Benton County Brewing Company settles comfortably into the county’s first brewery

Jon Wittrock pours a beer at the Benton County Brewing Company in Belle Plaine, Iowa on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

A flight of beers at the Benton County Brewing Company in Belle Plaine, Iowa on Thursday, September 29, 2022. Left to right: Jacked Up Cherry de Leche, Cedar River Rye, Franklin Park Diamond, Year-Round Octoberfest and Fremont Steam Beer. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Marty Wittrock cuts a pizza at Benton County Brewing Company in Belle Plaine, Iowa on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Jon Wittrock pours a beer at the Benton County Brewing Company in Belle Plaine, Iowa on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Jon Wittrock updates the preliminary roster at Benton County Brewing Company in Belle Plaine, Iowa on Thursday, September 29, 2022. Jon and his father Marty (not pictured) rotate the kegs approximately every two weeks. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

A beer mug neon sign in the window of the Benton County Brewing Company in Belle Plaine, Iowa on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

BEAUTIFUL PLAIN — A longtime hobby brewer and early brewery owner comes out with beers you won’t find at every craft brewery in eastern Iowa.

At 708 Main St. in Belle Plaine, Benton County’s first and only brewery is breaking the mold with year-round Oktoberfest beer, throwbacks to the ’70s and unblurred glasses of variations the owner says are rocking the boat.

“We’re on the corner of Benton County, shaking it like a rug. The ripples are going to Linn and Johnson counties,” said Marty Wittrock, Benton County Brewing Company. “We’re here to do those kinds of things that are different, and I think they take that into account.”

If their year-round October party wasn’t shocking enough, maybe the Harvester will catch your eye this fall.

If you are going to:

What: Benton County Brewery

Where: 708 Main Street, Belle Plain

Hours: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday

Call: (319) 434-2739

Website: bentoncountybrewingcompany.com

Details: Benton County Brewing Company offers the only beers brewed in Benton County through four options on tap, including two rotating flavors. Pizzas and a small starter menu are also available.

Made with barley, wheat and oats in honor of Midwestern cultures, and bitter with hops and orange peel, the harvester’s fresh flavor resembles that of the famous cow spotted. The latter, a cask-conditioned beer made by New Glarus Brewing Company in Wisconsin, is a highly sought-after brand that is driving craft drinkers around the world to buy Wisconsin six-packs.

Benton County Brewing Company’s Franklin Park, a lager that pays homage to the Franklin family of Belle Plaine, will also stay on tap year-round as a retro beer from the 60s and 70s.

With just four taps in the newly renovated tap room, which opened in July, Wittrock’s new approach is aimed at breweries he says are constantly pushing one IPA after another.

“We don’t brew anything ‘scrambled’,” he said. “We try to bring back beers that haven’t been seen in a while. … The beers we offer are what the public really wants and hasn’t had in a while.

As a result, visitors to Benton County’s second bar have new and surprised reactions. Benton County’s first bar — Textile TapHaus in Atkins — began serving Dubuque County beers in May.

“It’s nice to be able to say we’re the first and only (Benton County brewery) to date,” Wittrock said. “But we’re not trying to compete – we’re serving our city.”

how it started

A home brewer for 35 years, Collins Aerospace’s senior systems engineer, 62, decided to start the brewery after some nagging from his sons, Jon and Ian.

“My sons pestered me for a few years to start a brewery. I just thought that was the craziest idea,” Wittrock said. “I finally got to the point where I said let’s try.”

After finding a brewing system to support the right volume for the town’s population of around 2,400, Wittrock and his sons began prototyping beers in the basement. In April 2021, they receive wide public approval during a tasting.

Now they can’t unlock the doors early enough on the four days they open each week, Wittrock said.

Take-out beer sales began late last year, but it wasn’t until July that Benton County Brewing Company was finally able to open its tasting room to the public. With dark, earthy tones and high tables made from Lion Bridge Brewing Company barrels, the new space offers a cozy atmosphere for a drink and a bite to eat.

The menu

In addition to beer, the taproom brings a sharp offer of pizzas to Belle Plaine.

“Thank goodness we have another place for pizza besides Casey’s,” Wittrock hears from customers.

Cut Quad Cities style into thick strips, each pizza is made with a blend of whole milk mozzarella and provolone cheese. The sauce is a slightly sweet Italian style enhanced with a sprinkle of red pepper – just to bring a little zip to your lips.

With a variety of toppings, they offer new monthly specials like meatball pizza or sauerkraut and brat pizza.

In addition to four beers on tap, the tavern offers a cider.

Future potential

Starting a new business isn’t what most engineers aim to do at age 62. But with a lifetime of brewing experience and a need to brew in Benton County, Wittrock said the opportunity was a good fit.

Not one to sit still, he aims to spend several more years at Collins as he runs the bar with his sons.

“Experience is what drives this place,” Wittrock said.

With a capacity of two barrels, current demand threatens to overtake the infrastructure and could soon force the family to decide how best to expand.

Barrel tables are part of the rustic decor at the Benton County Brewing Company in Belle Plaine, Iowa, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

The exterior of the Benton County Brewing Company in Belle Plaine, Iowa on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Jon and Marty Wittrock stand for a portrait at the Benton County Brewing Company in Belle Plaine, Iowa on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

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