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WEST OKOBOJI, Iowa | If you brew it, they will come.

Matt Matthieson's particular field of dreams had nothing to do with baseball. Instead, it had everything to do with beer.

Specifically, beer made with the crisp, clear water of Lake Okoboji.

"There's just something about Okoboji water that has always inspired me," Matthieson, a Spencer, Iowa resident, explained. "It's like nothing else in the world."

It's the water that inspired Matthieson and his wife, Michaela Matthieson, both avid homebrewers, to open the West O Beer Co. in West Okoboji in May.

West O Beer is at 503 Terrace Ave., adjacent to City Hall.

"Michaela and I dreamed of opening up our own brewery for over five years," Matthieson said. "It's been just as much fun as we thought."

Yet West O Beer has some competition.

Okoboji Brewing Co., about six miles north of West O Beer, has been selling its suds since January 2012 and has been brewing at its facilities, at 3705 Highway 71 in Spirit Lake, Iowa, since November of that year.

The company's beers are sold on draft and in 16-ounce cans in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. Pints and growlers (64-ounce bottles) are sold at Okoboji Brewing Co.'s tap room, as are supplies for home brewing enthusiasts.

Likewise, West O pints and growlers may be purchased at the brewery's tap room. The brew is sold on tap in several locations throughout the Lakes region as well as in Des Moines. The bottled beers are also available for purchase at more than 30 Lakes area bars and grocery stores.

Matthieson credits much of West O Beer's success to the company's head brewer, Karl Schmitz.

"Karl happens to be an extremely intelligent brewer," Matthieson said. "He is as passionate about beer as Michaela and me."

Some of Schmitz's most popular creations have included Das O Hefeweizen (an unfiltered wheat beer) and a smoked red ale that Matthieson said has a slight campfire taste.

In fact, Matthieson said Schmitz is currently working on a beer that straddles the fence between being a smooth and elegant lager and a robust and hearty ale.

"(Eric) calls it an India pale lager because it incorporates the best of a lager and an ale," Matthieson said. "I'm sure beer fanatics will enjoy it."

After all, this increasingly large segment of consumers has provided West O's best customers.

"While the market share for mass market beers has been decreasing, the market share for regional craft beers has been increasing," Matthieson said. "That's why you've been seeing more Iowa-based beer companies popping up."

Which is why he wants West O Beer Co. to always be expanding both its market and it flavor profiles.

"When I was younger, there were only a limited number of beers available," Matthieson noted. "Now, there's a beer for any and every taste."

This is fine by Matthieson, because he knows West O Beer aficionados are just as beer-crazy as he is.

"It's a great time to be a beer fan," he said. "It's also a great time to be a beer brewer."

According to the Brewers Association, an organization made up of small and independent American brewers, there were 2,538 breweries in the U.S. in 2013. The Iowa Brewers Guild said there were about 40 breweries in Iowa, with the majority of them located in the more populous middle and eastern parts of the state.

"The western part of Iowa has been a bit slower to jump on the beer bandwagon," Matthieson admitted. "But I know there are plenty of enthusiastic homebrewers and beer fanatics around this part of the state."

Which means business should be particularly sudsy for the folks at West O Beer Co.

"Nothing can be better than beer brewed right here in West Okoboji," Matthieson said.

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Food and Lifestyles reporter

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