Rodney Beagle started his brewing career from behind the bar.
Beagle was a career bartender who hit the triple crown of pouring drinks in Westport, the Plaza and Power & Light District. When North Kansas City’s Big Rip grew large enough to hire its first bartender, Beagle was their guy.
“I got started working there, then I saw some old homebrew equipment sitting there,” he says. “I asked one of the owners if I could borrow it and try this beer-making thing. Within eight months I was winning medals at competitions, and they offered me a chance to be their first assistant brewer.”
Early on, Beagle showed a knack for pairing interesting flavors, which showed up in his Coffee Kolsch — a light-bodied ale with deep coffee flavors from Post Coffee Company that blew our socks off last summer.
“I just got incredibly engulfed in craft beer flavor,” he says. “The weirder the better for me, and when the weird wasn’t weird enough, I thought, ‘Why don’t I just try to brew this beer? Because I want to have this beer in my mouth, and nobody else is making it.’”
Although Beagle’s creations are undeniably weird (think watermelon jalapeño hefeweizen), they’re also uniquely elegant, with a balance that’s hard to find in this era of sugary milkshake IPAs.
“My motto is beer first, flavor second,” Beagle says. “That’s where the art comes in: that balance. I think that’s something I’m blessed with — the ability to balance out beers really well. I’ve always been able to do that.”
When the coffee shop/music venue/nanobrewery Colony opened nearby in the booming North Kansas City downtown, Beagle got involved. He and the owners ended up running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the 55-gallon nano-brewhouse, which met its $10,000 goal in three days.
Beagle was at Colony for 15 months and made 63 different beers — one new beer a week for an entire year. In December 2018, Colony’s owners decided to shutter the brewing operation so they could concentrate on their concert venue.
Since then, Beagle has been Kansas City’s gypsy brewer, a gun for hire who is brought on to brew a few of his “monstrosities.” He’s just started a “residency” at Raytown’s Crane, where he’ll do a series of 10 beers on a pilot system, starting with a lemon meringue pie sour and the area’s first morel mushroom beer.
“We are going to push the limits as far as they can go on that little system,” Beagle says. “It’s going to be like I’ve got my own little brewery inside of Crane.”
Here’s hoping we see a return of the Coffee Kolsch, a beloved recipe that his former employer Big Rip recently brewed a batch of to celebrate its sixth anniversary.
To make the beer, which is clear, quenchable and refreshing like iced coffee on a muggy weekend morning in August, Beagle doesn’t crush or crack the beans. Whole beans impart all of the flavor but none of the color.
Then, he adds his secret ingredient.
“It’s a little bit of hazelnut, just a teeny-tiny bit,” he says. “I found that the hazelnut accentuates the coffee experience in the beer with just a little touch of something unique that nobody else really does.”