These days, Wichita is in a perpetual state of celebrating Kansas craft beer. It’s hard not to with so many local breweries opening all over town.
But on Monday, an official celebration of craft beer produced in the state will commence. The third annual Kansas Craft Beer Week starts Monday and runs through April 24, and it will be observed in Wichita with a week’s worth of tap takeovers and firkin crackings.
“We want people to see it’s more than just drinking beer,” said Steven Haines, the craft beer manager for House of Schwan. “We’re our own little kind of culture.”
Craft beer has been a growing focus in Kansas and in Wichita over the past several years. Locally, craft brewers have been multiplying. Hanging out at Central Standard Brewing, which opened in August, is now one of the coolest things to do in Wichita – unless you’re hanging out at Hopping Gnome Brewing, buying cans of Wichita Brewing Co.’s beers in local liquor stores, ordering River City Brewing Co. beer on tap at the Monarch, or traveling to try out the new tap room at Walnut River Brewing in El Dorado.
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Kansas Craft Beer Week is a time when people can easily find Kansas- and Wichita-brewed beers in local bars and meet the people who brew them.
The week’s big event is a Firkin Fest that starts at 6 p.m. Wednesday upstairs at River City Brewing Co., 150 N. Mosley. River City, Wichita’s pioneer brewery, has been in business since 1993.
A firkin, for those who don’t know, is a cask of special beer made by breweries that allows them to experiment with different recipes and ingredients. When a firkin is tapped, it must be emptied, and the beer that comes out of it will likely never be reproduced.
Wednesday’s event will feature 15 different firkins, each made by a different Kansas brewery. A punch card entitles tasters to sample from each firkin and meet the people who brewed them. Representatives from most of Wichita’s breweries, plus Tallgrass, Free State and Defiance Brewing out of Hays, will be at the Firkin Fest chatting with beer fans. Chris Arnold, the brewery’s owner, said he hasn’t settled on an exact price for the punch card, but it’ll be between $25 and $30.
The rest of the week, local bars will be serving Kansas beers they don’t normally carry. The week is being observed outside the city, too. Barley’s Brewhaus, a restaurant in Shawnee, will tap several Kansas craft beers at once on Tuesday, including several from Wichita.
Arnold said he’s been happy to see the craft beer scene explode in Wichita. Now, River City is not so lonely, he said with a laugh.
The local interest, which Kansas Craft Beer Week hopes to foster, has even helped River City expand its business. During the past year, it’s upped its production, and recently has added taps of its beer all over town, in places like Old Chicago, the Anchor, Bricktown Brewery and Dempsey’s.
“We’ve seen such a blowup in Kansas in the craft beer industry, and for years, it didn’t exist,” Arnold said. “It’s just a neat week to bring awareness that there’s a really nice beer scene in Kansas. Everyone thinks of Denver and Oregon, but Kansas is growing. We’re up and coming, really.”
Kansas Craft Beer Week
The following is a partial list of bars and restaurants that will be tapping Kansas beers during Kansas Craft Beer Week, Monday through April 24. For more information on places participating, visit the Kansas Craft Beer Week Facebook page.
Lucky’s Everyday, 1217 E. Douglas: River City, Hopping Gnome, Wichita Brewing Co., Walnut River
The Anchor, 1109 E. Douglas: River City, Hopping Gnome Wichita Brewing Co., Tallgrass, Defiance, Central Standard, Walnut River
Ziggy’s Pizza, 3700 E. Douglas: Walnut River, Wichita Brewing Co.
Dempsey’s Burger Pub, 3700 E. Douglas: Wichita Brewing Co., Central Standard Brewing and Odell collaboration, Defiance
Fork and Fennel, 3425 E. Douglas: Wichita Brewing Co., Walnut River, River City
Old Chicago, several Wichita locations: Walnut River, Wichita Brewing Co.
The Hill Bar & Grill, 4800 E. Douglas: Tallgrass, Walnut River
River City Brewing Co., 150 N. Mosley: Firkin Fest
The Monarch, 579 W. Douglas: Walnut River, Wichita Brewing Co., Tallgrass, River City, Hopping Gnome
Mort’s, 923 E. First St.: Wichita Brewing Co., River City
Public at the Brickyard, 129 N. Rock Island: Central Standard and Odell collaboration, Defiance, River City
Deano’s, 9747 E. 21st St.: Wichita Brewing Co., River City, Tallgrass
Fox & Hound, 1421 Waterfront: Walnut River, Defiance, Tallgrass, Wichita Brewing Co., River City
Bricktown Brewery, 2142 N. Tyler Road and 2035 N. Rock Road: River City, Defiance, Tallgrass, Walnut River