By Dave DeWitte
Craft beer enthusiasts will soon find a taste of Cedar Rapids in the beers of Turner Alley Brewing, a new production brewery on the city’s southwest side scheduled to come online this spring.
The brewery has given its first series of beers names like The Mays Island IPA (India pale ale), the Fifth Saison and Rising Rapids Rye – PA (pale ale).
And of course there’s the name of the brewery itself, borrowed from the 5 Turner Alley studio in downtown Cedar Rapids where famed artist Grant Wood created much of his greatest work.
Owners Bill and Jacque Patterson gained an appreciation for craft beers in Chicago, but moved back to Cedar Rapids to be closer to the family and friends in Eastern Iowa, where Jacque had grown up. Mr. Patterson eventually met Travis Scheidecker, the brewer at Third Base Brewery in Cedar Rapids, and began discussing his plans to open his own brewery in Cedar Rapids.
“Travis and I seemed to be very aligned on the kinds of beers we liked,” said Mr. Patterson, a playground equipment dealer whose likes include Czech-style Pilsners and Belgian Saisons.
Mr. Patterson hired Mr. Scheidecker as brewmaster in September 2014, and they began finalizing plans for the brewery. Mr. Scheidecker had already begun scouting locations when he found a warehouse space at 2715 12th St. SW that had recently been vacated by its owner, DXP Enterprises, which operates in the other half of the same building.
“It was love at first sight,” Mr. Scheidecker recalled. “It was a blank slate.”
The Pattersons held a painting party to brighten up the building’s interior, and added better, more efficient lighting and a storage cooler. They now are awaiting the actual brewing equipment for the 15-barrel brewhouse, which will include four 15-barrel fermentation tanks and one 15-barrel brite tank for clarifying the beer after it has fermented.
Turner Alley Brewing plans to self-distribute under Iowa’s native brewery law, beginning with keg shipments to bars and restaurants in the Corridor.
The new brewery will not have a formal tap room. Instead, it will be open mainly for private events such as weddings and class reunions, for which the facility will be able to accommodate up to 200.
“We plan to send 95 percent of everything we produce out over the loading dock,” Mr. Patterson said, adding that the brewery’s small size and close proximity to customers will enable it to be nimble. The brewery plans to offer a “beer locator” feature on its website so that customers can easily see which establishments are pouring its offerings.
The paint brush-shaped tap handles of Turner Alley Brewing will have magnetic labels showing the name of the brew. That will make it possible for bartenders to slap on a new label rather than changing out the tap handle when a keg is replaced with a different type of Turner Alley beer.
“We’ve pre-sold quite a few accounts,” Mr. Patterson said. He noted that some of the pub and restaurant owners seem to like the fact that Turner Alley Brewing won’t be pouring much of its own brew, and wants its wholesale customers to be the center of attention.
Turner Alley Brewing is also working cooperatively with local breweries, including Lion Bridge and Third Base in Cedar Rapids and Big Grove in Solon, to improve distribution.
“Our focus is on the Corridor, first and foremost,” Mr. Patterson said. “We have no plans to go out of state until we have very good penetration of the Iowa market.”
The brewery is bright and airy, with white walls and tall 20-foot-plus ceilings, but no windows. Tours will be offered on Saturdays once a month.
Private events, some of which the brewery itself may put on, will cater to beer lovers. Several couples have already booked weddings in the brewery, and “people we’ve talked to even wanted to exchange nuptials on top of the brewhouse,” Mr. Patterson said.
Turner Alley appears to be next in line among a series of new breweries coming to Cedar Rapids. Others include Iowa Brewing Company, a production brewery planned for downtown Cedar Rapids, Quarter Barrel Brewing, a vintage arcade-themed brewpub coming downtown, and Another Road Brewing, which plans a southwest Cedar Rapids location not far from Turner Alley.
Longer-term plans for Turner Alley Brewing Co. include a canning line. Cans are better for preserving freshness, easier to ship and have a better recycling rate than bottles, Mr. Patterson said.
A spring opening date is planned for the brewery. Details will be available online at http://turneralleybrewing.com.