Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Micah Weichert wraps up at 75th Street to found ManKind

Local brewer Micah Weichert hopes to launch ManKind Brewing Co. this year.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 23, 2013 at 8:00 AM

Weichert has big plans for Kansas City.
  • Grady Keller; Rural Harvest Design
  • Weichert has big plans for Kansas City.
For nearly as long as people have walked on Earth, they've done so with a beer in one hand. Micah Weichert, the 35-year-old head brewer at 75th Street Brewery, is keeping our long, shared beer history in mind as he launches his new venture: ManKind Brewing Co., which he hopes to open in the late summer or early fall.

His own love of beer has taken him around the country. Weichert served as the head brewer for the Waimea Brewing Co. in Kauai, Hawaii, and helped launch a production facility for the Brugge Brasserie in Indianapolis. Locally, he has been a brewer at the Pony Express Brewing Co. in Olathe and the 23rd Street Brewery in Lawrence, and he has spent the past three years at 75th Street in Waldo.

Weichert's last day at 75th Street is Saturday, February 9 (the day of the Big Chill, the Waldo brewpub's third annual strong-beer-and-chili tasting), and he briefed Fat City about his plans for ManKind.

The Pitch: What kind of brewery do you envision opening?

Weichert: The first question everybody asks is, "Is it is going to be a packaging brewery or a brewpub?" And the answer is somewhere in between. We're going to do food and have a large distribution network right away, from Wichita to St. Louis. The model that comes to mind is Urban Chestnut in St. Louis. It was started by a former brewer at Anheuser-Busch.

Homebrewers may be more focused on nanobrewing: a small, two- or three-barrel system. Then there are guys who just want to see the bottles on the shelf. We'll do growlers. Growlers are starting to get really popular. Gas stations in the Northwest are doing growler fills, and [approval for] growlers come with your federal license.

What are you brewing first?

We'll probably have five flagship beers, but that may change, too. When we're first opening, I don't want to say, "This is our flagship beer." Instead, I'll let people decide what they like over our first few months and make that our flagship.

I have hundreds of recipes on file. When I write a recipe for a type of beer that I haven't done before, I'll go to the liquor store and find as many different examples of that style as I can. Then I research the traditional ways of producing that beer. Then I take those two worlds and combine them with my own.
I'll brew American ales, English ales, German lagers and Belgian ales. I fell in love with Belgian beers in Indianapolis, contrary to the belief of my liver. There's lot of ingredients that I'm waiting to use. I just don't talk about it much. I was brewing Robert Isler's Flying Monkey out at Pony Express [in Olathe], and he taught me that a good beer is a beer that sells.

Where will ManKind be located?

We looked on the Kansas and Missouri sides, but the Crossroads has really been developing, and there's the availability of industrial-style buildings with bay doors and high ceilings - the perfect type of building for a brewery. There are three buildings we're looking at right now.
We actually want to be near Boulevard and pull in convention traffic from downtown. We're not trying to overtake Boulevard or go head-to-head. There's an amazing community of brewers. We borrow ingredients from each other. There is probably no other industry where your so-called competitors are supportive of your success.

Your Kickstarter campaign [Weichert is seeking $30,000 by February 11] mentions the importance of green construction and practices to your mission. What are your plans?

We're calling it an ethno-industrial-botanical approach. We're going to make some T-shirts. The ethno part is ManKind - we'll be using different flavors from different cultures. For the botanical, we'll be using a lot of bamboo - decorating influence from my time spent in Hawaii. It will go well with the industrial edge of the brewery. I designed the tap tower in the Alley at 75th Street, and my wife's family owns a custom stainless fabrication business in Topeka. Once I found out [my wife] Naomi spoke German and liked dark beer, I was done.

The brewpub is going to be as green as possible. We'll use sustainable building mate-rials and install solar panels in phases. The food and beer will be made with local, organic and sustainable ingredients. I won't be able to get local or organic ingredients all the time, but sustainable products are readily available.

What's the approach to the food side at ManKind?

The food and beer will fall into the whole concept of ManKind. There will be different cultures throughout history represented. It will be an eclectic American bistro but still simple. I don't want you to have to order something you can't pronounce.

I do think beer pairings are a really underutilized tool. You can have it on the menu, but that might get overlooked. You need an educated staff that is comfortable recommending pairings. We'll go more with suggestions than pairings. If you want a raspberry wheat and a 20-ounce T-bone, I'm going to get you one. I'll get you five.

With the Doodle Brewing Co. in Liberty, the Martin City Brewing Co. looking to make its own beer, and the Wilderness Brewing Co. looking for a location in the city, there are a lot of potential new brews on the horizon. Is this a good time to be in the brewery business?

There's a new wave similar to what took place in the early '90s. That's when homebrewers were coming out of their basements and garages and bathtubs and opening breweries and making old-world-style beers. Ours is just coming out of a recession. It was supposed to hurt the craft-beer industry, but then nobody traded down. It just created a whole new wave in our industry.

Got an idea for what Micah Weichert should be brewing in the Crossroads this summer? Sit down with him over a brew at 7 p.m. Monday, February 4, at Waldo Pizza (7433 Broadway). Weichert and several area brewers are on hand that evening in the restaurant's Tap Room to talk about craft beer and ManKind Brewing Co.

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