Clay and Linda Haring’s vision for a dining destination that features locally brewed craft beer and excellent cuisine was realized with the opening of Fly Boy Brewery & Eats in Sylvan Grove in October of 2014. The restaurant and microbrewery is now a regional hot spot that pulls hungry and thirsty patrons from across central Kansas.
The Harings have generated interest for their beer on a statewide basis thanks to recent invitations to well attended craft beer festivals such as the Kansas Craft Brewers Exposition in Lawrence and the Midwest Microfest in Salina.
Here’s a look back at the Sentinel’s story on their grand opening from October of 2014.
After seven months of renovations, the new Fly Boy Brewery & Eats is now open in downtown Sylvan Grove. Owners Clay and Linda Haring invested thousands of dollars and hundreds of man hours into renovating the former Sylvan Dollar Saloon building to open a microbrewery and restaurant serving four different kinds of beer brewed on site and a complete menu including hamburgers, steaks, salads, appetizers and desserts.
The microbrewery also features a full bar including a complete line of spirits and even domestic beer in bottles for those who are not so adventurous with their beer.
It’s the realization of a dream that fermented – so to speak – with a home brewing kit Linda gave Clay as a Christmas gift four years ago.
“I never really thought a whole lot about brewing before that,” Clay said. “We’d go to different breweries and I was always kind of fascinated by the brewing equipment. It just kind of took off from there.”
The Harings ultimately opened a place that they would enjoy visiting with friends.
“The driving force behind our decision to open Fly Boy Brewery & Eats is our shared enjoyment of trying new foods and microbrews coupled with our desire to bring a place where people could come and socialize,” Linda said.
The Harings purchased the old Sylvan Dollar Saloon building in February, began renovations in March, and opened the doors Thursday, October 9, just in time for Sylvan-Lucas Unified Homecoming weekend. The brewery and restaurant, located at 105 N. Main in downtown Sylvan Grove, is open Thursdays, 5-10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 5-Midnight.
A complete renovation
The historic building in downtown Sylvan Grove has been home to a number of businesses in its long life, including several different bar and restaurant operations just in the last 15 years. The Harings, looking to provide a top-shelf experience to patrons and a viable business that can thrive in small town Kansas, began the task of renovating the building immediately upon taking ownership.
The Harings first repaired the roof, then cleaned out the basement filled from “floor to rafter” with rotten wood and other used items, and then repaired the basement window wells and walls, all in an effort to prevent future leakage. The Harings then moved the heating and cooling system to the basement and installed ductwork throughout the building. The front balcony was torn down and a new red canvas awning was installed to “add color and character to the face of the building,” Linda said.
Clay and his brother Shawn rebuilt the back section of the building, which houses the brewery, and a heating and cooling system was installed to regulate the temperature of the brewery. The main floor was gutted to allow for additional seating and improve the overall appearance of the restaurant.
“We took great care to make sure that any historical items were donated to the Sylvan Historical Society Museum and tried to reuse all wood as trim or accessory items,” Linda noted.
The wallpaper was stripped off, walls were repaired, and then everything was painted and a corrugated tin was used as wainscoting. The bathrooms were gutted, dry walled, tiled, painted, and equipped with all new bathroom accessories and hardware. The floors were patched, stripped, sanded, and refinished “to keep the old character, but improve cleanliness,” Linda said.
The kitchen was also gutted, along with the walk-in cooler, and new appliances were installed to improve efficiency. With the exception of retucking the stonework on the exterior of the building, which was done by Schwerdtfager Masonry, Linda said she, Clay, and Clay’s brother, Shawn, did the majority of the renovations themselves.
“Clay is quite the craftsman, which allowed us to keep the renovation cost as low as possible, but meant that many hours of work, after work, were put in,” Linda said. Clay’s brother Todd, and friends Gerald and Teri Hiitter also provided help with the renovations.
Flight theme throughout
As a pilot who owns an aerial spraying business, it’s fair to say Clay is passionate about flight, and the theme is used throughout Fly Boy, from the menu, to the décor, right down to the beer tap handles that look like tiny propellors and landing gear.
“Flying is always an adventure,” Haring said. “It’s kind of an adrenaline rush, cruising across the ground at 150 miles per hour, it’s kind of a thrill.”
The pictures on the walls, many taken by the Harings, printed in large format on canvas and placed up high throughout the building, are of planes Clay has either built, restored, or used in his spraying operation. Some of the pictures were done by Lisk Productions as part of Clay’s daughter Kayla’s senior pictures.
Beer flights – a small sampling of each of the four beers Clay brews – are served on small replica propellors, and a large model of a Beechcraft Staggerwing hangs from the ceiling near the entrance to the kitchen. The model is a replica of a plane Clay owns, but features different colors. Clay’s full-size version of the biplane is considered the oldest flying Beechcraft Staggerwing in the country.
The menu features a photo of a historic plane as a watermark and menu items are divided into flight themed names such as Engine Starters (appetizers), Prop Washes (drinks), and Final Descents (desserts). Individual menu items have flight themed names as well. Hand-battered, fried sliced jalapenos and onion strings are After Burners & Rudder Petals, breaded and fried mozzarella strips are Joy Sticks, and burgers include names like The Spinner, Hot Engine, and Canopy.
The Fly Boy logo features an airplane propellor and is prominent throughout the brewery. It’s found on beer glasses, growlers, and staff T-shirts.
For beer lovers, a microbrewery is all about one thing, the beer. Fly Boy Brewery features four different beers brewed on site by Clay using local ingredients when possible. He comes by his passion for brewing naturally. His great-grandfather, Charles Haring brought his knowledge of brewing German beer to the United States in 1891 when he opened a small brewery in Kearney, Neb.
“Clay continues his grandfather’s love of brewing by creating Fly Boy Brewery, LLC, to share his passion for brewing with others,” the Fly Boy menu reads.
The four beers were developed with flavor in mind, Clay said. Clay said the brewing process takes about 4-6 weeks. Brewing takes about six hours steeping the grains, boiling the wort, adding hops, and transferring wort to fermenters.
“Wort is fermented at 70 degrees for two weeks, then transferred to brite tanks to carbonate for another two weeks,” Clay said. “One batch yields about 80 gallons of beer.”
The beer at Fly Boy can be purchased by the glass, the flight – a small glass of each of the four beers Clay brews – or to go in 64 ounce growlers. The beers, and descriptions, follow:
Hotel Oscar Whiskey Menu description: A smooth, golden ale created from Honey, Orange, Oatmeal, and Wheat to create a crisp, lightly hoppy flavor. Clay’s comment: The Hotel Oscar Whiskey beer is our lightest beer, and receives its name from its ingredients — honey, oatmeal, oranges, and wheat. We use local honey from Labertew Apiaries. Hotel Oscar Whiskey are the words in the International Civil Aviation Organization phonetic alphabet used in aviation for H, O, and W.
Gear Up Menu description: A light-bodied honey wheat beer with a hint of German hops. Clay’s comments: The Gear Up beer would appeal to those who like a pale ale or wheat beer as it has a bit more depth in flavor.
BarnStormer Brown Menu description: A full-flavored brown beer with a roasted barley and caramel aroma. Clay’s comments: The brown started because Linda and I both enjoy the smooth nutty flavor of browns.
Lomcevak Menu description: A robust stout with a hint of chocolate and coffee flavors. Clay’s comments: The stout came about because many area people have asked if I was going to have a stout on tap. I wanted a smooth and yet complex flavor for my stout. (See the box on page one with pictures and descriptions of each beer.)
While craft beer may be the draw for many Fly Boy customers, the food should also find a loyal following. The Harings worked for months to develop a complete menu with appetizers, entrées and desserts. Grant Wagner, a Bennington native who attended culinary school in Scottsdale, Ariz., is Fly Boy’s chef.
Menu items play to the flight theme, and early favorites include the chicken fried steak, garlic fries, and the Canopy Burger. Other items include appetizers such as cheese fries and chips & salsa, burgers like the P51 Mustang (topped with American cheese, fried onion and jalapeno strings, and barbecue sauce) and Landing Strip (topped with two strips of bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion), and steaks like the Brewhouse Sirloin and Ribeye.
“Menu items were selected based on a couple of factors,” Linda said, “the atmosphere of the restaurant and the demographics of the area. The fact that we are a microbrewery lends itself to hamburgers and steaks. I even threw a bratwurst on there because a beer and brat is a great combination.”
For now, the Harings, who already have busy schedules with Linda’s teaching and coaching career at Sylvan-Lucas High School, and Clay’s aerial spraying business, plan to be open just three days a week, but, as Linda notes, “life is full of changes, so we are always looking at other possibilities.”
Thanks to an investment of sweat equity, and a passion to create a unique gathering place for the people of Lincoln County and the surrounding area, Fly Boy doesn’t appear to be just a fly-by-night business, but rather a hot landing zone for years to come.