Border Brewing Co. prepares for Saturday’s grand opening
The Crossroads’ brewery boom is now in full swing. Torn Label Brewing Co.’s production facility went live in December. Now it’s Border Brewing Co.’s turn.
Border owner Eric Martens has committed to a Saturday, February 21, grand opening. He’ll unlock the French doors at 406 East 18th Street to the public for the first time at 11 a.m. and won’t close his 42-seat taproom until 11 p.m.
But on a chilly mid-February afternoon, those doors are still locked. The taps aren’t yet flowing. And Martens answers an innocuous “how’s it going?” with an earnest “crazy day.”
“They’re all crazy anymore,” he adds.
A brew-system malfunction the previous night has led to a morning of troubleshooting on the phone with the manufacturer.
“There’s always something,” Martens says.
The next “something” for Martens: getting his liquor license. He’s watching the mail.
“That was the thing that was kind of holding us up,” he says. “But we got that all ironed out.”
With that document in hand, Martens is free to get his six taps flowing. On opening day, he plans to serve five beers: Patio Extra Pale Ale, Rooftop Red Ale, Blonde Ale, Imperial IPA and Chocolate Milk Stout. (A sixth beer, Campfire Porter, should be available shortly after opening weekend.)
Martens says the opening-day plan calls for $2 sample pours and $6 flights of four tasters. (He’s making the wooden flight paddles with his grandfather.) Full pours cost $5. And growler fills will also be available.
Martens expects to keep his regular brews running steadily, along with one tap dedicated to seasonals and beers voted on by his customers. He says he wants his brewery to have an interactive element, so he’s toying with ideas on how to gather feedback via social media and other means.
“Ultimately, we’ll thrive on feedback that we get from people in the taproom,” he says. “I don’t want to be the one who decides what beer we make. I want people to come in and tell us that. That’s how we’re going to operate.”
His customers’ first request is probably that he not run out of beer early. “We’ve done six batches, and it’s a three-barrel system,” Martens says. “So it’s six half-barrel kegs a batch.”
Border’s opening weekend carries over into Sunday (11 a.m.–6 p.m.). Martens plans to be closed Mondays and Tuesdays so that he can replenish his stock, making enough beer to supply his taproom and distribute to a few bars in the area.
There are signs that Border isn’t quite ready, notably an “open” that rests on a bar along the western wall where a picture window looks out on his future neighbor, Double Shift Brewing Co. But the rest of the taproom looks close to done. Photos and paintings of Kansas City hang in the southeastern corner of the taproom. Lights etched with the Border logo dangle above the steel-plated bar. Six tables are spread throughout the room, each surrounded by four stools. Two 49-inch monitors hang on opposite walls, and a 32-inch monitor is mounted on the western side of the bar.
“I do want this to be a watch spot for Kansas City sports, in particular,” Martens says. “I’m a big Royals fan, a big Chiefs fan. Especially the Royals. I’ve been a fan my entire life. That won’t be the focus of what we’re doing, but we’ll hold some watch parties for some big games.”
The real focus is acting as a gateway for new craft-beer drinkers.
“My concept of having approachable styles of beer for people who are new to the craft-beer world is still there,” he says. “That’s key for our business plan, is have an experience where somebody who is new to craft beer feels comfortable coming in.
“I believe most of the battle for craft breweries is just getting exposed to people who haven’t tried it,” he adds. “More often than not, people who drink beer that are stuck on the big three just haven’t really had an experience with craft beer yet.”
But Martens isn’t about to lose sight of his most immediate aim: opening weekend. “The ultimate goal is not to run out of beer,” he says.