Category Archives: Beer

Backpocket Brewing – Coralville

First of all, please forgive my horrible camera phone pictures.  I don’t have the latest greatest phone, and I didn’t want to drag my canon with me because, well frankly, because I have to lug a ton of stuff with me wherever I go, whenever I go anywhere.  That happens with two kids.  That and I think I may have broken or fractured my toe.  So there you have it.

Anyway, thanks to Nana Sally and Papa Tom (my Godparents and Aunt and Uncle) Andrew and I had a date night.  Not just any date night mind you, this has been planned for a year.  We attended the soft opening of the new brewery lastnight, the night before the full opening tonight.  The building isn’t finished yet, but it’s going to be stunning when it’s done.  The restaurant side is pretty much done but they’re still working on the brewery.

Andrew of course, belongs to the mug club, which entitles him to a 24 ounce hand crafted stoneware mug with his own number on it and $3 draft beers (instead of $4) that which he gets to keep at the end of the year.  They are offering up 120 more mugs, on a first come first serve basis.  (See their facebook page for more information) Which I WILL HAVE.

Backpocket is a 100% Iowa crafted, German inspired, craft brewing enterprise.  They’re not new to this gig.  Though Backpocket is located in the Iowa River Landing district in Coralville, it grew out of Old Man River Restaurant and Brewery out of McGregor, Iowa.  The demand for their German Style beers quickly outgrew the capacity they had at McGregor, so they landed a prime real estate spot in Coralville, with the 15,000 square foot brewery.  Which, according to Business380.com, makes it the largest brewery in Iowa.  Pretty cool, huh?

At the soft opening, Backpocket staff greeted us at the door, of course, to scan our tickets (I felt a little bit like a VIP! – really, we just were lucky to get one of the 300 tickets in the 4 minutes it took them to sell out – but still…)  We seated ourselves, reviewed the beer and pizza menu (more on that later!) and of course, ordered a sampler.

The sampler came with the 5 beers they have on tap.  There were also other craft beers available, but we stuck with Backpocket this time. 

THE BEERS

Golden Coin – Helles

Helles is a German Blond Lager, very drinkable, smooth, light on the hops, kind of sweet.  One of those “makes me very happy after spending all day in the sun doing manual labor” kind of beers.  I don’t have the stats, but here’s the hops and malts used via their website.  As they say, it has a very light “hop nose” and “little to no upfront bitterness.”

Malts – Pilsner, Caramel light, Carapils

Hops – Hallertau Mittelfruh and Traditional

5.2% alcohol by volume

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Penny Whistle – Weizen

Penny Whistle is a Bavarian Wheat Beer with a little more hop nose than the Helles.  Still, very drinkable, a little heavier than the Gold Coin, but full of flavor.

5.5% alcohol by volume

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Slingshot – Dunkel

A very popular Dunkel or German Dark Lager, Slingshot was yumm-o.  I made notes that it had a slight coffee flavor (so of course I would like it) but it wasn’t bitter and definitely not hoppy.  I would say toasted and malty – making it slightly sweet on the tongue after the coffee flavor.  Another slightly heavier beer than the wheats, (nothing close to a stout or a porter – Dunkels color is dark, but they’re still relatively light) but still refreshing and full of complex flavors.  Really a lovely beer.

Malts – Pilsner, Carmel Light, Carmel Dark, Munich, Chocolate

Hops – Hallertau Mittelfruh, Perle

5.3% alcohol by volume

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Wooden Nickel – Scottish “Peated” Lager (or Ale)

Ahhhh Andrew and I do love a good Scottish Ale.  As a matter of fact, our favorite homebrew so far has been the Scottish Ales.  My notes for this beer simply said YUM!  Peated means that the malt is smoked over burning peat to create a darker flavor characteristic and smoky aroma of an Islay or sometimes Irish whiskey.  I liked Backpocket’s description of it’s beer…so here…

“So, a German, a Scott and an Iowan walk into a Bar and… an entirely unique beer was invented. Traditional German yeast, hops and techniques, paired with the smoky flavor from Scottish malts, all somehow born in Iowa.”

5.7% alcohol by volume

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Jack Knife – GPA

Jack Knife is more hoppy than the other beers.  not my favorite, because my palate just does not enjoy a hoppy beer.  My husband, however, loves hoppy beers.  Their highest alcohol volume beer at 6.2%, is a unique blend of German and American Hops.  And as far as the hop nose, this one isn’t quite the IPA hop of say, Peace Tree’s Hop Wrangler or even more their Hop Sutra, but it’s still quite hoppy.  Jack Knife is a GPA which is simply “German Pale Ale.”  Great for someone who wants to train their palate to truly enjoy the hoppy side of beers.  Again, I’ll leave it to Backpocket to describe this one.

“When it came to creating a unique take on an IPA, one countries hops wasn’t going to cut it. German hops for a smooth bitterness, American hops for perfect aroma and the result – a “GPA” that would make any IPA want to change its name.”

6.2% alcohol by volume

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Root Beer

Backpocket also, like many craft brewers, went the way of the tree’s favorite drink, Root Beer.  Also a great option for kids.  We didn’t try it though, we kind of forgot.

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THE FOOD

So, enough about the beer.  The beer was fantastic.  As a matter of fact, we’re kind of craving it right now.  But I must tell you about the pizza.  Like Lincoln Wine Bar in Mount Vernon, Backpocket invested in a beautiful Italian style pizza oven that tuns out pizza in about 90 seconds.  Yes, I said 90 seconds.  (COOL!)  I don’t have any info on the oven at Backpocket, but it looked a little more new-age than the oven at Lincoln Wine Bar, but it turned out some fantastic pizza just the same.  Beautifully crispy crust that held it’s shape from plate to mouth.  With simple and few ingredients, each pie that we had was full of flavor and worked perfect with the beer.

The pizzas offered lastnight at the soft opening were:

BBQ – BBQ sauce, chicken, spring onions, provolone cheese, and cilantro garnish

Margherita – Basil, fresh mozzarella, tomato

Produce Pie – Tomato, mushroom, spinach, kalamata garnish

Solid Combo – Sausage, roasted pepper, red onion

Meatza – Bacon, pepperoni, sausage

Each 10″ personal pizza is adorned with either a white or red sauce, and fresh ingredients, carefully placed so you get a little of everything in each slice.  The crust wasn’t quite as chewy (less gluten in the flour most likely) as the Lincoln Wine Bar’s pizza crust, but it had a wonderful flavor and texture.  The pizza was as unique as the beer itself.

We will most definitely be going back frequently, so I’ll post as I learn more.  I will also try to get a little more history about the brewmaster himself, when it’s not so crazy busy for him.  Or at least, when he might have a minute to stop and breathe.  According to my husband, he started out as a microbiologist or some kind of super smart scientist type who followed his passion of brewing beer.  Which in and of itself, is pretty damn cool.

So.  See you there?

Lincoln Wine Bar – Mount Vernon, Iowa

Now that I have your attention…let me tell you a bit about the Lincoln Wine Bar.  The Lincoln Wine Bar was opened in 2003 by another family, and reclaimed and re-opened by Matt Steigerwald in 2006.    Then closed again on New Years Eve for renovations.  The Wine Bar is new again as of the week of the 20th of February 2012, with a facelift, double the space, and pizza made in a brand new, hand-made in Italy, Brick Wood Fire Oven.

“The oven was hand-built in Naples, Italy by Stefano Ferrara to our specs. It’s a wood oven, 6000 pounds, and cooks a pizza in 90 seconds at about 900 degrees.  It’s kind of the Rolls Royce of wood ovens and we love it.” 

He’s right, it’s a beautiful oven and turns out some mighty fine pies.  Matt also gets his flour out of Naples, Italy.  Caputo 00, is said to be the best flour for pizza making.   You might wonder why that is.  Flours from Italy (and Europe in general) are much different from the flour we use here in the states.  For one thing, the gluten content varies greatly in different flours and from different regions.  The flour Matt uses in his pizza crust is specific to pizza making and contains a high gluten content of about 11% to 12%.  It’s that high gluten content that gives the crust it’s delightful “chew” without being tough.  That tenderness also has to do with how much the dough is worked.  And that’s surely not to be overlooked in this kitchen.  These folks know what they’re doing.

FOOD

The restaurant offers four permanent pizzas, and offers two to three specialty pizzas daily – posted on the board.  Andrew and I had two pizzas, because, well, we had to try more than just one (for the sake of the blog, you know.)  Andrew ordered a sausage (homemade sausage from their other restaurant down the street, The Lincoln Cafe) and I ordered a Margherita pizza.  Both were adorned with a homemade tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella.  This is the kind of pizza that you finish there.  Don’t be demure, be bold.  Have a beer, loosen your pants, and eat the whole thing.  This isn’t the type of pizza that stuffs you full to the gills with two pieces, and it doesn’t keep well in the fridge (though it’s still good the day after – just a bit soggy.)   The crust was bubbly and chewy (due to the high gluten content – and I’m guessing it also helps it cook quickly in the wood fire oven, just like in Italy.)  The ingredients were fresh and flavorful.  Both pizzas were delicious.  Both were reasonably priced, mine was $12 Andrew’s $15.  Which you might think high-priced for a pizza, but both were 12 inches, and when you consider that you’re getting a–100% hand-made in front of you with fresh ingredients fired in an imported brick oven–the price is reasonable.  There were two specials on the board (always look at the board) for little over $16.  I’m willing to pay that price for good real whole food.

WINE AND BEER

The wine list was great, though I was disappointed that there were no Iowa wines, and that the wine list is rather pricey.  Good, but pricey.  Available wines are typically from the West Coast of the US, Europe, Australia, or Argentina.  Matt personally chooses the wines sold at the wine bar.

 “Basically I’m the sommelier at the bar. No special certificate.  Wines just need to taste great to get on our list.”  

I didn’t look much at the wine list but I noticed the least expensive wine was around $27 per bottle and I saw one for over $80 per bottle.  I have no doubt these are exceptional wines, and for our little date night that was more than we wanted to or planned to spend.

Andrew and I chose the less expensive option of beer, for a couple of reasons.  We found the selection fresh and well, exciting.  As silly as that may sound.  But we also really enjoy beer.   My husband brews his own, so we like to experiment and try different infusions.  On the beer list we found brews from all over Europe, the States, Canada, Japan, and two from Iowa – Millstream and one of our favorites, Peace Tree. I enjoyed thoroughly the Hitachino Sweet Stout from Japan.  Andrew had a Peace Tree Hop Wrangler, which was too hoppy for me, but he enjoyed it-a lot.  The wine and beer lists change so if you find something you like, write it down.

EXPERIENCE

Overall the experience was good, except that we stood outside for almost 10 minutes in the cold before they opened the doors.  Granted, we were there early, but my good ol’ Iowa hospitality bristled a little at that.  But once we got in the door, we were greeted with friendly wait and host staff and served very quickly.  I will say, if you do go, I would suggest you go early.  It really started to pick up at about 6 pm.  Matt was gracious in answering my questions, and welcomed photos.

OVERALL COST  $$$ (out of $$$$$)

OVERALL EXPERIENCE  🙂 🙂 🙂  (out of 5 🙂  )

 

PLEASE SEE THE NEW EAT LOCAL IOWA PAGE TO FIND OUT WHAT THOSE SILLY SYMBOLS MEAN

More infomation about the Lincoln Wine Bar can be found on their website:  http://www.foodisimportant.com

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