The flat beat of a hammer and the whir of a saw ring out across the concrete floor in the future home of the Torn Label Brewing Company (1708 Campbell). It’s the tail end of September and the gleaming, stainless 15-barrel system has been installed, but there’s still a tap room and barrel aging area to be finished before TLB begins production later this fall.
“We’re looking to take our experiences from the West Coast and Chicago and bring that into Kansas City,” CEO Rafi Chaudry says.
As he talks, he walks past piles of shredded paper in The Studio Inc.’s gallery, part of Miki Baird’s ‘Read This,’ exhibit that runs through November. Torn Label is using 7,000 square feet inside the Studios Inc. building.
“The Crossroads was a dream neighborhood. The beer scene is at a great place with The Belfry and Anton’s and Border coming in down the street. There’s a passion for local here,” Chaudry says. “But we never intend to lean on the fact that we are a local brewery. We want you to try local and then come back because it’s a quality product.”
Chaudry, 32, grew up in Overland Park. Travis Moore, Torn Label’s 27-year-old COO and brewmaster, was raised in Olathe. The two met a decade ago at the (now shuttered) Daily Dose, where they bonded over a mutual love of coffee.
Both began homebrewing and discovering craft beer, albeit in different cities. Moore moved to Chicago, where he attended law school and had every intention of practicing that trade.
“I got the phone call [in 2012] about putting together a brewery proposal the same day I was offered a job as an associate at a law firm. I told them that I might be going to work for a brewery in six months,” Moore says. “I got the job and then when I went and did it, they thought I was crazy.”
Chaudry, then a movie producer in Los Angeles, was on the other end of the line. One of his film investors was Chad Troutwine, who knowing Chaudry’s passion for beer, had asked him what a brewery in Kansas City might look like.
“We’d always appreciated the production brewery model with a small limited tap room,” Chaudry says of the model that’s common for West Coast microbreweries.
“We wanted to take what we loved about Los Angeles and Chicago and bring those things we love about those cities back home,” Moore adds.
“We wanted to help preserve the spirit of homebrewing and experimentation and retain that mentality and approach to brewing,” Chaudry says.
And that starts with the three brews they’re considering their flagship offerings.
“On the surface, it’s a pale ale, blonde and stout,” Chaudry says. “With all three of our flagship beers, we want them to be approachable, but a little more adventurous.”
There’s a Belgian Trappist-inspired beer with honey (the “blonde,”), a session Alpha Pale Ale, and a coffee wheat stout.
The Monk & Honey, as Moore and Chaudry have been calling it around the brewery, is a spin on a classic Belgian brew. In lieu of traditional candy sugar, the beer derives its sweetness from honey sourced in Peculiar, Missouri. It was a way for Moore to put his own take on the experience of drinking table beer with Belgian monks while hitchhiking around Europe in college.
“Drinking beer often times isn’t just about the beer, it’s about the experience,” Moore says. “It’s an ode to Westy Six [Trappist Westvleteren Special 6], but it’s not a replica. This is about wanting to make a beer that would go well with a meal with friends.”
Chaudry thinks Monk & Honey has an almost “tea-like quality,” because the honey added toward the end of the boil adds a bit of sweetness and an “earthy floral character,” that mixes with the hops (the brew is dry hopped with German Opal hops). Both Moore and Chaudry are partial to hops and that will show up in the Alpha Pale Ale.
“The Alpha Pale isn’t an IPA that I’m taking down,” Moore says. “We didn’t take an IPA recipe and try to take down the alcohol. We took a Pale Ale and hopped it up.”
But Chaudry asserts that the decision to pack a brew with hops doesn’t impact its drinkability.
“It’s the one you want after a meal or after work,” Rafi says. “That’s the beer we go to after work. If the complaint is that it is too hoppy – that’s not a bug, that’s a feature.”
The Coffee Wheat Stout uses a Sumatran toddy concentrate from nearby Thou Mayest (which opened earlier this summer in the Crossroads).
“We didn’t want it to be just a coffee centric beer,” Moore says. “We wanted it to maintain some of the character of a wheat stout. And then we went ahead and added oats for a creamy mouth-feel.”
In addition to the flagship brews, Torn Label is working on a Guajillo Quad (a quadrupel, a strong dark ale).
“It’s a Belgian quad finished with Guajillo chiles. It’s a weird combination that you would never think would pay off as well as it does,” Chaudry says.
It was inspired by Moore’s recent visit to a Mexican market. When he smelled the dried chiles, he immediately thought of how they could bring some balance to a Belgian quad.
“It was herbal and slightly fruity and not spicy,” Moore says.
As part of the launch for its barrel-aging program, Torn Label will likely produce an Imperial Wheat Stout using the Coffee Wheat Stout as the base beer.
“It’s got this fantastic, S’mores, toasted marshmallow way. There’s a crispness to it,” Chaudry says.
They’re also looking at sourcing wine barrels from the Amigoni Urban Winery to age a Flemish Sour brew.
Torn Label will begin distributing beer in kegs before adding on a canning and bottling line. Their flagship and seasonal brews would be in cans, while something like the Imperial Wheat Stout would likely be a limited release in 22 oz. bottles.
“We’re a bit of a black sheep. We’re going to do things differently,” Moore says. “We’re always trying to add a little intrigue to our beer, something that sets it apart from everything in the market.”
Torn Label’s tap room – separated from the brew house by a glass partition — will be open for limited hours on Friday through Sunday. They also hope to have food trucks parked in the adjacent parking lot on the weekends.[Torn Label logo via Torn Label]