Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Rookie Class


With the NFL draft on the horizon, the sports world currently has their eyes on a field of rookie football players, wondering what kind of impact they'll have on the NFL and how they'll transition from college to professional play. Here in Kansas City, we have our own rookie class of craft brewers flying under the radar, ready to break out and leave their own unique mark on the city's beer community. So who are the rising stars of Kansas City brew? Look no further for a glimpse at the guys who are ready to leave behind the homebrew and take their talents to the professional level.

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Wilderness Brewing
Michael Reinhardt, Nate Watson

The Beginning: Wilderness is likely best known in town for their Kickstarter campaign from last summer that helped provide the initial funding for their brewery project. But their ambitions go much farther back. 9 years ago, Michael had Nate and a couple other friends over to his place in Springfield, MO to try home brewing on a kit that his wife had bought him for Christmas. As Michael and Nate continued to brew and write for thankheavenforbeer.com, well, Michael puts it best: "Interest became obsession and obsession eventually became action." The launch of the brewery, more or less, was the result of hundreds of hours spent writing, phone conversations, and encouragement from beer drinkers who loved our stuff.

The Goal: Reinhardt says that the main goal is to get more good and unique beer in the Kansas City area while connecting with those who are drinking it.  Accessibility, he feels, is key; being open to talking brainstorming and listening to beer drinkers' ideas of what other brews could be on the horizon. "We really do want the folks of KC to have a say over some aspects of our brewing identity," he notes.

The Beer: Wilderness plans to offer a whole gambit of beers that are constantly evolving and rotating.  They plan is to brew anything from mild to extreme beers, to (and emphatically) sours.

Where They Stand: "Getting up and running is, as with any highly regulated industry, an involved process," Michael explained, "we have begun to embark on that process and have actually met with some people from the city recently.  We have scouted places, one of which we like very much, but we have to continue to engage regulated industries, zoning folks, Kansas City Biz Care, and a great deal of other parties before we make a definitive decision.  We are happy to report that the city is being very helpful and, to this point, have been great to work with."

Reinhardt  notes that a key part of their process is ensuring that, as they move forward, Wilderness Brewing is doing everything as the law and official procedure dictate. They hope that they can start offering some of their beers for sale by the end of the year.  We would love it to be by August or September...but we will see how the process moves along.

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Green Room Burgers & Beer
Michael Ptacek

The Beginning: Michael Ptacek got started in June of last year in his quest to bring his beer to the public. After doing a lot of research, he found that having a restaurant/brewpub was much safer option than a microbrewery, due to the two revenue streams. "Brewpubs were very fashionable back in the nineties, and many of then went out of business... so I am trying to be careful in how enthusiastic I am with the brewing," he says. "I view it less as a money making venture, and more as a dream job to brew my own beer."

The Goal: Green Room is unique, in that Michael intends to only brew and offer one beer, and it will only be available at the restaurant, not packaged. "With my limited square footage and batch size (1 bbl), I felt that serving only one beer would be perfect for my situation," he noted. "Brewing used to be the product of small households and alehouses, until the industrial porters of England. I think small breweries could be the next step for us in the US."

The Beer:  Papa Louie's is the name of the beer that Ptacek has been working on for the last couple of years and plans to offer at Green Room Burgers & Beer. He says that it's essentially a 60/-  Scottish Ale, a style he fell in love with while taking the BJCP exam a few years ago. Michael says that while he loves all beer, his heart belongs to session beers with subtle, complex flavors. "Papa Louis is my grandfather's name. He is 100% Czech, so I will be using Bohemian Pilsner malt, Saaz hops, and attempt a soft water profile similar to what Czech Pilsner is brewed with. 60/- does not travel well, so my brewing ambition is to produce enough for my restaurant, and that's about it."

Where They Stand: Ptacek says that the TTB have presented him with some obstacles regarding his brewer's permit due to some legal minutia and paperwork details. However, his insurance company has been hashing out the problem and he expects to be receiving TTB approval very soon. So keep an eye out on the respective Green Room webpages for any updates on when you can grab a Papa Louie's with a Green Room burger. Until then, you can go grab a bite (I recommend the 4010 burger) and a beer from one of Green Room's other taps at their Westport location, 4010 Pennsylvania Avenue.

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Fountainhead Brewing Company
Michael Ojo

The Beginning: The idea of Fountainhead Brewing started in early 2009. At the time, Michael Ojo was still early in his homebrewing experience and had ideas of starting a business. Over time he came to realize that opening a brewery was truly an extension of his pre-existing passion for food and beverage. "My good friend and I tossed around the idea of opening a brewery and from that idea grew Fountainhead. The original idea was to start a nanobrewery, but over time the idea and plans have grown to what will someday be a small-scale microbrewery," he explained.

The Goal: Ojo's goals for Fountainhead are to brew new and exciting beers as well grow the craft beer scene in Kansas City. "I believe Kansas City is going through an artistic renaissance and craft beer definitely has a place to flourish and expand," he said.

The Beer: The styles of beers that Fountainhead will vary, from stouts and porters to IPAs, fruit beers and Belgian-style beers. Ojo recently finished up the label design for my first beer offering called Bullion, which is a golden-colored Belgian Pale Ale. Every summer, he also brew a series of fruit beer called the Summer Infatuation Series. "The name of the series is the result of a joke and therefore, each beer in the series is named after female close friends and acquaintances that my guy friends have had an infatuation with," Ojo explained. "It's silly, humorous and I think the ladies get a kick out of having a beer named after them."

Where They Stand: Ojo's number one goal for 2012 is to break ground in a facility. Fortunately, he is moving along and has begun making offers on properties. He hopes that as things continue to move and get streamlined, he may be able to open in late 2012 or early 2013. However, between now and then, he intends to find opportunities to share my beer with friends and the community.

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Martin City Brewing Company
Matt Moore, Matt Murdick, Chance Adams

The Beginning: Probably the most well known and established 'rookie' in terms of current business, Martin City Brewing Company was originally conceived back in Winter 2009 when co-owners Matt Murdick and Chance Adams decided to take their homebrewing to the next level. The restaurant, which Kansas City has already become familiar with, was established over the course of Spring 2011 and opened in June 2011 in order to ultimately fund the brewing part of the operation.

The Goal: Chance says that at Martin City Brewing Company, they have one overall goal: Be amazing. Of course, in addition to that, they have lots of other plans that go beyond simply brewing beer. "We hope to facilitate a range of collaborative projects-from tasting contests that lead to full scale production to teaming up with local home brewers for small scale batch barrel aging.  You could say one of our goals is to engage the Kansas City community in having as much fun with beer as we do!"

The Beer: Though MCBC is still working out specifics on exactly what styles they will offer, they have plans to experiment with a little bit of everything everything.  "We will set the bar extremely high," Adams said.

Where They Stand:  If all goes as hoped and planned, Martin City Brewing Company will be offering up their own beer to customers. In the meantime, you can go check out their restaurant and current lineup of great beer from other breweries at 500 East 135th Street in Martin City.

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Friction Brewing
Nate Ryerson

The Beginning: Nate Ryerson has been a homebrewer for many years and during that time his passion for high-quality, fresh beer has grew immensely. About a year ago, Ryerson decided that the time was right to open another brewery in Kansas City. Thus, the birth of Friction Brewing Company. "Kansas City has a great love for craft beer. I look around at cities like St. Louis, Chicago and Denver and see these thriving craft beer communities and wished Kansas City could grow into something similar," Ryerson said. "We have some amazing local breweries, but in my opinion there is still room for more."

The Goal: Friction Brewing's ultimate goal is to bring high-quality, innovative beers to the market. "We love beer and we want our customers to love our beer. Basically when you buy one of our beers you will know that you are getting a quality product."

The Beer: As of right now, Friction Brewing is in the testing phase of a number of beers, including a Rye Saison, an IPA, a Belgian Imperial IPA, a Bourbon Porter, an ESB and an American Pale Ale.

Where They Stand: Since the Friction Brewing concept was developed last year, Ryerson has worked hard to get through the planning and funding stages of launching the brewery. He notes that everything is now to the point where he anticipates being in a location in the next few months, and the plan is to be open by the end of 2012. At launch, he expects to offer 4-5 beers.

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11 comments:

  1. So is Fountainhead like "KC has a lot of fountains," or like "We're actually tea party members," or like "we listen to a lot of Rush"?

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    1. Barry, you are correct! The name comes KC being known as the city of fountains. I originally wanted to name it Fountain City buy it was unavailable. Don't let the name scare you. Fountainhead has nothing to do with Ayn Rand or any other political junk. Cheers!

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    2. Thanks for responding, looking forward to trying it all.

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  2. Just curious where the name came from. Living on the Kansas side, I'm overly paranoid about how Ayn Rand-ish a name like Fountainhead is. Not that it would ever stop me from trying it.

    I should have also said: Great article, totally excited for these projects to take off.

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  3. Anxiously waiting for the Sophomore Slump post featuring Doodle Brewing.

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  4. Agreed with Barry. I'm sure they make some great beers, and I'd be willing to give em a try. But that name is really off-putting considering the author's close relationship with certain political parties.

    But I suppose they're aware of that. Anytime you assimilate a controversial topic like politics into your company image, you automatically gain certain built-in allies and enemies based on those associations. Just part of the game.

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  5. Anyway, forgot to mention: great article! There were some great ones listed here that I didn't know about before.

    Really hoping some of these can break ground and get distributing and pouring soon. Exciting times to be in KC!

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  6. As a novice brewer myself, I find all of this quite interesting and look forward to having more local, fresh beer offerings (I still wish Boulevard would set up a local tap house). Having said that, hopes and dreams are a few steps away from reality. It seems as though Wilderness and Green Room are the furthest into the bureaucracy side of things. Martin City has been around long enough that it is a shame they aren't closer to having their beers on tap.

    The Green Room beer Papa Louie sounds very interesting, essentially a session version of a bohemian pilsner with brewed with ale yeast as far as I can tell. I would definitely give it a try.

    I'm hopeful that ALL of these guys open sooner rather than later. And close to midtown!

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  7. This is great article! Just a quick note: Fountainhead Brewing Company is in no relation to the Ayn Rand novel or any political groups. It is here to serve the KC community and keep glasses full of good beer. The name comes from Kansas City being known as the city of fountains. Thanks everyone for your support. Cheers!

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  8. Michael, great to hear and thanks for the clarification! I like the regional city representation much more. Can't wait to try some of your beers when they're available. Good luck and I hope it really takes off.

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