Two years after opening, Cinder Block Brewery is about to get new neighbors that could help turn its little block in North Kansas City into a destination.
Restless Spirits Distilling Co. is under construction in a 6,400-square-foot former warehouse building at 109 E. 18th Ave., across from Cinder Block.
Michael and Benay Shannon, who live in the Northland, and Michael’s longtime friend John Boettcher of Longmont, Colo., are partners in the distillery.
They plan to begin production by early October and have their tasting room open before St. Patrick’s Day in 2016.
It will primarily produce what they are calling Irish-American whiskey under the Stone Breaker logo, but also gin and seasonal items such as poitin, an Irish moonshine made of 100 percent barley.
Restless Spirits’ tasting room will have large windows looking into the distillery and a small retail area where it will sell its spirits, along with branded T-shirts and glasses.
“The millennials don’t want their father’s whiskey — the bourbons and rye. They want something different. And women came to it from the vodka category, first with the flavored vodkas,” said Michael Shannon, a fifth-generation Irish-American.
The couple said their whiskey will be 100 percent barley-based, both malted and unmalted, and then distilled in a pot still and stored in used bourbon barrels. With the used barrels, the whiskey will pull more from the sugars in the wood and not as much of the oak, Benay Shannon said.
Benay Shannon, head distiller for Restless Spirits, has a degree in biology from the University of Colorado and a master’s in education from Park University. She taught at Park Hill South High School for 12 years. The couple have been planning the distillery for four years.
According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States in Washington, D.C., Irish whiskey sales were up 9.1 percent in 2014. The council said the growth was a result of a continued fascination with American whiskeys in the U.S. and abroad.
Innovations in flavors — especially flavored whiskeys — have also boosted interest, along with more premium products across all spirits categories, an improved regulatory and tax environment resulting in expanded market access, and the growth of small distillers.
Restless Spirits, which will be able to store 208 barrels at the North Kansas City site, also plans to sell its products to area restaurants and liquor stores.
The owners picked North Kansas City partly because of its high traffic on Burlington Avenue and easy access to the interstate. But Michael Shannon also has strong ties to the area. His parents attended North Kansas City High School, met at a former Katz drugstore and went on dates at the local movie theater. Michael Shannon was born at North Kansas City Hospital.
▪ Next door to Restless Spirits Distilling, a local partnership group plans to put up Chicken N Pickle.
Partner Kellen Mumm said the entertainment complex would have four indoor and four outdoor pickleball courts, lawn games such as bocce ball, fire pits and a megatron screen for watching games and other events. It also will have a restaurant selling rotisserie chicken.
He describes pickleball as a cross between tennis, badminton and pingpong and one of the fastest-growing games in the country.
Construction is expected to begin later this summer at the corner of Burlington Avenue and East 18th Avenue, with a spring 2016 opening scheduled.
▪ As for Cinder Block Brewery, it recently expanded with a 4,200-square-foot event space, patio and additional production area.
North Kansas City’s Dutchman Coffee Roasters also will set up a coffee roasting facility in the space. It will sell its roasted coffee beans and hold coffee tastings. The owner plans to later turn the space into a coffee shop. Cinder Block Brewery also has Dutchman Coffee on tap.
All this development is happening on one block in North Kansas City.
“It’s the new Crossroads,” Michael Shannon said in reference to Kansas City’s downtown area arts and entertainment district.