The Hawkeye State
Iowa’s beer history was off to a rough start before it was even declared a state in 1846. Prior to 1846, state legislators used all the power they had to limit alcohol consumption with recurring bans, restrictions, and prohibitions. By 1850, the first brewery was established by Mathias Frahm under the name Davenport. Of course, off and on again prohibitions and regulations did not make it easy for breweries to survive. Unsurprisingly, the nationwide Prohibition came early in Iowa beginning in 1919.
Iowa is known for their must see landmarks, the Iowa city beer caves and the Cedar Rapids beer caves. Starting back in 1855, the Iowa City beer caves were built of brick under Brewery Square on Linn Street. The Cedar Rapids beer caves however were built of stones. Back in the day, these beer caves were used to age and store beer underneath breweries, and could be a single story, or multilevel. Eventually, the Iowa breweries above were torn down, but the caves beneath remain below what are now parking lots and city streets.
Iowa has its fair share of fun beer stories, one for instance being the Iowa state beer sign incident. A few years back, an Iowa state fan received national coverage after being featured on ESPN for his beer sign. Carson King, the 23 year old fan made and held up a sign that said, “Busch Light Supply Needs Replenished” followed by his Venmo account name. He ended up receiving $8000 by the end and decided to donate it all to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, however keeping enough money to buy himself one case of Busch Light beer. On top of this Busch agreed to match his earnings donating a total of $16,000 to the charity.
A fun, must-attend, annual Iowa beer event is the Iowa Craft Beer Festival, which occurs at the end of the Des Moines Beer Week. This event features over 60 of the top Iowa breweries along with several regional and national craft breweries. In total there are over 300 beers, both beer lovers favorites and limited released. The Iowa beer event usually takes place in June, but this year was held virtually and consisted of brewery tours.
The Iowa craft beer scene has grown substantially over time. The oldest and best brewery in Iowa is the Millstream Brewing Company in Amana. It was built in 1985 and has since received a long list of awards including 10 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) awards. Today there are roughly 60 Iowa craft breweries ranking Iowa as the 21st state in total craft breweries.
With so many of the best breweries in Iowa, some of the must visits are: Great River Brewery in Davenport, Lion Bridge Brewing in Cedar Rapids, Madhouse Brewing in Des Moines, Toppling Goliath Brewing in Decorah, and West O Beer in West Okoboji, along with of course so many more. We have had the pleasure of featuring some of the best beers in Iowa from Iowa Brewing Company and Millstream Brewing Company in our beer of the month club. Cheers!
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