Tag Archives: Backpocket Brewing

Backpocket Brewing NewBo Pils

Backpocket Brewing is getting to be known as the brewery of choice for collaboration beers. Recently, they have released a Swabian Hall Smoked Brown and Raygun IPA with the store of the same name in Des Moines. Today’s offering is NewBo Pils:

NewBo Neighborhood Brew

A while back the NewBo City Market, which rose out of the 2008 flood to become a hub of activity in the revitalized NewBo Arts district in downtown Cedar Rapids, collaborated with Millstream Brewery out of the Amana Colonies to make a pale ale. I wrote about the beer here.

This offering is a different beast. Instead of an ale, NewBo Pils is a pilsner. Pilsners fall under the lager family of beers which forms the other side of the beer world along with ales. Now, this beer is interesting in that pilsners are a traditionally Czech style of beer and the NewBo City Market is across the Cedar River from Czech Village. See the connection?

Pilsners, particularly summer pils, are supposed to be a crisp beer that you can drink as the temperature stays elevated into the evening. Served cold these are the ultimate lawnmower beers.

NewBo Pils pretty much nails that description.  For me, pilsners have an aftertaste that I somewhat disagree with and that I cannot place accurately.  It’s not the smokey or piney aftertaste of an IPA or the lingering mouthfeel of a high gravity porter.  It’s just something off.  It could be NewBo Pils or Natty Light.  The off aftertaste is present.

Here is the thing, pilsners are the style of beer that was bastardized by the mega-brewers to produce things like Miller Lite and Budweiser and Pabst Blue Ribbon. If you spent any time in a basement in college drinking beer from a keg you know the fundamental taste profile of a pilsner. Please do not say pilsner lager either. It’s just like saying tuna fish. A pilsner by definition is a lager.

Until someone comes up with something really daring or different a well done pilsner is going to taste like a well done Budweiser. This is not damning or faint praise, but it is the reality of the style. Now that lagers are the new frontier of craft brewing according to some and brewers are getting their feet underneath them from a technical perspective given the intricacies of brewing lagers there may be some exciting new beers to try that really push the envelope.

However, until that time comes to pass craft lagers are going to taste like well-done examples of America’s favorite style of beer:

Two Mug Purchase

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Backpocket Brewing Jackknife APA

The Iowa beer trail stops in Coralville, about a half hour south of my domicile in Cedar Rapids, where Backpocket Brewing makes it home in the rapidly developing Iowa River Landing. Today’s offering is Jackknife APA:

BackPocket JackKnife

Clocking in at a modest 5.8% ABV and definitely non-intrusive 40 IBU—using Centennial and Cascade hops as the backbone for that bitterness—Jackknife is the kind of pale ale, American or otherwise, that would be quite welcome at a fall tailgate.

This is the kind of beer that you hope your favorite bar keeps on tap all the time because it hits a number of notes in an unassuming fashion that makes it an everyday beer:

Purchase 3 Mug Rating

The term “American pale ale” is at the same time foreign and familiar to me. If someone offers an IPA, I have a conception of what that beer should be in my head. Light of body, high in hop character, and enough alcohol to cut through the flavor. Offer me an American pale ale and I will hesitate. What does that mean exactly?

As I see the term get used to describe more and more beers—much in the same way that session is getting applied to beer types of all kinds—my mind coalesces around these salient adjectives or characteristics:

  • Heavier in body compared to a mainstream IPA; Uses toasted or roasted malts to impart a deeper reservoir of flavor to offset hoppy bitterness
  • Fairly mainstream and one-note hop profile; These are not beers that incorporate a half dozen novel hop varieties because that would create a flavor traffic jam with the increase in body
  • Middle of the road alcohol; You may call it session-able because the beer is clocking in below 7% or so in alcohol, but most people would just call it drinkable
  • It should not be gimmicky in any way; These beers are the spiritual ancestors to such crowd pleasers as Budweiser in the red can or Coors banquet just better in every conceivable way

Maybe I am making too much a marketing ploy to get me to pay attention to a beer when the shelves are full of IPAs to the point of confusion. Sometimes the paradox of choice comes into play when I wander the craft beer case.

Too bad this beer is not in cans. It’s the kind of beer you would find in a cooler being passed around after a hike or a bike ride or the aforementioned tailgate. Trust me, tailgating in Iowa City needs a serious upgrade from the generally insipid swill that inhabits the hands of the Hawkeye faithful in the fall.

See what others are saying about Backpocket Brewing Jackknife APA at Beeradvocate.

If you get a chance Backpocket Brewing has a nice taproom and restaurant in the Iowa River Landing area that can be quite lively when the weather turns pleasant and Iowans stream to outdoor drinking venues. By May 1st most of us have thrown off the shackles of winter and early spring in order to enjoy the great outdoors, usually on our bicycles, before the cold creep of winter threatens. This is also known as Big Ten football season.

Iowa Beer Trail Stops at the Kalona Brewing Company

Like a lot of the country eastern Iowa is getting in the craft beer scene hot and heavy lately.  Great River Brewery is putting out a variety of quality brews.  Backpocket Brewing is filling growlers in Coralville and being found in liquor stores throughout the area.  Big Grove Brewery in Solon is already pouring pints and garnering an excellent reputation.  I have not had a chance to visit, but SingleSpeed Brewing in Cedar Falls has gotten favorable reviews from people I trust.  Lionbridge Brewing Company is opening in Cedar Rapids sometime soon.

I am sure that there are others that I am forgetting or have not even heard about at this time, but needless to say times are good for beer drinkers in Eastern Iowa.

A new entrant to the field is Kalona Brewing Company in—where else?—Kalona, Iowa.  I ended up with two quart bottles of the brewery’s Old Skool Saison Farmhouse Ale and Quick Wit Belgian style wheat ale.

Let’s kick it old school:

Old Skool

And a quick turn to the other beer in the kitchen:

Quick Wit

I want to talk about these two beers together because I feel that they share many of the same characteristics, despite being of different styles, and in my opinion are about on par with each other in terms of rating.

Both beers are middling in terms of alcohol (4.1% ABV for Old Skool and 5.1% ABV for Quick Wit) so there is no danger of drinking a pint and wondering how you are going to get anything done later in the evening.  As you can see from the color in the above pictures both beers are also light in terms of body, so neither beer fills you up to a point where you feel like you have just visited the Old Country Buffet with some hungry teenagers.  Trust me, don’t do it.

While I do not have an official IBU rating for wither beer, my tongue would put it at 25 IBU or less for both beers.  Neither have any kind of overwhelming hop notes in a positive or negative way.  Granted, these are two styles of beer not known for embracing the over the top hopping of pale or amber ales.

Old Skool and Quick Wit were well put together beers, but nothing particularly memorable.  The quality was good enough where I would pick up a different beer from the same brewer.  In the end, I rated both beers with two mugs:

Two Mug Purchase