In just its first year, MHK on Tap outside of the K-State Office Park was in full swing Friday evening.
With Bluestem Grill hosting the inaugural beer tasting event, guests enjoyed a summery BBQ meal and live music, as well as ciders and beers from several different area breweries.
Organizers transformed the patio and walking areas in front of Bluestem Grill into a musical stage with multiple picnic spots, and one of the adjacent parking lots became a beer vendors section featuring breweries like Dave & Dani Ciders, KC Bier Co. and Ska Brewing.
Keith Sutton, manager and partner of Bluestem Grill, said the restaurant recently celebrated its one-year anniversary and wanted to offer K-State fans both local and afar an opportunity to enjoy themselves before the football game Saturday.
“We’re figuring out there’s just so many opportunities available here,” Sutton said. “There’s not much going on on this end of town, so we want to play around with what we can do. … We don’t like to stay too stagnant, so a couple months ago we decided, in coordination with the KSU Foundation, that we wanted to create some hype. We’ve got a new football coach, and a lot of people were doing something for the first football game but not as much as the second game, so we wanted to kind of help with that.”
Sutton credited the relationships with the breweries and sponsoring entities for helping the event come together in just a couple of months. He said many of the breweries were ones that had already been featured in Bluestem’s tap rotation or that he hoped to work with in the future.
“We just see more and more every day the value of relationships in business, and if there’s any competition, I always like to say it has to be friendly competition,” Sutton said. “Bluestem is actually friends with a lot of coffee shops. I tell our staff in training to plow deep, not necessarily wide. It’s people helping people (through these partnerships), and if it’s not that, I don’t want to be in this business anymore.”
Guests took notice of the efforts, socializing and relaxing as the evening progressed.
Julie Burns of Manhattan said she appreciated the localized aspect of the event and hoped to see it grow.
“I think it’s a good start,” she said. “I think they can definitely expand maybe next year and add more breweries, but so far I think it’s good for the time they have and the food and everything.”
Alicia Kempcke and Betsey Bean, both of Manhattan, said they would also return.
“It’s outdoors, it’s nice weather and there’s good beer,” Bean said.
Sutton said organizers are already thinking of ways to improve, reinvent or add to MHK on Tap in the future.
“We’re trying to stir the waters a little bit and make something happen on this end of town,” he said. “This is our first one of these, so we can’t wait to see what people think of us going forward.”