Team: Iowa Cubs
Affiliate: Chicago Cubs (Triple A)
Ballpark Basics: A downtown ballpark with great views and enthusiastic fans.
Parking: Paid parking lots surround the ballpark with multiple free/cheaper options within walking distance.
Seats in the shade: Third base gets the shade first for afternoon games.
Located on the edge of downtown at the confluence of the Des Moines River and the Raccoon River, Iowans have played baseball on the site since 1947. The Cubs affiliate has played here since 1981 and saw the opening of Principal Park in 1992 on what was the site of Sec Taylor Stadium. The state capitol building is clearly visible behind the center field wall with many downtown buildings peering over the left field corner.
Being over 30 years old there are aspects of the ballpark that are beginning to show its age. The main concourse sits behind the seating bowl and does allow you to see the action on the field while grabbing food or drink. We were there for a 4th of July game and even the main concourse got crowded and hard to navigate at times. There is a wide walkway that splits two of the seating areas and you can use this to walk around the ballpark and still see the game. Unfortunately you are not able to walk around the entire field, another aspect that shows that ballpark’s age.
There are a number of options of seating for watching the game. The seating bowl wraps around the field with general admission seating in the left and right field lines. For larger groups there is a picnic area in the left field corner and the Party Deck behind the right field wall with stand room. Suites sit above the seating bowl and the Betfred Sports Lounge behind the left field wall offer additional seating options for larger groups.
Best Spot for Beer: There are a number of unique options for beer. Local brewery Confluence Brewing has their own stand in the left field corner of the main concourse (with their Cubs themed Over the Ivy Pils) and there is even a Coors Light walk-in cooler that focuses on macro options. However, the best spot clearly is the Iowa Craft Beer Stand behind home plate on the main concourse. Here you will find 32 taps of Iowa beers as well as a few cans.
Principal Park’s proximity to downtown Des Moines offers a number of advantages. First and foremost is the number of restaurants and bars (and breweries) that are within walking distance to visit before or after the game. Another positive is the availability of on-street parking that surrounds that field so you do not need to pay the $13 to park in one of the lots that surround Principal Park. Finally, there are a number of hotels near the ballpark that allow you to walk to and from the game.
While there are aspects of Principal Park that make it appear dated, there was a lot to like. The proximity to downtown made it easy to incorporate the game into a pre-game dinner, the view of the capitol building offers one of the best backdrops in MiLB, and the Iowa Craft Beer Stand has one of the best selections of local and craft beer we have seen at a ballpark at any level. Best of all, this is one of the top places where Chicago sends players to rehab. If you luck out like we did, you might catch a game with a roster comprised almost entirely of MLB Cubs in a small venue setting.
You’ve found a Double Header! Des Moines has many watering holes worth visiting (see: The High Life Lounge”). The two breweries we hit were very different vibes and both worthy of a write up so, let’s play two!
Peace Tree Brewing
Brew Basics: The hippier and more chill option, expect bikes, dogs and nature themes.
Dog Friendly: Yes but not a ton of room to move away from others if needed.
Good for Groups: Great for smaller groups (<6), larger groups may have a hard time finding space.
Food Available: No – can BYO
While the majority of Peace Tree is contained within a large corrugated metal arch, the main entrance is built into a wood beam fronted cube and flanked by a dog-friendly patio and plenty of bicycle parking. Inside, there are table options and more intimate seats with leather loungers in the back. The roof is painted in shades of green, silver and black and glass bay doors on two sides give the building lots of light. Artwork, the brightly painted pressed-panel bar, and murals combine to provide pops of color and contribute to the environment; but overall the muted music and chill atmosphere create a pretty mellow vibe, despite the good number of patrons.
They have light snacks (local cheeses, popcorn and the like) but you can bring your own in or have food delivered. Before you leave, check out the front wall with upcoming events for Fundraiser Friday, adopt a dog, and comedy or trivia nights. They even had a snowman building contest.
The tree theme is strong throughout and is also reflected in the flight, with 5 options served on a tree trunk round. With up to 23 different options on tap at any given time, there are tons of combinations.
Our five were:
Lake Loop IPA (5.0% ABV, 30 IBU) – The nose on this is fruit and yeasty, with a flavor that is lightly fruited and not very effervescent. There are hops in the middle but no real bite and a smooth finish where the hops are most pronounced. This was the most clear and pale of the bunch and good but very light.
Get a Little Hazy (6.0ABV/0 IBU) – Hazy and most yellow and also the most lacing. The smell is hoppy, the taste is juicy like sweet pineapple and mango and not hoppy like the smell would imply. It ended fairly clean, and was one of our favorites of the five.
Grapefruit Groove (7.25%ABV/95 IBU) – IBU is surprising because while the hops are here, the flavor is fruity, light and honeyed. The color is also somewhat honeyed and just a bit opaque. While this was the most effervescent of the beers we tried, the aroma was surprisingly muted.
Fruited Sour – Passionfruit, Orange, Guava Sour – 5.25%ABV/0 IBU. The bouquet on this one is imperial sweet and most resembles dried apricots. The taste is tart and builds in sip, first light and puckery, then mellows to a guava heavy sour with all three of the included fruits making an appearance.
Black and Blueberry Sour (5.25% ABV) – The only one of the bunch that didn’t fall right in the bronze hue scale. This sour was true to name and poured a pretty magenta. Tart and fruity, we hope this limited edition beer becomes a regular in the rotation.
317 East Court Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50309
Brew Basic: Hipper (without the second i) and modern, with an unbeatable lunch deal.
Dog Friendly: Large outside patio
Good for Groups: Yes
Food Available: Yes. Can be on the pricey side, but not if you time it right.
Seeing that Lua is gray and blocky on the outside and black and cavernous with concrete and visible ductwork on the inside, you may expect the place to be cold, but it is anything but. On a good weather day, you’ll find the huge orange garage bay doors wide open to an equally sized patio with lots of umbrellas. String lights abound in and out and brightly colored plush bar seats and murals help to light up the area as well. Beyond the dining room, a wall of large glass windows provide a view to the inner workings of the brewery.
The staff were friendly and helpful and it was great to see everyone – managers included – pitching in as they encountered what was clearly an unexpectedly large crowd on a Monday before July 4th. They have a great week day food special that makes lunch just about half price and even if they didn’t, the food is worth it. Their menu goes for the high-end vibe, think salads and burgers but with descriptors like “confit” alongside brie and chiffon cake.
Often times we’ve found breweries that tend to be so food focused don’t always hold up on the beer end of things but at Lua this was certainly not the case. We couldn’t decide on which beer would best compliment our food choices, so we ordered four. They were:
Dan’s Dunkel (6% ABV) – German dark lager that was the color of syrup and smelled of dry malts. Tasted lighter than expected and had a mainly bready backbone. Most reminiscent of a dry marzen.
I’ll Be A Sky (5.6% ABV) Hazy pale ale with Strata, Vista and Mosaic hops. One of our other beers had sticky cannibis notes, but this one both smelled and tasted like wet weed. White lacing, and slightly cloudy but mainly transparent with high carbonation.
Say Yes (7.0% ABV) Sour with blackberry, boysenberry and blue raspberry. This was smooth and thick, having tomato juice like consistency. It was also bright magenta purple. This fruit basket of a beer had almost nothing that would indicate you were drinking beer so the 7% is something to watch out for since it smelled like jam and tasted like a red berry smoothie. We loved it.
Sun for Miles (6.6% ABV) Lua’s flagship IPA, whose identity centers around tropical passionfruit and guava notes, white peach and sticky cannibis. Hazy and pale yellow, this also had lacing but wasn’t as carbonated as the I’ll Be A Sky. The smell was fruity and the palate started similarly orchard fruity, but ended moderately hopped with a tiny cannibus note.
1525 High Street
Des Moines, IA 50309