It’s a truth universally acknowledged that if you’re on a road trip that takes you through Kansas, you drive as fast as you can (under the speed limit, of course) and try to stop as little as possible.
Kansas is a big (flat) state, though, and I-70 stretches inexorably into the horizon. If you decide to stop in Kansas on your overland journey, make sure to stop in Hays.
If fatigue hasn’t robbed you of your eyesight, you’ll see a billboard advertising Gella’s Diner and Lb Brewing Company maybe 30 miles outside of Hays. It’s the only hint you’ll have that this gem is hiding in downtown Hays.
Located in the Chestnut Street District, a downtown revitalization effort, the building is a find in and of itself. Once hidden behind an aluminum façade, the restaurant is now a blend of industrial fixtures and natural wood, open spaces and brick walls; the hand-painted, historically-inspired murals lend a little bit of country to this rock n’ roll space.
I could wax poetic about the extensive menu that combines pub and comfort food: something called “grebble” and daily specials that range from chicken pad thai to gyros. But I won’t.
With nine house brews always available and a list of seasonal brews that ranges from the No. 16 Pumpkin Ale to the No. 31 St. Patrick’s Green ale, tasting all of the brews in one sitting isn’t a good idea (it might not be legal). I started with the award-winning No. 6 Oatmeal Stout: full-bodied with hints of chocolate and caramel, this beer is satisfyingly stout without going overboard.
I tried the seasonal No. 32 Maibock, which is a malty bock that, while not bad, didn’t have enough hops to be satisfying to me. The front desk manager at my
hotel had recommended the No. 8 Lemon Ale, but the bartender informed me that it’s a wheat ale with lemonade poured into it. As it sounded a bit like sacrilege, I decided against trying that one.
As I headed back to my hotel, I looked over at the growler of Oatmeal Stout perched in my passenger seat with fondness. It was the perfect belated birthday present for my beer-loving friend and would serve as a reminder that, on the long straight road through Kansas, I had found a bright shining star to set my course towards.
About the name: Lb. Brewing Co. pays homage to the bygone days of the settlers of Kansas, when beer and bread sometimes played interchangeable roles. When in the field, workers couldn’t always stop to eat lunch. So, they drank it. “Lb.” = “Liquid Bread”.
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