The oldest surviving brewpub is closing its doors forever this Sunday, May 15 at 4:00. So technically, 75th Street Brewery is not dead yet. But I’m going to give my parting words now anyway.
I grew up in south Waldo, well really south of Waldo, near Ward Parkway Center. And while south (and south of) Waldo has its charms, really it’s home to the worst location of any given business. Wornall Road between 79th and 85th Streets is or was the home of the worst Sonic, worst Taco Bell, worst Dairy Queen (RIP), worst Torre’s Pizza and so on. It’s an ugly stretch of road to begin with, and the options around it didn’t help. Waldo proper, the crossroads of barbershops and bars around 75th Street, is the neighborhood I claimed.
So, when I moved back to Kansas City from college, Waldo became the hub of social activity. And as a budding good beer nerd, the brewery was where I wanted to spend my time. And they made it easy, with $1.00, then 75¢, draws weekly. (Or maybe the other way around.) When I bought my first house, it was three blocks from the brewery. And I can’t say that the location wasn’t a large part of that tiny, tiny house’s appeal.
The beer and food quality waxed and waned from excellent to passable. There were plenty of nights when multiple flagships were unavailable. The constant turnover of brewers contributed to the inconsistency, but many of the city’s best-known brewers produced Possum Trot Brown and Good Hope IPA before moving on the greater brewhouses. Jeremy Danner (Boulevard Brewing), Bryan Buckingham (Cinder Block Brewery), Micah Weichert (Stockyards Brewing), and Pat Sandman (Calibration Brewing, opening this year) – among others – all cut their teeth at 75th Street.
I frequently chatted with a longer-haired and somewhat-slimmer version of Jeremy Danner at the bar often on cheap-beer nights. One evening in particular stuck in my memory, when my brother expressed his desire to dart around the bar slapping bottles of Bud Light from people’s hands and replacing it with a 75th-brewed beer. Danner responded, “You should love those people. Your beer tonight is cheap because they’ll pay $4 for a bottle for theirs.” Or something similar, it was a long time ago.
I learned to love the beer engine at 75th Street. The business plan for my day job was written in part at the bar. I became a beer dinner junkie at 75th Street. I learned sitting at the bar and chatting with the bartender yields the best service at 75th Street – and that maxim applies almost anywhere. Hell, I found my happy beer at 75th Street. It was an excellent classroom for beer education in a city that was just getting the craft beer thing going.
As Kansas City became a better beer town, and I became a better beer nerd, 75th Street began to lose its appeal. Bars with wider selections from multiple breweries became the better draw over brewpubs that only served their own beer.* The exploration to find new and better beer lead me away from the familiar and toward new adventures.
*Though to be fair, 75th Street has had guest taps since the 2007 fire.
When my wife and I heard about Summit’s plans to buy and close 75th Street Brewery, we decided to say our goodbyes. With the boys in tow, we stopped in for an early dinner. Nostalgic and happy, sometimes groggy, memories flooded over my as I walked over the brown stone floor for the final time. The food was fine. The beer was passable. We concluded it was a good time to go.
I will hold a special place in my heart for 75th Street Brewery. It has left a strong mark on the history of Kansas City beer. It cultivated my knowledge, passion, and appreciation for beer and brewing.
Goodbye, old friend. There’s a place in the great bright tank in the sky for you.
Last Week at 75th Street Brewery
If you haven’t yet said your goodbyes, you have seven days to do so. There are specials tonight, May 10, thru the final day, Sunday, May 15.