Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

October 4, 2007

Event Review:

Iowa City Madness

Jill and Baby-boy tear it up at the 12th annual Iowa City Brew Fest
by Jill Jaracz and Baby-Boy Jackson

Jill Jaracz is not a fruit, but she loves a good fruit beer. And wheats and wits. Catch her other writing at The Diva Platform, Prevention Magazine's Buzz Blogs, and Gapers Block.
Contact Jill»
For a beer dork, the best way to pass a fall day is to sit outside and enjoy the sun and crisp air with a fine brew. While it is too late for this year, those of you who want a chance to do this and help a good cause at the same time should make plans to attend the 13th annual Iowa City Brew Fest.

We were at the 12th annual fest on September 22. Not only did we get to sample a large number of brews for a good price, we also met some fine people and helped the American Heart Association. All proceeds from the Brew Fest, which is organized by the fine folks at John’s Grocery, benefit charity. Twenty bucks got us in the gate, a nice ICBF tasting glass, and eight drink/food tickets. Extra tickets were only 50 cents a pop.

The fest was located next to Old Chicago in Coralville, and luckily for us, right next to the Heartland Inn. In terms of location, that couldn’t have been any better. “Drink up and stumble home!” became the motto of our day.

The ICBF tries to have a little something for everyone, so that meant not only some fine craft brews and imports, but if you so desired, you could also taste Chill, the new swill-with-a-hint-of-lime from Miller.

The goal of the fest, according to Doug Alberhasky, the Bier Guy at John’s Grocery, is to educate people about good beer. So, the prices are reasonable and the selection is large. There are also a number of brewers which means you can find out what is happening in the world of good brewing.

We picked up a few rumors in our trip. But you have to remember that these come through the haze of a day of sitting in the sun drinking good beer, handing out thongs, and trying to get the Oktoberfest girl who wore the dress that was short on top and the bottom, to pay attention to you. But here’s what we heard:

1. Bell’s might be coming back to Illinois this fall. Or at least something that looks and tastes just like Bell’s. Stayed tuned for more.

2. Boulevard wants to expand their capacity and move into Chicago. But they can’t do it without expansion because you beer-sucking vampires in the Windy City would just bleed the brewery dry.

3. Rumor also has it that the next batch of Goose Island Bourbon County Stout will be released Nov. 15. However, distribution will be limited, so get to your local store as soon as you can.

As for the individual beers, look for our reviews in the review section. Baby-Boy tried Bell’s porter, Boulevard’s Lunar Ale, Sand Creek’s Oscar Stout, Bell’s Batch 8000, and Farmer Brown Ale. (He also had Millstream’s Iowa root beer. This goes back to the days before he could drink the real stuff. It was pretty good. Kind of like Hires.) Jill sampled Millstream’s John’s Belgian White and Windmill Wheat, Bell’s Batch 8000, Boulevard’s Bob’s 47, and Sutliff Cider.

Along with the drinking there was plenty to do and see, and the folks in attendance were a nice group of drinking buddies. In addition to drinking, people at the fest could eat, sing, and play sports. Of course, the beer education was constant, especially since Millstream, Goose Island, Boulevard, Bell’s, Sutliff Cider, and Point all had representatives there who were happy to talk about their lineups with us. Baby-Boy fancied himself an athlete, so he tried his hand at beer shuffleboard and masterfully walked away with a nice t-shirt and beer opener. In beer shuffleboard you slide a mug of a beer down a long table and onto a circle. It’s a game of precision, and Baby-Boy soon figured out the secret: Use follow through. Instead of snapping it off, you had to extend your arm and let go of the mug at the last minute. It’s nice that that curling lesson finally paid off.

We met some fun people, including those dressed in Oktoberfest attire for the occasion. A German-attired gentleman walked around with a guitar, leading people in the ever-popular, “Zicke-zacke zicke-zacke hoi hoi hoi!” chant, and a couple of Frauleins livened up the drinking scene with their fancy dirndls.

Overall it was a fun and educational day of drinking. The only thing that would’ve made the fest better was if there were some covered seating areas. The tables and chairs were all in the sun, so when people sought the shade of the tent, it got really crowded, and it was harder to get to the actual beer. Still, when that’s the only complaint of the day, you’re doing something right.

Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

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