River Hops Brewing opens

Downtown business offers a unique selection of beers and more

-Messemger photo by Hans Madsen
The Grebners pose with glasses of three of the beers they’ve produced. They are, from left, Nitro Milk Chocolate Stout, Belgium Ale and a Five Finger IPA.

Downtown Fort Dodge is experiencing a commercial renaissance. It is becoming the home to a diverse array of specialized small businesses. The latest arrival is River Hops Brewing at 1014 Central Ave.

This new enterprise in the city’s historic center offers a unique selection of beers that have been crafted onsite by Ron Grebner, who co-owns the business with his wife, Diane Grebner. The combination brewery, taproom and entertainment venue began serving the public on July 25.

The establishment welcomes customers from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Additionally, River Hops Brewing can be booked for private parties and events.

What started out as a hobby has been transformed into commercial venture.

“My husband has been a home brewer for 10 years,” Diane Grebner said. “He always had it in the back of his mind that he wanted to do it as a business.”

-Messemger photo by Hans Madsen
Ron and Diane Grebner, co-owners of River Hops Brewing, look over some of the equipment they use in the beer brewing process. The business is at 1014 Central Ave.

A passion for brewing grew out of a trip the couple took.

“I think my interest in brewing really came about when Diane and I went to the Amana Colonies a number of years ago,” Ron Grebner said. “We went to Millstream Brewing and it was one the few breweries in the state at the time. It just smelled great. It looked great. We drank a couple beers. It tasted different. We thought it would be kind of neat to do.”

The decision to launch River Hops Brewing came about because for some years the Grebners have been exploring options for establishing a business that they could own and operate.

“Both Diane and I had careers,” Ron Grebner said. “I worked at the Labs. Diane worked in health care. I wanted to do something different. I’d been at the Labs for over 30 years. When we decided to do this it was something that sounded fun. When we were younger we had looked at different types of businesses that we could potentially do. We decided to do this about five years ago. At that time, Fort Dodge didn’t have anything like this. We decided to do something that we thought Fort Dodge needed.”

Just a bit more than four years ago, the couple acquired a vacant building on Central Avenue.

“We selected this location because it has a nice view and it’s downtown,” Ron Grebner said.

Soon after acquiring the building, the Grebners set about transforming it making use of blueprints developed for them by Fort Dodge architect Terry Allers.

“This was a green space until the 1950s,” Diane Grebner said. “The building was built in the 1950s. It was the radio station most recently and a savings and loan prior to that. So, it was sectioned off into office space. Ron did all the demolition himself. … He also added 12 feet onto the back. McGough Construction Co. was the general contractor.”

The building’s conversion was a major undertaking.

“The entire building was gutted,” Ron Grebner said.

In renovating the space and creating a unique look for the River Hops Brewing many items were repurposed.

“We’ve used materials from a number of reclamations,” Grebner said. “Around the bar is brick from the Hydroelectric Dam. We’ve got wooden beams that came from a farmstead out by Barnum. The windows to the brewery came from a house that was being remodeled here in town.”

The result is a decor that his wife described as “industrial and eclectic.”

She said the even the furniture had a previous life before being re-imagined for use at River Hops Brewing.

“Everything that we have in here we purchased at second-hand stores or it was donated to us,” Diane Grebner said. “Everything is repurposed.”

The end result is a striking facility with a welcoming feel that has incorporated a significant amount of Fort Dodge history. Customers seated near the large front windows look out on an attractive green space directly across Central Avenue from River Hops Brewing.

The building, which is just under 3,000 square feet, features a bar and a spacious taproom. There is seating for about 60 patrons. The brewery is at the rear and can be viewed through large windows that separate it from the customer-service area. Near the front is a section, which will be used for artists performing live music.

Behind the structure there is a large, outdoor beer garden that will easily accommodate 50 customers.

“We plan to have bands and music,” Diane Grebner said.

“Both inside and outside,” her husband added noting that the process is underway of talking to local artists about bringing their talents to River Hops Brewing.

The beer

Ron Grebner said he enjoys producing an assortment of beers for sale in his establishment as well as distribution elsewhere.

“I have the capacity to ferment five beers at the same time,” he said. “I could have 1,000 gallons in process at the same time.”

Initially, River Hops Brewing has five beer on tap but the selection will grow.

“We have the potential for 15 beers,” Diane Grebner said. “We have 15 taps. Right now the five on sale are River Hops Wheat, Five Finger IPA, Armstrong Belgian Ale, Milk Chocolate Coconut Stout and a Milk Chocolate Stout on nitro.”

Additionally, a nonalcoholic ginger beer or root beer will be available. Those items aren’t brewed at River Hops Brewing but are produced elsewhere in Iowa.

Iowa wines will also be available.

The establishment doesn’t sell food but for hungry customers there are options.

“We’re not going to prepare food ourselves,” Diane Grebner said. “We do have an area where we can have caterers come in and use for special events or private parties. People can order in and have it delivered or bring their own in.”

Additionally, the outdoor beer garden is sufficiently large that food trucks can be parked adjacent to the serving area.

The Grebners said their goals in creating this new business were multifaceted.

“We wanted to establish a business that will be able to give back to the community,” Ron Grebner said. “A big part of what we want to do is help support the community itself. Promote downtown. Success for us is to provide a place for people to go that has got a nice atmosphere. … This is for us to enjoy as well as others to enjoy.”

He said his message to potential customers is quite simple: “We’ve got really good beer.”

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