Food & Drink

Belleville company brews a cold coffee and takes it to customers in classic vehicles

There’s a new craft brewer in town that’s canning a cold drink.

But it’s not another beer company to compete with Belleville’s pioneer craft brewer, 4204 Main Street Brewing. Instead, it’s Kaleidoscope Craft Brew Coffee founded by Chris Thele and his wife, Elizabeth, of Belleville.

Kaleidoscope, however, does have a connection with 4204 Main Street Brewing’s plant. The Theles are leasing space inside 4204’s brewery, where they are roasting coffee beans, brewing their coffee and canning the drink.

Along with producing 12-ounce cans of their coffee, the Theles are filling kegs with their coffee and then serving them on draft through taps installed on two vintage vehicles: a 1952 Chevrolet pickup truck and a 1964 Corvair van.

“It’s fresh roasted, it’s craft brewed and it’s enjoyed cold,” Chris Thele said of his coffee.

Two varieties are now being canned: the Classic and the Ethiopian. The non-alcoholic drinks have two ingredients, filtered water and coffee.

Thele said his product stands out from other cold coffees because of the unique brewing process developed for Kaleidoscope drinks.

“We spent a lot of hours and long nights in the basement brewing, trying to figure this thing out,” Thele said. “We had the concept but we didn’t have the process dialed in but once we did, we knew we had something special.

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Chris Thele, co-founder of Kaleidoscope Craft Brew Coffee poses by one of his mobile coffee dispensers a 1952 chevy truck. Derik Holtmann dholtmann@bnd.com

“It’s been going like crazy since we went to market.”

The first cans for retail rolled off the production line two months ago at 4204’s plant at 6435 W. Main St.

Thele said the brewing process is a “trade secret.”

“We’ve created custom equipment in there,” he said. “We’ve repurposed some stuff and made it do what we want it to do.

“The different things we’re using whether it’s temperature, agitation, or movement through the coffee, those things are ours. We’ve developed what that looks like.

“I think it’s going to give the consumer an experience that takes them beyond anything they’ve tasted that’s a cold coffee.”

Coffee styles

Kaleidoscope’s Classic style is described as a “craft black coffee.”

“It’s sort of an ode to a traditional cup of coffee with some familiar notes of dark chocolate, a little bit nutty, a little bit roasty,” Thele said. “We’ve taken a blend from three different regions, Central America, South America and Africa.

“And the result is a smooth, crisp, very refined cold cup of coffee that you can drink straight from the can or on tap.”

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Chris Thele, co-founder of Kaleidoscope Craft Brew Coffee, pours coffee from one of the taps on his mobile coffee dispenser. Derik Holtmann dholtmann@bnd.com

Thele described the Ethiopian as being produced from an “absolutely phenomenal single origin crop which has these beautiful berry notes.”

The Theles expect to produce more varieties. Some of the ingredients they have worked with include tart cherry juice, organic lemon juice, clover honey and vanilla beans

Classic vehicles

In an effort to showcase their coffees as being unique, the Theles bought the pickup and van to bring their drinks to festivals, events and weddings.

Thele said it’s a “cool way to say, ‘Hey check out our coffee.’”

The turquoise green truck is called “Huckleberry” and the white van is called “Moby” after the classic American novels of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain and “Moby-Dick” by Herman Melville.

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Kaleidoscope Craft Brew Coffee and their 1952 Chevrolet truck outfitted with taps to dispense their cold craft brew coffee. Derik Holtmann dholtmann@bnd.com

The novels inspired the Theles because they were “innovative” for their time but remain popular today.

The vehicles have been customized to hold kegs of the “nitro” version of Kaleidoscope coffee that has bubbles and a foamy top.

Thele said the vehicles are “head turners.” Indeed, during his interview with the BND while next to the pickup truck, a passer-by shouted out how much he liked the restored truck.

Craft beer mentality

Thele, who was trained as an architect, developed his love for coffee during a year he spent in Melbourne, Australia.

He’s also worked as a surgical technician and renovated a home.

“I like to be creative,” he said. “If my heart’s in it, I go for it.”

The Theles, who have two children, gave up their jobs and sold their home in the effort to get Kaleidoscope established.

“We believe in it and we saw that people were enjoying the things that we were creating and we felt like there was a market for it,” Thele said.

Thele said he’s inspired by the explosion of experimentation and creativity in the craft beer industry in the past two decades.

“We are using processes that borrowed from craft beer and innovated them to do coffee extraction.”

Kaleidoscope distribution

Kaleidoscope coffee is in over two dozen places in Missouri, including Friar Tuck, Bombay Wines and Spirits and SymBowl restaurants.

Thele said he has lined up distributors in Missouri but is still seeking a distributor for Illinois.

However, there are some places in the metro-east where you can check out Kaleidoscope products this fall.

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Kaleidoscope Craft Brew Coffee is now available in several stores in the St. Louis region. Derik Holtmann dholtmann@bnd.com

Kaleidoscope will be at the finish line of the fourth annual Belleville Main Street Marathon on Sept. 28 and at Braeutigam Orchards’ Pumpkin Festival Oct. 12-13.

A four-pack of cans retails for $14.99 to $15.99, depending upon the business owner’s choice.

Contact Kaleidoscope

Here’s where you can go for more information:

The company’s website is www.craftbrewcoffee.com, which will have online sales launching soon.

Instagram: @craftbrewcoffee

Facebook: www.facebook.com/craftbrewcoffee

Email: drink@craftbrewcoffee.com (for orders or scheduling an event or wedding.)

Mike Koziatek joined the Belleville News-Democrat in 1998 as an assistant editor and is now a reporter covering the Belleville area. He graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee and grew up in St. Louis.
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