Baron’s Guide to Thanksgiving and Beer

turkeyHappy Thanksgiving everyone! I thought it would be fun to breakdown Thanksgiving Day and pair some craft beers with what would be my typical meal. Now, 15 years ago, Busch Light reigned supreme and would flow freely along with some boxed wine and a few bottles of booze. Times change and thankfully so do the drinks. I saw the guys at do this and thought it would be good to see an Eastern Iowa version of what beers to get.

**Early and often Beers**– while watching the football game with fellow family members and waiting for the bird to finish up cooking, it’s good have other options available other than the typical light beer, and Eastern Iowa now has a plethora of excellent, low abv brews.


Baron’s recommendation:

*Founders Brewing All Day IPA – 4.7%
*Lion Bridge Workmen’s Compensation – 4.7% (growler only – coffee variation dynamitbig grovee as well)
*Lion Bridge Whirligig – 4.5% (growler only, a Baron Favorite)
*Big Grove Que Sera Berliner Weisse – 4.4% (growler only)
*Destihl Brewing Here Gose Nothin’ – 5% (A little higher ABV and sour but I can down a few)
*Stone Levitation – 4.4% very tasty amber.

**Dinner Beers** – the food has made it’s way to the table and you are looking for a bottle of something to share with some loved ones. I’m in agreement with many beer lovers that the perfect style of beer for Thanksgiving are Saisons. And being a saison lover, there are quite a few to choose from around Eastern Iowa. I also think maltier IPAs go well with the majority of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Baron’s recommendation:

*Saison Dupont – 6.5%
*Boulevard Tank 7 – 8.5%
*Lion Bridge Untitled Saison – 6.5% (growler only)
*Deschutes Zarabanda – 6.3%lion bridge
*Sierra Nevada Celebration – 6.8%
*Bells Two Hearted – 7%

**Time for Dessert** – as with most holidays there is usually a table reserved just for desserts. Now, you should have a cooler reserved for dessert beers.  I would have loved to include New Glarus on this list and they would be at the top but they aren’t distributed anywhere outside of Wisky. So for dessert I would go with:

Baron’s Recommendations:

*Schlafly Pumkin Ale – 8% – a no-brainer here. One of the better pumpkin beers on the market.
*Big Grove Russian Imperial Stout- this beer pairs excellent with dark fruits. Had it at the brewery in Solon with some of their pickled bing cherries and was blown away. (growler only)
*Millstream Raspberry Latte Stout – ? ABV – Millstream’s newest offering has me craving more. A great millstreamcombo of raspberry and stout that’s perfect for dessert.
*Stone Xocoveza – 8.1% – if you’re lucky enough to still have a bottle this would be a perfect way to end the evening. Chocolate, cinnamon, and coffee makes this the perfect beer after a big meal and the heat does a nice job of warming you up for a chilly Iowa November evening.

**As always, I’m sure I missed a bunch of beers. Feel free to send me your list and if you hear of any news, would like a guest review post, or questions drop me a line!**


Restaurant Review: Iowa Chop House; Iowa City, IA

iowa chopIt’s always great when a new restaurant or bar with an exciting new concept opens up. I’ve been reading about the Chop House for a few weeks and finally had an opportunity to be around downtown Iowa City and decided to give it a go. It’s located right next to the Englert Theater, can’t miss it. Here’s the Iowa Chop House statement:

At the Iowa Chop House, we believe that great food starts with local, fresh ingredients. That’s why we source only the finest sustainable seasonal ingredients from hard working local farmers. Located in historic downtown Iowa City, we proudly carry on the tradition of culture and quality that is unique to our community.

photo 1The hostess offered us a quick tour before showing us our seats. She pointed out that the tables and part of the bar are from a refurbished barn. The “beer barn” was also made to look like a rustic old barn. More on the beer barn later, a terrific concept.

We were shown to our seats, people were starting to filter in for lunch so I’m glad we got there right at opening. The menu had everything from burgers to steaks with some great sounding apps as well. Here’s a link to the menu: I thought the prices were very fair and I believe the food is locally sourced and then I was told about “The Beer Barn”! The Beer Barn is such a refreshing idea, especially for a craft beer lover as I am. If you want to order from the Beer Barn wall you are given an electronic wrist band. The wall had about 8 Iowa-only beers on tap, a fephoto 3w of which I’ve never had. The band gives you a max of 28 oz of beer. You have several glass sizes to choose from so you are not stuck with a 12 oz pour of something you didn’t care for. You put your band over the electronic sign for the beer you want, get a blue/green light, and start pouring your beer. You can use the 28 oz on whatever beers are on the wall. A fantastic concept! I got to try Firetrucker brewery ( the first time, they had Exile beers ( as well and finished with a Lion Bridge saison ( and Big Grove arms race!

photo 2The good news is if you want more than 28 oz you can get your band reset as well and if you don’t want what’s on the Beer Barn wall they have a huge selection of bottles and more tap lines. The barn was just a great interactive way for people to talk beer and get to try some new brews as well.

Onto the food! The burger was great! One of the more flavorful burgers I’ve had in a while and went well with the Firetrucker porter. I got to talk to the manager for a while and he was very friendly and he did say that they photo 5are pretty much booked up for the next few weekends, so if you want to get there to check it out, head for lunch or make an online reservation. Overall, a place I will be heading to when I find myself downtown and want to escape what can be the madness of college bars and shitty beer or escape the unoriginality of fried chicken fingers and ground beef nachos. Check it out, keep these new places going!

What to drink? What to drink?

lagunitasThree breweries have/are entering the Eastern Iowa market in the next few weeks. Great Divide is here, New Holland Brewing is on their way, and Lagunitas has had a little trickle of their beers around but a big rollout is coming. Adding those three breweries along with all the others that are currently on our shelves, the wonderful dilemma of what to buy because there are so many choices is out there. Now, I know the talk of some oversaturation is out there and that is for a different blog post, but I would like to know what beer are you looking forward to the most from these breweries? We will be able to do the same thing once Surly, Southern Tier, and whoever else decide to enter the market. Would love to hear some comments as well!


Quarter Barrel Brewery/Arcade Opening in 2015 in Cedar Rapids

quarter barrelDave Dewitte of Corridor Business ( just released an article on their website saying another microbrewery will be opening up in 2015 in Cedar Rapids. This one, however, has a different twist. It will be a retro arcade game brewery. Here are some highlights from the article:

Quarter Barrel, a vintage arcade-themed microbrewery, is aiming for a spring 2015 opening. Customers will have to decide whether a game of Donkey Kong goes down best with ale, porter, stout or other handcrafted brews.

Entertainment will revolve more than 30 video arcade games from the 1970s to the late 1980s, such as Mr. Do’s Wild Ride, Donkey Kong and Galaga. The period was the “golden age” of video arcades, according to co-owner Chris Ellis, and a generation of Gen-Xers and baby boomers still remember them fondly.

The trio set its sights on downtown Cedar Rapids, and purchased 616 Second Ave. SE earlier this year. It is a century-old storefront building that had been built to house an electric automobile charging station and battery store in the days when most automobiles in Cedar Rapids were electric.

Mr. Ellis said Quarter Barrel plans to be a small, 7 to 10-barrel brewing operation that initially, at least, would brew beer for on-premises consumption. But Mr. Ellis hopes to break free of what he considers a limiting formula for beer menus in most brewpubs that leans heavily on popular standards. A hops-heavy pilsner, for example, could be offered as a substitute for an IPA. A Baltic porter might be featured instead of a stout beer. They are also planning a crowdfunding campaign that will involve some specialty beers for subscribers.

To view the entire Corridor Business article follow this link:

Big Grove Brewery’s Bitchin Birthday Bash Details!

big groveIn late August the town of Solon will be flooded with beer lovers for almost one whole week as Big Grove Brewery celebrates their 1 year anniversary with an array of fantastic brews and some unique and wonderful food. I just came from the brewery and picked up a release brochure and here is what is planned, I wish I could make all events but if you are going drop me a line and I would love to meet up for a brew or 10. Here we go!

Tuesday, August 26 @ 6pm

“Cry Havoc! and Let Slip the Hos of War.”

$50 tickets (tax and tip included)

Carnitas tacos made from a whole roasted hog served with house made salsas and accoutrements. Preview ALL special release beers! Includes one 1/6 bbl each and all you can eat/drink. Only 50 seats available.


Wednesday, August 27 @ 6 pm

“All Hops, All the Thai’m”

$29 tickets (tax and tip included)

That BBQ buffet and full flight of DIPAs, Bell’s Hopsolution and a selection from Lagunitas.


Thursday, August 28

“Acid Funk”

Sour beer highlights with HotRod Lincoln performing on the patio. Tapping BGB young sour peach.


Friday, August 29

“The Pin is Mightier…”

BGB and Summit casks on the bar. 3 pm tappings.


Saturday, August 30

“Hawks Host Panthers, Big Grove Hosts Single Speed.”

A taste of Cedar Falls for the Hawkeye opener.


Sunday, August 31

“Aging Gracefully”

We’re taking over Iowa Street for a barrel aged beer release day, with live music. Sepher will be manning the outside grill for Persian Kabobs and housemade pita.


For more info check out Big Grove Brewery on Facebook for follow them on twitter. An exciting week that I can only hope I can be a small part of! Cheers!

Beer Review #117: Lion Bridge Brewing Whirligig

lion bridgeI’ve become a regular at Lion Bridge as I had been spending a decent amount of the month of July at St. Luke’s hospital for a family emergency. And though I always intend to spend dinner time at a Subway or even do the unthinkable and eat the hospital food with my “free” meal pass, I always took that time and wandered around the downtown Cedar Rapids area. Many stops at Batas (review to come), beers at Parlor City, a buffalo chicken wrap at Bricks, and then the majority of my stops would always conclude at Lion Bridge Brewery in the Czech Village.

I’ve enjoyed many of the beers here, the smoked chocolate stout on Nitro, the Ziva Voda, the new double IPA, El Doble has quickly become a favorite but I was really impressed with Quinton’s new saison style brew called Whirligig. I know saisons are not a style for everyone, but I do think they are climbing the ladder into the niche market of double ipas, barrel aged anything, and sours.

The first flavor I experienced from this brew was a bazooka like bubble gum flavor followed nicely by the mild tart and bitterness. A really refreshing brew that I intend to have growlers of during the Iowa Hawkeye football season to enjoy. Almost seemed like a mix of a saison and an American wheat brew. Very drinkable and very tasty!

Not only is Lion Bridge doing great things beer related, their kitchen also impresses. Locally made sausages, meat and cheese plates, pulled pork nachos (fantastic!), reuben fritters,  and muffaletta fingers make fantastic companions to the beer that flows through this brewery. The staff is always friendly and accommodating and the brewer is usually on hand happy to have a conversation with you. If in the area check this place out, grab a growler and enjoy!


STYLE: Saison

ABV: 4.5%

PURCHASED AT: Lion Bridge Brewery; Cedar Rapids, IA

POUR: Hazy yellow pour, nice white head.

AROMA: A little barnyard, lemon, grass.

TASTE: Bubble gum, lemon, grassy notes. rating: N/A

Beeradvocate rating: N/A

Overall: B

My recommendation:Between Lion Bridge and Big Grove, you’ll usually can find the Baron at one of these locations!


Guest Review by Matt Poge: Cinder Block Brewery; Kansas City, MO

CB frontThanks to my good friend Matt Poge on the review. Definitely a place to visit if you are ever in the Kansas City area:

Since I moved up to the north part of Kansas City last summer one of the places I’ve been told I had to check out was Cinder Block Brewery.  Coinciding with our move was the birth of our first child, so free time and nights out on the town have been scarce for the past year to say the least.  We finally got over to Cinder Block this past weekend and I have nothing but good things to say about their beers and taproom.  My wife and I were really impressed and will be going back every chance we get.

The brewery is located in North Kansas City, an area I knew CB Signvery little about until the past 6 months or so.  We have made our way over there a few times to check out a really unique theater (Screenland Armour, which has a nice little selection of beers on tap, by the way) and to have some barbecue at Smoking Guns, which we had seen on the Food Network.

FlightCinder Block has a nice open taproom area with a plenty of seating and a large bar to belly up to.  They have bar snacks and popcorn, and you are welcome to bring in your own food.   Every Friday and Saturday they have the “Back Rack Grill” food truck set up outside the brewery.  After smelling the bbq from the truck when we walked into the place, I was wishing we hadn’t eaten before we came.  On the night we were there we were treated to a cowboy-hatted duo that played live music featuring covers of anything from Prince to Dwight Yoakam to Beck.  They were great.

Onto the beers: (Disclaimer—My palate is not as refined as the Baron’s, and although I have put back a few brews in my time I claim no expertise when it comes to beer. This is a weekend warrior’s take, if you will).

Northtown Native (California Common) – Perfect session beer.  I could drink a lot of these (and did, in fact).  Nothing overwhelming here, just a light, crisp beer that has a slight malt and hop taste to give it a little character.

Prime Extra Pale Ale (American Pale Ale) – Got a lot of citrus with the aroma on this one, and it definitely had some fruit in the taste as well.  I’ve always had trouble distinguishing between certain pale ales and IPA’s.  There is a blind spot in my palate, I think.  My wife liked this one more than I did, which is not to say that I didn’t like it.

Paver Porter (Porter) – I’m a sucker for a good stout or porter.  This was my favorite beer that I tried.  Big on malt with a little chocolate and just a touch bitter.  This is the type of beer I want to be clutching in my paws when they bury me.  I actually had this one at a craft beer festival a few months back so I knew what to expect.  Big fan.

Block IPA (IPA) – This one surprised me, as I am admittedly not a huge IPA guy.  The description provided by the brewery claims a burst of green hop and pine flavors, and that is certainly accurate.  Very hoppy, very crisp.  Good beer.

Hop Maven #2 (IPA)– This was the seasonal that came with our sampler flight.  Just like with the Block IPA I liked this one better than I thought I might.  In fact, I might put this as my second favorite beer that I had after the porter.  Tasted more like a session IPA, with a very smooth feel to it.  The right amount of hops and bitterness.

Weathered Wit (Belgian Wit) – This was the last one I had from the sampler that we got and I think the taste got lost a little bit after I had been drinking the IPA’s and the porter.  My wife said she liked this one a lot, and I will have to give this another go sometime after I have cleansed my palate thoroughly.

El Bait owners possibly opening Iowa Craft Beer Restaurant

bait shopI received the following information from my good buddy sLim and also the link is from El Bait Shop looks like they will be opening an all Iowa craft beer restaurant with 75 Iowa beers on tap and serve Iowa food products. Here’s the original article from

Full Court Press is known for its great beer bars with international themes like The Royal Mile (British) and Hessen Haus (German). For its next project, the group is aiming a little closer to home.

The Iowan Craft Beer Hall will feature more than 75 Iowa beers on tap and serve predominately Iowa food products. Iowa now has more than 50 breweries producing beer, which should provide plenty of beers to choose from.

But one thing Full Court Press is still looking for is a location. The group is currently seeking developers to find the right location downtown.

“We can’t keep up. We need a space that’s all Iowa,” Full Court Press partner Jeff Bruning said of the beers at El Bait Shop. “The Little Giant Beer Summit we put on is kind of the festival version of what we’re going to do. The Iowan will have the best of what Iowa Breweries have to offer.”

Bruning said The Iowan Craft Beer Hall is an idea he and his partners have been brewing up for years, ever since he tried his first Peace Tree beer.

“People thought we were crazy in 2006 when we put 105 taps up on the wall for craft beers (at El Bait Shop),” Bruning said. “Now there are all these Iowa breweries starting to come up at the same time the craft beer industry is blowing up; things are going so well that Iowa beer warrants a bar dedicated to it.”

Bruning said that Des Moines IPA from Confluence was El Bait Shop’s best selling beer in 2013 and that six out of the bar’s top 10 selling beers were from Iowa.

Full Court Press has put on a number of beer events, including Oktoberfest, the Little Giant Beer Summit and Des Moines Beer Week. The Iowan Craft Beer Hall is not affiliated with the Iowa Craft Beer Tent.

Featured breweries at The Iowan Craft Beer Hall could include:

515 Brewing (Des Moines), Albia Brewing (Albia), Backpocket Brewing (Coralville), Boone Valley Brewing (Boone), C.I.B. (Chefs In Black) Brewery (Carson), Confluence Brewery (Des Moines), Exile Brewing (Des Moines), Firetrucker (Ankeny), Granite City (Clive), Great River (Davenport), Kalona Brewing (Kalona), Keg Creek Brewing (Glendale), Madhouse Brewing (Newton), Millstream Brewing (Amana), New American Brewing (Ankeny), Peacetree Brewing (Knoxville), Rock Bottom Brewery (West Des Moines), Sutliff Cider (Lisbon), Toppling Goliath Brewing (Decorah), Twisted Vine Brewery (St Charles), Van Houzen Brewing (Newton), West O Beer (West Okoboji) with more to be added in the future.

Boulevard Hibiscus Gose next in Backroads Series

BPKG14_hibiscusgose_fin_rpkThe following information comes from Boulevard press release and also Really excited to try this one!

Boulevard Brewing (Kansas City, MO) recently released the first offering in their new Backroads Series, Entwined Ale. The series is described as “journey off the beaten path.” A little fun for both the drinker and the brewer.

Poised to be the next release is Boulevard Hibiscus Gose. The German-style salt beer uses hibiscus flowers, coriander, and of course, sea salt.

Expect Boulevard Hibiscus Gose in 12oz bottles.

Style: Gose (Hibiscus, Coriander, Sea Salt)
Availability: 12oz Bottles
Arrival: TBA

Beer Tasting w/ a Brewer at 515 Brewing; Clive, IA 8/3/14

515I’ve had the pleasure of going to 515 Brewing in Clive, IA a handful of times. Sure, I wish I was closer, (or they were), so I could frequent more often, but these folks are what make craft beer great. I was just sitting enjoying a few brews with friends when owner/brewer Dave Ropte sat down and talked to us about all things beer for a good hour. It was great. Informative, honest, and just a pleasant experience. I highly recommend anyone who is the the Des Moines area on August 3 to check this event out. Their beer is terrific and the folks are even better! Here’s more from 515’s Facebook page:

Join us for a brewer-led beer tasting this Sunday. Purchase a brewer-designated beer flight between 1:30 – 2p with the tasting starting at 2p. (4-5oz pours for $8). Our brewers will talk about each selected beer and answer any questions you have about the beer or the brewery.

Visit their Facebook page for more or follow them on Twitter: