Restaurant Review: Hudson’s Southside Tap; Iowa City, IA

hudson'sA visit to a familiar area of Iowa City was in store for my wife and I as we were on our way to visit Hudson’s Southside Tap in Iowa City. We used to live in the Pentacrest Apartment complex downtown (very close to the bars….too close to the bars) and frequently visited the Pancheros on that side of town. Oh how I wish Hudson’s would have been there during that time!

IMG_2280.jpgWalking into the restaurant you are greeted with an inviting pub feel. Dark wood tables and a bar area that highlights the booze and taps. Very cozy, a place that I could spend hours in and feel right at home. I of course noticed the 40 tap handles on the back wall and was excited to dig into a few beers.

On the menu, I was expecting basic IMG_2282.jpgpub fare, but Hudson’s gives you more than that. An upscale pub fare if you will. When checking out new places I like to order multiple items, or I’m a fat ass who overeats, could be either of those…but anyway, I started with some basic chicken wings.

photo 2 (7)I’m a big fan of great chicken wings…not breaded (except for the Wig and Pen, love those), fried until crisp, with the perfect amount of sauce, and I must say, Hudson’s has some of the best wings I’ve had in some time. Their homemade blue cheese dressing and ranch where icing on the cake. Would go back to try their other sauces, but I would have no problem ordering the basic Frank’s sauce wings again.

photo 3 (2).JPGThere are also some slider options on the menu and I went with the pulled pork slider. Perfect amount of sauce, excellent pork with a touch of smokiness, very good slider. My wife had a short rib philly cheese steak with jalapeno cream photo 4 (5).JPGcheese. It was excellent, albeit a bit messy, but something we would order again. My main dish was the shrimp po’ boy. I’m a po’ boy junky, would eat them everyday and this one added it’s own touches to a traditional sandwich. A creole spiced may addition added to this sandwich. The shrimp were huge and cooked perfect and the bread was crunchy on the outside but nice and chewy in the middle.

photo 5 (2).JPGAll of these items, (I finished everything) were washed down with a Big Grove Brewery Que Sera and then a Boulevard Tank 7. For being relatively new they did a nice job getting Iowa beers on tap and I can see more Iowa tap handles as Hudson’s continues to get their feet wet.

There hadn’t been much of a reason for me to visit Iowa City’s south side anymore, but Hudson’s has now given me that reason. Looking forward to going again….oh yeah, we took our loud 1 year old daughter and wait staff couldn’t have been more friendly and playful with her. Highly recommend a visit to this local tap!

 

Guest Review: sLim Reviews The University Library Cafe

libraryUniversity Library Cafe-3506 University Ave
Des Moines IA

Fortunately for all those who dwell in the Eastern and Central Iowa area, more and more craft beer bars are popping up. I always enjoy myself more at these types of establishments. Not just for their expansive beer selection, but because most of them seem to have a quirky, quaint feel to them. You’re usually in for a unique experience each time you go to one.

While the number of bars/restaurants in Iowa with exemplary beer selections is increasing, I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about one that’s been around for quite some time. The University Library Cafe has been around for a few decades. It has certainly gone through some changes during that time period, especially in management. Since 2012, the Library has been managed by Full Court Press, the Des Moines company that owns and runs other highly popular establishments like El Bait Shop, Hessen Haus, and the Royal Mile.

When you first walk in to the Library, you can’t help but notice that it’s, well…quite small (although you likely weren’t surprised at this when you saw the outside of the building driving by). It’s tucked into the western part of the Drake campus right on University Avenue. Upon initial reaction, one may expect a ma and pa type cafe that specializes in comfort food and has limited hours. Quite the contrary, this cafe stays open until 2am every night and opens early for breakfast at 8am Friday through Sunday. Due to it’s location, it has a very eclectic crowd. You’ll see your fair share of college students but there usually are some seasoned veteran regulars along with groups of people out for dinner. While it’s no Outback Steakhouse, it’s still family friendly with several booths lining the wall (which serve as the majority of the dining area).

Onto the food; if you’ve eaten at High Life Lounge/El Bait Shop, the menu is pretty similar. There are a few burgers, sandwiches, and appetizers that are served at both of these locations. Some that I recommend would be the Peanut Butter Bacon Burger, Fried Pickles, and the Homemade Macaroni and Cheese. While you can’t go wrong with any of those selections, the Library does offer several of their own unique entrees. There’s the Library Poutine appetizer, the Jalapeno Havarti Burger, and of course, the fabled Meatloaf Sandwich.

The last time I was there, I ordered that legendary meatloaf sandwich. You get a sizable slab of loaf which is plenty juicy and flavorful served on a hoagie bun. A choice of side comes with it; again, I recommend the mac ’n cheese. The Library is also famously known for its nachos (voted best in DSM in recent years). I also placed a order of these. They were plenty greasy but good.

As far as beer, this is where the Library thrives. Despite it’s small space, they employ a tremendous selection of taps. There’s over 40 available; and none of those are wasted on any Bud, Miller, or Coors products. You have a wide selection of brews from great national breweries such as Stone, Founders, Summit, and Deschutes. There’s also plant of offerings from Iowa breweries like Confluence, Peace Tree (including the Rye Porter, rarely seen on tap), and West-Okoboji. On this previous trip I decided to enjoy a Stone Enjoy By Double IPA which paired nicely with the nachos. I would put this terrifically hoppy yet drinkable Double IPA right up there with other favorites from this category like Laguinitas Sucks and Victory Dirtwolf.

The mark of a good craft beer bar is that you can never run out of something new to try regardless of how often you frequent it (unless you’re a complete barfly like Steve Buschemi’s character in Trees Lounge). Whether you’re a Des Moines area resident or just happening to be in the area, mark the University Library Cafe a place to check out. Even though it’s really small, it can cater to a variety of occasions: a lunch date, an early evening meeting spot for a group of friends, or an after work/night cap bar if you’re looking to unwind with the help of a tasty brew. This place is more than just the quality food and drinks available. The atmosphere is probably what I appreciate most. It’s a tight squeeze in there some nights but I think it plays to their advantage more often than not. It gives the Library a cozy, lounge-type feel which is a nice change of pace from the bustling downtown bars located just a few miles east.

Stop in to this forgotten gem located off the beaten path for an experience you’re not likely to forget.

 

Coming to Shelves: Dissident, Breckenridge BA Stout, Dragon’s Milk w/Raspberries, more!

dissidentQuite a few new brews will be hitting the shelves in the coming weeks and months. Along with the tremendous selection we already have a few more will be added to make your decision as to what to buy even more difficult. Here they come:

**Deschutes Brewing The Dissident: Starting to be available on Dec. 12 but I’m not sure if that is just brewery release. The actual date Eastern Iowa will see it I’m unsure of. It’s a flanders style sour brown that will be in 22 oz bottles with a 10.4% ABV. More from the brewery:

COMMERCIAL DESCRIPTION
Fermented for more than 18 months in isolation from the rest of the beers, The Dissident is a distinctive Oud Bruin, Flanders-style brown ale, with a fruity aroma and flavor, the first wild yeast beer made by the award-winning Deschutes Brewery.

To give The Dissident its characteristic sour taste the brewery used a wild yeast strain called Brettanomyces (also known as Brett) during fermentation. Known throughout the wine world for creating earthy undertones found in many European wines, Brett is used in the beer fermentation process to create strong flavors typically associated with Belgian beers. Unlike English varieties that use traditional inoculated yeasts in the fermentation process, beers made with Brett take much longer to ferment and require additional barrel finishing time to balance the sour flavoring. In the Dissident’s case, this meant aging a portion of it in pinot and cabernet barrels for over 3 months. Another key flavor component comes from the Central Washington cherries that were added twelve months ago.

Due to the wild yeast , The Dissident required special treatment and was held in isolation under lock and key apart from the rest of the brewery’s beers to avoid any cross-contamination. A secondary bottling line was also brought in from an outside contractor to facilitate The Dissident’s bottling and insure the beer and wild yeast never touched the brewery’s machinery. With a beer this wild and truly unique, Deschutes needed a special label to alert consumers to what lay inside. The resulting image immediately sets The Dissident apart from the other Deschutes Brewery beers, even the Reserve Series beers.

The fruit and acidity in The Dissident make it ideal for pairing with a wide variety of dishes – the high acidity is perfect for cutting creamy dishes or cooling spicy ones. Because of the fruity characteristics derived from the cherries, the beer also pairs well with chocolate. Deschutes Brewery President and Founder Gary Fish recommends pairing the Dissident with “anything chocolate, the darker the better, soft cheeses like Brie and creamy dishes like spaghetti carbonara, or macaroni and cheese.”

72 imperial**Breckenridge Brewery 72 Imperial Chocolate Cream Stout**– Breckenridge getting into the barrel aged program by going nationwide release with barrel aged stout. From the thefullpint.com:

This unique release is a whiskey barrel-aged take on the brewery’s Small Batch 72 Imperial, an imperial chocolate cream stout. For every 100 bbl. batch, 400 lbs. of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory lustrous chocolate, made especially for 72 Imperial, are added to the brew. After spending a considerable amount of time in whiskey-soaked oak barrels, the finished product is molasses in color and smells of chocolate, wood, and whiskey harmoniously blended together. The beer has a dense and decadent mouthfeel and an abundance of rich flavors, including hints of sherry and dark fruit that compliment the toasted chocolate and oak notes remarkably.

new holland**New Holland Dragon’s Milk Reserve w/ Raspberries** – This is one beer that I am personally excited to see. Very thankful that New Holland has hit our shelves as I think Dragon’s Milk and BA Dragon’s Milk are at times overlooked. Dragon’s Milk Reserve with Raspberries will be hitting our shelves in late December, probably limited supply.

New Holland Brewing has bottled the newest variation of their barreled beer – Dragon’s Milk. The imperial stout is aged in house bourbon barrels has undergone some raspberry treatment to create Dragon’s Milk Reserve with Raspberries.

Style: Imperial Stout (w/ RaspberriesBarrel AgedBourbon.)
Availability: 22oz Bombers. Limited release.
Arrival: Late December, 2014

10% ABV

 

Bells Brewery Kick Off to Christmas Dec. 19th @ Reds Alehouse

redsI just received the following email from Reds Alehouse. Sounds like Bells is bringing some heavy hitters on the 19th! Some things we haven’t seen in Eastern Iowa before and Oracle on tap will be really nice! Hope to see you there! Here’s the list of brews:

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 fullpint.com 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!**

 

Coming to Shelves: New Belgium Session + Great Divide Titan Cans

new belgiumNew Belgium will be adding another brew to their repertoire coming this January as they are set to join the popular session IPA movement by giving us Slow Ride Session IPA. Here’s more on this release from the folks at beerstreetjournal.com:

Geared for sessioning, Slow Ride is cushioned with tropical aromas and fruit-forward hops. Ready, set, go slow.

New Belgium Slow Ride is targeted for both cans and bottles, year round. Official announcement from the brewery to follow.

Style: Session IPA
Availability: 12oz Bottles, 12oz Cans, Draft.
Arrival: January, 2015

4.5% ABV

titanAlso coming in 2015 will be Great Divide adding cans to their lineup. The first of which will be their Titan IPA. More from beerstreetjournal.com:

TITAN IPA is a big, aggressively hopped India Pale Ale brewed for hop disciples. It starts out with piney hop aromas and citrus hop flavors, and finishes with a nice rich, malty sweetness that is balanced with crisp hop bitterness.

Great Divide Titan IPA will be available in 12oz cans for the first time in early to mid 2015.

Style: IPA
Availability: 12oz Bottles, Draft. (Current) Cans, 2015

                                                         7.1% ABV

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:http://theiowachophouse.com/iowachophouse_menu.pdf 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 (http://www.firetrucker.com/)for the first time, they had Exile beers (http://exilebrewing.com/) as well and finished with a Lion Bridge saison (http://www.lionbridgebrewing.com/) and Big Grove arms race http://www.biggrovebrewery.com/)!

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!

Destihl Wild Sour Series Coming to Cans

destihl

Got the following information from Destihl Brewing’s website and also the picture is courtesy of http://www.craftcans.com.

Our new Wild Sour Series includes several beer styles that derive their tartness from wild fermentation in an extended sour mash process. Unlike our Saint Dekkera® Reserve Sour Series, which are long-term aged and soured in oak barrels, our Wild Sour ales not barrel-aged, but they are still soured with our same spontaneous, wild creatures derived from our Reserve Sour barrels. 

Guest Review: sLim Reviews Firetrucker Brewery; Ankeny, IA

firetruckerhttp://www.firetrucker.com/index.php

I had long heard we were finally getting a brewery right here in my city of residence, Ankeny. Firetrucker Brewery opened in the uptown part of town back on July 4th and they’ve made quite a splash. My first experience with their beers was tasting their Steam Engine at my workplace, El Bait Shop. It is a crisp, refreshing lager that just has enough hop flavor to get your attention. While not having tried most of them myself, their beers appeared to be selling well and were accepted by the bait shop clientele.

fire2I did some research on the company before visiting their taproom. They brew inside of an old fire station in Ankeny. It’s in an older, residential part of town. There definitely appears to be a very talented graphic artist on their staff as their website and logo designs are unique and visually appealing. This does not come as a surprise as the brewery is heavily influenced by art, and believes that beer is art itself. 

As I entered, I was greeted by a very aesthetically pleasing taproom and lounge area. There are traditional restaurant style tables, sofas, and high top tables for whatever kind of social experience you’re going for. Upon walking up to the bar, you’ll notice a cool backdrop of barrels and other brewing equipment that gives off the impression that you’re right in the middle of the brewing process, a staple of any good taproom. You can also take growlers (32 & 64oz) home with you if you want to enjoy their fine ales away from their locale

Onto the beers, as is the tradition whenever I visit a brewery for the first time, a purchase of a flight was in order. They had 6 of their own beers on tap (including a 4% ABV ginger beer). $6 lets you try any four. I decided to go with the 2alarm (imperial red), burnout brown, pumper truck porter, and the steam engine (California common). It was a tie between the 2 alarm (4/5) and the burnout brown (4/5) for my favorites. I did not realize the 2 alarm was imperial until after a staff member informed me of this. I highly recommend giving this a try, it’s a very satisfying red. I imagine the burnout brown will be my go-to whenever visiting this brewery. There’s a toffee flavor to it and it’s an extremely sessionable American brown ale at a mere 5%. Despite its low ABV, there still enough body and malt to the taste as well.

The steam engine is a respectable effort for a California Common (3.5/5). I’m not overly crazy about this style of beer but I think it’s cool that they tried something that no other local brewery has tried yet. This is just my opinion on it, I’ve noticed it’s become very popular around town so it’s definitely worth giving a try. The pumper truck porter was a satisfying drink (3.5/5). My only knock on it was that I didn’t pick up anything else besides a thick, roasty flavor. I would get this beer again, however.

They do offer an IPA, uptown, which is an easy drinking, sessionable ipa.

The staff was very helpful. I didn’t get a chance to talk to any of the brewers but all of the workers present were plenty knowledgeable on the beers themselves. They allow you to bring food in and also have different food ordering options depending on what day of the week it is. If you look at the events section on their website, you’ll notice there’s a variety of functions going down at this brewery, including live music sets.

Firetrucker is a very welcome addition to Central Iowa and Iowa Brewers alike. I’m highly impressed with how well put-together their entire operation is. They’ve set the bar high for themselves and have an excellent vision. They have already made a big mark on the beer scene here in Des Moines and I look forward to seeing what else they can accomplish.

Beer Review #118: Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break Natale Pretty Please with a Cherry on Top

eveil twinThe name sold me on this brew, and with most Evil Twin offerings I was expecting it to be good. Some of their brews have been great, and some I thought missed the mark for my tastebuds, but this one seems like a can’t miss. Adding sour cherries to an imperial porter had me salivating on the spot so I grabbed a bottle which my local Hy-Vee had marked down to $7.99 from the original $13.99 price tag. 

I shared this bottle with a buddy of mine and before drinking it I went ahead and read some reviews on Untappd from some people whose opinions I respect and half of those fine folks found this beer to be a bit medicinal and didn’t care for it while others thought it to be one of their favorite porter style beers they’ve had. Here’s what I found:

Off the pour with a decent sized tan head. Dark black color and quite a bit of lacing around my glass. The aroma wasn’t dominated by the cherry at all but much like any imperial stout/porter; chocolate and coffee were very present. The taste right away was a bitter chocolate with a small amount of dark fruit present. Not a cherry overload, but I was hoping for more cherries than what I got. Maybe the “cherry on top” in the title suggests a tad bit of cherry flavoring and not a more abundant amount, so if that’s the case, my bad.

Overall, it was decent. At $13.99 a bottle I would pass as I was hoping for a little more than “decent”, but the $7.99 price tag made me feel better about the purchase. Was this something that needed to be fresh? If so, that’s my fault. I think a Founders Porter or Deschutes Black Butte could satisfy my porter needs just as well as this imperial, if not better.

REVIEW

STYLE: Imperial Porter

ABV: 11.5%

PURCHASED AT: Oakland Road Hy-Vee

POUR: Dark black with a thick, tan head.

AROMA: Dark chocolate and coffee.

TASTE: Dark chocolate and coffee with a touch of dark fruits.

Ratebeer.com rating: 98/100

Beeradvocate rating: 92/A

Overall: C+

My recommendation:I might take a little flack for this rating but it just didn’t do it for me. It was decent. That’s the bland word I would use to describe it. A lot of great porters out there that I would buy over this.