First Buchanan County brewery in a century to open this fall

Buchanan County Economic Development Commission Director George Lake (from left), Allerton Brewing Co. co-owners Brandon
Buchanan County Economic Development Commission Director George Lake (from left), Allerton Brewing Co. co-owners Brandon Mikel and Lucas Gray, and BCEDC Treasurer Terry Toale (Courtesy Buchanan County Economic Development Commission)

Lucas Gray brewed his first batches of beer in a four-gallon stock pot on the kitchen stove as an Iowa State University student a decade ago.

This fall, Gray, now 31, and Brandon Mikel plan to open the first brewery in Buchanan County since Prohibition.

Named after a record-breaking racehorse, Allerton Brewing Co. hearkens back to Independence's history as a magnet for horse racing in the late 1800s.

Allerton broke the world's stallion record at Independence's kite-shaped racetrack in 1891.

The brewery, slated for a fall opening, plans to have five core beers and a rotation on tap. The facility also hosts an outdoor covered deck overlooking the river and an exposed 1871-original brick wall.

Gray said being the only brewery in Buchanan County will help them narrow their focus and offer hyperlocal beer.

"The more you stay local the more you can get direct feedback from your customers and the more you can really cater your beer to the local taste," Gray said.

Specifics of the brewery's opening plan, however, remain in flux as Gov. Kim Reynolds will allow breweries and distilleries to open at half capacity beginning May 28, to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Gray said the pair is set to open in the fall, but may postpone any grand opening or start offering cans or bottles of local beer in local grocery stores earlier.

"Our ideal situation would be that the first time people would get to try our beer would be when we open, but with this current situation, who knows when we'll actually be able to open?" Gray said.

The Buchanan County Economic Development Commission awarded the owners a low-interest loan, which also offers a six-month grace period on the first payment. Gray said the loan especially tides the brewery over if it doesn’t open at full capacity immediately.

"In some ways, it's a blessing that (COVID-19) happened when it did. If it would've happened six months later, that would've been really detrimental to us."

The commission’s director, George Lake, has brewed on an amateur basis with the owners as part of a local brewer’s club. He said the commission’s loans have been offered for more than 20 years.

“What revolving loans like ours do is we fill in that gap with our loans, and business operations that may not have happened can move forward,” Lake said.

He wouldn’t reveal the amount as it was a private loan, he said.

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