Fall 2014 Iowa Whiskey and Beer Roundup

Madhouse Brewing SignMadhouse Brewing Company’s official opening is September 18th.  Madhouse recently expanded its hours and is currently open from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Thursdays and Friday and 10:00 am – 6:00 pm on Saturdays. Call 515-988-5535 for information. According to a Des Moines Register article, they will finish off the last keg of 2014 Vanilla Imperial Porter and introduce a new Belgian Golden Ale. The taps are now in, so be there!

el-bait-shop-logoThe 2nd Annual Little Giant Beer Summit. This summit is set for September 20th from 3-7pm at el Bait Shop, downtown Des Moines. The event will feature nearly 40 Iowa breweries and over 70 Iowa beers on tap. The event is free to attend and will feature almost 40 Iowa breweries; rain or shine. The press release states that the goal of the Little Giant Beer Summit is to bring together our terrific Iowa breweries into one big celebration in downtown Des Moines. “I thought last year’s event could not be topped, but the quality and variety of the beers this year are nothing short of amazing!” said Jeff Bruning, founder of the event. El Bait Shop plans to show off to central Iowa’s beer lovers the interesting beers Iowa breweries are bringing to their communities across Iowa. Some of the beers this year are Confluences’ Barrel-aged DBA Centennial, Peacetree’s Sour Mash Saison, WestO’s CocO Stout, & Backpocket’s Barrel Aged Barleywine, & Exile’s Beatnik Sour Cherry Berlinerweiss to name a few. The new breweries at this year’s Little Giant are Big Grove (Solon), Captain’s Quarters (Adel), Deal Orchard (Jefferson), Firetrucker (Ankeny) and Lion Bridge (Cedar Rapids). For more information visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/257283801138616/

malted ryeCedar Ridge Malted Rye Whiskey. The first allotment has apparently been spoken for and I do not have any information on when or if more will be made available. Cedar Ridge has a very ardent group of followers and small batches go quickly.  This rye whiskey is different. Cedar Ridge uses malted rye in its grain bill, which is one of the few mashbills allowed by federal law. The law only lists  “bourbon whisky”, “rye whisky”, “wheat whisky”, “malt whisky”, or “rye malt whisky”  as allowed whiskey mashbills.  In order to create enzymes to convert the starch to sugar the rye grains are soaked in water to germinate and then killed with heat. Cedar Ridge states that there are only  three malted rye whiskeys made in the world. More information can be found here. I can also add that Cedar Ridge is undergoing a $1.1M expansion project to allow it to better handle its exploding whiskey business.

MRDC_Rye_angleMississippi River Distilling Company. This distillery, just east of Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, in the charming river town of Le Claire, is breaking ground on a new barrel storage warehouse and patio area at its downtown LeClaire location. This will allow it to age its Cody Road Bourbon and Rye whiskies. A lot of money is being spent by local Iowa distilleries to meet the demand for their product. The acknowledgement by Iowa producers that whiskey gets better with age is good news for fans of great bourbon and rye.

ArtisanDistilleryArtisan Grain Distillery. A new distillery is starting up in Davenport. The fermenter is installed and the TTB issued permit DSP-IA-21010. Equally important, the owners have been hard at work crafting a backstory to help conjure up images of a Davenport whiskey drinking era. Part of that history involves Robert E. Lee, who did some local Army survey work while a Lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers. I can personally vouch that this is true. I have no idea if he partook of any locally made whiskey from the towns of Monte Bello or Fort Des Moines along the Mississippi, but he was there and I have the papers to prove it. Of course, Davenport had only existed for one year when he conducted his survey work. The story also includes an Abe Lincoln, who allegedly picked up a 280 pound barrel of whiskey and, on a dare, drank from it. I don’t know if this had anything to do with his legal work for the Rock Island Railroad defending a bridge case, but it is an interesting piece of history and another piece of history that I have a personal tie to. Anyway, the distillery has plans to make whisky, bourbon, gin and vodka. I wish them the best of luck. They have a kick-ass label for their moonshine.

IMG_64382014 World Food and Music Festival.  The festival is just around the corner, set for September 19-21, 2014, Friday and Saturday, 11 AM – 10 PM and Sunday 11 AM – 5 PM. It is set for the Walnut Street Bridge this year. The Nadas will play from 8 p.m. – 10 p.m on Saturday. there will be beer again this year, but I can’t find any reference to the vendor or brands that will be offered.


2014 Des Moines OktoberfeOktoberfest-11th-annualst. The 2014 Des Moines Oktoberfest celebrations always creep up on me, given how the Octoberfest is usually held in September. This year the Des Moines Oktoberfest (hosted by Hessen Haus) will be September 26-27 with the tapping of the golden keg beginning at 4:00 on Friday and hitting the high point with the 9:00 never-to-be-missed Bier Maiden Contest. More fun follows on Saturday.   A lot of fine beer is always on tap for this event. This is always one of my favorite events. Don’t forget the food. The cost is only $7.50 for one day. You get a free plastic mug as well.

Amana Okt_POSTER_2014sm2014 Amana Colonies Oktoberfest. The 2014 Amana Oktoberfest is scheduled for October 3-5. The festival is spread around a lot of different venues, with separate admission to the events in the Festhalle, but the entire town is basically one big party. There are a lot of references to “Park and Ride,” so I take it that pre-planning might be warranted. I could not find any prices on the main website but I recall from previous years that the Festhalle ticket is not cheap.



northside_okt_12_logo2014 Iowa City “Northside Oktoberfest.”  This event is scheduled for Saturday, September 27, 2014. Admission is a pricey $32.04. The last time I was there, to get access to the beer you have to enter a fenced-off block with tents. Iowa City has its own issues with drunks, crowd control, and underage drinking, so I suppose this is an inevitable part of a beer festival in Iowa City but the locked-in feel does not do it for me. Somehow the Des Moines Oktoberfest does not create that same feel even though you have to enter a fenced-off area as well. The big stage, the old buildings, and the Hessen Haus give it a more authentic feel to me. However, if you find yourself stuck in Iowa City for that weekend then this is a good alternative.

Confluence Oktoberfest (00770705x9F897)Local Oktoberfest Beers. I’ve tried the Confluence Oktoberfest beer and it is a solid entry and very representative of the Märzen Bier style (ABV 5.6%), with that special “bite.” It is even being distributed to local bars, where I first ran into it. I hear that Exile is tapping its own Märzen-style Oktoberfest beer as well and that this has been aging since July (ABV 5.6%).  Millstream is of course already out with its Märzen-style Oktoberfest, just in time for the Amana Oktoberfest.


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