You can be the casual summer beer drinker who cracks open a cold one in the shade after a sweaty day of yard work or brat grilling.
Or, if you’re a little more serious about your brew, you can spend the summer transforming into a full-fledged beer geek who drinks only Kansas-brewed beer, spends weekends touring brewing facilities, and easily rattles off the definitions of hops, barley and wort.
Kansas will likely never be the microbrewery capital that its neighbor, Colorado, has become. But over the past few years, the state has developed a respectable craft beer scene, and interest in it grows every day, say local brewers.
The state is home to several thriving breweries, including two with plans for big expansion. The new Walnut Brewing Co. in El Dorado is in the middle of its transition from a two barrel to a 30 barrel operation, and Tallgrass Brewery in Manhattan has plans to triple its production with a new $5.5 million factory that should be ready to go late this year. Tallgrass owners also have plans to open a restaurant, Tallgrass Taphouse, in Aggieville this fall.
Wichita can claim two homegrown breweries – River City Brewing Co. in Old Town and Wichita Brewing Co. and Pizzeria in west Wichita – and both report that business is growing at a rapid rate as more people develop an interest in craft beer.
“It’s unbelievable,” said River City Brewing Co. operating partner Chris Arnold, who is in the process of transitioning into a lighter summer beer lineup. “Since about 2009, we have almost doubled the amount of beer we’re putting out. It’s huge and continues and continues to grow as we get people excited and enthusiastic about it.”
The following is a list of microbreweries in Kansas that beer lovers can spend the summer investigating.
The restaurant/brewery has become a go-to spot for serious beer fans, many of whom show up at 6 p.m. every Thursday for the tapping of a new “firkin,” a small barrel of experimental beer produced by the brewers. River City also features a menu of beer-infused dishes.
In addition to its lineup of lighter beers such as Belgian wits and refreshing pale ales, Arnold said, summertime at River City also will bring a new menu of beer-infused cocktails. Owners also are toying with the idea of introducing house-made fruit syrups that can transform a wheat beer into a fruity wheat beer on the spot.
Wichita brewery chains
Notable Kansas restaurant/breweries
Open for tours and tastings
Brand new, coming soon