The great thing about brew pubs is that they always trying new beers so the customer experience doesnt become as stale asa half finished can of Budweiser let out overnight. That means I can return to the same place and experience a whole new vista of flavors. Such was the case last Sunday, when a social affair brought me withing blocks of the River City Brewing Company in Wichita Kansas. I had the forethought to be my three growlers for refilling, and by the time the meeting was of it was time for a burger and a beer anyway. Lets talk about the meal first.
Having already tried their pizza and amazing Cuban sandwich on previous trips, this time a went for a burger. From the River City menu ( http://www.rivercitybrewingco.com/rcbmenu.pdf ) The Memphis Burger is topped with sweet pepper bacon, cheddar cheese, crispy onion strings and chipotle BBQ sauce. On top of all that, the hamburger was grilled to perfection, in my case that being exceedingly rare. (One of my Dads friends, every time he sees me eating a steak or a burger, always comments You know, Ive seen a critter hurt worse that that and live). I was most impressed by the onion strings. These are not the French fried onion rings that you find atop your green beans on Thanksgiving, but rather the most delicate strings of onion imaginable, battered and fried. I found myself wishing Id thought to order extra BBQ sauce for my French fries, which were hearty and sprinkled with fresh ground black pepper. Id never thought of peppering my fries before, but be assured Ill do so in the future.
To accompany my burger, I selected the Breckenridge Bourbon Smoked Imperial Stout. It weighs in at 9.0%abv, so you get a smaller that average portion in an 11oz brandy snifter. While stouts are usually nearly as bitter as IPAs, I dont notice it as much when coupled with the beers bold flavor. Unlike IPAs, stouts tend to have enough malty richness to add balance. In the case of this beer, the barley is smoked over hazelnuts before fermentation, giving this beer its flavor and its name. Ive want to try a smoked stout since I heard Tracy Hotlz speak of them back on the old Podbrewers show. I dont think Id want to be restricted to an exclusive diet of smoked beers, but this was a welcome change from the ordinary, and a great compliment to my beefy repast. Truly an excellent brew.
Now, on to the contents of my three growlers. I wish I could give you first impressions, but come on, I just couldnt wait for you folks. It was hard enough to wait for the containers to chill overnight in the fridge.
The first beer is even more unique than the smoked stout. Donut Whole Love Affair #3 Pineapple Wit is made with actual pineapple donuts (from River Citys Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/RiverCityBreweryCo/photos/a.555320064516059.1073741826.194563133925089/796375363743860/?type=1 ). The first taste you encounter is tart pineapple on the tip of your tongue joined by powdered sugar as the beer washes towards the back of you mouth. The sugar taste tends to stay with you between sips, but the whole effect is subtle and wonderful, not fruit juicy like a shandy. The wheat beer hovers in the background, not enough to obscure the donut, but blending the pastry taste into the breadyness of the beer. I didnt know what to expect of this beer when I ordered it, but I am most pleased I did. 5.65abv 11 IBUs 16oz Weizen
Next, we have Pryze Fyter Red Rye. By far, this is the smoothest and richest rye beer Ive ever tasted. Im a big fan of rye beers, but they tend to be a little more harsh than wheat beers, and are of course more bitter. Like rye whiskey, rye beer is an acquired taste for many people, and best suited for those with a palette that craves bold flavors. According to the menu, Carmel malts, a copious amount of rye. Spicy, floral, earthy, and ready to smack you in the kisser. 5.6%abv 55 IBUs 16oz Nonic
Finally, we have the Buffeit Bourbon Baltic Porter. Of the two bourbon barrel aged porters on the menu, my barman described this slightly sweeter. While Ive never been a fan of the woody tasting bourbons of Tennessee, barrel aging lends a roundness to beers, and compliments the roasted malts and the hops. This is the strongest of the beers I brought home, at 7.2%abv, 47IBUs, and would be served in a 13z Tulip glass.
I made the mistake of not taking a beer menu home with me for documentation, as a list of currently available beers no longer appears on line. Chris Arnold took the time to scan a copy and send it to my e-mail. Thanks Chris. I dont think River City Brewing Company will mind me attaching the menu to my notes for you listeners to salivate over. There are two in particular Im sorry to have missed, the Stinky Pete Plum Saison (they always seems to be out of the raisin and plum beers) and the Emerald City Stout (a man has only so many growlers).
That brings me to my next topic. Among the many interviews I want to do from Linux Fest next week, Im also going to visit the Free State Brewery, only a couple blocks away. I called ahead, and they wont fill other pubs growlers (thats going to cost you some points Free State). On the upside, Ill have a couple new growlers to add to my collection.