Springfield’s microbrewery scene appears ready to grow.
Two breweries are in the works in center city Springfield, preparing to join longtime microbrewery Springfield Brewing Co.
Jeff Schrag, owner and publisher of The Daily Events, plans to add brewery owner to his résumé, while on Commercial Street, brothers-in-law Kris Foster and Doug Draper formed C Street Brewing LLC in 2009 and hope to open by late summer. The two breweries would join Springfield Brewing Co., 305 S. Market St., which opened in 1997 by Paul Mueller Co. as a way to showcase the company’s stainless-steel tanks.
From bread to brew Schrag plans to open a brewery in the Interstate Brands Bakery, or Butternut Bread, building at 727 W. Walnut St. He has registered Ozark Mountain Brewery LLC with the Missouri Secretary of State’s office to handle real estate business for the currently un-named microbrewery. Ozark Mountain Brewery obtained a $1.5 million U.S. Small Business Administration loan from Liberty Bank on March 10, according to SBA records.
Last week, Springfield City Council approved Schrag’s application for a conditional-use permit, which allows manufacturing of liquor up to 22 percent alcohol by volume. Beer is typically produced at 5 percent alcohol by volume.
“I have been a huge beer and wine enthusiast all my life, and I think I’m in the right city, the right industry at the right time,” Schrag said. “I’m 43. I’m just crazy enough to gamble everything on a new adventure one more time. When I’m 53, I won’t be willing to do that.”
Schrag plans to close June 3 on the 40,000-square-foot Butternut building his seventh downtown-Springfield project. On about 4.5 acres, Schrag said he’ll operate a production brewery – not a brewpub – with limited sales on site.
“Certainly, Boulevard and Schlafly are classic production breweries,” he said. “We’ll have a little bend on that – we want to produce beers that people are going to want for every occasion, with dessert, with food and to stand on their own.”
The city’s conditional-use permit is the first of many hoops for Schrag to meet his June 2011 target opening.
“I’m at the first hoop. There are many more after that,” Schrag said.
He still must receive state and federal approvals from the Missouri Department of Public Safety Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control and the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
“You can’t apply for TTBs until you purchase equipment and have a building bought or leased,” Schrag said. “State approval is a separate process from TTB, but they go together. We have a long road ahead of us.”
Commercial Street concoctions Meanwhile, extensive remodeling is ongoing at Frost’s and Draper’s C Street Brewery, 505 W. Commercial St. Frost said about half of the 10,000-square-foot-building is dedicated to the microbrewery, and the remainder would be available for lease.
Federal approval from the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has been received, but C Street Brewery is in the process of gaining city and state approvals, Draper said.
“We’ve had a passion for beer and brewing for quite some time, and the opportunity just kind of presented itself,” said Draper, who has taken the 12-week brewmaster course at Chicago’s Siebel Institute of Technology, while Frost has completed the Siebel’s online brewmaster course. “We decided to give it a shot and see if we could make it happen.”
Draper said the brewery’s most expensive startup costs were the stainless-steel tanks, which were purchased for $70,000 from Hickok’s Steakhouse & Brewery owner Scott Tillman when the Patton Alley brewpub closed in 2008 after a two-year run.
“Buying used equipment is generally the way to go,” Draper said, indicating they realized savings of more than 20 percent compared to new equipment. “It’s all stainless, so it does hold its value pretty well.”
Draper said they’ve spent nearly $12,000 of their own seed money and received a loan for the rest from an anonymous partner.
“We’re trying to secure some additional financing,” Draper added. “We’d like to do this as independently as possible. We’re trying to find a small-business loan. That’s not the easiest thing to do right now.”
Draper said two banks already have turned them down, but they’re applying with a third.
‘Focus on the beer’ Like Schrag’s brewing venture, Draper said C Street Brewing also would operate as a production brewery with little retail. Discussions with third-party distributors to get their beer sold in stores have begun.
Springfield Brewing Co. Operations Director Kevin Mackey welcomes the new breweries.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “Anything that raises the public awareness about craft beer.” Tony Caradonna, founder and owner of O’Fallon Brewery in O’Fallon, northwest of St. Louis, offered some simple advice to the new brewery owners.
“Focus on the beer,” said Caradonna, whose brewery sold 4,000 barrels worth $1.2 million in 2009 revenue. “That will speak for itself. We usually don’t have a lot of marketing dollars, so the beer has to speak for itself. Build one success story at a time from one bar to another, from one store to another.”
The number of O’Fallon Brewery barrels sold last year was up 37 percent from 2,900 in 2008.