Sorry Muppets, the Tallgrass Brewing Company is set to take over Manhattan. The six-year-old brewery is at work on the Tallgrass Taphouse, a new brewpub in the former Jo-Ann Fabric Store at 320 Poyntz Avenue, that they plan to open by the end of the year.
“This is a stepping stone in the continuing evolution from a brewery where it was just myself and two part-time college students,” says co-founder Jeff Gill.
He and his wife Tricia launched Tallgrass in August of 2007. The fledgling brewery made news in 2010 with a “Canifesto,” when they announced that they would only be selling their brews in cans going forward. Today, the Manhattan brewery is distributed in 13 states.
The idea of a brewpub was intriguing to Gill, but he always felt that his focus at the brewery should be on the beer and brands of Tallgrass. He was content to barbecue and bake at home, where he’s currently trying to perfect his biscuits. But then an opportunity arose that would allow Gill to continue to focus on the beer and also engage his “love of making yummy things.” He was approached by Ward Morgan, who recently reopened the Hibachi Hut (429 Poyntz Avenue) — a Manhattan institution that had closed after 53 years of operation in 2013.
“We have a shared vision for a great restaurant and great beer. It’s a nice mix of both,” Gill says.
The menu will be farm-to-table, focusing on local hogs and potentially cattle that have been fed with spent grain from the brewery. Gill and Morgan want to take advantage of Kansas farm connections.
The taphouse will also be a test kitchen for beers in development or small batches featuring local ingredients. Gill says that a tart Berliner Weisse (a German-style wheat) made with blackberries — the purple in honor of Kansas State University — and 1863 wheat — a strain of wheat developed by the university last year — is in the works.
“This is a chance for us to perfect things on a small scale and hopefully learn about them for a larger scale,” Gill says.
The currently brewery will still offer tours and keep its tasting room open. The taphouse will have its own 10-barrel system. The downtown brewpub will also have a number of guest taps among its 18 taps and Gill plans to have a beer engine for cask beer.
“We’ve been doing firkins [a small barrel of beer] for a while and our Vanilla Bean Buffalo Sweat actually started as a firkin,” Gill says. “This is about growing the craft beer culture in Manhattan.”
Tallgrass’ Halcyon Wheat, which was recently made a seasonal offering by the brewery, should be on shelves right now. And Wild Plum Farm-House Ale will return in June.[Image via Facebook: Tallgrass Brewing Company]