My Trip to Tallgrass Brewing Company
I have become acquainted with Kansas City over the past couple months. Each time I visit I try to visit a new place in my spare time. This time out was no different. I set out one of the greats of the Midwest, Tallgrass Brewing Co.
The above photo is what the road between Kansas City and Manhattan, Kansas looks like. The two hour drive is peaceful and straight, but with my focus set on a brewery, the drive goes by fast.
I was graciously welcomed to stop into the brewery before tours were conducted. I had the extreme pleasure of chatting with brewery founder, Jeff Gill as we walked about the brewhouse and discussed the past and present of Tallgrass.
How did it start?
“April of 2006, my wife and I decided we wanted to start a brewery in the Midwest. Great area to raise a family in the Midwest. We have a lot of pride in the area. It was her idea to call it Tallgrass… I had some really stupid names in mind. I enjoyed having people over to try my beer, and loved brewing beer for them and getting feedback. I realized that was my real passion, so that was a good match up.”
“Growing up on a farm in rural Kansas, you get exposed to fermentation, like homemade wine. Dad’s a beekeeper, so I played around with mead making but I was never too good at it. I was working as a geologist and my boss was a really good homebrewer and he showed me the right way to brew. I started with extract and partial mash and that really helped me start out right.”
“The first beer we brewed was called Tallgrass Ale, a Mild which is brewed for draft, a darker beer so people would see a darker beer and it would become a conversation piece, and it was sessionable. My original plan was to hire a brewer but then I got some consultants and some college kids. Then as we grew I got some brewers from the Siebel Institute, because you want to bring in people that know more about something than you do. We are lucky to have Andrew Hood, making great tasting brews with us.”
“When we started we were draft only, pretty soon after that we started bottling. In May 2010 we started canning. I saw so many advantages to cans, from an operational standpoint, better for environment and they are fun. We were #60 on the list of Can breweries, now I see there are about 214 total. I was an environmental geologist and that came into play and I started looking at the advantages to cans. Beer drinkers wanted that. By 2010 we saw the success of Oskar Blues and Surly, when you look at the big brewers, 40% of their beer is sold in cans.”
You can read the “Canifesto” here.
To listen to Jeff Gill talk more about the beers they brew, and to hear more on head brewer Andrew Hood, keep an eye out on the site as I will post the audio in the same spot that you can download the podcast (link). For more information on Tallgrass and if you’re lucky enough to be out in the midwest you can find out where you can get your hands on some on their website.