Baron’s Best of 2015: The Final Chapter

best ofLet’s finish this drug out list off once and for all. With 2015 in the books, 2016 is starting out on a great foot as Lion Bridge’s Barrel-aged January has kicked off and the tapping of Royal Wee is a day away (Wed. 13th). Buster from Big Grove is getting released at the end of the month and Quarter Barrel has opened their doors. Lots of great things in store for Iowa in 2016.

*Big Grove Brewery Desperate Measures – this golden sour big groveale aged in Opus One wine barrels was released along the same time that Richard the Whale was for Big Grove. A well balanced sour that gives you that sour pucker but some fruit sweetness and bit of barrel that help this beer make the list. Would love this for a summer brew too!


nelson.jpeg*Alpine Nelson
– I never had the opportunity to try any Alpine beers prior to Green Flash acquiring them but I’m guessing that Nelson couldn’t have been much better than what we got in bottles…I could be wrong but I really enjoyed this beer. The Nelson Sauvin hop shines in this beer and goes perfectly with the rye malt. Lots of flavor, excellent balance, and extremely drinkable!

lag.jpeg*Lagunitas Born Yesterday – bottled and shipped the very same day? Yes, Lagunitas pulls this one off and the freshness of this beer really showed. Citrus and tropical fruits shine in this 6.5% beer and if it was readily available this would always be in my fridge. I hope Lagunitas releases this one again….so good.

*Lion Bridge Brewery Yard Sale – so happy to see this lion bridgebeer back on tap at Lion Bridge as another citra hop forward brew makes the list. I had this for the 1st time back in May and remember getting two growlers filled after my first taste. Such a great brew.

515*515 Brewing The Basil Protocol – I’m a sucker for a good farmhouse/saison which this beer is, but I admittedly am not the biggest fan of basil. I like it ok, just not a bunch, so when I tried this beer I went in thinking I wouldn’t dig it. I was totally wrong. The basil is there but it meshes so well with the cucumber and pepperiness of the saison to make a wonderfully refreshing beer. Not to mention enjoying it when it was 100 degrees outside…another perfect summertime beer!

firetrucker*Firetrucker Tropical Burn – might be one of the hottest (popular) beers made in Iowa right now and rightfully so. Huge mango and tropical fruits on the nose and on the palate. Galaxy and citra with fresh mangoes makes this a well-balanced double IPA. Very drinkable, but be aware of that 9.1% ABV.

*Big Grove 15 Minuteman – part of the “Citra Triad” release from Big big groveGrove. 15 Minuteman once again showcases the citra hop. Super smooth and refreshing, this is another beer that can get you into trouble because of it’s drinkability. Minuteman and Trident made for a fun couple trips to Big Grove over the holidays!

bells.jpeg*Bells 30th Anniversary Stout – I really loved this beer. It wasn’t barrel-aged but man, this was packed with flavor. Tons of dark chocolate, some dark fruit, and as with many stouts got better as it warmed. I wish I would have the restraint to have aged a couple but I saw them, salivated, drank them.

*Big Grove/3rd Base Que Amarillo – am I homer for Iowa big grovebeers or what? That wasn’t the intention but it’s hard not to be when so many of our local brewers are kicking out great beers and Que Amarillo is one that stood out to me. I could be wrong, but I believe this was brewed with Jim at 3rd Base Brewery…feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. A Berliner-weisse that is hopped to high hell with Amarillo hops. If you don’t like your Berliner-Weisses’ too sour, this one’s for you. Tasty and refreshing. Maybe if I ask Bill and Jim nicely they will keep brewing it?

calling.jpeg*Boulevard The Calling – Boulevard did a major overhaul of their portofolio in 2015 and some where hits and some not so much in my opinion. One beer that they did a great job on was The Calling. I admittedly am not a huge fan of their Single-Wide IPA so when I saw that they were adding a double IPA to their Smokestack 4 pack series I was excited to try it. Oranges and pineapple with a bit pine round out this heavily hopped double.

space.jpeg*Central Waters Space Ghost – an imperial stout that is brewed with ghost peppers. It sounds like a one and done beer as some of these can be overwhelming with heat, but this is beautifully balanced and gives you just enough heat but not overpowering to go along with the richness from the stout.

*Big Grove Famine – I got to pour for Big Grove at an famiineevent in Dubuque last spring. I got to pour Arms Race, IPA, Que Sera, and….FAMINE! What a treat that was. Introducing a community to this beer and to Big Grove was exciting and I would love to do it again. When people asked what it tasted like, Collin (fellow pourer) and I had to take a drink just to remind ourselves how good it was. Part of the Hopocolaypse series this past Spring. I hope to see a return this year as well!

Baron’s Best of 2015 Part 1

best of.pngI always enjoy looking back on a year of great beer drinking and this year was probably the best. So many great beers to choose from and what makes it even better is that there are so many great beers brewed here in Iowa that will makes this list. Don’t get me wrong, tons of good stuff on the shelves, but bringing home a growler of fresh Arms Race or Workman’s Compensation makes it that much more special to live in Eastern Iowa and have the opportunity to support our local breweries.

This year’s list will be dominated by Iowa breweries, these are all beers that were/are available for purchase in Iowa that I had for the FIRST TIME EVER in 2015. You won’t see the Bourbon county’s or the KBS, I know that they change year by year but I’m going to leave them off this list. I haven’t visited a few newer breweries in Iowa which I know I need to. Everyone has their favorites, let me know what I need to try! 30 beers on the list this year and it was difficult coming to just 30. This is Part 1 of 5, let’s roll!

lion bridge*Lion Bridge Brewery GAZPROM! – a russian imperial stout aged in rye and brandy barrels that Lion Bridge gets to us in the months Iowans need to be warmed up! January and February in Iowa suck, but Lion Bridge’s release of GAZPROM! makes them a little more tolerable. Plus, the tshirt released was badass too!

big grove*Big Grove Brewery Buster – let’s keep the Iowa breweries rolling with a triple IPA that was released last Spring. Big Grove had a dominant year with their IPA releases and their Richard the Whale releases. This triple was juicy as hell and scary drinkable. Coming in at 11.3%, this bad boy could lead to a good night’s sleep.

pulpi.jpeg*Pulpit Rock Mr. Hoppy Pants – one of the newer breweries in Iowa is located across the street from Toppling Goliath in Decorah. I was lucky enough to stop in and have a pint and loved what those breweries are brewing up. Mr. Hoppy Pants is a double IPA brewed on a rotating hop schedule so this brew might change from time to time. Not sure of the hops in the draw I had but I loved it. Aromatic and crushable, visit Pulpit Rock, they are an up and comer to keep an eye on.

razz*Exile Raspberry Bohemian – this one might keep some talk stirred as I picked this over their Cherry Bohemian and I think many folks enjoyed the cherry more..not me. I think I just enjoy raspberry in my beer more than cherry flavor, just a personal preference and that’s why Raspberry gets my nod over Cherry. Either way, both beers were great and I would venture to say that Exile nailed it with both of them.

turner alley*Turner Alley Czech Village Pilsner – a style that’s not as “sexy” as the imperial IPAs or the barrel-aged beers of the world, but a style that seems lost in the mix is pilsners. Travis at Turner Alley has taken what some would consider a boring style and made a crisp, refreshing, balanced pilsner that I would put up against most out there. Looking forward to see what Turner Alley has in store for 2016.

firetrucker*Firetrucker Black Walnut Alcova Brown Ale – another “basic” style that seems like it got lost in the shuffle of beer styles, gets amped up with the addition of 100 black walnuts. This is a beer I can drink anytime of the year and that nutty aftertastes shines through making this beer a perfect example on how to make a great brown.

**Part 2 coming soon! Iowa brewery dominant so far. Let me know your thoughts!

Surly Nein Iowa Release Details

neinSurly Nein, an imperial smoked hefeweizen, will be hitting a few tap lines around Iowa in the coming weeks. Here’s more from Surly’s website:

We’re celebrating our 9th anniversary this year with the release of NEIN, an Imperial Smoked Hefeweizen. We want to celebrate with all of you, so starting on Monday, September 28, we’re having release parties for NEIN in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Chicago and Iowa. We’ll have NEIN on draft at all the events as well as NEIN merch giveaways, so come out and raise a glass to nein years of Surly!

Make sure to check out our event page for each party for details and get ready for NEIN to hit stores, bars and restaurants near you!

NEIN draws from the traditional banana and clove notes of Hefeweizen yeasts and layers on deeper toned malt flavors, a distinctly smoky character from oak-smoked wheat malt and charred “honeycombs” of white oak. All of the malt comes from Weyermann Malting, a family-owned operation in Bamberg Germany, which is the center of Rauchbier (smoked beers) in Germany. The inspiration came from a trip that our head brewer Todd Haug recently took to Bamberg to visit the Weyermann facility.Here’s the Iowa release info:

Iowa – Parlor City Pub & Eatery, Hessen Haus and El Bait Shop
Wednesday, Sept. 30, Starts at 4pm
Hessen Haus – 101 4th St, Des Moines, IA 50309

Wednesday, Sept. 30, Starts at 5:30pm
Parlor City Pub & Eatery- 1125 3rd St. SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401

Thursday, Oct. 1, Starts at 4pm
El Bait Shop – 200 SW 2nd St, Des Moines, IA 50309

Enjoy By Coming in 12 oz bottles? and Millstream hitting the Double IPA Trail

enjoy byThe ever popular Enjoy By Series from Stone still has the 2.14.15 out and around and then they will release their 3.14.15 to celebrate PI day, after that March release it sounds like they will start releasing the Enjoy By series in 12 oz starting with their 4.20.15 release. No word on what markets will be receiving that shipment or if the 12 oz will be in 4 packs or 6 packs. Stay tuned for more. (www.mybeerbuzz.blogspot.com).

millstreamOnto some Iowa brewery news. Iowa’s oldest brewery is looking to get back into the Double iPA game. Millstream will be releasing beers under their Double Plus Hop Series starting with Our Bitter End Double IPA. Here’s more from the brewery’s release:

It seems like our brewmaster, Chris, has finally said enough is enough. He’s on the path to make some pretty hoppy brews this year and they’ll be part of our Millstream Double Plus Hop Series. For all you insane hop heads here it is: Our Bitter End Double IPA will be released May 1st. 90+IBU’s, mouth puckering, hazy with green, more floral than botanicddal gardens in June beer! Hoppy Hour Double White IPA will come out in July and the Dogs on Skis Double Black IPA will be released in October.

Here’s a peak at the Bitter End Double IPA brewing today! 8.5 pounds of bitter hops to this decadent brew.

Top 15 Iowa Beers for 2014: Part 1

So many great things have happened in Eastern Iowa this past year. The number of nationally renowned breweries that have hit our shelves has made our choices as consumers a bit more difficult but also more fun. But for me, the biggest events of the last 12-18 months has been the opening of some new breweries in the Eastern Iowa area. Big Grove in Solon is a little more than a year old, Lion Bridge is still in infancy age but making headlines with their fantastic beers, Millstream hitting a homerun with their raspberry latte stout, Backpocket pushing out new beers at a high rate, and Kalona really making its mark with their impressive lineup. Some breweries in Des Moines I didn’t get to spend much time at, so if you didn’t make the list, chances are I didn’t get out to try your brews. A New Year’s Resolution I need to make is to visit every Iowa brewery, but with 3 kids it can be a bit of a chorelion bridge.

Onto the first part of my list:

*Lion Bridge Coffee Compensation* – a variant from their gold medal winning Workman’s Compensation, this brew is made with Ethiopian Banko Beans and is the perfect breakfast beer if there ever was one. So good, and now available in growler fills.

*Madhouse Brewing V.I.P. Double Porter* – I really enjoyed last year’s version but madhousethis years has a bit more tasty barrel on it that I really enjoyed. Luckily I stocked up a snagged 5 bottles for myself. Comes in at 10.5% so pace yourself, a good one to share, but I’ll take the bottle myself.

west o*West O Beer Coco Stout* – with all things imperial and barrel-aged it’s nice to have just a fantastic stout to drink during these winter months. I was lucky enough to try this while it was on tap at Lion Bridge and I’m glad I did. Chocolate and coffee in the forefront of this Great American Beer Festival gold medal winner!

*Big Grove Que Onda Roja* – in the world of sours Big Grove is starting to make theirbig grove mark. One of the more complex beers I’ve had this year and I the first time I tried it I was pretty confused. Did I love it? Dislike it? Well, after a few more tastings, this beer is becoming more and more sour and more and more likable. Awesome brew that’s getting better!

great river*Great River Imperial Gingerbread Stout* – this was a happy accident finding this on tap. Shopping with my wife when we decided some coffee was in order. Went to Brewvana in the New-Bo district and was surprised to see this on tap. This is what Xmas should taste like! Not overally spiced, just the perfect amount of clove and spice. Tasty brew!

**Okay, part 1 is done. Part 2 coming soon. I hope to hear from some of you on your lists. I have 10 to go and it’s going to be difficult! **