Sunday, December 27, 2009

Batch #312 - Buster

Rules are made to be broken, and we're going to break a few today. Rules about production limits, and style guidelines. Plus, there has to be some rule prohibiting sweet wort on the ceiling. Thus, Buster: barleywine-lager thingamajig, 1.095 from Pils malt mashed low-n-slow for a highly fermentable wort, 50 BUs, Munich lager yeast and attendant fermentation.

(There is not, as yet, as far as I know, a rule against eating the mass of tofu-like hot break material Skip skimmed off of the top of the kettle prior to the first hop addition.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Who's going..... Santarchy this weekend??

Our Chanukah feast

Latkes. Big fat ones. Crisp on the outside, and soft and a little chewy in the middle. With a choice of sauteed leeks, pastrami- seasoned smoked salmon, or cherrywood-smoked nueske bacon on top. A blob of creme fraiche and some fresh dill and chives- now that's what I call a miracle. The beer, of course, came from Shmaltz Brewing- He'Brew Origin pomegranate ale.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Nifty Idea

How many times have you tried to guess how much beer is left in a keg by gently lifting it? And are you also as bad as I am at guessing? Well, then you might do like me, and buy a spring scale for about $10-$12.

Water weighs about 8.3 pounds per gallon, and for the level of precision we're involved with here, beer may be assumed to weigh the same. Weigh your kegs empty, and write the tare weight on the side with a sharpie, and wonder no more how much beer is left. Gross weight-tare/8.3=gallons, quick-n-EZ!

...Full post

December Beer Dinner At Slows BBQ: Blow by Blow

Oof. I would say we were stuffed like the proverbial Christmas goose Monday night at the Slows Beer Club Dinner for December. (And partly stuffed with said goose.)

Butter Poached King Crab Leg, Spaghetti Squash, and Asian Pear
Seriously Bad Elf

This beer is Ridgeway's decidedly British take on a Belgian Tripel. It's estery (pear,) with a whiff of higher alcohols. The rough edges were smoothed away by the food.

Turkey and Coconut Milk Soup
Bad Elf

Awesome pairing. The soup had lemongrass in it, which really clicked with the beer, a strong bitter made with UK grown Cascade hops.

Foie Gras and Golden Raisin Risotto with Goose Cracklings
Great Lakes Christmas Ale

The luscious rich ale, with caramel, ginger, and cinnamon, was perfect with the foie gras.

Pan Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Pink Lady Apple, and Beet
Anchor Our Special Ale

Spicy, herbal Anchor Christmas was especially good with the pork and the beet. As a bonus, there were smoky beet greens with bacon.

Cassoulet with Goose Leg Confit, Sausage, and Goose Pastrami
Scaldis Noel

It takes a beer with backbone to stand with the hearty bean and meat stew. No problem here. The peppery pastrami, smoky kielbasa, and savory confit played nicely against the 'big wall of malt.'

(Mr. Cicerone's) Winter Warmer

Tourtiere is a meat pie with ground pork, beef, onions, and other vegetables. Kind of like a Quebecois version of a pasty, only it gets a dose of clove or allspice. The beer is similar to a strong Scottish Ale, with a threshold level whiff of smoked malt, so this worked well.

Plum Pudding with Egg Nog Ice Cream
He'brew Jewbelation 13

This beer goes to 13! Wheeze, gurgle, gurgle, gasp, thud.

The pudding. That's brandy in Chef Brian's hand, at left. Unfortunately, the flames from brandy don't photograph well, so you'll just have to imagine them....

...Full post

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I love Haggis!

Conveniently, Arcadia Brewing hosts their annual anniversary party (13 this year),on the day after Eccentric Day. Another fine evening of celebration, including bagpipes, kilts, tatties and neeps, feats of manly strength (such as downing a yard of beer), and Tim Suprise's "address to the haggis". We dined on (house-smoked) salmon and braised lamb shanks, with the aformentioned neeps. And drank the 13th anniversary beer, "Cereal City", a delicious bitter of 1.044 gravity, hopped with Styrian Goldings. Plus, ESB, Big Dick's Olde Ale, and the award-winning bourbon-aged Cereal Killer Barley Wine which was eminently drinkable despite its bourbon notes and strength. Mmmmm. Plenty of foot-stomping music was provided by Fonn Mawr, and the cast of characters we found there enjoying the evening just added to our overall enjoyment. Oh, did I mention the haggis?



That would be Bell's Eccentric day, an annual party at The Eccentric Cafe in Kalamazoo. It's not a "costume" party, but rather a day where one is free to express your inner "eccentric" self, however that may be. We arrived around noon, having been reminded at 9.15AM by our friends Skip & Cat they we were lame- they were already there with their first beer. First order of the day- breakfast beer! I opted for an oatmeal stout, and Mr Cicerone wept tears of joy as he drank a pint of cask-conditioned Porter. And, on from there.....Memorable beers were Rye Stout, Sour Stout (more like an Oud Bruin), the cask-conditioned porter, Wild One (an amberish wild ale with notes of fruit and wood. Tart. Good.), Golden Funk (a golden ale with Brettanomyces,spiced with cardamom and galangal. Delicious!), Quinannan Falls Lager (a strong pils, born of a fevered dream. Delicious.), Two Hearted Ale (of course) and Eccentric Ale 2008 (sweet, sweet, sweet). Bourbon-aged Hell Hath No Fury had run out by the time I decided to try one. The eccentricities continued with lots of delicious food - smoked pheasant, tongue and blood sausage, goose liverwurst, calves liverwurst, lots and lots of strange cheese, baby octopus cooked in sesame oil,lots of fish eggs, pickled eggs, smoked salmon, lots of strange breads, and that's about all I can remember. Oh, the outfits. Larry Bell was "yesterday's news", and Mr Mallett looked sweet in pink polyester pants.

...Full post

Friday, December 4, 2009

Off to Bonny Doon!

That would Eccentric Day, at Bell's. Then, Arcadia's anniversary party tomorrow, where we will listen to Mr Surprise wax lyrical about a certain spicy morsel before tucking into it! (That would be HAGGIS!)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Some Slows Holiday Dinner menu details

Just in, from Tara....
"Found out a little more exciting yummy news for the Slows beer dinner-- foie gras-- yes foie gras-Yummy!!!,
--Venison paired with Anchor Steam Christmas Ale
--House Smoked Pastrami
Annette's Family recipe for Plum Pudding- Dessert of course
So with all of these fun yummy one of a kind items on the menu for Monday and the exclusive beer offerings we have had to make an adjustment to the price and it will be $60 a head-- but I can guarantee that IT WILL be worth it!!!!
So Hope You can make it on Monday but Please RSVP cause seats are limited and filling up!!! Remember it is the best way to kick off the Holidays!!!!
Take Care and have a great weekend!!!-Tara"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

More about Slows Holiday Dinner

(Mr Cicerone didn't mention the possibility of Fois Gras, probably paired with Great Lakes Christmas Ale.....)

Just in from Tara....

"Hello Everyone!!! Christmas is upon us!!! And that being said, So is our fantastic beer dinner!!!

A couple of things to mention first- Mike and Annette will be our hosts/ beer experts to talk us through this yummy experience and Chef Brian and Michael are planning an amazing menu to pair, but secondly this our last scheduled beer dinner!!!! Next year the beer dinner/ club will take a different shape, due to Brian and Michael having to focus on the new Slows to go. So that being said, please come in and celebrate a wonderful year of great beer, amazing food and good times!!! There will be at least 8 Christmas Beers (Holiday Ales) on hand.

So please RSVP with Terry, Myself or any other manager (313)-962-9828
Also, if there is anything that you are looking for or want us to try to pull off in the New Year please let us know!!!

Have a great night take care and hope to see you Monday December 7th at 6:30pm.

Happy Holidays!!!!"

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December Beer Dinner At Slows BBQ Monday, December 7

This one will be the last one for a while, as the Slows team focuses on opening their new take-out facility. It's Christmas/Winter beers; moderately to very strong beers brewed to help fortify us during the cold months. While the menu and beer list are still in flux, it can be said with some confidence that this will be a beer and food blowout. Blow. Out. 'Twill be more expensive than the typical Slows dinner, owing to some very fancy food, which may include venison, goose, lobster, and the like. Plus some commensurately fancy beers, some of which have varying degrees of bad elvishness. One might even find the hand of Mr. Cicerone behind one of the offerings... for reservations or more information contact Slows at 313.962.9828... hope to see you there!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Build-A-Beer 8 at Fort Street

Sez Doug:

I hope everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving and that you've recovered from your tryptophan induced comas! Thanks to all of you who came out on Thanksgiving Eve and helped lend credence to that whole "busiest bar night" thing!

This Thursday, December 3rd we'll release our eighth edition of the sensation that's taken the nation by storm. I'm talking about Build a Beer! You know, the beer made with random ingredients drawn from a hat. This version was crazy, with four of the eight ingredients being yeasts (German lager, English Ale, Belgian Sour, & American ale)! In addition to that, we also drew Pilsner malt, buckwheat, nutmeg, and maple syrup. I'm always a little nervous about how these crazy beers will turn out, and I gotta tell ya, I was really unsure about this one. Much to my relief though, I'm really happy with the end results. I think you will be too! Of course after the tapping we'll draw more ingredients for the next version of Build a Beer, and we'll have some fabulous prizes to give away as well....

...Full post

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Because One Feast Just Ain't Enough

So, with a fridge full of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, assorted vegetables, ice cream, etc, I felt I should spend Friday cooking. Well, low-n-slow cooking; 'twas a full pork shoulder in the barbecue smoker, for 11 hours. Saturday morning found me fork-pulling the meat apart, and whipping up a batch of macaroni and cheese. Once I got out of the way, Mrs. Cicerone stepped back into the kitchen and whipped up a batch of dirty rice. (Cue Homer drooling and moaning...)

The reason for this was real ale. My most recent batch of mild ale had been cask conditioned and tapped on Thanksgiving, and we needed to get some volunteers over to help finish it off. Lemmetellya about this beer: Chestnut colored, tight, creamy head that lasts to the bottom of the glass, gentle fine-bead carbonation. Malt, toffee, whiff of roastiness. Rich, but not sweet. Plus a tiny kiss of Fuggles dry hops. See?

Today, we will relax and eat leftovers....

...Full post

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pulled Pork

What turkey?

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Cicerone Thanksgiving

A beautiful roast turkey with unbelievably rich gravy, and a plethora of side dishes, the product of several days worth of preparation. Many fine beers, and a happy family made for a fine day indeed. A reading from "Warmed By Love", a book of poetry by Leonard Nimoy (Nimoy's a poet??) was the icing on the cake.

TURKEY 18pounds, fresh, acquired at Capital Poultry in Eastern Market. Brined in a simple salt solution for 12 hours. (A lot of) sagey butter smeared under the skin, and in it went, basted frequently with more butter, until the thigh registered 165 degrees. The skin was a rich gold, the dark meat succulent and tasty, and the breast was moist and tasted vaguely of sage. Perfect.

GRAVY A 4 part process. Turkey stock made with turkey wings three days prior. Addition of giblets, and further reduction of stock two days prior when turkey arrived. On the day, heart and neck meat chopped finely and fried until crisp, roux made and cooked until brown, and gravy made with prepared stock. Lastly, defatted pan drippings added to gravy. Oh my.

CRANBERRIES Cooked with dried cherries and an apple. The pectin in the apple allowed the sauce to jell, so I was able to set it into a mold, turn it out, and make it look pretty.

POTATOES Yukon Gold. 8 pounds, peeled and boiled. A looooong hour ricing the whole 8 pounds through a smallish hand food mill. Hot half & half, butter, and salt & white pepper stirred through, and voila! Perfectly creamy delicious potatoes. NOTE: We have family traditionalists who insist on no added ingredients to potatoes, so we were unable to doctor them with roasted garlic, or horseradish, etc. So Mrs Cicerone, on a ridiculous whim, decided to fry half a pound of sliced shallots, a few slices at a time, for an optional garnish. Whew. A ridiculous amount of work ending at midnight two nights before, and a house that really stunk of cooked oil for the next 12 hours. The shallots were not even that good.

STUFFING (It was dressing.) Two kinds. Oyster and shitake mushroom.(Yeh!) Fennel bulb, toasted almonds, black mission figs and sweet Italian sausage. (Delicious!) The bread cubes were made from Italian bread loaves three days prior. The traditionalists won't eat ANY stuffing, so we were scott-free to make whatever we wanted.

VEGETABLES Brussel sprouts with Nueske bacon roasted until brown, crisp and caramelly. (Say no more!) Butternut squash, parsnips, cauliflower & carrots roasted until brown, then minced ginger, pecans and maple syrup added during last half hour of cooking. Mmmmm. (Oh, the traditionalists brought the "safe" vegetable with them- a can of creamed corn.)

SALAD Greens, pomegranate seeds, toasted hazelnuts and feta dressed with a fresh mint and champagne vinegar vinaigrette.

LAGNIAPPE The turkey's liver, roasted along with the turkey, cut into about 6 pieces, and passed around for those worthy enough to enjoy the small, but rich morsel.

A cheese torte. A simple one made with layers of mixed marscapone and chevre, chopped smoked salmon, fresh dill and chopped pistachios.
Squash soup, made by my sister-in-law from squash they grew. Thick, rich, and tasty, and some added ginger gave the soup a good spicy contrast. A little swirl of Creme Fraiche, and voila!

Pumpkin pie, and apple & cranberry pie, both made by my sister-in-law. The traditionalists demand this dessert, and not being a pumpkin pie lover myself I happily leave this to her, and she does make a good one. With whipped cream, made the real way (no canned cream in this house, ever!) Mr Cicerone and I satisfied our dessert wish list by making two different ice creams- a rich custardy vanilla bean, and Mr Cicerone's favourite, malt-with-a-hint-of-chocolate.

Mr Cicerone brewed a batch of Mild a few weeks back, and declared he would condition, and serve it, from our firkin, through our beer engine, on Thanksgiving Day. So he did. Imperial pints of Mild were drunk, and enjoyed immensely, throughout the day. Mild is good with food. Any food.
Mr Cicerone's Ginger Wheat went perfectly with the squash soup.
We brought out a bunch of bottled beers to share with the turkey course. Jolly Pumpkin's La Parcela pumpkin ale, Clipper City's "Prosit" Imperial Octoberfest, The Bruery's Autumn Maple, and Ettaler Kloster Dunkel were shared amongst the beer drinkers. All were great with the turkey and trimmings. The Bruery's Autumn Maple was stellar- a wonderful blend of spice, malt & alcohol warmth, all in balance. "Prosit" was a nice surprise- a strong marzen with a good hoppy finish that kept the malt sweetness in check. La Parcela is just good, always, and Ettaler Dunkel is such an exquisite example of the style (and Dunkel goes with everything, also).
We opened a Southern Tier "Pumking" when we served the desserts. We knew it was not a great match with the already-sweet course, but wanted a few people to try this popular strong and sweet pumpkin ale. As expected, it was received well. The Mild was a great match with the pies. (Mr. Cicerone notes that Uncle Dave sandbagged a bit of the Autumn Maple to go with his pie, and declared it excellent.)

After three days of cooking (and extra hours working at the store), a house full of people, loads of food and beer, Leonard Nimoy, a cacophony of Tiki Time and our whistling, dancing pink flamingo at the same time, and the clean-up, Mr Cicerone and I sat down, at last, at 11PM, exhausted, but happy. I downed two bottles of Great Lakes Christmas Ale, rather quickly. Aaaaaah.

...Full post

Monday, November 23, 2009

Brew Day, Batch #310

Porter. Sorter.

Base of Maris Otter, with some 40L and 80L crystal, chocolate, black patent, and Larry's special home-smoked malt. 30 BU total from 2 additions of Nugget. Looking at an OG around 1.055-1.060.

Erm, Nugget and Willamette. Somebody around here's been goin' a little heavy on the Nugget of late. Matter of fact, the hop store's looking pretty picked over. Maybe it's time to surf on over to and see what's going on....

Weekend fare

Mirepoix of onion, red bell pepper, chopped tomato, garlic, Spanish chorizo and Spanish (smoked) paprika. Add chicken stock, and a cup or so of Belgian Blonde Ale ('twas Dieu du Ciel! Derniere Volonte). Add lots o' mussels, steam for a few minutes until done, remove mussels and reduce sauce by half. Add a dash of whipping cream, and serve over a bed of warm wilted spinach with warm chewy garlicky bread for dunking.

The beer to accompany this feast was Bruery's Saison Rue, a rich saison made with rye. The rye added a depth that worked wonderfully with the chorizo, tomato and paprika.

Dessert- Bell's Expedition Stout for Mr Cicerone (always a winner), and Ken Schmidt/Stone/Maui Kona Macadamia Coconut Porter for me. (Unfortunately not available here at this stage). This is a delicious beer with coffee in the nose, coffee, chocolate and what I would call "drinkability" in the taste, and coconut in the finish.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


(You can't see the flames.)
The plum pudding, in all its glory, unveiled, flamed, topped with rum-laden hard sauce, and devoured at Slows last night amongst a crowd of us hanging at the bar. We were there discussing the upcoming "Holiday Beer Dinner" ( we are hosting the dinner at Slows on Monday Dec 7th) with Tara and Chef Brian, and in a previous brief meeting about this event Chef Brian mentioned he had not tried this dish. (So I made one). We tried many beers with it. The beers that could match the intensity of this incredibly rich and heavy pudding best were Dogfish Head 120 minute IPA and He'Brew Jewbelation Barmitzvah. Mr Cicerone's Winter Warmer, and Anchor's Our Special Ale 2009 were *almost* there.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What's this then?

Fruit for plum pudding, and the Dupont Calvados that it has been soaking in for two weeks. The white chunks are suet; acquired with some difficulty, but the local butcher did come through, and on opening my white paper-wrapped parcel of beef fat I was happy to discover that there was a sliver of kidney still attached.
It's been made (steamed for 9 hours), so stay tuned for pictures when I unleash it tomorrow night as a treat for Chefs Mike and Brian at Slows.....

Recap: Michigan Cask Ale Festival At Ashley's Westland

'Twas brillig! I was on hand as a, uh, technical advisor, which meant mainly getting handed samples of beer and getting asked if it was OK. (Note: it is always OK to give me beer.)

Here is what poured:

Bell's Double Cream Stout
Bell's Amber
Bell's Porter
Arbor Larry Hoppe Imperial IPA
Stone Oak-aged Smoked Porter
Morland Old Speckled Hen
New Holland Mad Hatter IPA
Motor City Brewing Works Pale Ale
Flying Dog Doggie Style Pale Ale
Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA
Dragonmead Earl's Spit Stout
Dark Horse Scotty Karate Scotch Ale
Kuhnhenn Brothers Loony Kuhnie Pale Ale
Greene King IPA
Founders Centennial IPA
Arcadia Scotch Ale
Greene King Ruddles County Bitter

Unbelievably, I managed to sample all but one! This was mostly due to limiting my sample sizes, though I didn't apply that limit to the Double Cream. All of the Bell's beers were in excellent condition, with nice long lasting foam stand. The quality overall was excellent; some favorites were Arcadia Scotch, Ruddles, and Loony Kuhnie.

Kudos to Jeff Mohr and his staff for pulling this off, and also to our buddy Gary Lawrence and his colleagues at Rave Associates for their planning and hard work. There is already talk about repeating this event in the spring. Count me in!

Upcoming events at Ashley's are posted at

...Full post

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Charity Event, With Beer!

And not just any beer- This just in from our friend Mike Turriff:

While sitting around the brewery one day Ron and I were trying to figure out what to do for charity this year. He then says, "Hey how about we look and see what older beer we have around and auction it off for charity?"
So here are the preliminary details:

Date: Monday December 14, 2009
Where: Jolly Pumpkin Cafe (311 S. Main St. Ann Arbor, MI 48104 - 2nd Floor)

Not sure of exactly what will be auctioned off, but here are some of the guaranteed beers:

Perseguidor 1 (at least 6)
Roja Grand Reserve (at least 3 years in bottle)
Fuego del Otono (4 yr old)
Luciernaga (1st Batch ever)

I will post the final list of beers that will be auctioned off as the day draws closer, but i can guarantee that everything going up for auction will be at least 3 years old.


Check for updates at

...Full post

Brewmaster Dinner at Big Rock Chophouse

Big Rock Chophouse
Thursday Nov 12

Platinum Blonde Lager
Belgian Wit
Chef’s selection of Hors d'oevres

We arrived a little late for the reception, but the Platinum Blonde Lager still awaited us. Nice, crisp lager beer. I did manage to snag the last pot sticker.

1st Course
Helles Bock
Saison St Clair
Platinum Blonde Lager & Pinconning Cheddar Cheese soup “En Croute” (which means - wrapped in pastry)

Two wonderful beers. Dan’s Saison is 4 years old, and is remarkable. Its high level of carbonation cut through the rich creamy soup and the peppery spiciness added another savoury note to the soup. My favourite however, was the Helles Bock with the soup. At about 8% ABV it was more into the Doppelbock alcohol range, and this beer could have got me into big trouble. It was smooth, malty and beautifully balanced, and for me the sweet malt notes melded into the creamy cheese wonderfully.

2nd Course
Czech Pils
Red Rock Farmhouse Ale
Steamed Lake Superior Whitefish in pilsner soaked cherry wood
Butternut squash & ginger chutney

Pils and steamed whitefish. Simple, but very good. Dan’s pils is excellent, and so aromatic. The hop aroma created a cloud of joy in the glass.
Red Rock is a Flanders Red Ale. And it’s amazing. It was my favourite beer at the recent MBG Harvest Fest. It just won silver at the 2009 GABF competition in the Lambic/sour Beer category, beaten only by the venerable Lost Abbey brewery. And, the beer also took gold in the Sour Beer category, and Best of Show, at the 2009 World Beer Expo in Frankenmuth.
This beer is a delicious blend of malt, wood, and sourness, all in the correct proportions. It’s so more-ish, and it was perfect with the chutney. Though but a tidbit, this was the best pairing of the day.

Main Course
Belgian Strong Dark (The dark candy sugar used in this was made by Dan with Michigan-grown beets.)
Norm's Raggedy Ass IPA
Sour Cherry Tripel
Sopressata-wrapped braised short rib
Ragout of Black-eyed peas, cipollini onion & mushroom

The Belgian strong was, as expected, killer with the rich meat. The IPA was great with the ragout. The cherry Tripel, in limited supply, came around later when I'd had my fill of meat, but Mr Cicerone declared its affinity with the rib. The beer was at least one year old, but still had noticeable cherry notes.
Russian Imperial Stout
Bourbon-aged Russian Imperial Stout
Rogers Root Beer Float made with butterscotch toffee ice-cream.

A fitting finale to a fine meal. The float was superb, and beautifully presented in a huge snifter. While I preferred the stronger-flavoured bourbon version with the dessert, and the “ordinary” (hah!) RIS on its own, Mr Cicerone's palate preferred regular RIS with dessert.

A fine evening of beer, food, and company

...Full post

The Cicerones Are Coming!

We are teaming up with Sandina Polgar of "Dinner With The Mrs." for a cooking class/feast:

Friday, November 20- "The Cicerones are Coming!" Enjoy a five-course meal provided by Dinner with the Mrs. accompanied by a beer pairing/lecture by Certified Cicerones Annette May and Mike Bardallis. All beer and fine food fanatics welcomed!
7:00-9:00 p.m.
$48 per guest

The menu, subject to change, looks awesome:

White Bean and Sausage Ragout With Tomatoes, Kale and Zucchini
paired with
Rye Peppercorn Pale Ale
Carrot Habanero Soup
paired with
Ginger Wheat Ale
Chicken with Cider and Bacon Sauce and Cilantro Crouton
paired with
New Holland Sundog Amber
Quinoa Salad with Vegetables And Tomatillo Vinaigrette
paired with
Stone IPA
Toasted Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding With Cinnamon Syrup
paired with
Scotch Ale

Additional info at Dinner With The Mrs. or email

...Full post

Mini Recap: Oak Cafe Tasting Featuring Short's Brewing

Joe Short was on hand to explain and entertain for the appreciative crowd at the Oak last Tuesday night. Just a very quick rundown, as there were 11 beers and no printed listing:

Kind Ale, an IPA made with fresh Mission Peninsula grown Cascade hops picked on brew day. Balanced, some grassiness.

Autumn Ale, a hoppy amber ale with English malt base.

Golden Rule, an organic IPA, very pale and bitter; yeasty.

Beach Wheat, a classic Hefeweizen. Also known as Snow Wheat in the wintertime.

Stellar Ale, another IPA, this one with all Amarillo hops.

Hangin' Frank IPA, similar to the Stellar, but with all Simcoe. Nice.

Mystery Stout, an imperial stout with some cocoa and molasses. Rich, balanced, nuanced.

Belgian plum black IPA- This one confused my mouth.

Belgian Raspberry IPA, actually not too hoppy, lots of raspberry and woody flavors. Nice.

Black Cherry Porter, great balance of fruit, roast, chocolate flavors. Had me hankering to try it with some roast duck.

'09 Anniversary Ale, a wheat wine with a bunch of blood oranges in't (zest and juice.) Wow. Wow. Amazing color. The wheat and fruit fit together seamlessly.

...Full post

Saturday, November 14, 2009

New at Merchant's

I hope, as we speak, that many of you are in the queue to get into Ashley's Westland Cask Ale Festival! If not, it doesn't end until 6PM, so go! Mr Cicerone is there, doing some quality control, and having a couple of pints. I, unfortunately, am holding down the fort here at Merchant's while Kevin is in Arizona acquiring (I hope) some Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale, for me!!

*DARK HORSE BOFFO BROWN *BELL'S SPARKLING ALE (Back after hiatus) *STONE DOUBLE BASTARD- and we have two 3 liter magnums. *STONE SELF-RIGHTEOUS ALE. MORE! *SIERRA NEVADA 2009 HARVEST ALE (We now have all 3- Estate Harvest 2009, Southern Hemisphere Harvest 2009, and (regular) Harvest 2009.
*DE DOLLE OERBIER RESERVA 2008 (Belgium) *AYINGER (Germany) WEIZENBOCK You know it's going to be good. *SCHNEIDER HOPFEN-WEISSE (Germany)

*BELL'S CHRISTMAS (Scottish-style ale, Michigan malt & hops) *GREAT LAKES CHRISTMAS (My favourite!)This one goes quick. *ANCHOR BREWING CHRISTMAS 2009 ("Our Special Ale") *SAM SMITH WINTER WELCOME

*BELL'S/DE PROEF "VAN TWEE". A Belgian dark ale with cherry juice. *LOTS OF BELGIAN, & ENGLISH HOLIDAY ALES (including my favourite,"Tsjeeses" from De Struise)

Now, go drink cask ale!!

...Full post

Monday, November 9, 2009

National Indian Pudding Day, Plus...

From Doug:

Greetings and salutations!

The big day is almost upon us! Thanksgiving? The start of hunting season? No! National Indian Pudding Day! A whole day to celebrate this wonderful, and nearly forgotten dessert. First things first.
This Thursday, November 12th at 8ish p.m., we'll tap our 114th cask-conditioned ale. "Women Drink Fruit Beer and Lose Their Panties! Film at 11!" (aka "I'll Have What She's Having!") is actually a cask-conditioned lager (Lincoln Lager) with pomegranate ice cream flavoring added to it. If you like fruit beers or the sight of crazed women in the presence of a brown-eyed handsome man, you'll love this beer! I know Sue's definitely looking forward to it! As always, we'll have some fabulous prizes, courtesy of our corporate sponsor for a few lucky folks in attendance at the tapping.
If that's not enough for ya, immediately following the tapping, we'll be hosting a promo party for Milagro Mandarin Tequila. That's right, free samples of booze!
To kick off National Indian Pudding Day, we'll release Indian Pudding Ale at midnight. Then it'll be on tap as soon as we open Friday morning, along with plenty of Indian Pudding to eat. What's that you say? Been in a Turkish prison and don't know about Indian Pudding? A quick summary to get ya excited- it's made with mollases, corn, milk/cream, and assorted spices. We made the beer with all those same ingredients. Trust me, it's delicious!
Our drinks of the week are "Gourmet Caramel Apple " (Van Gogh Caramel Vodka and Stoli Apple Vodka). You can get one for just $3.25! It's better than a real caramel apple, and it doesn't stick to your teeth! We're also featuring $2 Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum and Cokes and $3 shots of Milagro Mandarin Tequila (starting Thursday). You already know that Fan Club Members can get $5 growler refills (excluding The Queen) with purchase of something else every Saturday and Sunday. But did you know that if you go to, click on "savings and special offers", and fill out the form, you can get a free tube of Extreme Clean toothpaste! Also, Wednesday is Veteran's Day (be sure to thank a vet or anyone currently serving), and Krispy Kreme is giving out free donuts all day long to veterans!
Hunting season starts Sunday, so don't forget to fill up your growlers! If you want a keg and you have your own cornie keg, I can help you out with that too. I'm actually gonna take a couple days off for hunting myself, so next week's newsletter will be delayed, but we will be having new food items and a new beer on Thursday the 19th.
This week on, "Pudding Pow Wow", you'll hear Francisco say, "What happened to the new guy?" You'll also hear Nicole say, "Shush! We've got a lot of pudding to make!"
On your plate this week, look for Tuna Noodle Casserole, Chicken Lasagna, Coconut Chicken with Pineapple Ginger Rice, Meatball Strombolis, Pretzel Crusted Catfish, Apple Cranberry Turkey Burgers, and of course, Chicken and Waffles and Beer Can Chicken (Thursday-Sunday).
To summarize: fruit beer on Thursday!; free tequila on Thursday!; Fort Street Brewery is party central for National Indian Pudding Day!; three cheap drinks this week; thank you veterans!; free toothpaste!; lots of tasty food on your plate; and "be very quiet, I'm drinking beer but telling my wife I'm hunting!"

See ya soon,

Fort Street Brewery
1660 Fort St.
Lincoln Park, MI
(313) 389-9620

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Belgium VS Michigan Beer Dinner at Roast

Michael Symon's Roast, this past Tuesday.

1st course
A feast of meat and fat. Mmmm. Two types of house-made sausage (the lamb sausage was lean, spicy and marvelous), finochionna, a couple of other thinly shaved cured meats, cured pork jowl (oh my!), and cured duck fat. Some great pickled onions and peppers to go with. And crostini.
DE RANKE CUVEE DE RANKE (Belgium) VS JOLLY PUMPKIN LA ROJA (‘Twas the bourbony Blend 8, 2009)
To be fair, this was comparing apples to oranges. Both are wild ales, but very different, and both are excellent beers. So, no vote for us. The La Roja did pair better with the charcuterie.
Charles’ beer wins, hands down.

2nd course
Great dish. The mussels were plump and tasty, the broth great, and the chorizo (Spanish, dry cured) was a great addition.
We had to go with Dupont. It’s a classic, and always superb. Both beers were great with the mussels, although the Dupont’s spiciness and pepper notes had the edge over Bam.
A nice surprise with the Dulle Teve, a beer we had not had in quite some time. It packs a punch for a tripel with a lot of alcohol and a bitter finish, but it was so well in balance, and just so tasty, that it had our vote.

3rd course
I can’t remember the last time I ate so much meat. It was just so good. And the cracklings were my "memory trip"; a familiar taste and texture from my younger years when all pork products (in Australia) had a layer of fat and rind attached; always cooked along with the meat, and always relished. (Okay, bad Jew.) The roasted Brussel sprouts were, of course, fantastic.
While both were excellent, the Velvet Hammer was really sour. The Oud Bruin showed more balance with the nice fruity malt notes that one expects in an Oud Bruin. It got our vote.
We were evenly split on this one. I think I preferred the Noel de Calabaza. Although again, they are very different beers.

4th course
It’s gotta be Raspberry Eisbock, any time. It’s just no match for anything else. I think the vote was even though. Kasteel Rouge is a winner with so many people.

Overall, Belgium won the battle.

It was a great idea, and Joseph did a fantastic job with the event. We had a wonderful time, and even managed to hide our Cicerone status from all the attendees (although Joseph tried, albeit gently, to have us own up). It was great value for the money, with 14 beers to sample, and enough food for twice as many of us. We were also very fortunate to be sitting next to a nice man who shared his 2008, and 2009 vintages of Leelanau’s Petosky Pale Ale with us.


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Brew Day, Batch #309: I'm Not Dead Yet!

Him, here. Haven't posted anything for over a week, and there's a backlog of stuff what needs writin' about.

So of course I'll be posting about something else, such as the mild ale I'm brewing up right now. Mild ale, the 'forgotten stepchild' of the beer world. Malty, with a bit of roasty and chocolate flavors, 3-3.5% alcohol, very low bitterness, and no real hop character. Typically, black malt provides as much balance to the malt sweetness as does the small amount of kettle hops. This ale, like most low-gravity beers, is tricky to get just right, because small differences in the amounts of specialty malts, and in the water chemistry, can turn a balanced beer into a mouthful of harsh roasty swill pretty easily.

Because I've forgotten to treat my mash water from time to time, there is a handy reminder on the wall above my brew kettle:

In actuality, this clever device rarely helps. Like today, for instance, where I doughed in and stabilized the strike temp before thinking of the chalk that should've been added. I reckon I got it blended in OK with a bit of extra effort, with no harm done. In the end, I cast out chilled wort at 1.035, with a calculated 18 BUs. The neutral but reliable W1056 will be doing the real work at around 65F.

I've always thought that more small breweries could be successful with a mild ale, based on the reaction my homemade stuff gets. It is hugely popular with the 'training wheels' crowd, with the typical comment being, 'I don't normally like beer, but this is great!' I was lucky enough to have a sample of Liberty Street's excellent mild at the Harvest Fest at Eastern Market, and am looking forward to a full pint tomorrow at the Friends of the Rouge benefit tomorrow afternoon. After all, it'll be a good three weeks before today's brew is ready to drink.

...Full post

Friday, November 6, 2009

Jolly Pumpkin Beer Dinner at Slows

Jolly Pumpkin Beer Dinner at Slows
This past Monday.....

A Sicilian dish consisting of a cooked vegetable salad made from chopped fried eggplant and celery seasoned with sweetened vinegar, and capers in a sweet and sour sauce with variation according to local tradition. This one had raisins.
Great pairing. Rich eggplant and sweet raisins tied in with fruity black malts.

Boy, do Chef Brian and Chef Mike know how to cook superb scallops. They are always perfect; nicely seared on the outside, and perfectly soft and creamy within.
Great pairing. Tart Bam, creamy scallop. Simple but grand. My favourite pairing.

LA PARCELA (Pumpkin ale).
Another winner. The beets were simply cooked, and were sweet/sour and crunchy. The cashew vinaigrette was plate-licking good. The pumpkin seeds were spicy and delicious. This one was many people's favourite pairing. It all just worked with the beer which has a slight pumpkin flavour with hints of pumpkin pie spice, and a touch of cacao to add some depth and richness. In the words of weekend-guy Kevin "I don't even like beets, but this was fantastic."

(Tallegio is an Italian cheese, Finochionna is a pork sausage made with fennel.)
Another winner. Creamy cheese, slivers of porky sausage, roasty cauliflower, malty/spicy notes in the beer finishing with woodiness, tartness, and a little bitterness. This batch of Oro was just superb. I guess I should have remembered the batch number.

LA ROJA (Blend #8 2009, large portion of the blend was aged in recycled Founders "Hand of Doom" bourbon barrels.)
An obvious, but very good pairing. This blend of La Roja was indeed a little "bourbony", and was excellent.
The sweet potato fritters were amazing. They were coated with sugar mixed with ground bacon!!

It just worked. Especially the frosting with the beer. Cheey creaminess, spicy tartness.

A fantastic dinner. Ron & Laurie Jeffries were there, and it was a pleasure to hear Ron present each course and talk about his beers and the brewing process. Slows were, as usual, very generous with the beer pourings, and I, amongst others I know, were "none too well" the next day.....

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Monday, November 2, 2009

All Hallows at The Pumpkin

Dinner and beers on the Eve of All Hallows at Jolly Pumpkin Cafe in Ann Arbor was indeed a treat. La Parcela poured on regular draught dispense (mmmm), plus there were four pumpkins on the bar (two downstairs, two upstairs) that had been filled with variations of the beer. They were spiled and tapped, and were all pouring, complete with scary skull decoration.
We did not sample the upstairs offerings, but our friends Frida, Diego and Scotty Karate (in the flesh) pronounced one of the beers to contain agave and pepper. Our bleeper bleeped, and we headed downstairs to be seated, where we enjoyed the hibiscus-infused version that was pouring from one of the pumpkins. What great colour this beer had! The other version pouring downstairs contained anise, but we did not try this. I dined on the "sweet and spicy cobia sandwich", a wonderful sandwich filled with ocean fish, spicy mayo and sweet crunchy pickly things. Mr Cicerone enjoyed pumpkin ravioli, rich and satisfying. Other beers enjoyed were Octoberfest, and the limited edition cask golden bitter, a beer that was a very pale gold, and very bitter. (Lots of hops. Very good.) After a photo op with a giant banana and we headed to a party to enjoy some lovely Hofbrau Dunkel on draft.The giant banana with a couple of old codgers, Steve & Marc.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Rouge Brew" at Liberty Street

Support "Friends of the Rouge" and enjoy "ROUGE BREW" at Liberty Street Brewery.

Sunday November 8, 1-3PM.
Rex Halfpenny, and Liberty Street's Joe Walters will lead you through a tasting of 8 beers while talking about craft beer and brewing in the Rouge River Watershed. All proceeds to support Friends of the Rouge.
$30 includes the 8 beers, pizza and a pint at the brewery.

Beer dinner at Roast

Just in from Joseph.....

Tuesday November 3, 6.30PM
Michael Symon's Roast 1128 Washington Blvd • Detroit, MI • Phone: (313) 961-2500

$65 a person. RSVP is required with CC#
It includes feast style Charcuterie, House Made Sausages, Frommage,
Porchetta, Brussel Sprouts, and more. Some sort of Chocolate Dessert.
It will be alot of food and done in 3 family style courses with dessert course being served individually.
We will feature Michigan/Belgium beer battles where classic Belgium styles
with be put to the test against Michigan representations.
The Styles that will most likely be featured are listed below:
Fruit Beer
Belgium Strong Dark Ale
Biere de Garde
Oud Bruin
Belgium Pale
Wild Ale

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"So the joke was...."

....that Jolly Pumpkin does not brew a pumpkin beer. Well, now we do. Just this one, packed with real pumpkins, hints of spice and a gentle kiss of cacao to liven the soul."

It's called La Parcela, and has just arrived at Merchant's in very limited quantities.
Slows BarBQ will have it on draft for their Jolly Pumpkin beer dinner next Monday. Call for details and to reserve a place as the dinner is limited to 30 people.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The MBG Harvest festival

Oh, 'twas grand! The MBG and Metro Times put on a well-organized and efficiently run beer festival at Eastern Market yesterday. The Inaugural Harvest Festival comprised over 40 Michigan breweries and brewpubs with 203 (precisely!) beers to sample. The whole shebang was in an open parking lot, near Shed # 5 at the market, with the breweries set up under three tents. There were separate tents for food and a band shell. It was a wee bit cold and windy, but we were only rained on once, and it wasn't heavy. There was plenty of room under the tents for everyone to shelter from the rain, and I didn't hear any complaining. I stayed warm underneath about 4 layers of clothing on every part of my body thankfully, including the fabulous giant red fur pagoda that sat on my head.
Memorable beers for us were Arcadia's Cannon Ball Gold (5 varieties of Michigan-grown fresh-hop ale), North Peak/Northern United's Diabolical IPA (unfiltered version with 2/3 of the hops being Michigan-grown Cascades), Saugatuck Brewing's True Scot ale, Liberty St Brewery's House Mild Brown Ale, Big Rock's Red Rock Farmhouse Ale, Motor City's Pumpkin Ale (fermented with a Belgian yeast), Jolly Pumpkin's La Parcela and Bam with Juniper, Hopcat's "Sage Against The Machine" Pale Ale, Fort St Brewery's Bootlegger's Bourbon Porter, Right Brain's "Wicked Garden" beet beer (Wow!!-This was a crazy bright red beer that tasted like beets, but was light-bodied with a very dry finish. Quite something.)
My favourite of the day- Big Rock's farmhouse. Wow. Sour. Malty. Complex. I could have drunk a lot more.
Mr Cicerone's favourite- all of them.Mr Diabolical - Mike Turriff

Recap: Aaron & Beth's wedding

And what a wedding it was. Spectacular location (Belle Isle Casino), clear and sunny day (albeit a bit chilly!), gorgeous bride, behatted groom, moustachio'd officiant, and beer and food fit for kings. THE BEER. German-style pils and a cask of Irish stout, brewed by Mr Cicerone. Stone Levitation Ale. Founders Black Biscuit (maple-aged old ale).
THE FOOD. Prepared by genius-chefs Brian and Mike from Slows BarBQ. Appetizers were mini pumpkin tarts and bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese (Oh My!!). (Pils with the pumpkin tarts, and Levitation Ale with the dates.) Entrees were leg of lamb and brisket at the carving stations, the famed Slows mac & cheese, two other vegetarian dishes comprising pumpkin, beans and various other delicious ingredients and green beans. (Mr Cicerone's stout went well with all of this.) Dessert was creme brulee.....WITH BACON. (Another Oh My!). The Founders Black Biscuit was a perfect match with this.

We all had a ball. The "after party" at The Belmont in Hamtramck was an event all in itself.....

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Selyodka pod Shouboy

That's "herring under a fur coat" for those that can't speak Russian. I had this dish at our homebrew club's annual BeerBQ a couple of years ago,thanks to a club member's Russian work colleague, and have been craving it ever since. There has been a large jar of pickled herring in my fridge for quite some time now, just waiting for me to turn it into this wondrous creation.....
It's herring, layered with mayonnaise, potato, mayonnaise, beetroot, mayonnaise, carrot, mayonnaise, herring- you get the picture. Topped with smashed boiled egg. And it cut into wedges perfectly, just like cake! Mmmmm. The accompanying beer? Imperial pilsner, brewed by Mr Cicerone.

Bigfoot Vertical Tasting

Last night, we were guests of Sierra Nevada Brewing, at the Winking Lizard in Bedford Heights, OH for a guided vertical tasting of four vintage Bigfoot Barleywines. (Bigfeet?) Only four, because otherwise it would have been a horizontal tasting, har. Four draft vintages, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2009. The '96 and the '01 were from the brewery's archives, and had been kept refrigerated since production; the others had been similarly kept at the Lizard. Compared to bottled beer, there is virtually no post-packaging exposure to oxygen, so these all were very well-preserved. We were also provided with a selection of Wisconsin artisanal cheeses: a sharp cheddar, stilton, fresh gouda and an aged gouda. And to add to the fun, our buddy Ray Daniels talked about the aging process (as related to beer.)

Some quick notes, from memory:

2009- I happen to love Bigfoot on the day it's released. It has huge hop aroma and flavor and a very candy-like lingering bittersweet finish. The deep caramelly malt flavors are there, but in a secondary role. The intense bitterness can be a bit rough, and is off-putting to some people.

2006- Still a lot of hop aroma and flavor, but rounding out. The rough edge is gone from the bittering hops, allowing more caramel to come out. This beer was well kept, and tasted more like a year-old bottle.

2001- Wow. I've had 8 year old Bigfoot before, and it tasted mellow, with typical sherry character, round, fruity malt in place of the citrusy hops, and some not-so-good oxidative flavors, as well. This was more like getting in a time machine and popping back to 2001 for a beer. Citrusy hops, candylike bitterness, smooooth, and only the barest hint of oxidation. It actually seemed fresher than the 2006!

1996- OK, at 13 years, the hops are barely discernible in the aroma. But they are still there in the flavor, and the bitterness, while diminished, is still enough to keep the beer from seeming sweet. There's a bit of nutty/sherry, and some noted honey. Amazing.

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Lunch Time!

At Great Lakes! Aww yeah...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Another Fine Beer Dinner

Last night, a great dinner featuring Stone beers at Uptown Grille. Whoo. Here's the menu:

'08 Double Bastard with
Jalapeno peppers sauteed in extra virgin-garlic infused olive oil, stuffed with Arrogant Bastard beer-battered gulf shrimp, roasted red pepper cream cheese, topped with Fontiago cheese and baked golden brown.

Cali-Belgique with
Grilled fillet skewers, painted with a garlic and ginger paste, served on a bed of field greens with a spicy mango dressing.

Stone Pale Ale with
Asiago cheese stuffed gnocchi, pan fried in extra virgin olive oil.

Smoked Porter with
St. Louis BBQ ribs basted in Smoked Porter BBQ sauce, served with sweet potato mash.

Collaboration Holiday Ale with
Spicy Carrot Cake lace with walnuts and frosted with a mildly sweet cream cheese frosting.

Favorite bits: Cali-Belgique with the mango dressing, Pale Ale with the gnocchi, and the maple-y sweet potatoes with Smoked Porter. Also the Levitation, Vertical '08, and Vertical '09 samples that weren't officially on the menu, but were quite nice.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Night of The Living Ales at Slows, and Jolly Pumpkin dinner

Just in from Tara...

"Drink Michigan BEER and Eat Michigan BARBQ!!!!!!
See you at Slows Thursday Oct.22 for a night of Cask beers!

Part of Detroit Beer Week:

Starts at 6pm with 4 yummy cask ales!!!!! It will be a great night to kick
off fall and to keep Detroit beer week rolling til Saturday!!!1 Lot of
brewery personnel on hand!!! See you then!

Also Jolly Pumpkin beer dinner is Nov 2nd Monday at 6:30pm so if interested please let me know so we can lock you in!!!

Thanks, Tara"

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wedding, Part 2: Entertainment

There was some unscheduled musical entertainment at Aaron and Beth's wedding:

Also, an unexpected extra fee for Aaron due to a soiled tux....

...Full post

Another Tap Handle

Now that the wedding is over, we can post a picture of the tap handle we made for our friends Aaron and Beth:

This adorned the jockey box we'd ginned up to look (sorta, if you squinted,) like a giant wedding cake:

If you've invited us to your wedding, be very afraid....

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Friday, October 9, 2009

New at Merchant's

But firstly, if you plan to "get on the bus" at Fort St brewery to go to
the MBG Harvest Fest, you need to purchase your pass by Monday. EDIT: Cancelled for lack of riders. Poop.


STONE VERTICAL EPIC 9/09/09 Supplies are limited (3 cases), so hurry.
STONE VERTICAL EPIC 8/08/08 I have one case.
BELL'S BEST BROWN IN 5L MINI KEGS (Two Hearted Ale 5L minis coming in Nov)
BELL'S ORACLE. One more case. Up for grabs.

*LA TRAPPE "ISID'OR" (Well, this one is actually from The Netherlands)

All for now...
Annette May, Certified Cicerone (TM)
Beer Department Manager
merchant's Fine Wine, Dearborn

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Detroit Beer Week

It's going ahead, with many events in the planning. It all starts on Friday October 16, and the beery fun will continue until the MBG Inaugural Harvest Beer Festival on Saturday October 24 at Eastern Market. There's a cask night at Slows on Thursday Oct 22nd, and there is even going to be a segway marathon through the Dequindre Cut on Saturday 24th.
A full list of events is available on Facebook- search for "Detroit Beer Week". Luddites that we are, we do not have (and do not want) a Facebook account, and hence cannot access the entire goings-on to post here.

Mr Cicerone and I will be at The Winking Lizard in Cleveland on the evening of October 16, enjoying a Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine vertical tasting from 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2009. All on draft. And heckling Ray Daniels, the presenter of said event, from the front row.

Ashley's Westland Firkin fest

Ashley's are assembling the LARGEST Selection of cask ales in Michigan at
one time!!

Ashley's- Westland
7525 Wayne Rd., Westland MI 48185

Saturday November 14th 2-6pm
Some of the breweries expected to attend:
Flying Dog
Arbor Brewing
New Holland
Dark Horse
The Livery
Dragon Mead
Green King
Tickets are $20 in advance ($25 the day of the event) each.


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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tap Handles

It's a bit of trouble, but every once in a while I like to make a custom tap handle for a special beer. For instance, Mrs. Cicerone's nickname is the Black Sheep, (Schepsele Schwartze in Yiddish,) and the beer I surreptitiously made to commemorate her 50th birthday was thus christened "Schepsele Schwarzbier." And hence the tap handle:

Then there's this one I made for the doppelbock brewed for the wedding of our friends Skip and Cat:

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Fit for a king....

A recent meal at home.....

Duck breast- marinated in balsamic, oil, shallots, garlic & smashed blackberries. Seared until slightly pink on the inside. Pan deglazed with the marinade. Duck breast sliced and crunchy oniony bits from the pan spooned on top. Served over salad greens with a blackberry sage cream drizzled over the whole dish. Roasted fennel bulb on the side. Oh my. Beer number one was Hanssen's "Experimental" Cassis Lambic. Deep purple colour, and aromas of fruit and Hanssen's "funk". The aromas followed through into the flavour, with a nice balanced sourness blending with the fruitiness. Unfortunately the beer was totally flat, and we found the fruit to be a little too pronounced to match perfectly with the duck because of this. The beer did go extremely well with the fennel though, contrasting the licorice flavours nicely. Plan B? Switch to Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek (2005). We'd been saving this gem for quite some time, and this was the perfect opportunity. It was smashing. In all the right places. Fruity, but not sweet. Sour, complex, and perfect with our duck. We drank the rest of the Cassis for dessert. Sigh.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Harvest Festival, All Aboard!

On October 24th, the Michigan Brewers Guild is conducting its inaugural Harvest Festival at Eastern Market. We're going, and we've found a great way to get there: Fort Street Brewery is chartering a bus. Here's the deal: $55 for a ticket to the Fest (which includes 15 beer samples), lunch and a beer before the Fest, and round trip transportation to and from Fort Street Brewery. Sweeeet!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Brew Day, Batch #308

Scottish-y winter warmer-y thing. OG 1.060ish, 30 BU. Fawcett Marris Otter with 5% of a secret blend of adjuncts, given the full Scottish treatment. Stay tuned....

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Recap: Wolfgang Puck / New Holland Dinner

Wow. I'm not going to do justice to this. For one thing, there were a lot of chef-y technical terms like "sabayon," that I don't have a solid grasp of. Plus, I still am apparently still not smart enough to cadge a copy of the menu to aid in the inevitable blog post.

Full Circle Kolsch with


Tempura shrimp with capers

White cheddar potato puff

Crab cake with fresh basil

Sundog Amber with

Pork Two Ways:

Braised pork belly

Pork (and a little duck) sausage with red bell pepper marmalade

Golden Cap Saison with

Mussels and halibut with smoked paprika sabayon

Mad Hatter IPA with

Szechuan lamb chops with shiitakes and napa cabbage

The Poet Oatmeal Stout with

Chocolate insanity

This was wonderful, and no wonder- talking to the various restaurant staff, it was clear that Chef Marc Djolija worked hard on this, trying variations repeatedly until he had it where he wanted it. Sounded like he had some willing guinea pigs, too. This was their first beer dinner; Marc worked with New Holland because they have a good existing relationship, and because he wanted to support a Michigan brewery. My only quibble was that the Sundog was not quite big enough for the pork belly, though it went very nicely with the sausage. We'd had the same dish with Stone's 13th anniversary beer, and that was a better match. Everything else was perfect, with the halibut, mussels, and saison course being my favorite. The Mad Hatter and lambchops, according to Marc the hardest to get right, were also amazing. The dessert (that is not its correct name above,) was really like 3 or 4 desserts: a wafer cookie made of roasted, caramelized cocoa beans on top of a layer of pudding-like chocolate on top of chocolate mousse with caramelized bananas inside, on top of a praline cookie, garnished with hazelnut pralines and caramelized bananas. I am both proud and embarrassed to state that I ate the whole damn thing.

Brett and Isaac from New Holland introduced and explained the beers as each was poured, and Chef Marc explained each dish in a complete but concise manner. We got the distinct feeling that he enjoyed the whole thing as much as we did.

This is a pretty fancy place, and we were waited on hand and foot, yet the dinner cost $40 plus tax and tip- an outstanding value. Check them out at

...Full post

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Beer Brunch 2009

Mrs. Cicerone is mopping the floors, and there are about three more loads to run through the dishwasher, but otherwise, it's over. Oh, there may also be a few tasty morsels left over, as well. We're too tired to puke out too much flowery prose about the insouciance of the Belgian ale as counterpoint to the ebullience of the confit, etc, so just check out the menu...

Ginger Wheat Ale
Lobster salad in brioche
Rare tuna in wonton cup with ginger cream
Guinness 250th Anniversary Stout
French onion soup & Reyes blue cheese toast
Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest
Heirloom tomato, cheddar, chevre, and brie pie
Salad greens dressed with tomato vinaigrette
Les Deux Brasseurs Belgian “wild” ale
Poached quail egg over linguine with carbonara, shallots & black truffle
Intermezzo: Grass Roots Saison Sorbet
Rye Peppercorn Pale Ale
Roast pork tenderloin in ginger lemon glaze with artichoke, couscous, and preserved lemon
Polenta in mole sauce and caramelized corn
New York Cheesecake
The stash from the cellar
Assorted Chocolates and Cheeses

(beers not noted otherwise were homemade)

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Oktoberfest At Slows: Recap

Whew. That was fun, even what with getting drenched. Terry's DJ stuff didn't have to get shuttled inside until after he'd played our O'fest favorites, the Scorpions. Draft dispense started off shaky, with some warm kegs combined with a cold plate jockey box, a sure recipe for foam. Fortunately, this being beer geek heaven, Jon P. had a coil box in his car, and the kegs were tamed, mostly. Check out these goodies:

Draft beer:

Hofbrau Original
Ayinger Marzen
Erdinger O'fest weizen
Weihenstephan festbier
Atwater Blocktoberfest
Schlenkerla Marzen (mini kegs)
Coney Island Freaktoberfest


Flying Dog Dogtoberfest
Avery Kaiser Imperial O'Fest


Cheese soup
Bratwurst, knackwurst, weisswurst
Red Cabbage
German potato salad
And the guest of honor!

This little guy was stuffed with sausage, apples, onions, and parsnips, and smoked all day. Chefs Brian and Mike pulled rank and ate his cheeks, but Mr. Cicerone was able to score a tasty morsel from his lil' smokey belly. Of course, he tasted wonderful with some Schlenkerla. The potato salad was amazingly good, so rich that I surely do not want to know how much bacon fat was in it. Not much point in talking beer-food pairings with this lot, as all of the beers are 'utility players' and taste good with just about any hearty food. Except: The Kaiser by itself comes off a bit overly sweet, but with the strudel, aww, yeah.

BONUS Scary Link

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Friday, September 25, 2009

The Feinschmeckers Are Coming!

OK it's Sam, not Paul, but Paul Revere didn't actually yell out a warning about the British, either. We are at the final countdown to our annual beer brunch; nervously watching the weather, readying the mountain of plates, glasses, cutlery, cooking, cellar stuff, acquiring tables and chairs, printing menus. This is nowhere near the biggest event we host at our house, but the meal is ambitious in scope, thus we can accommodate, at maximum, around 16 people. And if it rains, doing it indoors in our tiny house, well, let's just say it had better not rain....

Reason Number 32

... why our draft setup is different from the average kegerator. The LED readout on the right is the digital temp controller, scavenged from medical equipment. Two regulators allow us to keep the mild ale, etc, from getting too fizzy, while keeping the pils nice and lively. And the thing in the foreground that resembles a high-tech commode is the combination draft line and keg cleaner. That little baby heats and recirculates PBW solution through our brewery and dispensing equipment, getting it good and clean with less wear and tear on the cellarmaster than manual methods. Coming soon, the self-cleaning drip tray and drain....

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It's Harvest Time!

Doug gets things started:
Greetings and salutations!

It's harvest time! Did you know that Michigan ranks second in the nation in the number of agricultural commodities produced (California is number 1)?! We grow more soybeans, dry beans, blueberries, and tart cherries than any state in the country. And we rank in the top ten in more than a dozen other categories! We also rank #6 in the number of breweries and #8 in the volume of beer produced. I say that's worthy of a celebration!
This week we'll celebrate our 3rd annual Harvest Fest. Tuesday through Sunday we'll feature a wonderful special menu of Michigan grown foods and Michigan inspired recipes (more on the food later). Wednesday through Friday we'll release new beers each night (a total of five beers)!
On Wednesday we'll release "Buring Leaf Lager", which is a big batch of what I'll call an Oktoberfest-style lager. Now purists would say, "Doug, this isn't true to style!". My response would be, "Go ---- yourself while enjoying this malty lager with a nice touch of hop flavor and bitterness!" Also on Wednesday, we'll have the second half of "Cherries Gone Wild". This is an ale fermented with cherry juice and wild yeast that was first released at Brew-Ha-Ha! Because this is probably the biggest event of the year Downriver, the mayor of Lincoln Park will be on hand to kick off the festivities.
On Thursday, we'll have "Ale Nouveau", which is a small batch of a wet-hopped ale made with hops grown right here in Lincoln Park. Wet-hopping means the hops were picked right from the vine and used immediately. This results in less bitterness (although it still has plenty of that) and a wonderful and unique flavor. Also on Thursday, we have "Golden Delicious". This a small batch ale made with apples and brown sugar. If you like apple pie, beer, winning the lottery, or having your dog drive you to the beach while you stick your head out the window, you'll love this beer! If that's not enough excitement for ya, how about some live music from "McSpillin"? They play Irish and folk music with Peter, Paul, and Mary-like harmonies.
Finally, on Friday we'll release "Pompoenoogst". In case you forgot everthing Mrs. De Roover taughty ya, that's Flemish for "pumpkin harvest". If Flemish brewers brewed pumpkin beers, I feel this is how they would brew them. If you like pumpkin pie, beer, or a bag full of nothing but brand-name candy bars at Halloween, you'll love this beer! Of course, every night we'll have prizes, games, and the company of some of the finest people you'll ever meet!
Have you heard about this "Harvest Beer Festival" the Michigan Brewers Guild is putting on at Eastern Market on October 24th? We have, and we thought it was such a good idea that we decided to join the MBG again! In fact, we're so excited about it, we decided to charter a bus to take a group of serious beer lovers with us! For just $55 (more or less depending on the number of people), you can get lunch and beer before the bus departs, a ticket to the festival, and round-trip transportation. I have faith that the bus will fill up quickly, so don't delay!
Just a little FYI for those of you coming here from the west or via I-75 or I-94. Starting this week and lasting for the next 14 months, Southfield will be reduced to two lanes each direction through Allen Park. In less your coming at rush hour, it probably won't affect you much.
Our drink of the week this week is Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum. You can get a Jerry & Coke for just $2.25 all week long! You already know that we have $2 tostados, turkey legs, and $2 beers for Fan Club members every Tuesday. But did you know that if you go to any Mrs. Fields Cookie Store on October 1st, they'll give ya a free cookie! You don't even need to mention my name to get it!
This week on, "The Chef Who Bought The Farm"; you'll hear Francisco say, "I didn't know that's what a cow pie was!!" You'll also hear Adam say, "I don't see why they call it ranch dressing".
On your harvest plate this week, look for Navy Bean Dip (#1 bean state in the country), Harvest Salad (made with tart cherries, another #1 crop), BBQ Grape Chicken Wrap (we're #4 in grapes), Ham & Apple Stromboli (made with two more of our top ten ag items), Pasties (it's a Yooper thing), Cherry Pork Chops, Honey Fried Walleye, Apple Butter Salmon, Pumpkin Black Bean Bake (made with beef, beans, and pumpkin), Blueberry Pie, and Pumpkin Cheesecake. Side dishes include baked potatoes, asparagus caserole, red beans and rice, black bean corn salad, corn on the cob, and apple-cherry stuffing. We'll also have a new soup each day which will include cream of celery soup, sweet potato chowder, pea soup, corn chowder, and pumpkin soup.
To summarize: hard-workin' farmers in Michigan, busy cooks in our kitchen, lots of new beers (I'm always busy), drinkin' beer with the mayor, spillin' your beer with McSpillin, a bus-load of beer drinkers going to the big city, orange barrels sproutin' on Southfield, Sailor Jerry, free cookies, cow pies and cow tippin', lots of tasty food at much lower prices than you'd pay in the big city, and happy 2nd anniversary wishes to my beautiful wife!

See ya soon,

Fort Street Brewery
1660 Fort St.
Lincoln Park, MI
(313) 389-9620

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Oktoberfest, tonight at Slows!

They are putting up a tent, so even if it's raining, the show will go on!

7 draft beers, two bottled beers, cheese soup, wurst, sauerbraten, kraut, pretzels, AND there is a small suckling pig being smoked as we speak....

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hoist a Tankard, Mateys!

It be that day again! Yaarr!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Detroit Beer Week

From our friend Jon Piepenbrok:

Here's the skinny...

Prompted by the Guild's decision to host the new Fall event in Detroit (finally!), I had the idea to organize Detroit Beer Week. Similarly, Bil Lusa was putting together a couple of special events to celebrate beer in Detroit the same week. Long story short, Bil and I have had several discussions regarding the planning of this monumental and soon to be legendary week-long series of events leading up to the Harvest Festival.

(The Harvest Festival is an MBG event at Detroit's Eastern Market.)

The week is slated to kick off Friday October 16, with events each day, leading up to the Harvest Festival on Saturday October 24, with the final events being held Sunday the 25th...

We see the Harvest Festival, and Detroit Beer Week, as not only a way to promote Great Beer in SE Michigan and Detroit, but also as a way to promote the value and beauty of our beloved city as well. That being said events will consist of everything from pub crawls to historic brewing tours to educational sessions to tastings, beer dinners and more; all focusing on Michigan Beer and the City of Detroit...

Our current list of venues we have already spoken
to or want to be involved include:

Atwater Block Brewery
Motor City Brewing Works
Traffic Jam and Snug
Detroit Beer Co
Slow's Bar-B-Q
Foran's Grand Trunk Pub
24 Grille
Park Bar

Sounds good, yes?

Contact Jon for more info:

Jon Piepenbrok
Detroit Beer Week

There is also alleged to be a Facebook page for the event....

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Batch #307 - Irish Stout be served from the cask at Aaron and Beth's wedding. And for inspiration?

Mr. C's Brother Reviews Jolly Pumpkin Cafe

Right here. 'Twas nice; we'll be returning soon....

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I like pie

What to do with a bunch of huge, fresh Pink Caspian Heirlooms culled from our garden?

Make pie!That would be with a filling of said Heirlooms, cheese (wensleydale, chevre & manchego), green onion and fresh basil & thyme baked into a rich buttery pate sucre crust. Mmmmm.

Serve with a malty beer such as Maibock (especially if made by Mr Cicerone) or a Munich Dunkel, such as Ettaler Kloster Dunkel.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Dinner, 7 September

Laissez les bons temps rouler! Crawfish boil, homemade pils. Any questions?

This Week At Fort Street

From Doug:

How about a new beer to help cure the end of summer blues? This Thursday, September 10th at 8ish p.m., we'll be tapping "Rice & Rye Tri-PA". As the name might imply, it's an IPA made with rice and rye. Somehow, that just didn't seem interesting enough, so I decided to use three different yeast strains as well. If you were fortunate enough to have "Devilish Doug", "Backyard IPA", and "Sai What?", then you've had all three yeast strains before. My initial thoughts are that it's an orgasmic explosion of deliciousness. At 9% ABV, it'll also get ya drunk! As usual, we'll have some fabulous prizes for a few lucky folks in attendance for the tapping.

New Holland Beer Dinner at Wolfgang Puck's

Via the Rave Associates newsletter:

Wolfgang Puck Grille Beer Dinner - Sept 30, 7:00pm

Join Chef Marc Djozlija, the Wolfgang Puck Staff and Brett VanderKamp founder of New Holland Brewing for a journey to the world of food and beer with Michigan's own New Holland Brewing, from Holland Michigan. This five course beer dinner is paired with five New Holland beers, Full Circle, Mad Hatter, The Poet, Golden Cap, and Sundog. $40 per guest. Reservations requested. Please call Wolfgang Puck 313-465-1648

Not being casino fans, we have not yet visited Marc's place, but check out the menus at their website. Sounds promising....

I will just add....

...that even though I'm not a huge dessert person, the herb-infused creme caramel combined with Collaboration Holiday Ale had me swooning with rapture.

Overdue: Report on Stone Dinner at Slows

The most recent Beer Club Dinner at SlowsBBQ featuring the beers of Stone Brewing was overwhelmingly good, and took some fortitude to get through. Thought you might like to see what you missed:

Boquerones, Roasted Garlic, Caramelized Onion, Sundried Tomato, Sesame Cracker
Levitation Ale

Yellowfin Tuna, Tempura Zucchini, Heirloom Tomato, Grilled Sweet Corn
Smoked Porter

Yukon Gold Blini, Beef Tenderloin, Pancetta, Haricot Vert
Stone Pale Ale

Smoked Lamb Shank Sandwich, Carrot and Parsnip, Fennel Butter Griddled Sourdough
Oaked Arrogant Bastard

Bacon Cured Sea Scallop, Braised Grains, Balsamic Glazed Shitake
Ruination IPA

Glazed Pork Belly, Radicchio, Endive, Arugula, Bittersweet Chocolate, Plums, Caramel-Sherry Vinaigrette
Stone 13th Anniversary Ale

Juniper, Ginger, Rosemary infused Crème Caramel
Collaboration Holiday Ale Stone/Jolly Pumpkin/Nogne O

Ciceroney notes:

The lamb shank sandwich and accompaniments just about put Mr. Cicerone into a pleasure-induced coma. Chances are, at these dinners, that if there is a delicious meaty sandwich on the menu, that Chef Brian's protege Mike is behind it. The bacon-cured scallop, also Mike's course, was indeed cured like bacon, and was extremely salty and smokey. On its own, it was a bit much, which is how we at Chez Cicerone are inclined to look at Ruination, as well. Together, they were very good- their intensity levels were well-matched. The braised grain (quinoa,) and the shiitakes, also had some nice interplay with the beer, accentuating some earthy hop notes.

The pork belly was wonderful with its sweet glaze, and a natural with the big, malty 13th Anniversary Ale. Mr. Cicerone has not always been the biggest fan of this currently trendy meat, but was blown away by this delicious preparation that Chef Brian's buddy Marc provided the recipe for.

Next beer dinner is a week early, on 21 September, and will be buffet style on the patio to accommodate more people. See you there!

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A Simple Dinner

Our friend Tracy gave us a nice bunch of beet greens from her garden (again.) (Thanks, Tracy!) Past experience has taught that such greens are delicious when gently sauteed with some chopped ginger root and a bit of onion. Mrs. Cicerone cleverly and efficiently turned this into a 'one pot' dinner by steaming a fillet of red snapper on top of the greens. Both the cooking liquid and the beer on the table were homemade ginger wheat ale. As they say in Oz, noice!