Craft brewing in the heartland saw new highs; three GABF medals, and lows; two closings, this year. Kansas City's hometown micro, Boulevard Brewing, is buoyed by its 17% growth last year and expects its recent expansion to push it to 55,000 bbls by year's end, with room to reach 75,000 bbls in the future. Boulevard shared its good fortune with the community at its recent anniversary party, attended by a few thousand of its closest friends and customers. Owner John McDonald reports beers such as the summer seasonal Zon wit beer currently reach eight states. Brewmaster Steven Pauwels kept busy with closely held single-batch versions of Dubbel and Tripel, while brewer Shay Sloan returned from her honeymoon to brew on various shifts of Boulevard's 24/7 schedule. Meanwhile, at Kansas City's first brewpub, 75th Street Brewpub, brewmaster Josh Keithly will follow his Oktoberfest (ale) with an Oatmeal Stout. Aspiring brewers should note, the position of brew-slave at 75th Street qualifies as vocational training by the Veteran's Administration. Over at the Hofbrauhaus Brewery inside the newly acquired Ameristar Casio, Michael Snyder continues to please beer aficionados with his lagers such as the rich and malty Oktoberfest. Watch for the Dunkel Weizen and Kölsh to follow. The nightlife destination of the Westport district continues to support two adjacent brewpubs. At Mill Creek Brewery, new brewmaster Mike McMahon pleases the young crowds with the Honey Blonde, while pushing the bounds of hops appreciation with his well-known version of the Pale Ale. Across the street at McCoy's Public House, brewmaster Keith Thompson offers the 12-Grain Amber for fall and plans the Bohemian Pilsner for winter. His Ginger Shandy garnered a bronze in the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) Specialty Beers category. New on the menu - pitchers!
North of town in the picturesque village of Parkville, MO, Power Plant Brewery continues to draw people outdoors to its second-story patio and its unofficial coasters-into-the-coal-train contest. To the west, High Noon Saloon in Leavenworth, KS continues to depress prisoners without day-passes and impress Army trainees on TDY. Try to forgive brewmaster Ed Baldwin if he's overheard touting "mine's bigger", his new, larger brewing vessels are now on-line and supplying appreciative customers. Farther west in Lawrence, KS, brewmaster Steve Bradt of Freestate Brewing anticipates the winter arrival of his Invogorator Doppelbock, with its touch of molasses. Companion winter brews will include Old Backus Barleywine and Owd Mac's Imperial. The holiday banquet season will culminate in the Lucky 13 Anniversary Party in February. Over in Wichita, the K.C. Hopps, Ltd. corporation has acquired River City Brewing. New brewer Dan Norton will use the 10 hl (8.5 bbl) Newlands system to supply the downstairs brewpub crowd and the upstairs nightclub customers. Farther up I-35 in Topeka, brewmaster John Dean is keeping 12 house beers flowing at Blind Tiger. His Smokey the Beer earned a silver this year in Denver. The Heather Ale continues to be a crowd-pleaser, while their Unity Day event will donate 50% of sales to the Fireman's Fund. Just south of the KC metro area, Pony Express Brewing in Olathe, KS continues to grow their microbrewery operation. Brewmaster and president Stacey Payne reports the absorption of the former Flying Monkey brands and the growth of draught and retail accounts around the area. Their Thunderbolt Brown was recognized with a bronze ribbon at this year's GABF.
On the other side of the state line in St. Joseph, MO, Ed Weaverling joins Belt Brewing as the new head brewer. Their ales and lagers tend toward the lighter side and, combined with the live DJ midweek, attract the local college crowd. In the center of the state, and a mere coaster's toss from the University of Missouri at Columbia, flow the twelve house beers of Flat Branch Brewing. Next on line is their Pumpkin Beer, mashed with 400 pounds of the orange, non-Reinheitsgebot fall fruit. New Years will see 1800 pounds of grain become 9 barrels of Old Cave Dweller Barley Wine. Previous renditions of this and other brews can be sampled on Vintage Night Wednesdays beginning in January. In the gateway city of St. Louis there's good news from the Saint Louis Brewery. Their tough decision to hold the 2001 Hop in the City Beer Festival was rewarded by 1,800 attendees who enjoyed the 35 house beers and kicked in $550 toward the event's total donation of $2,000 to the American Red Cross. Watch for the grand opening of the new Brewery, Restaurant, and Take Home Shop where all Schlafly brand bottled and year-round draught production will supplement the specialty brews made at the existing Tap Room.
While many craft breweries in the area continue to grow, the news is less positive at some locations. Kansas City's River Market Brewing has let go of its two brewers. Weston Brewing has been shuttered and is up for sale. Overland Park's Sports Page became Barleys Brewhouse, sans brewery, and recently transformed into Barleys Public House. Ending on a more positive note, the Sports Page of Lawrence, KS should soon re-open under new management, and the two Barleys Brewhouse locations in suburban Kansas continue to provide taproom environments with 99 taps and feature the best selection of regional draught beers anywhere in the Midwest.
Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri -