Increased demand and an anticipated boom in traffic underscored Smoke Brewing’s need to move its brewhouse operations from Downtown Lee’s Summit to a warehouse location a few blocks away. The restaurant and taproom remains open at 209 SE Main St., serving craft beer, chef-driven fare, elevated barbecue, and craft cocktails. 

Above: Smoke Brewing Company and head brewer Spencer Schaub are relocating brewhouse operations to a larger warehouse space a few blocks from the restaurant and taproom.

Co-owner Josh Edwards and brewer Spencer Schaub realized that they needed more space to brew beer in anticipation of future growth. “We were selling 2.5 barrels of beer per week at the taproom during the middle of the pandemic. Now we’re selling five to six barrels per week,” says Schaub.

The existing brewhouse in the restaurant houses a 10-barrel system. The steady increase in beer sales was only part of the decision to expand. Nearby real estate development and the brewery’s plans for packaging were additional factors. Schaub says, “We realized we needed to do something.”

Elevate 114, a 274-unit luxury apartment complex under construction, is a three-minute walk from the brewery. The development will bring an influx of traffic to Smoke Brewing and other downtown businesses.

Smoke Brewing new space

Smoke Brewing bought a canning line in November of 2020, and pandemic-related shipping delays pushed delivery back to February of 2021. Schaub initially planned to run the canning line in a neighboring icehouse in the short-term. However, the need to set up, tear down, and store the canning line when not in use wasn’t practical to house equipment and run the production line. The need to find more space for brewing and packaging soon was clear.

The new production-only brewhouse, housed in a half-dome shaped quonset building at 216 NE Main St., will not be open to the public for visits nor will beer be served there. Smoke Brewing has already moved its current 10-barrel brewhouse. Installation of new tanks for storage and fermentation will boost capacity to 100 barrels, up from existing 40 barrels. Space has been allotted for the canning line, a keg washing station, and keg storage.

The expanded capacity in the cavernous space will come in handy once distribution of kegged beer begins with County Beverage in early 2022. “We’ll build out our footprint slowly through natural organic growth,” Schaub says. “We’ll launch with our two core beers, Shelter in Haze Hazy IPA and Herd of Turtles Pilsner, and take it slow so it’s all manageable.”

Some previous “taproom-exclusive” beers may also be distributed in the future.

Schaub previously worked at Restless Spirits Distilling and since-closed Rock & Run Brewing in Liberty, Missouri. He has led brewing operations at Smoke Brewing since July of 2020. 

Once settled into the new production space, Schaub will continue to focus on brewing “approachable beers.” Schaub says, “Drinkability is key with some subtleness in the recipe.”

“We sell beer-flavored beer,” says Edwards, weighing in. “More traditional beers, simple beers done right.” Beers on tap include staples like Keltic Kross Irish Red Ale, Two X Amber Vienna Lager, and Black Udder Milk Stout as well as a rotation of offerings like Jazz Hands Sour IPA.

Schaub prefers to produce a style well rather than experiment too much. “It’s more fun as an exercise in recipe development to get flavor without having to use adjunct ingredients,” says Schaub. “If I do use an adjunct, like in our Vietnamese Coffee Stout, I push the coffee characteristics in the base ingredients before adding coffee.”

He has also been “playing with blends of styles,” such as marrying characteristics of New England IPA with West Coast IPA, to “add bitterness to a hazy India pale ale.”

Soon more beer will be flowing from the expanded brewhouse to meet demand at Smoke Brewing as its customer base grows. 

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Pete DulinPete Dulin is the founder and editor of kcaletrail.com. His most recent book is Expedition of Thirst: Exploring Breweries, Distilleries and Wineries Across Central Kansas and Missouri. Pete’s other books include Kansas City Beer: A History of Brewing in the Heartland (The History Press, American Palate series), KC Ale Trail (out of print), and Last Bite: 100 Simple Recipes from Kansas City’s Best Chefs and Cooks.