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Friday, September 28, 2012

New Beer Friday - September 28 Edition

By Chris Siciliano

If anybody out there is looking for something to do tonight at exactly 7:30 p.m., we suggest you tune in to WOTV to catch the premier of The Great American Brew Trail. It's a new television show that purports to do for the Michigan microbrewery what Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives did for the American greasy spoon, that is, to celebrate these establishments in all their glory while at the same time introducing them to potential fans who are not yet "in the know."

From what we understand, the premier episode will feature two Grand Rapids breweries, Harmony and Brewery Vivant. That's not a bad way to kick-off a series, and I for one am looking forward as much to tonight's show as I am the twelve additional episodes that will follow.

By the way, no Great American Brew Trail viewing party is complete without an assortment of new beers from your friends at Siciliano's. Here's the latest to hit the shelves.

New (and Returning) Beer

  • Short's Bloody Beer, $2.19/12oz (limit 3 bottles/person) - "A lighter bodied beer with an appealing ruby red glow and aromas of spicy tomato juice. Fermented with Roma tomatoes and spiced with dill, horseradish, peppercorns, and celery seed lead to an astounding initial tomato flavor, followed by a lingering finish that allows each additional ingredient a chance to resonate on the palate. Decant carefully, and let this2009 GABF silver medal winner warm slightly in order to appreciate the full magnitude of flavors" (source).
  • Coney Island Freaktoberfest, $2.69/12oz - "Arise and taken possesion of this bewitched offering of the season crafted to lure your spirit’s deepest rapture. Conjured to exorcise the grim horrors of the armies of soulless drafts everywhere" (source).
  • Greenbush Sunspot Hefeweizen, $1.79/12oz - "Hot. Drenched. Delightfully blinding. Right. We're not talking about that ball of fire in the sky, but our refreshing Hefewiezen. Skip the shade and down a glass or two and be cool" (source).
  • Greenbush Retribution, $2.09/12oz - "A Belgian-style ale that's good for your soul. Who says only monks get to have all of the fun? Our Belgian-Style Ale brewed with dates, raisins and brown sugar doles out a little extra soul saving because we saw what you did" (source).
  • Southern Tier Imperial Oatmeal Stout, $9.29/22oz - "This beer begins in spring when oat seeds are sown as soon as the soil can be worked. Meanwhile, select types of barley are planted with hopes that Mother Nature will be kind. Our brewers wait patiently until the legumes are mature and ready for the scythe. Upon delivery to the brewery, these ingredients are mixed together in the mash tun where they steep, creating a rich molasses-like liquid. Spicy hops are boiled with the thick brew, giving balance and complexity. Brewers yeast feasts upon the rich sugars, concluding its transformation into oatmeal stout. Pour Oat into a snifter, allow its thick tan head to slowly rise, releasing unbridled aromas. The color of Oat is as dark as a moonless night. The first sip reveals Oat’s thick and nourishing taste. Like a haversack to a horse, a bottle of this stout is a meal in itself" (source).
  • Leinenkugel Big Eddy Baltic Porter, $2.99/12oz - "A rich, malty brew with toffee, port, and chocolate notes and a dark fruit finish" (source).
  • Epic Elder Brett Saison-Brett Golden Ale, $12.09/22oz - "Epic Brewing Company’s latest barrel-aged beer brings something new—wild yeast. This brew is a collaboration ale with Crooked Stave Artisan Brewing of Fort Collins, Colorado. Chad Yakobson, Brewmaster/Owner of Crooked Stave, is well known for his skill and knowledge in the brewing of sour and Brettanomyces driven beers. The beer was brewed at Epic by the two brewers. Kevin Crompton, Epic’s Brewmaster, and Chad spent several weeks working on the recipe and selecting the proper Brett strains and barrels for the beer to morph from a golden Saison into a Saison-Brett Golden Ale" (source).
  • Schell Octoberfest, $1.49/12oz - "We’ve found the key to what makes Fall so special, and its called Octoberfest. This rich, smooth lager uses a perfect balance of caramel, pale, cara-pils and black malts to create the best Octoberfest beer of the season. Available September through October" (source).
Customer of the Week

Kyle Lenkey

Cheers!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Politics of Beer

By Steve Siciliano

Maybe it’s because I generally ignore politics that I only recently heard that President Obama had purchased homebrewing equipment—with his own money, staffers are eager to point out—and that a number of batches of White House Honey Ale, White House Honey Blond and White House Honey Porter have been brewed by the executive mansion’s chefs. (Allegedly, the honey in the recipes is sourced from a beehive in the First Lady’s kitchen garden.) Upon doing a little internet research I learned that Mr. Obama first served “his” home brew at a 2011 White House Super Bowl Party, that he recently gifted a case of the executive suds to firefighters at a station in Virginia, and that he keeps his campaign bus well stocked with the hand-crafted brew.

"Your first attempt at all grain? Not bad."
It’s a well-documented fact that the President’s affinity for beer is not a recent development. In July of 2009, a potentially nasty racial issue was diffused over a few mugs of beer when Obama invited Henry Gates, a black Harvard professor, and James Crowley, the white police officer who arrested Gates for disorderly conduct, to a “Beer Summit” at the White House. Do an internet image search for “Obama and beer” and you’ll get dozens of not so recent photos of the President clasping a cold one in pubs, pizza parlors, bowling alleys and state fairs. But what is a recent and, I might add, interesting development is that our beer-loving Chief Executive’s opponent in the upcoming presidential election is a teetotaler.

Now, I highly doubt (in fact I hope) that we haven’t gotten to the point where a president is elected in this country because he or she does or does not enjoy an occasional beer. But in a close race the perceived “likability” of a candidate just might be the difference between winning and losing, and the juxtaposition of a beer drinking Obama next to lemonade sipping Romney certainly isn’t helping the perception of the latter’s aristocratic, better-than-thou public image.

You can bet that the Romney camp is doing a little hand wringing over this. If Mitt was a drinker the solution would be easy—place a beer in his hand and have him quaff a few pints in the heartland with the common folks. Obviously that’s not going to happen, so it’s up to the vice-presidential candidate to pinch hit for his boss. If I was running the Republican campaign I would send Paul Ryan on a tour of the nation’s breweries. I would dress him in logoed T-shirts and hats and have him hang out in the pubs. I would have photo-ops with him wearing safety glasses and pouring a bucketful of hops into a kettle or stirring the mash. I would have Mitt end every speech with the words: “I may not drink beer, dammit, but I sure picked a running mate who does.” It just might make for an interesting campaign.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Canning Fall's Tomatoes

By Weston Eaton

As the harvest continues to unfold, I want to share with you one of my favorite rites of seasonal passage: canning tomatoes. The point I want to stress overall is the simplicity of canning. Not only is canning an inexpensive practice, but the actual process takes minimal time, effort, energy and resources. In essence, I am making an argument against the way you likely have come to understand or form an opinion of canning—as a technical and painstaking practice that demands specialized knowledge in order to avoid the pitfalls of contamination, spoilage, poisoning, or, moreover, as a time-consuming and ultimately nostalgic and unnecessary “hobby” that went out of fashion with electric stove tops. While canning certainly could be (and has been) looked at from those perspectives, I offer something different: canning, tomatoes especially, is a simple activity—or better, practice—that ultimately nourishes not only your body, but your spirit. Furthermore, I point this out because I feel many people choose not to can because they assume they are not up to the challenge of learning a new craft, or investing the time or resources into the equipment. I will spend the rest of this short article explaining my canning practice in order to demonstrate an alternative possibility.

First, to can, one needs canning equipment. The essential list consists of a canning pot (most hold up to 7 quarts jars at a time), canning jars, lids and bands, a jar funnel for packing jars and keeping the rim clean, and a tong style jar lifter. I also really like my serrated tomato knife. You can certainly buy all this new—it is not expensive. Or you can simply ask family members or seek out supplies at garage sales. Remember, the popularity of canning right now is at a cross-over: while many folks have canned in the past and now discontinue the practice, a new generation, interested in preserving and making food at home—possibly for very different sets of reasons—is picking up and extending the practice. For instance, at last Fall’s “TomatoFest” in Little Rock California, their survey found a surge in folks seeking canning tomatoes, indicating that more first time canners are getting into canning. My point then is lots of canning equipment—especially jars—are out there, possibly right under your nose.

Second, I take up the issue of tomatoes. I am certainly no expert here. In fact, during nearly every trip to the farm market I discover something new I had previously overlooked or ignored. For instance, for years I have been canning traditional “paste” varieties of tomatoes, like Roma and Rome. Recently, however, the guys at Turtle Creek turned me on to Super Fantastic, Mountain Spring and Mountain Fresh. While there are volumes that could be written about these (new to me) varieties, in general they are medium to large, globe shaped, red with yellow hues, and delicious, meaty tomatoes. If you are a Celebrity, Early Girl, or Brandywine fan, I highly recommend trying something new from the market or in your garden. Most importantly, these are great tomatoes for canning as they are firm enough to retain their shape when transporting and when slipping into canning jars. Timing is also important in regards to selecting tomatoes. Right now, for instance, we have a glut of tomatoes, meaning farmers are looking to sell at good prices. I always check or ask to pick through seconds, as when canning, it’s simple enough to remove bruised or blemished sections. This will greatly reduce already nominal costs.

Now I want to get to the root of this article, which is about the process, and the philosophy that underlies my particular canning process. Notice that I am not going to talk in detail about the chemical transformation that takes place when one cans. It is enough to know that canning sanitizes food in such a way that the food is preserved for years. Let me start then with Charlie Papazian, the father of modern home brewing. Throughout his influential book The Joy of Home Brewing, Papazian tells us, “relax, have a home brew.” As an once avid home brewer, I can tell you this is good advice. Making beer indeed can be a complex process, but it can also be a relaxing and simple practice. With his motto, Papazian reminds us that we have a hand in constructing the experience, as in the experience is not alone determined by the technical, material nature of the process. The exciting news is that canning tomatoes is far simpler, by all accounts, than brewing beer. While I of course recommend looking into more detailed sources before putting your Fantastics under the lid, here’s the exact way I approach the process.

First, don’t make canning such a big deal. Don’t, for instance, buy four bushels and twenty boxes of new jars for your first go around. Instead, try a dozen heirlooms and a couple quarts of some paste tomatoes—just enough to fill the canner for one go around. Start by getting your gear in place. Wash your quart jars in soapy water and have them clean and ready. Fill your canner no more than a third of the way to the top, bring the water to a boil, and, if you like, heat more water in your stock pot in case you need to bring the water up higher once the jars are in place. In a small sauce pan, heat your lids. Have your jar tongs and rims in place.

Now that the gear is all set, we can turn to the fruit and canning process. I prefer to blanch, core, and halve my tomatoes before packing into jars. This is a simple process involving a pot of boiling water and a bowl of ice water. The idea is that by dunking your fruit into boiling water for 15 seconds and then removing them to the ice bath, their skin will simply fall off. To do this I first make a small, cone shaped incision at the stem to remove the top of the core (not the middle of the core like an apple). At the bottom, blossom end of the fruit, I make a small “X” with my tomato knife to help the skin come free in the bath. After a few seconds in the ice bath, remove the skin with your hands, halve the fruit, and pack into your jar using the jar funnel. Continue until your jar is filled to within 1/2 inch of the top, pressing down to remove excess air. No need to add anything else. Wipe the jar lip clean to ensure a good seal, place on the lid and loosely seal with the band, and set aside until the rest of your jars are filled. When all jars are ready, use the tongs to lower each jar and secure in the canner. Bring the water back to a gentle boil, and be sure to adjust the water level to just below the bands. Boil for ten minutes, and, using your tongs, remove to a towel covered counter clear of cool fall breezes. As you turn off the kitchen light and retreat to your study, take delight in each “pop” indicating a properly sealed jar and preserved future meal.

Friday, September 21, 2012

New Beer Friday - September 21 Edition

Congrats to Steve Lewis and the
team at Fusionary
By Chris Siciliano

Longtime readers of The Buzz might recognize the name Fusionary Media. The Grand Rapids-based web design firm that built Sicilianosmkt.com designed the sharp look of this very blog as well. They are also the company behind Michigan Micro Caps, a very fun craft-beer-themed smartphone game now available for iPhone and Android.

That game, which first made headlines on The Buzz, is now making headlines across the country. An Mlive article penned by Garret Ellison has been picked up by the Associated Press and news outlets from San Francisco to Washington D.C. are reporting favorably on the app inspired right here in Grand Rapids.

The Buzz staff would like to extend a hearty congratulations to Steve Lewis and the team at Fusionary. Knowing first hand how hard they worked, we're all very pleased to see them getting the recognition they deserve.

New (and Returning) Beer

  • Dark Horse Scotty Karate, $2.09/12oz - "For those of you who don't know who Scotty Karate is... He is a local one man band who plays an amazing slurry of honky tonk influenced, punk country songs. His voice is amazing as well as his high energy shows. (Check him out @ www.scottykarate.com) So, we decided to make a beer and name it in his honor. This beer is a big, full bodied Scottish ale. It is 9.75% alc. but it is very smooth and balanced. Since Scotty is also very passionate about beer I asked him to write a description for you, so from the man himself... Aroma: Smells like A fresh caramel apple with a hint of cinnamon inside of cranberry shortbread. Or maybe fresh home made hard candy (from home economics class-7th grade). Flavor: Tastes like a smokey chocolate chip cookie, wild roadside cherry-asparagus, woody, crispy leaf on a fall day" (source).
  • Unibroue Terrible, $10.09/750ml - "La Terrible is a dark brown beer on lees and is part of a collection of exotic and refined Unibroue beers brewed using 100% natural raw materials. It may be drunk as an aperitif or as an after dinner digestive. It is equally a perfect accompaniment to the above-mentioned dishes or a pleasant alternative to coffee" (source).
  • New Holland El Mole Ocho, $8.19/22oz - "Our exploration into the flavors of mole, the legendary sauce of central Mexico. Malty aroma and rich, cocoa-laden body laced with an invigorating tinge of dried chilies and coffee" (source).
  • Harpoon Rich and Dan's Rye IPA, $1.79/12oz - "This beer is brewed with our proprietary yeast – the same yeast we’ve used since first brewing Harpoon Ale – and some interesting hop varieties. The combination of Pale, Rye, Caramel 60, Flaked Rye, and Vienna yield a complex malt body that stands up to the spiciness of the rye and the pronounced hop flavor. The rye also adds a reddish hue to the beer. The kettle additions of Centennial, Apollo, and Chinook, and the dry hop addition of Falconer’s Flight add a multidimensional hop character" (source).
  • Henry Weinhard's Private Reserve, $1.29/12oz - "An American Pale Lager, Henry Weinhard's Private Reserve blends Henry's German heritage with the natural ingredients of the Pacific Northwest. If you want to impress your friends, you can say it's brewed with 100% Cascade hops specially grown in Oregon. But all you really need to know is that it's crisp, clean and one helluva beer" (source).
  • New Holland Beerhive, $8.19/22oz - "Little John’s local bees create a spring wildflower-honey that lends a sweet, earthy complexity to a traditional style of beer (triple) with a balancing snap of ginger in the finish" (source).
  • Arbor Brewing Co Buzz Saw IPA, $2.29/12oz - "A big, bold hop-forward west coast style IPA. The malt character is subdued to showcase a blend of Simcoe, Amarillo, and Centennial Hops creating a lingering dry finish with notes of pine, grapefruit, and apricot" (source).
  • Heavy Seas Great Pumpkin, $6.69/22oz - "The secret is in the 2.5 pounds of spice per barrel for this fall brew. We add the pumpkin during the mash at precisely the right time to create just the perfect balance of malt, hops, pumpkin and spice" (source).
  • Shorts Ale la Reverend, $1.99/12oz - "A distinctively dry, light bodied IPA with an appealing golden hue, thirst-quenching crispness, and laden with pungent hop aromas of citrus and spruce. Semi-sweet malt provides a backdrop for some mild earthy flavors and slight grassy notes. Doubling the dry-hop additions allows for lower alcohol levels, while still providing the entire hop effect expected of an IPA" (source).
  • Fox Barrel Pommegranate Perry, 3-liter bag (wine-box style), $15.79 - "Pearfectly still. Fox Barrel Pomegranate & Pear is naturally fermented, using 100 percent, unpasteurized, American, fresh-pressed pear juice" (source).
  • Pyramid Octoberfest, $1.59/12oz - "Oktoberfest with a deep amber color and rich flavor. The perfect beer to celebrate the fall season. A strong malt backbone is deliciously balanced with hop bitterness" (source).
Picture of the Week

Stumper season

Cheers!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tuesday Review: Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale

By Doug Dorda

While pumpkin ales, bombastic stouts, and oktoberfest are clear indicators that it is time to break out the sweatshirts and plan that first trip to the orchard, brown ales stand idly by in the aisles seeking to provide the adventurous spirit in us all with a day's respite and chance for reflection. There exists a veritable cornucopia of these delicious beauties ready for the “harvest,” Brownstone from Sixpoint, Best Brown from Bells, and Boffo from Darkhorse being among my favorites. But the Tumbler from Sierra Nevada will always be my first pick when hunkered down by the autumn bonfire.

Tumbler is a shining example of how simplicity can lend itself to unbelievable complexity in the finished flavor of an ale. Stylistically, it finds itself well within the hallmarks of all traits that make a brown ale a classic. Sierra Nevada has even gone the extra mile by utilizing the roasted malts—the backbone of the ale—mere hours after they leave the kiln. The effect on the palate is unmistakeable.

Tumbler pours a deep chocolate brown, and when held to the light it reveals hues of amber that are reminiscent of the changing leaves. The head is a hearty off-white that lingers for a moment, but does not wish to stifle your enjoyment. Immediately the nose is enlivened with the promise of deep toffee and lightly burnt toast that are complemented by a wisp of smoke that does much to set the stage for the first sip.

The beer lies medium bodied on the palate, and positively explodes with roasted peanut/biscuit flavors that are wholly rounded by the slightest addition of candied fruit nuances. The finish is quite dry, and does not cloy or seek to be an overbearing “warmer.” This beer tastes, to me, like anticipation. Each time I enjoy this ale I harken back to youthful days, eagerly planning my Halloween costume and trick-or-treat route as to maximize the amount of candy I could get. I also see cider and doughnuts, and really all those things that encompass the fall season.

Many times I will give a beer merit for it's ability to trigger a particular feeling, or memory within me. For this reason I chose to profile Tumbler instead of some of the aforementioned browns. While each of the examples I listed makes me think and feel, none of them make me feel like my younger self. Tumbler is a bonfire in a bottle, the laughter during pumpkin carving, that first caramel apple, and the line before the haunted house where you try to convince people that you aren’t scared. Though these qualities may not be tangible, and certainly wont be found in a judging, I think you will find them in this bottle, warming you on the dark cold nights of autumn.

Sierra Nevada Tumbler Brown Ale retails for $1.79 at Siciliano's, and can only be found during the fall season.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Another Year, Another Successful Homebrew Sale

IMG_3605 By Steve Siciliano

It certainly was a busy week at Siciliano’s. Our week long sale on beer- and wine-making supplies kicked off last Monday with the proverbial bang, and throughout the week customers flocked into the store to take advantage of the across-the-board fifteen percent discount as well as the deeper still price reductions on select merchandise. We welcomed to the club dozens of new brewers and winemakers who purchased the heavily discounted equipment kits. Other popular, deeply discounted items during this year’s sale week were the mash tuns and the complete kegging systems.

On Saturday Barb served up hundreds of German wieners from Frank’s Market and many pounds of Grandpa Sam’s homemade sauerkraut. (In response to the many requests for Sam’s recipe we will soon be publishing it on The Buzz.) I would like to take this opportunity to express our thanks to all our loyal customers. You are indeed much appreciated.

IMG_3607
A toast to sale week! (with free root beer)

Friday, September 14, 2012

New Beer Friday - September 14 Edition

By Chris Siciliano

We're less than halfway through September and of course that means that nearly all the Oktoberfest beers have already been released. For a detailed explanation on how that can be, check out this Hey Kevin, an oft overlooked one-time Buzz feature which has since run its course. Why? Well, truth be told, the man behind Hey Kevin is wanted by the law and has since split town, current whereabouts unknown. No worries, though. Wherever Kevin goes, New Beer Friday is never far behind.

New (and Returning) Beers

  • Frakenmuth Oktoberfest, $1.69/12oz - "A super-premium lager with a reddish color, a toasty malt character and dry taste of hops. The beer made famous by the Munich Oktoberfest" (source).
  • New Holland Dragon's Milk, $100.00/3-liter bottle - "The beer you hold in your hand, Dragon’s Milk Ale, is a crown jewel of New Holland Brewing Company. It is the unrivaled result of painstaking processes – both creative and scientific. We could tell you about the centuries-old tradition of the term, Dragon’s Milk, or we could tell you about the history, craftsmanship and challenges of what’s important, the beer inside this bottle. Roasty malt character intermingled with deep vanilla tones, all dancing in an oak bath. Pairings: red meat, smoked foods, balsamic, rich cheese & dark chocolate" (source).
  • Southern Tier Pumking, $7.89/22oz - "Pumking is an ode to PĂșca, a creature of Celtic folklore, who is both feared and respected by those who believe in it. PĂșca is said to waylay travelers throughout the night, tossing them on its back, and providing them the ride of their lives, from which they return forever changed. Brewed in the spirit of All Hallows Eve, a time of the year when spirits can make contact with the physical world and when magic is most potent. Pour Pumking into a goblet and allow it’s alluring spirit to overflow. As spicy aromas present themselves, let it’s deep copper color entrance you as your journey into this mystical brew has just begun. As the first drops touch your tongue a magical spell will bewitch your taste buds making it difficult to escape the Pumking" (source).
  • Left Hand Oktoberfest, $1.99/12oz - "Biscuity, malty goodness dominates upfront while the noble pedigree hops lend a properly spicy, dry finish. Zicke zacke, zicke zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi. Time to roast your chicken and upend your stein before the air gets crisp, the leaves flame and fall and the skies fade to black" (source).
  • Henry Weinhards Redwood Flats Amber, $1.29/12oz - "Amber Ales are mostly an American invention. And with its beautiful copper color and subtle hop aroma, our Redwood Flats Amber is our traditional take on a modern American classic. Featuring a unique blend of American hops and malts, Redwood Flats Amber is bold and assertive, with a strongly hoppy flavor that’s easy to drink and even easier to love" (source).
  • Henry Weinhards Woodland IPA, $1.29/12oz - "Originally developed for British sailors stationed in India, IPAs were aggressively hopped to help prevent spoilage on long ocean voyages. Now that spoilage isn’t as big a problem, we’ve eased up on the hoppiness just a hair to let the caramel malts shine through. It’s a big beer with big flavor that really lets you appreciate hops in all their glory" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Tumbler, $1.59/12oz - "As the nights grow cool, the leaves on the valley oaks begin to turn and fall. In honor of this yearly dance, we bring you Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale and invite you to enjoy the show. We use malt within days of roasting at the peak of its flavor to give Tumbler a gracefully smooth malt character. So pour a glass, and grab a window seat to watch as the leaves come tumbling down" (source)..
  • Stone 16th Anniversary IPA, $7.59/22oz - "We've been loving creating Collaboration beers with great creative brewers from all over the world these last several years-unique beers that would never have existed without the free-flowing imagination and idea generation of the collaborative process. However, when it comes to the Stone Anniversary Ales, it's all us. Yet, it is indeed still a collaboration with great creative brewers (if we do say so ourselves). We're talking about our own brewing team, of course. And while some of our beers, anniversary and otherwise, have been designed by a single person, the Stone 16th Anniversary IPA was definitely a team effort. This year our brewing team was inspired by some exotic-ish additions of the lemony persuasion. Yes, it's a Double IPA (can you really say you're surprised?), but as we strive to do with all our Stone Anniversary Ales of the let's-take-this-IPA-in-a-new-direction variety, we've brewed up a Stone-worthy divergence from tradition. The amount of rye malt we used isn't quite enough to warrant the appellation "Rye IPA," but it still adds hints of spiciness that contrast deliciously with the tropical fruit flavors and aromas of the Amarillo and Calypso hops. Add a few European specialty malts, some lemon verbena, and three more hop varieties to the mix, and you have a highly complex brew melding both bitter and fruity hop notes with rich toasted malt character punctuated by nuances of spicy rye and subtle lemon" (source).
  • Weihenstephaner Oktoberfest, $1.69/12oz - "A full rich bodied, hoppy, seasonal lager. Especially brewed for the Festbier season. This beer truly represents the Bavarian way of celebrating. Deep gold color, great mouthfeel and lots of flavor. Prost!" (source).
  • Blue Point Oktoberfest, $1.69/12oz - "Blue Point Octoberfest is another palate-pleasing seasonal brew. Originally brewed in 1810 to celebrate the betrothal of the Crown Prince of Bavaria, Blue Point continues the celebration by traditionally brewing this special malty amber lager every October. Octoberfest lager is stored cold for 2 months to ensure its distinct smooth flavor. Tap a pint and celebrate the season!" (source).
  • Blue Point Pumpkin Ale, $1.69/12oz - "According to Linus there are 3 things never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin. Our Pumpkin Ale, on the other hand, has made quite a buzz from New Hampshire down to Florida. Every season has its pleasures. Harvest your own with our Pumpkin Ale and reap all that Autumn has to offer. Brewed with pumpkins from only the most sincere patches, this seasonal brew is golden orange, crisp and delicious, with an innocent hint of cinnamon and nutmeg that articulates our favorite season. Gather with friends and family and enjoy the change of seasons while savoring a pint of Pumpkin Ale. Just like the leaves, it’s gone after Thanksgiving" (source).
  • Short's Autumn Ale, $1.99/12oz - "Autumn Ale is a London Extra Special Bitter (ESB) that is true to style. It has a medium body, amber color, and full flavor. This beer exhibits a balance of initial, malty sweetness with subtle, lingering, floral hop bitterness, resulting in an ideal bridge between malty and hoppy beer styles. Although it is named Autumn Ale and seems perfect as a fall beer, we have always featured it year round on tap at our pub. It was the first Short’s beer to receive a medal at the Great American Beer Festival, earning a silver medal in 2006. For the past three years, we’ve released it in bottles as a fall seasonal" (source).
Picture of the Week

Hanging from a cabby's rear-view mirror,
New York City, 9/12/12.
(Is that you, Kevin?)

Cheers!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tuesday Review: Unibroue Grand Reserve 17

By Doug Dorda

The beer most commonly associated with Unibroue is La Fin Du Monde (French for "the end of the world"). While this flagship tripel is undoubtedly deserving of its loyal following, the brewery produces a far broader spectrum of “Belgian-style” ales that are not to be missed.

In 2007, Unibroue released its first batch of Grand Reserve 17, a dark Belgian-style Strong ale that is spiced and aged on French oak. Since its release, it has been awarded with countless medals in beer competitions worldwide. Their most recent release, bottled in 2011, comes in a 750ml cork-finished bottle that is adorned with a beautifully simplistic label that does much to show Unibroue's modesty as pertaining to this behemoth of an ale.

Upon popping the cork an aroma of deep chocolate and roasted malts emanate from the bottle, carried easily to the nose by generous levels of carbonation, the result of the bottle refermentation process. The aromatics linger, and begin to offer notes of spices and vanilla as the carbonation level starts to lessen.

The deceptively light-bodied ale glows a deep mahogany as it is poured into a tulip. One cannot help but make the comparisons to dark-finished, exotic hardwoods while staring into the depths of its color complexity. The head is like a dollop of whipped caramel that provides a stark and lasting contrast to the rich and dark beer below.

Upon first sip, it is surprising to note that the ale does not lie heavily on the palate (given the 10% alcohol weigh-in); rather, it rides across the tongue in a smooth cascade of complex flavor that never endeavors to overwhelm the drinker. Caramel, chocolate, and fruity characters are balanced with a subtle essence of vanillins from the oak. A mild nuance of black pepper becomes apparent, while cardamom and perhaps cinnamon work in tandem to cut through the inherent sweetness of the malts at play. As the ale warms, notes of dark fruit and alcohol become the predominant players on the palate, and they provide a warming sensation that sends nostalgic thoughts of fall racing into the mind.

Personally, I view this to be a triumphant beer – a wonderful stylistic variance that is deserving of all awards given. This bottle holds its own with monastic, and other true Belgian produced ales such as Malheur, Nostradamus, and even Corsendonk. If you do not believe me, I suggest you find a bottle and find out for yourself.

Unibroue Grand Reserve is $15.09/750ml at Siciliano's Market.

Friday, September 7, 2012

New Beer Friday - September 7 Edition

By Chris Siciliano

With temps in the 80s all week, it would appear that summer is unwilling to let go. But judging by the shelves at Siciliano's, you'd think we were already well into fall. This year, September arrived with more pumpkin beers than ever. As for big belly-warming stouts, well, as you can see by the picture, those are coming too.

Another pleasant indication that fall is on its way is the week-long sale on homebrew and winemaking supplies at Siciliano's. This year's big sale begins on Monday, September 10th, and continues all week, ending on Saturday, 15th. Find more details by clicking here. Continue reading to see the newest arrivals to our shelves.

New (and Returning) Beers

  • Founders Breakfast Stout, $2.59/12oz - "The coffee lover’s consummate beer. Brewed with an abundance of flaked oats, bitter and imported chocolates, and Sumatra and Kona coffee, this stout has an intense fresh-roasted java nose topped with a frothy, cinnamon-colored head that goes forever" (source).
  • Short's Noble Chaos, $1.69/12oz - "A German style Marzen (Oktoberfest) that is brewed in March, but released in mid September to allow this amber lager to mature fully for optimal drinking enjoyment. A subtle hop bouquet and toasted caramel malt flavors create a well balanced beer that finishes fresh and clean. With a pleasant nose and medium body, this brew is a taste of the season" (source).
  • Sam Adams Dark Depths, $6.19/22oz - "Dark, and fierce, this English porter was transformed, from a mild ale to a dark and complex lager that confounds definition. Immersed in dark, roasted malts and a bold citrus hop character, these big and contrasting flavors are brought together with the smoothness of a lager for a brew that’s rugged, mysterious, and full of flavor" (source).
  • Sam Adams Tasman Red, $5.09/22oz - "Bold, lively, and a bit rugged This wily red IPA gets its character from the Tasmanian hops that are full of grapefruit, pine, and earthy notes creating a bold flavor that threads throughout the taste. The hops are balanced by a core of roasty malts that give this brew body and richness with hints of toffee. This flavorful brew is rounded and smooth with a dry and citrusy hop finish" (source).
  • Fox Barrel English Perry, $2.69/16oz - "100% Made In England. 100% pressed and naturally fermented in England. Made with only premium pears, smoothed with pure pear juice. No added flavors, colorants, malt, spirit or apple alcohols. No sorbate or benzoate preservatives. 100% Pearfection. A truly sessionable, classic English medium-dry natural Perry. Juicy, fresh, medium-bodied, with a subtle citrus zing and a long natural pear finish" (source).
  • Woodchuck Pumpkin, $1.99/12oz - "Every once in a while you know you stumble upon something glorious. That something just so happens to be our Private Reserve Pumpkin. We have combined our signature taste with a refreshing pumpkin finish. Limited to just two and half hours on the production line this is a true connoisseur's cider" (source).
  • Southern Tier Iniquity, $7.79/22oz - "Southern Tier Iniquity is an Imperial Black IPA, which is also called an Imperial India Brown Ale. This is a style that seems to be increasing in popularity. The hexagram talisman has been used around the world for centuries to invoke magic and good luck. Wishes of good fortune often collaborate with the brewer’s creative to yield dramatic results. We carefully chose the name for this Imperial IBA, Iniquity - a word opposing goodness. Why? This beer is contrary to what one might expect from an IPA; this is an ale as black as night. It is the antithesis of Unearthly. Some may consider it an immoral act to blacken an ale. We suggest they don’t rely on conventional standards. Allow the darkness to consume you. Iniquity weighs in at 9% alcohol by volume. It uses four different hops and 2-row pale malt along with debittered black malt in it’s brewing" (source).
Picture of the Week

Doug and John, working up a sweat
as they unload product for the big sale.

Cheers! 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Me, Myself, and Pie: A Lesson in Baking

Good enough to eat!
By Weston Eaton

Baking a pie from scratch is not as easy, nor as difficult, as it sounds. What I want to do here is entice you to do so, especially if you have never done so before. Like baking a loaf of bread, or fermenting a jar of pickles or a few gallons of wine, the result is a product now richly embedded with your own energies, efforts, expectations, and desires. My argument is that in baking a pie from scratch, these attributes come through all the more in the final product.

But what does “from scratch” really mean? With the growing farm-to-table craze, this is a useful question. One does not have to grow their own wheat and mill their own flour to bake a pie from scratch. Nor does one need to grow their own fruit. While I cherish such ideals, they are not practical for most people. Instead, I crudely define baking from scratch as the practice of sourcing and preparing ingredients that have undergone only the minimally required levels of processing. In the case of pie, this means starting with fresh fruit or vegetables and, for the crust, basic baking ingredients like flour, salt, lard and water. Doing so results in a fundamentally different kind of pie than one baked with store bought pie crusts or canned/frozen fillings. This is not to say that the latter cannot be used to make great pie. My point, instead, is that making a pie from scratch produces a product that is in essence far more the physical representation of your efforts and your care.

Below is my recipe for one peach pie, handed down and altered, but essentially a very basic rendition of what I feel to be the quintessential dessert pie. Why peaches? Beyond their glorious taste, peaches are in season. I’ll first give the recipe and process for pie crust, and then for the pie filling. After this, I’ll give some detailed directions and some additional tips for baking. Quick note: I advocate using lard in lieu of vegetable shortening, especially if you can find some from a local farmer. Like margarine and butter, shortening is not a healthy substitute for animal fat.

Pie Crust:

• 2-1/4 Cups flour (all purpose)
• 1/2 Teaspoon salt
• 1 cup minus 2 Tablespoons Lard
• about 1/3 Cup very cold water

Pie crust, like other pastry, is a little intimidating. Unlike cookie dough, we cannot simply put these ingredients together with a Kitchen Aid mixer. Instead, the process calls for “cutting” lard into the salted flour and then adding cold water to achieve a ball of dough cohesive enough for rolling out with a pin.

Here’s what you want to do: First, preheat your over to 425F. Next, mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Then, using a pastry knife, or two butter knives, cut the lard into the flour until the texture looks like coarse meal. Next, sprinkle the cold water (I put mine on ice) a little at a time into the mix, while continuing to cut things together. Form the mixture into a ball. The pastry dough should be smooth and malleable. The tricky part of the whole thing is getting the ratio of water right. Too much water and you’ll have sticky and eventually tough crust. Not enough water and you’re rolling crumbly dough. Add flour or more water if necessary either way. Wrap the dough in wax paper or saran wrap and place in the fridge for at least a half hour. You can you use this time to prepare your fruit. Additionally, you can now freeze this pastry dough for future use, making your next pie just that much simpler. Here’s the simple mix I use to make peach pie filling:

Pie Filling

• 5 Cups skinned and sliced fruit, mostly peaches, some nectarines.
• 1 Cup sugar
• 1/2 Cup flour
• 1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon
• 2 Tablespoons butter (for on top the filling)

To prepare your fruit, the best thing to do is buy peaches and nectarines a few days ahead of time and set them out on the counter in a brown paper bag to ripen. You can either blanch your peaches or simply peel by hand. When peeled and sliced, mix all ingredients together except butter. You can add this once the crust is in place.

When the dough is chilled, remove from the fridge, slice in half, and prepare to roll out the dough. To do this, you’ll need a rolling pin and some flour-dusted counter space. The goal here is to roll out your dough without it sticking permanently to the counter. Doing so requires flour—but not too much or, again, the dough will become tough. Start by forming your half ball into a squat disc. Flour your pin, then roll center to edge forming a circle. If tears, cracks, or irregular shapes occur, simply overlay the separations and continue to roll. As I begin rolling, I fold back the dough and add a bit more flour. At any time you can turn the pastry to make sure it is not sticking. Next, to get the crust in your 9-inch pie pan, fold the dough in half and then in half a gain, then unfold in the pan. Press down gently and trim excess with butter knife.

With your bottom crust in the pan, pour in your filling and top with butter. Roll out your top crust the same way, unfolding over the filling. Trim and seal, using your thumb to form a scallop or fork. Cut a few slices for ventilation and, finally, brush with whipped egg white and sprinkle on a palmful of sugar.

Baking essentially requires 45 minutes—or until the crust is golden brown. I suggest covering the crust with foil to prevent burning, but to do so in a way that prevent the egg whites from sticking, try adding the foil after 15 minutes of baking. When the pie is done, let it cool on a rack. This pie should be frozen if not eaten within a few days. Serve with vanilla ice cream and a hot cup of coffee. Share with someone you respect. As they stand agape, tell them they, too, ought to bake their own pie from scratch.