Mike French really knows how to brew beer.
As a teenager growing up in southern California, he assisted his home brewing enthusiast uncle in the creation of a wide range of beer styles. A few years later, at the University of California at Irvine, he decided to set up his own home brewing operation. And because of the knowledge he’d gained helping his uncle, he was a step ahead of your typical first-time home brewer.
“A lot of home brewers start with extract recipes, which is kind of like making orange juice from concentrate,” he said. “I already had years of experience with my uncle, so my first batch I ever did by myself was a full-grain process.”
When French moved to Westwood in 2011 to help establish the new Trader Joe’s locations — he’s a store manager by day — he reassembled his home brewing equipment in his garage, and has been putting out all manner of beers since, from hoppy IPAs to smooth wheats. When he and his wife found out they were having a baby last year, they hosted a gender-reveal party where he had an array of home brewed beers on tap. Instead of blue or pink icing inside a cupcake, French brewed up a raspberry beer with a pink hue that came out under a tap with a sign asking “Blue or pink, what do you think?” (Should it have been a boy, French was planning on brewing a blueberry wheat.):
After more than a decade of intensive practice, French has set his sights on a new goal: Opening his own nanobrewery somewhere in the vicinity of his home in Westwood. His wife, a graphic designer, has even put together a logo for the envisioned “Westwood Brewhouse” that plays on the Westwood city logo (see photo at the bottom of the story).
But French says he’s been stymied by Kansas brewing laws that make it exceptionally difficult to get licensed to produce beer in any real quantity.
“If I were in KCMO, I could get it done tomorrow because they’ve got a nanobrewery law on the books,” he said. “We’re not looking at anything crazy in terms of production, just a place where you could produce a quantity that you could distribute locally.”
He says he’s been in talks with Conroy’s Public House on Rainbow Blvd. about carrying beers he would produce under the Westood Brewhouse label. But until he finds a space and a way to get licensed, he’s in a holding pattern.
“I think this is something that could really benefit the area and the neighborhood, with us planning to donate proceeds from some of the sales to public projects like bike paths or something like that,” French said. “We want the community’s support before we would do this. Just imagine how cool it would be to be able to go to the restaurant right in your neighborhood and order a beer that was brewed 1,000 feet away.”