Peace Tree Brewing Company
From what I can tell, Peace Tree Brewing Company is the only reason to visit Knoxville, Iowa. I suppose if you care about car racing, there’s the Knoxville Raceway (yuck). But for me, Peace Tree is the only draw.
But I thought it was worth the drive (especially since I swung by Pella first and bought some Dutch letters) because it’s not every day that a great beer is born in the state of Iowa.
Peace Tree opened just about a year ago — the grand opening of the taproom and distribution of beer was March 19, 2010 — and already the beer has made a name for itself. My favorite, the Red Rambler Ale, will likely become Peace Tree’s signature brew, much like Fat Tire for New Belgium. Could Peace Tree grow as large and popular as New Belgium? We will see. But I do detect some similarities between the two craft breweries.
For one thing, Peace Tree is very much about a sense of place. The community of Knoxville has been involved in the business since the beginning. And the very name, Peace Tree, comes from a historic grand sycamore tree that was located near the town of Red Rock under what is now Lake Red Rock. According to the brewery’s website, the old sycamore was a place where Indians met for generations, then became a meeting place for fur traders and Indian treaties.
Well, enough about that. Here is the scoop on the beer: Located in a brick building on Main Street in downtown Knoxville, the taproom is large enough to hold a special event — or, in the case of yesterday afternoon, half a dozen groups of tasters. There’s a bar and about 15 small tables. You’re welcome to taste each of the beers. The aforementioned Red Rambler ale, Hop Wrangler IPA, and Rye Porter are always available. Seasonal and alternate beers include Imperial Stout, Black River Gumbo Stout, Cornucopia, and others. All are the creation of head brewmaster, Joe Kesteloot. There’s also root beer and cream soda.
You can “sample” a small glass of beer for $1 or do a “tasting” of any (or all) of the beers for free. We started out with samples of Red Rambler, because we had tasted it before and already knew of its quality. After that, we tasted the IPA, porter, and two stouts. All were good quality for the type, but I am not a fan of any of those kinds of beer. So after the tasting, I went with a pint of ale, which tasted great with the little bowl of dry snacks the bartender set on our table.
Before we left, we tasted the root beer and cream soda — delicious all around. And we bought a six-pack of Red Rambler. If you are so inclined, you can also buy growlers of any of the beer on tap, plus pleasant reminders of your visit to the taproom in the form of T-shirts, baseball caps, canvas bags, and barware, all with the very cute Peace Tree logo.
You don’t have to drive to Knoxville to get this beer. It’s widely distributed throughout Iowa. There’s a distribution list on the Peace Tree website if you’re interested. Notably, it’s easy to find in bars, restaurants, and grocery stores in Ames and Des Moines.
At last count, there are 22 breweries in Iowa (not counting multiples of Granite City). Some of them are just brewpubs and don’t distribute their beer. I think Peace Tree has a chance to become a major microbrewery, mainly because they don’t confuse their mission by serving food. In fact, if you do want to eat a meal while sipping beer in the taproom, you’re encouraged to order from one of Knoxville’s restaurants who are only too happy to deliver.
The taproom is open Thursday and Friday nights from 4-10 p.m. and Saturdays from 1-10 p.m.