With a gentle shove from beer buyer Justin Cody at Spec’s, I decided to do a tasting today at Boulevard Brewing Co. in Kansas City. In operation since 1989, the company is now the 10th largest craft brewery in the United States. The photo above shows the four brews we tasted for my radio show: the unfiltered Wheat Beer, the Single-Wide IPA, Bob’s 47 and the bestselling Tank 7.
Boulevard beers are sold in 20 states, including Texas – at Spec’s, of course. In addition to its status among craft beers, just a few steps behind Spoetzel in Shiner in terms of volume, Boulevard is the 17th largest brewery in the country. It’s also the second largest brewery in Missouri. I’ve heard rumors there’s somebody making some beer over in St. Louis.
As for its beer portfolio, which I discussed (and tasted) with Belgian-born brewmaster Steven Pauwels, Boulevard produces seven yearround beers as well as five seasonal brews. There’s also something called the Smokestack Series, a favorite of beer geeks everywhere, which tosses several more yearround, seasonal or limited-release beers onto the stack.
I’m not sure if everyplace I went at Boulevard is on the regular brewery tour – sometimes it just works out that way. But I definitely got the feeling the whole business (like the American craft beer movement itself) has gotten a lot bigger than John McDonald thought it ever would when he founded Boulevard after years as an avid home brewer. Then again, is there any other kind?
McDonald, brewmaster Pauwels and the rest of Boulevard’s 90 employees never seem to get tired of trying new things. This room, for instance, was full of beers being aged in a variety of oak barrels previously used to store bourbon and other fine spirits. The pursuit of flavor is eternal for breweries like Boulevard. And based on my tasting and talking, I for one never want them to stop.