Dining With Denise Neil

Hopping Gnome turns 2; owners reflect on how hopping it’s become

Torrey and Stacy Lattin will celebrate the second anniversary of their Hopping Gnombe Brewing with events next week.
Torrey and Stacy Lattin will celebrate the second anniversary of their Hopping Gnombe Brewing with events next week.

To celebrate their sixth wedding anniversary earlier this month, Torrey and Stacy Lattin decided to get tattoos.

He chose a giant, colorful, grinning gnome that now fills up his entire forearm, a photo of which Stacy posted on Facebook.

“Hope this Gnome thing works out,” she wrote in the caption.

Two years after the Lattins opened their Hopping Gnome Brewing at 1710 E. Douglas, it looks like things will work out just fine. Since opening on May 29, 2015, the brewery has been more popular and more in-demand than the couple ever imagined, they say, and they have plans to keep growing it in the future.

The brewery will celebrate its anniversary this Wednesday through Sunday with a lineup of events.

“We wanted the taproom to be small and cozy, and we thought we’d have a few people here and there throughout the evenings,” Stacy said. “We had no idea that we would be completely packed.”

Hopping Gnome was one of the first in Wichita’s new crop of craft breweries to open. It was even open a few months before its popular nearby neighbor, Central Standard Brewing.

Like many home brewers, Torrey was a hobbyist who wanted to share his creations. He and Stacy decided to model their brewery after the ones they visited in other cities and loved – small and intimate with free popcorn, games and a laid-back vibe. But as soon as they opened, the craft beer scene in Wichita exploded, and their intimate brewery was frequently shoulder-to-shoulder with customers.

“We opened at 5 o’clock, and people were lining up outside the door,” Stacy remembers. “We hadn’t even gotten ready yet. I was still putting merchandise away. I was standing on a ladder, and I was like, ‘They’re coming!’ 

During the past two years, the couple have made adjustments to accommodate their fans. They added two new fermenter tanks, which helps them brew more beer that they can put on tap at local bars and restaurants. (It also helps them keep the tap room from running out of beer, which commonly happened before.)

They also changed their tables and chairs and reconfigured them in a way that they could get more people seated on busy nights.

The craft beer boom helped establish them, Stacy said, but so has the growth of their hip Douglas Design District neighborhood, which included the Donut Whole and Tanya’s Soup Kitchen when they arrived and has continued to grow up around them. Since opening, Hopping Gnome has gained not only a within-walking-distance neighbor in Central Standard but also a popular pizza restaurant right next door. Hopping Gnome now regularly partners with Piatto Neapolitan Pizzeria, which opened in November.

To welcome the restaurant, Hopping Gnome cut down on its food truck schedule and encourages its patrons to order pizza next door, which Piatto will deliver to the brewery. The two businesses also collaborated on a special Hopping Gnome/Piatto beer.

Expansion is possible someday, Stacy said, though she and Torrey still love the small tap room vibe they originally imagined. They’re most excited about adding a front patio, which will happen as soon as construction crews finish a planned remodel of Douglas just in front of their business, a plan that includes expanding the sidewalks.

“When we first created the business plan, we wanted to be really conservative. We wanted to be positive, but we wanted to be realistic,” she said. “It has gone a lot better than we expected.”

Celebrate two years with Hopping Gnome

The brewery will put on birthday Wednesday through Sunday.

▪ Wednesday: At 6 p.m., the brewery will put on a beer and cake pairing. Participants will pair three Monica’s Bundt Cake mini-cakes with a beer flight.

▪ Thursday: The former owner of Hungry Heart will serve some of his old favorites starting at 6 p.m., and the brewery will also do a beer tapping.

▪ Friday: Hopping Gnome will put on a Final Friday art show as well as a beer tapping. Next door, Piatto Neapolitan Pizzeria will make and deliver to Hopping Gnome patrons a special birthday pizza.

▪ Saturday. Starting at noon, Let’m Eat Brats will be serving outside, and the brewery will do a birthday firkin tapping. Starting at 8 p.m., Summon the Storm will perform. Admission is free.

▪  May 28: The brewery is inviting customers to bring a brunch dish to share, and it will serve a birthday cake made by Monica’s Bundt Cake using Hopping Gnome Beer. Brunch starts at noon.