James Hightree and John Randtke celebrate the purchase of 710 Main Street in Downtown Eudora. (photo courtesy wakarusabrewery.com)
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When you grew up in the St. Louis area as I did, two things were permanently etched in your brain as a child. The first was that the Cardinals are the best team in baseball bar none and the second is that anything without an Anheuser-Busch label is sub-standard. Nowadays, only one of those is true. (Here’s a hint: The Cardinals are still the best).
The craft beer industry has made tremendous gains in the last three decades. According to the Brewers Association, craft brew sales were estimated to be $8.7 billion dollars in 2011 and made up 5.7% of all beer sales. Many microbreweries and brew pubs have sprung up and gained significant followings. Beer making has also found a cottage industry in home brewing as well. Cities like Kansas City, Topeka and Lawrence all have microbreweries located in them and soon Eudora will be added to that list.
John Randtke, along with Brewmaster James Hightree, plan to open Wakarusa Brewery at 710 Main Street. This building was originally built in 1926 as a Chevy auto parts storage building and later served as Coast to Coast Hardware, Massey’s Flea Market and most recently as an antique store. Randtke purchased the property earlier this month and has already begun working on the interior of the building which has definitely seen better days.
“I’m a building engineer and I did home remodeling during my college days,” Randtke told us. “While there is a lot of work to do in here, I’m not really worried about it. I’ve got a lot a lot of friends willing to help out and pitch in.”
Randtke also will have some help from the City of Eudora. Randtke was awarded a $5000 grant by the City Commission from the Downtown Beautification Grant Program to help defray some of the expenses for rehabbing the building.
Wakarusa Brewery will be focusing on both beer and mead. While most everyone knows about beer, mead is not something you find usually at your neighborhood liquor store.
“Mead is the original alcoholic beverage,” Randtke said. “It’s basically fermented honey and simply contains water, honey and yeast. It’s similar in taste to a sweet white wine.”
Randtke says the pair plan to start off slowly and work their way up with their new venture.
“Our time line will depend on how long it takes for various permits and our liquor license,” Randtke said. “I am also selling my house in Johnson County and moving to Eudora. The house sale is going to help fund the more expensive parts of the rehab including the plumbing and electrical work.”
Once the renovation work is completed, Wakarusa Brewery is on tap (pardon the pun) to begin with bottle sales around June 2013 and full service facilities will be ready in October. Their hope is that in 2014 and beyond, to extend their new beer empire to restaurants and bars around the region.
The pair has set up a website to track progress of the new venture and includes the conceptual layout of the building. You can check it out at wakarusabrewery.com.
(Editor’s Note: We are already licking our lips in anticipation of opening day and will make sure to alert you when it will be. Who knows, maybe we can even persuade them to have a TV on the wall and show a Cardinal game or two.)