Before the craft beer explosion, there was, well, craft beer. And with it, passionate communities of enthusiasts dedicated to craftsmanship, creativity, and small-scale brewing done right. In downtown Lawrence, Free State Brewing Company, the establishment credited with putting the city on the craft brewer’s map, has been serving up its brews to Kansans since 1989, when they became the first legal brewery in the state in over 100 years. And Geoff Deman, now the Head Brewer and Director of Brewing Operations, has been finding ways to get creative with Kansas’ signature craft beer since he started in 2002.
Free State team members at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival, where they received a Gold Medal.
As an Art History student at KU in the ‘90s, Geoff Deman first fell in love with brewing shortly after his 21st birthday while working a summer job on a “Dude Ranch” in Montana. “It was somewhat serendipitous that when I returned to Lawrence to finish up studies, Lawrence Homebrewers’ Supply had opened,” he recalls. “Not only did I return an avid homebrewer, but really kicked my studies into gear when I returned.” But Geoff soon found himself torn between two interests: art and brewing. Unsure of which road to take, he decided to take both, using brewing as an outlet for his creative inclinations. “Every good brewer that I know has other passions and pursuits to balance out their careers,” he says. “I think that studying Art History imbued me with a spark that I might not have had otherwise, allowing me to think creatively and critically.”
Geoff relocated to Seattle, where his persistent door-knocking eventually landed him jobs at notable breweries across the city, like Fal Allen at Pike Brewing Company, and after eight years in the Emerald City, he found new opportunity in familiar territory in Lawrence, Kansas. There, he joined the team at Free State, then led by former Head Brewer and “industry giant” Steve Bradt. And ever since, Geoff has been finding new ways to blend his creativity and love for beer, with a hand in just about every process in the operation’s portfolio from research and development, to naming beers, developing recipes, and working alongside the design team on packaging. “The great thing about my job is that there is no typical day,” he notes. “Every day is new.”