Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

June 26, 2008

Beer Issues:

Water, Water Everywhere, So Let’s All Have A Drink

Most of the breweries in the Midwest are safe after more historic flooding.
by Jill Jaracz

Jill Jaracz is not a fruit, but she loves a good fruit beer. And wheats and wits. Catch her other writing at The Diva Platform, Prevention Magazine's Buzz Blogs, and Gapers Block.
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Although flooding has destroyed parts of the Midwest, many microbreweries and brewpubs in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri managed to get through the storms without many problems.

Parts of Wisconsin flooded, but Tyranena Brewery, located in Lake Mills, did not sustain any damage. “It didn’t physically affect the brewery,” said Stacy McGinnis, Front Operations Manager for Tyranena.

During the big storm, Tyranena was hosting an outdoor event and had to push everything inside. “We were worried for a bit,” said McGinnis, adding that it was difficult to get around the area.

Although Tyranena wasn’t directly affected by the storms, many people in the area were, so the brewery will be hosting a flood recovery event on July 19 and 20, where many of the bands that usually play at their brewpub on weekends will perform in order to raise money for the city of Jefferson and also possibly the city of Fort Atkinson. Tyranena will post more details on its web site.

“We took all precautions. We sandbagged and put caps on all the beer tanks so if water came in, the beer wouldn’t get contaminated. But the levees held, thank goodness.”
Millstream Brewery in Amana, Iowa, also did not sustain any damage. Co-owner Teresa Albert said that they were far enough away from the swollen Iowa River. “We took all precautions. We sandbagged and put caps on all the beer tanks so if water came in, the beer wouldn’t get contaminated. But the levees held, thank goodness.”

Flooding did great damage to nearby Iowa City and Coralville, but Old Capitol Brew Works in downtown Iowa City wasn’t close to any of the flooded areas.

Floods in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, affected about a quarter of the city’s population, but Third Base Sports Bar and Brewery managed to escape the weather unharmed. “Luckily we were high and dry,” said Third Base brewer Travis Scheidecker. However, because of a water shortage, “we held back on brewing for a few days,” he said. “We waste a lot of water cleaning tanks and brewing [so we stopped to conserve water].”

Although several parts of Des Moines flooded, neither Court Avenue Restaurant & Brewing Company nor Raccoon River Brewing Company were affected by the rain. “We were very lucky,” said Mike Utley of Court Avenue. “We were not hit at all.”

City Brewery in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, was just north of where the flooding along the Mississippi River occurred, so they didn’t feel the effects that other parts of the state suffered. Traveling down the river though, different breweries had different stories.

In Dubuque, Iowa, a new flood wall kept the water contained, explained a server at Bricktown Brewery & Blackwater Grill. “We’re still brewin’ away,” she said.

Brewpubs in the Quad Cities had different outcomes from the surge along the Mississippi. The Illinois side fared well. David Smith of Blue Cat Brewpub in Rock Island explained that the Illinois side of the Mississippi River had a flood wall, so Rock Island and Moline were all right.

Front Street Brewery across the river in Davenport, however, had a different story. The downstairs containing the brewing equipment, office, and storage areas flooded. Jennie Ash, General Manager at Front Street, said, “[The extent of the damage] is yet to be seen. We’re hoping to salvage some walls on the lower level.”

“The dyke system saved us. Otherwise we’d be under water.”
However, the beer at Front Street is fine. “The beer is all sealed tight,” said Ash. Some pumps that move the beer were submerged in the floodwater and are currently drying out, but Ash didn’t know yet if they’d be damaged.

Not only did Front Street flood, it also sustained some smoke damage from a warehouse fire in the adjoining building. Ash said the restaurant had some smoke smell and damage on the ceiling, but they had fumigated.

Front Street Brewery hopes to be open again on June 26, a full two weeks after they were hit. “The dyke system saved us,” said Ash. “Otherwise we’d be under water.” Although the beer is fine, the restaurant did lose a lot of parties due to being closed. Ash maintained a positive outlook. “We’re safe, we’re sound, and not as bad as other areas,” she said.

“A lot of people were in enjoying the beer and watching the river rise.”
For Lost Duck Brewpub in Fort Madison, Iowa, watching the Mississippi rise became a spectator sport. Patti Boe of Lost Duck said although Lost Duck is located on the river and has a river view, they were able to stay open. “A lot of people were in enjoying the beer and watching the river rise,” she said.

Lost Duck did get some water in their basement storage area, but it didn’t affect any of their equipment, and they didn’t have to shut down the restaurant for any length of time.

Further downriver in Quincy, Illinois, O’Griff’s Irish Pub and Brewhouse is still taking things day to day. “We haven’t got hit yet,” said co-owner Kim Winter. O’Griff’s is still up and running without any damage to their property, but rain still could cause them problems. “If our levee breaks,” she explained, “the water filtration plant would get flooded. Then all the restaurants will close. So far we’re OK. It’s a wait and see situation.”

Levee breaks along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers have meant that less water is flowing south, and flooding has not been as severe. Both Trailhead Brewing and Tin Mill Brewing outside of St. Louis, although near flooded areas, have not experienced any weather-related problems.

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