With my Community Supported Ales (CSA) certificate in hand I finally made my first trip down to Lion Bridge Brewing Company in Cedar Rapids’ Czech Village. I know, it seems crazy that someone as into beer as me would wait this long to visit a brewery in his own backyard but life has a way of intruding on so many things.
A note on the space first. In 2008 Czech Village, along with a lot more of Cedar Rapids, was decimated in an apocalyptic flood. Slowly areas have begun to rebound as infrastructure was rebuilt, etc. It is great to see a person making a commitment to an area like the good folks behind Lion Bridge Brewing. The brewery is housed in a building that once contained a business called Maria’s Tea Room. I cannot speak to that business, but I imagine it was quite different. Finished in an industrial chic the tasting room reminds me a lot of Perennial Artisan Ales setup in St. Louis. This is a very good thing.
I would have included some pictures, but I did not want to be that guy photographing everything like a blogging a-hole. It did not seem to fit into the ethos of the evening.
The first pour was a pint of Workman’s Compensation. At 4.7% ABV this beer is aiming to be a session beer, in terms of alcohol, but its body is significantly more malt forward than most session beers. It lingers on your palate more like a brown ale than would be expected.
Calling a beer a session beer is getting to mean as little as the term pale ale in the American brewing spectrum. One consistent theme is a lower alcohol content, which is a good thing, because it seems like every time I turn around someone is releasing another beer that is riding north of 9% ABV. Try drinking a few of those after work and doing anything other than craving fried mozzarella sticks for the rest of the evening. Nonetheless, the beer was a success:
As a member of the CSA, I was entitled to my first growler fill gratis and I chose Workman’s Comp. Drinking it over the course of the last couple of days I cannot help but draw some comparisons to beers that use coffee extracts or dark roasted chocolate malts. It has that coffee bitterness, in a good way, that is somewhat unexpected. Try it for yourself and see if you notice the undercurrents.
Next was a pint of Mad Maximillion.
Mad Max was described as being aggressively hopped with Australian Topaz, a variety heretofore I had not been exposed, but I doubt that most American “hop heads” would consider this to be a bomb of resin and such. It’s a smoother bitterness without the lingering hop resins that can build sip after sip until you are left with a mouth full of hop aroma that makes it seem like you are breathing out of a bong.
I did not get a chance to try it, but Mad Maximillion was available on a nitro draft system. Overall, a solid beer:
Belgian Golden Wheat was really surprising. I expected this to be the lightest of the three beers in terms of both alcohol and body. It was the highest alcohol (6% ABV) and the body was light, but not to the point like a lot of wheat beers where it is vapid. Saaz hops, I do not know if these are from the Czech lineage, are always a welcome addition because the variety has a really clean profile with a lot of peppery notes. Combine Saaz with a rye malt base and you have a really complex peppery beer. Just an idea.
I came in wanting to savage this beer, but left liking it as much if not more than Workman’s Compensation:
Overall, the beers being poured at Lion Bridge Brewing are a nice departure from the hop forward pale ales that seem to dominate American craft brewing. You won’t find piles and piles of Cascade, Willamette, Amarillo, or Citra hops. It’s a nice change of pace to drink beers with different profiles.
Here is to hoping that a patio is in the plans because warm summer nights call out for enjoying a beer al fresco.