The Iowa Taproom

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Welcome to the Iowa Taproom, a unique restaurant/bar in a historic setting just waiting to be explored.

The Iowa Taproom is located at 215 E. 3rd St. in Des Moines’ East Village. It’s in the old Dilley Manufacturing building (1971-2014), but its history goes way back. The building started out in 1882 as home of Jaeger Manufacturing; it housed Hawkeye Cord Tire Company (1916-1930) and Beal’s Lithography and Printing Company (during WWII).

According to the company’s website, the north half of the building served as a warehouse for Old Style Lager from 1936 to 1949. In 1949 a fire destroyed much of the building, but it was rebuilt in 1952 and returned to operation in the wholesale/retail trade and in the printing and lithography business until being purchased by Dilley Manufacturing.

I actually toured the space a couple of years ago when I took a group walking architectural tour of downtown, sponsored by the Iowa Architectural Foundation (and wrote about it here).

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At that point, the space was being remodeled for a new Full Court Press restaurant, but it was a long way from being finished. During our tour, one of the owners, Jeff Bruning, told our group about the concept of an all-Iowa craft beer hall (above). So I feel like sort of an insider.

I visited the Iowa Taproom, which opened in early March, a few weeks ago. It’s such a great space, and I love that it has ONLY Iowa-made beers on tap. It’s truly unique.

I sampled four beers from the menu of about 128 that range from light/easy drinking to complex/effervescent to strong/bold and more. There’s really a huge variety.

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Of the four I initially ordered in a create-your-own beer flight (6 oz. each for about $10), only one was available (the Toppling Goliath Dorothy’s Lager), so apparently not all beers on the menu are available at the same time. I adjusted my order and the server came back with four small beers: The aforementioned Dorothy’s from Decorah, West O Marzën from West Okoboji, 515 Brewing’s Dubbel B from Clive, and Lost Duck Pintail Red from Ft. Madison. I liked the West O Marzën and the Dubbel best; my friend also really liked Dorothy’s Lager.

The beer-hall environment looks ripe for large groups and parties, and I’m sure the big-screen TVs will delight sports fans. Walls are exposed brick; floors and ceilings are wood planks. Vintage metal signs dot the interior. The bar itself, with taps installed on an Iowa-made grain bin, is huge and awesome.

I didn’t eat anything during my visit, but food offerings seem pretty meaty and sports-bar-ish. Burgers are a large portion of the menu, and they range from the average to the odd, with Maytag (Iowa’s most famous cheese), peanut butter, and ham-and-egg toppings. There are various fried appetizers, wings, corn chowder, ribs, meatloaf, chicken, Iowa chops (of course), tenderloins, loose meat sandwiches, a Graziano sausage melt, etc. A few salads are also available for those less carnivorously inclined.

Even though meat and big-screen televisions are decidedly NOT my favorite things, I’m inclined to go back and sample more of the Iowa brews. Cheers!

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