Friday, November 14, 2014

i-BEST | Iowa Brewers Education Seminar & Tippling

Howdy folks! Greg here. Last weekend we had the pleasure of attending the first annual Iowa Brewers Education Seminar & Tippling (i-BEST). We were kindly invited as blogger guests by J. Wilson, Beer Drinker of the Year in 2012 and author of Iowa Pints: A Guide to Iowa Breweries. The event was held at one of our favorite haunts: Lion Bridge Brewing Company in Cedar Rapids. One of the most fun parts was that it was held in the actual brewing area. Quinton has all of his shiny equipment behind glass windows for everyone in the brewery to see, but it is nice to actually get a close look at the equipment.

My favorite part was definitely the Lab 101 session.  Here, Cory from Granite City went over how to set up a lab. I’m not talking your home science experiment lab, but a legit lab jacket, microscope, and other fancy equipment I have no idea what is lab. He explained that one of the bigger issues in the craft beer market today is the lack of quality control. Most of the quality control can be done through keeping clean equipment and proper brewing. 

What happens if an issue occurs? That is where a lab will make all the difference. It can be instrumental in narrowing down what nasties are getting into your beer and how. Of course all the big guys have one. When we visited Stone Brewing Co., they had a few. All the big beer companies have at least lab at each brewing facility. Why don’t the smaller craft breweries have labs? They can be expensive. The guys that are brewing on a two barrel system are going to have a hard time justifying spending that much money.  

After Cory presented, Matt from Backpocket Brewing gave a presentation as well. His was a bit different. He showed a lot of the not-so-technical or expensive ways to do quality control. Cory did a great job of showing what a brewery should do. Matt did a great job showing what a brewery on a limited budget can do. 

One of the best parts about this event was being in the room with (and sitting next to) all of the brewers we respect, whose breweries we frequent and beers we enjoy. After his presentation, I was able to chat with Matt and several other of the other brewers. We also were nearby the Keg Creek guys. (Keg Creek is the brewery that gave me my first taste of a great saison.) I ended up telling him about how I won a homebrewing competition partly because trying his beer got me interested in that beer style. (We really need to get out to the other side of the state to hit Keg Creek up some time.) We also sat near the New American guys – really cool dudes and I’d love to visit their brewery. Definitely a stop on our next Des Moines area trip.

The next session was the Distributors' Panel, represented by 7G, Fleck, and Founders. Man! That was some interesting and intense conversation. Some of the convo put the panel in the hot seat, some of it was other brewers defending distributors as great partners. Understandably, it is very difficult to hand over your product to a 3rd party and wholeheartedly trust them to market it and get it out there while they have other breweries in their portfolio. I’ve dealt with distributors back in my days as an assistant manager at Hy-Vee. I’ve always seen what it’s like from the distributor’s side, but it was interesting to see it from the other point of view.

The last session we attended was a Spiegelau Glassware Demonstration. The beer flowed and the glasses clinked. In this demo we were given different glasses to compare to normal pint glasses. The beer was definitely better in the Spiegelau glass. The presenter said they are made from special sand that has more iron oxide than normal glass. Was the beer better because of the glass? I think the better look, smell, and taste is owed to the glass shape. These high quality glasses are fantastic though. The Spiegelau demonstration was interesting and entertaining – and we got to take home a box, which was awesome!

Regrettably, we had to head out before the Iowa Brewers Guild meeting and social hour. But we really enjoyed ourselves, enjoyed the seminars, and enjoyed meeting and chatting with all the good guys and gals making the Iowa beer we love. 

Want to keep up with the good folks of Iowa Beer? Follow Iowa Beer on Facebook and Twitter here.

Get in touch if you'd like to meet 'n' drink or write a guest post!

Jessica's 5 Favorite Iowa Breweries

So last week you got a peek at Greg's top five favorite Iowa breweries. Now it's my turn. It was reeeeally hard to narrow it down. For one, some of our favorites overlap (namely, Big Grove, Kalona, and Broad Street). Second, there are a lot of breweries with beer I really love but that we haven't gotten around to physically visiting yet – like Peace Tree.

But anywho, without further ado... here are five of my favorite breweries. (Though these be numbered, they are in no particular order.) :)

1. Olde Main Brewing Co. | Ames, Iowa

This Ames brewery/restaurant is where I first really discovered my love for craft beer. One sip of their OffKilter Scottish Ale and I was wondering what I'd been missing out on all those times I claimed to "not like beer that much." It's must-visit whenever I'm in the Ames area and brings back so many memories of good times with friends while sitting at the bar. It was also sorta a first date spot for Greg and I. ;)

Tip: If you're lucky enough to live near this brewery, hit them up on Wednesday nights. Pints of their tasty brews go for just $1.

Try: During the holiday season, try the Reindeer Fuel. Rich chocolate and roasty malts make this a wonderful winter beer.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Greg's Adventures in Homebrewing: The All-Grain Leap,
Part 3: That Time I Won a Homebrew Competition

Hey everyone! I’m back to tell you the tales of the BBQ & Brew event that took at the NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids. After all of my all grain experiments and producing some decent beers, we thought it was time to enter a competition and see what other folks around Cedar Rapids thought about my work. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Greg's Adventures in Homebrewing:
The All-Grain Leap, Part 2: Lessons Learned

All right! I’m back for part two of the all-grain leap series. In my earlier post, I went over the equipment that I had to upgrade to be able to start brewing with all-grain. The first recipe I made was a saison I found after some googling. I figured I would start with a good recipe and modify it from there after getting the process down. When starting all-grain, I’d suggest finding a recipe first. Creating your own is hard enough without having to add complexity of figuring out a recipe from scratch.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Greg's Adventures in Homebrewing:
The All-Grain Leap, Part 1: Equipment & Upgrades

Hey all! So over the last year I have been pretty lax in my updates with how the homebrewing has gone. Well, there has been a whole pile of stuff that has happened and I couldn’t possibly fit it all in one post. I guess I could but that wouldn’t be any fun would it? The first part of this little trilogy will be about getting a hold of all of the equipment. The second will feature some of the good, the bad, and upsetting experiences we’ve had with all grain. Finally, you’ll get to hear all about the homebrew competition I entered at NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids.

I needed to upgrade a few items to get the equipment up to par for all-grain brewing. The biggest piece was a mash tun. What is a mash tun you ask? Why that is a very good question, faithful reader. A mash tun is the device used to mash grain. Not a very good answer, huh?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Greg's 5 Favorite Iowa Breweries

We've been away for far too long! (And we have the backlog of half written brewery reviews and blog posts to prove it.) But we are here – still sipping on craft beer and homebrewing away. Today, Greg shares his five favorite breweries in our great state of Iowa. (Keep a lookout for Jess' favorite breweries later this week – we might share a love for beer, but we don't share all favorites! So without further ado, add these hoppy destinations to your to-visit list: 

1. Broad Street Brewing | Reinbeck, Iowa

Pictured above, this is definitely my favorite in Iowa. It is located in the small town of Reinbeck and I’ve never had a bad beer at this establishment. The inside is small and cozy and the head brewer is a pretty cool guy. Jess and I try and make it whenever we visit my family by Waterloo. 

Must-Try: The Coo Coo Cachoo ESB.

Tip: Check out their events. We went to one featuring the former quality manager for Guinness – she showed folks how to taste beer like a professional

Friday, October 17, 2014

Swag Brewery | Brew Candles Kickstarter

Something I've wanted for a very long time is a candle that smells like an IPA. I mean, who can resist that fresh, hoppy aroma? I would love to have hoppy goodness wafting throughout my apartment. Swag Brewery to the rescue.

Swag Brewery is the cool online boutique for craft beer swag. They make wonderful beer soaps that feel great on the skin and smell delicious – and, no, don't leave you smelling like you took a bath in a keg. They also make hop candy, which is the perfect way to tide over a hophead until happy hour. (Check out my review post on Swag Brewery's beer soap and hop candy here.) 

The good folks over at Swag Brewery have now launched a Kickstarter to fund their brew candles – beer-inspired soy wax candles in three amazing scents: apricot wheat, vanilla porter, and hoppy IPA. If these candles smell anything like Swag Brewery's soaps (which I'm sure they will), they're going to smell amazing. I'm already planning: burn vanilla porter in the winter, apricot wheat in the spring, and hoppy IPA in the summer. Year round beer smells in my apartment. Yum.