Iowa Wine & Beer 101

Ever wonder what it takes to be a fine Iowa wine or beer? Put on your thinking cap, because here’s where you’ll learn more about two of Iowa’s great beverages. And after you’re done reading, pour yourself a glass of wine or beer from one of our state’s spectacular wineries or breweries. You’ve earned it!

Wine 101

Iowa wineries grow a wide variety of grapes and produce numerous types and flavors of wines. Most wines use grapes and juice that were grown and produced on one of Iowa’s 300+ vineyards. 

For the most part, key steps in wine making involve stem removal and crushing of the grapes. Fermenting the juice (without skin and seeds) or must (the juice with skin and seeds); clarifying, stabilizing and aging the wine until it’s ready to bottle. However, the process to produce red versus white wines varies greatly as does the process of producing a sweet wine versus a dry wine. 

Each type of grape produces a different type of wine. Also, the winemaking process can enhance the natural flavors of the grape. All grapes produce clear to near-clear juice. In making white wine, the crushed and de-stemmed grapes are pressed to obtain juice that is fermented, yielding a wine.

The variety of blush and red wine colors are determined by how long the skin is in contact with the clear juice during fermentation. Less time with the skin produces less color. Red wine is known for having health benefits because of antioxidants that are found in the skin of red grapes.   

Dry wines are produced when fermentation is completed, which leaves no residual sugar. A sweeter wine results either by halting fermentation before all the sugars can be depleted or by adding a sweetening agent such as sugar, juice or concentrate.

Everyone’s taste buds are different, so your individual palate may be the best way to determine if something seems sweet or dry.



Beer 101

A microbrewery or craft brewery is a brewery that produces a limited amount of beer, and is prized by its customers for innovation and uniqueness. Small, independent and traditional, these breweries have an annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less.

Craft breweries offer a variety of savory beers that can be lumped into two categories: ales and lagers. The main difference is the process and the yeast. Ale yeast ferments at a higher temperature (around 62º F) and floats at the surface during fermentation. Lager yeast sinks to the bottom and ferments at a colder temperature (around 50º F).  Ales take about two weeks to finish and age, while lagers typically take about four to six weeks.

Although there are 140 different styles of beer, here are the six major beer classifications.

  1. English, Irish and Scottish Ales: These ales emphasize malt sweetness over hop bitterness. The ale yeast used in these beers produces spicy and fruity characteristics.
  2. American Craft-Brewed Ales: Originally inspired by European styles, the American craft-brewed ales are usually maltier and more aggressively hopped. 
  3. Belgian- or French-Style Ales: Unique beers with a huge range of strengths, colors and flavors.  Spices such as orange peel and coriander are sometimes used. 
  4. Other Ales and Hybrids: These beers include a variety of traditional styles. Most are lagers, although, several traditional German style ales are included.
  5. Classic Lagers: These beers use an extended cold-aging process for a smooth, crisp flavor that emphasizes both malt and hops. 
  6. Specialty Beers: A fine example of American ingenuity. These beers specialize in unexplored territory — using products like fruit, honey, pumpkin and various spices.
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