Downtown Microbrew Scene Stays Healthy Despite Covid Clampdown

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Causal Animal customers can bring home fresh beer in 32-ounce Crowlers poured and sealed at the bar.

By Kevin Collison

The downtown microbrewery scene is growling, crowling and canning its way through the current covid-19 restrictions and appears ready to emerge intact once the public health crisis is behind us.

“Kansas City has such a strong commitment to local,” said Greg Bland, owner of Stockyards Brewery. “People are doing great giving us significant support.”

Stockyards, along with most if not all of downtown’s 10 microbreweries, quickly pivoted to a take-out beer operation once closings were imposed in response to the pandemic.

Seven of the 10 reached by CityScene all said they’re doing reasonably well financially and plan to reopen once the restrictions are lifted.

“We’ve been getting a lot of support locally which has been kick-ass,” said Kyle Gray of Casual Animal Brewing. “We applied for the PPP (federal Paycheck Protection Program) and received that so we’re able to retain our people.”

Casual Animal is offering both pick-up and delivery service for its crowlers, a method of custom canning its beer on its premises. Operating hours are noon to 4 p.m. seven days a week.

Casual Animal also is teaming up with East Crossroads neighbors Border Brewing and KC Wineworks to deliver via online orders to select apartment residents through what’s called the “Crossroads Delivered Happy Hour.”

Participating apartment properties include MAC Properties, which manages more than 1,500 apartments in buildings along Armour Boulevard and The Grand.

Jessica Bloom of Border Brewing said her brewery is offering take-out and delivery service seven days a week with free delivery in greater downtown and nearby Missouri neighborhoods. Border sells its beers in cans and also offers a few in growlers.

Another East Crossroads microbrewery, Brewery Emperial, is weathering the covid storm selling its beer in growlers.

“We’re doing a respectable amount of sales that way,” said owner Ted Habiger.

Currently, the brewery hours are Tuesdays through Friday from 4- 8 p.m., Saturdays, 2-8 p.m. and Sundays, 2-8 p.m.

A happy hound hangs at Double Shift during pre-Covid days.

Habiger is looking forward to the gradual lifting of restrictions May 16 because of the large beer garden attache to his place.

“We’re eagerly awaiting to reopen and feel we’re positioned nicely with our outdoor area, there’s plenty of room to stand,” he said.

Double Shift, another East Crossroads brewery, is selling beers in 32-ounce, 12-ounce and 500 ml. bottles. It’s open from 12- 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, and Sundays noon- 4 p.m.

“We’re still hanging in there good and we’re very thankful for that,” said Jon Conway, a brewer at Double Shift.

Torn Label is selling its beers in cans and growlers, either through online orders or people stopping by. Hours are noon- to 6 p.m. seven days a week. As an incentive, the brewery also offers occasional discounts on cases.

In the West Bottoms, Stockyards has switched from kegs to selling its beers in six-packs of cans. Hours are Thursdays and Fridays, 4- 7 p.m., and Saturdays, noon- to 4 p.m. it also sells beer at liquor stores in Missouri and Kansas.

“We’re doing pretty well,” Bland said. “We were able to switch quickly to selling beers in cans without too much trouble.”

He added his microbrewery plans to reopen when the city allows and it feels safe to bring customers back inside.

David Bulcock of Rochester Brewing said his place will have plenty of room for social distancing when it reopens.

Rochester Brewing and Roasting in the West Crossroads is continuing to offer beers and coffee drinks 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. seven days a week. Both can be bought online and in the café.

“Post covid-19, we have been a little more cautious and have paid attention to our better selling styles,” said co-owner David Bulcock.

“Buying habits change when someone is committing to a 4-pack of cans versus a flight of four tasters. With that in mind we have limited our production to some of those popular styles.”

Bulcock also is eager to reopen once health restrictions are lifted.

“Our brewery is spacious with a capacity of almost 200, and that allows for us to create an environment that is both safe and inviting,” he said.

“The core of our business model was to be a great place for people to gather and we still want to provide that.”

At Strange Days in the River Market, customers can pick up its beer at curbside and the microbrewery also is partnering with other nearby businesses on specials.

When things reopen for normal business, the new Brewers Alley lot provides 225 spaces in the middle of the burgeoning East Crossroads microbrewery and food scene.

“We offer Saturday date night packages that have done really well,” said owner Chris Beier. “We work with a local food vendors, Local Pig, The Bite, Brown and Loe, Betty Reas, etc.,) to have a food and drink package available for customers.”

Ordering online at Strange Days starts Thursday morning and closes Friday around noon each week. Customers can then come in Saturday to pick up their orders.

As for reopening.

“This is something we are still working through,” Beier said.

“We are factoring the safety of our staff, customers, and logistics to provide the best experience. Hoping we can do this in the next month or so.”

Microbreweries that couldn’t be reached for comment were City Barrel Brewing and Alma Mader Brewing.

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