A group of us pedaled our way on the Walnut Creek bike trail from Country Club in West Des Moines, through the railroad ghost town of Campbell, and into Clive where at the other end of our trip we ended up at 515 Brewing Company. It was a hot day and we were ready for some cold beer, which is good, because 515 focuses on making and selling draft beer. There are some cheese and pretzels to go along with the beer, but that is about it. 515 is one of the more recent craft breweries to pop up in the Des Moines, Iowa area. It is amazing how craft beer is developing and growing. What makes 515 interesting is that the focus is strictly on making small-batch craft beer. Many of the other brewers either serve food or make a lot of beer. 515 is not unlike Confluence in that it is run by a bunch of guys who love beer and want to move from making beer in a garage to making beer that the rest of us can enjoy. At least those of us who are too lazy to make our own beer — and why should we with all of the great craft beer out there! There are other ties to Confluence in that the 515 boys have some Confluence beer on tap and, so I’m told, they like to pal around together. One difference between Confluence and 515 is that 515 is a nano-brewery, with a much smaller brewing capacity than Confluence, only one or two steps removed from a top-end garage operation, with a three-barrel system that will make 93 gallons per batch. If I have my numbers right, that is one-tenth the capacity of Backpocket’s new brewery in Coralville.
There was no bad yeast. Next, I worked on a Hippie Hefeweizen. This was a very good expression of the German-style wheat beer. While there is some hemp seed thrown in for good measure (and hence the name) it only has 4.7% alcohol, which made it a good second pint.
I also tried the Sour Beer. It was as sour as advertised. I’m not sure I can go for a sour beer, but fellow contributor to this column, Our Man in Omaha, swears that nothing is better after a long hard bike ride.
There were no defects that I could detect and each brew was true to its label. I’ve only tried three of their beers, but I’d rank this beer right up there with the best locally made craft beer. Each beer is served in a glass appropriate to the beer, which tells me that 515 is serious about its beer. The location is tucked away the south side of University Avenue in Clive just west of the Windsor Heights border (staying away from Windsor Heights is always a good thing). There is a comparatively large dining area. Making only 93 gallons of great beer per batch means that these boys will be busy. Hats off to them.