Craft Beer Craze! (11-16-15)
John McDonald's fiancé (now wife) won a trip to Europe in the early 80's and John was able to make the trip. When the young cabinetmaker came home to Kansas City, he couldn't find the fresh taste of those Bavarian-style brews. His decision to find that pure taste changed not only his life but also the lives of people worldwide.
Since quality was the key, he spent time perfecting his beers and even attended the Chicago Brewers Academy. In 1989, he founded Boulevard Brewing Company with the help of family and friends since a bank wouldn't give him a loan. Going all in, he even sold his home and moved his family into the old warehouse that is now the existing brewery.
In 1989, the first beer was a Pale Ale delivered in the back of McDonald's pickup truck to a nearby restaurant. In the historic brick building on Southwest Boulevard, McDonald and his company were making history.
While Boulevard's Unfiltered Wheat was the third beer marketed, it now represents 50% of revenue with Tank 7 closing in. Currently there are seven standard Boulevard beers to choose from year round with seasonal beers and the Smokestack Series beers mixed in to add a wide variety for every palette. Boulevard even teamed up with local Kansas City chocolate artisan, Christopher Elbow, to make their special Chocolate Ale.
Although you can walk into any bar or liquor store today and get your favorite Boulevard brew, it took a few years for John McDonald to hit his personal goal of producing barrels. There's no doubt about it, he was a David and Goliath story as he worked to enlighten beer drinkers to an alternative option for their taste buds. It was a challenge that the Midwestern boy from Osborne, Kansas took on to the delight of his patrons. Even in China, you will be able to find Boulevard's distinctive Single-Wide IPA and Tank 7.
These days craft beer is all the craze with home brewers all over the world. However, in 1989, there were only 70 company breweries compared to 3500 in 2014 and Boulevard Brewery is the largest in the Mid-West. That one historic brick building has expanded into multiple buildings and patrons can tour the facility as well as the tasting room and gift shop. Individuals and companies can even rent space for special events. If you are lucky, you can be at an event standing on the terrace sipping your favorite cold Boulevard as you watch the Blue Angels practicing over the Kansas City skyline.
Boulevard Brewery is not just a company. To craft beer drinkers, it is a beloved part of the Kansas City community, the iconic stack is part of the skyline and McDonald's story is part of the Midwestern work ethic.
While the McDonald family no longer resides in the warehouse and are not the sole owner of the company, they have insured that Boulevard Brewery will be a Kansas City staple for many years to come.