As you know, 2013 was our beloved Quad Cities’ first Craft Beer Week held May 4th through the 12th. Many of the local establishments, breweries and bars alike, recognized the week as a way to celebrate the greatness that we locally brew as well as order into our area. The QC Craft Beer Week website can give you a more detailed breakdown of the week’s events; I unfortunately didn’t get to go to every single one, because sometimes I have to work. But I did get a chance to go to a couple of the events and try a few of the beers brewed especially for the week….
Bent River Brewing Co. tapped two different beers during the QC Craft Beer Week (QCCBW). The first was a spring seasonal, the Desoto Lager, a Mexican-style similar to Corona. Desoto is the only Lager Bent River brews currently – this being because it takes twice as long to brew as their ales. From a brewer’s standpoint, it is hard to see a fermenter being taken up for twice as long as normal when you have a regular brew house rhythm rolling. Though time consuming, it is definitely worth the wait. The beer is crisp, clean, and refreshing served garnished with a lime, it is a wonderful warm weather beverage and should be available well into July.
The second specialty beer Bent brought out that week was a collaboration created with a select few special folks from the MUGZ (Mississippi Unquenchable Grail Zymurgists) home brewing club brewed on the big boy equipment of the Moline location. The MUGZ club came up with the recipe and the Bent brewers tweaked it just a bit in order to adjust it to fit in with their brew schedule as well as their ingredients they had readily available in a bulk capacity. What came out was the MUGZ Rye Pale Ale, a complex beer brewed with 8 kinds of malt, multiple kinds of hops, and the end result was amazing.
As a special treat, for the day of the tapping, Bent River brought out 2 kegs of the Rye PA that their brewers decided to dry-hop, turning the IBU’s and the flavor palate way up. Some people thought it was a bit too much, but those crazy hopheads out there absolutely loved it. I thought the bittering end of the hops mixed with the peppery-ness of the rye paired quite nicely together. The two dry-hop kegs didn’t last very long but there’s a few kegs left of the MUGZ Rye Pale Ale, head on down and try a glass if you haven’t yet, it’s a treat for sure. Try a glass in their new bar open in Rock Island; the remodeling that they’ve done there is beautiful, it’s definitely one of the coolest bars in the QCA.
On Wednesday, May 8th, I went down to Great River Brewery’s event, which was labeled as an “Attack of the Cask” night, but that wasn’t the case. See, Great River has been playing with cask ales for several months now and they usually tap a firkin every Wednesday evening. While they did tap a special brew of beer, it wasn’t the usual “cask ale” tapping and I think attendees should have been notified of that.
The special brew they served was created by Justen Parris, the current vice president of the MUGZ club; it was a Scotch Wee Heavy Ale that was aged for 6 months in Templeton Rye Whiskey Barrels. The brewery was claiming it was 8.5% ABV though it seemed a lot bigger than that; and there were also a lot of people swearing that it was a sour beer, which it was not. If you had a glass of it and experienced that flavor, it was an unintended side effect of the aging process that several people speculated on. Some believed it was dependent upon where in the keg you got your draw from; the top of the keg seemed to be less sour than the bottom. Some thought that maybe it was from the barrel itself, that perhaps it sat empty for too long before the beer went into it and it effected the barrel’s quality or encouraged a form of bacteria to grow in the wood.
Though the specialty beer wasn’t my forte – malt forward, big AVB, bourbon-barrel flavor – I will try anything once, especially when the driving force behind it is someone I consider to be one of the best brewers in the Quad Cities right now. The weather was great that day, so that always enhances the experience at Great River when you can comfortably sit outside. They added additional seating on their patio area, gearing up for summer.
I also got to to attend the Crooked Tap Handle Takeover held at Against the Grain on Thursday, May 9th. Dark Horse Brewing Co. released a single hop series they brewed with their fantastically delicious IPA, Crooked Tree. They single-hopped the IPA with Citra, Falconer’s Flight, and Cascade Hops and I got to try all three! I listed them in the order of my preference; the Citra hop dominated the flavor profile of the beer – but that’s how I like it. I like my IPA’s more sweet and juicy with the citrusy hops West Coast styles are known for. The Falconer’s Flight was more balanced with their sweeter malt bill and the Cascade was refreshing but not overly hoppy. All 3 were good beers and were sold in a bottled variety pack with the original Crooked Tree as well as the Crooked Tree IPA.
While hanging out at ATG, I ran into Tim Koffarnus, the gentleman behind the QC Craft Beer Week and we struck up a conversation. Tim moved down to the Quad Cities from Appleton, Wisconsin a few years ago. He’s an all-grain homebrewer that’s been brewing for about fifteen years now. After moving down here, Tim joined the MUGZ homebrew club to find some like-minded individuals to share in the delight of his hobby.
About two years ago, Tim and the MUGZ club joined forced with Great River Brewery to do a collaboration brew, “Hydra”. Great River gave the club a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of the beer and the club began discussing what to do with the money and that’s when Tim had the idea of the QC Craft Beer Week.
Despite a few businesses not being interested in participating and a few miscommunications (or misspellings) overall the week was a success for everyone involved. Local businesses saw boosts in sales, there was tons of media coverage, and the Visitor’s Convention Bureau is going to promote it big time next year to create a travel destination out of the Quad Cities during that week.