Iowa Eats Destination: Luna Valley Farm; Decorah, IA

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Sitting on a beautiful farmstead somewhere on the outskirts of Decorah, Iowa is one of the best hidden food destinations Iowa has to offer. Luna Valley Farm and their brick oven pizza coupled with the setting that they offer make this an Iowa eats destination for sure.

Most of my blog visitors have more than likely been to Decorah as it has two of Iowa’s most popular breweries in Toppling Goliath and Pulpit Rock. Both places are well worth the drive there as well and I’m also a big fan of Mabe’s pizza…BUT…..if you are there on a Friday night, no dinner plans, get google maps up and get to Luna Valley. Not only can you eat there, drink some great local brews, but you can also go glamping in one of their cabin/tents! Also, they are only open from 4-8 and ONLY on Fridays! Get there early, grab a seat in the barn, and enjoy.

Seeing how many people made it there on this particular Friday night makes me want to rethink calling it a “hidden” food destination. It’s a popular spot, very popular. Once the dough is out, that’s all she wrote. Luckily, we got there in time and got our orders in. The first thing I noticed when ordering was the excellent beer selection! Pulpit Rock, TG, PIVO and a few others on tap. I ordered a Saftig, and that beer and that setting is about as good as it gets!

 

The pizza was wonderful. Chewy crust, fresh toppings, and a great sauce. We went with the Iowaiian – bacon, pineapple, and jalapeno and the margherita and friends got the Pepperoncini pizza. All 3 were fantastic! Even with how busy they were the staff was extremely friendly, helpful and added to what was a memorable evening! Check it out the next time you hit Decorah on Friday night, you won’t be disappointed in this Iowa Eats Destination!

Iowa Beer Baron’s Top 10 Iowa Beers of 2018!

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This is always a fun but difficult list to compile. Looking back at 2018 Iowa breweries all over the state have made some fantastic beers this year and continue to do so, as we as consumers are very lucky to have such excellent brewers in our state.

Living in Eastern Iowa it has been great to be able to get Big Grove, Lion Bridge, SingleSpeed, and Reunion in cans to go along with the great beers that are already available. I’m sure 2019 will be just as, if not better than 2018 in the year of Iowa beer.

For my list, these are beers that had to have been released in 2018. There are many that I didn’t try, so if your favorite didn’t make the list, my bad, chances are I didn’t get around to trying it. I would love to hear your favorites of 2018. All 10 of these have the chance to be awarded the most prestigious award a brewery can get: The Iowa Beer of the Year Award. GABF, eat your heart out. Beer of the Year will be awarded in my next post! Here we go:

**Big Grove Big Ed  7.8%– this one was a no doubter for me. I was stoked when they released and I’ll be stoked every time they re-release. A case or two every time for me please Big Grove. This juicy double IPA is one of Iowa’s best and is worth seeking out and is a challenger for Iowa Beer of the Year!

**Toppling Goliath Term Oil Maple Cakes – a quick trip to Decorah (which is never a bad thing) and my first trip to TG’s new spot allowed me a pour of this delicious beer. A bourbon barrel aged stout with maple. Absolutely delicious and a perfect breakfast beer!

**Pulpit Rock Seriously Bro’?6.1% – Marquee Pizza celebrated their 1 year anniversary with a terrific taplist that included two beers brewed by Pulpit Rock especially for this anniversary; one of which was Seriously Bro? a milkshake IPA. While, I’m a little behind on the milkshake IPA craze, this one was packed with orange zest and a hint of vanilla. Delicious!

**Lion Bridge Brewing Tidbits 6.7%– this beer was my summer staple. A delicious pale ale brewed with unfermented pineapple led to a tropical and refreshing beer to enjoy in the midwest heat all summer long. I hope to see this one again this summer!

**Barn Town Pink Guava Massacre4.6% ABV -between this and Little Drippy from Dimensional for my favorite two Iowa sours of the year. Guava in a beer just works so damn good and with this sour it was spot on. Luckily, a few places in Eastern Iowa got some bottles of this so I was able to indulge. Well done Barn Town, keep this one coming!

**Lion Bridge Spice Must Flow 8% ABV – this is the perfect beer for me in the fall and winter months in Iowa. Maple Syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg added to a black ale screams cold weather drinking! Lion Bridge added this in cans which made for an easy taste by walking my ass to the fridge.

**Pulpit Rock Koffee and Doughnuts 6.8% ABV – breakfast in glass is served. Pulpit took their Pour Over porter and added a shit load of donuts to it and you have a Koffee and Doughnuts. Hope this one pops back up again as this was delicious.

**Big Grove Richard the Whale Macaroon 10% ABV – their Richard base with the addition of toasted coconut and almonds…this beer blew me away and I couldn’t wait to get another glass. Big Grove has had an amazing year and their beers have been fantastic. This one might have topped them all though!

**Dimensional A Little Drippy – 5.5% ABV – the new kid on the block came out with a bang and has made some terrific beers and these guys are just going to keep getting better. I enjoyed every beer I had at Dimensional but A Little Drippy just hit on all cylinders. Once again guava got the taste buds and the addition of passion fruit and mango make this one damn fine sour!

**Big Grove Color TV – 7.8% ABV – a double dry hopped hazy IPA that lets the galaxy hop shine. Another winner by Big Grove and hopefully another beer that they will make again….and again. Looking forward to what these guys have in store for 2019!

Meet the Brewer @ Reds Alehouse: Toppling Goliath w/ Mornin’ Delight 10/10/18

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Reds Alehouse has announced its next Meet the Brewer event will feature Toppling Goliath and TG will be bringing their infamous Mornin’ Delight to be tapped at the event! Here’s more from Reds:

If It’s TGIF, Why are are looking forward to Wednesday more?

Oh yeah – Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. Meet the Brewery and Mornin’ Delight Release! Here are the deets:

Tapped all day – Imperial Golden Nugget, Thresher, Pseudo Sue, Golden Nugget

Tapping at 7pm – Mornin’ Delight

Pours will be on a first come, first serve basis. As a special little treat, Chef Abe is cooking up a dessert paring to go with your pour of MD.

Espresso Truffle: Local candied butternut squash, dark chocolate truffle, candied orange peel, espresso glee, hazelnut crumble, bourbon sea salt.

Stay tuned for teasers, prices and pictures in the time leading up to the release!

Iowa Beer Week in Review: Big Grove, Lion Bridge, Thew, TG, 3rd Base, BP, Millstream

Quite a few new releases making their ways to our local Iowa breweries with the big news of Big Grove brewery beers hitting our local liquor stores. Here’s more:

**Big Grove**– with a successful release of Easy Eddy cans last Saturday (I would like more of this please!) Big Grove followed that up with the release of 4 packs of First Launch Double Dry Hopped IPA. These cans hit select spots (see poster) and will be followed with the release of Big Grove’s core lineup. Exciting stuff coming from Solon and Iowa City. Also, that cask of Easy Eddy w/pineapple and mango was absolutely terrific. But yes, more Easy Eddy cans please!

first launch

**Lion Bridge Brewery** – swinging over to Cedar Rapids where Lion Bridge has been consistently busy supplying us with new and awesome beers. Zack Morris Cell Phone IPA release was a hit and delicious and they have followed that up with Tidbits Pineapple Pale Ale which was tapped yesterday (4/26). I’m looking forward to sucking a few of those down this weekend. Along with Tidbits, Lion Bridge is getting back to getting some of their amazing Saisons on the lines. This past week Plum Saison was tapped and prior they had their Apricot Saison on the lines. And last but not least for Lion Bridge was the release of one of my favorites…Coffee Kolsch! They even got that on the lines of my local watering hole in Mount Vernon, Chameleon’s Pub and Grub. Guessing Quinton, Rob and Alec did that just for me, thanks fellas!

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thew**Thew Brewing** – the new kid on the block continues to impress with some excellent offerings even though they are less than a month old! This week they released I-380 pale ale which checks in at 6.7% and Kingston Kolsch made its way to their lines. Thew brews have also found homes in a few other establishments in CR and the surrounding area so keep an eye out. Food Trucks and Friday $2 off pours make this your perfect post work pit stop today!

third base**Third Base Brewery** – some excellent beers brewed and consumed on Blair’s Ferry Road this past week as 3rd Base released their version of a hazy New England style IPA, Crooked Monkey. Along with the Monkey they also released a delicious double pils called Intergalactic Pilsner.

backpocket**Backpocket Brewing** – starting this week Backpocket offers 16 oz crowlers to be filled of your favorite Backpocket brew. They also released an Australian sparkling ale and two other beers. SOKOL juicy IPA and a variation of their Australian Sparkling ale made with tangerine purée, vanilla, lactose sugar, cinnamon and clove. Those all tap today (4/27)!

millstream**Millstream Brewing** – Iowa’s oldest brewery has been testing some brews on their pilot system and yesterday tapped a Session IPA. Brewery only for this one so get there and grab a taste.

**Barn Town Brewing** – heading over to the Des Moines area we have Barn Town continuing to pump out some very tasty ales. The addition of their beers to tap lines at 30hop, Marquee, and Tin Roost has been welcomed with open arms. Pulp non-Fiction is back on the lines at the brewery which hopefully means we will see it back on the lines near us. Along with that, they released Appaloosa, a New England style IPA that checks in at 7.3% and is currently available at Marquee Pizza in Coralville! They also announced that Sticky Juice will be their next bottle release. Stay tuned for more news on that!

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**Toppling Goliath** – the big news out of TG this week is the return of the popular Scorpius Morchella, a double IPA. This beer has been brewed and distro has started so keep your eyes peeled for this bad boy!

scorpius

**That’s all I have for this week. If I missed something or you have news or brews to share drop me a line! benmed15@yahoo.com Cheers!

Best of Iowa Beers (Part 1 of 2)

beerbaronWith another year coming to an end it’s time to get to the “Best of” Iowa beers in 2017. It was a terrific year for our state and this year for my list (and opinions) I’ve done just strictly Iowa brewed beers whereas in the past I did beers that are on Eastern Iowa shelves along with Iowa beers. To get the list down to 10 was difficult and I had to drink many beers to get through such a dilemma.

Now, I must say, I haven’t been able to get to Central and Western Iowa as much as I would have liked so you will see this list filled predominantly with beers brewed in Eastern Iowa. I wish I could get more or any 515, Barn Town, Marto, etc…but it’s not in the cards. Hopefully with the new year we see some more Iowa beers from Central and Western Iowa trickle into our tap lines. So, once again, I just want to note that there are MANY beers I haven’t tried, I don’t want to cause I shit storm (RIP Lahey), but hopefully the new year brings me new beer.

Alright, my criteria:
1. It has to be a beer I haven’t had before.
2. Seasonal and annual releases may fluctuate in ingredients but I do not count them if I have had it the previous year.
3. Iowa brewed only

Without further ado, here is part one of two, in no particular order of the best Iowa beers in 2017 (according to me).

fire skulls**Toppling Goliath – Fire, Skulls, and Money – I was deciding between this and Supa Sumo and the deciding factor was how much of this beer I’ve bought. Price was a little steeper than some TG releases but worth it for this brew. I believe this was their take/rendition of a West Coast style IPA.  I found it to be less bitter than many west coast styles with an excellent citra punch. Could easily have two of this brewin a sitting. I’ve seen some bottles around yet and had one last weekend. Tastes great, go grab some!
The Deets:

7% ABV
Inspired by a trip to the West Coast, designed to capture the wild spirit of adventure and brewed to be enjoyed with friends. This rich IPA is for those with wanderlust in their heart and fire in their eyes. Join our Citra, Mosaic, Galaxy and Nelson Hops on a journey to the bottom of your glass

coconut.png**SingleSpeed Coconut Migration – My beer of the summer. The first time I had it was sample at Need Pizza, my wife got a whole pint but I was a bit apprehensive, wasn’t sure the pina colada thing would fly in an IPA. Took a sip…was hooked. Sought it out all summer and ended up back and Need and the Map Room quite often hammering a few of these. Give me this poolside or beachside and I’m in heaven. I’m not sure if this is year round or not but I’ve been seeing it a little more often. If you dig Pina Coladas and you’re a hophead, this is the beer for you.
The Deets:

7.4% ABV

75 IBU
American Double IPA, rested on toasted coconut
A Pulpit Rock Brewing Co. (Decorah, IA) / SingleSpeed Brewing Co. Collaboration Brewing with the guys from Pulpit Rock is like taking a vacation. This time around our destination is the tropics. If you like Piña Coladas and/or getting caught in the rain you’re probably gonna be feeling this beer. If you don’t like either of those things, well that sucks for you. We still recommend ordering one.

richard.jpg**Big Grove Jean Luc Richard – The first time I had this I thought maybe the setting of the event I was at played into how much I loved it, and it may have a bit, but I’ve had since the Kroul Farm’s dinner and it is still a spectacular beer. Like many barrel-aged stouts, the flavor in this one shines as it warms and the creme brulee flavors take shape even more. Is it considered “dick swinging” if I brag about how I’m the number 1 drinker of this brew on untappd, or is that just a pathetic brag? Oh well. Not sure how often Big Grove will be kicking this bad boy out, but if you see, go after it!
The Deets:

10.5% ABV
Barrel aged imperial stout with vanilla beans, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Inspired by crème brûlèe.

dangler.jpg**Lion Bridge Dangler – another awesome Iowa brewed IPA made it’s debut this past summer and was a hit with many. Lower on the ABV than some IPAs, which is not a bad thing, made for an extremely drinkable IPA with all the tropical and citrus flavors you expect from a great IPA. Lion Bridge continues to make excellent beers in many different styles. One of my favorite places to go for a drink and bite to eat in Eastern Iowa. Also, their nachos and fries with the lemon aioli are fantastic.
The Deets:

5.9%
Pair Mosaic, Simcoe, and Idaho 7 hops with a fruit-forward yeast and a malt profile full of wheat and oats, and the result is a juice bomb full of creamy mango and orange flavors.

kickshaw**Kickshaw Vidi – Even though Bill has moved on to other things (fingers crossed he brews again), this beer blows me away every time I have it. Bottles may not have strayed too far away from Eastern Iowa, I’m happily sitting on a few, but if you come across one, you need to give it a try. Of course, it’s not an IPA or barrel-aged stout, but a wonderful golden ale/saison with greatness from the brett. You like sours and saisons, then you would enjoy this.

Alright, there’s the first five. Five more to come next week. I would love to know your favorites of the year! Cheers to all the Iowa breweries and brewers out there; your hard work and dedication is greatly appreciated!

And the best IPA in Iowa is……

gold.jpegBig Grove Brewery IPA

big grove

 

 

 

 

 

 

silver

Toppling Goliath Pompeii toppling goliath

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bronzeTurner Alley Mays Island IPAturner alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

**Thanks to all those who voted, congrats to the winners, maybe I can get some medals made up. This was fun and I had a lot of feedback! Thank you! After the barrel-aged/imperial stout voting ends on Sunday we will take a bit of break and pick back up with pale ale category! Cheers!**

Baron’s Best of 2015: Part 3

best ofMan, I’m sure dragging this out! Things to do folks! Here we are with part 3 of my favorite beers of 2015. Once again, these are beers I’ve had for the first time and are available for us to purchase here in Eastern Iowa. I appreciate the comments some of you folks are leaving with your thoughts and what you liked to drink in 2015, keep them coming in! Part 3, let’s do it!

surly*Surly Darkness – this is just the imperial stout, non-barrel aged version as I was to slow to get to the store to get myself a bottle of the b.a. version. Even so, I really enjoyed the basic imperial version of this beer. I’m not huge on dark fruit stouts usually, but this one was so wonderfully balanced that I wouldn’t think twice about buying a few more bottles of this. Chocolate covered cherries, coffee, dark chocolate, and other dark fruit flavors round out this excellent brew!

xhops.jpeg*Toppling Goliath X-Hops Gold – the best of the X-hops series in my opinion. Lot of fruit in this beer; honeydew melon, pineapple, some citrus round out this easy drinking pale ale. I’ve heard it’s similar to King Sue in the flavor profile but I haven’t had the most recent batch of the King, but I would gladly take a few more bottles of this.

 

 

classic*Blackberry Farm Saison – I thought about putting their Summer Saison in and also their Fall Saison that is aged in oak barrels, but I keep going back to their regular Saison. Crisp, dry, and gives you that belgian yeast with the spiciness of black pepper and fruitiness of lemon. Lovely brew, a staple in my fridge.

 

dick the whale*Big Grove Brewery Richard the Whale – what a great beer and the variants were excellent as well, but I’m going back to the regular Richard as my favorite of the 3 (although the Hazelnut tastes amazing right). Richard is a Russian Imperial Stout aged in Heaven Hill barrels. A lot of great chocolate notes from this beer and as it warms it tastes even better as the bourbon starts to shine. Creamy, delicious, and warming, Big Grove really knocked this one out.

lion bridge*Lion Bridge Sorachi Liberace – a sorachi ace hopped saison? Yes please! I drank a ton of this beer during the fall months. Citrus flavor from the hops meshes perfectly with the saison yeast. This beer is perfect for anytime of the year and hopefully will be available for drinking a growler on the deck this summer and listening to baseball games.

Baron’s Best of 2015: Part 2

best ofHere we go with part 2. Part 1 dominated by Iowa breweries so Part 2 I’ll mix it up a bit more. Once again, criteria has to be: 1) Available for purchase in Iowa in 2015 2) A beer I’ve ever tried before.

 

 

love buzz**Anchorage Brewing Love Buzz Saison – a style I’ve grown to love more and more and with Anchorage, Blackberry Farm (spoiler), and Lion Bridge constantly available, this is a style I’ll continue to enjoy! Roses, peppercorns, and orange peels star in this wonderful brew from Anchorage.

thresher.jpeg**Toppling Goliath Thresher – pale wheat ales were 1st introduced to me at Merkles’ Bar across from Wrigley in the form of 3 Floyds Gumballhead on tap. That was when I 1st started getting into craft so that beer and style are always exciting for me to try. Toppling Goliath takes a pale wheat and adds that TG IPAness to it. Very crushable and refreshing.


prairie.jpeg**Prairie Apple Brandy Noir
– enjoyed this bottle for the 1st time at Lincoln Winebar thanks to Jesse. Served at a perfect temperature, this beer was one to sip on and enjoy. Apple cider, caramel, dark fruits and a bit of burn from the booze made this a perfect winter stout…I just wish I had more.

photo (2)**Big Grove Brewery Trident XII – I think if there was a gun to my head and I had to pick my favorite beer I tried this year, this might be the winner. Melon and citrus flavors combine to bring this 11%ish double IPA seem like a deceitfully drinkable IPA.Plus, you know, I won my family beer fest with this brew.

 


ob.jpeg**Oskar Blues Death By Coconut
– I heard the 1st release of this was lacking coconut, luckily I got the second batch of this. This beer is an almond joy in beer form. Enjoyed it tailgating prior to the Iowa/Gopher game and hoping to see more of it our shelves. Oskar Blues outdid themselves with this one.

 

515**515 Passe  –  had this all the way down in Parkville, MO at the Parkville Beer Festival. Dave and company might have made the best pale ale in Iowa with this beer. The perfect combination of citrus and tropical fruit make this one of the better beers of the year. 515 is just a fantastic place to visit and I wish I could get to Des Moines more often.

 

talggrss.jpeg**Tallgrass Big RICC – I think if there was a vote on the best Tallgrass beer Big RICC might take home the gold. A 10.2% Russian Imperial Stout coming in a can that has a perfect balance of roasty malts, chocolate, and coffee. I hope Tallgrass keeps pushing this one down their lines!

Part 2 in the books! Let me know your thoughts!

Baron Family Beer Festival Results, Year 9: Big Grove Reigns Supreme!

photo (2).JPGYear 9 of my family’s beer festival is in the books and it was another great year of tasting some excellent brews. The cool thing about our beer festival is that there are many different palates and finding one beer that satisfies all of them can be really tough. Most of the guys prefer IPAs/Saisons/Sours and many of the ladies prefer stouts, porters, and fruit beers.

THE SCORING
Every year it’s a blind tasting. We usually try to break it up throughout the day. Along with it being blind, here’s how we score it:

Appearance /5
Aroma /5
Taste /15
Drinkability /5

So the total is out of 30 with the highest obviously being crowned the champion. Now, I’ve never won, my wife has won 3 times, my brother twice, and even my brother-in-law has a gold medal. What beer could I bring to this beer fest that everyone would enjoy? Nothing says Merry Christmas like a 12% imperial IPA, so at the very least, if I didn’t win I can drown my sorrows and get drunk. Onto the results:

chill clinton8th Place – Exile Chill Clinton Double Hemp Amber – I liked the taste of this beer, I think for most, the aroma was what got this a low score which led to people automatically not enjoying it. My brother-in-laws entry.

 

rover truck.jpeg7th Place – Toppling Goliath Rover Truck Stout – This is an ok stout. I didn’t score it terribly low but out of the two stouts we had this one was missing something. My sister-in-law’s entry.

6th Place – Peace Tree Blonde Fatale – Ipeade tree.jpeg really enjoy this beer and scored it well. I don’t think anyone really disliked it, but I don’t think anyone was in love with it either. My mom’s entry.

stone saison.jpeg5th Place – Stone Saison – a good saison, I enjoyed it, but missing a few things for a top 3 finish. My brother’s entry.

4th Place – Backpocket Wake Up Iowa Stout – a wake up iowavery good showing for Backpocket with this beer. Between the 2 stouts I thought this one had more roasty malts and good coffee flavor compared to the TG stout. My dad’s entry.

nelson3rd Place – Alpine Nelson – loved this brew! This was my 2nd place winner and it just missed out on 2nd place. Lovely addition to our ever-expanding beer options in Iowa. My wife’s entry.

2nd Place – Ballast Point Sculpin – a fresh bottle of sculpin.jpegSculpin is tough to beat and this beer was fresh! Apparently right off the truck and into our glasses and an excellent 1st showing for Ballast Point, this was my brother’s entry and he almost won, except………….THE BARON BROUGHT HIS GAME!

photo (2).JPG1st Place – Big Grove Brewery Trident XII – not only am I thrilled I actually won for once and I didn’t have to sit in the shadow of others for the 9th straight year but I won with an Iowa brewery and a place I pretty much visit every other day. Trident is on point. An excellent brew, and dangerously drinkable. My favorite moment is when tasting this, knowing it was mine, my brother looks down the table and mouths the words: “holy shit” Big Grove has won many awards since they’ve opened, but this has to be one of the better awards they’ve won 🙂 A lovely beer. I have pictures of my celebration but this is a PG site. A win for the Baron!

The wheels are already turning for next year’s beer fest. We’ve decided it will be an all Iowa brewery beer festival which will be great, so the question is, what should I bring next year?

Reds Alehouse Presents: Toppling Goliath and Surly Takeover Info for 11/13/15

redsA great looking list of brews will be tapped at Red’s Alehouse this Friday starting at 11:00 a.m and continues throughout the day. Here’s the info from Reds:

ANNOUNCEMENTS!!

This Friday’s beer lineup and details!

There will be NO Happy Hour on draft beers this Friday.

toppling goliath8oz and 16oz pours will surlybe offered on most beers.

Tapping at 11:00am:
Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. PseudoSue (no growlers)
TG Golden Nugget
TG Dorothy’s Lager
TG Light Speed (no growlers)
TG Smoove Opferator
Surly Brewing Company Furious
Surly Overrated
Surly Cacao Bender
Surly Todd the Axe Man (no growlers)
Surly Dumpster Fire

Tapping at 5:00pm:
TG Sosus (no growlers)
TG Zeelander (no growlers)
TG Thresher (no growlers)
Surly Brett Mikkels (no growlers)
Surly Abrasive (no growlers)
Surly Pentagram (no growlers)

Tapping at 7:30:
TG Mornin’ Delight (no growlers)
Surly Darkness (no growlers)

Details:
Starting at 5:30, tickets will go on sale for a 7oz pour of Mornin’ Delight AND Darkness. 1 ticket per person, $25/ticket, must be present and 21+ to purchase. If there is any beer left after all tickets have been collected, 7oz pours can then be purchased.

Beer Man Murph, Brewmasta Mike, and Chris Flenker from TG along with Omar, Jordan, Splinter, and Holly from Surly will be at Reds that evening. Man, that’s a whole lot of bigwigs under one roof!!

If you’re at Kinnick tailgating the next day, look for all of us! We’ll be floating around!