We are one week removed from the Brrr Fest that took place in Coralville, IA at the Marriott convention center. The turn out was fantastic as we arrived 30 minutes early and there was a huge line waiting to get in and drink some brews. My initial thoughts were that if this many people showed up it can only be a good thing going towards the higher quality and a greater chance for more breweries to be opening up in Iowa. The demand is there, I just hope it is answered. Onto the beers and breweries; I’ll give my list of positives and not so positives.
POSITIVES (in no particular order)
*Back Pocket brewing – this is the brewery being built next to the Marriott. I tried the Slingshot which is a dunkel. Nice and malty beer with a smooth roasted flavor. Very drinkable. I followed that with their Jackknife GPA which is a German pale ale. Not your typical heavy hoppy American IPA but still a great balance of malts and hops, nice and smooth with that big hop flavor still there.
Back Pocket was also selling some of their memorabilia; very cool tins, signs, t-shirts, etc. Their logos are very cool and catchy and I hope this place really takes off.
*Peace Tree Brewing- Knoxville, IA- Peace Tree always seems to bring their A game with them. Their station was cool, their taps were unique and catchy, and they brought some of their big boy beers. Their Hop Wrangler is an Iowa staple beer in my fridge as is their blonde fatale. I went with their Hopsutra double IPA and really enjoyed it. Heavy hop aroma and flavor but still very drinkable. Their Black River Gumbo Stout was also very good and I will seek that out for purchase. I was disappointed that I missed out on their Templeton Rye Oak Age Imperial Stout but I’ve heard from a few friends that this was their favorite of the whole festival. Thumbs up to Peace Tree.
*Toppling Goliath Brewing; Decorah, IA- Long, long, line waiting to get their hands on the Golden Nugget IPA and it was well worth the wait. Not only is this a fantastic IPA, maybe the best beer brewed in Iowa, but the guys working were awesome and helpful. Everything you want in an IPA; hoppiness, bitterness, with a bit of malt to balance. Smooth and refreshing made we wish this was bottled for distribution. (Come on TGBrews! Bottle this shit!)
*Bent River Brewing; Moline, IL – These guys might have stole the show for me. Started with their Jalapeno wheat and was blown away by it. Fantastic! Refreshing, spicy, light, and smooth. If you like pepper beers this one is the best I’ve had! Well worth seeking out. Their Uncommon Stout was fantastic! Dark, creamy, coffee, flavor that is super smooth! I then went for the trifecta and had their Dry Hopped Pale Ale. So far, Golden Nugget and Jackknife were the only pales, IPAs that werent’ disappointing; Bent River was added to that list. This dry hopped pale easily made the top 5 with heavy hops and citrus flavor that would be good on any occasion. Two thumbs way up to Bent River! Will head to the QC area just to visit this place!
*Jolly Pumpkin- Dexter, MI- they only had one tapped at a time but they brought some big beers and they were very well done. Really enjoyed their Bam Bier, which is a farmhouse ale, a style I’m still getting into and learning about. It was sweet and refreshing. I would consider Jolly Pumpkin to be one of the bigger brewers at the show, but they at least brought some heavy-hitters and had them all on tap. Can’t say the same for New Belgium, Bells, or Boulevard.
*Big Boys- some of the big brewers just brought a few cases of beer and poured them. Nothing over the top at all, not discussing their beers in-depth. At least Bells brought two-hearted I guess, otherwise, not impressed with the effort. Why try a bunch of stuff that we can walk across the street to the local gas station or grocery and purchase on any given day?
*Hub City- I’m sorry, their beers are not good. Am I missing something, I’m trying to like it but it’s not happening.
*Realization- Going through some of these small Iowa breweries and trying some of these beers made it so painfully evident that we are behind the curve when it comes to making excellent beers. Don’t get me wrong, their were some great things going on, but their were some beers that shouldn’t even be bothered to made, let alone marketed. Hopefully we are taking the right steps to get to the level other states are. Everyone around us, except maybe the Dakotas?, are making some big things, hopefully we are next.
*Food- This event could easily be a money maker for some food vendors. Corn dogs and pizza are ok, but why not have some local restaurants set up some food stands to get some great fresh and local food? I would have loved to had my Golden Nugget IPA with some of the Vine’s chicken wings or the Peace Tree or Great River stout with a nice pulled pork sandwich from The Pit. Maybe next year.
Overall, it was a great event; positives out weighted the negatives by far and like I said before, hopefully this a great step towards progressive beers in our great state! Thanks to Back Pocket and the Marriott for a great time; can’t wait till next year.