Few towns anymore identify with a single employer for so long and in such a way that it defines much of the community. Newton, Iowa was that way with Maytag until 2006 when the company was acquired by Whirpool. Slowly the acquiring company wound down operations in Newton ending with the complete closure of the headquarters and manufacturing by 2007.
This is important to the narrative about Iowa beer because in the wake of Maytag’s closure in Newton the Madhouse Brewing Company was founded in some of the buildings that remained. It’s not quite the phoenix rising from the ashes, but at least something good came out of the closure.
Currently, Madhouse is brewing five different beers: Honey Pilsner, American Wheat, Pastime Pale Ale, Hopburst IPA, and Coffee Stout. At my local Hy-Vee I picked up one 22 ounce bottle of Honey Pilsner and Pastime Pale Ale.
This is a well-executed and very drinkable beer. That sounds like faint praise, but sometimes a beer is just done well and goes down easy. Nothing innovative or offensive. The hook, like so many things, is that the honey is sourced from an Iowa apiary. Go locavores!
Pastime Pale Ale:
Like the Honey Pilsner, this is well crafted and drinkable. The Cascade and Centennial hops are pretty common players for American style pale ales. Again, nothing innovative or offensive with this beer. This style is getting to a point where the basic touchstones are pretty well established: Centennial, Cascade, and or Willamette hops; dark amber color; bitter and aromatic. If you have had one, you have had the lot at this point.
I look forward to trying the other three beers in Madhouse’s quiver to get a sense of their willingness to go “out there.” I think that well-executed, likable beers like what I have sampled from Madhouse will force other Iowa breweries to up their game.