Before they opened Central Standard Brewing in August 2015, the founders had a more modest vision of what would be.
They’d keep their day jobs and brew once a week, just like they had as home brewers for the previous decade. At first, they’d run the place along with their wives, then hire employees if things got busier. When they were established, maybe three years down the road, they’d find a warehouse where they could focus on their passion – conditioning and producing funky, sour beers.
That’s not at all how it turned out.
As soon as the giant garage doors opened at the 4,000-square-foot brewery and tap room at 156 S. Greenwood, the place was packed. The demand was so great, customers drained the place of beer and the owners had to close for a couple of days to regroup.
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It’s never really slowed down.
“For the first several months, we kept saying, ‘Surely eventually this is going to die down,’ ” said Nathan Jackel, who opened Central Standard with Ian Crane and Andy Boyd and their wives, Sumer Crane and Emily Boyd. “But it’s never died down.”
On Saturday, Central Standard Brewing will celebrate its one-year anniversary with an all-day party that will spill into the closed-down street out front. It will feature live bands, two food trucks and a dunk tank, where attendees can try to drench local beer celebrities like The Anchor’s Schane Gross and Goebel Liquor owner Rob Miller.
The year has gone by fast, say the owners, whose brewery is now one of Wichita’s trendiest hangouts. Every night it’s open, Central Standard is packed with fans of craft beer, with local restaurant owners and even with other brewery operators, all lounging around vintage couches, recliners and dinette sets inside or spilling onto a patio that’s fitted with picnic benches and canopied in glowing lights.
It’s not in Old Town. And it’s not really downtown. It’s just a block off of Douglas – the block near Hydraulic that’s home to other trendy businesses like Tanya’s Soup Kitchen, Hopping Gnome Brewing and The Donut Whole – and is nestled in a quiet neighborhood just across the street from a city park.
“People like it because it doesn’t feel like a bar. That’s the comment we get a lot,” Andy Boyd said. “When you’re inside, you feel like you’re in a friend’s living room. When you’re out on the patio, you feel like you’re in your friend’s backyard having a beer.”
Andy Boyd and Ian Crane met in high school and stayed friends as they entered adulthood. Boyd was in commercial real estate. Crane was a commercial broker dealing in oil and gas leasing. Their hobby was home brewing, and they spent much of their free time making beer and dreaming about starting their own place.
When they decided to go for it in 2014, they found a building – a former roofing contractor’s warehouse with two giant retractable garage doors – that they decided would be perfect. They bought it and began planning in earnest.
But it wasn’t that easy.
Their new building sat across the street from Hyde Park on a mostly residential street, and some of the neighbors weren’t in favor of their plans. They feared a nightclub was coming into their neighborhood and that noise and violence would follow. They protested, citing a zoning rule that said a bar could not operate within 300 feet of a park.
The project was put on hold while the owners worked through the red tape.
“We were absolutely terrified that we’d get shut down on our zoning and that we’d have to sell the building and figure something else out,” Andy Boyd said. “The whole zoning thing set us back five or six months.”
In June 2014, the Wichita City Council voted 6-1 to approve a conditional-use permit for the brewery, stipulating that it limit its hours of operation and promise not to serve hard liquor.
Cleared to proceed, Boyd and Crane started remodeling the giant space. They fashioned it after taprooms they’d seen on their extensive beer tours around the country, adding their own eclectic touches. Sumer Crane, a fan of vintage furniture, started collecting 1970s-era orange-and-green easy chairs, couches and dining sets, which she arranged to furnish the place.
They also brought in a partner. Nathan Jackel, who had been working as the assistant brew master at River City Brewing Company, shared their love of funky, sour beers. They invited him to join the team.
Craft-beer fans followed along closely as construction proceeded, and in early August, the owners finally launched a series of “soft opening” dates, inviting friends and family to stop by so they could practice running the place.
But there was nothing soft about the opening. Central Standard was packed from Day 1, as people flocked in not only to enjoy the unique, hand-crafted beers but also to soak up its hip, open-air setting.
“We had high expectations before opening, and we exceeded those expectations pretty quickly,” Ian Crane said.
Drunk with success
The past year has been a blur of hops, sweat, motion and rapid growth, the owners say.
After the first few days in business, the owners realized their plans of running the place with just the help of their wives wasn’t going to work. Today, they have a staff of about 25 people, many of whom are part-time bartenders. They also quickly realized that keeping their previous day jobs wasn’t an option.
Though they initially planned to serve a menu of bar food snacks, they stumbled upon a better idea, inviting food trucks to set up on the edge of their patio each night. Though Central Standard serves a few food items, including an attractive meat-and-cheese platter, the food trucks have added another dimension to the business.
“The food trucks have played a big role in some degree in our popularity,” Andy Boyd said. “It brings some variety and allows us to concentrate on the beer rather than worry about running a kitchen. We thought we might add more food items, but the synergy between us and the food trucks has just been so great, we don’t have any plans to add more food at this point.”
Andy Boyd is responsible for managing the brewery’s operations and books, while Ian Crane and Jackel are in charge of brewing the beer. At the moment, they’re pushing their equipment, which is set up in the brewery in full view of visitors, to its max, producing an average of 45 barrels a month, which is roughly 350 gallons a week.
The men never wanted to be slaves to a beer lineup and instead wanted to create new brews all the time. Their customers have dictated, however, that a few of their existing beers, such as Wizard of Hops and Hop Theory, be available all the time. Otherwise, the lineup is constantly changing. Crane and Jackel have brewed and served at least 30 different beers since opening, many of them of the sour and hoppy variety, and always have about eight tapped at once.
Sumer Crane is the front-of-the-house manager, and Emily Boyd organizes the many creative events that keep new people coming to the brewery – things like beer and book meetings, beer and adult coloring events, story-telling hours and lots of carefully chosen live music events.
About three months ago, the owners opened their new “funk house,” originally part of the three-year plan. It’s where Ian Crane and Jackel can produce their specialty funky beers, which are conditioned long term on oak, a process that takes anywhere from four to 10 months per beer to achieve perfection.
“We’re definitely growing a lot faster with our off-site facility,” Andy Boyd said. “That was kind of the three-year plan, and it turned into the nine-month plan.”
Brewing new ideas
The Central Standard owners have become local beer celebrities over the past year, especially because they rarely decline an invitation to bring their product to a beer festival or sampling event. Their regulars, especially those who know how to home brew, look at them with a mixture of envy and admiration.
The men are too modest to admit they notice but say that on the rare occasion when they slow down, they realize how lucky they are.
“We love it,” said Ian Crane, who wears Central Standard T-shirts, shorts and galoshes to work on beer brewing days. “We’re living the dream. We don’t want to do anything else, but it’s so much hard work. Before opening up, we had all the fantasies of owning and operating a brewery, but now, we’re going, ‘Oh, this is so much more work than we thought.’ ”
They talk about how they can continue to grow, and some plans are in place. Soon, they will begin selling bottled versions of some of their specialty beers. People will be able to get the bottles, which will be part of limited runs, in the brewery and eventually in a few select liquor stores.
They want to add a few more of their taps to bars around Wichita. At the moment, Central Standard beer is available in four local bars: The Anchor, Public at the Brickyard, Dempsey’s and Peerless.
They’ve discussed the possibility of opening to the public an extra day. For now, though, the hours will remain 3 to 10 p.m. on Thursdays, 3 p.m. to midnight on Fridays, noon to midnight on Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. They also want to concentrate on filling the funk house with products that will serve sour-beer fans for months to come.
“I love taking ingredients from a raw form and creating this liquid beverage as beer that people love and seeing the look on their faces and getting feedback,” Ian Crane said. “It’s one of the best rewards I get.”
When: noon-11 p.m. on Saturday
Where: Central Standard Brewing, 156 S. Greenwood; street will be blocked off in front
What: All-day party featuring special-release beers, food trucks Uno Mas and Noble House Hawaiian Plate Lunch, and live music