Why 3 Halves tapped veteran Bucky Buckingham to take over its Liberty brewery

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Photography by Shawn Brackbill

An unmistakable booming laugh announces that gregarious brewer Bryan “Bucky” Buckingham is at 3 Halves Brewing, which shares space with Jousting Pigs Barbecue on the courthouse square in Liberty.

If you’re into local craft beer, chances are you’ve consumed something made by Buckingham over the course of his two decades in the business. Buckingham worked behind the bar at long-gone brewpubs McCoy’s Public House, Power Plant Restaurant and Brewery and River Market Brewing Co. He brewed beers at 23rd Street and Free State in Lawrence and 75th Street Brewery in Waldo. Recently, Buckingham amicably wrapped up a seven-year stint at Cinder Block in North Kansas City and, in June, joined 3 Halves. “Bucky was the best possible fit for what we do here,” says 3 Halves owner John Kennebeck. “It fell into place. Our personalities gelled. Bucky brings a wealth of experience, and I’m learning everything I can from him.”

Buckingham wanted to get back to his roots at a small brewpub. 3 Halves needed an experienced brewer after the sudden passing of 3 Halves’s founding brewer, Rodney Beagle, of a medical event. The position appealed to Buckingham, who wanted “more interaction with customers in a restaurant and brewpub setting.” He also wanted to learn—even with his career now being old enough to order a beer.

“If you meet a brewer who says they know everything about brewing, they’re full of shit,” Buckingham says. Buckingham has already brewed several batches at the three-barrel brewhouse in Liberty, including Continuation West Coast-style IPA. It’s the smallest setup Buckingham has ever used but, he says, “a good brewer can brew on a one-barrel or hundred-barrel system. You just have to dial it in.”

Buckingham adjusts his eyeglasses and raises a pint of Continuation IPA past his scraggly beard. The aroma is heavy with Sabro, Equinox and Galaxy hops. The piney taste evokes the coniferous forests of Eugene, Oregon, where Buckingham lived before moving to the Midwest. Upcoming beers include a Belgian golden strong ale and an Oktoberfest lager. Expect consistent, clean and true-to-style brews.

“The beer should taste the same every time,” he says. “That’s the number one factor to successful beer-making.”

Categories: BBQ, Beer, Wine, Spirits