The Springfield craft beer scene is weeks away from adding its newest representative.
Infill is in progress for Prehistoric Brewing Co. LLC at 1816 S. Glenstone Ave., inside the Plaza Shopping Center. Co-owners Charley Norton and Keith Davis say unless they run into any issues with a liquor license or city inspections, they expect the business to open in January.
Once operational, Prehistoric Brewing Co. will mark the 10th brewery in Springfield. The local beer market has been adding new breweries consistently since 2011, when Mother’s Brewing Co. opened. It was preceded by Springfield Brewing Co., a full-service restaurant and brewery that started in 1997.
In the past 12 months, Great Escape Beer Works LLC and Hold Fast Brewing have launched, with the latter being the newest addition in August.
“Beer is one of those things where it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have more options around,” Norton said.
The business partners at Prehistoric Brewing have invested roughly $435,000 for the venture, Davis said, including a U.S. Small Business Administration-backed loan and around $50,000 in raised capital.
They’re turning the 3,500-square-foot Plaza Shopping Center space into the brewing operation, tap room with seating for over 100 and a viewing area to observe the process.
Derek Shimeall, co-owner of 4 by 4 Brewing Co., said Prehistoric Brewing Co. will be entering a local industry he characterizes as competitive but friendly.
“Not many industries are friends and work with their competitors,” he said, while drinking a beer recently at Patton Alley Pub with his wife, Danielle, Anne Mauldin of Mother’s Brewing Co. and Curtis Marshall of Tie & Timber Beer Co. “We’re unique in that we literally all hang out together and are friends. We have a common purpose.”
The latest evidence of collaboration was the Nov. 22 Harvest Beer Festival, a first-time event held at The Barley House at Moon Town Crossing. The gathering was organized by all nine of the active local breweries via the Springfield Craft Beer Collective, which formed in August.
“We work well together and like collaborating on things, but there hasn’t been something for us to do together. So, we created something,” Mauldin said of the festival.
Organizers were hoping to bring in around 300 attendees for the event. It far exceeded expectations, as Mauldin said the venue filled to its 400-person capacity, resulting in dozens having to be turned away at the door. Each brewery offered either an exclusive or a “vintage” beer that can’t be sold for at least 30 days after the festival.
All proceeds from the festival benefit Ozarks Food Harvest, with Mauldin estimating around $10,000 was raised for the nonprofit.
“Beer is a fun product. So, it’s a lot easier for us to generate some fundraising influence for causes that are important to us,” Marshall said, adding Ozarks Food Harvest was an ideal organization to support right before Thanksgiving.
Springfield Craft Beer Collective representatives say they have ideas on turning the festival into an annual offering but want the dust to settle before determining what project the newly formed group tackles next.
“The way I see it is this is our maiden voyage,” Marshall said. “Let’s see what works, let’s see what doesn’t work to get it going. We want the collective to be more than just this event. But we also don’t want to spread ourselves too thin.”
The craft beer itself is spreading. The industry started booming in 2013, according to the Brewers Association. The trade group has tracked growth since then of 58% in craft brewing by volume to 24.4 million barrels in 2018.
Last year, craft beer sales increased 4% by volume, representing a 13% share of the U.S. beer market. Retail sales of craft beer were up as well, increasing 7% to $27.6 billion. That now accounts for over 24% of the nation’s $114.2 billion beer market.
Of the 112 craft breweries in the state, 46 are members of the Missouri Craft Brewers Guild, said Sherry Wohlgemuth, executive director. Only Show-Me Brewing and White River Brewing Co., which has been put up for sale, are not among the Springfield membership.
“The formation of the collective shows a great cooperative spirit. It says a lot,” she said. The guild is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit with a focus on promoting independent craft brewers, while advocating for a fair regulatory and statutory environment on the state and federal level.
She said the number of breweries in Springfield seems like a solid representation of the size of the area. Craft beer can serve as a creative outlet – something she said the local breweries seem to understand.
“Everybody’s doing a different spin on things which makes it great for the craft beer drinkers there,” she said. “That’s what makes craft beer so fun is that everyone has their own creative slant on what they’re doing.”
The guys at Prehistoric Brewing are planning a chocolate-milk stout, red ale, blonde ale and an India pale ale for the regular beer menu. Several others will be offered on rotation, and Norton said beer names are still in the works.
“We can make the beer really good sometimes, but naming them is a little different story,” he said with a laugh.
As for the infill, selected contractor HC Rogers Construction Group LLC came recommended by Tie & Timber’s Marshall. HC Rogers also completed the infill for the Rountree Neighborhood establishment.
“We will have a taproom here on-site,” Davis said, noting outdoor seating at the back of the building could come later next year.
Both Davis and Norton plan to keep their day jobs. Davis is a software engineer for Sho-Me Power Cooperative in Marshfield, while Norton is a project coordinator in the real estate department with O’Reilly Automotive Inc. (Nasdaq: ORLY).
“Eventually, once we get established and once the numbers are there, we’ll look at the feasibility of us coming on full time,” Davis said, adding they will employ three or four employees upon opening.
As opening day approaches, Norton said there’s a mix of emotions.
“Just like any venture you get into, there’s excitement. You hope it all goes over well,” he said. “There’s a little bit of ‘I hope we made the right decision.’ But I’d say excitement is probably the big one.”
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