When Janine Gracy and her husband Rob Smith moved to Wichita, Kansas, a few years ago, they were afraid they’d have to give up their habit of enjoying local craft beer on a regular basis. After all, they were coming from the larger community of Kansas City and had also spent time living in Colorado, home to the second most craft breweries in the nation.
“We were pleasantly surprised that just as we got to Wichita the craft beer scene was exploding,” Janine said. “Per capita, Wichita has quite a few breweries compared to the larger cities. They aren’t all doing the same thing either, and that’s a good thing for beer drinkers. We travel a lot and on a trip to Anchorage, Alaska, we saw this brewery tour bus concept and got so excited thinking this is what Wichita needs.”
Brew Wagon Tours is launching this month with its first Wichita craft brewery tours, which can be booked for private groups or individuals can buy seats to ride with anywhere from six to 14 others on a shuttle bus with perimeter seating. A typical tour will make three stops and last about three hours, offering a fun, safe and educational experience. Stops will include samples, of course, along with tours and/or conversations with brewmasters, plus camaraderie among fellow craft beer lovers.
“Wichita’s brewmasters are great at what they do,” Janine said. “They are craftsmen who are proud of their art and their craft. They are producing award-winning beers, and I think Wichita craft beer can compete with anybody.”
We asked Brew Wagon Tours to give readers a list of must-try Wichita craft beers. Janine prefaced her selections by reminding us that everyone’s tastes are different and because they are brewed in small batches, beer selections change frequently. Be sure to check a brewery’s current tap list before visiting.
In search of the perfect IPA recipe many attempts were made... but version 6 (V.6) was the best. Brewed with generous amounts of Cascade and Amarillo hops, this American IPA has assertive flavor and aroma hop character. The bitterness is approachable and well-balanced with its malt backbone.
The Shaven Yak brown ale @ Wichita Brewing Company East or West
This is the beer that won WBC a silver medal at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival in Denver. It’s a new beer that head brewer Ned Vahsholtz spent the better part of a year perfecting. The English brown ale is made with top quality English malts to create a malt forward, dark brown, refreshingly drinkable ale. Expect biscuity aromas to erupt from your glass giving way to incredibly rich toasted nutty fullness, and finishing with a slight fruity dryness.
WuShock Wheat pale wheat ale @ Wichita Brewing Company East or West
Debuted in December 2017, WuShock Wheat is the official beer of the Wichita State University Shockers, whose mascot is a shock of wheat named WuShock. The American wheat ale features a well-rounded flavor profile that drinks soft and smooth. This light, seasonable beer has been custom crafted to appeal to a variety of taste buds.
Emerald City Stout @ River City Brewing Co.
Roasted barley and chocolate malts give this beer a complex, toasty, coffee-like flavor with a robust malt finish. This beer is partially carbonated with nitrogen to produce a fine, long-standing head and creamy texture.
Strawberry Shortcake @ River City Brewing Co.
A golden ale brewed with graham crackers, vanilla beans, milk, sugar and strawberries.
Hop Theory sour ale @ Central Standard Brewing
“Central Standard Brewing has a huge following for their sours, and even people who think they don’t like beer will try one of their sours and say ‘I didn’t know beer could taste like this.’”
Hop Theory is tart and refreshing, with complex hop flavor and aroma.
Standard Issue saison / farmhouse ale @ Central Standard Brewing
In 2016, Central Standard Brewing became the first Wichita brewery to earn a medal at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver with a silver medal for its Standard Issue sour ale in the “Other Belgian style ale” category. This Belgian-style grisette is brewed with malted and raw rustic grains, fermented with mixed house culture with the solera method in two oak puncheons with a blended age of 18 months. Bottle conditioned with house culture and champagne yeast.
Wizard of Hops IPA @ Central Standard Brewing
“If you like hoppy, then Wizard of Hops is your go-to at Central Standard Brewing.”
Soft bitterness with a bready malt backbone, dripping with hop flavor and aroma, coming from massive amounts of American & Southern hemisphere hops.
Douglas Ave. Pale Ale @ Hopping Gnome Brewing Company
“Hopping Gnome has great ales and this is the Wichita tap house that most reminds me of what I experienced when I lived in in Colorado. Just a simple tap room with really good beer, a nice atmosphere where you feel like you know people when you walk in and a true neighborhood crowd.”
A Belgian pale ale, hopped with Jarrylo hops, giving it notes of orange and pear with a biscuit finish.
Design District Coffee Stout @ Hopping Gnome Brewing Company
This neighborhood collaboration includes cold-brewed Smooth Blend coffee from The Donut Whole, which is roasted at the Spice Merchant, making this a buy-local favorite.
Dove Runner red wheat @ Aero Plains Brewing
Dove Runner is a Weizenbock (wheat ale) made with over 50 percent red wheat and enough roasted barley to make the color. This beer proves that all dark beer isn’t heavy.
“This is an interesting beer because Kansas is known for its red wheat. Dove Runner has a little bit of clove, which is unusual but good. It’s a complex beer with a lot of flavors and it’s smooth.”
Friendly Aviator German pilsner @ Aero Plains Brewing
An easy-drinking classic brewed with 100 percent German pilsner malt. Sterling hops provide traditional noble hops flavors. A classic example of the style, sure to please a broad spectrum of beer lovers. Look for soft cracker aroma, very subtle spicy hop notes, and a crisp finish.
Black Toro stout @ Third Place Brewing
This is a sweet stout with a hint of coffee and biscuit flavor. Lactose is added to provide a slightly sweet and silky finish. English hops balance the body making this an easy drinking stout for any time of the year.
“Black Toro is a really nice stout. It’s a little sweeter than most stouts I’ve had, and it was delicious.”
The Keeper sour biere de arde @ Limestone Beer Co.
Caramel notes and subtle spiciness with hints of pear and white grapes.
“You know you’re in for a treat when a taproom uses different shaped glasses for the different types of beer, understanding that the shape brings out different flavors. Limestone is know for their Belgian and German style beers, and because it’s such a small operation brewing small quantities, you’ll constantly find something new on tap.”
Bad Squirrel Nut Brown Ale @ Augustino Brewing Company
“Augustino’s has some good ales. I really like Bad Squirrel Nut Brown Ale. The color is good, it is really rich, and, of course, it has a nutty flavor. It’s smooth.”
For more brewery experiences, check out our Beer, Wine & Spirits Tour.