Like cold beer flowing from a tap, good things keep pouring in for Vine Street Brewing Co. since it opened in June in the 18th & Vine Jazz District.
Kansas City’s only Black-owned brewery has won grants, in addition to plenty of customers, so it can expand production with a huge new fermentation tank.
And on Wednesday, Dec. 6, Vine Street will compete in the semifinals of the 15th annual Brewbound Pitch Slam Competition in Marina del Rey, California, going up against some of the best startups in the industry. The winner will walk away with a $10,000 grand prize, along with bragging rights.
“I might be biased but in my opinion, we haven’t made a bad beer yet,” says co-founder Kemet Coleman. “It is a huge honor, to be honest with you, to see people who never had craft beer before and come to our place and be able to find the beer is incredible.”
For the competition, sponsored by Brewbound, a leading publication for all things beer, Vine Street is entering its Paper Bag Thin and Tricou Street beers, wanting something light and refreshing for judges in California.
During the semifinals, contestants get two minutes to pitch a business plan to experts. At the finals the next day, competitors have four minutes to sell judges on the quality and impact of their product in their communities.
Competing against 11 other beer manufacturers from across the country, Vine Street hopes to join the ranks of past winners, like fellow Black-owned brewery Crowns and Hops in Inglewood, California, which won in 2019.
“I think if we win, then that will definitely put us in a national conversation,” says Coleman, 36. “I think we have a very strong brand, but to walk away with the grand prize puts us in the company of some pretty heavy hitters.”
Coleman and fellow co-owners Woodie Bonds Jr. and Elliott Ivory are in high spirits after being awarded $25,000 from GIFT KC as one of two quarterly recipients of grants for Black-owned businesses in the urban core.
And on Nov. 16, the brewery won second place — $10,000 — in the AltCap Your Biz Pitch Competition that saw them go up against nine other metro startups.
With the recent success and influx of money, Vine Street is expanding its production by purchasing a 15-barrel (630-gallon) fermentation tank, twice the size of its largest tank.
“It allows us to have a lot more reach to increase our capacity for our output essentially,” says Coleman. “We can brew all day long, but really what takes up the most time is the fermentation process, which could take about three weeks for us to ferment an ale and about a month to a month and a half for a lager. So we have got beers that are just sitting in the tanks, and that kind of bottlenecks the production process.”
Now the brewery can bring its beers into more restaurants and bars. And it’s expanding its reach by offering its products in cans.
“We have just now started to explore the canning process,” says Coleman. “I think one of the biggest things that we wanted to make sure of is the shelf-life to see how long our beers are good.”
The cans are available at the Black Pantry, and they hope to expand into dozens of others stores, first in the KC area, and eventually nationally.
Its One for the Books beer celebrating Kansas City libraries is a limited-edition beer with a bold flavor and hints of caramel and vanilla. The can is designed to look like the classic book checkout record card.
Favorites among the brewery’s 20 beers include the dark lager Jazzman. Life of the Party surprised everyone by becoming their bestseller, Coleman said, with its unconventional tart and fruity taste.
“One thing I have always loved about beer,” Coleman said, “is how it brings people together and gives them a reason to come together.”