You never know what happens when you talk to your neighbors. Derek Kempf was on paternity leave three years ago from the Kansas City, Kansas Fire Department, and he was chatting with Larry Murray, who lived across the street.
The two decided to try a test batch of home brew. A wit went wrong. A stout had legs. And over the past three years, the duo became an unintentional home brew club when Larry’s brother, Ben, and two friends, Phil Kuzila, and Joe Collins, all moved into Murray’s house.
“Homebrewing changed our appreciation for beer,” Kempf said. “We had no intention of opening a brewery when we started, it was more of an organic thing.”
At this past year’s KC Nanobrew Festival, the reaction to the beers that Strawberry Hill Brewing Co.’s five partners brought convinced them to pursue the idea in earnest. Kuzila’s father owned the building at 601 Central Ave. and agreed to lease them the property. This week, they started working on the hardwood floors with a goal of opening in 2019.
“All five of us were born in Kansas City, Kansas,” Kempf said. “And staying local was important to us. We just want to be part of the revitalization of Strawberry Hill.”
The brewery will likely launch with what Kempf calls the “starting five.”
“Everything we do has a good balance to try to encourage people to try styles,” Kempf said.
In the plans are The Long Road Ahead Stout, a Wyandotte IPA that Kempf said has a “good balance of malt and hops,” a Berliner Weisse that could be drunk with or without house schuss (syrup), Water Tower Hefeweizen (a nod to the water tower that was long part of the Strawberry Hill landscape) and a Bramber.
“It’s too dark to be an amber ale, but it’s very light bodied. It doesn’t fit into normal brown ales because of its lighter mouth and body feel,” Kempf said of the Bramber.
The brewery will have a one-barrel system. They’ll use the basement for fermentation and have a beer cooler on the ground floor. The taproom will be upstairs.
“We’re not a museum, but the decor will have the history of the Strawberry Hill and Central Avenue area,” Kempf said.
Kempf will brew alongside Larry Murray. Kuzila will assist with brewing and building maintenance, Ben Murray will bartend, and Collins is managing the finances and permitting.
“Right off the bat, we’ll stay central to serving at our bar,” Kempf said. “[That] we get to be right on the foothill of Strawberry Hill and tie into such a historic area makes it all worth it.”
New Axiom Brewing (949 NE Columbus St., Lee’s Summit, Missouri) has a host of new beers in the works. Go(o)ose Ganderin’ is a gose with tart cherries and hibiscus, TD Tossin’ Patrick Mahazy is a New England-style IPA with Citra, Azacca and Simcoe hops and Tezcatlipoca is an imperial Mexican chocolate stout made with peppers, cinnamon and vanilla.
Big Rip Brewing Co. (216 E. Ninth Ave., North Kansas City, Missouri) released Davy Hogan’s Revenge, a blueberry cream ale that is packed full of blueberry juice (one-third of each batch is juice). It’s a limited-bottle release at the taproom. Keep an eye out for bottles of Aisle 12, Big Rip’s West Coast IPA, if you’re there.
Fog Machine is back at Torn Label Brewing Co. (1708 Campbell St.). The brewery calls it an “East Crossroads-style IPA,” and it will be out in 12-ounce cans. It’s a hazy beer with lots of floral and fruit notes. The official release party is Saturday, Oct. 13, and the beer will be on tap at noon.
Mothers Brewing Co. (215 S. Grant Ave., Springfield, Missouri) released its bourbon barrel-aged Three Blind Mice, an Imperial brown ale. The beer, aged in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels, is available in the Springfield taproom.
Boulevard Brewing Company’s BLVR&D IPA pack is out on shelves now. It’s a hop showcase with a trio of tasting room beers (Brut IPA, Southern Hemisphere IPA, and DDH Galaxy IPA) in the mixed six-pack. In addition to the 12-ounce bottles, the beers are also on tap in Boulevard’s Tours & Rec Center (2534 Madison Ave.).
Free State Brewing Co.’s (636 Massachusetts St., Lawrence, Kansas) patio is now dog-friendly. While you’re there, their Oktoberfest is out and they’re serving pretzels made by their neighbor, Wheatfields Bakery.
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