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!

Beer Baron’s Top 10 Iowa Beers of 2019!

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Another Top 10 list coming at you as I present to you, dear reader, my top 10 “Iowa Beers” of 2019! Once again, this list is of beers released in 2019, Iowa brewed, and with annual releases (Richard the Whale, GAZPROM!) they aren’t counted unless the brewery releases a beer with that base and a new adjunct to it. I’ve missed out on many beers this year, one being the B.A. Cake Walk from Pulpit which many of you were lucky enough to try. Another great year in Iowa Beer as our breweries keep turning out amazing things!

I’d also love to hear your Top 10 beers of the year, so shoot back on me here or on the Iowa Beer page on Facebook or follow me on Twitter! So, after tedious nights of drinking amazing beer, here’s my top 10 (in no particular order)!

**Big Grove Brewery Richard the Whale Hazelnut + Chocolate -11.5%- this is a beer that was overshadowed by the golden ticket release of Richard Coconut Vanilla, and maybe rightfully so as that beer is amazing, but if you have a bottle of this, drink it! You’d be hard pressed to find a beer with that much hazelnut flavor that is balanced perfect with chocolate. Big Grove continues to shine with their Richard series!

**Confluence Brewing Smoothest Road Hazy Triple IPA- 10% – Confluence teamed up with Weldwerks Brewing to come up with this Triple and they really nailed it. Smoothest in the title and that’s exactly what can be said about a triple that drinks like a regular hazy. Delicious and easy drinking, watch out for that 10% on this baby! Keep this coming Confluence!

**Clock House Brewing Pineapple Witch Slap– 6% – what a great year for Clock House as Todd and crew have been busy cranking out some delicious beers and even a few can/crowler releases. One of the most notable for me was an off shoot of their popular Witch Slap IPA, Pineapple Witch Slap. All the greatness from Witch Slap with some fresh tasting pineapple added to it. What I like the best in adjunct beers is when it doesn’t taste artificial, and this beer was the perfect example. Fresh pineapple, the perfect beer for a warm day or any day for that matter!

**Lion Bridge Brewing Home Baked – 11% – this was the beer that started off my 2019 and to top this beer would be quite an accomplishment! I must be a sucker for hazelnut in my stouts, and add some cinnamon and fudge and you have one of the best beers ever brewed in Iowa!

**Toppling Goliath Double Dry Hopped King Sue-7.8% – I’m not sure when this was actually released so if it was early then 2019, my bad. But, I recently had my first bottle of it and it has to be up there with the best IPAs brewed in the state. Delicious beer!

**Dimensional Brewing Imperial Peanut Butter Cup – 10% – was lucky enough to get this on tap on trip to Dubuque. If you did peanut butter porters/stouts then this is one you need to try. Not overly sweet either, that can be a deal breaker for me. Dimensional continues to do great things after celebrating their 1 year anniversary!

**Big Grove Richard the Whale Vanilla Coconut – 11.5% – one of the best beers of the year no doubt! The “golden ticket” beer has exceeded the hype. The coconut shines, and once again not too sweet. I don’t know how Big Grove can outdo themselves again next year, but I’m sure they will. A beer of the year nominee!

**Pulpit Rock Gravy Boat – 7.1% – I know it’s not the B.A. Cake Walk that would make everyone’s list if you tried it, but Pulpit is continually making great beers of almost every style. Their sours/stouts/pils/pastry stouts/IPAs are all delicious. Gravy Boat is an IPA that I could drink many of, and in fact, many of these pairs well with some Need Pizza!

**Clock House Snozberry Sour – 5% – one of the best kettle sours I’ve ever had as Clock House loaded this baby up with blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Sessionable and not overly tart. This would be ideal on a hot summer day!

**Lion Bridge Double Maple GAZPROM! – 12% – barrel aged January was amazing in 2019 and expectations have been set high for 2020! One of the highlights along with Home Baked was Double Maple GAZPROM! They upped the maple dosage and turned this into an even more decadent delight!

Well, there’s this year’s list…..Once again, sooooo many great beers being produced in our lovely state that it is hard to get your hands on all of them! It’s a great problem to have! Cheers to the breweries and the folks in the brewing industry and thanks to all the readers of this blog and my @iabeerbaron twitter handle, as well as the Iowa Beer Facebook members. I would love to hear your top 10 so give me a shout! Cheers!

 

GIVE AWAY TIME! Darkness Day Free Pass!

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It’s giveaway time! I will be giving away (1) free weekend pass to Surly Darkness Day which is held this year from September 27th to September 28th at the Somerset Amphitheater in Somerset, WI. The party kicks off on Friday with Dawn of Darkness beer festival which features 20 breweries from around the country not found in Minnesota or Wisconsin and will include Mikerphone, J. Wakefield, Other Half and TRVE. Then it’s the main event on Saturday when Darkness Day happens! This is when you will get your bottle of Darkness and have the opportunity to get variants as well –Double Stuffed, Mole, and Old Fashioned. There will be other exclusive beers, cask tappings and a day of music!

 Here’s what YOU need to do to enter the giveaway:
*Share this post on either Facebook or Twitter
*Tag me @iabeerbaron and use hashtag #SurlyDarknessDay
*Tag one friend who would be interested in attending
*Comment on your favorite Surly beer

*Names will be entered and then 1 winner will be randomly drawn on Thursday August 1st (1 week from today) which hopefully gives the winner enough time to plan their trip up north!

Here’s what YOU win!
*1 weekend pass to Darkness Day (Sept. 27th-28th)
*1 bottle of Darkness
*Reserved campground/parking from 9/27-9/29)

 Here’s what I’ll need from the winner:
*Full name
*email address
*street address
*phone number
The tickets will be sent via email and you’ll need to show an ID at the gate before entering. 

• All details on the event will be posted and updated here: surlydarknessday.com

 

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Former Big Grove Brewer Bill Heinrich Presents Kickshaw Barrel Works

barrelSome big news coming locally today as former Big Grove brewer, Bill Heinrich, has announced that he is starting up Kickshaw Barrel Works and Lion Bridge Brewery will be the host brewery for Kickshaw Barrel Works which will be a migratory brewery. It sounds like Mr. Heinrich is going to be focusing on sours, so if you like brett and lacto, this is going to be right up your alley! Congrats to Bill on this exciting new venture and I can’t wait to try the results! Here’s Kickshaw Barrel Works exclusive press release:

 Kickshaw Barrel Works
And now, a note to the beer universe:
I don’t know about you, but I love the intersection of sour beer and wood. I have an affinity for the multitude of forms that beer takes at that point, from light to full; soft to sharp; still to effervescent. The Belgian classic acid ales and the American experimental sours have each shown the depth and breadth of great beers that come from barrels and have always held me in awe of what can be created from natural complexity.
So I suppose that’s the starting point: a love of microbes, wood, malt, and hops that yield a complex matrix of acids and alcohols, esters and tannins, execution and presentation that is the world of creating and consuming sour beers. It seemed like an impossible dream to do it on my own, to explore the many techniques and styles while simultaneously bringing them to the people with whom I share this community of beer.
Fortunately for me (possibly for you, too, assuming I can make anything good), Quinton and Ana McClain at LION BRIDGE BREWING COMPANY have been unbelievably gracious in their offer to make theirs the inaugural host brewery for the migratory brewer Kickshaw Barrel Works. Quinton and I have worked together multiple times over the last eight years, and his vision for collaboratively creating this project is the rational anchor for my crazy-assed ideas for barrel fermentation of sour beers.
We will celebrate the formation of this effort with a collaboration brew utilizing the strengths of both Lion Bridge and Kickshaw, as we celebrate the strengths of oak, Brettanomyces, and Lactobacillus. And then it’s off to the races, as we fill Kickshaw barrels with all the experimental microflora and use all the experimental techniques that I can come up with.
Get yourself some antacids, friends, because things are about to get weird.
Santé!
Bill Heinrich
Kickshaw Barrel Works

Coming Soon to Shelves?! Abrasive, Sucks, The Abyss, Millstream Raspberry Latte Stout

surlySome things that may or may not be heading to Iowa in the upcoming weeks/months. There are a few that haven’t been confirmed for Iowa but we have seen in the past. So here are a few things that we will hopefully see soon.

*Millstream Raspberry Latte Stout – per a twitter conversation with @millstreambrew this will hit with distributors on December 6th. A great sounding stout for the winter months from an Iowa brewery.

*Surly Abrasive – a few reports/posts from message boards saying we can expect this when Surly rolls into Iowa full force come February. Hope to see a little trickle of it before then since it’s brewed in November, I believe.

Lagunitas Sucks – the 32 oz are supposedly suppose to hit our shelves in the next coming weeks. Haven’t heard about sixers of it but I would assume they would be as well. Anyone else have info on that to share it would be greatly appreciated.

Deschutes The Abyss- release at the brewhouse first and then to distro markets early November. Haven’t heard if we will be getting this one but I’m assuming so since we had last years.

**If you have any beer news or work in the beer industry and want something reviewed or a press release to give, contact me on twitter @iabeerbaron or benmed15@yahoo.com.

iabeerbaron's 4th Annual Family Beerfest Results!

For the last four years my family has gotten together and had our own little beer festival. Each person brings  six pack of beer, any beer they wish, and we rate the beers. The winner is determined by rating the beer on appearance, aroma, taste, and drinkability. The winner is awarded a nice little medal and bragging rights about winning the greatest beer competition ever. Anyway, here are this years results, going from worst to first with my comments about each beer added.

10. Indiana Pale Ale- usually you can’t go wrong with a Pale Ale. Citrus and hops dominate the flavor. However, for this beer something went really wrong. Aroma of bleu cheese, no hop character at all. Surprised it was even bottled. Terrible beer.

9. Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout- I think I might be the only one in my family who really liked this beer. Great chocolate flavor at the end, I think the high alcohol threw everyone off of this one. I would be more than happy to enjoy it again.
8. Steven’s Point Brewery Whole Hog Barley Wine Style Ale- Not a bad beer at all. The hard alcohol flavor was a nice warming feeling and the beer was smooth. I gave this beer a decent rating, just didn’t stack up with some of the other entries.
7. Potosi Brewing Company: Good Ole Potosi- I would put the Chocolate Stout and the Whole Hog way ahead of this one. I think it was decent, but the other two were much better to me. With Potosi expanding its distribution I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of their other beers at the family beerfest next year.

6. Millstream Brewing: Heferweizen- a good Hefeweizen beer with the banana, bubble gum, and clove flavor sticking out. Very smooth with a nice frothy head. This was Millstream’s third showing in iabeerbaron family beerfest; their John’s Generation finished second, and Iowa Pale Ale finished 4th.

5. Ale Asylum Hopalicious- my entry into the beerfest this year finishing with a respectable 5th place, (although I will go to my grave believing this should have been the damn winner). Nice hoppy flavor, citrusy and smooth. The beerbaron has yet to win but I stand by my choice. Might not be the last showing for Ale Asylum as the iabeerbaron sure loves their Bedlam! beer.
4. Goose Island Sophie- very tasty beer finishing in the top 4. Smooth and malty flavor. The beerbaron’s family is a big fan of Goose Island products so you can expect more to show up in a future festival.

3. Well’s Banana Bread- a very strong showing and a beer that really had a chance to win it. I think it scored high in every category except for drinkability. A love having one glass of banana bread beer but more than that would be pushing it.
2. Samuel Adams Winter Lager- The second Sam Adams entry as their Chocolate Bock finished second two years ago. A very nice winter ale with the perfect amount of spices and hops added to it. Finished in my top 4 and second overall. Nice showing!

1. Grays Oatmeal Stout- the iabeerbaron’s Family beerfest winner for 2010 is Grays Oatmeal Stout. The first stout to take home the prize. This beer was brought by the iabeerbaron’s lovely wife who has outshown the baron the last two years, although, the baron has taught her everything she knows about picking out a good beer:) A very nice oatmeal stout and very smooth. Was the hands down winner!

A great evening with some great beers and one really shitty one (thanks Tyler). Can’t wait for next year, what beer shall I bring?

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