Plate Magazine Names Big Grove Chef, Ben Smart, “Chef to Watch in 2016”

big groveA terrific honor bestowed upon Big Grove Brewery Head Chef Ben Smart as Plate Magazine has named him to the “Chefs to Watch in 2016” list. To make it on the national culinary scene while being based in small town Solon, IA shows the talent and skill that Chef Smart has.

To be able to make the 10 minute drive from my home in Mt. Vernon to Solon and visit Big Grove and to try Chef Smart’s dishes is a treat. For him to be able to hit the national stage of the culinary world can only be a good thing for other chefs and restaurants in the state of Iowa. I love the quote that Chef Smart gave about the reason for coming back to Iowa:

“I want to create a sustainable life for myself, take the morals I learned growing up on the farm and apply them to where I work,” he says. “I definitely like to develop relationships with local farmers; you can’t cook great food without great ingredients. Doug and I have learned a lot about how people eat in New York, Chicago and Napa, and the focus on local and seasonal ingredients. That was underutilized in Iowa. It was one of those moments in life where you roll the dice and go for it.”

For most of us, Big Grove Brewery isn’t a hidden treasure any more, unless you haven’t visited, which shame on you. It’s a weekend dinner with family, it’s after church lunch, it’s a place to grab a few beers and appetizers with some buddies and watch the game, but for others outside of Iowa, this accomplishment will be bring more national notoriety and those folks on the outside of Iowa will find that great things can happen in small places. Cheers to Chef Ben and Big Grove, amazing!!

To read the full article click here.

Harvest Dinner @ Kroul Farms Featuring Big Grove and Pullman…..AMAZING!!

chefs.jpgWhat a great way to end a weekend! Kroul Farms right outside of Mount Vernon hosted a wonderful dinner featuring chefs Benjamin Smart of Big Grove and Sepher Sadrzadeh of Pullman Bar and Diner. One word can sum up the evening: AMAZING! I couldn’t have been more impressed with the food and service and also the setting of this terrific meal.


Special thanks to the Kroul family being gracious enough to host the event and the time and work put in the by the chefs, Cory Kent and staff. If you’ve never attended a Beer Dinner make sure you put it on the top of your list. Worth every damn penny plus more! Eagerly anticipating the next time these culinary geniuses can come together and put on another masterpiece. Onto the meal!


*1st course: Marinated and Charred Local Vegetables – with this dish I wasn’t sure when I read anchovy but I’ve learned to not let that word frighten you off as that wonderful little dish adds some amazing salty/briney flavor. The sauce and the added “everything bagel” rye salt was amazing with the perfectly good vegetables. Roasted beets, potatoes, and peppers and the sweetness from the honey paired perfectly with the Big Grove West Main Wheat!

1st course.jpg

*2nd course: Potato and Onion Confit Galette –  what is a galette? I didn’t know what is was either. Just think of a savory pie stuffed with Milton white cheddar, sliced potato and topped with a carrot romesco. Add a side salad with sherry vinaigrette and paired with a Big Grove Arms Race Pale Ale, this was a dish I would keep on eating if they would have kept putting it in front of me. Delicious!


*3rd course: Roasted Squash with Lamb Merguez sausage – lamb from Pavelka Point and made in house by Chef Benjamin Smart served in a roasted squash. The pickled flavor from the kale and the spice of the sausage was rounded out perfectly by a housemade persian cheese, which is a yogurt textured feta. Paired with a white wine, which I’m not going to pretend I know anything about wine, the spice of the sausage with the mix of the sweet acorn squash was delicious.

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*4th course: Grilled Local Mushrooms – gnocchi, mushrooms, and brussel sprouts? YES PLEASE! Add some brown butter crumbles to go with the pillowy, amazingly delicious, gnocchi and the nuttiness of the mushrooms paired with a white wine. My first chicken of the woods mushroom experience, and I’ll be clamoring for more!


*5th course: Kroul Farms Beef – being able to eat beef that had been raised 100 yards from your table was a great experience and defines “farm to table” dining. The beef was perfectly cook and the salty beef ju paired perfectly with the red wine that was served.


*6th course: Apple Strudel – Wilson’s Orchard Apples are showcased in this strudel that is glazed with a Cedar Ridge whiskey caramel sauce and smoked cinnamon ice cream. Dessert isn’t usually my favorite course but this was absolutely amazing. This dessert is what you think of when you think Fall.


**An amazing night that I hope can be re-created sooner rather than later. I implore you to get a ticket the next time there is an opportunity to attend a beer dinner. Kudos to Chef Smart and Chef Sadrzadeh for creating this amazing meal. Easy for me to say but, LET’S DO IT AGAIN!

A Quick Look at the Dubuque Beer Scene: Spotlight on Jubeck New World Brewing

jubeckA few months ago I attended the Potosi Beer Festival in Potosi, WI. A very fun event that I recommend you to check it out, if not for the beer but the scenery as well. After that event, my sister and brother-in-law took me to Jubeck New World Brewing. I’ve intended on going to this place for quite some time and I finally got the chance.

Upon entering the first thing I noticed was the eloquent decor and the comfortable vibe that the brewery gave out. No tvs, no loud music, no kitchen, just a place to order a brew, have some pretzels and converse with a friend or patron sitting at the bar with you. Old-school, throwback feel that made me feel like I was in an episode of cheers, which to me, is very complimentary. A very nice change of pace to the hustle and bustle of some places where you try to talk over the TV, music, or loud patrons.

Jubeck New World Brewing is a small microbrewery located in downtown Dubuque, Iowa. Our mission is to create interesting and delicious craft beer while providing a social space that cultivates conversation and camaraderie. Our community is important to us—it literally funded our startup and continues to shape our business.


The Beer

What seems to be a pretty rotating lineup had a few things that caught my eye. I started with their Apricot IPA. Here’s Jubeck’s description of this beer:

American pale ale style beer finished with a healthy dose of Citra hops and dried apricots, added late in the boil, for a subtle fruity flavor. This is one of Jubeck’s signature brews.

Citra hop definitely present and then fades into a fruity finish. Tasty brew, especially on the warm day we had it. The second beer I tried was their Saison. A style I’m really into and a style a really enjoy trying from the local breweries to get their take. Jubeck didn’t have any adjuncts to their saison, it was the pretty straightforward belgian yeast strain saison, which isn’t a bad thing at all. It was refreshing and did the trick.


They don’t have a kitchen but pretzels and gardettos can hold a guy over. However, there are a few places in Dubuque that foodies and beer lovers can congregate.

*Lot 1 – very solid beer selection that rotates constantly. I’ve been there when they’ve had TG, Surly, and Hoptimum on tap. I can’t comment on the food since I don’t believe I’ve eaten there.

*1st and Main – I had a very good burger and some shrimp tacos here. The beer selection was pretty solid as well. A coffee bender from Surly went well with the burger.

*Copper Kettle – always has Bells Two Hearted (underrated/underappreciated brew) in a bottle and their wings and pork nachos are excellent!

*Brazen – I’m missing out on this one as my brother frequents this place and is bragging about it’s greatness! I definitely need to make this a priority of places to go when I’m in Dubuque next. He’s enjoyed cans of Sue many a time here.

*L May Eatery – terrific pizza. Thin crust with sausage and mushroom was excellent and I believe I enjoyed it with a few Sierra Nevada Pale Ales.

Dubuque may be the biggest untapped (no pun intended) market in the Iowa, especially Eastern Iowa. The beer movement has been slow in Dubuque but is slowly starting to show thanks to the efforts from the folks I listed above. Make sure you get local and check out Jubeck, awesome place and great experience along with super friendly staff.  If you’re in the area, give a few of these places a try!

Odell Releasing Jolly Russian

Odell Brewing company will be releasing Jolly Russian in their taproom this Friday and hitting their 13 state footprint for distro as well. Here’s more on this brew courtesy of Odell’s Facebook page:

The barrels have been emptied, the bottles have been capped. Jolly Russian arrives on Friday! A rich 13.3% Russian Imperial Stout stowed away in rum barrels for aging, Jolly Russian is our first single bottle 12oz offering in over a decade. You can get your hands on it across our 13-state footprint. Better yet, join us in the taproom on Friday. We’ll we’ll be giving away tee shirts, a limited edition hand painted Jolly Russian nesting doll, and even Odell branded eye patches. Live music will kickoff at 4:00p thanks to The Swashbuckling Doctors. See you there!

Big Grove Pulling out all the stops for Northside Oktoberfest! What will the Richard variant be?

big groveBig Grove brewery is bringing out the big guns for this weekend’s Northside Oktoberfest with the announcement that they will be pouring out of two tents, one of which is a cask tent that will have 12pins! Another question is, what will the Richard the Whale variant be? In talking with Chad Young, he sent me a pic (see below) of what he and Chef Benjamin Smart came up with for the variant. Here’s a list of the things that Big Grove will have for sure, along with many surprises! Hope to see you there on Saturday!


*Barleywine with Deri Kochoha from JBC roasters

*Russian Imperial Stout with Cinnamon & Vanilla beansbg3

*IPA with whole cone cascade
*Plan A Triple IPA with Wet Cascade & Columbus
*Arms Race with whole cone Citra & Wet cone centennial
*Harvest with whole cone Cascade
*Que Onda Roja with Concorde Grapes
*Quantum Finish with whole cone cascade
*IPA with Rosemary & Lavender
*ESB w/Apricot
*Que Onda Retacca with Cacao Nibs

A Look at Kickshaw “Bibelot”

bibelotKickshaw’s next bottling will be of “Bibelot”, an ale aged and fermented in Cedar Ridge Malted Rye barrels. Here’s more from Bill and Kickshaw on his latest bottling:

Bibelot (ˈbē-bə-ˌlō) is the next Kickshaw beer headed to bottles. The wort comes from the rye run, but was fermented and aged in a Cedar Ridge Malted Rye barrel (courtesy of North Dodge Hyvee – thanks Seth!). The oak and whiskey notes have blended with the brett notes to create a bright pinot character in the nose, and a bit more mouthfeel.

This is the first single barrel fun run, and will be released at North Dodge Hyvee, because it is Seth’s barrel.

Kickshaw “Curio” Coming Soon!

curio.jpgKickshaw brewer/owner Bill Heinrich has updated his next project coming down the bottling line. “Curio” will be hitting shelves hopefully by the end of September. Here is Mr. Heinrich’s description of this brew:

While the art of the barrel may be blending, the soul of the craft brewer is experimentation. This batch of golden ale has a malted rye variation that seemed like a good idea when we brewed it at Lion Bridge Brewing CO. I hope you enjoy drinking it as much as we enjoyed trying it. – BH

Stay tuned for further release details and locations!