Beer Baron’s Top 10 of 2021!

Another year in the books, and like every year since I’ve been doing this blog and releasing my Top 10 I was once again blown away by the amazing beers that our Iowa brewers and their staff have made for us this year! Not only that, the resiliency shown by breweries/restaurants/bars during the past few years cannot be overlooked and huge thank you to all service industry workers! Cheers to you! Onto the TOP 10!
LIST CRITERIA
*Beer must have been brewed in Iowa
*Beer must have been released in 2021
*Annual releases not counted unless a new adjunct had been added to that particular beer

Like every list, I know opinions will differ and I’m looking forward to reading what your top 10 list was for this year! Once again, so many beers, so little time, and I know I wasn’t able to even scratch the surface as to the beers I wanted to try!

**Big Grove Richard the Whale Chocolate Coconut Cake– – this year’s “Golden Ticket” beer during the Richard the Whale release, and like every year, it does not disappoint. Chocolate and coconut shine as this is wonderfully balanced, great for any time of the day, another win for Big Grove with this beer!

**Lion Bridge Silvia – Farmhouse ales are a style that goes overlooked and thankfully is making their way back to some breweries, and Lion Bridge not only made a great one, but possibly my favorite beer of the year. It was a perfect accompaniment to the Thanksgiving dinner table..not just one bottle either…If you’re a saison/farmhouse ale fan this is one to definitely try!

**Pulpit Rock Island Life – first enjoyed on a guy’s trip to Decorah and was blown away by the wonderful tropical flavor this beer brought. Maybe the setting had a lot to do with it, but I’m pretty sure it’s just a great beer to drink!

**Gezellig Long Story Short – 4.9%– smoothie sours/seltzers were all the rage in the beer world this past year and Iowa breweries sure made a whole lot of good ones. One of my favorites comes from the lovely folks in Newton, Iowa at Gezellig. Strawberry starbursts and pomegranate helped make this a flavor packed brew!

**Lua Brewing Dawn – 13.5% – part of last year’s “Resolution” I set for myself was trying to make it to Central and Western Iowa more often to taste what the breweries are pushing out there, especially the ones that don’t get much distro to Eastern Iowa..I kind of failed in that endeavor, however, I did get to Des Moines a few times and was able to procure some Lua brews! One that really stood out was this imperial stout. Coffee and a hint of vanilla make this decadent brew stand out, and hides that ABV very well! Looking forward to more from Lua in 2022!

**Clock House Brewing Barrel Aged Peanut Panic Porter – 12% – the base beer was one of my favorites in 2020 and then adding it to barrels and resting it on peanuts, cocoa nibs, and vanilla really added more depth to an already wonderful beer. The misconception from some was that this was a peanut “butter” beer, not the case, straight up peanuts and the balance of the flavors comes through remarkably!

**Adventurous Easy Peel (triple dry hopped Mosaic)- 8.3% – the 2nd Easy Peel I’ve had this year and I think the Mosaic barely beats out the El Dorado for me. Both very good and the combo of the mosaic hops and cryo mosaic hops really stands out. Excellent beer, any of the Easy Peel beers from Adventurous would be a safe bet!

**Lion Bridge Percussive Maintenance Macaroon – 11% – Chocolate and coconut paired with a great barrel is hard to go wrong and Lion Bridge balances this beer perfectly. There are some beers that you’ll always remember opening and pouring and this is definitely one of those for me. One to sip on yourself or share with someone you care about….a moment making beer for sure! One of the best of the year!

**Lua Pushpop: Because My Heart is in Iowa – Lua Pushpops can be hard to come by if you live in Eastern Iowa, luckily they sometimes drop a few beers off at Tin Roost in North Liberty to get us a taste here in Eastern Iowa. Mango and cherry beer, super thick and delicious. Lua dominated the slushie/sour landscape in the beer world! A trip to Des Moines in needed soon!

**Dimensional You Down with OCP – 13.1% – Pastry stouts can be hit and miss with me. Many are too sweet for my liking, and the adjuncts are too dominate over the base beer, but not with this one…Dimensional added 100 lbs each of oatmeal cream pies, oatmeal cookies, and toasted coconut to this big beer and it worked wonderfully. Not too sweet at all, in fact, if the 13.1% wouldn’t drop me I could easily see myself sipping on glass #2 letting the beer warm me up in the Iowa winter!

Big Grove Richard the Whale Dinner: Food and Beer Event of the Year!

Friday night, December 3rd, sitting on a high raise table overlooking some of the best chefs in the state, maybe even the country, put on an absolute clinic on cooking, plating, and presenting some of the most wonderful food I’ve ever had put in front of me, all the while sipping on the yet to be released Richard the Whale Well Baked and Shadeshine IPA….I thought to myself…all food/beer lovers need to experience this one day and how lucky I was at that moment to get to take part in it. Big Grove has been the upper echelon on their releases, especially the Richard the Whale release, and every year they make it even more enjoyable with their food and beer offerings, but the one thing that shines even more than those things is just how amazing their staff is. Friendly, helpful, and just overall looking like they are happy to be there. This setup was a spectacle, setup like an Iron Chef type feel, video displayed on TVs showing the chefs plating, the amount of work and thought put into everything was evident. I won’t be breaking down every dish, I’ll trickle some pictures here and there, take a look and let your mouth water.

Watching the chefs put their talents on display for a 15 course dinner of foods that elegant was the ultimate treat. The care about what they serve, the interaction with the diners, and pure joy and smiles they had throughout the night was reflected in every dish. I do want to implore you, that if the chance to go to a Big Grove beer dinner is ever on the table for you, no matter what..do it…it’s worth it..it will be completely worth it….do not hesitate…this group of people simply do it the best!

Thank you Janelle for having me, thanks to all the chefs especially Ben, Sean, and T.J., thanks do Doug and Matt, thanks to Andy for sampling out some of their amazing beers…now it’s time to make your mouth water with some pictures! Cheers and thank you BG!

Barn Town releasing “Barrel-Aged Cicada Killer” November 20th!

Add November 20th to your beer calendars and plan a trip to West Des Moines to get in line for the release of Barn Town’s BA Cicada Killer! Here’s more from Barn Town on this sought after release:

Mark those calendars! Saturday, November 20th, BARREL AGED CICADA KILLER is back in two new versions! We are super stoked about these two and look forward to you getting your hands on them! First, COCONUT FUDGE! Thicc and brewed with a ton of toasted coconut and cacao nibs aged for over a year. Second is CINNAMON, COCONUT, CARAMEL, & CHOCOLATE, also aged for over a year. Both will be in new formats of 500 ml bottles. Stay tuned for allotment and price info.

Drink These! Lion Bridge Barrel-Aged January releases!

A hectic month that once again becomes bearable thanks to the brilliance and deliciousness of Lion Bridge Brewing company’s “Barrel-Aged January”. Year after year this remarkable brewery plans, develops, and brews some of the best beers in the state and maybe even the country. As of typing this, many of these releases are still available at the brewery! So, there are a lot of Drink These! beers listed, but the beauty with many, if not all of these beers is that you can buy a 4 pack, drink 2, and store two. Or in my case, drink 3 or 4, store 1 or none! Either way, well worth the trip to Lion Bridge before they are gone!

BA January Beer #1 – GAZPROM! Double Maple w/Coffee – 11% ABV
Lion Bridge’s GABF award-winning barrel-aged stout with Dark Roast Dash coffee and extra maple deliciousness!
BA January kicked off with a great start. The beauty of this beer is the balance between the barrel, the coffee, and the maple. Coffee can sometimes dominate a beer and so can maple syrup. In this beer, the coffee is upfront and is balanced perfectly on the finish with maple. When meshed this well, coffee and maple make a happy couple!

BA January Beer #2 – 2021 GAZPROM! 11% ABV
Their 2016 GABF Bronze Medal Winner for Specialty Beer. Viscous and black. After primary fermentation this oily, Russian giant is re-fermented with Iowa dark maple syrup in bourbon barrels then blended back together to add consistency and complexity.
The beer (I assume) that started the BA January revolution! GAZPROM! returns and its 2021 form is just as good as I remember with the barrel flavor really standing out. Every year this is an excellent beer.

BA January Beer #3 – 2021 Homebaked – 11% ABV
Dessert for your desert island.
Fudge and Saigon cinnamon meld with a little bit of hazelnut goodness to produce something we liken to a cookie in beer form.

There’s not much left to be said about Homebaked really. This may be the best beer in Iowa, one of the best beers in the country, and definitely a beer that is worth seeking out. A beer that must be purchased every time you see it available!

BA January Beer #4 – Percussive Maintenance – 11% ABV
Put in barrels back when the world was a simpler place. Aged for 10 months then blended with a heavy dose of toasted and untoasted coconut as well as cacao nibs. A decadent treat for a time when we need to savor every sip.
An amazingly decadent beer! Barrel lovers and coconut lovers rejoice, as the beer you’ve been waiting for has arrived! Percussive Maintenance hits the nail on the head for those who aren’t necessarily into the overly sweet pastry stouts; instead we get more of a dark chocolate coconut combo that is more fresh coconut then sweetened and the balance of the barrels really makes this a special beer!

As Lion Bridge’s barrel-aged January comes to a close there is still hope for those who haven’t been down to the Czech Village to get a taste! All of these beers are still available for purchase in the taproom! If you’re lucky you may get a taste of one of them on tap, but you can definitely get a 4 pack or a few bottles to take home, and believe me, you should do just that and Drink These beers!

Beer Baron’s Top 10 Iowa Beers of 2020!

What a year it has been! With all that is going on our local breweries still put out a ton of amazing beers and this was the toughest “Top 10” I’ve had to come up with. As the year winds down, a heartfelt thank you to all the brewery/restaurant workers out there working their butts off to get us excellent beers and delicious food while trying to keep their businesses afloat. Keep supporting local people!

List criteria:
*Beer must have been released in 2020
*Iowa brewed only
*Annual releases not counted unless a new adjunct was added to the beer

I know that I’ve missed many, my goal in 2020 was to get to as many Iowa breweries as possible and I was able to get to many that I hadn’t been before and hopefully that trend continues in 2021. After you read my list I would love to hear what your Top 10 is this year! Follow me on twitter @iabeerbaron or join the Iowa Beer page on Facebook. Cheers to you all!

*Richard the Whale Vietnamese Coconut Coffee – 12.5% – the last few years of the Richard release, the golden ticket addition has added excitement but also even more creativity from the BG brewers and crew to up the ante every year to produce an amazing beer and this year was no different. The balance between the coffee and coconut blends perfectly with barrel and the vanilla rounds it out perfectly. A truly decadent and delicious beer. To quote Virginia Madsen from “Sideways”, “You know, the day you open a Richard the Whale Vietnamese Coconut Coffee….that’s the special occasion”.

Big Grove Richard the Whale Vietnamese Coconut Coffee

*Lion Bridge Off Grid – 6.6% – there may not be a better beer to showcase the trying year many people have faced in 2020. Off Grid was brewed after the derecho storm left many in the Cedar Rapids area without power, shelter, etc. Brewing with generator power, not only did Lion Bridge get beer to us, they gave us one of the best IPAs brewed in Iowa in 2020 and I hope we get a taste of it again in 2021….minus the derecho.

Lion Bridge Off Grid

*Barn Town Nelson Sauvin Neon – 6.5% – as Barn Town’s Neon is becoming more available in Eastern Iowa, it has certainly taken its place amongst my ever revolving beer fridge as a staple. However, Barn Town decided to showcase different hops in their popular IPA and after tasting Nelson Sauvin Neon, dare I say I want more of this version? I love Nelson hops and the addition of this adds a nice peppery finish to an already delicious citrus IPA.

*Lua Algorithm – 4% ABV – trips to Des Moines in the last year certainly have been more common to get some to go beers from many of the breweries in that area and one certain stop has been Lua. Lua’s lineup of beers range from wonderful pilsners, hoppy IPAs, BA stouts, and one their extremely popular Pushpop lineup of brews! There were many that I really enjoyed but Algorithm was the one that stood out to me most. The combo of orange, mango and peaches can be enjoyed any time of the day! Lua is currently doing curbside only for the foreseeable future so make sure you place an order with them and pick up some amazing beer and food!

*Clock House Peanut Panic Porter – 5.5% – Clock House has had an amazing year with their beer releases and with the addition of a canning line they can get us our favorites more efficiently and timely. Of all the beers I’ve had of theirs this year, (I think I’ve had them all), their Peanut Panic Porter stood out. I’m a huge porter fan, Founders Porter is still one of my all-time favorite beers, and when Clock House added peanuts to this beer I was sold. Now, this isn’t a overly sweet “peanut butter” beer, this is boiled raw peanuts and some added cocoa nibs making this one of the best porters I’ve had and definitely the best peanut porter I’ve ever had. Still on tap I believe, give it a shot!

*Big Grove HDTV – 9.2% – galaxy hops gone mad! Big Grove took their popular Color TV and added a bunch more galaxy hops to it to give us this baby! A wonderful welcome addition to Richard the Whale day, HDTV is not only delicious, but it’s deceptively drinkable coming in at 9.2%. You still may be able to find cans of this in the wild or certain bars (Club 76 has it on tap).

Big Grove HDTV

*Single Speed Barrel-Aged Double Donuts – 10% – aged in Cedar Ridge single malt whiskey barrels? Yes please! Single Speed took inspiration from their popular Zach’s Mexican Donuts, threw it in some amazing whiskey barrels and barrel-aged Double Donuts was born! Luckily I have a few cans left of this and I have every intention to sit by the fireplace and watch the snowstorm blow in tomorrow night and sip and enjoy this wonderful brew!

*Pulpit Rock Double Dave-O – 7.6% – I remember having this beer way back in January at Marquee Pizza in Coralville during their anniversary celebration. Marquee always did a great job getting Pulpit Rock on tap (Thanks Sam!) when many places couldn’t and I remember thinking that it’s going to be nice being able to visit here, have some great food and sip on some Pulpit beers…..things have changed a bit because of the pandemic but Pulpit sure has adapted to the changing times and have done an amazing job getting their cans available in certain locations around Eastern Iowa (Need Pizza + Reds Alehouse). Double Dave-O stood out because of the hop profile. Citra and mosaic, two of my favorites made this a quenching IPA leaving me wanting another one!

Pulpit Rock Double Dave-O

*Dimensional Imperial Cinna-Man Bun – 11.7% – there are some beers that you can be a little hesitant to order because you’ve already played it out in your head how it was going to taste. With this particular beer, I thought for sure it would be way too sweet for me with over the top cinnamon, admittedly I was completely wrong. Dimensional brought balance to a beer that could have gone the complete opposite direction, especially for a pastry stout. Another great fall/winter beer to sip on, wish I had some more of it!

Dimensional Imperial Cinna-Man Bun

*Clock House Sweet Innocence – 5.2% – 42 lbs of black cherries added to this kettle sour which made for a truly refreshing beer to sip on on hot ass August night in Iowa. This is a beer that I hope to see again during the warmer months and if you haven’t tried it, if Clock House does release it again, it’s worth the trip to Cedar Rapids!

Clock House Sweet Innocence

There is the list! It’s always fun to compile but never easy to narrow down! With such a trying year in the beer/restaurant industry it is amazing on how these breweries have adapted to keep their businesses alive and to also keep us stocked with beer. A huge cheers to all of them and I hope you continue to support your local brewery and businesses. I know I probably missed your favorite of the year so please let me know what your list looks like! Cheers!

Lion Bridge “Emperor of Ice Cream” returns December 9th!

Another week goes by and it seems our brewers and breweries are doing everything in their power to keep our heads up on a weekly basis as disturbing news and difficult times continue; even though many of them are fighting to keep their heads above water. The plea has been said all over social media, but if you are able, support your local businesses, bars, and breweries. Hopefully good times will be seen soon….in the meantime, a favorite from Lion Bridge returns on December 9th!

The Emperor of Ice Cream (Imperial Milk Stout w/Strawberry, Chocolate, Vanilla, 10%)Let be be finale of seem. The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream.Released on draft and available in 4-Packs.

Tin Roost offering beer delivery on Black Wednesday! Featuring brews from Adventurous, Barn Town, Big Grove, Lua, and Pulpit Rock!

Tin Roost saves Thanksgiving!! An awesome idea from the North Liberty restaurant as they will be delivering beers directly to your doorstep on Wednesday, November 25th. Preorder will start Tuesday night. Here’s more from Tin Roost:

Alright, we’re just going to drop this little teaser right here! Mark your calendars because you are not going to want to miss this one. Our online store is going live Tuesday, November 24th @ 11am. We collaborated with 5 of our best buds in the Iowa Brewing scene to put together one KILLER Thanksgiving Beer Pack. The BEST part? We’re going to drop it like it’s hot directly on YOUR doorstep on Black Wednesday (contactless delivery, of course). Adventurous Brewing LLC. Barn Town Brewing. Big Grove Brewery. Lua Brewing. Pulpit Rock Brewing Company. More details with how to order and beer included coming soon. See you on Wednesday, November 25th with the fresh pack that’s gonna make your untappd buddies soooooooooooo jelly.

GIVE AWAY TIME! Iowa Beer Advent Calendar courtesy of Glyn Mawr Winery up for grabs!

What better way to ring in December than with your very own Iowa Beer advent calendar! I was lucky enough to take part in helping pick out some amazing Iowa beers to include in this awesome calendar made by Glyn Mawr Winery in Mount Vernon, IA and now you have a chance to get one for free! Here’s what you need to do:

*Visit Glyn Mawr’s Facebook post and respond to it with your favorite Iowa brewed beer and also tag and friend and you will automatically be entered. Visit their Facebook page by clicking HERE!

*Visit Glyn Mawr’s Instagram account and respond to the post with your favorite Iowa brewed beer and also tagging a friend. Click HERE to go to their Instagram account!

*Winner will be randomly drawn and notified. Proxies are allowed for pickup, just notify myself or the winery for that!

About the calendar: We tried to include as many different Iowa breweries as possible and also tried to include as many different styles of beer as possible. There are so many great beers being brewed and I think we have a great collection included in this calendar!

GIVEAWAY TIME!! 🍺You guys have BLOWN US AWAY with pre-orders, so we have decided to have a GIVEAWAY for one of our Craft Iowa Beer Advent Calendars! ($85 value!)🎄TO QUALIFY: COMMENT below with your favorite IOWA craft beer, and TAG a friend that might want to get in on one of our calendars before they sell out! 🍺Check out the list of breweries we have included: @clockhousebrewing, @fsbtaproom, @singlespeedbrewingco, @dimensionalbeer, @gezelligbrewing, @thewbrew, @biggrovebrewery, @tgbrews, @5ivecitiesbrewing, @reunionbrewery, @exilebrewingco, @backpocketbrewing, @sutliffcider, @lionbridgebrew, @iowabrewingco, @wilsonsorchardia We will pick a winner this weekend! It will be available to pick up 11/25, 11/27, or 11/28!🍺🍷ALSO, we only have 10 CALENDARS LEFT, so get online and pre-order yours today!

Great Iowa Beer Festival Category Vote: Stouts

This category of stouts will not include imperial/barrel aged/pastry/adjunct except coffee! Those will be broken down into another category down the road! Thanks to everyone who has participated in the voting and to the brewer’s making the beer! Cheers!

Stout is a dark, top-fermented beer with a number of variations, including dry stout, oatmeal stout, milk stout. The first known use of the word stout for beer was in a document dated 1677 found in the Egerton Manuscripts, the sense being that a “stout beer” was a strong beer, not a dark beer.

Great Iowa Beer Festival Category Vote: Hazy/New England Sytle IPA

From BA: NEIPA is essentially an unfiltered IPA or Double IPA that’s been aggressively hopped. Appearance ranges from slightly hazy or cloudy to opaque or muddy. Dry-hopping, the use of high-protein grains (flours, flaked oats, wheat), certain yeast strains, water chemistry, CO2 levels, and other techniques may also contribute to the beer’s haze and mouthfeel. But the overall goal is typically a hazy, juicy IPA packed with fruity and floral flavors