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Each week, KCUR's Creative Adventure newsletter brings you a new way to explore the Kansas City region.

Need to cool off? Try some of Kansas City's craft breweries, distilleries and wineries

Casual Animal Kansas City
Casual Animal
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One of Kansas City's favorite sipping spaces, Casual Animal's spacious and inviting interior — not to mention cold beer — makes it a great place to cool down during the final days of summer.

Squeeze the most out of the final days of summer with refreshing craft brews and spirits from around the city. Just make sure to stay hydrated.

This story was first published in KCUR's Creative Adventure newsletter. You can sign up to receive stories like this in your inbox every Tuesday.

It's August, the Sunday of summer, and it sure feels like we’ve hit a high point as far as climbing temperatures go — the result of a “heat dome” over much of the Southwest and central U.S.

In any case, Kansas Citians seeking relief from the blazing hot sun might find shelter in one of the small wineries, breweries or distilleries listed below.

August brings summer traveling, too, or perhaps an influx of friends and relatives visiting from out of town. Of course, Kansas City has a lot to offer in the way of large-scale breweries. Boulevard — and its lovely brewing space on Southwest Boulevard — comes to mind. (Shout-out Tank 7.)

KC is also home to the J. Rieger & Co. and Tom’s Town distilleries in East Bottoms and Crossroads, respectively. But if your group wants to hang out in more intimate digs, we’ve devised a collection of five smaller alcohol purveyors.

This is by no means an exhaustive list — lucky for us, Kansas City is one of the fastest-growing “craft beer destinations in the country.” Cheers to that!

Kansas City Wineworks

KC Wineworks
Kansas City Wineworks
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Adri Guyer
In September, check out the East Crossroads Field Day, where you can play bar games at eight different Crossroads locations — including Kansas City Wineworks.

Crossroads seems to be the poppin’ destination for crushed grapes and distilled spirits, and Kansas City Wineworks totally lives up to the hype.

As a favor to us all, the winery and tasting room served up boozy to-go slushies amid the chaos of the pandemic. The drinks came in soft plastic pouches, each attached to thin, crispy breadsticks wrapped in plastic. Snacks are a must-have if you’re imbibing (and hydration is key).

Guests can still take bottles to go, such as the signature semi-dry 2019 Crossroads White Blend or the Crossroads After Dark, a dry red with vanilla notes and a 50/50 fusion of Chambourcin and Norton grapes.

In September, check out the East Crossroads Field Day, and play bar games at eight different Crossroads locations, including KC Wineworks.

Vine Street Brewing Co.

Vine Street Brewing Co
Vine Street Brewing Co.
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Located at 2000 Vine Street, Vine Street Brewing Co. will soon celebrate its opening as the first Black-owned brewery in Kansas City.

Speaking of popping bottles, Vine Street Brewing Co. will soon celebrate its opening as the first Black-owned brewery in Kansas City.

Located in one of the historic limestone buildings at 2000 Vine Street — across from the City Workhouse Castle — the brewery sits at the edge of Kansas City's 18th and Vine district, allowing for a creative junction of Black art, music and craft brews.

Musician Kemet Coleman and brewers Woodie Bonds and Elliott Ivory have worked hard to make their dreams a reality, designating their brewery as “a steward of the city’s rich cultural heritage and potential, as well as an appealing safe space that welcomes all.”

Vine Street Brewing already has an assortment of eye-catching merch available for purchase, including tie-dye and rainbow-themed t-shirts, plus tote bags, hats and embroidered patches. The brewery has partnered with several local microbreweries and recently teamed up with Boulevard to collab on the malty, fruity Street Sign Stingo, now pouring at Boulevard’s Beer Hall while supplies last.

Lifted Spirits Distillery

Lifted Spirits
Lifted Spirits Distillery
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Lifted Spirits Distillery, located in the Crossroads, is known for its spirit of innovation and experimentation.

If you’re searching for innovation and experimentation, consider giving Lifted Spirits Distillery a try. The Crossroads staple is known to walk on the wild side, even listing “tinkering with tradition” as one of its strong suits. Honestly? Same.

Take the freshly-bottled-for-summer Jalapeño & Herb infusion vodka, for example, with classic notes of mint, herb and green pepper, and unusual notes of sandalwood, palo santo and hay. Imagine all that with a little lime juice and simple syrup.

Although, perhaps parts of the Lifted Spirits experience stick to convention. Guests can try the distillery’s take on Absinthe Verte, the first-ever absinthe distilled in Kansas City. In the tasting room, it’s prepared in the traditional way, using a brouilleur — or “scrambler” in French — to drip ice-cold water into glasses of green liquor.

For $4, you can take a tour of the distillery, “uncovering the creation process of intricately beautiful spirits.” Lifted Spirits was originally a stable for the Smith Brothers Steam Bakery, and the second floor of the building stored feed and bedding. As always, history has a hand in Kansas City culture.

Amigoni Winery

Amigoni Winery
Amigoni Winery
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Located in the historic Stockyards District, Amigoni Winery uses grapes from the northern portion of California’s Central Valley to create some of its wines, but also harvests from its own vineyard in Centerview, Missouri.

To swirl and sip the vino at Amigoni Winery is to be a sophisticated human. Yet the vibe inside the old Daily Drover Telegram Building is approachable and unpretentious. You may recall that the winery was featured on "Queer Eye" seasons three and four, when the Fab Five came to Kansas City.

Located in the historic Stockyards District, Amigoni uses traditional European grape varietals to create its Cabernet Sauvignons, Chardonnays and Viogniers. And those are just a few available for purchase and tasting.

The winery utilizes grapes from the northern portion of California’s Central Valley to create some of its wines, but also harvests from its own vineyard, just 60 miles east of town in Centerview, Missouri.

Amigoni does much of its own production, too — crushing, fermenting, barrel-aging and bottling the whole-cluster fruit at its facility in West Bottoms. The first grape vines grew in Michael and Kerry Amigoni’s backyard in Leawood, Kansas. Pretty charming, right?

Casual Animal Brewing

Casual Animal
Casual Animal
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Pull up a stool at Casual Animal Brewing Co. and try a flight of beer brewed in-house, including IPAs, hard ciders and stouts.

What’s better than cold beer? Cold beer with a cause. Pull up a stool at Casual Animal Brewing Co. and participate in the microbrewery’s “give back tap,” which it calls Local Motive. Every two months, the Local Motive beer changes and $2 of each pint sold goes to a different local nonprofit.

Casual Animal has a solid snack menu, but customers are welcome to bring in food or have orders delivered to the space. On Thursday evenings, you can enjoy tacos, elotes and tetelas courtesy of Tacos Valentina, a pop-up shop that operates in different spaces, including Casual Animal.

Additionally, you can fill up a 25-ounce “crowler” for $9 — instead of using glass, the microbrewery pours these in recyclable aluminum cans, so you could theoretically take one to the pool. The casual animal is also an accommodating one.

In the spirit of Kansas City — and especially Crossroads — you may notice the extensive taproom art, all done by Kyle, Casual Animal’s head brewer, who worked as a graphic designer in a past life. Do you ever stop being a graphic designer? Nah.

Also, there’s a deliciously crisp hard cider on tap right now. It’s called Vipers in the Garden and is the perfect drink to help you escape the summer heat.

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Emily Standlee is a freelance writer at KCUR and a national award-winning essayist.
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