I was out and about yesterday evening with friends, trying to find a suitable place to have dinner and watch the playoffs. I watched the Cardinals and Saints at Barley's in OP with my friend Bartles who drove in from out of town. Bartles is trying to watch each playoff game in a different city this year, something he tried to do last year, but failed by the time the second playoff game kicked off... I couldn't care less where I watch the playoffs but I decided to take part anyways, hoping to drink a beer during each playoff game in a different city. Anyways, after a round of Free State seasonals, a Left Hand Milk Stout, some Tank 7, a pint of Tallgrass and a Dundee Honey Brown we decided to hit the road if we were going to have any hope of reaching Lawrence before the next kickoff.
In order to make it to Lawrence in a legal manner we enlisted the help of my girlfriend, St. Pauli Girl, who had been watching a Bridezilla marathon with another friend of mine, Rod Leviathan. Our goal was to make it to Free State in time for the game and then enjoy some cheddar ale soup, onion rings and beer while the Colts destroy the Ravens.
By our powers combined, we made it to Lawrence with about 20 minutes to spare. After parking at Border's (regardless of where I go in on Mass. street, it seems like I always have to park at Border's...) and walking up to Free State, I was told that there would be a 90 minute wait for a table. I don't mind waiting 20 or 30 minutes for a seat but an hour and a half is a bit ridiculous... On my way out of Free State I called the 23rd Street Brewery to see if they were retarded busy as well, thankfully they only had a 30 minute wait so we headed on over.
I'd never been to the 23rd Street Brewery before. It's not that I have anything against the place - I just enjoy going to Free State for dinner and beers. This seemed like as good a time as any to try out the 23rd Street Brewery so I was pretty jazzed about it. Even though 23rd Street doesn't take call ahead seating requests I didn't really mind waiting for a table. The interior of the brewery was pretty cool, it's one big open space with the brew kettles and tuns in the middle with a bar at the base and seating all around the exterior.
We had more than a few minutes to peruse the beer list while waiting for a table. The first thing I noticed was that half the beers on the list were wheats... It seemed a little odd, even for Kansas. There was Wave the Wheat, Raspberry Wheat, Two Faced Wheat and a Golden Wheat. I also noticed that I was the 2nd oldest person in the joint after Rod Leviathan. It seemed like everyone here was 22 years old and decked out in their best "Rock Chalk Jayhawk" shirt. I started counting all the sideways baseball caps but a table became available so my attention shifted to picking a beer.
I settled on the Two Faced Wheat because I was told it was a darker harvest style wheat beer. It honestly wasn't anything special, tasting like a heartier bodied wheat beer with a very mild flavor. The other beers were a mixed bag... The Bitter Professor IPA was just bitter and tasted like a glass full of hops. The Amber Ale had to be my favorite beer at 23rd Street, it was nicely hopped and had a pleasant warm grain flavor. Admittedly, I didn't try all of the beers at 23rd Street but I think I got the gist of it... Any good will I had toward this place was quickly waning.
The final nail in the coffin was the food. I had my heart set on getting an order of fried pickles as an appetizer but it turned out they were pickle spears, not planks or chips. Everyone knows fried pickles are much better in plank or coin form. Spears are just too meaty... Anyways, I ended up ordering a Southern Fried Chicken Salad. Sounds healthy, right? Don't worry, I passed on the gravy dressing and opted for the light ranch. When I got my entree it looked like a single over-fried chicken tender chopped up and laid on top of a pile of coarse lettuce and stalks. I didn't think too highly of it but the fried food did help the flavorless wheat beer go down easier.
The evening ended after everyone finished their round of beers and got to-go boxes. I think we left about mid way through the 3rd quarter, just about the same time a group of frat bros in short sleeve flannel shirts headed out into parking lot to holler about how awesome the Jayhawks are while pretending they weren't freezing their balls off.
In some ways I'm glad I did go to the 23rd Street Brewery, now I know it's not worth going out of my way to go back... It's also made me realize why no one's ever suggested going there over eating at Free State.