A self-proclaimed “gypsy brewer,” Rodney Beagle has his fingerprints on beer labels throughout the Kansas City area. Now the home-brewer-turned-pro is embarking on a new adventure as head brewer at Liberty’s 3Halves Brewing Co, which is currently under construction in downtown Liberty.
Beagle started brewing six years ago after unearthing a dusty home brewing kit in the corner of North Kansas City’s Big Rip Brewing Co., where he worked as a bartender.
“I went home and became passionate about it,” Beagle says. “I went to YouTube University and learned everything you need to know from ‘Milk the Funk’ (a podcast and Facebook group for home brewers). I was surprised how easy it was... too many home brewers overthink it, over-clean it. It isn’t that hard.”
Since then, he’s used his wild ideas and innate talent for brewing to win medals at home brew competitions, coordinate beer festivals and collaborate with more than a half dozen local breweries under the name Beagle Brewing.
Beagle’s foray into professional brewing started at Big Rip.
“My first day (brewing a solo batch) was making a Vanilla Cream Ale and everything went great,” he says. “No hiccups... except when we were done, there beside the tank I had forgotten the lactose; we later omitted the vanilla.”
The resulting beer, dubbed Unmbrella Kölsch, is a customer favorite that’s still on tap at the brewery.
Spring Fling, one of the home brew festivals that Beagle helped start, is an annual fundraiser for the North Kansas City Rotary. More than an effort in philanthropy, the event is an ad-hoc brewing incubator.
“The first year, we created what was essentially an invitational for home brewers,” Beagle says. “The second year we had those that had opened a brick-and-mortar store return. We wanted other home brewers to talk to, and see what it takes to open a brewpub. It’s mutually beneficial and raises money for charity.”
Russell Fries of the North Kansas City Rotary describes Beagle as knowledgeable and connected with both the brewing community and the North Kansas City community.
“He’s a guy making his mark in that industry,” Fries says, adding that the Spring Fling has enjoyed steady growth over the past three years.
While Beagle was bartending at Big Rip and honing his brewing chops, a pair of young entrepreneurs were regulars, planning the opening of what would become Colony KC in North Kansas City.
“At first there was no plan for a brewery,” Beagle recalls. “It was going to be a taproom, and serve coffee in the morning.”
The pair shared their plan with Beagle. He was confident he could inspire some of his beer-loving Big Rip regulars to travel a few blocks north to Colony KC at 312 Armour Road.
“We launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $10,000,” Beagle says. “We raised that in just three days; at the end of the 30-day campaign, we raised $16,000. We bought a brew system and I set a goal to introduce one new beer a week. In 15 months, we delivered 63 new beers. We pushed boundaries and the beers became weirder and weirder.”
Beagle says Kansas City beer drinkers have evolved along with the growing brewing scene.
“They want originality, not cookie-cutter clones,” he says. “Their tastes have radically changed.”
They also want quality: “If you brew it they will come,” Beagle says, adding that “If you brew it well, they will come back.”
“I was volunteering there and we developed our own brewing moniker: 2.0,” Beagle says. “We were launching the second wave of breweries in North Kansas City, and we didn’t want to spend much time thinking and brewing like our predecessors.”
Beagle is a featured guest on 610 Sports Radio’s “2 in a Brewery” and has also collaborated with Crane Brewing in Raytown, New Axiom Brewing Company in Lee’s Summit, Brew Lab in Overland Park, and Big Rip, where he was working earlier this week while construction advanced at the future home of 3Halves at 110 E. Kansas St. in Liberty.
3Halves, expected to open in August, is the brainchild of John Kennebeck.
Kennebeck was careful and meticulous in hiring Beagle as head brewer. He considered resumes from several qualified and talented beer professionals.
“I was astounded that he picked me,” Beagle says. “I knew the people I was up against. Some with 15-plus years, gold medal winners. Once I heard some of the names I thought there was no way I’d get the job.”
Kennebeck says he was impressed by Beagle’s persistence.
“He has a unique mind and is extremely passionate about brewing,” Kennebeck says. “He was lacking the three years of experience we were hoping to find, but my dad told me, ‘When you find that person with the passion and the know-how, you have that diamond in the rough.’”
The job at 3Halves will require Beagle to come up with three consistent core beers to start: One dark, one light and one hoppy.
But with 3Halves’ capacity, Beagle will still be able to spread his wings, leveraging his collaborative nature and creative juices while expanding his know-how.
Once operations are underway, 3Halves plans to use a mobile canning line to package and then distribute its beer — which is something totally new to Beagle.
“I’ve never seen my beers on the shelves,” he says, “but I am definitely looking forward to it.”