My life changed last December: people ushered me into dozens of new places, lavished me with drinks and even granted me the title of “real adult.” That’s right… I had turned 21.
And it shifted again, this time more subtly, on June 21: I drank my first beer.
Wandering into Boulevard Brewing Company and surveying the wall of bottles in the bustling gift shop, my nervous stomach churned like a hangover. Except my phone read 10:30 a.m., and the only thing I’d knocked back was a cup of coffee.
“Who likes Tank 7?” asked Paul, the enthusiastic tour guide. Cheers erupted. With a searching glance at my friend, I confirmed that Tank 7 is a beloved Boulevard ale. And, yeah, lagers and ales are different.
Six months of sipping wine and hunting for cocktail recipes on Pinterest did nothing to prepare me for Kansas City’s rich beer scene and history. But I caught up quickly.
I learned that Boulevard’s founder, John McDonald, graduated with a fine arts degree. “He got out of college like… ‘what am I going to do?’” Paul recounted. (So, if someone tells you you’ll never get a job in your field, tell them that maybe you’ll start your own brewery. And that you might make $32 million, while you’re at it).
A trip to Paris inspired John’s unexpected path. He stumbled upon a bar with 300 beer flavors-- something he had never seen in America, but desired to emulate.
My tour group and I scored a first-hand glimpse into John’s success story. We watched as thousands of bottles plummeted down an assembly line and straight into the boxes beer fans love to rip open.
Though Boulevard now produces pale, dark, cranberry and even coffee beers, Paul insisted one type of beer is clearly the best.
Free beer. My tour group traveled to the tasting room to enjoy just that. At the bar, each person ahead of me in line confidently rattled off their favorite beers and grabbed samples.
Instead, I locked eyes with the bartender and asked, “What would you recommend for someone who doesn’t drink beer?”
Moments later, my friend and I sat with glasses of Imperial Pilsner, Kolsch Golden Ale, Ginger Lemon Radler and the famous Tank 7 clustered between us. Though I had never heard any of these names before, identifying their distinct flavors grew surprisingly easy. As I mistakenly swigged the peppery Tank 7, I exclaimed, “Oh, that’s definitely not the Kolsch!”
In just one morning, I grew to understand Boulevard’s language, brand and ever-evolving taste.
The verdict? The refreshing Ginger Lemon Radler is palatable and easy for beer newcomers. Similarly, the overall tour delivered a satisfying after-taste-- Boulevard’s fun and lighthearted approach to beer makes the free, hour-long outing perfect for home-brewing experts, self-proclaimed wine snobs and everyone in between.