Benz Beer Fest Preview: What’s Big Grove Bringing?

big groveDo you see that? At the bottom of the image? Yes, Richard the Coffee will be pouring from growlers as well. No, not fills, but don’t get too down, just get your ass there and get a growler pour. Not to mention Turtle Hunter and a new Sugar Bottom Series brew…Cherry and Rhubarb? Can’t go wrong there. Get there early, Richard pours at 2, the rest is up all day until it’s gone. Don’t let the rain dissuade you, drink some great local beers!

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Eat Here! St. Burch Tavern; Iowa City, IA

IMG_0243.JPGEver since hearing about the purchase of what was the former Atlas restaurant by the BIg Grove/Pullman group and the announcement of changing it to a fresh seafood bar I’ve been chomping at the bit to visit. Finally, I got to head to St. Burch on Friday night and I must say, my expectations were exceeded.

I did call and make reservations which was a good idea since the place was absolutely packed. We waited down in the den which has sweet vibe to it. A ton of cocktails to choose from and a beer list that included some Big Grove offerings. I kept it a beer night had a couple blood orange arms race although next time I might have to try a couple of cocktails as they looked mighty tasty. After a brief wait our table was ready and I must say, St. Burch’s menu is tough to order from just because of so many terrific sounding options. Fresh seafood, burgers, sandwiches, steaks, chops, etc. all available and all mouth watering. Click HERE for a link to their menu.


We started off with the seafood tower, which you can see by the picture, I enjoyed a bit too much as I didn’t even get a picture of the food. There are 2 different “tower” options, one that feeds 2-3 and one that feeds 5-6. We got the 2-3 and it was excellent. Fresh oysters on the half shell, two different kinds I believe, salmon spread, shrimp cocktail, and tuna tartare. All excellent, the oysters didn’t stand a chance. Fresh and delicious. My table shared a bunch of entrees. We went with the Duroc pork chop, 2 orders of the lobster pot pie, and 3 fried oyster sliders. I enjoyed them all but the pork chop and the lobster pot pie were simply amazing. The pot pie is something you just have to order because it’s that awesome and you’ll regret not getting it if you don’t. The chop was cooked perfectly and served on a bed of cheddar cheese grits which were excellent as well.

So much good food to order. I did see someone order the short rib and it looked stunning, so I know for sure on my next trip I’ll be getting that and lobster pot pie and the seafood tower and a loose meat sandwich and a shit ton of oysters…… Two HUGE thumbs up to St. Burch, a restaurant that Iowa City/Cedar Rapids area needed. Cheers to Chef Smart and Cory Kent for handling a busy ass night shucking oysters and getting folks seated. Great time here, can’t wait to get back. Until then you guys need to eat here!

A Visit to the Iowa City Beer Caves

IMG_0518.JPGThis past Friday evening I was lucky enough to be part of a group that was able to tour the Iowa City beer caves. Need to give special thanks to Chad Young of Big Grove for giving me the opportunity to go and also Nate Kaeding for setting up the tour.

The tour started in the Brewery Square building right across the street from High Grounds Coffee shop in Iowa City, which is now a La James hair salon. Now, you can’t just head to the building and expect to give yourself you’re own tour, so don’t show up unless you want your hair done or nice little massage.

I don’t want to try to attempt a history lesson like Marlin Ingalls gave us about the history of the caves, but a little background on these caves that I gathered from our tour guide, Mr. Ingalls, says that there were 3 breweries between East Market and Linn Streets with the Union Brewery, now Brewery Square, is still there. According to Mr. Ingalls, the tunnels were constructed using limestone slabs in a stone box method.

As we made our way to caves, our first obstacle was the 25 foot climb down a rickety-ass ladder. I’m not huge fan of heights and just the initial task of getting a strong foothold and grasping of old stone was a challenge for me. I may have been shaking just a tad but I finally made it down. As Mr. Ingalls said, it’s one thing to talk about these tunnels and to look at the 3D map of them, but to actually see them in person, and be down in spot where brewers were making their beer was just a terrific experience and seeing the history of brewing in Iowa City is something I’ll never forget.





IMG_0528.JPGIMG_0529.JPGThere were a few spots where there was accumulating water and Mr. Ingalls believes this water was used to float the kegs/barrels down and made transferring of the heavy barrels a bit easier for the workers. After some questions about if the caves had exits, Mr. Ingalls did confirm they do not lead to the Iowa River but there are still a few parts of the caves that they are not sure what they were used for.
Read more on the caves at the links below and the next time you are down by Brewery Square in Iowa City think about the history that you’re walking above as you make your way to George’s for an Arms Race from Big Grove and a couple of cheeseburgers. Many thanks again to Chad Young, Nate Kaeding, and Marlin Ingalls for the great experience!