Last in a series on the 2019 Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa Hall of Fame winners.
WATERLOO — Dave Morgan spent several years tweaking and testing to find the right balance — of grain, hops, yeast, and water; owning two businesses and being a family man; and combining LEED certification with historical preservation. SingleSpeed Brewing Co. is proof he’s gotten it right.
What started in 2012 as a three-barrel nano-brewery on Main Street in Cedar Falls has expanded into a 20-barrel operation and revitalization of the Wonder Bread building, built in 1927, in downtown Waterloo.
It’s those efforts and more that led to Morgan receiving the 2019 Junior Achievement Hall of Fame Young Entrepreneur award.
SingleSpeed opened its doors in April 2017 after a $6 million renovation. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Morgan, an outdoor recreation enthusiast, beer aficionado and Cedar Valley resident, was winding his way through the George Wyth trails during a local pub’s Wednesday night bike ride when his wheels began turning — there was not a single start-to-finish local brewery in this area at the time.
He convinced himself and others he could make that happen. Today, SingleSpeed brews can be found in stores and restaurants in central and eastern Iowa.
Sustainability was top of mind in turning the old bakery into a brewery, Morgan said.
Solar panels, low-flow toilets, aerated water, LED lights, energy efficient heating and cooling are just a few of the ways SingleSpeed reduces its carbon footprint.
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“Brewing beer is a very water-intensive project, so anytime we can limit the water usage one way or another, we’re trying to do it,” he said. ... “Hopefully it opens discussion about sustainability. We’re obviously not touching a majority of the world, but we do touch some people.“
Growing up in New Hampton, Morgan worked at a local restaurant as a bus boy and dishwasher until he was promoted to meat carver. He graduated from high school in 1993 and received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Northern Iowa in 1998. He managed a pizza place and an Italian restaurant as well as helped open a new restaurant.
“I was always interested in craft beer going all the way back to college. Of course, I was the kid in the bar that had a New Castle in his hand, or a Fat Tire, whatever I could get my hands on,” he said. “Depending which state I was in would kind of dictate which beers I had available to me, but I was always looking for something interesting to drink. I was intrigued by beer way back then.”
In 2012, he opened the 45-seat taproom on Cedar Falls’ Main Street, which Morgan calls his laboratory.
“So we could actually figure out what we were doing and figure out how to make beer and get immediate feedback from people on what they liked in beer. That’s the beauty of having a taproom like that versus just having a brewery and sending your beer out and not having a lot of direct contact with the consumer,” he said.
Beer and bicycling are a perfect pair, Morgan says, and the Cedar Valley has plenty of nature trails. If you ever get lost, just look at the map on the wall at the Waterloo SingleSpeed and it will guide you, via the trail system, to SingleSpeed in Cedar Falls.
Morgan shows his passion for the trails, and those who maintain the trails, with annual fundraisers for the Cedar Valley Association for Soft Trails, a nonprofit volunteer-based group.
“Our focus points include treating the environment responsibility, creating a work environment/culture that people want to be a part of and grow within, and staying active in our community,” he said.
‘Hopefully it opens discussion about sustainability. We’re obviously not touching a majority of the world, but we do touch some people.’