Former Marine Lance Minor returned to his native Wichita in late 2012 with thoughts of opening a brewery. He says he was working on it when he got the H1N1 virus and went into a 7-week coma early last year.
When he came out of it, he says that “there was a little bit of soul searching going on.”
“I came to the conclusion I still wanted to do it,” Minor says of opening the brewery. “I had sorted through a lot of the negative things. It made me more resolute to do it.”
That attitude is now helping during the capital campaign for Aero Plains Brewing.
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“We’re trying to raise about a million dollars, so it’s a pretty big project,” says Minor, who is CEO.
He and partners, including his nephew Ryan Waite, who will oversee brewery operations, and Brent Miller, COO, are hosting beer tastings with various business people around Wichita to raise interest and money for the business.
“It’s been a challenge to reconnect with … the key players in Wichita,” says Minor, who was in the Marines for 21 years before getting out in 2012.
Minor also is working on a $600,000 loan for the business and trying to raise the rest of the money.
“Things are looking very optimistic,” he says. “It’s moving along.”
Minor is eyeing a couple of Old Town-area sites to open the brewery.
“It’s hard to nail down places until we actually have the money,” he says.
Minor says he wants a place with a lot of foot traffic, but he says it doesn’t have to be Old Town because the brewery isn’t going to be a typical bar.
“It’s not a party place,” Minor says, though he says there could be music during the day on weekends.
He says he and his partners want to have a tasting room attached to the city’s biggest production and packaging brewery.
So far, they have five craft beers, which you can check out at www.aeroplainsbrewing.com.
Minor says his idea “is to make craft beer that is approachable.”
“Eighty percent of people are still drinking light American lagers,” he says.
Minor says he wants to convert them to craft beer.
“The key in my line … is to convert all those that aren’t aware.”
He says brewing to extremes – such as a particularly stout stout or an especially hoppy IPA – is fine for people who are already fans, but he says there needs to be something more palatable for average beer drinkers if they’re going to be converted.
“That’s kind of my business approach to beer.”
Minor says he hopes to have his financing in place by the end of May. From there, he says it’s a matter of finalizing a place to open and ordering equipment, which will take months.
If all goes well, Minor says he could see having Aero Plains Brewing open by the end of the year.
And if it doesn’t?