Couple opens up little slice of community pride at Maquoketa Brewing

MAQUOKETA, Iowa — Mark Lyon once was reading a magazine article listing the indicators of a thriving community. One was a local brewery.

It was the only thing on the list that Maquoketa didn’t have.

“Maquoketa hasn’t had a brewery since prohibition,” he said.

That changes today when Mark and Judy Lyon have a soft opening of Maquoketa Brewing.

This weekend, the taproom will be open to only the about 70 people that signed up this year to be brewery members.

Maquoketa Brewing will open to the general public on the following weekend — Jan. 7 to 9 — before starting normal hours.

“I don’t think a day goes by where someone doesn’t ask me, ‘When are you guys opening?’” said Mark, who also is a Maquoketa City Council member. “We’re trying to be people’s third space. If your first space is home and your second space is work, that third space is where you want to go.”

The couple’s journey to running their own business began about a year and a half ago. That’s when they came into the more-than-100-year-old space owned by Emily and Andrew McCready.

Mark recalled that the structure needed to be stabilized first, as walls needed to be removed and the roof was caving in.

After state community catalyst funding helped to restore the space, they were able to start piecing together the taproom.

An on-site production room includes 100-gallon barrels in which eight of Maquoketa Brewing’s tap beers are made. Mark, who started home-brewing with friends eight years ago, said he will have a wide spectrum of beers on tap, from IPAs to stouts.

A couple of beers on tap also come from Jubeck New World Brewing in Dubuque, Mark’s favorite place in Dubuque for a beer.

Maquoketa Brewing also has wine on tap, which Mark said will both eliminate having to constantly open bottles and be more environmentally conscious. Completing the tap are two ciders from Crimson Sunset Cidery in Cascade.

“When he asked me, ‘Can I open a brewery?’ I said ‘Yes, but you’ve got to do two things,’” Judy said. “’One, you have to have cider on tap, and two, you have to have hooks for purses.’”

The hooks hang between the tables in the taproom, only half of which initially will be in use due to COVID-19 social distancing measures. Plexiglass has also been installed at the bar. Once the weather warms, Mark said, they hope to have outdoor seating as well.

Mark noted he also hopes in the future to do nights where $1 of every drink goes toward a nonprofit to give back to the community.

Many Iowa elements surround the brewery, including the beer flights shaped like the state. Maquoketa Brewery’s logo is an outline of Iowa with a star showing Maquoketa’s location.

“It’s important we identify where we are,” Judy said.

She also noted that Maquoketa Brewing only takes up half of the building, leaving room for a new local business next door.

“We’d love to see a restaurant here,” she said. “It’d be an easy connection.”