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Nebraska Makes Delicious Beer: West O Beer in Okoboji

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Our series has been on a bit of a hiatus. It was not intentional, I’ve had some difficulty making contact with some of the local breweries.

My wife and I were recently in Okoboji, Iowa, and were reminded how many Husker fans spend time there. Love for craft beer doesn’t stop at the border, and the Iowa Great Lakes area is home to West O Beer.

Missed any installments in the series? Visit the Beer, Brewing, and Other Libations page. It includes breweries from all over Nebraska. My wife and I are investors in Blue Blood in Lincoln.

Background

West O Beer was founded by Matt and Michaela Matthiesen in 2013. Matt and Michaela had been home brewing since Michaela scheduled a home brew session for them and friends friends on Matt’s 30th birthday. Matt’s dad had brewed during his childhood and the session reignited the desire he’d had to home brew. It became a nearly all-consuming hobby.

After five years of home brewing, the two of them toyed with the idea of opening a brewpub in Spencer, Iowa, but changed their minds to a packaging brewery after attending several brewing courses at the Siebel Institute in Chicago. At about the same time, they changed the location from Spencer to Okoboji for marketing purposes and because they liked the naturally soft water offered in the area. The only treatment on West O’s water is carbon filtering to remove the chlorine added by the local water system.

Matt and Michaela found the location in 2010 just outside of the main, busy section of Okoboji. It allows West O to draw from the heart of the Iowa Great Lakes, but also surrounding cities and towns. Rather than having Matt do the brewing, they chose to hire professional brewers to ensure quality, consistent beer from the get-go.

The name comes from the brewery’s location in West Okoboji.

Location

West O Beer is located just south of the Iowa Great Lakes at 503 Terrace Park Blvd., West Okoboji, IA. It’s easy to find off US Hwy 71. The brewery doesn’t serve food, but often has local food trucks or customers can bring in their own food from local restaurants. They even have phone numbers for local delivery posted in the taproom.

The taproom is open Tuesday - Thursday from 2:00 - 10:00 pm, and Friday - Sunday from 12:00 - 10:00 pm. They are closed on Mondays.

Availability

West O’s beer is widely available on draft and in bottles at bars, restaurants, and off-sale around the Iowa Great Lakes, and their packaging is available in most of Iowa as far east as Iowa City/Cedar Rapids and Cedar Falls/Waterloo. Their distributor is working on pushing their beer east to the Mississippi River. While West O is available widely in Sioux Falls, SD, you can also find their beer in various places throughout South Dakota.

Matt is also traveling regularly to Eastern Nebraska to talk to distributors about starting to distribute in Omaha and Lincoln. Keep checking in to your favorite spots to see if they’re carrying West O.

Beers

West O has quite a few beers that are changing seasonally. Check their website for what’s available, or what might be coming.

Year Round Brews

  • Pilsner Lager - Pilsner
  • 6 Foot 6 - India Pale Ale
  • Smoked Red - Red Ale
  • Coco Stout - Chocolate Stout

The Coco Stout is a multiple award winner, taking gold in the stout category in 2014 and 2015 at the Great American Beer Fest, and being voted Best Beer in Iowa by readers in the 2016 Des Moines Register’s “Beer Bracket”.

Seasonal Brews

  • Holy L - Session India Pale Lager
  • 10 Foot 10 - Double IPA
  • Honey Blossom - Honey Saison
  • WestOfest - Marzen-style Lager
  • Infinite Black - Black IPA
  • Punk’d Pie - Belgian Dubbel Pumpkin Spiced Ale

Thoughts on the Beer

I tried every beer that was available in the taproom. There were six of their beers on draft that day. The 6 Foot 6 IPA finished with a nice citrus and piney hops character while the Holy L was less hoppy than the IPA, but had a piney hops character which was distinct, but not overwhelming on the finish. The Coco Stout was a surprising and unique stout with a strong chocolate note, but virtually no coffee flavor. The Smoked Red was a more subdued flavor than is typical with a red or amber ale and the smokiness is balanced, not too strong. The Pilsner Lager is a light, refreshing beer. Finally, the Honey Blossom has a light honey flavor which pairs nicely with the sweetness and yeast character of the saison.

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