iowa falls: hardin county brewery

owa has 70 craft breweries and ranks 14th for number of breweries per capita at 3.2. However, Iowa ranks 41st for production per capita at 0.9 gallons per year. While Hardin County’s population is relatively small, Iowa Falls and the surrounding communities in Hardin County are well positioned to welcome visitors not only to a brewery but also to the beautiful water trails and natural amenities. Being only one hour from Waterloo, Ames, and Mason City provides the area a viable evening and weekend visitor population. Additionally, with future housing development, the area is poised for growth.

Though grocery store shelves are becoming more crowded, there is still room in Iowa to produce more beer, and the trend is toward hyper-local. Currently, there are no breweries within 10 miles of Iowa Falls; however, there are breweries within 50 miles, including Old Main and Alluvial in Ames, Mason City Brewing and Fat Hills in Mason City, and Single Speed, Lark, and Second State in Cedar Falls/Waterloo. Taprooms are popular gathering spots, and, as the industry grows, so do to the potential beer-knowledgeable customers.

The best model for Iowa Falls is a taproom operating under a native microbrewery license to keep costs low and allow flexibility for distribution. The focus should be on high quality beer with a qualified commercial brewer as an owner or key employee. A nearby restaurant and other strategic partnerships would enhance the business. Light snacks could be offered regularly with more substantial food options for delivery or during limited business hours.

Selling beer to go in growlers or crowlers would be important as would some limited draft self-distribution to key accounts, both local and strategic, to create awareness of the new brewery. Crowlers – large cans that can be sealed and potentially, resealed – would make great take aways to the local water trail and other recreational opportunities.

Because of the agricultural nature of the area, a farm to glass concept would make the Iowa Falls location unique in Iowa. While hop production is labor intensive and uncertain, the brewery could source at least part of its hop bill from the local area. Additionally, an orchard and area farmers markets could create ample opportunities to collaborate with small farmers for unique inputs such as honey, fruits, or herbs.

The Hardin County Brewery will produce and serve craft beer and soda. Craft beer has been on the rise for the last several years and is seen as a beverage with value that is best enjoyed in a social environment and often generates community building just by its nature. Brewing beer in-house adds to the uniqueness of the service establishment and creates a reason for people to visit. It would be important to have 15-30 draft lines for the variety expected by the craft beer consumer.

The brews will need to be an authentic reflection of the brewer and must have a high focus on quality and originality. As more and more brewers enter the market, quality and authenticity will be what sets new breweries apart. With the history of the land and a focus on local foods, procuring ingredients locally would be a great way to set this brewery apart.

In addition to beer, the native brewery status in Iowa now allows brewers to serve wine. This may be an important addition in a small market like Hardin County to attract mixed parties of beer and wine consumers. Cider is also a great option for customers, and it is getting easier to find more quality local producers.

The Hardin County Brewery should offer alternative beverages such as house made soda for non- drinkers and minors to keep it family friendly. Kombucha or other gluten free or low alcohol offerings also allow for variety to keep groups happy and returning.

A potential add-on opportunity would be to incorporate coffee service either by offering only cold brew or a combination of cold and hot brews, which would allow the business to expand their hours and generate revenue at alternative times of day. This could be done as a sublease to a coffee business or as an addition to the current business depending on the owner and staff competencies.

Further details and the full business plan can be found in Appendix J.

Action Steps

determine brewery owner

Placemaking steering committee

Ascertain if there are interested brewers in the area. Determine investor options. Work with attorney and accountant for business formation.

Q3 2018

design buildout

Owner(s), operator, architect, engineer, interior designer

Develop architectural plans for building. Consider the location and desired ambiance. Be sure to include a mix of areas within the space – bar, tables, lounge, etc.

Q4 2018

finalize business plan

Owner(s), operator

Begin with business plan included in Appendix J. Refine based on building ownership and investment options and estimated construction costs.

Q2 2019

secure financing and complete buildout

Owner(s), operator

Explore local, state, and federal incentives. Depending on ownership structure, look for opportunities that support small businesses.

Q4 2019

develop marketing strategy, hire staff, and open

Owner(s), operator

Design all marketing materials, using preliminary business plan as a starting point. Share photos and videos of construction progress to generate excitement. Hire staff. Again, refer to preliminary business plan for details. Hold soft opening events. Celebrate with grand opening.

Q2 2020