Chamber Business of the Week
Article and photo by Abby Hess, Quill Staff Writer
Greater West Plains Area Chamber of Commerce Business of the Week is Wages Brewing Company.
Sometimes people want to go where everyone knows their name, and everyone’s always glad they came. In West Plains, Wages Brewing Company, 1382 Bill Virdon Blvd., strives to be that place.
“Wages Brewing Company might seem like a bar at first, but we are actually a taproom,” explained Phil Wages, one of the establishment’s two owners. The difference, he said, is in the ambience: Bars conjure up images of cheap booze, smoky rooms and barroom brawls, but taprooms invite meaningful social interaction.
“It feels like home,” said Wages. “Think ‘Cheers,’ but with handmade quality beer and top-shelf spirits, and a friendly knowledgeable bartender.”
In addition to Wages and his wife and co-owner Amber, drinks are poured by part-time bartenders Lana Eisele and Bill Oakley. Occasionally, the establishment’s two full-time brewers, Amy Fischer and Matthew Johns, can also be seen serving up pints of ale to thirsty customers.
Wages Brewing Company first opened their doors Aug. 26, 2016, but the journey to its inception was a long one.
Wages said he became passionate about craft beer in 2004 when he sampled a keg that had been brought to West Plains from Seattle. The first incarnation of his dream was to open a bar, he said, but when Oakley introduced him to making beer in 2008, everything changed. Wages’ passion was redirected toward designing his own beers and opening a microbrewery.
For several years, Wages, Oakley and an assortment of friends spent hot summer and cold winter days crafting up batches of homebrewed beer on Wages’ rural West Plains porch. In 2013, Wages met Fischer, who enthusiastically accepted the invitation to participate.
Wages said he feels fortunate to have met Fischer, who is now the company’s head brewer.
Most microbreweries, breweries that make smaller quantities of beer than facilities dedicated to mass production, start out making about three times the quantity Wages Brewing Company does, said Wages.
“We brew extremely small batches,” he said. “While most breweries endeavor to distribute their beer far and wide, our main goal is to be here for West Plains.”
Not only do the folks at Wages Brewing Company want to make sure their own taps never run dry, thus ensuring the happiness of customers, the company has a policy of welcoming diversity and supporting community.
In fact, when listing the company’s accomplishments, Wages all but glossed over being named the Ozark Small Business Incubator’s 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year and his role on the West Plains Economic Development Committee. Instead, he seemed to prefer to focus on the company’s and individual employees’ community contributions.
The company, for example, has recently secured a loan from Landmark Bank to fund the distribution of kegs to area restaurants through a deal arranged with Great Rivers Distributing in Pomona.
“We choose to work with them because they represent West Plains at virtually every fundraiser and community event,” said Wages.
Inside the taproom itself, “Art for Animals,” featuring artwork by local artist Garrett Melby, recently raised money for Ozarks Regional Cats spay and neuter organization and West Plains Regional Animal Shelter. Other events have supported Samaritan Outreach Center, Imagination Library and West Plains flood recovery.
“We’re also very proud of our head brewer, Amy, for her volunteer work with Ozark Regional Cats, Ozarktoberfest, which benefits the West Plains Boys & Girls Club, the Yellow House and her work on being sure we can recycle as much as possible,” said Wages. “We feel we’ve accomplished a lot in the just over two years we’ve been open, but there is so much more to do.”
The taproom, which was open only on Saturdays in its early days, is now open five days a week and has expanded its outdoor seating with the construction of a “biergarten.” In August, the company began working with Ozarks Catering, soon to be renamed to Ozarks Grill, to offer dinner inside the taproom every evening.
“There are truly too many items that we see as achievements to describe here, but we are truly honored to be part of this beautiful community, and look forward to when we can do more,” said Wages.
Business hours are from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, 5 to 9 p.m. Fridays and 2 to 9 p.m. Saturdays, though Wages said doors stay open later “as needed,” such as on evenings when musicians perform.
To learn more about Wages Brewing Company and upcoming events call 293-3119, visit the website at www.wagesbrewco.com or follow @WagesBrewCo on Facebook, Twitter and Untapped.