Discover the Best Breweries in Iowa: A Guide to Local Craft Beer Delights

Iowa, a state known for its lush farmlands and friendly communities, has seen a remarkable surge in its craft beer scene.

With a diverse array of the best breweries in Iowa, unique taproom experiences, and an emphasis on local ingredients, it’s no wonder that beer enthusiasts are flocking to the Hawkeye State.

Ready to embark on a flavorful journey through Iowa’s craft beer landscape? Keep reading to discover the gems of the best breweries in Iowa’s brewing scene, from award-winning breweries to unforgettable beer festivals.

Key Takeaways

  • Explore Iowa’s thriving craft beer scene, with 10 must-visit breweries and unique experiences.
  • Sample award-winning beers from Big Grove Brewery, Confluence Brewing Company and Toppling Goliath Brewing Co., or discover seasonal brews made with local ingredients.
  • Take a road trip along the Great River Road to experience festivals & events celebrating Iowa’s diverse craft beer culture.

Iowa’s Craft Beer Scene: An Overview

Over the past decade, the craft beer industry in Iowa has experienced considerable growth, seeing a fourfold increase in the number of local breweries.

This expansion of craft breweries contributes over $1 billion to the economy annually and generated $230 million in business and personal tax revenue back in 2012.

Despite the industry’s thriving nature, several of Iowa’s breweries, including Clock House Brewing, encountered challenges during the pandemic, such as restrictions on on-site sales and supply chain disruptions.

The Brewers Association ranks Iowa among the top states for breweries per capita, with breweries such as Toppling Goliath, Marto Brewing, and Crawford Brew Works contributing to the state’s flourishing craft beer scene.

From Des Moines to Council Bluffs and beyond, the good beer crafted in Iowa is garnering national attention and drawing locals and visitors alike to the state’s breweries and cities brewing exceptional craft beer.

Top 10 Must-Visit Breweries in Iowa

Set off on an exploration of Iowa’s top breweries, where you’ll find handcrafted beers and unique experiences.

Ranging from family-owned operations to those employing sustainable brewing practices, our handpicked selection of Iowa’s 10 must-visit breweries includes notable names like Big Grove Brewery, Confluence Brewing Company, and Toppling Goliath Brewing Co., among others.

Read on to discover the signature brews and unique features that make each of these breweries a must-visit destination.

Big Grove Brewery

Nestled in the charming town of Solon, Iowa, Big Grove Brewery is a family-owned establishment renowned for its handcrafted beers and welcoming taproom, complete with an outdoor beer garden.

Offering a range of seasonal and limited-edition beers, Big Grove’s signature brews include the Big Grove IPA, Red Headed Stranger, and the Batch 300 collaboration with Lion Bridge Brewing Company. The brewery’s gold medals at the World Beer Cup further attest to the quality of their beers.

Experience the ambiance of Big Grove’s taproom, with its inviting indoor and outdoor settings that offer the perfect backdrop for enjoying their exceptional brews.

The inviting atmosphere attracts families and friends alike, making it an ideal spot to unwind with a tasty red ale surrounded by the warmth of a bustling community.

Confluence Brewing Company

Based in Iowa, Confluence Brewing Company is a sustainability-focused brewery dedicated to creating superior beers using time-honored methods and locally sourced ingredients.

Their flagship brews include the Des Moines IPA, the Imogene Red, and the Mayday Mayday. Confluence’s commitment to sustainability goes beyond their brewing process, as they strive to source ingredients from local farmers and ensure that all waste products are reused or recycled.

Committed to innovation and collaboration, Confluence Brewing Company often organizes events such as live music and food trucks, positioning it as a prime destination for beer aficionados seeking an experience beyond just a tasty brew.

So, gather your friends and head over to Confluence Brewing Company for a truly memorable experience.

Toppling Goliath Brewing Co.

Located in Decorah, Iowa, Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. has swiftly built a reputation for its outstanding craft beers and impressive industry growth.

Their flagship beer, Kidd Sensation, a 6.5% ABV India Pale Ale, is just one of the many offerings that have garnered national attention and acclaim.

The King Sue double IPA and Mornin’ Latte stout are highly sought after, while their diverse range of ciders, vodka, rum, and whiskey cater to a variety of palates.

Besides being a sanctuary for craft beer lovers, Toppling Goliath’s taproom also features a VIP room, serves all-day Sunday brunch, and offers seasonal menu items during holidays.

With their beers available in over 30 states across the United States, Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. is an essential stop on your Iowa brewery adventure.

Mason City Brewing

More than just a provider of exceptional beers, Mason City Brewing is a renowned craft brewery in Iowa.

With a taproom and a restaurant serving wood-fired pizzas, this brewery is the perfect destination for a relaxing evening with friends and family.

The brewery’s handcrafted beer selection includes:

  • Cream Ale
  • Oatmeal Pale Ale
  • Milk Stout
  • Irish Red

The brewery’s history dates back to 1873 when John Weiss established Mason City Brewing, which was renowned for producing the finest beer in the nation.

Today, the brewery continues this legacy, crafting high-quality, small-batch beers in a welcoming environment. So, unwind at Mason City Brewing and savor the flavors of their handcrafted brews.

Alluvial Brewing

Based in Ames, Iowa, Alluvial Brewing is a distinctive brewery that brews its beers using water from the nearby Skunk River, naturally filtered through alluvial soil.

The brewery’s founders, Elliot Thompson and Jason Peterson, have established a community-centric environment with a focus on creating an unparalleled drinking experience that celebrates the local community and the unique Iowa area in which it is situated.

In a similar vein, Allerton Brewing Company also aims to provide a unique and enjoyable experience for its patrons.

Their distinctive and imaginative beer styles include Lager, New England IPA, and fruit sour-style beers, providing a diverse range of options for craft beer enthusiasts.

With a dedication to sustainability and local ingredients, Alluvial Brewing is a must-visit destination on your Iowa brewery tour.

Peace Tree Brewing Co.

A sustainable brewery with taprooms in Knoxville and Des Moines, Iowa, Peace Tree Brewing Co. prioritizes the use of local ingredients in their beer production.

Their flagship brews include the Blonde Fatale, a Belgian-style blond ale, and the No Coast IPA, showcasing their commitment to brewing excellence.

The brewery’s taproom at Peace Tree Brewing Co. offers a vibrant and energetic atmosphere, making it a great place to gather with friends or make new ones over a refreshing pint.

Whether you’re a local or just passing through, be sure to stop by for a truly memorable experience.

SingleSpeed Brewing Company

Situated in Cedar Falls, SingleSpeed Brewing Company offers a broad variety of beers, ranging from IPAs to stouts, complemented by pub-style food and wine.

The brewery produces small-batch craft beers using premium ingredients, such as local, seasonal, and organic products, ensuring a flavorful and satisfying experience for any craft beer enthusiast.

The brewery offers guided tours of their facility on Saturdays at 2 pm, providing an inside perspective on their brewing process and the inspiration behind their beers.

With a commitment to quality and a welcoming atmosphere, SingleSpeed Brewing Company is a must-visit brewery on any Iowa craft beer tour.

Exile Brewing Company

Located in Des Moines, Iowa, Exile Brewing Company differentiates itself from other state breweries with its specialization in barrel-aged and sour beers.

With a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival under their belt, this brewery’s dedication to crafting exceptional beers is evident.

Complementing their unique beers, Exile Brewing Company serves up flavorful finger foods, providing a well-rounded experience for visitors. Don’t miss the chance to explore the innovative flavors and offerings at Exile Brewing Company during your Iowa brewery adventure.

Lion Bridge Brewing Company

Hailing from Cedar Rapids, Lion Bridge Brewing Company is recognized for its award-winning beers and inviting taproom ambiance.

Established in 2014 by Ana and Quinton McClain, the brewery has received national beer awards, including accolades for their Workman’s Compensation and Yard Sale brews.

The taproom offers a contemporary, spacious setting with an extensive food selection and a restaurant and street brewery facility on site.

With its artisan brewing method and commitment to quality, Lion Bridge Brewing Company is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to explore the best of Iowa’s craft beer scene.

Iowa Project Brewing Company

If you’re interested in a more innovative take on craft beer, the Iowa Project Brewing Company is worth a visit.

Located in Dubuque, this small-batch brewery focuses on innovative beer styles and offers a range of distinctive brews, such as Lager, New England IPA, and fruit sour-style beers.

Established by Lucas Kline and Nick Applegate, the Iowa Project Brewing Company has received recognition for its sustainable efforts through the Iowa Green Brewery Certification and has been awarded $50,000 from the Retail Kickstarter program.

Experience the cutting edge of craft brewing by paying a visit to the Iowa Project Brewing Company on your beer-filled journey through Iowa.

Farm-to-Glass Breweries: Celebrating Local Ingredients

The farm-to-glass movement has been gaining traction in recent years, with an increasing number of breweries prioritizing the use of locally sourced ingredients in their brews.

Iowa breweries are no exception, with many sourcing ingredients such as:

  • corn
  • grains
  • honey
  • maple syrup

These ingredients are grown within the state. By sourcing locally, local brewery can craft beers that capture the unique flavors of the region while simultaneously supporting local agriculture.

One such brewery participating in the farm-to-glass movement is Sutliff Farm & Cider House, which not only produces craft beer but also offers a scenic and authentic farm experience for visitors.

As you explore Iowa’s craft beer scene, be sure to seek out breweries that celebrate local ingredients and contribute to the state’s thriving agricultural community.

Award-Winning Beers from Iowa Breweries

Earning recognition for their exceptional brews, Iowa’s breweries have established themselves on both the national and international stage.

Big Grove Brewery, Confluence Brewing Company, and Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. have all received prestigious awards for their brews.

Big Grove Brewery has won gold medals at the World Beer Cup for their Citrus Surfer and My Squad Stays on Point beers.

Confluence Brewing Company has been awarded a gold medal in the 2023 World Beer Cup in the Bohemian Pilsner category.

Meanwhile, Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. has garnered international acclaim for their innovative and high-quality beers.

As you explore Iowa’s breweries, especially in Iowa City, don’t miss the opportunity to sample the award-winning creations that have put the state on the map for craft beer connoisseurs.

Iowa Breweries with Unique Taproom Experiences

Beyond providing exceptional beer, Iowa’s breweries also deliver memorable taproom experiences that appeal to a wide range of tastes. From rustic settings to live music events, there’s a brewery for everyone in the Hawkeye State.

Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. offers a VIP room for groups of up to 12 people, all-day Sunday brunch, and seasonal menu items for holidays, while Big Grove Brewery’s expansive venue provides both indoor and outdoor options for enjoying their acclaimed craft beers.

Other notable taproom experiences can be found at Gezellig Brewing Company in Newton, which offers great food, fun, and games, and Darkbird Taphouse in Eastern Iowa, featuring a rotating selection of craft beers.

Experience Iowa’s unique beer culture by visiting these breweries and taking in the atmosphere of their one-of-a-kind taprooms.

Seasonal Brews: Discovering Iowa’s Best Limited-Release Beers

A variety of seasonal beers and limited-release beers are available from Iowa breweries, often featuring seasonal ingredients and unique flavor profiles corresponding to specific times of the year.

These brews are typically available during certain seasons, such as:

  • Summer
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Spring

It’s advisable to consult individual breweries for their specific release dates and availability.

The limited-release beers from Iowa often feature distinct ingredients, such as Peace Tree Brewing’s limited-edition Cornucopia beer, which uses Iowa corn as a primary ingredient, and Confluence Brewing’s unique Tequila Barrel Aged Pilsner.

As you explore Iowa’s craft beer scene, be sure to keep an eye out for these seasonal and limited-release beers, which showcase the creativity and innovation of the state’s breweries.

The Art of Barrel-Aging: Iowa Breweries Mastering the Craft

Some of Iowa’s finest breweries have mastered the art of barrel-aging. This process involves aging beer in wooden barrels, which can impart unique flavors and characteristics to the brew, mellowing out bitterness and accentuating other flavor notes.

Iowa Brewing Company, for example, is renowned for their barrel-aging process, particularly with their Barrel-Aged Imperial Oja variants.

By employing the art of barrel-aging, these talented breweries are able to craft complex and flavorful beers that offer a truly exceptional drinking experience.

Be sure to sample some of the barrel-aged offerings from Iowa’s breweries as you embark on your craft beer journey.

Brewpubs and Food Pairings: Where to Dine and Drink in Iowa

If you’re interested in pairing delicious food with your love of craft beer, Iowa’s brewpubs provide a variety of flavorful combinations to complement their handcrafted brews.

Some well-known brewpubs in Iowa include:

  • Toppling Goliath Brewing Company
  • Green Tree Brewery
  • Pulpit Rock Brewing Company
  • Gezellig Brewing Company
  • Glyn Mawr Winery-The Local
  • Kinship Brewing

Each of these brewpubs offers unique food options that perfectly complement their exceptional beers.

From carnitas tacos and venison chili to mac and cheese paired with Oktoberfest beer, there’s something for everyone at Iowa’s brewpubs.

Embark on a culinary adventure through the state’s thriving craft beer and food scene, and discover the perfect pairing to satisfy your taste buds.

Beer Festivals and Events: Celebrating Craft Beer in Iowa

Beer festivals and events in Iowa offer a prime opportunity to taste a variety of local brews and celebrate the state’s thriving craft beer scene.

Notable beer festivals in Iowa include:

  • Iowa Craft Brew Festival
  • IBG’s Annual Craft Beer Festival
  • Oktoberfest in Amana Colonies
  • BrrrFest in Coralville

These festivals typically showcase over 70 craft breweries and beverage companies, offering a wide array of beer styles such as:

  • stouts
  • IPAs
  • sours
  • lagers
  • ales
  • pilsners

Whether you’re a seasoned beer enthusiast or just beginning your craft beer journey, attending one of these beer festivals is an excellent way to discover the best that Iowa’s breweries have to offer.

Iowa’s Craft Beer Trail: Plan Your Ultimate Brewery Road Trip

Undertaking a brewery road trip through Iowa allows you to sample the state’s diverse craft beer offerings while appreciating the region’s scenic beauty.

The Iowa Craft Beer Trail is a six-day excursion that begins in Galena, Illinois, and traverses Iowa, visiting breweries along the Great River Road, including stops in the Quad Cities and Southwest Iowa.

To make the most of your journey, be sure to include must-visit breweries such as:

  • Toppling Goliath Brewing Co.
  • Big Grove Brewery
  • SingleSpeed Brewing
  • Twisted Vine Brewery
  • Confluence Brewing Company
  • Fenders Brewing
  • Firetrucker Brewery
  • Peace Tree Brewing Co.
  • Exile Brewing Co.

on your itinerary. With picturesque routes, unique breweries, and unforgettable experiences, an Iowa craft beer road trip is an adventure you won’t soon forget.

Summary

From award-winning breweries to innovative brewpubs, Iowa’s craft beer scene is flourishing, offering something for every beer enthusiast.

Whether you’re sampling a limited-release seasonal brew, attending a beer festival, or embarking on a brewery road trip, you’ll be immersed in the rich craft beer culture that makes Iowa a must-visit destination for craft beer lovers.

So, raise your glass and toast to the Hawkeye State, where good beer, great food, and unforgettable experiences await you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the economic impact of Iowa’s craft beer industry?

Iowa’s craft beer industry has a significant economic impact, with an annual value of over $1 billion and generating $230 million in taxes in 2012.

Which Iowa breweries have been recognized for their beers?

Big Grove Brewery, Confluence Brewing Company, and Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. have all been recognized for their delicious beers.

What are some examples of food and beer pairings available at Iowa’s brewpubs?

Iowa brewpubs offer a variety of food and beer pairings such as carnitas tacos and Oktoberfest beer, venison chili and various brews, and Bavarian pretzels with mac and cheese.

What are the dates and locations of Iowa’s top beer festivals?

The Iowa Craft Brew Festival is held annually in June at Water Works Park in Des Moines, and the Iowa Craft Beer Bash takes place in September at Millstream Brewing Co. in Amana.

What is the Iowa’s Craft Beer Trail?

The Iowa Craft Beer Trail is an exciting six-day journey through the state of Iowa, introducing travelers to notable craft breweries and breathtaking routes.