OKOBOJI - University of Okoboji Winter Games revelers got the first formal taste of Okoboji Brewing Company beers during an "ambitious" launch party Thursday night.
"It's been crazy launching with four beers," Rich Hart, a partner with the Spirit Lake beer company, said while taking a break from handing out samples.
The company formally unveiled its Boji Beach Golden Rye Ale, Boji Blue Pale Ale, Midwest Charm Farmhouse Ale and Winter Games Select #32 Stout under a large tent at the Barefoot Bar at Parks Marina on East Lake Okoboji.
The launch event was held to coincide with this weekend's 32nd annual winter games. The brewery is the games' presenting sponsor.
Okoboji Brewing Company, a brewery-in-planning, is still conducting final fundraising to purchase brewing equipment, brewer Eric DeKeyzer said.
When equipment is in place, they need to pass an inspection and receive a Brewer's Notice from the federal government. The company then has to receive a state license before they can begin brewing operations.
DeKeyzer said fundraising efforts are "very close" to complete and they are aiming to have brewing equipment in place and regulatory requirements met in time to begin brewing in Spirit Lake in late spring or early summer.
The brewery will have a 20-hectoliter brewhouse and will use a mash filter press, DeKeyzer said.
The mash filter press is an uncommon piece of equipment in American breweries, DeKeyzer said. Its use will allow the brewery to achieve greater brewing efficiency and allow it to reduce the amount of water and malt used to brew a batch of beer, he said.
Until the brewery is ready, beers are being contract brewed by Great River Brewery in Davenport using DeKeyzer's recipes. Boji Craft Beers, a beer wholesale company, was started to distribute the beers in the Iowa Great Lakes Region.
DeKeyzer seemed pleased with response his beers received during Thursday's party.
"I heard a lot of really good comments from a lot of different people that haven't been craft beer drinkers. I think we converted a lot of people," DeKeyzer said.
Rich Hart, the Okoboji Brewing partner, did notice a few furled brows and a couple of grimaces while passing out samples. "But that's why we have four beers. Not every beer is for every person."
The idea being, according to Hart, with four beers at least one will appeal most beer drinkers. "If you don't like the stout, try the farmhouse, if not that then the pale ale and if not that, the rye [ale]. If you don't like any of them, sorry, we tried."