Budweiser Clydesdales to be in downtown Lawrence Saturday to celebrate new beer law

photo by: Richard Gwin

In this 2006 file photo, the Budweiser Clydesdales are shown, filling downtown with onlookers, including Kate Lawrence, 4, of Lawrence, who watched from Seventh and Massachusetts streets as the horses passed.

Big horses and beer both can be fun, although as a general rule I don’t recommend combining the two. (I still don’t know how the horse ended up wearing the hat and I ended up wearing the halter.) The exception to the rule, of course, is the Budweiser Clydesdales, and Lawrence soon will have a chance to see them.

The Clydesdales will be in downtown Lawrence from about 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. You’ll be able to see the majestic animals and antique beer wagon they pull on portions of Ninth, Kentucky, Vermont and Massachusetts streets.

The Budweiser ambassadors are in town as part of the beer company celebrating the change in state law that now allows grocery stores to sell full strength beer. The team of horses actually will be going to the Statehouse in Topeka today with a wagon load of beer, said Kevin O’Malley, president of Lawrence-based O’Malley Beverage, which is the Budweiser distributor for the area. To be clear, the beer is going to get delivered to a store in Topeka, not dropped off at the desk of lawmakers. (But maybe free beer would cause everybody to get along better at the Statehouse.)

The horses also will be doing events in Johnson County, but the horses actually are using Lawrence as their base of operations, O’Malley said. They are being housed at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.

As for the Lawrence event, O’Malley said the team would start at the Cork & Barrel liquor store at Ninth and Mississippi streets. The team will travel up Ninth Street to Kentucky and then hang a right to get on Vermont Street and travel past Dempsey’s Pub. The horses and wagon then will travel down Massachusetts Street and go all the way to south Massachusetts past the Dillons grocery store and end at On the Rocks Liquor store near 19th and Massachusetts streets.

The Clydesdales are expected to be on the streets from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. They should arrive at Cork & Barrel about noon. It takes about two hours to get the horses hitched to the wagon, and O’Malley said that can be a fun process to watch too. The unhitching at On the Rocks is expected to take about an hour, he said.

There is a chance that the Clydesdales could be making a return trip to Lawrence next year. O’Malley Beverage recently learned that it received the Gold Ambassador of Excellence award from Anheuser-Busch for the second year in a row. If the company wins the award for a third consecutive year, Anheuser-Busch will bring the Clydesdales to Lawrence for a special event.

As for the big change in liquor laws, which became final on April 1, O’Malley Beverage is in a good position to see the impacts. O’Malley said now that grocery stores could sell full strength beer, his distribution company has seen an increase in business. But he said he was not sure that the long-term impact would result in more overall beer being sold.

“In my opinion, it won’t convince people to drink more,” O’Malley said.

He does think craft beers, however, will be a big winner from the law change. Most craft brewers simply didn’t have the capacity to brew the special 3.2 percent beer that Kansas grocery stores were allowed to sell prior to the law change. Consequently, many of the craft beers simply didn’t show up in grocery stores.

That is now changing, although not entirely. Some craft brewers have brands that have an alcohol content above 6 percent. State law still does not allow grocery stores to sell beer above 6 percent in alcohol content. To get those beers, liquor stores are still your only option.

Grocery stores also aren’t allowed to sell wine and spirits under the new law. O’Malley thinks that will give liquor stores a base of customers for the future, despite the new beer competition from grocery stores.

“As long as they keep wine out of the grocery stores and convenience stores, I think they will be fine,” O’Malley said. “Only time will tell, though, whether people will continue to pick up their beer at liquor stores.”

O’Malley said his company, which distributes for 43 different beer brands, will remain committed to serving the liquor stores.

“The liquor stores are what made us the money and got us here, and we won’t back away from them at all,” O’Malley said.

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