Business Spotlight Good times brewing at new taproom

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Deb Winter, owner of Deb’s Brewtopia, has recently opened a taproom to serve the beer she’s been brewing in the historic Clayton County Register building since 2011. The taproom is open Thursdays through Sundays.
Deb Winter, owner of Deb’s Brewtopia, has recently opened a taproom to serve the beer she’s been brewing in the historic Clayton County Register building since 2011. The taproom is open Thursdays through Sundays.

By Pam Reinig
Register Editor

Award-winning brewster Deb Winter has found herself in the last place she ever wanted to be—and she couldn’t be happier about it.

A few years ago, when Deb first began brewing beer in the old Clayton County Register building, several people suggested she serve her product there, as well. She dismissed the idea because she doesn’t like the raucous crowds that often gather in drinking establishments. She wanted to brew beer, not run a bar.

“People reassured me, ‘It won’t be like that,’ they said. ‘It’ll just be a nice place for people to gather and relax.’ I guess I was finally convinced,” Deb recalled. “I took a short break from brewing, made some changes in here and opened the taproom in mid-May.”

Comfortable but unpretentious, the taproom has quickly become a favorite gathering spot, exceeding Deb’s greatest expectations.

“I’ve been blown away by this experience,” Deb admitted. “But you know, I just built it. It’s the people who come here who’ve made it what it is.”

Deb’s Brewtopia offers an ever-changing menu of about a dozen beers plus a few wines and mead made by her husband, Dave Meeter. There’s no food service but food can be brought in. In fact, Deb keeps menus from Elkader Pizzeria and Fennelly’s on her tables to facilitate ordering. The business is open Thursdays through Sundays. Her license requires her to brew in the nearly 130-year-old building so that’s what she does Mondays through Wednesdays.

“The first year of a new business, you have to buckle down and do what you have to do,” she said of her 7-day workweek. “It’s a lot of time and work but this is my dream.”

A former Waterloo resident with family ties to West Union, Deb has been part of the Elkader community since 2011, when she purchased the historic newspaper building. She spent months repairing, renovating and restoring the aging structure. Prior to renovation, the building had three primary spaces: a small front office and a much larger middle space, which now accommodate the taproom’s tables and bar plus a cavernous backroom. That area once housed large printing presses. It’s now a 100-seat entertainment venue.

By the time she moved her brewing operation to Elkader, Deb had already won several ribbons and citations. Her first honors came in 2009, just one year after she started brewing. She’s added significantly to her trophy case since then.

In addition to its new look, Deb’s Brewtopia recently added a new logo based on a 1980 VW bus named Kenny.

“I’d submitted beers to a competition in Los Angeles,” Deb recalled. “We were thinking about the trip and Dave said, out of the blue, ‘Let’s go out there, find a VW bus and drive it back home.’ We found one on Craigslist and it was such a California experience. The guy handed us the keys, pulled a skateboard out of the back and just skated away.”

A photo of “Kenny” occupies a place of honor on the wall behind the bar and was also the inspiration for a bus-shaped container that holds glasses for samples or flights of beers.

As the weeks and months unfold, Deb and Dave will continue trying new things to draw people to the taproom. Possibilities include a trivia night and a NFL game watch and community potluck.

“We just want people to come in and have fun, and then come back,” Deb said. “I’ve always known I have a good product and now I have a good way to share it.”
 

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