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"

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