Earl May Garden Center, John’s Grocery team up to host ‘Hops & Houseplants Speed Dating’

Led by the owner of John’s Grocery, Doug Alberhasky, the event aimed to perfectly pair beers with house plants through a house plant ‘speed dating’ format and ten artisanal beer samples.


Matt Sindt

A customer walks out of John’s Grocery in Iowa City on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023.

Ariana Lessard, Assistant Arts Editor

Drinking in a greenhouse is not how many might picture their Friday afternoon, but Iowa City’s Earl May Garden Center and John’s Grocery made it happen. “Hops & Houseplants Speed Dating” promised the perfect pairing course of house plants and beer tasting. 

After begging my friend to attend with me on Jan. 21, our Friday plans were secured. We were among the first to arrive, and once in the greenhouse, an employee handed us each a pen, clipboard, and two packets for notes on different plants and beers. Additionally, the employees assembled a photo-op close to the door with a ring light and aesthetic backdrop. 

The event, which was $40 per person, included 10 beer samples and a 4-inch house plant to take home. This event is part of a series titled “Houseplant Academy” by Earl May, and the next course scheduled is a macrame course with plant hangers on Jan. 27. 

As other people trickled in, my roommate and I helped ourselves to snacks and eyed the lineup of artisanal beers lovingly arranged on a folding table in front of us. The greenhouse itself provided lots to look at, with plants growing up the walls and hanging from the ceiling. 

Iowa City Earl May Garden Center worked with John’s Grocery to organize this event — specifically with Doug Alberhasky, owner of John’s Grocery, as the host. After everyone took their seats and readied their clipboards, Alberhasky started his PowerPoint presentation. 

Over the next two hours, Alberhasky detailed the histories of several beers and why they were selected. Additionally, they passed out “dating profiles” for each plant. 

I had no idea how much I didn’t know about beer before this event. Alberhasky takes great pride in his intimate understanding of the history of beer and shared his knowledge with the audience. I learned how beer was made, the difference between ales and lagers, how the color does not determine the flavor, and the importance of water in the brewing location.

Among the beers served and studied were a Belgian Tripel, a chocolate brew, and a beer so fruity my friend compared it to wine. I also learned that “chocolate brews” are not brewed with actual chocolate.

At the end of the presentation, it was time for my friend and I to look at our small stack of “dating profiles” to select our “soul plants.” 

I was between an aloe vera and black raven plant, but I have a gift for killing plants, and the black raven appeared lower maintenance. My roommate decided on the money tree because of its beautiful leaves and partially visible root system. 

I can confidently say I have never attended an event like this. The concept was adorable, and the execution just as. I’m unsure of how they came up with this idea, but I’m glad they did.