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Prior to the evening's banquet, participants were treated to a motor-coach pub crawl to three local brewpubs.

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Brewing in the Heartland

by Tom Ciccateri

     In between the blanketing reminders of what winter in the Midwest really means, the opportunity arose for the beer community to come together in celebration and recognition. In late February, the Kansas City Bier Meisters hosted its 20th annual Regional Homebrew Competition. The event at Holy-Field Vineyard and Winery in Basehor, Kan., brought together judges from around the region to determine the best of the best of the brews. The judging luminaries included Charlie Papazian and Fred Eckhardt from the Association of Brewers, along with local brewmasters, the latter graciously supplying much-appreciated samples from their respective breweries. Following the initial rounds of judging and prior to the evening's banquet, participants were treated to a motor-coach pub crawl to three local brewpubs.

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     At stop No. 1, Free State Brewing in Lawrence, Kan., the big treat was the 1998 Old Backus Barleywine. Above and below the dense, lasting tan head, this beer exudes intensely rich malty flavors and accompanying aromatic esters. The big body and subtle chocolate character grab your attention and retain it well into the clean, dry finish. Free State continues to draw steady crowds for its consistent house beers and tasty food.

     Across town and closer to the KU campus was stop No. 2, Emerson Biggin's. Open less than one year, this brewpub offers a sports-theme décor that is popular with the college crowd, as are lighter beers. The current seasonal, Ginger Lager, is light-bodied but offers a pronounced ginger aroma and flavor. Clear and effervescent, this one would be a popular summer brew. The IPA and Double D Stout are good candidates for the $6.50 growler and $70 keg to-go prices.

     Last stop for the beer buses was High Noon Saloon in Leavenworth, Kan. Topping the lineup was Columbia Porter. Its rich coffee flavor and roasted character would satisfy the lover of grain and bean alike. The Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale made a lasting impression with a big malty flavor, a slightly dry finish and an alcoholic character that sneaks up on you. Competing for top billing was the Tripel. With a clear dark-amber color and light esters, its great malty flavor is dead-on for the style. When it's time to go, six-packs are available for $6.

     The return ride offered time for reflection and conversation among the professional and homebrewers on board. Mill Creek brewpub in Kansas City is gone, but McCoy's across the street is impressing customers with its Bohemian Pils and IPA. 75th Street Brewery continues to rotate cask-conditioned beers served at cellar temperature. Controlled growth at Boulevard Brewing is proceeding on schedule, and entrants in the 2003 Brew-to-Brew run will depart from the brewery in their quest for fame and suds at the finish line at Free State Brewing. Missouri drinkers may soon see Belt Brewing reopen its brewpub, while residents to the east may again enjoy tasting opportunities at the spring beer festival in St. Louis. Now if we can just thwart the latest threats by tax-and-spend politicians to raise beer taxes to compensate for their lack of fiscal responsibility --

Tom Ciccateri is the Webmaster at the New Mexico Virtual Brewpub at www.realbeer.com/nmvbp and can be reached at tciccateri@kcbiermeisters.org.

Copyright 2003, Celebrator No material herein may be reprinted without permission of the Celebrator Distributed On the W3 For personal, non-commercial enjoyment and use only. Cheers!

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