Last Friday night Number 7 Brewing Company in Ankeny, Iowa released the first batch of beer, an IPA, that was made there in the new brewery. And I was there to give it a try!
But first I want to say that Number 7 is more than a brewery. It is what I’d call a Craft Brewpub. As such, it directly challenges the common assumption that craft brewers cannot serve both good beer and good food. More than one craft brewer I’ve spoken to just shake their heads when asked if they would ever consider serving food alongside their beer. One said to me, “I make beer. I can’t be distracted by having to run a restaurant as well. That is a full time job by itself, and bad food will kill any brewery.” Of course, there are plenty of brewers that deftly manage to make both great beer and great food. Take Tursi’s in Des Moines as the most recent example, or Court Avenue Brewing Co., which pioneered the concept in Des Moines. But they are not what I’d describe as being “up from the roots” craft brewers — you know, the guys tinkering with mash buckets in their garage. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Number 7 does have a tie to Court Avenue Brewing Co. as Matt Sims worked there for awhile as the assistant brewer before beginning this new venture with his wife Jessie Sims.
That said, it was a pleasant surprise to see that Number 7 has rolled out a successful craft brewpub. I should emphasize “rolled” because Number 7 did not start up overnight making both its own beer and food. Paging through its Facebook timeline it is clear that a huge amount of effort and planning went into a successful launch. First, the location had to be identified. The owners chose to rebuild an old neighborhood bar in what I’ve now learned is “Old Ankeny.” I’ve lived between seven and five miles away from Old Ankeny for the last twenty plus years and I never knew that Ankeny even had an Old Ankeny. I suppose it makes sense though. Even a big-box store and suburb nirvana like Ankeny must have started somewhere, and that somewhere seems to be along both sides of the old railroad line on SW 3rd Street. Number 7 took one of the oldest buildings still in existence in that part of town, gutted it, and rebuilt it to serve as a combined restaurant and brewery.
Perhaps the Sims had also heard the dire warnings of other craft and micro brewers that it is distracting to establish both a brewery and a restaurant because Number 7 began with the food and then phased in making and selling its own beer. Matt Sim’s wife Jessie was already in the catering business, so it it made sense to start making great food first. After all, you can’t really have a brew pub if the food isn’t up to snuff.
Let’s talk about the food. The menu has the variety that you would hope a corner family restaurant would have, with the expected appetizers such as wings, nachos, sliders and cheese balls. Two types of salad are offered and the sandwiches are of the burger variety. They also offer smokehouse platters with smoked meat, smoked pork, and ribs on the menu. We tried the BBQ Sandwich with smoked meatloaf ($8.95) and the brewhouse burger ($9.94). The smoked meatloaf was a real treat. I’m always suspicious of meatloaf since I had questionable experiences with it growing up as a kid, but this was really quite good. The smokehouse flavor made all the difference and the meatloaf was still moist.
My brewhouse burger was a half-pound of burger covered in onions and sauteed in house beer, spices and blue cheese. I thought it had spent maybe a half minute too long on the grill but it was still very tasty, with the added ingredients making for a very delicious meal.
The beer offerings (mostly bottled) are legion at Number 7. There is something for everyone and you won’t find many more offerings anywhere else. But there isn’t any reason to really go with a bottle when you can try their own beer. Until last Friday their beer was made (so I am told) according to their recipe by Millstream Brewery in Amana. We tried the KB Kolsch, which is a light pilsner style German beer. It is self-described as a “gateway” beer into the craft beer world. In other words, if someone drinks nothing other than Bud or Miller, this just might let them taste something with more flavor without scaring them. The beer was surprisingly full-bodied for a pilsner with a crispness that went well with the food.
I also tried the Drunken Sailor IPA. This IPA had the hoppy citrus notes you expect with an IPA without being overpowering. I also liked the clean finish with no hint of anything off-putting. It can be risky trying the first batch of anybody’s beer given everything that can go wrong. I’m glad that Number 7 seems to have things well in hand.
One word about the place. I was quite impressed with the family-friendly crowd that was enjoying their evening at Number 7. This is not a hard-core drinking bar. This is a true brewpub that combines the best of a traditional family corner restaurant with craft brew beer.
Number 7 Brewing Company
Hours of operation:
Tuesday – Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday & Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
302 SW Maple St.
Ankeny, IA 50023