As the members of the Iowa Brewers Guild serve up samples of the craft brews Iowa has to offer on the Locust Street Bridge during the second Craft Brew Festival on Saturday, they will be within view of the Iowa Capitol, which will undoubtedly remind the members of the reason they formed the group to begin with: To lobby for changes to the legislation they say was stifling the creativity of the state’s craft brewers.
“The primary effort to organize the Guild was to raise the alcohol limit for the beers we were allowed to brew,” said Dave Coy, president of the Iowa Brewers Guild and head brewer at Raccoon River Brewing Co. “Iowa had some unique laws that, until we worked to help pass legislation two years ago, anything over 5 percent alcohol was not considered beer. It was considered malt liquor.”
This legislation prevented craft brewers from making beers such as doppelbocks, a stronger, maltier version of the traditional bock-style beer. But event-goers will taste the efforts of the Guild’s labor at this weekend’s second Craft Brew Festival, which features more than 150 beers from 23 Iowa brewers and more than 25 from neighboring states. The ticket price, ranging from $20 to $30, will include live music, food and unlimited samples of the brews, many of which will be made exclusively for the Craft Brew Festival.
Coy expects to draw more than 2,000 to the bridge straddling the Des Moines River and is hoping for a sellout crowd of 2,500. Last year’s event, which was on 10th Street by the Hotel Fort Des Moines, was capped at and sold out at 1,300 tickets. Profits from the event go to support the mission of the Iowa Brewers Guild, which is to protect, promote and improve the craft brewers in Iowa.
Craft brewers, by nature, brew small batches of beer, which Coy said allows them to take more risk and provide more variety than a large brewery.
“We’re not brewing a million barrels of a single style of beer for mass popularity and consumption,” Coy said. “What we’re brewing is a bunch of interesting styles of beer. We’re embracing the world’s heritage of beer styles and we’re accommodating the local palate for what’s popular, such as India Pale Ales, barrel-aged and high-gravity beers, and fruit and flavored beers.”
In 1997, when Raccoon River Brewing Co. opened, there were fewer than 10 craft breweries in the state. Now there are more than 20. Coy said the beer selection at local bars has really grown up, meaning there are more craft brews available than ever before. But the state’s and neighboring states’ most exciting and experimental beers will be available for sampling at the Craft Brew Festival, which will further introduce people to varieties outside of the typical bar offerings.
“The world of variety out there is great, because most of us are relatively small brewers,” Coy said. “We can brew more experimentally and more variety than a large brewery that’s trying to match the palate of the entire country.”
Craft Brew Festival
Craft Brew Festival
When: Saturday, VIP 1-5 p.m., general admission 2-5 p.m.
Find it: Locust Street Bridge
Cost: $25 VIP with early admission; $20 advanced tickets through Midwestix.com; $30 day of event