Zoo Brew

What a great concept: The zoo…open only to adults…in the relatively cooler summer evening hours…with adult beverages. It’s a stroke of genius!

The Blank Park Zoo has, for the past several years, opened its doors to an adults-only crowd every Wednesday night during the months of June, July, and August in a event called Zoo Brew. Each Wednesday event features a different opportunity to sample wines and beers and listen to live music. And, of course, walk through the zoo without having to deal with sticky, screaming children.

I attended “Uncorked,” the first Zoo Brew of the summer on June 6 with my daughter, Katie. (Technically speaking, she’s a grownup.) Wines from Covered Bridges Winery, John Ernest Vineyard & Winery, Madison County Winery, Prairie Moon Vineyard & Winery, and Tabor Home Winery were available for our tasting pleasure. I’ve tried to love Iowa wines over the years but often find them fairly off-putting. Samplings from this group were so-so; one tasted exactly like grape juice, another had to be spat out. Surprisingly, the best was a crisp chardonnay from Prairie Moon. I also liked a white wine from Covered Bridges. None of the reds were worth drinking.

Unimpressive full-size drinks can be purchased at stands around the zoo. I didn’t see any food for sale, and that’s a drawback to this event. It starts at 5:30 p.m., so a few food vendors would make this a one-stop evening event. As it was, we didn’t stay long because we were hungry and eager to find something to eat. Next time, maybe we should back a picnic like the old days, with juice boxes and goldfish crackers?

Lack of food aside, this is a great event for young professionals and others in the Des Moines area. It’s definitely a mix-and-mingle event, and the zoo vibe is very pleasant. The night we were there, very good musical entertainment was provided by Bonne Finken with Ryne Doughty.

Here are the upcoming themes, featured drinks, and musical entertainment for the rest of the summer:

  • June 13: “Around the World,” featuring Loose Neutral and samples of international beers
  • June 20: “Iowa Brew Night,” featuring Throwing Toast and Iowa microbrews
  • June 27: “Ladies’ Brew,” featuring Damon Dotson with Rudy York and samples of flavored beers
  • July 4: “Red, White & Brew,” featuring Decoy with Brian Congdon and summer beers
  • July 11: “Uncorked Encore,” featuring Abby Normal and Iowa wines
  • July 18: “Iowa Brew Night” featuring Standing Hampton and Iowa breweries
  • July 25: “Country Night” featuring Beau Nystrom Band with Time Well Wasted and a variety of beers
  • Aug. 1: “Zoolympics” featuring Cold Filtered and English beers
  • Aug. 8: “Summer Luau” featuring Monkey, Monkey, Monkey and light, summer beers
  • Aug. 15: “Fan’s Choice” featuring The Wilder Side Band’s Live Karaoke Band and samples chosen by fans on Facebook
  • Aug. 22: “Ladies Brew Take Two” featuring Hollywood Burnout with Josh & Josie and more fruit-flavored beers
  • Aug. 29: “Zoo Brew Finale” featuring Pianopalooza with Josh and Will and a variety of local beers and wines

With all the attention being paid to the beverages and music, it’s easy to overlook the real stars of the zoo: the animals. Blank Park is a small but extremely nice zoo, and there are dozens of exhibits to enjoy including a new sea lion exhibit, giraffes, lions, tigers, monkeys, otters, prairie dogs, and flamingoes. There’s also a petting zoo that’s as much fun for adults as it is for kids — as witnessed at the recent Zoo Brew.

Zoo Brew is held every Wednesday through the end of August from 5:30 to 9 p.m. (entry doors close at 8 p.m.) Cost for Zoo Brew is the same as regular zoo admission: $11. Katie and I were lucky to have snagged a Groupon that got both of us in for just $10 — such a bargain! And I was happy to have an opportunity to try out my new telephoto lens on some feathered, furry, and floppy subjects.

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