Ramble On

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Kansas City's Boulevard Brewery

When we got news that we would be heading to Kansas City, my colleague Eric and I began working on our travel plans, hoping that we would be able to squeeze in a visit to the famous Boulevard Brewery there.  Our flights into town were set to arrive on Monday afternoon, but we also knew that the tasting room was open from 11 to 4, so there was a good chance we might arrive too late to catch them at all.

I even tweeted them early in the day to let them know we were traveling in and hoped to get there in time to experience a tasting.  As it turned out, not only did we get there in plenty of time, but they invited us to join the 3:15 version of their premium Smokestack Tour.  We were early, so we took a walk to a nearby strip of Mexican restaurants for lunch before the tour began.

This tour is led by some of the more experienced brewery employees, and they offer plenty of insight into the brewing process and the brewery's history along the way.  Boulevard was started by a home brew enthusiast who decided to make the leap to professional - and has since captured most of the market in Kansas City, with distribution across the county.  We can even get it at the local near our office.

The founder has decided to retire, and began a fairly extensive search on how to transition the business.  He settled on a sale to the Belgian brewer Duvel, figuring there was a good cultural match that would ensure the longevity of what he built.

It's tradition to offer a glass of beer during a tour of a brewery.  At Boulevard we were offered Tank 7 - a beer I've come to enjoy via some friends who grew up in Kansas City, and one that I can easily find locally.  That generous pour sustained us about 3/4 of the way through the tour.

Our tour led us through a lot of the original spaces as well as the newly expanded areas.  It was clear the brewery is a locally popular place to not only visit and taste, but to hold events.  There were a couple of events just ending while we there, and another, quite large one, just setting up as our tour ended.

We had a moment to step into a cooler where they stored the hops supply for a week.  Some recent posts here on Hawksbill Cabin were about the prospect of growing hops - so I had a moment there in the cooler to enjoy the scent of these fine herbs and check out the varieties they use.  I even had a minute to pass around photos of the hopyards back home in Luray!

Now, I have visited at least two dozen breweries in my time (check out the Brewery Tours label for details of some recent tours), including a couple of Anheiser Busch facilities - I've seen big operations.  Having been to Port City here in Alexandria, I've also seen a rapidly expanding regional brewing.  That's pretty much what I expected from Boulevard - but when we passed by the bottling line, I knew we were seeing something much bigger.

The photo only shows about half of the line.  They can really turn it out here!

Yet another highlight of the Smokestack Tour is the prospect of a paired flight of beers from the tap.  When we got back to the tasting room, they had our flights waiting along with a few little snacks to taste them with.  We worked our way through a series of Belgian, IPA, and Stout style beers, with ample tasting notes, and had some complementary foods.

They were all good, but I'd guess at this time and place, I liked the stout the best - it was paired with a smoked gouda that was lightly dusted with smoked paprika.

Now, if you're counting, you can see that we were at two pints so far - not counting the pint that they had poured for us when we first got in and were milling about deciding on the tour.  So three pints, sure.

Well, that's not all.  There was still  time before the next event in the place, so we were able to enjoy a few more samples from the tap list - I had the 80-acre hoppy wheat, and the Single-wide IPA.

Then, on a final note, they pulled out a specially bottled reserve-style stout.  I've lost my notes on this beer, but it was tasty, with a solid ABV.  For a brewery that has something of a specialty in Belgian styles, this didn't surprise me.

And it was a fine one to end the experience on.

So, Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City?  Put that one on your to-do list if you find yourself out there!

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