By Kevin Collison
It took a bit longer than anticipated, but Casual Animal has joined the microbrewery herd in the East Crossroads and proprietor Kyle Gray hopes to add some Fort Collins friendliness to the neighborhood.
“My inspiration came from living in Fort Collins,” he said. “It’s a small town, but there’s about 20 breweries. They’re great places to meet people. When we moved to Kansas City in 2014 we missed that scene.”
Casual Animal, which opened Feb. 6 at 1725 McGee St., is the realization of Kyle and his wife Lara’s dream.
It’s a cozy place, exposed brick walls, sunshine pouring in through the front glass roll-up wall and a Happy Buddha celebrating on the back wall.
In the backroom, a seven-barrel direct fire system and seven-barrel fermenters have brewed up the first six beers being offered of what eventually is expected to be 11 tap offerings.
Gray got his start home brewing in Colorado in 2012. He got serious when he attended a seven-month brewery school in Vermont, graduating from the American Brewers Guild in 2016.
While preparing to open his own place, he was assistant brewer at Big Rip, a North Kansas City microbrewery.
He and his wife found the Casual Animal space last summer, and has hoped to open sooner, but Gray learned there’s more to brewing than fermentation.
“There’s all kinds of city, federal and state hoops,” he said.
But now that he’s open, Gray has embraced the burgeoning brewing scene in the East Crossroads. His is the fifth microbrewery to open in the area, which also has a winery and a couple of distilleries.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” he said. “It’s an organic movement happening here. I think we’re a rising tide in Kansas City. We are behind the curve and now we’re catching up.”
One innovation at Casual Animal is the Crowler.
It’s a method of bringing home fresh beer that uses a 32 ounce can which Gray seals with a special press behind the bar. It’s more common cousin is the 64-ounce Growler, which also is an option.
The Casual Animal “laidback beers that tap into your wild side,” Gray said, seats about 50 people. Hours are noon to 9 p.m. weekdays; noon to 10 p.m. Fridays; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays, and noon to 7 p.m. on Sundays.
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