By Kevin Collison
The growing thirst for tequila is inspiring a young couple and their friend to open what they believe will be the nation’s fifth agave distillery in the Crossroads District in January.
Jeff and Meg Evans, and Patrick Little, are the co-owners of Mean Mule Distilling, and they plan to be start at distillery and bar at 1733 Locust St. once they complete the extensive federal paperwork required to open their business.
American Blue Agave is produced by the same agave plant that makes tequila, but the name tequila can only be used if the beverage is produced in Mexico. Other than a different name, this spirit tastes the same and still carries the same 80 proof kick.
“People our age have been fascinated by tequila,” said 26-year-old Meg Evans. “People have the impression of tequila being about shots. Now people are fascinated with the flavors and qualities, like whiskey.”
Meg is a former high school English teacher and her husband is a trained engineer. They decided to go into the agave business a couple years ago after visiting several distilleries.
“My husband was fascinated by how the spirits are made, the stills and the process,” Meg said. “That appealed to his engineering mind.”
She said there are four distilleries currently making agave around the country, none in the Midwest and the closest being in Colorado.
About six months ago, they went into production with the help of Lifted Spirits, another Crossroads distillery that produces gin and vodka. Matt Abbott, a Crossroads landlord, introduced them.
Right now, Mean Mule distillery is kicking out 1,000 bottles of its Silver Agave per month. The beverage is sold several local liquor stores including Plaza Liquor, Mike’s Liquor, Lukas Liquor and Libations & Co.
It’s also used in several bars including Thou Mayest in the Crossroads.
Meg said the supportive atmosphere of businesses in the Crossroads has helped nurture Mean Mule.
“We’ve been distilling at Lifted Spirits and they’ve helped us grow up a little bit,” she said. “It takes a lot of work to get bonded by the federal government.
“We’re developing the product and the brand and now we’re preparing to step out into our own place. The community here has been awesome. We’re all good friends.”
As for the name, Mean Mule, it’s a very Missouri story. Meg comes from a long line of bootleggers who hale from Hermann, in central Missouri.
“My grandmas’s grandfather made it from a still on their family farm in the 1800s,” she said. “They continued making it and selling it during the Prohibition.
“When my grandmother was seven, she remembers there were revenuers coming in suits. She was crying and the revenuers went in the barn where the mules were looking for the still. It was under the floor boards.
“When they pushed the mules, one kicked them and scared them to death. They took off running. Five generations of distillery tradition was save by that one mule.”