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.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

Cedar Valley Beer Adventures (and Misadventures): Brew in the Loo II, SingleSpeed Brewery, Broad Street Brewing

The best kind of weekend is a weekend full of beer – especially at a beer fest, a brewery we've never been to before, and a tried-and-true favorite brewery. Here's the story of our Cedar Valley weekend at Brew in the Loo II, SingleSpeed Brewing, and Broad Street Brewing Co:

We've never left a beer fest early. Okay, I take that back. We've left a few early because we'd had enough enough to drink, tried everything we wanted to try, and wanted something to eat. But we've never left because there wasn't enough to drink. I guess there's a first for everything.

Last year, Greg and I ventured to Brew in the Loo on a whim. We heard about it, we liked the idea of sipping beers on a baseball field, and we loved that the proceeds benefit the local Boys & Girls Club. We had a blast. It wasn't a huge fest. There wasn't a huge turnout or huge variety. But there were some solid local beers mixed in among some from distributors. And there was plenty of time to talk to the brewers and get to know them, their brewery, and their beer on a more personal level. It's where we tried and fell head-over-hops for Broad Street Brewing. (You can read about our first Brew in the Loo experience here.)

So we put Brew in the Loo II on our calendars early this year. We bought our $15 tickets in advance and set aside a weekend to hit up the beer fest and then visit Broad Street in Reinbeck on our way back to Cedar Rapids. After a hearty lunch to prepare us for our beer tasting, we headed to the ballpark. When we arrived, it was pretty empty. We reminded ourselves that it was at first last year, too, and that people and breweries started filtering just a little late. It was not the case this year.

Within thirty minutes, we'd made our rounds and tasted every beer at the festival. Not because of a lack of crowds – we waited in line a few times. But because of the sheer lack of beer. Everything there – except for Broad Street's stand – was distributor. Now, I have nothing against distributors. They help get the beer around and there were some good beers at the festival. But it was disappointing that there weren't more local beers, more craft beers, more Iowa beers. 

Last Year's Brew in the Loo – we had a blast!
We sat down at a table to discuss our disappointment and options. And we decided to leave. We felt bad, but at least our $30 would go to benefit the Boys & Girls Club. We looked up the address for a brewery in Cedar Falls that I'd always wanted to visit and we hit the road. (Side note: We weren't the only ones.)

If a beer festival doesn't give you a beer tasting adventure, you make your own beer adventure. Neither of us had either ventured to Cedar Falls. We found our way to the charming little downtown and SingleSpeed Brewing, where we knew immediately upon entering that we'd made the right decision.

Downtown Cedar Falls is so charming!
SingleSpeed served up an nice variety of beers, all of which we tried on one of their flights. Both of us ended up absolutely LOVING the Roasted. Plus, they mix beer cocktails, which I find intriguing and unique. Greg ordered one of their Roasted Russians, a SingleSpeed take on a White Russian using their Roasted. I tasted it. And it was delicious. I also really liked their Kinship and Belgian IPA.

Love the vibes and decor in SingleSpeed.
Time to catch our flight! ;)
Roasted was the big winner of the day.
The beer is good. And the brewery is cool. I couldn't stop admiring all of the cool design touches and unique features. Vintage stools. Pendant lights made out of growlers. Sweet ceiling fans reminiscent of vintage fans, but double-headed. A tall chalkboard flanked by shelves of Iowa spirits, growlers, and brewery swag – plus one of those cool library-style ladders that slides along the shelves.

Cheers to beer chalkboards!
Going to have to DIY some of these growler lights.
Where the magic happens. 
Character and cool fans.
Our favorite part about stopping by this brewery was the conversation. It's always a pleasure to encounter and chat with friendly craft beer fans. One man we chatted up also attended Brew in the Loo – and left early. I also got to meet one of the brewing staff who I've tweeted with and toasted on UnTappd. Oh, how we love discussing local breweries and homebrewing with this folks. There's so much to talk about and so much to learn from other beer nerds.

Another Roasted before we leave!
A warm, welcoming place to put back a pint.
After several pints and lots of beer talk at SingleSpeed, we hit the road for Reinbeck. We hadn't been to Reinbeck since their event hosted by the former Director of Quality from Guinness. (We blogged about the awesome How to Taste Beer Like a Pro event here.) We'd been wanting to make a trip back forever since the brewer Trevor never ceases to impress us. (The vanilla porter he served up at BrrrFest in Coralville was sinfully tasty.) Unfortunately, Trevor wasn't in the brewhouse. But plenty of patrons were, sipping on beer and having a good time. 

Broad Street beers – one of our favorite breweries. 
We snagged one of the booths, a couple pints, and a cribbage board. Broad Street is one of those cozy little breweries that you just feel at home in. I love that the booth seats are actually old church pews. And I love the red velvet cushions on top of them! As the sun set over Reinbeck, we drank beer and Greg beat me at a game of Cribbage. 

Beer and cribbage pair so well together.
While Brew in the Loo II left something to be desired, I'm glad that we were able to spontaneously make a failure into a successful brewery day. Will Brew in the Loo III be on our festival list next year? I'm not sure. It was disappointing to see a festival not live up to its potential. Was it a case of breweries not wanting to come because of a low turnout last year? Or was it case of people not turning out because the first year wasn't big enough for them?

I still think Brew in the Loo has potential. And I'll be rooting for it. The Bucks baseball field is a great location with plenty of room for yard games, live music, and picnic benches – all of which they did last year and this year. If the breweries get on board, the beer drinkers will. If the beer drinkers get on board, the breweries will. If you brew it, they will come. If you just distribute it, I don't think they will.

And, of course, be sure to visit both when you're in the Cedar Valley!

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

Monday, June 2, 2014

Beer Fest Alert! 2014 Algona Beerfest this Weekend

It's officially my favorite time of year: beer fest season. Greg and I had so much fun hopping from fest to fest last summer: sipping on craft brews, discovering new breweries, and making chit chat with fellow beer geeks. 

This coming weekend, we're venturing to the 2014 Algona Beerfest. They've got a stellar lineup of Iowa and other Midwestern breweries, including:

If you're looking to join us in the yeast, love, and hoppiness this weekend, here are the details:

Let us know if you'll be attendance so we can meet up and bottoms up!

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

10 Beer Must-Haves for Summer

Porch drinking weather is finally here! It's the season for road trips to breweries, beer festivals, and just enjoying the great outdoors with an ice cold brew. To celebrate summertime, I've rounded up ten must-have beer items to ensure hoptimum enjoyment during these fair weather months.

I gifted Greg with one of these for his birthday. (What a lucky guy!) These growlers resemble kegs, can be personalized with words and designs, and are – dare I say – downright adorable.

Dear Diary, Today I tasted the best IPA of my life... With all the tasty saisons, India pale ales, and shandies you'll be sipping on this summer, it's best to take note of your favorites. This little notebook is the perfect size for your June, July, and August sampling adventures.

Why choose a boring bottle opener when you can crack open a cold one with a real conversation piece? We think this fishy bottle opener would be especially suited for your fishing excursions. 

I dabble in html, but this blogger loves her beer. These glasses give new meaning to 'beer nerd' and are just too clever to pass up. 

Craving cascade hops during your work meeting? No need to wait until 5 o'clock. Pop a piece of tasty hop-flavored hard candy to tide you over until happy... er, hoppy hour.

I love love love beer soap. And while Swag Brewery's vanilla porter soap is my favorite, the apricot wheat was just made for summertime. Once you soap up with beer, you don't go back.

First of all, these are cool because they're recycled from beer bottles. Second of all, the distressed gold leafing is gorgeous. Beer o'clock has never been so fancy. Cheers!

This is the ultimate board game for beer lovers. Answer beer trivia questions. Blind taste samples of beer. It's fun and educational. You can adjust the game difficulty based on the three beers you pick for the blind taste tests. Brew newbies could do a lager, IPA, and porter. Beer snobs can up the challenge by choosing three similar IPAs or three similar porters. 

Bring some bar flavor into your kitchen or dining area with a cute beer themed print or poster. I especially dig this 'Good People Drink Good Beer' sign.

Last but certainly not least, make sure you're toting around your beer in style this summer. Ditch the flimsy cardboard six-pack carrier and carry around this handsome wooden tote instead. It even has a bottle opener on the side for ultimate convenience. 

What are you summertime beer essentials?

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

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Q&A Quickie | What's the best chocolate beer available?


Jonathan's Question:

What is the best chocolate beer available? I'm looking for one to replace Sam Adams Chocolate Bock. (from Jonathan) 

Jess' Answer:

Mmm, chocolate! Here are my top three chocolaty choices...

My first choice would be an Iowa craft beer, of course. Brewed at Millstream in the Amana Colonies, this is my favorite of their delicious brews. It's a smooth, Bock style beer that perfectly balances malt with subtle chocolate.

When I get a chocolate beer craving, I reach for this newfound favorite. The brew hails from Colorado – it's great from bottle, but fantastic if you can get it on tap. Malts paired up with notes of cocoa and fudge make this irresistible.

Imported but possibly easier to find than the Colorado and Iowa craft beers (depending on where you live), I can't finish up this post without recommending a beer from our other Sam. Lots of chocolate meets toasty vanilla and roasty malts to create a devilishly-sweet brew.

What's your favorite chocolate beer?

Got a quick (or not so quick) question? Email us at

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

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Beer Job(s) Alert! | Cedar Rapids, IA | Oskaloosa, IA

Hey Iowa beer lovers (...especially those of you residing in the Cedar Rapids or Oskaloosa area)! Two great brew hangouts are hiring – an up-and-coming brewery AND a pub! 

Lion Bridge Brewing Company (a small, brand new, soon-to-be-opening brewery in Cedar Rapids) is now hiring for their taproom and kitchen! Check out the post on the Lion Bridge Brewing Company Facebook page for how to apply! (We got to try some of Lion Bridge's brew at BrewNost!)

The Cellar Peanut Pub (a historical train station that's been lovingly revamped into a filled-to-burst-with-beer bar) is also looking for weekend help! Check out the details on The Cellar Peanut Pub Facebook page. (And check out our review of the Peanut Pub here!)

Good luck with your apps! 

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