Des Moines IA
Fortunately for all those who dwell in the Eastern and Central Iowa area, more and more craft beer bars are popping up. I always enjoy myself more at these types of establishments. Not just for their expansive beer selection, but because most of them seem to have a quirky, quaint feel to them. You’re usually in for a unique experience each time you go to one.
While the number of bars/restaurants in Iowa with exemplary beer selections is increasing, I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about one that’s been around for quite some time. The University Library Cafe has been around for a few decades. It has certainly gone through some changes during that time period, especially in management. Since 2012, the Library has been managed by Full Court Press, the Des Moines company that owns and runs other highly popular establishments like El Bait Shop, Hessen Haus, and the Royal Mile.
When you first walk in to the Library, you can’t help but notice that it’s, well…quite small (although you likely weren’t surprised at this when you saw the outside of the building driving by). It’s tucked into the western part of the Drake campus right on University Avenue. Upon initial reaction, one may expect a ma and pa type cafe that specializes in comfort food and has limited hours. Quite the contrary, this cafe stays open until 2am every night and opens early for breakfast at 8am Friday through Sunday. Due to it’s location, it has a very eclectic crowd. You’ll see your fair share of college students but there usually are some seasoned veteran regulars along with groups of people out for dinner. While it’s no Outback Steakhouse, it’s still family friendly with several booths lining the wall (which serve as the majority of the dining area).
Onto the food; if you’ve eaten at High Life Lounge/El Bait Shop, the menu is pretty similar. There are a few burgers, sandwiches, and appetizers that are served at both of these locations. Some that I recommend would be the Peanut Butter Bacon Burger, Fried Pickles, and the Homemade Macaroni and Cheese. While you can’t go wrong with any of those selections, the Library does offer several of their own unique entrees. There’s the Library Poutine appetizer, the Jalapeno Havarti Burger, and of course, the fabled Meatloaf Sandwich.
The last time I was there, I ordered that legendary meatloaf sandwich. You get a sizable slab of loaf which is plenty juicy and flavorful served on a hoagie bun. A choice of side comes with it; again, I recommend the mac ’n cheese. The Library is also famously known for its nachos (voted best in DSM in recent years). I also placed a order of these. They were plenty greasy but good.
As far as beer, this is where the Library thrives. Despite it’s small space, they employ a tremendous selection of taps. There’s over 40 available; and none of those are wasted on any Bud, Miller, or Coors products. You have a wide selection of brews from great national breweries such as Stone, Founders, Summit, and Deschutes. There’s also plant of offerings from Iowa breweries like Confluence, Peace Tree (including the Rye Porter, rarely seen on tap), and West-Okoboji. On this previous trip I decided to enjoy a Stone Enjoy By Double IPA which paired nicely with the nachos. I would put this terrifically hoppy yet drinkable Double IPA right up there with other favorites from this category like Laguinitas Sucks and Victory Dirtwolf.
The mark of a good craft beer bar is that you can never run out of something new to try regardless of how often you frequent it (unless you’re a complete barfly like Steve Buschemi’s character in Trees Lounge). Whether you’re a Des Moines area resident or just happening to be in the area, mark the University Library Cafe a place to check out. Even though it’s really small, it can cater to a variety of occasions: a lunch date, an early evening meeting spot for a group of friends, or an after work/night cap bar if you’re looking to unwind with the help of a tasty brew. This place is more than just the quality food and drinks available. The atmosphere is probably what I appreciate most. It’s a tight squeeze in there some nights but I think it plays to their advantage more often than not. It gives the Library a cozy, lounge-type feel which is a nice change of pace from the bustling downtown bars located just a few miles east.
Stop in to this forgotten gem located off the beaten path for an experience you’re not likely to forget.
Multiple sources have confirmed to me that Oskar Blues is indeed ready to hit the Iowa market. From what I am hearing it sounds like it will be in January of 2015. Rumors and speculation have been going on for the last few years about Oskar Blues hitting our state; especially since Stone, Deschutes, Green Flash, Founders and others have done so well here. Another great brewery adding to our shelves, making the decisions even more difficult than they already are! A great problem to have. If you want to know more about what beers Oskar Blues has to offer visit their website at this link:
I noticed a big sign where the former Bennigan’s used to be at Coral Ridge Mall advertising that the Mellow Mushroom will be opening in that location in the future. Mellow Mushroom offers “southern style” pizza and also a beer club which sounds very similar to Old Chicago’s beer club. They advertise 100 beers 64 on tap? I believe. That number might be a bit off. Here’s a link to their menu:
Quite a few new brews will be hitting the shelves in the coming weeks and months. Along with the tremendous selection we already have a few more will be added to make your decision as to what to buy even more difficult. Here they come:
**Deschutes Brewing The Dissident: Starting to be available on Dec. 12 but I’m not sure if that is just brewery release. The actual date Eastern Iowa will see it I’m unsure of. It’s a flanders style sour brown that will be in 22 oz bottles with a 10.4% ABV. More from the brewery:
Fermented for more than 18 months in isolation from the rest of the beers, The Dissident is a distinctive Oud Bruin, Flanders-style brown ale, with a fruity aroma and flavor, the first wild yeast beer made by the award-winning Deschutes Brewery.
To give The Dissident its characteristic sour taste the brewery used a wild yeast strain called Brettanomyces (also known as Brett) during fermentation. Known throughout the wine world for creating earthy undertones found in many European wines, Brett is used in the beer fermentation process to create strong flavors typically associated with Belgian beers. Unlike English varieties that use traditional inoculated yeasts in the fermentation process, beers made with Brett take much longer to ferment and require additional barrel finishing time to balance the sour flavoring. In the Dissident’s case, this meant aging a portion of it in pinot and cabernet barrels for over 3 months. Another key flavor component comes from the Central Washington cherries that were added twelve months ago.
Due to the wild yeast , The Dissident required special treatment and was held in isolation under lock and key apart from the rest of the brewery’s beers to avoid any cross-contamination. A secondary bottling line was also brought in from an outside contractor to facilitate The Dissident’s bottling and insure the beer and wild yeast never touched the brewery’s machinery. With a beer this wild and truly unique, Deschutes needed a special label to alert consumers to what lay inside. The resulting image immediately sets The Dissident apart from the other Deschutes Brewery beers, even the Reserve Series beers.
The fruit and acidity in The Dissident make it ideal for pairing with a wide variety of dishes – the high acidity is perfect for cutting creamy dishes or cooling spicy ones. Because of the fruity characteristics derived from the cherries, the beer also pairs well with chocolate. Deschutes Brewery President and Founder Gary Fish recommends pairing the Dissident with “anything chocolate, the darker the better, soft cheeses like Brie and creamy dishes like spaghetti carbonara, or macaroni and cheese.”
This unique release is a whiskey barrel-aged take on the brewery’s Small Batch 72 Imperial, an imperial chocolate cream stout. For every 100 bbl. batch, 400 lbs. of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory lustrous chocolate, made especially for 72 Imperial, are added to the brew. After spending a considerable amount of time in whiskey-soaked oak barrels, the finished product is molasses in color and smells of chocolate, wood, and whiskey harmoniously blended together. The beer has a dense and decadent mouthfeel and an abundance of rich flavors, including hints of sherry and dark fruit that compliment the toasted chocolate and oak notes remarkably.
**New Holland Dragon’s Milk Reserve w/ Raspberries** – This is one beer that I am personally excited to see. Very thankful that New Holland has hit our shelves as I think Dragon’s Milk and BA Dragon’s Milk are at times overlooked. Dragon’s Milk Reserve with Raspberries will be hitting our shelves in late December, probably limited supply.
New Holland Brewing has bottled the newest variation of their barreled beer – Dragon’s Milk. The imperial stout is aged in house bourbon barrels has undergone some raspberry treatment to create Dragon’s Milk Reserve with Raspberries.
Kona Brewing will be one of few craft breweries to be available in all 50 states as they fill in their final 9 states with their products. They should be available in Iowa starting in early 2015. For a full list of their lineup check out their website at:
From an earlier press release and courtesy of the Sioux City Journal:
“In early 2015 we are approaching our 21st anniversary of brewing high-quality craft beer, and this national push is a perfect tribute to that milestone,” said Kona Brewing Company brand manager Aaron Marion.
”It’s been two years since Kona first touched down in the heart of the country, and the reception of our Hawaiian brews has provided a nice groundswell. We look forward to bringing some warmth and a taste of Hawaii to the growing market of craft beer drinkers in the central U.S., especially during these cold winter months,” Marion said.
Their award winning Longboard Island Lager and Big Wave Golden Ale will both be represented, available on draught and in six-pack bottles.
The 4th annual Dubuque on Ice Brewfest is slated to take place on Saturday, February 21st starting at 1:00 and ending at 5:00 p.m. It takes place at the Mystique Ice Arena in Dubuque with a VIP entrance time slated for noon. $35 general admission and $50 for VIP tickets. Tickets will be on sale starting December 10th. Last year saw many breweries in attendance including Exile, Toppling Goliath, Big Grove Brewery and many more. A great event and I hope to see you there! For more info visit www.dubuquebrewfest.com!
Something that hasn’t been 100% confirmed but looks to be inevitable is a new Deschutes beer being added to their Bond Street Series lineup. Go along with Hop in the Dark, Chasin’ Freshies, and Foray, Pine Drop IPA will soon be bottled. What was once a draught only offering, as the name suggests, will be a Piney IPA that will use chinook, millennial, centennial, and northern brewer. More from the brewery courtesy of beerstreetjournal.com.
This lively IPA delivers a crisp and light malt body with ample citrus and pine notes from Chinook and experimental hops. Inspired by the aromas and silence we experience when exploring the scenic pine forests just up the road from our brewhouse.
Deschutes Pinedrops IPA will be available in 12oz bottles as a part of the Bond Street Series. Other offerings in the series include Chasin Freshies, Foray, and Hop in the Dark.
Hops: Millennial, Northern Brewer, Chinook, Centennial, Experimental
Malt: Pilsner, Pale, Munich, Crystal, Cara Pils
Availability: 12oz bottles, Draft.
The Winged Messenger
STYLE: Belgian Single
RELEASE DATE: December 2014
COLOR: Pale, straw
TASTING NOTES: Light and sessionable like its namesake, the third release in the Bell’s Planet Series, Mercury: The Winged Messenger, was inspired by the Belgian Single, a style traditionally brewed by monks in Belgium for their own consumption.
This interpretation has bready and grainy notes from Belgian malt, herbal and balanced characteristics from the hops and a subtle, but spicy character from the Belgian yeast. Fruity notes of pear are also present in this light, bright and complex session beer.