I’d like to take a minute to thank everyone who has been following my blog. I’ve received many kind words, and feel encouraged and motivated to continue sharing my Iowa exploits. Thanks everyone for the support!
Yesterday, however, one of my readers shared his dismay at some of the language used in my posts. He was excited to share my blog with his children, but decided the profane vulgarity (I believe the phrase “R-rated” was used) made that impossible. While I don’t normally give in to censorship, I’ve decided to let up on the swear words and make this a clean article. So this one is for you, Uncle Ricky. Feel free to share this with the boys.
Today’s profanity-free post will be about consuming alcohol.
We’ll call that a compromise.
Establishment: Peace Tree Brewing Company
Location: Knoxville, IA
Background: Named after a massive sycamore tree in nearby Lake Red Rock, Peace Tree is a small craft brewery located in Knoxville, about an hour east of Des Moines. The brewery began in 2009, with plans to build a taproom in east Des Moines the Fall of 2016 (Woot!). I guess the Des Moines facility will focus on sour beers, which you apparently can’t brew around normal beers due to yeast contamination. I’ll use that excuse the next time one of my home brews fails. On that note, if you find yourself desiring beer that doesn’t taste like my failed experiments, Peace Tree does distribute to Minnesota and Wisconsin, albeit on a small scale.
Side note: I actually visited Peace Tree for a work event. A co-worker was giving a talk on pollinators and Monarch Butterflies. Since I like saving Monarchs and Peace Tree was on my brewery list, I figured I could kill two birds with one stone. Black-backed Oriole birds, that is.
If you understand that joke, you truly are a Monarch of Monarchs.
Décor: Quintessential craft brewery. Limited chairs and tables (capacity of 60), small sunny patio, and a large board with beers on tap written in multi-colored chalk. Peace Tree would be right at home somewhere in NE Minneapolis.
Staff: There was a line at the bar. A lady came up to me and took my order while I was waiting. I didn’t catch her name, but she was friendly and punctual with beer. Works for me.
The other person behind the bar, Mike, was an older gentleman who hooked me up with a flight. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him, other than telling him the beer was good when I closed my tab. He seemed like a nice guy.
Patrons: I noticed a fairly even mixture of people my age and middle-aged folks. How much of that was based on the Monarch talk is subject to debate. My coworkers and their significant others were split evenly: some older, some younger. People seemed very friendly, somewhat Cheers-esque in greeting others as they walked by. I got the feeling that in a town of about 7.5 thousand, you get to know the locals. An apparently well-known priest was among one of those locals. There was something comforting about seeing a priest laughing and sharing beer with friends. Beats alter wine, that’s for sure.
Food: Peace Tree doesn’t serve “food-food,” but did have a list of snacks available for purchase. They were mostly cheap things like party mix, beef sticks and popcorn. Like most breweries, however, ordering take-out from local restaurants is encouraged. I saw several patrons with pizza boxes and Chinese cartons.
Beer: I tried a total of six beers during my visit: one tulip and a flight of five 3 oz. samples. The tulip was a “Monarch Ale,” in honor of the talk being given that evening. I was socializing and not paying attention much when I drank it, so I won’t list it in a separate section. But here’s what I remember: the beer had a floral taste, and was even garnished by what I assume was a violet petal. The drink reminded me of a Saison I had from Boulevard Brewery… Spring Belle I think it was called. They both had an emphasis on flowery characteristics. The Monarch Ale was drinkable and for a good cause, but I probably wouldn’t order another. I like flowers and I like beer. But I like them better separate.
#1- Rye Porter
6.0% ABV: Whenever “rye” and “porter” are together in a beer, barrel-aging seems to get involved. Luckily, that was not the case for this dark red gem. The Rye Porter was deliciously smooth and malty, without being sweet or lacking character. Doug, one of the coworkers who stayed to drink with me, mentioned it was a favorite of his during cooler months. I’m not sure if April would be considered cool, but regardless, this beer did not disappoint.
#2- Blonde Fatale (Belgian-style Blonde Ale)
8.5% ABV: Oh, baby, the Blonde Fatale is a temptress indeed! In the style of Belgian Triples, this beer was hearty and delicious, with generous doses of malt and hints of clove and tropical fruit. Triples usually remind me of liquid banana bread. But at 8.5%, I could see where this blonde could be fatal: you hardly notice the alcohol content behind the plethora of malt and flavor. A few of these could knock down the stoutest of drinkers (Perfect transition!).
#3- Imperial Stout
10% ABV: This beer is 10%. Need I say more? Dark malts, robust hops and heavy alcohol made this a complex beer, one I was glad to only be drinking three ounces of. Which is saying something, because I love stouts. This beer would be perfect for sipping in front of a fire on a frigid winter evening, but it seemed misplaced on the balmy 60-degree evening. I’ll definitely file it for later.
#4- Kiss from a Gose (Sour Beer)
5.25% ABV: Many people love barrel-aged beers. I personally despise them; I’ll take my wine aged and my beer left alone, thank you very much. Conversely, I know many people who hate sour beer, but I personally can’t get enough of them. Sure, I wouldn’t want to drink five in a row, but sour beers offer a new complexity you can’t find in traditional styles. My bet is that sour beer will overtake the hoppy craze in the coming years. I’m cool with that.
Unfortunately, sour beers are difficult to review. You never quite know what you will get when you let a beer go “wild.” The Gose (pronounced “gose-uh”) was a puzzle. Amanda, another coworker and beer enthusiast, suggested pausing between sips to let the flavor soak in. And she was right: by the time I had my third sip, I decided the beer was delicious—despite having no grasp of what I was drinking. Sorry I can’t be much help describing the flavor, but again, sour beers are tricky. Try one sometime, taking Amanda’s advice, and you’ll find they are actually a wonder to explore.
#5- No Coast IPA
6.0% ABV: IPAs are usually one of my least favorite styles of beer. I used to think this was because my palate wasn’t refined enough, but now I’ve decided it is more likely because IPAs are overdone. Hopheads want more more more, and in an effort to follow, breweries churn out beers that only an elite group of drinkers actually enjoy. That is not the case with the No Coast IPA.
In the style of “West-coast” IPAs, the No Coast is a clever play on Iowa being about as far from any coast as you can get. Flavor wise, it is a strong but refreshing IPA—kind of like beer mixed with grapefruit juice. While some may wrinkle their faces at the notion, this is actually an excellent mixture. The beer is full-bodied, but lacks the astringent bitterness IPAs often fall prey to. Instead, a bright, citrusy hoppiness shines through. And at only 6.0%, one could argue it is more session-friendly than most other IPAs. Definitely worth trying.
Bill: Doug and Amanda were nice enough to pay for my flight (my coworkers are amazing), so I only paid for the Monarch Ale, which came in at a respectable $4.50. Talk about cheap.
Without the Monarch work event, I would have struggled driving all the way to Knoxville knowing there were breweries in the much closer, much livelier Des Moines area. That being said, I don’t think the evening would have been nearly as enjoyable without the company of my coworkers. I only planned to stay at Peace Tree about 2 hours, but ended up hanging out until close—about twice as long. I got to hear a lot of interesting stories and learn about the people I will be working with the next 9 months. And you know what? They are fascinating people! I consider myself very lucky, and would like to give a shout out to my coworkers (especially Amanda and Doug for staying late and swapping their stories with me).
Oh, right… Peace Tree…
Coworkers aside, Peace Tree had a solid array of beers that were a cut above the expected. I’m not sure how far their distribution reaches into Minnesota, but I would recommend searching for any of the reviewed beers. You will not be disappointed.
Last but not least, a big thank you to my Uncle Ricky (and hopefully the boys) for reading my blog. While I can’t promise future posts will be approved for all audiences, I can safely say I am taking their readership to heart.