros, $17.39 (buy 2 get 1 free). Package includes one each of the following:

                  • 650
                  • 652B
                  • 750
              From the box: Blended with two different wrappers to accentuate the two different blends, this is a smooth, balanced, and unique cigar that combines the best that the Dominican Republic and Honduras have to offer. You have to try this masterfully blended cigar to appreciate the true genius of this product from La Gloria Cubana.

              Macanudo Cru Royale cigar and Excalibur scorecard wallet, both free with purchase of any three Excalibur or Macanudo cigars (while supplies last).

                  • Wallet includes cigar clip, golf tees, pencils, and room to hold up to four cigars.
                  • Several sizes of Cru Royale cigar available

              Cigar promotion good while supplies last.

              Tuesday, June 14, 2011

              Swig & Chug at the Crystal Mt. Beer & Brat Fest, 2011

              One fine brat
              By Greg 'Swig' Johnson

              This is not the first nor will it be the last adventure of Swig and Chug, the two self-proclaimed beer-seeking adventurers of Siciliano's Market. Just in case you may not be familiar with us, we are Greg “Swig” Johnson and Doug “the Chug” Dorda -- we love good beer and everything it stands for, and we love beer-themed events just as much, the Crystal Mountain Beer and Brat Festival being one good example.

              After its sixth year, the Crystal Mountain Beer and Brat festival has become a red-letter day for people who love the marriage of beer and food. While beer can be paired with just any food dish, it's at its best it seems when paired with the tastiest specialty brats north of the Mason-Dixon Line (courtesy of several Michigan meat markets). Both food and beer require equal amounts of ingenuity and persistence, and with a full understanding of ingredients, even the simplest (brews or brats) can be an astounding experience.

              Cheers, boys. Cheers.
              Now, I am lucky that my family has held onto a sizable chuck of land that was once my great-grandparents farm some twenty miles away from the Crystal Mountain Resort that allows us not only easy access to the fest, but also a great isolated area to enjoy ourselves afterwards. We get to camp, burn wood, eat food, and also drink beer with little to no consequence.

              The trip began with myself, Chug, and four other friends seeking adventure and beer enlightenment. Leaving Grand Rapids in the early morning we reached Manistee and north of it at a respectable time, enough to set up camp, come to terms with the not-so-great weather we were experiencing that day, and shoot off some pistols before we started drinking.

              The scene
              After running into town to pick up a new tree saw and mull, we made our way up to Crystal Mountain for the fest. Overestimating the time it would take us to arrive we actually ended up being the first people in line. This wasn't exactly our intention, but we were quite happy with the situation. The weather at that time was quite a let down, cold, windy, and cloudy. However, this didn't hamper our spirits. After helping the staff hold down the canopies and collecting will-call tickets that started to blow off into the wind, we were soon released into the world of craft beers and brats.

              I won't lie, for the most part the beers offered at Beer & Brat fest are not anything you haven't had off the shelf or tap already; it seems this event is more oriented at getting the golf & newbie crowd to experience good beer, which in that respect is just fine by me. Where this fest really shines is it's brat offerings. The brats ranged all over the place in terms of originality. I had a brat made with morel mushrooms, for example, another with asparagus and white cheddar, and finally a brat made with venison, cheese, jalapeno, & onion (my favorite). Chug tried some other ones as well and, if you ask him, I'm sure he'll indulge your senses with how those brats tasted (they all sounded awesome).

              This way to the port-a-potty
              Brats aside and despite a beer selection that isn't exactly beer-geek exciting, there were many awesome beers on tap. To me, The Livery and Right Brain stood out, specifically the asparagus beer from Right Brain. To be honest, I was hesitant about tasting this beer -- I love asparagus, I love beer, and drinking beer while eating asparagus has happened many times in my life, but I was unsure how the two would meld together into a single beverage. Damn was I shocked. The asparagus beer was one of the best I tasted that day. It possessed none of the vegetal characteristics that I was expecting while being incredibly earthy and refreshing. Also, if I may be so bold, the asparagus quality transferred over to the urinary aspects.

              The Crystal Mountain Beer & Brat Festival is definitely a worth-while venture for a Memorial Day weekend. It's a bit more relaxed than your normal beer fest, allowing children to enter (they also serve sodas) with plenty of seating area. We stayed for about four of the seven hours it was open before heading back down to our camping spot where we burned a lot of wood, drank a lot of Black Label, and ate hobo dinners. The next day we disced [disc golfed] in Whitehall and drifted around West Michigan before eventually heading home. All in all, it was a great beer weekend spent with with people who appreciate good beer and good (safe) times. I would recommend stopping in at this event to anyone who can make it during the Memorial Day weekend. Also, some friends rode the luge down at the end of day, which was entertaining.

              The original TV

              Siciliano's staffer Greg 'Swig' Johnson lives in Grand Rapids, MI, though if there's some kind of beer- or brat-related festival happening anywhere within a 500-mile radius, you will probably find him there instead.

              Monday, June 13, 2011

              Special Report: Founders Fest 2011

              By Wes Eaton

              A version of this post appeared in the June 2011 issue of Recoil Magazine.

              This month, Founders Brewing Company will take its offerings into the streets. More than raising the garage doors and crowding out on the porch, the people at Founders have worked their political muscle to shut down portions of Grandville and Cherry to bring you Founders Fest: a street party fueled by funk- and folk-inspired rock and unnecessarily rash and inefficient, yet downright symbolic beer. What I mean here is that you can find a specific meaning in this beer, one that may strike a fundamental chord deep inside your epicurean longings. When asked, the women and men at Founders will give you their take. If cornered long enough, they'll tell you about Glory. Yes, Glory! That's why they do it, day in and day out, some around the clock: for the Glory. But is that why you drink Founders beer, for the Glory? Likely, not. You, like all craft beer lovers, have your own human, personal, possibly nerdy, but more often than not, integral dispositions on intentional beer decisions: you like what you like. And, as we all know by now, Founders "brews the beer they want to drink." Yes, old hat; but this is exactly where Founders, and more specifically Founders Fest, comes into play in regards to beverage decisions – and music for that matter: to stretch the boundaries of your everyday fancies with both rock and beer and give you a glimpse of Glory, if only from 3pm to 11pm on Saturday, June 18.

              To catch some of the building excitement, I spoke with a few members of the Founders Family busy preparing both the music as well as the beer for this month's event. Founders Brewer and FBC All-Star Bassist D.W. Deschaine has been with Founders since its humble beginnings on Monroe Ave, serving as bar manager before moving into production. Between sips of Solid Gold, Deschaine told me a bit about the upcoming event and why he and the rest of the Founders Family are so excited, while being incredibly busy preparing for the big day. In his words, the event, which takes place on the streets out in front of the downtown Grand Rapids brewery, is "this brewery's way of telling the community that we love everything they've done for us – a party for the people who've supported us and our beer." To show their appreciation, Deschaine and the rest of the team have lined up some great music – as well as some intense brews.

              Let's start with the beer. Although many will be on tap, here's what I'm looking forward to: Devil Dancer, a triple IPA, and a completely unnecessary beverage. When the hop crises hit a few years back, this beer was party to blame. Well, possibly not, but rumor and economic prudence led to the belief it was never to be brewed again. But you know the old saying: "once you drink a triple IPA, a double [IPA] just doesn't feel the same" (no offense, Double Trouble). I'm really not sure how this beer even works, science-wise, as I reckon the ratio of hops to wort is nearly 1:1. What I do know, however, is that the malty sweetness nearly outshines the imprudent hop usage, leaving you with an innocent, near candy-like experience. Hence the name; hidden underneath this sensory overload is something like 13 percent ABV. As I'm writing this, Deschaine is still trying to settle down after a day spent wrestling this beast into the fermenting tank. According to Warehouse Manager Kyle Dood, three-and-a-half pounds of hops are added per barrel – "a horribly irresponsible amount of hops." Overhearing our conversation, Head Cellarman Jason Heystek said so much dry hops are added that, "only one person can fit on the scissor lift" used to get hops into the shiny new fermenter tanks. This beer is as far from necessity as you can get.

              Blushing Monk also makes its return at the Fest. The history of this beer is typical for Founders: take a great beer and double the ingredients, or cut the water in half, and see what it tastes like. The foundation for Blushing Monk is Rubeaus, the fondly remembered but now defunct raspberry beer created by former brewer Nate Walser and Head Brewer Jeremy Kosmicki. The key to Rubeaus was adding raspberry puree to the point where the struggling and by then overstressed yeast gave up, allowing for some natural sweetness to be retained. The key to Blushing Monk is upping the ante on both sides of this battle, doubling the amount of raspberries while arming the beer with an unusually strong strain of Belgian yeast. Despite these tensions, the product seems unified and especially delicious when drunk with abandon out in the streets of the city of its birth.

              Also on deck is Canadian Breakfast Stout: a beer whose processes I am sworn to secrecy under pain of banishment from the production room. What I can tell you is this: wood, maple syrup, coffee, and roasted malts are combined in unusual fashion in the brewhouse as well as the cellar in order to create this black, gooey breakfast shake. Normal breweries stopped doing these sorts of things shortly after the industrial revolution. After trying one of each, I'd recommend taming things a bit with Founders Fest Wheat and possibly a Solid Gold, the local standby. Maybe get out of the sun for a while too.

              Deschaine is as excited about the lineup of bands as he is about the beers. Like many at the brewery, he plays a role in both. Always wanting to turn the spotlight elsewhere, however, the brewer/bassist tells me first about the headliner, Galactic. While this group may be categorized as a premier jam band, Deschaine emphasizes its New Orleans roots, meaning heavy jazz and traditional funk influences. Boston's Rubblebucket is apparently a bit difficult to describe on paper, something like half afro-rock and half Bjork. "If you don't like them, you are obviously disgusted by music in all its forms." I'm a bit confused, so Deschaine puts it more plainly: look for "awesome and total and dissident and funky." Other acts include Terrapin Flyer, The Ragbirds, Steppin' In It, AB! & Coconut Brown and Founders' own FBC All-Stars, Deschaine's own group. Made up exclusively of Founders employees, the All-Stars came about when it became apparent the one-day festival was not long enough to showcase each of Founders' internal bands and a compromise was in order. Deschaine explained that like Christmas, the group only comes around once a year, bringing people "a ridiculous romp through the decades of the 60s, 70s 80s and 90s." And just for fun, brewery fan Mark-Paul Gosselaar ("Zack" from Saved by the Bell) will join lead guitarists Heystek and Kosmicki onstage with the All-Stars for some special shredding. Catch the glory, June 18, 2011.

              Friday, June 10, 2011

              New Beer Friday - June 10th Edition

              Ya'll. Here's this week's list of new beer arrivals at Siciliano's. Enjoy!

              Brand spanking new beers

              Brau Brothers Brewing Company in Lucan, MN. Flavors include:

              • Moo Joos – Oatmeal Milk Stout, $1.79/12oz.
              • Ring Neck Braun Ale – Strong Nut Brown, $1.79/12oz.
              • Sheephead Ale – 'Estate Hopped Lucan Ale', $1.79/12oz.
              • Forgotten Flem – Farmhouse Ale, $2.09/12/oz.
              Returning favorites

              • Bell's Expedition Stout, 2010 batch, 12oz bottles, $2.99
              • Dark Horse Perkulator Coffee Dopplebock, Fall 2010 batch, 12oz bottles, $1.99
              • Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V. Gulden Draak, Dark Belgian Strong Ale, 330ml bottles, $5.29

              Thursday, June 9, 2011

              Beer Recipe: Swig's Summer Stout

              By Greg 'Swig' Johnson

              When most people think summer they usually don't think dark beer, but I do. So today I'm going to talk about my aptly-named Summer Stout. At 4.8% alcohol with a dry and roasty yet silky finish (from the oats), this is a great beer for nights around the fire or for hanging out on the back deck. Sessionable by nature, this stout provides a spectrum of flavors rarely found in traditional summer beers.

              I originally brewed 10 gallons of this beer and split the batch in two for experimentation. I wanted five gallons for a straight, dry, oatmeal stout and the other five to be modeled (but not copied) after my absolute favorite Founders beer, Frangelic Stout. To this end, I put 1/4 pound of Frangelica coffee from Ferris Nut & Coffee in a nylon grain sock and left it in the keg for a full four days. The Frangelico is the more delicious version in my opinion, though the unflavored version has its merits too. For the recipe, see below (partial mash and all-grain formulas included).

              Partial Mash Formula*

              • 5.00# - Briess Light LME
              • 1.00# - Briess Flaked Oats
              • 1.00# - Briess Pale 2-Row
              • 0.45# - Briess Roasted Barely
              • 0.25# - Briess Black Malt
              • 0.25# - Briess Chocolate Malt
              • 1.0oz - West Golding Variety (W.G.V.) @ 60min
              • 1.1oz – West Golding Variety (W.G.V.) @ 20min
              • Wyeast 1056: Chico/American Ale Yeast
              • 0.25# Frangelica coffee, in keg (use a nylon grain sock)
              *The inclusion of oats means that a mash must occur; the extract/specialty-grain method of brewing cannot be utilized. For partial mash instructions, contact Siciliano's and one of our employees will gladly assist you.

              All-grain Formula
              (calculated for 75% efficiency)

              • 7.25# - Briess 2-Row Pale
              • 1.00# - Briess Flaked Oats
              • 0.50# - Briess Roasted Barley
              • 0.25# - Briess Black Malt
              • 0.25# - Briess Chocolate Malt
              Mash @ 153*F for 60min, fly sparge at 168 for 90min

              • 1.0oz - West Golding Variety (W.G.V.) @ 60min
              • 1.1oz – West Golding Variety (W.G.V.) @ 20min
              • Wyeast 1056: Chico/American Ale Yeast
              • 0.25# Frangelica coffee, in keg (use nylon bag)
              This stout is truly a summer evening treat and a beer to be enjoyed by many. It also reinforces the old adage: never judge a beer by it's color.

              Siciliano's staffer Greg 'Swig' Johnson lives on the west side of Grand Rapids, MI, where no matter the time of year, a good oatmeal stout is always in season. 

              Wednesday, June 8, 2011

              Roasted Garlic No Knead Bread

              By Chris Siciliano

              Here's another in the category of special-occasion breads. Like the popular Red Cheddar Flake, Roasted Garlic No-knead is not the kind of bread you slather with peanut butter for a wholesome breakfast on Monday morning. It is, however, the perfect thing to bring to a spaghetti dinner at a friend's house on Friday night. And since each loaf contains an entire bulb of garlic, we suggest you plan your schedule accordingly. Don't consume several pieces of this the night before a job interview, that is -- unless of course you're applying for a position with the California Garlic Council. If that's the case, then maybe the whole loaf is in order. For the recipe, see below.

              • 454g (1 lb) bread flour
              • 340g (12oz) water
              • 1/4 tsp instant yeast
              • 11g (1.5tsp) salt
              • 1 bulb garlic, par-baked, peeled, chopped (incorporate w/dry ingredients)
              Tips & Tricks

              • To learn the no-knead method, please click here.
              • The best way to prepare garlic for this recipe is to par-bake it for 10 minutes at 425F. This will soften the garlic just slightly, making it a breeze to peel away the otherwise stubborn skins. Partially baking the garlic also releases aroma, which adds flavor to the dough as it rises overnight.
              • Directions for bar-baking garlic: Preheat oven to 425. Break the bulb into individual cloves and arrange them on a baking sheet so that all are lying flat (not piled on one another). Bake for ten minutes until garlic is soft to the touch. Peel and chop when cool.
              • I like to chop my garlic in all different sizes -- smaller pieces encourage uniform flavor, larger pieces seem to give texture to the finished bread. You can also smash a few cloves with the edge of your knife, making a paste which can be mixed into the dough with pleasing effect.
              • Penzeys freeze-dried garlic is one good alternative to roasting your own. It has great taste with little hassle (if you consider roasting garlic a hassle). Depending on your love of garlic, one or two tablespoons will probably suffice. Just experiment.
              • Vampires beware!

                Friday, June 3, 2011

                New Beer Friday - June 3rd Edition

                Greetings all!

                Several people have asked us to start posting a weekly list of new beer arrivals. We happen to think that's a pretty good idea. So from now on look for a weekly post -- usually on Fridays -- documenting all the new beers and other goodies that come through our door.

                Without further ado, here's this week's list of tasty brews appearing on our shelves for the very first time (or for the first time this season).

                • New Holland Hatter Day Hatters - four varieties (Rye, Oak-aged, Farmhouse, Black Hatter) all $4.79/22oz. According to the NH website, these are "limited, single-batch brews and won’t be around for long!"
                • Shorts Rich's Rye and Nicie Spicie, both $1.99/12oz
                • Left Hand Wake Up Dead Imperial Stout, $10.19/22oz
                • Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer, $1.99/16oz - If Jack's Pizza and Keystone Light had a love child
                • Rogue Somer Orange Honey Ale, $7.19/22oz
                • Dark Horse Sapient Trip Ale, $1.69/12oz
                • Great Divide Samurai Rice Ale, $1.99/12oz - since Great Divide is pulling out of Michigan, this will be the last shipment of Samurai we receive
                • Veldensteiner Pils, Weissbier, Lager, Zwick'l, Landbier, and Dunkles Weissbier - all six flavors from this German brewery are priced at $4.29/.5-liter bottle.
                Keep in mind too that we have one of the city's best selections of hard cider and mead. Our latest addition is Fox Barrel Pear Ciders. We now carry three flavors -- Pacific Pear, Blackberry Pear, Apricot Pear -- and each (according to the label) is fermented from 100% pear juice, not concentrate or other filler. At $2.09 per 12oz bottle, it's a steal, perfect for the hot summer weather, and also gluten free!

                (We also just received another three cases of Founders Old Crumudgean...don't know if anybody's interested. $3.29/bottle.)

                All-grain demo, June 18th

                Attention new and/or extract brewers!

                Are you curious to see how the all-grain process works? If so, please join us Saturday, June 18th at 10am for an all-grain homebrew demonstration put on by long-time customer, avid homebrewer, and all-around good guy, Brad Emerson. The demo will happen in Siciliano's back parking lot. There is no cost to attend; but come early to secure a spot close to the action. Bring camp chairs, coffee and doughnuts if needed or so desired.

                To learn a little more about Brad's homebrew background and what he intends to brew on demo day, please refer to the interview below.

                Editors: How long have you been brewing? What got you into the most glorious of all hobbies?

                Brad: I started brewing on a perfect Saturday in October of 2006. As I suspect the case is for most home brewers, I started out of necessity. What I needed was an excuse to get out of going to a wedding. Maybe that's not the reason that most people start brewing, but for me it was a great one. I caught the bug and the batch I brew on June 18th, with the help of those in attendance, will be batch #97. It's hard to believe that I've made that much beer in the last 4.5 years. That said, I'm always reminded of the many pints I've quaffed when I look down to discover I can no longer see my feet.

                Editor: You've brewed almost 100 batches of beer, and this is the fifth time we've asked you back to give the all-grain demonstration (which suggests the kind of complete faith we have in you). Not that it's needed, but what else do you think qualifies you to give a demo on all-grain brewing?

                Brad: I've been in some contests and won some stuff.

                Editors: Nice work! What's your favorite thing about homebrewing?

                Brad: Gathering with friends and imbibing copious amounts of home brew.

                Editors: What do you have planned for the 18th?

                Brad: On the 18th, I will be brewing a Belgian Dubbel using Belgian malts and candi sugar. The OG will be in the 1.070 range so I will also make a 1L yeast starter on my cigar box stir plate. I've always done a simple infusion mash followed by continuous sparging. I use a custom made pump to transfer at various stages and a custom made counterflow wort chiller. I also have a RIMS brewing setup, but I won't be using it for the demonstration."

                Editors: We're looking forward to it!

                Brad Emerson: all-grain demonstrator extraordinaire

                For more information, please contact Siciliano's Market at (616) 453-9674 or stop by and see us in person. 

                Thursday, June 2, 2011

                Expansion Update: All but complete!

                With only a few loose ends left to tie up, we at The Buzz are pleased to announce the near completion of the new West Wing and the total reorganization of the homebrew department. The bossman is currently preparing a Buzz post to reflect at length on the entire expansion process. For now, please enjoy this sneak peek of the new-look Siciliano's.

                The Great Wall of Ingredients Kits

                Look how organized!

                Kegging parts (it's like a hardware store in here)

                Bulk LME containers (and honey)

                Two monster mills and one corona (flour mill not pictured)

                Grains, flakes and adjuncts, all in bulk

                DME, additives, et cetera

                The new walk-in cooler: hops, yeast, cheese-making enzymes

                Wyeast. Why not! (Sorry, couldn't resist)

                Hops in the walk-in

                Wine-making supplies now have their very own section

                Thanks to everyone for your patience these past few months. We hope to see you soon!

                Wednesday, June 1, 2011

                Cob oven, Part 1 - The prototype

                What follows is the first installment in a new Buzz series documenting the building of a wood-fired cob (mud) oven on family property Up North. This series is not intended to explain in any detail how to build a cob oven -- there is already an excellent resource for that available from master oven builder, Kiko Denzer. If this kind of thing interests you, Denzer's book Build Your Own Earth Oven will help you do exactly what the title suggests. Our goal here is to share any insight gained as a result of our (in)experience and, more importantly, to show you how easy it can be.

                By Chris Siciliano

                This past winter my grandfather and I made plans to build a wood-fired mud oven on his property in the wilds of Northern Michigan. We bought a how-to book (see above) and began telling everyone about the pizza and bread we would bake once the oven was complete. When May rolled around, it occurred to us that we were actually going to have build this thing. To ensure we did it right we decided to build a small test oven on which to practice and make mistakes. It's a good thing we did. Thanks to a number of lessons learned from building what we now call "mini oven", the larger, permanent version should be all the more successful.

                See below for a short recap of the prototype oven build. To see how the permanent oven turns out, please stay tuned.

                In the above picture, my grandfather and I are packing layers of mud around a gumdrop-shaped mold made from wet sand and covered with damp newspaper. The mud and sand are resting on a layer of fire bricks, the fire bricks are sitting on a base of cinder blocks, and the cinder blocks are sitting directly on the ground, far enough from foot traffic not to get in anybody's way.

                I found the fire bricks at Belden Brick & Supply in Grand Rapids for $1.35 each. Apparently the bricks can withstand temperatures upwards of 2200F, perfect for an oven floor. The cinder blocks were just something the old man had laying around the property. If the look of cinder blocks doesn't appeal to you -- and I can see why it wouldn't -- Kiko Denzer's book has a section on more elaborate and better looking foundations.

                The sand mold is only a temporary structure, built to lend shape and give support to the mud packed around it. Once the mud walls are complete, the oven door is cut and the sand can be removed. 

                The initial batch of mud I mixed was too soft and wet; it needed less water or more building soil. The lower layers kept collapsing under the weight of the mud that went on top. If not for my cousin Jacob's ingenious idea to build a mold from pieces of scrap wood and rope, the whole thing would have oozed right off the foundation. For the next oven, we need to pay better attention to the consistency of the building mud. Overly wet material is not impossible to work with, but it makes the build more difficult than it needs to be. Lesson learned.

                (Jacob is the head brewer at Brewery Vivant. No doubt his problem-solving skills are one reason why his beers are so good.)

                Being Memorial Day Weekend, there was an abundance of family around to help with the construction. This came in handy at times and other times not so much. Handy: my grandmother, a gifted artist, pitching in to help sculpt the mud layer. Handy: my great Uncle Sonny sharing advice from his days as a cement worker (he also donated the building soil). Not so handy: my brother Dominic's non-stop one-liners regarding the oven's shared resemblance with elephant droppings.

                In all fairness to Dominic, he did sort of help fill a wheelbarrow almost full with dirt. Thanks bro. Much appreciated.

                All told, from start to finish, we put about four hours work into the actual build. We let the oven dry in the sun for a few hours and then cut away the door, dug out the sand, lit a fire, and hoped for the best. In my haste I packed too much fuel into the oven and it didn't burn very well the first night. The next morning I raked out the coals and ashes -- some of which were still smoldering -- and started again with a small, clean fire. The new fire burned like crazy, drawing well and heating evenly.

                At the time of this writing, we have yet to bake bread or pizza in the new oven. Hopefully by this weekend or the next. I also had not planned on adding any layers of insulation (clay and sawdust, mud and straw). In fact I had originally planned on tearing this first oven down almost immediately. My family informs me this decision is not a good one; they say lets keep the test oven no matter that we're still building a larger one. Might as well. Some closing notes...

                • The oven space at the floor is 16" in diameter, big enough to bake one large loaf of bread or maybe two small ones. The ceiling is roughly 11.5" high.
                • The oven was a full day's work. But it was good work, not overly complicated, easy to get the hang of, something you can do with the whole family or some friends. With a little planning and help, one could easily build a basic backyard oven in a weekend. We did. And if we can do it, believe me, you can do it too.
                • We still need to fashion an oven door somehow, from a wood plank or other found material. Uncle Sonny suggested that an old mailbox door just might do the trick.
                • If you have built an oven yourself and learned some things along the way, we'd love to hear from you. Please post your comments below.
                • More to come soon!

                Chris Siciliano is a writer, teacher, and the managing editor of The Buzz. He lives in Grand Rapids, MI, where one day he hopes to build a house completely out of dirt (adobe).