Some of you may remember I visited a brewery my first week called “Confluence Brewing Company.” In my eagerness, I ordered a single beer that just so happened to be above 10% ABV. Which is a terrible decision when you want to try multiple beers.
In an effort to redeem myself, I have revisited Confluence, with the intent to try more than one beer this time. Let’s go!
Establishment: Confluence Brewing Company
Location: 1235 Thomas Beck Rd, Des Moines, IA 50315
Background: Confluence’s website states that, “It all started, improbably enough, with a failed attempt to make raisin almond beer.”
I could party with these guys.
Launched in 2012, Confluence is one of the older craft breweries in town, and with an impeccable location, I’d guess one of the more popular as well.
Décor: Confluence is a stone’s throw from Meredeth Trail, a busy bike path that winds along the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers. The building is pretty non-descript; I drove past it the first time I visited without noticing. That’s mostly because it is nestled within a commercial hub. The building wasn’t meant to stick out; it was meant to be a brewery.
That becomes evident the moment you walk in. You are immediately greeted by large stainless steel brew vats. Like most craft breweries, Confluence makes beer on-sight. To reach the tap room, you must duck down two hallways that hug the production area. I’d be curious to see the brewery on a weekday. It’d be exciting to watch the brewers do their job while sipping the fruits of their labor.
Compared to most taprooms, Confluence is larger and more open. About twenty or so tables filled the room, with a ten seat bar at the far end. The northern walls held windows looking into the brewery. The southern wall was brick accent, with large doors to the patio. Taps available were written in colorful chalk behind the bar. A flat screen to the right showed tennis. Nobody cared. The music was a mix of classic rock: CCR’s “Fortunate Son,” The Door’s “Light My Fire,” and most appropriately, Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.”
Staff: There were two bartenders when I arrived: one male, and one female. The male took my order. I hate to stereotype, but he looked the part of craft brewery bartender: stylish hair part, massive beard, tattoos, lime green shoes, and ear piercings I could fit my pinky in. True to his calling, he demonstrated a knowledge about beer, asking which styles I preferred and slowly walking through the characteristics of each beer on tap.
Patrons: Unlike Fox Brewing, which was basically dead early Sunday afternoon, Confluence was brimming with life. By 1:30pm, the place was nearly full. This isn’t surprising, given the close proximity to Grays Lake and Meredith Trail. Toned cyclists sporting spandex dominated the crowd. I’m fairly certain the guy next to me could crack walnuts between his ass cheeks. But I digress.
Aside from cyclists, a mix of early 30 somethings and people in their 50s gathered. A group of about 6 30 something girls came in from the patio while I was sampling.
“Chris, you know what time it is…SELFIE STICK!”
Have some self-respect, Chris.
“Uh oh, if you see dick pics, keep swiping…”
Who uses a selfie stick for dick pics? Wouldn’t that make your penis look smaller?
Food: Confluence does not sell food. Which is good, because we were just talking about Chris’ genitalia.
Beer: With over 13 beers and a cider on tap, ordering a flight was an obvious choice. Beard bartender sold me on 5 beers, which is one more than a typical flight.
#1- Fifth Season: Oatmeal Stout
ABV: 6.1%, IBU: 28
This dark brown stout poured with a thick, foamy nitro head. The taste was smooth and sweet, with no bitterness whatsoever. I loved the creamy mouthfeel of the Fifth Season.
Almost as much as saying mouthfeel.
#2-Mayday Mayday: Maibock
ABV: 7.3%, IBU: 32
The Maibock was oak brown in color, with a quickly receding head. The taste was…confusing, to put it simply. A “Bock” is a German-style lager, but I am not familiar with Maibocks. I’m guessing the odd flavor is from generous doses of Noble hops, leaving an almost zesty, peppery flavor. At 7.3%, Maibocks are also capable of kicking one’s ass.
#3-Southside: Citra Blonde Ale
ABV: 5.6%, IBU: 22
The golden-yellow Citra was an interesting one. It reminded me a bit of Fox Brewing’s “Zorro.” Both beers had almost no bitterness, but the citrus aftertaste was reminiscent of hopping. Which is a welcomed change to what citrus normally does for beer. Easy to drink, although not too memorable.
#4-Long Ride: Pale Ale
ABV: 5.7%, IBU: 54
If you haven’t caught on yet, I believe hops should be used intelligently and sparingly. “Pale” is a worrisome word to me. Unless of course were talking my skin tone.
Hey, baby. Wanna share my SPF 50?
Long Ride was anything but worrisome. It had the same color as the Citra; a light golden yellow. The smell was bursting with hops, but not overpowering. The taste was hoppy but balanced, with enough malt character to keep things interesting. This is the beer people who like hops should get for BBQs. My brother would be a fan. Pale ales are starting to grow on me, and this beer is partly to blame.
#5-Rockdodger: Double IPA
ABV: 8.1%, IBU: 86
Confluence, what are you doing to me? Two favorable ratings for hoppy beer? You must be doing something right. The Rockdodger was slightly cloudier than the Long Ride, and with a more yellow hue. And 8.1%? That’s worth the extra 50 cents. But had I not seen the ABV, I would have thought this beer about 2% points less. It just doesn’t seem overpoweringly alcoholic. And for being 86 IBUs, this honestly doesn’t taste very bitter. The hops are more refreshing than anything, and smell delicious. I’d be curious to see what hops they use. But regardless, the Rockdodger is a very tasty, very solid Double IPA. Just be careful with it.
Bill: Since flights usually come in fours, I had to pay an extra $2.50 for the 5th beer. Which brings our tab to $10.50– a bit spendy for 25oz of beer, but forgivable.
I knew Confluence was good the first time I visited, mostly because it had such a wide variety of beer available. What surprised me, however, was how much I liked the styles I usually avoid. Confluence’s Long Ride and Rockdodger were both excellent hoppy beers. Not only did they have surprising drinkability, but the hops were flavorful, not overpowering. Which we need more of in this “go-to-eleven” bitterness arms race. Even better, the other three beers I tried were solid, which leads me to believe you can’t go wrong with Confluence Brewing Company.