River Bluff Expands River Market Craft Beer Scene

Chris Lanman, founder of St. Joe-based River Bluff Brewing, is happy to join the downtown KC beer scene.

(Editor’s note: This article originally was published Feb. 2, 2022)

By Kevin Collison

River Bluff Brewing, the latest addition to the greater downtown microbrewery scene, expects to open in mid-February on a cozy street near the Town of Kansas Bridge at the foot of Main.

“We feel like with Second Street, we’re in the heart of things but it’s also an escape from the city,” said Chris Lanman, founder of the St. Joe-based brew pub.

“There’s lots of walkers and it’s a quiet spot a half block from the streetcar.”

The new River Market brewery and restaurant will occupy 5,500 square feet on the lower level of the historic City Water Department Building at the southeast corner of Main and Second.

The establishment also features a large outdoor patio accessible from the beer hall through a garage door that will be open during nice weather.

River Bluff is on the lower floor of the historic City Water Department Building at Second and Main.

The space was once occupied by the former Garrett’s Market and provides the kind of laid-back atmosphere that River Bluff has enjoyed at its original 1850s building in St. Joseph the past three years.

“We call ourselves polished industrial,” Lanman said.

The interior was designed by John O’Brien of Hammer Out Design and features exposed brick, concrete floors, shiny stainless steel brewery kettles and a 1950 wooden Speedliner boat manufactured in St. Joe suspended from the ceiling.

The Speedliner also lends its name to the IPA offered by River Bluff. Lanman said his place is known for its “good, clean beer.”

The brewery scored right out of the gate in 2019 when it won the Silver Medal at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver for its crisp Belgian Ale brew called Sandy Dunes. Other brews are an unfiltered lager called Unionized, River Cream Ale and Jerry’s Porter.

River Bluff already has received national awards for its “good, clean beer” lineup.

Among the staff is Morgan Fetters, the lead brewer, who formerly was with McCoy’s Public House, the popular Westport brewpub that closed a couple years ago, and Joel Cummings, who came from Boulevard Brewing.

In the spirit of the downtown microbrewery scene, Lanman sees his place as just adding to the party.

“The more brewers, the better,” he said. “Part of the reason we wanted to come down here is there are a lot of good brewers.”

River Bluff already has collaborated with Brewery Emperial to create Ursa Major, an Imperial Stout aged in Templeton Rye barrels.

The food part of the establishment will be operated by a separate restaurateur and is expected to open in mid-March. Its menu will include smash burgers and salads.

The two-story building where River Bluff is located was built in 1905 to house the stable, warehouse and shops for the City Water Department in what was then the heart of downtown Kansas City.

The River Bluff space was described as “polished industrial” and features a suspended 1950 wooden Speedliner built in St. Joe.

It was renovated in 2003 to house the market and offices, but closed in 2013. Developer Chris Sally bought the building in spring 2020 to attract new retail and office users.

The Cycle City bicycle shop is expected to open next door to River Bluff in the next couple months.

Lanman hopes River Bluff will prove popular with people drawn to the riverfront as well as River Market residents and patrons of the City Market. There are two parking lots owned by Sally close by with 65 spaces available to patrons.

Tentative hours will be Monday through Thursday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to midnight and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Those hours are expected to expand when the restaurant opens.

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  1. A great spot for sure, still hoping the restaurant space opens soon, seems it’s being held up by a fair bit of red tape.

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