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House Divided Brewery

Home brewer's dream come true
Cal and Lisa Corrin will open House Divided Brewery in Ely, a new storefront taproom located at 1620 Dows St., Wednesday, Oct. 23. The microbrewery will serve regional Iowa beers until its manufacturing permit is approved. (photos by Doug Lindner)

ELY– Cal Corrin has been brewing his own beer since the early 1990s.
There weren’t any craft beers around back then, but he found himself drawn to the imports.
“You’d find a stout maybe once in a while or a Guinness or some other import that’s different than domestic beer,” he explained.
He was residing in Quincy, Ill., at the time, which had a home brew supply store, so he started making his own.
“Even when I started, it was always in the back of my mind, wouldn’t it be great to do a brewery,” he said. “Always in my thoughts.”
Now, in a home brewer’s dream come true, he and his wife Lisa are poised to open House Divided Brewery in Ely, a new storefront taproom located at 1620 Dows St., a formerly empty lot across from the library.
But it will be just a little bit before the first batch hits the taps.
Because of delays in House Divided’s manufacturing permit, the microbrewery will open Oct. 23 serving selections from other regional breweries like Lion Head, Quarter Barrel and Big Grove.
Cal and Lisa have lived in Ely for four years and were originally considering a Cedar Rapids location for their new business.
Lisa, a native of Phoenix, Ariz., moved to Iowa in 2007 to finish her nursing degree at Mount Mercy University. She met Cal, an Iowa State University (ISU) graduate from Neola, in 2008 while he was living in Marion.
“And knew I was never leaving Iowa about five months later,” she said.
The couple married in 2011 and lived in Marion until moving to Ely in August of 2015 to be closer to College Community School District and Cal’s two sons.
“Fell in love with it right away,” Cal said of Ely. “It’s a great town.”
Which led them to consider it as a site for the brewery.
“When we moved here, I was still just thinking about places in CR, and I started more looking at Ely,” Cal explained. “You know, this place, Ely, needs something like this.”
“It’s where we live,” added Lisa. “It’s our community.”
Cal and Lisa had an ongoing conversation about the microbrew for a number of years– it was a big step financially and otherwise.
Cal had worked for over 30 years in grain processing plants– Cargill, Penford, ADM¬¬– at different plants throughout the Midwest.
When his mother died, he inherited enough money to consider using it as a retirement investment by opening a microbrewery.
Cal talked to then-City Administrator Denise Hoy about possible locations in Ely, and among them was the empty Dows Street lot owned by Todd Prokop. Hoy said it had previously been considered as a site for a bar.
Cal approached Prokop and asked if he’d be interested in a microbrewery instead.
“He said OK,” Cal reported.
Prokop started the new building last winter, and Cal was able to get into it this spring, doing a lot of the work himself with help from his son and his son’s friends.
“It’s his dream,” Lisa said.
“This is my self-employment,” he added.
Although he gave it up for a while in the 2000s, Cal’s been brewing on his back deck at home for several years.
“I did it simple,” he said. While he has friends with elaborate systems costing thousands of dollars, the set-up for his award-winning beers cost hundreds.
“Thirty years in the processing industry, this is a pretty simple system compared to what I’m used to with my old jobs,” he noted.
He’d named the home brewery House Divided after the gentle rivalry between Cal, an ISU fan, and Lisa, an adopted Hawkeye.
Lisa had no affiliation with the University of Iowa (UI), but when she came to the state from Arizona, all her friends were Hawkeye fans.
When she started dating Cal, she decided it would be fun to stay a Hawkeye
She’s also now a nurse with UI Hospitals and Clinics.
Cal put a lot of research in before opening the House Divided taproom.
He’ll be operating a three-barrel (a barrel is 31 gallons) system, with four three-barrel fermenters and two six-barrel fermenters for more popular beers in larger batches.
The three steps in the process are the mash tun tank where the grains soak and starches are converted to sugars; then to the boil kettle where the hops are added; and after cooling, the batch is transferred to the fermenter where yeast is added.
Each step takes about an hour, he said.
The beer goes from the fermenting tanks to serving tanks or kegs and tapped from there.
“Once you brew a batch, it takes about two weeks from the time you’re done brewing to the time you can serve it,” he said.
His personal favorite is the House Divided Brewery Black IPA.
“I’m a hop-forward kind of guy,” Cal explained. “I’ve got another double-IPA that’s eight percent alcohol and loaded with hops and it’s one of my favorites, but she can’t stand hops.”
After he receives his manufacturing permit, however, the first batch will likely be a blond or pale ale, something really simple to test the system.
He estimated he’s made 40-50 different beers over the 125 batches he’s done as House Divided at home.
But those were only 2.5 or 5 gallons, like most home brew systems.
“I like to do small batches, ‘cause it’s just me drinking them,” he noted.
He ends up with 20 bottles from a small batch, and what he doesn’t drink he shares with friends.
“I have enough bottles, I don’t need ‘em back,” he said.
Whenever he buys craft beer, he’ll just soak off the labels, buy new caps and reuse the bottles. Millstream Root Beer bottles work great, he pointed out. “My son likes Millstream Root Beer, so I have a lot of old root beer bottles I use.”
But now he’ll be playing with shiny new toys.
The brewery’s tanks are located right inside the door at House Divided, and Cal will be making beer while Lisa manages and picks up some shifts serving.
They wanted the taproom to be comfortable, not too industrial, with a functional garage door opening out onto an extensive front patio.
The focal point of the taproom is a custom-built bar by Willie Moseley of Fairfax.
The counter is constructed out of two slabs of walnut Moseley picked up in Ohio, while the rest of the wood, including the insets, are all reclaimed.
“He just did a remarkable job,” Lisa said. “It’s completely unique and I think it’s really a centerpiece of the brewery.”
The two want to be able to provide live music. There’s not a lot of room inside, maybe enough for a solo act, but in the summer they hope to put the patio to use.
House Divided Brewery will not serve food (except for the popcorn machine), but customers can bring their own, and the Corrians hope to occasionally have food trucks on site.
The taproom features four televisions and the exterior will feature a lot of bicycle racks.
People have wandered in on nice days when the garage door was up, asking if they could get a beer or wondering about an opening date.
That date is Wednesday, Oct. 23, in conjunction with the Spook Walk in Ely.
After that, House Divided will open Monday through Thursday from 4-10 p.m., Friday from 4 p.m.-midnight, Saturday from 11 a.m.-midnight and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“It’s going to be fun,” Cal predicted.