The Ottumwa Courier

September 10, 2013

Brewed to perfection

Courier correspondent

---- — ALBIA – What started out as a fun hobby for an Albia native has grown in recent months into a bubbling business breathing new life into a historic building on the Albia Square.

Shortly after Brian and Barbara Lindberg were married, Brian decided to try out a new hobby, making handcrafted beer.

He brewed up his first batch back in 1981 using the old-fashioned crock and cheesecloth method. That first batch was a little too strong; in fact, Barbara said it wasn’t very good. However, Brian continued to experiment with it, gradually perfecting his craft and increasing from single 5-gallon batches to double 15-gallon batches. With over 30 years of experience, Brian now knows how to brew up a variety of delicious beers.

Over time, he realized he would need more space and that he would really like to get all that equipment out of his home. He began watching for a building. After the beautiful Skean’s Block Building sat empty for nearly a year, he decided “to kick up a notch” and share his hobby with the public.

“The Skean’s Block was built in 1889 by Elmer Skean. It first served as a grocery store and boot and shoe store. This is one of the first and most decorative buildings in the district,” boasts Brian’s menu.

The Albia Brewing Company opened in December of last year, serving up dinner and a variety of house-made microbrews Wednesdays through Saturdays from 4 p.m. to close.

Each brew is aged to perfection, taking anywhere from two to six weeks to prepare.

“It doesn’t hurt for it to sit and age; it just gets better and better,” Brian says.

Using a 150-gallon, five-barrel system, the Albia Brewing Co. is able to offer seven to eight different house-made brews on tap at any one time. Most microbreweries only have two or three at a time, Brian says.

The house favorite seems to be the “Soap Creek Shandy,” featuring a lemon honey taste.

Other brews offered on tap recently include Avery Pale Ale, Coal Miner, Dooley’s Rye Porter, Black Betty and a gluten-free Cinnamon Apple among others.

Brian is working on brewing up a few new ones like cucumber, pumpkin and an Oktoberfest special. When developing a new brew, he starts out with small batches until he gets the process down, tweaking the recipe until it is just right.

Light wheat beers take the least amount of ingredients, only requiring about 200 to 250 pounds of grain, while the darker beers, which Brian prefers, take around 350 pounds of grain. The Albia Brewing Co. always offers a few dark beers on tap.

Customers can purchase half-gallon jugs called “growlers” to take home. And occasionally, Brian will prepare kegs for customers wishing to host events. He has also served his brews at fundraisers and other special events.

The Albia Brewing Co. offers a variety of specialty pizzas, sandwiches and appetizers, as well as frequent Wednesday night specials, such as prime rib. Homemade chips and Iowa wines are also available.

Brian’s 50/50 Burger is a favorite at the Albia Brewing Co., featuring 50 percent prime rib, 50 percent bacon and a sunny-side-up egg served with a variety of toppings on a Kaiser roll. Brian notes that a Washington, D.C., chef once asked if he could take the recipe for this one back to his own establishment.

Guests can enjoy dining inside the beautiful restored building with large windows facing the square. The interior is decorated with period photos of Albia and Brian and Barbara’s ancestors. When the weather is nice, many enjoy dining out on the patio. There is even a kids' menu and in-house brewed non-alcoholic root beer.

The Albia Brewing Co. is located at 11 Benton Ave. East in Albia. For more information, call 641-932-4085.