Introducing New Pi's First Private Label Beer, The Hoppelganger! + Madhouse Brewery

 Stronger Together: Farmer + Brewer + Co-op

A special brew exclusively for New Pi: The Hoppelganger!

Mason, Orville, and the folks at Timber Ridge are coming together to brew an EXTRA LOCAL local craft beer with Iowa grown hops and Iowa malted barley.

This locally brewed IPA of 100% Iowa grown hand-harvested Cascade hops (from Orville, Kim, & Austin at Iowa Hops) and specialty Iowa malted barley (from Pete at Timber Ridge) will come out at about 6.5% ABV. Fresh hop flavors of citrus and pine from the Cascade hops will balance with caramel notes from the Timber Ridge malts.

Look for it at all 3 New Pi stores starting this Saturday, July 25, and stop by New Pi Cedar Rapids that day from 2-5PM for a free sample with Mason! Full event details here.

Hoppelganger team

From left: Madhouse Owner & Brewmaster Mason Groben, New Pi Specialties Coordinator Melissa Arp, & Iowa Hops Farmer Orville Bunker

Newtown physician and now part-time hop farmer Orville Bunker has a warm handshake and smile to go along with it. “I think it’s Mason’s fault I’m growing hops,” Orv chuckles. “He brought back a pamphlet on growing hops from a brewing conference to his dad and I, and said we should grow them. I took him seriously; his dad didn’t!” he says with a grin.

Mason Groben returned home to Newton, Iowa, in 2010 and put his newly minted winemaking degree from U.C. Davis (one of the best programs out there) and experience in wine programs in Australia and New Zealand to use for his family’s business, Jasper Winery. But winemaking’s a seasonal business, Mason explains, and apparently those unfilled seasons were ripe to catch the brewing bug. He could bring everything he knew about coaxing grapes into wine and apply it to ushering grain into beer.

Mason talks smart at quite a clip: “Here in Iowa, you’re never going to make Napa Valley Cabernet,” he points out, “but we have just as good – or better – access than anywhere else in the world to what you need to brew beer. It’s a more natural fit for Iowa.” Smart folks play to our strengths.

So far, the local food movement’s stayed on the surface. In most local oriented restaurants, you’ll find a local main ingredient, local garnish, mainstream everything else. (The movement’s working on the “everything else.”) We don’t just ask a restaurant to be locally owned; we ask them to cook with local ingredients too. We’re not at that point yet with beer: craft beer’s in, local’s in, but what about the ingredients in that locally brewed beer? The wool’s being pulled away and the public now knows that ingredient quality matters. We’re making progress in the world of food.


“If you’re growing an acre of hops, you’re picking by hand,” physician and part-time hop grower Orville Bunker explains. “But if you like doing it, you find the time!” he chuckles. Hops photo courtesy of Orville Bunker.

Mason knows where he’s going, and it’s a direction we’re right on board with: “We’re focusing on barrel-aged and sour beers, and working with local producers.” Currently Madhouse’s most popular beers are their Hopburst IPA and Honey Pilsner, made with local honey. Their Coffee Stout is also made with local coffee roasted at Zanzibar’s in Des Moines: “I run a local winery and a local brewery. I’ll spend a couple extra bucks to work with a local producer,” Mason nods.
Next? Exclusively for New Pi, they’re brewing what we believe is the first Iowa beer available brewed with only Iowa hops and Iowa malted barley!

"Pete at Timber Ridge in Osceola had asked me for our spent grain to feed his cattle,” Mason recalls, and it turned into an opportunity for not just effective reuse, but a chance to get locally malted barley to brew with to boot.

Orville is growing hops for as many Madhouse brews as possible, a family operation with his wife Kim and son Austin, who’ll graduate high school next year. “Hops grow 16 feet tall, so we have a field of poles [for them to climb]. We have a hard time keeping up with an acre of hops – picking by hand – but if you like doing it, you find the time!” he chuckles. These are the kind of folks Iowa needs more of.

You won’t want to miss Madhouse Brewing's upcoming sour beers – even if you think you don’t like sours. “Ours is a clean, American style,” Mason points out, which side steps the barnyard qualities Old World sours tend to have. Mason walks us through the development curve with sour beers: “Of all beer making, it’s the most like winemaking. They’re difficult to make, and they take a long time.” Lactobacillus and yeast are introduced to dry out the beer’s flavor, and it’s aged in oak barrels. “Sours are a very live product,” he explains. “A ‘live’ beer.”

“This is where the artistry and passion come into brewing,” Melissa Arp, New Pi’s Beer, Wine, & Cheese Coordinator, points out.


Madhouse's Brewery is in the Des Moines Market District just south of East Village. 

That’s the kind of integrity we go to local producers for, and Mason’s got it in spades. We couldn’t be more pleased to partner with him to bring you excellent Iowa brews.“I spent two years dumping batches, trying to figure out the different chemistry,” Mason shakes his head. He estimates it took a hundred batches before he was satisfied with the result: “We could have sold sour beer a year ago, but they wouldn’t have been this good.”

Next time you're in Des Moines, visit the brewery! Madhouse's tasting room is open Thursdays, Fridays, & Saturdays. Stop in for a pint, a flight, or a tour!

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