For Brian Bixby, co-owner of Grains and Taps in downtown Lee’s Summit, the rising popularity of craft beer is embodied by his brewing supply store’s expansion.
Bixby, moved from Nashville to open the craft beer and homebrew supply store with his business partner, Brad Boehm in January 2013. Boehme, a member of the well-established Lee’s Summit ‘ZZ Hops’ homebrew club, had been driving 35 minutes to Kansas to get his homebrew supplies, and saw a market opportunity in Lee’s Summit.
The business partner’s hunch about local demand was spot-on. They opened their downtown Lee’s Summit store on Douglas Street in June 2013. Their first year in business, they co-sponsored the Blarney Brew-Off with the Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street Association and sold 100 tickets. The next year, they sold 200 tickets. In 2016, ticket sales doubled again as Bixby and Boehme prepared to move to a larger, more visible location on Third Street in July 2016.
“The response has been amazing. We’ve grown so fast it’s been hard to keep up with it,” Bixby says. “There’s just been this explosion in the craft beer scene and that seems to correlate with home-brewing as well.”
The new location’s bar area incorporates the aesthetics of home brewing within its design and offers 24 craft beers on tap. Home brewers will find all the brewing supplies they need – from beer and wine equipment starter kits to bottling and flavoring.
Grains and Taps employees, all homebrewers themselves, spend time with new brewers who come in the shop to purchase a kit and craft their first beer. Staff also sometimes assist customers in trouble-shooting on their brew day. While home brewing appeals to many different types of people, a common character trait is a spirit of independence. These are people who enjoy a DIY project and can walk step-by-step through the kit’s instructions to craft an excellent beer, Bixby says.
“On one hand you have the science of it, because fermentation is a metabolic process of yeast,” Bixby explains. “But there’s also the culinary art of it. There’s the type of people who put on their chef’s hat and enjoy formulating recipes.”
For customers seeking more hands-on help, Grains and Taps also offers classes, rotating monthly instruction for beginners, intermediate and advanced brewers. During class, staff demonstrate the brewing process up to the point of adding the yeast to the mixture, so that they do not actually produce alcohol, in accordance with Missouri law.
“When you get the process down, it’s fairly easy to do,” Bixby says. “It’s still work and it takes time, but that’s another facet of the pride that comes from it. Good things take time.”