Five short years ago, the landscape of Iowa beer changed. Since the passing of SF 2088, countless breweries have been introduced to Iowa, with many more on the way. Most recently, both Surly (Minnesota) and Oskar Blues (Colorado, North Carolina) entered the state. So on this anniversary, raise your glass and say “Cheers!” to better beer!
Sometimes life just wears you down. Beer helps, but it doesn’t help you get any of that time back. Here’s a quick summary of my beer-related life over the summer:
- June 15-23 – Vacation to California, where we traveled to San Francisco and Los Angeles. It was the first time I have had any Russian River beers, and I see why they score so high. I tried the gambit of the specials, like
- Pliny the Elder
- July 4th weekend – brewed several beers, including two sours: a Tart of Darkness clone, and an Oud Bruin, both of which turned out great (they were put in bottles a few weeks ago)
- July 11 – Had a Monk’s Cafe Flemish Red at Monk’s Cafe in Philadelphia. Need I say more?
- September 4 – Enjoyed Sweet Baby Jesus from DuClaw Brewing for the first time in Washington D.C. – A peanut butter porter. It was pretty tasty.
- September 28 – Iowa City’s Northside Oktoberfest – the event was rainy, so there wasn’t a lot of room for everyone under the tent. New rules put in place by the state made the event less fun. The biggest issue with this year’s event was the 1 oz samples for several of the premium beers were 5 or 6 tickets (at 50 cents per ticket). Does this mean that the entire 20 ounce bottle is worth $50? No, it isn’t, so I would appreciate equalizing the ticket per sample price to be more reasonable based on the bottle price.
- October 4 – Oktoberfest at Millstream Brewing – delicious beer at a cool place.
- October 15 – Hit up a place in Santa Monica (West 4th and Jane) that earned me a Founder’s Badge on untappd. Maybe not cool for you, but it was for me.
- November 16 – Took the 3 hour trek with a couple friends to New Glarus Brewing in Wisconsin. We took the “tour”, and had the guide explain a bit more about the brewery. The coolest part of the trip was we saw Dan Carey, the brewmaster, sipping on several different Thumbprint series beers in the QA Lab. He waved at our group (since they were like fish in a fishbowl), and just a small part of me wanted him to step out for a photo op. We creepily stalked him for a while before we packed up our beer and left.
- And, pretty much the whole fall we tailgated with the crew, the Keg Totem at each home game.
- Oh, and remember the Brew-B-Q? We plan on having some of the barleywine we brewed at our upcoming holiday party. It ended up being 12%, and has been aging since then.
How was your summer? Any great stories to tell? Let me know!
This past Memorial Day weekend, our group of friends got together for our third annual brew-b-q celebration. At the event, we had three groups of people, those of us brewing a “big” beer, those cooking and smoking various meats, and those enjoying the entire event.
There were four of us making the beer, with many helpers on hand. Those of us making the beer each brought a couple specialty malts, hop varieties, and base malt. This year, I had some base malt I wanted to use, so I provided the base malt, 22 pounds of a mixture of pale malt, organic pilsner malt, and organic pale malt. With each of us contributing 2 pounds of specialty grains, that brought the total grains for a five gallon batch of beer to 30 pounds. By comparison, your standard batch of beer has around 10 to 12 pounds of grain.
After the mash, during the boil, we added several varieties of hops, including Summit, El Dorado, Centennial, and Pacific Jade. With the hop additions, the theoretical IBU’s were 128! By comparison, many very bitter IPA’s tend to be in the 80-90 range. But this was necessary for our brew, since it was going to be very strong. If everything went correctly, it was supposed to be around 14% ABV, so the large amounts of hops were to balance out the beer.
Once we were done with the boil, we cooled the wort (unfermented beer), and put it into our fermentation container. Once measured, the original gravity wound up a bit lower than we expected, but it was still potentially a beer in about the 10-12% ABV range.
We aerated the jug well by shaking it, then added our yeast, which was just a standard American Ale yeast. After a day, we added a Super High Gravity yeast, to keep the fermentation going when the alcohol percentage was high.
Later this year, we are going to bottle it and enjoy it when the cold nights of winter are upon us.
Have you made any large beers lately? How did it turn out?
Last Saturday, a few friends and I went to Brrrfest 2013. Once again, like many of the recent beer events, this one featured a “Brewmaster” session, with advanced entry. If you read my post about what to look for at beer events, here’s what I saw at Brrrfest:
It was a very fast entry to the event. As soon as we walked into the building, ID’s were checked, then we dropped off our tickets and picked up the event tasting glass and program, then went to stand in line. As soon as the doors opened, all 400 Brewmasters got into the event within 5 minutes, which was great. There was a ton of room for the first hour, and my friends and I could go explore the different brewers and reconvene to discuss the highlights. The glass was a commemorative one, but I do wish it was a globe or tulip style, instead of the kolsch-style glass.
Although the written program didn’t highlight any special beers, the vendors at the event had a large selection of beers. I was a bit disappointed several of the bigger names in brewing weren’t at the event (Samuel Adams, Founder’s, and Stone Brewing to name a few), but the Iowa breweries, including several new breweries, represented very well. In my opinion, two of the best breweries at the event were Peace Tree (in Knoxville, Iowa) and Van Houzen, a new brewery in Newton, Iowa. Peace Tree had three different ice beers, made from three different flagship beers (Rye Porter, Belgian Blonde, and Hop Wrangler). They were very good, and unique to the event. Van Houzen had several of their beers on tap, and when I went to try the one in the program, Symphony Imperial Double Chocolate Stout, I noticed the rest of the lineup: a Double IPA, Belgian Tripel, and Robust Belgian White Beer, all 8% ABV and higher. Talk about some heavyweights! I had a chance to try them all, and they were great.
After the event, I asked my friend Macy her thoughts. She said, “The greatest benefit of attending an event like Brrrfest is that you have the opportunity to meet new breweries that you weren’t aware of before the event, yet still get to rub elbows with the brewers from some of your favorite breweries. The mix of exploration and celebration of expertly brewed beer makes for an event that is too good to miss! I’ll definitely be attending again next year.”
Based on this year, I will too, Macy! Did you attend Brrrfest? What was your favorite beer?
The brewpub serves a New Orleans-inspired menu, with staples like Gumbo and Poutine. At the time of our visit, they hadn’t started brewing beer yet due to a re-planning of the brewery floor (full tanks are heavy!). They were, however, serving a lot of very local beers (within 30 miles), including a few from Weyerbacher, the other Easton brewery.
Our party tried the gumbo (great!) and duck fat fries (better than great!) as appetizers. The ladies each ordered a seafood dish, while the guys ordered different sandwiches on the menu. All of the food was outstanding, and the brewery quickly became a favorite with our group.
After our meal, I spoke with Troy Reynard, one of the owners, and told him how excited I was for them. I mentioned that all I wanted for Christmas from my entire family was the $500-level Kickstarter experience, which included a brew day with the head brewer. The head brewer is Wayne Milford, whose last job was a brewer at Dogfish Head Brewing. The brew day experience is a bit different because it includes a bit of creative freedom from yours truly, and I am excited for them to begin brewing and have the opportunity to take part. We finished off the evening with Troy giving me the additional Kickstarter rewards, which included a growler (which I lent to my brother-in-law), a pint glass, a nice t-shirt, and other assorted swag.
We had a great time in the historic building-turned-brewery, and I look forward to visiting them every time I make it out to the East Coast. Have you had a chance to check out Two Rivers Brewing? What did you think?