MUSCATINE, Iowa — If you hear someone say that Muscatine doesn't have its own brewery, you'll soon be able to tell them, "To the Contrary, the city does."
With carpet stripped, walls painted and plans drawn, the former Mississippi Marine building at 411 Mississippi Drive will soon house Muscatine's first brewery in recent memory: Contrary Brewing Co.
"We're waiting on equipment and completing construction. It's going to be a taproom and we'll offer a limited food menu," said owner Mark Mitchell, who wants the brewery to have the opposite feel of a sports bar. "I don't want TVs. I want people to come in, sit down and have a conversation. Maybe we'll have some board games or something to keep people occupied."
The business is considered a nano-brewery and is smaller than some of the microbreweries in surrounding cities.
"We'll have a brew house with kettles that brew one-barrel batch, which is 31 gallons. I plan to brew the same beer twice in one day and have two barrel fermenters and two barrel Brite tanks. That's what we're waiting on now, the Brite tanks and fermenters," said Mark.
The brewery will be open sometime this spring although an opening date won't be set until after equipment is installed. Mark will soon leave his job with the U.S. Postal Service to run the brewery full-time. His wife, Robin, will work at the brewery part-time and keep her job at the Muscatine Community College.
"We're excited but overwhelmed," said Robin. "We've got four girls: two out of the house and two still at home. They're excited and really impressed with their Dad following his dreams and making it happen."
But even a dream come true can be scary.
"I'm quitting my job. When our doors open, I really hope people come in," Mark laughed. "But it's time for Muscatine to have a brewery. We want to make good beer, consistently, and keep it local."
Mark said the first few brews will focus on palatability then delve into Imperial brews, characterized by bolder tastes and a higher alcohol content.
"My palette's definitely changed. I used to drink just one simple, straight beer and now I enjoy IPAs and stouts," said Robin. Mark has been home brewing for 20 years, when the couple brewed their first batch from a kit bought from a superstore.
"It was horrible," Mark said.
From there, they began to improve their equipment and ingredients. Now, he has 20 years worth of perfected recipes to share with Muscatine.
Those recipes are a part of what makes Contrary Brewing Co., well, contrary. Micro and home breweries have become so popular in the United States that coming up with a business name can be tricky.
"The name was recommended to me by a friend and it has a layer of meanings. [Our brews] are contrary to the Bud, Miller, Coors brands; contrary to American lagers. It's also contrary to quit your full-time job and start this sort of thing. But the guy who came up with it also said it has to do with my personality.
"Plus," he added, "The name wasn't taken."