The Six-Pack Project

bloggersThis past week I received a tweet from fellow beer blogger @BryanDRoth at This Is Why I’m Drunk. He was interested in setting up a beer blogging collaboration from beer bloggers in different states to come up with their ultimate 6 pack of beer that “best represents you state”. After much thinking I think I finally come up with my Ultimate Iowa Brewed Six pack, however @BryanDRoth has some rules to follow:

1. Pick a six-pack of beers that best represents your state and/or state’s beer culture.
2. Beer must be made in your state, but “gypsy” brewers are acceptable, so long as that beer is brewed with an in-state brewery and sold in your state.
3. Any size bottle or can is acceptable to include.
4. Current seasonal offerings are fine, but try to keep selections to year-round brews as much as possible. No out-of-season brews preferred.

So, with that being said, I had to disqualify many of the fantastic up-and-coming breweries and their beers and this is also the reason why you won’t see Kentucky Brunch or Mornin’ Delight from Toppling Goliath on the list. So, a tip of the cap to 515, Exile, Big Grove (Loving their Double IPA right now), and anyone else I forgot to mention. I wanted year round availability, (even though Sue and Sosus can be hard to come by), for someone traveling through the state to get their hands on, so here’s what I went with:

sue Toppling Goliath pseudoSue 

This was a no-brainer, it might be my favorite beer in the world actually. Although hard to come by at times, it has become the best beer brewed Iowa, without question. The demand is high and once it hits the shelves it’s come in a matter of minutes.

Brewed and bottled in Decorah, IA, this beer is starting to get national recognition, as it should. An American pale ale coming in at 5.8% and 50 IBUs, I would be hard pressed to find a better pale ale in America and a better use of the wonderful citra hop. Zombie Dust comes to mind, and I might be a little biased here, but I think Sue is a bit better than the Dust. Not only is this beer amazing, but the folks at Toppling Goliath are some of nicest people I’ve ever met in the business.

Food pairing of choice: A holiday ham would do or some nice steak tacos would go well.

sosusToppling Goliath Sosus

Single hopped Imperial IPA from Toppling Goliath using only mosiac hops. You get everything you want from an Imperial IPA; citrus, dankness, resinous pine, and then a bit of malt to make it shine. Another home run from Toppling Goliath.

This beer comes in at 8% ABV and 100 IBUs. This is a very easy drinker for a double IPA, but you need to be careful as it can sneak up on you quickly as it doesn’t take long for a bottle or two of this to disappear rather quickly. Check out more from Toppling Goliath at

Food pairing of choice: Some BBQ ribs would do nicely here; sauce on the side.

redbandGreat River Redband Stout

Brewed and canned in Davenport, IA, Redband Stout still stands atop as my favorite coffee stout brewed in Iowa. There are a few stouts to choose from in this great state, and, not including Imperials or barrel-aged, I think this is the go-to. It seems to be increasingly difficult just to get a regular, everyday drinking stout, but Great River comes through and makes this fantastic coffee stout hard to resist.

Redband comes in at 6% ABV and packs a huge coffee punch. The perfect breakfast beer to accompany your bacon and eggs or even your leftover cold pizza. This is the style of beer that I really enjoy during the Iowa fall/winter months. Need more info on Great River, check them out here:

Food pairing of choice: Breakfast burritos

madhouse Madhouse Hopburst IPA

Yes, I know, another IPA on the list. But I can leave it off because it is a fantastic brew. Brewed in Newton, IA (Madhouse is planning a move to Des Moines), this beer uses a “hopbursting” technique where they add most of the hops to the boil late in the process to achieve maximum hop presence.

Checking in at 7.2% this IPA is the definition of a balanced IPA. The hop presence hits you in the face but doesn’t overwhelm you and then the malt does exactly as it should and balances everything perfectly. A well-crafted brew by the folks at Madhouse. Check them out here:

Food pairing of choice: Spicy chicken wings (Korean wings from Big Grove Brewery in Solon, IA)

johns Millstream John’s Generation White Ale

Wanted to get some variety of style into the 6 pack and this beer does the trick. A past, I believe, GABF gold medal winner in the white ale category this beer is perfect for any season. You get the breadiness that you get from most wits but the orange/citrus and coriander are really prominent in this brew. Wonderfully refreshing and easy to drink, stop in at Millstream Brewery in the Amana Colonies and have it on tap!

This beer comes in at 5.2% and as said above, is very drinkable. The brewery is only a 20-25 minute drive from Iowa City/Cedar Rapids, so if visiting, make the trip over and try their beer fresh on tap. The oldest brewer in Iowa is also makes a fine root beer and has recently started a barrel-aging program. Check out more from Millstream here:

Food pairing of choice: Shrimp cocktail or some seared scallops.

wooden nickelBackpocket Wooden Nickel Scottish Ale

This semi-new brewery in Coralville is not only serving up some suds but makes some damn fine wood-fired pizzas as well. I picked their wooden nickel because I think they really nail the Scottish style with their rendition. Scottish style ales aren’t as mainstream as IPAs, sours, or barrel-aged brews but they do have their place and Backpocket makes a delicious one.

Coming in at 5.7%, this beer would go perfectly with one of their house made pizzas. The malt and nuttiness really stands out in this beer. You can find six packs throughout Eastern Iowa or if in the area, just check out the brewery, gets some beer cheese and then order a pie. Good stuff.

Food pairing of choice: One of Backpocket’s pizzas or a roasted chicken with some roasted mushrooms would be terrific!

**Narrowing down this field was very hard to do. I had some many different beers in my six-pack but after careful consideration and trying to go with some different styles this is what I came up with. There are some many great places to stop and try beers out throughout Iowa, and although I’m not as familiar with the western part of the state I know once you hit Davenport on your way to Des Moines you won’t have trouble finding a place to stop. All the beers listed above plus shoutouts to Johns Grocery, Benz Beverage Depot, Big Grove Brewery, 515 Brewery, Confluence, Exile, Court Avenue Brewery, Reds Alehouse, Johncy’s Liquor Store, and many more.



Does my list come close to yours? I would love any feedback to start discussion on this topic. Beer culture in Iowa continues to change for the positive and the places above are reasons for that. Cheers!

Other Bloggers Picks



5 thoughts on “The Six-Pack Project

  1. sjbaue says:

    I’d have to recommend another beer from madhouse as well their newly released(last few months) Imperial Red. I think it used to be a seasonal but they have now made it a year round staple available in bombers.

  2. mikemikemike says:

    All of Backpocket’s beers are uninspired. I would go with something from Peace Tree like Hopwrangler in it’s place.

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