I’m just now getting to writing up some places I visited while with the relatives back in Iowa during Thanksgiving. So the timing is a little bit stretched, but not to worry, there’s still beer there.
So it seems that just lately, my little sister and some of her kids have become craft beer-curious. Part of that seems to stem from the fact that after being a beer wasteland for most of the current brewing bubble, central Iowa has been playing an excellent game of Catch-Up and some of these new tap rooms have popped up along my sister’s favorite bike trails. She recommended Reclaimed Rails, so my dad and I went there.
Reclaimed Rails Brewing Co. is in Bondurant (101 Main St. SE), in the “elbow” where I-80 and I-35 meet just north of Des Moines. Bondurant has gone from a small town to an outlying suburb of Ankeny, the current favorite corporetum of Iowa. As my dad pointed out when we drove there, the whole town used to be on the south side of the state highway, now the north side is filling in with new houses. Reclaimed Rails sits in downtown, just over from where the old railway was converted to a bike trail, and across the corner from another new “Irish Pub” bar named “Founders” (no relation to Founders Brewing).
Reclaimed Rails boasts a motif or recycled and repurposed infrastructure: the building itself was the town’s American Legion hall, built in 1948; the post closed some time ago and the building went through a number of uses before the brewers landed it. The two-story building has a 16 bbl copper clad brew works in the basement, repurposed from Racoon River Brewing in Des Moines. It also boasts a separate cellar with a pilot system for funky beers.
The main floor features fixtures and wood reclaimed from buildings across the Midwest, including ceiling tin from a barn in Minnesota, patio rails from the River Rapids Log Ride from the Adventureland amusement park. The bar top wood was from a 1900 vintage depot in Altoona, held in place by spent Winchester bullet casings, while old train rails serve as bar footrests. Even the frame around the iPad used in the Point-of-sale system is reclaimed wood. They’ve also preserved the hall’s stage for live events.
Back to my narrative: my dad and I arrived at the start of the big “showdown” between Nebraska and U of Iowa. We decided that as Iowa State alumni, whose team already had their Liberty Bowl bid in hand, we could care much more about the beer than the game.
The brewery featured a menu from the adjoining Boxcar BBQ, but we focused in enjoying a sampler tray. Here's what I found:
Corn Belt Route Pilsner
Crisp German style pilsener with a cleansing hop finish. Imported continental Pilsner malt and all German hops make this an authentic brew. 5.2%, 23 ibu.
A bit cloudy as light lagers go, with a thin head. Has the slightly salty smell of a Bavarian soft water brew. I have always said to myself that if I opened a brewpub in Iowa, I'd have a flagship with corn in it. Brewer Justin Cloke told me it did have corn, though the description doesn't mention it. Taste is definitely in the Pilsener wheelhouse, and the corn adds a slight note of extra alcohol. This may need some more malt to it, because the water profile makes it just a bit saccharine.
East Side Collaboration - Session IPA
We partnered with our friends at Brightside Ale Works (Altoona, IA) to create an easy drinking session IPA full of Citra and Mosaic hop love! 4.8%, 47 ibu
Bright gold in the sample glass, and it's got the big frusty smell of West Coast hops. Taste is packed with pine resin and a bit of apricot. Malt is just enough to keep up with it. A little bit of lemon juice threads up the side.
Trailhead Red IPA
This malt forward IPA has notes of caramel with enough malty sweetness to balance out an aggressive change of hops. 6.0%, 70 IBUs
Bright reddish brown in a small taster glass. Still has the remains of an eggshell colored head around the edges. This has more malt to the nose than the previous IPA, an almost earthy Brown ale note. Taste has a bit of brown ale at the forefront, and then the hops work around the edge of my tongue. Seems like mostly English hops. The final result is more peppery than hoppy, making for a slightly off-centered beer, even among the crowded IPA field.
Rooks’ Breakfast Porter
Our Vanilla Coffee Porter is a malty, dark beer that pours silky black. With an enticing aroma of vanilla and coffee, this Porter finishes much lighter than it looks. Blended with two different types of cold brewed coffee, this delicious beer is perfect for any time of day. 5.1% 15 ibu
Very nice vanilla nose, which makes for a thin suggestion of bourbon, even though this has NOT seen the inside of a barrel. Black color, looks a bit oily in the glass. There’s a similar vanilla in the taste, and here’s where the cafe au last comes through. Sweet, but not overly so, a great finishing beer that shows you don’t need a lot of alcohol to make a flavorful porter.
Blood Orange Wheat
This wheat is loaded with tons of oranges and a touch of honey that exudes the perfect amount of citrus. 7.0% 18 ibu
Served in a tulip glass, which helps bring a big nose of orange to the front. Hazy orangey (there, I said it) color. Taste is full of orange juice love, easy drinking despite being the strongest thing I’ve tasted here. (They have an 8.6% Belgian style, but I’m only one man). A bit sweet, of course, but not syrupy. Holds a balance between its ingredients very well.
Like a lot of small town brewpubs, it's a convivial place, and the folks behind it are making it a new hub of activities like biking, and the occasional live performance. It's one of those rewards for people who check the side roads for new beer spots.