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Free State Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Free State Brewing Co.Free State Brewing Co.
Based on:
55 Beers
1,901 Hads
Place Score: 92
Reviews: 64
Visits: 107
Avg: 4.14
pDev: n/a
Taps: --
Bottles: --
Cask: N
Beer-to-Go: Y
[ Brewery, Bar, Eatery ]

636 Massachusetts St
Lawrence, Kansas, 66044-2236
United States
phone: (785) 843-4555

visit their websiteWebsite view map and get directionsMap @freestatebeer

Place added by: BeerAdvocate

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Reviews: 64 | Visits: 107
Photo of DelMontiac
4.64/5  rDev +12.1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.5

I was in Lawrence for a devilish rock show on 10/05/2015. The location is perfectly set up for visiting lovers of good brew and good music with Free State, Liberty Hall, and the Eldridge Hotel each within a few footsteps of the others. Not to mention, it's a beautiful downtown area right off the KU campus. Well done, Lawrence.

I entered Free State at around 5 pm after a stroll downtown. The place was already in full swing at the smallish bar which was full with people standing around it chatting with glasses of various shapes and sizes in hand. The fermentation tanks and all the workings are behind a glass partition next to the bar - typical kind of thing. There are tables outside for the smokers. Don't dig having to walk through the smoke at the front door, but also pretty typical for a downtown sidewalk venue. There is seating on two levels, upstairs giving you either a nice view of the patrons, bar and brewing below or a view out the large windows to the street. Not a large establishment, but very nice and airy.

I was seated up stairs immediately by a friendly hostess and a young waitress took my beer order for an Oktoberfest as I looked over the menu. Very impressive menu. I love a good reuben sandwich, so I kept with the Oktoberfest theme. The beer was fantastic. I also tried their Lovejoy IPA which was nice too. Sandwich was grilled a bit too crispy according to the roof of my mouth later on, but still good. The real star on my plate, however was the potato salad. Best potato salad every...stuff of dreams. I'm not kidding.

After 3 beers, the reuben, potato salad, pickles, and two of their Belgian style short tulip glasses, I only spent about $27. Not bad at all! So for the money, it's five stars in that category. I mean, I've spent that much on 4-5 beers in other brewpubs.

I will definitely go back to the Free State pub. I've been drinking their fantastic beers for years and they're even better in person. Even if you're in the Kansas City area, they're only about 30 miles away. Go check 'em out!

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Photo of professorpint
4.5/5  rDev +8.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5

Stopped by Free State on a Thursday and liked it so much that I came back the next day. Friendly bartenders and regulars create a positive vibe of camaraderie that is very welcoming. Had the limited release Yakimaniac IPA and was very impressed. The food is above average pub grub with some creative vegetarian options. Picked up a 4 pack of the Cloud Hopper Imperial IPA which is excellent. Honestly wasn't expecting much from a brewery in Kansas but Free State crushed it, and Lawrence was actually a cool town with a kick-ass record store and multiple book stores.

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Photo of lovegarden
4.65/5  rDev +12.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4 | food: 5

Free State is one of the best breweries in Kansas. Located in Lawrence, Kansas, they offer only their own brew, and they usually have a wide variety. You can also get their beer at stores around the region. My two favorites are their Old Backus Barleywine and Oatmeal Stout.

Free State has excellent food, and I have never had a bad meal at this establishment. I recommend their fish and chips or their Sonoma Shrimp Fettuccine.

The atmosphere is great, but it can get crowded. Check out their website and use their text ahead seating.

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Photo of rwhitmore
4.59/5  rDev +10.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.75 | service: 5 | selection: 4.25 | food: 4

Our hometown brew pub is always welcoming, warm and fun. The staff is almost universally great, we go there at least once a week, and we can count bad experiences on one hand.

They only serve their brews, there's usually a range of styles to choose from. Servers are generally beer-knowledgeable, and many are very good at discussing the beers in depth.

The food is uniformly very good, and some dishes are always great. My only real beef is the inconsistency of the Pastrami Reuben. I LOVE a good Reuben, and when they do it right, it's wonderful. However, it's sometimes under grilled, and doesn't have that great crispy exterior I want in my Reuben.

If you're in the Kansas City area, take the 30 minute drive to Lawrence and put the Free State Brewing Co. at the top of your list. You'll like it a lot.

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Photo of Wobbly
3.83/5  rDev -7.5%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 3.75 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 3.25

Decent brewery with some special brews. Mostly average though. The attempts at complex Belgian styles come close but consistently fall a tad short. Englishman s German inspired examples range from dependable to mediocre. Food ranges from solid to mediocre.

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Photo of BeerWithMike
3.44/5  rDev -16.9%
vibe: 2.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3.25 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4.5

Visited on Friday evening May 30th, since the wife and I were in Topeka for the weekend. Texted a number to their location for dinner reservations, which worked out just fine actually since it is a busy place and had a bit of a drive to get there. The location is on Mass street, in a old section that was really nice with small shops, bars, etc and a hang out for the younger folks on the weekends.
The bar area was packed as would be for a Friday or Saturday night and very loud, but the walls helped echo that for sure. The hostess lead us around a few turns to a strange dinning area in the back. No windows at all, just some painted scenes on the wall. Was seated next to 3 women, which 1 of them had 4 children that were out of control to say it nicely. Anyway, tried our best to tune them out. The women were all on their 2nd beer pints and were getting louder. With the out of control kids, I can see why the ladies were drinking but no discipline at all to the kids. LOL! Sad actually... ANYWAY, the wife and I both ordered a dinner entree. I had the Gumbo. "WHY would you order Gumbo in the center of the country"? Yes, that would be me! :) And it was great! All homemade and very tasty with lots of andouille sausage, crawfish ,etc with the perfect 'heat' that wasn't too hot or spicy. A really big bowl of gumbo and a good value for the price.

For the brews, they don't offer any 'sampler trays/flights' at all surprisingly and I was disappointed, BUT you can buy a 5 ounce sampler snifter glass for $1.65 each. I tried 2, the Oatmeal Stout and the Wheat State Golden. Both were very tasty brews and will do a separate review on them later on. Lucky, Free State Brewery bottles and sells their brews at the local liquor stores in the area as I wanted to buy a few different ones to sample and do a review from home. I bought 4 single bottles at a local liquor shop close to the brewery to try later when we get back home. Where it is nice and quiet also. LOL! Bought a couple of their beer glasses with their logo on them. A sample brandy snifter and a pint glass. Both are really nice with different logos on each one.

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Photo of Bosoxfan20
3.84/5  rDev -7.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.75 | selection: 4 | food: 3

Great location on Mass St. Beers are solid. Some decent Mosaic and Nelson hop sessionals, but Old Brackus Barley Wine was easily the best.

Service was fair to above average. Waitress was a little slow, but they had a big party and it was a sat night.

Atmosphere was festive and enjoyable. The bar is probably much too small for a brewery, but the setting was fun overall. They had a cool outdoor area, but it was disappointing to see that smoking was allowed.

Prices were very fair. $3-$4 a pint. While most of the beers aren't exactly world class, this price is hard to beat. Food was average. Cheddar ale soup was delicious, gumbo wasn't bad, but the turkey sandwich and stuffed mushrooms were poor.

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Photo of wapcap
4.44/5  rDev +7.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.25 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

One of the cooler places to visit when in the Lawrence area. It is downtown. Very walkable, and very crowded. Have been in there on a Thursday during summer (so less college studens from KU) and was there on a Friday during lunch hours in October. The place was packed, absoltuely packed both times. That means something good is happening at Free State.
The beers are unique and consistently and across the board good. Need to keep something dark on tap, but otherwise good brews all around.

The food was very, very well prepared. I can not speak to the local, sustainable or organic -ness of the foods. But what I had was prepared very well and had a unique Lawrence flavor. Anytime you are in Lawrence, Free State needs to be at least the first place you stop.

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Photo of LambicPentameter
4.35/5  rDev +5.1%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

If you like personal space and a nice, quiet dinner, Free State is not the place for you.

But if you like a bustling atmosphere filled by locals who appreciate good beer and a bit of raucous fun, then you have to make a pilgrimage to this Lawrence, Kansas brewing icon.

I've been here so many times that it seems silly to review based on a single visit, so I will review based on my overall impression from years of going here. My last visit was, alas, a month and a half ago. For starters, as noted, it is very noisy. The main room has lots of hard surfaces, including a massive wall of windows looking into the brewing tanks, and there is a loft, so it is a two-story room. This all makes for a place for lots of noise and echoes. The bar area is often crowded with people either waiting for tables or sampling the beers, but there is a nice porch on the front of the brewpub that allows for a little more space and ample people-watching in warmer weather.

The selection of beers relies on a list of everyday classics, interspersed with some seasonal favorites. To me, Free State has always struck me as a fusion of German and American brewing traditions. Ad Astra altbier and Free State Golden kolsch are a couple of their long-standing favorites (that they now bottle), but they also have a healthy rotation of various IPAs and stouts. And there is nothing quite like sampling them from the source.

The food is actually quite delicious, and they work hard at incorporating beer into the menu items. Their best dish for my money is the fish and chips, a pub staple. But you really can't go wrong with anything on the menu.

Service is hit or miss, but never bad. Sometimes it's excellent, and other times it's just fine. And it's never bad enough to ruin the great food and wonderful beers. Fun fact: Free State had to petition the state to become the first legal brewery in Kansas after the repeal of Prohibition.

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Photo of MilwaukeeCrusher
3.95/5  rDev -4.6%
vibe: 5 | quality: 3.25 | service: 5 | selection: 3.25

Another stop on my Kansas City BBQ trip. The atmosphere was fantastic as expected in a college town. The people were also top notch, friendly and courteous in almost every way. I found the beers for the most part to be ok, but not top shelf as others I have tried on the Pacific coast and the Midwest. Still it was fun place to visit and I have deviated from the consensus before. I do intend to stop again for another round in the future as the reviews are very strong on here, with Lawrence seeming to be a very fun town.

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Photo of mlee117
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3

The food is just alright, but the beer is top notch, and the people are some of the best you will find anywhere. The beer prices are excellent especially when you get to try some of the barrel aged selections. Try to make sure you go when they have their Imperial stout on, and/or their barleywine.

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Photo of Living816
3.9/5  rDev -5.8%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5

Was in town to watch KU football get steamrolled. There was a pretty good crowd at the restaurant, and it was still 4 hours to kickoff. We waited about 20 minutes or so for a table. They have a nifty text messaging system to tell you when the table was ready. I liked that.

The bar had a few spots open so we grabbed some beers while waiting. The brewery has kind of an open arrangement. It's sort of a modern ski lodge type theme. Parking is a pain in the ass since pretty much every spot in town is metered, and there's not many open spots anyway.

They appear a pretty decently sized brewery for a restaurant. If you check the reviews, they have an insane number of beers past and present. On tap there might have been eight or 10 beers.

Overall, the beer was on the high end of average, low end of good for a craft beer. That's not a bad thing considering I'd say it was about the 60-75% percentile of all beers I've ever had on an aggregate.

The service was good. We had plans on doing some serious work at an open bar function later in the day so kept lunch light. We ordered a few starters. I had a deviled egg platter. I don't even remember the last time, other than a Lutheran wedding or funeral, I had a deviled egg outside my home. It was quite a treat. Fantastic. It came with sourdough toast, potato salad, home made pickled beets. I hate pickled beets. Hate them. But these were amazing. I had to try them. It is the one and only pickled beet I have EVER liked and did not retch (literally retch) after eating. If that isn't an endorsement, I don't know what is.

Onion rings were nicely hand battered. A bit greasy, however. Nice stone ground mustard to compliment the toast. They have a nice arrangement of beer friendly platters. Like cheese and fruit, wings, etc.. really nice variety of starters.

As for the beer, I tried about 6 or 8 of them. They were $3.75 for about a 10-12 ounce tap. All served in the appropriate stemware, I might add. Hands down the best they had on tap was a C4 Imperial Black IPA. Outstanding. The worst, and I would avoid this at all costs, was some wheat beer. It was awful. I don't remember the name.

I don't know that I would return here on a gameday without plenty of time to kill, but any other time, I would certainly go back. Great place.

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Photo of russpowell
3.83/5  rDev -7.5%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4

Stopped by on a Saturday for lunch, was pretty busy. Makes me wonder how packed this place is when U is in session

The place had a nice open & airy feel, but not a place that just reeks of atmosphere

The quality of the beer ran from good (most) to very good of the 5 I tried

Service was good & friendly

8 Beers on tap one lager & 7 ales

The food was tasty & there were many items left on the menu I will try in the future

Beers & food weren't too pricey, niether was the grower I purchased ($11 for a jug &a fill )

Not a place I would go out my way to hit again unless Bachus is on tap. But will visit this again when near Lawerence

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Photo of shivtim
3.6/5  rDev -13%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.5 | food: 2.5

Stopped by Free State on a 1/2 day road trip to Lawrence and Topeka while visiting a friend in KC.

It's in the cute downtown area of Lawrence. We found easy street parking and fed 50 cents to a meter.

There's a nice patio space out front, and the interior is great. Big open space with some lofted seating and brewing equipment behind glass. Unfortunately it was busy when we got there, so they led us into a drab back room.

Beer selection was pretty good. Eight on tap, including a decent IPA.

The food was not that great. The burger was a little dry and served only with lettuce, on an onion bun that was a bit burnt. The fries were good though. The thai noodles were bland and just tasted like soy sauce.

Our service was good enough, especially considering they were busy.

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Photo of therobot
4/5  rDev -3.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

A - Free State overall is a great place. It is situated in a nice old brick building right on Mass St. There is a lot of character to the place, and has a nice neighborhood pub feeling to it.

Q - I found the quality (of beer) to be excellent. I tried the Copperhead, A blend of Champage and hibuscus ale (I forget the name and don't recognize anything in the list) and the Cyclone Black Lager, I had intented on trying more but the Cyclone was so good I got suck on it and had a couple. My only gripe is the lack of a flight offering, would have been great to work through more of their line-up.

S - Service was good, no complaints.

S - Beer list and menu have a wide variety of choices, sure to appeal to anyone. I had the fish and chips which were great, delicious beer batter, obviously.

F - As mentioned above found the variety to appeal to many different tastes and I found the quality of my entree to be quite good. It is also hard to go wrong with a plate of deep-fired food.

V - Found it to be a pretty reasonable value, left full and with a nice buzz for just over $20 (not including tip).

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Photo of emerge077
4.14/5  rDev 0%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4

It was mobbed here on a Saturday night, and despite that the bartenders were quick and helpful. We stopped in just to give it a look see and have a beer at the bar. Lots of groups in here, diverse folks, families, couples, all types really. Two floors, dining area upstairs, tables and bar below, with a view of the brewing equipment behind the hanging board of house beers.

The selection was good, a range of styles with a seasonal English Strong Ale "Stingo" and a pair of tasty IPAs. They also serve a house radler (blend of pale wheat and lemonade) on tap called "Cyclist". Other year round favorites were on, like Ad-Astra, Copperhead, and a seasonal Marzen and Pilsner. They keep their rotating drafts updated online.

The space was open and airy with the second floor overlooking the bar area. In the restrooms were German ads for hops, and a map of hop-producing areas in the Pacific NW region... pretty cool. Overall a fun place, bustling on the weekends. Will return to eat and sample more Free State beers one day.

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Photo of Ragingbull
4/5  rDev -3.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4

My wife loves this place. We have been numerous times while visiting family in Kansas and even more while we spent this past year living in Kansas.

I think its good. Its the best around this area, I am pretty sure of that. I did notice some new places, so I should hit them before all my stuff is out of Kansas.

Atmosphere and quality are great. The location is prime on the main drag of Lawrence and its the kind of place you just want to hang out in and kill some time. . . and a few pints.

Anyway, the food here is good. The beer is good, but there have been a couple clunkers over the many visits. I would go ahead and say that this place is a "don't miss" if you are within an hour for more than a few days. If you are in Lawrence and need to eat one meal. . . stop in. As far as nationwide, I think my review numbers are pretty fair. Its good, but you have to leave room for a few places above it.

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Photo of ndolover
3.6/5  rDev -13%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.5

Located on the main drag, this building is larger then it looks from the outside. You will be greeted by patio seated smokers as you enter the building.

The bar is relatively small, as this is more of a dining establishment. It also seems to be catering to more of the family and older crowd. The service at the bar was swift and warm.

The beer was good, however I didn't see many seasonal or specialty beers on tap.

I did not eat the food, but it looked good and seemed to be the place for food as it was packed on a Wednesday night.

Overall, I would reccomend this place if you are looking for a calmer evening and something good to eat...and of course a good beer!

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Photo of slander
4.05/5  rDev -2.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5

This, most certainly, is last call. Rolled (Tumbleweeded, really) an hour out into Kansas, for beer and for beer, and are now working our way back East from wherest we came to drop Randy and run. Either everything in Kansas looks the same or I’m not actually moving. Or both. Are we making any ground here? I’m just so not getting to Omaha, let alone all the way out to Des Moines tonight...

Towards the north end of the strip on Massachusetts Street, people sittin’ curbside in a small corral umbrella’d. Do they know something? And in. Through to the far corner, an “L” shaped wood bar with swivel chair seating for 7 on the straight; the bend lost to service. A pair of copper bar towers at different points along the bar hold 8 taps each. Barback is a wall of shelved glassware & shirts, with cooler space below, and strangely unreachable cupboard space atop. Stucco cement wall to the ceiling above boasting a Kansas state flag. TV’s mounted on each end above the bar, and shirts displayed to one side with a slat board holding the tap list.

Just past where I’m sitting at the end of the bar, a small, 2 floored brew room behind glass angled, with a bar counter below on its windows. A row of fermenters to one side and a brick lined kettle & mash tun to the other. I’ve seen the guy go up and down the center ladder a few times now, and can see the keg stash from here. They make beer in there.

Rafter and wood plank ceiling sporting large copper pan drop lamps over the bar, track & solo baby spots about, and spinnys with glass lamps over the mezzanine, running over the front of the room and around the side behind us. Floor is a series of the butts of 4 x 6’s showing grain, cedar, along the bar; the rest of the room done in deep red concrete. Forward wall of block stone, done lightly with framed prints, and tall narrow vertical windows blinded up front. The seating pen pillared there below the mezzanine holds nearly a dozen booths & tables, some with shared benching.

9 beers up, they don’t deal a sampler, per say, but I had some samples of some not all, yes. Had to pick and choose and got through 6 of 9 (Octoberfest, light, with but rich & malty goodness; Harvest Ale, wild Citra & Centennial wet hopped, grassy; Ad Astra Ale, an Alt, malty sweetness; Big Sea ESB, deep amber color with a big malt backbone, nice hoppiness; Thomas Paine Porter, dark roastiness, hop bitterness; Oatmeal Stout, a little thinnish, oaty, silky). Didn’t have at the other 3 (Wheat State Golden, Thunderhead Pale Ale (APA), Copperhead Pale Ale) as I’m tight on time, but I liked what I had for the most part. The Octoberfest, Big Sea ESB & Harvest Ale were the best of ‘em.

And seriously, I was thinking about the Salmon Bruchetta, but Randy gave me the “Like you’re not going to have the gumbo”, and well, yeah, who are we kiddin’? Chicken, crawfish & Andouille sausage in a dark brown roux, with the obligatory okra, and a wonderful lump pilaf of barley, wheat & brown rice. It had some good heat. You know, that was one stellar bowl of gumbo. Randy had the black bean burger as Randy does. I could’ve should’ve would’ve asked him how his burger was but I was all about me (and gumbo) at that given moment, so, um, no.

Upstairs, the mezzanine holds dozen + booths & tables to forward over the canopied front windows. Off to the side, a small meeting room with old Kansas prints, and through to a totally unexpected back area.
It’s a large open space with a balcony running around 3 sides of the room, and a blue sky stucco ceiling. More tablings below, a corner fountain, and sprawling hanging plants. You do bands here? Really? Yeah, I guess I can believe that, sure.

I got ID’d, which at twice plus the drinking age, well, it is a college town. Good crowd this afternoon, many getting their growlers filled. My (5) 2oz samples cost a whopping $1.45, which is just criminal, or criminally insane, maybe. At these prices, I could never survive in this town, state, time zone. Good food and good beer, no complaints, except that I’m in Kansas (yes, I went there).

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Photo of cwcolby74
3.95/5  rDev -4.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4

This was one of my favorite haunts when I was in college. It's used to be a student hangout but is more of a townie joint now.

I loved sitting on the porch in the summer (their own little "beer garden") and enjoying a Cyclist or two.

The beer is very very good, brewed on premises. Not a huge selection, but there's enough there to keep you satisfied for a while. And the place is on Mass in Lawrence, so there's a ton of other cool stuff in the area.

If you come to Lawrence, this is one of those must-visit places.

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Photo of BeenJammin
4.18/5  rDev +1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4.5 | food: 5

This is the more popular of the two Lawrence institutions. And for good reason. They "got it goin' on". Good luck finding an open seat there during the weekend or after a KU game. Josiah Miller IPA is my usual, but I would recommend any of their beers to a newcomer. Really, they offer a wide array of styles and all of them have been great, save for a few styles that I don't particularly like. Another item that needs mention is the food. They have what has to be a world class chef and they offer a great variety of dishes to go along with their wonderful beer selection.

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Photo of midwestbrewers
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5

I took my girlfriend out to eat for her birthday to FSBC. I couldn't have had a better first experience. We got there early enough to be sat immediately. If you've been to Free State you know how the layout is and we had an amazing table in the middle of the balcony on the top, overlooking Mass. St. the fact that it was decorated for the holidays made the scenery even more beautiful. The building looks beautiful inside as well and is very clean.
We started with the Oatmeal Stout which is already a favorite beer at my house. Amazing beer from the tap, as well as the bottle. Not much else to say except great beer.
The service was good. The place got extremely busy shortly after we arrived. Other than our waiter be on the quite side in an increasing noisy environment, the service was exactly what was expected.
The selection was great. There's a little bit of something for everybody. The flavors range from Cajun to Italian to just normal pub food. THE FOOD WAS AMAZING!!!! Coupled with the presentation of the meal it was superb, and the price for two was under $40.
Overall I am very pleased with Free State. I will be back in the near future.

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Photo of FosterJM
3.73/5  rDev -9.9%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4.5

My parents live in Eudora which is just outside Lawrence, so recently when we took a family trip to KS I was looking for places to go. I did some research online and found FSBC. Now, For me this place wasnt that bad based upon the food it was more about how the waiteress had no idea about what I was asking her about the beers they had on draft for that weekend. So after not having her full faith I decided to just grab a flight and go from there. The beers were not 1/2 bad. Infact their Saison was very good. The food here was excellent and not overly priced. They did show on the menu that they use their beer with their food which was a treat because their Cheddar Ale soup was amazing. I didn't go on a very busy night Fri or Sat so I cant say what its like during a very high paced night. Im sure a lot would suffer being in a college town. Overall, was a nice place during a slow lunch to grab a flight and talk with my wife and sister.

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Photo of boogles
3.35/5  rDev -19.1%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 4

Updated review (July, 2011) after living in Lawrence over two years.

I seek two things in a brewpub: good food and, more importantly, good beer. Free State is incredibly over-hyped, although they're trying. In the long run it's the best thing going here, but it isn't what everyone says.

Free State is a prototypical "locals' favorite" kind of establishment. Who are these locals? I don't know, but there are lots of them, and they love it here. They're not beer lovers, and they probably have way too much civic pride (the biggest annoyance in Lawrence).

The atmosphere inside is nice when it's not overcrowded, which is never at dinner hours, Mondays, and weekends. The front room is awful and the "patio" is worse--this is where the "locals" hang out--smoking cigs, talking loudly, and wanting to be seen and heard. Many aren't even drinking. The building is huge and there is tons of seating in different rooms, some of which are quite cool. But usually I find myself elbowing through the door only to stand in a crowded, overlit room for 15 minutes or more--and I'm usually seated in this giant, crowded room.

The beer menu changes a lot, which is great. However, most of the choices are boring. They don't do many big beers and they aren't into hops--perhaps this is what I dislike the most. Lots of light to medium offerings. I've never seen anything on cask. Half the beers I order are either bad or unmemorable--often a balance problem. Occasionally I get something I really like, for example a dark lager on a recent visit. The stout is good.

The service is typically slow and steady. Seating is the main problem. Refills are often a challenge, which in my opinion is a serious problem for a brewpub. Food comes out quick enough.

The food is acceptable but, and some of it is good. They change the menu often, which is a plus.

I used to like 23rd St. better, because I like the bitter professor IPA (West Coast style) ... but after going there often I can't stand it--they (23rd) haven't changed their menu in 2 years, and their service has declined significantly. They don't try anything new. So now I have to give the not to Free State, even though I don't like it.

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Photo of Yetiman420
3.88/5  rDev -6.3%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 3.5

Stopped in on a Tuesday around 6:00 on a day it was 107 degrees outside. So hot that they were dumping ice water on the large brass handle that opens the front door (which faces the sun to the west).

Pretty crowded with people who all seemed to know each other and the staff. Laid back as one would expect in a college town. I thought the interior was a bit uninspiring for a brewpub. Building seems like it was something from the 70's.

I sat near the bar and had two beers - a hop jack ale with all nugget hops (bitering, aromatics, and dry hop) and the storm chaser stout. Both beers were pretty good but I was after a bitter and citrusy IPA. They also had an interesting beer that was a cross between a hefe and american pale ale.

I went to 23rd street afterwards and had the best Kansas IPA ever and would probably opt for 23rd over Free State in the future.

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Free State Brewing Co. in Lawrence, KS
92 out of 100 based on 64 ratings.