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Old Capitol Brew Works and Public House

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BA SCORE
87
very good

19 Ratings
Ratings: 19
Reviews: 18
rAvg: 3.8
pDev: 8.16%
Active Beers: 0
Beer Ratings: 0
Beer Avg: 0
Taps: 0
Bottles: 0
Cask: N
Beer-to-Go: N
[ Brewery, Bar, Eatery ]

525 S Gilbert St
Iowa City, Iowa, 52240-4919
United States
phone: (319) 337-3422

view map and get directionsMap 

Notes:
No longer brewing onsite as of 2010. See Great River Brewery for 'house' beers -
 http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/23052 

(Place added by: bditty187)
Place: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 19 | Reviews: 18 | Display Reviews Only:
Reviews by scoobybrew:
Photo of scoobybrew
3.6/5  rDev -5.3%

Our homebrew club stopped in here for beers & lunch on a recent trip to Iowa City. The place had a fair amount of customers on that Saturday early afternoon. Even so, the service was good as was the beer. Overall, it's a nice little place that seems to be geared towards the college town crowd, which is encouraging to see the students patronizing a local brewpub. I can't say that this was the highlight of our trip, but it was definately worth the stop, especially to fill our stomachs will downing a few good pints.

scoobybrew, Mar 06, 2007
More User Reviews:
Photo of BillRoth
3.75/5  rDev -1.3%

BillRoth, Dec 12, 2013
Photo of tommyguz
3.28/5  rDev -13.7%

Review from 10/23/12
(as posted on my blog)

Old Capitol Brew Works is still in existence but they no longer brew there. They began in the old building in Iowa City as a brew pub in 2004. They used to brew in the building next door but then in 2008 they moved to Davenport Iowa and go under the name Great Rivers Brewery. I could not find out anything about if they changed the name after the move to Davenport or not. I should have asked when we were there. Sorry. However, the reason they moved is because they wanted to grow and also find a bigger market but more importantly they wanted to become a full time brewery and not brew pub. A Unique thing about Great River, which is becoming less and less unique among breweries, is that they only can their beer. As for Old Capitol the bar itself is a hole in the wall. It looks like your basic dive bar, except for the fact they have craft beer and tap new kegs every Thursday. It looks like a cool place to just go in and have a few beers and hang out. They also have a nice seating area outside. They do not have food except for freshly popped popcorn and frozen pizza.

tommyguz, May 08, 2013
Photo of rundocrun
3.73/5  rDev -1.8%

First of all, I love going to this place because it's not your typical college town bar. There are no hordes of sweaty, horny, drunk college students staggering about spilling beer all over. It's a very relaxed, chilled out atmosphere and the music is usually pretty good.

Another thing i really appreciate about this place is the local brew selection. There are always at least 6 different local or semi-local beers on tap and you can buy growlers whenever you like (even if they are clear glass growlers).

However, I could definitely stand for more selection. I won't always be in the mood for a local brew and sometimes they just don't have what I want on tap (or at all).

It also sucks that they don't brew on-site anymore, but I suppose if you have a business to run and you want your beer to reach more corners of the market, you have to expand...

rundocrun, Apr 10, 2011
Photo of bnietz
3.81/5  rDev +0.3%

The Old Capitol Brew Works is basically no more. While they are open for business, as of this writing the restaurant next door is closed. Also, the brew pub is also gone. The owners of the brew pub moved their operations to Davenport Iowa and that is where the beer is now from.

They had 5 or 6 beers on tap and the bartender was extremely friendly and offered us samples on the brews. I settled for the Red and it was OK, but nothing to get excited about. They also had a coffee stout that was probably their best beer. Something unusual- two different types of mexican beer.

Overall, I would say if you are in the area and plan on going to the Sanctuary, give it a try, but don't come hungry unless you want a frozen pizza.

bnietz, Jul 06, 2009
Photo of taylorhamrick
3.66/5  rDev -3.7%

This is just like your average bar. There were a couple of drunk guys there, who'd been around for quite a while already, and it was only 4:30 or so. There's a bit of outdoor seating, too. I liked the two beers I had - I was surprised to notice that they might have been as or more enjoyable than most of the beers I'd already had travelling around the midwest. The service was okay, just a girl behind the bar pouring pints. Not much conversation, average on friendliness. The selection was pretty good, probably very good for the area - there were 7 or so house beers, a few outside beers, but nothing special with those. I didn't try the food, there was a little pizza menu, nothing else that I could see. And the beer at happy hour is very cheap, $1 pints from 2-4, $2 4-6, and I think $3 6-8 on Mon-Thurs. So the earlier the better if you can make it. I'd recommend it if you want to try some indigenous Iowa beer.

taylorhamrick, Jun 25, 2009
Photo of jhammerly
3.33/5  rDev -12.4%

Stopped by here after a visit to John's Grocery. Parked in the back and came in through the patio area. Not too many people there on a Wednesday evening. We were told to sit where we liked, so we chose the dining area instead of the bar.

The building is old and is kept in decent condition. Some nice woodwork going on, but nothing extravagant. The place had an echo to it, so I can see this place getting pretty noisy when full. It's in Iowa City, home of Iowa U. I'm going to guess a lot of the clientèle are college students.

The waitress was nice and checked in on us. Everything was promptly served, though they were out of my first choice for food and second choice for beer. The food was good, nothing great. I had a Buffalo Chicken Wrap, which could have used some more chicken and sauce.

I tried the Stout and IPA. Both were good representations of their styles, but both were a bit watery in the finish. Still, nothing to deem them terrible.

An all right place to stop in every now and then. There's nothing classy about this place, yet it's not trashy. I like places like this some times; not too clean and not too dirty. It's a place to go and have some beers and a bite to eat.

jhammerly, Sep 02, 2008
Photo of benito
3.38/5  rDev -11.1%

An old, dingy college bar with lots of video games and wood paneling, an adjacent (nicer) dining room, and a brewery added as what (seems to be) an afterthought.

I visited earlier this month, just as the rains were starting to soak Iowa and flood the rivers. The Public House was a nice break from the rain; I ordered the sampler of their six house brews and was brought six 10-oz. pours. I asked the server if this was normal, and she said that it depended on the bartender. I had gotten lucky.

They had six house beers on tap: blonde, pale, Irish red, brown, stout, and coffee stout. The pale was passable and the coffee stout was delicious, but the other beers showed a range of flaws from diacetyl to total lack of hops and carbonation. I would happily go back and drink the coffee stout, try some new seasonals, and forget the other house beers.

The food was cheap and tasty--wings and the like that you would expect from a college-town bar. The crowd was young, fratty (at times), academic (at times), and low key. That said, I could see this place getting really rowdy during weekends.

It's worth a stop for that coffee stout if you're in Iowa City, but don't expect too much here.

benito, Jun 20, 2008
Photo of woodychandler
3.94/5  rDev +3.7%

This was really two places, but since their buildings were adjoining, they were one entity. Facing, the public house was on the left and the Brew Works was on the right.

I entered through the public house and the “L”-shaped wood bar was to the immediate right, with a bank of wooden booths along the left wall, extending back almost half of the length of the place. Further aft, on the left, were foosball and electronic darts with a pool table in the centerline, all of the way aft. Between the last booth and the foosball table was an arched skylight and a doorway onto their brick and concrete patio. The back bar was an extensive wood and mirror affair with a collection of vintage cans that threatened to encompass the entire circumference of the interior of the public house. Midway back, on the right-hand side, was a short set of steps leading up and over to the brewery. Beyond the steps were several high tables and chairs, followed by two video games and the washrooms all of the way aft.

On the Brew Works side, there was a wooden bar to the left, as I entered from the Public House, with two ceramic towers and the copper-jacketed brewhouse behind the back bar. The kitchen was along the far right wall, with a cabinet of growlers and logo items just in front of it. This side featured a wood floor with a bank of booth seating on either side and more booth seating in the center. The high cathedral windows and the muted lighting put me in mind of the Church Brew Works.

The beers were all quite good and I met and talked to both Paul Krutzfeldt, the brewmaster and his assistant, Adam Zwanziger. I was also given a tour of the conditioning room, which was down a set of winding stairs in the rear of the building. Interestingly, they issue electronic swipe cards to their Mug Club members, making it easy to track their progress towards rewards.

It was when I returned to my seat at the bar that things really took a turn for the bizarre. I realize that I am a somewhat famous personality in some circles, but I am often caught unawares by my infamy. My good friend, Jeff “Mad Dog” Ramadan, once said, “Woody may not know everybody in the Black and Gold Brigade [a Steelers fan club that we belong to], but everybody in the Brigade sure as hell knows Woody.” As I sat down, I heard, “Holy shit! It’s Woody! Hey, man, are you going to the Great Taste next month?” I turned and it was Pat McArtor, a fellow that I had met in Madison, Wisconsin the previous year. I assured him that I would, indeed, be there and then we hung out for a while before I shoved off to keep the Woody Him Forward tour moving forward.

woodychandler, Dec 03, 2006
Photo of bkanderson3
4.05/5  rDev +6.6%

I have visited this place often. On Thursday's they have a firkin cask conditioned ale. They range from extremely hoppy Pale Ales, sweet brown ales and season specialty ales. They have a wide range of house beers and some very good domestic and Belgian guest beers. On Friday's during the school year, they offer $0.50 12 oz house beers. This allows you to sample all of them if you like. They always have a seasonal beer on tap as well. I have tied all of their beers. They are not exceptional but given the liquor laws (5.5%vol max) in Iowa they do they best they can. I have not sensed any off flavors but some of the beers are lacking mouth feel. The food is great with a wide variety for tastes from simple pizza and burgers to NY Strip and fresh fish. The atmosphere is calm early with a Cheers type attitude and wild late with the college crowd moving in. Paul the head brewing is a great guy who supports other area craft brewers as well as the local homebrew clubs. This is a must visit if you are in the Iowa City area.

bkanderson3, Sep 20, 2006
Photo of hero27
3.38/5  rDev -11.1%

I parked in the back lot and walked around to the front. Since it's right on the street, there's really no place to park out front that I saw. It's a pretty large place that definitely looks like it could cater to the college crowd on the weekend. Nice wooden accents inside and a long, wooden bar. Service was not outstanding, but it's kind of hard to judge since I was there on a Tuesday and hardly anyone else was there at the time. Pretty good array of guest beers (Goose Island, Boulevard, and even St. Bernardus Tripel, sweet!).

I tried their IPA and it was decent enough to give me the hop fix I needed. The food isn't too bad either, the hot turkey, ham & cheese sandwich I had really hit the spot. I will try and hit this place up more often when I get down to Iowa City.

Their beer likely won't blow you away, but it's a nice local stop right near downtown Iowa City.

hero27, Sep 04, 2006
Photo of ZAP
4.14/5  rDev +8.9%

Luckily I found an hour to swing by this place on a warm Saturday in early March. The front door was open and a nice warm breeze was pouring in. About three people were at the bar and a few more in the non-smoking side which is a little more upscale.

Nice beer can selection around the bar. The brewmaster was behind the bar and was extremely friendly and answered many questions about his beers. He was also very honest when I asked which ones he'd suggest I buy in growlers...mentioned he just switched to a new yeast with a couple they weren't currently up to his standards...he pointed me in the direction of his better beers....

I enjoyed a bock, a dry hopped amber with Hellertau, and a pale ale...brought back growlers of the Bock, Milk Stout and Whit(see reviews)...also was offered samples of his Coffee Stout and Chocolate lager/ale(Lighter style with a bg tootsie roll flavor...very interesting).

Overall I though the beer quality was very solid..better than I expected actually. The brewer was very knowledgable and I would be very confident drinking this guys beers a lot if I lived in the area.

I definitely would pay this place another visit if I was in town again. I seemed to have hit a quieter time than a lot of the other reviewers and I found the atmosphere fine...a nice tavern feel to it...blue collar....

And I should also mention the prices are extremely reasonable.

ZAP, Mar 15, 2006
Photo of Erdinger2003
4.08/5  rDev +7.4%

It had so many college kids getting drunk that my first impression was a quiet and old looking bar in the alley for college kids to get drunk. However I was impressed at the number of craft made beers. They are just fine for their price, not extraordinary, but still impressive. The atmosphere is nice, just like an old tavern. Do watch out in the booths however, I snagged my shirt on one of the nails sticking out. I do plan to go back a few more times to try all of their selection and re-fill my growler, on a friday or saturday because they will fill it for four dollars at some peak hours.

Erdinger2003, Mar 03, 2006
Photo of badbeer
3.93/5  rDev +3.4%

Located not too far from John's Grocery, in a huge old building. Lights were dim and had a nice old fashioned almost feel to it. Wooden tables and benches, had a nice lay out. The service wasn't really impressive but perhaps I was just there at a bad time. Guy working the bar offered help and discussion of beer when he had time, but I felt the service could have been better and will rate it as such. They did have a fairly nice selection of taps, of course all of their brews as well as a few guest beers. I found out they rotate their offerings of guest beers often to keep stuff fresh and interesting which is definately nice to hear. The price really depends on when you go, they have special days for beer on tap and times for growlers, but it's always at least reasonable at any time. If you get there during one of the special times price definately drops to inexpensive.

badbeer, Feb 24, 2006
Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.8/5  rDev 0%

Old Capitol Brew Works and Public House is the Tale of Two Establishments..."it was the best of times (Brew Works), it was the worst of times (Public House)". I stopped in late yesterday afternoon on my way to a basketball game at the University of Iowa. Unfortunately, my Buckeyes took one on the chin.

I drove around the place looking for parking and found a row of metered spots in back. I decided not to go in the back way, but did appreciate the gleaming brew kettles visible through the plate glass windows that faced the alley/street. I went around the building and in through the first door that I came to, which happened to be the door to the Public House. While calling it 'the worst of times' isn't really fair since I only passed through that side, I did see enough to get a pretty good flavor.

Wooden floor, wooden booths, 'college bar' look with video game machines, televisions, smoke, rock-and-roll on the sound system and dozens of noisy folks having a great time. I headed back to the bathroom and found an unlockable, dirty toilet/urinal/sink setup with a cigarette butt floating in the unflushed toilet. And no soap. Time to head for higher ground. Back through the bar, up a few steps and I entered a different world.

The Brew Works restaurant was much better and I immediately grabbed a menu and ducked into a booth. Since it was barely 4:30, there was only one other party in the spacious restaurant, but a waitress found me fairly quickly and I placed my order within minutes of sitting down. At first she seemed to have that bored/stuck-up attitude that I hate, but on all future visits to my booth she was more relaxed and friendly. Now, the surroundings.

Same wooden floors, wood halfway up the walls, brick the rest of the way, high ceilings, beautiful floor to ceiling windows facing the street, mellow lighting, at least 20-25 comfortable booths, several bar tables, large wooden bar, jazz on the sound system. Much more 'my thing' these days, especially since I was alone.

As always, I hate to judge a restaurant's food after one visit, but I suppose it can't be helped. My BBQ Chicken Pizza was okay, but I'll take my local Rock Bottom's version any day of the week. Pretty standard beer line-up: light lager, witbier, red ale, brown ale, APA and stout. Unfortunately, they were out of seasonal beers. I ordered the APA since that's as good a judge as any when it comes to overall quality. Good, not great. Again, one visit/one beer is hardly representative. I'm going to nudge my 'selection' score a half point since I didn't notice any Belgians on-tap (I wasn't really looking), but they've been noted by most of the other reviewers.

I enjoyed my visit to Old Capitol and will make it a point to pop in whenever I hit John's Grocery or the University for basketball or football games. I look forward to getting deeper into the menu, both food and beer. One more thing, I'll be sure to go to the Brew Works bathroom next time.

BuckeyeNation, Jan 29, 2006
Photo of mynie
3.6/5  rDev -5.3%

Editing my review, as this charming little joint has fallen far downhill since they brewmasters moved the operation to the QCA.

It's still a nice place to grab a couple pints, but that it's. The only food is frozen pizza. The beer selection used to always boast a handful of rares and seasonals, but it's been years since I've seen anything other than the everyday options. The service is always friendly, but the place has gotten--eh, they need to clean it a little more often than they do.

Still worth stopping here--the stouts are still superb, but it's not the wonderful place that is used to be.

---
I went to Old Capitol yesterday around 1:30 for lunch and a few beers. I've heard complaints of a rowdy and drunken atmosphere ruining the place after 8:00 PM most weekends, so I decided that coming before anybody else would be in my best interest. And it was--the place was nearly deserted and my fiance and I had the full attention of the small staff.

This is a very old building, which is nice. Reminds me of a church. I dig the worn-in feel of older places; they give the place stories, a pulse. A large collection of old beer cans lines the walls with nary a macro advertisement in sight.

Like I said, we were the only party in the dining area, so we had full attention of the waiter. He was friendly and somewhat knowledgeable. Nothing spectacular but good.

The home-brewed beer was surprisingly good. The house APA was solid and the stout was exceptional. Along with five house beers they had a full bar of Belgians on tap and at insanely fair prices. The poured PINTS--not goblets--of Bernadus, Piraat, and Duchesse Borugonge, among others, for five bucks a piece. The high alcohol content of most of these kind of eliminated any chance of my sampling a full pint at two in the afternoon was a blazing sun overhead, but I'll certainly be coming back to try them.

mynie, Jun 25, 2005
Photo of neonbrown82
4.38/5  rDev +15.3%

My impression of this place gets better and better each time I visit. This being said, I decided to start anew with my review of this joint.

This place has a quality atmosphere, so long as you arrive early on before the drunken masses arrive to drain the place of swill. Seriously, who drinks B/M/C at a brewpub? But anyways, back the review. The pub is lined with vintage beer cans and other brewerania, adding quite a nice touch. The solid woodwork of the bar combines to create a very rustic feel to the place. There is a pool table as well as several other pub games, and a crappy ATM machine that takes an average of 2 minutes to tender your cash. The brewery side of the restaurant is smoke free whereas the pub is smoker-friendly. The brewery section is even cleaner looking, obviously. The woodwork appears fake, but looks nice either way. The brick walls give the place an old-school feel, though. Also visible behind the bar is the mash tun and brew kettle in their full polished copper glory. The fermenters and other assorted brewing equipment are enclosed in a glass-walled room just outside the back entrance. It's a nice touch.

The service ranges from excellent to ditzy "first day" blondes. As I said, usually you're better off the earlier you come. Later on in the nights, particularly on holidays and weekends, bartenders are often more attentive to patrons with a set of tits, but if you come during the day you'll have no trouble getting served regardless of sex. Also, during the day you have a much greater chance of running into Paul, the brewmaster, or Scott, the co-owner. These are stand-up guys, along with Adam, and they will surely give you a tour if they're not too busy.

The selection is quite good. You can always find a few belgians on tap (sometimes St. Bernardus Abt 12, and usually La Binchoise Special Reserve). The house beers are quite good as well. I've been pleased with every house brew I've ordered from here, particularly the Firkin beers (dry-hopped cask ale versions of their regular line) made fresh every Thursday by 5:30 PM. Also worth noting is the Farmer Brown.

The food is great as well. I've had quite a wide variety of the menu items. Several of them include their house beers in the recipe, for instance the beer-battered fried pickles or the BBQ Stout Burger.

Prices are reasonable. Growlers are available for $10 a pop, $8 refills on all house beers. Refills are only $4 early on Saturday and Friday, if I remember correctly. This place is worth checking out, if you're ever Iowa City way. Make sure you walk a block North to the Sanctuary while you're at it.

neonbrown82, Mar 19, 2005
Photo of bditty187
3.95/5  rDev +3.9%

I arrived at Old Capitol around 5 pm on a Saturday, as I drove past the front of the building I was dismayed to see a Bud Light and Bacardi & Coke neon signs in the window. I was worried. I parked in the back (metered parking), as there is no on-street parking. Up the back steps I went. Opened the door... it looked just like Fitzpatrick's! For some reason I thought they were going to remodel. In a way I'm glad they didn't because I like the look of the bar area, it is old and naturally worn. It reminds me of a bar my dad use to work at. I will say though, this place has much more class during the day (when I visited this place as Fitzpatrick's that is). At my visit the place wasn't too busy, there was a handful of really drunk guys at the bar (loud) and a couple of really drunk girls by the pool table (annoying). Hell I saw a make-out session (nasty). The music was loud. They had all their TVs turned to college basketball games (which is fine). The restaurant side of the place was more subdued.

Things I liked:
1. A chalkboard with the beers listed. Hell Yeah!
2. The wait-staff was friendly, beer knowledgeable (at least they knew what they carried).
3. More charm. It was the little things like old beer cans as decorations and X-mas lights.
4. Good guest beers on-tap, like Entire Butt Porter, Goose Island, and La Binchoise (Blonde I think), etc.
5. They used their beer in some of the food, Wit Vinaigrette, Stout BBQ Sauce, etc.

Things I disliked:
1. Macro beer advertising inside and out, macro beer for sale (they brew their own Light Lager).
2. Food prices seemed high and the portions were a little small, and the food was rather bland.
3. The bathrooms are deathtraps. Jesus, fix the bathrooms! They were gross before and they are just as bad now!

The beer is an improvement over the old joint. After one visit I can't say the same about the food. Maybe I didn't get the best dish on the menu (I forgot the name, some chicken dish with a portabella mushroom sauce). I'll definitely have to come back and try again. Overall, this is a good brewpub and it is worth a visit if you are in IC.

bditty187, Feb 14, 2005
Photo of mentor
4.33/5  rDev +13.9%

Update: I've seen improvements to this establishment each time I have re-visited. Last night, during my third visit, I was impressed to see they were serving beer from a firkin. The dry-hopped freshness of that IPA was outstanding!

I decided to re-review this establishement because they have many more house-brews on tap. My original review (3.7) was shortly after they opened and had only three of their own beers on line. They have also expanded their menu offerings.

The Old Capitol Brewpub is located on Gilbert Street, where the now defunct Fitzpatrick's Brewpub used to be located. I stopped in for dinner and a selection of house-beers. The set-up is identical to that of Fitzpatrick's. The bulk of the establishment consists of a large wooded dining area that has a beautiful wooden bar in back, as well as stairs leading down to the brew area and back exit. An opening off the dining area leads to a smoky and rougher looking tavern. This tavern has some simple wooden booths for seating and a nice long bar...which is where I sat down. They offered seven in-house beers on tap (ESB, red, brown, stout, pale, belgian, and pumpkin), as well as several commercial offerings. I cut a deal with the bar-tender...a sample of each of the seven beers for the price of two beers. I wanted to try each selection but didn't want to get drunk. It was nice of him to accommodate and I found the rest of the staff to be as friendly and accomodating throughout the evening. The menu consisted of typical sandwich, salad, and appetizer offerings, as well as some house specialties (steak, fish, etc). Let me describe my chicken sandwich. In normal establishments, a chicken sandwich consists of a single breast (each chicken having two). The sandwich I got was a double-breast, the meat portion so large it was hanging out from the bun on all sides. The sandwich came with chips...not some blah chips from a bag...these were home-made thick cut and served piping hot. They had a standard selection of house beers with a seasonal or two mixed in. I would not be surprised to see the beer menu continue to expand.

For what I got, the prices were very reasonable. When friends from out of town ask where to go for some fun, I will include this in the short list of places to visit. The music was a bit louder than I would have liked (difficult to carry on a conversation), but the selection was interesting, ranging from jazz, to country, to classic rock.

mentor, Dec 20, 2004
Old Capitol Brew Works and Public House in Iowa City, IA
87 out of 100 based on 19 ratings.