You might not expect Des Moines, Iowa to be a haven for some of the best beer from all around the world, but thanks to Full Court Press, Inc., you could drink for a lifetime.
Full Court Press is a restaurant group devoted to beer-centric, themed joints. Missing England? Try The Royal Mile, where Robinsons will make you feel like you’re back in the Queen’s land. Wish you were in Munich for Oktoberfest? Head to Hessen Haus, where Sünner and Pfungstädter and Veltins await. Craving Trappist ale? They’ve got you covered at The Red Monk, which features a deep selection of Belgians and imports, including La Trappe, Omer Vander Ghinste and Unibroue. And then there’s el Bait Shop, a craft beer monument where you’ll find Artisanal offerings among the 268 taps. You read correctly.
Jeff Bruning, Owner at Full Court Press, spoke with Artisanal Imports about where imports fit into his business, the value of a beer’s reputation and more.
You’ve worked your way up from the belly of the restaurant business to the top. Growth is tricky and risky business. In a few words, how have you managed this growth on a personal level and also from a business perspective?
“We definitely had our struggles over the years, and the reason I believe we have been somewhat successful is that we remain involved in the day-to-day of our businesses. We do everything from the construction, creative and maintenance to the financials and directing of the businesses.”
For some restaurants and bars, imports will make up a piece of the puzzle, while other concepts can be built around them. Can you talk about how imports fit into your concepts?
“Several of our businesses are themed towards European locales such as The Royal Mile, our British place, The Red Monk, which is our Belgian bar and the Hessen Haus, a German bier hall. Imports are a big part of the theme. When you have a great name from overseas, people know it and appreciate it. We also do some more eclectic imports at el Bait Shop, which is our Craft Beer location.”
What factors do you take into consideration when determining what imports to stock?
“Availability and desirability. If we can get it and people want it, we will stock it.”
As someone who knows a thing or two about running a successful eating and drinking establishment, what themes remain constant throughout all concepts?
“Our concepts are beer-centric and this, more than anything, is a consistent theme. We also only stock a beer if it fits the theme. We have tried to put a great import into a bar where it doesn’t fit thematically, and it just doesn’t work.”
Artisanal works with some of beer’s most historic brands – some of which have been vetted for centuries. What role do time-tested brews play in the whirlwind of beer at a hundred-plus tap establishment?
“There are certain styles that have consistently stood the test of time; for those styles, beer lovers seek out the breweries that make them. Sometimes people choose a beer based on the reputation of the brewery alone. Either way, there are always reasons why certain breweries develop a devoted fan base.”
Can you speak to your relationship with Artisanal Imports and where it fits into the business you do?
“We sell a ton of the Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge by Omer Vander Ghinste and De Proef Brouwerij beers at el Bait Shop and Red Monk, Sünner and Pfungstädter at Hessen Haus and Robinson’s at The Royal Mile. I personally like Veltins.”
Are there any upcoming events you’d like people to know about?
“We have just opened a new place called SKØL – a whiskey, taco, mead and beer establishment. We do many different events through the year like Apples and Bees (cider and mead), Oktoberfest and the Belgian Beer Festival.”