Ausenhus aims for balance when brewing beer
By Jean Caspers-Simmet
Date Modified: 08/02/2012 2:25 PM
Worth Brewing Company
Location: 826 Central Avenue, Northwood, Iowa
Hours: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and noon to 11 p.m. Saturday
Known for craft beers. A pint of beer is $4.
Contact them at (641) 324-9899 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Website is http://worthbrewing.com.
NORTHWOOD, Iowa —For Peter Ausenhus, one of the most satisfying aspects of owning a brew pub is that he can create a product and see his customers enjoy it.
"Now days there are very few people who can do that," he said.
Ausenhus and his wife, Margaret Bishop, started Worth Brewing Company five years ago in the historic People's Gas and Electric Building in downtown Northwood. Constructed in 1886 for the Worth County State Bank, the building was drastically altered in 1935 by Northwood-Kensett Electric Company.
Ausenhus and Bishop bought the building in November 2006, rehabilitated it to its 1935 modernization, and Worth Brewing Company opened its doors on St. Patrick's Day 2007.
"When we started tearing out the walls and false ceiling, we found that the hand-crafted plaster walls and ceiling molding were all intact," Ausenhus said. "All that remains of the 1886 bank is the tile and wood floor in the front of the tap room."
The building is one of 50 in the Northwood Central Avenue Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Ausenhus, who is interested in historic preservation, worked with volunteers to document and get the buildings listed.
"We may be the smallest licensed brewery in the country, making beer in 10-gallon batches for local consumption," Ausenhus said.
He brews two batches of beer every Monday, two batches every Tuesday and a batch on Thursday. The tap room is open on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Sundays he sanitizes and fills kegs.
Ausenhus brews five beers that are available all the time —Sunderland English Mild, Dillon Clock Stopper (named after the town clock), Brown Ale (the best seller), Field Trip IPA and Oatmeal Stout. At least one new beer is brewed per month.
"We'll have something lighter in the hot months and something fuller flavored and stronger in the winter," Ausenhus said. "The funnest part of brewing is making new beers."
He follows recipes he's gathered over the years from home and professional brewing.
"The most important thing is the quality of material and the procedure," Ausenhus said. "Good beer in one word would be balance, a balance between the malt sweetness and the hop bitterness. There are more than 100 recognized styles of beer, so it's really personal preference. If you enjoy it, it's a good beer."
His beers consist of four ingredients —malted barley, hops, water and yeast. All his beers are variations of these ingredients.
Worth Brewing Company doesn't sell food, but a nearby pizza parlor and Mexican restaurant both deliver to the brew pub. Signatures, a supper club down the street, calls customers when their tables are ready.
"We're too small to do food, and Northwood has restaurants that are doing a good job," Ausenhus said. "Why not support that? The more everyone is successful, the more everyone benefits."
Ausenhus became interested in how beer is made about 25 years ago when he started tasting imported beers and began making his own brew. About the time the Nebraska native finished his doctoral degree in mass communications at the University of Minnesota, he got a job at Summit Brewing Company in St. Paul. He also worked at Northern Brewer, a St. Paul brewing supply company.
Bishop owns Bishop Energy Engineering and works with schools to increase their energy efficiency. About 13 years ago, the couple bought an acreage in Northwood, where Ausenhus' grandparents had lived, and moved from the Twin Cities.
Ausenhus worked for the Globe Gazette in Mason City, but when Bishop's business got really busy, he went to work for her. When the People's Gas and Electric Building came up for sale, the couple decided to open their brew pub.
"When we opened, we had no idea if anyone would come because every one here was a Bud or Miller drinker, but we were pleasantly surprised," Ausenhus said. "We have folks coming in here now who will never drink anything but craft beer."
Worth Brewing Company sponsors its own home brewing contest in July in cooperation with the Iowa/Minnesota Society of Brewers.
"I like to support home brewers because that is who has driven this craft beer movement," Ausenhus said.