The Register's Brian Taylor Carlson breaks down all of this year's new fair foods and tells you which ones to try! Des Moines Register


No, corn dog-flavored beer isn't brewed from actual hot dogs. But it is brewed with hot dog buns and cornbread. 

Corn Dog Ale, a slightly smoky, mildly sweet brew, has 5.5% ABV and is made by Court Avenue Restaurant & Brewing Company (CABCo). 

The beer will be available at the Iowa Craft Beer Tent on Rock Island — south of Diamond Jacks — at the 2019 Iowa State Fair.

In its ninth year, the tent was established by Scott Carlson and is backed by his core team of beer professionals including brewmaster and assistant general manager, Brian Vaughan, and Aaron Knapp, brewmaster.

"We've been talking for probably about two years about coming up with a fair-themed beer," Carlson said. Carlson also owns Americana and Gilroy's Pub + Patio. 

In the past, fair beers have been inspired by concerts like last year's Earth, Wind and Fruit and the John Cougar Melon Camp Kölsch in 2017.

This year, the team created three beers: Hazy and the Beerfish; Zach Brown Brown double-brown ale — aged in bourbon barrels; and, of course, the Corn Dog Ale.

The birth of corn dog beer

Knapp has been busy brewing eight beers plus root beer and ginger beer in just over three weeks. But he took a big part in the creation of the Corn Dog Ale.

"This was my interpretation of the corn dog," Knapp said. "My first thought was, I need to recreate the flavor of beer for a hot dog. The outside was very easy. I needed to make a corn dog flavor so I use a Golden Promise UK malt, which has a biscuity flavor, mix that with some corn to create a cornbread effect, and put in the cornbread and the hot dog buns. And then I used roasted and smoky grains to recreate the flavor of a hot dog."

The combination of glacier hops, flaked corn, roasted barley, mesquite smoke malt and Caramel Malt 120 give the beer a slightly grilled and mesquite flavor — a grill-flavored essence, so to speak. And the hops add a light mustard spice.

The beer is the color of a dark brown corn dog and has a slightly smoky, mildly sweet cornbread flavor.

About 150 pounds of hot dog buns were used in the beer-making process. After drying the buns, they weighed just over 70 pounds. CABCo combined these into the mash along with 15 pounds of corn muffins made in-house and a few sheet pans of cornbread.

"We actually used the cornbread like the process of dry-hopping, the addition of hops after the fermentation is done to give the beer a little bit more of a pop of the cornbread quality," Vaughan said.

A year ago, the brew team met with Eat Greater Des Moines, a company that gathers food for both charity and businesses. The company provided 150 pounds of hot dog buns from local bakeries like Hy-Vee. 

"We thought they could be used in beer because of the heavy starch in bread and when you brew beer, you are converting those starches to sugar," Carlson said. "They get every kind of baked good you can think of like fruited baked goods, or things with nuts, doughnuts. You name it, they can get it."

The Fourth of July holiday was the perfect time to come into a windfall of hot dog buns and the brewers started making the beer a few weeks later.

In all, 186 gallons of Corn Dog Ale is now ready to be served in pints for $8. All beers at the Iowa Craft Beer Tent are $8 or three pints for $20.

Sampler flights of three 5-ounce samples are also available for $8. Carlson said it's a great way for people who are new to the craft beer scene to taste their way around and learn about the styles of beer.

Your guide: Food, concerts and fun at the Iowa State Fair

Other new beers at the Iowa State Fair

Here are four other Iowa State Fair beers available at the Craft Brew Tent:

  • Deep-Fried Apple Pie — An Iowa collaboration with Big Grove Brewery & Taproom and Jefferson County Ciderworks. It's a tart, refreshing sour ale with flavors of crisp, juicy apples, spiced with cinnamon and clove, and finished with flavors of flaky pie crust.
  • Funnel Cake — Designed and created for debut at the 2019 Iowa State Fair by Reclaimed Rails Brewing Company, this crisp refresher is the perfect adult treat featuring Iowa-grown hops and liberal funnel cake flavoring.
  • Strawberry Sparkle Pony — This Strawberry Lime Brut IPA from Flix Brewhouse is packed with bright citrus character, balanced with notes of sweet strawberry. Its dry finish along with startlingly low hop bitterness make it the perfect refreshment for a hot summer day. 
  • Tee'd Off! Shandy — This uniquely refreshing shandy is a mix of lemonade, iced tea and beer by West O Beer and pairs well with any fried food. 

Download the Iowa State Fair Food Finder app: iPhone | Android | on the Web 

About the Iowa Craft Beer Tent

"Now that craft beer is so prolific, which is, by the way, an awesome thing, people are looking for those specialty beer experiences at the Iowa State Fair," Carlson said.

Knowledgeable volunteers at the tent will be serving over 153 rotating beers through 81 taps, with quite a few unique beers only available at the fair. Once the limited editions are gone, that's it. 

This isn't the first time CABCo has brewed a corn dog beer. A version was created and sold at the Iowa Craft Beer Tent's first year in 2011.

In fact, the brewing team is still in possession of the original wooden tap pull made by local artist Dave Connor, which will be in use again this year.

The Iowa Craft Beer Tent has become a popular spot for fairgoers. "I'm humbled because the customers are awesome, the people pouring the beers are awesome, and it's all Iowa products at the Iowa State Fair," Carlson said. "It's a great atmosphere." 

CABCo will hold a Mug Club party on Wednesday, August 14 from 5-7 p.m. The party will be open to the public and try a limited amount of all three beers CABCo made for the fair.

Court Avenue Brewing Company, considered both a brewery and brewpub, was the second craft brewery and brewpub to open in the state in 1996 (Millstream Brewing Company in Amana opened in 1985). The oldest brewpub in the state is Front Street Brewery & Taproom in Davenport, opening in 1992.

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