116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
BELLE PLAINE — A longtime home brewer and first-time brewery owner is coming out swinging with brews you won’t find at every craft brewery in Eastern Iowa.
At 708 Main St. in Belle Plaine, Benton County’s first and only brewery is breaking the mold with a year-round Oktoberfest brew, throwbacks to the ’70s and non-hazy glasses of variations the owner said are rocking the boat.
“We’re on the corner of Benton County shaking it like a rug. The ripples are going into Linn and Johnson counties,” Benton County Brewing Company Marty Wittrock said. “We’re out here doing this stuff that’s different, and I think they take notice of that.”
If their Year-Round Octoberfest wasn’t shocking enough, maybe the Harvester will get your attention this fall.
What: Benton County Brewing Company
Where: 708 Main St., Belle Plaine
Hours: 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday
Phone: (319) 434-2739
Details: Benton County Brewing Company offers the only beers brewed in Benton County through four options on tap, including two rotating flavors. Pizza and a small menu of appetizers also are available.
Made with barley, wheat and oats in honor of Midwestern crops, and bittered with hops and orange peel, the Harvester’s cool flavor resembles that of the famous Spotted Cow. The latter, a cask-conditioned ale made by New Glarus Brewing Company in Wisconsin, is a highly sought-after brand that drives craft drinkers from all over to buy six-packs in Wisconsin.
Benton County Brewing Company’s Franklin Park, a blonde ale paying homage to Belle Plaine’s Franklin family, will remain on tap year-round, too, as a ’60s and ’70s throwback beer.
With just four taps in the newly renovated tap room, which opened in July, Wittrock’s novel approach takes aim at the breweries he said are constantly pushing out one IPA after another.
“We don’t brew ‘hazy’ anything,” he said. “We try to bring back beers that haven’t been seen in a while. ... The beers we’re putting out there are what the public really wants and hasn’t had in a while.”
Consequently, visitors to Benton County’s second taproom have some novel and surprised reactions. The first taproom in Benton County — Textile TapHaus in Atkins — started serving brews from Dubuque County in May.
“It’s nice to be able to say we’re the first and only (brewery in Benton County) so far,” Wittrock said. “But we’re not trying to compete — we’re servicing our town.”
How it started
A home brewer for 35 years, the principal systems engineer for Collins Aerospace, 62, decided to start the brewery after some nagging from his sons, Jon and Ian.
“My sons were pestering me for a couple years to start a brewery. I just thought that was the craziest idea,” Wittrock said. “I finally got to the point that I said let’s try it.”
After finding a brewing system to support the right volume for the town’s population of about 2,400 people, Wittrock and his sons started prototyping beers in the basement. By April 2021, they receive widespread approval from the public at a tasting event.
Now, they can’t unlock the doors early enough on the four days they open each week, Wittrock said.
Brewing sales for to-go beer started late last year, but it wasn’t until July that Benton County Brewing Company could finally open its taproom to the public. With dark, earthy tones and high top tables made from Lion Bridge Brewing Company barrels, the new space provides a cozy atmosphere for a drink and a bite.
In addition to the beer, the taproom brings a focused offering of pizzas to Belle Plaine.
“Thank God, we’ve got another place for pizza besides Casey’s,” Wittrock hears from customers.
Cut Quad Cities style in thick strips, each pizza is made with a whole milk mozzarella and provolone cheese mix. The sauce is a slightly sweet Italian style kicked up with a sprinkle of red pepper — just to bring a little zip past your lips.
With a variety of toppings, they offer novel monthly specials like meatball pizza or sauerkraut and brat pizza.
In addition to four beers on tap, the taproom keeps one cider available.
Starting a new business isn’t what most engineers aim to do at 62. But with a lifetime of brewing experience and need for brewing in Benton County, Wittrock said the opportunity was a good fit.
Not one to sit still, he aims to put in several more years at Collins as he runs the taproom with his sons.
“The experience is what’s carrying this place,” Wittrock said.
With a two-barrel capacity, current demand is threatening to outstrip the infrastructure and may soon force the family to decide on the best way to expand.
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