Drink This! Big’s BBQ Jackhammer Stout

Bigs.jpgLiving in a small college town like Mount Vernon, IA it’s nice to have a few great options when it comes to beer and food. Chameleon’s Pub and Grub with about 10 craft beer lines focusing on the local breweries such as Big Grove, Lion Bridge, and Reunion and up a couple shops from Chameleon’s we have Lincoln Winebar that has the best pizza in the state along with a huge wine list and some very good craft beer bottles as well. Adding to those two places is a new BBQ joint right down the block.

Big’s BBQ is a welcome addition to the area adding a cuisine we didn’t have. Terrific ribs, brisket, and pulled pork are just a few of the options at Bigs, but what is really great (especially for me) is that they are also a brewpub. Turning out their own beer starting with 2 on their opening week, Big’s currently has around 6-7 of their own on tap. Last night, I was able to try their Jackhammer Stout. Checking in at 8.5%, this stout delivers in all aspects that you would like a stout to deliver in the flavor profile. Perhaps a bit thin but the roastiness along with chocolate and coffee with a tad of some dark fruit makes for a very drinkable stout with a very well-hidden 8.5% ABV.

Pair this beer with some ribs, brisket, or a sandwich and it’s a tough combination to beat. They’ve only been open for a few months but I like what the future holds for this place for both food and beer. You’ll have to make the trek to Mt. Vernon, and if you do, hit up Chameleon’s for a Lion Bridge Workman’s Comp, head to Winebar for a terrific pizza and then walk down the block for some ribs and Drink This! Jackhammer Stout at Big’s! Cheers!



A Taste of the Locals

beerbaronWith Cedar Rapids Beer Week behind us but  with American Craft Beer Week starting this week I thought I would take time to focus on some new and noteworthy offerings that have been given to us from the great brewers in our surrounding area and the places that serve them.

I understand it’s very difficult for many of us to get out as much as we’d like due to jobs, kids, money, etc., but here are a few things to try IF you are able to get out on the town. Keep in mind, the breweries in our area are very kid friendly! I think my kids have been to Lion Bridge, Big Grove, and Third Base more than they’ve been to McDonalds. My son would be able to recognize Bill Heinrich, Doug Goettsch and Quinton McClain before Ronald McDonald. Anyway, here are a few things to get after!

big grove**Big Grove Brewery**– brand new Barley Wine just hit the lines to go along with De Facto pale ale. Was able to try their Cucumber/Mint que sera. Not sure they will be doing any more pins of that but if you see it (Last Friday @Bricks) jump at any variants of Que Sera. Can’t forget the new double IPA, Cronos. Peach, pine, and citrus in a glass. An extremely drinkable double.Rabbit, Kent, and Chad are busting ass and getting some great beer in our glasses. Tasty stuff! The food is some of the best in the area as well as Chef Benjamin Smart and crew bring the goods. If they ever advertise a beer dinner, jump all of that shit, it’ll be worth it!

lion bridge**Lion Bridge Brewery** – having Yard Sale readily available is a treat. This is one of my favorites in the area and each batch seems to get better and better. Throw in Alec Travis’ Cowabunga Common (California Common), at least one Saison (I believe Jackhammer is on right now, fantastic brew), and they always reliable Workman’s Comp to round out the lineup. Throw in some pork nachos to go with the brew, and my friend, that is a good night!

third base**Third Base Brewery** – UNDERRATED BREWER ALERT!! Jim Johnston can flat out brew some damn great beer! Many of you know this already, many of you don’t. You see the strip mall brewery and probably pass by it without a thought. His Pink Drink, a berliner-weisse with hibiscus, rose hips, passion fruit, and orange peel, is excellent and refreshing. I’m still going crazy of Shame, a pale wheat/blonde. Reminds me of Gumballhead, maybe better? Next time driving on Blair’s Ferry, make it a point to stop in and drink a few, and don’t forget to grab some wings, they might be the best in the area!

iowa**Iowa Brewing Company**
– the new kid on the block. I’ve been there twice since they’ve opened and have enjoyed my experience each time. With the addition of some food trucks on weekends, expect this to be a major player in the brew game. Their citra pale ale was delicious, and like many other breweries in the area, I expect them to get better and better with time.


Need**Need Pizza**– the pizza is great and then they went ahead and put Pulpit Rock/Alluvial Whippy-Dip Ah double IPA on tap ALONG with Saftig. It made for a good night, but almost made for a night to call a cab. CR have uber yet? Take your significant other and kids to Need, grab a pie, drink a couple beers, and enjoy downtown.


lincoln**Lincoln Winebar (Mt. Vernon)** – if you don’t know Jesse Sauerbrei, you’re missing out. To go along with his humorous personality, knowledge of fine wines and beer, and making the best pizza in the area, is a guy who has really kept the food movement going in the small town of Mt. Vernon. Not only are there excellent pizzas, but an extensive wine list and a great selection of bottles of beer. Always personable, always willing to talk local food scene, talk wine and beer, Winebar is a standout.

chameleon's.jpg**Chameleon’s Pub and Grub (Mt. Vernon) ** – don’t let a small town bar fool you. Don’t think they won’t have much to offer in terms of beer. Nick at Chameleon’s has made sure that the craft beer geek in all of us will not go thirsty in Mt. Vernon. This little bar will usually have something from Lion Bridge/Big Grove/Exile/Peace Tree on tap to go along with the newest from New Belgium among others. The last time I was there I was able to try PeaceTrees Grapefruit IPA and I always leave with a growler of Workman’s Comp from Lion Bridge (YES! They do growler fills).

turner alley**Turner Alley** – I’ll take Travis Scheidecker’s Pils over just about any I’ve had in the states, Pivo Pils withstanding…maybe. His double IPA was excellent and the Brucemore Brown was roasty and delicious. I’m looking forward to more offerings and I need to get my ass over the taproom to have a few from the source.


the sausage foundry**Sausage Foundry (NewBo Market)** – go to Sausage Foundry, talk beer and sausage with Steven, leave with a bunch of tubular meats to enjoy. If you’re smart, get there on a Thursday before his latest offerings fly off the shelves!

Weekend is looking nice folks! I haven’t touched the Iowa City area yet and above is a list of greatness awaiting you! Go out, eat local, drink local, and support local!


Local Breweries and Restaurants Make Me Happy

Within the last 2 weeks I’ve been to quite a few local restaurants and breweries. Granted, I practically live in these places but lately I continue to be blow away with what these brilliant minds are doing. Let me start with what I love…the beer. The sweet, the hoppy, the malty, the chocolatey, the coffeey?, just beer.

third baseMy wife I headed to 3rd Base Brewing in Cedar Rapids to meet her bro-in-law and his family for a meal. I’m not going to lie, they had Abrasive on tap, and it was delicious. But, after my Abrasive, their Cobra coffee oatmeal stout caught my eye, and then after the first one, caught my taste buds again. A fantastic stout, wonderful for the coffee lover, wonderful for the stout lover, wonderful for the beer lover. 3rd Base has become a staple, a mainstay, a frequently attended spot for the Baron and family. Why? I get great beer, excellent food, and the best thing, I can take my kids.

lion bridgeOnto my next destination. Lion Bridge. Now, Quinton and Alec probably get sick of seeing my mug at this place. I probably should just rent an apartment nearby. I live 13 minutes and 36 seconds away from Lion Bridge and depending on my aggressiveness, can get their a bit sooner. Yellow light means speed up, correct? Anyway, the beer they brewed for St Pats and St. Joseph’s Day, the Olde No. 17 could easily replace Guinness as my go to green holiday stout. In fact, it should be go to year round stout. Brewed with potatoes to give it more dryness, this beer is what I picture people enjoying at the classic pubs across Ireland for years, now turns into what people enjoying at pubs/breweries in IOWA enjoying for years to come. Excellent stuff. And, once you finish that, I hope you have/had the opportunity to try a GAZPROM! and the collab Mellowdrama. All terrific!

big groveOff to Big Grove in Solon I go. Since opening close to two years ago I’ve spent more time at this establishment than I have at my workplace. Ok, a bit far-fetched, but seriously, I’m here alot. And why not? Another 11 minute and 24 second trip from door to door, being able to talk to the brewery, talk to the restaurant manager, talk to the manager, and at times enjoy beers with them. With their latest and greatest beer, Bill and company have hit one out of the park. The first ever, Iowa-brewed, Triple IPA. And like most of the things these folks do, there’s a terrific cause behind it. This brew benefits the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society of Eastern Iowa. The beer is the smoothest of all triple IPAs I’ve ever had and most doubles as well. I believe it checks in at 11.4%, but the booze is hidden remarkably well, making this dangerous so damn drinkable.

Onto the grub. All three of the above have terrific menus. Some are the basic bar/pub fare, some are locally sourced, some are unique and artisanal. All are amazing. Chef Ben Smart at Big Grove puts out some the best food in the area, his Beer Dinners are becoming legendary and their not even 2 years old yet! Now, onto my town. Mount Vernon, Iowa. Smaller college town that has 2 options I think can satisfy both beer and food. 1st place is Chameleon’s Pub and Grub. Nick and company continue to get craft beer on tap, pushing the envelope in a small town for craft beer can be very difficult. He’s working his ass off to do it. Lion Bridge, Big Grove, Exile, Kona, Summit all on tap, with Stone, Green Flash, Sam Adams, Founds coming in bottles. Get yourself a bacon, bleu-cheese burger, a local brew and sit back and enjoy and comfortable atmosphere.

lincolnThe next stop is Lincoln Wine Bar. A once, sometimes twice, sometimes three times a week stop for the Baron household is pushing out wood fired pizzas with nightly specials using locally sourced ingredients. All the pizzas I’ve ever had have been terrific. The last one being a goat cheese, shrimp, and jalapeno, pie of perfection. I just met Jesse (sp?) for the first time on my last stop. He had a full selection of new-to-Iowa Surly Beers which go excellent with their terrific pizzas. Not only Surly, but a excellent bottle list for such a small-spaced pizzeria. Not to mention, he also kicked out a Prairie Apple Brandy-Noir. Does he want draft lines? Absolutely. Right now the space is too tight but I think this guy is going to make it work one way or the other.

Okay, that’s too much typing for me. Time for a brew. The good news is, tons of people know about and support these places, the better news is, I think it’s only going to get better. Cheers!