View our Main Site »

Thursday, June 27, 2013

New Beer Friday, New Whiskey Edition (June 28)

By Chris Siciliano

Every once in awhile something new and exciting arrives at Siciliano's that is not beer and yet deserves our attention nonetheless. Case in point, our new staffer Josh Swift, who Steve Siciliano, the bossman, introduced in a blog post earlier this week (read it by clicking here).

Case in point again, Balcones Distilling, which, judging by the following description, is a whisky producer after our own hearts.
"Just five years ago, Balcones was little more than an idea fueled by a ruthless drive to create something new, something genuine, something worthwhile - a Texas whisky tradition. It all started with an old welding shop under a bridge. We hammered and welded our own stills, and sawed and nailed on that little shack to build the distillery that we use to this day. Since then, we have released seven unique spirits of which we are very proud and won 40 national and international awards from the world's top judges and critics. We don't just make whisky in Texas. We make Texas whisky" (source).
Not bad, eh? Keep reading to see the specific Balcones whiskys which we are now proud to carry. And, of course, for the beer-minded out there, there is something here for you as well.

New (and Returning) Beer to Siciliano's

  • Goose Island 25th Anniversary ESB, $1.69/12oz - "Brewed as a collaboration between Goose Island Brewmaster Brett Porter, Senior Brewer Keith Gabbett, Pub Brewmaster Nick Barron and Alumni Brewmaster Greg Hall. Deep mahogany color, rich fruit aroma with notes of lilac, big malt body with touches of roast and a dry, crisp finish" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Theobroma, $14.39/22oz - "This beer is based on chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras which revealed the earliest known alcoholic chocolate drink used by early civilization to toast special occasions. the discovery of this beverage pushed back the earliest use of cocoa for human consumption more than 500 years to 1200 BC. As per the analysis, Dogfish head’s Theobroma (food of the gods) is brewed with Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs, honey, chilies, and annatto (fragrant tree seeds)" (source).
  • Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon, $14.39/22oz - "Rogue Ales has collided with Voodoo Doughnut to create Bacon Maple Ale! This unique artisan creation contains a baker’s dozen number of ingredients including bacon and maple syrup from one of Voodoo’s signature doughnuts" (source).
  • Anderson Valley Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout, $10.79/22oz - "Complexity. Aged for three months in Wild Turkey Bourbon barrels, this luxurious stout has a deep ebony hue and a beautiful mahogany head. The woody, vanilla-like notes imparted by the barrels mingle with aromas of fresh baked bread, toffee, and espresso and envelop the rich chocolate and roasted barley flavors with a fine bourbon character. Our exclusive partnership with Wild Turkey gives Anderson Valley a world class, consistent source of barrelage, allowing our brewers to explore new frontiers in barrel-aged craft beer" (source).
  • Arbor Demetrius Barrel Aged Sour Double IPA, $17.49/22oz - "Arbor Brewing Company is proud to offer this exclusive, limited-edition, hand-packaged and bottle-conditioned ale in the Belgian Aged Pale tradition. Our interpretation of this rare Belgian stye was created by aging our Larry Hoppe Double IPA for six months in gueuze-innoculated oak casks and then bottle conditioning for a minimum of two months. The result is a unique ale with a bright golden hue, moderate carbonation, and a burst of complex fruity, spicy, sweet-tart, and earthy flavors, with a quenching acidity in the finish. As with most bottle-conditioned ales, there may be a thin layer of sediment on the bottom of the bottle. For best results, uncork slowly and decant gently into a glass without disturbing the sediment" (source).
  • J.K. Scrumpy's Farmhouse Summer, $7.99/22oz - "J.K. Scrumpy first started making hard cider in the 1850's, and they've been using the same apples from the same orchards ever since. This natural, USDA Certified Organic cider is the real thing, offering up crisp apple flavors, and maintaining a moderately sweet profile that makes it sweet year 'round" (source).
  • Wychwood Ginger Beard, $5.49/17oz - "Back off it’s Ginger Beard, he’s a fiery character and his beer is no different. This amber ale is infused with fiery root ginger to deliver a spicy finish with a bit of bite" (source).

New Spirits

  • Balcones Baby Blue, $44.68/750ml - "Baby Blue is a unique corn whisky made from atole, a roasted blue corn meal. Baby Blue isn’t bourbon nor white lightning. It has the freshness and verve of traditional corn whisky but with a refined complexity. The result is a round nuttiness and roasty overtones with a smooth finish. Baby Blue was the first Texas whisky on the market since prohibition, and is the only craft-made whisky to have received a 5-star rating from F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal other than Balcones '1' Texas Single Malt" (source).
  • Balcones Brimstone, $44.68/750ml - "Purification through fire—a Texas oak fire, that is. Rather than using Scottish peat smoke, this one-of-a-kind whisky is smoked with sun-baked Texas scrub oak using our own secret process. The result is a whisky full of fresh youthful corn and light fruit notes married with a bold smokiness. Brimstone is the world‘s first wood smoked whisky ... a Texas campfire in a bottle" (source).
  • Balcones Texas Single Malt, $63.16/750ml - "A unique style of malt whisky—Texas made, Texas proud. Balcones Texas Malt Whisky is born of hundreds of years of distilling tradition transformed by a deep sense of place. Mellow notes of sauteed pears and ripe fruit mixed with a lingering toasty malt character. We are very excited that this whisky which we have worked so hard to produce is finally ready to release. We hope you enjoy it" (source).

Wisdom of the Week

The radish farmer points the way with a radish;
the brewer points the way with his beard.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Meet Josh Swift: Beer & Wine Aficionado, New Team Member at Siciliano's

Welcome, Josh!
By Steve Siciliano

Josh Swift’s first experience in retail was not exactly a good one. 

When he was eighteen and working as a stocker in a Grand Rapids beer and wine shop, he broke a bottle of 2001 Hess Mount Veeder Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. But he didn’t let that rather inauspicious beginning deter him.

“Wine fascinated me and I began asking my older co-workers questions,” he said. “Eventually those interrogations, along with the stealthy tastes of wine they would sometimes give me, helped me to build a base of knowledge and I was occasionally given the opportunity to help customers.”

His fascination with wine gradually grew to encompass beer, and soon as he turned twenty-one “it didn’t take long for me to tear through all the styles.”

Josh, a recent graduate from Grand Valley with a major in history, views both beer and wine as a symbol of camaraderie. “My fondest memories with family and friends usually involve beer or wine in some way,” he said. “I’m always excited to show customers new ambers or push them to try a lambic for the first time, not because I’m looking for a sale, but because I want to share my passion.”

We have a feeling that he is going to fit in nicely around here.

Gin Review: St. George Botanivore, Dry Rye & Terroir

By John Barecki

The world of American craft spirits in the last few years has been churning out some pretty amazing stuff, from single malt whiskey to absinthe. St. George's Spirits out of Alameda, California has been pressing the issue since it's conception in 1982, starting from something this imbiber sadly is not too familiar with, Eau de vie, fruit based brandy that is notoriously hard to make.

It all began with Jorg Rupf, a native of Germany. Rupf came to America to work and was completely blown away by the food culture and the availability of fresh top quality materials. Inspired by the quality of fruit in the Californian orchards, Jorg took his old school knowledge of Eau de vie distilling and started to write his own symphony for the palate, and the rest, as they say, is history.

These three St. George gins I will lay out are prime examples of what the right combination of history and raw materials can become. The Botanivore is the first on this journey. This, for the most part, is similar to the London dry style of gin. One of the fun things about gin is the alchemy of extracting the essential oils from all the produce. Flavors in this gin range from black peppercorn and coriander to even citra hops. It has a fresh Herbaceous character in the nose, floral, citrus peel and a slight sweetness.

The second is the Dry Rye, a curious one using a high rye content in the mash causing a malty backbone similar to a Genever (the precursor to gin). Big juniper sets the tone followed by a peppery spiciness, nice savory herb and fruit qualities brings up the rear. This is a great one to experiment with in place of whisky in mixed drinks.

The last selection is the wonderfully flavorful Terroir. Using a generous handful of plant life from the California woodlands, this elixir conjures up sitting in the middle of a fir forest. Douglas fir and sage start it off, very herbaceous on the palate, zesty lemon and lime accompany a dry but lingering finish. This one really threw me for a loop. It's a gin with a story within itself.

All of these gins pack a lot of character into each bottle. Even for unseasoned gin drinkers, they are a treat for the senses. I definitely recommend a least checking out the available sample pack to see what all the fuss is about.

These gins are available at Siciliano's Market at $36.99/750ml each or $29.97 for the 200ml three pack.

Monday, June 24, 2013

First-Hand Aid: Bringing Medical Supplies to the People of Cuba

The author with Marc Bohland
By Steve Siciliano

I first met Marc Bohland when he owned The Guest House, a hall on Stocking Avenue in Grand Rapids where a few of our Siciliano’s homebrew parties were held before the annual event outgrew the confines of an indoor venue. Marc also owned the Copper Top at the time and Barb and I formed a friendship with him during our occasional visits to his restaurant. “You should travel with us to Cuba sometime,” Marc said during one of those visits.


Before Marc gravitated to the restaurant business he worked as a surgical assistant in the emergency room at Spectrum Health and it was there that he met a doctor who had recently escaped from the island. The doctor told Marc about the horrible conditions in Cuban hospitals, about the antiquated equipment and about the lack of basic medical supplies. The doctor also told Marc about how his two companions on the inner tube raft had drowned in the Straits of Florida. Most people would have listened and gone back to their lives. Marc Bohland listened and decided to help.

In 1999, Marc and a fellow spectrum employee smuggled medical supplies to the Cuban doctor’s family. That initial and, in the eyes of the United States government, illegal trip to Cuba was the first step in a remarkable journey that has culminated in the formation of First-Hand Aid, a non-profit organization that now regularly, and legally, brings medical supplies to Cuba.

Barb and I made the trip six years ago and it was an extraordinary experience. Like the other travelers in our group, our suitcases were packed with the much needed medical supplies as well as with staples that the average American takes for granted—toothpaste and deodorant, soap and aspirin. We stayed with a Cuban family. We saw first hand what impact the embargo is having on the lives of the Cuban people.

This past Saturday Barb and I worked the cigar bar at “Havana Night,” First-Hand’s annual fundraiser. Siciliano’s market donated the cigars and we donated a few hours of our time as a way of helping the organization continue its extraordinary work.

There are numerous arguments for and against the continuation of the Cuban embargo, in effect now for over fifty years. In the meantime the Cuban people are suffering. Since it doesn’t appear that our government will lift the embargo anytime soon, Barb and I just might have to make another trip.

Learn more about First-Hand Aid by visiting their website and Facebook page.

Friday, June 21, 2013

New Beer Friday, All New Eight Pack Edition (June 21)

Preamble by Doug Dorda

Jeff enjoying his new eight pack
How often has this happened to you? You walk through the aisles of Siciliano’s with a freshly filled six pack and begin to approach the register. But on your way there you uncover the very beer you were there for in the first place! Obviously you desire that beer so you grab one, or two, and proudly place the arrangement of beers on the counter.

Up until this very moment, beer carrying technology has supplied us with flimsy cardboard four or six packs that offer no insulation, can become soggy due to condensation, might break (causing the appalling loss of one or more beers), can hold only four to six beers, and simply do not provide the proper canvas for a beer lovers sticker collection.

Scientific breakthroughs in hold-my-beer-for-me technology have finally provided us with the solution to the problematic packs of the past. Meet the new fan-plastic eight pack, designed right here in Michigan by Adam Harden.

This eight pack will comfortably hug eight beers of your choosing inside its protective walls of high density plastic that is nigh indestructible. The pack can be coated with ice and will show no signs of degradation. It can even be washed in the case of thorough soaking.

Adam designed the pack with the craft beer populace in mind. No longer shall we be shackled by the constraints of six beers alone, or how to comfortably fit six beers or more into a bag or box. Arrived are the days of the four beers for you and four beers for myself scenario. Homebrewers, bring eight samples of your creations to a friend's house or club meeting with a brand new panache!

Now, being that the eight pack is new to the market and this will be its first iteration, Adam would like to welcome anyone who purchases one to contact him directly with suggestions for improvement or to provide any insight you may have.

You may be wondering how much this pack will cost, perhaps $20 or $30 dollars? Act now and we'll give you the entire eight pack for the low low price of $12, Siciliano's "Brew On" sticker included. Ironically, there are only six selections on this week's list of new beers at Siciliano's. What are the odds of that?

New and Returning Beers at Siciliano's Market

  • Dogfish Head Sixty-One, $2.59/12oz - "The continually hopped India Pale Ale brewed with Syrah grape must" (source).
  • Founders Devil Dancer Triple IPA, $5.09/12oz - "Founders most complex, most innovative, most feared and yet most revered ale produced. Massive in complexity the huge malt character balances the insane amount of alpha’s used to create this monster. More IBU’s than any brewery has documented, more than you would believe and dry-hopped for twenty-six days straight with a combination of 10 hop varieties. Dangerously drinkable and deliciously evil. We dare you to dance with the Devil. 112 IBUs" (source).
  • Nectar Ales Red Nectar, $1.99/12oz - "Boasting a ruby hue and an exquisite floral aroma, Red Nectar is a robust yet elegant brew with distinctive accents of toasted malt, caramel, spice and residual sweetness. The beer that started it all… Red Nectar was considered a strange bird when it was first released in 1987. After all, where did a robust, handcrafted all-natural amber ale fit into the massive flock of American industrial lagers? Answer: it didn’t. So it blazed its own trail, helping set the pace for the craft brew revolution. Enjoy Red Nectar for its dazzling reddish copper hue, original flavors and caramel spice accents" (source).
  • Nectar Ales Nectar IPA, $1.99/12oz - "Our IPA is created from a base of Pale and Crystal malts and is aggressively hopped throughout the brewing process with a final hop addition in the conditioning vessel. A beautiful flowery hop aroma will greet you as you dive into this hop lover’s dream. A middle caramel malt presence balances high hop bitterness with hop flavor end to end... learn to love hops!" (source).
  • Nectar Ales Humboldt Brown Hemp Ale, $1.99/12oz - "Affiliated with the Nectar Ales experience through shared origins at Humboldt Brewing Company, Hemp Ale is a one-of-a-kind brew that boasts an incredibly rich profile and unique herb-accented flavor that is attributable to the incorporation of hemp seeds into the brewing process. A wonderful brown ale full of complexity Hemp Ale is great with food or by itself. American hops create a perfect balance to the darker malts used in this brew. This brown ale is the Gold Medal winner for first place in its category at both the 1999 and 2000 California State Fair Craft Brewing Competitions" (source).
  • Frankenmuth 150th Anniversary Lager, $24.19/34oz - "Special 150th Anniversary Dark Lager blended with a portion of a Frankenmuth Dark batch from 50 years ago. Only 1862 1 liter bottles produced" (source).

Picture of the Week | The White Whale of Beers

Buzz editor Chris Siciliano found this gem at a bar
in a little mountain town in Southern Oregon
during his recent vacation. 


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pardon Our Dust: Homebrew Area Reconfiguration

By Steve Siciliano

Anyone who has been coming into Siciliano’s for more than two years will remember how jam packed the store was before we knocked a hole in the wall and added 900 square feet of much needed space to the beer- and wine-making sections. While that expansion eliminated a great deal of congestion, we have realized for some time now that we could have utilized the additional space a little more efficiently.

We are now in the process of doing a bit of fine tuning, the main focus of which is being directed towards the reconfiguration of the weighing stations and the grain milling area. When completed, these changes will give our customers much more room to gather ingredients and will reduce wait times for the scales and grinders.

The homebrew section will be a little discombobulated for awhile but I want to emphasize that there will be no disruption in business. We anticipate that these changes will be complete by the first week of July.

Temporary clutter now,
More convenient work area soon

Thanks for your patience!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Gluten Free Beers: A Forced Perspective

By Doug Dorda

“How does this one taste?” It's a question I hear far too often coming from the painfully hopeful visage of those of our customers who are unlucky enough to have developed an allergy to gluten. The customers will point to a gluten-free offering that has arrived on the shelf and, with eyes a-shimmer, ask me or one of my co-workers to offer them solace by way of nodding a simple yes and perhaps confirming that the beer in question tastes like, well, beer. 

Being that none of us on staff at Siciliano’s has an allergy to gluten, our response to the question is often to confirm that other gluten-intolerant customers seem to enjoy it. The reason for this is not that we have anything against the gluten free options available in store; it is that we simply do not have to try them, and therefore, often will not. However, in an effort to connect with those of you who must live without gluten, and to pique the interest of everyone else, I have decided to try the gluten free (GF) offerings again and perhaps relate them to other commercially available beers.

The big three—meaning, those GF beers that are available at most locations—are New Grist, Redbridge, and Bards. Each of the beers is based off the gluten-free fermentable sorghum rather than the barley or wheat that traditional beer is made from. As I sipped each beer in kind I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed them. In my head I had convinced myself that a fundamental change to one of the ingredients of beer would almost definitely equal something awful. I had often heard of other non-afflicted imbibers complain that the sorghum was responsible for a flavor that was ultimately disagreeable to the ale drinking populace. I personally found that each of the beers reminded me more of a “entry” level belgian styles of beer. Think abbey ale with a heightened presence of bubble-gum fruit that adds a layer of appreciated intricacy to a somewhat sweeter flavor profile. I found that the addition of rice syrup to the New Grist dried out the finish a touch more than the others. But it is important to note the lasting effect of the sorghum sweetness in the profile of the beer.

My new answer to the old question—"How does this one taste?"—will first be answered with a return question, "What sort of beer did you prefer?" Being that the big three GF beers are more akin to the sweet, fruity, floral and spicy notes of a Belgian ale I would not suggest them to someone who loved, say American IPAs or pale ales; yet their flavor, I'm sure, can be appreciated by those who enjoy the complex bouquet of flavors found in the realm of Belgian ales.

It is not my intention to detail the possible health benefits of a gluten free diet, or to argue the legitimacy of lifestyle changes as pertains to a personal GF prescription. I merely intend to try all classes of the beers offered to those who seek to try them so that they may be better educated as far as their closest gluten-laden kin. In the coming weeks, I will detail my experience with the other families of GF beer and do my best to offer their possible comparisons. Please feel free to offer your own experiences with GF beers, or suggest some you would like me to try. Next week I will offer my notes and comparisons on the kombucha based beers of Unity Vibrations.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Meet Mike Carr, Brewer of Siciliano's Best in Show for 2013

Mike Carr, 2013 Best in Show Winner
By Steve Siciliano

When Mike Carr was notified that he won Best in Show in the 2013 Siciliano’s Homebrew Competition for his American IPA he was sure there had been a mistake.

“I honestly thought someone had entered a wrong email address,” he said. “I have entered many competitions over the last five years and while I have done fairly well, my ratio of beers entered to medals won has not been great.”

While he has been homebrewing for about ten years, Carr said the quality of his beers began improving about five years ago after he joined the Cass River Homebrew Club and began judging and entering competitions. He brews five gallon batches about twice a month on a custom-made HERMS system that is a “constant work in progress.”

Carr enjoys brewing a wide range of styles. “I keep telling myself that I’m going to choose two or three styles and brew them over and over again to gain consistency but it never happens,” he said. “I keep looking at the 100 plus styles and sub-styles and I can’t help but try something new.”

Carr said the formulation of his winning recipe was the result of a mini competition among himself and two fellow brewers. They individually brewed a session IPA using the same ingredients and then each entered their respective beers in the Siciliano’s competition. “We came up with a very simple grain bill and then had some fun picking the hops. I wanted to use amarillo and citra but one of the other brewers suggested that we use simcoe. I’m glad he did as the simcoes are the key to the hop flavor and profile.”

Carr lives with his wife and two children in Port Huron, Michigan and works as a project manager for the federal government in the construction of roads, bridges and “the occasional building.” His extensive travel allows him to visit breweries across the country and sample a wide range of craft beers.

“Trying to balance work and family makes finding time to brew quite challenging,” he said. “I have begun brewing after the kids have gone to bed and often I don’t finish until 4 a.m. But who needs a full night’s sleep anyway?”

Congratulations to Mike Carr and a big thank you to all all homebrewers who entered Siciliano's homebrew competition in 2013.

Friday, June 14, 2013

New Beer Friday, Father's Day Edition (June 14)

Sam Siciliano, the Boss' late father
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

My father started working at Siciliano’s Market back when the store still had fountain pop, to-go coffee, a hot dog rotisserie and a lotto machine. That was about sixteen years ago. I was just starting to carry a scattering of homebrewing supplies and a few craft beers, but in those days we were more apt to sell a bag of chips and a jumbo of Budweiser rather than a bag of dry malt or a 22-ounce bottle of Solsun. They were the lean years. I was working twelve hour days, and since my father had recently retired and could use some extra cash, it seemed like a win-win situation for him to open the store for me four days a week.

For awhile it was. As soon as I got to the store on the days he worked he would go off to the back room and put away the previous day’s bottle and can returns. The first time I handed him his pay he counted it carefully.

“What’s the matter, pop,” I said. “Don’t you trust me?”

The next week I intentionally shorted him. He counted the bills, looked up at me, and then counted them again. After counting them a third time, he fanned them down on the counter and tapped at them with his plump, slightly deformed index finger.

Before retiring, Sam Siciliano was a furniture springer and then later an upholsterer. He worked in a factory during the day and for a few hours each night he did side jobs in his cramped Michigan basement. It was probably the forty plus years of pulling and tying twine and cutting thick fabric with heavy shears that caused the tip of his right index finger to curve at a forty-five degree angle. Because of that finger, he was never very fast at running the cash register, and that got to be a problem as the store grew busier.

“I think it’s time we make a change, pop,” I told him one day after handing him his pay.

“Are you canning me?” he asked.

“No, pop. You’ve got a job here as long as you want.”

After that day his main job at the store was putting bottle and can returns away. On light days he would take out the trash and vacuum. Over the years I watched him age. As he grew older I noticed how hard it was for him to bend down, how he was moving more slowly, how he had to sit and rest more often. One day when I walked into the back room I saw him sitting down while separating the returns.

“I think it’s time we make a change, pop,” I told him a week later.

“Are you canning me?”

“No, pop. You’ve got a job here as long as you want. I just think it’s time we get you a little help.”

He continued working but he never thought that just cleaning and vacuuming were enough to earn his pay. “Payday again?’ he began saying every time I handed him the bills. “Thanks for carrying me.”

“I’m not carrying you, pop.”

He continued even after the spot on his tongue was diagnosed as cancer. One time when I walked into the warehouse I saw him sitting and staring at the wall. I watched him for a few moments then softly closed the door and left him alone with his thoughts.

He finally stopped coming to the store when the chemo and radiation made him so weak he couldn’t drive. Each time I visited him it seemed that he had gotten a little older, a little weaker, a little more frail. “How’s the store doing, Steve?” he never failed to ask me during those visits. “It’s doing good, pop,” I would always answer.

“I’m glad. You and Barb work hard.”

A few weeks ago Barb told me that she was having a hard time remembering the sound of her mother’s voice. That happens after someone you’ve been close to has been gone for awhile. But I’m going to do my best to delay the inevitable with my father. And so sometimes when I have a free moment at the store, I mentally repeat like a mantra the words he spoke to me so often while he was dying.

“How’s the store doing, Steve?”

“It’s doing good, pop. It’s doing good.”

New (and Returning) Beers

  • New Holland Four Witches Black Saison, $8.19/22oz - "The Four Witches art, illustrated by Kyle Bice, develops on Golden Cap’s theme, with a nod to Wizard of Oz, as L. Frank Baum wrote the book while summering in Holland, MI. White and dark roasted wheat provide deceptively delicious body, and a playful reference to Oz’s contrast between good and wicked witches. Caramel rye and barley continue the story, along with a unique yeast character and mild spicing" (source).
  • New Holland Black Hatter, $4.79/22oz - "A blackened version of Mad Hatter brewed with black malt for a dark, roasty sweetness to the base of the flavor profile. Finishes with a strong Centennial hop character from dry hopping" (source).
  • New Holland Farmhouse Hatter, $4.79/22oz - "Fermentation character from Belgian-born yeast, envelopes bright hop character with a spicy, tart farmhouse funk" (source).
  • New Holland Oak Aged Hatter, $4.79/22oz - "Mad Hatter aged in Kentucky barrels. Round, smooth wood character brings a new dimension to dry-hopped, aromatic hoppiness" (source).
  • New Holland Michigan Hatter, $4.79/22oz - "Michigan Hatter celebrates our local agriculture with its Michigan-grown Cascade hops from the Leelanau Peninsula. Bright and aromatic, with delicious malt notes underneath a citrusy showcase of hops" (source).
  • New Holland Rye Hatter, $4.79/22oz - "Rye lends spiciness to the caramel-malt base, while creating a creamy texture. Dry-hopping contributes a fresh citrus finish. Pairings: blue cheese, blackened seafood, herb-roasted poultry" (source).
  • Brewery Vivant Contemplation, $3.39/16oz - "Ale Brewed With Michigan Honey & Locally Grown Hops" (source).
  • North Peak Archangel Summer Wheat, $2.19/12oz - "A solid American wheat, with a classic nose that transitions to a faint cherry aroma complimenting its rich amber gold hue. As this well-balanced and deceptively light-bodied wheat beer travels across the tongue, the willamette and perle hops hint at bitterness, followed by a crisp, clean wheat flavor that cuts to a subtle tart cherry finish. Asked to describe the flavor of Archangel, the most accurate response is: 'it tastes like more'" (source).
  • Mount Pleasant Second Wind Wheat, $1.79/12oz - "Too many times it’s been overheard, I would have another, if only I could catch my second wind? Now there is no excuse. This wonderfully different ale often takes its drinkers by surprise with its complex flavors created by the one of a kind weizen yeast. Its smooth, easy to drink and simply delicious. This gorgeous, medium bodied beer starts out with yeasty character and finishes off, happily, with a delicate spicy flavor. The adventurous will pair this beer up with everything from pizza to a hearty Rueben. Some of our patrons also insist that Second Wind Wheat is our best summertime beer, so pack a few for your next beach visit. Just one sip, and you will understand why some say its sweet summertime in a bottle" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Black and Blue, $14.39/22oz - "Black & Blue is golden Belgian Ale made with over 300 lbs of fresh blackberries and blueberries. With a deep purple full body and a long-lasting lacy pink head, this ale is both attractive and delicious! It is tart and fruity, like our brewers! The subtle bitterness of Hallertau and Saaz hops shines through the fruit forward flavor and sets the palate aglow. (30 IBUs). This tasty brew has smooth but noticeable alcohol warmth. Belgian yeast gives this brew a characteristically dry spicy finish. The beautiful interplay of fruit, spice, and alcohol is complimented by a soft malt profile, and a high level of carbonation" (source).
  • Left Hand St. Vrain, $10.09/22oz - "Simply admiring our hazy golden Belgian-style Tripel in your wide-rimmed glass doesn’t even begin to reveal its complexity. The spicy aroma that streams upward with hints of wild flower honey and orange blossom is your first clue of the depth of St. Vrain Tripel. The sweetness from the malt makes itself known immediately, progressing to bittersweet honey and dried fruit flavors, and finishing out with the lingering earthiness from the Styrian Golding hops. The warming effect of the 9% ABV is your final indication that the initial simplicity masks St. Vrain’s beautiful intricacy" (source).
  • Great Lakes Wright Pils, $1.69/12oz - "A classic pilsner style beer with a flowery bouquet and elegantly dry finish" (source).
  • Southern Tier Creme Brulee, $8.19/22oz - "We are not the harbingers of truth as some may suggest but it may indeed be argued that our brewing philosophy is tantamount to a dessert with a bellicose past. How, you may ask, would a brewery determine a likeness to hard-coated custard? Our response is simple; it’s all in the power of history, and of course, the extra finesse needed to top off a contentious treat with definition. By comprehending the labyrinthine movement of time, one would not think it strange to trace the errant path of an ordinary object such as a cream dessert only to discover that it has been the cause of cultural disputes since the middle ages. The British founders of burnt cream and from Spain, crema catalana, both stand by their creative originality and we respect that, but it was the French Crème Brûlée, amid the strife of contention, that survived to represent our deliciously creamy brew" (source).
  • Avery 20 XX India Pale Ale, $8.19/22oz - "What else? What else would you expect from us, a bunch of severely hop obsessed brewers, to celebrate such a glorious occasion? Anything other than a massively hopped IPA would be an affront to our rich history of loving excessive use of that beautiful flower, Humulus Lupulus" (source).

Picture of the Week | New Holland Hatter Series

Happy Father's Day
from the Staff at Siciliano's

Friday, June 7, 2013

New Beer Friday, Best of Hey Kevin Edition (June 7)

By Chris Siciliano

It's been a slow week news-wise here at Siciliano's Market. So we're taking this opportunity to repost one of our favorite Buzz pieces, or part of it at least—an explanation from our now-retired advice columnist (Hey Kevin) regarding the evolutionary reasons so many professional brewers wear beards.

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

—Chuck in Bay City

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

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

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

When a brewer scratches his beard, it’s not because his face itches; it’s because he’s working on a new IPA recipe. Said scratching prompts the release of microscopic chemical compounds which are directed toward the brewer’s nostrils, then up into his brain where they are combined to recreate (or rather pre-create) the beer that will eventually find its way into your pint glass.
Follow this link to finish reading Hey Kevin's beer/brewer explanation. Otherwise, please enjoy the newest beers to arrive at Siciliano's.

New (and Returning) Beers at Siciliano's

  • Two Beers Forester Double IPA, $6.69/22oz - "You asked for it, so we brewed it! We took our flagship Evo IPA, increased the malt bill, and added even more of the best Yakima Valley Simcoe, Amarillo, Citra, and Columbus hops to give this double IPA a piney, citrus aroma" (source).
  • Two Beers Heart of Darkness CDA, $6.69/22oz - "Whether it’s hiking a moonlit trail or sleeping under the stars, our senses are heightened in the dark. We notice the little things and discover the word anew. This complex Cascadian Dark Ale is our tribute to those moonlit experiences. This hoppy yet smooth ale is an adventure all its own" (source).
  • Two Beers Trailhead ISA, $1.79/12oz - "A Northwest India-­style Session Ale (ISA) aggressively dry­‐hopped with Columbus and Cascade hops and brewed with light crystal and honey malts. A hoppy crisp beer perfect for the sunny days of summer" (source).
  • Two Beers IPA, $1.79/12oz - "Evo. IPA is a dry‐hopped, deep copper colored IPA brewed with Yakima Valley Simcoe, Amarillo, and Centenniel Hops, then aggressively dry­‐hopped with Simcoe and Columbus. The floral and citrus aroma compliments the crisp malt body" (source).
  • Two Beers Immersion, $1.79/12oz - "A Northwest Amber Ale brewed with Washington grown Chinook and Cascade Hops. Bright ruby in color with caramel, spice, and citrus overtones" (source).
  • Short's Nicie Spicie, $1.99/12oz - "Northern Michigan spiced wheat ale. A 50% mixture of premium two-row malted barley and malted white wheat makes golden wheat ale balanced with Ahtanum and Cascade hop varieties. This ale is spiced with fresh grated lemon and orange rind, coriander, and black peppercorns. It’s truly a fermented wonder of the Short’s Brew formula family" (source).
  • Abita Lemon Wheat, $1.69/12oz - "Lemon Wheat (May-September) is a crisp, refreshing beer made with lemon peel for a fresh citrus taste and aroma. This unfiltered brew has a hazy, golden color and is made with lager and wheat malts, Centennial hops and Biere de Garde yeast. This brew is an excellent choice with many dishes. It pairs wonderfully with salads if the dressing is not too sweet. Great with shrimp, lobster or any fish, even the most delicate" (source).
  • Frankenmuth Twisted Helles, $1.69/12oz - "Helles is a German-style beer. German beers are very specific in that the only ingredients are water, grains, hops, yeasts. That’s it — you don’t do anything else. The reason we call it “twisted” is because we took the German recipe and twisted it. We added something that German brewers would not do. We added the citrus of orange and lemon peel six minutes before the end of the boil. It imparts a citrus overtone; you get in the aroma and on the way backend. It’s just a refreshing summer lager" (source).
  • Old Dominion Brewing Double D, $2.49/12oz - "This is a full-bodied American style double IPA brewed with five styles of malts and four different hops. This deep copper colored ale will be served unfiltered to maximize flavor and also dry hopped during the secondary fermentation to ensure a gracious hop aroma. Cheers from us to you and may you enjoy it with friends" (source).
  • Old Dominion Brewing Morning Glory Espresso Stout, $2.49/12oz - "Loose lips sink ships, and coquettish glory will never tell. A midnight stout brewed with coffee beans, Morning Glory wakes up at 9% ALC. By Vol., with the aroma of espresso" (source).
  • Old Dominion Brewing Lager, $2.49/12oz - "Dominion Lager is brewed using four types of malted barley: Two-Row Pale Brewer’s malt, Munich, Carapils, and Caramel. The bittering hops are Perle and Hallertau from the Yakima Valley in Washington State. The aromatic hops are domestic Tettnang, German Hallertau Hersbrucker, and Czech Saaz. This combination of malt and hops, along with a classic lager yeast from Germany, and the long, low-temperature lagering process results in a mild, smooth, flavorful, complex beer that is a delight to drink" (source).
  • Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Chocolate Peanut Butter & Banana Ale, $14.39/22oz - "A Collision of Crazies Rogue Ales has again collided with Voodoo Doughnut to create Chocolate, Banana & Peanut Butter Ale! This unique artisan creation contains a baker’s dozen ingredients including chocolate, banana and peanut butter to match Voodoo’s "Memphis Mafia" doughnut- a nod to Elvis’ entourage" (source).
  • Southern Tier Imperial Compass, $7.79/22oz - "Sparkling Ale with rose hips" (source).

Thirsty Dog Barrel-Aged Siberian Night & Wulver | Beers of the Week

  • Thirsty Dog Wulver, $6.89/12oz - Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy aged for 11 months in Kentucky Bourbon barrels" (source).
  • Thirsty Dog Barrel Aged Siberian Night, $6.89/12oz - "Creamy and full-bodied, with a complex character from generous amounts of roasted, toasted, and caramel malts. For those who demand flavor, this is the perfect libation. Bronze Medal winner 2003 GABF, Gold Medal winner 2005 GABF" (source).


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Siciliano's Staff Party & Beer Tasting: The Aftermath

By Steve Siciliano

Occasionally the staff and I get our hands on highly sought after beers that are not distributed in the Grand Rapids market. While we acquire some on our travels, the majority are gifts from generous out-of-state folks who simply seem to want to share the products of their local breweries with us. We consider the windfalls to be community property so we stow them away until the stash grows big enough and then we throw a party. 

We threw one this past Saturday. Some of the notable beers we tasted were offerings from Cigar City, Three Floyds and Half Acre. The undisputed star of the show was a bottle of Westvleteren that was sent to us by a former homebrewing customer who now owns a brew pub in Spain. Of course there were other beverages besides the cache of special treats—a keg of New Belgian Shift Pale Lager, some nice single malt scotches and some very tasty small batch bourbons. A few customers caught wind of the get-together and showed up bearing gifts—a few growlers of Big Brew on the Calder Beer City IPA and some other well made homebrews. 

As store parties go, this one was quite reserved. There were the usual post party flotsam and jetsam that had to be dealt with but this time there was no loud music coming from the garage at four a.m. and on Sunday morning there were no sleeping bag bundled bodies on the deck. Maybe my employees are all just getting older.