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Brew pubs a legacy of Q-C past

Dispatch/Argus Photo By Todd Mizener

Mike Mato, a waiter at the Blue Cat Brew Pub, shows how smooth the home brews go down.

ROCK ISLAND -- The Blue Cat Brew Pub has tapped into something.

That something might not be the collective subconscious of the Quad-Cities, but it is certainly the portion that enjoys fresh-brewed small batches of beer.

The Blue Cat and its older cousin, Front Street Brewery in Davenport, have kept fans of micro-brewed beer quenched as the riverfronts of their cities have been rejuvenated around them.

Beer production at the Bent River Brewing Co. has been delayed by equipment supply hangups, but the downtown Moline establishment hopes to offer its beer on and off the premises soon.

The two microbreweries are a legacy of the Quad-Cities' past dating back to 1851. The Q-C brew scene peaked in the 19th century when the Rock Island Brewing Co., the product of the merger between Atlantic Brewing Co. and Ignatz Huber's City Brewery, made 100,000 barrels of beer a year.

``Small breweries have been around a lot longer than the big breweries,'' Blue Cat general manager David Smigo said.

Born in 1994, the Blue Cat is two years younger than the Front Street. Both offer six brews on tap daily. The two establishments take advantage of the old buildings they inhabit. Oak bar and trim complement the bare, red brick of the walls.

The Blue Cat is in the former Rock Island VFW building. It has restaurant seating on the first floor and a more casual atmosphere upstairs, with pool tables and video games. The brewing tanks stand behind the bar on the first floor.

The pub's size is just right, according to Mr. Smigo.

``We are fairly large, but this is still a small-town kind of place,'' he said. ``My motto has always been great beer and great food.''

If you like the Front Street beer, you can take it home in 22 oz., half-gallon or 2.5-gallon containers. Blue Cat has eight beers in distribution, but only on tap at a few other locations: Old Chicago Pizza and Pasta in Bettendorf, the Plaza One hotel in Rock Island, and a few bars in Chicago.

The Blue Cat's food is nearly as well known as its beverages. Last year, the Rock Island pub started serving monthly five-course meals ``designed to illustrate the wonderful marriage of fine cuisine and beer.''

Brewmaster and owner Dan Cleaveland changes the beer offered at least monthly, and has about 35 recipes, according to Mr. Smigo. A quick look at the menu lists 30 beers, from regular favorites like the Wigged Pig Wheat and Off the Rail Pale Ale to specialties like Mallards Ale, Red Toad and Coriander and Orange.

In fact, Coriander and Orange is the latest medal winner for the Blue Cat, claiming a bronze medal at the 1997 World Beer Championships.

A homebrewers club -- Mississippi Unquenchable Grail Zymurgists (MUGZ) -- meets at the Blue Cat as members share their latest efforts with each other.

Take a tip and check out what is on tap.

-- By Kurt Allemeier (February 2, 1998)

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