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Sip, Sip Hurray! Touring Taps™ Offers a Toast for Kansas City

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We raise a glass to celebrate, recognize and even mourn. We share our best wishes, favorite stories and sweet goodbyes, many times accompanied by a glass of liquid refreshment, especially beer. A husband and wife in the Kansas City metro are highly noted for their business of raising a glass. Touring Taps™ is Kansas City’s only food truck for beer and operated by Matt and Michelle Madison. They claim they’re transforming the way Kansas City drinks with their unique and innovative draft system for small get-togethers or large gatherings.

“We are Kansas City’s only food truck for beer. It’s our love of the local craft beer scene and being able to provide an avenue for the smaller, niche craft beer breweries. We take them to places that they can’t get to. We’ve been adopted into the local craft beer scene,” said Matt.

“It moves full circle, too. So now that things are opening up, people who had been at the side of our vehicle can go to craft breweries’ taprooms to try more of their beer,” Michelle revealed. “We engage with people and get to know them. It’s customer service, and we take great pride in being kind to others. We wake up every day with a new adventure.”

“Frankly, the beer sells itself,” stated Matt. “We are fully invested in people and that’s our job. Beer is such a communal thing, camaraderie. It’s cheering a pint with a buddy and making new friends.”

Starting the Pour for Touring Taps
The Overland Park, Kansas, couple rolled out the barrel for Touring Taps in 2017 in Kansas City. Michelle was a stay-at-home mom to their children, Gillian, 14; Gabe, 13; Caroline and Charlotte, 10; Nora, 8; and Nicholas, 3.5 years. After a solid career in corporate IT, Matt began work as a consultant. But then a chance encounter with a well-used 1986 retired Coors Brewing Company delivery van nicknamed Ole Red got things pouring.

“My cousin called and said he thought he had found the perfect thing for us. He sent a photo and it’s a vintage Coors van. He claims he can get it for $1,000,” Matt recalled. “I told him to see if it starts, and an hour later he comes to our home in this van.”

“For us, it was like kids seeing the ice cream truck,” laughed Michelle.

Ole Red got a much-needed tune-up and was equipped with eight beer taps and industrial refrigeration equipment. The team hit the road pouring brews at parties and events all over the Kansas City area. The business started with the simple idea of offering fun solutions to bring draft beer to any occasion.

But Touring Taps is more than just beer vans; it is about community and the people being served, according to Michelle. Touring Taps pours at parties and events around the greater Kansas City area without a fee in a 50-mile radius. If craft beer isn’t your thing, custom cocktails, wines and bartending services are available. Matt also shares that if your guests absolutely must have a big brewery beer, it “canned” be arranged. But don’t be surprised that by the end of the event the enthusiasm of the Touring Taps team might have them enjoying a local craft beer.

Over the years, the demand for mobile draft beer services at Touring Taps increased. They added another van to the fleet, The Ambassador, with 12 different taps while including more event services to enhance the customers’ experiences. Large-scale events were well within reach but the smaller get-togethers remained the bread and butter of their business.

Touring Taps steadily grew, with the bulk of the work on the weekends and nights, which didn’t fit well with their business partners’ already busy work and family schedules. So Matt and Michelle decided to take on Touring Taps as a full-time gig and bought out the partners. “This was an incredible leap of faith that this would become our full-time job, and we bought them out at the end of January 2020,” recalled Michelle. “Then COVID hit, and we lost a number of weddings. We still had kids at home that we needed to feed. What just happened?”

“COVID was a turning point for us. From the first of the year through June or July, people were holed up in their houses. We had two vans and a trailer and didn’t know what to do with them. Then a friend mentioned that we should team up with food trucks going into HOAs,” shared Matt. “Then we started partnering with food trucks and became, in a way, an add-on to that community. People wanted to get outside and came out to these big HOA events; we’d have 200 to 300 people a night. We parlayed that into these incredible connections that became private parties, corporate events and more. We were at the right place at the right time.”

Changing the Way KC Drinks
“With COVID, people forgot how lovely it is to be outside with their community. That summer brought families and neighbors together, and Touring Taps brought those parties together,” stated Michelle. “You can try something new and local to hit their palates like craft beers, ciders and sours. It’s from one end of the spectrum to the other. With all of the taps we have, we can hit most palates.”

“So many times people say they only drink Bud Light. We can offer that but we encourage them to try something new and different, and they do and like it,” laughed Matt. “When we started, there were about 20 craft breweries in KC in 2017 and now we’re up to almost 50. As the market grows, we continue to add. Now, we have two vans and three trailers, one of them a brand new addition to the fleet as of the end of April. We have all of these options. As of now, we have 60 taps to offer, and this is just the beginning of us bringing Kansas City’s craft beer to everyone in our community. It’s all about sweat equity, the only way to grow and expand our vision and passion. It’s a way of life.”

Matt and Michelle are the only two full-time employees but close to two dozen work in season on a part-time basis. As Touring Taps has grown and accelerated its business plan, it takes a special partnership between husband and wife to keep the beer flowing. “We prefer to do certain tasks. He can do permitting, licensing and paperwork. It overloads my mind because I wasn’t watching things grow behind the scenes,” noted Michelle. “For me, I love doing the prep; maybe that’s the mom or teacher in me. I love making sure we have enough inventory such as cups and all the supplies are on the trucks.”

“My passion is to be out in front of the trucks talking to people,” shared Matt. “I love taking the phone calls and talking with people to show them what we can do. Let me talk with them face to face and let me show you how we can set this thing up. That’s a natural thing for me to do.”

What’s on Tap?
The future of Touring Taps is brewing up a positive outlook, even as this fairly new enterprise works through its growing pains and gathers important experience and knowledge. “Right now, there’s a lot of survival for us, but we’re building for our family. The kids are interested, but it’s not required. Things will get better, and we’ll see what they can bring to the business. Personally, we want to take care of our family and get back to traveling,” said Michelle.

“Franchising is certainly on the table, but we want to master the market we’re in right now,” offered Matt, “and figure out what that looks like as it comes.”

As they enter their sixth year of business, Michelle and Matt have gathered critical business experience, but they say the important part of their success comes down to having optimistic people around them, offering support and sharing positive words. “Be with people who totally believe in you, and learn from your losses. Every single time we had a setback we learned how to get better. We had 230 events last year and we’re on the books for more than 300 this year,” commented Michelle. “Our amazing friends are helping out by taking our children to baseball, softball or other activities. You’ve got to have those cheerleaders. You will have people who doubt and criticize, but you must believe that you’re doing good things and it will come back tenfold.”

“The times will come when the business is hard and the money will be hard to get. That’s when you dig in and believe in what you’re doing,” advised Matt. “You have to take the wins where you get them.”

Listening to Matt and Michelle, one can’t help but be engaged with their story, local craft beer and their work to share community with those who want to lift a glass. “Let us come to you and help you try local craft beer; we have a great team that believes in us. We want to give back to the community. Financially, sponsorships aren’t on the table for us right now, but I can’t wait until the day that we can,” remarked Michelle.

“We’re eternally humbled for the people who work for us and support us. Without them, this conversation doesn’t happen,” said Matt. “We build our communities around us; that’s the most important thing, the communal part of Touring Taps. When we celebrate or mourn, we raise a glass. We want to build on that and make Kansas City a place that people want to stay and visit.”