Where there’s smoke … there’s beer (and BBQ)

ColumnistFebruary 16, 2017 

Smoke Brewing Company will open in downtown Lee’s Summit in March.

JOHN BEAUDOIN — Special to the Journal

The life of Josh Edwards must be in whirlwind mode these days.

Father, husband, homebuilder, brewer, barbecuer, and, now, restaurant owner in downtown Lee’s Summit.

Somehow, the 38-year-old owner of Legacy Custom Homes keeps it all together.

“Surprisingly enough, it is very calm,” he said, a flurry of activity surrounding him as his latest venture, Smoke Brewing Company, prepares to open in downtown Lee’s Summit. “In my first five years of business, I was a stress machine. I am a fan of the opinion ‘never panic.’”

Edwards and his father, Jeff, co-own the new restaurant that will fuse award-winning barbecue with their own, locally made craft beers.

Edwards has more than 60 beer recipes in his hopper and together with his brewmaster, Bert Lightle, the new joint will offer up to 12 beers at any time – from classic lagers an IPAs to wheats, stouts and seasonal brews.

Edwards started down this path with dreams of starting the next Boulevard Brewing — beer production and distribution. But others had grander plans. With a nudge from his wife Lanni, he incorporated his championship barbecue into the mix and Smoke Brewing Company was born.

“I wanted to do a tap room, but she pushed me toward food, too,” Edwards recalls, laughing that his wife doesn’t even like beer (or barbecue that much). “If it were up to her, we’d have a wine and fish taco truck.”

(Note to entrepreneurs: Downtown Lee’s Summit needs a fish taco truck.)

Edwards initially didn’t have his sights set on downtown Lee’s Summit, though. He was looking north off Colbern road at an industrial area to brew beer. Until another not-so-subtle nudge came from a friend, Justin Bliefnick, owner of Stuey McBrew’s and Frankie Farelane’s in downtown Lee’s Summit. Bliefnick encouraged Edwards to think downtown when the new restaurant.

Both Edwards and Bliefnick know well that “beer tourism” is a growing trend, and that downtown Lee’s Summit is quickly becoming the spot for those that appreciate the movement.

Smoke Brewing Company is at 209 SE Main St., a spot that for years has housed restaurants and bars. Some regard the location as the end of Southeast Main Street. But not Edwards.

The home builder with a creative knack prefers to look at it a different way.

“We’re a corner anchor here,” Edwards said. “We’re not at the end of the road. We’re at the gateway.”

The building itself has proven to be a bit vexing for the builder, a self-proclaimed “perfectionist.”

“There’s nothing level, true, square, plumb about this space,” Edwards said.

While the numbers are ever-changing, Edwards is another example of a downtown Lee’s Summit redevelopment success story. In the last two years, we have seen this story played out from Market to Third to Douglas. Real entrepreneurs investing money toward the betterment of our central business district.

“As an entertainment value and location, downtown Lee’s Summit is so much better for us,” Edwards said. “I grew up here and have seen all the changes over the years. This is where we need to be.”

Edwards said he plans to engage other home-brewers to try new recipes and, as father of three himself (son Morgan and daughters Avery and Alexandra) will ensure his restaurant is “family inclusive” by offering family nights. He also has plans to recognize local heroes in Lee’s Summit – law enforcement, firefighters, military and others – by formulating and collaborating on a craft beer to serve in the tap room.

And, he’ll also happily answer the question that he isn’t quite tired of hearing … yet.

“We’re opening in early March,” he noted.

Lee’s Summit resident John Beaudoin writes about city and civic issues, people and personalities around town. Reach him at johnbeaudoin4@gmail.com .

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