Celebrating its 100 year anniversary on December 5, 1998 the oldest standing building in Lawrence is the proud but lone survivor of the historic Quantrill's Raid. Today the building is home to Brown Bear where flavorful beers are served that would make its loyal customers defend the operation from all hostile forces. A colorful mural on the stone wall greets patrons as they pass by the front stage and approach the small bar in the narrow, open room. Wooden tables and stools occupy half the mid-section and all of the rear portion of the ground floor. The low ceiling and dark red brick walls make for a comfortable get-acquainted atmosphere. Two eight-tap brass towers pour the house brews, handles custom made by a local artist. A Nitrogen tap supplies the Stout and the additional creamy mouthfeel is noticeable and appreciated. A bar TV blasts the local college and pro games for fanatical fans. Regulars find the $25 cost of Mug Club membership well worth its "beer benefits." While the small copper brewhouse in the front window clearly identifies the attraction at hand the fermenters and serving tanks are hidden from view in the basement. Upstairs offers a gameroom atmosphere where two pooltables, golf and video games all reside on a rugged hardwood floor. Additional table and bench seating is also available as is another TV.
The current beer lineup springs from the twice weekly brew sessions by head brewer Ian Adams. The IPA is a clear amber, medium-bodied, the even flavor balance presents complementing hops and malt and a dry finish. The Hawk Town Brown is also medium-bodied but offers a dry, malty-sweet flavor and dry finish. The opaque, creamy-headed Wakausa Stout has a chocolate and slightly roasted flavor along with a medium body and smooth mouthfeel. The special House EPA is a clear amber with a medium body matched to a nice even flavor balance where the hops just edge out the malt for your tastebuds' attention. A very nice ale! The Master Wheat appears a hazy straw color and offers a citrusy aroma, slightly sweet lemony flavor and light body. The Cyclist is also a hazy gold but with a crisp and dry wheat flavor. It's light-bodied and very clean. The spring seasonal is the Maibock. A clear amber with a thick white head, the flavor is deeply malty with a pronounced sweetness but interesting dry finish. The latest Josiah Miller's IPA is a dark amber color with a floral hoppy aroma. The serious hop bitterness dominates the caramel malt flavor and lingers well into the finish.
Pint prices are $2.25 and the local college crowd shows its appreciation by creating a demand to relieve any supply. A sampler of seven four-ounce tastes runs $5. Happy hour on Monday and Thursday sees $1 pint prices and lasts all day due to primitive Kansas liquor laws that forbid any price differentials during a day. Growlers cost $9 initially and $7 for refills, except on Sunday when they're $4. The bottled "BCM" (Bud, Coors & Miller) light beers are discreetly sold for $2 when demanded. On Sunday, "open mic" sessions run from 5 to 9 PM and require no cover charge. Business hours are 3 PM to 2 AM Monday through Friday and noon to 2 AM weekends. Displayed T-shirts can be had for $15. The food, beer and atmosphere make the Brown Bear a local popular attraction. Stop by any day and see why.
749 Massachusetts St.
Lawrence, KS 66044
Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - November, 1998 & June, 1999
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