Sunday, October 7, 2007

Visit to Gella's - Liquid Bread Brewery & Drive to Scott City, KS and Denver

"To freely bloom - that is my definition of success." ~Gerry Spence

October 1-2: Before leaving town, we searched for a Pretty Prairie shot glass. We found one out at the Pretty Prairie Links golf course. It was the last shot glass souvenir left over from the annual Pretty Prairie rodeo, the largest night rodeo in Kansas. (The rodeo was started in about 1937 by Jon's grandpa and great-uncle.)

We didn't want the shot glass for ourselves, but as a gift for Jess Graber, Owner/Distiller at Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey in Denver. We'll be visiting Jess in a few days. When setting up the visit, I found out Jess's father's family also hails from Pretty Prairie. Turns out Jon and Jess are fourth or fifth cousins. Their ancestors were Mennonites who emigrated from Russia, and prior to that from Switzerland.

After the shot glass hunt, we drove to Hays, Kansas, to visit Gella's Diner and Liquid Bread Brewery. Took us awhile to find the joint. Everybody in Hays knew the place, but they kept putting us a block off.

We asked for Brewmaster Gerald Wyman as we ordered a very nice pan-fried potato chip-breaded Walleye fish & chips. After lunch and a full sampler set of Lb (Liquid Bread) beers, Gerald gave us a custom tour.

Gerald and his partners opened Gella's/ Lb two years ago. Gerald was a very advanced homebrewer, and he spec'd the deluxe JV Northwest system himself.

I appreciated some of Gerald's extra whistles and bells that I'd never had, like a thermometer on his grist case, and an extra zwickle (sample port) and glycol jackets on the cone of one of his 10-barrel fermenters for yeast propagation.

A few days ago I posted a photo of several rubber boots. That photo was taken just inside the door of Gerald's brewhouse. He normally requires anyone who wishes to enter his brewhouse to doff their shoes and don a pair of brewhouse-only boots. We got the VIP tour and got to take the tour in our street shoes. Gerald told us he'd mop the floor right after our tour to get rid of any street bugs we might have tracked in.

Gerald designed his fishbowl set-up with glass walls between every section. Most brewpubs have the brewhouse and fermenters in one room, and the serving tanks in a separate walk-in cooler. Gerald's brewhouse was separated from the fermentation room by a glass wall. I believe his fermentation room, with five fermenters, had positive air pressure. Even his walk-in cooler was completely encased in glass. Spent grain buckets were removed from the premises through a back door from the brewhouse to the alley. The design was completely logical.

Gerald and his partners spent a fair bit to fix up their historical building downtown. The popular restaurant and kitchen were as spacious and well-laid out as the brewery.

After lunch we continued on to Scott City, Kansas, where Jon's father's cousin, Dick and his wife Joy Barton live.

Barton was Jon's grandmother's maiden name, and it is also his middle name. The Barton marker in the photo at left was carved in Kansas limestone, which is quite yellow compared to the white limestone of southern Indiana and Kentucky.

(Photo at left, L to R: Dick, Joy and Jon.)

We had a nice dinner and afterwards Dick entertained Jon with stories about Pretty Prairie and Jon's dad while I read a magazine.

The next day, before driving to Denver, we went to look at Dick's 1936 International Harvester pickup truck. Jon's great-grandfather (Dick's grandfather), David Barton, bought the truck in 1938 and wore it out by the 1950's.
At that point the truck was abandoned in a field. Dick's brother Don (Cousin Don who cooked the chicken and ham in the concrete culvert pipe grill-pit), rescued the truck and restored it. Dick bought it from Don two years ago and fixed it up further. The shiny red truck just got a new coat of paint so Dick could drive it with his fellow Shriners in local parades.

After visiting Jon's great-grandfather's truck, we headed out on the highway toward Denver. Jon drove while I wrote blog texts. We arrived at my sister, Heidi's family's house in Denver by dinner and had a great time playing with our nephews before bedtime.

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