The Keg Stand accommodates5/6/2015
The American tavern has been evolving since its earliest days. As Cliff Claven said on “Cheers”: “Little known fact. The United States Postal Service originated in taverns.” An iconic photograph in the Silver Springs (Maryland) Library shows Civil War soldiers reading their mail in a local tavern. Early taverns also served as voting polls but mostly as community centers. Television — particularly cable sports TV — changed things. People began going to the local taverns to be entertained. Cable and satellite providers noticed and have been aggressively raising prices they charge bars. One bar in my neighborhood dropped its major league baseball package recently after seeing the price double to $1,600 a season.
Even most pure sports bars draw the line somewhere regarding what all they can show. I know of a couple places in Des Moines that can’t even afford to show all the Iowa Hawkeye football games. The rarest sport to find here is soccer. Saints and 1908 Draught House make an effort to show most international games, but neither opens for early morning games. The Keg Stand does, and Arsenal fans have responded. If an Arsenal game kicks off at 6 a.m., the tavern will open at 5:45. I’ve counted as many as 25 red and white clad fans there sharing the joys and pains of their team. One of them explained why he needs to watch with company. “Winning a big game is like being a little kid waking up on Christmas. Losing is like being stranded in an airport lounge on Christmas, with Adele singing the same song over and over on the jukebox.”
Arsenal is a team from North London. The idea of there being an Arsenal bar in West Des Moines would have been unbelievable a decade ago. I am told the owners aren’t even fans — they just want to accommodate customers who are. Arsenal introduced me to The Keg Stand, but I have found many reasons to return. It’s also a big Cyclone bar where basketball coach Fred Hoiberg has shown up for events. The bar hosts a number of fundraisers for charities. Mainly, though, the place has a knack for trying crazy things.
The Keg Stand is the Bacon Fest of taverns. Who’d have thought that bacon paired with wrestling could draw thousands of people to the Iowa Events Center? Similarly, The Keg Stand thinks outside the box on the subject of wine/beer and food dinners. They have held events where they paired four beers and ales with four different cupcakes. Another time they paired four beers with four different cookies. A third such pairing matched beers with different cheesecakes. A “Deck the Halls” special last Christmas paired five kinds of candy balls with five appropriate beers. Not that the kitchen can’t do a serious beer dinner. Once a Bell’s brewing dinner paired four beverages with beef tarts and Brie, whitefish in red wine reduction, chicken mango Gouda pizza and ravioli with sausage. A launch party for Moscow mules once included rides on a mule, which was neither Russian nor as drunk as its riders.
Usually the kitchen settles for turning out good sports bar fare. Their breaded pork tenderloin ranks with the best around town. Burgers are consistently seared and juicy, a feat that is harder to accomplish than it should be. Full breakfasts are also dependable.
The Keg Stand offers a rotating selection of 86 tap beers. That is the second-most in town after El Bait Shop. There are specials for inaugurations of new tap beers, for football games, for Arsenal games, for hops season (September) and for many other reasons, mostly just because they sounded like fun to someone with imagination.
Side Dishes: The Bacon Fest impresarios are negotiating with a major player in a town in southern Nevada to pair pork belly with sin and forgetfulness… HoQ began serving the first Downtown Farmers Market breakfasts made with all local foods. CV
THE KEG STAND
3530 Westown Parkway
West Des Moines, 327-7429
Open daily, hours vary