A year after the last craft brewery in Springfield opened its doors, two business partners are preparing to serve suds by the end of the summer on the far south side.
Banter Brewing Co. LLC co-owners Brian Harbison and Jon Weddle are targeting a mid-August start for their brewery at 330 W. Plainview Road, in the Plainview Corners shopping center, about a mile south of the James River Freeway interchange. The friends and first-time business owners are taking on much of the infill work for the 1,400-square-foot space that last housed a Subway restaurant over five years ago, Weddle said.
“We’re really bootstrapping it so we’re not taking on a bunch of debt to do this. This is really a personal investment of not only our time but sweat equity,” Weddle said, declining to disclose startup costs. “Brian has built all of our tables and is building our bar top. We were in here painting the ceiling, painting the walls. We’re doing as much of the work ourselves as we can.”
Banter Brewing Co.’s start will mark the 11th brewery to open within city limits, following the June 2020 launch of Prehistoric Brewing Co. LLC at 1816 S. Glenstone Ave. Springfield Brewing Co., which also is a full-service restaurant, was the first brewery to open in 1997.
While Harbison said he’s home-brewed beer since around 2005, neither owner has professional brewery experience. Both declined to disclose where they currently work, although Harbison said he’s an architect. According to Weddle’s LinkedIn profile, he is a managing director at Monett-based financial software firm Jack Henry & Associates Inc.
Starting a conversation
The brewery has been three years in the making, Weddle said, adding he and Harbison looked to purchase White River Brewing Co. when it became available in 2019. The Commercial Street property sold in March to WR Brewery Holdings LLC, according to the Greene County assessor’s office. WR Brewery Holdings is registered to Michael Felts, according to Missouri secretary of state records. Felts also owns several Ozarks restaurants, including Hot Cluckers.
“That’s what probably started the conversation more earnestly,” Weddle said of White River Brewing going on the market. “That investment didn’t make sense for us from a location and cost standpoint. Ultimately, we got the location that’s really good for us because we really want to be part of this south-side neighborhood.”
Weddle said he lives close to the brewery and Harbison is a Nixa resident.
“There’s not something that really serves this area as far as microbreweries go,” Weddle said.
As its name implies, Banter Brewing wants to serve as a spot for conversational connection over beers.
“We don’t want to have TVs in here,” Harbison said. “We don’t want to have any distractions. We have enough of that in our everyday life. Let’s have a place where we can come and can focus on the conversation with each other and not be distracted by another TV screen.”
Customers will be encouraged to use the brewery’s old-fashioned typewriters to create content for its community message board.
“You can come type out a one-liner or funny quip or whatever it might be and pin it up there,” Harbison said, noting the 40-seat brewery, which has no outdoor seating, will allow outside food and be kid- and dog-friendly.
As Springfield expands its craft brewery count, the industry’s growth also continues statewide. Missouri had 150 craft breweries in production in 2020, ranking 18th nationally, according to the Brewers Association. Sherry Wohlgemuth, executive director of the Missouri Craft Brewers Guild, said Banter Brewing will be the seventh new brewery in the state this year, adding roughly five others plan to open by year’s end.
In the works
Near Springfield, two other breweries are in the works.
4 by 4 Brewing Co. LLC is expanding to Christian County in the Fremont Hills area between Ozark and Nixa. Co-owner Derek Shimeall said the project to open a brewing and bottling operation with a taproom near Fremont Hills Country Club is still planned for 2022. But concerns about construction materials pricing resulted in reexamining the size of the project, he said, delaying its start by a couple of months. He said they pre-bid for some of the work to lock in prices.
“We’re probably looking to start digging Aug. 1,” he said, declining to disclose the project cost. “That’ll put us at about August or September of 2022 opening.”
General contractor is Stinson Building Co. with Torgerson Design Partners LLC as architect for the new building construction at the southwest corner of Highway CC and Fremont Road next to Southern Bank. The 12,200-square-foot brewery is slightly bigger than originally expected, due to the need for additional production room for pallets, supplies and storage, Shimeall said.
Indoor seating capacity will likely be 250-300 with a large covered patio available to accommodate more outside, he said.
“We just felt like it was a little underserved for a concept like this,” he said of opening in Christian County. “There’s just not a whole lot down there.”
Battlefield is set to gain its first brewery by year’s end when Wire Road Brewery LLC plans to open. Co-owner Jeff Birchler said construction for the 3,600-square-foot microbrewery near Highway FF and Farm Road 172 has run into delays waiting on construction materials. Nesbitt Construction Inc. is general contractor for the project designed by Esterly, Schneider & Associates Inc.
“I would be happy with a November opening right now,” Birchler said.
Birchler declined to disclose costs for the project, which includes a brewhouse, indoor seating for 80 and patio seating for 40. An outdoor space for events and food trucks also is on tap.
Wire Road Brewery plans to have a 10-person staff upon opening, he said. One hire has already been made as Andy Pearsall will serve as master brewer. Pearsall will remain co-owner of Show-Me Brewing LLC, a homebrew supply shop and brewery in Springfield, Birchler said.
“Anybody that appreciates craft beer certainly understands the quality of product that Andy puts together,” Birchler said. “We’re incredibly fortunate to have him on board with us.”
Wire Road will feature 20 taps inside and another 10 outside, he said, noting all will be in-house beers.
Banter Brewing’s Harbison said eight taps are planned at opening, with four core beers – honey wheat, pale ale with sweet orange peel, a rye India pale ale and a hazy IPA. He said all beers will be brewed in-house, probably two to three times a week. He estimated 120 barrels will be produced annually to start, adding the brewery isn’t planning retail or wholesale distribution at this time.
“We’re not going to be the biggest brewery. We’re starting small by design,” Weddle said. “Before we even think about distribution, we have to get more established and really have those core beers that we’d want to distribute.”
County lockup comes in on time and under budget.