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Blues & BBQ, all hopped-up

NORTH LIBERTY– As if you need one more reason to and enjoy Iowa’s best blues music, fun family activities, fireworks and delicious, simmering barbecue.
But the sixth annual North Liberty Blues & BBQ offers one more incentive to come out and enjoy the day on Saturday, May 26.
Craft beer.
Red’s Alehouse of North Liberty is the title sponsor for the festival’s beverage garden this year, and Red’s is brining in locally-crafted microbrews, to add another level of good taste to the growing community festival.
As the craft beer movement has come to a head, Red’s– with its “No Crap on Tap” motto– has been on the forefront, bringing a constantly-changing menu of beers from around the world and around the corner, and educating customers on the styles, tastes and subtleties of specially-crafted beverages.
Red’s owner Matt Swift and the alehouse’s connoisseur beer buyer Cory Kent saw an opportunity to bring a new demographic to the festival, and inaugurate others in the joys of reaching beyond the pale lagers of Coors, Miller and Anheuser-Busch at the same time.
As Blues & BBQ has gained recognition as a top-notch local festival, with its musical lineup that includes Iowa Blues Hall of Fame musicians and local barbecue chefs and restaurateurs with blue-ribbon reputations, great beer seemed like a natural pairing, said Blues & BBQ committee co-chair Cheryle Caplinger.
“The Blues & BBQ planning committee has been looking to add microbrews to the event for a while now,” said Caplinger. “Matt Swift and the rest of his group at Red’s Alehouse are recognized throughout the region as a premier restaurant and excellent source for great drinks. So, it seemed like the perfect combination to ask Red’s to ‘go Blue’ and be a part of the celebration.
“Blues & BBQ has been focused on Iowa services since its inception; having Iowa craft brews adds to the ambiance of Iowa food and Iowa blues music.”
In keeping with the festival’s local flavor, Red’s invited only Iowa breweries.
“Iowans are proud of their own,” said Kent. “We are number one in corn, we are proud of our Hawkeyes, and whenever Red’s has a local, Iowa brew-on, that’s one of our big selling points.”
Red’s chose seven breweries to bring to Blues & BBQ, and all but one is bringing two of their favorite pours, to offer a wide variety in 16-ounce, commemorative glasses that help to reduce the festival’s waste.
“The breweries are all different according to their styles,” said Kent. “For example, Millstream and Back Pocket make more German-style beers, and Toppling Goliath is well-known for their IPAs (India Pale Ales). “
Representatives from each brewing operation will be on hand in the beverage garden to talk about the beers and answer any questions. Knowledge of what you are drinking is paramount to enjoying it, Kent said.
“People have a fear of the unknown when it comes to beer,” said Kent. “If I just hand you a beer and you taste it without reading or knowing anything about it, and it doesn’t immediately suit your personal taste buds, you are turned off by it. But if I hand you the beer sheet, and say, ‘you are going to taste a little chocolate, a little coffee and a little vanilla and it’s going to taste smooth and malty,’ it becomes a science experiment in your mind. So you read about it, you drink it, and then you appreciate what you are tasting. Your mind goes at ease.”
Kent can talk endlessly about how different kinds of hops give beer their flavors– like floral, citrus or bitter tangs– and the way malts and barleys are processed to give each beer its distinctiveness. That’s the kind of education Red’s staff has tried to bring to customers, and while Kent enjoys talking beer with fellow beer geeks who speak his language, he has just as much fun introducing the unschooled to the world of microbrews.
“All I need is an open mind,” said Kent.
And he is hoping Blues & BBQ attendees will bring their thirst for knowledge to the May 26 festival. The beverage garden will be open during the entire event, from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m., with last call at 10:45 p.m..
“We love craft beer, and North Liberty has been good to the restaurant. We want to give back to the community,” said Kent.
“Music and food and beer just work together.”

Breweries include:
Peace Tree Brewing Company (Knoxville, Iowa) creates handcrafted, full flavored beers with great attention to quality, such as the Red Rambler, the Hop Wrangler (a multi-national take on the classic IPA), the delicately-hopped Blonde Fatale and other seasonals. Their hope is that beer made under the Peace Tree label will be shared with friends and strangers alike as a catalyst for conversations, new friendships and important agreements – in line with the lore of the famous Peace Tree of Red Rock. www.peacetreebrewing.com.

In 1985 Millstream Brewing Company opened its doors - the first brewery to operate in Amana since 1884–to revive the art of brewing beer. Millstream brewers developed the zesty Millstream Wheat Beer, Millstream Lager and the robust Schild Brau, along with locally-famous John’s Generations White Ale and other seasonal favorites. With a current count of 18 national awards and 1 international award, Millstream speaks of some of the finest beer made in the Midwest today. www.millstreambrewing.com.

Some people are crazy about a particular activity or certain sports team. At Madhouse Brewery (Newton, Iowa), they are crazy about making exceptional-quality craft beer. With five different distinctive styles, including a pilsner, wheat, IPA, pale ale and coffee stout, Madhouse Brewing Company is a production-only microbrewery. All brewing, fermentation and packaging of the beer occurs on-site. www.madhousebeer.com.

Great River Brewery in the Quad Cities opened in 2008, with its 483 Pale Ale and Roller Dam Red Ale in 16 oz. cans. Today, it also offers such brews as its double-dark rye, Hop-a-Potamus, a robust Organic Farmer brown ale, the dark and rich Straight Pipe Stout and the Redband Stout infused with espresso beans. greatriverbrewery.com.

Toppling Goliath is a stealth brewery, flying fast, under the radar since the day it opened with its first half-barrel brewery and tap room on the west side of Decorah in 2009. Toppling has a bigger location, but does not make a lot of the same of any one beer; life is just too short to be boring. A variety of standards, from Dorothy’s New World Lager to Tsunami Dark, to a lot of specialty batches, Hop Patrol crafts and barrel-aged beers means Toppling Goliath lives up to its never-boring credo. www.tgbrews.com.

Backpocket Brewing grew out of its original home at the Old Man River Brewing Company in McGregor, Iowa. Located on the driftless area of the Mississippi, it is surrounded on all sides by towering bluffs and the waters of the original “Old Man River”. German-inspired and hand-crafted, there’s a Backpocket Beer perfect for every person, every occasion and - most importantly - every story. They strive to provide Iowa with a simple, yet incredibly enjoyable, world-class beer. backpocketbrewing.com.

Located near the historic Sutliff Bridge between Lisbon and Solon, Sutliff Cider presses, ferments and bottles their delicious cider products from their from the fruits of their own beautiful trees and other local orchards using the old-style rack and cloth press for exceptional taste and freshness. Their handcrafted ciders always contain 100 percent fresh-squeezed juice and are never blended from concentrates. Sutliff hard cider is fairly dry, with lively carbonation. This champagne-style cider is barrel-fermented in French oak, which gives just a hint of oak on the finish. www.sutliffcider.com.