The (Brew) Lab Report - A Photo Tour

 They say that seeing is believing, and in the case of Overland Park's new brew-on-premise business Brew Lab, I really needed to see it in person to wrap my head around it. I had heard of the concept before, but in all honesty, was shocked that something of this nature would open up in Kansas, where the government doesn't even want women to control their own lady parts, much less let the general public use a shared common space to *gasp* freely make alcoholic beverages on a whim.

So when Brew Lab announced that they would be holding a soft opening this week, I was very excited to get in there, check out the set up and see what they had to offer aspiring brewers in the Kansas City area. And because seeing is believing, I took a number of photos along the way so that the images can speak to how cool of a spot this new KC beer destination is.

Upon walking in, my eyes were immediately drawn to the long line of plastic dispensers along the left wall. From Maris Otter to Chocolate, Rye and Flaked Oats, the 41 containers (if I counted correctly) house a wide variety of grains for brewers to choose from, as well as other brewing ingredients like Belgian Candi sugar. In addition to the dispensers lining the wall, numerous stacks of 2-Row Malt bags can be seen all around the shop.

But, what's grain without a grain mill? Standing conveniently next to the line of plastic containers is a mill where customers can crush their malt in preparation for the mash (or, to take home).

Obviously, you need more than just grain to get your boil off the ground, so next, head over to Brew Lab's cooler where you can find an excellent selection of hops (both leaf and pellet options).

In addition to hops, the cooler also houses other ingredients that customers may want to add to their beer during the boil or fermentation. Lemon peel, juniper berries, orange peel and rose hips were just a few of the choices I spotted. Outside of the cooler, I also caught a glimpse of items like dried woodruff and wormwood, heather tips and toasted and untoasted oak chips.

Once you've got your grain milled and other ingredients selected, it's time to finally start brewing. Head over to the stainless steel mash tun and hot liquor tank hooked up to an Electric Brewery control panel. A 3-hour session at Brew Lab will allow you to brew anywhere between 5-15 gallons of beer.

 Not sure you're ready to try your hand at all-grain brewing just yet? No worries. Brew Lab also has a number of malt extracts available, as well as a separate, dedicated brew kettle that is exclusively for customers using extracts.

And of course, your beer isn't really on it's way to completion until it has some yeast pitched into it. As Tyler, the employee working that day, simply stated it, Brew Lab pretty much has every yeast option that Wyeast offers. And sure enough, as you can see from the picture, they certainly have a wide range, from Belgian styles to West Yorkshire Ale to your standard American Ale yeast.

Now, when you get to the fermentation stage, you have more than just yeast options. You can bring your own carboy in and take your beer home to ferment. Or, you can use one of Brew Lab's carboys and ferment in their 70 degree cellar (it will cost you $0.75 a day, however). They even have a nifty trap door in the floor that carboys are lowered through...sorry, no pictures of that. The fermentation option is just one of the choices you can make once you step in the door at Brew Lab. Really, the entire experience is about options. They designed the process to be 'a la carte', allow customers to pick and choose their products and services rather than force them into one bundled package.

Experienced homebrewers are welcome to come in and use Brew Lab as nothing more than a homebrew supply shop, purchasing ingredients to take back home for their brewing purposes. Those who are looking for the guided experience can decide how much they want to spend, at a minimum of $100 plus ingredients for a 3 hour session where up to 15 gallons of beer can be produced.

I highly recommend going to check out Brew Lab's setup yourself if you have an opportunity, as my photos above may be a peek inside, but still don't do it full justice. I think they have started something very unique, and though the pricing structure may frighten some people at first, I believe the business provides a cool opportunity to pairs or groups of people to brew together, while splitting costs and final product. I'm already plotting to see if I can host my next work teambuilder here...

Brew Lab is located at 8004 Foster in Overland Park. Make sure to check them out on Facebook, Twitter and their website.

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