Best Beer in the Midwest: A Tour of Boulevard Brewery

  • Location: Kansas City, MO and online
  • Website: blvdbeer.com

Boulevard Beer has just hit its 20th anniversary here in Kansas City, Missouri. They started out small and have grown over the last two decades, to be the largest craft brewer in the Midwest and largest independently owned brewery in Missouri. We only have one conflict with this local beverage institution and that's between which is more beautiful, the beer they make — or the actual brewery itself. Join us for a tour!

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We only live a few blocks from The Boulevard Brewing Company and the tasty beverages that come from their independently owned and operated brewery, so we signed up to take a tour and brought our camera along for good measure.

Now Boulevard isn't just a few local guys who are out to make a buck, they're a team of people who have dedicated their heart and soul into what they produce and do everything in their power to put the best possible product out into the world. Sure we probably have a little bit of hometown bias, but you can't talk to any one of their employees and not want to shake their hand and thank them for a job well done. They've even gone as far as to initiate a glass recycling plant in Kansas City (the first for us) and give back to local farmers with their spent hops for some delicious tasting cow-chow. It's obvious they love what they do and carry a true passion for their craft. Food ... er beer is love people. Beer is love.

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They even go as far to employ a time-honored technique known as bottle conditioning. Only a handful of companies still take the time (and extra money) to practice this technique and it makes their beers taste fresher, better, longer. Boulevard explains it like this:

We brew, ferment, and filter the beer as usual, but then add a small amount of yeast to the beer just before bottling. The packaged beer is transferred to our temperature-controlled warehouse, where it is held for two weeks to allow a secondary fermentation to take place in the bottle. This secondary fermentation consumes much of the residual oxygen, greatly enhancing the stability and longevity of the beer, and producing a remarkable and otherwise unattainable depth of flavor.

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Here's their typical line up of brews, though if you are in town, make sure to take the tour to test out some of their new small batch brews.

The Boulevard story begins in 1988, when founder John McDonald started construction of the brewery in a turn-of-the-century brick building on Kansas City's historic Southwest Boulevard. He was so dedicated to his craft that he later ended up selling his home and moving his family into the brewery to keep things financially stable until things really took flight. A vintage Bavarian brewhouse was installed, and the first batches of beer were produced in the fall of 1989. That November, the first keg of Boulevard Pale Ale was delivered--in the back of John's pickup truck--to a restaurant just a few blocks away and the rest is history.

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Today the Brewery is open for touring 5 days a week, though the bottling portion is only operational during the weekdays. It's an amazing sight to see no matter, which day you go, but if you want the true Laverine and Shirley experience and want to watch all the bottles whiz by, make sure to schedule accordingly. After the tour, the beer is on the house. You can taste test everything they have to offer—plus a few that they don't (we're pulling hard for a test ale we tasted that day to be put into production!).

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You can watch a short video on the brewery from a local news team if you'd like to see a bit more of their behind the scenes work, though our photo tour is fairly extensive. The building itself was built in two parts, but both buildings are equally beautiful. Owner John McDonald used to be a woodworker and there's touches of natural beauty everywhere you look from wood floors to beautifully engineered banisters going up the stairs to a green rooftop and open floor plan for events. It's truly a wonderful tour and from what we hear, the place to be in the event of a natural disaster as the buildings were created to withstand a hurricane and tornado at the same time (we take our weather seriously around these parts)!

If you're in the Midwest, they're a taste to look up. You can find them in a 17-state region stretching from Utah to Alabama, and from North Dakota to Texas, or if you're headed into town for work or pleasure, make sure to pencil in a tour—or at least a taste test.

Thanks Boulevard!

Related: Beer Guide: How to Pour Beer

(Images: Sarah Rae Trover)