I love me a good coffee crawl. It is a surefire way of seeing all that a city has to offer. It’s why (much to the chagrin of my non-coffee-obsessive wife) I always end up spending one day of a vacation checking out a city’s coffee scene via three-to-six cafe stops. (It’s called “me time.” Deal with it.)
And as an American adult male, I also have a favorable view of beer. Much like coffee, there’s a lot to nerd out on in the beer world; from the making to the consuming, there is a nuance to beer that finds a common kin in coffee. But there are only enough hours in the day for one liquid love, so I can really only classify my beer-dom as aggressively interested, nowhere near expert level. Just give me a fresh hopped IPA or a sour and I’m a happy camper.
When I first heard about Wichita, Kansas’ Wicked Brew Tour, a self-guided romp around seven coffee shops and six breweries, I thought it sounded like a cool idea. Once I found out you get a shirt for visiting eight of the 13 places, I knew I had to do it. All in one day. And, being a semi-obsessive completionist, I was visiting all 13 stops or I wasn’t going at all.
So that’s what I did. With the help of my tour guide, Reverie Coffee‘s Andrew Gough, I went to all 13 places, taking thorough and increasingly incoherent notes. It seemed like a good idea at the time, though not so much the next day. (A few days removed, though, I’m back to considering it a good idea.) But either way, I did it. I went on the Wicked Brew Tour, and all I got was this T-shirt.
Stop 1: Reverie Coffee Roasters
The tour starts at the home base for my tour guide, Reverie Coffee Roasters on Douglas Avenue. The nearly 100-year-old building is home to both Reverie’s cafe and roasting facility. The space is reminiscent of other specialty shops that take root in smaller cities across the US: older buildings lovingly cared for and maintained as a means of preserving some small portion of the town’s history. And indeed, Gough has removed plaster from the walls to reveal the building’s original brick structure.
As I do with most crawls, I have to start this one with an espresso. Normally, by the end, I won’t even want to see one, so I need to ride the high while it lasts. Gough suggests the Nameless Espresso, Reverie's ever-changing single-origin offering. During my visit, the Nameless was a washed Peru, a really solid coffee: well-structured, good body, tastes like it would hold up well in milk. It’s what your everyday espresso should be.
It’s a good start to the day. I feel like I need more coffee, but I’m sure that sentiment won’t last.
Coffee Count: 1
Stop 2: Churn & Burn Ice Cream and Coffee.
Moving to the south side of town, our next stop is Churn & Burn Ice Cream and Coffee. All the ice cream is made in-house using nitrogen pumped through metallic tubes hanging from the ceiling. There are three basic components from which innumerable variants can be created: the Churn, the Burn, and the Churn & Burn.
The Churn is the ice cream, the Burn is espresso—from local specialty items purveyor The Spice Merchant & Company—and the Churn & Burn is a combination of the two. And while this is a brew tour, Gough strongly suggests the Churn & Burn. I’m not a huge fan of sweets, so this will be a test of my fortitude. Have so much coffee that I’m vibrating? Sure. Get exceptionally drunk while acting as an ambassador for Sprudge? Most definitely. Consume sugar? Every man has his limits.
But I’m here to see it all, to experience each stop at its best, to step out of my comfort zone. Give me a salted caramel Churn & Burn, dammit, and add some extra drizzle. It is, of course, delicious on a 90-plus-degree Wichita summer day. My teeth may fall out of my head, but it will be worth it. It could use more espresso, but that may just be me still needing coffee.
Coffee Count: 2, Sugar Count: 1
Stop 3: Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolates
Sure, let’s double down on the sugar rush. Why not? In truth, Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolates is more chocolate shop and wine bar than coffee shop. So in keeping with that, a 16-ounce dark chocolate mocha is in order. I haven’t had one of these in probably 10 years, but I must say, they use some pretty damn good chocolate. And with coffee roasted by Reverie, it makes for a tasty beverage. I think there’s a trip to the dentist in my very near future.
Coffee Count: 3, Sugar Count: 2
Stop 4: Wichita Brewing Co. & Pizzeria (East Location)
Finally, a beer stop. Thus far there has only been one kind of brew on this “brew tour,” and a beer sounds pretty great right about now. I may have gone a little overboard with the eight-beer flight though; Wichita Brewing Company had a nice selection of sours and IPAs, so I had to get them all. And they are all mini-pours, so I should be fine. Right? Right.
Probably should have eaten here. This may be the turning point where things start to nosedive. Only time will tell…
Coffee Count: 3, Sugar Count: 2, Beer Count: call it 3
Stop 5: The Donut Whole
The Donut Whole is pretty easy to find in Wichita. It’s the building with the giant rooster on top of it. The 24-hour doughnut shop touts “Wichita’s best coffee,” which seems like a bold claim. But in fairness, the sign seems to have been made more than 50 years ago, so I’ll cut them some slack. Inside the shop has a very '90s vibe, with lots of vintage-looking circusy kitsch. The big plastic lion really ties the room together.
Perhaps not the best coffee in Wichita, but the Nitro Joe’s cold brew is still pretty tasty. It’s roasted a little darker than I normally go for, but the nitrogen adds a silky mouthfeel that smooths out the edges. And it goes great with a cinnamon-sugar cake doughnut.
Coffee Count: 4, Sugar Count: 3, Beer Count: 3
Stop 6: River City Brewing Company
Then there was this delightful, farmy saison from River City Brewing Company. It was accompanied by another missed opportunity to eat. Things are heading to a bad place.
Coffee Count: 4, Sugar Count: 3, Beer Count: 4
Stop 7: Espresso To Go Go
We’re only about a mile and a half from our starting location yet it feels like we’ve gone so far. This corner cafe has the cleanest design thus far on the crawl. The big windows on two sides of the building pump a lot of natural light into the all-white space. And there’s a giant disco ball, the biggest one I’ve ever seen. It’s not really out of place, but it is the focal point of the space. Like, “Hey, did you know there was a coffee shop around that disco ball? I hadn’t noticed.”
Gough says Espresso To Go Go makes a really excellent Vietnemese iced coffee. You know how I said earlier about not liking sugar? That sentiment doesn’t extend to Vietnamese iced coffee. Sugary though it may be, it is one of my favorite beverages of all time, and Espresso To Go Go’s doesn’t disappoint. It’s made with Spice Merchant coffee that cuts through the sweetened condensed milk nicely.
No whip for me, thanks. I don’t like sugar.
Coffee Count: 5, Sugar Count: 4, Beer Count: 4
Stop 8: The Hungry Heart and WHOLE Brewing Company
Maybe it’s because the fifth beer is always better than beers one through four, but this blackberry-jasmine lambic from WHOLE (Wichita’s House of Living Elixir) may be the best beer I have on the Brew Tour. It’s at least the most recent one.
Food is finally happening too, my first nosh of the day, and it’s pretty exceptional: ahi tuna nachos and smoked salmon toast. The bartenders were really friendly, and we talked about Wes Anderson, Coen Brothers, and Christopher Guest movies, which took my mind off the painful realization that doing the entire Wicked Brew Tour in one day is a bad idea. So that was nice.
Coffee Count: 5, Sugar Count: 4, Beer Count: 5
Stop 9: Mead’s Corner
Next up is Mead’s Corner, and guess what, it’s on a corner. The awning states that it’s a “fair trade coffeehouse,” which kinda sounds like a jumble of coffee buzzwords. Turns out, they’re using PT’s Coffee Roasting Company coffee—the first out-of-town roaster to make an appearance on the crawl—so they get a pass on the whole fair-trade thing.
Mead’s is also the first place to sport a three-group Synesso Hydra, or anything non-La Marzocco for that matter. The espresso is good, but unlike beer, the sixth coffee is never as good as coffees one through five. Right now, it’s just caffeine and perseverance that are carrying me through. Pray for mojo.
Coffee Count: 6, Sugar Count: 4, Beer Count: 5
Stop 10: R Coffeehouse
Please don’t make me drink any more coffee. Ok, focus.
R Coffee House is a cool neighborhood shop in what looks to be an old corner house. There’s an older, hippie Jimmy Buffett-looking dude with an acoustic guitar about to start his set. He compliments my Tweed Coffee Roasters shirt because Tweed is his last name. Jeffy Tweed maybe?
Like Mead’s before it, R is also rocking PT’s espresso. It’s great. I drank it. It was great. I’m done with coffee for the day. Is that a juice bar next door?
Coffee Count: 7, Sugar Count: 4, Beer Count: 5, Juice Count: 1
Stop 11: Wichita Brewing Company & Pizzeria (West Location)
I’m not sure how they got two stops on the brew tour. Sneaky little bastards. I had a beer there. I think it was a sour or something. It was the best yet.
Coffee Count: 7, Sugar Count: 4, Beer Count: 6
Stop 12: Hopping Gnome Brewing
We’re back on Douglas Avenue. You’re not going to believe this, but this ICT IPA from Hopping Gnome is the best beer I’ve had today. Maybe it’s because it is 8% ABV and is boozy enough for me to actually taste it.
This patriotic gnome riding an owl is giving me the stink eye.
Coffee Count: 7, Sugar Count: 4, Beer Count: 7
Stop 13: Central Standard Brewing
Sour beers, Bretts, goses—Central Standard is speaking my language. And it’s the last stop. I’m not sure if I had multiple beers or just took photos of them. There would be no way of knowing. I got that all-important last stamp, and that’s all that matters. I could definitely see myself hanging out here, drinking more and eating the tasty food truck food. But I’ve got a date with destiny and I don’t want to be late.
Coffee Count: 7, Sugar Count: 4, Beer Count: 8, 9?
Stop 14: Visit Wichita Bureau
They said it couldn’t be done and that I was crazy for even trying. But here I stand (“stand” being used liberally). Drunk. Caffeinated. Underfed. Triumphant. Jessica from the visitor’s bureau was nice enough to take a photo with the T-shirt. She also said Gough and I were the first people to ever do the entire tour in one day. Well, there’s a tale of another intrepid soul hitting all the spots in one day, but he didn’t turn in his tour card until the next day, so I’m taking the honor as the first to do it all.
It took a full day of no-nonsense, action-packed crawlin’, but I did it. I’ve seen all that Wichita has to offer a thirsty out-of-towner, and I must say, I’d do it all again. But probably not all in the same day. Now someone give me a whiskey and put me to bed.
Zac Cadwalader is the news editor at Sprudge Media Network.