Wow, ladies, thank you! Fundraising grand total yesterday for JDRF Eastern Iowa is a whopping $5,608! WOW. One more time...WOW. Thanks to all who attended for your generosity, the volunteers for all their hard work, and the sponsors for all the donated items! There are plans to do another event like this in the future so please watch the Fat Hill Facebook for updates. Thanks again!
'Twas the night before Christmas, and in the brew house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The taplines were cleaned by I, the brewer, with care
In hopes that weird gunk would not grow in there
The customers were all home, drinking crowlers with friends
The high ABV beers causing visions in their heads
And I amongst empty fermenters and kegs, the quiet mash tun
Beer needed to be brewed, much prep work done
But after our anniversary the busy season did ensue
And I had been late ordering ingredients in time to brew
If grain didn't meet hot water, or yeast dance with glee
Taplines would be empty, all the fermenters totally free
Customers would sob loudly, the bank louder still:
"Why is there no beer," they'd cry, "and also please pay your bills!"
So with empty glass, heavy heart, and sad soul
I sat in silence, wishing the floor drain would swallow me whole
When out on the loading dock arose such clatter
I sprang from my misery to see what was the matter
Away to the alleyway I flew like a flash
Rolled up the door careful not my fingers to smash
Hand to my eyes, I squinted, not believing what it seemed
Off trucks, vans, semis, and borrowed U-Hauls, moonlight gleamed
A volley of "Happy Holidays" and "Merry Christmas" and general good cheer:
The entire fleet of delivery folks had did miraculously appear!
There was UPS, FedEx, Dayton Freight Lines, Inc., and R+L Carriers
The US Postal Service with boxes, oh I couldn't be merrier!
Grain bags and yeast bricks and hop piles they brought
Also there were bulging envelopes of odd spices I sought
All was quickly unloaded, brought forth through the cold
Then they smiled, waved goodbye, and left for more stops untold
A grain sack in my arms, heart still aflutter
What relief I felt, so to the now-empty alley I mutter:
"This Christmas miracle is a strong reminder to me
That without deliveries how'd out of luck we'd be!"
Many, many thanks to our delivery folks this holiday season
If we're a successful business, you're a big part of the reason
I'll haul the grain now downstairs, ready to mill
Then sparge it, boil it, add yeast, and chill
My business safe once again, my worries are light
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
We are sharing our profound gratitude to all our delivery people today, who we've been watching work SO HARD the last few weeks especially. Everything we get delivered is gigantic or weird shaped or a million pounds, but our delivery people are such good sports about all of it. We couldn't do what we do without you folks. THANK YOU!
We had a great time getting festive last Saturday! We celebrated with an all-day event. First, there was our pop-up gift market….
Chipped Inscriptions was also around during the afternoon to do a Christmas pillow painting workshop.
We transitioned from afternoon to evening at 5 PM when the Ugly Sweater Contest started and the Over the Hill Brass Band arrived. In a dramatic turn of events, our Holiday Extravaganza's staff-favorites ugly sweater contest had THREE winners! Returning champs Hollie and Brian Meyer showed up again this year, this time with hand-made sweaters featuring a Fat Hill Christmas tree topped with a picture of our owners, and a snowman made out of our logo. And Brian was in gold lamé pants, just to add another festive note. So they win! But wait! We decided that since Brian and Hollie already won last year, we should spread the love. So Wendy Veng, dressed up like a festive version of the Bird Lady from Home Alone, wins too! Congrats to the Meyers and Wendy - may you celebrate your victories with your $50 FHB gift cards.
Pictures of The Meyers:
Pictures of Wendy, the “bird lady”:
Pictures of everybody else below! Thanks for coming, everyone, especially the Over the Hill Brass Band!
In honor of our 2nd anniversary, we made a quiz about Fat Hill for our die-hard fans. See how many of these you can get right! (Thanks to Betty and the Gents for reading these at our party on Saturday!)
1. What has been Fat Hill’s best selling beer in 2018?
2. How many pounds of hops are in the Rongo?
How many pound of hops are in the Scottish ale?
3. How many different beers has Fat Hill released in their first two years?
4. Who is our longest serving employee?
5. What was the first beer we ever brewed at Fat Hill?
6. What was Fat Hill’s busiest day of business ever?
St. Patrick’s Day 2018
7. Brewer Jake doesn’t have a college degree in brewing. What is his college degree in?
8. What brand are those delicious pretzels you’re eating?
9. How many barrels are currently filled with beer, aging to perfection?
10. When was our building built?
A lot of you enjoyed our new Mackinagical Iowa IPA last week. If you'd like to see where the spotlight ingredient of that beer came from, here's a video of our tour of Cedar Falls Hops Co. this summer. (We used their entire test crop of Mackinac hops in the new IPA.) Thanks to Keri for the great tour (and hops)!
Here’s just a quick thank-you shout-out to the Iowa Brewers Guild and Singlespeed Brewing for hosting a spectacular weekend of beer education in Waterloo last weekend! A small Fat Hill gang comprised of Molly, Jon, and Jake enjoyed networking with fellow beer nerds and going to classes about hops, yeast, legal stuff, and social media. They also got to have a beer or two!
Jake spent much of his time photobombing Lake Time’s Instagram photos:
Thanks so much to Iowa Brewers Guild and Singlespeed Brewing for organizing a great event! More photos below.
We celebrated Halloween with a staff-favorite come-and-go costume contest, grab free spooky cookies, and candy flights! Your servers for the party were A Taco, Where’s Waldo, Suffragette Lady, and Kristoff from Frozen. 🎃 Congrats to Cheryl Hills and Jerry Gatton as Olive Oyl and Brutus (and baby Sweet Pea) from Popeye! You will receive a $50 FHB gift card to celebrate your victory!
Q: “What if we were to do a beer vacation THROUGH the brewery and invite anyone who wanted to travel with us to come along?”
A: “That might work! Let’s do it!”
Owning a small business is about learning new things so last year we got this BIG idea and decided to go for it. We learned a lot through the process and are very grateful for our dream team of travel agents and tour companies (Allen Travel of Clear Lake, Rabbies Tours International in Scotland and Scots Beer Tours in Scotland) for making it happen for us!
We spent ten days with 16 people touring Scotland in a loop from Edinburgh to Inverness to Mull back to Edinburgh, taking in historical sites, lots of pubs, brewery tours (Traquair House, Black Isle, Born in the Borders, and Allanwater), a distillery visit, and much more. We got rained on, sort of chased by sheep, were overfed, laughed a lot, and all got home safe and sound on schedule. A huge ten days but we had a great time.
Let us know if there’s a corner of the world where you want to drink beer next! We are currently exploring options for our next trip and might do another one in a couple years.
Some things we learned in Scotland:
Black Isle Brewery’s dog is named Jake
The Lochness Monster is shy
Bottles of whisky don’t last long when shared among 16 tourists
The longest stretch Mull went without rain this summer was just 30 hours
The 4th pint of Bellhaven Black tastes just as good as the first
Never fight the British army on an open field!
2% of the whisky aging in barrels evaporates each year. They call this “the angels’ share”
Ian Oswald is a coward and a liar (whoever that is…it was written on a bathroom stall in Tobermory)
Thank you so much to our wonderful travelers! What a fantastic group!
We had such a great time on Thursday at Crisis Intervention Service’s Groove to End Violence night in the taproom! Not only was it an awesome evening of good vibes — they also raised quite a bit of money to continue their important work in our communities. With donations and the money raised through the tickets of the cheesecake flights, over $900 was raised! We have such generous, big-hearted customers! Thank you to everyone who helped organize the event, donated their time and talents as part of the entertainment, or came out to support a good cause. We love being a venue for this kind of good-karma stuff!
We get a lot of good questions at the bar every week. We wrote down some of the most common ones and had Brewer Jake answer them!
1. What's the taste difference between wheat and blonde?
Wheat is more full-bodied and tastes like wheat. The flavor of wheat is pretty hard to describe, kind of snappy.
2. Can you describe the difference between bitter and hoppy?
Bitterness is sharp and kind of lingers in the back of the throat. It needs a sweet malty flavor to balance it. Hoppy is the fresh, floral, fruity aroma and flavor. When you smell fruit, resin, dank, etc…in an IPA, it’s the hoppiness. Bitterness is made by boiling hops, hoppiness comes from hopping after the boil, like dry hoping during fermentation
3. Why does the Rongo change color from week to week?
Gravity is undefeated. The haziness from the wheat, oats, and hops fall out of suspension eventually.
4. Why do some beers cost more than others?
There's different ingredient costs, different time needed in the fermenter, different fermentation temps, leading to higher energy costs. Some beers need 1 lb of hops, some need 33 lbs, hops range from $6-30/lb, and the highly hopped IPAs usually use the more expensive stuff. Lagers take 3-4 weeks in the fermenter, then another 3-4 in kegs to lager. Time is money. They’re also fermented colder, which increases energy cost. Special ingredients like herbs, spices, honey, fruit, etc…are very expensive.
5. Why don’t you make sour beer?
The bacteria needed to sour beer can infect parts and fittings and that can turn clean beers into sours. Maybe we’ll make some one day, but not right now.
6. Why don’t you make gluten free beers?
I’ve never had a good one.
7. What did this building used to be?
Built as a Kreske’s dime store in 1925. Has been several businesses since then, most notably Damon’s Too.
8. Do you distribute?
Not right now, we like having full control over our beer so we keep it in house. We know that the beers is being poured at the right pressure, through a clean tap line, into a clean glass, and the staff is knowledgeable about our beer.
9. What does Rongorongo mean?
It’s an indecipherable language that researchers found etched on tablets on Easter Island.
10. What’s in the barrels right now?
A little of this, a little of that…keep an eye on this newsletter to find out!
11. What hops are in this IPA?
Hops for each IPA are included in the menu description. Most are from the Pacific Northwest, a few are from Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. We’ll be using some beautiful Iowa-grown hops soon!
12. What malt is in this?
Nobody asks this. We use a lot of Weyerman Pils, from Bamberg, Germany, and Golden Promise, grown in the UK.
13. What yeast strain did you use?
Hey, what’s going on here...
14. What does your water profile look like?
You’re trying to steal our recipe, aren’t you?!
15. Can I take a peak at all those clipboards in the brew area?
Anyone looking for a project? For you creative and handy folks out there, used barrels can be used for all sorts of things - furniture, crafts, decor, etc. Right now we have two furniture-grade, not-quite-water-tight 56-gallon Chardonnay barrels. They are $100 each and if you have questions or would like to look at our supply, please email Brewer Jake firstname.lastname@example.org.
To get the ideas flowing, check out this article on Craftbeer.com (21 Gifts Made from Reclaimed Barrels) and this Google image search.
FHB is gearing up for its first "educational" international beer vacation in October! We're taking 16 people around Scotland for ten days and we couldn't be more pumped. FHB co-owner Molly got to do a quick pre-trip last week to check everything out to make sure the company trip goes smoothly and had a great time. Here are some random pictures from her trip. (And a chill-out video of Loch Ness above.)
Scottish beer = VERY GOOD.
Haggis "crisps" = an acquired taste
It was pretty crowded at times due to August being the "high season" in Scotland. It will be more serene during October when FHB goes. This picture is what happens when a Spanish tour bus spots a really cute Scottish "coo" (highland cow).
The weather was pleasingly misty and spooky! Nice atmosphere for castle wandering and sitting by the fire in pubs. Here are some more atmosphere pics below. Looking forward to the real trip in October! We're also looking forward to planning more trips, so watch the newsletter for an announcement this winter some time for news about more travels.
We have so many thank-yous to make for our staff field trip yesterday! First, to our bartender Tim Huey, who gave us a (safe distance) tour of his bee hives In Nora Springs to show us where the spotlight ingredient in our Honey Kolsch comes from. Next, to Keri at Cedar Falls Hops Co. for teaching us so much about hops (and taking our Chrismas card picture?). And then to SingleSpeed Brewing Co. for the all-brewers-on-deck tour of the brew area and incredible hospitality in their beer hall. Lastly, we have the kind of people on staff who give up a day off to learn stuff. How awesome are they?! We're very lucky to have them. Thanks, everyone!
Our "field day" with Healthy Harvest of North Iowa last month has inspired us a bit and we're making more of an effort to brew with local ingredients. Marcy and Steve (shown here) from Twisted River Farm in Mitchell visited a few weeks ago and helped us prep some of their fresh basil for a new beer we're calling "Citra Basil Pale Ale."
After a really good clean, we added the basil and hops at the same time to an already-fermenting beer. The process of this end-of-the-line hop additions is called dry hopping. (If you want to watch Brewer Jake dry hop a normal beer, click here.)
A few weeks later we debuted it at Twisted River Farm's Healthy Harvest Field Day event. We celebrated our brew by sitting next to the field where the basil came from and drinking two pints.
Thanks so much to Marcy and Steve for the awesome basil and our many years of beer-soaked friendship. :-)
The beer is available in the taproom starting Wednesday, August 15!
Last Saturday was a GORGEOUS day for a beer fest! We'd like to thank friends-of-FHB Martin and Conor for helping us pour samples! A shout-out to our bartender Taylor for the awesome art on the menus. We fielded compliments about those all day long. Also, cheers to our hosts, the Bicycle, Blues, and BBQ Festival, and Lake Time Brewery. Visit the blog for a quick gallery of pictures from the day. Until next year, Clear Lake!
Home-brewer extraordinaire Tim Blasen of the beer blog/podcast Crinkletalk interviewed our Brewer Jake last week. They talked about current beer trends, accessible prices, Rongorongo making us proud, off-flavor training, yeast, our big-time gratitude for all the community support so far, and lots of other topics. Thanks so much to Tim for spending so much time with us and the The Iowa Taproom for sponsoring the podcast! Search "Crinkletalk" on iTunes, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, or Patreon to listen, or just click here.
Early last week, I make a quick trip up I-35 to attend the American Society of Brewing Chemists’ Malt Flavor and Aroma Symposium in Roseville, Minn. I learned a lot, made a few new friends, and took a lot of blurry photos with my phone.
Overall, this conference was a great learning experience for me. Almost everyone at the event had some sort of formal scientific training except for me, which wasn’t a bad thing. Just being around all these smart people helped me learn so much. I met scientists, sensory techs, brewers, maltsters, and more. The presentations were amazing, but sometimes you can learn just as much over a few pints.
What happens to the brewery's leftover grain?
We get this question a lot so we thought we'd share a few fun facts. We use 300 to 800 pounds of grain every brew day, which leaves us with about twice that weight in heavy, wet spent grain that we don’t have a use for. Our solution? Carl and Marcia Ginapp's very hungry livestock!
This 200-strong herd of katahdin sheep, shown above at their home outside of Rock Falls, love our protein-rich grain, Carl says. The herd produces about 350 lambs a year.
The Ginapps also have six crossbreed steers, which are "raised the way grandpa used to," says Carl. Their balanced diet also includes FHB grains like the sheep and they are raised without growth hormones or antibiotics. (Carl says if anybody needs beef to let him know, as he will be making locker dates for the steers over the next two months. Please call/text Carl to reserve your share at 641-425-0592. $2 lb per hanging weight.)
We love that our grain has this second life, especially because it's with a small hyper-local family-owned business like ours. Very cool! And don’t worry, good people of Rock Falls, there will be no mobs of drunken sheep or cattle! Spent grain contains no alcohol.
(Photos by Carl Ginapp)
What happens when 14,000 thirsty beer industry people descend upon one city? In a nutshell, that's what the annual Craft Brewers Conference is, really - an INVASION. Brewers, vendors, and business folks all gather once about a week each year in a different city to learn, network, buy/sell stuff, and show off their beards. Everybody is not quite at work but not quite on vacation, either, so the atmosphere is really fun. We had a fabulous time at our first CBC: highlights include learning insider info during seminars, meeting tons of like-minded beer people, seeing our Iowa Brewers Guild buddies, getting to know beautiful Nashville, and eating southern food like it’s our new job.
Molly’s Two Cents
Walking around a normal city during CBC is surreal. Everyone sort of looks the same, like they’re wearing a uniform (khaki shorts, beer t-shirt, baseball cap, beard, name tag) and you feel like you’re living in a parallel universe or sci-fi movie. The convention center itself lends to an otherworldly vibe too because Music City Center would remind you of one of those Battlestar Galactica spaceships that can hold half the known human population and is so big you never quite know where you are. It covers 16 acres in downtown Nashville. You earn your beers at the end of the day if you keep walking from one end to the other all afternoon looking for the right session room or trying to spot “beerlebrities.” (Beerlebrities is a term Jake uses for famous beer people, many of whom attended this CBC. The founder guy from Stone sat two tables down from us at a bar one night. He carries his beer not with one hand in front of him, elbow bent, but by the rim of the glass, arm straight at his side, kinda like the glass is a leash and there’s an invisible dog is behind him. Sometimes it's the little things you remember from a big day, right?)
I went to lots of great sessions, including one on branding breweries through the taproom experience, creating social media content on the cheap, menu design, management/leadership, motivating employees, strategies for creating unique events, etc. I think I learned the most though by just chatting to all the industry people I met. We all have stories about what’s worked in our breweries than can help another brewery a few states down the road. Beer people in general are very generous with their ideas and experiences and don’t hesitate to say things like, “I have a great idea you should steal.”
The Iowa representation at the conference was very strong! We had a great gathering at Jackalope Brewing on Wednesday night, which was a blast. Typically, when we see other Iowa beer people, we’re usually all working - it’s at a beer fest or at a brewery one of us owns and we’re on duty and in a hurry and covered in beer and holding change for someone we need to get to the other end of the bar. At CBC though, you can just relax and ask your Iowa beer buddy what cute things their dog did this week. That is so rare and it’s awesome. We also ran into Natascha Myer at the party, who is currently living in Nashville working on her dream of being a singer/songwriter and plays at Fat Hill on May 24. Her brother Dave is a brewer at SingleSpeed. Small world!
Speaking of SingleSpeed, big congrats to them and Iowa Brewing for making Iowa proud during the CBC awards Thursday night. Nice job, folks! There is so much cool stuff happening with beer in Iowa and craft beer in general…I think if I took one thing away from the conference that’s it -- that there’s a great future for us in this business and great people to learn alongside.