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Santorum hopes something's 'brew'ing for his campaign in Iowa

AMANA, Iowa -- In case you were wondering what sort of beers the former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum drinks, reporters trailing him Sunday now have a complete list.

“It’s the stouts, the bocks, and then the white ales -- and wheats,” Santorum told a small group of media. He added later: “I don’t do wine tastings. I do beer tastings.”

The GOP hopeful was sidled up to the tasting bar at Millstream Brewery, a local microbrewery in a historic landmark town lined with colonial-style houses and storefronts. The bartender served a small glass of the brewery's prizewinner, a dark and frothy beer called Back Road Stout.

“Chocolate, big chocolate!” Santorum said, sipping from the tasting glass. A crowd of about 20 shoppers looked on.

Santorum asked for a pint of the stout and turned to the crowd. “If you guys want to grab something,” he said, “we can just sit in here and chat for a little bit?” 

The visit to the brewery -- and the impromptu meeting with Iowans inside a back seating area -- underscored the kind of face-to-face campaigning Santorum is staking his candidacy on. 

He’s the only GOP contender so far to visit each of Iowa’s 99 counties. (The Bachmann campaign announced today that she would embark, starting Friday, on a 99-county tour.) Despite his effort, he remains in single digits in Iowa polls.

Outside a Coralville church earlier in the day, Santorum insisted that voters “are looking for someone they can trust.”

His speech inside the small Tabernacle Bible Church detailed his fight in the Senate against late-term abortion -- a story that emphasizes what he calls his “faithful” fight on a key issue for social conservatives. (Legislation banning the procedure failed in 1995 and 1997; the ban ultimately passed in 2003.)

“I feel very confident that we’re going to do very well here. The question is, how well,” Santorum told reporters afterward.

It's a question that for now -- with 22 days until the Iowa caucuses -- some voters are not ready to help answer.

At a clothing store down the street from the brewery, a local businesswoman and Ron Paul supporter asked Santorum to make an argument for her vote.

“A good differentiator between me and Ron is the whole issue of commander in chief,” Santorum said. “I sympathize with Ron in the sense that I’d like to see America not be involved in as many places as we are, but at the same time, I’m concerned that if we’re not involved, then other people will.”

The woman, Chris Davies, later told NBC News that she liked what she heard, though she’s probably staying loyal to Paul, because she thinks he has the best prescription for the American economy. 

But, she added, “When I came in here earlier today I was probably more sure than I am right now.”

*** CORRECTION: The Bachmann campaign announced she would embark, starting Friday, on a 99-county tour -- not that she would visit her 99th today, as written in an earlier version of this post.