Published October 25th, 2016 at 5:00 PM
Turkeys meander beside a burbling creek, and blackberry bushes flourish outside a former woodshop. Life is a little different at the region’s latest brewery — in Drexel, Missouri.
“We’re like a farm winery, just with beer,” says Will Reece, who co-owns the Miami Creek Brewing Company (14226 Northwest County Road 14001, Drexel) with his wife, Chrissy. “The idea is that we can plant stuff, be able to use it in our beer, and offer people something they might not be able to get elsewhere.”
Reece grew up in Grandview, where his father turned the Concord grapes he’d planted along the back fence into homemade wine. Reece remembers helping out with the stomping when he was 5 or 6 years old. His dad, an avid gardener, experimented with cherry-bush wine and homebrew in swing-top bottles (the inspiration for Miami Creek’s growlers).
An IT engineer for the past two decades, Reece wanted to get out of the office and back to the land. In 2011, he and Chrissy found this 10-acre property in Drexel, about an hour south of the metro, and fell in love. They converted a tiny garage into a cabin and started raising rabbits, chickens and goats. Reece roasted and sold coffee at the farmers market in Paola, Kansas, under the name Miami Creek, a nod to the mini waterway visible from his kitchen window.
“A desire for clean food brought us out here,” Reece says. “It grew into roasting and selling coffee, and then I realized that I missed brewing.”
Three years later, the property across the street became available. It had a larger house and three other buildings on the grounds. Reece saw the woodshop, with its concrete floor and pair of wood stove, and recognized the future home of his brewery.
Together with brewing partner Carl Jacobus, Reece began experimenting, using a 25-gallon system to make a Kona coffee stout and a pale ale brewed with Cooper’s honey. Reece began the permit process and had a seven-barrel system installed, with the potential to attach a still in the future.
“We didn’t have anybody telling us what we had to brew or what we have to bring to market,” Reece says.
Over the past year, he has taken Miami Creek to a half-dozen area beer festivals, surprising drinkers with brews such as Blackberry Barleywine, an American barleywine (about 12 percent ABV) fermented on top of blackberries grown at home.
“Developing a recipe is a fine art,” Reece says. “Adding ingredients from our place is what makes it personal. I know how to brew the base recipe, but adding that unknown part is exciting to me. I don’t always necessarily know what’s going to come out.” Case in point: an ale made with a trio of hot peppers – smoked serrano, chipotle and habanero – and combined with smoked malt for a brew that packs healthy heat into the finish.
The pepper ale, along with the Nutty Belgian — a Belgian Tripel brewed with black-walnut syrup in lieu of candied sugar — will be among the seven beers on tap for Miami Creek’s grand opening, from noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday, October 30.
Reece has also been experimenting with herbs. He has used lemon thyme in a Saison, but his latest batch, made with bravo and Willamette hops, was fermented on lavender.
“People either love lavender or hate it, but I wanted it to be detectable,” he explains. “I happen to love it, so there’s a good amount in there.”
He intends to make the honey pale ale, the coffee stout and — maybe — the Nutty Belgian year round, eventually distributing them to local taprooms. The other brews, such as a bush-cherry saison, will remain exclusive to the Drexel homebase.
“Having local ingredients is important to me, even if it means that we might only have limited batches,” he says.
Miami Creek Brewing Company could go in a lot of directions, in part because Reece is still discovering things about the property. While recently mowing a neglected area, he uncovered wild hops vines. He says he has asked the Louisburg Nursery and Greenhouse to propagate the hops, with an eye toward one day brewing a beer made exclusively from Missouri or Kansas ingredients.
Meanwhile, he has planted several hundred apple, nectarine and peach trees over the past few years. Some of the resulting fruit is now in a harvest-apple ale, with equal parts barley and cider juice (as well as Citra hops and cinnamon, nutmeg and clove), though a steady supply of cider is likely a few years away. Reece is also compiling a long list of potential brews to take advantage of what’s growing on the farm: a chocolate-centered imperial stout that could benefit from wild mint, a black IPA for his rosemary, a scotch ale for the walnuts.
It’s all part of an unhurried plan — which, in Drexel, is the point.
“We’re out of the way,” Reece says. “We want to give people the time to walk around. See the blackberries and the little farm plot that we have, and then have a beer.”
Miami Creek Brewing Company opens from noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, October 30. The party includes free chili, seven beers on tap (with growlers for sale), and freshly roasted coffee beans from El Salvador.
— On Tap is presented by Flatland and The Pitch. A full archive of The Pitch‘s beer coverage is at pitch.com.