Guest Review by sLim: Barn Town Brewery

barn town.jpegThanks for the great review sLim!

A brewery that had a moderate amount of buzz surrounding it before opening in Spring of this year was Barn Town Brewing. It’s located in far West Des Moines, in a strip mall with several other new local businesses. Because of this, it’s nothing special from the outside but it does still catch your eye when you drive by.

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Upon walking in, I noticed the old timey, country-ish decor and atmosphere that the name suggests they’d have. It’s not my fav per se but it’s well done and I thought the staff rocking flannel shirts was a nice touch. They feature a crowler machine which I’m glad to see more and more breweries switching to. The design on their crowlers is really neat too!

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Like a lot of breweries, they started out with just few of their own beers and nothing too noteworthy. Very quickly however, they made the smart decision to offer a bunch of different pale ales & IPA’s (7 out of 17 in their current lineup). Even smarter of them was for most of them to be the hazy variety that are made with popular hops like citra, mosaic, amarillo, etc. This definitely brings in the hopheads and on the Thursday night I was there, the place was full. The quality of the beers justifies this as all 4 beers I tried were fantastic and i’ve heard nothing negative about the beers here from anyone…hop forward brew or otherwise.

Beer menu link – Here are the beers I tried and my thoughts on said beers:

 

  1. Contrary Reaction (3.75/5) – Berliner Weisse – It’s a fun little sour, good balance of sourness and tartness. They mention an apple note which I got and it was pleasant

  2. Hop Skewer (4.75/5) – Hazy, dry-hopped IPA w/ el dorado & citra hops – Oh yeah, it was hazy alright. This was awesome, I knew little about el dorado hops going into this but I now know that I like them. The best thing about this beer was that it was juicy and not bitter…AND it also wasn’t dank. Sometimes these types of beers have a lingering onion-y note that I can’t stand. They also may have the cat-piss aroma. This beer had neither.

  3. Beggars Night (3.75/5) – Pumpkin and sweet potato ale – I enjoyed this; just on the brink of being too much pumpkin but you should know what you’re getting into when you get this style of beer. Smooth and a lot of flavor for a relatively low ABV.

  4. Chowdah (4.25/5) – Double dry-hopped DIPA – This was the one I’d heard about and that seems to have gotten some mention on the beer forums. I wouldn’t go as far as to say you need to try this beer but you won’t be disappointed if you do. I normally don’t like DIPA’s but this is one I can enjoy. Normally they taste like an IPA on steroids to me but this one was smooth and malty without being too sweet. There’s plenty of great hop flavor courtesy of the mosaic hop (which is my personal favorite…hop), but again…not overly so and there’s not much lingering bitterness. Give this one a whirl if come across it.

The beers were terrific and these guys have potential to make a bigger name for themselves if they start distributing. The final thing to try out was their food and man, they delivered here as well! Check out their menu here and you’ll find it’s a fun mix of burgers, “sandos”, wings, and craft mac & cheeses. The mac and cheese is very customizable and you better believe I was all over that. The pasta would have been great by itself but I added on some bleu cheese, buffalo sauce, and fried chicken and due to this, I was loving life. It was the best mac & cheese I’ve ever had. I’m just one person but as far as I’m concerned, Barn Town is now the best brewpub in the DSM area. You should go there if you like beer and other things that are good. 

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The Iowa Taproom – Guest Review by sLim

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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. 

Food:

Food Menu

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.

taproom.jpegBeer Menu
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.
Summary:
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.