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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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?