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Beer & Wine - Made In Glenwood

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By Joe Foreman, Editor

What’s your pleasure?
    A glass of dry red wine? A sweeter white? How about a brown ale or an American wheat beer?

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    Wine and beer connoisseurs have a long list of offerings to choose from at two new establishments in Glenwood - Vine Street Cellars at 17 N. Vine St. and  Keg Creek Brewing Co. at 111 Sharp St. The winery, housed in a renovated auto parts building on the east side of Town Square opened July 20. The brewery officially opens Thursday at 4 p.m., just in time for the annual homecoming celebration in Glenwood.
    “It (winery) has been very well received in the community,” Vine Street Cellars manager Mark Perry said. “A lot of people remember the old auto parts building. They remember what it looked like, so when they come in and see what’s been done, they’re just amazed.
    “People are very happy to see something more on the up scale and they like the fact that the grapes are grown here. They like the concept a lot.”
    Vine Street Cellars bottled 15,000 bottles of wine in the spring from grapes harvested from two Glenwood-area vineyards last fall - Black Wing and Victorian Vineyards (the largest vineyard in western Iowa). Vineyard owners Jim Gapinski and Ralph Ahsam (Black Wing) and Doug Grave (Victorian) are owners of the winery, along with Dennis Adams.
    “We both started out thinking we’d start a vineyard and then build a winery at both of our vineyards,” Grave said. “We had some challenges and at some point realized coming together and doing something in town would provide us a winery where we could make our own wine rather than selling our grapes to other wineries.”
    Presently, Vine Street Cellars has a selection of 14 wines, but two have emerged as early favorites from their local clientele - the Norton (a dry red) and Brianna (a sweeter white).
    For customers who prefer a sweeter red variety, Vine Street  offers two special selections, Jailhouse Red and Slammer Red, named in honor of the winery’s next door neighbor - the Mills County Sheriff’s Office and Jail.
    Grave said Vine Street Cellars is classified as an urban winery.
    “It’s kind of a new concept that started on the east and west coasts, but now is starting to proliferate across the country,” Grave said. “Vineyard owners are finding a unique location in an urban setting. They’re bringing the harvest to the people instead of bringing the people to where the grapes are grown (at the vineyards).”
    Grave, who currently serves as the president of the Western Iowa Grape Growers Association, and Perry both said their hope is for Vine Street Cellars to become a popular venue for locals and a destination for residents in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area.
    “We really hope this will become a spark for Glenwood that will bring in sister-type businesses,” Grave said. “We’ve already started to see that with the brewery coming in and we hope to see more of that happen here in Glenwood.”
    In addition to their wines, Vine Street Cellars offers flatbread pizza baked fresh in a firebrick oven and a cheeseboard spread. The winery is open Wednesday through Saturday, primarily in the evenings.
    Keg Creek Brewing Co., which has adopted a theme of “Hop Off The Mainstream”  evolved from a group of home beer brewers, who met regularly to exchange recipes and sample one another’s beer. When the Keg Creek Home Brewers earned nearly half of the top 20 places at a beer judging competition in Schleswig, John Bueltel, Art Renze, Randy Romens and Grant Hebel decided to make a sizeable investment and start a brewery in the former Breadeaux Pizza building.
    “I don’t know if all home brewers sit around thinking it would be great to own a brewery, but we did,” Bueltel said.
    The Keg Creek brewers visited several small breweries in Iowa and worked with Iowa Western Community  College’s entrepreneur program to get the business off the ground.
    Keg Creek Brewing had a temporary opening during RAGBRAI weekend, serving craft beers from other Iowa breweries, but will officially open Thursday. A grand opening celebration is being planned for Oct. 15.
    “We’re starting with four flagship beers,” Hebel said. “We have a brown ale, a stout, an American IPA and an American wheat, which is our lightest, cleanest, easiest to drink beer.”
    The brewery has a three-barrel (93-gallon) production system. Each batch of beer takes between three to five weeks to produce. Keg Creek Brewing has the capacity to brew 10,000-12,000 gallons of beer per year.
     Hebel said the facility will be a distribution brewery with a tasting room. Food will not be served but can be brought in. Down the road, Renze said, the brewers plan to market their beers to local restaurants in southwest Iowa. They also hope to start bottling their beers in 2012 and selling kegs to the public.
    The brewers said craft beers have a growing following.
    “The flavors are what set the beers off and there are so many varieties,” Bueltel said.
    Initially, the brewery will be open Wednesday through Saturday (late afternoon and evenings) but hours could be adjusted in the future to meet customer demands.