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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Tuesday Review: AleSmith Speedway Stout

By Mark Iacopelli

AleSmith Brewing Company was established in 1995 in San Diego. Their history is deeply rooted in homebrewing and, more to the point, brewing beers at home that expanded style boundaries. Today the brewery has decorated its walls with nine World Beer Cup medals (five gold) and sixteen GABF medals. They also won Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year Awards in 2008. The current owner, Peter Zien, is a Grand Master beer judge. The most noteworthy beer they brew is Speedway Stout.

Some see stouts as a style of beer reserved for the cold winter months. AleSmith Speedway Stout has recently made its way to the local market and will prove that a good imperial stout can be enjoyed at any time. This 12% behemoth is imbued with coffee and has numerous variants (including a barrel-aged version) but always has a coffee influence.

When first poured the appearance is pitch black with a small tan head that does not persist. The aroma is initially very chocolate forward with a subtle coffee and bread note in the background. As the beer warms up the coffee comes through and takes the focus. The first sip slapped me in the face with intense roast. It had a big chewy mouthfeel and dryness from the roasted malts. As the beer ran across the palate, rich dark chocolate and coffee came through and continued into the finish. The alcohol was apparent at first but not overly boozy or hot. As the beer warmed, the alcohol, coffee, chocolate and roast melded together and each play a more equal role in the beer’s character. Added to that was a burnt note with sweetness and stone-fruit character that was difficult to detect initially. The finish still had a touch of sweetness despite the roast and coffee creating so much dryness.

Speedway Stout is known nationwide and for good reason. Any beer fan in love with big stouts and KBS especially will find a year-round substitute in this bottle. This beer will pair well with grilled red meats, chocolate desserts and vanilla ice-cream with red berries. Find it at Siciliano’s Market in 750ml foil-wrapped bottles for $13.99. We also carry a handful of other mainstays crafted by AleSmith.

Friday, September 23, 2016

New Beer Friday, 244 Percent Edition (September 23)

Beer tax the focus of local politician
By Steve Siciliano

With the growth of the Michigan craft beer industry showing no signs of slowing, I suppose it was only a matter of time before an axe grinding Lansing lawmaker deemed it necessary to introduce legislation that would increase the excise tax on suds manufactured and sold in the state. The inevitable became reality last week when Representative Tom Hooker, R-Byron Center, introduced a bill that would increase the Michigan beer tax by 244%.

An avowed teetotaler, Mr. Hooker maintains that alcohol creates its own set of societal issues and stated that the additional revenue raised by the proposed tax increase would be directed towards state recovery programs, drug treatment courts and the enforcement of underage drinking laws. He also noted that the beer excise tax is a “sin tax” and would have no effect on those who don’t drink. Apparently Mr. Hooker feels that drinking hand crafted beer is the modern equivalent of reefer madness as increased taxes on wine and spirits were not included in his proposed legislation.

The bill elicited negative reactions from industry professionals, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan Brewers Guild. According to the Detroit News, it’s also highly unlikely that Mr. Hooker’s proposed tax increase will get much support from his fellow legislators. Representative Hooker is not seeking reelection this fall due to term limits.

In other beer-related news, the folks at Trail Point Brewing Company have announced the release date for the Best of Show recipe for the 2016 Siciliano’s Homebrew Competition. Jeremy Gavin’s “Master Blaster," a nicely balanced Dark Czech Lager, will be tapped at the Allendale brewpub at 6:00 pm on Thursday, September 29. Go to Trail Point’s Facebook page for more information.

New and Returning Beer

  • Alaskan Perseverance Russian Imperial Stout, $8.99/22oz - "A full bodied beer with a velvety texture and a wide range of intense aromas and flavors" (source).
  • Texas Corners Imperial Buffalo Brown, $7.99/22oz - "A true Michigan beer brewed with brown malt from Pilot Malt House in Byron Center and Willamette hops from Hop Head Farms in Hickory Corners. This toasty, malt forward beer is pleasing to the palette, especially as the leaves begin to color and the cool autumn nights arrive" (source).
  • Blackrocks Nordskye, $2.09/12oz - "We brewed/tweaked this beer at the pub for a couple years under a different name until it was can worthy. Galaxy hops bring out big tropical/fruity aromas and flavors, the low ABV and easy body make it easy to justify grabbing one more" (source).
  • Bell's Expedition Stout, $3.09/12oz - "A Russian Imperial Stout with a huge malt body that is matched to a heady blend of chocolate, dark fruits, and other aromas" (source).
  • Griffin Claw Bourbon Imperial Screaming Pumpkin, $17.19/22oz - "Rich oak-vanilla flavor with a oak barrel nose. The blending with the spices, hops, and malt creates the ultimate pumpkin beer" (source).
  • Stone Anniversary IPA Collection, $37.69/22oz/4pack - "Experience our 20-year journey through this hoppy foursome of colossally flavorful, commemorative IPAs—three of which are only available here" (source).
  • Perrin Unfinished Business, $15.99/22oz - "As we continue to push the outer boundaries of stylistic freedom, our brew team continue to swing the sword with our own version of a Japanese Emperor’s Stout. Hand picking 10 specialty malts, the finest flaked oats, golden wheat, and Japanese rice give the body of this beer a silky, smooth, and clean mouth feel. To age this rare beer down, they found a cache of barrels from a small batch, award winning bourbon distillery out of Washington. These heavy toasted rare American bourbon barrels impart hints of light vanilla, coconut, and fresh oak. The dark bourbon notes add warm caramel, ripe tobacco and a soothing boozy finish to this velvety Stout" (source).
  • Short's Pangalactic Gargleblaster, $2.39/12oz - "Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is a double Belgian IPA brewed with Australian Galaxy hops. The nose is an impressive dank blend of citrus aromas reminiscent of guava and lemons, very green and fresh with subtle Belgian yeast esters. An intense clean bitterness dominates the flavor profile with little malt character to compete with. A slight, fruity yeast sweetness is noticeable in the finish alongside a resounding bitterness" (source).
  • Weyerbacher Sunday Molé Stout, $4.29/12oz - "As the name suggests, this 11.3% ABV American Imperial Stout is the foundation of everyone’s favorite, Sunday Morning Stout, with a twist (and without the barrel aging)… This brew captures everything you’d expect from a traditional molé – coffee, chocolate, heat and smokiness. Foremost is coffee, which is followed by layers of chocolate courtesy of the chocolate malt, cocoa powder and cacao nibs. Finally, a subtle lingering heat and smokiness from our blend of ancho, pasilla, mulato and chipotle peppers, as well as cinnamon, which is gone by the time you’re ready for your next sip" (source).
  • Destihl 1920 Stout, $27.59/500ml - "In the spirit of the Franco-Belgian Military Accord of 1920, this beer unites a Belgian-style Imperial Stout with one year aging in a French Cognac oak foudre, coalescing into aromas and flavors similar to dark roast coffee & dark chocolate, black cherries, plums, hints of molasses and slight smoke, all pairing beautifully with the French oak tannins, medium body, gentle warming and dry finish" (source).
  • Oskar Blues Hotbox Coffee Porter, 3.09/12oz (2 per) - "This porter (6.4% ABV, 30 IBUs) is based on malt flavors of roasted nuts, crème brulee, cocoa, and caramel, extracted from English and German roasted and caramel malts. Hotbox Roasters then crashes the party and infuses potent, cold-extracted coffee from Burundi and Ethiopian beans and deals out flavors and aromas of dark plums, chocolate, and hints of blueberry" (source).
  • Goose Island Caution Tape, $1.69/12oz - "Light, refreshing and slightly tart with just enough toasted malt character to balance the unique hop aroma of white grape and sweet melon" (source).
  • Elysian Space Dust, $1.99/12oz - "The hopping is pure starglow energy, with Chinook to bitter and late and dry additions of Citra and Amarillo" (source).

Video of the Week | Bell's Two Hearted


Classic Michigan beer. Classic Michigan river.

Cheers!

Friday, September 16, 2016

New Beer Friday, Press the Fruit Edition (Sept 16)

Preamble by Steve Siciliano

If you live in West Michigan and are thinking about making wine from fresh grapes this fall there are options available for vintners looking to source locally grown fruit. Here is the contact information for Taylor Ridge Vineyards in Allegan and Morgan Vineyard in Ravenna, both good sources for fresh wine grapes:
Taylor Ridge Vineyards
3843 105th Ave.
Allegan, MI 49010
Email: bctaylor@btc-bci.com
Cell: 269-491-1512
Home: 269-521-4047

Morgan Vineyard
23760 36th Ave.
Ravenna, MI 49541
Email: builder357.hmd@gmail.com
Phone: 616-638-9353
On four consecutive Saturdays this fall we will again be offering the free on-site use of our fruit crushers and basket presses from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the parking lot behind Siciliano's. Dates for the free use of the equipment are as follows:
  • Saturday, September 17
  • Saturday, September 24
  • Saturday, October 1
  • Saturday, October 8

    New and Returning Beer

    • Brau Bros Rubus Black, $2.89/12oz - "Rubus Black, a Blackberry Imperial Porter, is classic in terms of ingredients, yet takes flavor to the edge of porter. Chocolate Malt dominates, with a high percentage of various roasted and toasted malts building a nutty, milk chocolate profile. Fuggle and Golding hops play a supporting role; both edge the south side of the brewery’s Estate Hopyard. A measured infusion of blackberry will contribute complex dark cherry and black currant nuance. A traditional British yeast allows the fruit to stay in the forefront" (source).
    • Short's Dan's Pink Skirt, $1.99/12oz - "Dan’s Pink Skirt is an American IPA brewed with Summit and Simcoe hops. Malt characteristics are mild throughout and practically undetectable in the nose. Pronounced floral and citrus aromas abound, with a pine resin hop bitterness that lingers well into the finish" (source).
    • Odd Side Red Eye, $1.99/12oz - "A ridiculous rampage of ruthless rowdy hops in a rebellious rusty red ale" (source).
    • Odd Side Blood Orange IPA, $2.29/12oz - "IPA with blood oranges" (source).
    • Odd Side How Now Brown Cow, $1.99/12oz - "A brown ale" (source).
    • Right Brain Naughty Girl Stout, $1.79/12oz - "Thin mint cookie, meet John Niedermaier A stout made with organic locally-grown whole leaf mint. She’s just back from a stint in the cooler for being too naughty. She might have mellowed out but this stout is still naughty at heart" (source).
    • Right Brain Concrete Dinosaur, $1.79/12oz - "A blend of rye and roasty, chocolaty malts, with plenty of hop flavor and complexity" (source).
    • Right Brain Chubby Squirrel, $1.79/12oz - "A fall ale brewed with our secret blend of spices" (source).
    • Oskar Blues Ten Fidy, $4.19/12oz - "Ten FIDY Imperial Stout – This titanic, immensely viscous stout is loaded with inimitable flavors of chocolate-covered caramel and coffee and hide a hefty 65 IBUs underneath the smooth blanket of malt. Ten FIDY (10.5% ABV) is made with enormous amounts of two-row malt, chocolate malt, roasted barley, flaked oats and hops. Ten FIDY is the ultimate celebration of dark malts and boundary-stretching beer" (source).
    • Abita Peach Harvest, $1.69/12oz - "Fresh Louisiana peaches are handpicked for this smooth lager. Pale malt gives the beer a sweet, crisp taste, with abundant amounts of ripe, juicy peaches added in the brewhouse to capture the flavors and aromas of real, fresh fruit. All our Harvest Series brews are made with the finest Louisiana-grown ingredients" (source).
    • Jolly Pumpkin Cucurbitophobia, $15.39/750ml - "Cucurbitophobia is a 6.1 percent ABV sour ale brewed with blood oranges and spices that was brewed at Jolly Pumpkin in Dexter, Mich. on Dec. 9, 2015" (source).
    • Liberty Street Punkin Pie Ale, $1.99/12oz - "Pumpkin pie. No, really, it tastes just like pumpkin pie. This is our fall/winter seasonal beer that is on tap from September through February" (source).
    • Southern Tier Cherry Gose, $4.19/12oz - "The finished beer is a striking, lustful shade of red with a persistent white head and durable lacing thanks to the large portion of wheat in the grist. The nose is defined by equal parts bright lactic acidity and cherry notes with a hint of coriander. On the palate, the strong lactic acidity is accentuated by the natural tartness of the cherry juice. Quantitatively, this beer is quite sweet, but we find that this level of residual sweetness is just enough to balance the acidity and that the overall perception of the beer is actually quite dry. The beer finishes very clean and in conjunction with the salt in the finish, it definitely makes you want to come back for more" (source).
    • Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin, $10.19/22oz (1 per) - "Smashed Pumpkin is a big-bodied beer with a light coppery orange color and pleasing aroma of pumpkin and nutmeg" (source).
    • Shipyard Pumpkinhead, $1.79/12oz - "This KBC favorite is like a pint of pumpkin pie! Hints of cinnamon and nutmeg in a light, crisp Wheat Ale are just right for when the leaves start to change" (source).
    • Brewery Vivant Pumpkin Tart, $3.49/16oz can - "Ale brewed with real pumpkin & spices" (source).
    • Big Eddy Uber Oktoberfest, $2.99/12oz - "A bolder, toastier take on an Oktoberfestbier that can only be described as “Über.” With a tawny orange hue, toasted malts and spicy hops" (source).
    • Bell's Double Cream Stout, $2.09/12oz - "Named for its velvety smooth, creamy texture, this incredibly rich stout is brewed with 10 different specialty roasted malts chosen that impart notes of rich mocha and espresso. Dark and sweet tones intermingle with a soft, roasty finish" (source).
    • Bell's Roundhouse, $1.89/12oz - "Substantial amounts of late-kettle hop additions and dry-hopping yields a heady blend of fruity aromas of pineapple, peach and citrus. Those aromas continue into a crisply bitter hop presence across the tongue, but the judicious use of toasted and caramel specialty malts prevents the hop intensity from overwhelming the palate" (source).
    • Founders Pale Joe, $1.79/12oz - "Most coffee beers are usually dark beers (porters and stouts). This one is a light, golden ale and it uses high end, lightly roasted, fruit forward coffees that don’t get too bitter or astringent. Brewed with Kenya Windrush and a Tier 3 experimental coffee roasted at Ferris, right here in Grand Rapids" (source).
    • Founders PC Pils, $1.79/12oz, $18.89/15-pack - "Pleasantly crisp, perfectly clean and profoundly crushable, PC Pils is our take on the classic Pilsner style. While Noble hops have been the preferred choice of Pilsner brewers around the world, we went with some of our favorite American varieties. Piney Chinook, pleasantly citrus Cascade and punchy Centennial make this an easy-drinker with floral hop characteristics" (source).
    • B. Nektar Pineapple Coconut Express, $14.19/375ml (1 per) - "Honey pineapple wine with coconut added" (source).
    • Avery Rumpkin, $13.99/12oz - "Wonder what would happen if a monstrous pumpkin ale full of spicy gourdiness was aged in fresh rum barrels to add notes of oak and candied molasses?" (source).
    • Avery Pump(KY)n, $13.99/12oz - "Porter brewed with pumpkin & spices - aged in bourbon barrels" (source).
    • Avery The Kaiser, 8.19/22oz - "We took all that is good in a traditional Oktoberfest - gorgeous, deep copper sheen, massive malty backbone and spicy, floral, pungent noble hops - then intensified each into this, an Imperial Oktoberfest" (source).
    • Rodenbach Caractère Rouge, $27.19/750ml - "The brewer allows the beer to macerate with fresh cherries, raspberries and cranberries. After this maceration in oak, the beer re-ferments in the bottle. The result is RODENBACH Caractère Rouge, an exceptional RODENBACH with fruit maceration and a 7% alcohol volume. The brew is more than unique and extremely exclusive, as only 900 75-cl bottles were produced" (source).
    • Rodenbach Vintage 2013, $23.89/750ml - "RODENBACH Vintage is the unique result of our RODENBACH-brewers selecting the cask which has produced the best beer after two years of maturation: “cask of the year”. The cask number always appears on the label, and the year refers to the start of maturation" (source).
    • Left Hand Oktoberfest, $2.29/12oz - "This is no festivus for the restuvus – on the contrary – we start brewing in the Spring and it takes a full two months to reach lagered perfection. Biscuity, malty goodness dominates upfront while the noble pedigree hops lend a properly spicy, dry finish. Zicke zacke, zicke zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi. Time to roast your chicken and upend your stein before the air gets crisp, the leaves flame and fall and the skies fade to black" (source).

    Video of the Week | Pale Joe


    Founders Pale Joe is now available at Siciliano's!

    Cheers!

    Tuesday, September 13, 2016

    September Brew of the Month: Farmhouse IPA

    Cashmere hops
    By Max Spencer

    Late August and early September is harvest season for many crops, including one of our favorites as brewers: hops! Harvest season always puts me in the mind of agriculture — the smell of a farmyard, produce fresh out of the fields and long hours of hard manual labor.

    Recently I found myself in the possession of fresh wet hops thanks to one of our regular customers and felt that I should make a special beer with them. I decided to make a wet-hopped farmhouse IPA inspired by agriculture and driven by opportunity.

    The phrase “farmhouse” refers to historical beers, typically some kind of pale ale, brewed at farms for the consumption of farmhands during the farming seasons. A well-known example of a modern beer inspired by this tradition is the Saison.

    Saisons (“seasons” in French) are derived from ales brewed in Wallonia, Belgium. In this region farmhands were entitled up to five liters of beer each workday (the average ABV would have been around 3-3.5%, so farming wasn’t necessarily an all-day rager). I utilized Saison yeasts in my take on a wet-hopped IPA to add the “farmhouse” aspect that I was looking for in honor of harvest season and the farmhands that are working hard for our benefit.

    Not everyone will have access to fresh hops, so in the recipes I added hop schedules that use pellet hops. If you do have fresh hops, scroll down to the bottom for a wet-hop schedule.

    ALL GRAIN

      • 8.5 lbs. Pale malt
      • 4 lbs. Maris Otter
      • 1 lbs. Carahell
      • 1 lbs. Golden naked oats
      • 0.5 oz. Magnum @ 60 min
      • 1 oz. Mosaic @ 30 min
      • 1 oz. Mosaic @ 15 min
      • 1 oz. Mosaic @ flameout
      • 1 oz. Motueka @ flameout
      • OG: 1.065
      • Bitterness: 61.5 IBUs
      • SRM: 6.2

    EXTRACT (Boil volume: 3.85 gallons)

      • 8 lbs. Pilsner liquid extract
      • 2 lbs. Wheat liquid extract
      • 1 lbs. Carahell
      • 1 oz. Magnum @ 60 min
      • 1 oz. Mosaic @ 30 min
      • 1 oz. Mosaic @ 15 min
      • 1 oz. Mosaic @ flameout
      • 1 oz. Motueka @ flameout
      • OG: 1.064
      • Bitterness: 59.9 IBUS
      • SRM: 6.9

    YEAST

    With yeast, you have all kinds of options! I wanted to do something fun with my IPA, so I used two yeasts: Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison and White Labs 644 Saccharomyces “brux-like” trois. The Belgian Saison is known for producing spicy phenolics, fruity esters and providing a dry, acidic finish. 3724 is also notorious for stalling out, so I co-pitched with the S. “brux-like” trois, a highly attenuating yeast that imparts flavors of mango and pineapple. I thought they both would work well with the tropical flavors of the Cashmere hops I was able to use.

    If you wanted to keep it to a single yeast strain, I would recommend Wyeast 3711 French Saison or the Danstar Belle Saison. Additionally, if you want to avoid Belgian yeast all together, you can use any American ale strain to create a clean IPA.

    WET-HOPPED

    Use your favorite bittering hop (I like Magnum) for a 60 minute addition to achieve around 50 IBUs, or 60 IBUs if you want a high level of bitterness. Starting at 30 minutes until flameout add approximately an ounce (3-5 handfuls) of wet hops every 5 minutes. Dump any remaining hops, or around 4-8 oz if you have an extreme amount left, in at flameout to get a huge burst of aroma and flavor. Be sure to stir the hops in as you go to make sure they are submerged into the wort.

    Friday, September 9, 2016

    New Beer Friday, The Big Sale Continues Edition (Sept 9)

    Preamble by Steve Siciliano

    I’d like to remind everyone that our annual homebrew and winemaking Customer Appreciation Sale is currently in full swing and will continue through the close of business on Sunday, September 11.

    If you're already a homebrewer or winemaker, you're going to want to take advantage of the 15% discount on most equipment and supplies. You'll also want to check out the items on the deeply discounted list (see below). If you've been thinking about taking the plunge into these life-enriching hobbies, now's the time to do it as the beer and winemaking equipment kits are both heavily discounted.

    Don't forget that we will be offering free German wieners, sauerkraut and draft root beer to all our great customers on Saturday, September 10. See you then.

    Deep Discount List

    • BEER EQUIPMENT KIT/GLASS: Regular $105.00, Sale $75.00
    • WINEMAKING EQUIPMENT KIT/GLASS: Regular $95.00, Sale $79.00
    • BREWERS BEAST EQUIPMENT KIT/GLASS: Regular $135.00, Sale $95.00
    • KEGGING SYSTEM/NEW KEG: Regular $289.00, Sale $225.00
    • KEGGING SYSTEM/RECONDITIONED KEG: Regular $239.00, Sale $180.00
    • ANALOG REFRIGERATION THERMOSTAT: Regular $75.00, Sale $65.00
    • DIGITAL REFRIGERATION THERMOSTAT: Regular $115.49, Sale $89.00
    • MASH/LAUTER TUN: Regular $125.00, Sale $100.00
    • ITALIAN FLOOR CORKER: Regular $142.00, Sale $109.00
    • PORTUGUESE FLOOR CORKER: Regular $63.00, Sale $50.00
    • CHAMPAGNE FLOOR CORKER: Regular $152.00, Sale $119.00
    • MILWAUKEE PH METER: Regular $85.00, Sale $64.00
    • BAYOU BURNER: Regular, $127.99, Sale $99.00
    • BARLEY CRUSHER, 7LB HOPPER: Regular $169.00, Sale $139.00
    • BARLEY CRUSHER, 15LB HOPPER: Regular $189.00, Sale $159.00
    • FAST FERMENT CONICAL FERMENTER: Regular $110.00, Sale $89.00
    • AERATION SYSTEM: Regular $25.39, Sale $18.00
    • MINI JET WINE FILTER: Regular $199.00, Sale $169.00

    New and Returning Beer

    • Brewery Vivant Paris, $12.09/500ml - "Saison aged in red wine barrels for one year with brettanomyces" (source).
    • Perrin Amber Saison Sour, $13.19/22oz - "We brewed an Amber Saison and then put it into fresh oak barrels and aged if for over a year. Each barrel was inoculated upon filling by adding a handful of fresh apple pressing that were fermenting with wild yeast that covered the apples. Each barrel soured and developed its own unique flavor and a truly wild blend was created" (source).
    • Perrin Apricot Sour, $13.19/22oz - "This light crisp wheat ale was aged for 9 months in fresh oak barrels and soured with lactobacillus and brettanomyces. Apricot fruit was added to match the crisp lactic acid and fruity esters creating a uniquely drinkable fruit sour" (source).
    • Stone Still Unapologetic, $8.99/22oz - "We definitely do not have any misgivings about revisiting our instantly memorable 2014 collaboration with Heretic Brewing Company and Beachwood Brewing. In the 2016 rebirth of this double IPA, we’ve dialed back the dankness and upped the hop intensity with a new mélange of hops (Idaho 7, Azacca and Motueka). Just like the original, its tropical fruit character, spiciness and classic American resiny, piney hop flavor hit a sweet spot in the name of all that is good, delicious, hoppy and forward-thinking" (source).
    • North Peak Mellow, $1.89/12oz - "Mellow packs a pleasant sweet flavor and aroma from the malt and fruit, combined with a gentle tartness from the cherries and hibiscus flowers. The balanced combination makes this big beer a ‘mellow’ drink for any time of the year" (source).
    • Saugatuck Neapolitan Milk Stout, $2.29/12oz - "A perfect blend of classic dry stout character with brilliant flavors of Neapolitan Ice Cream. Experience the nostalgic flavors of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry all in one glass – because sometimes ice cream just isn’t enough" (source).
    • Arbor Violin Monster, $2.39/12oz - "A geographical approach to the werewolf legends results in the identification of a major werewolf area stretching from mid-Germany into the Netherlands and Belgium.  With this in mind, we have created a strong, dark, spiced using ingredients from those regions. Brewed with Midnight Wheat, warming spices, and a hint of brown sugar, the Violin Monster is black as night and packs a punch at 9.5%" (source).
    • Pike 51 Fancy & Dumb, $12.89/22oz - "Brewer Jeff got together with Mitch from Speciation back in May to brew this Honey Saison. They fermented it directly in red wine barrels that already contained our house saison funk, with the addition of some of Speciation's house culture. After fermentation, we dry hopped it generously with Mosaic and a touch of Simcoe hops. The result is light, slightly tart and beautifully funky, with just a kiss of juicy hops" (source).
    • Prairie Weisse, $2.99/12oz - "Prairie Weisse is a berliner weisse style beer that is light, refreshing, and lemony-sour. It finishes with a touch of malt to help balance out the flavor" (source).

    Video of the Week | USA Today

    Guess what city tops USA Today's list of best U.S. beer scenes.

    Cheers!

    Friday, September 2, 2016

    New Beer Friday, Rise of the West Side Edition (Sept 2)

    Sovengard owner Rick Muschiana
    Preamble by Steve Siciliano

    It wasn’t that long ago that the West Side of Grand Rapids was generally shunned by entrepreneurs looking to start innovative restaurants and pubs that offer eclectic food, fine wine, hand-crafted beer and quality spirits.

    While I found this puzzling I surmised it had something to do with the West Side’s perceived reputation as being a bit stodgy and capable only of supporting traditional party stores, take-out pizza joints, family run ethnic eateries and bars with macro tap lists, common liquor and basic eats such as burgers, fries and the ubiquitous wet burrito.

    As a longtime West Side resident and business owner I was always a tad miffed by what I considered to be this rather jaundiced viewpoint. A comment made by a representative of a local beer distributor back when I first began stocking craft beer at Siciliano’s offers proof of the existence of this mindset. “You can’t do what you’re trying to do in this part of the city,” he bluntly told me.

    Well it turns out that we could, and the number of flourishing pubs and restaurants that have recently established roots on the West Side is proving that the area is fertile ground indeed for interesting and, in some cases, envelop pushing businesses.

    Among those establishments are The Mitten Brewing Company, Long Road Distillery, Two Scotts Barbeque, Greyline Brewing Company, Harmony Hall, The Black Heron and the Blue Dog Tavern. And this fall New Holland’s brewpub, distillery and restaurant will be opening a block from the Sovengard, the latest in the list of innovative and interesting eating and drinking establishments that have opened on the West Side of the city.

    The Sovengard is located in the basement of a historic building on Bridge Street and will eventually feature GR’s first official European-style outdoor beer garden. In the meantime it’s serving Scandinavian influenced cuisine, craft beer, fine wine and quality spirits in a beautifully renovated indoor space. Visit their website for more details.

    New and Returning Beer

    • Alaskan Smoked Porter '15, $8.49/22oz - "The first release of this now vintage-dated beer was called “Alaskan Seasonal” in the late 1980s – a hearty winter seasonal brewed as a nod to the malting and brewing practices of the turn-of-the-century brewers in Alaska who had to malt their own barley using local alder wood for direct-fired heat. While the name officially changed to Alaskan Smoked Porter a couple of years later, the Alaskan Brew Crew still employs the same smokehouse used for the first batch those many years ago" (source).
    • Arbor Old #22, $1.89/12oz - "A surprisingly easy-drinking dark ale. Smooth, malty, and well-balanced; dry without being too bitter; and full-flavored without being too heavy. Very subtle smoky hints" (source).
    • Arbor Mafka Sour, $17.39/750ml (1 per) - "The staves were then pitched into a vat of specially blended beer (58% Khatta Kala Sour Stout, 36% Hothaus Harvest Ale, 6% Velvet Hammer) and left to age for 18 months. The results proved to be wildly successful (pun intended!). The scent of rich, black cherries on the nose carries through to a delicate mouthfeel on the palette, and a mild, sweet-tart finish with newly unleashed oak tannins" (source).
    • Dragon's Mead Oktoberfest, $2.89/12oz - Fall seasonal from Drago's Mead.
    • Founder's Breakfast Stout, $3.99/12oz - "The coffee lover’s consummate beer. Brewed with an abundance of flaked oats, bitter and imported chocolates, and two types of coffee, this stout has an intense fresh-roasted java nose topped with a frothy, cinnamon-colored head that goes forever" (source).
    • New Holland Carhartt, $1.69/12oz - "Celebrates craftsmanship and hard work. Locally-grown Cascade hops bring a brightness to this barrel-aged American pale ale. Malt sweetness and toasted oak combine for a smooth, refreshing finish" (source).
    • North Peak Hooligan, $1.89/12oz - "With North Peak’s Hooligan Hoppy Pumpkin Ale you will never have to choose between your favorite pumpkin beer and IPA again. Hooligan is brewed with real pumpkin and fresh spices to give you all the spicy pumpkin goodness you could ask for. And did we mention the hops? Hooligan is brimming with hops! It is brewed in Traverse City, MI, on Old Mission Peninsula incorporating locally grown hops" (source).
    • Sierra Nevada Narwhal, $2.59/12oz - "Narwhal Imperial Stout is inspired by the mysterious creature that thrives in the deepest fathoms of the frigid Arctic Ocean. Featuring incredible depth of malt flavor, rich with notes of espresso, baker’s cocoa, roasted grain and a light hint of smoke, Narwhal is a massive malt-forward monster. Aggressive but refined with a velvety smooth body and decadent finish, Narwhal will age in the bottle for years to come" (source).
    • Kona Pipeline Porter, $1.69/12oz - "Hawaii is home to the North shore of Oahu, a seven mile stretch of coastline where big wave surfing was born. The Bonzai Pipeline is a particularly revered surf break that serves up steep, curling waves with a rush that leaves surfers wide-eyed and grinning. Kona Brewing Co. honors this mecca of surfing with a beer that delivers a little kick and thrill of its own. Brewed with Hawaiian Kona Coffee, Pipeline Porter has a boost of flavor with a smooth style that makes it as awesome as the waves that inspired it. The dark chocolate color, rich roasted malt flavor and smooth coffee finish takes the edge off when the waves are high and the wind is blowing. Pipeline Porter’s pronounced roasted malt character and rich Kona coffee flavor and aroma will curl around your tongue like Hawaii’s famous Pipeline surf break itself" (source).
    • Avery Beast, $8.99/12oz - "The Beast is a seducer—accommodating, complicated, powerful, dark, unfiltered and created to last the ages. Beyond this, it’s futile to describe him. He will unveil himself differently to each of his followers. The mark is in his constitution" (source).
    • Avery Chia High, $2.09/12oz - "American brown with local, fair trade, organic chai" (source).
    • O'Fallon Vanilla Pumpkin, $1.99/12oz - "We decided to add some locally produced cold-pressed Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla to our most popular season– O’Fallon Pumpkin. The vanilla adds another layer of flavor to the “pumpkin pie” theme of this amber ale and balances well with the cinnamon, nutmeg and clove" (source).
    • B. Nektar Death Unicorn, $8.19/500ml - "A hard cider with black currant that screams METAL" (source).
    • Great Lakes Nosferatu, $3.29/12oz - "Often referred to as Burning River Pale Ale’s big brother, this stock ale is remarkably balanced for such a highly hopped beer. A rich deep blood red color makes this beer scary enough to be served every Halloween and a few other times of the year" (source).
    • Greenbush Unicorn Killer, $2.19/12oz - "With a lore all its own, this Pumpkin Ale is chock full of brown sugar, cinnamon and more" (source).
    • Oddside Pineapple IPA, $2.29/12oz - "Fresh cut pineapples brewed in an IPA…need I say more?" (source).
    • AleSmith Lil Devil, $2.59/12oz - "Gold color, fluffy white head of foam with good head retention. Clean malt flavors with a hint of tangy hop tones. Belgian candi sugar, coriander, and orange peel add a twist, along with the Trappist yeast strain. Refreshing, quenching and easy to drink" (source).
    • AleSmith Anvil, $6.49/22oz - "Anvil ESB is our interpretation of a traditional British-style pub ale. Deep amber in color, a toasty character from British malts and a touch of kettle caramelization blend seamlessly with a mild English hop profile. Its delicate balance of flavors will keep you coming back pint after pint, making it a complex creation we’re proud to call our flagship beer" (source).
    • Short's Nobel Chaos, 1.69/12oz - "Noble Chaos is an Oktoberfest/Marzen (German-style amber lager) with a subtle hop bouquet and toasted caramel malt flavors. It is a well-balanced beer that finishes fresh and clean. With a pleasant nose and medium body, this brew is a taste of the fall season" (source).
    • Bear Republic Apex, $8.99/22oz - "Apex: The Highest point, the culmination or climax. In racing, the apex of a turn is approached differently as conditions dictate, but always with a forward looking mindset. This beer is a culmination of years of brewing and drinking hop forward IPAs. We reserve the right to move forward, to advance the style to the next Apex" (source).

    Video of the Week | Brewery Vivant


    Mark your calendars for Wood Aged Beer Fest, Sept 17.

    Cheers!

    Friday, August 26, 2016

    New Beer Friday, Homemade Wine Edition (Aug 26)

    Preamble by Steve Siciliano

    Whenever folks ask me if it’s difficult to make homemade wine I always answer that it can be as easy as sitting on a calm lake fishing for bluegills with a cane pole or as complex as wading a narrow, brush-clogged stream using artificial flies to catch wary trout.

    I tell them if they want to make wine as simply as possible they’re like anglers who prefer using elementary tackle and uncomplicated procedures and they’ll be perfectly happy making wine from concentrated kits or from fresh fruits and vegetables guided by a book of basic recipes. If they like delving into the nuts and bolts of a hobby they will probably want to take their winemaking to a higher level and will adopt advanced winemaking techniques such as measuring brix, conducting titration tests and taking pH readings.

    Whether the home vintner opts for the easy route or the one that is more complex, Siciliano’s stocks everything the hobbyist needs to make good and even great tasting wine. If you’ve been thinking about taking the plunge into this gratifying do-it-yourself hobby, keep in mind that most equipment and supplies will be discounted first week of September during our annual beer and wine making sale. Go here for complete details.

    In other winemaking news, we will again be offering the free on-site use of our fruit crushers and basket presses from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on four consecutive Saturdays in the parking lot behind the store. Dates for the free use of the equipment are as follows:

      • Saturday, September 17
      • Saturday, September 24
      • Saturday, October 1
      • Saturday, October 8

    New and Returning Beer

    • Genesse Oktoberfest, $0.79/12oz - "When we think of a beer brewed for celebration, we think Oktoberfest. Genesee Oktoberfest is a recipe inspired by centuries of brewing and our proud German heritage. Our Oktoberfest is a deep-golden lager, big on malt flavor and complimented by subtle herbal notes of noble hops. We hope this beer gives you good reason to raise a stein and celebrate" (source).
    • Bell's Best Brown, $1.99/16oz - "A smooth, toasty brown ale, Best Brown is a mainstay in our fall 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).
    • Bell's Octoberfest, $1.79/12oz - "Smooth and highly drinkable, Octoberfest opens the door to the coming autumn with a light, dry toasted malt note without too much sweetness" (source).
    • Roak Roaka Cadabra, $1.69/12oz - "Spiced apple Belgian style Brown Ale" (source).
    • St. Peter's Dirty Tackle, $4.99/500ml - "This smooth, moreish full-bodied, malty ale is red chestnut in colour with a complex fruity and roasted aroma. Medium bitterness" (source).
    • Boulevard Funkier Pumpkin, $12.99/750ml (1 per)  - "Never content with brewing "to style," our brewing team's approach to Funkier Pumpkin is far from your standard take on pumpkin spice beers. Choosing to focus on the complexity that brettanomyces can bring to a beer, Funkier Pumpkin offers subtle pumpkin flavor accented by traditional spicing in a beer that showcases the hallmark earthy/forest floor notes of our house wild yeast strain" (source).
    • Atwater Aphrodite, $1.79/12oz - "Spiced American Amber Ale" (source).
    • Anderson Valley Holy Gose, $2.19/12oz - "Originating in the town of Goslar, Germany in the early 16th century, the Gose style (pronounced “Go-zuh”) was traditionallybrewed using salted water and 50% malted wheat and was spiced with coriander and hops.  It was fermented with both traditional yeast and lactic bacteria, giving it a slight tartness, similar to that of a Berliner Weisse.  The brewing of Gose eventually migrated to Leipzig, Germany by the turn of the 18th century and became the most popular style in the region by 1900, only to virtually disappear after World War II brought destruction to the breweries and hard economic times" (source).
    • Crankers Ill Connect, $10.69/22oz - "Pine forest and lemon zest notes" (source).
    • Jolly Pumpkin Cucurbitophobia, $15.29/750ml (1 per) - "Cucurbitophobia is a 6.1 percent ABV sour ale brewed with blood oranges and spices that was brewed at Jolly Pumpkin in Dexter, Mich. on Dec. 9, 2015" (source).
    • Short's Bucktricutioner, $1.99/12oz - "Bucktricutioner is a light bodied Berliner Weisse brewed with 50% malted wheat, strawberries, and limes.  This beer is pink in color with notable aromas of wheat and yeast esters that combine with some subtle citrus scents, creating a pleasantly refreshing nose. Delicate grain flavors give way to bright, tart lemon – lime qualities and sweet fruit before slightly drying the palate for an over all crisp and clean finish" (source).
    • Dark Horse Oktoberfest, $1.99/12oz - "Delicious, on the sweet side, spicy, malty" (source).
    • Arcadia Jaw Jacker, $1.79/12oz - "This spiced amber-wheat ale is our celebration of the arrival of Autumn. Using the finest malted barley and a small amount of wheat for mouthfeel, Jaw-Jacker displays a brilliant orange-amber color, despite the absence of pumpkin in the recipe. The addition of cinnamon, all-spice and nutmeg (in the exact proportions of a family pumpkin pie recipe) creates a refreshingly spicy, season brew" (source).

    Michigan Hops Make National News


    Brian Tennis of Michigan Hop Alliance is ready for his close-up.

    Cheers!