“All Iowa beer. One amazing place,” the Iowa Taproom slogan brags, and customers agree-if you’re looking for Iowa brews, this rustic and comforting restaurant is the place to go.
When owners of the Iowa Taproom were first developing the concept five years ago, they wanted a place where Iowans can support a number of Iowa craft breweries in one place.
Jeff Bruning, the self-proclaimed “beer guy” of the Iowa Taproom, said he has received uplifting feedback since the restaurant opened just over a month ago.
“There has been several positive reviews, a lot of thank-yous, and people just saying ‘great job,’” Bruning said. “It’s been overwhelmingly popular since the opening.”
The manager of the Iowa Taproom, Jill Brierly, said the same thing.
“We’ve been crazy-busy. We’re packed almost every night,” Brierly said. “Friday and Saturday nights, it’s been about a two-hour wait.”
But customers are willing to join that waitlist.
Jill and Doug Litwiller grew up in northwestern Iowa and drove from Ames to experience a few of the 120 taps offered.
“Drinking craft beers has become one of our hobbies,” said Doug Litwiller. “We haven’t drank a Coors or a Bud for years. We want to keep this industry growing.”
While Doug talked, Jill Litwiller took the first sip of her 515 OJ IPA Beer, a lighter beer with citrus flavors.
“Oh my,” she said, her eyes perking up. “This is great. Here Doug, try this.”
The Litwillers represent the exact customers that the Iowa Taproom wants to serve: lifelong Iowans that are proud of their home state and willing to try new things.
As a native Iowan himself, Bruning wanted to showcase the beers he has experienced throughout his career.
“I’ve had a lot of opportunities to work with Iowa breweries,” Bruning said. “This is really the last opportunity that we haven’t done yet.”
Those other opportunities include the ten other restaurants Full Court Press owns in Des Moines, including popular joints like Fong’s Pizza, the Royal Mile, Hessen Haus and the Iowa Taproom’s closest relation, El Bait Shop.
“We started doing the Little Giant Beer Summit three years ago, and that was a huge success,” Bruning said. The Little Giant Beer Summit is hosted in the fall by El Bait Shop and features a small number of Iowa breweries that customers can sample. “After contacting those breweries, finding the good stuff was quite easy.”
Bruning said the biggest surprise of opening the Iowa Taproom was just how easy the entire process has been. He even attributed finding the location to luck.
“You know, you just keep an eye out for (buildings),” Bruning said. “We almost used Simon Tire and Auto, which is about a block away from our current building. When that didn’t work out, we found this place.”
The building itself showcases the taproom’s dedication to its Iowa heritage. The restored 1882 building housed many manufacturing companies, including the first tire company in Iowa.
With grain bins, machinery and reclaimed wood placed throughout the open room, the atmosphere aligns perfectly with the beer and food menu, which consists of “comfort food done Iowa style,” Brierly said.
Featuring pork tenderloin, ribs and a full list of burgers, the menu caters to the typical Iowan’s diet, but it doesn’t take the focus away from the core concept of the restaurant-craft beers.
Brierly only expects the craft beer trend to get bigger and better, and she expects the Iowa Taproom to grow right along with it.
“You see that old elevator shaft? We’re going to try and have Iowa’s smallest art gallery in there. And back there we’ll have more of a private event area,” she said, pointing to the back corner of the restaurant.
Renovations are also continuing for a patio along the north side, which should be ready for patio season this year.
Find the Iowa Taproom and its renovated patio in downtown Des Moines on 3rd Street in East Village, or call at (515) 243-0827.