Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Boulevard Tour

Last Saturday, we took our first tour of Boulevard Brewing Company.

Yes, our first.

How can someone who a) has lived in Kansas City his whole life, and b) loves beer have just taken his first tour?

It comes down to two things. The first (and smaller) reason is that I don't tend to enjoy drinking in the afternoon. Free beer samples are a rather attractive carrot to dangle, and it's the reason the tours tend to be booked so far in advance.

And that's the real reason this was our first tour--we booked on March 23rd. The first Saturday time available was June 13th. Yep, nearly 3 months later.

[We asked if there was a way around this (there is) so we filed that away for future reference.]

The tour was informative, and our guide was very enthusiastic about the product. It is, by far, the cleanest brewery I've ever toured. It was spotless, which takes some diligence when practicing such a potentially messy craft.

For those who keep up with such things: There were oak barrels aging in one room, and they were labeled "6th" (new batch of BBQ, perhaps?), "RED", "Rye", and "Imperial Stout". I can only guess these will be the next special-release Smokestacks.

We got to see the original brewery before being led across the parking lot to the expansion. Great architectural details, and the employee bar and event room lend a nice view of downtown. The bottling line was operating (rare for a Saturday), which was very impressive to watch. Overall, I was thoroughly impressed with the facilities.

After about 40 minutes, we returned to the sample room. I've always heard about the brewers' experimental beers showing up on tap there, so I was hoping for some sort of whiskey porter or imperial red or something. No such luck. The only unreleased beer on tap was Tank 7. It's a dry-hopped Belgian golden ale, which makes for a bold and unusual mix of flavors. I like Belgians, and I like hops, but I didn't care for this particular blend.

That is where I'm at with Boulevard overall. I want so badly to love their beer, but I find it all to be just okay. They don't do anything poorly, but there's nothing that strikes me as great either. I can't remember the last time I bought a six-pack of Boulevard, because there's always something else I'd rather have. I've dutifully bought all the Smokestack beers (regular and seasonal), and I've enjoyed them--but I damn well better for $8 to $15 per bottle.

I know this isn't a popular opinion in Kansas City. I wish I felt differently.


Craig said...

What did you think of the design of the plant from an engineers point of view? Any ideas on how they could save energy?

JJSKCK said...

The bottling line is a marvel, and from an environmental standpoint they really excel. They recycle their spent grain, have a green roof, use a lot of daylighting, and employ an extensive recycling program.

I think the only thing I would recommend from a resource conservation standpoint is discontinuing the Maibock, because it's a waste of water.

Craig said...

Would the beer taste better if they hired your company?

Steaming bowl o' Calderone said...

I can agree with your assessment of the tour. It's an interesting event at the least. I think we went for my cousin's bachelor party a few years ago and I really enjoyed it. It's crazy that there's a 3 month wait (for those not in the know).

Amy aka The Wort Hog said...

If I had to rewrite your last paragraph, I wouldn't change a thing. I feel the same way. I want to love Boulevard, but I find that everything they do is unremarkable. It's good, don't get me wrong. But there isn't anything of theirs I've had that just makes me feel like, "Finally, Boulevard's made their mark." Saison-Brett is probably the closest IMO.

They're the beer version of that person at work who comes & goes at the same times every day, does their job, and nothing more or less.

JJSKCK said...

Nope. Sorry.

It's certainly a good, informative tour. It's just that allowing free reservations online leads to abuse (and 3-month waits).

I'm glad I'm not alone. Sometimes I feel like I'm committing treason or something. Thanks for weighing in!