Brewery taps into local water and history

Main Street Kansas

EL DORADO, Kan. (KSNW) – Before you can make good beer, you have to start with good water. At least that’s the motto behind the Walnut River Brewing Company.

“El Dorado had fantastic water!” said BJ Hunt, one of three partners in the brewery.

He says Rick Goehring, a hometown boy, convinced him that Butler County was the place to start their business.

“All the minerals from the Flint Hills makes it perfect for brewing beer,” said Goehring.

What comes out of the water tap, he says, affects the flavor of the beer tap, since H2O is the main ingredient.

The two men founded Walnut River Brewing Company in a building that housed a brothel in the 1920’s, when police turned a blind eye to prostitution.

“They let that go on because they were focused on Prohibition and shutting down beer joints, which is awesome because that’s what we opened downstairs,” said Hunt.

From a bar and table tops made from old bowling alley lanes, they now serve more than a dozen different beers.

“The Warbeard Irish Red is, hands down, our best seller, and that’s great year-round for people,” said Hunt.

But on this day, Goehring began milling barley for an historic beer called a Dutch kuyt.

Walnut Brewing also created a porter with coffee and caffeine in it, as a joke for Groundhog Day. It became so popular, the brewery now carries it year-round.

“I’ve been on quite a few mini tours over in Wichita, and this was one of the best beers there are,” said Steve Scott, a regular at the taproom.

While El Dorado is the main brewing facility, small batches are made at their new Pour House in Wichita.

Walnut River Brewing also cans six kinds of beer for sale across Kansas and Missouri.

Pretty good for guys who left behind very different careers!

BJ used to run a daycare. Rick came from corporate I-T, and they brought in Travis Rohrberg from the pharmaceutical industry.

“We’ve got a natural fit with all three of us,” said Rohrberg. “BJ does the business stuff. Rick does the brewing, and I handle a lot of the science stuff.”

Like quality control, testing the carbonation of the beer to make sure the taste is consistent.

The trio says they may not be not getting rich yet, but they are having fun!

“I love brewing the beer,” said Goehring. “I mean it’s very satisfying, but in the end, it’s all about the people enjoying the beer.”

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