St. Donatus inn, barn owners to start brewing for taproom

Gehlen House Inn and Barn

Address: 101 Main St., St. Donatus, Iowa

Hours: When the barn reopens in the spring, taproom hours will be 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday, 3 to 10 p.m. Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 7 p.m. Sunday. 

Phone: 563-213-8014

Online: Updates also can be found on the Gehlen House Inn and Barn Facebook page

ST. DONATUS, Iowa — The owners of a historic St. Donatus house and barn soon will begin brewing their own beer on the property.

Don and Kari Vize have set up brewing equipment in the basement of Gehlen Barn, across the street from Kalmes Restaurant & Catering. The couple hopes to reopen their barn and taproom in the last weekend of March and have their own brews on tap then.

While the brewery business will operate under the name Beer in the Barn Brewery, the barn and adjacent house still will be known as Gehlen House Inn and Barn.

“One of the first questions we always get is when are we going to start brewing our own beer,” Kari said. “We’ve just gotten a lot of positive support. People are excited. They say they can’t wait to taste the beer.”

The Vizes have owned Gehlen House Inn and Barn since July 2019. They spent the two years prior to purchasing the property looking for a place to start small brewing operations.

“My wife and I are getting older, and we thought it would be a fun retirement job to have a small little brew pub,” Don said.

Don has been a home brewer for about 15 years.

“I guess I got started at Christmastime, when I would see these Mr. Beer kits, and they always kind of intrigued me,” Don said. “I finally got one of those and started doing home brewing that way.”

Don evolved his home brewing process and equipment over the years, improving the brews each time.

“Everybody was telling me, ‘Your beers are really good, maybe you should be doing this,’” he said. “I’m sure a lot of people hear that, that they should maybe open up their own little brewery.”

After deciding to open their own spot and purchasing the Gehlen property, the couple have been working to get all of the equipment ready to start brewing, Kari said.

She said the name Beer in the Barn Brewery stemmed from a cardboard sign her husband made in 2020, on which he wrote “Beer in the Barn” to let people know where the taproom was.

The barn’s taproom has 20 taps, and Kari said they traditionally have served Iowa craft beers, with a focus on area breweries as much as possible.

“We’d like to have about six different beers of our own on tap,” Don said. “I don’t know if we will have six different ones when we reopen at the end of March, but by June we will have six of our own beers on tap. Then we’ll have 14 other guest taps going.”

Kari said they will start by making brews to which people will be attracted, such as IPAs and stouts.

“We’re in rural Iowa, and there’s a lot of Busch Light,” she added. “The No. 1 question we get is, ‘What do you have that’s closest to Busch Light?’ So we’ll have some light ales.”

Don said he is excited to hear people’s thoughts once the couple begins serving their own brews.

“I’m just anticipating what the feedback is,” he said. “It’s like a home-cooked meal. You want people to say, ‘Wow, that’s the best roast beef I’ve ever had.’ You want people to enjoy what they’re getting.”