From the author: It all started when…
The genesis of this book came about when I visited Wichita again after so many years away. I had family who had relocated there and, while visiting, took me to check out several of the breweries. I was amazed at the quality of the craft beers they were serving as well as the growing number of new breweries popping up in town. It seemed like each year a couple more were starting up and needed to be visited – you know – for research. And once we hit most of the breweries in Wichita, it seemed necessary to check out Walnut River Brewing just outside of town in El Dorado. On our first visit, it was in a gutted building with only a small brew system back behind a wall near the ally. But they served great beer. (see pic above) “There are a lot of good beers here!” I commented to my brothers. After a couple beers it became, “Maybe, for the sake of research, and the love of Kansas, we should document all of the breweries in the state?” Just like many of the breweries in our state were started over a couple beers, this book began in the same way.
It took over a year and all the breweries were finally “researched”. The more that I visited, the more appreciation I gained for the hard work and industriousness of the people behind each brewery. The best part of this project was that nearly all the brewers or owners interviewed had interesting stories. This is the stuff you only get with home-grown start-up establishments.
When discussing the number of breweries being started in the state, I continue to get comments contrasting the craft brewing industry in Kansas to other states, especially Colorado or California, where it seems there’s a brewery on every corner. Running some comparisons, which are discussed in a bit more detail later in the book, the reader should see that the state’s population and demographics appear to be able to handle the growing number of breweries and more. Even in Wichita, where there are over a dozen breweries (counting the ones in Cheney and El Dorado) it seems the craft beer drinking market will support them. Then you wonder about competition. What is it like to start up a new brewery in the same area as others? I’m not sure if this is a Kansas thing, or not, but nearly every brewery owner I talked to about this said the brewers in the state are more of a ‘brotherhood’ where each brewery helps the other making sure ‘they get on their feet’. Once established, the cooperation continues as evidenced by all the collaboration beers the breweries make each year. The breweries in Kansas are a very friendly and giving group. As one of the major brewers in the state put it “The Kansas brewing business is 99% asshole-free, plus there’s beer.” You can’t ask for much more!
It’s hoped that, after reading this book, you’ll want to make a visit to as many of these fine breweries as possible. All the owners and brewers have a passion for the craft and have taken the risk to pursue this passion by giving up other potential employment opportunities, investing their savings, and putting in many long hours to bring you the best craft beer they can. Please enjoy the book! Preferably over a beer.