The Best Bars To Visit In Iowa

Bar drinks
Bar drinks | Photo by Stanislav Ivanitskiy on Unsplash
Marcelina Morfin

From chic venues serving handcrafted cocktails to laid-back establishments featuring an extensive selection of brews, there are many enticing choices to enjoy a great night out in Iowa. Here is a list of some of the exciting options in Iowa that serve a great selection of your favorite drinks.

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1st & Main

At the bar

This bar is a hip bar and restaurant serving delicious drinks alongside gourmet eats. Recently voted the best new restaurant in Dubuque, the venue, which is nestled inside a downtown historic building, features a beautiful space complete with exposed brick walls and beams and wood floors. There’s a large selection of beers and specialty drinks with highlights being the blueberry cake martini made with blueberry vodka, maple syrup and Frangelico and the Johnny Boy with Templeton prohibition-era Iowa whiskey and raspberry tea. As for food, the menu at 1st & Main features a range of dishes all of which are inspired by local flavors.

El Bait Shop

Located in Des Moines, El Bait Shop is an award winning bar that will appeal to any beer lover. Within a 1970s fishing-themed interior, beer aficionados have access to over 100 beers on tap plus an additional 175 in bottles ensuring that there is something to suit any taste. The ambiance is a lively one only made more vibrant through the venue’s events, including live music and the Jimmy Carter Happy Hour on Thursdays where samples from local home brewers are featured. El Bait Shop also offers guests a variety of cuisine from American to Mexican.

Front Street Brewery

Founded in 1992 and set along the Mississippi River, Front Street Brewery is the oldest brewpub in Iowa. A warm interior, complete with exposed brick walls and burnished wood, plus a lovely brick beer garden awaits guests who visit to try the brewery’s craft beers. Some of the brews here are the Cherry Ale, which is an American light beer aged with cherries, the German Hefeweizen with a banana and clove aroma, and the Vanilla Porter aged with Madagascar organic vanilla.

Hessen Haus

Another great place for a fun night out in Des Moines is Hessen Haus. This restaurant and bar, as the name suggests, is a German bier hall-style venue tucked inside a former train station. Guests visiting this lively place are presented with a menu that features an array of made-from-scratch fare alongside a great selection of beers, including domestic and German varieties. They have 31 selections on tap, another 163 in bottles, plus 13 cans, but these numbers are subject to change, so check their website for current selections. Adding to the fun environment is the venue’s many events, including live music.

Jameson’s Public House

Tasting platter with samples of assorted beer, cider, and mead

Jameson’s Public House is an Irish pub founded in Waterloo. Presenting guests with ‘Irish warmth and hospitality,’ the owners have created an inviting space, complete with wooden accents salvaged from an 18th-century barn. Friends can gather to enjoy a host of drinks and pub eats, which include both Irish and American dishes. The bar features 18 beers on tap representing both domestic and Irish varieties, including Guinness and Smithwick’s, plus a great selection of Irish whiskey and Scotch. The pub also plays host to a range of events each month many of which are live music shows.


RōCA, which stands for Restaurant on Court Ave, is a lovely place to go out for a night on the town. The venue’s interior features 150-year-old exposed brick walls adorned with vintage photographs along with a sleek bar and modern furniture making it a wonderful blending of the old with the new. Within the vibrant atmosphere, guests can sample a variety of shared plates plus craft cocktails of traditional and specialty varieties, craft beers on tap, and a selection of wines. One unique cocktail to note is the ‘Smoking Gun,’ which combines Bulleit bourbon, maple syrup, Angostura bitters and wood chip smoke.

Sanctuary Pub

Established in 1972, Sanctuary Pub is an Iowa City-based venue delighting guests with its impressive selection of craft brews. The intimate, casual space with cozy booths, dark woods, and subtle lighting makes it a great place to unwind and have long conversations with friends. Voted the Best Beer Bar within Iowa two years in a row by Rate Beer, this pub features 27 craft beers on tap, which includes both American and imported varieties, plus many more selections in bottles. The pub also offers delicious food, including snacks, creative entrées, and pizza.

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