Todd Viall was 22 years old when he first got his taste for brewing beer. His wife’s uncle was a home brewer, and Viall tried some of his beer.
“It kind of intrigued me. I went and bought a kit and started brewing from there,” he said. “I’ve been a home-brewer since 1994.”
More recently, he had played with the idea of starting his own brewery. That idea bloomed into reality after a kismet conversation, sitting at a baseball game over two years ago. He was talking to friends about his brewery idea just as Stephanie Mehmen, whom he has known since high school, was telling his wife about plans for a new downtown restaurant, Black Sheep Social Club. Their conversations merged.
“She said, ‘Are you serious? OK, I’ll introduce you to the owner,’” Viall recalled.
The owner was Graig Cone, who opened Black Sheep Social Club in the refurbished Clock House Building at 600 First St. SE in April 2016. Cone also is an owner of Conveyor Engineering & Manufacturing, The Lucky Penny restaurant in Hiawatha and Penguins Comedy Club.
Cone, Mehmen and Viall decided to go into business together and open Clock House Brewing in a 2,600-square-foot space at the back of the Black Sheep Social Club. The brewery opened in September.
Though they share a front door and building, Clock House Brewing is an independent company from Black Street Social Club, with a separate point of sale system. However, since the brewery does not have a kitchen, customers can order from a limited menu of appetizers from Black Sheep’s chefs. Those include jerk chicken wings, brisket sliders, duck fat fries and Clock House beer cheese with jalapeno breadsticks.
The brewery also has been a popular place for Black Sheep dinner customers to wait for a table with a beer, which they can then carry with them into the restaurant.
The brewery has seven beers on tap for now, with plans to add more small batch experimental brews in the future. The current lineup includes a Belgian wheat, a lager, a stout, an IPA and a smoked red rye. It recently started selling kegs of its beer elsewhere through Fleck Sales.
“We try to offer a mix of things,” Viall said.
He left a job as a supervisor at Duane Arnold Energy Center in Palo to open the brewery and said he hasn’t regretted the move.
“This is a true passion,” he said. “Brewing intrigues me. There’s chemistry involved, there’s physical labor,” he said. “You formulate a recipe, and two to four weeks later you sample it. It’s amazing to me you can make a product that tastes delicious and people enjoy.”
WHAT: Clock House Brewing
WHERE: Inside Black Sheep Social Club, 600 First St. SE, Cedar Rapids
HOURS: 3 to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday to Saturday. Both Clock House and Black Sheep will be closed Jan. 1 to 7 for maintenance
DETAILS: (319) 200-4099, clockhousebrewing.com