At press time, Exile Brewing Company is the largest production brewery in Iowa in 2018. I first wanted to understand why Exile is their name. RJ Tursi, Exile’s founder, comes from an Italian-American family. His grandfather immigrated to the United States where he was welcomed by the Statue of Liberty. Some know its other name, “The Mother of Exiles.” That’s how the company’s name came about. Her likeness is proudly featured on the massive mural facing 16th Street.
Now in its sixth year, Exile has seen rapid growth in its downtown Des Moines location. The space features three different dining areas under (and partly outside of) the same roof. Firstly, the Beer Hall is an indoor space with large garage doors that open onto the patio. There are high-top tables and a bar with TVs overhead.
The Beer Garden is outside the garage doors. The garden has tables with umbrellas for a more typical casual restaurant feel.
Lastly, the annex is located on the other side of the building from the Beer Garden and Beer Hall. It is a sit-down restaurant with an even more formal restaurant environment.
Despite the Italian heritage, most of the flagship year-round offerings at Exile are based on German traditions. The Zoltan Session IPA is the only non-German recipe in the flagship series. The hop combination has been tested and redone recently to make it a new take on the original. The Beatnik Sour is a Berliner-style Weisse. It’s kettle-soured, unfiltered, and unconventional. The highest-selling product, Ruthie, is a Munich Gold Lager. It’s named after Ruthie Lucille Fontanini, a fabled Des Moines bartender from the 1050s. It pours heavy with a sweet malty profile.
Des Moines is an underrated beer town. From Ruthie in the 50’s to the exploding number of breweries in the whole state today, it’s about time to take them seriously. Fewer state restrictions on beer means you can refill your growlers at gas stations. Because Exile is so close to Confluence Brewing Company, Exile also benefits from the bikers on the extensive trail network through downtown. Bike parking is available in the parking lot for a quick break on your ride. Exile has a couple free parking options on their property for your motor vehicles as well.
FUTURE EVENTS INVOLVING EXILE BREWING COMPANY:
AUGUST 25, 2018: Exile Music Fest will feature big name bands on a large stage on Walnut Street. Tickets are $25 early (bit.ly/ExileFest) and $30 at the door. Come celebrate Exile’s anniversary with bands like: The Motet, Kyle Hollingsworth Band, The Maytags, Mr. Baber’s Neighbors, and Aaron Kamm and The One Drops!
June 15 – 24, 2018: Des Moines Beer Week will take over the whole city. Come support local breweries and try some new recipes from brewers across the state!
Tours offered: Saturdays at 3:15pm and 4:00pm
Three Words to Describe This Brewery: Production, Immigrants, and Ruthie
My personal 3P Score (Price, Pours, and Pleasantness): 4/5
- Tour includes four pours and a souvenir glass