At Iowa City Brewlab, the "lab" part of the name is just as important as the "brew."
Father-son duo Drew and Nathan Letcher are opening the brewery near downtown Iowa City with a focus on the science of beer.
Drew Letcher's career has been in software engineering, while Nathan is studying biochemistry. A few years ago, they both got into home brewing, and they decided they wanted to take their backgrounds and use them to make better beer.
"We have a full set of microscopes, pH meters, oxygen meters," Drew says. "My son is into quality control. We want to develop a tasting panel, to train panelists to identify off-flavors."
Drew will run a computer program to monitor and control the brewing process, which he will use instead of manual valves and gauges. The goal is to control the process and make consistent beers with repeatable recipes, he says.
The interior of the space, at 505 E. Washington St., across from the New Pioneer Co-Op, still is under construction, but the brewing tanks have arrived. The Letcher's hope to open their doors in October or shortly thereafter.
In addition to brewing beers and producing kegs to sell elsewhere, the building will offer a tap room where patrons can sit and drink the beers, as well as a limited kitchen. Initially, the food offerings will be simple things like cheese boards. The brewery has also worked out a deal with DP Dough, a calzone shop two doors down - customers at the brewery will be order calzones and have them delivered to the tap room.
The brewery's tag line is "Flavorful craft beer and artisan fermentations." In that spirit, they also hope to offer fermented beverage kombucha on tap from Wild Culture Kombucha, another entity working on opening in Iowa City.
Once the brewery opens, Drew hopes to offer tasting sessions where patrons can learn about what makes their beer taste the way it does. "We'll hopefully explain the science of flavor to our customers," Drew says.
Their background isn't only in science, however.
Nathan will serve as head brewer. He previously worked at Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka, Calif., and Six Row Brewing Co. in St. Louis.
Drew trained himself through home-brewing and took a course through a home-brew club to become a certified beer judge. He's been judging for the last three or four years, including at the semifinals of the National Home-brew Competition.
The duo plan to offer IPAs and some session beers starting out, with wild and Belgian-style sour beers joining the mix. They are working with Buck Creek Hops in Solon to source local hops for their beer. They have three fermentation tanks now and are preparing to launch a crowdfunding campaign to purchase one more tank and bottling equipment.
Drew says they want to address a gap in Iowa City's beer scene. Since Old Capitol Brewing closed earlier this year, Iowa City does not have a brewery of its own.
"It all comes down to drinking a flavorful beer. I'm always looking for new and flavorful beer styles," Drew says. "We'd like to bring that to Iowa City for everyone to enjoy."
WHERE: 505 E. Washington St., Iowa City
DETAILS: (319) 621-8613; facebook.com/IowaCityBrewlab