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21. Beer Draws Crowd

Brian Morelli

Iowa City Press-Citizen
September 10, 2007

Graham Jensen and Joe Tinker set their alarms for before the sun came up Monday morning so they could drive to Iowa City, do some biking and drink microbrews.

They left Des Moines at about 4 a.m. on their way to the Old Capitol Brew Works and Public House for a coffee stout and a breakfast sandwich. It may sound a little strange, but some Iowans are that excited for New Belgium Brewing’s Iowa debut Monday, and particularly the Fat Tire Amber Ale.

“I’ve been excited for it to come to Iowa for a couple of years. I missed Saturday’s event,” Tinker, 24, said of a New Belgium bike ride in Des Moines. “So we decided we had to come out for this.”

Jensen and Tinker joined about 25 others, who began arriving at the 525 S. Gilbert St. brew pub around 6:30 a.m. About an hour later, they biked in a procession led by an Elvis impersonator riding a red Fat Tire cruiser to deliver a ceremonial first case of Fat Tire to John’s Grocery, 401 E. Market St.

Fat Tire with its quirky label that displays a red bike with swollen tires has made a mark amongst cyclists, college students, craft beer lovers and environmentalists, among others.

Starting when the parade arrived and then throughout the dreary Monday, John’s sampled the three varieties that are now being sold in the state – Fat Tire Amber Ale, a light Belgian-style beer with mild hops and malt; 1554, a black ale; and Mothership Wit, an organic Belgian wheat — and collected entry forms for the red bicycle giveaway.

“I am just happy I will not have to keep telling people why they can’t have Fat Tire,” John’s Grocery “bier guy” Doug Alberhasky said while pouring for the early morning crowd.

sold in 22 ounce bottles, costing about $3 up to about $8 in bars and restaurants. In about three months, kegs and six packs will also be distributed.

The small employee-owned brewing company based in Fort Collins, Col. makes seven beers, plus seasonal varieties. Started in 1991, the company grew slowly and strategically, which they say is the reason it took so long John’s is one of about 40 retailers in the area including grocers, bars and restaurants that will carry the popular beers. Initially, the beers will only be to begin distributing in Iowa.

Before Fat Tire came to Iowa, fans traveled 100s of miles to pick up cases from other states like Missouri, Nebraska and Illinois.

“First of all it is a really good beer,” said Ray Bennett, 35, who took part in the morning ride. “I don’t drink a lot of beer, but I enjoy drinking New Belgium products. I am really into the New Belgium lifestyle. They are a green company. They walk the walk.”

The North Liberty resident is part of a group that has been taking turns driving to Hannibal, Mo. for the last two years to bring back several cases at a time to share.

Adam Blake, 22, heard about the hubbub through Geoff’s Bike and Ski, 816 S. Gilbert St., where he works as a bike mechanic. That shop assembled the cruiser that was given away.

“I think it’s great if you can get people together at 6:30 a.m. It sets a great pace for the day,” the Iowa City resident said.


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