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Archive for Friday, November 30, 2007

Free State to start bottling beer

New production center in east Lawrence to enable regional distribution of beverages

Brewer Kevin Prescott makes his way through Free State Brewing Co. as he prepares a batch of beer for fermentation Thursday. The popular brewery at 636 Mass. is expanding its beer production capability by leasing a building at 1927 Moodie Road. The goal is to make the company's beer products available for regional distribution.

Brewer Kevin Prescott makes his way through Free State Brewing Co. as he prepares a batch of beer for fermentation Thursday. The popular brewery at 636 Mass. is expanding its beer production capability by leasing a building at 1927 Moodie Road. The goal is to make the company's beer products available for regional distribution.

November 30, 2007

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Major expansion brewing for Free State

If you relish the Invigerator Dopplebock or the Octoberfest at Lawrence's Free State Brewing Company, you're in luck. A planned expansion for the business will have them making more of everything on tap and pouring more time into new creations. Enlarge video

Free State Brewing Co. is expanding its beer-making prowess into east Lawrence, part of a strategy to bolster the company's specialty beers and boost sales into regional markets.

Free State will continue to own and operate its popular brewpub at 636 Mass., the first legal microbrewery in Kansas since Prohibition, but that operation soon will get some relief.

That's because now, thanks to a change in state law sought by Free State proprietor Chuck Magerl, the company next year will open a brewing-and-bottling operation in a warehouse at 1927 Moodie Road.

The new production center will allow Free State to continue making about 2,500 barrels of beer each year downtown, while adding another 25,000 at the new location.

The extra beer capacity means that Free State will go beyond selling kegs to a handful of bars and restaurants in Lawrence, Topeka, Kansas City and Wichita - already stretching the limits of the company's brewing equipment - and instead add customers throughout Kansas and into Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska.

The brewery also looks to start bottling beer and selling it in retail liquor stores, possibly by the end of 2008.

"Our anticipation is that by next year at this time, it will be part of the holiday offerings," Magerl said. "You'll be able to have bottles with your Thanksgiving dinner."

Free State is expanding as the U.S. craft beer industry continues to grow and add market share.

Such operations increased production by 11.7 percent last year, and they've already upped the beer flow by 11 percent through the first half of 2007, said Cindy Jones, a spokeswoman for the Brewers Association, a trade group in Boulder, Colo. Last year's sales hit $4.2 billion, a number expected to rise to $4.7 billion this year.

Free State's project has been years in the making. Magerl and others with Free State have been looking for a way to build on the tremendous popularity of its products, without losing the unique atmosphere and character that come with being a Lawrence institution.

The answer comes on Moodie Road, inside a warehouse used for years by A.B. Coker, which closed in July. The 10,000-square-foot building is more than big enough to accommodate the massive brewing system that Magerl purchased from Widmer Brewing Co. in Portland, Ore., a company that had used the equipment to make 70,000 barrels of beer last year.

"It has the capability of production in magnitudes that we never even would dream of utilizing fully," Magerl said. "We have no illusion of producing that much beer."

But 25,000 barrels - that's 50,000 kegs - is not out of the question, he said. And that's still a considerable jump, considering Free State sold 800 barrels last year to a relative handful of restaurants and bars.

"We've had to tell our wholesaler, Standard Beverage, to put the brakes on and not go out and get any more new accounts, because we're pushed to our limits," Magerl said. "This will allow us to pursue that once again."

Expanding production capacity in east Lawrence, Magerl said, also will help ease pressures on operations on Massachusetts Street.

And that has Steve Bradt smiling.

Bradt, Free State's brewmaster, said that operating at capacity certainly was a good problem to have. But next year, after the center on Moodie Road opens, he plans to have room on Massachusetts Street to resume production of some specialty beers: Old Backus Barleywine, Owd Mac's Imperial, and any in a series of Eccentricity brews that call for aging in old whiskey barrels for a year, maybe two, before being poured for a discerning public.

"Brewing is both an art and a science," Bradt said. "Both of them have a lot of appeal to me, but the artistic part - the opportunity to make new flavors - is a very exciting part of the job."

Free State has no immediate plans to add employees as part of the expansion, which is set to go online in the middle of 2008, Magerl said. But eventually he could foresee adding to his team of four brewers - Bradt, Jeff Deman, Kevin Prescott and Luke Otter - once production ramps, and perhaps some outside sales positions to help expand the Free State brand.

Magerl said that Free State had the opportunity to do the expansion in other communities in northeast Kansas, but wanted to stay close to home.

"We're still pretty gung ho on Lawrence," Magerl said. "Part of that is that we want to maintain the same flavor, and we want to maintain our name recognition. We want it to be a Lawrence product through and through."

Comments

staff04 7 years ago

Informed, you and I are on exactly the same page there!

Everytime I have driven back or had someone drive out here, there has been a trunk full of beer--stuff I can't get here. Until now it has been Boulevard and New Belgium, but now...heavenly. I could go for an oatmeal stout...right now.

geekin_topekan 7 years ago

A Gallon of Cooperhead by the dropin center is a marvelous way to start a SUnday AM!! Freestate brew!!The official beverage of the open shelter's Sunday bruch.

rumor_man 7 years ago

Anhueser-Busch was a micro-brewery at one time....just sayin'

Ian Sotomayor 7 years ago

Overrated?! Come on, quit drinking hater-aid. Hat's off to FSB and all who work there. I believe they are committed to excellence and that's why we keep hearing about them. The Kansas micro brewing industry and beer connoisseurs alike owe Chuck and crew thanks. They have something special going on there and we are lucky to have a place like Free State in Lawrence.

Mkh 7 years ago

This is old news for us Free State regulars...but still congrats are in order for Chuck and the Free State staff. Keep up the good work!

salad 7 years ago

"A Gallon of Cooperhead by the dropin center is a marvelous way to start a SUnday AM!!"

Preach it brothah!

Seriously, Freestate has the best and largest variety of beers of any place I've been. They kick the crap out of Boulevard. Cooper Head is hands down the best beer I've ever drank (I'm really partial to IPA though), and I've drank ALOT of beer in alot of countries and states. All hail freestate!!! Godbless yummy beer!

goodcitizen 7 years ago

What? Someone can expand their business and marketshare in Lawrence without a tax abatement or rebate?

Kat Christian 7 years ago

Way to go familyman said it as I would have - I believe they are committed to excellence and that's why we keep hearing about them. The Kansas micro brewing industry and beer connoisseurs alike owe Chuck and crew thanks. They have something special going on there and we are lucky to have a place like Free State in Lawrence.

But does this mean they will up a glass of beer AGAIN? I lived here 5 years before they raised the cost of a glass and since then they've raised it 2 more times. With gas prices on the rise I'm lucky I can afford a glass of beer once a month if any now. But they do have something special going on. Just hope it doesn't go to their heads and they decide to get greedy and lose that quality.

I hate amhuser-Bush beer.

thomgreen 7 years ago

Good to hear, I hate being forced to drink a whole growler all by myself. Bottles are much easier to deal with, and I can finally take some to friends in other states.

walkdog262 7 years ago

Here's hoping they expand their distribution to Minnesota - not that I need an excuse to drink more. Beer fans, if you come to the Twin Cities, try Surly Bender or Surly Furious. It's the best beer you'll ever taste, even better than Free State. And I'm not kidding. It's so damn popular they can't make enough of it and you have to luck out at the liquor store to find it.

KUDB99 7 years ago

Copperhead is the best beer on the planet....except for FSB's Octoberfest, and maybe Ad Astra, or possibly Wheat State on a summer afternoon....uh oh, maybe bottling this isn't such a great idea!

This is great for Free State, and great for Lawrence! I'm looking forward to being able to get Free State beers, and keep them longer than a day or two before it goes flat in a growler, not that many growlers lasted more than a day or two in my house, though.

KUDB99 7 years ago

hey Logicsound....step away from the keyboard, pick up your Coors Light, and please skip the next time you have any opinions on beer.

23rd street brewery, I can't even touch FSB for quality.

Walkdog, I've had those Minnesota beers, and they are very good...but for my money, I still would have to go with Copperhead.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years ago

It's been a couple of months since I was in 23rd St., and while there beer was considerably better than that location has historically had, by and large, I didn't find their beers to be as consistently good as the Free State's.

But, hey, there's no accounting for taste, now is there?

salad 7 years ago

Isn't 23rd street brewery run by the guys who opperate 75th st. brewery in Brookside? 75th st. brewery has good beer too, it ain't no Freestate, but it's better than Boulevard. Therefore:

""23rd St. Brewery's beer is better anyway."

FAIL!!! You fail! 404 error: failure to recognize taste buds.

KUDB99 7 years ago

"404 error: failure to recognize taste buds"

LMAO....thank you salad, that just made my day.....

gogoplata 7 years ago

Is Copperhead going to be one that gets bottled?

BigPrune 7 years ago

A growler? I heard this word before but not used to describe a beer. It is for something thick, typically brown with an unpleasant odor. That's a growler.

salad 7 years ago

"Is Copperhead going to be one that gets bottled?"

If it doesn't, then atheists the world over shall rejoice in proof of their theory.

Paul Geisler 7 years ago

I say more power to Chuck, Steve, and the rest of the crew at FSB! I can hardly wait to share bottled FS beer with my friends outside of KS! And while I love filling up my growlers, it's not the same as buying a 6-pack since a growler will only keep the beer fresh for 4-7 days and it should be consumed (every last drop!) within 2-3 days from when it's opened.

As a former employee of FSB and frequent patron, I certainly love their beer and food at FS, however one of my former FSB coworkers (and former 75th St brewer) is now the head brewer at 23rd Street Brewery so I have to tip my hat to Bucky and his crew for making some wonderful brews on the West side of town! If you haven't been in there in the past few months you should check them out again. Obviously there is plenty demand to keep both businesses afloat! :-)

Too early for a beer??? On a FRIED-DAY??? C'mon! Like I often say, it's 5 o`clock somewhere!

grimpeur 7 years ago

thomgreen: "Good to hear, I hate being forced to drink a whole growler all by myself."

This is a problem?

And by "problem," I mean, "one of the major food groups."

Perhaps you didn't realize that "growler" comes from an old Norse word meaning "convenient single-serving size."

gogoplata 7 years ago

They need to make the growlers about 25% bigger. That would make them perfect for one person. They are a 1/2 gallon right. So that is 64oz vs 72oz in a 6 pack. Thats strange. I usually drink about 5 beers out of a six pack of bottled beer, but when I finish of a Freestate jug I still feel I need just a little more.

Marcy McGuffie 7 years ago

Oh gawd how I'd love me some Eccentricity or barleywine right now.

I heart Free State beer. This is wonderful news - now more people will have the opportunity to try it!

kneejerkreaction 7 years ago

Most people don't even know the difference between a good beer and a bad one. They just know what they like.

ontheotherhand 7 years ago

23rd St Brewery's dark beer is VERY good, but I also like Free State's Oatmeal Stout. IMO, both are pretty good but Free State has more of what I like: OS, John Brown Ale, Wheat State, ahhhh. The only beer I drink is microbrew so I am glad BOTH places exist! Congrats to Chuck and the gang. Please get it organized so we can give Free State gift packages in 2008!

Ken Miller 7 years ago

Does anyone remember when the building that now houses 23rd Street Brewery went up, the then-owner allegedly left the gas in the kitchen on in an effort to blow the place up? He then skipped the country ( I believe he was from Jordan) and the building sat empty for a year or more before it became "Emerson Biggins?"

Now THAT is some Lawrence trivia/history for you. No charge.

thomgreen 7 years ago

While drinking a whole growler is not necessarily a "problem", it does tend to give me a full belly, and I always feel like a bit of a pig afterwards.

Logan5 7 years ago

I love the John Brown ale when they offer it. We had some friends in town from Germany last year and they wanted to go out for a beer. Of course we went straight to Free State. They tried a variety of flavors and loved them all. We ended up staying for dinner so that we could drink more beer!

storm 7 years ago

I don't think Free State should be making beer, since it's a high school

Doug Fisher 7 years ago

please sell your product in Colorado!!

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