Old Capitol Brew Works (Iowa City, IA)

From Flossmoor, IL, we drove several hundred miles on I-80 to Iowa City, IA.  It’s a college town, and a pretty safe bet for affordable accommodations.  Plus, Iowa City has a brewpub, and we needed dinner!

Old Capitol Brew Works is in a little “restaurant row”; the middle facilities are the nice restaurant and the college pub.  The restaurant is called “The Brewery”, and labeled by Fodor’s as “arguably the most beautiful restaurant in Iowa City” (although Fodor’s also mentioned linen tablecloths which we never saw) and the bar is called “Old Capitol Public House”.  The dining area was adorned with dark wood paneling and crafted accents, and a large polished wood bar stands between the dining area and the brass brew kettle and mash tun.  The hardwood floor was decorated in two-tone and embellished with hops.  Brass chandeliers hung from the ceiling, and globe lights lined the walls. The large glass windows, wood trim, and the very high ceilings gave this 1800’s factory a feel of open elegance.  The Public House area was a college bar with loud music and pool tables.  The buildings had distinct differences, and we went for quiet and reserved.

Old Capitol Brew Works has been in existence since 2004, and we suspect there was a previous brewing operation based on the Fodor’s book.  There were ten beers on the board, but they only had six on tap.  Pints are $3.00, and they scoffed when I asked about getting something smaller.  It’s a college town, and people like their pints.  We decided to start with Celtic Cross Irish Red Ale and Public House Pale Ale.  I don’t have much to say about either beer – they weren’t terrific and they weren’t bad either.

D had a burger and I had a Tuscan Chicken Salad (chicken, marinated in plum sauce and balsamic vinegar, on top of a salad with blue cheese, pecans, tomato and cucumber.)  We finished off our meal by sharing a Terrapin Coffee Stout (Terrapin is a micro-roaster from Coraville, IA that the pub works with.)  This Stout had a terrific aroma of fresh roasted coffee, but the flavor was a little thin.  D felt it lacked the maltiness to make it the big beer it could be.

It was late in the evening when we arrived, but I was surprised that there weren’t many people in the dining area.  Two other couples did show up – one to eat and another just for the beers.  But the place was big and empty.  They must have a good following, however.  They seem to have lots of special tappings and special events such as the July 9th premier of their Black Snake Malt Liquor which features a family picnic of all-you-can-eat fried chicken, corn on the cob and watermelon for $8.95.

Back at the highway, we found an inexpensive stay at the Travelodge, which featured wireless Internet (where I got some work done), refrigerators and microwaves, and just about everything we needed except for quiet neighbors.  The plan was to start with a birding hike in the morning, so we donned the earplugs and tried to get some sleep.

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