Sunday, January 17, 2010

So that's why we always go to Free State...

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.


  1. I was at Free State last night and only had to wait about 15 minutes. Only had 2 people though.

  2. I'm a fried pickle spear man myself, but this wouldn't be the first time my taste has been brought to question.

  3. Heh, yeah. We've been to Lawrence countless times & have beer every time we go. We've been to 23rd Street exactly once. Free State's beer is some of the best in the region; hard to pass it up.

    I gotta give you credit for continuing to try IPAs even though you don't like hoppy beer. I'm not sure if that means you're optimistic that you'll eventually come to like them, or insane for expecting to like IPAs despite not caring for a beer style that, by definition, is a showcase for hops. ;) (that said, maybe try some English IPAs like Samuel Smith's. They're definitely more subdued.)

  4. PS - we try to go to Free State on Sundays around 3pm. No wait and usually a seat at the bar either right away or after standing around 10-15 minutes. Any other time, we've found, is just too busy.

  5. There are some IPAs I like more than others, but more often than not they just taste like hops with no other flavor. I'll keep trying IPAs because every once in a while I find a good one that makes it all worth it

  6. Try the fried pickles at Westport Flea Market. They are spears, and some of the best around.

  7. 23rd Street Brewery is one of our favorite places in Lawrence. I think you are way off on your assessment of the place. My friends and I go there often, and love the beer and food, which is superior to Free state by the way. Not to mention the, Uh Hem... Bomb Ass Waitresses ! We were there last Saturday as well, you should have realized you were there after a basketball game (explains the crowd).If you had taken time to look around you may have noticed Bill Self and Danny Manning were eating there that night too. I'll take 23rd Street over free state anytime.

  8. Free State is certainly a superior resturant and brewery but 23rd street has it bright spots...the Crimson Phog is an outstanding beer, no, it is not as good as Ad Atra Ale but it does not have to be, it can stand on its own. The other beers are enjoyable....If Free State is a "10" then 23rd is a "8"