Eastern Iowa Sees Expansion of Brewery Business

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The beer business is changing and growing here in Iowa.

More and more breweries are opening their doors to patrons who want to try unique craft beers. Eastern Iowa, alone, has seen quite the explosion of new breweries.

In fact, there's something new brewing in the Czech Village.

"We went through eight to ten kegs of beer a day for the first week," said Lion Bridge Brewing Company's Quinton McClain.

Lion Bridge Brewing Company opened about a month ago. Owner and Head Brewer Quinton McClain is mixing up unique recipes for beer lovers.

"It's called Workman's Compensation. It's a dark mild, which is a British style of beer," McClain said.

Down the road in Solon, Big Grove Brewery is also making a name for itself.

"We opened on August 29, right before Labor Day weekend," said Big Grove Brewery's Doug Goettsch.

Goettsch said the new Solon hot-spot has as many as eight of its own beers on tap at a time.

"We always have our West Main Wheat. That's kind of Solon's Beer," Goettsch said.

The man behind the taste is Head Brewer Bill Heinrich.

"This is the Arms Race. So it's a double brew today," Heinrich said on a busy brew day.

Up in Manchester, the scene is a bit quieter. That'll change very soon. The official opening day is almost here for Franklin Street Brewing Company.

"My brother Chad and I have been home brewing for 10/15 years. We enjoyed it a lot, and it just sort of seemed like it was -- we wanted to try something a little bigger," said Co-Owner of Franklin Street Brewing Company Kyle Sands.

The brothers are adding the finishing touches to the building and the brewing system.

So what's behind these new beer businesses? The brewers attribute much of it to a change in legislation. In 2010, Governor Chet Culver signed legislation allowing breweries to make stronger types of beer.

"I'm not sure if I would have started a brewery if that law was still in place," McClain said.

That means their product can be higher in alcohol content.

"That has really opened up the doors for a lot of people to make different styles that they weren't able to make before," Sands said.

"Without the high-proof regulations being changed, I don't think we would see anything of what we are looking at right now. It was a crucial part of it," Heinrich said.

The change of legislation mixed with more demand for locally-made products and a call for hard-to-find craft beers is leading to this new boom in business.

Brewers and crowds are drinking it up.
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