As cyclists move slowly into Des Moines, bars vow not to run out of beer

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Gregg Mooers, a manager with Des Moines’ Doll Distributing, and Kelle Molloy, a director, stand next to a stocked Budweiser truck readied for RAGBRAI riders. (Josh Hafner/The Register)

How much beer would a RAGBRAI require if a RAGBRAI rode through town?

“It’s a whole hell-load of beer,” said Sara Middleton, the general manager of three downtown Des Moines bars. “A lot of beer. So much beer we can’t keep it in stock here.”

Middleton’s establishments — Sbrocco, Shorty’s and the Levee on Court – all sit on Court Avenue, a stone’s throw away from the RAGBRAI Village of vendors and activities.

Middleton said she and nearby managers expected a swarm of 20,000-plus cyclists to hit downtown by noon Tuesday, yet by 2:30 most bars remained empty. Why?

“I’m hearing this through beer delivery guys who are trying to get beer to Minburn,” Middleton said, referring to the small pass-through town between Perry and Des Moines. “The rumor is they couldn’t go out (last night) because it was so stormy. So people turned in early, got out early to Minburn and started partying.”

Middleton had since shifted expectations and readied for a later rush. That’s the mystery of RAGBRAI for restaurant crews, she said: To an industry that’s pretty systematic, a massive bike ride is anything but.

Just how many riders will arrive to downtown, how much booze they’ll drink and when is anyone’s guess, Middleton said.

“You have to smile, go with God and plan on opening a lot of canned beer tonight,” she said. “It’s perfect drinking weather. That’s why I want to get them here.”

When they arrived, Middleton expected cyclists to drink far more brews than any of her bars can stock on site. A Budweiser semi-truck sat parked Tuesday afternoon in front of The Levee on Court, an all-outdoor bar just next to the RAGBRAI Village’s entrance.

Des Moines’ Doll Distributing planted three trucks full of beer in the downtown area to restock bars and the RAGBRAI Villages’ beer garden. Each truck can hold 8,000 cases of beer, the company said.

“You’re going to get a barrage of 10,000 people coming upon this and we’ve got to be ready to react,” said Gregg Mooers, a manager with the truck.

Kelle Molloy, a director with the company, nodded: “They will not run out. We will not let them run out.”

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The Levee On Court, a new all-outdoor bar and restaurant, sits near the entrance to Des Moines’ RAGBRAI Village.

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