On May 26th, 2013, a group of my friends and I decided to go on a Quad Cities adventure. Below is a detailed account of all of the fun we had and the locally created treasures we discovered:
DESTINATION #1: BLUE IGUANA located in LeClaire, Iowa
(I’m going to begin with a side note in saying that this wasn’t the original first destination. The construction on River Drive held me up so I was ten minutes late! But because my friends are so awesome, we edited our day and still fit everything in.)
We sat at the bar tended to by Brian, a gentleman who has been working for the establishment since it opened – about 2 years ago – and he did a fantastic job. I was happy to see that on tap there they had two local beers, Great River’s 483 Pale Ale and Bent River’s Uncommon Stout; they also had every spirit created by the Mississippi River Distilling Company, which makes sense given that the distillery is a block down the street.
I have been hearing good things about the Blue Iguana; that the food is good and authentic, everything is reasonably priced, and you get good service. All of this rang true on SundayFriendsday. I got the Chicken Fajitas – per Brian’s recommendation – my cohorts got Quesadillas and Nachos and both of those were tastey too. Our drinks, food, and checks arrived in a timely manner, which was good, as we needed to be at the Distillery by 1pm.
DESTINATION #2: THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER DISTILLING COMPANY located in LECLAIRE, IA
We walked through the rain, down the street into 303 North Cody Road into the local distillery. The Mississippi River Distilling Company opened in 2010; this was my very first visit. Rumors of an interesting and educational tour have been tempting me for a year or so now. We were greeted warmly and had a few minutes to spare so we checked out their merchandise room.
It was quite busy because of the holiday weekend, but we were still able to enjoy the building, the materials used to decorate it and all of the art hanging throughout. We found out that all of it is to promote a sense of community and pride of local creations. I now love that about the place – may it be the theme of their products, the people who made them, or the ingredients inside they are proud to be from the Midwest and use what it can offer to create something great.
Our tour guide was Karen, an employee of the distillery as well as a homebrewer, a knowledgeable and trustworthy mind available to impart wisdom upon those of us in unfamiliar territory. She showed us the various ingredients used for their different spirits, where and how it is processed, and how the final product is bottled. I was impressed to find out that volunteers bottle all of their spirits and each has a handwritten batch label on it. You can log onto their website, look up your batch and bottle number, and learn the story behind your spirit – I think that’s very clever!
The Mississippi River Distilling Company’s current seasonal spirit is their Honey Whiskey. Our guide informed us that most honey “whiskies” on the market are actual liquors because once you add sugar to the process it is no longer considered “real whiskey”. They do add local harvested honey so the sweetness is light, still highlighting their spirit without covering it up.
The next seasonal out soon is their Strawberry Infused vodka. Depending upon this crazy weather (of course) it should be out by late June. Last year they used 1200lbs of berries so they need to make sure they have enough at hand for their recipe.
After the tour we went into their beautiful tasting room, a barn wood bar with a copper top, high ceilings and a fantastic view of the river. Legally in the state of Iowa, they can hand out only 2 ounces to taste, and they offered all their spirits plus some mixers such at blood orange soda or lemonade. I tried their River Pilot Vodka mixed with lemonade and it was nice, there wasn’t a usual alcohol burn and it paired nicely with the sweetness of the mixer. After we enjoyed our samples we headed into Davenport, moving onward with our journey!
DESTINATION #3: CRASH THE MUGZ CLUB MEETING held at Great River Brewing Co., located in Davenport, IA
The last Sunday of every month the MUGZ (Mississippi Unquenchable Grail Zymurgists) homebrewing club of the Quad Cities meets at Great River Brewing Co. at 2pm. From 2-3pm they have an educational portion followed by shared tastings of concoctions brought by attendees. I have been invited several times and have wanted to attend for months but up until recently, I always worked Sundays.
We arrived just in time to have missed the standard beginning meeting things….roll call….last months meeting minutes….financial business…and we walked right into the educational portion. Whether it was intentional or not, I discovered a theme in the presentation being given by a club member. They brought along 3 different beers to taste while considering how the style and flavor profile were achieved depending upon the ingredients used during the brew. Serious beer nerdery; most of it way over my head but I tried!
The first beer sampled was the classic German Hefeweizen Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier. The discussion was how its yeast imparted clove-like aromas, then they passed around some clove to smell in order to enhance the experience. Next the members discussed various yeast strains or other things they could do to a brew that could achieve this flavor and aroma.
The second beer tasted was New Belgium’s Fat Tire Amber Ale and how its malt imparted biscuit flavors. The presenters served British-style biscuits, or cookies, along with it to highlight the biscuit aromas of the malt used in the brew. The group then discussed different styles of malts that could cause this taste.
The third beer they presented was Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale and they discussed the hop profile; floral, citrusy, one gentleman yelled out, “Perfection!” Alongside the beer were pieces of grapefruit to highlight the citrusy flavor and aroma of the hops. As I said, this was out of my league information, but it was very interesting to sit and listen to this group of individuals share their knowledge amongst each other, all with the same desire to make a delicious brew.
Afterwards the meeting was adjourned and we all got to try many different samples of home brewed beers. My favorite was a Milk Stout, but honorable mentions were an Apple Tripel, a bold Irish Red, a hoppy Pilsner, and the Big Brew Day Black IPA.
Though I was out of my element and new to the meeting, the group was incredibly welcoming (so long as you weren’t talking during the education portion). They shared their creations with us outsiders and were more than happy to chat us up about how they came up with what we were drinking. I hope to go back next month and I’ll probably pay the $12 it will cost to be a member for the rest of the year. Maybe you should too…
DESTINATION: RANDOM! BENT RIVER BREWING CO., located in Rock Island, IL
As I was leaving Great River I got a phone call from some pals saying they were at Rock Island Bent River and were inviting me to join. Given that I was literally staring at the Arsenal Bridge and that this fantastic new bar was located on the other side of it, I decided I had no choice, I had to go.
Sundays are the BEST day to drink at either Bent River location. It’s $4.50 Mug Day! It’s also the ONLY day the Dry-Hopped Pale Ale is on Special for $5.25 for 25 ounces. What?! It’s true.
So I stopped in, visited pals and enjoyed a mug of their Spring Seasonal the Desoto Lager and an Uncommon Bomb, a lovely dessert ending to a comfortably satisfying day.