Guest Review: sLim Reviews Firetrucker Brewery; Ankeny, IA

firetruckerhttp://www.firetrucker.com/index.php

I had long heard we were finally getting a brewery right here in my city of residence, Ankeny. Firetrucker Brewery opened in the uptown part of town back on July 4th and they’ve made quite a splash. My first experience with their beers was tasting their Steam Engine at my workplace, El Bait Shop. It is a crisp, refreshing lager that just has enough hop flavor to get your attention. While not having tried most of them myself, their beers appeared to be selling well and were accepted by the bait shop clientele.

fire2I did some research on the company before visiting their taproom. They brew inside of an old fire station in Ankeny. It’s in an older, residential part of town. There definitely appears to be a very talented graphic artist on their staff as their website and logo designs are unique and visually appealing. This does not come as a surprise as the brewery is heavily influenced by art, and believes that beer is art itself. 

As I entered, I was greeted by a very aesthetically pleasing taproom and lounge area. There are traditional restaurant style tables, sofas, and high top tables for whatever kind of social experience you’re going for. Upon walking up to the bar, you’ll notice a cool backdrop of barrels and other brewing equipment that gives off the impression that you’re right in the middle of the brewing process, a staple of any good taproom. You can also take growlers (32 & 64oz) home with you if you want to enjoy their fine ales away from their locale

Onto the beers, as is the tradition whenever I visit a brewery for the first time, a purchase of a flight was in order. They had 6 of their own beers on tap (including a 4% ABV ginger beer). $6 lets you try any four. I decided to go with the 2alarm (imperial red), burnout brown, pumper truck porter, and the steam engine (California common). It was a tie between the 2 alarm (4/5) and the burnout brown (4/5) for my favorites. I did not realize the 2 alarm was imperial until after a staff member informed me of this. I highly recommend giving this a try, it’s a very satisfying red. I imagine the burnout brown will be my go-to whenever visiting this brewery. There’s a toffee flavor to it and it’s an extremely sessionable American brown ale at a mere 5%. Despite its low ABV, there still enough body and malt to the taste as well.

The steam engine is a respectable effort for a California Common (3.5/5). I’m not overly crazy about this style of beer but I think it’s cool that they tried something that no other local brewery has tried yet. This is just my opinion on it, I’ve noticed it’s become very popular around town so it’s definitely worth giving a try. The pumper truck porter was a satisfying drink (3.5/5). My only knock on it was that I didn’t pick up anything else besides a thick, roasty flavor. I would get this beer again, however.

They do offer an IPA, uptown, which is an easy drinking, sessionable ipa.

The staff was very helpful. I didn’t get a chance to talk to any of the brewers but all of the workers present were plenty knowledgeable on the beers themselves. They allow you to bring food in and also have different food ordering options depending on what day of the week it is. If you look at the events section on their website, you’ll notice there’s a variety of functions going down at this brewery, including live music sets.

Firetrucker is a very welcome addition to Central Iowa and Iowa Brewers alike. I’m highly impressed with how well put-together their entire operation is. They’ve set the bar high for themselves and have an excellent vision. They have already made a big mark on the beer scene here in Des Moines and I look forward to seeing what else they can accomplish.

Interview with David Bryan, owner/brewer New American Brewing; Ankeny, IA

New American BrewingAnother newer brewery in Iowa is New American Brewing located in Ankeny Iowa. Brewer/owner David Bryan was kind enough to take time out from his schedule to answer a few questions about his brewery and his beer. To find out more about New American Brewing visit their website at: www.newamericanbeer.com.

Q: What was your story before opening New American? How did you get involved in brewing?
I have been in the telecommunications business for the better part of a decade both here in Iowa and in Kansas.  My wife is from the Des Moines area so we moved here to be closer to family.  I had been brewing beer at home for about 7 years and became very passionate about the process.  One of the best parts of brewing for me was always getting to share my beer with other people.  I began thinking of turning pro several years ago and really started to research what it would take to make it happen.  During this research and planning phase I met my business partner and we began planning our brewery together.  After almost a year of finding funding, shopping for equipment, leasing a space, and building the brewery we sold our first keg in Nov of 2013.
Q: Do you feel any pressure to follow beer trends and brew what’s popular?
No, I don’t feel any pressure to follow trends.  I have always brewed the beer that I like to drink and if I couldn’t brew what I like to drink, I don’t think if would have nearly as much fun.  I started the brewery to pursue my passion for creating great beer, not to do what other people expected me to do.
Q: How many beers will be available at the brewery? Any plans for seasonals or special releases?
Right now we don’t have any beer available at the brewery, we are draft distribution only.  Currently we have 2 core beers that we will offer year round.  Independence Pale Ale and 1789 Porter.  We are going to rotate our IPA seasonally.  For the spring we have Shenanigans Session IPA.  As we move through the year we will offer a Double IPA, and Black IPA, possibly a brown or red IPA for the fall.  We also have a winter only beer called Elves’ Revenge, a 9% winter warmer spiced with Vanilla, Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
Q: What is the beer that you are most excited about?
I’m really excited about changing up our IPA seasonally.  It give me a chance to brew different beers throughout the year and not get bored.  I love hoppy beers and I really like brewing and experimenting with different techniques.  Changing our IPA offering gives me a chance to do this and keeps a fresh new beer in the marketplace throughout the year.
Q: Was opening a brewery in Des Moines area pretty easy? Was their any resistance? 
No, opening a brewery was not easy.  It was very challenging and stressful with long hours and lots of  work.  With that being said, Iowa is a great place to open a brewery.  Iowa has a lot of things going for it, like self distribution, reasonable tax codes, alcohol laws that are fairly progressive, and most importantly the people of Iowa have received new breweries with open arms and are very excited to support local businesses.  There are still a few laws and that breweries would like updated and made better, but overall Iowa is a great place to be a brewer.  
Q: Can you discuss short term/long term goals for the brewery?
Short term we are looking to add growlers to the brewery.  We would like people to be able to come to the brewery, try our beer, see what we are all about and be able to take beer home with them to enjoy.
Long term we are looking to add a full tasting room with some type of outdoor space and expand our current brewing capacity.  That would mean that we would buy a larger brew house and increase our fermentation space.  Right now both my business partner and I still have full time jobs outside of the brewery, in the future we are looking to be working at the brewery full time.
**Beer not available at the brewery yet but you can New American Beers at the following locations:

~el Bait Shop

~University Library Cafe

~The Exchange

~Confluence Brewing Co. 

~515 Brewing Co.

~Louie’s Wine Dive

~On The Rocks

~O’malley’s 

~Praire Trail Hy-Vee 

~The Keg Stand

~OverTime

~Dublin Bay Pub & Grill

~Number 7 Brewing Co.

~Thunderhead Sports Bar & Grill