Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Drive-By Beer Tasting in Des Moines

Cool building in Des Moines

Coming back from our recent trip to Kansas City, we drove right past Des Moines, Iowa.  Having never really stopped in this flat yet fertile land, only driving through, I figured we should see if they had any brewpubs.  I had already planned on checking out the Court Street Brewery based on online reviews, but we were pointed toward a new brewpub called Exile by some friendly Iowans that we met whilst standing in line for the Boulevard tour.

We rolled into town around 11:20 on Sunday, with minimal traffic or fuss.  The car's handy GPS delivered us to the large old warehouse building that is home to Exile Brewing.  A huge Lady Liberty crown adorns the back corner of the building while a large rusted metal sign bearing the brewery's name looms above the front doors.  Inside the foyer is a very pretty mural with the Exile logo: Liberty's torch surrounded by flames.  To the left is a second seating/event room with a smaller bar, and to the right is the main bar and main dining area.  The entire place has been here less than 6 months and everything seems new and shiny.  The tables are massive blocks of solid wood.  The drink menu comes encased in covers made of verdigris coated copper stamped with the do these not wander off?

Our server was very good and really knew his stuff when it came to describing the beers and styles.  We were able to get all of the beers by sharing two samplers.  Almost all were classic German style lagers and spot on for style.  There was also an oatmeal stout just to be different.  All the beers are named after women: which is cool, but actually makes it hard to remember which beer was which.  The food we had while here was really tasty and quick.  My burger was served on a soft pretzel bun with multiple cheeses and was done perfectly.  The giant plate of Parmesan herbed fries with truffled dipping sauce were out of this world.  For such a young place, Exile is doing everything right.  Great food, helpful staff, and upscale feel, and very well done beers.  If there is a big enough desire for craft beers in Des Moines I think these folks will make it! 

In contrast to my experience at Exile, we drove a bit further down to Court Avenue Brewery.  This one is an old-school late 1980's brewpub housed in a historic brick building.  A large but dark (and somewhat sticky) bar sits in back, the ceiling filled with hanging mug-club mugs.

They make a lot of beers here, so I was excited to try them before heading back to Minnesota.  For $15 they brought out a large sampler in a complex ironwork carrier that was much finer that the beers it held.  The best of the beers was the Honest Lawyer IPA: a classic cascade tasting brewpub pale ale.  The Topping English ale tasted like dishwater.  A Belgian Wit was fairly well done with a strong orange flavor to it.  The 21st Amendment was a hoppy ale aged in Templeton Rye barrels and I had high hopes for it, but the flavors were not complimentary at all.  Having seen this type of barrel used to excellent effect at Steel Toe Brewing in St. Louis Park, I was disappointed to say the least.  Of the 8 beers I tried there, I only finished one sample.  I can't really recommend this place when there is such an excellent new brewpub not far away. 

Looks better than it tastes...

Is Des Moines, Iowa the new "spot" for good beer?  Probably not yet, but who knows...the Twin Cities used to be a beer wasteland not so long ago.  Go to Exile, you won't be disappointed!

1 comment:

Brady said...

Oooh Man, you should have consulted me about DM. Court ave Brewery is horrible and has been for years. Been there a few times and never had a pleasant experience. beer and staff are just bad.

Heard mixed reviews about Exile but now that you recommend i will have to try next time i'm in DM.

Two other breweries in DM: heard mixed reviews, but more godo than bad.

Otherwise just go here for great beer selection: (115 single malt Scotches in house!)

Having grown up in IA and having family in DM I would say the craft beer scene has come A LONG way from what it was even 5 years ago. with that said it is no where near what it is here in the cities.