A dream comes true with a Scottish theme
For years Grain Valley High School graduate Jason Fenstermaker has dreamed of opening a pub in his hometown.
That dream became a reality on St. Patrick's Day, as Fenstermaker, his brother Brian, a 1998 Grain Valley grad; Ben Call, 2009; and James Nelson, 2001 opened Iron Kettle Brewery, 508 Main St. in downtown Grain Valley.
The Scottish-themed pub has an Old World feeling, thanks to the oak tables and lamps made from a tree that didn't survive the 2017 Oak Grove tornado. There are photos of Ireland that Fenstermaker took on one of his many trips to his grandmother's homeland.
"We want this place to become a destination, a place where families can come and dine, where friends can meet after work and where folks who are celebrating something special – anniversaries, birthdays, any type of get-together – can meet in our banquet room upstairs," said Fenstermaker, the principal at Lone Jack High School, as former Grain Valley School District superintendent David Hackett and his wife Patty enter the pub for dinner.
"I've know Jason for a long time, and I always knew he was going to be successful," Hackett said, adding with a chuckle. "Now, I wasn't so sure about the principal thing."
After graduating from Grain Valley High School in 2001, Fenstermaker found his way to the St. Mary's High School, where he coached football. For the past 12 years, he has been a coach and teacher at Lone Jack, and last year took over as principal in the middle of a pandemic.
"That was fun," Fenstermaker said. "Seriously, it was a challenge, and I think our district has done a great job of dealing with the pandemic."
When he wasn't at school, he was working with his brother Brian and their friends, trying to come up with a place to build their dream pub.
"I was driving down Main Street and saw a for-sale sign in a building that used to be an antique store, and I just stomped on the brakes and stopped in the middle of the street," he said. "Luckily no one was behind me."
He contacted his real estate agent, visited with his co-owners and took the first step toward making that dream a reality.
"First of all, my brother Brian has been brewing beer for the 10 years or so," Fenstemaker said. "And he is going to create some craft beers that we think will be really successful."
Fenstermaker then went to the microbrewery in the back of the pub where apple, honey and lemon themed beers were brewing. The pub currently offers a lineup of 24 beers from across the metro area and beyond, and five of its own creations – Peasant Wheat, Merlin's Magic Amber, O'Connell's Irish Ale, Archduke Ale and Pilsner. The food menu includes items that Fenstermarker created: appetizers, salads, sandwiches. pizza, potatoes that are twice baked in an iron skillet and mac 'n cheese with fixings.
As Fenstermaker talks about the pub, the tables are soon full and there is just one empty seat at the bar.
"You want to know what is humbling about all of this?" he asked. "I came in here the other night and the place was packed. And I didn't know a single person in here. All our friends have come, but now, people from the community and in and around Grain Valley are hearing about it and packing the place. It's all unbelievable."
Friends and family members names can be found on bricks that surround the window to the micro brewery, including one special brick to honor his and his brother's mom, Jo. She passed away in December 2019 and left Jason and Brian an inheritance.
"It wasn't a whole lot of money, but we used that money to renovate this building, because it was our mom's wish to help us make our dream come true, and when you walk down the back hall, there is her brick, at eye level, so everyone remembers her and knows the role she played in all of this," Fenstermaker said.
The Fenstermaker family theme continues as Blake Rogers, Fenstermaker's brother-in-law, manages the pub, and realizes that he is part of something special.
"I'm in here open to close, five days a week, and love every minute of it," Rogers said. "This place is just different. I can't even tell you how many times I've heard, 'This is awesome' from folks who come in for the first time."
If you go
Iron Kettle Brewery also features an outside dining and drinking area in the alley adjacent to the Grain Valley Historical Society, a rooftop patio and is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. It is closed Monday and Tuesday. The phone number is 816-355-0069 and email is www.ironkettlebrew.com.