Thursday, May 30, 2013

Toto, I Don't Think We're In Kansas Anymore!

On the third day of our short trip to Kansas City we took a little jaunt off to Lawrence, Kansas.  At the prompting of a couple of my friends, I was interested in checking out two brewpubs located in this city.  About an hour's drive from KC, we arrived in town around noon with the first stop along the city's downtown main street at Free State Brewing.  This has the look and feel of a late 1980's classic brewpub, with a small restaurant area and a tiny bar in the corner.  There is also an upstairs area that I did not explore, but assume there is more seating up there.  We hit the place just before the lunch rush, because shortly after we were seated a line of patrons developed.  Our server was very helpful and knowledgeable about the beers, and brought us a large sampler of said beers.  The Miller IPA was wonderful, having a fruity Citra hop flavor and aroma with a thicker mouthfeel than most from oats in the grist.  The stand out beer was the Brightwater Saison, made with Nelson Sauvin hops.  I had a very good beer made with the same hops at the Boulevard tap room, but the Belgian yeast did something to this version that truly made the beer pop with the fine melon and grass of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  Wow!  Every beer here was solid, well crafted and balanced.  Brewer Geoff Deman really knows what he is doing, and I highly recommend a trip down to the brewery.  The fish and chips were also excellent, a perfect match to the beers!

Sj helping me out with a huge sampler!

Now full on good food and beers, we wandered along the main street.  Large sidewalks lined with bars, restaurants of varied cuisines, bookstores, art galleries and junk shops seem to go on for miles.  This was a warm and sunny day, bringing out a mass of people that just added to the feeling of activity rather than seeming crowded.  We discovered a very cool art gallery where I picked up a new large coffee mug.  

Brewing on high at 23rd Street

Once we had run out the parking meter (after Sj running back to feed it one time) we drove to the University area to visit 23rd Street Brewery.  This one is located near a more spread-out part of town and obviously appeals more to the student crowd.  The building is quite large and I bet it gets crowded in the evenings.  Lots of TVs for watching games.  The brewhouse itself is actually up above the bar, and with my fear of heights this does not appeal to me!  At the urging of my friend Chris, I introduced myself to Bucky Buckingham, the friendly and bearded head brewer.  He was a great guy and gave me more information on some of the beers as well as comping my beer sampler!  The beers themselves were pretty good, with some interesting stand-outs.  The Peppercorn Saison tasted a lot like a stronger version of my friend Dave Manley's Belgian Tafelbier and was very refreshing.  Apparently each year Free State, 23rd Street and Blind Tiger all do a collaboration beer and this year's was an oak smoked Gratzer.  Free State's was very light with minimal smoke to it, while 23rd Street's unfiltered version bristled with smokiness in aroma and flavor.  Interesting to try both within the space of an hour, and to hear the story behind them.  The Full Kimono was last year's collaboration, an Imperial Red that now tastes like strong Old Ale!  It sounds like Bucky is leaving to start a brewery in KC, so keep an eye out for him there.

Back to KC!  This was the night of Ali and Greg's wedding so we had to get back into town and get ready.  Our quick trip to Lawrence had taken longer than expected due to the outrageously good beers and bustling environs.  I broke out my new suit, Sj dolled herself into looking even more beautiful than usual, and we headed out via shuttle to the Lutheran church.  Huh, they have Lutherans down here too, who knew?    The wedding itself was very pretty and quick, and then off to the Loose Mansion for the reception.  A free bar with Guinness, mead and specialty cocktails certainly helped make this reception a great one!  The mansion itself was grand, with amazing woodwork detail throughout, and little nooks and crannies that we explored.  Apparently the previous owner earned his millions by inventing the Oreo cookie!  There was a very good buffet including my nemesis the macaroni and cheese bar.  Dang you lactose intolerance!  The band we had seen at The Record Bar earlier that week was playing the wedding so we already knew a few of the songs...I even danced!  This was one of the most fun weddings I've been to and I really appreciate being included in the festivities.
Awesome woodwork
Freaky details on a fireplace at Loose Mansion

No comments: