Metro-East Living

Stubborn passion for beer leads to Waterloo brewery

A visit to new Stubborn German Brewing Co.

Home brewer Chris Rahn turns hobby into new business in downtown Waterloo.
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Home brewer Chris Rahn turns hobby into new business in downtown Waterloo.

There are some surprising advantages to opening a small brewery in downtown Waterloo that even owners Tammy and Chris Rahn, born and raised there, didn’t know.

“We have the Muny Band concerts on the square,” said Tammy, referring to the summer Tuesday evening event. “People can come and listen and sit outside if they want.”

And have a beer, of course. The couple opened the Stubborn German Brewing Co. in April on South Main Street, leasing space in the 1885 Masonic Hall and using the first floor and basement. (The masons have the second and third floors.)

On a Thursday evening, more entertainment arrived, though it was short-lived. People lined Main Street and a crowd was seated under the covered portico of the brewery. A small parade passed by, first an ambulance with lights flashing, then a fire truck and other vehicles filled with waving members of the Waterloo High School FFA. They were being welcomed home after being named the first-place chapter in the state at the FFA’s state convention that week.

Tammy watched them go by. Chris had the evening off; he’d been making beer all day. Well-established members of the community, the young couple also own Rahn’s Hometown Auto Repair.

“We’re really good at auto repair, but Chris’ passion is making beer,” said Tammy, 32, who manages both businesses. “We decided to take that leap and open a brewery.”

Chris, 33, has been home-brewing for 11 years, winning awards and eventually discovering that wherever he brought his beer, a demand developed.

“We’d take the beer to family and friends for functions and the comments were, ‘This beer is so good you should sell it,’” Tammy said. “We figured we better do it now.”

The necessary timing element involved both their sons, ages 4 and 7, being in school. In 2015, they began a serious renovation of the drinking and brewing space, from pouring concrete in a dirt basement to Tammy’s dad, Don Landgraf, helping build table, chairs and benches for the brewery.

Chris produces small-batch beer, in a three-barrel brew system. A barrel holds 93 gallons. At least seven year-round beers are on tap, plus seasonal and limited releases, usually once a week.

Standards include Old Ledger Lager, from the 1899 recipe of the Old Monroe Brewery in Columbia. The menu calls it “crisp and clean, very light and easy to drink.” An 8-ounce tulip glass is $2.50 while a 16-ounce lager glass is $5. All the beers range from $2.50 to $3 for a tulip and $5 to $6 for a lager or hefeweizen glass.

You can get the Stubbornfest, an Oktoberfest beer served year-round in a 1-liter mug for $10, as well as smaller sizes.

The most popular? Hands-down, Tammy said, it’s Fountain Creek Kolsch, called crisp and light and brewed with honey from The Picky Bee in Waterloo.

Half-gallon growlers are available for $6 empty, or bring you own. Fill prices range from $15 to $18.

A summer beer now on tap has a funny name, Tighty Whitey. The Belgian wheat ale is brewed with citrus peel, coriander and chamomile flowers.

Chris gets to name the beers, just as he named the brewery.

“You have to pick out a good name that will stand out — and that’s something you hear people say around here,” said Tammy.

Food is not served, but you’re welcome to bring some in, or have it delivered. On that Thursday, Tammy’s dad, Don, was sitting with a group polishing off chicken wings with their beer.

Across the room, friends Jackie Keim, of Waterloo; Kate Hogan, of Orlando, Fla., and Emily Kress, of Belleville, all ordered the Blueberry Wheat beer, a limited release. Sitting on buttery-smooth wood benches, surrounded by exposed brick and walls made from layers of 180-year-old pine boards, they enjoyed an evening out.

“My husband babysat the kids,” said Jackie with a grin.

Kate took a sip. “It’s delicious — and I come from a place where there are lots of breweries; I’m originally from Michigan.”

Tammy said business was good.

“We go through a lot of beer,” she said, laughing. “People in Waterloo are thirsty.”

Stubborn German Brewing Co.

  • What: Small-batch brewery with at least seven year-round, as well as seasonal and limited-release choices of beer. Full bar with a wide choice of bourbons, plus mixed drinks and wine. Food is not served, but can be brought in.
  • When: Summer hours through Labor Day are 4:30 to 10:30 p.m. Tuesdays to Thursdays; 3 to 11 p.m. Fridays; noon to 11 p .m. Saturdays; noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. Closed Mondays. (In the fall, the business will be closed also on Tuesdays.)
  • Where: 119 S. Main St., Waterloo
  • Handicapped accessible: Yes
  • Information: 618-504-2444 and on Facebook
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