When David Mann received a home beer-brewing kit from his wife Amber seven years ago, he had no inkling that it would one day be his passion.
And his profession.
Now, in the next month and a half, the Blue Springs man and his partners – co-owner Matt Bryan, brand ambassador Phillip Corwin and taproom manager Parc Ward – will open a professional microbrewery, East Forty Brewing, on Main Street in downtown Blue Springs.
Mann's life has gone from brewing in plastic buckets in his home to professional stainless steel vats in a 5,000-square-foot business.
"It was just a hobby at first, something to do," Mann said. "I like to make things, like to cook, build things, so brewing was just kind of a natural progression. … I quickly got rid of the plastic buckets and got some better equipment and went from extract brewing to all-grain brewing, started developing recipes and really got into it. I think in the back of any home brewer's mind is 'I could sell this.'"
Now he is about to sell it for a living. Mann said the goal is to open the week of June 11 once final construction of the brewery, bar and restaurant – housed in the old Kwik Copy building at the corner of Main and 12th streets – is completed. It will feature a 35-foot bar with room for up to 20 patrons and up to 30 taps, a seating area, a bar-food menu, a stage with live music, a game area and a roll-up door that opens to a patio near the railroad tracks on the building's west side.
Mann said he and Amber were always searching for craft breweries to sample new beer, so after finding success and getting a lot of positive feedback with his beers at several microbrew festivals in the area – including the annual Kansas City Nanobrew Festival – they decided to make it a business. He saw an opportunity in the burgeoning craft beer industry, but an absence of it on the east end of the metro.
"I love living out here, but there's not a ton of options when it comes to craft beer, and there are no breweries here, so my wife and I were always looking for places like this," Mann said. "We know there's a lot more people just besides ourselves who are looking for something like this out in this area."
At the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017 "is when we actually started planning in earnest and decided that we were actually going to do this."
He took some business classes early in 2017 and initially had a three-year plan to open, but that was quickly moved up after he found the building on Main Street. The building had all he wanted – location, the power needed to run a brewery, a loading dock, a large parking lot and plenty of space, including 2,500 square feet on the north end of the building to possibly expand into an event space in the future.
"Things just started falling into place, and that kind of bumped that timeline up a little bit," Mann said. "... I looked at buildings all over Blue Springs and the surrounding cities and found this one. The more I looked at it and downtown, the more I liked it. We're really excited to be downtown and the city's really excited to have us, to draw more people down here. There's a lot going on, there's a lot of new businesses that have opened up in the last few years, so it's really going through a revitalization downtown."
He came up with the name East Forty to signify its location on the east end of the metro area and that U.S. 40 is a major thoroughfare. The "Forty" also refers to a common land parcel size in rural areas, which goes along with the bar's "farmhouse, rustic decor ... that's part of our identity."
Bryan, a Blue Springs resident who had seen a flier for East Forty at the Corks & Canvas event in downtown Blue Springs last summer, contacted Mann.
"I've always had kind of a passion for craft beer and local business, so I just kind of reached out to him and said, 'Hey, we're really excited about your project.'" said Bryan, who will handle much of the business end. "He had already put the wheels in motion to get this thing going, and I just said, 'Hey, if you want any help ...' So over the next few months we just kind of talked it over, and kind of strategized a little bit, and he was gracious enough to give me an opportunity to come on board, and so here we are to try to get this thing going."
Mann expects to begin brewing with the new equipment in two weeks to prepare for the June opening and the first big event, which will be the KC Brew & Chew, June 16, in downtown Blue Springs. The event, which will be sponsored in part by the Q104 radio station, will feature beer sampling from East Forty and other breweries, several food trucks and live music downtown, with the streets blocked off. Tickets are expected go on sale soon.
Mann said he will start with six flagship beers – a light, easy-drinking wheat beer, a saison with ginger and lime, a porter with possibly coffee and chocolate tastes, a pale ale with citrus notes, a malty red rye ale and an IPA – and do variations of those. They will also feature cocktails and wine and drinks and some non-alcoholic drinks, including coffee and kombucha, a fermented tea drink with health benefits. Food will feature flatbread pizzas, sandwiches and bar favorites like pretzels
"We're getting a lot of good reviews, hearing a lot of good things on Facebook," Corwin said. "We did a disc golf tournament and got a lot of good feedback out there. Things are going really well so far – nothing bad yet."
Mann expects to get the brewing equipment in soon and he's excited to get it started.
"That first time we fire it up, it's going to be a really neat day." he said.