While getting the doors open is their main priority at this particular time, they also want to focus on the right things, which is creating a quality craft beer, but additionally making sure they remain focused on the community in which they call home. They want to remain local as much as they can.
More than remaining local though, they feel that it is their responsibility to also position themselves as an environmentally and community focused company. To show their desire and commitment, they are taking it to the next level by aspiring to create a Benefit Corporation. Greg feels that it is their responsibility to "do good with what we have and hold onto it as long as we can." They would be one of a small, but growing segment of brewery B Corps in the US. A “B“ Corp is a for profit company certified to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. While many companies can say they are environmentally focused, that could mean a number of different things to anyone. What did they plant a tree last year? One example of how Stockyards will be meeting an aspect of this is through their water usage. As water is the main ingredient in beer and it takes a lot of it to brew beer, the water used in the cooling process will be recirculated into the hot liquor tank in their brewhouse. Greg states, "sustainability, both in business and environmentally, is an important way to stay functional." And although the B Corp was Greg's initial push, Ray with his accounting and process driven background, has really taken charge of the initiative. His passion for this is obvious. He knows that this will make a difference to the community, as Ray states, "this gives us a way to not only say we care about the environment, but to prove it."
One of the most unintentional feats they have accomplished at this point is a fairly large online following. No doubt some of this is from the press coverage of their location, but it is also in part to their marketing. One way they have been strategically marketing themselves is great tshirts. Tshirts, yes! No one wants to wear that rough, boxy gray t shirt. They want something that is soft and feels good when you wear it. Sure they are more expensive, but the guys wanted to ensure their money wasn't being wasted. When they hosted the KC Nanobrew Festival in their parking lot this past year, they drew a lot of attention when they had no beer of their own to taste, but they did give away tshirts with a free pint coupon for when the brewery is open.
They will be located in the West Bottoms of Kansas City in a historic building that was once occupied by a landmark restaurant, the Golden Ox. With them occupying the space of the former restaurant, they have received a fair amount of press, so Greg was smart with the publicity received and made sure he used it to Stockyards’ advantage. Although the brewery is located in the up and coming area of the West Bottoms, they know it still has a long way to go. They are "trying to breathe life back into it. It is on the resurgence and we are trying to get it back to what it was," Ray says. The one thing they do know, is that whatever business comes to the West Bottoms, it will all be local proprietors. Stockyard believes that they can create a community of “coopetition” or cooperative competition in the neighborhood. As Ray states, "sure we may be competing for a drink here or there, but in the long run, doesn't it help everyone?" Bottom line, "we need more people in the West Bottoms and if they start at one end of Genessee and make a day of it, everyone benefits."
The logo fits the location almost perfectly. Greg was looking for something that "looked like it had been dug up, like it was covered in dirt," Brendan recalls. He was also personally inspired by old school baseball jerseys, paying homage to KC’s rich baseball history, while still fitting in the area. Just like the building that has been cleaned up, remodeled and has a new use, but still has many original features. This includes some stained glass in their event space which may or may not have a beer named after it soon! The guys know that keeping history alive is important.
Greg has known since 2012 he was going to open a brewery, but he has known his whole life that he had the entrepreneurial spirit and passion for how things are made. He had many hobbies before, but when he got into beer, and people started to enjoy something he had created, he knew the brewery was what he needed to do. “I didn’t know it was going to be this big, I didn’t know it would take this long. I just knew there was nothing else I wanted to do.” (Listen to the extended comments by Greg here.)
In the brewhouse, they have installed an American Brewing Equipment 15 barrel system, where they will be serving their four core beers directly from the brite tanks. They are adding a 1000 sq feet of fermentation space onto their building which will house 15 barrel tanks to start with. Depending on their distribution and how the market responds, they will be able to expand the space quickly by upgrading to 30 or even maybe squeeze in 60 barrel tanks. In addition to the taproom, they will be serving craft cocktails, wine, local coffee and some “chewables.”
Greg did start as a homebrewer, but one of the things that he believes is that it was not in his best interest to brew on a professional size scale. He knew that to begin with, he needed expert help. And he has received that in his brewing consultant, Micah Weichert. Micah has been assisting them with all the aspects of setting up a brewhouse and getting them prepared to start brewing. As Ray states, "Micah's institutional knowledge is so crucial." They are constantly peppering him with questions that will allow them to grow in their own knowledge of brewing as well as create the ideal experience for their customers. Beyond just the actual brew process itself, they seek his advice on many topics from one end of the brewery to the other.
Knowing that people are excited to try their beer, they are doing their best to be open within the next 60 days, but that remains just a goal, nothing in stone yet. Right now, they are taking it day by day and are excited to see what happens in the next year. One of their on going goals is to challenge the status quo with their beer, always pushing the envelope, both in the beer and their business.
When the tour first began with Greg, Ray and Brendan, they were open and honest and I appreciate that being from the outside. However, by the end, I could tell they were not just putting on a show. Being like this, that is who they really are. Just three regular guys starting a brewery.