Templeton Rye Tour, Debbies Corner Cafe – Templeton and Manning, Iowa


The Iowa countryside was a welcome tonic yesterday after a few weeks of being cooped up in my office. The hills of central and west-central Iowa were covered in a thick blanket of tall green corn and looked lush against the blue sky.

I took a tour of the spanking new distillery in the small town of Templeton that makes the famous prohibition-era Templeton Rye Whiskey. We got to up close how the whiskey is made (with a whole lot of rye and malt barley that is made into a mash and mixed with yeast and water and fermented). The small museum is equally interesting, telling the somewhat sanitized story about how much of the town made and sold bootleg whisky during Prohibition in the 1920s. The priest, the sheriff, prominent townspeople all seemed to be in on the town’s big secret and “the good stuff” was stashed in hollowed out gravestones, wooden fence posts and corn cribs.

We also saw how the barrels that the whiskey are made in Ohio out of white oak wood that is intentionally set on fire inside so the interior develops a char that helps give the whiskey it’s caramel color and smoky flavor. We all go to sign a barrel before stepping o into the “speakeasy” got a tasking of special reserve whiskey. I forced myself to take a few small sips. Not my drink.

The nice clerk at the little post office in town suggested Deb’s Corner Cafe for lunch, seven miles west in the German town of Manning, which turned out to be a perfect spot. I sat at the counter and had a tuna sandwich ($3.50), and a bottomless glass of iced tea and homemade cherry pie. I went across the street to a “marketplace” with gifts and fancy drinks and looked briefly at the old barn from Germany that the townspeople transplanted here. I drove back on Highway 44 (and outbound on Highway 141), both scenic two-lane country roads.

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