Confluence Brewing Company began in October 2012, so they just celebrated their 5-year anniversary. Their name comes from the fact that the building lies only a mile away from the point where the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers join near downtown.
Confluence is located on the Meredith Trail bike route. This stretch of bike path connects with about 80 miles of trails running in and around Des Moines. Several breweries are located along this trail. Because of their location, Confluence constructed a bike rack in the back of their building and paved a sidewalk to connect to the trail. They have space for 150 bikes, so you might as well bike there and earn the calories! To complement this, they built a beer garden patio with views of Grays Lake and downtown. They even installed an outdoor bar with 12 taps so you don’t even need to go into the building. See below for pictures.
John Martin, Confluence’s owner, got his start in beer as a high schooler. He used some malt extract and bread yeast for his first attempt at brewing. It failed miserably. Since then, his home brewing experiments got better and many of Confluence’s recipes are based on his original ideas from the years before Confluence began. In the early days of the company, he was brewing, distributing, and working in the sales department. He did it all. He now has a staff that helps him with much of those tasks but he still spends five days a week at the brewery.
Confluence is a production brewery. When John was driving around in the beginning to get bars and restaurants to buy his beer, he would bring it to them in growlers. This was an unplanned business move that made growlers their number one way to drink their products other than the kegs. They sold their growlers to retailers as well. As people began finishing them, there wasn’t much else to do but bring them to the Confluence taproom and get them refilled. This was how they survived for a few years. In January 2017, they finally caved and began canning. Bottles are also available.
Confluence meets the requirements to be a Native Iowa Brewery, which means they have the freedom to distribute their own products. Confluence also employs drivers to deliver across the state. Most of their 450 accounts are located somewhere near the I-35 or I-80 corridor.
Not only do they try new variations on their beers, but they take great concern with updating their Untappd page to reflect all their variants. They use many different barrel-aging recipes to accommodate this approach. Their brewhouse has a 20-barrel kettle, and their largest fermentation vessel is 80 barrels. This means that on the days they brew their most popular beer, Des Moines IPA, they need to get through 4 cycles of the kettle. This takes from about 4am to midnight for the brewers, as well as about 5,000 lbs of grain. Des Moines IPA is by far the most sought-after beer, making it about 60% of their output.
Confluence is a staple in the Des Moines beer community. They are surprisingly large and recognized after only being open for five years. They only distribute in Iowa, which means Iowans are drinking somewhere between 80,000 and 100,000 pints of Des Moines IPA each month. Drive, bike, or walk over and give them a try!