Cityview’s Brewfest is a wildly popular beer-drinking event in Des Moines. Thousands of beer drinkers converge on Principal Park every year. This year I was shocked to find that I didn’t have anything already planned, so I decided to go and see what it was about. True to the name, this is all about beer. There were two food trucks and for $3 you could buy some pretzels, but this is really a beer event.
So what does $30-$40 per ticket (price varies depending on when you buy and whether you get a VIP ticket) get you? As much beer as you can drink in four hours. Some of the participants clearly had a lot of beer and the mood definitely started to change after the second hour of steady drinking. However, 99% were able to maintain their composure. There were only two that I saw that I suspect were three times the legal limit. You know the type. They think that everyone needs to see their somersaults and they start hitting on their best friend’s wife.
All types of beer were available. The major brewers were there, but seriously, who pays up to $40 to drink Budweiser for four hours? Most of the crowd were instead hitting the “craft” beer, or at least what they thought was craft beer. Iowa craft beer was visible. Boone Valley, Millstream, Peace Tree, Twisted Vine, Old Main, Kalona, West O and Keg Creek — I might have missed some. I had never tried Twisted Vine or Keg Creek before. The Twisted Vine beers were more along the lines of what I usually think of as a true craft beer experience than anything else I tried — not for the faint of heart. The Keg Creek beers were very easy drinkers. I did not find Boone Valley. I didn’t know that West O was an Iowa-based beer until I started writing this piece. I tried every single offering that they had and they were all superb. I would rank it at the top of my “best of new Iowa beers” list.
One thing that you can do at a brewfest is to try some arcane and imported brews that you might not get a chance to taste. The Indian Tajmahal was excellent, as was the brand new Chimay Doree, a Trappist Belgian brewed with spices.
My hands-down favorite was Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale by Alltech’s Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co. I could drink that beer every night.
When I started writing this entry I thought that I was going to complain about the price. This visit actually cost me nothing because some nice fellow gave me free tickets at the door. But $30-$40 is a lot of money just for beer. I do wish that the organizers had a better web page with more information. Had I known that there would be a dearth of food I would have brought some. It would have made it easier to make my way through the beer tables. But after thinking about all of the different beers I managed to try I’d say that it would have been “sorta” worth it. I did get a bunch of coasters, two beer bottle openers, a beer glass just about large enough to hold two ounces, and a little orange bag. I doubt that I’ll go back though. I doubt I’ll have as much luck next year scoring tickets and for $60-$80 for a couple, we could buy a hell of a lot of fancy beer.