Radius Brewing Company opens in downtown Emporia

05/09/2014 4:15 PM

05/09/2014 4:15 PM

Another brewery has opened in Kansas, as craft beer continues its robust rebound in the state that was the first to enact Prohibition and among the last to repeal it.

Radius Brewing Co.

in Emporia, 100 miles from downtown on southbound Interstate 35, has been packing its 70-seat dining room five days a week since opening in late April. Co-owner and sole brewer Jeremy “J.J.” Johns says 4,500 customers were served in the pub’s first 10 days.

The brewpub also sells beer to go in refillable 64-ounce growlers and 32-ounce “squealers,” an environmentally friendly system that eliminates the transportation and energy cost of recycling glass bottles or aluminum cans.

Besides its stable of regular beers offered on the menu, with favorites including Big Head Blonde, William Allen Wheat, IPA, brown ale, Porter and Milk Stout, Radius brews small batches listed on a chalkboard over the bar that are worth paying attention to.

On a recent weekend, a small-batch hefeweizen tasted remarkably similar to the unfiltered wheat beers in Munich that lend the style its name.

Beer fans who have visited

Tallgrass Brewing Co. in Manhattan (or read the recent Star Magazine story

about the company’s expansion) will recognize a prominent design feature inside Radius: Two stainless steel tanks with American Gladiator logos on them: Jazz and Zap. Tallgrass founder Jeff Gill sold Radius the tanks after Tallgrass’ rocketing sales forced an upgrade to a new factory with larger tanks.

KC Beer Blog

writer Jay Aber says breweries are opening at a fast clip in Kansas, but the state has a long way to go to catch up to pre-Prohinition numbers.

When Free State Brewery opened in Lawrence in 1989, it was the first legally operating brewery in Kansas in 108 years. In 1881, when the state banned brewing, there were 90 breweries. By Aber’s count, there are 23 breweries today: Eight package (wholesale) breweries and 18 brewpubs, with more in the works.

Johns’ partner Justin “Gus” Bays runs the kitchen. Bays was chef at the Grand Central Hotel in Cottonwood Falls for 12 years before he approached Johns three years ago about opening a brewpub in historic downtown Emporia, which is undergoing a bit of a renaissance.

Bays and Johns worked with Emporia Mainstreet, Network Kansas and Kansas Small Business Development Center to put together a business plan and get some loans. But a critical piece of the funding was crowd-sourced. Radius put out a call for private investors willing to lend $5,000 with creative terms: The principal is repaid in full in cash after seven years, and interest is paid in the form of $30 monthly food credits at Radius.

The lunch menu at Radius is built around sandwiches, salads and wood-fired pizzas — the beer cheese spread appetizer (pretzel bread sticks with a beer-cheese spread) and the curly kale-laced Veg Out Pizza are standouts.

The dinner menu changes weekly and sometimes daily depending on what chef Bays can lay his hands on. Recently the chef’s menu featured roasted sea bass just 48 hours out of the ocean, flown in fresh on ice, never frozen.

Unlike Tallgrass, Radius beers are not sold in liquor stores … yet. “That is definitely on the table, but we want to make sure we have the capacity after we meet demand in the restaurant and carryout beer sales before we go there,” Johns said.

Radius, at 610 Merchant St., is open 11 a.m. to midnight Thursdays through Mondays; closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

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