As Boulevard prepares to release a silver anniversary beer, it plans a 2015 expansion

Megan Wood and Van Benthusen worked to keep up with production of the 25th anniversary beer at Boulevard Brewing.
Megan Wood and Van Benthusen worked to keep up with production of the 25th anniversary beer at Boulevard Brewing. Special to The Star

Boulevard Brewing Co. is gearing up for its 25th anniversary next month, but 2015 may make for a bigger celebration.

Boulevard’s acquisition by Belgian brewer Duvel Moortgat a year ago has allowed the Kansas City-based company to expand into new markets even faster than expected.

It recently added northern New Jersey, Philadelphia and Florida. This week its products are being shipped to South Carolina for the first time, so Boulevard will now be sold in 29 states and the District of Columbia. It also has expanded its sales staff in an effort to pick up chain store accounts.

In 2015, Boulevard plans to add three more U.S. markets by late March, and it wants to expand internationally, perhaps in France, Belgium and the United Kingdom.

“The Smokestack brand offers the most potential for us to grow nationally and internationally. They have a longer shelf life and are … unique,” said John McDonald, founder of Boulevard. “Tank 7 is the brand that is really on fire for us, and it is almost half of the total volume of sales in the Smokestack line.”

The brewery’s $12-million-plus expansion of Cellar 5, a beer fermenting cellar facing Southwest Boulevard, is scheduled to be completed by mid-2015, with capacity eventually going from the current 220,000 barrels to more than 300,000 barrels. Other capital improvements will include a $1.7 million wastewater treatment plant and a new $1.3 million filtration plant.

But first Boulevard, the No. 12 craft brewery in the United States, will release Silver Anniversary Ale in early November in conjunction with Odell Brewing in Fort Collins, Colo. A strong American ale, Silver will be available in 750-milliliter bottles in 29 of Boulevard’s markets and on tap in Odell’s 11-state market.

McDonald founded Boulevard on Nov. 17, 1989. A day later, Doug Odell of Odell Brewing tapped his first keg in an upscale restaurant close to his brewhouse. Both breweries started out specializing in English-style ales in markets where craft beer was virtually unknown.

“Both of us stayed very local and very regional, concentrating on growing our markets,” McDonald said. “Nobody saw a lot of money being made in the craft beer business, but we really saw a need for great beer in the U.S. It really helped to start a whole movement that is happening in other areas — that bigger is not always better.”

To reach Joyce Smith, call 816-234-4692 or send email to Follow her on Facebook and Twitter at JoyceKC.