Lawrence-based Henry T’s to open brewery; downtown craft beer retailer expands; New Hampshire Street fully open
We’re not yet Milwaukee — and why would we ever want to be St. Louis with that baseball team that didn’t even make the World Series this year? — but Lawrence is becoming quite a brewery town. The Lawrence-based restaurant Henry T’s has confirmed it has bought an eastern Lawrence building and plans to have a brewery operating by this spring.
Sean Gerrity, a co-owner of the restaurant, said there’s a simple reason why the company is getting into the brewery business. (If you happen to have a 42-piece orchestra, now would be the time to direct it to play a dramatic version of "God Bless America.")
“It is a return to a core American value that beer should taste good and be cheap,” Gerrity said.
Uncle Sam, make room at the Patriots Table for Henry T.
Gerrity said the new brewery will supply the Henry T’s restaurant at 3520 W. Sixth St. and also the company’s Henry T’s in Topeka. He said a large reason for the brewery venture is related to the price that major brewers are now charging for their products.
“The price of beer has gotten expensive, and some people think it is ridiculous,” Gerrity said. “Beer is part of our culture, and certain types of beer should be cheap. The big brewers are removing that idea from the culture. Part of our angle is to brew something, if not identical, better, and then charge less for it.”
As for the beers, Gerrity said plans call for a traditional pilsner, which will be similar to the Bud Lights, Coors and other beers that dominate the mainstream market. The brewery also plans to produce a brown ale and a pale ale in the beginning, and then expand to eight or nine beers as it gets its operations refined.
Gerrity admits that he doesn’t have a brewing background, so the company has signed a deal with Lincoln, Neb.-based Blue Blood Brewing Co. to serve as consultants on the new venture. Gerrity and his business partner, Dave Heinz, have bought a warehouse at 807 E. 23rd St. that will serve as the brewery operations. If you are having a hard time picturing the location, it is in the industrial area just west of 23rd and Haskell and behind the new location for Luminous Neon.
The company already purchased brewhouse equipment and has it on site. The company expects construction to take about two months, and developing the beer — which will include significant sampling and tasting demos for Henry T’s customers — will take a few more weeks after that.
“We hope to tap our first keg for sale sometime in the spring,” Gerrity said.
Gerrity said plans eventually call for the brewery to offer its beer to other restaurants and bars in the region. The new brewery will have about 6,000 square feet of production space.
The Henry T’s brewery will be at least the third significant brewery in Lawrence. The Free State Brewing Co. was a pioneer in the craft beer industry and now has its own bottling plant that has allowed the brand to expand its reach to liquor stores throughout the central Plains. The 23rd Street Brewery also is a significant brewer in the area. And while not a brewer, Lawrence-based Grandstand Glasswear & Apparel is a major player in the craft brew industry as the largest producer of amber glass growlers —the large jug-like bottles used by the brewing industry.
So, while we may not be Milwaukee, and while we certainly don’t screw up pizza or pennant runs like St. Louis does, Lawrence does have a chance to become a significant beer town.
In other news and notes from around town:
• While we’re on the beer front, I might as well pass along information about the expansion of a unique beer retailer in downtown. Back in July my colleague Nadia Imafidon told you about Ted’s Taphouse, a new craft beer retailer at 1004 Massachusetts St. But as the article noted, the business occupied only the back half of that building, and was a bit difficult to find. Well, the business now has expanded.
The Vietnamese restaurant Wild Pho has closed, and Ted’s Taphouse has expanded into the Massachusetts Street frontage that it previously occupied. The expansion will allow for more seating and also will allow for a more traditional dining area to accommodate families and others who don’t want to sit in the bar area, said owner Ted Nguyen.
But the basic concept of Ted’s Taphouse will remain the same.
“We’re a true tap house,” Nguyen said. “We don’t do any bottled beer here.”
The bar has 18 beers on tap at all times, and about seven to nine of the beers change weekly.
Food is also part of the equation at the Taphouse. The Nguyen family previously operated a business called Oh Boy! Chicken at the site, and it has kept the gluten-free chicken as a mainstay of the menu at the Taphouse. The menu also includes burgers, a Philly cheesesteak, some vegetarian options and other bar food.
But Nguyen said plans call for the business to do quite a few beer and food pairings at special events. The first one is on New Year’s Eve, where the business will feature beers from the Green Flash brewery and pair them with items such as house-made pub chips, pepper crusted beef tenderloin, applewood smoked salmon, and chili honey-glazed shrimp with house-made kim chi.
Nguyen has a background in upscale dining as the former owner of Angler’s Seafood House, which previously operated in the spot at 10th and Massachusetts.
The expansion of Ted’s Taphouse was made possible because one of downtown Lawrence’s longer-serving restaurateurs recently retired. Nguyen’s mother, Nancy Nguyen, retired in the past month. She had been continuously operating one restaurant or another in downtown since 1981. Many of you may remember her from her days of operating Drakes, which was a classic diner-style joint in its early days. Ted began his cooking career there more than 20 years ago.
“We used to open at 6 a.m., and we made our living off of city workers who were just ending their shifts, and who wanted to get their breakfast or dinner,” Ted recalled.
The space also housed The Orient restaurant, and more recently, Pho. Ted said talking his mother into retirement was no easy task, but he said she plans to do some cooking at the Taphouse and offer some special dishes from the menus of The Orient and others.
• An odd thing happened yesterday when I was driving on New Hampshire Street: I didn’t hit a barricade. Both lanes of traffic are now open in the 900 block of New Hampshire Street. The street previously had been restricted to one-way traffic as part of the construction zone for the new Marriott hotel at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire.
If you haven’t driven by lately, the construction work of the new hotel appears largely complete. I’ve been told it takes a couple of months to move in all the furnishings for a hotel. I haven’t received any information on an opening date yet, but if that math is correct, it could be late February or early March. Or in other words, just in time for basketball fans to rent a room for KU’s Final Four celebration downtown. Remember, this is the season for optimism.
• Well, that is a wrap for Town Talk this year. I’ll be on vacation for the next several days and will pick back up with news, notes and inane comments in the New Year. I hope each of you has a safe and happy holiday season.
It’s beginning to make a little more sense.
Perhaps you are not like me and you don’t spend a good part of the year wondering why Winnie the Pooh acts so dang strange. Perhaps you also don’t have a spouse who fills your home with the odd little bear every holiday season. (You don’t know what you’re missing out on.)
Well, word of a potential new business has given me a clue why that dumb-dumb is always getting his head stuck in a bee hive: Mead.
Yeah, mead. A new business venture is betting you are not familiar with the alcoholic beverage, which is made of … fermented honey.
Work is underway to build a new microbrewery in downtown Eudora that will offer a variety of craft beers but also will be one of the few facilities in the region to produce mead.
Area residents John Randtke and James Hightree are teaming up to open the Wakarusa Brewery in the coming months.
As anyone who has listened to me on a Saturday night can attest, that when I combine stories and beer, the details can get a little fuzzy. That’s the case here too. I chatted briefly with Randtke, and he said he hopes the business will be open by the fall, but said it could get pushed to early next year.
The business has signed a deal to purchase a long vacant building in the 700 block of Main Street in downtown Eudora. If you are familiar with that bustling thoroughfare, is the old vacant antique store building kind of across the street from the post office.
The building needs significant work, but Randtke has been through those type of projects before. He’s a mechanical design engineer for a local company that works to make buildings more energy efficient.
“We’re going to try to make it a small-town pub feel,” Randtke said of plans for the building. “I want it to be a quiet place where folks can go hang out and have a drink.”
But make no mistake, brewing will be the main activity at the building. About two-thirds of the building will be devoted to the brewing process.
Randtke said he and Hightree, who will serve as the day-to-day brewmaster, will specialize in making strong IPAs and stout, hoppy brews.
And, of course, there will be the mead. Randtke said he’s not aware of any restaurants or bars in the area that are serving locally produced mead, but he said the idea is catching on in some larger cities, like Chicago.
Technically, state regulators don’t consider mead a beer, and so Wakarusa Brewery will have to get a winery license to produce the beverage. But that has an advantage, Randtke said, because a new state law allows wineries to get a license to sell their products at farmers markets and such. That is part of the company’s future plans.
As for what to expect when you get that first chalice of mead (I don’t know why, but that’s what I expect my mead to be served in), it could be a little bit of anything. Randtke said meads can take on all different types of flavors. Some commercial meads have strong flavor patterns of cinnamon or vanilla, and many are pretty sweet. Randtke said he plans to make several drier varieties.
I think I would ask Winnie the Pooh what he likes. He might be a good customer. On second thought, I’m not sure he’s the type you really want around in a bar. With a last name like his, he’s bound to get into a lot of bar fights.