Over two years ago when Joe Lonero was building lofts, the property across the street came up for auction. Joe wandered across the street the day of the auction to see who was going to be the new owner and he walked out owning it. Not having a clue what he was going to do with it ,and sort of upset he bought it. His wife told him if he bought another building she would leave him. Fortunately, she didn’t.
Ray Hill wandered by a couple months later inquiring about the building. He was at this time distributing beer thru Anheuser Busch. When Inbev came in, Ray and Anheuser Bush split. Joe and Ray got together with a plan. Joe would build it and Ray would raise money thru investors and buy it. Joe started gutting the building, putting a plan together for a restaurant, bar,and brewery. With help from the City of Ferguson, friends, and family they got under way. The top floor was gutted to the studs , and finished with the original wood floor. (you can see where we had to patch in flooring where walls used to be. The original steel beams were exposed and the original outside plaster walls had to be reworked. In the upstairs ,four offices were installed and the remaining area was finished with a bar and large banquet facility suitable for events up to 150 people.
You can’t brew beer without equipment, so in January of 2008 the search began. After several trips to different parts of the country looking at new and used equipment we came across a 2000 Model Bohemian Mono Bloc Generation 4 sitting in a closed brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado. Nothing can be easy, so once the EBAY purchase was complete they had only one week to disassemble it and bring it back to Ferguson. As you will see when you visit, brewing equipment is big, very big. So on a Wednesday, in a town Joe had never been before with a guy he hired from the internet (Thanks Jeremy), they began disassembling this huge machine and 11, 15 bbl tanks. After two days Joe hired some local boys to help. With some creative permitting (Thanks Fort Collins, Colorado) and a lot of work, Joe found himself loading the last piece of equipment onto the eighteen wheeler at 4:00 AM Sunday. The equipment arrived in Ferguson two days later.
The brew house was not yet ready for the install ,so everything was delivered to Joe’s yard. Two months later Joe and the Boys fired up the tow trucks and hauled everything up to the brew house for installation. No, pictures, no directions, and no real memory of the disassembly may have thwarted others, but Joe and the Boys got it together and ready to brew.
About this time, Joe’s son Mike (of Vincenzo’s fame), a long time supporter of Ferguson and its redevelopment plan, opted to open a wine bar across the street. After a 3 month build out CORK was born and is the place to be on a Friday or Saturday night. With a small plate menu and great selection of wines by the glass or bottle, there is something for every taste at CORK.
Building is one thing, brewing is quite another. Enter Dr. John Witte. John grew up at Trailhead and is the head brewer at Square One. John has an everyman quality about him that lends itself to being a great brewmaster. He helped guide Joe through the fine tuning of the equipment and established the brew process. John brought along another brewer, Josh Wilson, to help maintain the highest quality brews that you would expect to find in a brew house. Josh is in the architect trade and an avid home brewer. A huge thanks to John and Josh for all they have done.
While beer is a giant part of the brew house, the food at Ferguson Brewing will compliment the time and effort that go into brewing. After many auctions in Chicago, Kansas, Iowa, Springfield, etc… Joe was able to assemble the makings of a great kitchen. With meat smokers, steamers, flash bakes, char broilers, and all kinds of good stuff. Then Joe was able to hire Chef Robb Wiessen (formerly at Ozzie’s Restaurant) who, with the help of Chris from PFG Middendorf, put together a great menu which will feature many made from scratch items as well as smoked meats and house specialties. While focusing on quality, Certified Angus Beef will be prevalent on the menu, the menu and kitchen design also take on a GREEN flavor with many of the components being energy efficient to reduce the restaurants carbon footprint.
In the bar you will notice a copper ceiling that matches the recycled copper bar top. Everything was hand made by Joe and his group using recycled materials whenever feasible. Joe even made his own tables. The dining area features Energy Star lighting and is completely non-smoking. The outside dining area can hold up to 50 people.
Ferguson Brewing will have ten of our own brews on tap including Ray Hills Pilsner and carry only locally owned beers and spirits from Missouri. Sorry, Budweiser or Jager. Much effort has been focused towards supporting our locals and be as environmentally friendly as feasible in a commercial business. Giving you great fresh locally made product is just the right thing for a brew house to do.
Ray Hill will continue to pursue the wholesale marketing of his award winning pilsner, but between the economy, investors, and time needed to pursue his dream of being the Sam Adams of his generation he has had to pass on being involved in the brew house and restaurant pub. Of course he will still be around enjoying the brews and will always be a part of the conception of this great venture.
Well, that is our story so far, hope to see you at the bar enjoying a signature beer with a great plate of food real soon. Thank You.