Work underway to make old lumberyard into brewery, pizza place
photo by: Journal-World photo/Chad Lawhorn
All Lawrence is missing is a Tom T. Hall statue, and an order proclaiming his song “I Like Beer” as the town’s anthem. (If you aren’t a 1970s country music fan, you are missing out on Hall — and belt buckles that double as dinner plates.) All this is to say that Lawrence, indeed, is getting another brewery.
Work is underway on Fields & Ivy Brewery at 706 E. 23rd Street. That is the site of the old Lawrence Lumber location, for those of you who can remember the days before Home Depot. Fields & Ivy will make for at least the sixth brewery in Lawrence and will be at least the third within the last 12 months.
But this one shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. I reported in April of 2016 that plans had been filed to convert the old lumberyard into a brewery. But, then, it never happened. I didn’t think much of it because beer makes me forgetful too. For all I know, I also might own an abandoned lumberyard.
Come to find out, that is not what happened. The brewery project has been a long time in the making because owner Cory Johnston doesn’t want to just brew beer, but he also wants to grow many of the ingredients for it.
“One of our big things is to try to use local ingredients whenever we can,” Johnston said.
Johnston — who has his degree in milling and grain sciences — also has been working to create a grain business in Wellsville. There he grows a soft, red winter wheat that is used by distilleries in the region. But he also has learned how to malt the wheat, and has begun selling that product to breweries in the area. He’ll use it for his beer as well.
Plus, Johnston has been experimenting with growing barley, which traditionally is thought of as more of a colder, upper-Midwest type of crop. He thinks having beer that has both locally-grown wheat and barley will be a unique selling point.
“It really will tie it to the community, and really gives it a sense of place,” Johnston said. “A lot of people really enjoy and respond to that.”
It also is a good way to promote Kansas agriculture, he said.
“We live in the breadbasket of the country,” Johnston said. “We are really good at growing wheat in Kansas. We want to celebrate that and make that a part of Fields & Ivy.”
The hard part will be deciding what beers to serve. The brewery will feature 12 beers on tap. Johnston said he and his wife already have more than that in mind, rattling off varieties of pilsner, IPA, Belgium, stouts, porters, saisons, tropical, fruit-based and other varieties.
The operation will include a canning line, and Johnston hopes to sell beer throughout Kansas and into Missouri. Johnston said he has partnered with a skilled brewer, but said he can’t yet release details about that deal.
In addition to the beer, there will be pizza. Back in 2016, Johnston talked of using food trucks to supply the menu for the brewery. But now he said the business will include a full-line pizza kitchen. He said to expect a thin-crust pizza with some traditional and gourmet topping options.
Also expect a lot of outdoor dining. The lumberyard site has a small brick building near the front of the site, but then has a large canopy area that used to house the lumber. Plans call for a couple sections of the canopy area to be enclosed for the pizza area and tap room. But the remaining sections of canopy will be left open air.
“If you look at that space, it just says beer garden,” Johnston said.
The canopy provides shade, and Johnston said he plans to build a green wall and roof to add even more interest to the site. The area also will be wired for live music, plus he plans to have an area set aside for some outdoor games like beanbag tossing.
As for all the competition Fields & Ivy will face in the Lawrence brewery market, Johnston said he’s not viewing that as a negative. Like many other new brewery owners I’ve talked with, he says research shows the amount of breweries per capita in Lawrence is still below many other communities in Missouri or Colorado.
“Craft beer has turned into something people will travel for, too,” Johnston said. “If there are three or four or five or six breweries that is fine. It just makes it all the more of a destination.”
Fields & Ivy will be at least the third Lawrence brewery in the last year to either open or announce plans to open, joining the Lawrence Beer Company in the Warehouse Arts District and Black Stag Brewery that is under construction in the former M&M Office Supply building on Massachusetts Street.
Johnston said he hopes to start brewing beer in February and have Fields & Ivy open by mid-March.