When Melody Gentry and her husband, Dusty, used to go out for drinks, she often ordered a cocktail because she didn’t like the taste of beer.
But instead of savoring the intoxicating flavors swirling around in her glass, she usually found herself disappointed after the first sip.
It was something that occurred again and again.
“I always wanted something that tasted the same wherever I could get it,” she said. “But it never did.”
The flavors just always seemed off.
The two have a passion for travel, and so, on their journeys, began attending various craft beer festivals and visiting breweries, sampling different brews, and in turn, broadening Melody’s tastes beyond commercial domestic beer varieties. Back at home, they tried hitting up as many festivals and breweries they could find.
“I told him, ‘Why don’t we learn how to do this?’” she said.
And soon, Not Lost Brewing Co. was born.
Starting out, Dusty extensively researched brewing methods by reading books and eventually developing recipes.
“We just started seeing what worked, and what didn’t,” she said. “It was trial and error.”
That was more than four years ago. Since then, the couple has brewed at least 30-40 varieties out of their Ottawa home. They also compete in area craft beer competitions and serve their product at regional beer festivals to collect valuable input from anyone sampling their beer. Most recently, they participated in the Bo’s Hog Wild Brewfest and BBQ event in Baldwin City, serving up their Chai Cider and The Small Town IPA varieties.
“It just helps us get ideas on what people like and don’t like,” Melody said.
The couple’s tastes are wide-ranging from a Blackberry Milkshake IPA to Blueberry Wheat to an English IPA. It’s the reason behind their name, Not Lost Brewing Co.
“We like to travel, and there’s a saying about how that not all who wander are lost,” Melody said. “That ties into our beers. Our styles are all over the place, but we’re not lost.”
The brewing process varies depending on the style produced. An ISA, also known as an India Session Ale, is a bitter beer with lower alcohol content. Once it’s produced, the beer can be kegged and bottled in about two weeks, and ready to drink in four weeks. But Not Lost’s Triple IPA, an Indian Pale Ale, sits in a barrel for six months before it’s ready to go.
“Typically, the fermentation process takes two to three weeks, and that’s pretty quick,” Melody said. “Some beers need to rest. Lagers take longer than ales. It just really depends on what we’re trying to make.”
Although the couple infuse fruit flavors and other ingredients into their specialty beers, they also know they also must adhere to specific style guidelines for their craft brews to be called a porter or a lager. In fact, Melody has also earned her Cicerone Beer Server certification. To be certified, candidates are tested on their knowledge of beer styles, beer flavor and evaluation, the brewing process and food pairings.
Each ingredient is vital to the brewing process. One of those key components is hops. Melody said they use a local hop company, Kansas Hop Co., as a supplier. The company produces hops to craft brewers throughout the Midwest,
“We use local ingredients, which supports a local business,” she said. “When we can, we want to use local people.”
The Next Step
As the couple began hitting their stride, they wanted to find local business space where they could sell their beer. They began actively searching for space in January 2017, and a few weeks ago, closed on a building in downtown Ottawa.
“Finding a location was always the goal,” Melody said.
With a lease signed and keys in hand, the couple have been spending their time deciding how to turn the space into a brew pub. The building, located at 229 S. Main, was the former home of Primitive Treasures, so it will take some time to adjust the layout for a brewery.
Initially, Melody said, they thought the changes would be cosmetic. However, since the building must meet codes requirements, more construction is involved.
“Since we’re having to make changes we weren’t expecting, we’re going to take time to get the layout the way we want it,” she said.
The couple are hoping to open the brew pub in March 2019, but are uncertain how long construction could take. Federal and state licensing and other permits will also affect when the business can begin serving customers.
Although the space is stark and open now, Melody is already envisioning what the brew pub will eventually look like. The interior will feature an overall industrial or warehouse design, combining metal and wood fixtures with neutral tones. Edison pendant lights are just one of the features Melody is planning on featuring in the space.
“The industrial look is what we’re leaning toward,” she said. “We like the look, and it has a brewery feel.”
Seating is expected to be around 50, Melody said, admitting they want to start out on a smaller scale until they get a feel for customer response.
“There’s not something like this in the area,” she said. “But we’ve had very positive feedback.”
While the menu hasn’t been finalized, it’s expected to feature a limited number of options ranging from hummus and charcuterie plates to sandwiches and chips – all items to complement the craft brews on tap.
On the beer side, they’re hoping to feature three to four core flavors along with seasonal varieties like Oktoberfest or Pumpkin Porter. They also intend on having eight varieties of beer on tap.
Melody said she’d like to fill the space by showcasing pieces from local artists. She’s also hoping to work with Mike Riggs with Riggs Fabrication in Lawrence to display many of his metal furniture pieces, combining form and function. The brewery will also feature its own line of merchandise, including apparel, stickers, magnets and maybe even glassware.
“We’re still working on the big picture, and then once we get that down, eventually we’ll get down to the details.”
To keep up on the brewery’s progress, go to Not Lost Brewing Co.’s Facebook page.