Nathan Christner visits 24 breweries in Colorado.
Beers From Abroad: A Wichitan's Mission to Taste Them All
Wichita's craft beer scene is ever-expanding, and according to local beer connoisseur Nathan Christner, ICT's brews compare with some of the best in the world. With a pretty impressive list going, Christner has sampled a whopping total of over 3,400 beers (and counting!)
A Hobby 14 Years in the Making
Nathan's bottle collection.
"I actually maintain a database of everything I've ever tried, and while it's a moving target, the current total is 3,401. That's over a period of around 14 years," Christner said.
In those 14 years, Christner has sampled beers from 77 different countries, including places like Iceland, Malta, and San Marino. He's tried brews in places as far away as Paris, France, and in places as exotic as the beach in Belize.
According to Christner, that beach was the place where it all began.
"I had a 25-cent bottle of Belkin Beer on a beach during a cruise and felt like that bottle would make a nice cheap souvenir. Once I got back home (like many college students are prone to do), I started hanging onto every unique foreign bottle of beer I drank and put them on display in my dorm room," Christner said. "It took me a while to really develop a taste for the wide variety of styles available and I've been lucky enough to have gotten interested in beer during a time in which the number and type of styles out there was growing right along with my taste for it."
In order to sample as many brews as possible, Christner makes a point to visit breweries while travelling.
"I always try and fit in as many brewery visits as I can whenever I'm out of town. I dragged my then-pregnant wife and our two young girls to two dozen breweries over the course of our Colorado vacation a few years ago," Christner said.
With those brewery visits and many others under his belt, Christner was able to cross the 80th brewery off of his list after visiting Third Place Brewing, the newest addition to the Wichita brewing family. Christner has had some truly unique experiences while visiting breweries, and has even had the opportunity to sample a few brews before they were released.
Checking out breweries is not the only way Christner comes by his samples, however. For the past eight years, he's also hosted monthly beer tastings of his own. The combination of these two activities has allowed Christner to discover a variety of beers he enjoys, and a few that he doesn't.
"I like just about everything. I really, really like imperial stouts brewed with chili peppers, though. I like the Mexican chocolate-inspired flavors and the way the little bit of heat helps accentuate the sweeter chocolatey flavors," Christner said.
All in all, Christner has sampled more beers than most people could even dream of, and among the brews he's tasted are some of the best available.
The Best Beers in the World
"I have had a chance to sample some of the more commonly sited "whales" (as in Moby Dick): Sam Adams Utopias, formerly the highest ABV beer in the world at nearly 30%; and Westvleteren 12, a rare Belgian Trappist ale regarded for a long time as the best in the world," Christner said.
Out of all the beers he's sampled, Christner says that Wichita's brews rank among the best he's tried.
"Like a lot of people I'm really big on sours right now, and Central Standard puts out a lot of beers that compare very favorably with the best I've had. Some of the crazier things that River City puts out (like their collaboration with The Donut Whole) are always fun to try as well," Christner said.
Wichita's Brewing Community Continues to Grow
Enthusiastic about the craft beer boom that's taking place in our city, Christner says Wichita is the place to be when it comes to beer.
"For the longest time, all Wichita had to offer were a chain restaurant or two and River City. It's been great to see Wichita finally getting on board with the craft beer explosion, and we're now getting close to double digits in terms of real home-grown breweries. We've got a way to go to catch up with places like Fort Collins or other craft beer meccas, but we've definitely made a lot of progress," Christner said. "As far as the state of Kansas goes, Wichita is hands down the best place for beer lovers. There are new breweries opening what seems like every few months and with Goebel Liquor we have access to one of the premier beer stores in the region, if not the country."
Craft beer really took off in Wichita about a year ago, with the opening of both Hopping Gnome Brewing Company and Central Standard within the same year. Since then, other breweries like Third Place Brewing have opened in ICT. As the number of breweries continues to grow, so does Christner's enthusiasm.
"With the number of breweries skyrocketing to record numbers, many of whom produce dozens of different styles each year, there's no way I'll ever be able to try even a fraction of them. But I'll do my best."