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!