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The RAGBRAI 2022 route takes riders near 3 of more than 100 Iowa craft breweries

  • 29 July, 2022

Fat Hill Brewing’s best-selling beer, the Honey Kolsch, is made with locally sourced honey. Photo credit: Fat Hill Brewing

Sitting like a mirage more than 100 miles from Emmetsburg, Mason City awaits thousands of riders Wednesday on the longest day of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.

Jake Rajewsky, co-owner of Fat Hill Brewing with Molly Angstman and Jon Bendickson, hopes they’ll be thirsty.

“We’re not quite sure, exactly, what to expect because it’s the long day,” Rajewsky said. “But it’s pretty amazing for us. It’s an opportunity that comes along only once every eight years so we’re very thankful that we can meet so many new people.”

Beer is, of course, abundant along RAGBRAI and in overnight towns, but this year’s route connects riders to just three of the more than 100 craft breweries in the state.

Fat Hill and Mason City Brewing could be considered a reprieve for riders after Century Day and, after nearly a week of riding, riders can look forward to Tellurian Brewing in Charles City on Day 6.

For the better part of the last decade, microbreweries have opened throughout Iowa in the center of small to midsized towns.

Craft breweries in the state have since established themselves as an opportunity to become more than just a local watering hole, according to Noreen Otto, the executive director of the Iowa Brewer’s Guild. Otto says craft brewers have turned taprooms into hubs for community gathering and established themselves as economic powerhouses in Iowa cities.

“The industry in the state has experienced continuous growth since 2014, almost doubling in size,” Otto said to the Register. “The downtowns in cities all across Iowa are starting to be anchored by these great local, Iowa craft breweries. So they’re really becoming epicenters of community, tourism and economic reinvestment and that’s just incredibly exciting, statewide.”

At Fat Hill Brewing, Rajewsky said there are countless opportunities to meet others in the community. The brewery features live music on weekends and hosts clubs for book lovers, film buffs, writers, knitters and more.

“We love being a place where anyone in the community feels welcome,” Rajewsky said. “We’ll have the CEO of a local company having a beer with someone who just got hired on a factory line and we think that’s really important because we’re all a part of the same community and we have more in common than we think.

Where can RAGBRAI riders visit a brewery in Mason City?

Riders suffering through 105 miles — the first time in 37 years RAGBRAI has included a day with more than 100 miles for all riders — can look forward to Mason City’s downtown being blocked off as a walkable beer garden.

Fat Hill at 17 N. Federal Ave. and Mason City Brewing at 28 E. State St. are a couple of blocks from each other. Entertainment in Mason City includes food trucks and live music including performances from headliners Sugar Ray and Don Felder.

Fat Hill doesn’t distribute its beer so Rajewsky knows it will likely be many rider’s first time hearing about the microbrewery and sampling its menu.

He said the brewery primarily focuses on beer that’s “drinkable” with a low alcohol by volume (ABV) percentage so customers feel comfortable ordering more than one.

Fat Hill’s top selling brew is the Honey Kolsch, a 5.5% ale made with wildflower honey from Tim Huey’s hives in Nora Springs. Huey is the brewery’s bartender.

Rajewsky said the brewery’s most well-known beer is Rongorongo, a 6.7% New England IPA that boasts tropical flavors and low bitterness.

Rajewskey said the SingleSpeed Brewing RAGBRAI team is camping in his backyard so the Waterloo-based brewery collaborated with his team on Backyard Pale Ale, a 5.5% new-age American pale ale.

A portion of the brewery’s proceeds during RAGBRAI will go toward North Iowa Human Powered Trails, a local organization building hiking and biking trails around Mason City.

“We’re really proud of our taproom and our beer,” Rajewsky said. “We’re excited to share that with people from around the state, the country, wherever people are coming from. I love when people come in for the first time. Everyone comes from such different experiences and backgrounds… I just love anyone who’s passionate about craft beer.”

Mason City Brewing did not respond to requests for comment but according to its website, the Iowana, a 6% cream ale that’s described as an ale version of an American light lager, is the brewery’s best seller.

Where can RAGBRAI riders find a brewery in Charles City?

Over in Charles City, Lanie Sanvig, co-owner of Tellurian Brewing with her husband Cort, said staff have been brewing non-stop since January when RAGBRAI announced the host towns.

“Our system is absolutely, 100% maxed out,” Sanvig said. “This is really taxing our system but we are excited.”

Among Tellurian’s RAGBRAI lineup is the brewery’s top-selling IPA Nectar of the Galaxies, a 6.9% New England IPA made with Galaxy and Citra hops. Tellurian’s signature Raspberry Sour (4.3%) and Sombrero Weather, a 5.4% Mexican lager, will also be available.

While the brewery is around four blocks from the entertainment in Central Park, Tellurian will be serving beer downtown and in the taproom at 100 S. Main St.

Sanvig and her husband opened Tellurian in January 2019. Previously, the brewery was called St. Charles Brewing Co. but rebranded during the COVID-19 pandemic to establish a more distinctive brand.

Tellurian, meaning “an inhabitant of the earth,” fits, Sanvig said, as the brewery prioritizes its place in Charles City and involvement in the community. Throughout the year, Tellurian hosts trash cleanups, organizes a running club, provides crafting classes and other events.

“We’re very outdoorsy, chill, laid-back, enjoy life-kind of people,” Sanvig said.

“We chose to live here, we chose to build our business here and we have the best support from our community and even some of the local towns. We have people that just come in for the craft days and nothing else, we love that we are the place that offer these things for everybody.”

Hannah Rodriguez covers retail for the Des Moines Register. Reach her at or on Twitter @byherodriguez.

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