Establishment: Fox Brewing
Location: West Des Moines, IA
Background: Founder Brian Fox was the assistant brewer at Court Avenue Brewing Co., another local brewery located in Des Moines. He wanted to open his own brewery, but realized that Iowa already had a strong craft beer scene. So he decided to focus on unique beer styles. And with less than a year being open, Fox Brewing has made some impressive strides into interesting beer.
Décor: Fox would fit in perfectly in North East Minneapolis: small, obscure, and located in a commercial hub near the railroad tracks. I took odd comfort in missing the last turn.
On the inside, Fox was small but very homey. Comfy armchairs were mixed with traditional bar stools and wooden seats at tables. A bookshelf held old, worn board games. I didn’t get a chance to check the upstairs, but was informed there was additional seating above. Bright chalkboards announced the surprisingly versatile menu of beers on tap.
Staff: Chelsie, the bartender on staff, was personable and friendly. I entered planning on quickly trying a flight and leaving, but stayed almost two hours.
It had nothing to do with her being cute.
But even better, she knew her shit about beer. She liked her job because it gave her a chance to try new beer, and she was really interested in learning to make beer herself. She was preparing to brew a porter with her friends, but wasn’t sure what spin to put on. She lamented “safe” beers that follow the instructions and only deliver what you expect.
Yep, I’ll take another.
Chelsi was also very knowledgeable about things to do in Des Moines. Taking advantage of the lack of customers at 12:30pm on a Sunday, she walked me through various places to visit. East Village in Des Moines was a common theme.
“Check out Raygun. Just walk around it. You’ll like it.”
I could discuss our exchange greater detail, but this post is supposed to be about beer.
Patrons: Believe it or not, people don’t visit breweries at noon on a Sunday. Two older visitors were present when I entered, but left shortly after. A few others trickled in throughout my stay, but never more than six at a time. It was just Chelsi and I the majority of the time. Which is probably why she was being so friendly: 7/10 women choose Patrick over boredom. That or I’m charming.
But probably boredom.
I’ll visit again when I have a day off. Fox Brewing is open four days a week, and seems to specifically target people my age. Yoga and “Watch the Walking Dead” were a few of the daily offerings.
Food: None whatsoever. Fox Brewing knows what it is doing. And it is doing beer. Very well.
Beer: Per usual, I ordered a flight so I could try multiple beers. Fox offers flights of four or eight. I chose four, thinking I’d be leaving shortly. I ended up ordering an additional pint, and Chelsi let me try two other beers I was eyeing.
#1- Valley Junction: Farmhouse Ale
6.7% ABV: I figured a farmhouse ale would be a good start. And it was.
At 6.7%, this was no pushover. This yellow-gold beer had a signature yeasty taste, and seemed denser than an ordinary ale. Although lighter in color, it was difficult to see through the other side of the glass. I was reminded of unfiltered wheat beers, which appear cloudy. A solid drink.
#2- Zorro: Lime-infused Wheat
5.9% ABV: Okay, this one had me nervous. I was having flashbacks to Latbatt Blue Light Lime (never again). I see limes in beer as a stigma. Labatt and Bud Light Lime speak for themselves. But even beer traditionally served with lime turns me off. Know why Corona is served with a lime wedge? Sure, it makes you feel like you’re on some distant beach. But it also conveniently covers up the skunkiness often found in clear-bottled beers with too much light exposure. Luckily, the Zorro was neither skunky or clear-bottled.
This tasted like a good wheat beer. So where was the awful lime twist? The last taste you could pick up was a very light tartness, almost akin to Cascade hops. The lime added a note of complexity to the beer without being tangy or…limey. I was very impressed. This was not what I expected, but they definitely got it right.
#3- Quick Brown Fox: Oatmeal Brown
5.9% ABV: Amazing. Far from brown, this dark black beer tasted creamy from the oats, with enough alcohol and sweetness to keep me sipping. Not a session beer by any means, but hell if it wasn’t delicious.
#4- Deal’s Hard Cider: Apple Cider
6.9% ABV: A cider? I love ciders! Actually, I like dry ciders. Most popular ciders are waaaaaay too sweet for my liking. Angry orchard is basically alcoholic apple juice. Which is fine if you like that, but I’m more into English-style dry ciders. Deal’s Hard Cider was somewhere in between the two.
Far from nauseatingly sweet, this had a good balance between apple sweetness and fermented dryness. It was perfectly carbonated, which I have yet to master in my own cider making. And best of all, it was 6.9% ABV. This stuff could mess you up. And it did. The pint I ordered after my flight was a Deal’s Hard Cider. So it was impressive enough for me to drink another 16 oz.
By now I’m sure I was super charming.
Bonus- Red Berry Blonde: Berry-infused Blonde Ale
?% ABV: Either out of amusement or good-will, Chelsi thought it was a good idea to let me try the Red Berry Blonde.
When I think of berry beer, I think Leinenkugel’s Berry Weiss. Which is basically pop, and not really for me. But this beer was different. The fruit notes changed as you tasted it. The initial flavor was of raspberry, with a tart cherry flavor slowly growing as the beer settled. Definitely delicious, definitely a fine beer for a summer cookout.
Bonus-Another sample, Chelsi?: Bring it.
?% ABV: I honestly can’t remember the 2nd beer Chelsi let me try. It was good, whatever it was.
Bill: Between the flight and pint, my tab was $12.50 ($7.00 for the flight, $5.00 for the pint). Which seems pretty on par with other craft breweries. And hell, we need to factor in the samples I got as well. That’s gotta be worth something. For Chelsi, it was a small price to pay for a talkative, overly confident patron.
True to its niche, Fox Brewing is not afraid to push the envelope on unique beers. Which is refreshing. Most places have tried-and-true styles that, while tasty, don’t exactly move into uncharted territory. I tried two beers infused with fruit at Fox Brewing. They could have been terrible. But instead added nuance to flavors that would otherwise feel stale. My hat is off to Brian Fox. He does beer well. And more importantly, I think I’ve found my favorite Iowa craft brewery thus far.
“Bye, Patrick. Look forward to seeing you again.”
The feeling is mutual.