The Iowa Taproom is officially up and running and what a splash they’ve made already. I don’t think it’s possible to be a craft beer enthusiast in Iowa and not be aware of its existence by now. This is the latest restaurant opened by Full Court Press, which have become known for opening several successful Des Moines restaurants like el Bait Shop, Fong’s Pizza, and the Royal Mile. Most of them are considered must-see for visitors due to their vibrant atmosphere, good food, and exceptional beer selection. They’ve outdone themselves with the Iowa Taproom.
The restaurant features a tap wall comprised of 120 handles, and as the name would suggest; they’re all beers made from Iowa Breweries. There are even a few non-alcoholic offerings on tap that are Iowa made; a ginger beer, a root beer, and cold press coffee. I’ll admit I was slightly skeptical before this place opened. It seemed improbable that enough Iowa breweries would be able to keep this place stocked with different styles and supply of their beers. I’ve been pleasantly surprised as every time I’ve went, they’ve rotated in several different beers and this is one of very few places where you can beers from breweries like Alluvial, Pulpit Rock, and 515 Brewing. I’m optimistic that Iowa breweries will be able to continually producing new brews and scaling up their production in order to meet the growing demand for great local craft beers.
Which brings me to my next point, this place has been crazy busy every night since they opened back on March 2nd. People are all about new restaurants and when you have one that is catered toward an especially loyal group that likes to support their breweries, it’s no surprise that this place has so much traffic. Add in the prime location along with how well managed and planned out this entire operation is and it’s clear why this place is so popular. I personally don’t see it slowing down anytime soon. With the weather improving and increase in local events downtown, you can bet the Iowa Taproom will continue to draw in the masses looking for a world class beer experience.
The theme for the menu is a creative take on American favorites. I would say they’ve accomplished that rather nicely. I have yet to order an entrée there but give a thumbs up to all the appetizers I’ve tried including the kielbasa fritters, taproom poppers, and the tenderlings. There’s a definitely an effort to come up with their own concoctions and not just copy what has been successful for every other restaurant. It would have been very easy to slap together a basic lineup of bar food and let the large beer selection shoulder the load as far as bringing in business. But the vision is to create something truly special and they’re well on their way to doing that. I’m very excited to try all of their desserts along with offerings like the Honey Sriracha Chicken Sandwich and the BBQ Meatloaf.
They have a lot of it. They have 10+ handles available from the larger breweries and as I stated earlier, they have many beers that are hard to come by depending on which part of the state you reside in. Being a Des Moines resident, I decided to make up a flight of mainly eastern Iowa beers that I hadn’t tried yet. I tired Lion Bridge’s Gazprom (3.5/5), Kalona’s You be You (3.75/5), Lion Bridge’s Yard Sale (3.75/5), and Peacetree’s Grapefruit No Coast (4/5). They’ll let you put together a flight of any 4 of their beers. You can also order all beers in a 6-oz taster. A few other notable beers that I thought were fantastic were: Alluvial’s Mosacious, Lion Bridge’s Sorachi Liberachi, and 515’s Passé.
From what I can see, they aim to have a high turnover rate on their taproom wall. I’m sure they’ll be a few staples but overall the main goal is to allow people to try as many different Iowa brews as possible. Doing this is a great way to show how far the state has come in terms of not only making great beers but offering unique styles that will appease both craft beer enthusiasts and casual drinkers alike. You don’t get a sense of beer elitism at the Iowa Taproom; it’s a more approachable type of establishment that is much more inviting than your typical beer bar but still not as contrived as your most chain restaurants.
I like this place very much. The staff and management are extremely friendly and accommodating which is quite fitting given the reputation Iowans have as good natured, hard-working people. There’s no presence of pretentiousness or any gimmicky menu items that gain them publicity in a superficial manner. Iowa Taproom is about enjoying great beer and food from people whose main focus is to provide you with a good experience. Given how much work was put into building this place, I’m not surprised as to how well they’ve exceeded expectations. This place will be a prominent fixture on the Des Moines restaurant scene for many years to come. See for yourself but I don’t think any beer lover will deny the superior distinctiveness this place offers and the important role it plays in helping Iowa rise in the ranks as a top state for beer.