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.

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:


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)

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!

Red’s Alehouse Ballast Point Tapping Schedule, TG + Surly, and Bourbon County Happenings

redsHere is the schedule for Red’s Alehouse tapping schedule for the upcoming release of Ballast Point to the Iowa market as well as Surly/TG progressive tap takeover and a special pre-Thanksgiving Bourbon County tapping. Lots of great things happening at Reds in the upcoming months:

Let me hit ya with some knowledge!!

Tuesday November 3rd:
Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits tapping. First day in Iowa to get yourself some Sculpin, Grapefruit Sculpin, Victory at Sea and more! Beer tapping time TBD

Friday November 13th:
Surly Brewing Company and Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. Pre-Tailgate Party at the Alehouse! Before the Hawks take on Minnesota on Saturday, come party with some of the best breweries these respective states have to offer. Tap lineup will be announced as we get closer to the date, but you won’t want to miss out on this! Progressive tapping starting at 11am.

Wednesday November 25th:
Pre-Thanksgiving Party with Goose Island Bourbon County. 2014 Barleywine, 2011 BoCo, 2013 BoCo, 2014 Boco, 2013 Lolita and more will be tapped at 11am and the party will go until the law states we have to take your drinks away!


‪#‎redsalehouse‬ ‪#‎nocrapontap‬ ‪#‎ballastpoint‬ ‪#‎bourboncounty‬‪#‎welovebeerevents‬

Toppling Goliath will be canning by Summer!

toppling goliathThe following tweets have been sent out by Toppling Goliath Brewing out of Decorah, IA and the news is very exciting to say the least!

  1. : you messing with us this morning?” Nope big news for you. We should be canning by mid-summer.

  2. Hey how is that art coming for the 16 oz can? 🙂

Top 15 Iowa Beers of 2014: Part 3

The final installment has finally arrived. Looks like it’s going to be a rough week weather-wise in Eastern Iowa so I hope everyone has a fridge stocked full of their favorite brews. This was such a hard list to come up with and I think my 2015 version will be even more challenging as the breweries keep making terrific beer. We are a few weeks away from Coralville Brrr Fest so if you haven’t gotten your ticket yet head over to and do so! I hope to see many of you there! Onto part 3:

lion bridge**Lion Bridge Brewing Whirligig** a griesette (sp?) style beer that has the aroma and flavor of bazooka bubble gum, grass, and pepper. If this beer was canned or bottled it would be a perfect tailgating beer for Iowa football Saturdays. This beer goes to show that not everything has to be imperial or barrel-aged to have great flavor. Very similar to Saison style beers with the difference being the low ABV and a more distinct hope profile? Not 100% on that stat, either way a terrific brew.

**Toppling Goliath David** – I was lucky enough to get a bottle of this from fellow toppling goliathcraft beer lover @storminspank. This double IPA was brewed in collaboration with Treehouse Brewing out of Massachusetts. Citra and mosaic hops shine in this beer making it very refreshing and drinkable. Another example of TG’s dominance in the IPA category.

big grove**Big Grove Arms Race Pale Ale** – a staple for me with continuous growler fills. The good news is a bar in my town of Mt. Vernon actually has it on tap, so thanks to Bill and Nick at Chameleon’s Pub and Grub for having this as a choice. Big Grove just turned 1 and already made a mark, the sky’s the limit for the folks in Solon; both beer and food.

**Lion Bridge Untitled Saison** I’m a sucker for great saisons and Quinton at Lion lion bridgeBridge nailed it with this brew. So quenching and refreshing, I long for them to have this on tap again. I almost put their Pink Peppercorn Saison on here but it was pretty limited, but damn, that was an awesome brew as well.

toppling goliath**Toppling Goliath King Sue** – there isn’t much left to be said about the year TG has had. High demand nationwide, full flavored, refreshing beers, and King Sue might be close to being the best of the best. I hope to see this beer produced again sooner than later.

Some great beers on my list. What does your Top 15 look like? If the year 2014 gives us any indication at the direction of Iowa Craft Breweries, in 2015 we will be in for a real treat. Cheers!

Top 15 Iowa Beers of 2014: Part 2

Onto the next 5. While researching these 5 I came up with the realization that I need to get over to the Des Moines area more this year to try brews from Firetrucker, New American, Exile, and of course stop at 515. I’ll make this my New Year’s Resolution as I definitely need to try the great beers from these fine folks more often. Anyone have craft beer related New Year’s Eve plans? I’m torn between hitting up Big Grove for their prime rib or Lion Bridge… looks like I’ll do both! Onto the next 5:

kalona**Kalona Brewing Start-Up Stout** – I’m a sucker for great coffee beers as you’ve probably guessed and the folks in Kalona have brewed up a mighty tasty one. A great beer for winter months and excellent with your cocoa pebbles or your roast, Start-Up stout gives you the coffee you seek but if you let it warm a bit some chocolate shines through as well!

**Toppling Goliath 2014 Assassin** – I have to thanks Sam @blackstoneic for puttingtoppling goliath together the Tap Wars with Surly v. Toppling Goliath or trying this brew would have to have been a continuous dream. So creamy and smooth and easily drinkable makes it easy to see why the craft beer world seeks this beer out. Hope I can get a bottle or two of their 15 or hopefully the great Sam Hall and Blackstone can create another gem of a tap takeover.

millstream**Millstream Raspberry Latte Stout** – 3 stouts on one list? Blasphemy! The hopheads are probably getting pissed but it’s hard to ignore this one. Not only did Millstream nail this beer but it won the BARON FAMILY BEERFEST! Not many beers hold that acclaim so this is probably better than a gold at the Great American Beer Festival! Some folks have said too subtle on the raspberry, I think it is spot on. I get the perfect amount which makes this perfect for dessert or dare I say, another breakfast beer?

**Confluence Ayana’s Rhino Rye Double IPA** – I hadn’t heard anything about this beer but confluencewas able to get one at 30hop in Coralville. Juicy hops shine in this beer with the rye and malt adding a nice balance to this brew. I want to try more Confluence brews and I need to get to the brewery, these guys are doing things right and it show!

big grove**Big Grove Anniversary Double IPA** – brewed for their 1 year anniversary you would think I enjoyed this brew at the brewery, but no! I found myself sitting in my lovely town of Mt. Vernon at Chameleon’s Pub and Grub when I notice a Big Grove tap handle. What beer is it? I asked. Their anniversary double ipa, was the response. After I climbed back into my seat after falling over I began to order 1, then 2, then 3, and then slowly stagger to the door. LOVED THIS BREW! A recent tweet from Big Grove suggests another Double IPA tapping for tonight (New Year’s Eve)! Call me a homer, but Bill and crew at Big Grove are kicking out some the best tasting and most creative beers in Iowa, and for that I am thankful!

Thoughts? Let me know your list!

Restaurant Review: 30hop; Coralville, IA

30hopThe trend of some excellent craft beers and tasty food continues to strike in Eastern Iowa, this time in the Iowa River Landing area in Coralville. A location that already hosts Backpocket Brewing the newly opened Winestyles continues its impressive dedication to craft beer and food with 30hop. More from their website:

Trendy and yet a comfortable, urban-industrial, dining and drinking establishment will feature the area’s first rooftop patio. The contemporary menu will focus on simple, fresh, delicious offerings and will include 60 beers on tap on the main level and 30 beers on the rooftop. Through constant focus on superior service, exquisite food, and craft beers, guests will be eager to make 30hop a new hangout. Welcome to the newest addition to Iowa River Landing, Coralville’s gateway to the corridor.

photo 2 (13)As you approach it’s hard to ignore the rooftop seating and the view that you will experience when you get up there. But once you get in it’s hard to ignore the view of the 60 beers on tap! A fantastic looking chalkboard with ever-rotating lines of deliciousness greets you as you enter. I think I was too busy focusing on the board of beer as the hostess was trying to ask how many in my party, but eventually she got through to my beer-numbed mind and we took a spot near the back wall with the sweet looking giant American flag. photo 1 (13)

The beer menu was up-to-date and I noticed Toppling Goliath pseudosue, which I photo 3 (11)hear is good:), so I order a glass of greatness as my wife and I pondered our food move. So many things that looked intriguing and unique but I usually test a place by their wings. It might be a bit cliche but damn, I love wings. These were called Firecracker wings and they had an asian flare to them. Soy, sesame, cilantro with a cool blue cheese dipping sauce and fried crisp to perfection was the perfect starter and went well with my Sue.

photo 4 (6)And then it was on to the beast. Now, it wasn’t a huge burger size wise, but it was huge in flavor. The 50/50 burger at 30hop is 50% beef and 50% bacon and is mouth watering delicious. My wife and I agreed we would share it, (I could eat 2 by myself and then die a happy heart-attack death) and after our first few bites she made me promise I wouldn’t order it again because…..IT WAS SO FREAKING AWESOME! I loved this burger! A bit messy, but you really can’t go wrong with that mix of ingredients. Burger went terrific with a Deschutes Black Butte Porter and the trip overall was great. Was happy to meet a few beer lovers there as well!

After leaving I took a trip to Winstyles and picked up a few bottles of brew. (Evil Twin BA Imperial Biscotti Break!) This area really has it all, great food, shopping, and not too far from University of Iowa athletics. We will be back (and have been!).

Toppling Goliath 2014 Assassin Release Details

toppling goliathThe following comes Toppling Goliath’s website:

Assassin Gold Label 2014

Soon, our barrels of Assassin (our barrel aged imperial stout) will be ready to be blended and bottled.  We had been planning on having a brewery only release at our taproom brewery, but have decided against it.  As those of you know that have visited us, our taproom is quite small and has very limited parking.  Although we have offered all we can, we have been unable to secure any additional parking for this years event.  That fact, coupled with the number of our loyal fans that make the trek, have left us with the tough decisions of deciding against a release.  Not wanting to let you down is the main reason we are doing this.  We have decided that when the time comes and the beer is in bottles, most of it will be released to distribution.  This will undoubtedly disappoint some local people, so we are going to offer all mug club members the chance to purchase one bottle each, at cost.  The details of this will be emailed to all members after we bottle it.  Also, to pay back all the loyal locals who come in on a daily basis, I will from time to time just bring a case over with out announcement and it will be for sale at cost while supplies last. Who knows, maybe even a keg or two will show up too!

This years Assassin could be one of our best.  The barrels Mike was able to acquire are yielding very exciting flavors and a smoothness in the body that helps carry these flavors to your senses when sipping the treasure.

As far as Kentucky Brunch Gold Label and Mornin’ Delight, we have not decided what to do.  Although we want to see all of you in person for a release, we may have grown too large for our current location.   Mike is guessing we may yield 200 -400 bottles of Kentucky Brunch Gold.

Our long term goal is to have releases at our new brewery, which is better suited for parking, music, bottle share, etc.  Hopefully we will be ready for that in 2015.

Thanks again for supporting us and our endeavors to please you with our creations.  Making great beer and providing you with the best possible experience when you visit is our driving force!    -Clark, Barb and Mike

Cold Beer and Hot Dogs

blackstoneThere has to be something to get everyone through this awful winter we are having. Whether it’s looking forward to March Madness, cutting the grass, baseball season, or anything to get outside for a while and enjoy some rays, most of us are getting burnt out on these temps. Luckily, Blackstone restaurant in Iowa City comes up with a nice little concept that got me to think spring and also let me enjoy some new terrific Iowa brewed beers.

photo (5)A good hot dog to pair with a terrific beer or two is tough to beat. Blackstone put a couple gourmet hot dogs on their menu this past Thursday night to go along with some Iowa brewed beer and they hit a home run with it. The majority of the excitement was centered around Toppling Goliath releasing their King Sue. For those who don’t know King Sue is double citra IPA.

I decided to go with the “Hop Dog”, which was an all-beef dog, photo (6)caramelized onions, cheddar cheese, hop mustard, and house made pickled jalapeños and wasn’t disappointed. Terrific dog, and the recommended beer pairing was King Sue, times two of those for me and we are having a great evening.

photo (7) Kids were enjoying their meals, wife enjoying hers, King Sue was flowing great but I really had my eye on the Confluence Milk Man stout which was on nitro. Decided to go with it, and was glad I did. This is one of the best stouts I’ve had in a while and nitro makes it all the better.

I love these events, food and beer pairings, thinking outside the box a bit and Blackstone does a great job of this. This was a busy beer week in corridor, the Big Grove/Confluence collab was released, Reds Alehouse getting Central Waters, and this event at Blackstone. With two kids I have to pick and choose, although I wish I would have made it to all three.


These events are a welcome site and it’s exciting seeing people gather for good food and craft beer!