By Rick McNary on February 12, 2018

Your Guide to Kansas Breweries

Tour the craft beer brewpubs Kansas has to offer

Do you need a new adventure for your bucket list? May we suggest a tour of craft beer brewpubs in Kansas? Lucky for you, Kansas is home to several breweries for you to experience. Learn about pairing food with beer, how to speak the language and where we suggest you visit.  

Pairing beer with food

Like wine, craft beer is paired with foods to enrich the dining experience. Most menus suggest pairings so your first choice is to decide how to approach it:

  • Choose your beer then order the food.
  • Choose the food then order the beer.

The general rule of thumb is lighter foods are paired with lighter beers while more robust foods are paired with more flavorful beer.

For example, the Tallgrass Brewing Co in Manhattan suggests you pair its Buffalo Sweat with, “roast beef and caramelized onions; a rich, roasted chicken mole; or sweet, molasses-based barbecue. For dessert, make a Buffalo Sweat ice cream float.”

Wichita Brewing Co and Pizzeria just released Wushock—named after the mascot of Wichita State University—as “the official beer of the Shockers.”

“Wushock is an American ale and was created to be light and approachable,” says brewmaster Ned Vahsholtz. “It’s a soft and smooth wheat beer designed for people to enjoy while watching sports and eating lighter foods.”

To learn more about pairing, take the online Craft Beer and Food Course.

Get Acquainted

The servers and brewmasters at any brewpub are delighted when you ask questions. Each beer they serve comes with a story about its name, origin, process and flavor. To them, you’re not just another customer ordering food and beer; rather, you’re a student waiting to learn the nuances of craft beer, and they love to teach.

If you’re overwhelmed by the possibilities offered, as for a “flight,” which is a sampling of several beers in smaller glasses. A flight of beer is often served on a wooden paddle so you can sample each one. The paddle is usually arranged from the darkest color of beer to the lightest.

When I listen to a brewmaster describe a craft beer or read the menu handed to me in a brewpub, I’m reminded of an artist in a gallery. No artist wants you to look at his or her painting and say, “Oh, that’s pretty.” Neither do brewmasters want you to drink his or her beer and say, “Oh, that tastes good.” They want you to enjoy a sensory experience rather than a casual observation. Drinking craft beer and pairing it with food is a culinary treat rather than a belly-up-to-the-bar-and-chug-a-lug guzzle-fest.

As you taste beer, do it slowly and search for words to describe the taste. Just like there are basics of a car such as engine, drive train, chassis and shell, yet a million varieties of cars, the same is true of craft beers. Brewmasters use a basic scientific process as a canvas to create works of art. If you want to understand more about this process, read How Craft Beer is Made.

Although the basic process is the same, the variations to flavor are made by adding other items—such as coffee—in that process. As you taste each variety, take your time, swizzle it, then find a word to describe it.

Learning the language

Here are some words to help build your craft beer vocabulary. This is just a partial list but words you will frequently hear include:

  • Adjectives – adventurous, bright, complex, richly hopped, fragrant, zesty, mellow
  • Nouns – aftertaste, bouquet, flavor profile, harmony, lager, ale, character, mouth feel
  • Flavors and aromas – almond, earth tones, orange peel, roasted banana, roasted coffee, fruity, herbal
  • Colors – amber, blond, coffee, sepia, mahogany, tan, tawny
  • Types – India Pale Ale (IPA), double bock, oatmeal stout, stout, wheat

Pilsner beers, for example, are described as clean and crisp while the India Pale Ale (IPA) is hoppy and bitter. Scottish ales are malty and sweet while stouts are dark and roasty. A Belgian lambic might be described as sour, tart and funky while the Belgian witbier is fruity and spicy.

Don’t be surprised if the craft beer you order is served in a freshly rinsed glass rather than a frosty mug. Although the beer will be chilled, the glass will not which means the flavor of the beer will be more enjoyable.

Exploring Kansas Breweries

According the Brewers Association, there are 42 Kansas breweries either in production or in planning stages.

Click here for a short list of our favorites

Each brewpub is a unique cultural experience. Whether it’s the iconic figure of John Brown holding pints in outstretched arms for Wichita Brewing Co and Pizzeria or a line drawing of hops with a cowboy hat of Dodge City Brewing, one quickly senses the local connection. In a culture with increasing desire for locally produced goods, as well as a gathering place for social interaction, brewpubs fill this niche.

Furthermore, strike up a conversation with another patron about their favorite beer. Like anything that mixes science and art, there are as many opinions as there are beers. For example, some folks think porter and stout (both made from dark roasted malt) are the same while others will argue they’re quite different. Don’t be surprised if you’re asked to choose sides. Craft beer lovers have strong opinions.

Craft beer brewpubs serve as networking platforms, curators of local culture and liquid art galleries. They are exceptionally friendly because each patron shares the love of craft beers.

They are a place where everybody wants to know your name.

  • Rick McNary

    Rick McNary

    Rick McNary became intensely aware of hunger on a mission trip to Nicaragua when a starving girl asked him to feed her. He dedicated himself to fighting world hunger and recruiting volunteers to help. He is also a fan of farmers and understands that to combat world hunger we must all work together.