John's Grocery Inc.


65 Reviews
John's Grocery Inc.John's Grocery Inc.

Type: Store

401 E Market St
Iowa City, Iowa, 52245-2628
United States

(319) 337-2183 | map

Specializes in imported beer and glassware; also known as “Dirty John’s” for selling Playboy magazines in the 1950s.

Monday - Thursday: 7:30am –- Midnight
Friday & Saturday: 7:30am -– 2:00am)
Sunday: 9:00am –- Midnight

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Reviews: 65 | Ratings: 104
Photo of wapcap
3.57/5  rDev -22.1%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3.75 | selection: 3.5

A small grocery downtown.
They seemed to have a good selection. Nothing blew me away though. Its a grocery store so you can get some foods of course.
I'd recommend stopping if you are in the area.

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Photo of spacecake9
4.75/5  rDev +3.7%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4.75

Great place, a real surprise in Iowa. Lots of great beer to choose from. Most of the American craft beers are in the cooler so they are ready for drinking!

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Photo of yemenmocha
4.67/5  rDev +2%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4.75

Have stopped in here quite a few times on road trips and always found something worthwhile. Reasonable prices, great selection, plus the added convenience of other items... including glassware. Heck, they've sent stuff to me out of state as well (glassware). Love this place. Faithful customer when driving through.

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Photo of Sunn
4.54/5  rDev -0.9%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4.75

I love this place. Very neat old-school grocery store with a HUGE selection of beers. The beer room itself is pretty cramped. If it's busy the majority of your time is spent saying and hearing the words "Excuse me.". The prices are goofy in this place. Some beer's are dirt cheap and others are way overpriced. The service and selection is awesome, though, so the prices don't really bother me.

I'm new to the craft beer world, and thanks to John's I've discovered so many great beers that you can't find anywhere else in Iowa. Whenever I'm in Iowa City, John's is a guaranteed stop.

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Photo of EdwardFortyHands
4.6/5  rDev +0.4%
vibe: 1 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 5

Dirty Johns was the first to sell playboy magazine in Iowa City IA.

Now it is the craft beer destination in eastern Iowa.

The staff is extremely helpful.

The selection is outta this state good.

The roast beef is made fresh daily

The the is the shiznotabamsnipsnapsally.

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Photo of shivtim
4.06/5  rDev -11.4%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.25 | selection: 4.5

John's is one of the better beer stores I've ever been to, probably just behind Hop City in Atlanta and Bruisin' Ales in Asheville.

It's a small grocery store, cramped and packed full of stuff, with the beer in the back. There's a large shelving section with an excellent selection of mostly foreign beers, and lots of singles from various US breweries. Then there's a walk-in cooler with a ton of local stuff, both six packs and singles, as well as the macro beers.

Fantastic selection here for out-of-towners. I was able to pick up a lot of singles from Iowa and other Midwest / Great Plains breweries. Dropped about $80 in two visits over the course of a weekend.

Highly recommended if you're visiting Iowa City.

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Photo of Tjvan2
4.38/5  rDev -4.4%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4.25

Lots of imports and Belgians. Very good selection, although just a bit light in microbrews for my taste. Staff is very knowledgeable and can tell you just about anything about anything that they have. It's in a small corner grocery store, but the beer room is separated from the rest of the store and is worth the trip.

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Photo of morimech
4.14/5  rDev -9.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

Stopped in on my trip past I-80. Easy to get to but the lack of parking was a disappointment. There is a small lot behind the store but it looked like chaos going on. Ended up parking a block or two away on campus. Risking a ticket I hurried myself to the store. One of the most interesting stores for beer I have set foot in. A small market/deli/wine/ and beer store. I think beer takes up most of the space but I did not search every nook and cranny in the building as I was in a hurry. Nice selection and I picked up a few bottles of interest or on sale. I think if it is for sale in Iowa, it is at John's. Interesting mix of college kids and longtime neighborhood residents. Service was very good and friendly even though I did not ask for assistance.

Not sure of the business model, but I would do away with the market and expand the deli and alcohol departments. God knows they need the room and there did not seem to be much focus on the deli which I think could be huge.

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Photo of msubulldog25
4.38/5  rDev -4.4%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5

Visited mid-afternoon August 30

I knew of John's reputation for great beer selection prior to visiting Iowa City on business, so a stop there (even a brief one) was a must before leaving town. The day was a scorcher (mid/upper 90s) and my traveling coworker had no interest, so I left her curbside (our rental car's A/C running) for a 15 minute shopping spree! We'd actually eaten breakfast a block away (Hamburg Inn) earlier in the day, so John's was very easy to find, despite a modest brick facade and an average-looking corner location.

Inside, I immediately veered right past the counter and into a vast wine department. Oops, I'm here for beer! A quick correction past the half-filled deli case and I entered Beervana - a sizable room stacked floor-to-ceiling with hundreds and hundreds of imported and domestic bottles. Oh, to have adequate time to browse!!! I next entered an equally spacious walk-in cooler, again stacked 8 feet high with shelf upon shelf of beer. I noticed right away that all the cases and sixers of macro stuff was placed at the back of the cooler, forcing one to walk past all the 'craft' stuff in order to get to it. Clever.

In the few minutes I had to shop, I was approached by 3 different employees (easy to spot in John's T-shirts of varying colors) all eager to help: one guided me to the empty six-bottle carriers for mixed packs, another pointed out the Iowan locals in the cooler plus a few favorites and a third was friendly at the register. My bill for 12 bottles and cans was about $28 with tax (borderline pricy, but I'll call it 'reasonable' for 12 singles). Among them: three different bottles from Peace Tree, a couple from Millstream, a couple more (cans) from Great River, and odd & ends from Summit & a pair of Two-Hearteds, among my all-time favorite IPAs. I didn't go out of my way to find the 'fanciest' or 'rarest' bottles, opting instead for an array of styles from mostly local breweries we'll never see back home in Oregon.

Although I skipped buying glassware (have plenty at home), I've heard their inventory is vast.

Excellent store with friendly staff, tons of selection. Couldn't ask for more ~ very highly recommended.

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Photo of jzlyo
4.53/5  rDev -1.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

This among the best places to find any and all beers available in Iowa.

The customer service service, quality and selection are all very good, many of the staffers are very knowledgeable about beer. The atmosphere was good but kind of cramped in space, although considering the location in downtown Iowa City its understandable that expansion isn't possible. Value was reasonable, most micro/non specialty beers/ales had a good prices. Some prices for ales/beers were high priced, but due to the rarity of them,, the prices were about right.

Excellent place to find beer, among the best in the Midwest.

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Photo of cradke
4.78/5  rDev +4.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

This is one of the best shop if not the best shop in Iowa. A fantastic place to get some hard to find and specialty brews especially given the state liquor and distribution laws.

As far as the service and selection goes: this is as solid as it gets. The staff that man the bottle shop and house of glass are very knowledgeable. The shop have a fantastic selection of belgians, seriously one of the best I have ever seen. The organization is very intuitive and has much more than just the standard trappists. They regularly get new stock and change up their lineup. In addition to the belgian, they have a great selection of Germans and English beers. Additionally, they have quite a few hard to find gems such as norweigen and finnish beers.

In addition to the foreign lagers, they do have a decent selection of all of the available microbrews, particularly goose island, Sam Adams, Bells, Rogue, Ommegang and some smaller ones. Most of the microbrews are kept cold but unfortunately, a lot of the european brews are kept in the cellar which is cool, but not cellar cold unfortunately.

The final note that sets Johns Apart from many other shops is the House of Glass. It's a separate building next door that has an incredible selection of beer memorabilia. They have a world class selection of glassware that makes a great pairing when trying a new beer.

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Photo of DoubleSimcoe
3.86/5  rDev -15.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5

I had read about this place and was very excited when, walking back to our car, our local Iowa City friend said we were one block from the famous John's Grocery.

So there we went, a funky store with groceries, cold drinks and lots of beer shelved among a maze of narrow aisles.

To be honest, I didn't find anything super amazing or must-have, but the selection is good. More so considering this is Iowa City!

Some names that caught my attention were several Harvest Ale; a lot of Belgians like Ommegang, Chimay and Delirium;l Mikkeller, Nogne and some obscure Scandinavians, plus British brews a plenty.

Bombers are inside a walk-in cooler, which is great, and include Boulevard, Rogue, Goose, Cricket Hill from New Jersey (bought a bourbon-barreled porter).

Ton of 6-packs with the usual names, all cold and mostly Midwest. To be honest, nothing here blew me away, but I'll concede that -for Iowa City- this is a good enough selection.

Service was friendly and helpful- we were perusing the aisles and a beer guy came over asking if we needed help.

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Photo of beerwolf77
4.58/5  rDev 0%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

Stopped here on my way home from my recent Iowa trip. I'm glad I did.

So we snake our way past the grocery store to the back where the beer is kept. Wow! What a magnificent display of beer. A whole room of imports. The room was stocked from floor to ceiling with every import you can think of. Including a solid amount of stuff I've never seen at Discount in Milwaukee. The walk in cooler was filled with top to bottom American craft. The usual Midwest selection along with all the Iowa beers I've never seen before. A very nice singles selection for making an Iowa mix pack. Which I gladly did.

The service was top notch. I spoke with several employees and all were extremely helpful. They even offered to open the glass shop next door. I declined since I was blowing my load of cash on Belgian sours.

This is a beer oasis in a what seems to be a desert otherwise. You must stop here if you are coming anywhere near Iowa city. I will be going back for sure.

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Photo of emerge077
4.47/5  rDev -2.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5

Places like John's are few and far between. They definitely carve out there own unique niche, combining a quirky small neighborhood market with a top quality beer store. You have to respect an independent retailer like this, doing everything themselves, and doing it well. The only similar regional places that come to mind are Tenuta's in Kenosha, Groppi's Market in Milwaukee, and West Lakeview Liquors in Chicago.

We had to ask where the beer was when we walked in, as it was hidden past a door in a wall of potato chips (you read that right). Inside the beer room were walls of imports of all kinds, many obscure styles and breweries i've never seen before, as well as the top quality standbys. Cases stacked up near the door, and a walk-in cooler inside to the left. There were hundreds of imports, pretty impressive. Obscure breweries from New Zealand (8 Wired), Japan (Baird), Italy (Revelation Cat), Denmark (Bøgedal), and more... not just the usual UK (Cains Dark Mild), German (Leipziger Gose), Belgian stuff (Hanssens), but those were all there, and very extensive.

Craft stuff was mainly all in the walk-in, many seasonals and limited releases, and a broad representation from the midwest as well as east/west coast stuff. Noticed Cricket Hill from NJ, Lost Coast from CA, and many things in between. A small sampling: Boulevard (4 smokestack series, 750s and 4-packs), Goose Island (4 reserve line bombers, 4-packs), Lakefront bombers (Fixed Gear, etc.), Brau Brothers, Bells, Founders (4-5 6-packs), Jolly Pumpkin (4+ 750s), Potosi, New Belgium (Lips of Faith series).

The Iowa shelves held beers from Great River, Peace Tree, Madhouse, and Millstream. Singles were available for several of these, ranging from $2-3.

Staff was really helpful, pointing us to the Iowa micros inside the beer cooler, giving lunch recommendations, and opening up the glassware shop next door for us (a sight to behold in itself). Top place in Iowa City, must see if you're passing through on I-80.

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Photo of Yetiman420
3.94/5  rDev -14%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4

Made a stop at John's prior to heading over to the Sanctuary while passing through Iowa City.

The at-the-time A+ rating with over 50 reviews really had my hopes up and I think I was let down a bit.

To begin with, beer in Iowa is limited to what establishments can get through their distributor. The impressive wall of Belgians is occupied by most of the most common and accessible Belgians. No Cantillon (hoping to luck out and find something rare and dusty) but they did have some Drie Fonteinen.

I didn't buy any beer on this visit and I'm not sure I would risk spending money on the majority of the non-Belgian imports. I saw a couple of English IPA's where the sediment lead me to believe they had been there for quite some time.

What I did love about this place was the house next door where I dropped $130 on glassware - especially my new Reissdorf Kölsch serving tray with .20 CL glasses. Got an altbier, rauchbeir, czech pilsner, Unibroue wit, and a bunch of other glasses.

Overall, this may be a great place for chilled and Belgian beer if you are a resident of the area. It is an excellent stop for those looking to extend their glassware collection.

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Photo of rundocrun
4.72/5  rDev +3.1%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5

Having lived in Iowa City for my entire life, I have to say I'm surprised I didn't go there more often even before I turned 21. This place is the epitome of a quirky, homey, and unique grocery store. The shelves are stocked full of a huge variety of items and you can rest assured you'll find just about anything you need there. And I havent even started talking about the beer selection!

If you want to find that rare imported beer, you stand a pretty good chance of either finding it in-stock or being able to order it in. Nearly every country that brews beer of any sort is represented in their beer room. Not to mention their impressive trappist beer selection (of course, no westvleteren in stock though).

They also make a good point of carrying lots of local brews including their very own specialty wheat beer brewed courtesey of Millstream Brewery in Amana, IA.

Also a great selection of beer memorabilia and beer glasses next door in John's Grocery's House of Glass. Lots of cool swag to compliment your beer purchases!

Overall, my #1 spot when I want to just "try something different"

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Photo of MarcatGSB
4.58/5  rDev 0%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

Upon first discovery of John's grocery I was blown away by their whisky selection. Definitely one of the best in the area, if not in eastern Iowa. Some good stuff like George T. Stagg from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and Pappy 20 year old, at affordable prices.

It wasn't until a few weeks later that I really started getting into their beer selection. I realized it was grand, but I did not realize the selection. From J.W. Lees, to a great selection of Flanders style sours, and some decent American Craft brews. Most of the collection is based around Belgian style ales.

One of the best selections of Nogne I have seen, and the take great pride in things like that. Anyone between Chicago and Lincoln, NE should take the trip to Johns Grocery in Iowa City to check out the selection at this small corner grocery store.

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Photo of augievikings
5/5  rDev +9.2%

Discovered John's when we went back to Iowa City for a basketball game last weekend. It's a good thing I didn't know about this place during law school or I likely would have flunked out. Fantastic selection, particularly their import section as other reviewers have previously pointed out. We were there on a Monday morning as they were stocking the shelves and we got great service from several very knowledgable staff members. I also thought the prices were good, even on the individual Belgian bottles. There were not as many domestic microbrews as I expected, but they more than made up for it in their fantastic import selection.

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Photo of FreshHawk
4.85/5  rDev +5.9%

When you walk in it is a traditional mom & pop style local grocery store. Really good selection of beer (as well as wine and other liquors). As far as beer goes, there is a very good selection of Belgian beers, along with a decent selection of German and British beers. Some nice vintages (especially of J. W. Lees Harvest, '99 to present and various selections of barrel aged ones). Also a good selection of American beers (at least for ones available in Iowa it is very good). There is a large walk in cooler area full of American beers. The back of that cooler has different Macro selections though. They also have a John's Mystery pack of 24 beers for $20. It has some random beers, don't expect anything great but you get your moneys worth.

The people that work the beer department are pretty knowledgeable about beer and make good recommendations. Fun to talk to about beer and as long as they don't need to help someone, they are more than happy to talk beer with you.

The quality is good and they try to keep the beers as fresh as possible. They do what is possible to maintain there beer in ideal conditions.

Price is about what you would expect. Sometimes they have some nice sales on some decent things. Average price and it is normal to lower price for what you would expect in Iowa.

They now also own the place next door to the actual grocery store to hold their massive selection of glassware. Pretty good prices and a number of different glasses. You also get a free glass if you purchase $100 worth of beer (which you easily could do).

A great beer store, and one of the best or the best in Iowa. Really good selection for Iowa, really helpful and nice employees with a good price and quality. If you are in Iowa City or around the area check this place out. Highly recommend, especially given that it is a mom & pop style store that is great to support.

Also RIP John Alberhasky, I thought this would be a good day to express how much I appreciate your store. In Heaven there is now beer.

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Photo of asabreed
4.85/5  rDev +5.9%

Wow. That's the first thing I said when I walked into this place. First off, the whole thing's the carnival ride equivalent of a smaller, labyrinthine grocery store. Tons of stuff on shelves stacked super high.

Wine. Beer. Food. More stuff. Insanity.

There's an awesome cold beer selection with a ton of six-packs and single bottles.

And there are shelves and shelves of the more local -- few-state wide, I mean -- brews, along with an INSANE amount of Belgians, many of which I'd not only never heard of, but certainly had never seen. Limited edition stuff. Crazy-looking bottles. Had I been staying in the area -- and not driving through many more states on a book tour -- I would've EASILY spent $100 or more in this place.

A true gem, it really is. And they have, it seems, a pretty awesome wine selection too.

Seriously, check this place out. I was disappointed because I don't know if I'll ever be in Iowa City again, but if I am, I'll know where I'll be going.

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Photo of Beerandraiderfan
3.85/5  rDev -15.9%

Been going to John's for 10 years now. Lots of changes lately (well lately for me, I haven't been back in 5 years before DLD week).

John's has always focused on more of the Midwestern flagship/introductory/session styles of beers, with a few exceptions. That remains. Also a minimal amount of hop forward selections. Lots of stouts. Carry almost no east coast beer. Lots of Midwest & some Colorado stuff. It definitely has the best selection overall in all of Iowa IMHO.

The glassware is in another building now and far less impressive than it used to be. Some beer schwag at jacked up prices compared to what you pay at the brewery.

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Photo of HawkeyeDaz
4.15/5  rDev -9.4%

I hadn't been back to John's since I graduated about 10 years ago so wasn't sure what to expect. I had gone in to grab some beer for tailgaiting but also wanted to see if there were any good selections that might have been picked from the shelves in Chicago or that I couldn't find in Chicago. Needless to say for a smaller store in Iowa City I was extremely surprised with how the selection has grown since I had been there. Plenty of selections from Bell's, Goose Island, Left Hand, New Belgium, Two Brothers and Boulevard along with plenty of locals from Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota. Also at least half a wall is dedicated to imports from all kinds of countries. They were also having a samplings of a brewery in the Amana Colonies which the Pale Ale was great so I picked up a sixer of that. The walk in refridgerator is huge and has your usual cases of mainstream beer but plenty of craft beers cold and ready to go. I ended up finding plenty of the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout which has been off the shelves in Chicagoland for quite sometime. I was speaking to the staff about how I was excited to run across the Goose Island BCS and he let me know they still had about 5 cases and would be more than happy to ship me some if I liked, all I had to do was call the shipping department.

All in all I was very happy to return to John's Grocery and plan on going back any time I'm back in Iowa City. The staff was courteous and extremeley helpful and went out their way to make sure I was being helped.

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Photo of Rayek
4.6/5  rDev +0.4%

After finding out online that John's is a good place for glassware, I made a point of stopping here on my way to, and subsequently from IL.

I'll begin at the beginning. My first reason for stopping here was glassware. To get it, you have to cross the small parking lot to what's best described as John's gift shop. While I was there, I met the Manager and "Bier Guy" Doug, who is the son of the store's founder. We had a nice chat about beer and the history of the store. He was a pleasure to talk to and seems to love his job.

The main store is best described as a cramped maze that has everything under the sun. To get to the beer, you have to do a bit of wandering. It's kept way in the back. About half of it is in a tight walk in cooler. The rest is on shelves in a just as tight air conditioned room. Because the space is so limited, John's uses every spare inch of it. Beer is shelved from floor to ceiling and the variety is tremendous. If my budget were unlimited, I could have driven away with a car load of Midwest beers that have yet to wander to CO. Import selection was also great.

When all was said and done, I left with six new glasses and about a case of beer. If you're ever in Iowa City, John's is a must visit.

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Photo of brdc
4.65/5  rDev +1.5%

I have used this store online for ordering, so this review does not apply to the physical location very well.

The selection is very good, covering most important imports and a lot of american beers as well. The selection I received felt fresh, and it seems they keep it fresh as they have a high volume of sales.
The website is kind of poor, you cannot order directly and have to call; the beer list is not updated frequently, so a lot of stuff listed is out, and I would suspect they have a lot of stuff that is not listed.
Despite that, service is stellar, courteous and efficient.
Prices are very good, and shipping is as inexpensive as I have seen.
Now, I always check if they have it before ordering from someone else.

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Photo of Jbeyer
3.7/5  rDev -19.2%

This is is the place to find the best selection of beer in Iowa City. However, the selection is still only moderate in comparison to places in Illinois and Indiana (where I spend a great deal of time). I feel that the selection overall is over-hyped and their website has a great deal more beers than there store actually has. An employee told me this is because they haven't updated the web site in ages. Prices are good and usually you can find someone to help you find what your looking for unless its a friday or saturday night.

Overall if your in Iowa City and don't want the usual keystone hard liquor combo then you will be able to find a good to decent beer at John's

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John's Grocery Inc. in Iowa City, IA
4.58 out of 5 based on 104 ratings.
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