Archive for January, 2011

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 “First Pour” 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

Belgian Dubbel
8% ABV
St (Sint) Bernardus is a Belgian abbey brewery with a tumultuousness history as a former Trappist Monastery brewery and a cheese manufacturer in both France and Belgium. But all that matters now is that the brewery has been cranking out some fantastic beers that are worth seeking out. Today we’re looking at St. Bernardus Prior 8, which is a Belgian Dubbel.

Prior 8 pours out a deep reddish brown with a thin amount of lacing on top with little head retention. The smell is both creamy-buttery and fruity (Alaina swears it’s like trail mix – but I think we grew up eating very different trail mix…) all while the malts flirt around in the background of the aroma. The taste is a little sour up front, but it gives way to a fruity and slightly sweet drink. There’s a slight amount of hop oil that lingers on the tongue after the sip along with a warming alcohol sensation. The drink of this beer is very enjoyable and not overpowering in flavor for a Belgian abbey. Rounding out this brief on the beer is that it won a Silver Medal in the 2003 World Beer Championship. Overall, well worth popping over to Cicero’s for a glass.

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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Have you ever thought about it? I mean, really thought about it? Take a moment and consider.

What song would be playing at your birth? Would it be the first song you ever heard? (If so, mine would have to be something by Glen Campbell; my dad was a big fan when he was young. I always assumed it was because Glen had a song called “Wichita Lineman” and my dad was from Wichita.) Or would it be something from the first album you owned? (Donny and Marie in my case; I know, I know, but I was five.) Or just something you feel celebrates your entrance into this world? (“I’m Coming Out” comes to mind…)

First day of school. Ready? Go. The music you were listening to as you waited at the bus stop? (See the Osmond sibs above.) The song your class sang in your very first music class? (It was something about Beetle Baum…or something by the Jackson Five… I’ve obviously blocked this one.)

What song did you have to learn for your first school musical? (I was anti-musical, even back then. I reserve the right to skip this one. My sister, however, had to learn a song about three witches over a cauldron. Yes, I went to her musical. No, I didn’t have a choice.)

Quick: Song that was playing as you crossed the bridge (figuratively or literally; we didn’t have such constructions at public school) from grade school to junior high? (I want to say Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne,” though that may have come later. And it’s difficult to admit.)

OK, now we’re in high school…it’s getting easier. First dance? (“Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” by Night Ranger. It was a slow dance.) First kiss? (Night Ranger was still echoing in my head.) First couples skate? (Hey, it was the ‘80s. And it was something by ELO, I can’t remember what.) First song you requested on the radio? (Duran Duran, “Hungry Like the Wolf.”) First album your parents confiscated due to “improper” content? (Adam Ant, Friend or Foe…but in my own defense, I really didn’t understand most of the innuendoes anyway.)

First song you heard when you got your new stereo and discovered college radio? (Tommy Keene, “Back Again (Try).” College radio also introduced me to The Smiths, Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Housemartins, OMD, Oingo Boingo…so these would have to be soundtrack the high school years, as well.) First video you saw on MTV? (The Fixx, “Stand or Fall.” I was at a friend’s house; of course we were late to the cable party.) Video you first saw the day your friend put a stereo in your car? A-ha’s “Take on Me”—no one who’s seen this video will ever forget it, with good reason.)

Off to university? What songs take you back to that campus in an instant? (Cabaret Voltaire had a song called “Kino”; for some reason, that’s the first song that comes to mind. I haven’t heard it since then, but now I want to dig it up on the internet.)

First car accident? (General Public’s version of “I’ll Take You There”…and it wasn’t my fault.) First song you and your partner-to-be shared? (It’s a tie: Catherine Wheel’s “Crank” or PJ Harvey’s “You Said Something.”) Song that defined your wedding? (Coldplay, “Yellow”—we thought it had been written just for us. Yes, I’m more than a little bit embarrassed that the lyrics were an integral part of our wedding invitation.)

Artist the two of you love the most? Take a moment; this one’s tricky. You have your favorites and he has his, but what do you both lean toward? (We’re easy: Matthew Good or the Matthew Good Band…take your pick.)

And what about right now? What song are you overplaying these days? What song really captures your life today, this moment? (I’m not sure what this says about my state of mind, but I’ve been leaning toward the industro-electro of late. The song I’ve played the most over the last six months is Underworld’s “Always Loved a Film.” My favorite phrase? “It’s heaven.”)

That’s where I’m at right now. And, well, it’s a pretty good place. Until the next song comes along.

Laura Hamlett

Ska Brewing: Beer is Our M.O.

Posted: January 26, 2011 in Beer School
By Eric and Mimi Griffith

Six weeks is a long time to go without Beer School.  Mimi and I passed the time by attempting to homebrew and by tasting as many winter seasonal beers as we could get our hands on.  But it is just not the same…we need our Wednesday night fix, and finally, despite the 6 inches of snow on the ground, the “spring” semester has arrived!

For new students and possible future students I will give you a quick rundown as to how beer school works.  Every Wednesday night at 5:30 at least 75 of your fellow beer enthusiasts gather at the Venue inside Cicero’s to taste and learn about our favorite libation.  Each week a different brewery or distributor presents a few beers for sampling and a couple of them will be on tap at Cicero’s for a discounted price.  Homework is a misnomer at beer school, as it is anything but work…simply purchase one of the beers we try in the form of a six pack or a growler and you have completed your assignment.  Bring your receipt to the next class and you could win a bucket of beer.  If my description has not persuaded you to join us at beer school then you will just have to keep reading our blog and fantasizing about how these beers actually taste.

Roll Call

Looking around the room I see lots of familiar faces as well as many new students that have decided to join the festivities.  Brian and Ashley? “Here.”  Alaina and Mike? “Here.” Daniel, Art? “Present.”  Reporter from Patch.com?  “Here!”  Who?  What? A reporter?  You heard right, a reporter named Jeff Brandt has come to class to do research for a story on beer school for Patch.com.  You know we have hit the big time when Patch.com shows up.  All joking aside, Jeff was very kind to help spread the word about Cicero’s Beer School with this nice article: http://universitycity.patch.com/articles/knowledge-is-power-at-ciceros-beer-school

The Brewery

Ska music might inspire you to tap your foot, sing along, jump up and down or dance with your friends, but in the case of Bill and Dave it inspired them to brew beer.  The year was 1995, and as the under-age beer lovers sat around listening to Ska music they hatched a plan to brew their own beer since they couldn’t purchase their favorite suds.  With the Toasters blaring in the background, the founders spent what I can only imagine was hundreds of seconds pondering a name for their new venture and finally settled on Ska Brewing.

Ska Brewing is located in Durango, Colorado and they dispatched Arlo Grammatica to educate us on the brewery and the beers they produce.  Besides Ska music, the owners were also inspired by comic books and have created a fake comic book series with beer heroes and villains that adorn their packaging.

Ska Brewing arrived in Missouri in 2010, but I have been aware of the brand since 1997 when my Uncle Robin served 3 of the beers we are trying tonight at his BBQ restaurant in Silverton, Colorado.  He recalls “a couple hippy kids in an old brown van” delivering the beer from the brewery 60 miles away.  The small brewery has come a long way since then and now Ska distributes to 8 states and brews over 16,000 barrels per year.  They haven’t made it to Florida yet so if you find their beer there it was probably bootlegged by a Trans Am and an eighteen wheeler.  Now, if I can pry the Modus Hoperandi out of Mimi’s hand we can get to her reviews.

Mimi’s Brew Reviews

True Blonde Ale – (Available in cans)

Light gold in color with a crisp and clean mouth feel.  At 5.3% ABV this is a very sessionable beer with no aftertaste.  Perfect for a hot summer day! Local Colorado honey is used in the brew from a company called Honeyville.  I was excited to hear this as we’ve been to their store and watched the bees make honey.  http://www.honeyvillecolorado.com (Their cinnamon whipped honey is amazing!)

Pin Stripe Red Ale –

This flagship beer was created when Ska was short on ingredients for the True Blonde and decided to add more caramel malts instead.  This is a nicely balanced very drinkable beer.  It has a nutty and slightly fruity finish.  It clocks in at 5.15% ABV.


Buster Nut Brown – (On draft at Cicero’s)

This third beer was a step up in flavor.  It was more chestnut in color with a noticeable malty scent.  This brown ale was very easy drinking but full of flavor.  It made me want a juicy burger and a big plate of pub chips.  This is also Ska’s most decorated beer with numerous medals including gold at the Great American Beer Festival.  Also 5.15% ABV.

Steel Toe Stout –

This “working class” milk stout had a lovely molasses color and the scent of heavily toasted malts.  Don’t be afraid of the dark color, this was a very drinkable beer!  The lactose sugars give it a nice sweetness with hints of chocolate and vanilla.  5.4% ABV

Modus Hoperandi – (On draft at Cicero’s)

IPA fans will do a little happy dance for this one! It had a lovely hoppy scent with clear notes of pine and citrus.  The flavor doesn’t disappoint.  How can it with the blend of Centennial, Columbus, and Cascade hops?  The 68 IBUs linger just enough and at 6.8% ABV you feel good after a couple.  I bought a growler of this one right after class!

The Last Sip

What a great start to the new semester.  We tasted 5 solid beers and witnessed a beer school first, as far as I know, when a Ska Brewing bra was presented as a prize and then modeled for the crowd by a male student (over his shirt, thankfully).  You never know what will happen so don’t miss a class.

Thank you to Arlo for bringing great beer, helping me recall fond Colorado memories and getting the Mighty Mighty Bosstones stuck in my head for the next week.  “I never had to knock on wood, but I know…”

 

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!

The First Pour: Magic Hat Howl

Posted: January 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

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 “First Pour” 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

ABV: 4.6%

Bitterness: 32 IBUs

Availability: Seasonal – Winter

A trip down memory lane… about a year ago we purchased a six-pack of this beer and brought it home to try. We both really enjoy Magic Hat #9 and thought that we’d probably like this one too. At that point we were fairly new to the craft beer scene and Alaina was sticking close to lighter beers (think Boulevard Wheat and Schlafly Pale Ale) and Mike was happily living the life of a “hop head” bouncing from IPA to IPA. Neither of us had tried too many dark beers and weren’t into beers that were dominated by malts. Long story short, (too late) neither of us liked Howl and we passed it off to friends who did. Our palates have changed a lot since then, so when we were asked to review Howl we were excited to give this beer a second chance.

Howl is described as a “black as night winter lager” but pours more of a dark brown, slightly red color. A thick head accompanies the pour, but fades to a strong lacing that lingers. The smell is very sweet and with malty notes (Alaina randomly gets watermelon Jolly Ranchers off the smell). The taste is malty up front, but quickly fades to a sweet caramel that lingers after each sip. For someone who is familiar with and digs Schwarzbier style beer, this beer is pretty sessionable. While this isn’t our favorite beer we’ve ever tried, we did enjoy its complexity and it’s fun to see how our palates have changed in one short year.

 

 

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.

The First Pour: Yellow Snow

Posted: January 20, 2011 in Beer Menu

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 “First Pour” 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

ABV: 6.2%

IBU: 70

Malts: Melanoiden, Rogue Micro Barley Farm Dare™ & Risk™ Malts

Hops: Amarillo & Rogue Micro Hopyard Revolution Hops

Yeast: Pacman Yeast

For those that are familiar with Rogue beers, you know that they are synonymous with carefully brewed and well balanced beers. Here we’re taking a peak at their Yellow Snow India Pale Ale. We’ve often found ourselves staring at the beer at Wine and Cheese in Clayton, but for some reason have never picked it up. This beer lives up to its American West coast IPA style and – as long as the name makes you laugh and not gag – this is a beer well worth enjoying. Cool history note, Rogue’s Yellow Snow IPA was first brewed and introduced in honor of the 2002 winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

The beer pours off the tap light yellow with a thick white head sitting on top. The visual sells this beer short because you wouldn’t think it would be heavy in flavor. The aroma? Well hop-heads strap in because you’re going to love this beer. You’re greeted immediately by a powerhouse 70 IBU punch of grapefruits and tangerines. The aroma alone finds the beer in the company of Lagunitas Hop Stoopid and Bell’s Two Hearted & Hopslam India pale ales. This beer really is a paradise for West coast IPA lovers. The taste is a medium to light body, creamy in drink, with a nice finish of grapefruity hops. Rogue also does an excellent job or keeping the 70 IBUs in check with a well-balanced malty backbone. We disagree as to the drinkablity of this beer: Alaina finds that the IBU levels would have her to stopping after one; Mike finds that Rogue balances the beer perfectly for a big IPA. The beer really doesn’t torture the palate the way a lot of piney-earthy IPAs can (think of Southern Tier Unearthy IPA). So grab a barstool hop-heads and be sure to enjoy this beer on draft instead of the typical 750ml bottles.

 

 

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.

The First Pour: Blanche De Bruxelles

Posted: January 19, 2011 in Beer Menu

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 “First Pour” 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

ABV: 4.5%

Bitterness: Unknown

Availability: Year round


This Witbier pours as a cloudy, pale yellow – made us think of diluted lemonade – and has a light white lacing. The aroma gives off a slightly sour smell that isn’t off-putting. Within the aroma you also get a mild orange peel smell, some lemon zest and a faint spiciness from the coriander. 

When you take a sip, the sourness from the aroma show’s itself slightly in the taste, but isn’t overpowering. Once that fades, you get an enjoyable balance between lemon and citrus that’s light in body and leaves the tongue clean. Malts also give this beer a slightly sweet taste that doesn’t take over. We thought this beer was very drinkable and enjoyed the flavor combinations. Admittedly, we wish there had been a little more spiciness that the commercial description advertises, but every palate is different and it just didn’t stand out to us. Head over to Cicero’s, grab a pint, and let us know what you think.

 

 

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.



Hop and Circumstance

Posted: January 17, 2011 in Beer School
By Eric and Mimi Griffith

When we tell people we are graduating, their first reaction is always, “Congratulations!”  Once they find out we’re graduating from beer school they usually smile and chuckle like it is some kind of joke.  But at Cicero’s Beer School graduation we get to drink free beer during the ceremony and take home cool pint glasses….so who’s laughing now.

Some of the graduation prizes

More prizes to win!

Whether you are graduating for your first time or your ninth time like Art Santen, graduation night is always fun and exciting as students answer questions for prizes and receive their graduation card, which is good for discounts on beer during the next semester.

You too, could be as proud as Art!

If only I could have recalled that O’Dell’s Saboteur is a brown ale I could have gone home with even more beer gear.  Good thing Mimi takes excellent notes…she won two Chimay goblets!

Our lovely Beer Head Mistress Karen!

 

A Quick Look Back

I know it is hard to believe, but we have sipped our way through another 13-week semester of suds sampling.  We tasted 47 different beers, from 8 states and 3 countries, and even tried 4 ciders along the way.  The beers ranged from pilsners to Russian imperial stouts and 20 styles in between.  We found beers we love and beers we never new existed, and through it all we had fun.

A clearly enthusiastic fall class off 2010

He says– First of all, cheers to the staff of beer school and thank you once again for an outstanding semester of classes.  It is very hard to narrow down the best of the year, but I will highlight my favorite classes and Mimi will discuss her favorite beers of the semester.

Our Beer School Bloggers, Eric & Mimi, at Graduation

Mitch Turner from Major Brands is quite the educator when it comes to beer.  I always learn many new things when he comes to beer school and this year was no exception.  His vast knowledge and ability to share valuable information gets him the nod for “top teacher.”

Two Generations of Cicero's

The “most organized presenter” goes to Fred Schumacher of Hoffbrau.  You may remember his Powerpoint slides showing Oktoberfest in Germany and stats for the 4 beers he brought for tasting.  His history in the beer business was so interesting to hear about and he took Karen to this year’s Oktoberfest to he gets extra points for that.

Beer School Bar Staff

Tallgrass Brewing Company was the guest on week 1 and owner/brewer Jeff Gill brought a very approachable group of beers for everyone and told stories of opening the brewery and testing recipes while his children stood nearby in Halloween costumes.  He gets the “entrepreneur brewer of the year” or the “he makes me want to open a brewery” award.

Schaefer Family - A family that drinks together, stays together!

She says It’s hard for me to pick out a “number one” favorite beer out of the 47 we tried this semester.  So, I’m going to list my top three favorites.  One of which was C3 from the O’Fallon and Schlafly collaboration series.  It had a unique flavor with an interesting hop blend that really spoke to me.  I know collaboration beers are produced in a limited quantity, yet if it was available in bottles I would have bought it.

 

"The First Pour" bloggers, Mike and Alaina, at Graduation

New Belgium’s Ranger IPA is also on my list as one to have on a regular basis.  Since my plunge into craft beers my taste preference has swung from meek mainstream pilsners to bold IPA’s.  (I remember a class last semester in which there was an IPA that I couldn’t finish, and now they’re my style of choice.  I’ve learned so much and my palette has really expanded thanks to Beer School!)

Maybe someday, Chip will catch up to Art.

The last beer we sampled this semester was Sam Adam’s Infinium.  This one really got my attention.  It was special and fancy, it had a lovely malt/hop balance, it had enough earthy spice for me, and a wonderfully smooth mouth feel.

What would we do without our AV department - http://www.cicerosbeerschool.com

Thanks to all of those at Cicero’s who work so hard to make beer school not just happen but be so much fun.  A whole new world has opened up in front of me and if not for Cicero’s beer school I might be drinking the same boring beer day after day.  I encourage anyone with a mild interest in beer to come try it for yourself.  You’ll be so glad you did.

Fall class of 2010