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Friday, August 30, 2013

New Beer Friday, End of Summer Edition (August 30)

The new Best Brown label
By Steve Siciliano

Astronomers and meteorologists might take exception, but I’m declaring this to be the last New Beer Friday of the summer. While fall doesn’t technically start in the northern hemisphere until the autumnal equinox (occurring this year on September 22nd at 4:44 PM EDT), most of us, craft beer merchants included, consider the Labor Day weekend to be the conclusion of summer and, it logically follows, the beginning of fall.

This time of the year is always bittersweet for me. A few days ago I cringed slightly upon spying a few red turning leaves on a wide spreading maple, but then I immediately found myself looking forward to the time when the all the leaves on all the trees will be ablaze with color. I’ll miss the warm evenings of sipping chilled white wine or a cold hefe while watching fireflies on the backyard deck, but I’m also eagerly anticipating drinking last year’s homemade reds or a thick porter while crushing and pressing the locally grown grapes of the upcoming harvest.

The truth is that this is a wonderful time of year in Michigan. As we stand with one foot planted firmly in the departing summer and the other in the approaching fall, there are plenty of warm days and cool nights ahead that will allow us to enjoy the fermented bounty of both seasons.

New and Returning Beer at Siciliano's

  • Bell's Best Brown, $1.69/12oz - "A smooth, toasty brown ale, Best Brown Ale is a mainstay in our fall & winter lineup. With hints of caramel and cocoa, the malt body has the depth to stand up to cool weather, but does not come across as heavy. This balancing act is aided by the generous use of American hops" (source).
  • Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale, $1.59/12oz - "A perennial favorite at our Brewery Halloween party, this reddish amber ale is perfect for fall. Real pumpkin adds a full body and sweetness, while deep roasted malts lend a toasty finish to this subtly spiced brew" (source).
  • Hacker-Pschorr Octoberfest, $1.69/12oz - "Bavarian barley slow roasted, caramelized to a rich, red amber color combined with the purest spring waters from the Alps, exclusive yeast and the finest Hallertau hops" (source).
  • Leinenkugel Uber-Oktoberfest, $2.99/12oz - "“O'zapft is!” It is tapped, indeed. Oktoberfest, arguably the greatest festival in the world and the beer that bears its name, was born from a Bavarian royal wedding celebration. We’re paying homage to that celebration with a bolder, toastier take on an Oktoberfestbier that can only be described as “Über.” With a tawny orange hue, toasted malts and spicy hops, our Big Eddy Über-Oktoberfest is then dry-hopped for added hop complexity" (source).
  • Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin, $10.19/22oz - "Smashed Pumpkin is a big-bodied beer with a light coppery orange color and pleasing aroma of pumpkin and nutmeg. The OG and final Alc./Vol. provide the structure and body. Pale Ale, Wheat and Light Munich Malts combine with the natural tannin in pumpkin and the delicate spiciness of Willamette and Hallertau Hops to balance the sweetness of the fruit. To fully enjoy all the flavors, this ale is best drunk at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Smashed Pumpkin pairs well with sharp cheeses, nuts, lamb, hearty stews and desserts like flan or pumpkin pie. Chefs find this an excellent beer to cook with in dishes such as braised short ribs" (source).
  • Saugatuk Big Swingin' Richard, $15.39/22oz - "Barley Wine aged in Oak Bourbon Barrels" (source).
  • Saugatuk Black Pearl Necklace, $15.39/22oz - "Black Pearl Necklace is smooth and creamy with a big flavor and heavy body. Brewed with new Black Pearl malt, dehusked to give the roasty characteristics, without the bitterness. To top of the barrel notes derived from barrel aging, Pacific Gem hops were used to add a unique blackberry flavor and aroma" (source).
  • B. Nektar Zombies Take Manhattan, $14.79/500ml (1 bottle limit) - "Imperial Zombie Killer. Apple honey wine with cherries added, aged in rye whiskey barrels" (source).
  • Shorts Noble Chaos, $1.69/12oz - "Our new fall seasonal which is a Northern Michigan version of a German style Marzen or Oktoberfest, done the Short’s Brew way. This beer is well balanced with Noble hop additions which provide a subtle bouquet and pleasant flavor which melds well with the malt profile consisting of 2 row, chocolate, special roast, caramel and Munich malts. It’s a brand new addition to the Short’s Brew family of beer" (source).
  • Abita Pecan Harvest Ale, $1.69/12oz - "It may sound nuts, but most ales with nutty flavors or aromas are made without any real nuts. Abita Pecan Harvest Ale is made with real Louisiana pecans. The natural oils from the nuts give the ale a light pecan finish and aroma. It’s wonderful paired up with both red meats and seafood - and no suprise it’s great with nuts too. Abita Pecan Harvest Ale, crack one open for yourself today" (source).

Picture of the Week

Freshly Harvested Cascade & Hallertau Hops

Photo courtesy of homebrewer Eric Traver


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Siciliano's Homebrew and Winemaking Sale: Sept 9 to Sept 15, 2013

Reconfigured brewing area
By Steve Siciliano

September will be here before we know it and we can't think of a better way to kick off the fall beer- and wine-making season than by holding our annual sale.

The 2013 edition of the Siciliano's Beer & Wine Making Customer Appreciation Sale will start on Monday, September 9 and continue through the close of business on Sunday, September 15.

Our beer- and wine-making section has been reconfigured and we recently have added some great new equipment for the brewing and winemaking hobbyist. 

During the sale, most equipment, supplies and ingredients will be 15% off the retail price. Items that are already discounted—carboys, 50/55 lb. bags of grain, Blichmann Engineering products—will not be eligible for additional discount nor will the 15% be combined with other existing discounts (like the club discount). We will honor one discount or the other, whichever is greater. Equipment and supplies on the following list will have discounts deeper than 15%:

    • BEER EQUIPMENT KIT/GLASS: Reg. $105.00, Sale $85.00
    • WINEMAKING EQUIP KIT/GLASS: Reg. $95.00, Sale $79.00
    • WORT AERATION SYSTEM: Reg. $38.49, Sale $31.49
    • YEAST STARTER KIT: Reg. $75.00, Sale $55.00
    • MASH/LAUTER TUN: Reg $125.00, Sale $102.00
    • REFRIGERATOR THERMOSTAT (RANCO): Reg. $95.00, Sale $78.00
    • ESCALI PRIMO DIGITAL SCALE: Reg. $26.00, Sale $21.00
    • ESCALI TASO DIGITAL SCALE: Reg. $39.95, Sale $32.79
    • 25 FT. IMMERSION WORT CHILLER: Reg $64.99, Sale $56.00
    • 50 FT. IMMERSION WORT CHILLER: Reg. $130.00, Sale $107.00
    • COUNTER FLOW WORT CHILLER: Reg. $118.00, Sale $97.00
    • KEGGING SYSTEM (NEW KEG): Reg. $289.00, Sale $225.00
    • KEGGING SYSTEM (USED KEG): Reg. $229.00, Sale $180.00
    • STAINLESS MIX STIR: Reg. $29.69 Sale $23.69
    • CHAMPAGNE FLOOR CORKER: Reg. $153.00, Sale $119.00
    • ITALIAN FLOOR CORKER: Reg. $143.00, Sale $109.00
    • PORTUGUESE FLOOR CORKER: Reg. $63.00, Sale $50.00
    • MILWAUKEE PH METER: Reg. $81.00, Sale $64.00
    • REFRACTOMETER: Reg. $91.00, Sale $70.00 
Finally, be sure to stop by the Siciliano's Market on Saturday, September 14 for some free German wieners, homemade sauerkraut and draft root beer. In the meantime, stay tuned to The Buzz for more news from Siciliano's.

Friday, August 23, 2013

New Beer Friday, Visit the Ridge Edition (August 23)

Pressing the issue
By Chris Siciliano

Here's a recommendation for the next time you find yourself with a little extra time on your hands: Head out to the rich agricultural region located to the west and north of Grand Rapids. The numerous fruit and farm stands in the area (otherwise known as "The Ridge") are well worth the trip this time of year, especially for the home wine, beer, and/or cider maker, who can no doubt find creative ways to take advantage of the late summer bounty.

Given the Ridge's proximity to Grand Rapids' developing culture of fermented arts, and also for the confluence of certain physical features that make it "one of the prime fruit growing regions in the world" (source), it would not surprise us if in coming years hard cider mills began popping up like mushrooms along the Ridge. In fact, it's appears it might already be happening, much to our delight.

Matt Delong from Ridge Cider Company contacted us recently about selling fresh raw cider in our parking lot this fall. With regard to raw cider, details are coming. In the meantime, learn more about Ridge Cider Co. by reading their description below. Then, after checking out this week's list of new beers at Siciliano's, be sure to have a look at the Video of the Week, titled "A Piece of the Ridge." It comes courtesy of Ridge Cider Co.'s Facebook page.

Ridge Cider Company is in the process of becoming a craft cider producer in West Michigan. In addition to the soon-to-be craft cider and apple wine products we also like to share our fresh pressed, unpasteurized, no preservative apple cider for the cider lovers, homebrewers, & fall festivities we all enjoy.
Our apples come from "The Ridge" area near Conklin, MI. To a historic apple cider mill to be pressed. The apples are pressed in an original 50-ton apple press within the mill, driven by a 17-ft water wheel. Experience a piece of history when you drink Ridge cider.
We select the finest mixture of apples, generally 50% sweet 35% sharp 15% tart, depending of the varieties being used. Great for hard cider and apple wine. The varieties we use vary depending on the time of the season as the different breed of apples are harvested at different times. However all of our apples are among the youngest and healthiest trees in "The Ridge" area ensuring flavorful apples for our cider.
With almost 1000 acres of apple trees we have virtually every variety preferred from the consumer's perspective. We are especially pressing to sell in bulk with the homebrewer in mind.
Remember, more details about Ridge bulk cider are on their way, just like you to Siciliano's after reading this week's list of new beers.

New and Returning Beers

  • Harpoon Octoberfest, $1.49/12oz - "Several malts, including Munich and chocolate, deliver the malty character. The delicate hop aroma is not overpowering and the Willamette hops provide a gentle bitterness which balance well with the residual sweetness" (source).
  • Crown Valley Imperial Pumpkin Smash, $2.39/12oz - "Our imperial pumpkin stout is deliciously roasted with dark chocolate and toffee notes with a hint of smoke and a little spice from the hops that give it a pine note. The pumpkin adds body and character for a great beer" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Chicory Stout (Vintage 2012), $1.69/12oz (Special Price!) - "Chicory Stout is a rich, dark beer made with a touch of roasted chicory, organic Mexican coffee, St. John's Wort, and licorice root. It is brewed with roast barley, crystal malt and oats and hopped just right with Glacier hops. We use fair trade Organic Mexican Coatepec beans roasted to our specifications by Notting Hill Coffee Roastery in Lewes, DE" (source).
  • New Holland Ichabod, $1.79/12oz - "Ichabod combines malted barley and real pumpkin with cinnamon and nutmeg in a delicious and inviting brew. A rewarding complement to many dishes, Ichabod pairs well with autumnal foods such as poultry and root vegetables. After dinner, try it with your favorite dessert" (source).
  • Fort Collins 1900 Amber Lager, $2.09/12oz - "1900 is a nod to the very things that got us where we are today- crisp, clean microbrews all from the belly of a little brewery tucked away in the outskirts of Old Town. The result is a superbly refreshing, bright and delicately balanced amber lager (source).
  • Big Sky Heavy Horse Scotch Ale, $1.69/12oz - "A full bodied, full flavored ale. Deep garnet red with a dense, creamy head of tan. Heavy Horse is fermented at a lower temperature and the brewing water is softened to be closer to that found in Scotland. Malts: Pale, Crystal Chocolate, Roast. Hops: Hallertau Tradition, East Kent Goldings" (source).

Ridge Cider Co. | Video of the Week


Monday, August 19, 2013

Wine & Cider Makers, Use Our Equipment for Free

By Steve Siciliano

According to area fruit growers, there should be plenty of grapes and apples available in West Michigan this fall for home wine and cider making.

Jim Hill of Hill’s Brothers Orchards reports that the apple trees at his family’s Fruit Ridge location are heavy with fruit and that picking and pressing should begin around mid-September. Hill anticipates that the cost for his cider this year will be between $2.75 and $3.00 per gallon for folks who bring in their own containers.

Brian Taylor of Taylor Ridge in Allegan said that early ripening grapes such as Marquette, Reliance, Brianna and La Crescent should be ready for picking at his vineyard in early September while the harvesting of the late ripening varieties like Cabernet Franc, Concord, and Noiret should start in mid or late October. “We had one night of beneficial frost which helped to produce a more balanced crop,” Taylor said. “Overall we will have a good amount of all varieties.”

This year there will again be specific days and times when we will offer the free use of our wine- and cider-making equipment in the parking lot behind the store. On four consecutive Saturdays beginning on September 21, our motorized crusher/de-stemmer, manual apple crusher and fruit presses will be available for free on-site use. Siciliano’s staff members will also be demonstrating basic wine- and cider-making techniques on those days and will aid in sugar and acid adjustments.

Anyone wishing to use the on-site equipment on days other than the four Saturdays (September 21 and 28 & October 5 and 12) may do so for a nominal fee. Call the store at 616-453-9674 for more details.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

New Beer Friday, Say it with Hops Edition (Aug 16)

By Chris Siciliano

I've been sitting here for the last hour trying to think of something interesting to write for New Beer Friday. Well, it finally occurred to me: Sometimes the only way forward is to shut up and let the hops do the talking.

A big thanks to Siciliano's longtime friend Tim Chilcote for this picture taken at his small, one-acre hobby hop farm near Muskegon.

This season marks Tim and family's first foray into hop growing and, depending on the harvest, they may have a few pounds available to interested homebrewers. Stay tuned for updates. See below for the list of new beers to hit the shelves this week at Siciliano's.

New & Returning Beer

  • Ommegang Scythe and Sickle Harvest Ale, $2.79/12oz - "Scythe & Sickle Harvest Ale is brewed with barley, wheat, oats and rye. Scythe and sickle is a seasonal brew that celebrates the richness of the grain harvest. Brewed with barley, wheat, oats and – in a nod to traditional upstate New York grains – rye, this fine ale is malty and creamy on the palate. The flavors of the grains and earth shine through. Enjoy the refreshment of the season and joys of fine brewing" (source).
  • Arbor Mackinac Island Fudge, $2.29/12oz - "A roasty, dry stout made with real fudge for a subtle chocolate-fudge character without being sweet. Top with whipped cream for a special treat!" (source).
  • Brooklyn Oktoberfest, $1.69/12oz - "Brooklyn Oktoberfest was introduced in 2000. It is true to the original German style, full-bodied and malty, with a bready aroma and light, brisk hop bitterness" (source).
  • Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin, $1.69/12oz - "Post Road Pumpkin Ale is a revival of a beer brewed by the early American colonists. Pumpkins were plentiful, flavorful and nutritious and they blended nicely with barley malt. Hundreds of pumpkins are blended into each batch of Post Road Pumpkin Ale, creating a beer with an orange amber color, warm pumpkin aroma, biscuity malt center and crisp finish. Post Road Pumpkin Ale is spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg" (source).
  • Fort Collins Hoptitude Imperial Extra Pale Ale, $2.89/12oz - "What’s better on a warm day in the mountains (or at sea level, for that matter) than relaxing with a strong beer that drinks easy? Hoptitude has an aromatic orange rind nose courtesy of a late addition of Pacifica hops from New Zealand, a bready malt backbone, a refreshing hop flavor reminiscent of dry grapefruit, and a palate cleansing finish" (source).
  • New Belgium Pumpkick, $1.69/12oz - "What’s that bite of tartness doing in a pumpkin beer? Adding the unexpected kick of cranberry juice to brighten this traditionally spiced seasonal ale. PUMPKICK is brewed with plenty of pumpkin juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, but it’s the cranberries and touch of lemongrass that send your tastebuds sailing" (source).
  • Heavy Seas Riptide, $1.99/12oz - "Riptide white IPA is a beer brewed with a malt body similar to a Belgian style Wit with loads of torrified wheat. It’s hopped like an IPA, but we use a unique blend of Czech Saaz, French Strisselspalt, Calypso, Centennial and Cascade hops to create a big citrus nose and flavor with floral accents. To complete the feel of the wit style, we push the beer through our hopback which is loaded with Spanish sweet orange peel, Curaçao bitter orange peel, coriander, and a generous helping of hops. It’s fermented with a classic Belgian Wit yeast which provides all of the fruity and spicy notes you’d expect. We then blast the tank with our hop cannon which is loaded with Calypso, Strisselspalt, and Citra hops and more orange peel. The beer is then lightly filtered to retain all of the exceptional yeast character" (source).
  • Heavy Seas Red Sky at Night, $1.99/12oz - "This beer is brewed in the Belgian Saison style (country farm house ale). A potent yet delicate ale, brewed with a unique Belgian yeast which develops a spicy, fruity flavor. Enormously complex. Available from May to around August" (source).
  • Anderson Valley Fall Hornin Pumpkin Ale, $2.19/12oz - "With a brilliant, deep copper hue and creamy beige-colored head, our Fall Hornin' Pumpkin Ale has inviting aromas of caramelized malt and baking bread with highlights of cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin and seasonal spices. The pleasantly creamy mouthfeel and silky body embrace the sweet caramel flavors and tang of spices (with just a hint of hops) that ends in a smooth, round finish." (source).

Reminder of the Week

 Siciliano's Annual Homebrew & Winemaking Sale is the week of September 9.


How To Make Raw Milk Chevre

The Buzz is pleased to have this contribution from former employee and longtime friend Sarah McGrath. To read more from Sarah, check out her personal blog, Sarah's Farm.

The author on her way to chevre
By Sarah McGrath

'Chevre' is fresh spreadable cheese made from goat's milk. Made from cow's milk, it's called 'fromage frais' (fresh cheese). Enriched with cream, it becomes cream cheese. All are made the same way, all are easy to make, and all are great for beginning cheesemakers.

The basic procedure is this: warm the milk, add cheese culture/rennet, let sit overnight, and strain. You'll need a pot to warm the milk, a thermometer to measure the temperature, a large spoon to stir in the rennet and culture, and a colander and cheesecloth to strain the cheese.

Recipe for one pound of cheese (recipe can be doubled or tripled):

Chevre Ingredients

    • 1 gallon milk
    • 1 Packet Mesophilic C101 culture OR 1/8 tsp Abiasa Mesophilic Aroma B (available for purchase at Siciliano's Market)
    • 2 drops single strength (calf) rennet 

Chevre Procedure

  1. Warm milk to 77 degrees F
  2. Stir in culture packet
  3. Dilute rennet in 1/4 cup water, and stir in thoroughly
  4. Cover and let sit undisturbed 12-18 hours
  5. Put a cheesecloth square in the colander and scoop the cheese into it. Bring the corners of cloth together, tie with rubber band or something similar (bag tie, etc.) and hang to drain for 6 to 12 hours depending on the final texture you desire
  6. When drained to your liking, scoop into tupperware style containers and refrigerate. It will last 10-14 days or can be frozen for longer storage. 
That's it! Making fresh cheese is super easy! Here are some additional tips:

    • If your house is cool you'll want to let the cheese culture for the full 18 hours, if it's warm, 12 will do. Don't try to cut corners here; if you don't wait long enough, the acidity won't be properly developed, and the cheese won't drain well.
    • If you like your cheese tangier, let it sit for up to 24 hours before draining. This gives the culture time to produce extra acidity.
    • I use single strength calf (veal) rennet. If you prefer a vegetarian option, you can use vegetable rennet, but you will need to use half as much because vegetable rennet is double strength.
    • I make this cheese with raw (unpasteuried) milk. In this case, you should use half the amount of culture, since raw milk contains natural lactic acid bacteria, which will help acidify the milk. 
You may notice that some cheesemaking books, as well as our friends at the USDA and FDA, say that you should never eat cheeses made with raw milk unless they are aged for 60 days or more. This, of course, rules out all soft, fresh cheeses, as well as most mold ripened cheeses like the bries and blues and most smear ripened "stinky" cheeses like traditional munster or limburger. The concern is that pathogenic bacteria from contaminated milk or dirty equipment could grow and give people food poisoning. Not everyone, though, shares this worry. Using unpasteurized milk for fresh and young cheeses is the norm in many places, like France, which produces hundreds of raw milk cheeses that are illegal to import and sell in the US. Go here for the full list. The sheer number of "illegal" cheeses is surprising.

If you are considering using raw milk for cheesemaking, the important thing to remember is that raw milk does not *intrinsically* contain pathogens. Rather, it can become contaminated though sick animals or dirty equipment. If you are consuming raw milk or raw milk cheeses aged less than 60 days, it is important to understand the health of the dairy animals involved and the procedures used for cleaning and sanitizing milk handling equipment. The best way to do this is to know your farmer and to discuss the precautions he or she takes to help ensure that your milk is pathogen free.

Raw milk advocates often tout the supposed health benefits of unpasteurized milk. I just think it tastes better. I never knew that pasteurized milk tasted cooked until I tasted raw milk. The natural bacterial flora in raw milk also makes cheeses that have greater complexity of flavor and which reflect the local terroir.

For me, the best reason for making cheese at home is flavor. When you make your own cheese you are can freely draw inspiration from the various styles of European cheeses (even the illegal ones), while producing something that possesses the unique flavor of the sun and soil of the local environment.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Compass Box Spice Tree Scotch Whisky: Review

By John Barecki

The world of Compass Box whisky is one full of experimentation and infinite possibilities. Head whisky maker John Glaser produces a variety of intriguing cross styles that were once unacceptable in the Scotch whisky trade.

Combining the best attributes from some of the highest quality wood-aging techniques, Glaser has amassed a wonderful array of tasty treats. Utilizing his past experience in the American wine trade, Glaser takes American white oak barrels and barrel tops made from French oak and marries them together to achieve a beautiful intermingling of flavors. This process is utilized by the Spice Tree and originated with the Oak Cross release.

The Spice Tree is what used to be known as a "vatted" or blended malt whisky, which means it is a blend of single malt whiskies instead of blended Scotch whisky where grain whisky is used along with single malts. The malts that compose this whisky come primarily from northern highland distilleries in the village of Brora, and the final product is full of wonderful flavors and textures.

On the nose, Spice Tree has a bouquet of cardamom and ginger followed by fruit and white chocolate, bright red fruits, hints of spice and vanilla again. There is a well-rounded smoothness and heightened spice brought on by the French oak and the finish has a lingering fruitiness that ends in a slight dryness. This is a fun and refreshing dram that has good complexity, great for any occasion.

Compass Box Spice Tree Scotch Whisky is currently available at Siciliano's Market for $61.99/750ml bottle.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

New Beer Friday, Early Fall Seasonals Edition (August 9)

Barely into the second week of August and already we're seeing an abundance of Oktoberfest beers. The prematurity of these fall releases has us thinking that the following post from Buzz archives is as fitting for this week's NBF as anything else.

Josh is anything but angry
with Angry Orchard cider
Preamble by Kevin, from the March 29, 2012 blog post, "Hey Kevin: What's Up with Early Seasonal Releases?"

You often hear it said that professional brewers and brewery owners march to the beat of their own drum. The out-of-season seasonal beer release is scientific proof that this and similar statements are absolutely true.

We should not attribute the phenomenon solely to the quirkiness of idiosyncratic beer folk, however. What's happening is far more complicated than that, and to pin it all on mere personality traits is shortsighted.

I'll spare you the physics lesson (mostly because I don't know physics), but the appearance of seasonal beers before they're "due" has everything to do with regular (aka seasonal) distortions in the space-time continuum, particularly the way light bends around conical fermenters in the brewhouse. Such bending will often cause brewers and the beer they make to literally catapult back and forth through time, more so in certain "transitional" months of the year. In the simplest terms, the beer we're drinking now doesn't actually exist. It will at some point, but not yet. Follow me?

To date, there is no way for the individual brewer to anticipate or compensate for time travel, neither in his brewing schedule nor his shaving ritual (another reason why professional brewers tend to have such epic beards).

On a grander scale, the relative intensity of time travel is subject to evolving patterns within a 28-year cycle—we've figured that out at least. In other words, the lag between beer and season will grow more and more extreme at a generally predictable rate until summer beers are released in the dead of winter and vice versa. The phenomenon will then reverse itself, wrap back around the calendar and eventually settle for a short time—just a week or two—in a sweet spot, a space where season and beer are paired in perfect harmony.

According to our best calculations, the next projected balance in the seasonal beer release schedule will occur in November 2030, at which time enthusiasts will enjoy harvest and pumpkin beers at their most logical point in years.

Some in the industry have named this event The Great Equilibrium of 2030 and a number of breweries are planning to release special beers to commemorate the occasion. Expect to see them begin to hit shelves in early 2028.

New (and Returning) Beers at Siciliano's

  • Southern Tier Pumking, $7.89/22oz - "Pumking is an ode to Púca, a creature of Celtic folklore, who is both feared and respected by those who believe in it. Púca 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).
  • Southern Tier Harvest, $1.69/12oz - "Harvest Ale is our celebration of the changing weather and the sowing of hops and barley that will be used in our upcoming brews. We usher in the fall with a classic English style Extra Special Bitter of the highest order. Deep ruby in color with an even deeper hop flavor… in fact, we throw fresh English hops into every brewing vessel, then dry hop after fermentation to impart a zesty kick. This beer has real hop character that mingles with fresh malted barley for an experience that will make you wish it were fall year ‘round" (source).
  • Founders Mango Magnifico, $13.39/22oz (2 bottles per) - "Mango Magnifico con Calor [Magnificent Mango with Heat] is a never-before-released, high-gravity fruit beer brewed with mango and a touch of Michigan-grown habaneros. Each 750mL bottle of this 10% ABV ale is intended to be shared. Not a traditional fruit beer, the delicate tropical fruit in Mango Magnifico is punctuated by a hint of heat, increasing the overall depth of flavor and adding another level of complexity. A refreshing drink for the warm summer months" (source).
  • Liberty Street Brewing The American IPA, $1.99/12oz - "A decidedly hoppy and bitter, moderately strong American pale ale. American hop character can be described as being citrusy, piney, fruity and resiny" (source).
  • Brooklyn Oktoberfest, $1.69/12oz - "Brooklyn Oktoberfest was introduced in 2000. It is true to the original German style, full-bodied and malty, with a bready aroma and light, brisk hop bitterness" (source).
  • Arcadia Jaw Jacker, $1.79/12oz - "Jaw-Jacker balances our finest malted barley with a bit-o-wheat and is complimented with a citrus hop kick and just the right amount of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice for a nice marriage of pumpkin pie and beer. Made in the fall to celebrate the changing of the season" (source).
  • Erdinger Oktoberfest, $1.99/12oz - "Erdinger is brewed all-naturally, using traditional bottle-fermentation, never pasteurized" (source).
  • Hofbrau Oktoberfest, $1.79/12oz - "The Munich Beer Festival, or Oktoberfest, is an event of superlatives - it’s the largest popular festival in the world, staging in the beer metropolis of Munich. Millions of visitors from all over the world flock along every year to enjoy its very special atmosphere. For this occasion, Hofbräu brews a rich, full-bodied beer which goes down ideally with traditional Bavarian cuisine. With its deliciously bitter taste and alcoholic content of 6.3% volume, Hofbräu Oktoberfestbier is as special as the Beer Festival itself" (source).
  • Angry Orchard Iceman, $15.09/750ml (1 bottle per) - "Cider House Collection #2: Inspired by the tradition of Ice Ciders in Quebec, Canada, Iceman uses the process of freezing the juice from culinary and bittersweet apples to produce a rich, complex and unique cider with a crisp apple taste and notes of caramel and toffee. This cider is sweet but not cloying. The addition of oak-aging yields a smooth and pleasing vanilla character. The result is a perfectly balanced, full-flavored cider that delights the palate with clean apple notes and a lingering toffee finish" (source).
  • Angry Orchard Strawman, $15.09/750ml (1 bottle per) - "Our Cider House Collection #1: For centuries Farmhouse Cider making has been a tradition celebrated by farmers in the English and French countryside. Strawman combines a distinct blend of juices from traditional culinary and bittersweet apples, which is then aged in oak. The result is a full-flavored, complex and balanced cider with wine-like characteristics, rounded out by apple and citrus notes. Its lingering, earthy finish is a homage to the origins of this unique cider" (source).

Quote of the Week

Special thanks to Ben Darcie, aka Michigan Beer Dude,
for bringing this one to our attention.
"Son, never trust a man who doesn’t drink because he’s probably a self-righteous sort, a man who thinks he knows right from wrong all the time. Some of them are good men, but in the name of goodness, they cause most of the suffering in the world. They’re the judges, the meddlers. And, son, never trust a man who drinks but refuses to get drunk. They’re usually afraid of something deep down inside, either that they’re a coward or a fool or mean and violent. You can’t trust a man who’s afraid of himself. But sometimes, son, you can trust a man who occasionally kneels before a toilet. The chances are that he is learning something about humility and his natural human foolishness, about how to survive himself. It’s damned hard for a man to take himself too seriously when he’s heaving his guts into a dirty toilet bowl."
~James Arthur Crumley, Father of the Modern Crime Novel
(October 12, 1939 – September 17, 2008)
The Wrong Case (1975)


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Plastic 5-Gallon PubKegs: All the Rage in Hombrewing

By Greg 'Swig' Johnson

We are ecstatic to announce a new option for kegging homebrew! Introducing the plastic PubKeg. These plastic kegs take are light, easy to use, receive the standard American Sanke keg couplers and, most importantly, the kegs are BRAND NEW!

Using American Sanke couplers, these kegs are a great alternative for people who already have a home draft system for serving commercially available beers but want the option of also serving homebrew.

We will be selling the kegs individually for $59.99. A complete keg kit is available for $260. That kit will include:

    • Plastic PubKeg
    • American Sanke Coupler 
    • Liquid & Gas Lines
    • Picnic Faucet
    • 5 lb. CO2 Tank (New, Empty)
    • CO2 Regulator
    • All Miscellaneous Fittings Needed 
Just like all of our keg kits, we include all the basic necessities except the refrigeration and beer to put in the kegs. Upgrade options are available, including various shank sizes, stand faucets, and the store-preferred Perlick Stainless Steel faucets. Furthermore, we have a full selection of draft equipment to help custom build your home draft system, plus even more that we can special order.

A use and maintenance guide for these new kegs is now available on our website, with details on setting up the kit.

Also, to update the announcement for our Annual Customer Appreciation Sale Week, we will be offering these kegging kits for $199 during the week of September 9th.

Torrontés Wine, Commercial & Homemade: Varietal Review

By Steve Siciliano

Because I am a wine merchant, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I had never heard of Torrontés until last fall when wine-kit maker Winexpert announced that the varietal was being offered as one of their 2013 Limited Edition releases. The company’s product description sounded intriguing—hints of peach pit, flowers, and orange citrus fruit, a lush structure and a vibrant acidity. But it wasn’t until Barb and I were in Philadelphia a few weeks ago that I actually drank, and enjoyed, a bottle of Argentina’s signature white wine at a downtown bistro.

I probably shouldn’t be too hard on myself because most oenophiles, wine merchants or not, are not familiar with Torrontés either. The grape is grown virtually nowhere but Argentina, a country best known for producing outstanding malbecs. But over the past few years Argentine winemakers have begun looking for new markets and have increased exports of their country’s best white.

The Torrontés grape thrives in Argentina’s unique microclimate. The vineyards that produce the best fruit lie in the shadows of the Andes and are some of the highest in the world. The high altitudes coupled with scarce rainfall stress the vines, but those conditions also translate into wines that are refreshingly acidic and highly aromatic.

I love white wines with distinctive citrus flavors, spicy aromas and backbones of mouth puckering acidity. A good Torrontés displays all three characteristics—sort of like a cross between a floral, spicy gewürztraminer and a zesty, citrusy New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

We currently have two brands of Torrontés on the shelves at Siciliano’s, and they are good ones:

  • Zuccardi Torrontés 2010, $13.39/750ml – “Intense yellow greenish color. Delicate and unique nose, full of white flowers such as roses and citrus blossom. Also notes of mature white fruits and citrus zest. The wine is well structured with a lively acidity but remains centered around the aromatic intensity and delicate finish. This wine is great as aperitif and a perfect match for Asian food, fish dishes and fresh salads” (source).
  • Padrillos Torrantes 2011, $13.49/750ml – “Exotic lychee and mangosteen notes greet the nose and carry through into the mouth, which is extremely delicate in the manner of a fine dessert wine. Not that the wine is too sweet – it has just enough sugar to balance its lightness. A good match for mildly flavored dishes like seafood bisques” (source). 
These wines pair wonderfully with grilled fish or a spicy Indian dish. They are also nice to simply sip by themselves while watching fire flies on a warm summer evening on the backyard deck.

Winemakers might be interested to know that we have a few of the Limited Edition Torrontés wine kits available for $134.00.

Friday, August 2, 2013

New Beer Friday, Big September Sale Edition (Aug. 2)

Reconfigured brewing area
By Steve Siciliano

September will be here before we know it and we can't think of a better way to kick off the fall beer- and wine-making season than by holding our annual sale.

The 2013 edition of the Siciliano's Beer & Wine Making Customer Appreciation Sale will start on Monday, September 9 and continue through the close of business on Sunday, September 15.

Our beer- and wine-making section has been reconfigured and we recently have added some great new equipment for the brewing and winemaking hobbyist. 

During the sale, most equipment, supplies and ingredients will be 15% off the retail price. Items that are already discounted—carboys, 50/55 lb. bags of grain, Blichmann Engineering products—will not be eligible for additional discount nor will the 15% be combined with other existing discounts (like the club discount). We will honor one discount or the other, whichever is greater. Equipment and supplies on the following list will have discounts deeper than 15%:

    • BEER EQUIPMENT KIT/GLASS: Reg. $105.00, Sale $85.00
    • WINEMAKING EQUIP KIT/GLASS: Reg. $95.00, Sale $79.00
    • WORT AERATION SYSTEM: Reg. $38.49, Sale $31.49
    • YEAST STARTER KIT: Reg. $75.00, Sale $55.00
    • MASH/LAUTER TUN: Reg $125.00, Sale $102.00
    • REFRIGERATOR THERMOSTAT (RANCO): Reg. $95.00, Sale $78.00
    • ESCALI PRIMO DIGITAL SCALE: Reg. $26.00, Sale $21.00
    • ESCALI TASO DIGITAL SCALE: Reg. $39.95, Sale $32.79
    • 25 FT. IMMERSION WORT CHILLER: Reg $64.99, Sale $56.00
    • 50 FT. IMMERSION WORT CHILLER: Reg. $130.00, Sale $107.00
    • COUNTER FLOW WORT CHILLER: Reg. $118.00, Sale $97.00
    • KEGGING SYSTEM (NEW KEG): Reg. $289.00, Sale $225.00
    • KEGGING SYSTEM (USED KEG): Reg. $229.00, Sale $180.00
    • STAINLESS MIX STIR: Reg. $29.69 Sale $23.69
    • CHAMPAGNE FLOOR CORKER: Reg. $153.00, Sale $119.00
    • ITALIAN FLOOR CORKER: Reg. $143.00, Sale $109.00
    • PORTUGUESE FLOOR CORKER: Reg. $63.00, Sale $50.00
    • MILWAUKEE PH METER: Reg. $81.00, Sale $64.00
    • REFRACTOMETER: Reg. $91.00, Sale $70.00 
Finally, be sure to stop by the Siciliano's Market on Saturday, September 14 for some free German wieners, homemade sauerkraut and draft root beer. In the meantime, tide yourself over with all the new beers that hit the shelves this week at Siciliano's.

New (and Returning) Beers at Siciliano's

  • Shiner Oktoberfest, $1.49/12oz - "Here in Shiner, TX (pop. 2,070), we’re suckers for tradition. Which is why this classic Oktoberfest brew is made with the highest quality two-row barley, Munich and caramel malts, along with German grown Hallertau Tradition and Hersbrucker hops. It’s our way of honoring our ancestors and the beer they loved to celebrate with. So raise your stein to tradition and enjoy this utterly classic brew" (source).
  • Frankenmuth 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).
  • Great Lakes Oktoberfest, $1.69/12oz - "Cleveland’s celebration of Oktoberfest dates to the mid 1800’s when German immigrants gathered at outdoor beer gardens like Haltnorth’s and Kindvater’s St. Clair Gardens. Our amber lager with rich malt flavor and noble hops honors Cleveland’s diverse cultural heritage" (source).
  • Samuel Adams Oktoberfest, $1.59/12oz bottles and cans - "The first thing you notice when pouring a glass of this seasonal beer is the color. Samuel Adams® Octoberfest has a rich, deep golden amber hue which itself is reflective of the season. Samuel Adams® Octoberfest is a malt lover’s dream, masterfully blending together four roasts of barley to create a delicious harmony of sweet flavors including caramel and toffee. The beer is kept from being overly sweet by the elegant bitterness imparted by the German Noble hops. Samuel Adams® Octoberfest provides a wonderful transition from the lighter beers of summer to the winter’s heartier brews" (source).
  • Rogue Pumpkin Patch Ale, $11.49/22oz - "The newest addition to the Chatoe Rogue series is Pumpkin Patch Ale, a beer made using fresh pumpkins grown in a patch that borders Rogue’s 42 acre hop yard. The pumpkins are picked, loaded into Rogue’s farm truck, driven immediately 77 miles to our brewery in Newport, quickly roasted, and pitched into the brew kettle to create a batch of Pumpkin Patch Ale" (source).
  • Angry Orchard Cinnful Apple, $1.59/12oz - "Our Cinnful Apple cider is crisp and refreshing with a spicy twist. The sweet, slightly tart apple flavor is balanced with cinnamon spice, adding a slight heat for a flavor that is truly Cinnful" (source).
  • Ace Hard Pumpkin Cider, $1.99/12oz - "Ace is a fall seasonal cider made from fermented apples, pumpkin and allspice, ideal for harvest time holidays. It’s also Gluten free, which is a nice alternative if you can’t rock the grains" (source).
  • Magic Hat Seance, $1.59/12oz - "Séance is a dark, complexly concocted Saison, rich with earthy hues and flavors. A mild tartness begins the journey, and an underlying hop bitterness sweeps the senses through a newly opened door of the mind, where you will soon find subtle hints of ripe fruit, bringing you to a place few dare to roam" (source).
  • Odd Side Ales Bean Flicker, $1.99/12oz - "A light coffee note with gentle grains" (source).
  • Lagunitas Little Somethin' Wild Ale, $1.99/12oz - "Another Big Sister of the Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale…. Loads of Malted Wheat for a Curious Malt Foundation and a Light Color, But Our Belgian Yeast Leaves a Huge Flavor and Complexishness" (source).
  • Cheers Norm's Amber Ale, $1.19/16oz can - "Norm’s Amber Ale delivers crisp, refreshing citrus aromas, a subdued honey malt character, and a clean finish. Get nostalgic with a true classic" (source).
  • Original Sin Newton Pippin, $10.79/750ml - "Newtown Pippin Single Heirloom Varietal “The Prince of Apples” First harvested in 1740 in Queens, NY. Coveted by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and planted in their personal estates. Benjamin Franklin had Newtown Pippins shipped to him in London in 1759. Credited with establishing the U.S. fruit export industry. Was popular for use in the making of hard cider" (source).
  • Original Sin Cherry Tree, $10.79/750ml - "Our Cherry Tree cider combines the finest American heirloom apples, which were popular in the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries, with tart cherries. The finished product has the clean, rich flavor of fresh cherries with the depth and elegance that comes from using freshly pressed U.S. heirloom cider apples" (source).

Picture of the Week

We call this one, "Greg pointing at beer."