I don’t think I was awake for much of the drive from Des Moines, IA through Missouri, and woke up around Kansas City. We crossed in to Kansas and headed straight for the city of Lawrence, KS. Our friend Tim suggested we meet at Free State Brewing, which is located on the main street among a mixture of small family businesses that range from practical to funky, and higher-end stores I expect to see in fancy malls.
The building is a former trolley station, and retains many of the original features (if you go, look up!), but is well suited for a crowded restaurant with multiple choices for seating areas. Plenty of people also chose to move outside to the street patio (drinking only.) We sat in the front of the restaurant, near the crowded bar and under the balcony seating. The businesses in Lawrence, KS are all non-smoking, so we knew the air would be breathable from any table!
The place was humming, but we had no problem getting a table. We were thrilled when Tim arrived – we hadn’t seen him in more than a year and missed him so much, plus he was our guide to local beer! The staff was extremely friendly, and they knew about beer, which is always a help. They had three “beers of the day” on the menu, offered at a reduced price, but everything was reasonably priced anyway.
We tried four of the styles they had on tap (I was too excited about seeing Tim to take great notes on the variety of beers available):
- Belgian Wheat (4.8% ABV; 16 IBU) – this Wit style beer features a “sprinkling of oats in unmalted wheat with Mt. Hood hops, Kansas honey, coriander and two types of orange peel.” It was light yellow and cloudy with a bright white head, and the flavors of citrus and spice made it very enjoyable on this very hot day.
- Copperhead Pale Ale (5.5% ABV; 52.5 IBU) – made with
Yakima and Chinook hops, this pale ale had a terrific dry-hopped aroma and refreshing, crisp flavor. It is a local favorite.
- Ad Astra Ale (4.5% ABV; 24 IBU) – Tim ordered this amber; pretty non-descript, but apparently tastiest when mixed with the Possum Trot Brown Ale.
- Oatmeal Stout (5.7% ABV; 42 IBU) – I didn’t try this one, but D said it was similar to the Blackhawk Stout at Old Court, but the oatmeal gave it better body. Made with Northern Brewer and Fuggles Hops.
The menu at Free State was really nice, although I didn’t take great notes on the sorts of things they had – again, too interested in reuniting with our friend. D ate the fish and chips, which he really seemed to enjoy. Tim and I both got the same salad – pieces of smoked trout on a bed of watercress with a tasty fruited dressing. It was a Monday night, and the traffic in this place never stopped. We walked the length of the downtown and back, and the line appeared to only get longer as the evening went on.