Fancy Private Tour

On April 9, 2013 by Greg Brantner
[captionpix imgsrc=”” align=”right” width=”200″ captiontext=”Freud would have a field day with this image”]The mission of KC Nanobrews, the only Kansas City based American Homebrewers Association (AHA) social club run by friends of mine who I one day hope produce cool laminated membership cards, is simple: To promote and educate homebrewers in the production of craft-style homebrewed beers.

A large part of that is realized through weekend and not-so-weekend drinking. And sometimes lighting stuff on fire.The mission of the Boulevard Brewing Company, the largest specialty brewer in the Midwest, is equally simple: To produce fresh, flavorful beers using the finest traditional ingredients and the best of both old and new brewing techniques. 

Based on the colorful employee photos lining the brewery’s halls, a large part of that is also realized through weekend and not-so-weekend as well as on/off-the-job drinking. Only they get paid to do it.
With such comprable mission statements, it was only a matter of time before the raw and spunky broth of KC Nanobrews was thrown into the same orange Gatorade cooler as the refined yet distinctive milled grain of the Boulevard Brewery, whisked gently with a giant wooden spoon and (insert something sciencey here) for four months before producing a quality craft beer the Gods themselves would dare not imbibe, but temporarily savor in their palette before spraying it over their minions.


[captionpix imgsrc=”” align=”left” width=”150″ captiontext=”Spared No Expense”]Self-proclaimed KC Nanobrews smartass and frequent wearer of punk-rock inspired wigs, Frank organized this private tasting at our favorite Kansas City brewery, an event that in the immortalized words of the fictional Richard Hammond, “spared no expense.” Tables of cheese, chips, dips, breads, cookies and vegetables greeted members of the Nanobrew Crew, their friends and others who simply share a passion for brewing, drinking and touring.We congregated in the Tasting Room, a fully stocked bar with retro decor inspired by Boulevard’s early years. Large framed photographs detailing the growth of company, building and owner lined the walls; dusty trophies and shiny medals from decades-old competitions showed how they gained popularity through notoriety (highlight was a first place medal for the “new” Boulevard Wheat beer); seemingly ancient advertisements, signs and bottles proved that while class, style and taste have remained consistent, hairstyles and graphical capabilities did not. You get the impression that if Chuck Norris and Joan of Arc had a son who resided in Kansas City and sucked at karate, he’d be the owner of this place.


[captionpix imgsrc=”” align=”right” width=”225″ captiontext=”Chatting it up in the Tasting Room”]Though neigh a drop of the taste-bud-demolishing yet highly elusive Coffee Ale – a delicious seasonal Boulevard brewed with The Roastarie coffee – was to be found on the Tasting Room taps, there were a few test beers for our group to sample, as well as stalwarts such as Single Wide, Pale Ale, 80-Acre and Stout, to name just a few. This somehow managed to keep us occupied as the serious brewers chatted about techniques for their “mash” (my new favorite brewing word – apologies if it’s not being use correctly), the newbies and not-so-passionates talked about their favorite styles of beer, the tag-alongs drank, nodded, tried to look cool while surreptitiously watching Georgetown get spanked by Florida Gulf Coast, and Amy ordered a glass of wine (don’t take this personally – I’m simply reporting the facts).
[captionpix imgsrc=”” align=”left” width=”200″ captiontext=”Try not to break anything”]After an hour – two to three beers depending on how bad your particular work-week was – we were led on the tour by our cheerful bartender who admitted that she knew only slightly more about brewing that I did. Her stipulations were simple: “Try not to break anything and don’t correct me if something I say is inaccurate.” I tried to boost her confidence when she asked us to shout out the four main ingredients that go into brewing beer, and I proclaimed “Cranberries!” For the record, and in an attempt to provide at least one useful nugget in this post, they are: Water, Yeast, Malt and Hops.The Boulevard story is humble and inspiring, like those of most successful entrepreneurial start-ups. The operation began keg-by-keg, evolving into a 600,000+ barrel operation. Since I won’t be able to do it justice without completely ripping it from their site, I highly recommend you take their virtual tour, starting here: Boulevard History.
[captionpix imgsrc=”” align=”right” width=”250″ captiontext=”We felt like the kids in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”]
The tour saw us escorted through the barrel rooms, mash-houses, mixing areas and the bottling warehouse (real names may vary from descriptions). We stood under massive stacks of kegs, posed next to pallets full of non-labeled bottles, got lost in a maze of tubes, pipes, funnels and filters – all ridiculously oversized. For most of the tour we felt like the kids in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. We tried to interpret computer readouts ripped from sci-fi submarines, resisting the urge to press just one button – you know…to see what would happen, for educational purposes. Touching the machinery was strictly prohibited, though way too tempting, I justified to myself as I left tiny fingerprints on the most chromed of apparati.Since in my last beer-related post I firmly established myself as a curious observer of the craft brewing process, not an expert in anything more valuable than where to deposit empty bottles, I share with you the images from our tour, each of which, using their thousand-word capability, will provide more insight into how beer is brewed than I ever could, even if I were verbally dictating one of Rob’s amazing recipes. So, as they say in the brewing industry, “Chug It Out!”*There is a strong possibility that not one single brewmaster, apprentice brewer, homebrewer or liquor store clerk throughout mankind’s long and storied history has ever uttered this phrase.[captionpix imgsrc=”” align=”left” width=”250″ captiontext=”Next floor beer!”]After the tour ended we regrouped in the Tasting Room for some more conversation and a few nightcaps. After the tour and seeing how professionals ply their craft, did the members of KC Nanobrews learn anything from this experience? I hope so. I hope it stimulated their curiosity and answered any questions, concerns or brewing-related fears sloshing in their brains. If I’ve learned anything from the KC Nano Crew, it’s that brewing beer is a dynamic process, open to interpretation, subject to opinion, better when using a pinch…or is that a drop…maybe just a hint of that potent secret ingredient.So even though they won’t start producing hundreds of bottles of beer every minute, maybe they’ll be motivated to brew one more batch per month than they typically do. Or send more beer into competitions for judgement. Wear their first-place medals with a little more pride. Because as we all learned at the Boulevard Brewery, success has humble, and sometimes hoppy, beginnings.

And finally, to witness Zach proving that imitation is the sincerest form of awesomeness, point your eyes slightly downward…


Article written by Greg Brantner
Greg and and his sometimes-mustache do some pretty cool things: Running, biking, soccer, hiking, growing facial hair, driving a Saturn. You can read more about those activities at his blog
My Once and Future Mustache…

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