Best of Iowa Beer (Part 2 of 2)

baron.jpgFinally, after a few weeks I’m finally getting back to finishing the Top Ten list that everyone’s been waiting for….(crickets)…..Anyway, with all the great things happening in the Iowa beer scene, every year making a list becomes that more difficult. There are so many breweries I would like to visit, and some I wish I could spend more time at. New Year’s Resolutions are always fun but sometimes get forgotten. I, however, will make one of my Resolutions happen…I will make it to some more Iowa breweries, I will continue supporting my local breweries, and I will continue supporting the Iowa Beer Community! Onto the final five!

backpocket*Backpocket 5th Anniversary Stout – many are hailing this as their Iowa Beer of the Year and it would be hard to argue. I thought I had missed out on this beer until a lunch trip to Backpocket Pilot Pub in downtown Cedar Rapids and to my astonishment, 5th Anniversary was still on the lines. After a Grinch-like smile, I went ahead and ordered one…..and then another….and then…kidding, only two but it totally lived up to the hype. If you still are sitting on lucky bastard…

The deets:

12.3% ABV

Russian Imperial Stout

third base*Third Base Miserable in Mexico – I had this beer at the 2017 Brrr Fest (missing this year unfortunately) and was blown away. Jim has been making some great beers for a while now and has 3rd Base as an under the radar brewery.  Miserable and Mexico would have been the perfect beer to have these past few weeks in chilly-ass Iowa. Booziness from the bourbon, a bit of heat from the pepper and a ton of chocolate. Boozy Mexican hot chocolate..yes please! Well done Jim and 3rd Base!

The deets:

12.5% ABV

It all started when we put our “Endless Descent Into Ruin” imperial stout in a bourbon barrel and let it rest for 8 months. It emerged as “Miserable.” We then took Miserable and infused it with chocolate and chili peppers. Grown up Mexi Hot (Cold) chocolate

pulpi*Pulpit Rock Rechoncho – Another Brrr Fest 2017 beer and another imperial stout to add to my list. Another brew similar to a Mexico hot chocolate but with some added vanilla to it. Pulpit Rock has become a big time player in the Iowa beer game in a short amount of time and 2018 will be even bigger and better for them.

The deets:

12.2% ABV

Spanish for Pudgy – this decadent stout was brewed with Ancho and Chipotle chile peppers, cocoa, cinnamon, Mexican vanilla beans, & coffee.

barn town*Barn Town Brewery Pulp Non-Fiction – the new kid on the block has taken off pretty damn fast as a must try brewery! I finally got to visit and not only were the beers tasty but the food was excellent as well. Check out my write-up on Barn Town here: I was pleasantly surprised to this brew on tap at 30hop and have since seen some Barn Town pop up at a few other Eastern Iowa locations and hopefully we see them hit even more spots in 2018. A hazy, NE style juice bomb full of the murky, hoppy goodness!

The deets:


A juicy & hazy NEIPA brewed with Simcoe, El Dorado & Citra. Roy-al-ly hopped!

lion bridge*Lion Bridge Majestic Beast – I’ve been a fan of all of Lion Bridge’s IPAs when released but it seems recently they’ve really upped their game. Dangler was delicious, they now have Triple IPA that’s been barrel-aged slightly and one that I hope that they bring back is Majestic Beast. A 7% IPA that is extremely drinkable made with a journey into Lupulin powderes. Lion Bridge continues to impress, in every beer style, in food, in what it means to be a local business. More of this please!

The deets:


First foray into lupulin powders has produced this mirthful beverage. By using a hop with the green plant material removed we are only dry hopping a concentrated version of the aromatic oils found in eukanot and mosaic. Resinous and tropical; potent yet graceful.

There you have it! The list of Best of Iowa beers 2017. Chances are your list looks a bit different but that’s what makes drinking and trying local beer great! It was stressful, I’m sweating and need a beer. I also have to give a shout out to Nick Jubeck for creating the Iowa Beer Baron logo at the top of the post! Thanks man, check out and like his Facebook page by clicking here: Cheers to the breweries who make the beers, the restaurants and bars that serve them and cheers to 2018!


Lion Bridge Barrel Aged January continues with Single Barrel Oud Bruin!

lion bridgeBarrel-aged January at Lion Bridge Brewing company continues this week as they release their single barrel Oud Bruin. That’s not all from Lion Bridge this week as they also have some delicious sounding Coconut Imperial Brown Ale that will be tapped this Friday! I’m hoping to stop by this Sunday, so if you’re there give me a shout! Here’s more from Lion Bridge for this week:

The focus of week 1 was malt. Rich and lip-smacking maltiness. We hope you made it in to try the Mole XXXX. It was a delicious, nutritious?, spicy beer, and it sold out in a few hours. XXXX Mild and Eis Mild are still around if you weren’t able to make it in. Also unique and amazingly malty beers and made in slightly larger quantities.

This week we start off on the other end of the spectrum…acidity. We dabbled in an Oud Bruin (Flemish Style Sour Brown Ale) in 2017 which was really nice, but I dare say that with this 2018 version we are almost near perfection. In September 2016, we managed to score some fruited whiskey barrels from a guy who knows a guy who knows a gal, that already had a plethora of beautiful yeast and bacteria stuck in their tiny wooden pores. We brewed a 20bbl batch of our Oud Bruin base beer, filled these magic barrels, and waited…and waited…and waited. November 2017 we were like, “Hey, let’s see what we got.” And what we got was a “LET’S HI-FIVE THIS IS AMAZING!!” transformation. Cherry pie cherries, chocolate, bright acidity and loveliness just loveliness. We will eventually blend all the barrels together to make a bottled version, but we chose a barrel we especially loved to present it, unblended, as part of Barrel-Aged January 2018. We hope you enjoy Barrel #354.

We will have live music by Justin Goodchild this fine eve from 6-8pm.

Friday, 1/12 – In kind of a last minute epiphany, we decided not to empty every Wild Turkey Barrel of our Gobble Wobble. We saved 2 barrels with the idea that they were destined to become our Coconut Imperial Brown Ale. And guess what…they have become that. Ya, I know…pretty pretty exciting. The beer had a couple more months in the Wild Turkey barrels to smooth a bit more and soak up some booze, and then we blended it with a lot of toasted coconut. The result is a harmonious beverage that melds barrel and beer and coconut and longing for for warmer months and coziness with winter shelter. If acidity and “sour” beers ain’t your thing, don’t stray too far. On Friday, this beer will give you a warm hug.

Sunday 1/14 – We will pour a super limited 5 gallons of a coffee version of the liquid hug described above. We open at 11am!

And, as mentioned in the header…We are now opening for Lunch on Friday (11am), and 11am on Saturday and Sunday as well. You can now stop pacing about and get yourself to Lion Bridge earlier to get your Barrel-Aged January fix.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame! (Craft Beer and Local Food Offerings at Vets Memorial Stadium, Cedar Rapids)

kernels.gifNothing beats a nice summer day sitting in the seats at a baseball game, sipping on a cold brew and scarfing on a hot dog.

Cedar Rapids Kernels baseball has begun another year and I thought it would be nice to look at what they offer besides the fizzy yellow beer and a hot dog (although both tastes pretty damn good at a ballgame!).

I corresponded with Kernels’ Food and Beverage Manager Brett Heikkila and he listed quite a few options for craft beer lovers and also some local restaurants setting up stations at Vets.

lion bridgeCRAFT BEER
**Quite a few excellent craft options at Vets Memorial as they have the “Craft Cabin” which is located behind section 113 and rotates beers in throughout the season.  The “Craft Cabin” is currently serving Cedar Rapid’s own Lion Bridge beer. 

millstream**Behind section 103 you will find the Millstream Brewery Shack.  They feature 4 beers from Millstream Brewery in Amana;

Kernels Bases Loaded Pale Ale

Schild Brau

John’s White Ale

German Pilsner

**Behind section 114 you will find Johnson Brothers Beer Stand which offers beers from 3 different breweries; Bell’s, Deschutes, and Surly. Currently you will find these offerings:

Surly Hell

Surly Furious


Fresh Squeezed

It’s hard for me to pass up stopping at Klement’s Hot Dog stand on the 3rd base line and order my usual dog with grilled onions, sauerkraut, mushrooms and mustard but Vets does offer some fantastic alternatives and local alternatives as well!

In the middle of the concourse, between sections 109 and 112, you will find the local food vendors which, this year, includes Q-Dogs BBQ! Q-Dogs is offering their BBQ Sundae and their pulled pork sandwiches. 

There is also Hacienda and La Cantina (owned by brothers). They share a food stand throughout the season offering nachos, burritos, etc.

Plenty of great eats and drinks at the ballpark in CR this summer. Get out and check out a Kernels game! Non-craft drinkers, don’t worry, still plenty of macro beer too! See you at the ballpark this summer! 

Best “New” Beers of 2016

2016.pngOh yes, another Top 10 list. Everyone loves to read a top 10 list; either to trash it, agree with it, discuss it, or do all of the above. My top 10 list of favorite “new” beers of the year has certain criteria to meet. The beer must:

1: Be a beer I had not tasted previously

2: Must be available for purchase at Eastern Iowa breweries, restaurants, or liquor stores.

That’s it.

This list could easily be 25-50 beers deep, but I finally got it down to 10. Last year my list was a tad excessive so I refocused, recollected, and thought long and hard. This is purely subjective and I know I probably left one off that made your list so feel free to respond with your top 10, top 5, or just your favorite of the year. So, without further ado, in no particular order, the Baron’s Top 10:

pirate noir.jpg

**Prairie Pirate Noir – I just had this beer this past weekend and was absolutely blown away. Part of 4 variants released recently in Eastern Iowa and this one was my favorite of the 4. All very good, but this one stood out. Rum barrels shine a bit more in this beer than in Pirate Bomb! A very viscous stout and perfect for a chilly Iowa day. I would love more of this!

mondos**Reunion Tank Puncher – I hope folks were able to try this beer from Reunion and I hope they decide to make more of it as well. This was my entry into my family beer festival and eventual gold medal winner (back to back for me :). This is the perfect beer for the tropical hop crazed beer lover. Reunion was out the last time I checked, let’s hope they get this one up and rolling again!

lion-bridge**Lion Bridge Gobble Wobble – take a traditional style brown masterfully done by Lion Bridge and age it on Wild Turkey barrels…what do you get? An excellent cold weather brew! The taste from the barrel pairs well perfect with the nuttiness of the brown to give you the a great companion to warm you up this winter.


**Kickshaw Pipo– watermelon shines in this sour/blonde beer from Kickshaw. Stocking up on this one as I’m looking forward to a few glasses of this during the summer months but damn it sure is tasty along side a salad and even better with some fish tacos! Looking forward to more from Bill and Kickshaw!

img_0804**Summit Unchained: Dark Infusion – this beer made my Drink This! write up. You can view that here: Summit gave us one of the best stouts of the year IMO and luckily I’m still able to grab four packs of this from the shelves. Almost chocolate covered caramel with some coffee splashed in. Stout lovers will rejoice for this brew. No need for barrels, this is perfect as is.


Odell Jolly Russian– I must have a thing for rum that was apparent until drinking this and Pirate Noir. So many great barrel aged beers available to us this year and I was happy to get a chance to try this one. The dark roast and coffee flavors blend nicely with the rum barrel. I would love a few more bottles of this!

big grove**Big Grove Brewery Richard and Pralines – keep the barrel-aged year going with a brew from a local brewery. Big Grove has made their mark with some great pales/IPAs and their popular Richard the Whale and variants. This variant adds a bit of sweetness to Richard. If you can still get a pour of this, order yourself an Arms Race as this warms and then you’ll be in for a real treat. With the opening of the new brewery on the horizon it will be interesting to see what Big Grove has in store for us! 

pulpi**Pulpit Rock Loopy Lynn – a relative newcomer to the Iowa beer scene and right across the street from TG, Pulpit Rock has become a big time player making some awesome brews! I had this double IPA at a Pulpit tap takeover at Blackstone Restaurant in Iowa City and was blown away. City shines though on this juicy double. I really want more of this!

**Pulpit Rock For the Joy of Almonds – liquid Almond Joy. Amazing beer on its own or for dessert. Pulpit takes their milk stout and ages it on toasted coconut, cocoa nibs, and almonds to give you silky, smooth, delicious stout. Pulpit brews are starting to pop up more in the Eastern Iowa area. Need Pizzeria in Cedar Rapids has had them on frequently and Reds Alehouse is starting to get some kegs as well. Great things coming out of Decorah.

toppling goliath**Toppling Goliath Double Dry Hopped Sue – How do you make an already impressive and sought after beer more impressive and sought after? Double Dry hop that bad boy and that’s what Toppling Goliath did with PseudoSue. More hops equals more hazy goodness from this beer. Hopefully this makes a return this summer as this would make a fine companion to some grilling in the Iowa heat.

Honorable Mentions:
Odell Elephunk, 3rd Base Friends Forever, Pulpit Rock Mighty Fine, New Holland Dragon’s Milk Coconut Rum Reserve, Lagunitas High Westified, Prairie Apple Brandy Noir, Big Grove Raspberry Que Sera.

There’s the list. There were some beers I wish I could’ve tried but missed out on, there were some that would make many lists and some that made mine but not even scratch the surface of yours. My New Year’s Resolution is keep trying to get to the Iowa breweries. I would love some more Alluvial and 515 in my life. I would love to see what beers made your list. Maybe it’s time for another Best of Iowa poll? Happy New Year!

Barrel-Aged January Returning to Lion Bridge Brewery

lion bridgeIt used to suck to have a birthday in the month of January, but thankfully Lion Bridge Brewery just turned what is usually a shitty, cold, dark, month into a glorious, beer-filled month! Lion Bridge Brewery in Cedar Rapids just released the details on their Barrel-Aged January releases and lineup looks outstanding. These are going to be some can’t miss beers folks so I hope you get to try as many as possible. Here’s the release deets courtesy of Lion Bridge’s Facebook page which you can view here:

You have all patiently waited for the past year. We have been carefully filling barrels and planning how best to counteract the frigid month of January with soul-warming beers.

Here’s the lineup for 2017’s Barrel Aged January:

Tues 01/03 – CSA member private event. This event is for members only. If you aren’t a member of the our Community Supported Ales Program, be sure to get one for you or as a gift for your loved ones for the holiday. It’s the gift that keeps on giving:
*Lion Bridge Barrel-Aged January 2017 Rastal glassware for pre-sale!

Wed 01/04- Winter Warmer (English Old Ale aged in Templeton Rye Barrels, 10.5%) – A big, complex beer that is sure to warm the cockles of your heart. And let’s face it, who doesn’t want their cockles warmed?
*Featuring live acoustic music 6-9pm from Kevin Burt, Brett Messenger & Ben Soltau

Wed 01/11-Barrel-Aged Click Bait – (Double IPA kissed by Whiskey Barrels, 9%) – 3 short weeks in Cedar Ridge barrels contributes slight vanilla and whiskey characteristics, but a big dry-hop post aging produces a unique addition to our barrel-aged line-up.
*Featuring live music 6-9pm by Devin Scott The Duke of Uke

Sat 01/14- Sour Cherry Ale (6%)- A low-hopped version of our Kundera Kölsch went into 2 wine barrels dosed with Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus and almost 100lbs of sour cherries. Here it is!

Wed 01/18- The Royal Wee (Strong Scotch Ale aged in Heaven Hill Bourbon Barrels, 9%)- A Strong Scottish Ale that is malty, rich, and slightly smokey.
*Featuring Lion Bridge Barrel-Aged January 2017 Rastal glassware giveaway!

Wed 01/25- GAZPROM! (Russian Imperial Stout aged in Buffalo Trace Barrels, 12%) – Viscous and black. After primary fermentation this oily, Russian giant is re-fermented with dark maple syrup in bourbon barrels then blended back together to add consistency and complexity. 2016 GABF Bronze Medal Winner for Specialty Beer!
*Featuring live music 6-9pm by Cedar County Cobras

Sat 01/28- 2015, 2016, 2017 GAZPROM! Vertical @ 3pm along with a keg of an unoaked GAZPROM!

Cheers and hope you can join us for a great January!

Mt. Vernon Rd. Hy-Vee in CR Releasing Lion Bridge Brewing Maple Disaster Bottles: 11/22/16

CxOwLlaWEAIHFDB.jpgMt. Vernon Road Hy-Vee in Cedar Rapids will be releasing Lion Bridge Brewing Maple Disaster bottles starting at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday November 22nd. This brew has been aged on Cedar Ridge bourbon barrels. There is a 1 bottle limit on from 5-6 and any bottles left will be up for sale. The bottles will be 750 ml flip tops.

Lion Bridge will be on hand to sample some brews. Cedar Ridge will be here to sample the bourbon that was in the barrels used to make this Maple Disaster. That bourbon will also be for sale so you can get bourbon and beer that were created in the same barrels.

lion bridge

Restaurant Review: The Pig and Porter; Cedar Rapids NewBo District

IMG_0489.JPGThe wait is over…The Pig and Porter has finally opened and I was able to make a trip over with wife and my 2 year old daughter (she did better than I thought she would, and yes! they have high chairs!). I’ve had my eye on this place as soon as the sign went up in front, anytime you include the fine swine, you know it’s gotta be good!

The bar is the first thing you see when walking in and a big chalkboard with all the beer that they have on tap. Lion Bridge Kundera Kolsch? 90 degrees, yes, I think so. Tank 7, you bet! Anyway, 12 beers on tap plus High Life in a bottle, my guess is the lines will be rotating quite a bit.IMG_0488

FullSizeRender (4).jpgA busy night as the outdoor seating was starting to pick up, we were initially sitting where the sun was hitting but their server was kind enough to ask if we’d like to move which was a great gesture. So we moved close to the open kitchen, which I love, as you get to see the chefs in their element.

The menu. New American cuisine, with small plates and large plates to share with someone else. There was no doubt we were going to start with the garlic fries and that’s what we went with. I’ve had many a french fry as has my wife, and she declares these as the GREATEST FRIES she’s ever had! They were served with house made smoked ketchup AND french onion dip which were both on point. The fries were crispy on the outside with the perfect amount of salt and the great garlic flavor and nice and soft in the middle. I know it’s fries, but I get excited about great fries. I’ve had too many that were a mushy damn nightmare. Not these, order these, and order more ketchup + onion dip! We licked that bowl clean!FullSizeRender (3)

FullSizeRender (2).jpgAfter the fries we were lucky enough to get a taste of the Red Hot Sausage with house smoked beans. The sausage was made in house as were the beans and topped with an over easy egg, homemade corn bread croutons, and some thin sliced onion! AWESOME! Loved it. The sausage was spicy so make sure you have a cold beer nearby but it was packed with flavor. The house-made beans were some of the best beans I’ve ever had. A little sweet, a little smoky and a perfect pairing with that sausage. Crack that egg yolk over the top of all of it and it could make for a heavenly breakfast. IMG_0482.JPG

The green beans. The dishes that chefs come up with amaze me at times, and this is one. On paper it doesn’t sound too appealing to me but I’m so glad my wife wanted to order it because it was fantastic! The green beans were served in an eel sauce, with, I believe,smoked eel and crispy shallots. SO…F’ing….GOOD. Order this. (Pacifier not included)FullSizeRender (2).jpg

And then the Caesar salad. Perfectly dressed with pickled green grapes and parsnip croutons. Wonderfully refreshing for the hot day and something I’ll probably order every time I go. I’ll take a bowl full of those grapes on the side as well. IMG_0486.JPG

Another great addition to the Cedar Rapids Food scene. We had many dishes and enjoyed each one, but the menu still has a lot to offer as that roasted chicken did not go unnoticed! My wife and I highly recommend it! Andi, the server, and Will Monk, co-founder, were so helpful and kind. Terrific atmosphere with terrific people running the show. Congrats to Will and a tip of the hat to the chef and kitchen staff. We will be back for sure and hopefully soon! For more info on The Pig and Porter visit their Facebook page here: The Pig and Porter

Lion Bridge Tapping Mushroom Beers During Houby Days; May 20-22

lion bridgeLion Bridge Brewery in Cedar Rapids will once again be tapping some mushroom beers during Houby Days. Houby Days is a yearly 3 day festival celebrating the wonderful fungus!  Two “mushroom” beers will be tapped that day along with more events during this fun weekend. Here’s more from Lion Bridge’s newsletter:

Mushroom Beers for HOUBY DAYS!

Houby Days is a yearly 3-day Mushroom Festival right here in Czech Village.This year is from Friday May 20 to Sunday May 22.

Happening all day: carnival rides, street food vendors, craft market, live music, beer garden in the LB parking lot, and two mushroom beers:

Chanterelle Disaster (Mushroom Porter, 5.8%)
Celebrate the glorious mystery that is fungus. Chanterelle mushrooms contribute a unique fruit character to our world-class porter.  It’s not Houby Days without a pint of mushroom beer!

Oyster Disaster (Mushrooms Porter, 5.8%)
You may have heard of oyster stout? Well, how about oyster mushroom porter. The unique briny character of the oyster mushroom pairs perfectly with our world-class porter. Embrace the Houby!

LIVE MUSIC  on Friday evening from “The Polka Kings of Walford.”

Mt. Vernon Rd. Hy-Vee Hosting 99 Bottle Beer Club Event May 10th from 5-7

99 bottles.jpgIf you’re a member of the 99 Bottle Beer Club, Mt. Vernon Rd. Hy-Vee in Cedar Rapids is hosting a beer and food tasting event. Bryan and Nate are doing great things at this Hy-Vee and Lion Bridge will have some of their beers on tap. Here’s more on this event courtesy of Hy-Vee email:

We are less than a week away from our 99 Bottle Beer Club Members Only Event, so we just wanted to send out a little reminder. The event is Tuesday May 10th from 5pm-7pm in our Tasting Room. This is a free event for all members and we will have some members only specials on beer purchases after the event. We are featuring a couple of gems from Lion Bridge Brewing Company and our chefs will have some awesome things to nibble on throughout the night. This is a great chance to come, socialize, eat, drink and be merry!! Be sure to wear your 99 Bottle T-Shirt!! Also all next week is Cedar Rapids Beer Week. Make sure to check out all of the events we are having at our store, as well as all of the events going on around town!!crcb.jpg