Brick House (400 E. 31st St.), a burger restaurant and craft beer bar located in Martini Corner, will soon be home to a nanobrewery. Ebert Brothers Brewing Company plans to open a one-barrel brewery on the third floor of Brick House by early summer.
Longtime homebrewers Clint and Luke Ebert bring different skill sets to their venture. Luke is a molecular biologist while Clint has worked in beer sales for seven years.
The brothers have been homebrewing since 2001. Both paratroopers in the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division, Luke and Clint took a break from homebrewing when they were each deployed overseas twice for a total of 16 months and 18 months, respectively. They resumed homebrewing after their tours of duty. A family connection to Brick House owner Tyler Humar led to plans for a nanobrewery at Brick House, known for its wide selection of canned craft beer.
“Tyler is my soon-to-be brother-in-law,” Luke said. “The brewery is family run. I have a cousin who’s an electrician and another in graphic design. We’re all working together.”
Ebert Brothers Brewing will “do our own spin on traditional styles,” Luke said. “We’ll have three to four taps with IPA, double IPA, wheat, etc. We’ll have a tap for collaborations with other breweries.”
If demand grows for their beers, the Eberts have plans to open a second larger brewery with a seven-barrel brewhouse in a separate location. If the second brewery manifests, Luke said they’re thinking of expanding their reach.
“We want to work with chefs and do contract brewing for restaurants,” Luke said. “It’s hypothetical, based on if we expand. Once we have another brewery, the Brick House brewery would be a pilot for small batches.”
Maibock Arrives With Spring
Maibock is associated with the arrival of spring and the month of May. However, Kansas City Bier Company (310 W. 79th St.) recently released its Maibock (6.2-percent ABV, 18 IBUs) in mid-March with a special keg tapping at Bier Station. The beer is now available on tap at the brewery and select locations around Kansas City.
The German beer style is a variation of bock, which ranges from 6-7-percent alcohol by volume (ABV) and is malty with light hops. Maibock is a newer style that’s less malty and more hoppy than bock. It is most commonly made with a portion of slightly toasted Vienna malt, which is slightly darker than Pilsner malt. As a result, Maibock is darker than a Pilsner, Helles lager, or Hellerbock, a Helles brewed to bock strength.
For Kansas City Bier Co. head brewer Karlton Graham, a beer that tops seven-percent ABV is too strong to enjoy a Masskrug, a hefty German beer mug that holds a liter in volume, over a period of time or at a spring festival.
“I think there is more variation in Maibock’s ABV, color, and IBU than other bocks,” Graham said. “Too many go after the impact factor in order to drive sales. Our Maibock is at the lower end of ABV because we want it to be enjoyed that way.”
The arrival of Kansas City Bier’s Maibock in March is the result of “season creep.” This beer-industry term refers to seasonal beers that arrive on tap or packaged on retail shelves in advance of a season. Kansas City Bier Co. isn’t the only brewery impacted by season creep. Many breweries that sell beer through a third-party distributor must accommodate distribution schedules.
With more than 6,000 breweries in the U.S., competition has intensified among breweries that distribute to obtain and retain shelf space though the season. As a result, spring, summer, Oktoberfest, and winter beers regularly appear at liquor stores and supermarkets in an early-to-market cycle ahead of the season.
“It must seem strange to the consumer to see a spring bier released the first week of January,” Graham said. “For us, draft versus packaged beer is different. If our beer was only sold in kegs, then it would be easier to sell into the exact season to which it belonged. Shelf space for packaged beer is different.”
Beer School is in Session
Managers and brewers at taprooms work with their bartenders and servers to educate them about styles and beer attributes. This knowledge helps taproom professionals better serve the public as craft beer drinkers encounter a dizzying array of names and styles.
International Tap House (403 E. 18th St.), manager Jon Whitaker educates staff by beginning with common knowledge on standard beer styles, history, glassware, tasting notes, and other basics. Team members taste beers to learn about and discuss styles.
“It’s allowing them to use their personality in a way that might help them better describe that beer to one of our customers,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker regularly reminds and encourages his team to try everything on tap.
“We use moments after their shift to discuss the products with them,” Whitaker said. “We ask them what they think of it, and what their customers are saying about the new beer. This allows us to find ways to better describe the liquid and find creative ways of recommending it to customers who might have otherwise avoided it altogether.”
Employees are also encouraged to independently advance their education through reading and getting certified as a cicerone. The company reimburses employees for earning certification.
Once a month over the past few months, Double Shift Brewing )412 E. 18th St.) head brewer Bryan Stewart has held Beer School for his employees. Now, assistant taproom manager Spencer South is in charge of employee and customer education.
“Spencer is one of our biggest in-house beer nerds,” Stewart said. “We also don’t shy away from being as open and honest about what goes into our product on our tap menus, or if someone simply asks. About the only thing we don’t give away are some in-house yeast strains that we use.”
Assistant lead brewer at Martin City Brewing (500 E. 135th St.) Kate Laws uses the book “Tasting Beer” to give servers and bartenders an overview of the sensory process, then they taste the brewery’s examples of those styles
At Kansas City Bier Co. (310 W. 79th St.), weekly beer tasting panels help reinforce general front-of-the-house training for bartenders. Brewery sales representative Nathan Schriner prepares the tasting panel.
“We are mostly looking for oxidation, lightstruck, bad draft lines, and aging in bottled beer,” Schriner said. “I intentionally ‘screw up’ the beer to bring out off-flavors.”
To do so, Schriner will place beers in an oven at a high temperature to speed up oxidation, pour beers hours before the panel to expose it to oxygen and leave the beer in sunlight.
“When an account calls me in to look at an off-tasting keg, 99-percent of the time they have not cleaned their lines so the beer is infected,” Schriner said. “I bring samples back to the brewery to expose the staff to them so they know for future reference.”
Through exposure and weekly tasting on the panel, bartenders can “develop a sensory memory and identify flavors at lower thresholds in the future,” Schriner said.
Amy Pepper, general manager at KC Bier, sends out a weekly update to staff that highlights a featured beer with details about availability (year-round, seasonal, special, limited release), ABV/IBU, flavor profile, what hops were used and brewing method.
Then the staff tastes the beer, discusses it throughout the week and presents how they’d sell and describe it to a guest.
Martin City Brewing Company’s Big Brother Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout (11-percent ABV, 46 IBUs) is available as a limited release available in four-pack cans and draught.
Boulevard Brewing Company recently announced its beer will be sold throughout the state of Nevada. Breakthru Beverage Nevada will distribute. Boulevard’s Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, Unfiltered Wheat Beer, Tropical Pale Ale and various seasonal and limited releases will be available in 40 states and the District of Columbia beginning in April.
In other news, Duvel Moortgat, parent company of Boulevard Brewing and Firestone Walker, was ranked fifth out of the top 50 craft beer companies based on beer sales volume, according to the Brewers Association.
Double Shift Brewing is brewing its limited-release Turk Kahvesi, a coffee stout with cardamom, and a collaboration beer with Messenger Coffee, a golden sour accented with blueberry, lemon peel and Ethiopian coffee. Look for bottle and draft releases in mid-April.
Calibration Brewery (119 Armour Rd., North Kansas City, Missouri) plans to open for brunch on Sundays beginning in May. Brunch will complement the brewery’s full-service lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. The brewery also plans to release several gluten-free ciders, such as I Never Knew You Raspberry Cider, in the next few months.
Brunch will have “a promising list of more than 15 beer cocktails to calibrate the palate into pure satisfaction,” general manager Brooke Kafka said. “We saw a huge hit with our Grapefruit IPA last month, and will continue to delve into fresh and fruity new taps as spring and summer unfold.”
– Pete Dulin writes about food trends for Flatland and is the author of The KC Ale Trail. Follow @FlatlandKC and #TapList on Twitter for more food news and trends.