When Iron Spike opened two years ago on Simmons Street, less than 10 minutes from Knox, they drew locals and Knox students alike. Now, Iron Spike has started an active brewery and is reaching beyond their doors to sell canned beer at other locations, such as the Galesburg Hy-Vee and baked, a popular pizza place on Seminary Street.
The first two canned beers, Light Rail cream ale and Flatback IPA, went into circulation at Hy-Vee in Galesburg on Jan. 15. Within four to six weeks, they will also begin selling their Handcar Hefeweizen and Midnight Express oat stout.
On a regular Friday night, Knox students are easily spotted at the restaurant and, for the older students, local beer is also a draw. Recently, seniors Jazmine Kenny and Hyunjin Jung sampled beers while eating dinner. Kenny pointed to the Peanut Buster Porter as the beer she liked most from the selection.
“I’m not a beer connoisseur by any means,” Kenny said, laughing. On whether she’d buy it in stores, she said, “I think if the beer was at a reasonable price and it was the only option and it was the right time to drink, I think that maybe I would. But otherwise maybe not.”
Senior Laura Lueninghoener likes the pale ales at Iron Spike. “Absolutely I would buy it,” she said. “I’m more of a microbrewery type of person. I don’t drink crap beer, which is basically what college students buy. We have a rule in our apartment we are only allowed to buy alcohol with taste and class.”
Iron Spike owner and Executive Chef Ryan Cardwell understands the conflict between buying local and the expense involved.
“I think Knox College students are really going to appreciate the fact that, you know, it’s a locally sourced product made with American grains and made down the road locally,” Cardwell said. “At the same time, Knox College, you know you’re college students and a lot of people are on a budget. We’re still at that $9.99 per six-pack range at Hy-Vee so unfortunately we’re not as cheap as a 30-rack of Keystone. I think that’s going to be the only separation between us and Knox College.”
Along with expanding the canned beers from two to four, Iron Spike also hopes to expand sales to other locations outside of Galesburg and is already selling at the Canton, Rock Island and Moline Hy-Vees.