With so much brewing in Dubuque, this month I’m setting my wine glass aside and I’m going to enjoy a glass or snifter of craft beer. Within a two to three-month period, three new establishments have, or are about to open that brew and/or serve Iowa craft beer.
It was just a couple years ago when we had no brewers in town at all, then Jubeck New World Brewing operated by Jay Jubeck and Dan Caraway started making and pouring some mighty nice brew. They filled a void and the beer-loving public has responded by beating a path to their door. They continue to go strong as more and more people discover their little fly-in spot on 11th St. Next, Terry and Gabriel Mozena began brewing and distributing Düber Bier, which is, as I understand it, a throwback to the old Dubuque style Pilsner beer. 7 Hills Brewing Co., a microbrewery in the Millwork District and the Backpocket Brewing Co. Dubuque Tap Room, also in the Millwork District, are both about to open. The Barrel House Restaurant has opened in the Cooper Wagon Works building at 3rd and Main, and while it isn’t brewing any beer, it does serve some local craft beer. All in all, it’s a good time to be a beer-lover in Dubuque!
Backpocket Brewing Co. Dubuque Tap Room
Backpocket Brewing Company is very excited to expand their footprint and open a Dubuque Tap Room in the Millwork District. The Tap Room will occupy the south-east corner of the Novelty Iron Works Building and be adjacent to the planned Pack Restaurant. Looking out from the soon to be open Tap Room, you’ll peer through large windows that look south and east towards the Dubuque Intermodal Transportation building. Around the room will be authentic pinball machines for patrons to play while enjoying music being played through a state of the art sound system.
I spoke with Andy Skelton who will be the manager on-site at the Dubuque Tap Room. Backpocket Brewing, based in Coralville, has been around since 2012. As a matter of fact, they are coming out with a fifth anniversary stout in honor of their beginnings. Andy and the rest of the management of Backpocket are thrilled to have a permanent location in Dubuque to pour their suds. Andy has been with Backpocket almost since their beginning and while he tried the brewing side of the business, marketing and finance is where his expertise comes into play. He finds that it helps that he really likes craft beer. Backpocket beers are German-inspired and handcrafted right here in Iowa. Staff there like to say that, “there’s a Backpocket Beer perfect for every person, every occasion, and – most importantly – every story.”
Backpocket sees Dubuque as an opportunity to develop their brand awareness and bring something a bit new to town. The approximately 1,500-square-foot facility will have an open and easy feeling so folks can stop by after work, have a beer and hang out with friends. To fit in with the Millwork décor, the bar will be polished concrete with natural wood floors and large windows to provide wonderful light and show off the space.
Backpocket plans to have 16 tap lines with at least 12 of those lines reserved for Backpocket beers while the others will be reserved for other Iowa small-batch brewed beers. Management at Backpocket knows that there are a lot of fine brewers out there making some distinctive beers and they don’t mind giving brewers an opportunity to have their beer tasted by a larger crowd. I think that is a wonderful creed to share the love of beer among fellow brewers.
The Backpocket Tap Room will abut to a rental event space in the Novelty Iron Works building, so by simply raising a window they will be able to cater their beer and other beverages to the event. They will have bar snacks, but until they begin offering their own food, patrons can order food from the Pack Restaurant (once it’s open) or you’ll be able to bring food in for your own consumption.
While not yet set in stone, hours of operation will be Monday through Thursday, 4:00-10:00 p.m.; Fridays, 4:00-midnight; Saturdays, noon-midnight; and Sundays, noon-6:00 p.m. The Backpocket Taproom will also have a mug club with an annual and a lifetime membership, but finalized details are not yet available. I’m sure they will have all that worked out by the time they open. And speaking of that, if they aren’t open yet, they will be soon.
7 Hills Brewing Company
Plans are drawn and earth is being moved inside the building located at the southwest corner of 11th and Washington in the Millwork District. The 7 Hills Brewing Company restaurant and microbrewery are hoping to open this February 2017… and you do not want to miss the opening! I met with Keith Gutierrez, Sean Carter, and Tim Conklin and was enthralled with their energy and what they are brewing – not only the beer, but their plans for the new establishment.
Keith is the business side of the trio and he’s making sure the funds are there and the dollars are being wisely spent. Tim is the food guy with an education garnered at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Since graduation, he’s been here and there, but is truly enthusiastic about what he’ll be able to create and pair with the beer that Sean is, and will be brewing.
Sean, the brewmeister, can hardly wait for the brewing (15 barrel capacity) and fermentation (30 barrel capacity) tanks to arrive. In the meantime, he is brewing in small batches in their office across the alley from the construction. Sean’s goal is simple; he wants to brew world-class beer, in Iowa. He has a couple North American Beer Festival medals to his name from when he was brewing for Galena Brewing, but he wants to put 7 Hills Brewing Co. and Dubuque on the map.
Regarding food, Tim is planning a menu of quality, made-from-scratch bar food to be served in the 200-seat restaurant. Tim felt that if Sean is going to brew and serve world-class beer, he was going to prepare and serve top-notch food to match. Not that there is any competition among these two, but my guess if one challenged the other – the customers would be the beneficiaries with great beer and incredible food. Sean plans to keep seven beers on tap year-round, including a stout, an IPA, a Pilsner, a red ale, a kettle sour, a brown ale, and an Imperial Cherrywood Smoked Porter. Each month there will be a special featured brew and plans call for an occasional small-batch Friday when a special unique beer has been brewed and will be served until it’s gone.
If you are wondering about the name, as I was, and thought it might have something to do with 7G Distributors, you’d be wrong. The company name comes from an old slogan for Dubuque that goes back prior to the Key City label. The seven hills description may be connected through the strong Catholic heritage in Dubuque with the seven hills of Rome, but that’s just a guess on my part.
Whatever your appetite is for beer, keep an eye out for the opening of these two facilities, as they will be adding two more choices where one can go and have an enjoyable Iowa craft beer. Yes, it is a good time to be a beer lover in Dubuque!
Beers I’ve Recently Enjoyed:
Hop Nosh – Uinta Brewing Company
Hop Nash is Uinta Brewing Company’s top rated beer. Besides some lime citrus I found hints of pine, grapefruit, and even a bit of honey on the end. I enjoyed this at L.May. 7.3% ABV, 82.4 IBU (International Bitter Units)
Burton Baton – Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
This beer is an Imperial Double IPA aged in a bourbon barrel. Dogfish Head Brewery is out of Milton, ME and they know how to make some dynamite beers. I enjoyed this at home with some dark roasted fat pretzels on Christmas afternoon. The beer was slightly sweet on the palate with notes of oak and vanilla from the barrel. Very enjoyable… highly recommended! 10% ABV, 70 IBU
Black Butte Porter – Deschutes Brewery
Deschutes Brewery out of Bend, OR simply knows how to make fine beer. This porter pours dark and chocolatey. A half-inch head formed with the pour. Smokey aroma carried through to a smooth vanilla and coffee flavor on the palate. This is a dependable beer year in and year out! 5.2% ABV, 30 IBU
Maple Brown – Jubeck New World Brewing Company
This beer is made in the style of an American Brown Ale. It had a delightful maple essence on the palate with hints of allspice around the edges. Jay and Dan are brewing some quality beers, making it worth a stop at least every week to see what is new on the chalkboard! 5% ABV, 15 IBU