Archive for November, 2010

Cicero’s understands that when it come to beer, most people’s favorite is the latest and greatest new beer. Very few beer lovers drink the same beer over and over again. Sure, you might go back to an old standard, but you always try the latest beer first. For that reason, and others, Cicero’s changes their menu every week. When kegs kick, we change them up, unless we decide to keep it tapped for a while longer because it kicked so fast. With that in mind, we strive to keep you, our customers informed on our weekly changes. The “Just out the Keg” series of blog posts will highlight and review the newest beers we have on draft for you. Again, we have a happy couple writing these posts for us. If you see them around, make sure and thank them for their hard work.


By Alaina Kantner and Mike Vecchio

Availability: Late Nov/December
Bitterness: 50 IBUs
ABV: 10.2%
Malts: Unknown
Hops: Unknown

Commercial Description: Expect lovely, warm smells of single malt scotch, oaky bourbon barrels, smoke, sweet caramel and roasted malts, a bit of earthy spice, and a scintilla of dark fruit. It’s a kick-back sipper made to excite the palate.

Alaina:

Appearance: The beer is a dark amber color that’s slightly cloudy highlighting the caramel and roasted malts used in this beer. The head is very thin and gives way to a lasting lacing.

Smell: The scotch and bourbon jump out at me right away. After a few smells sweet caramel notes start to come out.

Taste: This is definitely a high-octane beer. The sweet caramel taste hits the front of the tongue right away, then gives way to the roasted malts; the finish has a warming alcohol sensation. This beer doesn’t linger on my tongue, but the aroma lingers long after each sip.

Drink: This is a beer that boasts a 10.2% ABV and while I couldn’t have more than one at a time, I can definitely see this being a fantastic beer to enjoy on a cold winter day.

Mike:

Appearance: The beer is dark amber/copper in color with some nice lacing around the top. The caramel and roasted malts have left it with a nice color that signaled to me that a there will certainly a taste behind this beer.

Smell: I got a lot of oaky bourbon and scotch aromas off the beer. The beer has a very sweet alcohol smell to it as well. During tasting, the aroma is what really hung around after the sip.

Taste: The beer is lightly carbonated, which is good as it doesn’t detract from the strong flavors going on. The upfront taste I got was of the sweet malts (which even the 50 IBUs couldn’t fully balance out). The finish left a warming alcohol sensation with each sip. The tastes also didn’t obnoxiously linger long after a sip, but – like I mentioned earlier – the aroma did.

Drink: As it’s a 10.2% ABV, it’s a sipper, but it surprised me with how easily drinking it was. This would be a great beer to enjoy during the colder winter months given that warming alcohol taste.


 

 

About the Authors – Alaina and Mike moved to St Louis from Ohio in 2008 and quickly jumped into the craft beer scene. Alaina has gone from drinking light lagers almost exclusively to enjoying maltier beers – most notably porters and stouts – and hefeweizens. In her free time Alaina enjoys reading, running, and attempting to teach their dog tricks. Mike has evolved from drinking highly hopped IPAs to enjoying a wider range of pale ales and traditional hefeweizens. Mike enjoys trying to teach his dog not to bark at anything that moves, reading about crime and gangs, and home brewing with his co-workers. Both Alaina and Mike have been attending Cicero’s Beer School for a year and credit it to helping them expand their knowledge of craft brew and assisting them to take the plunge into home brewing with their friends. Hopefully, they will bring in some of their home-brew one day.

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I Spy a Bucking Elephant

Posted: November 22, 2010 in Beer School

A smile drew across my face while standing in line for Cicero’s Beer School this week.  I recognized the bucking elephant on Karen’s jacket as the label for Odell’s IPA and at that moment I knew we were in for some good beer.  Not that you should ever judge a beer by its label, but Odell Brewing Company has a very recognizable look that gives you the feel of a vintage poster.  Mimi has even agreed to let me hang a couple of Odell signs in the house so you know they must be somewhat artistic and stylish if they get the wife’s approval.  And besides who hasn’t imagined riding a bucking elephant while they sip their IPA?

Guest Instructor - Brendan McGivney

The Brewery

This week the class was taught by Brendan McGivney, Director of Production, for Odell Brewing Company of Fort Collins, Colorado.  Odell can be found in only nine states and St. Louis is about as far east as they go.  The brewery was founded in 1989 by Doug Odell and was only the second microbrewery in Colorado at the time.  As the brewery grew they added a bottling line in 1996 and began to add more brewing capacity.  Now Odell is up to 50,000 barrels per year.  Fresh and local ingredients are an important part of the brewing process for Odell and Brendan also told us about the “Hop back.”  This is an extra step in which the wort is strained back through a bed of whole hop flowers to add extra hop aroma to their beers.  After tasting the beers I think more breweries should look into the “Hop back.”  I also learned that the labels were redesigned about five years ago, and after doing some research online, I think the change was needed.

90 Shilling Ale– (Cicero’s has bottles)

This is the flagship beer for Odell and was introduced in 1989.  It is a lighter version of the traditional Scottish ale and was named after the Scottish method of taxing beer based on the amount of alcohol.  This brew checks in at 5.3% ABV and 27 IBUs.

She saysThis struck me as a traditional, medium-bodied ale.  I thought the malts and hops were pretty evenly balanced, and I noted a toasted nutty flavor. I liked this beer and would drink it again.

He says– I think I raised my hand for this being my favorite of the night, but it was difficult to pick between all the great beers.  This beer really fills your mouth with a velvet, slightly sticky feeling, and finishes with a creaminess that I really enjoy.  The flavors are caramel, toffee and fig.  I think this would be a great autumn night cap or dessert beer and I could have a couple because the ABV is not too high.

India Pale Ale- (On draft at Cicero’s)

Most craft drinkers and especially fans of the IPA style are very aware of this beer.  Odell Brewing packs 7 different hops into this 60 IBU beer and they include:  Cascade, Centennial, Amarillo, Simcoe, Chinook, Perle, and Horizon.  The beer appears light orange in color and greets you with big hop aromas.  Mimi should enjoy this one.

She says– Definitely my favorite of the night, but I’m more of an IPA person.  I really enjoyed the blend of grapefruit and pine notes from the hops.  It had a smooth mouth feel from the malts and was well balanced.  If not for the 7% ABV I would drink several of these.

He saysI get grapefruit and floral on the nose and I really enjoy the aroma.  It feels light in the mouth and goes down fairly smooth.  A good IPA, but I would like a little more malt as I feel it is just hops, hops, hops.  Also I don’t get the hop burn that I like from an IPA.  That might be a good thing, but for me I want the balance up front and the hops to linger after each sip.

Cutthroat Porter– (Cicero’s has bottles)

Brendan described this beer as a blend between a stout and a porter.  The body leans toward the stout side while the dry finish brings the porter back to mind.  I inquired about brewer’s sugar in the beer, but Brendan assured me that no sugars were added and that the sweetness comes from the residual and unfermented sugars left over after fermentation.  However it got there, the sweetness really helps cut through the bitterness.  It is like adding sugar to your coffee.  Only 4.7% ABV and while it has 43 IBUs you don’t feel a thing due to all the malts.

She says This would be a great after-dinner beer.  Or a curl up in front of the fire-slow-sipping beer.  I liked the coffee and chocolate notes and it was very smooth.  It would really complement a hunk of Bissinger’s dark chocolate.

He saysThe beer appears black and that is appropriate since I smell roasted coffee beans and caramel malts first.  It is thick like a porter and smells roasted like porter, but has a sweet side that really comes through for me.  Usually porters are too dry and almost smokey, but this is very drinkable, especially if you are a coffee drinker.  If you love malts this one is for you.

Saboteur– (Very limited draft at Cicero’s)

Now this was a special treat for the beer school crowd.  Saboteur will not be brewed again next year and the only beer left in the state was at Cicero’s.  It poured a big head and has a big ABV…10%.  Aged in once used oak barrels with Brettanomyces, this is a one-off brew and if you are lucky enough to find a bottle you could consider aging this beer in the cellar.  If you choose to age this beer be prepared for the sour notes to become stronger because the cork will not keep out 100% of the oxygen.  Tonight the nose says sour, but the taste says barleywine.

She says I am not a fan of sour anything and when they reference sour in a beer, I’m apprehensive.  I really like a barleywine for the oakiness, and I didn’t get a heavy sour taste from this beer.  It was smooth, balanced and not too strong.  I enjoyed this beer and will add it to my list of “fire-side” beers.

He saysI immediately smelled the childhood treat “Fruit Roll-up.”  Not sure what flavor, maybe cherry, but with some sour hints.  The mouthfeel is carbonated yet chewy.  Very complex beer, but I really enjoyed it.  If you like barleywine then you should enjoy this beer.  Make sure it is your last beer of the night because it will wipeout your palette.  I went back to try the 90 Schilling and it tasted like water after the Saboteur.

The Last Sip

Thank you to Brendan for bringing four outstanding beers, and for handing out lots of cool Odell gear.  This was a good night for t-shirts and for stocking up your beer glass collection.   Now I just need to find my hammer and level so I can hang my new Odell sign.  Don’t forget your homework….go out and try some of these outstanding beers from Odell Brewing.  Class dismissed!

Here is a great video featuring Doug Odell, founder of Odell Brewery.

About the Authors – Husband and wife Eric and Mimi have been attending beer school for about a year now and love every minute of it. Mimi was born and raised in St. Louis. Besides sitting down with a fabulous pint of beer, she enjoys gardening and spending time with her horse. Eric was born and raised in Texas. He enjoys sports and searching for the next great beer. A search he says he has been on for five years and one that will certainly never end. Mimi, on the other hand, just realized beer actually has flavor about a year ago. After having moved away for a few years, in 2007, this happy couple moved back to St. Louis and is enjoying all the St. Louis beer scene has to offer, especially Cicero’s Beer School. Cicero’s is lucky to have such an enthusiastic couple writing the beer school blog!

 



Not All Rangers Are From Texas

Posted: November 19, 2010 in Beer School

by Eric Griffith and Mimi Griffith                                                                                                                                                                                                      

First I saw two new posters from New Belgium then I turned the corner and ran into a Beer Ranger milling around the stage.  The light bulb came on…tonight we will learn the secrets of New Belgium Brewery and their Beer Rangers.  Not sure what a “Beer Ranger” is?  Well, neither was I when the night started, but evidently it involves spreading the word about New Belgium Brewing and wearing a cool looking green shirt that reminds me of my Cub Scout uniform except with a much snazzier looking patch emblazoned with “To Protect – To Pour – To Partake.”  I can almost see myself as a Ranger right now….

One can dream, right? Visit http://www.newbelgium.com/rangerland to get in uniform.

The Wife Takes Control

Ok honey, enough of your fantasies, let me tell everyone what they really missed at Beer School.  We were introduced to Joel and Adam from New Belgium Brewing which will celebrate its 20th Anniversary on June 29, 2011.  The brewery is located in Fort Collins, Colorado and in 1998 became the first wind-powered brewery in the country.  I really liked how sustainability within the company was such a focus.  They tried to drive home the point that being “green” is part of their mission, and that makes New Belgium appeal to me before I even try their beers.

This was the first time I have seen two different presenters on the stage at once, but it worked really well because they were very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their product.  The mood was fun and upbeat.  They scored major points with me for handing out lots of goodies.  Each student received a pocket-journal for beer tasting notes before class and after class everyone got a pint glass, bottle opener and lip balm.  And while I was not lucky enough to answer a trivia question correctly, those that did received a large glass New Belgium beer pitcher.

Tasting– The New Belgium Way

This is an alternate, less productive, way to taste beer!

Before beer #1, Joel took us through the steps of proper beer tasting.  First take a look at the beer and note the color, clarity and foam.  Next, do an aroma “drive-by” which involves wafting the beer across your nose.  Then take a long sniff to get the full nose of the beer.  Now drink, but hold the beer in your mouth before you swallow.  And finally take a second sip and this time as you swallow, exhale through your nose.  They call this “retronasal” and it helps put the aroma and taste together for your senses to get the full intent of the beer.  See, you always learn something new at Beer School.  Now let’s get to the beers.

Fat Tire Amber Ale (On Tap at Cicero’s)

This is New Belgium’s flagship beer and was created by founder Jeff Lebesch as he biked across Europe.  Our Beer Ranger informed us that this is a difficult beer to make and takes about 21 days to brew.  It appears amber in color as the style implies and is well balanced at 18.5 IBUs and 5.5% ABV.

She says- It just seemed like a well balanced basic beer very sessionable, but a day later I will not be able to describe the beer.

He says- I have known of this beer since the late 90’s when I lived in Colorado.  It has been a gateway beer for many craft drinkers and for that we say thank you.  It actually tasted better tonight than I remembered.  Nice toasted biscuit flavor with just a touch of hops to help with the balance.  I would recommend this beer to new craft beer drinkers.

2º Below Winter Ale (On Tap at Cicero’s)

Drink up if you are fan of 2º Below because this beer will soon be retired and replaced next year by a new seasonal called Snow Day.  This beer was described as “a winter warmer meets hops.”  Similar color and malt profile to Fat Tire, but more hops (32 IBUs) and a little bit stronger at 6.6% ABV.

She says- I thought its hop profile was evident, but not overwhelming.  It is a nice winter beer, but not strong enough to be a fireplace beer for me.

He says- New Belgium does a great job with their labels and 2º Below is no exception.  But the label makes me want a darker or stronger beer for a bitter cold day.  I do like the spice that comes through and it is a very easy drinking beer to me.  I don’t even notice the 6.6% ABV, but maybe that is what I am missing.  For a winter warmer I would like a little punch of alcohol burn.

Ranger IPA (On Tap at Cicero’s)

This beer is named for the Beer Rangers who market New Belgium across 26 states and kept going back to the “mothership” and telling the brewers that people want more hops….they want an IPA.  Finally the brewers obliged with this 70 IBU beer stuffed with 3 pounds of Cascade, Simcoe and Chinook hops.

She says- It is right up my alley, dry and hoppy.  Being the hophead I am, I love it.  The dry hopping is evident from the first sniff.  Very drinkable and it will probably be my homework this week.

He says- A year ago I might have run from this beer, but now that I have learned to like hops it is very enjoyable.  The hops lean to the piney side as opposed to the fruity side that I prefer.  Just at the limit of my hop tolerance so I appreciate the dark caramel malts that add some balance.  The price also makes this an attractive IPA and I applaud New Belgium for keeping their prices low.

Sahti Ale- Lips of Faith Series

This Finnish rye ale was a new style for most of the beer school crowd, including us.  Evidently this farmhouse beer was brewed in Finland starting in the 1500’s and the distinguishing feature is the fact that the beer is filtered through juniper twigs.  The original beers had no hops, but of course New Belgium has added Cascade and Amarillo to the equation to bring this beer into the 21st Century.

She says- Not that familiar with the farmhouse ale.  I definitely got the balance of malt and hop and I found it very easy drinking, but more earthy than an IPA.

He says- After the IPA my palette had a difficult time picking out all the different flavors, but I did get some citrus from the orange and lemon peel and earthy hop notes.  Not sure if I got juniper, but I did enjoy the beer.  Very drinkable for 7.2% ABV.  Try it if you want to explore an unheralded style from the past.


Check out this cool New Belgium commercial produced by St. Louis local company,  Action Box Productions. They made it specifically for Cicero’s Punch Drunk Comedy. Punch Drunk Comedy is the comedy show, sponsored by New Belgium, that takes place the second Sunday of each month at Cicero’s.

About the Authors – Husband and wife Eric and Mimi have been attending beer school for about a year now and love every minute of it. Mimi was born and raised in St. Louis. Besides sitting down with a fabulous pint of beer, she enjoys gardening and spending time with her horse. Eric was born and raised in Texas. He enjoys sports and searching for the next great beer. A search he says he has been on for five years and one that will certainly never end. Mimi, on the other hand, just realized beer actually has flavor about a year ago. After having moved away for a few years, in 2007, this happy couple moved back to St. Louis and is enjoying all the St. Louis beer scene has to offer, especially Cicero’s Beer School. Cicero’s is lucky to have such an enthusiastic couple writing the beer school blog!


by Eric Griffith and Mimi Griffith

That’s right; Boulevard Brewing Company was the main attraction at Cicero’s this week. Surprised?  You shouldn’t be.  The Kansas City Brewery has been around since 1989 and in just the past four years has increased their lineup of beers from 8 to 26 and production is up to 150,000 barrels per year.  Once known mainly for their light and easy drinking Wheat Beer, Boulevard now boasts a wide spectrum of beer styles including their well received Smokestack Series.

Laura Dale, the St. Louis market rep for Boulevard, is a well seasoned Beer School instructor and she brought four distinct brews to get the class buzzing.

First up was the Boulevard Pilsner which has been in waiting for 13 years to make an appearance in a Boulevard bottle. This beer is the only one served in a longneck bottle as opposed to the traditional Boulevard stubby.  Pilsner is a very light beer in taste, but has just enough hop bitterness to keep you coming back.  At 4.8% ABV you can have a few of these gold medal winners.


The next beer,
Amber Ale, is described by Laura as a great beer to introduce people to darker beers, especially your friends that claim to not like “dark beer.”  Just as the name implies, the beer appears amber in color and is very approachable.  The honey and nut flavors grabbed me first and the malts showed more as the beer warms up.  There are just enough hops to make it a balanced beer.  After 4 years of tweaking this recipe Boulevard finally brought it to market and will make it a year-round offering.

Now we get to the Smokestack Series.  For those of you that don’t know about this series, these are the beers that you see in the large 750ml bottles with the caged cork on top.  They can be intimidating, but tasting them at Beer School is a great way to find out if you want to take one home.  And best of all Laura let us know that the year-round brews will now be available in 4-packs of 12oz bottles.  As samples of Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale made the rounds one hand went up, “Laura, is this your favorite beer?  Because it’s mine!”  That pretty much sums up this 8% ABV hop star.  While not everyone will be as excited about the grapefruit flavors and dry peppery finish of Tank 7, we can all agree this is a well-made, interesting ale with a distinct earthiness.

Finally we are ready for dessert.  Boulevard’s Dark Truth Stout from the  Smokestack Series is an intense, complex beer with chocolate, coffee and dark fruit notes throughout.  What more could you want after dinner?  With 60 IBUs this was statistically the most bitter beer we tried, but you would never know it with all the malts bringing out fig and crème brulee flavors. But, just like a rich dessert you should eat in moderation, this stout should also be consumed moderately as it carries an ABV of 9.7%

Thank you to Laura Dale for bringing a wonderful range of beers.  The diverse flavor profiles offered everyone something they could enjoy this week. So, don’t forget to do your homework and go out and purchase one or more of these Boulevard Beers. See you at Cicero’s next Wednesday. Class dismissed!

 

If you haven’t seen this video yet, it is a very cool video about Boulevard Beer.

 

 

About the Authors – Husband and wife Eric and Mimi have been attending beer school for about a year now and love every minute of it. Mimi was born and raised in St. Louis. Besides sitting down with a fabulous pint of beer, she enjoys gardening and spending time with her horse. Eric was born and raised in Texas. He enjoys sports and searching for the next great beer. A search he says he has been on for five years and one that will certainly never end. Mimi, on the other hand, just realized beer actually has flavor about a year ago. After having moved away for a few years, in 2007, this happy couple moved back to St. Louis and is enjoying all the St. Louis beer scene has to offer, especially Cicero’s Beer School. Cicero’s is lucky to have such an enthusiastic couple writing the beer school blog!


Welcome to the Cicero’s Blog. Here you will be able to stay up to date with all that is happening at Cicero’s. As I’m sure you already know, between the restaurant, the venue, the bar, and all the beer, there is always something new going on.

My name is Chad. I’m the publisher of this blog. In 1977, my father Shawn, took a big risk and opened Cicero’s at 6510 Delmar. Like any restaurant, the first several years were rough for us. My dad worked all the time to try to make the restaurant a viable business.

This is me when I was the Donkey Kong Champion of Cicero's (at least in my eyes).

I can remember going to Cicero’s for pizza when I was very young. I’m quite sure that Cicero’s was my first, and only, real perception of what pizza was. As I grew older, the restaurant became more and more successful. I was shocked when we used to go for dinner on the weekends and there were long waits just to sit down and eat some toasted ravioli.

I was real proud of my dad for taking the risk, (albeit, I really didn’t understand what was at stake) opening up Cicero’s, and I’m even more proud that it has become the success it has.

When I was about ten, I used to beg my dad to take me to work with him every Saturday. Sometimes he would oblige and I got to hang out all day at the restaurant. Don’t get me wrong, he DID put me to work. I got to portion out french fries, shrimp, onion rings, zucchini and lots of other cool fried foods, and even got to help make a pizza on occasion. My pay, you might wonder, was a roll of quarters to take to the front room in the restaurant and play video games. I was in HEAVEN!!

As I grew older, I also grew more fond of Cicero’s. Nothing made me happier than bringing my friends down to The Loop for a Cicero’s pizza. As much as I loved the restaurant, my father was intent, as was I, that I go to college, and get a quality education. After all, my brother and I are first generation college graduates.

Don't know the exact year of this photo, but it is from the very early days of Cicero's (1980 ish). As you may be able to tell, this is now Blueberry Hill. This was before The Loop was nearly as popular as it is today. Anybody remember when Cicero's looked like this?

After graduating college out-of-state, I moved back to St. Louis to help facilitate the move from 6510 Delmar, to 6691 Delmar, just up the street. My father, taking another big risk, decided to expand and open up the current Cicero’s. I moved back and worked here for a few years before I decided it was time to head west. That is exactly what I did. In 2000, I moved to Colorado. I stayed until April 2010, when my fiancée and I moved back to St. Louis to be back near my family and once again work at Cicero’s.

When I got back, I realized that Cicero’s needed a bigger online presence. Sure, we have a website and we are listed all over the web, but we needed some other presence to help keep in contact with you all, our customers. My father, being a bit old school, has never owned a computer and has no e-mail address. So, this is where we stand, our first blog post.

I know you all probably don’t want to hear more about my family and I, so I won’t bore you with anymore stories (unless you want me too!). This blog will be a place for us to let you know what is happening day-to-day, week to week, and so on.It will include posts about beer, things around St. Louis, food, music, The Loop as well as anything else we think you may want to know. I will probably also continue re-living stories of Cicero’s past with everyone. If you have suggestions, comments, or just want to say hello, this is a good place to do it.

In my preliminary search for pictures of the old Cicero's, this is the only one I found. It was taken from the balcony area where I used to spend all my time playing video games. Great picture, huh?

I’m happy to announce that we have several people who will be contributing to this blog, and I’m still looking for others that may be interested as well. If you would like to write an entry or two, or be involved on an ongoing basis, let me know and we can sit down and discuss it. Also, if anyone out there has some old Cicero’s photos they would be willing to share with me and the blog, it would be much appreciated.

You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter as well. If you ever want to contact me directly, e-mail me chad@ciceros-stl.com. So, once again, thanks for visiting, and welcome to the Cicero’s Blog!

www.ciceros-stl.com