cover story

July 7, 2011 |

Back for its fifth year... Cityview’s Brewfest


Beer Genius kiosks, like this one at el Bait Shop, will be available at Brewfest.

Beer lovers to sample from more than 400 varieties at Principal Park on July 9


by Jared Curtis


The first Cityview Brewfest event took place in 2007 in the parking lot of downtown bar el Bait Shop. A small but dedicated group of beer loyalists showed up, excited to try a few beer samples. Five years later, the event has turned into a beer lover’s delight. Not only has the event become bigger and moved into the cozy confines of Principal Park — the home of the Iowa Cubs — but this year more than 400 beer samples will be available for connoisseurs. It’s the ultimate sampler for a fraction of the cost.

“The selection is impressive, and the event is a great deal if you break it down to the number of samples available for the price,” said Jeff Bruning, beer consultant for the event. “It’s a great bargain, and you get to try a number of samples including beers that cost $10-$15 a bottle normally. It’s an inexpensive way to decide what you like for future purchases instead of spending money on a six-pack of beer that you’ve never tried and might not like.”

The event takes place on Saturday, July 9 from 3 to 7 p.m. Admission is $23 in advance (available online at www.brewfestdsm.com or tikly.co and in person at Des Moines area Hy-Vees and Principal Park) or $28 the day of ($10 for designated drivers).

A similar beer festival took place years ago in Valley Junction, but that event dissolved. Cityview publisher, Shane Goodman, then approached Bruning and others to help revamp the idea and create something new.

“This event has experienced tremendous growth over the past five years. When the concept of el Bait Shop came to fruition, it was a natural fit to host a brewfest adjacent to the bar with a handful of representatives and a bit of live music,” said Mindy Toyne of In Any Event, who is assisting in the planning. “The event was obviously well received and has jumped around downtown a bit before landing in its current location, which is a perfect fit for a festival of this nature.”

Brewfest will be held in the Principal Park concourse and new to this year, the upper level mezzanine.

“Principal Park is a great place to hold the event because it’s a familiar spot for people, and you have the feeling of being outside without the risk of getting rained out or being scorched by the sun,” Bruning said. “It’s basically a giant cement tent with all the amenities we need including concessions, restrooms, vendors, staffing and plenty of space for attendees to not feel overcrowded.”

Principal Park offers free parking for Brewfest as well.

“The relationship between us (Cityview), Jeff (Bruning), Mindy (Toyne) and the Iowa Cubs has been great. It helped solidify this event for future years by bringing a number of strong players together,” said Goodman.

Last year’s event offered between 300 and 350 different varieties, but organizers kicked it up a notch this year, offering more than 400 including a few new Iowa breweries.

Along with the everyday beers that’ll be available, the festival offers an opportunity for distributors and brewers to unleash new and specialty beers to the public and talk with consumers.

“Some brewers are bringing beers that are not available in the state, and some are creating beers especially for the event,” Bruning said. “Along with the beers, it also gives distributors the unique chance to speak with 1,000 to 2,000 consumers about their product.”

Beer lovers owe it to themselves to attend Brewfest.

“This event has a much broader appeal than the name implies. There are many offerings that appeal to the non-traditional beer drinker as well as the educated beer aficionados out there,” Toyne said. “From ciders, malt beverages, fruit beers and recently released offerings to the newest breweries in the state, there are many exciting samples to experience. Of course in between branching out to try something new, you can find your ‘tried and true’ favorites as well.”

An event like Cityview’s Brewfest requires a lot of involvement from a number of groups.

“We are thankful to the beer companies for participating in Brewfest every year, and our sponsors have shown great support, too,” said Goodman. “We simply couldn’t throw a party of this magnitude without them.”

Apps and glass


Attendees from last year’s Brewfest event enjoyed a wide variety of samples in the weather-protected concourse at Principal Park.

Two big things are different from years past — the sampling glass and a new mobile phone app. In years past, attendees received plastic cups for their sampling endeavors; this year glass makes its debut at Cityview’s Brewfest.

“We have been thinking of using glass sampling cups since the beginning,” Bruning said. “I saw another event use them, and they didn’t have any problems. The idea was there, we saw it executed and knew we could do it.”

The commemorative glass sampler not only allows consumers a better tasting experience, but it’s also a keepsake from the event that can be used for years to come.

“Not only is it easier to clean out fresh glass for tasting, but it also adds an extra value to the ticket price,” Bruning said. “Glass is far superior to plastic. Glass is the best way to taste a beer; plastic cups are for keggers.”

The commemorative glass will be provided to the first 2,000 attendees through the doors. All others will be provided plastic sampler glasses.

Along with the new highball sampling glass, the event is also offering the Beer Genius mobile phone app with descriptions of all the beers available at their fingertips. Attendees can download the free app, which is available for all smart phones, at www.brewfestdsm.com.

“An exciting addition to this year is Beer Genius technology, which will point you toward exactly what your thirst is looking for,” Toyne said.

The app will offer consumers tips and recommendations for what they might like based on other choices. But don’t fret; even if you don’t have a cell phone capable of downloading the app, there will be Beer Genius kiosks spread throughout the festival grounds.

“It’s a great addition to Brewfest, and I’m excited to see how it works out,” Bruning said. “Not only does it add more information for the consumer, but it also brings a fun and interactive experience to the festival.”

As Cityview’s Brewfest continues to evolve, expect more changes for the better.

“It’s quite an undertaking for a one-day event and adding more things into the mix could be tough, but the opportunities are there. We’ve toyed with the idea of an early admission for patrons who want to pay a little more,” Bruning said. “Beer is the drink of the common person and more than anything, we want to offer a better deal to attendees.”


New beers to the event


Adding to the more than 400 beers available are two Iowa breweries making their first appearances at the festival — Toppling Goliath, from Decorah, and Twisted Vine, from St. Charles.


Twisted Vine Brewery


According to their bio, Twisted Vine Brewery is the brainchild of three guys — Steve Breman, Steve Becker and Brian Sabus — who, quite simply, just love to drink great beer. The trio has been in the homebrewing game for years, appearing at el Bait Shop’s Jimmy Carter Happy Hour and other local homebrewer’s celebrations. But they decided the time was right to step up their game. After some hops, sweat and tears, they held their grand opening on July 2 at their home inside the Madison County Winery.

“We’re starting small with the brewery on purpose,” Sabus said. “We are starting free of debt. We paid for this venture out of our own pockets, and we’ll see what the future holds. Overall, though, all three of us have fun brewing beer, and we’re going to do our damndest to make sure that doesn’t change a bit.”

Twisted Vine is smaller than a microbrewery, but the staff painstakingly hand crafts every beer they brew. With their small stature, they can’t afford to produce a skunky batch, which leads the three to feverishly fret over every pint they create.

“Our main mission is to create unique, quality brews that have a bit of a twist to them. When we screw up, and we will, throwing out a batch is not going to break the bank,” Sabus said. “We’re about as accessible as accessible gets, and we’ll always be willing to sit down with our fellow beer drinkers to get ideas for future concoctions.”

This will be Twisted Vine’s first big event, something the three are looking forward to.

“We were flattered when we were asked, and it should be a blast,” Sabus said. “We’ve done some give-a-ways and free samples at a few events but were not licensed to sell, so we provided homebrew versions of some of our recipes. Brewfest will be our first large event as a fully-licensed brewery, and we couldn’t be more excited.”

The group will be bringing a wide variety of beer to the event including Twisted Blonde, Pirates Kettle Pale Ale, Screaming Ogre Wheat, Swashbuckle Summer Ale, Amber Waves and the Partizon Porter.


Toppling Goliath


Cityview’s Brewfest will take place Saturday, July 9 from 3-7 p.m. at Principal Park. Admission is $23 in advance or $28 the day of. Visit www.brewfestdsm.com for details.  

Although they started brewing in Decorah, Toppling Goliath has slowly and surely expanded throughout the state. Originally starting with small equipment — they could only make a half-barrel at a time — the batches were small in size, but big in taste. As word spread, so did the batches. Although their taproom is filled with small batch specialties, their staples — Dorothy’s New World Lager, Tsunami Dark, Tsunami Pale and the Golden Nugget IPA — are being brewed in bigger batches and distributed to more than 40 locations.

“Although we’re not bottling yet, we’ve gotten great response from consumers,” said Madison McMullen, marketing director. “We’re really excited to get to Des Moines and let people experience what we have to offer.”

As with any upstart brewery, the small batch beers available in the taproom tend to not only be creative, but extremely tasty.

“Our brewmaster, Nick Murphy, and CEO/Founder, Clark Lewey, are coming up with new and creative things using some great ingredients,” McMullen said. “We have some great stuff coming up including a beer being aged in Templeton Rye barrels and a smoked maple porter made with maple syrup.”

The crew is excited to be a part of Cityview’s Brewfest this year.

“We’ve done a lot of sampling events this year, but nothing this big,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase our beers and get them into the hands of consumers. People are enjoying it and we’ve upped our production by 25 percent this year and added to our distribution.”

For Brewfest, the brewery will be bringing three beers and possibly a fourth for consumers to try.

“Tentatively we’ll have the Dorothy’s New World Lager, Tsunami Dark and our most popular, the Golden Nugget IPA,” McMullen said. “Hopefully, we’ll also be able to bring some small specialty batches including the Hopsmack Double IPA.”

The brewery team is not only looking forward to attendees trying their beers, but also talking with patrons and spreading the word of Toppling Goliath.

“We love to talk to people about our product because it shows them how passionate we are about creating the beer. Once they get a chance to taste it, they become a fan,” McMullen said. “We’ve always been more about quality over quantity, and once people try our beer they want more of it. We’ve created some raving fans, and I’d put our beer up against any other beer in the state.”

Although they might be small in stature, expect big flavors from Toppling Goliath.

“Our motto is ‘Big Beers Brewed in Small Batches.’ If you love big beers, you’re going to love us,” she said.

One thing is for sure, if you like beer, there is no better place to be than at the fifth annual Cityview’s Brewfest on Saturday, July 9.

“If you really love beer and want to try a wide variety, there is no better event in Iowa to do it at,” Bruning said. CV