Just south of Des Moines in Warren County, only a minute from I-35, is the tiny community of Cumming. With a population of about 350 people, the town has for decades been a close-knit farming community. However, as the suburbs around Des Moines continue to expand, it becomes increasingly difficult for it to maintain it's long held identity. Yet, despite all of the pressures it faces from the sprawl of development, there is one business in town that is making sure it stays true to it's farming roots: the Iowa Distilling Company.
Located in a more than century old brick building, you can still see farm fields from the front door.
As they say on their website, "We’re all about celebrating our heritage. Because that’s what we’ve always known. We know corn and we know Iowa’s soil – we’ve been working with it for years. We also know the farmers who grow our grain and the people at the local farmers’ co-op who help us load it into our truck. They are our friends and family, and we try to make them proud of every bottle that comes off our still. It’s the Iowa way. Distilling was once a normal part of farming grain. In the past, many farms were equipped for distilling as a means of using surplus grain. We’re happy to carry on the tradition!"
On a recent Friday after work, my friend and I stopped in to check out the business and to enjoy their happy hour offerings.
They have a full schedule of events and on this particular evening, a local performer, Corbett Reeves, was providing live music.
This was one of the first truly "nice" Fridays of 2019 and the other patrons seemed to also be in a good mood.
Up until 2017, it was illegal for distilleries to even serve their own products - other than very small samples. Thus, they could not mix cocktails to serve by the drink. Luckily, the Legislature passed and Governor Branstad signed legislation allowing this change to happen. Now, like much of the dozens of wineries and breweries that dot our state, distilleries have a new revenue source. These kinds of businesses are important for our state's tourism industry and so it helps to create added vitality in both large and small communities.
They have an impressive offering of craft cocktails utilizing the various spirits that they produce and distill.
They also offer specials. On this particular evening, they were offering a fun concoction called "The Sweet Spot".
The very friendly and helpful bartenders are basically artists with what they can produce.
With a drink on the menu called "The Don", how could someone named Don not give it a try?
They do not serve food other than a few bar snacks such as cookies, peanuts, and pretzels.
The production area is in a separate area of the long and narrow building. While the imbibing public cannot get into that area, there are windows that allow you to look in.
The space available to the public is much like you'd find in any other nice small-town bar. There is a bar with stools and then a few other tables with chairs. The lighting is even both unique and historic. If you have a private party, you can also rent out the space.
They have a nice selection of spirits produced internally. They are for sale in the store.
Despite being only a few years old (the business), they are already winning awards.
If you need some branded merchandise to take with you, they have that for sale too. My buddy ended up going home with a cool t-shirt.
They also offer club memberships, a concept that has grown in popularity around the country.
Cumming has become a popular bike stop on the Great Western Trail (which goes through town) because of their locally famous bar, The Cumming Tap. However, I have a feeling that the Iowa Distilling Company (across the street from the Cumming Tap) is going to become a fan favorite as more people get to know about it. As they note on their website, "Iowans have a way of supporting each other in a way that doesn’t happen anywhere else. We’re happy to be part of a movement to bring more people together through Iowan pride and local spirits."
As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Warren County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have a good idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through this site.