After a lot of anticipation, Exile Brewing Company is now serving its own beer from the refurbished Fitch Soap building at the intersection of 15th and Walnut. Lest we forget, Exile joins two other brew pubs, Raccoon River Brewing Company and Court Avenue Brewing Company, also in downtown Des Moines. All three pubs now make their own beer and serve fairly full menus. I think that part of the excitement that Exile brings to the table is literally the fact that this is a project funded, owned, and managed by the Tursi family of Tursi’s Latin King fame. This connection offers the promise that the food will be a step up from the usual pub fare, not that I’m comparing Exile to either Raccoon River or Court Avenue in this regard. The food offered by both of those establishments can stand on its own as well.
The Exile beers are named after dames: Ruthie, Betty, and Hannah. The pictures that go along with the menu feature “nose art” style representations of each of the namesakes. For those not in the know, nose art was made famous during World War II when bomber crews painted pinup girls on the noses of their planes for good luck. We began with Betty and Ruthie. Betty is a honey blonde lager. As advertised, it had a clean crisp taste, and would likely be a good transitional brew for those addicted to the big brewery rice beers. Ruthie, on the other hand, had some great malt and was very easy to drink. In fact, I ordered another. So far, there is nothing offered in what I’d call beer in the British or Belgian tradition. For those darker beers stick with Court Avenue Brewing for now. The Exile beers are made using the Lager method and appear to be more German or American, which fits the “Exile” theme. I’m unaware of any Belgians setting up shop here in the States to make beer, but there were plenty of Germans who brought their beer-making skills to the Midwest. I am curious why the owners chose to use a pinup girl theme instead of sticking with the strong and well-executed “Exile” brand theme. Perhaps there was a change in marketing companies? In true modern marketing tradition, the glib descriptions of each beer are remarkably lacking in any useful information about each beer.
As one might expect from a Tursi enterprise, the food is amazing. I ordered the Pork Gyro ($11) with German Potato Salad. The Potato Salad was worth the price of admission by itself. It is tough to make potato salad this good and Exile nailed it. The Pork Gyro was a fabulous, juicy and flavorful experience.
The Shepard’s Pie ($12) tasted as good as it looked. The top was flaky and the meat and vegetables inside were well worth it.
Service was attentive, though we were not told about the Sunday brew special until after we had downed two $5.00 pints. The facility offers four different venues inside and outside. There is a patio area when the weather is nice. Since it faces the east, it ought to be a great place to unwind while the sun is going down (none of that sun-in-your-eyes). There is an adjacent beer hall where you can see the beer-making equipment and process. A nice bar is right inside the front door and an inviting and open dining area is off on the west end.
Sunday to Thursday 11am-10pm / 21+ 10pm-late
Friday & Saturday 11am-11pm / 21+ 11pm-2am