My husband loves trying new beers of all kinds, especially local ones. I think his secret dream is to become a Brewmaster when he grows up. Anyhow, for his big 30th birthday I planned an Iowa roadtrip to take him to a handful of Iowa breweries across the state so that he could sample beer flights to his heart’s content.
Our trip starts on a Friday morning, after a full breakfast to prepare ourselves for the day’s festivities. We leave our house in Cedar Rapids and head towards our first destination: Millstream Brewing Co. in downtown Amana. It’s a short drive. We lament not coming over to Amana more often - so much to see, and once the weather is nice our toddlers will love toddling in and out of the scenic shops.
“It’s not your birthday if you don’t drink before noon!” is our policy. If you are looking for new friends, we are your people! Millstream fits nicely into our schedule then, since they open at 10am on weekdays. We are the first ones here and have the place to ourselves but only for about half an hour before some other thirsty parties stop by. Our barkeep is doing some light cleaning but hustles behind the bar when she sees us. She is very welcoming and tells us the history of the place as she pours samples. I try the cream soda and root beer (I am the driver!) and my hubs tries several samples before ordering a full glass of “The Bitter End.” I ask him to describe it to me and his response is “Dark.” Okay, then. I interpret this to mean that he is enjoying it immensely as he rates it highly on his beer tracking app.
While he enjoys his drink we watch from a window from the barroom that looks onto the brewery workings. We see the Brewmasters are peering into a tank and conversing with lots of hand gestures. Beer is very serious work, kids! Then, we are back on the road.
Our next stop, just in time for the beer to accompany some lunch - is at Olde Main Brewing Co. in Ames. I opt for a cocktail - the Raspberry Cucumber Vodka Lemonade - which is very good and tastes summery. It goes perfectly with my salad. Hubs has his favorite here - The Off Kilter - and a spicy sandwich with a pretzel roll bun that looks tasty. He opts not to do a tasting flight here as we used to live in Ames - so he’s tried them all previously. Instead, we order dessert. All but one dessert on the menu has a beer component - we have an apple cobbler that has beer in the caramel sauce. It comes out while I am in the ladies' room - hubs does not wait for me to eat his half. Yum!
After lunch, we wander along the shops in downtown Ames. If you have never been to Ames outside of campustown - there is so much you are missing out on! After walking off some of our lunch/drinks coma, we are on to our next stop: Clear Lake and Lake Time Brewery. Lake Time is located in an older home on the edge of the downtown area of Clear Lake. The main area is charming but the bathrooms tell me that they are still in a state of construction. Bathrooms were still fully operational - so no problems here!
I order the Saison which our waitress tells me is similar to Blue Moon - which it is - and hubs orders the North Shore flight. He loves most of what he’s drinking. We both love the atmosphere of the place. Great lighting, cozy feel, no loud music. We select a trivia game off of a bookshelf of games and play for an hour. Lake Time doesn’t offer food but patrons are welcome to bring their own. A group of women at a table behind us is decompressing from the work week and passing around chips and salsa. I overhear one of these ladies say a friend is on the way and has picked up pizza. I think we should make friends with this table!
Our next stop isn’t a microbrewery - but it does have great food. If you are in Clear Lake - which has a wonderful downtown overlooking the lake - stop on in to Sevens for some great steak and fixings. And if you are looking for a place to stay, Dickson’s Landing is a beautiful bed and breakfast at a great price and our hostess Kim might be the nicest person I’ve ever met. And she made a breakfast so delicious that I will dream about until we go back. After overeating Kim’s awesome breakfast, we spent Saturday up North visiting some friends.
On Sunday, we hit one more brewery on our way home. SingleSpeed Brewery in Cedar Falls is a double threat. First off, the beer was outstanding. After having a flight, my hubs purchased two growlers to bring home with us. I have never tasted anything so good as the Kinship and I wish I had gotten my own growler. It tastes like summertime - it’s light and fruity but not too fruity because it remembers that it is a beer and not a smoothie. Yum! The second threat at SingleSpeed is the food. The menu there is small and consists of bar type food (flatbread pizza, wings) but they know what they are doing and have done so in a way that I would describe as gourmet flavors rather than a standard bar fare. We will be back, and soon!
So, what are your favorite Iowa microbrews? Let me know in the comments below.
Photo at Lake Time Brewery in Clear Lake Iowa by the author.