Tag Archives: Czech Village

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

Happy Hour at Lion Bridge Brewing Company

On a beautiful early summer afternoon in Iowa a bunch of coworkers decided that it would be the perfect time to cut out of work a little bit early and get some drinks for the ever-so-correctly named “happy hour.” Thankfully, the group’s consensus was that we drive down to Czech Village and quaff brews from Lion Bridge Brewing Company.

I have been to Lion Bridge before and I am a member of the “community supported ales” program, so my distinct interest was noted. The great thing about what is going on in this particular brewery is that different beers are being produced at a pretty good clip, with some disappearing after making a single appearance. This was the case with some mushroom inspired beers brewed to coincide with a local festival celebrating the morel mushroom season. This is the great thing about small, regional breweries putting out beers that are tuned so perfectly to what is happening in their local ecosystem.

It all started with a 12 ounce tulip of Iron Lion:

Iron LionThankfully, it was only a 12 ounce tulip because if I had been knocking back 20 ounce imperial pints things might have gotten ugly. The beer comes in at a hefty 8.2% ABV, but it does not drink that big. It is brewed with hibiscus and ginger. The ginger really comes through in a good way, but I think that the hibiscus is too delicate of a flavor to compete with the heavy alcohol.

Iron Lion was a great beer to enjoy on a sunny afternoon:

Purchase 3 Mug RatingAfter realizing I was putting down some serious beer, I switched to half pints and ordered a glass of Ryed in the English Countryside:

Ryed English CountrysideThis beer confused me a little bit. Either it is trying to be an English pale ale or an American style IPA because I was getting hints of both styles of beer. I may be quibbling here about style. However, it is my opinion that an English ale will be malt forward and an American style IPA will be hop forward. Ryed in the English Countryside was trying to do both at the same time and something was lost in translation.

That being said it is still a good beer and my coworker who is not a big fan of American style IPAs was happy to drink imperial pints all afternoon long:

Two Mug PurchaseI ended the afternoon happy hour with a half pint of Usonius

UsoniusThis is a steam or California Common beer, which is an odd style because it uses a lager yeast fermented at ale temperatures. It’s an American original and a west coast staple. I have a certain fondness for the style dating back to Anchor Steam being one of the earliest craft beer crushes that I had when great beer was hard to find.

Unfortunately, I found Usonius to have some of the bad traits associated with steam beers. Most notably, the flavors were really muddled and the aromas were distinctly burnt. This may have been a result of the malt profile or the beer style, but nonetheless it was a real letdown after the greatness of Iron Lion:

One Mug HomebrewI also had my growler filled with Workman’s Compensation to take home and enjoy this weekend on the patio. Hopefully the weather will cooperate.

Finally, a Trip to Lion Bridge Brewing Company

1441430_457244274380802_767164573_nWith 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:

Purchase 3 Mug Rating

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:

Two Mug Purchase

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:

Purchase 3 Mug Rating

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.

It’s not that Kind of CSA

Everyone is probably familiar with your regular ol’ CSA or community supported agriculture were you get a season’s worth of vegetables, barring weather catastrophe, in exchange for an upfront show of monetary support.

Well, this is not that kind of CSA.  Soon, in the Czech Village section of Cedar Rapids, Lion Bridge Brewing Company will be open for business.  Currently, shares are available in what brewmaster Quinton McClain is calling “community supported ales.”

For $80 you get a series of benefits including a growler and first fill, t-shirt, discounts on growlers every time you fill, and growler fills of beers that are normally only available by the pint.  My CSA membership arrived this weekend.  I am #56:

CSA Certificate

Check out the progress being made on their website or Facebook.  The world is a better place with good beer.