The Free State Brewery takes its name from the old mantra of the abolitionists of Massachusetts, who moved to Kansas on the cusp of the Civil War. As the story goes, a wealthy cohort of abolitionists just near the brewery built a hotel and called it the Free State. As soon as it was completed, however, a pro-slavery mob raided the place, burning it to the ground. The owners were quickly back at it, though, building again almost the next day, and this time adding an extra floor. Alas, in short order, the hotel was reduced to cinders again. Still, Speed says, the owners were unmoved. "The guy in charge of the Free State Hotel vowed that every time the pro-slavers would burn it down he was going to build it again, and add another floor," he says. "Literally, it became a freedom tower." As Speed sees it, the brewery was essentially built on the first battlegrounds of the Civil War.
In 1989, Free State Brewing Company became the first legal brewery in Kansas in more than 100 years. And we should all be thankful; it crafts excellent beer. Speed highly recommends its malty brown ale, fittingly named after the militant abolitionist John Brown. [Free State Brewery; 636 Massachusetts Street, Lawrence, Kansas 66044, 785-843-4555]