It’s been a while Cedar Rapids.
We’re traveling further down the rabbit hole. Catch up.
Welcome to hipster beer:
Drink this. Don’t drink that. Careful who you support. Yeah, they sold out.
They were better before they got big. Try this, it’s way better than what you’re drinking.
I’ve been buying their beer before you could even get it here.
AB InBev and MillerCoors are evil.
Trust me when I say that there is a better way.
Fourteen months ago I wrote about Benz Beer Fest being a great opportunity to open up someone to the world of craft beer; an opportunity to show them all of the flavors and styles that are out there. It’s an amazing experience when you’re first discovering the full breadth of the beer world. I referenced my own foray into the wider beer world:
It was the first sip of a New Belgium 1554 that one of my friends handed me when we were out; followed by the realization and amazement of how much flavor and complexity could be in a beer. And it was the discoveries made through the pick-six area at the local Hy-Vee; all of the labels and bottle shapes were so foreign to me as were the styles of beer inside. My own naivety was the best attribute at the time. I had no experience, no expectations, absolutely nothing to predetermine what I thought of the beer other than the label artwork. Dare I say that beer was fun?
Leading up to that moment, my main source of weekend imbibing was Natural Light, an AB-InBev product. Now, it’s not for that reason that I choose to defend big beer on some level. Rather, it is because of a broader battle in the alcohol segment, a cross-industry comparison, and a local element that is rarely considered.
For starters, I believe that one must look at the grab for consumers going on between beer, wine, and spirits. It’s probably no surprise that sweet alcohol is a big draw for millennials as food and drink in many ways have both become progressively sweeter. What this does is immediately provide a head-start for spirits in the realm of Rumchata and Fruity Loops flavored vodka. Trust me, that stuff sells. Wine too, has been able to market itself very well in the state of Iowa with rosé and other varietals that play to the sweet tooth. The beer market is also up against the sweet revolution. For that reason, you see 93,857,859 flavors of Mikes Hard Lemonade and Bud Light Ritas. But you also see it in hidden places as well. There was a time when West Coast style IPA’s were the be-all and end-all of craft beer. Times have changed and now the hot item is an IPA that is hazy, juicy, and sweet, without the distinct hop bite found in those west coast styles.
Another main argument against big beer lately is the amount of dollars spent on lobbying to change laws, regulate or deregulate, and market their product. Initially I would say, welcome to capitalism. It is just a fact that money, used as a tool, has the ability to buy influence, power, and ultimately benefit those that wield it. However, this tool is not only found in the beer industry of course. To that end, this is where I believe there is a disconnect. Certain people in the beer community will tell you that you are wrong for purchasing say, a Goose Island beer, because they are owned by AB-InBev. There is a naivety that beer is either the only playing field where these games are played, or that beer is so sacred to society that it cannot possibly be infiltrated by these large forces. Neither are true. I made the choice a long time ago to drink the beers that I like, whether it be the smallest of batches from a local brewery or a Miller High Life after mowing the lawn. I believe that every beer can have a time and place where it works.
Finally, one of the rallying cries in the craft beer movement is to support local, and that supporting large multi-national brands is inherently bad. Just like many of you, I like to try local fare when I am traveling, and like to seek out beer and food and experiences that I would otherwise not be able to try at home. And yes, I prefer to choose smaller companies over corporations. However, I am also mindful of the fact that local does not equate to quality. If we are driven by quality in our purchasing decisions, it stands to reason at least on the smaller scale that products that are lower quality will not get enough support to remain sustainable. Unfortunately, quality is not a quantifiable attribute; it is purely subjective. At Bricks we do believe in supporting good local beer. We also believe in supporting good local people that help make this community great, and that does not end with local breweries. The numerous people who work at Fleck, 7G, and Johnson Brothers live right here in this community and surrounding towns, all working to make the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City corridor a better place. And that, is the local that we support.
On to the beer!
Beers to be on the lookout for:
As you have probably noticed, Fall beers are making their annual return much to the chagrin of some people. I will say however, that this year just like last year, there are some absolutely amazing examples of Märzen/Oktoberfest beers. Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest headlines that group again this year. For those that don’t know, for the past three years Sierra Nevada has collaborated with a different German brewery to create a new Oktoberfest for the season; this year working with Brauhaus Miltenberger. To make things even better, this year all of Sierra Nevada’s seasonals are being released in 12-ounce cans as well, making them that much easier to bring to your next campfire.
Another beer making its annual return to the tap tower is Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen. Perhaps the most classic example of an Märzen style beer, Ayinger has everything you want – rich bready aroma, a subtle touch of bitter hops, and that wonderful caramel sweetness that finishes crisp. Truly the perfect beer for when the temperature starts to dip in these Fall evenings.
Beer that I’ve been enjoying lately: Surly Rising North Pale Ale
Many of you know that my favorite beer of all time is Big Grove Arms Race. To me, that beer is absolute perfection. I truly believe it is the best pale ale made in the state of Iowa (yes I know that Pseudo Sue is sometimes made in Iowa as well). Doesn’t matter in my opinion. It does not surpass the perfect balance of malt and citra hops that Arms Race accomplishes. My only gripe towards Arms Race is that it is not yet available in package form, outside of the crowlers at the brewery. Until they finally package and distribute to grocery stores though, I have my answer. Surly Rising North pale ale. Rising North was brewed in honor of Minnesota United FC, the MLS team located in the Twin Cities. It pours a beautiful translucent sunburnt golden color that hints at its full flavor with its slightly hazy character. A heavy melon aroma dominates the nose with a slight pineapple hint too. There is a richness there though, that comes out in the flavor as well. Rising North is very full flavored with just enough of a hop bite on the finish to solidify its status as a pale ale. This has become my go to beer at the grocery store until Arms Race becomes available at Dodge Street Hy-Vee (shout-out to Seth and the crew there).
Beer and music pairing
It’s been just about two years since we embarked on a new idea at Bricks. Brought on by the quest to deliver fresh, high quality beer as the brewer intended, we made a couple of changes. There has been an obvious trend lately of checking the dates of beer on the shelf in the grocery store. Unfortunately, you can’t do the same thing at a bar. You can’t walk right into the cooler and check the date on the collar of the keg. You have to trust that what the bar is serving you is within the ‘best by’ date.
The status quo in beer bars that do a lot of rotation on their tap lines has long been ordering the kegs that they want and putting them on tap when they get to them. For some bars this means sitting a couple of weeks in the cooler, but for others it means sitting down there for months, in some cases long past the beers prime. That’s just the way it was. There was another aspect though too. Whenever a new beer comes out, it is usually on the shelf that day at Hy-Vee. People would ask about certain beers, especially beers that are rare or super fresh (Enjoy By IPA), and we would have to tell them that they would have to look for it in a week or two once we had gotten through some of our other beers on tap. In addition to providing some of the freshest beer possible, we wanted to give the opportunity for the consumer to try a beer on tap before committing to a six or twelve pack. It’s not always perfect, and sometimes that means that we end up with 3-6 open lines early in the week before we get out beer deliveries on Wednesday but ultimately we think it is for the best. (And realistically, if you can’t find a beer from the other 40 on tap on the main tower, the problem might be you).
With that being said, we’d like to thank each of you. Thank you for being patient when we have a couple open lines, for being understanding that we have to pick and choose what we put on tap, and above all for being one of the best beer communities in the Midwest.
So grab a glass of fresh beer, kick your feet up, and blast the tunes. I think it’s safe to say we’re never going back to the way it was.