Mean Mule Distilling Co. opens tasting room and bar in East Crossroads on April 12
On Friday, April 12, the Crossroads Arts District will get another addition to its burgeoning brewer and distiller collection when Mean Mule Distilling Co. opens its tasting room and bar at 1733 Locust, just down the street from Parlor and spitting distance from Lifted Spirits Distilling Co. (Should we start calling it the Crossroads Drinking District?)
Partners and co-owners Jeff and Meg Evans and Patrick Little launched Mean Mule together in 2016 with the release of their Silver Mean Mule American Agave Spirit ($35), crafted from 100-percent weber blue agave. The trio import the agave from a family-run farm in Mexico’s Jalisco region – the same region that produces the world’s supply of tequila – and handle the entire distilling process, from mashing to fermentation to bottling, in their small Crossroads warehouse.
Though there are similarities between Mean Mule’s agave spirit and tequila, the owners are quick to draw distinctions. The biggest, of course, is tequila’s denomination of origin status: “Just like champagne comes from the Champagne region in France, tequila has to come from the Jalisco region of Mexico,” Meg says.
Beyond that, the Mean Mule agave spirit will have some characteristics that tequila won’t come by.
“We learned very quickly that there’s a reason why tequila works well in Mexico,” Little says. “It’s the terroir of the land, the yeast in the air and the people who have been growing this for years.”
The Evans and Little researched and consulted with chemists to determine what they needed to do to recreate in their distilling process that would give them a product they could call their own.
Mean Mule’s silver spirit is clean and citrus-y, with just a hint of sweet pineapple and bee sting finish. There’s also a Gold Mean Mule American Agave Spirit ($40), which is rested in Missouri white oak barrels from Barrel 53 for two months. That bottle carries notes of vanilla and baking spices and smells like a spring garden in full bloom.
Guests to the Mean Mule tasting room and bar will be able to sample these original spirits on their own and in craft cocktails devised by bar manager Justin Klaas, formerly of Thou Mayest. But Evans and Little are determined that their bar will offer something for everyone, and the drink menu will be fleshed out with tequilas, mezcals and other agave spirits, as well as non-agave spirits, wine and beer.
The bar itself isn’t huge – there’s seating for around 35 people – but it’s warm and inviting. Leather-upholstered chairs and stools are mixed with wooden benches, comfortable leather armchairs and a couch, potted cacti (sourced locally from High and Dry Cactus Co.) and an enormous original canvas from local artist Jess Macy (find her work at colorbloKC). It’s a bit Southwest meets Midwest, and it absolutely feels like the kind of place to kick back and sip on an “Agroni” – a Mean Mule riff on the classic negroni that replaces gin with their silver spirit.
Evans and Little also plan to offer tours of their distillery, connected to the rear of the bar. There, guests will observe the Mean Mule distilling process: Blue drums of imported agave are emptied into the mash tub, then pumped into fermentation tanks and finally deposited into custom-built stills. Jeff, an engineer by trade, designed them, and the co-owners had a hand in welding them together. The scent in this back room is distinctive, like a mix between a garden and a bakery, where floral notes and yeast notes marry—enough time back there, and you might be lulled into a pleasant sleep.
Not that Mean Mule team has much downtime. As they ramp up to their grand opening on April 12, the trio has been holding small invite-only friends-and-family events to test out the space and work out some kinks. A recent event saw some 50 people gathered in the space, which, Little admitted, was a little overwhelming. He asked for advice ahead of opening.
“Get a host,” I told him. “You’ll be busy.”
1733 Locust St., Kansas City, MO, meanmuledistilling.co. Grand opening on Friday, April 12. Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 2-11 p.m. You can find Mean Mule Distilling Co. products at liquor stores throughout Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma.