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Free State Brewing Company

Story by: Maddy Robison and Patrick Sullivan

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At first glance, it looks like an ordinary restaurant but once you step through the door you are surrounded by the memories of countless first-dates and family gatherings.

Free State Brewing Company was opened by Chuck Magerl in 1989, and became the first legal brewery in the state of Kansas since prohibition in 1880.

The building was originally the midpoint station between Topeka KS and Kansas City KS on the Kaw Valley Trolley line between 1917 and 1934. In the 1950’s, the Massachusetts Street building became a Trailways bus station.

“The display case on your way out of the building used to be the ticket office,” general manager Alex Hamilton said. “[Magerl] purchased the building with the intention to turn it into a brewery.”

“We feel like we are a large part of the community, not just for what we give back but we feel like we are there for the people of this community,” Hamilton said. “Many times we have people come in for their first dates or as a family tradition.”

Enter any given day and you’ll spot a variety of customers ranging from a young family to a construction worker at the bar on break.

“We like to think of Free State as a destination restaurant without all of the ‘pomp and circumstance’,” Hamilton said. “Magerl’s vision for this place from the beginning was a very populist vision, meaning something for everybody, and we still hold to that today.”

If it’s coming in for a cold beer on your lunch break or enjoying a side of onion rings with your loved one, you will always be welcomed by the smiles of employees and locals that fill this vital piece of Lawrence history.

“We accept everyone under the sun here and that’s how we want it to always be,” Hamilton said.

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Free State Brewing Company