Growing up in Springfield, Josh Flanders and Bill Larson met during their teens and have remained close since - so close in fact that they’ve decided to open a brewery together downtown. The 41 and 42-year-old family men, who work in IT and networking, began their journey when they decided to dabble in mead making – which proved to be a bust. After they realized that mead wasn’t the ideal choice for mug filling, the two moved on to make a half-decent beer, which has since morphed into one of their delicious premiere offerings. Eighteen21.com met with Josh and Bill to find out about their new business - Buzz Bomb Brewing Company.
The pair is unassuming, well spoken, and brimming with personality – the type of people you want to crack open a cold one and shoot the breeze with for endless hours on a sunny afternoon. To say that Josh and Bill are excited about their venture would be an understatement. Their passion for the dust-laden space that was once Bar Oasis is contagious. You can’t help but imagine the shortening of the bar, knocking down of a wall, and the industrial style light fixtures they will be fabricating as they describe their vision for the place. This two-story brick shell, with stairs that lead both up and down, will house their brew house, bar, library (for relaxation and live music), and future classroom space for brewing courses. Long labor-intensive hours have already been poured into the place as you walk around to see the torn down plaster, pulled up floors, and outdated television sets – all ghosts of what was there before.
So, what lit the fire under Josh and Bill and made them want to go from steeping in their garages to removing leather couches in the rear red room in the hopes of tapping out their own malt and barley concoctions? Home brewing and events. Both members of the Prairie Schooners homebrewers club, which meets at Engrained each month, the two started making brews they were proud to share and then began making larger batches for events – including the Society for Creative Anachronism group and last year’s Oyster and Beer Festival.
“The more we learned, read, and researched, the more excited we got,” said Bill. “We adopted craft beers early on, so I guess we have been beer nerds for a long time, and it was sort of a natural extension. It sounds crazy, but we get excited learning about different yeast strains or which chemicals in hops have what effect on the beer.”
From there, they invested in professional grade equipment. After purchasing items such as a controller and glycol unit for dialing in mash and fermentation, the realization dawned that they were getting serious. Opening their own brewery became a no-brainer. If they were going to sink this much time and money into a quality product, which is already well-received, why not take it a step further and make it official? Research into how to open a business and put together a business plan commenced and they began considering local resources.
“We reached out to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Lincoln land,” explained Josh. “We started meeting with Kevin Lust who became our advisor. His knowledge and guidance is what led to that 56-plus page business plan. I am extremely proud to say that when we took it to West Central Bank and we asked if they had any other questions, their response was, “no, that’s one of the most thorough business plans we’ve seen and it answered all of our questions.” Between the positive responses to our beer and all the business research we did, we felt like things were really happening. Scary and exciting at the same time.”
Even with funding in place, it took them several months to locate and secure space that they knew would fit their brewing and commercial needs. There were a few contenders, including an industrial space, but after pooling their resources, Bar Oasis was brought to their attention and they knew this was the one. Although there is still a lot of work ahead of them, Josh and Bill know they can call upon their long-time friends to help them along.
“In fact, two of them, Ben Gines and Curt Armstrong, are basically like our third and fourth partners,” said Josh. “Technically they are consultants, but as the owner of a local concrete business (MDS Tree, Lawn, and Concrete) and a union carpenter respectively, their help is invaluable.”
Once the renovations are complete and the floors are polished, Josh and Bill hope to open their doors this September. The overall feel they are going for is a light, bright, and industrial setting complete with a copper top bar, custom pipe lighting, and handcrafted tables. As Bill put it, “Beer is society’s glue.” And they hope to appeal to everyone while building upon Springfield’s brewing community and collaborate with other brewers in the hopes of coordinating and bringing something unique to local beer lovers.
Right now, Buzz Bomb staple beers include: Angry Redhead (American amber with mosaic hops), Old Ball and Chain (IPA with notes of orange blossom honey and citrus), Honey White (Belgian white ale with orange blossom honey and basil), Stay Golden (Belgian golden ale), Black Swan Stout (Irish stout), and Bar Fight Brown Ale (English brown ale made with Africanized bee honey, which is also known as killer bee honey). They also have a few seasonal options, such as a fall maple vanilla porter and peach wheat ale for the summer and are spending time experimenting with a variety of beer styles as to create a catalog of great beer recipes to rotate through in the taproom. Josh said, “We are really excited to be a part of downtown Springfield. We’ve reached out to DSI as well as local city officials and other downtown businesses and the more we talk to people and get involved the more excited we get. We hope to be a destination downtown and plan to get involved further in revitalizing the whole area however we can. Downtown Springfield is great.”
For information and updates, you can visit the Buzz Bomb Brewing Co. Facebook page at www.facebook.com/buzzbombbrewingco.
Buzz Bomb Brewing Co.
406 E Adams, Springfield, IL 62701