Local craft beer scene grows as eastside brewery expands to west Lawrence

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

The Lawrence Beer Company recently opened its second location in town. Its new location, which it calls Lawrence Beer Company West, is at 4811 Bob Billings Parkway, in a spot that previously housed a cigar shop.

I’ve found that a few beers around a roaring fireplace can be good entertainment — especially if everyone remembers the key phrase “stop, drop and roll.” West Lawrence residents may get to check out some of that fun, as an East Lawrence brewery has opened a westside location.

We reported in March that Lawrence Beer Company filed plans to open a location near the shopping center at Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive. Well, the location is now open, and some motorists may notice it by the smoke rolling off the pub’s patio.

Lawrence Beer Company West — the original location in the Warehouse Arts District in East Lawrence remains open — includes a large outdoor fireplace on a small patio.

“We wanted the west location to be a little cozier, a little more intimate of a feel, and a fireplace gives you some of that,” co-owner Matt Williams said. “Plus, we wanted to add a little bit of a showcase when you drive by.”

4811 Bob Billings Pkwy, Lawrence, KS 66049

When Williams and his partners decided to open a second location in Lawrence, he said they knew it would need to have a different feel than the original East Lawrence location, which is one of the larger bar and restaurant spaces in town.

“The west side is more casual and open seating,” Williams said. “It is more of a small, westside neighborhood hangout, where you can still get a meal, but the focus is really on the beer and the pub feel.”

That feel includes a significantly smaller menu than what is offered at the East Lawrence location. The west location features about a half-dozen sandwiches, including traditional items like a bacon cheeseburger and a BLT, but it also includes some more unique items like a southwestern veggie panini and something called a Thunderbird Burger. That involves a house-ground chicken patty, a cherry pepper mayonnaise, flour tortillas and an ancho aioli, among other ingredients.

Williams called the menu philosophy “pub fare, but with our craft spin on it.” Take the ham and cheese sandwich that’s on the menu as an example of that philosophy. It includes goat’s milk chevre cheese and a pear bacon jam.

One thing that won’t be much smaller at the west Lawrence location is the beer. Nobody really clamors for smaller beers. Williams said the west location has 12 beers on tap, which is just two less than the capacity at the East Lawrence location.

Beer has been a driving force in the success of Lawrence Beer Company, which opened a little more than two years ago, Williams said. Figuring out how to get the company’s beer into the hands of more people is one of the reasons the group decided to open the second location.

“As a brewery, there are only a couple of ways for us to expand,” Williams said. “We could put more beer in more kegs and send them off to other parts of the state and regionally, but we didn’t think that really made sense right now.

“We would do more canning and bottling of beer, but we didn’t think that made sense either because there is so much competition to get shelf space at liquor stores now.”

Instead, the idea of remaining focused on Lawrence made the most sense. Having a location on each side of town also was appealing, he said.

“We would get people who live on the west side come over once or twice a month for a date night or a special occasion,” Williams said. “But it can be hard to justify driving across town if you are just looking for a beer or a snack after work.”

Plus, the idea of another craft beer location just reinforces the image that Lawrence is a destination spot for unique beer. With the opening of Lawrence Beer Company West, there are at least seven Lawrence pubs devoted to craft beer.

Having a large number of breweries and locations makes it more likely that visitors will come to Lawrence for a day or weekend as part of a craft brew vacation.

“And I still think Lawrence has more capacity for new breweries and craft beer growth,” Williams said. “Lawrence is light years ahead of the rest of Kansas, but there is still room for us to do more to get to the level of some of the other craft beer cities in the country.”

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