After years of selling their beer in other Wichita businesses, the partners in El Dorado-based Walnut River Brewing Co. are going to have their own Wichita presence with the Pour House, a tap house they plan to open later this year in the former Mumbai Rail Indian Bistro space at Union Station.
"We liked the cozy feel of our current tap room and wanted to somewhat replicate that in Wichita," says B.J. Hunt, who is partners with Rick Goehring and Travis Rohrberg.
The Pour House will have more than 5,000 square feet at 711 E. Douglas where it will brew beer and serve food.
"It'll be a great place to grab some lunch, but we don't want to lose our beer focus," Hunt says.
There will be a patio and upstairs meeting space as well.
When Hunt and Goehring started brewing beer for the public several years ago, they said they considered themselves a Wichita business even though they operated in El Dorado to take advantage of what Hunt calls the "fantastic" quality of water there.
"It was very much a small brew system, and you could only get beer to go," Hunt says.
Then, they opened a tiny tap house.
"Basically, it was a flea market with a brewery in the back," he says of the shared space. "You could come in and get a pink flamingo and a growler of beer. It was kind of strange."
Since then, they expanded at 111 W. Locust in El Dorado, and they've started selling in other Wichita businesses such as liquor stores, restaurants and the arena.
"It's our biggest market by a long shot," Hunt says.
A Wichita brewery "was always in the back of our mind."
"Numerous times, we thought we'd found the perfect place," Hunt says. "We've joked that we've seen every open property in Wichita the last two years."
The Union Station space "felt right," he says, in part because it wasn't too big.
"We're going to take our original small system that everything started on," Hunt says of brewing equipment for the Wichita site. "It's worked for us before, so we're going to use it again in Wichita."
He describes Walnut River beer as "very drinkable."
"A little more traditional beers typically, although we're not opposed to shaking things up."
For instance, they've tried barrel-aged beers.
The partners helped push the state for higher alcohol limits and got it with alcohol-by-volume percentages up from 12.5 percent to more than 18 percent.
Hunt says they're also adding 50 percent more brewing capacity with new tanks in El Dorado where they'll still do their main beer production.
Between that and the original system going in the Pour House, Hunt says, "Absolutely don't forget where you came from."