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The Scarlet & Black

The S&B reviews Peace Tree Brewing Company: the beauty is in the brew

News Editor Alice Herman ’18 tried a whole lot of beer. Contributed photo.
“I sample as many beers as possible.” Contributed photo.

The S&B’s News Editor took a break from reporting on breaking news and left the Pubs office to enjoy a beer (or two) at the VIP opening of Peace Tree Brewery. She drank, she socialized and she reviewed. Here are her thoughts on the newest addition to the downtown Grinnell scene.

The ritziness of Peace Tree Brewing Company is striking: a brick facade, nearly identical to that of the College Bookstore two doors down, doesn’t hint at the brewery’s cavernous marble-and-wood interior, where on Wednesday, a VIP-worthy crowd of Grinnellians and College affiliates mingled over specialty brews. At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, I step through those tall oak doors and enter the Peace Tree fray. The crowd is heavy enough to elicit from me a stream of Midwestern apologies as I bump from the dining room to the bar, where Ella Williams ’18 — a recent Peace Tree hire and my ticket to the event —  describes the flavor of her favorite brew, “Orange Gose.”

Herman got an exclusive invite to the VIP opening of Peace Tree. Photo contributed.

Orange Gose, “a sour beer brewed with salt and coriander,” is tangy and sweet. Following an Orange Gose and a trip to the lavatory (where I choose between ‘woman,’ ‘man,’ and ‘unisex’ bathrooms), I find myself back at the bar, sandwiched between an old friend and an older gentleman who, imbibing heartily, suggests I sample as many beers as possible. Taking his suggestion seriously, but without Williams’ expert advice from before, I am suddenly acutely aware of my own inability to distinguish between the beers listed next to the tap.

“What’s your favorite flavor!” I shout at the bartender, gesturing at the row of beers on tap and then at my notebook, and back again. I hope that my inexperience in beer is eclipsed by obvious journalistic prowess. Jon, the bartend

er, doesn’t ask why I am waving my arms around, but smiles warmly at me and rattles off a short list of his preferred drinks, before suggesting a sample of each. At ease with my five beers, I settle into a spirited debate with the gentleman to my right over the importance of table manners, which yields to a more serious discussion of the cultural relevance of Sesame Street.

No sooner has another friendly bartender passed me a cup of Wee Heavy — a scotch ale that tastes like whiskey — than I am sampling Orange Belgo, Wee Heavy’s flowery pair. At another bar, I realize, all of these beers would be the eccentric ones. Maybe that’s what makes Peace Tree so mod. Or maybe it’s the decór: hanging lights beam down on the expansive marble bar, which is empty save for a cash register and two decorative glass urns filled, spookily, with what look like giant balls of weed.

Herman sampled the various delicacies Peace Tree has to offer. Photo contributed.

The vibe of the place isn’t in the details, because the details here are sort of weird. But the atmosphere isn’t weird at all: it’s relaxed and fun. The bartenders, even those off-duty, like Williams, seem genuinely enthusiastic about their product, and the crowd seems just as into it.

An array of characters float by the bar: my academic advisor, who suggests that I address in my review the cool and rare fact of female entrepreneurship in the brew business; a friend from school, who intones darkly that female entrepreneurship is just as much a fact of capitalism as male entrepreneurship (“but I LOVE women CEOs,” I respond, brilliantly); and finally, Meghan McKay, the female entrepreneur herself.

McKay is a pro. She speaks lucidly about Saisons One and Two, which, aged in twin barrels, adopt mysteriously distinct flavors in the fermentation process. She dives briefly into a discussion of the difference between commercial brewing and “spontaneous fermentation,” and explains that a flowery beer — maybe the Orange Gose from before —  is fermented on a farm, and should pick up the wild bacteria of the bees and prairie. When I ask how she thinks the night is going, she smiles and shrugs. This her third business —  there are already two Peace Trees in Iowa, one in Knoxville and another in Des Moines.

Herman tried a wide variety of brewskis. Photo contributed.

Opening night, for McKay, is old hat. For me, it is anything but. I am impressed by the exceptionally trendy beers and the ease with which the barpeople dole them out to the masses. Peace Tree, decked out in VIP business-casual and open for just a few short hours Wednesday, will operate by its scheduled business hours going forward.

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