The one thing you can count on when it comes to craft breweries is the beer is made with love. People love beer and are always looking for ways to create the next best-tasting brew. With more than 100 independent breweries across the state, that challenge is addressed daily. The Iowa Brewers Guild even created a Craft Beer Trail for fans to follow.
We recently spent a Saturday on the road in southwest Iowa visiting a couple of the area breweries on the beer trail as part of the Iowa Beer Passport through Travel Iowa tourism department. The unique tastes of the beer and stories behind the breweries seemingly go hand-in-hand in creating a memorable experience.
Keg Creek Brewing – Glenwood
From homebrewers to one of the fastest-growing breweries in the United States, Keg Creek Brewing offers about 20 beers on tap, along with a cider. Long before opening the doors at its first location in downtown Glenwood in 2011, Randy Romens was a homebrewer. He and three friends were known for their tasty brews before deciding to open their own place. The owners of Vine Street Winery approached them about selling their beer at their tasting room. The idea was planted to go into business for themselves.
“We were guaranteed a customer,” Romens joked. “A customer. So, we were like, ‘What do you think?’”
They took over the former Breadeaux Pizza location in time for RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) in June 2011, he said.
“We had our equipment in place, but we weren’t making our own beer, yet,” Romens said. “So, we knew we couldn’t let RAGBRAI go by without selling any beer, so we got our tasting room open. We went through 30 kegs of beer (of Iowa craft beer).”
Once they started producing their own beers, Keg Creek operated as a three-barrel system. With its success outgrowing the location, the brewers built a new operation at its current location, on Sharp Street. They also expanded to a 15 barrel operation. They added the tasting room in 2017, with room for up to 100 people. A patio can hold even more people.
With the expanded operation, Keg Creek added to its beer inventory. With about 20 beers, the team is always looking to expand, Romens said. The brewery offers a variety of IPAs, ales, lagers, stouts, barleywine and pilsners. One of its new beers is Mas (Spanish for more) Lager. With a smooth taste, Mas is one of Keg Creek’s faster-growing brews, Romens said. Add tomato juice to it, and you have an outstanding red beer (and request pickled asparagus to add a different flavor).
Among Keg Creek’s beers are Midwest Haze IPA, Breakdown Brown Ale, Wabash Wheat, and Oh My Oatwine.
Full Fledged Brewing – Council Bluffs
Opening in 2019, Full Fledged Brewing Company became Council Bluffs’ first independent craft brewery. Located on Arena Way, near the Mid-America Center and Horseshoe Casino, it seems surprising that it took this long for someone to open a craft brewery in the city.
The brewery is a family-owned business for Marshall and Dessie Redmond. With about 20 years of brewing experience, co-owner Marshall Redmond serves as brewmaster. Dessie Redmond organized the brewery and taproom’s design.
The taproom is open and spacious, with plenty of indoor seating, with windows that open to allow fresh air to flow. There’s even a party room. If you prefer an outdoor view, order a flight and check out the patio.
Producing about 1,800 barrels annually, Full Fledged Brewing offers free brewery tours on the third Saturday of each month. Its most popular beer is Councils’ Kolsch, a German Kolsch that has an easy, dry taste. Its other brews include Chili Buzz (with a jalapeno flavor), Berry Puckery, Eddie Bridge Hands (a nod to the unique art display on the 24th Street bridge) and Porter Gone Nuts (with a peanut butter influence).
Iowa Beer Passport
As we enjoyed our visit with Randy Romens at Keg Creek, we met people traveling through the area searching for craft breweries in western Iowa. Lisa went into marketing mode, telling them about the Iowa Beer Passport, which went active this month. Actually, I like it, too, because it’s exclusive to mobile phones. You just need to add the app to your mobile phone. There’s no need to keep track of a book to get your passport punched or stamped. This is helpful, because it’s always with you. You can check out nearby breweries with ease, as well as plan a road trip to explore Iowa’s craft beers (always have a designated driver with you).
Adding it to your phone is easy. Go to this website and complete the following steps:
- Scroll to the Beer Pass box and click on the “Get Yours” button.
- Complete the required entries and choose the Complete Purchase button (no actual purchase necessary).
- You’ll receive a text message acknowledging your “purchase.”
- Click the link.
- You’ll receive a message to add the app to your phone. Click on it.
- Click on the “Add” button, and the app will download to your phone’s home page.
Open your Iowa Beer Pass, and you’ll find participating breweries. Several of the craft breweries will offer specials, such as a free drink or a Buy One Get One (BOGO).
Each time you check in at a place on the app, you’ll be entered into a drawing for prizes, including the grand prize of $100.
We enjoyed touring the southwest section of Iowa’s Western Beer Trail. With the app on my phone, we’ve already checked out a couple more spots to visit over the summer. So, hopefully, we’ll see you along the Iowa Beer Trail this summer. And, as always, be safe out there.