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August 22, 2013 | 12:00 a.m. CST
It’s difficult to be thirsty in Columbia. Far from being a beer desert, Columbia is home to a few local breweries and has no trouble keeping up with the nationwide craft beer trend. But in early 2014, with the opening of Logboat Brewing Co., Columbians will have access to even more artisinal libations.
Situated in a former meat packing shop at 504 Fay St., behind Walt’s Bike Shop, the future home of Logboat Brewing Co. currently doesn’t look like much. There’s a foundation and a loading dock on one side. The contractor has added several new walls and put in pipes so that water won’t collect on the tank room floor. Bright-orange spray paint covers one wall and indicates where new doors will be installed.
Craft breweries, also known as microbreweries, have become landmarks of any city claiming to have even a shred of cool. They epitomize local industry and creativity and bring out the curious epicurians in the population.
As of March 2013, there were nearly 2,400 craft or regional breweries in America, according to The New Yorker. Missouri alone has 45 craft breweries such as Schlafly Bottleworks in St. Louis, Boulevard Brewing Co. in Kansas City and Mother’s in Springfield.
Tyson Hunt, Andrew Sharp, Judson Ball, Josh Rein and Mike Wolf are the five men whose vision of a new craft brewery in Columbia will hopefully be realized in January, though the dream has been years in the making.
They can see beyond the sparse landscape, the weeds and the gravel rocks, envisioning not just a brewery, but also a tasting room and a bar with an outdoor area for lawn games. They see a place that will connect the community, as well as provide it with delicious beer.
Tyson Hunt, 33, originally from Moberly, works full-time as Logboat’s CEO.
Andrew Sharp, 30, another partner, currently works as a financial counselor at University Hospital.
Judson Ball, 31, serves as the Chief Innovation Officer for Logboat. He also bartends at Mojo’s and The Blue Note.
Logboat’s head brewer Josh Rein, 30, started homebrewing in 2003 but didn’t brew professionally until 2009, when he began working at Broadway Brewery. For a year and a half, he did Broadway’s brewing. In 2011, he became an assistant brewer for Flat Branch Pub & Grill, where he rotated beer in the cellar and brewed once a week.
Designer Mike Wolf, also originally from Moberly, relocated to Los Angeles in the ’90s and now splits his time between there and mid-Missouri. He creates all the art for Logboat.
Sharp and Hunt have known each other since about seventh grade, and Hunt is now married to Sharp’s aunt. Sharp and Ball played on opposing soccer teams in high school. Sharp, Hunt and Ball met Rein at Broadway Brewery in April of 2012 when they were searching for a head brewmaster.
But even with a full crew, the guys didn’t really know if they could produce a drinkable product. Hunt started with a brewing kit in his garage and 5-gallon Gatorade jugs that he filled with the libations. When the first batch didn’t taste awful, he figured they had a chance.
In 2011, Hunt, Sharp and Ball took a week-long trip to explore microbreweries in Montana. They stayed with family members while touring the region to get inspiration for their own venture. The goal of the trip was to decide whether their brewery dream could become a reality.
Bitterroot Brewery in Hamilton, Mont. heavily influenced their plans. The trio had connections to the owner and head brewmaster, so they spent a lot of time asking questions and getting ideas.
During the trip, they also tasted beers from Blacksmith Brewing Co. in Stevensville and Big Sky Brewing Co. and Kettle House Brewing Co. in Missoula. The brewery visits helped them to figure out what they liked and disliked about different beers and brewery decor.
At the end of the journey, they knew they could pull it off.
“The trip home was planning,” Hunt says. He decided they needed to write a business plan and hire a brewmaster. He and Sharp began to read books and magazines and talked with local people about beer, finances, legal issues, accounting and a slew of other topics.
Eight months later, they had a basic business plan. Danny Lobina, an employee at the Small Business and Technology Development Center in Moberly, helped them get started. After propositioning five different banks and failing, they were approved for a loan from Hawthorn Bank.
Sharp, Hunt and Ball were particular when deciding how to name their brewery. All native Missourians, they were inspired by the significance of the state’s name, which came from the Sioux Indian tribe. In the Sioux language, Missouri is sometimes said to mean “people of the wooden canoe.”
“Another word for ‘dugout’ is ‘logboat,’” says Sharp, who researched the word. Lewis and Clark also used logboats to travel the Missouri River.
All of these factors helped the men to come to a conclusion: they would name the company Logboat Brewing Co. Then, they needed a logo.
That’s when Mike Wolf reentered their lives.
He was a long-time family friend of Hunt’s from his hometown. They reconnected when Wolf was back in the area for a family reunion.
Wolf and his brother, Jon, are both professional artists, and the Logboat team thought their style would be perfect for the label art. Sharp and Hunt told Wolf about the idea behind Logboat’s name, and Wolf drew a sketch for them on the spot. That sketch became the main part of the Logboat logo.
If you see anyone around Columbia wearing a baseball cap adorned with a canoe carrying three adventurers, it’s probably someone connected to Logboat.
Building a brewery out of a retired meat packing plant is a big undertaking, requiring a lot of effort and time. After long talks, debates and calculations, the group decided to tear the roof off and raise it 10 feet. This is potentially a wise financial decision because it will save them the headache of expansion five or 10 years down the road. Although there is still a lot to decide on, two things are certain for the interior of the brewery.
First, the tasting room’s bar will be made from antique heart pine they bought at Elmwood Reclaimed Timber in Peculiar, Mo. It’s a thick wood with a stain that gives it a weathered look.
The other certainty is that a wild portrait that Wolf painted of Mark Twain will have a place of honor in the brewery. All of the guys have a huge respect for the author. Besides his Missouri heritage, Twain’s love for the Mississippi river is also shared by the Logboat men.
They also have plans for a second floor that will hold an office space. Sharp says there will be a “conference room” to serve many functions, including being a studio for local bands, such as their own musical project, M. monoceros.
Taking their moniker from the scientific name for the narwhal, Sharp, Ball and Hunt created the band along with two others. Sharp plays bass, Ball is the band’s drummer and Hunt plays banjo, guitar, piano and harmonica and sings.
“It’s awful music, but we like it and our parents like it,” says Hunt. The group tries to play at least one show a month and hopes to be able to host concerts at the brewery, especially when celebrating the release of specialty and seasonal beers.
Sharp says they also have their own “Space Camp” a couple times throughout the year, during which they retreat to the woods to jam on their instruments and have a little fun. They plan to bring this same relaxed vibe to Logboat.
Ball already imagines the parking lot in front of the brewery, the outdoor patio and the lawn area as space for outdoor games.
They decided to bring croquet and Polish horseshoes, like Hunt and Sharp used to play at their grandfather’s cabin, to the brewery. Sharp says the family always got super competitive playing croquet because the game focuses on skill and strategy. Polish horseshoes is a family tradition, in which players attempt to knock over glass bottles with frisbees.
But there’s more — Logboat hopes to have a greenhouse.
Tomatoes, peppers, kale, spinach and carrots are just some of the produce they’ll be growing, Sharp says.
They want to plant garlic, cilantro, basil, parsley and oregano in the herb garden. Sharp says there also will be a spot in the garden for ghost peppers, one of the hottest types of peppers in the world. Some of these greenhouse ingredients likely will find their way into some of their brews.
The goal is to have the construction done by November in hopes of opening in January. Eventually, customers will be able to tour the tank room to see parts of the brewing process. Once the brewery is up and running, Sharp hopes that Logboat eventually will be able to sell food.
Logboat has yet to choose a distributor, but they want to sell the beer wholesale everywhere.
“We will sell to anyone that wants us,” Hunt says. Grocery stores, gas stations and big stores like Wal-Mart are a few places Hunt hopes to start sales.
The beers will be packaged in cans and kegs, for now. Wolf is working on art for beer can labels and sends the images from Los Angeles to Sharp and Hunt in Columbia. They also plan to sell specialty and seasonal beers in 22-ounce glass bottles.
They already have some fantastical plans for 10 years down the road. Sharp hopes to have a helicopter pad on the roof. He’s not sure about whether or not he feels comfortable landing one. Hunt hopes to wingsuit fly out of the helicopter. Ball thinks it’s a terrible idea.
At present, the brewery is still very much a work in progress. But things are surely taking form. The guys are still perfecting their recipes, which, for now, they brew in a garage with equipment they bought on a trip to Oregon in April.
So far they’ve finalized three beers: The Shiphead Ginger Wheat, The Snapper IPA and Lookout Pale Ale. Two of them already have trademark labels, and the third is in the works.