Meet the Brewer: James Heckathorn, Court Avenue Brewing!

Who are the people that are brewing the wonderful beer in the state of Iowa? I’m sure some of you know many of them and others, maybe not. I thought it would be great to get to know the brewers of Iowa, their backgrounds, their likes, and what they have coming up in the future. First up, Court Avenue Brewing’s James Heckathorn!

NAME: James Heckathorn

BREWERY: Court Avenue Brewing Co.

LOCATION: 309 Court Avenue; Des Moines, IA

How long have you been brewing and where have you brewed?

I will have been brewing professionally 2 years in August of this year. Before that, I worked at various other breweries in FoH positions – Twisted Vine, 515 and then Reclaimed Rails, where I was given the opportunity to brew on their pilot system. I had about 3-4 beers that were well received, especially under the tutelage of Mike Street, who gave me excellent guidance and advice throughout. It’s how we became such good buds! 

Aaron Knapp, the brewer before me at CabCo, was also bartending at Reclaimed with me and when he was getting ready to take on his new adventure at Epic Brewing in Colorado, he asked me to apply for his position at CabCo. I didn’t feel ready but my friends and family rallied behind me and encouraged me to apply and the rest is history. 


What is the size of your brewery?

Court Avenue Restaurant and Brewing Company is a 7bbl system. A Specific Mechanical 2 vessel that has seen its fair share of brewers, hah! We are nearing 26 years here at CabCo and this system is at least that old. Being so manual and involved, it really brings a certain aspect of romanticism to brewing that I find appealing. Most days, at least! 

What beer from Court Avenue would you pick to give to complete
stranger to try and why?

I would honestly give people two beers, one to show where we come from and one to show where we are going.

Pointer Brown Ale is the oldest recipe in house, a beer that has been consistently brewed since we opened our doors in 1996. It’s an English Brown Ale, so expect chocolate, caramel with a touch of dark fruit and a full mouthfeel that is infinitely drinkable. A true Iowa classic. 

Earthbound NEIPA is our newest flagship that I began developing about a year ago. Hazy IPA is the style that got me into brewing and it continues to be a style I am passionate about. This is my take on the archetypical representation that everyone has come to expect in hazy IPA. Citra, Mosaic and a bit of El Dorado, plenty of oats and wheat malt and a low flocculating yeast strain. Earthbound is the first step forward in a modern vision of CabCo.

Who would be at your drinking table, dead or alive, to share a beer with?

This is a great question! Fritz Maytag – he did so much for craft beer and it would be cool to get insight into the beginnings of modern craft beer; Christopher Hitchens – He was a witty guy and I think he’d keep drinking long after everyone else had left the table. Would be a bender for the ages; Conan O’Brien – I could be his friend, definitely. 

Do you have a favorite food and beer pairing?

A pilsner and sushi or spicy wings with an IPA!

What is your favorite beer in the world not made by Court Avenue and why?

Ayinger Bavarian Pils is a beer that continues to stay with me and luckily we can get it here. Any well done German pilsner, really. 

Anything you’d like to pub for Court Avenue?
We will be releasing our 4 -way collaboration with Flix Brewhouse, Reclaimed Rails and Brightside Aleworks on the 31st of March. Cosmic Bear is a massive imperial pastry stout that was aged on star crunch and marshmallow. 

I also gotta mention our Mug Club – It’s the best way to become a CabCo insider and it comes with a whole mess of perks for $40 a year. 10% off your tab, 24oz pints in your mug for the same price of a regular pint, a Mug Club Party every month where we shower you with a new beer release and free food, and last but not least, exclusive bottles that are only available to Mug Club members. Rumor has it the next bottle is an Eagle Rare BA imperial stout aged on a ton of vanilla beans…..

Huge thank you to Mr. Heckathorn for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions! Make sure to say to him and the other staff at Court Avenue Brewing when you visit, sign up for their Mug Club and keep an eye out for the Eagle Rare BA imperial stout! Cheers!

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