For the second year, head brewers from Lawrence’s Free State and 23rd Street breweries and Topeka’s Blind Tiger Brewery collaborated to create a new beer in honor of the week, being celebrated nationwide Monday through May 19.
They named this year's concoction “Smoke on the Wheat." Light as straw and crisp as Perrier but with a roguish smoky overtone — and as 23rd Street head brewer Bryan “Bucky” Buckingham notes, a little baloney on the nose (...or maybe it sounds better to say charcuterie?) — Smoke on the Wheat is in the style of a 14th century Polish Grätzer ale. The beer, made with oak-smoked wheat and Polish yeast, is low-alcohol, high-carbonation and pours with a big, fluffy head.
A second collaborative brew, created by 23rd Street and members of the Lawrence Brewers Guild, will be tapped Monday at 23rd Street.
“LBG Collaboration No. 2” is a Belgian-style IPA. Or, if you want to get specific, an “amber-Belgian-wheat-IPA-Trappist-specialty-beer-kind-of-thing,” Buckingham says. “It’s got a lot going on.” Higher in alcohol, honey colored and slightly sweet smelling, Collaboration No. 2 surprises with a super-dry, hoppy finish.
These two brews and many others will be the focus of all kinds of activities next week. Here’s a rundown:
• Smoke on the Wheat tapped at 23rd Street, 3512 Clinton Parkway, Free State, 636 Massachusetts St., and Blind Tiger, 417 SW 37th St. in Topeka. (Each brewery held back a keg of Full Kimono, the result of last year's collaboration, to tap during the week, too.)
• LBG Collaboration No. 2 tapped at 23rd Street
• Five-course Free State beer dinner at so-hot-right-now Kansas City, Mo., restaurant Port Fonda, 4141 Pennsylvania St. Cost: $55. Reservations: 816-216-6462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Beer Trivia Night at the Burger Stand, 803 Massachusetts St. With a Free State tap takeover on the lower level — and prizes!
• Free State beer flowing (as usual) at Cottin’s Hardware Farmers Market, 4 to 6:30 p.m. at 1832 Massachusetts St.
• Firkin tapping for LBG Collaboration No. 2 with orange peel added, 6 p.m. at 23rd Street
Free State Brewing Co. calls it a beer fit for a blacksmith — and apparently beer festival judges.
Free State’s Iron Man Imperial Stout nabbed a bronze medal in the American-Style Stout category at this weekend’s Great American Beer Festival in Denver, touted as the world’s largest commercial beer competition.
“It’s kind of a testament to the craft of brewing,” brewer Geoff Deman said of the beer, named in honor of a local blacksmith who frequents the brew pub.
With ten malts and five hop varieties, Iron Man starts with deep roasty flavors and finishes with a slight malty sweetness, according to Free State’s description. The beer tips its hat to history, as Imperial Stout was a key British export in the Baltic trade that elevated art and industry in Russia and England during the 18th century.
Two other area breweries joined Free State on the medal list, according to results from greatamericanbeerfestival.com. Boulevard Brewing Co. of Kansas City, Mo., got two gold medals — one in the Belgian-Style Witbier category for its ZON, and the other in the Other Strong Beer category for its Reverb Imperial Pilsner. Topeka’s Blind Tiger Brewery and Restaurant took gold in the German-Style Kolsch category for its Capital City Kolsch.
This year’s festival, which ran from Thursday through Saturday, drew its largest competition field to date, with 4,338 entries from 666 breweries across the United States and Guam. The festival awarded a total of 254 medals for the best examples of each style beer.
Free State's Iron Man — a small batch brew — is not on tap at the brew pub, 636 Mass. However, bottles are expected to be shipped to select area liquor stores at the end of this month.
In other crafty beer news, 23rd Street Brewery, 3512 Clinton Parkway, just tapped a 2010 Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout, according to their Twitter account. And Free State is playing host to its first-ever happy hour Thursday night (it's only been legal for, oh, almost four months now, so I'm sure Free State fans will be glad the brewery's finally on board!). The pub is advertising $2 select pints from 9 p.m. to midnight, plus chances to win Free State stuff.