Never one to turn down the opportunity at a crisp beverage and good eats, I recently embarked on the Lawrence leg of the MET&L Prairie Pour Tour. This fun, free passport is a joint collaboration between the Kansas cities of Manhattan, Emporia, Topeka, & Lawrence that aims to introduce locals and visitors alike to the exceptional craft beverage industry we have in Northeast Kansas. Breweries and distilleries from all four cities are involved in the project, and the mission is simple: Visit locations, drink craft beverages, earn points, and exchange those points for prizes. Challenge accepted.

METL Prairie Pour Tour

Where should I start? My hometown, of course! Lawrence is home to six amazing breweries, and while I'm fond of all of them for different reasons, this seemed like a great opportunity to reintroduce myself. 

Author note: While embarking on your own journey on the Prairie Pour Tour, make sure you're participating responsibly. Remember, designated drivers are some of the best friends a person can have.

Let's get started.


Free State Brewing Company

Free State Brewing Co Blood Orange Radler

It's always a safe bet to start your brewery journey in Lawrence, Kansas, with the iconic Free State Brewery. When it opened its doors in 1989, it was the first legal brewery in Kansas in over 100 years. Since then, they've built up a powerhouse of a reputation, and man, do they not disappoint. Located in a former bus depot right on the 600 block of Massachusetts Street, it's one of the first things you see when you cross the bridge from North Lawrence and enter Downtown Lawrence. So many folks stop here for a drink and a meal that the folks at Free State are no strangers to welcoming visitors to Lawrence.

Free State Brewery

For my trip, I slid onto a barstool and started a conversation with the bartender. Ian was super friendly, introducing himself before I realized we had actually met before when he was working his other gig as Lawrence legend DeeJay Proof. Free State has a long tap list to choose from, ranging from iconic flagship staples like the Ad Astra Amber Ale (the original Kansas craft beer) and the Copperhead Pale Ale (a longtime favorite of mine) to seasonal brews like the Blood Orange Radler and the highly beloved Garden Party (coming soonish: presumably whenever the fresh cucumbers are fully grown and harvested). 

Free State Appetizer

Grabbing a meal? You can't go wrong, but my personal recommendations are the Spanish Baked Goat Cheese appetizer with garlic tomato sauce, Wisconsin goat cheese, melted swiss, fried capers, and baguette slices, and the classic Fish & Chips, which are some of the best in Lawrence.

Free State Brewery Blood Orange Radler

I decided to try something new this time around and settled on a pour of the Blood Orange Radler. After a few sips, I realized this is the kind of beer that deserves to be drank on a patio on a beautiful day. It's light, refreshing, with just a touch of sweetness that even the anti-fruity-drinks crowd could find palatable. And man, look at that color. Drinking it makes you think of those warm, late spring days just before summer hits in full force. 

Folks on the patio were happily chatting with each other over a hearty meal, people were walking by on their way to do some shopping in the historic Downtown Lawrence, and I was enjoying my beer as I checked in on the Prairie Pour Tour pass and earned my first 100 points.

Free State Brewing Co

Keeping Free State's motto in mind, I continued on my journey.

"...because, without beer, things do not seem to go as well..."

One excellent Lawrence brewery down, five to go. 


Fields & Ivy Brewery

Fields & Ivy

My next visit takes me to the East end of 23rd Street to Fields & Ivy. This brewery opened its doors in 2019 and has a whole lot of charm. It's a gorgeously crafted space, and there's plenty of it. Fields & Ivy emphasizes farm-to-table brewing and tasty pizza, sandwiches, burgers, and salad.

Fields & Ivy Pizza

via Fields & Ivy on Facebook

They often host parties for gamedays and recently launched a new pizza-by-the-slice deal. And don't even get me started on their beer garden. If you're looking for a whole lot of beautiful outdoor space, this is the place to come. It's large and fully fenced in, and there are quite a few yard games to choose from to pass an afternoon. 

Fields & Ivy Beer Garden

Fields & Ivy has become a go-to spot when my family, which includes me, my mom and dad, my brother and sister-in-law, and their two young kids, want to eat together at a restaurant. The kids absolutely love the outdoor space and yard games, and my brother and sister-in-law love the fenced-in thing. We often see other families with young ones dining at Fields & Ivy, though it's also a great spot for adults.

Fields & Ivy

After deliberating the very long list of tapped beers, I decided that if I were going to appreciate Kansas in all its craft-brewing glory, I should definitely go with the Kansas Lager. It's a Vienna-style lager that Fields & Ivy is particularly proud of, and for good reason. It's brewed with estate-grown barley from Wellsville, Kansas. I'll leave it to the experts when it comes to describing this beer:

"Our local barley malt offers a uniquely mellow and sweet graininess with hints of biscuit and toast in a lager that’s balanced with local hop aroma and bitterness."

Fields & Ivy

There you have it: Kansas in a glass. I found it refreshing, with a touch of complexity that certainly made for an enjoyable beer. I checked in on the Prairie Pour Tour and earned my next 100 points, and, after promising the bartender I'd return soon for the launch of their seasonal Cerveza (brewed with lime juice, Maldon small-batch sea salt, and Silvermine heirloom corn), I was on my way to brewery 3 of 6.

Lawrence Beer Company

Lawrence Beer Company Patio

Lawrence Beer Company's motto is "Down your street, up the alley," which certainly encompasses the vibe that LBC brings to the table: this is a neighborhood brewery, and the moment you walk through the doors, you're part of the neighborhood. Their main goal is to make quality beer and good food and cultivate community. Since their grand opening in 2017, they've more than succeeded at this goal.

Lawrence Beer Company

At Lawrence Beer Co, we've got another gorgeously designed interior, the highlight for me being the massive, five-panel Kansas prairie storm cloud image towards the back end of the restaurant. The patio is one of the most popular in Lawrence, and for good reason: it's large, spacious, sunny, and comfortable. Lawrence Beer Co's signature logo features an adorable pup with a beer balanced on the tip of its nose, so you can always find a dog or six outside the restaurant (on the lower picnic area) on a beautiful day. As I'm not one to break tradition, I saddled up my pup, and we made our way on foot to LBC for a beer and a bite to eat. 

Lawrence Beer Co Raffi dog

After settling on what we wanted to drink—I ordered a hazy IPA, Raffi a bowl of water—we sat back and perused the food menu. Technically, I perused the menu, and my dog perused the other dogs on the patio, but you get the picture. I waffled between LBC's signature, highly praised burger and my other favorite entrée, the fried avocado tacos. Whatever you choose, you can't go wrong here. They also both come with the option of waffle fries, which are some of the best fries in Lawrence. This time, I went with the burger. Side note - I also highly recommend the brussels sprouts appetizer. They're crunchy, tangy, and completely delicious.

Lawrence Beer Company Burger

After my meal, I took some time to sit back and watch the clouds roll in. It felt oddly fitting to be at Lawrence Beer Company on such a beautiful day as it quickly turned into a stormy one. In Kansas, you learn to love and appreciate all kinds of weather. LBC certainly understands this dichotomy—with its awesome patio and beautiful stormy mural, it's a good place to visit whatever the weather happens to be doing.

Lawrence Beer Company storm

Eventually, I realized this storm was about to turn a I settled my tab and checked in on the MET&L Prairie Pour Tour pass. Where to next?

Lawrence Beer Co West

Lawrence Beer Co West

Another day, another neighborhood. Across Lawrence, you'll find Lawrence Beer Company's sister location. While a bit smaller in size, LBC West remains dedicated to its goal of providing good beer, good eats, and a GREAT patio. 

Big Peach at Lawrence Beer Company West in Lawrence Kansas

It's another rainy day when I arrive, but the place is packed, so I grab a seat at the bar. Maybe the rain made me nostalgic for a summer I spent in the UK years ago, but I decided to order the Two Hands Anyhow, LBC's English Ale inspired by "the Iron Master." It hits the spot, and I strike up a conversation with the bartender, who tells me that Lawrence Beer Co West's nachos can't be beaten. She's right - they're seriously tasty. Loaded with black beans, bell peppers, onions, queso, salsa, sour cream, and guacamole, this dish is large enough to share, but I make a valiant effort to go it alone. 

Lawrence Beer Co West Nachos

After checking in on the Prairie Pour Tour pass and checking out the patio, I vow to return on another day when it's sunny and bright. The neighbors love it, and you will, too!

23rd Street Brewery

23rd Street Brewery beer

My next trip takes me to a Lawrence staple that opened its doors in 2006: 23rd Street Brewery. This is, in my opinion, *the brewery* to go to when you want to catch a game. They have over 30 TVs, rotating craft beers on tap, and some seriously divine fried pickles. The space is beautiful. I never tire of glancing up at the dining area's round, barrel-like ceiling adorned with photo collages of KU athletic legends. 

23rd Street Brewery

I decided to take advantage of 23rd Street Brewery's awesome Happy Hour from 3-6 PM Monday through Friday. When I arrived, there was a pretty sizable crowd around the bar, which turned out to be members of the Lawrence Brewers Guild, celebrating the tapping of 23rd's most popular rotator beer, the Chewzacca. If you're a Star Wars fan, you can probably guess what day the brewery releases this beer every year, and May the Fourth be with you.

23rd Street Brewery

The head brewer, Angelo Ruiz, zips around the scene, chatting with Lawrence Brewers Guild members about the Chewzacca and other brews on tap. Angelo and I actually worked together at another restaurant about a decade ago, so we catch up a little while he pours me a beer. Angelo has great things to say about pretty much every beer on the tap list, but today he's particularly excited about the Chewzacca (a hazy IPA brewed with Azacca hops, with notes of tropical fruit, citrus, melon, and berries), the Firehouse Altbier (a copper-colored, German-style Altbier, brewed in collaboration with Andy Booth from Lawrence-Douglas County Fire and Medical), and Alejandro's Big Bock (a pale, strong, malty lager beer originally created by Angelo's "Brewbro" Alex Sonnich, who now works at 785 Brewing in Topeka, another destination on the Prairie Pour Tour). 

23rd Street Brewery

The Chewzacca is a very refreshing beer to sip at the end of my workday, and I painstakingly deliberate purchasing the accompanying merch before ultimately deciding that I have a few too many Star Wars graphic tees and sweatshirts in my closet already. Admittedly, I have some regrets. Should I go back and snag one before it's too late? 

I check in on the pass and earn myself another 100 points. One last Lawrence stop to go!

Black Stag Brewery

Black Stag Brewery

My last Lawrence stop takes me back to the same area of Downtown Lawrence where I started: Black Stag Brewery & Pub on the 600 block of Mass Street. Black Stag has a huge dining area, a great patio, and even a downstairs room with speakeasy vibes that folks can book for parties. I arrive just in time for Happy Hour once again, which runs from 3-6 PM Monday through Friday. The Happy Hour specials include bites like wings, sliders, and street tacos, and beers run for only $3. Talk about a great deal. 

Black Stag Brewery

I grab a seat at the bar, spend a long time deliberating on which beer to order, and ultimately decide to go for a taster flight. The four brews I pick out are the Papaholua Pineapple IPA, the Bamburgh Castle Ale, the St. Martin's Pilsner, and the Peaches & Cream Ale. All the tasters are presented on a beautiful curved tasting flight board stamped with the Black Stag Brewery logo.

Black Stag Brewery

It's hard for me to pick a favorite of the four - the pineapple flavor comes through strong in the Papaholua IPA, but not in an overpowering or overly sweet way. The pilsner is light and refreshing, exactly what you'd hope a pilsner would be. The Peaches & Cream Ale is a seasonal rotator beer, and I'm told by the bartender that it's so popular that it sells out every single year. I can see why - it's delicious. Even the least-seasoned beer drinker would have good things to say about this one. Last but certainly not least, the Bamburgh Castle Ale is an English-style brown ale with notes of pecan.

After checking in at Black Stag on my pass, I feel pretty content with my experience sampling Lawrence's breweries. For now. There's a lot more fun to be had and some really cool prizes to earn. After all, it's the MET&L Prairie Pour Tour, so I'm planning my road trips to Manhattan, Emporia, and Topeka. Where should I go next?


Get your free pass here. 

Consider yourself a craft beverage enthusiast? The MET&L Prairie Pour Tour takes you on a journey through the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas. Get a taste of what eastern Kansas has to offer and explore our unique breweries, wineries and...