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Madhouse Brewing stands out in a world of craft breweries


Madhouse Brewing Company offers tours upon request and expects to host scheduled tours in the near future.

Madhouse Brewing Company offers tours upon request and expects to host scheduled tours in the near future.

How many craft breweries is too many craft breweries? When will brewers run out of new flavors to use? Is craft beer just a trend doomed to fade away, like MySpace and gel pens?

These are the questions asked by craft beer critics in light of the Brewery Boom that keeps on booming. With so many craft beer-makers turning their hobby into a business, it’s a wonder bars and store owners are still finding room to stock them all.

But people are still opening craft breweries, and customers are still drinking craft beers.

The secret to success? Differentiating.

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Madhouse Brewing Company is one of Des Moines’ newest craft breweries, relocating to the Market District earlier this year from its former spot in Newton. The move allowed Madhouse to open a taproom where customers can buy $5 pints or $7 flights of whatever Madhouse beers are currently on tap. In addition to a variety of seasonal flavors, the brewery has five brews available all the time: the Pastime Pale Ale, Hopburst IPA, Imperial Red, Honey Pilsner and Coffee Stout.

Mason Groben is the owner of Madhouse, but he’s not new to the business; he’s also responsible for wine production and marketing at Jasper Winery, also located in Des Moines.

That experience probably taught him a thing or two about creating an excellent product and running a tasting room. It also helps to have connections in making new collaborative projects, such as October’s newest seasonal, Gnarleywine. At a staggering (or should that be stumbling?) 13 percent ABV, it’s made of 2013 Barleywine aged for 20 months and refermented in Jasper Winery’s Wild Boyz Port barrels.

Madhouse also took notes on food pairings, adding meat and cheese trays to the menu for the perfect accompaniment to any pint. But unlike other brewery taprooms, Groban said Madhouse isn’t looking to expand its hours more than its current three days a week.

“Our core business has always been about making and packaging beer, and I don’t want to be in the business of competing against the many bars and restaurants around town that carry our products,” he said.

Groban added that even though they don’t want to compete with anyone who sells Madhouse products, it is nice to have a destination where fans of the company can visit for tours and sample unique releases that are only available at the brewery.

Another way Madhouse differentiates itself is by allowing individuals outside of the brewery to try their hand at brewing.

“We recently acquired equipment that allows us to brew small batches of about two kegs,” said Groban. “We use this to make specialty batches and experiment with new recipes. We also offer a Guest Brewer experience in which an individual or small group can come into the brewery to make their own batch of beer.”

Guest brewers can take home six cases of their own personal brew, and it will also go on tap in the taproom for other guests to try it out.

So, if you’re looking for a taproom that’s open every night of the week, you’ll have to check out one of the many brewing bars in the metro. But if you’re looking for a quality product and a chance to get your own hands-on experience at brewing, Madhouse is your place. CV

Madhouse Brewing Company
501 Scott Ave.
Thurs.-Fri., 4-10 p.m.
Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Friday happy hour: 4-6 p.m.

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