We had a lot to celebrate on Saturday. It was Cinco de Mayo, a day very important to my family's cultural heritage, and my brother-in-law Nick, recently arrived for R&R from his deployment in Iraq, was visiting.
So what better way to commemorate both occasions than to enjoy an activity so close to the Mexican culture: a tour of a local artisan brewery.
We arrived at Boulevard Brewing Co. on (fittingly) Southwest Boulevard a couple minutes early for our 10 a.m. tour. According to our schedule, we would take the tour then be finished just in time to slosh down enough free beer samples to get us through lunch.
The tour started in the Boulevard tasting room with a brief introduction by our host, Jason, about the history of beer in the U.S. According to Jason, the pilgrims stopped at Plymouth Rock not because they had arrived at their destination, but because they had run out of beer and needed to find provisions to brew more. (Presumably, after brewing more beer, they were too "chemically inconvenienced" to go any further).
Anyway, fast forward a couple hundred years during which beer became so popular that pretty much every town in the Union had a brewery or three, to prohibition in the 1920s which effectively shut down all but the biggest breweries, to 1989 when I graduated from high school and John McDonald founded Boulevard Brewing Co. (I may have left out a few details, but you can fill in the gaps for yourself when you take the tour).
We then were guided through the brewery proper. Jason showed us the original brew house that was bought from a small town in Germany. We were walked through the brewing process, from the milling of barley, making the mash, introduction of hops, fermentation, filtering and bottling.
Jason showed us the new expanded brew house that will allow Boulevard to ramp up production to meet a growing demand for their beers.
Employees at Boulevard get some great perks, including a basketball court inside the bottling plant, a workout facility and an employees-only bar where you can drink (of course) free Boulevard beer.
Finally, we ended the tour back in the tasting room where the five Boulevard brands were ours for the tasting.
I had previously tried the Unfiltered Wheat (my favorite) the Pale Ale, the Dry Stout (very smooth, not at all bitter, my second favorite) and the Bully Porter, so my first sample was of the Lunar Ale. I gotta say, it didn't speak to me. It's a wheat based beer, but it had a taste on the back of my tongue that I can only describe as "green."
So I switched to the sixth beer on tap, labeled only as "Test." Boulevard often has a test beer on tap in its tasting room and today it happened to be an India Pale Ale.
It was a great surprise for me. I'm typically not a fan of the bitterness of IPAs, but it didn't bother me in this test brew. It was so well balanced and the finish so crisp that this ended up being one of my favorites.
Boulevard would do well to add it to their brand lineup.
*10 points to the first person to name the author of this quote.
tagged: Kansas City, Boulevard Brewing Co, beer, India pale ale, stout, porter, Cinco de Mayo