When Stephen Stiles left California to follow his wife Emily to a college in Iowa, he never imagined the possibilities that awaited them there. After completing their degrees at Dordt University in Sioux Center, the couple returned to California, where they remained for a decade. However, they found themselves missing many aspects of Iowa life – four seasons, vast blue skies, stunning landscapes and kind people. They returned to visit family in 2020, fell in love with a piece of land near Hull and jumped at the opportunity to settle down in the countryside with their four children.
Throughout the hectic moving process, Stephen also happened to stumble on the career opportunity of a lifetime through a connection made by their realtor. For six years, he had been brewing beer as a hobby after learning it from a friend’s dad, but dreamed of making it a business. He mentioned this to their realtor, who connected him with two Sioux Center residents that were planning to open a brewery in town.
After meeting with them, Stephen prepared some sample brews, and the owners invited all their friends and family to the tasting room to try them. To Stephen’s relief, they loved every sip and offered him the official brewmaster position.
“After years of home brewing, I had the opportunity to move to the professional scale and I said, ‘why not? I’m going to do this,’” Stephen said. “I brewed eight beers, maxing out my home brewing equipment and basically said ‘This is it, this is what I have to offer.’ They loved what I was doing and offered me artistic freedom and just let me run with it.”
Mastering His Craft
From there, Late Harvest Brewery was built around Stephen and his brews. He was quickly considered an integral part of the business, giving insight on everything from the best equipment to the name of the brewery. While Stephen perfected the production process, a designer worked with a local construction company to emanate the vibe of an upscale downtown Chicago establishment.
Late Harvest Brewery officially opened in November 2021 and quickly grew to feature over 15 beers on tap – all brewed by Stephen – alongside guest taps, Iowa wines, canned cocktails, mocktails, root beer, cheesecake and woodfired pizzas and appetizers. The brewery also hosts live music events, food trucks, bags tournaments and more throughout the year.
As Stephen settles into the brewing industry, he continues to challenge himself to create one-of-a-kind concoctions with interesting flavors that can be enjoyed by all beer enthusiasts. To learn from some of the best in the business, he came up with the idea of partnering with other Iowa breweries to start the Corner to Corner project.
“Collaboration is understanding what things go well together, and you can really only learn that from years of brewing,” Stephen said. “This is my first collaboration ever and I plan to continue it because it’s part of the process. This isn’t a cutthroat industry, it’s more about uplifting and enjoying each other’s product and working together to learn as much as you can.”
The project features a partnership between Late Harvest and three other Iowa breweries – Toppling Goliath in Decorah, Full Fledged Brewing in Council Bluffs and Adventurous Brewing in Bettendorf. Each quarter, the brewmasters from each location get together to perfect a unique brew, which will then be produced by one brewery but served at all four.
Joining a Bustling Community
Late Harvest’s exciting ventures have already proved valuable to the community – it adds another destination for visitors to experience in northwest Iowa while also providing a family-friendly entertainment option for locals.
The brewery also joins the increasing number of local businesses in Sioux Center, which boasts one of the fastest growing populations in the state and offers a promising future for the companies that call it home.
“The town is constantly growing— there’s a lot of industrial activity that comes through, businesses are popping up left and right. It’s an exciting time to be here,” Stephen said.
This excitement also includes watching his children grow up in a close-knit community. Before the family had even unpacked their things, Stephen and Emily had over 50 friend requests on Facebook from fellow residents eager to welcome them with open arms.
Meanwhile, his tractor-obsessed son and cow-loving daughter are even more thrilled by their Iowa life.
“The town kind of sucked us in and it’s been really nice living here, experiencing the country lifestyle without having to be a rancher or a farmer,” Stephen said. “People here are willing to bend over backwards to make sure you’re comfortable, and that’s been quite a blessing for us."