Address: 2475 Hiatt Apple Trail Road, Winterset
Call: (515) 468-0012
Step into Big Rack Brew Haus in Madison County and it’s like “walking into your friend’s garage for a beer,” says Aaron Oviatt, owner and manager of the brewery, whose interest in beer artisanal was quilted 30 years ago. .
“I was influenced by what beer could be, not watered down versions, in the early 1990s when I was traveling the West Coast on several skiing, hunting and fishing vacations,” said Oviatt. “I was intrigued by the flavors of these drinks, so on each trip I looked for new and inspiring flavors to try.”
In 2009, he was introduced to the brewmasters at Twisted Vine Brewery which was then associated with Madison County Winery.
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“Twisted Vine was brewing beer in the winery facilities building. The winery was well established by this time and I had volunteered…for the fall harvest. That’s where I met the brains of Twisted Vines,” Oviatt recalls.
And, he admits, he had a lot of questions. Fortunately, he was willing to do whatever it took to get his questions answered.
“I was so willing at the brewery that one of the brewmasters looked at me and said, ‘You know we don’t have the money to pay you.’
“I said, ‘Fine, you don’t have to pay me – just teach me how to brew beer,'” Oviatt said of returning since.
Oviatt says the kindness he’s shown from Twisted Vine’s brewmasters and other brewers along the way has left a lasting impression on his life.
“What excites me the most about this craft beer industry is how it’s so collaborative and not so competitive,” he said. “Our brewers in this state are so open, ready to help the next one succeed. If it’s successful, we all grow out of it. The whole state of Iowa will come out of it. We have an amazing group of people who have worked so hard to build our foundation. The Iowa Brewers Guild is a great organization that was founded by a group of guys who loved beer and wanted to share that love by banding together for a common cause. And that cause was to change the bureaucratic crap that governed our laws that kept us from sharing that love. So here we all are, years later, watching this manifesto in an incredible adventure. How exciting is that? »
Big Rack typically has 10-15 beers brewed at a time.
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“We still have experimental beer going,” Oviatt said. “With small batch brewing, the opportunities are endless. I can eat my favorite lemon meringue pie and be inspired to brew a beer that tastes like my favorite pie. We have one that looks like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Dream it and brew it,”
Their most popular varieties are Honey Badger Brown Ale, Snakebite IPA, Jones Creek Lager, and Killerwatt Citrus Wheat. Although Oviatt admits, “My favorite is usually the one in front of me.”
The brewery is Oviatt’s pension plan. He still works for the Firestone plant in Des Moines, where he started as a tool and die machinist 33 years ago and is now involved in industrial maintenance. But he credits his experience at Firestone with helping him build his dream.
“I have gained a good understanding of a multitude of operations from electrical and hydronics to controls and manufacturing which has helped me build a strong foundation in our operations here at the brewery We built many of our components needed to run our brewery,” Oviatt said.
The tavern is located in the brewery of the family farm in Oviatt.
“It’s a big metal building that I’ve been making for 25 years,” he said. “We just added a 3,000 square foot patio outside. Eventually, we will turn it into a four-season brasserie with a wood-fired oven and many other amenities.
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“I knew one day I was going to do something fun and I would need a building to do it. So it just happens to be a brewery.”
Oviatt says the trip to Big Rack Brew Haus is worth the price of gas, first of all, if you like good beer.
“It would be worth a visit if you want to experience a brewery that was built from the ground up,” he said. “If you want to see guys living the American Dream. We put our heart and soul into this adventure, and you’ll see it as soon as you walk through the door. It’s a one-of-a-kind place.”
Distance from downtown Des Moines: 39 miles
Hours: 3pm-9pm on Saturday
The partnership: Oviatt added a business partner, Joe Taylor, in May 2021. Taylor has assisted him with several aspects of the business. “He’s been a big help to me and he picked things up quickly helping me keep my momentum going,” Oviatt said.
the atmosphere: Oviatt loves the countryside of rural Madison County and credits its beauty for helping draw people to the brewery. “Our brasserie has a more intimate atmosphere and invites people to bring their families here,” he said. They have an assortment of board games on hand as well as a horseshoe pit and future plans for a 9 hole disc golf course and possibly shuffleboard on the new patio. “We are not typical sales people. Brewery.” Oviatt loves that Big Rack has become the “neighborhood hangout.” “We’ve made so many wonderful friends through it, it’s amazing. Beer brings people together.
The name: Finding a name for his new brewery was not easy for Oviatt, who wanted to find a name that represented who he was and what he loved to do. “So I wrote down several words that described that performance,” he said. “After this list was compiled, I went on a two-week bow hunting trip in the mountains, and that year my cousin and I shot a bull elk with our bows on the Grand Mesa. of Colorado.” Oviatt admits it was no easy task, with a success rate of just 5%. “We had been trying to accomplish this task for several years and had success the year I bought the brewery. After reflecting on our accomplishments and looking at the photos we took of each other that day celebrating and holding up the bull elk antlers, this came to mind. I love being outdoors, hunting animals, drinking beer, living in the countryside and the thrill of the hunt. So it came to me as I held the head of the moose to have my picture taken…BIG RACK BREW HAUS! “Big Rack” comes from elk, “Brew” for beer and “Haus” comes from my German grandmother who taught me that hard work always pays off. Haus is my home. Welcome and come drink beer at my place.
while you are there: Oviatt loves Madison County, which has been his home. He suggests checking out madisoncounty.com to see all the area has to offer while planning a stop at Big Rack.