Dessie Redmond and her husband Marshall opened Full Fledged Brewing Co. in 2019 with great support from the Council Bluffs community. Their path to growth was an uncertain one during the pandemic, but today the couple can say the future looks bright for the craft brewery.
“We were very worried we wouldn’t make it on the other side. There were several things we did, cutting back costs on everything, anything that wasn’t necessary,” she said. “One of the hardest things about COVID was having to lay off our staff. We’ll never forget the day we had to do that; it was heartbreaking and it was probably the hardest thing we’ve had to do.”
The Redmonds don’t wallow in such memories, but it doesn’t take much to see they learned a lot from them, namely how to think creatively and lead through challenging circumstances. Judging from how the Council Bluffs-based brewery has come roaring back, those lessons are still being taken to heart.
“We leaned on PPP, and we also got a local grant called the REV grant, which is a specialty grant for small businesses that are upcoming,” Dessie Redmond said of TS Bank’s 2020 REV pitch competition. “What it did was help us buy a canning machine so we could start canning our product, which we weren’t doing before. Basically, we created a new product to help grow our business. We started canning our beer to get into grocery stores, liquor stores and places like that. That added additional revenue.”
Today, the business is buzzing. After hiring back furloughed staff within six months of laying them off, Full Fledged Brewing Co. has been on a steady upwards climb. A recent deal with Doll Distributing promises wider distribution for product statewide, with eyes on additional markets in the region.
Redmond said output is expected to grow from about 900 barrels last year to 1,300 in 2023, and all signs are pointing toward expanding production space soon.
“We have about 6,000 square feet and that includes the brewery, which takes up about half of it,” she said. “We have an option on the space next door to us, so if we do need to expand we can expand next door by adding more tanks and increasing the size of the brewery. We definitely are planning for that. We don’t have a timeframe as of now, but we’ve been planning for that since we opened.”
A New Venture
The business wasn’t just a new experience for the owners, it’s reportedly the first craft brewery in the city. This not only generated the excitement that surrounds novelty, but it also complicated certain processes during the construction phase. Throughout this process, Redmond said the owners were impressed with the support they received.
“Because we were the first brewery, we did have to go and amend the city’s code,” Redmond said. “That was a little bit of a problem, but people were super supportive. The city staff was very supportive, the city council was very supportive of us coming in. We were really lucky.”
Advance Southwest Iowa helped the couple through the process by showing them potential buildings.
“We’re not from Council Bluffs, so we didn’t really know the lay of the land,” she said. “Looking back, the construction part was fun; we got to see the space come together how we pictured it. Really, the hardest part is after you open the doors; once you have a small business, it doesn’t stop.”
Thirst for Local
The brewery continues to benefit from craft beer’s sustained popularity nationwide. As reported in April by the Brewers Association, production from small, independent brewers in 2021 was up 8% over the previous year, boosting craft beer’s overall market share by volume to 13.1%. The increase can be contributed to organic in-market growth while a portion is driven by beer tourists and enthusiasts who seek out craft breweries in other locations to gain a sense of regional tastes and variations by individual brew masters on various beer categories.
“We have about 11 hotels within a mile radius of us, so we get a lot of people who are going through town who picked their hotel because it’s walking distance to a brewery,” Redmond said. “There’s also a lot of people staying here who are coming into town for the College World Series or a concert that’s happening across the river in Omaha. That’s probably another 20 to 30%.
“We have great local customers in Council Bluffs. The community has many craft beer lovers and they were very excited to get their own.”
Full Fledged Brewing offers a wide range of beers including IPAs, hefeweizens, stouts, lagers and shandy varieties.
712-201-6520 • 40 Arena Way, Ste. 2, Council Bluffs, Iowa 51501
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