The historic multi-story red brick building in the downtown district of Leavenworth, Kansas looks unimposing. The name on the awning first signals the invitation - High Noon Saloon and Brewery. This saloon, in the heart of temperance country, is a recognized good neighbor. The new parking lot will be "eco-friendly." State grants have been requested to help preserve the original building where the Great Western Manufacturing company built flour mills and stones back in the 1870's. After leasing for a while, the owners purchased the building in 2000 and now occupy the first floor with the brewery, restaurant, bar and offices. Renovation continues on the west side of the building as the future site for the new brewhouse, where the red brick interior and exterior will remain. A completion date remains elusive, as city ordinances dictate numerous "inspections" during every step of construction.
The good news is that the old brewhouse is meeting current production demands. Located toward the middle of the building, the glass-walled brewhouse affords visitors a vista for witnessing the art and science of beer brewing in action. The grain mill remains out of sight, in the mill room by the back loading dock. A five-barrel Specific Mechanical Systems stainless steel mash tun supplies hot wort to the copper boil kettle. From there the liquid mixture of malts and hops are pumped to one of two adjacent copper fermenters where they join the yeast that will accomplish the "magic" part of the equation. Two copper fermenters, a stainless steel uni-tank fermenter and a hot liquor tank also crowd for space in the compact brewhouse. Recently five Premiere stainless steel tanks from Czech Republic were added in the rear of the building, easing the pain of limited serving capacity relying strictly on kegs. The DME kegger machine had been working practically non-stop until June of 2001. Bottles may play a role in the future. With help from the Institute for Brewing Studies (IBS), High Noon's first 12-ounce bottle label was submitted to government officials for approval.
A single house yeast strain, along with the occasional Belgian and Hefeweizen varieties from White Yeast produce the wide variety of house brews. Base grains come from Minnesota Malting, with specialty malts chosen from Weyermann and Hugh Baird. The American Hefeweizen is a hazy dark straw color with a smooth wheaty flavor and lasting white head. The unfiltered Annie's Amber Ale is a clear brown color with a dry malty flavor that is evenly balanced due to the Munich malt and caramel sweetness. The Jo-Bu IPA is a dark amber with a lasting white head. Benefiting from pelletized and whole leaf hops, there is an early hop aroma followed by a nice hop bitterness. Supporting that hop flavor is a mellow maltiness, resulting in a smooth mouthfeel and well-balanced IPA. The medium-bodied Stampede Stout begins with an early roasted aroma but quickly becomes evenly balanced with a dry but not harsh dark malt flavor. The bottled Vanilla Porter strikes out with a pronounced vanilla aroma. The coarse mouthfeel contributes to an overall rugged feel, where big flavors compete before finishing nicely with a smooth vanilla character. The Two Monks Trippel is a clear gold with malty and estery aromas, and a clean malty-sweet flavor. The Lewis & Clark Lager is a hazy straw color with an enduring white head. A pale malt sweetness is matched to an underlying hop bitterness to produce a clean, medium-bodied lager-style beer. The 8.4% Barleywine, at only five months old, brought out an intense alcoholic aroma through a thick and creamy white head. Hazy brown in color, the rich malty flavor is accompanied by an equally impressive hop bitterness and alcohol presence. The Belgian Tripel sports a big body and big malty flavor that leads to a slightly dry finish with a noticeable alcohol character. Very nice! The Tonganoxie Honey Wheat is a summertime favorite, a wintertime one, the Big Ox Stout, gets aged in a wooden bourbon barrel back in the cold room. All brews are the product of the hands-on experience of brewer Ed Baldwin, who came to High Noon in 1998 as a history major with a research interest in beer styles. First introduced to homebrewing by then brewmaster John Dean, Ed formally joined the team a chief Keg Lackey. Opportunities for advancement arose as Rich Barbudo, Ty McGuire and John Dean each in turn left for other positions. Today, it is Ed's eight-year-old son Edward who follows the path of inquisitive discovery of fermentation sciences by helping to "brew" the Root Beer and Fred & Ginger Ale for High Noon.
The 21st Century customers of Leavenworth's most popular saloon are local and visitors, with most "visitors" being in town for a few months to attend the U.S. Army's Command & General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth. These 5000 soldiers have typically travelled the world, sampled European beers, and now sample plenty of High Noon's beers before they rotate out. The atmosphere of the brewpub lends itself to a relaxed drinking environment, whether you ride a Harley, a Blackhawk or an Abrams. The dark hardwood floors and light wooden tables present an interior not too fragile for the folks who gather around the three pool tables, two electric dartboards and video games. Although not required by law, house rules call for anyone under 21 years of age to leave the bar and game room areas of the premises by 9 p.m. weekdays and 10 p.m. weekends. Beneath the 15-foot ceiling of exposed two-by-twelves are walls with murals painted by local artists, the themes being Kansas and Beer. The most prominent poster: Beer is Good. The adjacent Banquet Room houses an original cast iron stove, likely made on site by Great Western Manufacturing back in the days when the buffalo roamed. High Noon support the community by making this room available for local clubs and organizations. The room features prints of prairie scenes and wagon trains. A back bar and large meeting room with a stage are also available for special occasions.
The main bar and lounge are located at the far end of the main room. Black and chrome bar stools line the medium-sized dark wood bar. Behind the bar stand the silent TVs with NTN satellite games and neon beer signs against the red brick. Highly visible are rows of mugs of Mug Club members, displaying the High Noon logo on one side and a customer-supplied design on the other. Popular sizes are 18- and 28-ounce, along with "VIP pints." In addition to a full liquor complement cigars are sold. Rock & Roll tunes fill the air throughout most of occupied rooms. The eastern portion of the building contains the 20-foot by 50-foot non-smoking restaurant, with its own entrance to the street. With wood above and wood below, the room is well lit from drop-down lights and track lighting, augmented by "growler lamps" on each table. The booths are comfortable and the restaurant menu draws a good crowd mid-day for its lunch specials. An in-house smoker aids in the creation of memorable flavors for the chicken and ribs. Appetizers run $4 to $6 and Soups & Salads like the Best Beer Chile are $2 to $7. For $6, the 1/2 pound Black Angus Burgers include the Baja Burger and the Cajun Burger. The line-up of hearty meat choices include Hickory-smoked Ribs, Baby Backed Ribs, Grilled-Fired Fajitas and Hickory Smoked Chicken, and range from $7 to $22. Other chicken, steak and veggie dishes are under $12. For $10 to $20, specialty steaks include the Stampede Stout Sirloin, Pecos Porterhouse, Kansas City Strip, and Steak & Shrimp KC Style. Saloon Specialties include Voodoo Chicken, Sankey Sauteed Shrimp and Ole Miss Catfish. More traditional pub fare includes Chicken & Chips, Fish & Chips and Chicken Fried Steak. On the lighter side, Sandwiches run $4 to $7, and Sides such as Lunker Fries, Baked Potatoes, Grammy's Green Beans and Brew City Onion Rings go for $2 to $4. Kids can even grab a Corn Dog or Grilled Cheese Sandwich for under $4. For those who leave room, Desserts like chocolate Stout Cake is sure to please.
Elsewhere, High Noon beers can only be found at Barleys Brewhouse locations, courtesy Premiere Distributing. In 2002 an indoor beer garden should replace the old brewhouse and it's green tiled walls. Production topped 500 barrels in 2001, output in 2002 should easily best that as the new Czech tanks are fully utilized. Through lots of hard work and continued encouragement from customers, look for five flagship and five seasonals to grace the taps in the months ahead. With Growler "to go" sales available seven days a week, High Noon is the only source of off-sale beer in the city of Leavenworth. Sundays are also the day to catch the Pot Roast buffet, while on Wednesdays the attraction is the fresh firkin of cask-conditioned beer that is tapped at the bar. When Ed Baldwin first married Deb she didn't drink beer, now she does. To find out why, visit the High Noon Saloon & Brewery. There's no reason for anyone to go "dry" in Kansas this century.
Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri -