View our Main Site »

Monday, December 30, 2013

New Beer Friday, New Year's Eve Edition (December 30)

Siciliano's Market: "A Community"
This being the last New Beer Friday Monday of 2013, the crew at Siciliano's Market would like wish all our friends and loyal customers a warm season's greetings and a happy new year.

We are fully aware of how good we have it, getting the chance to talk all day long about craft beer, wine, spirits and homebrew with incredible people like you, people who are just as enthusiastic about well-made libations—if not more so—than our own staff.

We hope the next year treats you all well, we hope the craft beer gods continue to smile upon GR, we hope that Siciliano's continues to be your go-to source for six packs of good craft beer, for quality homebrew ingredients and equipment, for that bottle of wine, for that bottle of whiskey, for that barrel of PBR or KBS (if only!), for that cigar, for that hop soda, for that pound of coffee or that half pound of tea.

That you would spend your hard-earned money and time in our little store means a great deal to us, and we resolve this year, like every year, to provide you the best shopping experience possible, which, in many ways, starts with the following list of new beers. Please enjoy.

New and Returning Beer

  • Griffin Claw El Rojo, $2.19/16oz - "Caramel and roasted malts gives this ale its rich ruby red color. American aroma hops are added leaving this ale on the malty side. Bronze medal winner at the G.A.B.F." (source).
  • Griffin Claw Grind Line Pale Ale, $2.19/16oz - "A well balanced American Ale brewed 2-row malt, caramel malt, Cascades and Centennial hops. Gold medal winner at the G.A.B.F. 5% abv. 35 IBU" (source).
  • Blackrocks Coconut Brown, $1.79/12oz - "Life in the U.P. tends to move at a slower pace. A Marquette summer often feels like island living. Take a moment to relax with this American Brown Ale brewed with sweetened coconut. Aloha, EH!" (source).
  • Blackrocks Flying Hippo, $8.99/22oz - "This beer ain't no old Jake! Belgian yeast lends a fruity and spicy aroma. Motueka hops deliver a tropical citrus flavor. This magical beauty only shows up once a year so step right up and enjoy this Blackrocks Brewery special release. The Flying Hippo is a Belgian style Imperial IPA. It promises to make every occasion a circus" (source).
  • Victory Old Horizontal, $8.29/750ml - "Luxuriously rich in character, this warming winter ale delivers over 10% alcohol in an oh-so-seductive manner. Deliciously fruity flavors lie under a bracing hop nose" (source).
  • Victory Oaked Horizontal, $16.49/750ml - "Old Horizontal aged for 3 months in bourbon barrels" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Noble Rot, $14.39/22oz - "A sort of Saison, fermented with Botrytis-infected Viognier and Pinot Gris grapes. This beer is brewed with Pils malt, organic Hard Red Winter Wheat malt, Warrior hops, Willamette hops, Liberty hops, Saison yeast and Botrytis wine must" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Hell Hound On My Ale, $14.39/22oz - "2011 marks the 100th birthday of Mississippi Delta bluesman Robert Johnson who, according to legend, sold his soul down at the crossroads in a midnight bargain and changed music forever. Working again with our friends at Sony Legacy (yup, the same folks we did our Miles Davis-inspired Bitches Brew with), Dogfish Head pays tribute to this blues legend by gettin the hellhounds off his trail and into this finely-crafted ale. Hellhound is a super-hoppy ale that hits 100 IBUs in the brewhouse, 10.0 ABV, 10.0 SRM in color, and dry-hopped with 100% centennial hops at a rate of 100 kilos per 100 barrel brew-length. Can you tell we at Dogfish are stoked for this mighty musical centennial? To accentuate and magnify the citrusy notes of the centennial hops (and as a shout out to Robert Johnsons mentor Blind Lemon Jefferson) we add dried lemon peel and flesh to the whirlpool" (source).
  • Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence, $16.69/750ml - "Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence celebrates our first decade of brewing sinfully fine ales. Chocolate malts and real Belgian chocolate blend into this lushly decadent stout, certain to seduce your palate" (source).
  • Ommegnag Hop House, $2.89/12oz - "Hop House pays homage to the historic hop farm that stood on the brewery grounds over 100 years ago. Hop House combines the delicious aromas and flavors of a Belgian-style ale with generous hopping, including dry-hopping. A well-balanced, yet ample, hop character defines this fine pale ale, bringing Belgian-style beer lovers and hop-heads together to enjoy our Belgian-American love child" (source).

Picture of the Week

Griffin Claw in Birmingham, Michigan,
is definitely worth a visit.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 20, 2013

New Beer Friday, Lonely Planet Edition (Dec 20)

Rosy Mounds, Grand Haven
One example of W. Mich's natural beauty
Preamble By Steve Siciliano

While I’m delighted that Lonely Planet named the Grand Rapids area the top tourist destination in the United States for 2014, I also have to admit that I’m a little surprised.

Let's think about this for a minute: At first blush, Grand Rapids is a medium-sized, Midwestern city with relatively few significant historical sites (compared to, say, Philadelphia or DC), no well known regional cuisine (yet) and only a developing arts scene. Nonetheless, our modest little city was crowned the nation’s top place to visit in the upcoming year by the world’s largest publisher of travel guides. I find that nothing short of amazing.

Lonely Planet’s editor-at-large Emily Wolman cited GR’s emerging art, food and beer cultures and the proximity of Lake Michigan’s beaches as the reason her staff named the city the most desirable place to spend a U.S. holiday in 2014. Taking nothing away from ArtPrize, the area’s many fine restaurants or the Big Lake’s beautiful beaches, I seriously doubt that this high honor would have been bestowed upon Grand Rapids if not for the twenty-five plus craft breweries in the West Michigan area that are producing world class beers.

Here at Siciliano’s, we constantly see travelers from other parts of the country. Every so often we see them from other parts of the world. Over the past three months folks from England, Brazil and Australia have stopped by the store and they all informed us that the reason they came to the area was for the Michigan produced beer.

No question the Grand Rapids area has a lot going for it. It's a wonderful place to visit, made so by the natural beauty of the shoreline, the interesting, friendly people who live here, and the improving food and art cultures. But the fact that someone would travel halfway around the world for a pint or two of beer, now that, my friends, is the definition of amazing.

New and Returning Beer

  • Hof ten Dormaal Barrel-aged Project, $27.89/22oz - "With pride we want to introduce to you our unique Farm brewery At Hof ten Dormaal we go full circle. From the seed till the end product. Owner/brewmaster André Janssens and son Dries use only barley malt and bittering hops that they grow themselves on the farm. The Hof ten Dormaal brewery also uses oil from rapeseed produced on the farm as the primary source of energy for the boiling and cooling processes in their brewing, rendering the small farmhouse a uniquely self-sustaining brewery" (source).
      • Original Belgian Dark aged in Cognac barrels
      • Original Belgian Blonde aged in Moscatel barrels
      • Original Belgian Blonde aged in Sauternes casks
      • Original Belgian Blonde aged in Cognac barrels
      • Original Belgian Dark aged in Madeira casks
      • Original Belgian Dark aged in Armagnac barrels
      • Original Belgian Dark aged in Sherry barrels
      • Original Belgian Blonde aged in Brandy barrels
      • Original Belgian Dark aged in Sauternes casks
  • Thirsty Dog Barrel-aged Wulver, $6.99/12oz - "We made this beer specifically for bourbon barrels. The result is our most acclaimed bourbon barrel beer. Bourbon barrel aging and specialty malts create flavors of vanilla and carmel that blend in perfect balance" (source).
  • Thirsty Dog Barrel-aged Siberian Night, $6.99/12oz - "We took our award winning Siberian Night Russian Imperial Stout and aged it for 11 months in fresh bourbon barrels. The result blew us away. The dark chocolate malt yields a milk chocolate flavor that blends perfectly with the vanilla flavor from the barrel. The bourbon aroma adds the finishing touch" (source).
  • New Belgium Cigar City Collaboration, $9.19/22oz - "We’re about to light up Florida with this Cigar City collaborative brew. Our Belgian yeast tangos with Anaheim and Marash peppers along with loads of citrusy hops to create an ale full of spice. Aged on Spanish cedar to salute our mutual love for wood" (source).
  • Green Flash Palate Wrecker, $3.59/12oz, $8.9/22oz - "Palate Wrecker was originally brewed for the Hamilton’s Tavern 2nd Anniversary celebration. It’s the most complicated West Coast–inspired IPA we have ever brewed—mashing and sparging with hopped wort, in addition to our hop layering regimen for IPA. We use almost 6 lbs/bbl of Columbus and Centennial hops to create this very bitter hop monster" (source).
  • Cheboygan Winter Marzen, $1.99/12oz - "Brewed with 100% German Malt and Noble German Hops. This Lager is smooth and creamy with a pronounced malt character, similar to our Oktoberfest Marzen, yet stronger to help fend off the bitter cold of winter" (source).
  • Cheboygan High Grade Export, $1.89/12oz - "Premium double-hopped pilsner that takes its name from one of the beers created by Cheboygan brewmasters more than 100 years ago" (source).
  • Southern Tier Choklat, $9.29/22oz - "The Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Maya, unfolds a complex web of mystery around a beverage known as xocoatl (ch-co-atle). At Southern Tier, we’re not surprised that hieroglyphs of the ancient Maya depict chocolate being poured for rulers and gods. Even through the many voyages of Columbus, the mystical bean remained nothing more than a strange currency of the native peoples. Moving through centuries, the circular journey of cacao has been realized in our brewing house, encompassing the complexity of the darkest, bitter-sweet candy together with the original frothy cold beverage of the ancient Maya to bring to you our Blackwater Series Choklat Stout. We have combined the finest ingredients to tempt your senses & renew the power & interrelation of history in every bottle" (source).
  • Odd Side Ales Hop Gobbler, $1.99/12oz - "An extra pale ale with hoppy characters throughout" (source).
  • Dugges Hiphiphooray, $9.59/17oz - American pale ale (source).
  • De Proef / Cigar City Tropical Tripel, $17.89/22oz - "Belgian ale aged on oak chips with coconut and peaches. Brewed with Belgian candi sugar, lactose, Magnum and Simcoe, fermented with Trappist Yeast and Brett Brux III" (source).
  • Omnipollo Nautaulus, $8.89/12oz - "On a stop over in Baltimore we were hosted by an overwhelmingly hospitable man – Brian Strumke aka Stillwater. Getting hammered drinking his potions - made out of rice and corn - it was with a sense of inspiration that we drove of early in the morning to catch out flight back to Sweden. Nathalius is an imperial IPA brewed with rice and corn. However, fair and alluring as though she might seem this miss will whip you into submission" (source).
  • Omnipollo Nebuchednezzer, $8.89/12oz - "'Neb' is a home brew recipe that has been scaled up with no consideration to economies of scale. Some say idiotic, and as an economist I would have to agree. Get fresh or die trying" (source).
  • Hopfen Stark Biere de Siegel, $19.59/22oz - No description available.
  • Hopfen Stark Biere de Amere, $19.59/22oz - No description available.
  • Hopfen Stark Biere aux Herbs, $19.59/22oz - No description available.
  • Hopfen Stark Boson de Higgs, $18.59/22oz - "It’s not a smoke beer. It’s not a tart Berliner Weisse. It’s maybe a weird saison. BerlinerRauchSaison. Yes! Low gravity beer with good presence of wheat. A small layer of smoke malt disaper after a few sip. And light tartness and spice from the Saison yeast. Refreshing and flavourful at the same time" (source).
  • Sprecher Hard Rootbeer, $1.49/12oz - "An adult version of our famous Root Beer with a kick, sure to please the bootlegger in you" (source).

Picture of the Week

Customer Andrew Parsons sent in this photo with the following description:
"Our Christmas tree made with only bottles from Sicilianos!"
Nice work, Andrew. You are an inspiration to us all.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Cleaning, Sanitizing Homebrew Equipment: A Primer

By Josh Swift

The time has come. You have taken your first steps into the world of homebrewing and are ready to boil up your first batch. But hold on just a second. Many off flavors and problems during and after fermentation are the result of improper sanitation. With many commercially available cleansers and sanitizers on the market, it can often be hard to know which is most effective or ideally suited to your brewing conditions. In this primer, we will explore the various compounds available, when and where to use them, and their advantages and disadvantages.


Proper sanitation in brewing requires the use of both a cleanser and a sanitizer. Each compound has a specific role in insuring that your beer is free from infections and contaminations. Cleansers are used to clean dirty brewing equipment by removing soil and organic compounds. Most of the cleansers carried in homebrew stores (specifically here at Siciliano's) are oxidizing agents. This list includes PBW, B-Brite, and Straight A.  These compounds contain hydrochloride and perborate, which release active oxygen while cleaning. Simply put, these cleansers are extremely effective in attacking proteins and organic soils on your equipment. Compounds such as B-Brite and PBW must be rinsed off thoroughly after use. By using cleansers, we can insure that our sanitizers, which we will discuss next, are able to do their jobs effectively.


Sanitizers are the second step in your sanitation process. Any piece of equipment that will come into contact with cool beer should be exposed to a sanitizer first. This will help prevent the introduction of foreign micro-organisms that can potentially ruin your homebrew. Here at Siciliano's, we usually recommend two types of sanitizers, but also carry a few more advanced formulas as well.

Acid Anionics

Acid anionics work by utilizing acid in a polymer to coat a surface. The solution will remain active as long as the surface is damp. Surfaces should be wet for at least 10 seconds to insure they have been sanitized. One notable benefit of this class of sanitizers is that many are a no-rinse solution. This means that there is no need to rinse equipment prior to it coming in contact with your beer and risking an infection. This is a result of the acid being diluted to such a point that it no longer acts as a sanitizer, and instead becomes a yeast nutrient. Nifty right? Our selection of acid anionics includes Star San and Saniclean. Both of these compounds also have a long period of effectiveness if they are not exposed excessive soil or contamination, remaining active for weeks after they are initially mixed.

These compounds do have some drawbacks, however. They are only effective in a narrow PH range (2-3 per manufacturers specifications). They are also relatively expensive compared to other sanitizers. One possible point of danger is that they can not be mixed with chloride solutions, as they will release toxic chlorine gas. Chlorine sanitizers are not ideal anyways as they require a thorough rinsing before equipment comes into contact with beer.


Iodine solutions have along history of use as sanitizing agents. Iodophor refers to a solution of iodine mixed with a surfactant to stabilize it in a solution of water. Iodophor works by way of haleogenization, disrupting the membranes of microbes and disrupting cellular processes. This means it is extremely effective against many different kinds of microbes, especially wild yeast and mold. In the correct concentration, Iodophor can also be used as a no-rinse sanitizer. Some brewers have also been kind enough to do their own research on Iodophor as well, and we have included their results at the end of this article.

However, like acid anionics, Iodophor does have limitations. If it is over-concentrated, it can stain equipment. It is also is fairly volatile at temperatures over 120F, resulting in reduced performance. Higher temperatures can also put brewers at risk of iodine gas inhalation if they are brewing in a small and poorly ventilated area. Unlike Star San, Iodophor loses effectiveness within a few days of being mixed with water.


Caustics are an extremely effective cleanser and sanitizer. However, they are also the most dangerous compound to use. Thus, new brewers would be best suited to using the chemicals we have discussed previously. Nevertheless, caustics are extremely effective in dissolving soil and destroying microbes.

As the name suggests, caustics are extremely corrosive and will cause chemical burns. They are also extremely toxic and should not be breathed in or swallowed. Caustics must also be extensively rinsed.

Chlorine (Bleach)

There was once a time when the only viable sanitizer for homebrewers was bleach. This was a result of the very niche nature of the hobby in the 1980s and 90s. Even some books for beginning brewers still list bleach as an option. However, with all the other available sanitizers on the market at this time there are quite a few reasons to finally retire bleach from service in brewing.

Bleach needs to be thoroughly rinsed from all equipment, as it is toxic, and will adversely affect yeast, and leave noticeable flavors in finished beverages. Bleach is also quite corrosive and will discolor and damage stainless steel and other metals. Brewers should also keep in mind that using bleach in conjunction with any acids will cause the liberation of chlorine gas, a potentially deadly toxin. As a staff, we would never condone the use of bleach or any chlorides as a sanitizer.


Hopefully this article has helped make the process of cleaning and sanitation less intimidating. The links at the bottom of the page lead to various resources on the specifics of some of the products and processes discussed earlier. Feel free to ask questions of the Siciliano's staff as well.

A Short Course in Aperitifs, Vermouth Edition

By John Barecki

Most people (including, until recently, myself) know little about vermouth beyond the fact these amazing fortified wines make a cocktail more interesting. However, they have a full history of their own spanning from Italy to France and to the USA today. And just like whisky and rum, there is more to the story than meets the eye. Lets begin with the aperitifs.

The name aperitif is derived from the Latin aperire, which means "to open" and refers to the stimulation of appetite that occurs after ingestion of the wine. This is caused by the collection of herbs and spices added to the wine. Aperitifs encompass vermouth, quinquina and americanos among others, all being known as aromatized because of the addition of the herbs. These aperitifs were very popular because of two factors: One, they were flavored with intense and delicious herbs and spices and two, they contained a lot of well known herbal tincture components known for their benefits to health.

Vermouths get their name from the German word for wormwood, which was a popular ingredient in the past (some still use Wormwood in recipes today but, in general, its use has declined). Vermouth originated in Italy around the 18th century as a somewhat sweet, infused, red or brown beverage. Eventually it spawned off dryer and semi-sweet versions with white wine as the base. The French created styles that were lighter and based on white wines to offer a choice from Italy's bolder, spicier reds. These two styles eventually became popular in America in the 1880's, being used widely in mixed drinks, most notably the Manhattan and the Martini as well as the Vesper, a drink made famous in Casino Royale by Ian Fleming, in which James Bond orders the drink. The Vesper involves three measures vodka and a half measure of Lillet, a French aperitif. It's shaken with ice and garnished with a thin slice of lemon peal.

Two other styles to point out are Quinquina (kenKEEnah) and Americano styles. Quinquina uses Peruvian cinchona bark known more so for it being the primary source of quinine. This was a very beneficial chemical in the 18th century because it warded off malaria and in turn was put into the beverage made for the French foreign legion specifically to keep them healthier on the battlefield. Over time, people discovered that quinine had a likable flavor and continued to use it. The Americano style refers to the old world meaning of the word amer which translates to "bitter." In this case, bitterness is brought on by the addition of wormwood and gentian.

Vermouth, quinquina and americanos all draw their flavors from the same group of botanicals and get a classification through the intent of the botanical formula—in other words, what the herbs and spices will do for digestion. There are over fifty different herbs and spices used in the creation of all of these wonderful beverages.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to vermouth. For now, I will leave you with some words of advice for enjoying the beverage. First, drink them as you see fit, be it in a mixed drink or on the rocks, though I am a firm believer in trying it straight before you mix and always keep open bottles in the fridge—old room temp vermouth is not pleasant. A lot can be said about regional differences as well as wine style variances and the vast array of herbs and spices that are used, but when it comes down to it all you need to do is close you eyes, grab a bottle and experience something exotic and delicious.

Stop in to Siciliano's to explore our growing selection of fine vermouths, quinquina, americanos and other aperitifs.

Friday, December 13, 2013

New Beer Friday: I Snow What I Snow Edition (December 13)

By Steve Siciliano

Aman Park
I didn’t really have to shovel the driveway. I knew that our plow service would be coming to clear the lake effect snow that began falling in the morning and was still falling as the early December evening was approaching. But something I can’t quite explain what made me want to be outside in that snow storm.

When you’re young you don’t have to rationalize or justify doing mindless things outside in winter. No one thinks you’re crazy if they see you making snow angels, or when you’re throwing snow balls at a thick tree trunk, or when you’re running through the yard trying to catch big falling snowflakes with your tongue. If I hadn’t overcome the urge to do those childlike things I have no doubt that my neighbors and my wife would have stared out the windows at me in dumfounded amazement. So instead of playing in the snow I had to be content with shoveling it.

While I shoveled, I recalled long-past winters when our neighborhood gang would stay outside until our mothers implored, cajoled and finally demanded that we come in from the cold. I nostalgically remembered the igloo making and the snow ball fights. When we got older we would sled and toboggan for hours down John Ball Park’s hills and skate long past dark on its pond. What was it, I wondered, that made us impervious back then to the elements. Why is it that children are so easily able to forgive Mother Nature for the vagaries of her harshest season?

I leaned on my shovel and gazed up through the falling snowflakes at the bare branches of the backyard maples against the slate-grey expanse of the December sky.

“Beautiful,” I whispered.

New and Returning Beer

  • Dogfish Head Olde School Barley Wine, $4.09/12oz (limit 1 bottle/person) - "Inspired by a tale of a cask doctor who brought sluggish ales back to life by suspending a fig in them. Brewed from 100% Maris Otter pale ale malt, a blend of fine hops and conditioned on dates and figs. User Instructions: open bottle, pour contents into two snifters. Enjoy. ALTERNATIVELY: Walk hand-in-neck with bottle into the middle of the woods. Use shovel to dig 2x2 hole three feet deep. Seal bottle in plastic bag. Place in hole and pack with dirt. Memorize location and leave. Return exactly one year later. Dig up bottle, open and enjoy" (source).
  • New Holland Incorrigible, $4.79/22oz - "Wheat Ale, soured and aged in Bordeaux Oak Barrels" (source).
  • Greenbush Jadis, $1.79/12oz - "A Winter White Ale because what else is Winter? The cold sets in and hangs for months it seems. Everything slows down. Time warps… and you’re covered with a wash of white. Thought I meant winter, didn’t you? Jadis will take you away from winter, even if temporarily" (source).
  • North Peak Blitzen Festivus Ale, $1.99/12oz - "North Peak Blitzen is a Festivus Ale with raisin, current and berry notes attributed to Bramling Cross hops, 3 types of Crystal malts, Cara and Chocolate malt. A combination of citrus peel and citrus pith flavors are accented by the Hercules, Cascade and Pilgrim hops added throughout the boil. Riwakas’ subtle spiciness in combination with the crisp spiciness from the Rye malt liberates flavors reminiscent of savory holiday cakes. This is a well balanced, rich, Festivus Ale that will warm the palate and soul, awakening memories of holidays past. It is brewed in Traverse City, MI, on Old Mission Peninsula incorporating locally grown hops" (source).
  • Goose Island Ten Hills Pale Ale, $1.59/12oz - "Ten Hills traces its story to Elk Mountain Farms in Idaho, famous for growing hops of exceptional quality and character. With hops from the "first ten hills" grown for Goose Island at Elk Mountain, we crafted a pale ale that delivers both a herbal and citrus hop character. We hope you’ll find the intriguing balance of flavors in this beer to be truly unparalleled" (source).
  • Lakefront Holiday Spice Lager, $2.39/12oz - "Timed to coincide with the holiday season, a very special lager is brewed with honey, oranges, and spices. This beer uses two pounds of honey per pound of malt in its brew, making it an exceptional fortified holiday specialty beer which will keep for years. The spices and hops balance the sweetness of the honey and malt to give this lightly hopped beer its perfect flavor" (source).
  • Evil Twin Low Life, $3.79/12oz - "A clever woman once said; ’fair is foul and foul is fair’. On that note we threw in a young, unacknowledged hoppy pilsner, gave it a limp, wrinkly flavor and finished it off with an insulting high price that will give you a foul feeling in your mouth. That’s why we name Evil Twin Brewing’s Low Life the Golddigger of Beers" (source).
  • Evil Twin Molotov Cocktail, $4.79/12oz - "Did you like Before During and after Christmas? Maybe thought it pored brilliantly, the alcohol was admirable well hidden and you loved how the arrogant amount of hops numbed you. This beer will knock your tongue off, essentially due to the obscure amount of hops that went down this explosive fella – it’s a tour de force in hoppyness and by far the craziest beer ever made from Evil Twin – but not the last" (source).
  • Evil Twin Yin, 44.79/12oz - "This is one half of a Black & Tan. Not just any Black & Tan, but one where a toasted smug and hoppy fella get together to make a sublime Taiji balance. Mix the Yin & Yang together (or enjoy this profoundly evil Imperial Stout solo)" (source).
  • Evil Twin Hipster, $2.99/12oz - "Perhaps you heard of a worldwide beer-movement that tributes favorite hipster neighbourhoods across the globe. First came Istedgade, Copenhagen then Södermalm, Stockholm followed by Williamsburg, New York and Shoreditch, London accompanied by Trastevere, Rome & last El Raval, Barcelona. If you feel excluded because you’re hip but your city is not, this cutting-edge, ‘hip without borders’ pale ale is an homage to you – the global hipster" (source).
  • Evil Twin Bikini Beer, $2.99/12oz - "Lets be frank - this is a sissy beer. 2.7 % alcohol, attractively light bodied, and annoyingly well-balanced hops. Put on your best bikini and enjoy this very, very drinkable beer in the sun, at this summers festivals, or even better use it to slowly seduce your nagging friends with an anxiety for craft beer" (source).
  • Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break, $20.49/22oz - "The Roman Empire had a certain “je ne sais quoi” festive food culture, extravagant architecture and spectacular live entertainment. Some might argue the Emperors were brutal, mad and hungry for power, and the people vain when taking baths and working out all day. Listen – that’s still all part of the secret Imperial ingredient – keep it cool, clean, confident, arrogant and flamboyant" (source).
  • Evil Twin Justin Blaeber, $13.99/22oz - "OMG! It’s JUSTIN BLABAER!!! If you have “Blaeber fever,” then this is the only solution. We stuffed so many blueberries into this beer–it’s going to make you shout “Oh, Baby!” This is dedicated to AVSB, A&F YFFL – EW, MW, RWM, BE, SS, RC. A collaboration between Evil Twin Brewing, Westbrook Brewing Co, & The Charleston Beer Exchange" (source).
  • Stillwater Black Saison, $3.99/12oz - No commercial description currently available.
  • Stillwater Cellar Door, $3.49/12oz - "over the ages the term ’cellar door’ has numerously been referred to as the most beautiful term in the English language. upon setting out to create the first summer addition to the Stateside line up of ales; the feeling that almost instantly came to me was that of beauty & cleansing. many summer offerings tend to lack the complexity of their bigger, colder season counterparts; so my goal was to craft an ale of extreme balance with a delicate complexity that allows for contemplation while also providing quaffable refreshment. starting with a base of German wheat & pale malts this crisp slightly hazy foundation was then accented with a blend of Sterling & Citra hops providing a intricate blend of herbal grass & tangerine citrus flavors and aroma. to pull this all together and to complete the ’cleansing’ aspect of my vision i gently finished the ale off with a touch of white sage, lending a mild earthy spice character to the blend. of course let’s not forget our house saison yeast that brought all the elements together leaving a dry yet intricate finish" (source).
  • Stillwater Lower Dens, $10.09/375ml - "The Stillwater Sensory Series is a collaboration between Stillwater Artisanal and singular musical artists. In this first collaboration, Stillwater works with Lower Dens to make an ale based on an interpretation of their song, "In the End is the Beginning." On the bottle itself, a QR code will link to an exclusive Lower Dens performance of the song. Ultimately, this is a true artistic collaboration that aims to create a full sensory experience - sound, sight, smell, touch, and taste" (source).
  • Stillwater Stateside Saison, $3.59/12oz - "Stateside Saison pays homage to old world tradition while celebrating new world innovation. Naturally brewed with the finest European malts & fresh aromatic hops from the United States & New Zealand. It’s then fermented using a classic farmhouse ale yeast and bottle conditioned to enhance stability. The outcome is a beer of unique design and exquisite taste, showcasing some of the best attributes of modern-day craft brewing" (source).
  • Stillwater Why Can't IBU, $4.59/120z - "Hops, yeast, & fun" (source).
  • Stillwater Debauched, $13.69/22oz - "Brewed with whole juniper bushes, farmhouse ale yeast (brettanomyces) and a touch of smoke. Like a Viking Saison, yeah" (source).
  • Stillwater Classique, $2.89/17oz - "Post-Prohibition Style (ale).. corn, rice, pilsner malt.. and lots of your favorite old-school American hops" (source).
  • Shorts Cup O' Joe, $2.19/12oz - "The perfect morning night capper. The richest of stout, creme, and coffee that could ever grace the guidelines of beer. Toast, roast, and chocolate notes infused with fresh coffee and finishing with a soft creme mouth feel" (source).
  • Crankers Fifth Voyage, $1.99/12oz - A coconut porter.
  • Emelisse Smoked Coffee Porter, $7.69/12oz - "A Porter brewed with smoke malt and coffee" (source).
  • Emelisse Creme Brulee Stout, $7.69/12oz - "Different recipe from Mikkie = Stout!" (source).
  • Emelisse Imperial Russian Stout, $7.69/12oz - "A dark full bodied Imp Russian stout" (source).
  • Local Option Morning Wood, $10.09/17oz - "Local Option Morning Wood: Local Option Morning Wood is an oak-aged coffee ale developed and brewed by Local Option Bierwerker. Fresh American oak used during the aging process and Dark Matter’s El Salvador San Jose pulp-natural coffee aromatically drive the beer; while remaining subtle components of the beers’ complete flavor profile. The amber colored, medium-bodied, and extraordinarily well-balanced ale was first unveiled at the Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beers in November 2011. Morning Wood’s taste is delicate and should be appreciated by beer drinkers of all palates" (source).
  • Local Option Blood of the Kings, $10.09/17oz - "At the peak of summer 1631 King Gustavus Adolphus led thousands of Swedish troops into Northern Germany. Following the destruction and subsequent plundering of Brandenburg Adolphus’ army marched through the endless wheat fields en route to Bavaria. Brewed with copious amounts of red wheat, Blood ov the Kings is aromatically driven by bread, biscuit and notes of exotic fruit. Hazy and medium bodied the beer has a rich and creamy mouth feel with a dry, bitter, and slightly sweet finish. Unbound by the Reinheitsgebot Blood ov the Kings would certainly have been the vital fluid of victory for the Swedish monarch as he spilled blood across the wheat fields of Northern Europe" (source).

Picture of the Week

Luke makes Amarillo hop angels
to celebrate the arrival of the 2013 hop harvest


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hop Drop: 2013 Hop Harvest Now Available at Siciliano's

Forget snow angels, this is
the world's first Amarillo hop angel
By Doug Dorda

Attention all ye cohumulone connoisseurs! Rejoice, you alpha acid aficionados! Tis the season for giving, and our friends at LD Carlson have given us reason to believe that it is now, truly, the most wonderful time to make beer.

Though this intro has been about as subtle as a kick in the teeth, even for those of us that don’t emanate floral hop bouquets from every follicle, we are pleased to announce that the 2013 hop harvest in now available at Siciliano’s Market.

The news comes a week late, and for that I apologize, yet there is a glorious silver lining to these late tidings. Along with the rest of the classic hop varietals homebrewers adore, allocations of highly coveted strains such as Mosaic, Simcoe, and (you guessed it) Amarillo have become available in quantities so large that we are happy to report there is currently no limit on how much of these strains you can buy. Further bolstering this good news: There have been NO price increases for hops this year!

In summation, not only are all of the hops you desire available, they appear to be (for the moment, at least) in bountiful supply and priced the same as their past-season counterparts. To you coneheads, we say this, "Come and get ‘em!"

Despite the good news above, please note that prices and availability are always subject to change. For current availability and pricing please contact us at (616)453-9674, or email me at

The Boss Abroad: Communication Breakdown

In the fall of 2013, Siciliano's Market owners Steve and Barb Siciliano spent two weeks in Italy, often on the hunt for authentic, "local" experiences, sometimes with less than ideal (though still memorable) results.

Antipasto: too big for one couple
By Steve Siciliano

When my wife Barb and I travel we like finding bars and restaurants that are, for the most part, patronized by the local populace. It’s not that we categorically avoid the touristy locales. During our recent trip to Italy some of our most pleasurable dining experiences occurred in places where we had to share tables with fellow tourists.

One evening in an outdoor trattoria in Florence, we encouraged a couple from California to help us with an antipasti that had enough cheese and cured meats on it for eight diners. We had a wonderful time eating, drinking, laughing and sharing stories of our traveling adventures with each other. On another evening I introduced a tourist from Australia (a homebrewer, coincidentally), to the decidedly dubious delights of grappa. I have no doubt that his headache the next morning was as horrid as mine.

Grappa drinking buddies
We like finding the out-of-the-way eating and drinking establishments because we feel that they provide us with a better chance of getting a feel for the local color. Looking for and finding them, however, have also produced some rather interesting experiences.

Once when we were in St. Thomas looking for a local watering hole a woman rather bluntly informed us that if we continued walking in the run-down neighborhood our lives might be in danger. Then there was the time in Philadelphia when we suddenly realized that the off-the-beaten-path bar that we were drinking in was gay.

In the Tuscan hill town of Loro Ciuffenna we dined on three separate occasions at a decidedly un-touristy restaurant incongruously called Dimicala’s Boat. Despite being miles from the nearest navigable water, it had a nautical motif to go with its absurd sounding name. It also had a menu that was difficult to decipher and a waiter who I found impossible to understand.

Barb's "best ever!" pasta
I’m convinced that the old waiter in Dimicala’s Boat had it in for me. Whatever Barb pointed to on the menu elicited responses of molto bueno or bellisimo. Whenever I pointed to something he would wag his finger, voice his displeasure in an indecipherable form of Italian, and point to something else. Then I had to hope that the dish I ordered didn’t involve cow entrails or the poached brains of wild boars.

One time I inquired if there was chicken on the menu and he acted as if I had asked for a double serving of fried howler monkey testicles.

“Pollo?” he said incredulously. “No pollo.” He then pantomimed firing a rifle in the air and made a down sweeping gesture accompanied by a swooshing sound that I took to mean something dead was falling from the sky. He then emphatically pointed to a spot on the menu. I told him to bring me that dish along with a side of beans and olive oil. At least I thought I told him.

Just some beans
My beans came out with Barb’s entrée—a beautiful pasta with a white gorgonzola cream sauce sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. While my wife devoured every last morsel of her meal she repeatedly proclaimed that it was the best pasta she had ever eaten.

My “side dish” of beans too was very good. Unfortunately it also turned out to be my entree. Apparently I didn’t effectively communicate to that old waiter that I was willing to gamble on whatever it was that he had shot down from the sky.

Friday, December 6, 2013

New Beer Friday, Barb's Birthday Edition (December 6)

Happy Birthday, Barb!
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

Beads of nervous sweat began forming on the back of my neck after I stalled the rental car for a third time at a busy intersection in the Italian city of Chiusi. I tried to tune out the cacophony of blowing horns and looked back down at the schematic on the shift knob. “What the hell is going on here,” I muttered.

It would have been nice if the young man in the rental car office hadn’t been so eager to take his two hour lunch break and had given us a primer on shifting the Ford Mondeo’s manual transmission. I doubt that many Americans know that with some European built cars you have to lift a collar on the shift lever to put the car in reverse. It was that lack of knowledge that had led to the confusion with the gears. The fact that I had successfully put the car in first while pulling out of the parking lot a few minutes earlier was nothing but dumb luck.

I have to thank my wife for figuring out the shift lever. If not for her quick thinking I’m quite sure that I would have been dragged out of the car and beaten mercilessly by a mob of irate Italians.

I have Barb to thank for a lot of things, particularly with a lot of things concerning Siciliano's Market. She pretty much works behind the scenes but our annual events such as the homebrew party and the Big Brew at the Calder most certainly wouldn’t be as successful if not for her efforts. What better time to publicly express my appreciation for everything she does for Siciliano’s than on her birthday. Happy thirty-ninth, Barb!

New and Returning Beers

  • Ommegang Game of Thrones: Take the Black Stout, $9.29/750ml - "Inspired by the brotherhood of the Night’s Watch, Take the Black Stout was made to be deep, dark and complex like those who have sworn the oath to defend Westeros against threats from the north. The label depicts the Weirwood tree where Jon Snow recited the oath before joining the Night’s Watch" (source).
  • Stone Smoked Porter with Vanilla Bean, $6.99/22oz - "In 2006, almost exactly 10 years after we first released Stone Smoked Porter, Stone Small Batch Brewer Laura Ulrich had a brilliant idea: What if she added whole Madagascar vanilla beans to a small batch of the finished beer? And voilá, Stone Smoked Porter with Vanilla Bean was born! It was an instant hit, as the resulting flavor combinations - rich vanilla melding with the malty, chocolatey, coffee-like characteristics of the beer-were practically made for each other. Originally available only as an occasional growler fill or on tap all-too-briefly at special events or in our restaurant, this exquisite creation was released in a single bottle run for the first time in 2012, much to the delight of its many fans... who instantly began clamoring for more. Your voices have been heard" (source).
  • Goose Island Sixth Day, $1.59/12oz - "Every year to celebrate the holiday season, we brew up our Sixth Day, and with each year we change the recipe slightly so that you have something special to look forward to" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Piercing Pils, $2.59/12oz - "A Czech-Style Pilsner brewed with pear juice, pear tea and Saaz hops" (source).
  • Tommyknocker Butt Head Bock, $1.69/12oz - "This award winning doppelbock (8.2% alcohol by volume) lager is brewed with a generous supply of Munich, carapils, caramel and chocolate malts and is fermented with Bavarian lager yeast. The resulting caramel sweetness and rich mouthfeel are complimented by the mild bittering of German Hallertau hops. 1997 Great American Beer Festival Silver Medal Winner" (source).
  • Founders Harvest Ale, $2.59/12oz - "This liquid dream pours a hazy golden orange straw color with a large puffy white two-finger head. First sip of this beer rewards with a super juicy hop presence bursting with fresh orange and lemon citrus then continues to introduce toasted malt undertones" (source).
  • Founders Sweet Repute, $17.79/22oz - "It’s not always a good thing when your reputation precedes you. But the complexity of this powerful wheat wine will give it a Sweet Repute no matter where, when or how your paths meet. Our brewing team painstakingly choreographed each layer of this beer’s characteristics, starting with a healthy wheat and roasted malt base and adding clean, fragrant hops. It’s one-hundred percent barrel aged in maple syrup bourbon barrels and bourbon barrels over the course of sixteen months, then blended using carefully calculated ratios for the ultimate final product. The resulting 12.6% ABV liquid pours a bright warm russet with a stubborn ivory head and an intoxicatingly sweet nutty aroma. Take your time allowing the layers of flavors to unfold…Because it’ll only get better" (source).
  • Harpoon Winter Warmer, $1.49/12oz - "Harpoon Winter Warmer is a full-bodied rich ale that uses a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg to achieve its spirited flavor. Perfect for the holidays! Ingredients: Water, Malted Barley, Hops, Yeast, Flavoring (cinnamon and nutmeg)" (source).
  • Fort Collins Double Chocolate Stout, $3.49/12oz - "The most decadent creation ever to be crafted in FCB’s brewhouse. Deep roasty flavors, rich chocolate nose, coffee undertones and impeccable balance are the result of imperializing an already flawless brew" (source).
  • Fort Collins Big Shot, $2.39/12oz - "A big Hazelnut Brown Ale with a warm, nutty, toffee-like flavor. A wonderful winter warmer to enjoy with friends during the holiday seasons. A wildly big strong ale we call the Big Shot" (source).
  • Abita Grapefruit Harvest IPA, $1.69/12oz - "Abita Grapefruit Harvest I.P.A. is a brilliant golden brew with a subtle zest of grapefruit flavor and aroma that enhances the strong hop character. The bright, snappy brew is made with real Louisiana Ruby-Red grapefruit, pale, pilsner, wheat and caramel malts and cascade hops" (source).
  • Southern Tier Compass, $5.59/22oz (Deep Discount!) - "We rely on age-old tools in the brewery despite being surrounded by high technology. As a sort of compass, we use the six pointed brewer’s star to help navigate uncharted brews. The cardinal points of water, malt, grain, yeast, hops and a brewer make the baseline. From there anything goes. Sometimes the journey is as important as the destination. You’ll notice a slight bitterness in Compass derived from our use of rose hips accentuated by high effervescence. Drink it cold from a fluted or tulip glass. And by all means, avoid sea serpents" (source).

Video of the Week

Hopefully we'll see product from this brewery on the West Side soon!


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Boss Abroad: Vin Santo, Holy Wine of Tuscany

In the fall of 2013, Siciliano's Market owners Steve and Barb Siciliano spent two weeks in Italy. What follows is an account of one tremendous meal made all the more memorable because of one tremendous wine: Vin Santo (now available at Siciliano's).

Italian T-bone
By Steve Siciliano

One evening Barb and I were the only diners in a small restorante in the Tuscan hill town of Loro Ciuffenna. We had just finished sharing a massive, perfectly cooked T-bone. Before the steak came, there was an antipasti of olives, cured meats and three crispy crostini topped respectively with beans and olive oil, chicken liver pate and paper-thin sheets of cured fatback.

I was feeling a bit guilty about downing crostini slathered with lardo, but reasoned that the two bottles of red wine we drank with the meal—a Chianti Classico Reserva and a vino nobile di Montepulciano—would help offset the inevitable uptick in bad cholesterol. The restaurant owner walked up to the table. Si, I assured him, the bistecca alla Fiorentina was molto bueno. Si, we would have an after dinner drink. “Due vin santo, per favore.”

Drying grapes
That afternoon we had visited a small, family run winery on the crest of a high hill on the outskirts of Montepulciano. We watched while the owner’s son pumped sangiovese grape must from a stainless steel fermentation tank into a pneumatic wine press. We were told that the pressed grape skins that a worker was shoveling onto the bed of a pickup would be sold to a local grappa producer. We followed the owner’s daughter into an old stone building where vino nobile di Montepulciano was aging in huge oak barrels and then into another old but smaller building where bunches of recently harvested malvasia and trebbianno grapes were drying on wooden racks. The daughter, in almost a reverential whisper, informed us that the grapes would be used to make holy wine.

Tuscan vineyard
“Holy wine?” I asked.

“Si, holy wine. Vin santo.”
Vin santo is virtually unknown outside of Italy. It has been produced almost exclusively in Tuscany for centuries and probably obtained its “holy” moniker because it was the wine that Tuscan priests traditionally used during the celebration of the Mass. Undoubtedly, winemakers in other regions of the world haven’t tried to replicate the style because the process of making true vin santo is so labor intensive. It is also very unpredictable.

During the drying process, which can last for up to six months, the grapes that are used in the production of vin santo lose most of their moisture and their sugars become intensely concentrated. Winemakers gently crush the shriveled grapes then combine the sweet juice with a madre, a slurry of yeast and sediment from past vintages. The must is racked into small oak barrels which are then sealed and left alone, sometimes for as long as five years. While the fermentation is progressing, the barrels are never opened and never topped up; and as the slowly fermenting wine evaporates it acquires a lovely amber color and a sherry-like oxidation. When everything goes right, the result is a wine that is truly extraordinary. If something somewhere in the process goes wrong, the winemaker gets a barrel full of vinegar. 

The vin santo we tasted at the winery that afternoon was certainly not vinegar. It was nicely sweet but not cloying, with aromas of dried fruit and intense flavors of honey, raisins and spices. 

The vin santo we drank at the restorante that evening might have been even better, although I’m willing to concede that the antipasti, the steak and the two bottles of wine might have sharpened my oenophilic senses. After finishing the last drops of the amber liquid Barb and I agreed that we were hopelessly infatuated with Tuscany. Since we were also more than a little tipsy. I motioned to the waiter for the bill. He brought it a few minutes later, along with two more half-filled tumblers of vin santo.

“But I didn’t order these.” I protested in slurred English.

“Gratuito,” he said and smiled.

It’s a good thing our hotel was just a short, wobbly walk away. It would, of course, had been rude to refuse such graciousness.

Castello di Brolio Vin Santo, 2005 Vintage, $66.69/500ml
Now available at Siciliano's Market