If we had to sum up the essence of what makes Peace Tree special, it comes down to one word: hands.
Hand crafted, hand packaged, and sometimes even hand delivered.
It’s the personal touch we started with in 2009 that continues today. While our team and our equipment have grown since then—with a bottling line, new canning line, and distributors who help us get beer to our customers—so much of what we do is truly still done by the hardworking hands of our team behind the scenes.
We’ve always prided ourselves on doing things differently, and with so many options for craft beer drinkers these days, being uniquely “us” is more important than ever. It’s what keeps our regulars coming back and what draws in new craft beer lovers (a.k.a. soon-to-be fans!).
Here’s a glimpse behind the scenes at what sets us apart and makes Peace Tree, well, Peace Tree!
Behind the Scenes: The Brewing + Packaging Process
Quality > Quantity
Even though we brew a lot of beer (around 4,500 bbls per year), our goal has never been mass production. Instead, we approach our brewing process as an art and a science. Our brewery is a place of innovation and creation, not a place to churn out as much beer as possible.
First, We Choose What to Brew
When it comes to choosing what we brew, it all boils down to our simple beer-losophy (that’s beer + philosophy). We are:
1. Small Batch. This is a big part of our quality > quantity mindset.
The best thing about being small-batch? We have the luxury of being picky. Think of it like a private college versus a state university—we’re smaller on purpose so we can be a bit more personalized and specialized.
We’re also more selective on “who” we let in, in terms of what ingredients we use or what types of beer we brew. High-quality beer starts with high-quality ingredients. From new hop varieties for our brews to the real sugar we use in our iconic root beer, we don’t compromise or cut corners on what goes in our beverages. The end result is only as good as what you put in!
2. True to our Roots. Our main focus is making foundationally great beers that people can enjoy for years to come. That’s why we’ve put so much time and care into perfecting our flagship beers. You can count on every batch of these fan favorites to be enjoyable, whether you’re popping the top on a can, sipping from a bottle, or enjoying a pint on draft.
We also tend to bring back old classics that are tried-and-true, often with fun new variations or minor tweaks in the recipe to make it even better as our brewing knowledge continues to grow. For example, we’ve done more variations of our best-selling Blonde Fatale than we can count: Barrel-Aged Blonde, Strawberry Blonde, Choco Mint Blonde, Blonde on Blonde, and the list goes on!
3. Experimental. We love to make beers with fun new ingredients and explore new beer types to further the art of craft brewing. From sours to seltzers to hazy IPAs, you can count on us to have something exciting in the works. It’s also why we always have a wide variety of beers on tap to choose from!
Like every other brewery, we also take the latest craft beer crazes into account. We have to shift with the trends to stay in business, but we’d rather make a great beer (no matter what the style) than the one-thousandth hazy IPA to hit the market this year, just to jump on a hot trend.
Of course, our brewers have a big say in what we brew, too! They often experiment using ingredients, new yeast strains, and methods they specialize in or are interested in trying out.
After We Brew, We Check for Quality
No matter what we’re brewing, a taste-test ensues. Whether it’s a brand new beer or a time-tested classic, if it doesn’t taste just right, we won’t package it. It’s as simple as that. While we hate to waste beer, if it doesn’t meet our high standards, we’d rather dump it than sell anything sub-par.
The next steps depend on the type of beer. For example, if it’s a barrel-aged beer, we’ll fill the barrels—which all come from Iowa-based distilleries, like Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery, Templeton Rye, Foundry Distilling Company, or Iowa Distilling Company—and set them aside for as long as they need to age to perfection, usually a year or more.
For all other beers, they head to packaging to get bottled or canned.
Packaging Beer: From Bags to Bottles to Cans
Our brewing setup has come a long way from the little Sabco home brew system we started with back in 2010, but our packaging process has come a long way, too!
We started with beer in brown paper bags (we didn’t know what 6-packs were quite yet!). Then came our bottling line and our iconic stubby brown bottles (lovingly referred to by some as “grenades” or “bombers”). And in 2021, we added a state-of-the-art canning line to our back room so that we could package all our beer in house—a far cry from our brown paper bag days.
All Hands on Deck
Whether a beer comes off our bottling or canning line, our packaging team (led by Laney, our canning machine queen!) handles every single bottle or can by hand. Stuffing 12-packs of cans, filling 6-packs of bottles, snapping plastic carries onto 6-packs of cans, stacking cases, filling kegs—it’s all done by hand by our fast-and-furious packaging technicians.
Packaged beer is then stacked and shipped out to our distributors, making its way to store shelves and restaurant taps before ultimately ending up in your fridge or on your table!
Going Green: Brewing Responsibly Every Step of the Way
Hops aren’t the only green thing around here. We are proud to hold a Gold-Level Iowa Green Brewery Certificate!
As a company with strong roots in nature (we are named after a tree, after all), we are extremely conscious of our brewery’s environmental footprint. We strive for maximum energy efficiency in every step of our brewing process and reduce waste wherever possible. From our custom air exchange system to donating spent grain to local farmers, we take pride in doing our part for the environment so people can enjoy Iowa’s beauty (and our beers) for years to come.
Behind the Scenes: Our Taprooms
Kicking Back in Knoxville
On any given day when you walk into our original taproom in Knoxville, you’ll see people from all walks of life. Bikers stopping in to cool off with a beer. Local regulars, ordering the usual. Not-so-local regulars—usually Sprint Car fans, who flock back every summer for the Knoxville Raceway. Old friends catching up. New friends meeting. Families gathered around a game of cards, kids jittery from one too many of our made-with-real-sugar root beers.
A lot has changed over the years—especially in our backroom production and packaging area—but our taproom hasn’t changed much, and that’s on purpose. Where other taprooms have adopted an industrial, urban look, we’ve veered in the opposite direction in our Knoxville location. Our vibe has always been more cozy than modern. Whether it’s your first time stepping foot in our taproom or your hundredth, we want our space to seem warm, welcoming, and familiar. It’s that “hometown” feel that can only come from being rooted in a community of less than 8,000 people.
Drinking in Des Moines
Des Moines may have more of the mainstream, industrial taproom feel, but we’ve given it our own unique twist. The building itself is a renovated Quonset hut, hence the metal domed walls. Much like our Knoxville taproom is a former Nash Rambler dealership, we chose our Des Moines location with care, breathing life back into a run-down building that had fallen by the wayside.
Our Des Moines taproom is as vibrant and eclectic as the East Village neighborhood it sits in. Despite being located in the heart of downtown Des Moines, the patio and expansive grassy area provide plenty of room to spread out, giving our space an open, airy feel. Lounge with friends (and your furry friends) for a whole afternoon on our pet-friendly patio, relaxing in our Adirondack chairs (complete with cupholders). Swing by for a quick stop on your craft beer crawl as you explore the other great breweries in the area. Or pop in for a bite from a food truck, a bingo night, a comedy show, or to try your hand at trivia. No matter how you choose to relax and unwind here, it’s sure to be a good time.
Beer Pairings: A Beer for Everyone
Something our bartenders at both of our taprooms take pride in is pairing our customers with great beer. When we hear things like “I’m not a big craft beer drinker” or “IPAs aren’t really my thing,” we take that as a (fun!) challenge. We’re determined to help you find something you’ll enjoy, even if it’s a type of beer you least expected. Our tap line up is full of fun surprises like that!
Forging the Way for Family-Friendly Taprooms
Before starting Peace Tree, our Founder, Megan McKay, was the 4th generation in a family-owned business, McKay Insurance Agency, which sits just across the street from our Knoxville taproom. Needless to say, family is pretty important to us. So when we set out to create our taproom, we wanted to create something that was pretty unheard of at the time: a family-friendly taproom.
Today, we still pride ourselves on being a place people of all ages can enjoy, for our customers and our brewing family. It’s not uncommon to find Megan’s son, Urban, stopping by after school on his scooter for a root beer and homework, or Mattingly, our Lead Brewer Bryan’s daughter, toddling around the taproom and giggling. While family-friendly taprooms are pretty mainstream nowadays, we like to think we helped pave the way!
Behind the Scenes: Our Talented Team
None of what we do would be possible without our amazing team. As one of the top 10 largest breweries in Iowa, we have 13 full-time and 25 part-time employees. Some have been with us for years, and others from the very beginning!
It Takes a Village
No matter what role they play on our team, what our customers see is only a fraction of what our team actually does! Our taproom managers, Taylor Evans and Amanda Carr, double as event planners, organizing game nights, recruiting food trucks, and arranging live music. Behind the scenes, our bartenders spend time getting to know each of our beers so they can provide thoughtful pairings to our customers. Our sales reps spend their days traveling all over Iowa and beyond, bringing our beers to new stores, new markets, and more people. Aside from her duties as CEO and Owner, you’ll often find Megan in the middle of the action, helping wherever she is needed, from tapping kegs to driving the forklift to loading her car up and hand delivering new brews.
Work Hard, Play Hard
Our brewing process, our beer philosophy, and our taproom experiences—none of it matters if we don’t make good beer. The secret behind our beloved brews? We enjoy what we do!
Our team has mastered the art of “work hard, play hard.” In the front of the house, you’ll hear our bartenders having a laugh with each other or with a customer. Walk into our back room and you’ll hear the music our packaging team is jamming out to. There’s never a dull moment around here!
At the end of the day, we have two goals: brew good beer that makes people happy, and have fun doing it. We love what we do, and it comes across in every single brew!
Taste the Difference
If you’ve made it this far, cheers to you! We know there’s a lot of craft beer to choose from out there, and we appreciate you choosing Peace Tree—or at least taking the time to get to learn more about us.
New to Peace Tree beer? We invite you to taste the difference! Check out our beer and soda finder to discover where you can find our products nearest you. If you’re located in central Iowa, we encourage you to visit us in person at our Knoxville or Des Moines taprooms!