Des Moines bicyclists now have another stop along local trail routes to enjoy a cold brew, though one need not be a bicyclist to visit and appreciate the craft brews at Confluence Brewing Company.
Confluence, which celebrated its grand opening the weekend of Oct. 20, is located in an industrial area on Thomas Beck Road south of downtown. With the recent opening of the Gray’s Lake neighborhood connecting trail, which joins Gray’s Lake to the American Discovery Trail south of Gray’s Lake Park, the brewery is poised to welcome bicyclists, runners and walkers from the trail in need of hoppy refreshments, as well as those who just enjoy well-crafted microbrews.
We visited the brewery during one of the soft-run weekends leading up to the grand opening. Though Des Moines has seen its share of locally owned brew pubs pop up around town, Confluence sets itself apart in that it’s fully focused on the art of crafting beer; the location is simply a brewery and a taproom, and does not have an adjacent restaurant. And that simplicity makes Confluence easy to love.
After finding creative solutions for parking in the undersized lot, we walked into the unassuming entrance and were met with glass walls facing the brewery’s enormous steel tanks.
A walkway diverts guests around the brew room, past a bevy of artworks by local artist Van Holmgren, and into a separate, and quite cavernous, taproom with a variety of tables and booths and a bar with beer taps at the far end of the room.
Due to rain we were not able to take advantage of the patio, which has a fantastic nighttime view of the Principal Building, so we chose a high-top table near the bar.
A chalkboard behind the bar indicates brews available for tasting. Confluence offers 6-ounce brews for $2, pints for $4.50 and growlers for $16 with $12 refills.
We tasted three of Confluence’s beers: Gray’s Lake Nessie Scottish Ale, and two versions of the Farmer John Multi-Grain Ale: Scottish and American.
The latter offering is a single batch that was split in two and finished with different varieties of yeast, slightly altering the flavor of the blonde ales. The differences may be hard to discern unless sampled side-by-side, but the Scottish has a fruitier finish. Farmer John Multi-Grain Ale is one of Confluence’s three “flagship beers,” and the brewers eventually plan to settle on one of the two varieties, but they’re waiting to see how tasters respond. Our table wasn’t unanimous in its decision, but most unofficially voted for the American.
The Scottish ale is a dark, malty, full-bodied brew. I was reluctant to try it, as I typically don’t prefer to drink amber or dark beers. However, I was surprised at the smoothness of the brew.
Offered alongside Confluence’s brews are several “guest beers” from other microbreweries. During our visit, guest beers were offered from fellow Iowans, Peace Tree and Keg Creek.
As further testament to Confluence’s effort to provide quality beers, the drip tray on the tap wall features a rinser that removes any impurities leftover from the washing process. When a glass is inverted and pushed down on the rinser, a spritz of water douses the interior of the pint glass; this is done prior to each pour.
In addition to the Farmer John ale, Confluence rolled out an IPA on Oct. 19 and plans to debut the Capital Gold Lager on Nov. 1. These three beers will make up the brewery’s flagship offerings. Also on deck are the Oatmeal Stout, which is slated to be ready on Nov. 1, and the Eastside Altitude Red Lager, which arrives Dec. 1.
Next year, Confluence plans to can its beers in addition to offering them on tap; in keeping with its affinity for supporting local art, Confluence tapped local artists to design the cans.
Confluence Brewing Company
Find it: 1235 Thomas Beck Road, Suite A
Hours: 4-10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Info: 285-9005; www.confluencebrewing.com