RAGBRAI 2014 – Craft BEER!
RAGBRAI is a bike ride. RAGBRAI is a party. The party beverage of choice at RAGBRAI is BEER. Unfortunately, Iowa is not the cradle of the craft beer movement. In Forest City, I asked a local pizza shop owner where could find a micro brew. His response, ‘Oh you mean SNOB BEER?’ I informed him I was looking for beer with flavor. This was one of the most contentious, heated interactions I had in Iowa. Local taverns in Iowa are dominated by the multitude of flavor free options from the big three. Luckily, Iowa has a fledgling craft beer presence. I knew that there was going to be minimum micro brews in Iowa, so I took the time to do some research prior to my RAGBRAI departure.
As it turned out, only two of the eight RAGBRAI overnight towns had local micro brews to enjoy. That is truly tragic. However, the Iowa Craft BEER Tent made everything okay. The Iowa Craft Beer Tent exists to spread the love and happiness of quality, Iowa brewed craft beers. They also educate the population that there are alternatives to the typical flavor free beers. This year, the Craft Beer tent made an appearance every day except for day seven. Instead to being limited to three craft beers in two cities, I get experience beers from all over Iowa nearly every day! Included were two of my favorites from last year’s RAGBRAI, Confluence Brewing and Peace Tree Brewing. MMMM! When you saw the Iowa Craft Beer Tent, you knew that the hard part of the day’s ride was over. It was time to sit back, relax and enjoy a beer before wrapping up the day’s ride.
The Iowa Craft Beer Tent and local brew pubs were not the only places fine micro brews were available on RAGBRAI. Most days also features a Beer for Breakfast Stop. This is where I admit to being a wimp. Downing a beer at 6:00 in the morning, before even getting warmed up, with a long day in the saddle ahead? It did not sound appealing. I did not stop for beer for breakfast. Though I did have an early brew during the ride from Forest City to Mason City. However, it was only 38 miles. I should have had more 🙂 The main stage at the overnight towns had your typical flavor free options. This year, they also featured special beers from Backpocket Brewing. I had a couple Indee Darks specially brewed for Independence, IA. This special occasion beer should not be limited to one event. It was Durn tasty!
RAGBRAI was a long, hot, windy and flat week in the saddle. I consumed some very tasty beverages and some not so tasty beverages. What were my favorites?
Okoboji Brewing… I really liked Okoboji, but unfortunately, the campsite was very isolated from the town itself. It was over 10 miles from the campsite to Okobiji Brewing. When I finally arrived, it was getting dark, there was lots of traffic and I was worried about the ride back to camp. The people, however, were extraordinarily nice. I had a couple beers and wished I could have stayed longer.
West O Beer… It was getting late. I was taking the long ride back to the campground when I stumbled across West O Beer. I had to stop in. I only had one beer at West O’ Beer. Luckily I chose a great one, their Smoked Red. I admit I was skeptical when I ordered the Smoked Red. Most smoked beers take the smoked beer flavor way too far. It is a beer, not liquid smoke!!! West O beer obviously realized this. The smoke flavor in their Smoked Red was subtle and very pleasant not too much to interfere with the beer’s other flavors. The mouth feel was heavy for a red, but very nice overall. I liked the Smoked Red so much, I had at least two more from the Iowa Craft Beer Tent over the remainder of RAGBRAI.
Mason City Brewing… Mason City was ready for a party! Mason City Brewing in the heard of downtown was in the heard of the action. They sold plastic growlers, which looked like they would fit in a bottle cage! Brilliant. I had three of their beers. I felt that their strongest offerings where their darkest beers.
As mentioned earlier, the Iowa Craft Beer Tent is a fantastic addition to RAGBRAI for us beer snobs. I got to sample two of my favorites from last year’s RAGBRAI. Those are Peace Tree Brewing, (I dig their Red Rambler) and Confluence Brewing.
Honorable mention… Single Speed Brewing. I did not see them on the Iowa Craft Beer Tent and we did not see them on the RAGBRAI route, but I did get to sample a tasty White IPA in Waverly, IA. MMMM.
Iowa is not a craft beer mecca. You will not find a tasty local micro brews in every RAGBRAI overnight town. However, thanks to a few overnight town micro brew options, the Iowa Craft Beer Tent and Backpocket brewing, there is enough fine quality brews to make any beer snob happy. I look forward to sampling the beers at RAGBRAI next year!