Just 5 miles from Knoxville, Iowa’s only brewery, a striking piece of history juts out of the placid waters of Lake Red Rock: remnants of the old Red Rock Indian Line sycamore tree, otherwise known as the Peace Tree. The hollowed shell of a trunk surrounded by water is something of an oddity, but it’s a generations-old landmark that represents the reshaping of America’s prairie land.
Long before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created the recreational lake in the 1960s as a flood control project for the Des Moines River, the now-submerged area served as a crossroads for pioneers and Native Americans alike—the giant sycamore was a prominent feature on the landscape, and an obvious meeting place for fur traders, as well as a speculated location for a treaty between local Native Americans and the U.S. government. Like the tree, which brought a cross-section of prairie dwellers together, today Peace Tree Brewing serves a similar purpose—except instead of fur, the modern trade’s in beer like Red Rambler, an American amber, and Hop Wrangler, a hybrid IPA that blends English, Belgian and American ingredients.
“For us, the brewery’s a meeting place, a place to go and be with people, and that segues into how people share our beers,” says brewery co-owner Scott Ziller. “[They represent] a piece of history that still exists.”