MUSCATINE, Iowa — A local nano brewery, Contrary Brewing Co., is now open for business. What used to be a storefront for water sport equipment on Mississippi Drive is now a freshly painted tap room with bright red walls and bare floors. It also has six brews on tap with a variety including white, blond and amber ales.
The brewery opened to the public Friday, April 17, and the brewmaster Mark Mitchell said business has been good. The doors are open 4-10 p.m. Thursday-Sunday and three groups of people were ordering flights of samples by 4:15 p.m. this past Thursday. Tasters, samples of the ale, are sold for $1.50 each. Flights — one taster of each beer — are $9.
"The beer’s turned out well, that’s always a concern with new equipment. Getting the beer from this point out of the tap was a learning experience. I’m going from a home brewer to a microbrewer. I’ve got good equipment and that helps a lot," Mark said.
Although all brews are his own creation, according to Mark the house signature is probably the Semper Fi.
"It’s an American Amber and it’s different in that it’s roasty with a generous amount of hops. Not overly hoppy but a balance between roasted malt and the hops,"he said.
Typically, hops add to the floral or citrus flavor of a beer.
The place also offers roast beef, four-cheese and smoked turkey panini sandwiches for sale along with a snack mix, chips and chocolate truffle.
Mark and his wife, Robin, own and run the place but Davella Santiago, who co-owns with her husband, George, added her flair with chalkboard writing and painting. A family friend created the unique billiard ball tap levers.
The flooring wasn't quite what the Mitchell's expected.
"We didn't know what we were getting into when we pulled the carpet up. It was pretty bad, we could not get the carpet glue off," said Mark, who said they eventually called in a company to help pull up the oil-stained blue carpeting.
The flooring was ground down and covered in a water resistant coating. Mark said they were going for a light industrial look.
"It looks nicer than I thought it would. I didn't have this vision, other people did. I had an idea about the beer I was going to make but as far as everything else — people have a better eye than I do. We had good contractors, too," Mark said.
T-shirts, glasses and growlers in 64 and 32 oz sizes are also sold but should be kept cold and consumed within a few days after purchase. All beers are unfiltered, unpasteurized and fresh. Mark said between fermenting, time in the Brite tanks and transferring to kegs, a beer from brew to tap can take up to three weeks.
"Sometimes longer is better. If you rush it you could serve a green beer. You can tell at craft breweries when they serve a green beer. I spend probably more than 40 hours a week doing this; right now it’s just a one-man show. I’d like to be a distribution brewery with a tap room, to serve to the bars and restaurants in town," Mark said.
For the Mitchells, the brewery is about following a passion of good beer and keeping the scene local to Muscatine.
"In starting a new business, especially a brewery, you never know what to expect when you open those doors," Mark said.
To become a Contrarion Club member and take advantage of club deals, visit the website at www.contrarybrewing.com.