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Sprawling Kinship Brewing Company opens in Waukee

Sarah Kay LeBlanc
Des Moines Register

Every beer at Kinship Brewing Company has a story. 

There's Dear Annie, a hazy IPA owner Zach Dobeck calls a love letter to his wife. An Imperial stout named Sheriff Dobeck is an homage to Dobeck's father, a former sheriff. And Oh, Billy, which Dobeck described to the Register in 2019 as a citrusy, aromatic SMASH (single malt and single hop) pal ale that pays tribute to a family friend.

At Kinship, the new, sprawling brewery on six acres of land in Waukee that officially opened Jan. 1, those stories are the beginning of Dobeck's ultimate goal: to build a community that goes beyond the beer. 

Kinship Brewing owner Zach Dobeck and his wife Ann poses for a photo at the brewery on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, in Waukee, IA.

The idea started when he was a kid, watching his father put on events to get people together. The name of the brewery, Kinship, even calls back to the theme — that everyone who enters the brewery is part of a family.

"That’s what we want to create in the Kinship taproom and in our brand — that you belong here, this is yours," Dobeck said. 

The space

The 13,000-square-foot brewery is located just off the Raccoon River Valley bike trail on Sunrise Drive. The majority of the space, about 10,000 square feet, is dedicated to production and will eventually hold five 30-barrel and two 60-barrel fermenters along with a 30- and 90-barrel bright tank to carbonate the beer.

The brewing room is seen as construction continues at Kinship Brewing on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, in Waukee, IA. The brewery is slated to open in January.

In the spring and summer, the brewery will open up its outdoor beer garden, a 4,000-square-foot space that will have two televisions and fireplaces. Customers with furry friends will be able to take their beverages into the half-acre dog park on the property. 

More:New Waukee brewery and dog park looks to open off the Raccoon River Valley Trail

The brewery's 800-square-foot kitchen will also likely be open by spring, but in the winter, food trucks will be nearby every day, Dobeck said. 

Indoors, customers in the taproom will be overlooked by a 20-by-90-foot mural, including a larger-than-life roaring tiger painted by Georgia artist Greg Mike. They'll also be able to catch a game or a movie on a 7-by-12-foot television mounted into the far wall.

Initially, Dobeck said Kinship's winter hours will be 3 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Customers will be able to choose from five beers on tap, brewed on-site. By summer, the brewery will have 24 lines available, three of which will be ciders provided by local cideries, Dobeck said. There will also be wine and spirits available, as well as sodas and other beverages for children or underage visitors. 

Artist Greg Mike stands for a photo in front of the mural he painted at Kinship Brewing Company which is under construction in Waukee Friday, Nov. 6, 2020.

The Brews Brothers

Dobeck fell in love with craft beer around the time he graduated from the University of Georgia in 2008. He remembers sitting in Terrapin Beer Company in Athens, Georgia, smelling the beer and tasting his first craft beer, a 90 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware.

Shortly after, he teamed up with his brother to start brewing their own beer. The pair called themselves "the Brews Brothers."

Kinship Brewing owner Zach Dobeck poses for a photo at the brewery on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, in Waukee, IA.

"That was pretty close to falling in love with craft beer, falling in love with branding and saying hey, maybe I should learn how to make it," he said.

But he wasn't ready to make the leap to his own company yet. Out of college, he worked for a small branding agency, which further inspired him to build stories around his products. 

The brewery remained in the back of his mind, a thought yet to be spoken out loud. Whenever he and his wife would visit her family in Iowa, he "would look through the prism of eventually living here." Still, for years, he continued to work in software development in Atlanta until he couldn't hold it in anymore. 

"Three-and-a-half years ago in July 2017, I finally said out loud to my wife I want to do this for real," Dobeck said.

Less than a year later, in April 2018, the Georgia couple made the move to Iowa, greeted by six inches of snow dropping that week. A dream a decade in the making, Dobeck's brewery is set to open in just a few days.

Building a community

Dobeck is proud of the beer the brewery will produce, but that's not the only thing he hopes patrons take from their experience at Kinship. Creating a community of beer-lovers and drinkers will start from the moment they step foot in the door. 

Construction continues in the taproom of Kinship Brewing on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, in Waukee, IA.

"We’re going to make an actual earnest effort to be hospitable and create that hospitality vibe because when you’re coming into a brewery, especially for people who have not been to a brewery or haven’t really enjoyed the atmosphere of breweries, we want to create a different atmosphere (where) nobody goes unnoticed and nobody is walking in ungreeted," he said.

That's where general manager Michael Bradley comes in. Formerly a lead server at Proof Restaurant downtown, Bradley said his mission is to create an environment where customers, and servers, feel like they belong.

"As long as we can get people coming back because they like to be here, not only for the beer but because they feel comfortable here, that’s really going to be my definition of success," Bradley said.

Dobeck hopes everyone will be comfortable in the brewery, whether it's couples on a date night, parents grabbing a drink and a bite to eat with their children after a game and anyone in between. 

Though the brewery is set away from the lights and crowds of downtown Des Moines, Dobeck sees that as a positive. He described the brewery's space as a "utopia," bridging the gap between Waukee and downtown.

"It's more than just the beer side of it," he said. "It’s transcending into building a community and that’s what really gets me excited, is the opportunity to work with a community like Waukee."

Sarah LeBlanc covers the western suburbs for the Register. Reach her at 515-284-8161 or sleblanc@registermedia.com.