Wichitans have fewer excuses every day for drinking boring beer.
Not only can the city claim two homegrown breweries — River City Brewery Co. in Old Town and Wichita Brewing Co. and Pizzeria in west Wichita — but the number of restaurants serving craft beers seems to grow all the time.
This weekend, Wichita Brewing Co. is celebrating its one-year anniversary by brewing some of its original beers, testing out some new ones and putting them all on sale.
Also, Wichita has just gained a new beer purveyor in BJ’s Brewhouse, which opened a couple of weeks ago at Kellogg and Rock Road. Though BJ’s doesn’t brew its beers on site — they’re shipped in from the brewing headquarters in Texas — the menu boasts a long list of tasty pints, from pale ale to porter.
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Following is a list of some of the many establishments in Wichita and beyond that cater to connoisseurs of beer.
Made in Wichita
• Wichita Brewing Co. and Pizzeria, 8815 W. 13th St., 316-440-2885, www.wichitabrew.com: Businessmen and buddies Jeremy Horn and Greg Gifford started out brewing beer at home, just as a hobby. Then, they got pretty good at it. Last summer, the two opened their pizza restaurant/brewery at 13th and Tyler. A year later, business is good, and regular customers are a mix of families who come to eat pizza and beer fans who come to see what the guys are mixing up this month.
The restaurant has become known for its “epic” beers, which offer a higher alcohol content, and this summer, the brewers have been experimenting with infusing fruit into the wheat beers. This weekend’s one-year anniversary celebration will feature watermelon-flavored beer. (The peach just ran out.) The bar has six standard beers that always are on tap, including a wheat, an India pale ale and a vanilla porter, and it rotates out one or two seasonal specials.
Horn said he’s surprised a town Wichita’s size has only two breweries that make their beers from scratch. But the number of people who appreciate craft beer in Wichita is growing, he said.
“I think people just generally enjoy good flavors and robust flavors,” he said. “We don’t eat Triscuit crackers every night for dinner. We want flavor. Once people realize you can get diverse flavors in beer, something like Bud Light doesn’t have as much appeal.”
• River City Brewing Co., 150 N. Mosley, 316-263-2739, www.rivercitybrewingco.com: Wichita’s original brewery was one of the first businesses to open in the developing Old Town district back in 1993. It’s still popular today and keeps eight of its own beers on tap all the time, including the popular Harvester Wheat and Tornado Alley IPA. It also offers a recently updated menu featuring 13 new items that use beer in the recipes, including a chicken marinated in beer and a stout float, made by pouring vanilla stout over homemade stout ice cream.
• BJ’s Brewhouse, 7960 E. Kellogg, 316-687-0250, www.bjsbrewhouse.com: This fancy new brewpub just opened and — in addition to a mammoth menu — it features several signature beers on tap, including an amber, an IPA, a porter, a stout, a blonde and seasonal beers that come and go. The beer is made by the BJ’s chain in Texas and shipped to Wichita’s restaurant.
• Granite City Food and Brewery : 2244 N. Webb Road, 316-636-5050, and 2661 N. Maize Road, 316-721-8500, www.gcfb.net: Wichita’s two Granite City restaurants opened in 2005 (east) and 2006 (west) and feature signature beers that are mostly made in Wichita. The “sweet wort,” which is the essence of beer, is shipped to individual restaurants from Iowa, then fermented and finished on site. Granite City has six beers always on tap, including a light lager, a wheat and a stout, and it switches others out seasonally.
Notable Kansas breweries
• Hank Is Wiser, 213 N. Main, Cheney, 316-542-0113, www.hankiswiserbrewery.com: This is a family-owned brewpub that opened in 2005 in downtown Cheney. It’s open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays only and features four hand-crafted beers.
• Lb. Brewing Co, 117 E. 11th, Hays, 785-621-2739, www.lbbrewing.com: This microbrewery and diner opened in the summer of 2005 and has won several awards for its hand-crafted beers, particularly its oatmeal stout.
• Mo’s Brew Pub, 1908 Elm St., Beaver, 620-587-2350, mosbrewpub.com: Located in a teeny town, Moe’s serves six handmade brews, including Crazy Hawk Red and Purple Cat Pale. It’s open Wednesdays through Saturdays and serves burgers, sandwiches, steaks and gizzards.
• Blind Tiger, 17 SW 37th St., Topeka, 785-267-2739, www.blindtiger.com: Blind Tiger opened in 1995 in Topeka and serves nine hand-crafted ales. The large menu features steaks, ribs, barbecue, pasta and more.
• Free State Brewing, 636 Massachusetts St., Lawrence, 785-843-4555, www.freestatebrewing.com: This Lawrence favorite has been around since 1989 and is one of the most popular restaurants in the college town. Its beers recently became available in liquor stores in Wichita.
• 23rd Street Brewery, 3512 Clinton Parkway, Lawrence, 785-856-2337, http://www.brew23.com : This brewery opened in Lawrence in 2004 and is an offshoot of the 75th Street Brewery in Kansas City, Mo.
• Little Apple Brewing Company, 110 Westloop, Manhattan, 785-539-5500, littleapplebrewery.com: Little Apple is known as much for its steaks as it is for its craft brews.