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.
I love to eat. I love it so much that I do it every day.
When Nashville was announced as the location of this year’s Craft Brewers Conference, I knew I had to go. Sure, I’m continually trying to stuff my large head with more brewing knowledge, I wanted to see some old pals, and drink some amazing beer. But the part of the trip I planned out with the most detail was the food.
In particular, I had a fire burning in my belly that could only be extinguished by more heat. In particular, the spicy, juicy, deep-fried poultry from Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. For those who aren’t up-to-date on your hot chicken history, Prince’s is the original hot chicken shack. The Big Bang of spicy battered bird. A piece of culinary history.
Before I got could handle the heat, I had to warm up with my taste-buds. My culinary vacation started before we left the midwest. We met my niece (and her handlers) at Nutmeg Brewhouse in Burnsville on the way to the airport. It was a very good meal, but I can’t even remember what I ate. My mind was on two things: 1) Prince’s and 2) getting my glasses and hat back from Jocelyn.
Once in Nashville, my tastebuds woke up. The coffee shop next to our loft, Frothy Monkey, made me one of the best Americanos that I can recall. The sandwich was also delicious, but man that coffee was good. My food frenzy was off to a good start.
The days and times blend together, but at one point I found myself at Martin’s BBQ. Of course I couldn’t choose just one thing to try, so I got the platter. This baking sheet full of food hit my tastebuds with the best brisket of my life. The pork was also unbeatable. They know how to work that smoker. I paired my mound-o-meat with a smoked porter from Yazoo Brewing, which was just a few blocks away. I understood why there was a line out the door.
My next memorable meal was devoured before I could snap a pic, but I paired the Indian food from the Chauhan Ale & Masala House with a Saffron IPA from Nashville’s Mantra Artisan Ales. Here’s a boring picture the beer, taken on a beautiful night with open windows in the background.
Of course, I had to eat a hearty breakfast to fuel my mind and body every day to make the most of the conference. My favorite breakfast happened at 417 Union, just a block away from our room. I kept up with the self-gorging by ordering the chicken friend steak. If you’re gonna be a bear, be a grizzly, right?
And then, the day came. It was our last full day in Nashville and I hadn’t cried from the heat of any meal yet. I skipped lunch, knowing that I had to get that burning bird! I hopped in an Uber immediately after our last class got done at 3:30, in hopes the never-ending line at Prince’s would be minimal between lunch and dinner. It wasn’t out the door yet, which I considered a win. After perusing the menu, I settled for a half-chicken. More food than a doctor would recommend, but I was HUNGRY. Then I had to decide the heat level. I like spicy food, but the heat here is legendary. Some say that even the mild can bring a bring a man to his knees. I got brave, and went with medium. What have I done?
Forty-five minutes later, my order was ready. I was prepared for the wait, and knew my patience would be rewarded. The tiny strip-mall hotspot didn’t have an open table, so I took it back to our loft. That’s probably for the best, since I don’t like crying in front of strangers. I took it up to our rooftop patio and unveiled this deep-fried Mona Lisa.
It was…in a word….beautiful.
Each piece of chicken rested on two slices of white bread, which served as a sponge to soak up the extra grease and seasoning. The bright red bird had pickle slices on top, which was presumably there to help cut the heat, and I had my tallboy of Yuengling to help put out the fire. I also had napkins. Lots of napkins.
I was ready.
The next 10 minutes were a blur. When I snapped back to reality, my plate was clean, my beer was empty, and my mouth was burning.
Medium turned out to be the perfect choice for my palate. Yes, it was spicy, but I could still taste the deep flavor that the cayenne and other spices brought to the culinary masterpiece. The breading was crisp, the meat was juicy, and my heart was full. I could understand why this was the recipe that so many chefs try to recreate. Well done, Prince’s.
After a short walk to help regain consciousness, I had a Maibock on our roof for dessert. Smooth, malty, full-flavored dessert.
The following morning, I had one last Americano from Frothy Monkey, along with a massive breakfast bagel. My last meal in Nashville.
Without thinking, I ordered a beer once we got through security at the airport. Shortly after my first sip, I caught a glimpse of my watch. To my surprise, it was 10 am, but the rules of space and time don’t apply at airports. So I had another one.
Our bellies were full, our feet were tired, and our brains were fried.
Thank you, Nashville.
PS. Here are a few pictures from the conference to prove that I did, ya know, learn things.
We sponsored a pair of bikes for the new Mason City Bike Share and are very excited/honored that the launch event for the bikes was held at Fat Hill on May 3. Thank you to all the awesome folks who worked really hard to make the bike share happen (Healthy Mason City and the Active Living & Transportation Commission)! For more info on the bike share, click here for a story KIMT did last week.
We have such amazing customers. Thank you all big time for showing such support for the important work of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society last Saturday. With $1 per beer donated between noon and 5 PM, all the tips from noon from 5PM, and from online donations to our Virtual MS Walk FHB Team Page, we raised $416 for MS research. Wow! Thank you!
Here’s Brewer Jake adding the second dry hop addition to our Rongorongo NEIPA: measuring hops and chucking them in the fermenter. The hops knock CO2 out of suspension resulting in cool bubbles. Hops used are Idaho 7, Mosaic, and Denali varieties.
I just returned home from a great week at the Beer Marketing & Tourism Conference in snowy, beautiful, super-friendly Vermont. It was a very busy few days of beer tasting, networking, listening to speakers, and trying not to buy all the cool-but-expensive things that we don't need from all the vendors at the brewery trade show. My favorite part of the conference was talking to other brewery owners and learning about their businesses. In New Jersey, by law you must offer every patron in your brewery a tour, for example. Fun fact! There were folks from all over the country at the conference and some international folks too. I chatted up everybody! Especially fun to talk to were the French Canadian folks. They said (in their great accents, btw) that a trend there is "B&Bs" - beds and beers, rather than beds and breakfasts. I love that idea!
A lot of the business/marketing sessions at the conference were "sanity checks" for me and let me know that Fat Hill is doing a lot of things right. We're a very new business so that was an awesome relief to hear. Other than that, I came home with a lot of little behind-the-scenes tips and tricks normal customers probably won't see happening but will make the business/marketing side of things run a little smoother for us as small business owners.
The governor of Vermont gave the conference welcome speech. That might sound like an odd booking but craft beer is big business in Vermont. They even deregulated some stuff a few years ago (not sure when, maybe it was always this way) that makes it easier for small breweries to compete against big beer companies when they distribute. (Rare.) Beer tourism is also big in Vermont. He reported that according to the web stats of the Vermont's official tourism website, it looks like 25% of visitors to the site are interested in the state primarily for the craft beer scene, and then other stuff is second (skiing, history, hiking, etc.) to them.
I had so many awesome beers during the trip. I'm a hop head so the IPAs from Prohibition Pig in Waterbury and The Alchemist in Stowe both made me very happy. Magic Hat also had an just-malty-enough English Mild that I loved. Another standout would be Pow Pow by Trillium Brewing (but they are from Boston, not Vermont) that is like licking a hop cone. So much good beer!
One awesome awesome awesome thing about this particular conference was that it was made up of about 50% women attendees. In my experience in the beer industry this is a rare thing and it was fantastic to have that kind of camaraderie I don't usually have at beer conventions. There were a lot of productive, nuanced discussions about women in beer and women as an emerging market. Albeit much less frequent, there also were some less nuanced and not-at-all-productive discussions. We have a long way to go before this industry is 100% female friendly but I do see things slowly getting better.
As far as taprooms go, due to the conference schedule I didn't have a lot of time but I did very much enjoy my flight at the vonTrapp Brewery in Stowe. Super friendly staff and the setup there is amazing...a huge lodge type building in the middle of the mountains. Views for days! Beer was great too - lots of Austrian/German influence, which is great for me because my undergrad term in Austria (feels like a LONG time ago) was when I started to like beer. Unfortunately, the days/times didn't work out with Hill Farmstead, so that's still on my To Do List.
I'll be back some day - hopefully when there's not two snow storms scheduled in one week!? Flight delayed five times on the way home but no big deal... the Burlington airport had rocking chairs, free wifi, and Vermont beer. :-)
A great beer is wasted if it’s poured through a dirty tap line. Every other week, we clean our taplines to make sure our beer tastes just the way we want it to. It’s a cold, messy, time-consuming process, but well worth the effort.
We won’t bore you with the details of the whole ordeal, but we had some fun this week by taking photos of the process. Cheers!
By popular request, it's time for Bourbon Barrel-Aged Braggot, crowler edition!
Q: Why are these crowlers special?
A: Special size (750 ml), barrel-aged label, and rare (only 150 were made). Can be enjoyed now or aged.
Q: How long will they last?
A: These crowlers were purged of oxygen and filled from the bottom, meaning they can be aged for several years if they’re stored at cellar temp (65 or lower). We’d recommend trying one now and sticking one in the cellar to see how the flavors develop and round out over the next year. If you’ve never aged beer before, this would be a great one to start with.
Q: What's a braggot?
A: This sweet, boozy style dates back to 12th century Ireland and combines the most delicious characteristics of mead (honey wine) with the humankind’s greatest achievement - beer.
Q: What does it taste like?
A: It's on the sweet side, as it was brewed with 360 lbs of clover honey. The honey note blends perfectly with the vanilla, coconut, and caramel flavors created by the charred American oak used to make bourbon barrels.
Q: Where did you get the barrels?
A: The barrels are from J. Carver Distillery in Waconia, Minnesota, which is our brewer's home town.
Q: How many do you have left?
A: We sold a lot on release weekend (Feb. 3) but we have plenty left. Come and get 'um! Limit 3 per person per day. $20 each.
If you’ve walked down our hall and taken a peak at our barrels, you may have noticed some white gunk on our barrels. That white gunk is paraffin wax, a vital guard against messes and wasted beer. We use several different varieties of spirit barrels to age our beer in, several of which are at least 10 years old. Some started their life as bourbon barrels, where they sat aging that Kentucky gold for several years, before taking on a second act making treats like Port wine or Scotch. After all this wear and tear, sometimes they leak when the humidity is too low. That’s where brewers use wax, toothpicks, garlic, steam, pitch, nails or black magic to keep the heavenly liquid inside its oak dungeon.
Our brewery book club has met once a month for a year now and we're ecstatic to report that its thriving. We are always surprised by how many people commit so much of their time to reading the book and showing up to have a beer and share their opinion. It's been a really fun way to get to know people and learn new things.
Book club coordinator Molly takes an informal poll at the beginning of each meeting asking participants to rate the book. She's compiled the "scores" for all the books and here are the club favorites from 2017 (in order):
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Grunt by Mary Roach
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Thanks so much to everyone who has attended or supported FHB Book Club this year! Our reading list for 2018 drops Thursday. Hope you're all excited for another great year!