The Craft Beer Scene in Des Moines, Iowa
Des Moines, Iowa, is one of the most interesting places in the Midwest United States. Affordable housing has driven many young people to the city over the last two decades. As a result, those young people have built a thriving nightlife and culture. Central to this has been the growth of craft breweries in the
By Haley Kieser on Mar. 06, 2018
Des Moines, Iowa, is one of the most interesting places in the Midwest United States. Affordable housing has driven many young people to the city over the last two decades. As a result, those young people have built a thriving nightlife and culture. Central to this has been the growth of craft breweries in the city. Following the trend around the country, the local foods movement of the couple decades has thrived in Iowa. This was helped in no small part by the huge farming community in the state. The easy access to grain also resulted in the popularity of home-brewing throughout the state.
Nationwide, there are nearly 1.2 million home-brewers in the Midwest, nearly two-thirds of which started after 2005. Iowa followed that trend, with a growth-spurt coming in 2009 after a law change allowed homebrewers to start brewing high-alcohol content (over 5%) beers. Since then, the upward growth has been unbelievable. As homebrewers became craft breweries, the number of craft breweries in the state has skyrocketed to well over 70 in 2017. In 2014, the state produced 40,706 barrels of craft beer, and that number is expected to at least triple by 2019. Craft beer has been a remarkable boon for the economy as well, increasing personal income by nearly $42 million in 2014 alone. Des Moines is thriving off of this growth. The craft breweries are some of the best in the country, so it can be hard to know where to go. Just for you, I’ve narrowed the choices down to three in the area.
515 Brewing Company
One of the companies that personifies the homebrewer-turned-craftbrewer pathos of the Iowa craft beer scene is the 515 Brewing Company. Ryan, Dave, Brandon, and Bailey actually started getting together to brew beer in their kitchens so that their wives would have more time to spend together. Then, in their wives words, things went “horribly wrong.” Their passion for brewing was kindled, and by 2013 it had snowballed into the 515 Brewing Company, which opened its doors in March of that year. Then, it’s popularity exploded almost as quickly as their passion! They could barely keep up with demand, and had to switch from a 3-barrel system to a 7-barrel system by 2015. It’s no wonder why, the service is as excellent as the beer. The people who work there love what they do, and it shows through. Plus, it has a wonderful atmosphere. It’s filled with mustache-shaped lamps, wood, and concrete, and is simply a wonderful place to hang out at and enjoy a couple beers.
Firetrucker Brewery is one of the most colorful breweries in Metro Des Moines. One visit to their site and you’ll see exactly what I mean. They believe crafting beer is an art, and they bring that ethic into everything they do. They often display the work of local artists, like Van Holmgren and Chris Vance, sometimes even hosting the artist themselves for their patrons to hang out with and talk to. They also host live music for local and national artists on Fridays and Saturdays, and the best part is entrance is always free. That deal is almost as good as their beer, which you can watch being made right behind the bar. They have a wide variety of beers, and every single one is amazing. If you can’t make it out to the location, they even have the WTF(Where’s The Firetrucker) app which can tell you where you can buy their canned and bottled favorites all around Iowa.
Confluence Brewing Company
Now, when you hear that the first beer Confluence’s founder tried to make was a raisin almond beer, you might not exactly be excited to try what else he’s come up with, but bear with me. The beer here is simply amazing. John Martin has come a long way from his failed experiment in his kitchen in 1991, and the passion he has for brewing quality beer really shines through here. The Confluence Brewing Company serves a wide variety of beer in their taproom, and they’re all excellent. The quality of their brews earned them the number rating on Yelp for Des Moines microbreweries. There’s no wonder as to why they’re so popular: the staff is friendly and knowledgeable about the beer, able to find you the perfect one to fit your tastes; there’s live music every Thursday in the taproom; there’s an outside seating area where you can park your bike and bring your pets, and it’s located right by downtown Des Moines on Thomas Beck Road. This is the perfect place to relax on the weekend, or to stop by for a drink while you’re walking your dog. That and the excellent beer earned Confluence Brewing Company the number one spot on this list. I hear the snakebites (one part cider, one part beer) at Confluence are amazing.
At this level of quality, the difference is a matter of taste. If you’re into microbreweries, supporting local businesses, or are just looking for something different to do in the area, check out one – or all three – of theses breweries. Even if you’re not into beer, the culture, community, and atmosphere at all of these places make a stop-by worth it. Plus, the beer is so good, a lot of people who swear they don’t like beer have found something there they like.
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