Rod and I set off with the destination for the day being Hays, Kansas. To make sure that we don't spend too much time in the car (and to break up the monotony) we contacted Boulevard Brewing company for a tour ahead of time. This was the perfect time as it gave us plenty of time to drive from Indiana and grab a quick lunch at the wonderful Westside Local restaurant in Kansas City.
The Boulevard Brewing Company tour is almost like going to Disney World with the high quality videos along the tour detailing the transition from the original brewhouse to the recently completed expansion that broke ground in 2005. The tour is not just about how beer is made but how Boulevard has grown and expanded while basing their principles on the same ideals that breweries in Germany and Europe have used to great success. Something that we found quite interesting is that they actually have a staff bar where employees can enjoy a few pints (within moderation). Unlike many breweries in the states, they are allowing their employees to drink for free and because of that they also encourage education on moderation and responsible drinking (which most breweries in USA do encourage). It was also noted that two taps are installed in each of the executive offices.
It's a quality operation that has been around since 1989 when founder John McDonald started with the Boulevard Pale Ale. This is a brewery that expanded and kept in mind the future when designing the new space. When they first opened they would have to brew 24/7 and now, thanks to the new expansion, they currently only have to brew four days a week to keep up with demand. For instance, when they first opened they would bottle 80 bottles a minute, and now they can easily bottle 500 bottles a minute.
We were quite interested in the fact that the brewery expansion was completed with sustainable, green practices in mind and was meant to use as little electricity as possible. Since John McDonald was originally a carpenter by trade, many touches around the new brewhouse have wooden aspects to reflect the rich German brewing heritage of Kansas City and also to pay tribute to those breweries in Germany. It's really a great tour that ends with about 25 minutes in the tasting room where you have the opportunity to sample their delectable brews.
In case you weren't already aware, Boulevard will be available in Indiana at the beginning of October. Here is a brief sampling of a few of the beers we tried at the tap room, some of which will soon be found locally.
Tank 7: This is the more hoppy successor to the popular Smokestack Series Saison. It carries a heavily spiced nose with lots of black pepper and lemon with a grassy hop aroma. The flavor is just as spicy as the nose, with matching black pepper, lemon, and grassy hops notes in addition to ginger and cinnamon. This is a very enjoyable hopped up variation on the traditional Saison.
Zon: Pronounced with a long-O, this is Boulevard's summer seasonal. It carries a light banana aroma and has a good balance of banana and lemon flavors with the background of a traditional Belgian Wit. A nice summer beer that's not too sweet.
Pilsner: Boulevard's Pilsner is not currently brewed year-round, as you might expect. While this is a bit sweeter than traditional German and Czech Pilsners, it still carries an all grain base.
Lunar Ale: The Lunar is an unfiltered, lighter brown that is brewed with Belgian style yeast. It's a very balanced beer that smells like caramel and candi sugar. The flavor ends up a nice American brown ale with a slight hop flavor on the finish.
Dry Stout: This is their lightest offering (also, on their website they say they will never brew a light beer) and was poured on nitrogen. It had a great roasted nose and tasted like you would expect Guinness to taste, except better. A perfect example of a dry Irish stout.
Bully Porter: This was a deep brown beer that had a big toasty nose. I was really impressed with how robust the porter was and how it didn't have the typical chocolate notes that a microbrew porter has. Our tour guide affectionately referred to it as the perfect accompaniment to a steak dinner.
It was a great tour and tasting experience that was made even better by the knowledge that Boulevard would soon be available in Indiana. I highly recommend that if you're passing through Kansas City that you stop by for a tour. Be sure to reserve in advance as they fill up quickly and only give tours Wednesday through Sunday. If you're looking to catch a glimpse of the bottling line in action be sure to take the Wednesday or Thursday tours since they only brew four days a week.