Thursday, July 2, 2015

Music and Bikes and Single Speed Brews in Cedar Falls...Oh My!

"Where you invest your love, you invest your life"

Poetic words from the band who helped introduce me to my most recent brewery experience. No Mumford and Sons didn't take me out drinking -how cool would that be though? We actually headed out on the road for a Mumford and Sons festival stop in a place we'd never been with a brewery we'd never tried.

That town was Cedar Falls, Iowa -the festival was in Waverly but we stayed in Cedar Falls. Cedar Falls is another college town for our list -beer and college towns go together well. As well as being a college town, Cedar Falls is in a great area for outdoor recreation and has a fantastic historic downtown for local shopping and dining.

photo courtesy of  J.Stephen Conn
Wait, isn't Cedar Falls in northern Iowa? I thought that Iowa was just corn fields or baseball fields carved out of corn fields?

The serene Cedar River in Iowa photo courtesy of David Sebben
Not even close -though agriculture is important to Iowa and we appreciate Iowa farmers. Cedar Falls is located on the -you guessed it- Cedar River. The Cedar River "basin" stretches north and south from Cedar Falls connecting to other rivers such as the Shell Rock River and Iowa River. All of these end up connecting to the Mississippi River-only a couple hours away from Cedar Falls.

Though this river is not a tumbling mountain white water adventure river, the Cedar offers great kayak and canoe opportunities. If you're an angler, the Cedar River offers great walleye fishing opportunities as well. Beyond activities on the river, the Cedar Falls area has some great parks and recreational areas along the river for camping and hiking.

Shopping, eating, drinking- 2 of my favorite things
Outdoor activity not your thing? That's fine because Cedar Falls offers great local shopping, dining, and lodging in it's historic downtown area. Downtown Cedar Falls is nationally recognized as one of the Great American Main Streets. It oozes turn of the 20th century charm with brick sidewalks and gas style lamp posts. Every store front is occupied by a local artisan, shop, or restaurant.  The Black Hawk Hotel- right on Main Street- is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The area is fantastic, as is the pizza at Tony's La Pizzeria in the district.

One of the other nice things is that downtown is only a few blocks from the the biking/hiking trails along the river. Pick up a rental bike if you don't have one and take a nice ride. No matter if you're riding a ten speed or a mountain bike, you need to pick up a "Single Speed" when you're done.

"Is that some sort of bike humor?"

Welcome to Single Speed Brewing of Cedar Falls
Actually it's beer/bike humor-bad humor but still an attempt- because "Single Speed" in downtown Cedar Falls can refer to a bike or the hometown brewery-Single Speed Brewing. Founded in 2012, Single Speed Brewing serves Northeastern Iowa ales that are not only big and bold, but also local and seasonal. As we've preached endlessly, a local/regional brewer knows when to put the winter ale away and brew the flavors of the season and Single Speed is no different.

Cheers to good beer and good music
We were actually introduced to Single Speed's brews at the Friday night portion of the festival instead of the tap room itself. I knew beforehand they would be serving so I was very excited to get my first taste. At the festival Single Speed was serving their Equatorial-an American Pale Wheat. This was the perfect warm Midwestern summer evening in a field beer. Unlike other wheats -including the other wheat served at the festival- there was a fun complexity to the Equatorial while remaining refreshing. Tropical fruit jumped out from the hops and the malt was on the lighter side but still sweet and noticeable. Equatorial is the reason that local brewers exist. Unlike the other wheat at the festival -a national brewer- Equatorial had character beyond saying "wheat" on a can.

A solid blurry lineup-is that how I saw the lineup?
After the festival ended for the evening it was time to head back to downtown Cedar Falls and hit the Single Speed tap room- which on the weekend is open until a wonderful 2 am. The tap room was a great spot to hang out. Single Speed's room was a welcoming modern spot set in a turn of the century building. It wasn't stuffy- not a whole bunch of beer snobbery going on- and had a good number of tables. They also serve what looks like a great menu of pub fare as well but we were in just after the kitchen closed- that's on us not them.

I wonder what movie will be shown on this flight?
After a long evening of festival attending I wasn't possessing the "in it to win it" attitude anymore, but I definitely was able to hit a flight for a night cap. My choices for the evening were the Hibbity Dibbity saison, Tricycle cream ale, Backpedal bock and Amber Dextrous India red ale. I was looking for a decent spectrum of choices and I found each to be very unique compared to the same styles at other breweries.

My favorite-not including the fantastic Equatorial at the festival- was the Backpedal bock. Since a bock is not a style you get to see everywhere, Also I loved the fact that this a collaboration beer with another Iowa brewery-Backpocket Brewing. The Backpedal is not your traditional bock- it doesn't buck German tradition. What the Backpedal does is take the traditional German bock and hop it up a little with citra hops. The beer had the deep malty flavor you expect in a bock with a hop bite you don't get in most lagers.

The rest of the Single Speed lineup is just as creative. The Tricycle cream ale is a 3 in 1 style that exudes cream ale with a little more hop finish. The Amber Dextrous is not what you think when you hear amber ale. Again the hops come through and create almost a cross bread amber/IPA. It's not as bitter as a west coast IPA or as light as an American amber ale. I love a good saison and the Hibbity Dibbity is a solid peppery take on the Belgian style and is still being modified as well.

Don't worry, we hit more Equatorial the next night as well
What I'm saying is that Single Speed Brewing-like the Cedar Falls area- has a ton of unique character. Folks like to call the Midwest fly-over country and that's fine for them. What we who live here know is that places like Cedar Falls and Single Speed Brewing -less than a 5 hour drive from Minneapolis, Chicago, Madison, Omaha, Des Moines, St. Louis, Kansas City, etc- exist throughout the humble Midwest. Grab your keys -and your bikes for Ragbrai- and head to Cedar Falls for the weekend. And once your day activities are done, hop on a Single Speed- or 2- for some unique flavors and Heartland charm.