A beloved cult figure in 1990s New York City, Timothy "Speed" Levitch became locally famous for his rhapsodical, philosophical, and downright eccentric (and yes, speedy) lectures as a bus tour guide. His exceptional worldview and heartfelt, often psychedelic stream-of-consciousness performances were captured as the subject of director Bennett Miller's 1998 documentary 'The Cruise.' Levitch is back on camera, this time on the Hulu original series 'Up To Speed,' in which he crosses the United States – everywhere from San Francisco to Kansas to Virginia – in search of quirky places with cool backstories.
He also likes good beer, which is why we asked him for a list of the oddest and most history-filled bars in America. When speaking with a genius tour guide, so it goes. From the birthplace of the Bloody Mary to a ramshackle speakeasy, these bars are sure to whet your curiosity, if not your thirst for a strong stout. Launch Gallery >>
Free State Brewing Company (Lawrence, Kansas)
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]