Lance Minor says he could have opened his Aero Plains Brewing a couple of years ago and would have beaten a string of other breweries that have opened in the past few years.
Instead, he decided to wait.
“I’m a planner,” says Minor, who spent 17 of his 21 years in the Marine Corps as a mobility and operational planner.
He says he saw a common pattern with breweries nationally.
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“People would start small … and have to build a second brewery.”
He says he and his partners, Ryan Waite and Brent Miller, “spent a lot of time looking at what you really need in order to bridge the middle-level brewery from the get-go.”
That included raising $1.5 million from eight investors in order to afford the space and tanks to start with a bigger operation.
On Tuesday, the brewery’s first tanks arrived at its 11,250-square-foot space in Delano.
The tasting room and operational facilities at 117 N. Handley, which is just off of West Douglas behind Bicycle X-Change, are starting to take shape for a fall opening.
Studium Architecture is helping the partners transform the space.
There will be three parts to the tasting room.
On the south end, there will be something of a traditional bar with booths and high-top tables.
Then there will be a middle area that’s more of a lounge with low seating and couches.
On the north end, there will be long tables with benches that will look through an open garage door onto the production facility “so you can look out and see the brewing facility and kind of get the smells and the ambiance of the brewery,” Minor says.
There will be a patio and a space for food trucks, which is the only food Aero Plains will offer.
Minor says he’s learned from watching some of the other breweries around Wichita, which is why he’s installing sizable bathrooms.
“They’ve underestimated the volume of business.”
Minor says he regularly visits the other breweries – not to spy on them but to support them.
“It’s a very collegial community.”
He says those brewers are already coming in and checking out his place, even though there’s no beer yet.
There was a Wichita Homebrewers tour there, and Walnut River Brewing provided the beer.
“It was just so cool,” Minor says.
He says other brewers are particularly interested to see his cold room, where products will be stored.
“It’s kind of one of the choke points in the production process.”
Minor says he purposely made it large after learning from the other brewers.
“Do they have cold room envy?” he says, laughing, and that he hears things such as “Man, your cooler is cooler than ours.”
Aero Plains will be a 20-barrel brew house.
A barrel of beer is 31 gallons, which is about the size of two traditional kegs.
Initially, there will be four tanks at the brewery, but Minor is planning to add more at this time next year to “make the most out of this facility.”
He has a deal with House of Schwan to initially distribute two beers – he’s not saying which ones yet.
Minor has about 20 recipes, but he won’t make them all immediately.
He says he’ll have 20 beers on tap, with beers from other local and national breweries.
Before Aero Plains beer is even ready, the business will open as an art gallery.
Miller used to own Evo Gallery in Old Town in the 1990s, and a rotating gallery will be part of Aero Plains.
Minor says Aero Plains already has a Facebook following.
“I am inundated with questions all the time.”
Even though he has professional brewing experience, Minor says he and his partners have “a steep learning curve.”
He says there’s an especially supportive community here, though. Minor says he’s lived on both coasts and overseas and sees a difference in his home state.
“Kansas nice is so real.”
He says he’s open to selling his product beyond Wichita and Kansas, though.
“I want to make beer that people want, and when they want it outside of Wichita, we’ll give it to them.”