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Archive for Thursday, May 20, 2010

Free at last: After months of anticipation, bottles of Free State beer on sale Friday

Mike Schard and Kyle Case of Standard Beverage Corporation of Lawrence unload and stack the first cases of bottled beer from Free State Brewing Company at Cork and Barrel, 23rd and Iowa streets. The local microbrewery first started trying to bottle beer two years ago and has finally reached the point where it can supply stores in Lawrence. Liquor stores in Topeka, the Kansas side of Kansas City and Wichita should start seeing the beer in the next month.

Mike Schard and Kyle Case of Standard Beverage Corporation of Lawrence unload and stack the first cases of bottled beer from Free State Brewing Company at Cork and Barrel, 23rd and Iowa streets. The local microbrewery first started trying to bottle beer two years ago and has finally reached the point where it can supply stores in Lawrence. Liquor stores in Topeka, the Kansas side of Kansas City and Wichita should start seeing the beer in the next month.

May 20, 2010

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Kyle Case of Standard Beverage Corporation of Lawrence, unloads some of the first cases of bottled Free State Brewing Company beer at Cork and Barrel, 23rd and Iowa streets, about 8 a.m. Friday morning. After years of waiting, the popular local brewery is now ready to distribute bottled beer around Lawrence and soon across Kansas.

Kyle Case of Standard Beverage Corporation of Lawrence, unloads some of the first cases of bottled Free State Brewing Company beer at Cork and Barrel, 23rd and Iowa streets, about 8 a.m. Friday morning. After years of waiting, the popular local brewery is now ready to distribute bottled beer around Lawrence and soon across Kansas.

Chuck Magerl walks through the Free State Brewing Co. bottling facility.

Chuck Magerl walks through the Free State Brewing Co. bottling facility.

Part of the bottling conveyor machine at Free State's East Lawrence facility.

Part of the bottling conveyor machine at Free State's East Lawrence facility.

The four Free State beers that will be initially distributed in bottles around Kansas starting Friday in Lawrence. The label and box design were done by Lawrence's Callahan-Creek, Inc.

The four Free State beers that will be initially distributed in bottles around Kansas starting Friday in Lawrence. The label and box design were done by Lawrence's Callahan-Creek, Inc.

"Barring a flood or tornado, Free State bottles will be for sale Friday morning."

Free State beer hitting the shelves

The beer sold at Free State Brewery is now available at local liquor stores and around the area. The brewery's top four beers are currently available. Enlarge video

So said owner Chuck Magerl after the last of 1,600 cases of Free State Brewery's first bottled beer was picked up for distribution to Lawrence liquor stores Thursday afternoon.

Magerl is understandably evasive on definite timelines when it comes to the years-in-coming schedule for bottles of Ad Astra, Copperhead, Wheatstate Golden and Oatmeal Stout.

First, there was the 2008 fire that set production back two years and caused $1 million in damage to Free State's brand new bottling facility. Then there were the pesky little details of packaging thousands of bottles for mass distribution, which delayed distribution a few weeks in May.

Like how to efficiently unfold six-pack carriers en masse without a specialized machine. Or how to fine-tune the Laverne & Shirley-style conveyor equipment that rinses the bottles, fills them with beer, caps them, glues on the labels and queues them up for packaging.

"It took us longer than we thought to dial in the equipment — both the bottling and labeling components — to get it to the standards we expected," Magerl said. "It just took us a little extra time to make sure the equipment was working to our specs."

And now that they are, Lawrence gets the first payload. If all goes well, next week Topeka stores will get a delivery. Then the next week Kansas City, Kansas, stores will get a delivery. Then Wichita sometime in June. And then beyond.

Magerl's not sure how their equipment's capacity will handle whatever demand there is for bottled Free State beer, so he won't venture a guess on how wide and how far and how soon Lawrence's beer will be available. Afterall, there's no speed switch on a brewery operation.

"You can't push fermentation," Magerl said. "The yeast will only operate at a certain pace and we don't have any intention of cutting short the normal aging time just to get more beer into the marketplace. We've got our tanks full and are brewing every week, but not over-extending ourselves and causing shortages in stores. That's why we're rolling it out on a staged basis rather than trying to say 'Come on everybody in Kansas!'"

For now, he could say 'Come on everybody in Lawrence,' though. For Friday anyway.

Jeff Jensen, owner of Jensen Liquor, has no doubt it will go fast at $7.99 a six-pack (note: bottles will only be available at liquor stores initially — Free State has no plans to sell them at the brewery at this point).

"The hype has been in the air for a couple months now," Jensen says. "Really, the excitement is at a fevered pitch, I'd say."

He doesn't necessarily expect to see people camped outside his store when he opens at 10 a.m., but he says that might just be because word hasn't got out yet that Friday is indeed — at long last — THE day.

"Once the public actually knows that tomorrow's the day, I think people will be here very early in the morning when we open up, for sure. Everybody's super, super excited."


Note: A feature on Chuck Magerl is coming Tuesday, as well as a Thursday What is That Thing? story on the Walruff Brewery, the late 1800s Lawrence company that inspired Magerl to quit his engineering degree at KU (one semester before graduating) to start Free State Brewery.

Comments

smerdyakov 4 years, 7 months ago

I love that they're going to Wichitany before KCMO. /That/ is Free State beer.

paavopetie 4 years, 7 months ago

it has more to do with cross the state border and liquor laws. remember, it wasn't too long ago in kansas you had to be "private member" of the drinking establishment in order to buy a drink.

smerdyakov 4 years, 7 months ago

Huh—guess I thought it was just a matter of Magerl's prioritizing what areas would get distro first. Doesn't seem like there would be any laws preventing him from serving KCMO before Wichita...? They've already got kegs going over there, I think.

riverdrifter 4 years, 7 months ago

The world just got a little better! I dunno. I always enjoy my Saturday afternoon drive through the country to the brewery with 3-4 growlers for me and my pals, pulling over on a township road to crack open a jug and enjoy an Ad Astra. This is good news but we're not tossing our growlers.

KUnlv13 4 years, 7 months ago

Would love to know what plans, if any, are in the works for distribution out of state. I bartend part-time at a renown beer bar in Las Vegas, and once I tell them of my time at KU I'm always then asked if I've ever tasted/sold/plan to acquire good ole' FreeState beer by tourists from all over the country. Good suds, best of luck to the operation.

Rex Russell 4 years, 7 months ago

I have exKU friends who have had long standing orders to send some as soon as this day arrives.

Boston_Corbett 4 years, 7 months ago

Impossible!!

Chuck told us multiple time that the smoking ordinance was going to force Free State to close!!!

How's that going?

Kat Christian 4 years, 7 months ago

The bottle tastes just as good, if not better.

smerdyakov 4 years, 7 months ago

A case of Copper + TSH/Split Lip and the rest at Festy Fest + sunshine at last = a damn fine start to summer!

somedude20 4 years, 7 months ago

I know that nothing beats getting Freestate right out of the tap but for $7.99 a sixer that is cheaper than payying $3.25 a pint. Nice! After work, I am getting some (without having to use a railroad spike)

woodscolt 4 years, 7 months ago

yep, but that 3.25 comes with a lot of mopping and a lot of dishing. either way is a winner.

fabian_zimbabwe 4 years, 7 months ago

BTW, somedude20, I've been meaning to tell you that I love your profile pic...one of my favorite flicks! "But these go to eleven..."

deadanimals 4 years, 7 months ago

Had some last night! Make no mistake, it tastes exactly as good as it does from the tap...which is a little bit of an odd sensation...as if walked into the brewery, they grabbed an emply bottle, filled it up and handed it to you. The labels and packaging are also very true to the feel of the Free State and Lawrence.

Very nice!

smerdyakov 4 years, 7 months ago

They have a bottling plant separate from the brewery.

9070811 4 years, 7 months ago

I thought the name of the company was "Standard Beverage Company."

Jonathan Kealing 4 years, 7 months ago

It's one way in the phone book and another on their website. Photographer went with phone book, it's actually what's on their website. It's fixed now.

spiff 4 years, 7 months ago

I'm glad the price is right.

Excitement.

hricane23 4 years, 7 months ago

The folks waiting at "On the Rocks" almost couldn't wait for the truck to unload!

Congratulations, Chuck!

hricane23 4 years, 7 months ago

The folks waiting at "On the Rocks" almost couldn't wait for the truck to unload!

Congratulations, Chuck!

BigPrune 4 years, 7 months ago

Well at least they're not bottling their mediocre food.

smerdyakov 4 years, 7 months ago

Wow— Jensen's is almost out already... best hurry folks!

trinity 4 years, 7 months ago

lol-and on my baby daughter's 23rd birthday no less! she's already sent me a pic via phone of her 6-er, lol. maybe she'll pass one of her growlers along to mama!

Bursting 4 years, 7 months ago

I can't wait to kick back with a few cold ones from Free State and watch FESTYFEST this weekend! All weekend long baby! Festyfest.com

Robert Rauktis 4 years, 7 months ago

Appropriate name for this commenter: "Well at least they're not bottling their mediocre food."

Dispersant 4 years, 7 months ago

Waaaaaah, waaaaaaah! Free State food sucks! Obama's president! Waaaaaaaaaah! My life is horrible!!!!!!!

Well, I got a 6-r of Copperhead and a 6-r of Oatmeal Stout! Obama's president and the sun is shining! Free State's food is the best!

Life is a pretty sweet fruit!

woodscolt 4 years, 7 months ago

ahh!!!! The truth is out. If you thought it was just the great staff, great people and great atmosphere that made Free State Beer so good, your partly right. I have been searching liquor stores for years and tried every pale ale I could find and never found one that was "just right." I just finished my first bottle of copperhead (yep just one) and alas, my search is over. However, a fellow copperhead told me a long time ago that the reason I couldn't find that "just right" pale ale is because I was really looking for a copperhead. He was right and alas , I found it. Gotta go, time for an oatmeal stout.

maxcrabb 4 years, 7 months ago

6 pack copperhead 6 pack ad astra

Now if only they packaged and sold their artichoke dip. I would never leave the house.

life is good.

alm77 4 years, 7 months ago

I was totally thinking the exact same thing this evening. Guess they're holding that back to keep us coming in. ;)

Dispersant 4 years, 7 months ago

They already gave out their Cheddar Ale Soup recipe here a few weeks ago, maybe they'll do the same with the dip. That would be sweeeeet!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 7 months ago

"Which of these is closest to Boulevard?"

Depends on which flavor of Boulevard you're talking about.

cutny 4 years, 7 months ago

  1. I like the food at Free State. It kicks ass and is a heckuva deal.
  2. It's just beer, people.
  3. They've been selling and drinking it for about a thousand years now.

KUnlv13 4 years, 7 months ago

Not to be too jerkish', but I'll give it a go: To you, it's just beer. To many, it's a Bud Light, and just fine. To others, it's about flavor, hence the need for operations like Stone, Rogue, Sierra Nevada, Goose Island, Rogue, and now , for the benefit of Lawrence; Free State.

The food is pretty good, but not stellar; but a brewpub should focus more on the beer (as they have) thus the overwhelmingly positive response.

www.beeradvocate.com

Dispersant 4 years, 7 months ago

Free State Copperhead is better than Boulevard Pale Ale IMO, and I'm a big fan of Bully Pale (and all of their beers). Go with the FS Copper. It'll be a nice change. But...

1) Serve it at the right temperature, preferably in a glass.

2) Hurry up, this first batch is going quick!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 7 months ago

"Free State Copperhead is better than Boulevard Pale Ale IMO"

Copperhead is much hoppier than Boulevard PA. So which is "better" primarily depends on how hoppy you like your beer.

smerdyakov 4 years, 7 months ago

Agreed — Bully is the only Blvd I really care for... the new pilsner is ok, as is wheat, but the rest is /just not copperhead/

You gotta drink at least a few outta the bottle, for now! Right temp is key tho — reminds me, I left one in the freezer overnight. Gah!

hipper_than_hip 4 years, 7 months ago

Copperhead is an India Pale Ale, which has more hops per the style.

paavopetie 4 years, 7 months ago

Does anyone else have a Jack In The Box flash ad? Last time I checked, there wasn't one for a hundred miles from lawrence. Are the ad sales guys lying about where Lawrence is?

alm77 4 years, 7 months ago

Great article Phil!

We picked up two 6-ers at On the Rocks. Copperhead and Ad Astra. We didn't see Oatmeal Stout there though :(

lawrencekansan 4 years, 7 months ago

Had the Oatmeal Stout and Copperhead and each were excellent. I was a little worried that the bottled beer wouldn't taste nearly as good as what is on tap, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Ignorant_Yokel 4 years, 7 months ago

Love the beer... but the labels are AWFUL!

Simplify the BRAND. Make it like the t-shirts and growlers.

smerdyakov 4 years, 7 months ago

I didn't like the labels at first either — seems to me they should have all be reminiscent of the shirts. Old timey and with the prairie vibe that the hawk on the fence post has (heck the shirt's logo is a ready-made bottleneck label). Would have liked to see the Copperhead label be a similar prairie scene...with a copperhead. The Oatmeal Stout, say, a bison. On the prairie. Ad Astra could have been a nighttime prairie scene...or maybe a nighttime silhouette of the campus/Lawrence skyline.

These designs feel way to micro-brewery-hip for Free State. They won't really stand out next to all the other uber colorful microbrews in the stores.

That said, they have grown on me already... I don't /dislike/ them any more. I'd still like em way better if they were old timey prairie-style.

smerdyakov 4 years, 7 months ago

I didn't like the labels at first either — seems to me they should have all be reminiscent of the shirts. Old timey and with the prairie vibe that the hawk on the fence post has (heck the shirt's logo is a ready-made bottleneck label). Would have liked to see the Copperhead label be a similar prairie scene...with a copperhead. The Oatmeal Stout, say, a bison. On the prairie. Ad Astra could have been a nighttime prairie scene...or maybe a nighttime silhouette of the campus/Lawrence skyline.

These designs feel way to micro-brewery-hip for Free State. They won't really stand out next to all the other uber colorful microbrews in the stores.

That said, they have grown on me already... I don't /dislike/ them any more. I'd still like em way better if they were old timey prairie-style.

Pat Long 4 years, 7 months ago

Congratulations to the gang at Free State! The effort involved in bringing the flagship beers to bottling would have brought most people to their knees. Labor of love, indeed! Thanks!

vuduchyld 4 years, 7 months ago

The first liquor store I went to on Saturday was already sold out of everything but Wheat State Golden.

I did manage to grab a 6 of Copperhead and a 6 of Ad Astra at a different store on Monday.

Love it! Congrats to the Free State crew!

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