Iowa Beer Baron’s Top 10 Iowa Beers of 2018!

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This is always a fun but difficult list to compile. Looking back at 2018 Iowa breweries all over the state have made some fantastic beers this year and continue to do so, as we as consumers are very lucky to have such excellent brewers in our state.

Living in Eastern Iowa it has been great to be able to get Big Grove, Lion Bridge, SingleSpeed, and Reunion in cans to go along with the great beers that are already available. I’m sure 2019 will be just as, if not better than 2018 in the year of Iowa beer.

For my list, these are beers that had to have been released in 2018. There are many that I didn’t try, so if your favorite didn’t make the list, my bad, chances are I didn’t get around to trying it. I would love to hear your favorites of 2018. All 10 of these have the chance to be awarded the most prestigious award a brewery can get: The Iowa Beer of the Year Award. GABF, eat your heart out. Beer of the Year will be awarded in my next post! Here we go:

**Big Grove Big Ed  7.8%– this one was a no doubter for me. I was stoked when they released and I’ll be stoked every time they re-release. A case or two every time for me please Big Grove. This juicy double IPA is one of Iowa’s best and is worth seeking out and is a challenger for Iowa Beer of the Year!

**Toppling Goliath Term Oil Maple Cakes – a quick trip to Decorah (which is never a bad thing) and my first trip to TG’s new spot allowed me a pour of this delicious beer. A bourbon barrel aged stout with maple. Absolutely delicious and a perfect breakfast beer!

**Pulpit Rock Seriously Bro’?6.1% – Marquee Pizza celebrated their 1 year anniversary with a terrific taplist that included two beers brewed by Pulpit Rock especially for this anniversary; one of which was Seriously Bro? a milkshake IPA. While, I’m a little behind on the milkshake IPA craze, this one was packed with orange zest and a hint of vanilla. Delicious!

**Lion Bridge Brewing Tidbits 6.7%– this beer was my summer staple. A delicious pale ale brewed with unfermented pineapple led to a tropical and refreshing beer to enjoy in the midwest heat all summer long. I hope to see this one again this summer!

**Barn Town Pink Guava Massacre4.6% ABV -between this and Little Drippy from Dimensional for my favorite two Iowa sours of the year. Guava in a beer just works so damn good and with this sour it was spot on. Luckily, a few places in Eastern Iowa got some bottles of this so I was able to indulge. Well done Barn Town, keep this one coming!

**Lion Bridge Spice Must Flow 8% ABV – this is the perfect beer for me in the fall and winter months in Iowa. Maple Syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg added to a black ale screams cold weather drinking! Lion Bridge added this in cans which made for an easy taste by walking my ass to the fridge.

**Pulpit Rock Koffee and Doughnuts 6.8% ABV – breakfast in glass is served. Pulpit took their Pour Over porter and added a shit load of donuts to it and you have a Koffee and Doughnuts. Hope this one pops back up again as this was delicious.

**Big Grove Richard the Whale Macaroon 10% ABV – their Richard base with the addition of toasted coconut and almonds…this beer blew me away and I couldn’t wait to get another glass. Big Grove has had an amazing year and their beers have been fantastic. This one might have topped them all though!

**Dimensional A Little Drippy – 5.5% ABV – the new kid on the block came out with a bang and has made some terrific beers and these guys are just going to keep getting better. I enjoyed every beer I had at Dimensional but A Little Drippy just hit on all cylinders. Once again guava got the taste buds and the addition of passion fruit and mango make this one damn fine sour!

**Big Grove Color TV – 7.8% ABV – a double dry hopped hazy IPA that lets the galaxy hop shine. Another winner by Big Grove and hopefully another beer that they will make again….and again. Looking forward to what these guys have in store for 2019!

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Best of Iowa Beer (Part 2 of 2)

baron.jpgFinally, after a few weeks I’m finally getting back to finishing the Top Ten list that everyone’s been waiting for….(crickets)…..Anyway, with all the great things happening in the Iowa beer scene, every year making a list becomes that more difficult. There are so many breweries I would like to visit, and some I wish I could spend more time at. New Year’s Resolutions are always fun but sometimes get forgotten. I, however, will make one of my Resolutions happen…I will make it to some more Iowa breweries, I will continue supporting my local breweries, and I will continue supporting the Iowa Beer Community! Onto the final five!

backpocket*Backpocket 5th Anniversary Stout – many are hailing this as their Iowa Beer of the Year and it would be hard to argue. I thought I had missed out on this beer until a lunch trip to Backpocket Pilot Pub in downtown Cedar Rapids and to my astonishment, 5th Anniversary was still on the lines. After a Grinch-like smile, I went ahead and ordered one…..and then another….and then…kidding, only two but it totally lived up to the hype. If you still are sitting on bottle..you lucky bastard…

The deets:

12.3% ABV

Russian Imperial Stout

third base*Third Base Miserable in Mexico – I had this beer at the 2017 Brrr Fest (missing this year unfortunately) and was blown away. Jim has been making some great beers for a while now and has 3rd Base as an under the radar brewery.  Miserable and Mexico would have been the perfect beer to have these past few weeks in chilly-ass Iowa. Booziness from the bourbon, a bit of heat from the pepper and a ton of chocolate. Boozy Mexican hot chocolate..yes please! Well done Jim and 3rd Base!

The deets:

12.5% ABV

It all started when we put our “Endless Descent Into Ruin” imperial stout in a bourbon barrel and let it rest for 8 months. It emerged as “Miserable.” We then took Miserable and infused it with chocolate and chili peppers. Grown up Mexi Hot (Cold) chocolate

pulpi*Pulpit Rock Rechoncho – Another Brrr Fest 2017 beer and another imperial stout to add to my list. Another brew similar to a Mexico hot chocolate but with some added vanilla to it. Pulpit Rock has become a big time player in the Iowa beer game in a short amount of time and 2018 will be even bigger and better for them.

The deets:

12.2% ABV

Spanish for Pudgy – this decadent stout was brewed with Ancho and Chipotle chile peppers, cocoa, cinnamon, Mexican vanilla beans, & coffee.

barn town*Barn Town Brewery Pulp Non-Fiction – the new kid on the block has taken off pretty damn fast as a must try brewery! I finally got to visit and not only were the beers tasty but the food was excellent as well. Check out my write-up on Barn Town here: I was pleasantly surprised to this brew on tap at 30hop and have since seen some Barn Town pop up at a few other Eastern Iowa locations and hopefully we see them hit even more spots in 2018. A hazy, NE style juice bomb full of the murky, hoppy goodness!

The deets:

7%

A juicy & hazy NEIPA brewed with Simcoe, El Dorado & Citra. Roy-al-ly hopped!

lion bridge*Lion Bridge Majestic Beast – I’ve been a fan of all of Lion Bridge’s IPAs when released but it seems recently they’ve really upped their game. Dangler was delicious, they now have Triple IPA that’s been barrel-aged slightly and one that I hope that they bring back is Majestic Beast. A 7% IPA that is extremely drinkable made with a journey into Lupulin powderes. Lion Bridge continues to impress, in every beer style, in food, in what it means to be a local business. More of this please!

The deets:

7%

First foray into lupulin powders has produced this mirthful beverage. By using a hop with the green plant material removed we are only dry hopping a concentrated version of the aromatic oils found in eukanot and mosaic. Resinous and tropical; potent yet graceful.

There you have it! The list of Best of Iowa beers 2017. Chances are your list looks a bit different but that’s what makes drinking and trying local beer great! It was stressful, I’m sweating and need a beer. I also have to give a shout out to Nick Jubeck for creating the Iowa Beer Baron logo at the top of the post! Thanks man, check out and like his Facebook page by clicking here: Cheers to the breweries who make the beers, the restaurants and bars that serve them and cheers to 2018!

Best of Iowa Beers (Part 1 of 2)

beerbaronWith another year coming to an end it’s time to get to the “Best of” Iowa beers in 2017. It was a terrific year for our state and this year for my list (and opinions) I’ve done just strictly Iowa brewed beers whereas in the past I did beers that are on Eastern Iowa shelves along with Iowa beers. To get the list down to 10 was difficult and I had to drink many beers to get through such a dilemma.

Now, I must say, I haven’t been able to get to Central and Western Iowa as much as I would have liked so you will see this list filled predominantly with beers brewed in Eastern Iowa. I wish I could get more or any 515, Barn Town, Marto, etc…but it’s not in the cards. Hopefully with the new year we see some more Iowa beers from Central and Western Iowa trickle into our tap lines. So, once again, I just want to note that there are MANY beers I haven’t tried, I don’t want to cause I shit storm (RIP Lahey), but hopefully the new year brings me new beer.

Alright, my criteria:
1. It has to be a beer I haven’t had before.
2. Seasonal and annual releases may fluctuate in ingredients but I do not count them if I have had it the previous year.
3. Iowa brewed only

Without further ado, here is part one of two, in no particular order of the best Iowa beers in 2017 (according to me).

fire skulls**Toppling Goliath – Fire, Skulls, and Money – I was deciding between this and Supa Sumo and the deciding factor was how much of this beer I’ve bought. Price was a little steeper than some TG releases but worth it for this brew. I believe this was their take/rendition of a West Coast style IPA.  I found it to be less bitter than many west coast styles with an excellent citra punch. Could easily have two of this brewin a sitting. I’ve seen some bottles around yet and had one last weekend. Tastes great, go grab some!
The Deets:

7% ABV
Inspired by a trip to the West Coast, designed to capture the wild spirit of adventure and brewed to be enjoyed with friends. This rich IPA is for those with wanderlust in their heart and fire in their eyes. Join our Citra, Mosaic, Galaxy and Nelson Hops on a journey to the bottom of your glass

coconut.png**SingleSpeed Coconut Migration – My beer of the summer. The first time I had it was sample at Need Pizza, my wife got a whole pint but I was a bit apprehensive, wasn’t sure the pina colada thing would fly in an IPA. Took a sip…was hooked. Sought it out all summer and ended up back and Need and the Map Room quite often hammering a few of these. Give me this poolside or beachside and I’m in heaven. I’m not sure if this is year round or not but I’ve been seeing it a little more often. If you dig Pina Coladas and you’re a hophead, this is the beer for you.
The Deets:

7.4% ABV

75 IBU
American Double IPA, rested on toasted coconut
A Pulpit Rock Brewing Co. (Decorah, IA) / SingleSpeed Brewing Co. Collaboration Brewing with the guys from Pulpit Rock is like taking a vacation. This time around our destination is the tropics. If you like Piña Coladas and/or getting caught in the rain you’re probably gonna be feeling this beer. If you don’t like either of those things, well that sucks for you. We still recommend ordering one.

richard.jpg**Big Grove Jean Luc Richard – The first time I had this I thought maybe the setting of the event I was at played into how much I loved it, and it may have a bit, but I’ve had since the Kroul Farm’s dinner and it is still a spectacular beer. Like many barrel-aged stouts, the flavor in this one shines as it warms and the creme brulee flavors take shape even more. Is it considered “dick swinging” if I brag about how I’m the number 1 drinker of this brew on untappd, or is that just a pathetic brag? Oh well. Not sure how often Big Grove will be kicking this bad boy out, but if you see, go after it!
The Deets:

10.5% ABV
Barrel aged imperial stout with vanilla beans, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Inspired by crème brûlèe.

dangler.jpg**Lion Bridge Dangler – another awesome Iowa brewed IPA made it’s debut this past summer and was a hit with many. Lower on the ABV than some IPAs, which is not a bad thing, made for an extremely drinkable IPA with all the tropical and citrus flavors you expect from a great IPA. Lion Bridge continues to make excellent beers in many different styles. One of my favorite places to go for a drink and bite to eat in Eastern Iowa. Also, their nachos and fries with the lemon aioli are fantastic.
The Deets:

5.9%
Pair Mosaic, Simcoe, and Idaho 7 hops with a fruit-forward yeast and a malt profile full of wheat and oats, and the result is a juice bomb full of creamy mango and orange flavors.

kickshaw**Kickshaw Vidi – Even though Bill has moved on to other things (fingers crossed he brews again), this beer blows me away every time I have it. Bottles may not have strayed too far away from Eastern Iowa, I’m happily sitting on a few, but if you come across one, you need to give it a try. Of course, it’s not an IPA or barrel-aged stout, but a wonderful golden ale/saison with greatness from the brett. You like sours and saisons, then you would enjoy this.

Alright, there’s the first five. Five more to come next week. I would love to know your favorites of the year! Cheers to all the Iowa breweries and brewers out there; your hard work and dedication is greatly appreciated!

3 Iowa Beers to Drink Now!

beerbaronI couldn’t do just 1 Drink This! edition this time around as the state of Iowa is sending out so much great beer I had to do three! As we approach the 2017 Coralville Brrr Fest and with the program released this past week anticipation is mounting for ticket holders to get a taste of Iowa’s finest breweries and beers. Within the last 5 days I’ve had the opportunity to try 3 amazing beers from 3 amazing Iowa breweries. So here are three beers the you have to DRINK NOW!

img_0990**Big Grove Brewery – Buster Triple IPA** – Buster released this past Tuesday and I knew for sure I had to hit Big Grove and try this baby fresh. Mosaic hops shine with flavors of juicy fruit gum, tropical fruits, and some grassiness. A wonderful dank ass triple IPA. There is one thing that can be bad about this brew…it’s scary drinkable. An 11.4% ABV triple IPA can definitely put you on your ass if you don’t pay attention! This might arguably be the best or one of the best double/triple IPAs in the state. Follow this link to see my post on where it will be available and they also just hit the Cellar Peanut Pub in Pella with a hell of a lineup! So good, can’t wait for another glass! Cheers Big Grove!

 

IMG_0992.JPG**Lion Bridge Brewery – GAZPROM 2017** – I’ve been waiting for this release since last year. Lion Bridge takes the shitty, dark, long ass month of January and makes pretty damn enjoyable with their Barrel-Aged January releases. A new release, every week, for the month of January and all barrel-aged beers. I’ve loved the Winter Warmer and the Royal Wee but the big dog for me is GAZPROM!. The sweetness from the syrup is the perfect balance to booziness from the barrels. I say this a lot but this is a top-tier beer for me….maybe top 10? Top 5? Either way, I can’t wait to have more of this and thank you Quinton and Alec and Lion Bridge for making January tolerable!

 

img_0994**Madhouse Brewery – VIP Barrel Aged Vanilla Porter** – was happy my Mt. Vernon Road Hy-Vee had a few bottles of this, wasn’t sure if we would see it all. I had been hearing good things coming from the fine beer folks in Des Moines and was hoping to land one of these. I’ve been hit and miss with vanilla added to my beers. Sometimes I dig it when it’s not over they type vanilla extract and with Madhouse VIP I’m really digging it. The slight sweetness from the vanilla pairs with the barrel and just a faint hint of cigar smoke on the aftertaste. Viscous, tasty, and warming. An excellent companion to a chilly January evening.

There you go Iowa. Three newer beers for you to try. Hopefully all 3 make it somewhere close to your area and you get a taste, and hopefully you enjoyed them as much as I did/do! Cheers!

Best “New” Beers of 2016

2016.pngOh yes, another Top 10 list. Everyone loves to read a top 10 list; either to trash it, agree with it, discuss it, or do all of the above. My top 10 list of favorite “new” beers of the year has certain criteria to meet. The beer must:

1: Be a beer I had not tasted previously

2: Must be available for purchase at Eastern Iowa breweries, restaurants, or liquor stores.

That’s it.

This list could easily be 25-50 beers deep, but I finally got it down to 10. Last year my list was a tad excessive so I refocused, recollected, and thought long and hard. This is purely subjective and I know I probably left one off that made your list so feel free to respond with your top 10, top 5, or just your favorite of the year. So, without further ado, in no particular order, the Baron’s Top 10:

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**Prairie Pirate Noir – I just had this beer this past weekend and was absolutely blown away. Part of 4 variants released recently in Eastern Iowa and this one was my favorite of the 4. All very good, but this one stood out. Rum barrels shine a bit more in this beer than in Pirate Bomb! A very viscous stout and perfect for a chilly Iowa day. I would love more of this!

mondos**Reunion Tank Puncher – I hope folks were able to try this beer from Reunion and I hope they decide to make more of it as well. This was my entry into my family beer festival and eventual gold medal winner (back to back for me :). This is the perfect beer for the tropical hop crazed beer lover. Reunion was out the last time I checked, let’s hope they get this one up and rolling again!

lion-bridge**Lion Bridge Gobble Wobble – take a traditional style brown masterfully done by Lion Bridge and age it on Wild Turkey barrels…what do you get? An excellent cold weather brew! The taste from the barrel pairs well perfect with the nuttiness of the brown to give you the a great companion to warm you up this winter.


pipo

**Kickshaw Pipo– watermelon shines in this sour/blonde beer from Kickshaw. Stocking up on this one as I’m looking forward to a few glasses of this during the summer months but damn it sure is tasty along side a salad and even better with some fish tacos! Looking forward to more from Bill and Kickshaw!

img_0804**Summit Unchained: Dark Infusion – this beer made my Drink This! write up. You can view that here:  https://iabeerbaron.com/2016/11/05/drink-this-summit-dark-infusion-coffee-milk-stout/. Summit gave us one of the best stouts of the year IMO and luckily I’m still able to grab four packs of this from the shelves. Almost chocolate covered caramel with some coffee splashed in. Stout lovers will rejoice for this brew. No need for barrels, this is perfect as is.

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Odell Jolly Russian– I must have a thing for rum that was apparent until drinking this and Pirate Noir. So many great barrel aged beers available to us this year and I was happy to get a chance to try this one. The dark roast and coffee flavors blend nicely with the rum barrel. I would love a few more bottles of this!

big grove**Big Grove Brewery Richard and Pralines – keep the barrel-aged year going with a brew from a local brewery. Big Grove has made their mark with some great pales/IPAs and their popular Richard the Whale and variants. This variant adds a bit of sweetness to Richard. If you can still get a pour of this, order yourself an Arms Race as this warms and then you’ll be in for a real treat. With the opening of the new brewery on the horizon it will be interesting to see what Big Grove has in store for us! 

pulpi**Pulpit Rock Loopy Lynn – a relative newcomer to the Iowa beer scene and right across the street from TG, Pulpit Rock has become a big time player making some awesome brews! I had this double IPA at a Pulpit tap takeover at Blackstone Restaurant in Iowa City and was blown away. City shines though on this juicy double. I really want more of this!

**Pulpit Rock For the Joy of Almonds – liquid Almond Joy. Amazing beer on its own or for dessert. Pulpit takes their milk stout and ages it on toasted coconut, cocoa nibs, and almonds to give you silky, smooth, delicious stout. Pulpit brews are starting to pop up more in the Eastern Iowa area. Need Pizzeria in Cedar Rapids has had them on frequently and Reds Alehouse is starting to get some kegs as well. Great things coming out of Decorah.

toppling goliath**Toppling Goliath Double Dry Hopped Sue – How do you make an already impressive and sought after beer more impressive and sought after? Double Dry hop that bad boy and that’s what Toppling Goliath did with PseudoSue. More hops equals more hazy goodness from this beer. Hopefully this makes a return this summer as this would make a fine companion to some grilling in the Iowa heat.

Honorable Mentions:
Odell Elephunk, 3rd Base Friends Forever, Pulpit Rock Mighty Fine, New Holland Dragon’s Milk Coconut Rum Reserve, Lagunitas High Westified, Prairie Apple Brandy Noir, Big Grove Raspberry Que Sera.

There’s the list. There were some beers I wish I could’ve tried but missed out on, there were some that would make many lists and some that made mine but not even scratch the surface of yours. My New Year’s Resolution is keep trying to get to the Iowa breweries. I would love some more Alluvial and 515 in my life. I would love to see what beers made your list. Maybe it’s time for another Best of Iowa poll? Happy New Year!

And the Best Pale Ale in Iowa is……

 

gold

 

big grove1st Place – Big Grove Brewery Arms Race Pale Ale

 

 

 

 

silver

2nd Place – 515 Brewing Passe 515

 

 

 

 

 

bronze

 

toppling goliath 3rd Place – Toppling Goliath Pseudo Sue 

 

 

 

Once again, congrats to the winners. Next poll will open either tonight (Monday) or tomorrow and I’m thinking it will be double/triple IPA category. Are there enough browns/porters/saisons/pils to do individual categories for those? I’ll research a bit and hopefully we can do all of those. Thanks for voting, thanks for the interaction and cheers!

Best of Iowa Beer: Pale Ale

beerbaronA new poll is upon us and with the past polls I’m hoping for some fun discussion and comments. Lion Bridge takes home gold in the barrel-aged/imperial stout category and Big Grove takes home the gold in the IPA category. Toppling Goliath dominates the entries in the pale ale field and is probably a clear favorite.

Of British origin, this style is now popular worldwide and the use of local ingredients, or imported, produces variances in character from region to region. Generally, expect a good balance of malt and hops. Fruity esters and diacetyl can vary from none to moderate, and bitterness can range from lightly floral to pungent.

American versions tend to be cleaner and hoppier, while British tend to be more malty, buttery, aromatic and balanced.

Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 4.0-7.0%

Once again, if I’ve left off a possible entry please shoot me a message so I can get it added. Voting will close next Sunday night! Good luck, have fun, and cheers!

 

And the Best Barrel-Aged/Imperial Stout in Iowa is……

lion bridge
gold1st Place – Lion Bridge Brewery Gazprom!

 

 

 

 

 

silver

 

2nd Place – 3rd Base Brewery Communist Daughter  third base

 

 

 

 

 

bronze

 

3rd Place – Toppling Goliath Mornin’ Delight toppling goliath

 

 

 

 

Congrats to the winners! Thanks to all of those who voted and also reminded me I missed a few to add to the list. Great discussion with many of you on many of these great beers. On Sunday, I’m hoping to open up polling on “Best of Iowa Pale Ale” category. Once again, if anyone knows someone who does medals, I wouldn’t mind getting them to the winners. Thanks!

Best of Iowa Beer: Imperial/Barrel-Aged Stouts

bb11.jpg

As our IPA (Big Grove, TG, Lion Bridge leading the top 3)poll continues on until next Thursday, it’s time to get another poll started! This time around we will be looking at the Best of Iowa Imperial/Barrel-Aged stouts. I believe the definition of an “imperial” anything is an ABV between 8-12. With this poll there are a few slightly below that 8% ABV but they are included. Once again, if I’m missing a beer please let me know. Also, for those who select “other” please comment on the beer you are voting for. Discussion is more than welcome as I’d love to hear what your gold, silver, and bronze beers would be!

I think the difficulty with this particular category is how hard some of these beers were to obtain. So vote for what you’ve had and liked the best!

Anyone know someone who could make up some medals? Wouldn’t mind having some to pass out to the winning breweries, not that they’d care, just think it would be cool to do. Vote on!

Best of Iowa Beer Poll: IPA

logo

With breweries popping up in Iowa I think it would be fun to see who everyone thought had the best of certain style categories that are represented at the Great American Beer Festival. Very proud and happy that there are so many great offerings. Obviously, due to location, some folks haven’t had certain beers so just vote on what you’ve tasted. Remember, this is IPA only, not double IPA, session IPA, pale ale, triple IPA, English IPA, Black IPA, Rye IPA, etc….just American IPA brewed in Iowa.

If a particular beer isn’t listed you can vote other or email me letting me know I missed something because chances are good I left something out. Vote for what YOU like best. For the brewery that wins I wish I could say I had a trophy or something for you….maybe I can get a medal made up or something, either all, this all for fun as I’m interested to see what people who read this blog or belong to the Iowa Beer Facebook group think is the best Iowa IPA. Discussion is welcome.  The first poll is BEST IOWA IPA:

India pale ale (IPA) is a hoppy beer style within the broader category of pale ale. The first known use of the term “India pale ale” is an advertisement in the Sydney and New South Wales Advertiser in 1829.