Breweries are more popular than ever in Kansas, but one man started his business long before craft beer was cool!
Hank Sanford began brewing beer at home in the 1990s.
“Mainly because back then, there were only imports,” said Sanford. “You couldn’t find a decent beer, and you had to make it.”
At age 62, Sanford decided to make a living at it. He took a leap of faith and early retirement.
“I’ve got to tell my wife that I just quit my 22-year job to start a brewery,” laughed Sanford, “and I have to convince her that Hank was wiser.”
That explains the name of his brewery in Cheney–“Hank Is Wiser.”
But locals admit they were skeptical.
“Well, we didn’t know if that would go over very well,” said Dave Keller, Cheney resident.
“When we started, everybody was drinking Bud Light,” said Sanford. “We’ve probably got half, three-quarters of the town drinking good beer now.”
“Oh, I love stouts now!” agreed Keller.
Porters and IPAs are also on the menu.
“We love our hops and kinda like to get smacked in the face with hops when we drink a beer,” said Sanford.
Because of the small amounts they brew, Hank Is Wiser is considered a nanobrewery.
When it opened in 2005, there was only one other local brewery. Now, the craft beer business is booming.
To stay competitive, Hank felt he needed something to help his brewery stand out from all the rest. That’s when the family decided to take up smoking.
Meats, that is, with a dry rub his son perfected!
“It’s taken years,” said Steve Sanford.
But word of his tasty ribs spread quickly.
“Well, I’ve had ’em before so they’re fabulous, worth driving all the way from Wichita to get,” said Joe Brown, who comes to Cheney with his wife two or three times a month.
And with Hank’s wife serving them up, customers feel like family.
“I like waiting on people,” said Jane Sanford. “I envision them as coming into my home.”
“It has become like a dream,” said Steve Sanford. “Being able to work with family, and being able to brew beer and make barbecue. It’s a lot of people’s hobbies, and I get to do it for a living.”
Someday Steve will take over the business, but Hank will always have a place at the bar.
“I’ll still be here like the Walmart greeter, greeting customers as they come in and out,” said Hank, with a smile. “We’re here for the love of beer, and that’s why we’re still here, and why we’ll continue to be here.”
“Hank Is Wiser” is only open Friday and Saturday nights from 5:30 – 11 p.m.