Brownback tests namesake wheat beer

TOPEKA — A microbrewery is toasting Gov.-elect Sam Brownback's coming inauguration with a wheat beer named for him, and he gave the new brew his blessing when he sampled it this week.

The owners of the Blind Tiger Brewery and Restaurant approached Brownback's transition team several weeks ago with the idea of drafting a beer in his honor. The brewery produced about 430 gallons of Brownback Wheat Beer and is selling it in its restaurant — and plans to sell it at his inaugural dinner and ball Jan. 8, two days before he takes office.

Brownback and members of his family and staff stopped by the Blind Tiger on Tuesday to try the beer and munch on chips and other appetizers. The beer is a rich brown, but it's less heavy and has less bite than a brew of that color would suggest. It's served chilled to 38 degrees.

"I do like a good beer, and they've done a nice job here with the wheat beer," Brownback said. "I'm partial to wheat beer, being a Kansan."

Blind Tiger owner Jay Ives said he's not making a political statement by honoring Brownback, a Republican, with a beer. He and his business partner, Tim Swietek, bought the establishment four years ago and haven't had a chance to honor a new governor. Ives described the new beer as a patriotic gesture that honors Kansas.

"It wouldn't matter if he were Democrat, Republican or tea party," Ives said.

Ives said Brownback's inaugural committee suggested making the brew a wheat beer, and Blind Tiger brewmaster John Dean set about working on it. The brewing and fermenting took about two weeks, with the color determined largely by the amount and type of barley used along with the wheat.

"Kansas being a wheat state, it seemed appropriate to brew a wheat beer," Dean said. "I played off the Brownback name a little bit and made the beer brown in color."

Ives said the Blind Tiger's next specialty brew will honor the 150th anniversary of Kansas' admission to the union on Jan. 29.