Tallgrass Brewery seizes growth opportunity, eyes eventual national expansion

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Tallgrass Brewing Company, a local brewery that distributes a variety of beers and ales to 13 states in the midwest and the south, is preparing to expand its operations in two directions.

Last month, Tallgrass announced plans to open a brew pub downtown on Poyntz Avenue that will feature a small, in-house brewery and a full service restaurant. Additionally, the company announced last week their acquisition of a 60,000-square-foot facility near the Manhattan Regional Airport, which it intends to convert into a brewery. Jeff Gill, president and founder of Tallgrass, said the facility will soon be home to all of the company’s operations.

“This is going to allow us to brew a lot more beer, different kinds of beer and better quality,” Gill said. “We’re really putting on our big boy pants in the craft beer market right here in Manhattan.”

Gill said he expects the project to be done in time to move in and “get beer bubbling” sometime this winter. This will allow brewers to have a chance to get used to the new equipment and hone their skills before the busy period in the spring and summer. According to Gill, the expansion will create an estimated additional 18 to 22 local jobs over the next three years, and as many as 40 over the next decade.

The move may only be the first step in a long term plan that sees Tallgrass develop into a national, and even international, distributor. Gill said he sees ample opportunities in the fast-growing craft beer market, and he doesn’t want to limit his company’s horizons.

“If we feel like we can do something, we’ll go after it,” Gill said.

Local entrepreneur Dave Dreiling, who bought a startup shirt company in 1989 that catered to Greek students and grew it into international apparel powerhouse GTM Sportswear, describes Tallgrass as “the poster child for what entrepreneurism can be.”

Dreiling praised the acquisition of the property near the airport, a former call center that sits on nine acres of land, as a savvy move. He estimated that it would cost upwards of $6 million to build a similar facility from the ground up, and said he thinks it’s “wonderful” that Gill was able to find the structure. According to a press release from Tallgrass, the project, which will be overseen by brewery design specialists the Neenan Company of Fort Collins, Colo., has a total price tag of $5 million.

Gill said his team would strive to be creative in the lines they release at the new facility. One variety they’re specifically interested in is a Russian Imperial Stout. Gill is also interested in experimenting with sours, which he says are somewhat of a misnomer in that they have a tart flavor, not in that they’ve spoiled or gone bad. Sours have recently begun to gain more traction in the United States, he said.

Dreiling said he is confident in Gill and his team’s ability to one day reach their goal of national and international distribution. He describes Gill as a smart, hard-working visionary, and he believes the increasingly globalized society we live in will make it easier for him to continue to expand.

“Manhattan is an amazing community, but we need more stories like this,” Dreiling said. “From an employment perspective, we’re so government based, with Fort Riley, K-State, and city and county government. We need more private employers like Jeff that can step up and create jobs.”

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