Iowa City Brewfest 2012

Brewfest 2012!
Brewfest 2012!

It’s been a couple of weeks since Iowa City Brewfest, 2012, and I’ve had some time to reflect on the event.

With the “Brewmaster” ticket, we were able to enter an hour early, and many brewers had special or limited release beers.  Some of the more memorable ones included:

Overall, I was impressed with the high quality of the unique beers, but a bit disappointed by the low number of special beers.  For example, in the past, New Belgium and Boulevard brought beers either not yet available or a special barrel-aged beer, but this year both brought their widely available beers, from their Lips of Faith (New Belgium) and Smokestack Series (Boulevard).

Overall, it was a very good experience, but with the “Brewmaster” ticket, which has been very valuable in years past, it wasn’t quite as memorable.  My only hope is that the larger breweries recognize what a great beer hotspot Iowa City is, and start saving some of those memorable beers for us!

Did you go to the Iowa City Brewfest 2012?  What was your take?

American Craft Beer Week is May 16-22

New Glarus's Riverside Brewery
New Glarus's Riverside Brewery

American Craft Beer Week is May 16-22, 2011.  So this week, when you have a beer, enjoy one from one of America’s craft brewers!

It’s been a heck of a year for craft brewing, and thanks for letting me spend some of that time with you.  Be sure to try some of the beer from breweries we’ve visited in the last year:

… and to some we were close to, but couldn’t get enough time to stop by …

Have a great week!  Cheers!

Bell’s Brewing Oberon

Bell's Brewing Oberon
Bell's Brewing Oberon

The great thing about summer is the beer!  I was able to pick up a 6-pack of Oberon, the summer seasonal from Bell’s Brewing.

At first, there is a strong orange/citrus aroma.  The taste is a sweet wheat and orange, balanced by a nice hop note.  It is very mild, and has generous carbonation.  It is nice, and light, and finishes clean.  Although Oberon has a slightly higher ABV (6.8%) than most wheat beers, it doesn’t seem like it.

Have you had Oberon?  What did you think?

The New Era Starts at Midnight!

Since the passage of Iowa SF 2088, we have been anxiously waiting for several higher alcohol beers to begin appearing on store shelves.  We just found out the wait is over!

Starting tonight at midnight, John’s Grocery will begin selling several higher alcohol Bell’s Brewery, Inc. offerings, including Third Coast Old Ale Barley Wine, Expedition Stout, Two Hearted Ale, Hop Slam and Consecrator Doppelbock.  Although Bell’s Brewery’s sub-6% options have been available in Iowa, this is the first time Bell’s Brewery’s high alcohol beers have been available since the highly publicized disagreement between Larry Bell, president of Bell’s Brewery, and the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division.  John’s Grocery will also be selling beer from Iowa’s own Peace Tree Brewing: Hop Wrangler and Rye Porter.

John’s Grocery will have a tasting of these beers from midnight to 2 am, with limited quantities available for purchase.  Hope to see you there!

History of Beer in Iowa

In 1919, congress passed the 18th constitutional amendment, making the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol for consumption illegal.  This dark time in American history was called prohibition.  During this time, the illegal production and distribution of alcohol became rampant, because the government had no means to enforce the act. In 1933, the ratification of the 21st amendment repealed the 18th amendment, allowing alcohol to become legal again.

After prohibition, control of alcohol laws was granted to the states.  This is when Iowa law 123.3 was written, along with many others like it.

The main issue with this law is the definition of beer: “Beer” means any liquid capable of being used for beverage purposes made by the fermentation of an infusion in potable water of barley, malt, and hops, with or without unmalted grains or decorticated and degerminated grains or made by the fermentation of or by distillation of the fermented products of fruit, fruit extracts, or other agricultural products, containing more than one-half of one percent of alcohol by volume but not more than five percent of alcohol by weight but not including mixed drinks or cocktails mixed on the premises. (I have emphasized the important part).

What this means to the average beer drinker is that any beer over 5% ABW (~6.2% ABV) is no longer considered beer, but is then considered a liquor.  Once it is considered a liquor, it no longer is distributed by the local distributors, and instead is distributed by the government-run Iowa Alcohol Beverages Division (IABD) in Ankeny, Iowa.  This becomes a large issue because, even though beer can be perishable, and may need to be refrigerated, because it is considered a liquor, it is not handled properly.  This is one reason several brewers, such as Founders Brewing and some Bell’s Brewery products, stay out of Iowa distribution.  This law also prohibits local breweries and brewpubs to create any beer over this percentage, making much more difficult to compete with out-of-state breweries, who can be distributed through the IABD.

In recent years, because of the growth of Craft Beer in the US, many of these laws have been changed to increase the definition of “beer” to be up to 12% to 18%, but Iowa has not changed this law.  There had been a grassroots movement several years ago to raise this limit, and was created.  This encouraged others to speak out about the law.  Because of movements like these, and the growing acceptance of craft brewing, in early 2010, SF 2091 was written, which would raise the allowable value to 12% ABW (15% ABV), and would create a separate license for higher-alcohol beers to be brewed in Iowa.  This legislation was then rolled into SF 2088, an Iowa government reorganization bill (don’t try and read the whole thing- it may may you dizzy).

So, as it stands, the reorganization bill, as amended, has passed the Iowa Senate, and has been messaged to the House, where it is close to making this archaic law become a thing of the past.  I say, good riddance!

For more information, you can read up on US prohibition and beer in the US.  There’s also a pretty neat timeline at

What do you think?  Will this be a beer renaissance for Iowa?