Thursday, March 8, 2018

Free State Brewery Tour

My wife and I were lucky enough to get a reservation to visit the Free State Brewery production facility. I say lucky because the reservations are limited and run out quickly. The best time to look for a reservation seems to be at the beginning of the month. Needless to say when I got one I was happier than Martin Prince and Principal Skinner when they took a field trip to the box factory.

Chuck Magerl is the owner of the first legal brewery in Kansas in over 100 years as their website proudly states. Free State brewery opened its doors in 1989 and started selling beer by the bottle in 2010. The plan originally was to sell bottled beer in 2008 but a fire to the brewing facility set production back. This comes as no surprise to the citizens in Lawrence, whose city embraces the phoenix as its logo and has a rich history of rising up from the ashes.
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Lawrence Police Department

The tour began at 2:00 and after reading the slogan “because without beer, things do not seem to go as well,” I was definitely on board. It is difficult to think of a phrase that makes more sense. We started our tour of the 14-barrel facility with an introduction to the malts and hops used in their beer. Lead brewer Tommy Kelley took us through the facility and gave the group a rundown of how they produce their beer. 

Free State is still a relatively young brewery and the facility we toured was just under 10 years old. They are constantly adding and upgrading their equipment. Luke Otter, another brewer at the facility showed the group how they use a new centrifuge to filter their beer. The facility brews twice a day and averages about 80 barrels per day. 

The flagship beers for Free State Brewery are Ad Astra Ale, Copperhead Pale Ale, Free State Golden, and Oatmeal Stout. Their most popular beer however is Oktoberfest, which is a seasonal beer available in the fall. Free State typically has a large variety of beers on tap at their restaurant and brewers there are always trying new things.  The restaurant is where they brew their more creative brews and even alter their recipes based on feedback from patrons.

The tour of course ended with samples and the staff on hand stayed to converse with everyone on the tour. Geoff Deman, who is the head of downtown brewing and Skylor Rexwinkle, who runs the bottling and labeling part of the facility were also on hand to also answer questions. The staff was very approachable and entertaining to listen too. I would absolutely recommend visiting Free State for a tour, a beer, and camaraderie.

"Because without beer, things do not seem to go as well"

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Taps, Taprooms and Tappings….So Many Choices!

Lukas Liquor....too many choices....does not compute... 
I am the worst person in the world at picking my beer. No seriously, I am the absolute worst. It’s not that I cannot find good beer, it’s that I take I could be at the best tap room or beer hall in the city, the most straight-forward local bar imaginable or the grocery store, and I will simply stand and/or stare for an inordinate amount of time as if stunned by the variety of great choices. Most reading this are probably thinking that it sounds as if I am just another beer-geek that likes to peruse before ordering. Trust me, it’s worse.

My wife, who is a kindergarten teacher, and typically affords me the vast amount of patience that most of her students require, even reaches her limit. “You are the worst”, she says as she drinks the beer that she ordered five minutes earlier while my eyes continue to scan and re-scan the shelf/beer list/untappd board. I just nod my head and keep mumbling to myself about my options. Fortunately for all concerned it is craft-beer that I love and most of the retailers, bartenders, and servers that help me just smile, nod and offer opinions. I love this about our community.

This sense of community and the taprooms that foster it is as much a passion of mine as the beer itself. Do not mistake me, I love beer and I continue to be intrigued by the variety styles and flavors that are made available. But for my wife and I, the discovery of a new place to drink those beers, meet new people, and watch others experience the same things we are is the real joy. These experiences are what I enjoy writing about and sharing with others.

So the first place I want to write about is my favorite. Grains & Taps in Lee’s Summit definitely benefits from its proximity to me, but the consistently outstanding selection, service, and appreciation for its customers are awesome. It always gets its hands on the hard to find beers and all employees are able to offer educated opinions on every beer on the gigantic Untappd boards. A lot of you reading this have probably heard of or been to Grains & Taps in the past, but I write this in part so that we can support a great part of our craft beer community during a [minor] crisis.

Grains & Taps had a small attic fire on February 19, 2018. The actual fire damage was not too extensive but the damage from smoke and the water to put out the fire have caused them to close for a while. They are providing updates on their Facebook, page, so keep checking there. However, Grains & Taps will still be holding and hosting the Blarney Brew Off on March 17, 2018. This is a great event and each ticket gets you beer, entertainment, and tremendous interaction with homebrew experts and local cicerones.Tickets are limited so buy as early as you can.

You can find tickets to the Blarney Brew Off here:

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Kansas City's Newest Brewery Is Now Open!

2017 was a hell of a year for brewery openings in KC, and 2018 is shaping out to be even better. Our first brewery openings of the year is already upon us! Casual Animal opened just a few days ago, and now Strange Days Brewing is now open in the River Market starting this weekend. I haven't had a chance to get to Casual Animal yet, but was able to check out Strange Days. They're making great beer on day one, and have a huge stockpile of brews! They have been brewing non-stop for several months now as they awaited their final regulatory approvals. They brewed so much, in fact, that they actually ran out of kegs to fill. And now that they've got all their approvals finalized, we get to reap the rewards of their work.

They have 8 different beers on tap right now for their grand opening. The brews I tried were the Japanese Black IPA, the Daydream Saison, and the Estranged Quad. Each was very good with nice subtle flavors and they were very clean beers with no off-flavors that I could detect. I especially liked the Daydream Saison, as it reminded me a lot of the old Boulevard Long Strange Triple, RIP. Long Strange was one of my favorite KC beers ever made, so I'm stoked to have a good replacement for it now!

Strange Days made it's debut a couple years ago at the High Plains Brewhoff at Brew Lab in downtown Overland Park. They won best of show at that "people's choice" homebrew competition, and since then, they have been hard at work transforming their brewery space at 316 Oak Street on the east end of the River Market. The building was originally part of the old Muehlebach brewery complex. The space that they have created is eclectic and cool with a mix of thrift store furniture, hand made furniture, and a beautiful zinc bar top. In addition to making beers, the owners are big soccer fans as well. They plan on opening early on Saturday and Sunday mornings each week to catch all of the soccer games for the day.

You can check out the brewery for yourself Thursday through Sunday each week. The brewery's hours are:

Monday:      Closed
Tuesday:      Closed
Wednesday: Closed
Thursday:    3:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Friday:         3:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Saturday:     9:00 am - 10:00 pm
Sunday:       9:00 am - 9:00 pm

The brewery is located at:

316 Oak St, Kansas City, MO 64106

There is a limited amount of parking in front of the building, but it's also located only 1 block away from the streetcar, so you can easily get there without a car as well.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

3 Reasons Why I Love the Craft Beer Community Today

I was having a pity party last week when I wrote my Cry for Help blog post. But the response to the post was so rad from all of you that I have a renewed faith and excitement about craft beer in KC and this blog! Thank you to everyone who reached out, it means a lot to me. And as one of you so eloquently put in the subject line of your email to me: 'F' That Dude. I also had about a half dozen people message me wanting to pitch in on the blog. I have yet to get back to most of you, but you will be hearing from me soon! This is the first reason I'm loving the community today.

Second reason I'm loving the craft beer community today is that half of the people who contacted me about helping out with the blog are women. I've tried hard over the years to be inclusive of women and minorities in the community as have a lot of other people. I'm happy to finally see people other than white guys coming into the fold!

Code Beer from Lincoln, NE
Another story of how awesome our community is something that happened to me a little while ago but something I was thinking about amidst all this. Last August I was in Lincoln, NE for a work trip. And, of course, work trip=beer tour. Lincoln has some stand out breweries that have been around for a while like my favorites Zipline (who so graciously gave me a tour of their brewery that I was never able to actually write up in the long post that it deserved!) and Boiler Brewing Co.

But on this trip I was trying something new. Code Beer Company had just opened a couple weeks before and I wanted to try it out. Now, I try not to be a pompous ass going around and trying to convince everyone that I'm an important blogger (unless I've had too many beers already). So I didn't tell them anything about the blog. The beers they were making were pretty damned awesome, they had a very cool atmosphere, the place was filled with cool people, and the bartender was super nice.

When I left, I was hoping to get a sticker to put on the kegerator at home. To my dismay, they had just run out of all their stickers not expecting the huge demand that they had just opening. So the bartender wrote down my name & address on a post-it note behind the bar and said that she'd send me some stickers when they had more in. I though, yea right, that's never going to happen, and promptly forgot about it. Lo and behold, a couple months later, a letter shows up at my house with a half dozen Code Beer stickers in it. What an awesome gesture that they saved my address all that time and actually went to the trouble of physically mailing me stickers.

Couldn't be prouder to be a part of this community. Keep being rad!

Code Beer Co mailed these stickers to my house after they got a new batch in. Well played, Code. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Yes, This Is a Cry for Help

I got an email tonight that really got under my skin. Because I'm not an asshole like Richard, I marked out his last name that he so proudly signed. I really considered posting it, but that's just mean. Here's his nice email to me:

I don't like to be a crybaby, so I don't talk a lot about why I haven't been posting on the blog much lately. But for some reason I felt the need to let Richard know, and I thought, hell, why not just tell everyone. I have 2 kids now--one is 8 months old and the other 3 years old. They're the light of my life but god do they demand my time. I also have a demanding "real" job where I work about 45-55 hours every week. The last couple months have been extra tough to get anything done besides work, change diapers, and sleep because I fucking got pneumonia, and then right when I got over that, my grandfather died. We're still going through his things.

I kindly pointed out to Richard, that I would LOVE some help with the blog. I'd even LOVE for someone to take it over like he said. I still like contributing, and would like to continue to do so when I can. But I've been at this for 4 years now, and in that time I've been through more than a dozen co-contributors, so I know how it goes. Some have lasted a long time and made huge contributions, especially Kyle Black and Ryan Caldwell. But the majority have written 2 or 3 posts and then disappeared. People pretty quickly realize what a shit gig this is.

This post will be my 140th post on the blog. Each post usually takes around 5 to 10 hours of time to put together. Between these posts, trying to maintain the events calendar, and maintaining the beer map and guide, I've easily spent over 1000 hours working on the blog. I've never been paid a single cent for this work. And most of the time, the only people I ever hear from are shitheads like Richard. The reason I've stuck with it this long is because I LOVE beer, I LOVE KC, I LOVE our breweries, and I LOVE all of you other beer lovers and brewers out there (except the shitheads).

If any of you appreciate this blog, and want it to keep going, I NEED HELP. Please let me know if you're up for contributing. You might get into a beer fest for free once or twice a year, and you might get invited to some VIP events every once in a while. That's it. You will work long hours on posts only to hear negative comments in response. Your contribution will not pay for itself, not by a long shot. People will expect a lot from you and you won't be able to deliver. But if you love beer and even remotely like writing, PLEASE contact me and help out the blog. But if you plan on disappearing after 2 posts, don't waste my time.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

The 9 Award Winning KS & MO Beers at the Great American Beer Festival This Year!

We all already know that we've got some great breweries around here. Well now we have even more proof--Kansas and Missouri breweries brought home 9 medals from the Great American Beer Festival competition this year! Our states haven't won that many medals at GABF since 2013. There's a lot of new names on the list too. Two of my favorites, Cinder Block and Wichita Brewing Company, brought home their first medals ever. Also, inexplicably, Schlafly and Side Project have never won a GABF medal before and brought home their first medals this year too.

Now, I'll be the first to admit there's a lot more to winning a medal at GABF than brewing great beer on a regular basis. To wit--Schafly and Side Project make awesome beer always and have never won before! There's a lot of luck involved in winning--you have to have your beer at the peak of freshness, enter the exact right category, and get a good position in the judging flight. You also have to actually enter your beer, which is no small undertaking for most small/new brewers! All that being said it's still a great accomplishment to medal at the fest--just don't stop buying your favorite brewery's beer because they didn't win.

Congratulations to all the medal winners!

Gold Medals:

Springfield Brewing Co. - Bull Creek Brown Ale
Gold - American-Style Brown Ale

Silver Medals:

Wichita Brewing Co. - Shaven Yak Brown
Silver - English-Style Brown Ale

Logboat Brewing Co. - Mamoot English Mild
Silver - English-Style Mild Ale

Schlafly Beer - Pumpkin Ale
Silver - Pumpkin/Squash Beer or Pumpkin Spice Beer

Perennial Artisan Ales - Maman 2017
Silver - Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout

Side Project Brewing - Blended 2017
Silver - Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale

Bronze Medals: 

Cinder Block Brewery - Northtown Native
Bronze - Dortmunder or German-Style Oktoberfest

Perennial Artisan Ales - Working Title
Bronze - Belgian- and French-Style Ale

Charleville Vineyard & Microbrewery - Barrel Aged Barleywine
Bronze - Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Oktoberfest Season is Upon Us

My favorite time of the year is upon--time when it finally becomes enjoyable to be outside again with the weather, the harvests of hops & grapes come in, and hunting season opens. No I am talking about Fall, I am talking about Oktoberfest season.  And if you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know that I'm in deep in the Oktoberfest scene. (Hm...gotta see if I can still squeeze into the lederhosen this year...)

As I've written in the past, there really is only one true Oktoberfest in Munich. But I've become less of a purist as I've aged so I've come to enjoy our local Oktoberfests almost as much as the real deal (even if nothing can really compare). These days, we actually have some great Oktoberfests around here that are truer to the original design than what we've had in the past. I've got a list of all the festival events at the bottom, but I'm going to highlight a few of my favorites here as well.

KC Bier Company Oktoberfest - 9/24 - 9/25

This is the fourth year for KC Bier Co's Oktoberfest, but it's become my favorite fest in town. They've got the perfect mix of music, dancing, kids activities, food, and, naturally, great beer.  It seems like most of the Oktoberfests in town lack one or another of these critical elements, but KC Bier Co hits all of them right on. You'll find some of the best German beers around fresh out of their fermenters including their excellent Festbier (a true Oktoberfest-style beer that is what they actually serve in Munich, not the Märzen style that most Americans associate with Oktoberfest). And they make awesome radlers to order that can keep you drinking by the Maß all day without difficulty.

The fest runs on Saturday from 11am-10pm and Sunday from 12pm-9pm. There are activities going all day long both days. Check out more on their website. No admission tickets are necessary before this event.

Grünauer Oktoberfest - 9/24 - 9/25

Guess what?  That awesome fest your read about above was made even better.  Grünauer has actually partnered up with KC Bier Co and will be doing all their food!

Lee's Summit Oktoberfest - 9/22 - 9/24

Lee's Summit Oktoberfest is another great fest celebration held on the streets in downtown LS. If you're wondering, it's kind of a big deal with more than 70,000 visitors last year. This one probably mirrors the actual Oktoberfest best of any in the area minus the beer drinking (although their beer garden has come a long way from just serving up Bud Light). They've got all kinds of events, activities, and carnival rides in addition the main beer tent.

This fest is really geared more towards families rather than hardcore festbier drinking, but they do still have a beer tent, a wine tent, and their second annual homebrew tasting and competition sponsored by Grains & Taps. There will be traditional music and food throughout the fest as well. Also, completely random, there is a dog contest and a baby contest. I assume the baby who throws the beer keg farthest wins.

So, for the carnival atmosphere with a little beer and German food thrown in, the LS Oktoberfest is a good call especially for families. The fest runs on Friday from 5pm-11pm, Saturday from 10am-11pm. The fest continues with the carnival only (no beer!) on Sunday from 12pm-4pm. Check out more on their website.

Hermann Oktoberfest - Every Weekend in October

The Oktoberfest celebration in Hermann is my favorite in the area for a full weekend excursion. If you haven't ever heard of Hermann, it's a little town in the "Missouri Rheinland", the heart of Missouri wine country. (Don't laugh! Most of the MO wineries are actually making some great wines these days, not just the super sweet alco-pop wines that they used to.)

The city has a strong German heritage and lots of wineries in and around the city. (And contrary to popular belief, there are wine tents at Oktoberfest in Munich in addition to the beer tents, so you don't have to feel guilty about drinking wine at Oktoberfest) They also have the Tin Mill Brewery downtown, and if for the real beer lovers, you can drive about 20 minutes down the road to visit 2nd Shift!

I'd also highly recommend checking out the Festhall. The entrance is a little hard to find and easy to miss--it's off of the west side of Gutenberg St, just north of 1st Street. It's obscured by trees and some other stuff on the sidewalk. But it's the best place in town for an authentic Oktoberfest experience with lots of lederhosen, dirnds, people actually speaking German, and dancing (and not just the damned Chicken Dance!). Plus, the festhall is an awesome building. Here's a streetview of the entrance:

There are things going on all over town, mainly on Saturdays, every weekend of October. For some extra fun, take the Amtrak down there and drink on the road (it's literally the only economical Amtrak ride you can take out of KC).

Holyfield Winery Oktoberfest - 10/14

Like Hermann, this Oktoberfest is focused on wine instead of beer. But Holyfield makes some of the best wine in the Metro and has some good German-style wines. I mainly love this fest because the setting is so idyllic, they have good music, and the weather is perennially excellent. The fest always makes for a solid day of outdoor day-drinking and chilling. Make sure you bring your own setup though as seating is limited. They've got plenty of space to set up portable chairs, tables, picnic blankets, and whatever else you want to bring. It's a bit of a drive, but well worth it if you can find a DD. "Dan the Bierock Man" will be back and the Alpen Spielers will be playing. The fest runs from 12pm-4pm on Saturday. Check out more details on their website.

And Even more Oktoberfests in KC:

St John’s Oktoberfest - Saturday 9/24

Shawnee Oktoberfest - Friday 9/29

Westport Oktoberfest Pub Crawl - Saturday 10/1

Westwood Oktoberfest - Saturday 9/30

Know of any others?  Post in the comment section!