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Belly Up

September 13, 2012
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Home beer brewers get their day at el Bait Shop

Scott Amdahl is one of about 100 members of the Iowa Brewers Union, many of which give tastings of their latest crafts at the Jimmy Carter Happy Hour on Thursdays at el Bait Shop from 6 – 8:30 p.m.

By Amber Williams

Long before many Cityview readers can remember — or perhaps were born — the United States federal government decided for us that beer was bad. Bad, bad, bad. And they outlawed it. It was a dark time, people — a dark time. But from that a bootlegger culture was born in the American “black market.” The crime proved to be lucrative enough to justify the risk for many, including my great-grandpa, so I’ve heard.

As we all know, eventually (in 1933) the 21st Amendment declared alcohol legal once again. But it wasn’t complete until one famous beer-drinking politician, the president at the time, Jimmy Carter, added to that law an important component that had been missing for 40 years — the home craft brewer. Thank-you, Jimmy.

Take that tid-bit of American history and impress your friends while tasting locally-brewed craft beers at the “Jimmy Carter Happy Hour” every Thursday at El Bait Shop.

“I want to have everything to do with beer in this town,” said Full Court Press (a group of restaurateurs throughout Des Moines) partner at el Bait Shop, Jeff Bruning. “I want el Bait Shop to be one of the mentioned beer places in America and put us on the map.”

With more than 100 beer flavors on tap, el Bait Shop is definitely on the local map, and Bruning said his goal to reach 130 is growing nearer. They’ve added 16 new draft handles to the colorful wall behind the bar — spots which are “always moving,” he said.

“It’s a static area for our seasonals,” Bruning said. “Now we can have beer invasions where we add new flavors without taking any down. It gives us room to expand and retract.”

The next “beer invasion” will feature Peace Tree Brewing on Sept. 13, a Knoxville brewery with flavors popping up all over Iowa (Blonde Fatale and Red Rambler being two of its most popular).

“We just found out Stone Brewing (out of Escondido, Calif.) is coming to town on Oct. 1, so we’ll have a ‘take over’ of their beers on Oct. 4 with nine flavors on tap. It’s one of a dozen breweries that beer drinkers would like to see come to Iowa.

“I’m hoping to have Greg Cooch here that day, who’s one of the founders. If he was in acting, he’d be Oscar-winning — he’d be Brad Pitt,” Bruning laughed.

And it’s not far-fetched for a home brewer offering tastes of his craft at Jimmy Carter Happy Hour to someday become the “Brad Pitt” of beer brewing, which is why Bruning said he supports beer, beer-makers and beer-drinkers at all levels, from the bathtub to the barrel to the belly.

“About half, or more, home brewers have gone on to work at breweries or started their own,” Bruning said.

So the Jimmy Carter Happy Hour gives the home brewers a podium from which to tout their flavors in one-ounce glasses, get feedback from el Bait Shop patrons and hone their crafts accordingly.

“The whole night (Thursdays) is just a night for beer,” Bruning said. CV


el Bait Shop

200 S.W. Second St., (515) 284-1970

Hours: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. every day; Kitchen: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.

Margarita Specials: 3-7 p.m., Mon.-Fri.

Entertainment: Live music Wednesdays and Sundays, 8-11p.m.

Capacity: 100-plus inside; 100 outside

Interesting fact: Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, will be at Drake University on Thursday, Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Drake University Knapp Center as part of the Martin Bucksbaum Distinguished Lecture Series and the Slay Fund for Social Justice… Maybe he’ll drop by for a beer.

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