Lance Minor came to know himself well while serving 21 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He knew he loved the excitement of active duty, loved leading younger Marines. When he retired and returned to his native Wichita in 2012, Minor wondered how he’d find that same kind of challenge.
The answer was starting a microbrewery – Aero Plains Brewing – with a little broader purpose than just cranking out good beer. “By making and serving beer and connecting with the people of Wichita, Aero Plains has allowed me to continue to serve something greater than myself,” Minor, CEO of Aero Plains, said.
Aero Plains does serve very good beer, by the way. It was named “Best Kansas Brewery” at the 2017 Midwest Beerfest. Minor is the recipient of the 2018 Murdock Award for Business.
Minor and co-founders Ryan Waite and Brent Miller opened Aero Plains in October 2016. Other than a little confusion over its location – 117 N. Handley, tucked behind Bicycle X-Change in the Delano neighborhood – the reception has been everything they hoped for. Minor says his “old soul” wife, Mary, and Aero Plains’ “beer ambassador,” Mike Snider, have also made key contributions.
Minor created the original recipes for Aero Plains’ beer. Minor and his partners have also listened to input from customers who want more variety, recently hiring a new head brewer, Troy Bervig. They’re working with a local branding agency, Gardner Design, to improve their labels and recently purchased equipment that will allow them to switch from bottles to cans. That, in turn, will allow them to release new beers more often.
Besides the Marines, Minor says another experience profoundly affected his life today. In 2014, just as he was preparing to launch Aero Plains, he contracted swine flu and spent seven weeks in a coma. “I realized that whatever connections I made with people, whether long-lasting or fleeting, I wanted to make those connections positive. Hold the door for people, help them with their groceries, stop and help someone change a tire, buy a round of beer for strangers.”
Aero Plains has raised money for the Mental Health Association, Hands of Hope, Wichita’s Littlest Heroes and women’s advocacy groups. Minor sits on the board of the Field of Brews fundraiser for Starkey, Inc. He and Aero Plains are enthusiastic participants in the Delano Fall Fair and other neighborhood events.
His goal for 2018, besides growing Aero Plains: grow his beard, although not for purposes of appearance. Minor has entered Aero Plains in the annual St. Baldrick’s Foundation head shaving event that raises money for childhood cancer research. While others shave their heads, Minor said, “I’m growing out my beard from September 2017 to April 2018 – because I can’t grow hair on top of my head.”