Northside Oktoberfest: A Fall Spectacle

northside octoberfestShamed to say that this year was my first Northside Oktoberfest, but after yesterday, I can safely say that it won’t be my last. The folks at John’s Grocery, the City of Iowa City, all of the brewers and vendors really pulled out all the stops and made yesterday’s event one to remember.

I was lucky enough to get a Brewmaster’sphoto 1 ticket enabling me to take part in the “Real Ale” contest. The setup to get in was wonderfully done as lines were moving at a great pace and no one had to wait too long to get in. Once you get in, the Ale tasting began! 11 breweries were a part of this contest. After tasting each beer, the ticketholders were given a wooden token to put into the basket of whom they considered having the best real ale. Some excellent submissions in this contest as folks from Kalona, Big Grove, Tallgrass, Peace Tree, Confluence and more had beers for this contest. In the end, the winner with their double dry citra-hopped Arms Race Pale Ale was Big Grove Brewery in Solon!

photo 2After the real ale contest you then get to walk up and down the streets trying and tasting tons of beer, wine, soda, ciders, etc. I was very impressed with the amount of room given to this festival and to top it off, in the middle of the festival was a huge seating area, similar to a German Beer Hall, where there was a big screen showing the Iowa v. Wisconsin game! That really helped cap a beautiful Iowa day, as being able to sit, eat, and when you wanted a brew you simply got up and hit whatever tent was calling your name. Watching the Hawks beat Wisconsin was the cherry on the top.

I can’t comment much on the food as I prepared photo (2)myself for lunch at Brix Wine and Cheese Shop but it seems that most of the food that I saw looked delicious. Burgers, brats, pizza, steak sandwiches, it looked like a little bit of everything. Brix was tremendous. Some charcuterie and cheese to pair with Exile’s Raspberry Bohemian beer sure hit the spot.

photo 3So many great brews, so little time! Luckily I found a bunch that kept calling my name throughout the day. Call me a snob, put for a beer festival, I usually avoid hitting the lines where they are pouring out of cans or bottles, unless it’s something very rare to get. I usually stick with who brought some kegs in. The beers that really stood out to me were:

*Big Grove Brewery Que Sera w/ raspberries and honey. This was a blow away beer. The raspberry addition added that perfect amount of fresh fruit flavor and the honey added that sweetness to set off the tartness of this berliner weisse. I kept going back for this one and was very happy I got to try it!

*Lion Bridge Brewery Sorachi LIberace – a heavily hopped Saison using Sorachi Ace hops photo 4and once I had my nose in the glass I got a whiff of juicy fruit bubble gum and the same on the tongue followed by the dry grassiness that a saison gives. This will not be available at the brewery for another week I believe, so to be able to try it was a real treat. Another winner from the 2-time gold medalists at GABF.

*515 Brewing Reaper in the Rye – I could easily put their OJ IPA on here as well but
I’ve had that one before and wish I could have it whenever I wanted but I’ll go with their newer release. This heavily hopped cascadian dark/Black IPA was so good I had to go back for 2nds and then 3rds. The amarillo hops shine and pair nicely with the photo 5 (1)spiciness that the rye brings to the table. An excellent brew!

*Exile Raspberry Bohemian – I missed this at their tent but was informed it was on tap at Brix Wine and Cheese Shop. Luckily, I planned on getting a bite to eat at Brix so that confirmed my decision. A bit sour and tangy with the perfect amount of raspberry. This is a beer that I would love to keep stocked in my fridge. Refreshing and delicious!

*Peace Tree Sour Mash Saison – wasn’t sure what I would think of this one but I really enjoyed it. Very sour and tart but also refreshing and extremely drinkable. Between this and the No Coast citra-hopped Peace Tree really had a great day!

*Firetrucker Resuscitator Doppelbock – goes to show that almost every style of beer was well represented at this beer festival. Firetrucker showcasing a style that I usually don’t go out of my way for but after tasting theirs, I would be more than happy having this in my beer fridge arsenal on a constant basis. Excellent body, malty aroma, and the caramel and nuttiness on the flavor makes this the perfect beer for fall. Give me a slice of pumpkin pie to pair with this beer and I’m in heaven!

Lots of great bottled stuff like Goose Island Bourbon County, some great offerings from Founders, 30th Anniversary by Bells, Silva Stout from Green Flash, and quite a few things from Abu Nawas. A great event that I can’t recommend enough! Looking forward to next years already and I hope to see you there!

Iowa Breweries Gift Giving Guide 2014

santaDid everyone survive Bourbon County day?! We can now get back to a little normalcy in the beer world. Hope Thanksgiving went well and everyone drank some tasty brews but now it’s on to Christmas! And what better way to show someone you love them than with some great Iowa beer and apparel! (I was going to use the word swag but I think I’m too old). Below is a list I’ve compiled with the help of some great Iowa breweries of items that they have for sale. I’m a sucker for glassware and shirts from breweries so this stuff is right up my alley. The links that follow should take you to each breweries store, please let me know if a link is not working.

millstreamMillstream Brewing Company – Amana, IA:
*Clothing – shirts and hats ranging anywhere from $10-$50
*Glassware – pint glasses to growlers from $4.25 – $35.
*Miscellaneous – signs, koozies, coasters and more!
Baron’s pick: The new Millstream tshirts are pretty sweet and a good price at $17.50, but I think their old school metal sign is the way to go especially if you have a nice little Beer Cave to hang it in. Sign clocks in at $15.70.

firetruckerFiretrucker Brewery – Ankeny, IA: 

*Clothing – this upstart brewery has 2 t-shirts, a sweatshirt and kick-ass looking biking t-shirt to choose from ranging from $25-$135.
*Glassware – a 16 oz pint glass with their sweet looking logo at $12.
*Miscellaneous – stickers and coasters from $2-$5.
Baron’s pick: Going with the sweatshirt for $55 and the pint glass for $12. Love the logo on both, especially with a nice stout poured behind it.

singlespeedSinglespeed Brewery – Cedar Falls, IA:Shamefully I haven’t been to Singlespeed yet, but I’ve heard great things are happening in Cedar Falls. My New Year’s Resolution is to drink more at all Iowa Breweries! 🙂
*Clothing – t-shirts, hoodies, and brewers shirts ranging from $20-$50.
*Glassware – pub glasses, flasks, growlers ranging from $6-$60.
*Miscellaneous – gifts cards and bottle openers.
Baron’s pick: The beer glasses. Gift cards are available in any amount as well.

lion bridgeLion Bridge Brewery – Cedar Rapids, IA: A spot you can probably find me at on any given weekend. So thankful that they have opened up so close to home. Along with great beer the food is damn good as well (pork nachos anyone?).
*Clothing – t-shirts ranging in color. Nothing on the website yet but they do have a little shop setup in the brewery. I believe I got the last powder blue and red!
*Glassware – If you are a beer glass junkie like myself Lion Bridge can set you up. Taster glasses, pint glasses, snifters, etc. All there, all for sale…I believe. Along with growlers and meowlers.
*Miscellaneous – CSA. Their community sponsored ales program. A one time fee gets you discounts, a t-shirt, growler, 1st growler fill, and growler fills on speciality beers all for $80 I believe.
Baron’s Pick: Well, I’ve already picked up a shirt, glasses, and the CSA will be joined soon. So I guess I’ll recommend all three!

515515 Brewing – Clive, IA – Anytime I’m in the Des Moines area I make a stop at 515. Love the people here, love the atmosphere and love the beer! No online shop as of now but stop in and have a pint and grab something to take home with you.
*Clothing – last time I was there they had 3 different t-shirts to choose from. I got a sweet looking gray with the logo on it.
*Glassware – I vaguely remember a few different glasses to choose from. I bought a nice snifter, perfect for a nice stout or porter!
Baron’s Pick: – Love the t-shirt I own and my snifter, I highly recommend!

toppling goliath Toppling Goliath – Decorah, IA – Arguably the most recognized Iowa brewery has some really cool gear to pick up. I recently picked up a King Sue Teku glass (now kicking myself in the ass for not getting an Assassin Teku as well).
*Clothing – t-shirts, sweatshirts, a nice little pseudosue pack consisting of a hat, shirt, and two coasters.
*Glassware – well, the King Sue and Assassin Tekus rock the shit. Got one, want more. They also have pint glasses, chalices, snifters, with not just the TG logo, but their specific beer logos.
*Miscellaneous – openers, stickers, and coasters.
Baron’s Choice – The Teku is the obvious choice for me. These are awesome!

confluenceConfluence Brewing – Des Moines, IA – Confluence keeps rolling out some excellent brews. Really enjoyed Ayana’s Rhino Rye and hope to see it again in the future!
*Clothing -They have sweatshirts, bike jerseys, T’s and other apparel.
*Glassware – 64 oz and 32 oz growlers.
*Baron’s Choice – pick up a t-shirt. I’m not sure what color scheme they have as they don’t currently have an online store, but give them a call or drop them an email.

peace treePeace Tree Brewing – Knoxville, IA – Another brewery making big splashes is Peace Tree. Located in Knoxville, this brewery has some really sweet looking apparel and other offerings.
*Clothing – t-shirts and bicycle shirts ranging from $15-$75.
*Glassware – awesome looking glassware and even a cool pint glass and opener set.
*Miscellaneous – bottle caps, openers, patches, labels and more.
*Baron’s Choice – I love the Peace Tree Beanie found here: Added to my wishlist!

big groveBig Grove Brewery – Solon, IA – nothing has been hotter than Big Grove in Solon. With the amount of attention and recognition they get you’d think they would have been open for years, but it’s only been one! So much good things being created here both beer and food wise, makes this another frequent destination of the Baron.
*Clothing – upon walking in on my last visit I saw the wall to my left had new Big Grove t-shirts made by Tailgate Clothing company! Wonderfully comfortable shirts that always look great. I will be adding all three to my collection.
*Glassware – growlers and the last I was there they still had a few 1 year anniversary tulip glasses for sale. Awesome glasses, highly recommended!
Baron’s Choice – I must own the shirts! They are awesome! You will not be disappointed! Check them out on your next visit. I have 1 year anniversary glass that I great like it’s one of my own children and a growler that I fill frequently! All great stuff!


**This holiday, support your local brewery. The above are a few of the wonderful places we are lucky enough to have in our state. I assume most places have gift cards available as well. Below is a link to the complete list of Iowa breweries, find one near you, go there, drink beer, and buy some shit!**

Hot 25 of ’13: Part 2!

25Continuing on with my picks for the best beers in Eastern Iowa in the year 2013, I will start with another offering from Toppling Goliath. Now be warned, this won’t be their last entry either. They are one of the hottest and most sought after breweries right now and rightfully so. Back to the list………..

**Toppling Goliath pseudoSue**
A no-brainer really. I’ve talked this beer to death and I think that the sueonly thing I can say is that I can’t wait for the day that I can get this anytime, any day, I want. This is one of my favorite all-time beers. The comparisons between this and Zombie Dust continue with beer geeks that have had both. I can honestly say, that I would much rather has Sue than Zombie, and I’m not being homer. I think this is the better beer overall. Here’s more from brewery:

This single hop ale showcases the Citra hop. Named for the largest T-rex fossil ever discovered, she roars with ferocious aromas of grapefruit, citrus, mango and evergreen. Delicate in body with a mild bite in the finish.

Ratebeer: 100/100
Beeradvocate: 100/100

515**515 Brewery O.J. IPA**
Ok, ok, I know that Clive, IA isn’t exactly Eastern Iowa, but piss on it, this is my blog and it’s close enough. I was lucky enough to stop by 515 Brewery in Clive ( on a trip back from Kansas City. I got a flight of brews and enjoyed them very much, but the O.J. was the one that shined for me. This beer is scary drinkable. Refreshing, crisp, clean, with the perfect amount of hops. An awesome beer! Hopefully 515 will soon have growler fills (fingers crossed) or even start bottling (down the road???) so more people can enjoy their brews. But if the Des Moines area, this place is definitely worth the trip!

Ratebeer: N/A
Beeradvocate: N/A

evil twin**Evil Twin Barrel-Aged Biscotti Break**
This brew definitely came with a hefty price tag. I wasn’t able to secure one in Iowa but found the last bottle at a Steve’s in Madison, WI. I balked a bit at the $25 price tag, but went ahead with purchase, after my wife told me to just do it so I wouldn’t talk about not getting to try it. Great wife. Anyway, I’ve seen this on a lot of “Best Of 2013” lists. If you enjoyed the regular Biscotti then this is your next step. If you could get two, then lucky you, one now and one in a year or two. From the brewery:

Imperial Biscotti Break aged on Bourbon barrels for 9 months.

RATEBEER: 99/100

tank 7**Boulevard Tank 7**
This beer has been on our shelves for so long, and saison/farmhouse ales aren’t as glamorous as Imperial IPAs or barrel aged beers, but man, I love a great saison, and this is a great saison. This is a brew that is good anytime of the year. If you are looking to get into a new style of beer, try saisons. There are so many good ones that we have on our shelves (2 more will appear on my list:) that there is no excuse not to try them. More from the brewery:

Most breweries have at least one piece of equipment that’s just a bit persnickity. Here at Boulevard it’s fermenter number seven, the black sheep of our cellar family. Ironically, when our brewers were developing variations on a traditional Belgian-style farmhouse ale, the perfect combination of elements came together in that very vessel. You could call it fate, but they called it Tank 7, and so it is. Beginning with a flavorful surge of fruity aromatics and hoppy, grapefruit notes (Amarillo hops), this complex, straw-colored ale finishes long, dry and spicy.

RATEBEER: 99/100

bells**Bells Two Hearted Ale**
It’s been around a while. It’s still one of the best beers we have available year round on our shelves. This beer gets overlooked a lot of the time with all the anticipation of limited releases or seasonals, but when in doubt, you can always go to Two Hearted Ale. I used to pass this beer up, way back in the day, not taking the fish on the cover serious as a possible good-tasting brew. Don’t make the mistake of judging a beer by its cover because this is one tasty brew. I have since grown to love that fish. More from the brewery:

India Pale Ale style well suited for Hemingway-esque trips to the Upper Peninsula. American malts and enormous hop additions give this beer a crisp finish and incredible floral hop aroma.

RATEBEER: 100/100

So there’s the next ten. I am on my way tonight to Big Grove Brewery in Solon to try their new Citra hopped pale ale. I’ve heard nothing but great things and some have even said that it is better than……GASP……PSEUDOSUE!! DOUBLE GASP!! If that’s the case then they might have kick me out of the joint because I’m not leaving! CHEERS!!

A Trip to 515 Brewery; Clive, IA

515(2)I finally made it! After months and months of trying to find a time to get to Des Moines, my wife and I finally made it! Upon returning from a trip to Kansas City to visit some friends we made a little detour so we could hit up 515 Brewery ( Here’s more about how the brewery came to be from their website:

Ryan’s and Brandon’s wives would tell you that it was a fabulous plan that went horribly wrong. Our wives wanted to spend more time together and plotted to have us, Ryan and Brandon, become friends — the common denominator, brewing beer. Little did they realize that bringing us together and then adding Bailey and Dave to the mix would snowball our little home-brewing hobby into an actual brewing business. Now, hundreds of gallons of beer later, we’re starting our beer adventure and can’t wait to take you along with us.

515(3)Upon entering the brewery there are a ton of seats and I noticed a lady (the beer 515(4)broad @beer_broad) dishing up some suds to a couple who had 3 kids in there and watching the Bears/Lions game. So for my wife and I, that was definitely a positive, being able to have some good brews, watch football, and have the kids with (as long as they’re not too rowdy or loud) is nice, though we try to leave the kids at home. The Beer Broad was super friendly while I ordered a flight of four of their beers. I was happy to see they had a pumpkin brew on tap as well (not on as of this writing though 😦

515(1)I went for whatever has been talking about when referring to this brewery and that is the OJ IPA, their Dart Dodger, Lil’ Tart, and the pumpkin. The Lil’ Tart was refreshing, the pumpkin was perfect for the fall weather, and the Dart Dodger was an excellent IPA. I don’t want to sound like everyone else, but that OJ IPA is just a really special brew. So damn refreshing, so easy to drink, I would love to be able to grab a sixer of this at my local liquor store and go to town on it. Perfect for any weather, hot or cold, this is just a really tremendous beer; one of the best in Iowa in my opinion. After the sampler I went back for another OJ and grab a sweet glass to take home as 515(5)a souvenir. They do not have food or growlers (yet) but you can bring in your own grub to eat while you enjoy an OJ or any of their other brews.

(5156)My wife got some good pictures, (do I see an Imperial Stout in the works? YES!) and we both talked about how enjoyable it would be to have a great little brewery to be able to go to for a leisurely brew or two; so take note Des Moines area, 515 is legit, so get out and support them. Awesome brew, awesome people!

**I need another OJ ASAP**