Beer and Pavement

Saturdays with Beer Geeks

Posted in Beer, Travelog by SM on May 3, 2011

I work and have a family. So, a lot of beer geeking happens on the weekend[1]. This past weekend, some headed to Munster, IN while the rest of us slummed it in Kansas City. This is what we do. We fill an entire day (or weekend, vacation, lifetime, etc.) with beer.

My beer enthusiasts club hit Kansas City for a day trip which included a brewery tour, lunch at a place called “Beer Kitchen,” and a large chunk of the day spent at a beer festival. Yes, we really spent the entire day immersed in beer and no one got completely wasted…well, not in our group anyway[2].

The brewery we toured was Boulevard in Kansas City. It’s a huge facility that produces all the beer for the tenth largest craft brewery in the US. We saw barrels used for the brewery’s high-end Smokestack series, enough brewing equipment to almost fill a city block, and a bottling line that now stands on the brewery’s old basketball court[3].

For a group of seasoned home brewers and beer nerds, the process of making beer was not all that impressive[4], but it was pretty cool to see Boulevard’s setup which has to be one of the most unique in the industry. The room below the fermentation tanks was right out of a sci-fi flick with the stainless steal pipes and nothing but the bottoms of fermenters protruding from the ceiling. The building utilized the original architecture of the old warehouse as well as incorporating some newer wrinkles. All of it was super modern with exposed skeletal structures and polished concrete. It’s really a nice facility. Even nicer were the samples waiting for us at the end of the tour. Of particular interest was the dry-hopped wheat, suggesting that hoppy wheat beers might be the next big thing in craft brewing[5].

After a few samples, we all needed food in our bellies. Luckily, the Beer Kitchen was not too far away. Since I was driving, there wasn’t much for me to enjoy, except for the corned beef hash (off the brunch menu). Still, they offered six-ounce samplers of which I accepted and sipped on one of the nicer surprises of the year, New Belgium’s Le Terroir[6]. Someone bought a $15 Scandinavian IPA and we were off to the festival.

When I say “festival,” what I mean to say is a row of tents with lines of people extending about thirty feet of expectant beer drinkers. The breweries held down posts inside the tents and spent their day pouring. Breweries from Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri were present as well as regional favorite New Belgium and newly MO-accepted Stone. I wasn’t fooling myself. This was not a festival of breweries from the Pacific Northwest or Belgium[7]. A lot of the beer was just okay. Conversely, I didn’t have a beer I’d pour down the drain either. Our crew basically waited in line for beer, received said beer in our commemorative glasses, and proceeded to the next line where we would drink the beer until reaching the next brewer.

I honestly can’t remember which beers I liked best. It was good to try Nebraska Brewing Company, a brewery about which I had heard many good things. However, when I asked for the IPA, I got the Hop God, a blend of IPA and Belgian Tripel. Let’s just say that it was not what I wanted it to be[8], but someone let me sample their IPA and I was glad I did. I seem to remember that the Upstream IPA was good as was the refreshing Hopluia from Spilker. All of these breweries hailed from Nebraska, leading me to think that there’s something going on there besides corn.

We finished the day at a pizza place in a shopping center…which happened to possess forty or so taps. I kept it simple and sipped slowly on an Oaked Arrogant Bastard while washing down some pizza. It would take a venti iced latte to get me home, but I made it safe and sound.

This is what beer geeks do. Instead of traveling or attending festivals where there might be beer, we travel for the beer. Unfortunately for me, I’m the only one in my family who enjoys beer enough to do this[9]. So, I have to take my opportunities for beer travel when I can get it, even when it’s just a day. It might not sound like fun to talk, drink, and “eat” beer for an entire day or longer, but that’s what we do.

Notes:
1It’s not just on weekends, but weekends seem to be the easiest times to fit in some beer geeking.
2I saw many a bro suck down too many 3-4 oz. pours in the sun without eating or drinking water. Not cool, beer festival bro. Not cool.
3Interestingly, the old bottling line used to take up about the same amount of space the barrel room now occupies. The new bottling line takes up space in a pretty large room with high ceilings and yes, they used to play basketball in that room. The new line is so efficient, it doesn’t have to run on the weekends. Typically, it’s done by Friday of every week. The old line ran straight through the weekend.
4Most of the “action” occurred on video screens. There were mini-docs on the brewing process at each stop. It certainly gave the tour a Disney feel and relieved the volunteer tour guides form having to know everything.
5It seems these little trends in craft beer pop up now and again without warning. I finally feel like I’m aware of one as it happens. Of course, dry-hopped wheats, while refreshing and floral, are not as exciting as Black IPA’s and anything bourbon barrel aged.
6While dry-hopped sour ales are not really a trend as of yet, I do like the rash of well-balanced sours hitting the market here and there. Sure, I like a beer that only brings the sour, but a beer like Le Terrior is a welcome respite from beers that make you pucker.
7I think I just peed a little. The idea of attending a beer festival in the Pacific Northwest or Belgium excites me.
8I wanted hops. I got some muted hops behind Belgian sweet. Never does this work.
9Although, the 2.5-year-old often likes to tell me that she’ll gladly drink (and brew) beer with me when she’s bigger.

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  1. Carrie the Destroyer said, on May 3, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Beer Kitchen has amazing french fries. Did you go to Waldo Pizza? They have a huge beer menu and (imo) GREAT pizza.

    • builderofcoalitions said, on May 3, 2011 at 11:14 am

      Yeah, I tried someone else’s fries. They were the bomb. Waldo? I think I’ve had that on another trip to KC and it was good. We had pizza at All Star Pizza in Parkville, near the festival. It was pretty good. All the good pizza in KC and STL make me wish we had something other than Shakespeare’s.

      • Carrie the Destroyer said, on May 3, 2011 at 12:59 pm

        I haven’t had All Star Pizza. Parkville is a little to northern for me. I’ll have to try it though.

      • builderofcoalitions said, on May 3, 2011 at 1:05 pm

        It’s alright. Don’t go out of your way for it. We only went there because we were in Parkville for the fest. It was convenient and new.

  2. Jert said, on May 3, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Re: Hoopy wheat beers- you’ve had our (Hellbender) Drinker’s Peace, right? Citra hop bomb on top of a light wheat ale. We’ll brew it up again soon if you haven’t had it and we can do a side by side with some black IPAs.

    • builderofcoalitions said, on May 3, 2011 at 3:22 pm

      I have and it’s excellent. It almost surprised me how good a dry-hopped wheat could be. Interestingly, Boulevard’s was a lot like yours, which is a testament to the quality brewing you do in that garage. Can’t wait to try more.


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