Donnelly: Kansas Craft Beer Expo@Abe & Jake’s, March 3, 2012



The Kansas Craft Beer Expo was a smashing success weeks before the doors opened this past Saturday at 1:00 in Lawrence…

The $30 tickets sold out in about a week, leaving many who had initially balked at the price tag scrounging to find extras.  The event was held at Abe & Jake’s Landing, which boasts a large and unique room with balconies, terraces, a stage, a side pub, weird art sprawled all over the place, and a porch overlooking the Kansas River.  On Saturday, the place packed in about 700 thirsty revelers. 

Good thing there was plenty beer… 

Those showcasing their wares included locals like Free State, Boulevard, and 23rd Street, but there were also lots of brewers from around the country.  For example, representing California was Anchor Brewing, Green Flash, and Anderson Valley.  Colorado was in the house with Odell, New Planet, New Belgium, and Great Divide.  Nebraska was strong with Lucky Bucket and Nebraska Brewing Co.  And Missouri was impressive with 75th Street, McCoy’s, Schlafly, Kirkwood Station, Perennial Artisan Ales, Weston, and more.  

When you walk in you’re handed a three ounce glass and a booklet describing the beers, and you walk from booth to booth trying whichever you want.  Each brewer had at least two or three varieties, so it was convenient to make laps around the large room.  Each station also had pitchers of water and dump buckets to cleanse the glasses, which was a nice touch. 

Onstage, a party DJ blared mellow tunes for the aging hipster crowd.  In one corner there was a nice setup of snacks that included mostly cheese and fruit.  With about 15 different varieties of cheeses, it was a little hard to rip myself away from the table.  Until of course, I drained my tiny beer again.

There was also really reasonably priced food for sale in the side pub – local barbecue, tacos, pretzels and the like – with most of the prices coming in under $5. 

But since I was here on business, I couldn’t waste valuable beer space with delicious pulled pork sandos.

Though the place was crowded, wait times to get a taste was never more than a few minutes, and all the brewers were happy to answer questions. 

After a few hours, I’m pretty sure I’d sampled at least one beer from every vendor there.  My favorite beer of the day ended up being from a brewery I’d never even heard of before, Kirkwood Station Brewing Company out of Kirkwood, Missouri.  Their IPA was just bitter enough, just hoppy enough, and finished just smooth enough to get me go back two or three times to confirm my hunch. 

Here’s how Kirkwood describes the beer with technical beer terms for people who are more into beer than me:

An American style India Pale Ale. Light amber in color with a big citrus hop aroma. A decidedly hoppy and bitter, and moderately strong ale, this beer is for the hop lover. The malt flavor is just enough to balance out the Citrus, Grapefruit and Pine flavors from the hops. Medium bodied with a crisp dry finish. Brewed with 2-Row Malt, Munich Malt, Caramel Malt, Victory Malt, and Honey Malt. Hops are Summit, Simcoe, Cascade and Willamette. Dry hopping the beer with Cascade and Chinook hops when it is finished with fermentation gives it its big hop aroma. Year Round Flagship. IPA contains 6.3% ABV.

No doubt this event will be back next year.  And based on the demand for tickets  people are more than willing to plunk down $30 for a cool event like this.  However if you go but don’t drink the $30 worth of beer, that’s on you. 

The only question: is there a bigger venue in Lawrence that is equally as cool as Abe & Jake’s?  It would suck to see this thing in a hotel conference room or the like.  Some have suggested holding it outside in downtown Lawrence or South Park.  But then you can’t do it in March, and you’re competing with all the other events that come with the warmer weather.
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