A family reunion of sorts: Little Giant Beer Summit

“I was born very far from where I’m supposed to be,

and so I’m on my way home.”

-Bob Dylan

I went home on Saturday.

It may sound odd or wrong or alcoholic or offensive, but when I went to 200 SW 2nd Street in Des Moines on Saturday, I felt at home. Of course, 200 SW 2nd Street is not where I retrieve my mail or where I maintain an underwear drawer or where I lay my head at night these days or my mom’s house or even the “hometown” from which I graduated high school, but I felt very specifically and refreshingly happy there. I was among both friends and family.

After a few days or weeks or months away from this beer person or that beer person, I had the chance to catch up with Bruno, Eric, Scott, Randy, Jake, Denise, Taylor, Megan (but not Megan), Brian, Alex and many more. I only saw Jason from a distance, Mike could have been inside, I didn’t lay eyes on Ashley, and I was sorry that Joe (and many others) couldn’t make it, but fear not—I’ll see them next time. I met Lew and Ty and Frederique and Chad and a handful of other nice people. And my Wonderful Beer Wife, Michelle, was right there with me.

One of Iowa beer's biggest fans, Jeff "Bruno" Bruning takes a moment to himself at the Little Giant Beer Summit, which he organized for El Bait Shop in Des Moines.

It was the Little Giant Beer Summit in the parking lot of El Bait Shop, one of the best beer bars in the country. It may seem like an odd locale for a family reunion (without all the tension and bickering), but that’s how it felt. A gathering of old friends, so many beer festivals seem to have this affect.

This one wasn’t the biggest festival on the planet (and thank goodness for that). Instead, it was focused on local beers—Iowa only, this time around—with around 30 different beers on tap from as many breweries (and another 20 or so inside as part of El Bait Shop’s regular lineup). The brainchild of El Bait Shop’s Jeff “Bruno” Bruning, the fest was billed as “The largest selection of Iowa Beers, in one place, ever!” That it was, and a good crowd joined me to test Iowa’s barley-based beauties.

Now that's what I call beer branding: Guerrilla Brewing Company's Ty Graham takes his Red Hot Poker to a pour during the Little Giant Beer Summit on Oct. 5.

Highlights for me included CIB Brewery’s Double Staved Death Hanger (a sour quadruple brown), a trio of O-fests (from Backpocket, Exile and Confluence) and Guerrilla’s Red Hot Poker, which was not a beer, but a process: Guerrilla brewer Ty Graham submerged a red-hot poker into his two beers (bacon- and cherry-impy stouts if I remember correctly) to caramelize residual sugars and add new dimension to the final brews—this is surely the next Randall!

It was a fun time, as I knew it would be. And it was an awful lot like home–without a sinkful of dirty dishes and bookbags plopped on the kitchen floor.

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2 Responses to A family reunion of sorts: Little Giant Beer Summit

  1. Jeff Bruning says:

    What a wonderful way of putting the events of Saturday. I could not be happier with the results of the inaugural Little Giant Beer Summit! We went through over 40 kegs of Iowa beer in 4 hours. I am very much looking forward to next year’s summit.

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