Area breweries fight for the title of best beer at Battle of the Brews

The inaugural Battle of the Brews will bring 19 local breweries to Cedar Rapids to try to take home the title of best beer, proceeds of the event going towards to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.


The Backpocket Brewing in Coralville is seen on July 16, 2019.

Lauren Arzbaecher, Arts Reporter

Area breweries will duke it out for the title of best beer at the inaugural Battle of the Brews on July 20 in Cedar Rapids. Taking place at NewBo City Market, funds from the tasting event will go toward to the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).

The event was organized by the organization, which provides support for individuals and families fighting against the harm of muscular dystrophy, ALS, and related muscle-debilitating diseases.

“We wanted an opportunity to bring the community together, just a fun way to get everyone in the area involved,” said Geena Staiert, an MDA development specialist. “A lot of people are really interested in the craft-beer scene, so it was a way to spread awareness to a new group of people.”

Backpocket Brewing in Coralville is seen on July 16.

The competition will feature 19 breweries from different areas around Iowa. The breweries submitted one beer each to be the “battle brew,” which is voted on by attendees and the judge panel. The two prizes available will include the overall victor, chosen by the panel, and the people’s choice, voted on by the attendees.

The six-person judge panel comprises members of local businesses from around the Cedar Rapids area, Staiert said. Panel members include Craig Laue from 105.7 KOKZ, Jody Guither with the Cedar Rapids Economic Alliance, co-owners of the Map Room Christina and Mitch Springman, and Scott Kruger, executive director of NewBo City Market.

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In addition to the beer tasting, there will be live music from the Laid Back Band and Wooden Nickel Lottery, market shopping, food trucks, and outdoor games. Logan Schultz, the director of programming and community engagement at NewBo City Market, said the market hosts a number of beer-tasting events throughout the year, many with a fundraising aspect.

“We do a lot of these events that are created by an outside organization but are brought to NewBo as a venue or even a partnership,” Schultz said. “For all of those community events, I am always working with the people producing them to try to find ways to not only make this year’s event successful but to look at a growth plan down the road.”

Of the 19 breweries competing, a few are from the Iowa City and Coralville area. Big Grove Brewery, ReUnion Brewery, and Backpocket Brewing are in the contest to take home the prize of best beer. General manager of brewery operations at Backpocket Aaron Vargas stressed broad appeal in its strategy for the event.

“Our strategy is to go for the majority, something that will appeal to everybody,” he said. “There are people who don’t like IPAs, people who don’t like sours. For Battle of the Brews, we are doing Murderhorn, our Belgian strong ale, which I hope will reach a broader range of people.”

Mugs hang in Backpocket Brewing in Coralville on July 16.

Staiert said that MDA hopes to raise $5,000 at this year’s event through ticket sales. While this is merely the first year, Staiert hopes that Battle of the Brews will become a yearly event.

“We have over 200 families that are affected by muscular dystrophy just in Linn and Johnson Counties alone, and across Iowa, it’s over 1,700 families,” Staiert said. “So we hope to have a good showing, and show support for those families, and to have a fun day while you do it.”