Happy National Beer Day! Here are Starting Line’s favorite Iowa breweries



By Nikoel Hytrek

April 5, 2024

For those unaware, April 6 is New Beer’s Eve, because it leads up to National Beer Day on April 7.

Why April 7?

On that day in 1933, the Cullen-Harrison Act went into effect, making it legal for some low-alcohol beer and wine to be sold in the United States.

The law was the first step on the way to ending Prohibition, which happened in December 1933 with the passage of the 21st Amendment. That overturned the 18th Amendment, which—from 1919 to 1933—prohibited the making and selling of alcohol nationwide.

Most of the reason for the end of Prohibition was connected to the rise in organized crime. Americans didn’t stop drinking—they just turned to black market sellers. As it increasingly became clear Prohibition couldn’t be enforced, people pushed for it to be repealed.

On July 10, 1933, with a vote of 90-0, Iowa was the 11th state to ratify the 21st Amendment.

With beer on our minds, the Iowa Starting Line team decided to share our favorite breweries:

Amie Rivers

WHAT: SingleSpeed Brewing Company – Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Des Moines

WHY: I love taking out-of-town guests to SingleSpeed in Waterloo. Its large, open-concept brewpub (built inside of the former Hostess Wonder Bread factory) reminds folks of similar breweries in big cities. It has a large outdoor (shaded) patio for the summer months, with a stage for small acts. And its menu, rotated seasonally, is excellent—so the non-drinkers in your life also have reason to go.

ORDER: I love a stout, so Tip the Cow is a fave. But you’re more likely to find me sipping on one of their beer cocktails—the Just Peachy is just sweet enough to end the night. And try the Lil’ Squeeze or Lil’ Sweet mocktails for a nonalcoholic treat!

Avery Staker

WHAT: Darkbird Taphouse – Peosta, Iowa (extension of Dimensional Brewing in Dubuque)

WHY: There’s a little bias here because some of my extended family owns it, but that’s not the only reason I love Darkbird. Naturally, my family regularly hangs out there so I have all kinds of good memories. I’ve eaten my weight in fried pickles with my sister on the deck. From the loft, I’ve watched a cousin’s cousin’s cover band perform “Everytime We Touch” by Cascada. I’ve shared a flight on the huge patio with college friends while showing them staples of my hometown. Darkbird just always has what you need.

ORDER: They have a rotating menu of drafts, so you’ll never run out of new things to try. The last one I tried was the Handpicked & Baked sour and it tasted like a pastry. You can never go wrong with some brewery appetizers in my book, too, but they’re especially good here.

WHAT: Big Grove Brewery – Des Moines, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Solon, with a new one coming to Omaha soon

WHY: My absolute favorite thing to do is sit on a patio, and Big Grove Des Moines has one of my favorite patios to sit on. I aspire to decorate my house to match its vibe. I love this place.

ORDER: We’ve established I’m an appetizer fiend, so I’ll recommend the giant pretzel with cheese. It’s really giant and really delicious. To drink, you can’t go wrong with any of their brews, but I especially love the small selection of mocktails. Tasty AND inclusive!

Nikoel Hytrek

WHAT: SingleSpeed Brewing Company – Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Des Moines
Backpocket Brewing—Coralville, Dubuque, Johnston
Confluence Brewing Co—Des Moines

WHY: I don’t go directly to breweries very often but I do have beers I like and will look out for if I’m in the mood at the grocery store or at a bar. These three breweries are usually easy to find anywhere I might be.

That said, I have been to all three locations and I can’t deny the vibes are great. Confluence is next to a trail, SingleSpeed has a large taproom. Backpocket Pin and Pixel in Johnston takes the cake though. The taproom is connected to an arcade where you can play duckpin bowling, any number of classic arcade games (shoutout to Guitar Hero), or pinball.

ORDER: Dark beer is my go-to, so that means I’m always looking for stouts and porters. Specifically, I keep an eye out for SingleSpeed’s Tip the Cow, Backpocket’s Slingshot, and Confluence’s Milk Man or 13 Degrees. But I’ll try any dark beer, especially if it has coffee tasting notes.

Ty Rushing

WHAT: West O Beer – Milford

WHY: The Iowa Great Lakes has been a special place for a long time, and West O has only improved that reputation. One of my fondest West O memories is drinking a Raspberry Shandy on the patio while having a great conversation with friends. The beer, the weather, and the vibes were perfect. West O also typically has brewery-exclusive brews that make the trip well worth it.

ORDER: My go-to order is the award-winning West O Coco Stout. Coco Stout is great from the can, but the tap version cannot be denied. The limited-edition Cold Press version is also incredible and I miss it dearly.

WHAT: Marto Brewing Co. – Sioux City

WHY: Marto has great beer and food and it is located right next to a movie theater. I loved going to get a bite or beer before a feature. Also, be sure to try the giant pretzel and share it with some friends unless you want your stomach to explode. Also, if you’re in Sioux City, you might as well visit Jackon Street (try any variation of Weather Vane Stout) and Brioux City (if it’s available, get the barrel-aged Peanut Budda Stout) breweries and take the full tour. The trio support each other and have even collaborated on a few beers.

ORDER: Any dark beer. Seriously, I’m a stout/porter kind of guy and Marto makes some of the best I have had anywhere. In this IPA-dominated world, having a place to cater to us brew aficionados with a more robust palate is wonderful.

  • Nikoel Hytrek

    Nikoel Hytrek is Iowa Starting Line’s longest-serving reporter. She covers LGBTQ issues, abortion rights and all topics of interest to Iowans. Her biggest goal is to help connect the dots between policy and people’s real lives. If you have story ideas or tips, send them over to [email protected].



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