When Vine Street Brewing Co. opens in a yet-to-be-disclosed building in the historic Jazz District on Kansas City’s east side in early 2022, it will become the city's first Black-owned brewery.
The brewery is the dream of local beer enthusiast, rapper and jazz performer Kemet Coleman, who has tried several times to open a brewery in Kansas City. This time, however, he knew he was onto something good when he came across the building in this historic neighborhood. That’s when Coleman asked one of the most serious brewers he knew in the local craft beer scene – Woodie Bonds, the creator of the Hip Hops Hooray beer festival – to be his business partner. Bonds agreed to join the project if he could bring in Elliot Ivory, another craft brewer who also works as a project manager at Honeywell Federal Manufacturing and Technology.
Bonds and Ivory will both oversee the brewing side of the operation while Coleman will serve as the sales and marketing face for Vine Street Brewing.
“This idea is less than a year old, and I knew I wanted Woodie because he already has a strong community built around craft beer, and he is one of the few Black brewers in Kansas City,” Coleman says. “Elliot has been a fantastic addition to our team because he takes the analytical approach to brewing, so he balances out Woodie’s creativity and desire to experiment out a little bit. They challenge each other, and that makes for a better beer in the end.”
The overall vision Coleman has for Vine Street Brewing goes far beyond just brewing and serving great beer. He sees this space as a place where live music will blend in seamlessly, attracting a diverse mix of locals and tourists alike to create an inclusive community space where creativity and conversation can thrive. Coleman’s own love of craft beer started in 2013 at Boulevard Brewing Co., where he gave tours and worked in guest relations. The experience, and what he learned along the way, kickstarted his mission to create more opportunities for Black and brown communities in Kansas City.
“My mind was blown when I realized the people that made the first ancient craft beer looked like me, because no one else in the beer business did at the time,” he says. “The craft beer industry is white and male for the most part. That planted the seed in me. I realized that beer-making could be something that Black and brown communities could benefit from being exposed to. It is part of our history that we should know about and contribute to the conversation. We want Vine Street Brewing to be a safe space for Black and brown people and the queer and LGBTQ+ community too. We want everyone to come together and share ideas with each other and work together to begin to create a shift in how we see our community of local craft beer-lovers.”
Although the project is still in development, the plan is for the space, which will be located within walking distance of the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, to have a taproom and beer garden. The partners want Vine Street to be the starting point for great music and great beer to come together in a way that will pay homage to the history of 18th & Vine.
Starting with a seven-barrel brewing system, Vine Street Brewing Co. will have the ability to produce between 4,000 and 5,000 barrels of beer a year. The strategy is to focus on pouring in their own tasting room first, then move to selling kegs to local restaurants and bars and then, finally, packaged distribution. The plan is to start with the basics and then add on some fun seasonal beers; so far, the team has already brewed a Pale Ale, a hazy IPA, hoppy saison and American wheat.
There has already been a groundswell of support for this project, with restaurants both in Kansas City and in St. Louis reaching out wanting to carry Vine Street beer on tap. The local brewing community has also reached out, with Boulevard Brewing Co., City Barrel Brewing Co. and Crane Brewing Co. (with whom Coleman collaborated on the Black is Beautiful and Eyes on the Street beers) each offering help and support.
Although a large number of craft breweries has already opened in Kansas City over the past few years, Coleman believes there is room for everyone.
“As our city becomes more walkable, we need different size breweries in different places,” he says. “I’d like to see one in every neighborhood. Some may have a short bar and brew only two or three beers, but they are all important places of conversation and community. This country had far more breweries than this before Prohibition; there’s room for everyone.”
Coleman hopes Vine Street Brewing inspires other brewers to make the leap to open their own places, especially near his own place in the Jazz District, where he would welcome all collaboration opportunities – especially in a part of town historically known for hot jazz and cold drinks.
“My music, and this brewery, will all weave together for me, and just be part of my body of work. I see this brewery like I see my music – part of my overall vision, and both will continue to lift up and support the ideas I have to bring people together. I see beer allowing me to finally capitalize on music, adding fuel to my fire,” says Coleman. “I am only just beginning my journey in both.”
Vine Street Brewing, vinestbrewing.com