Tuesday, March 14, 2017

You Heard it Here First -- AleSmith Coming to KC!

AleSmith coming to the KS side of KC in mid-May.
One of the best breweries in the world is finally coming to the KC Metro! AleSmith Brewing Co from San Diego just signed a deal with Standard Beverage to start distribution of their beers on the Kansas side of the state line. The beers should hit the shelves about two months from now in mid-May.

AleSmith is near legendary in the craft beer world, being one of the first truly world class breweries to emerge from the US craft brewing scene in the late '90s. AleSmith's Speedway Stout has been consistently rated in the top 25 beers in the world since I can remember first logging onto RateBeer and BeerAdvocate back in the day. And in contrast to a lot of brands that have lost some of their allure once widely distributed, AleSmith has maintained their sterling reputation among craft beer geeks across the country. 

Until now the closest place you could buy AleSmith was Colorado. The brewery expanded in the typical fashion from San Diego up the West Coast, East Coast, and Great Lakes states in addition to Texas and Colorado. But now the brewery will be available from the KS side of the metro over to Lawrence and down to Wichita. Stay tuned to KCBB for updates on which beers they're bringing and when and where they'll be available! 

The full press release is included below:

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

2016: The Year of The IPA

2016 was the Year of the IPA. Not necessarily
a bad thing!
Beer Connoisseur magazine recently published some figures from IRI Worldwide about retail beer sales in 2016 (retail meaning beers sold by liquor stores, convenience stores, grocery stores, etc--not bar sales or tap-room sales). Being the data nerd that I am, I went to work in Excel to glean all insights I could from the sales figures (with the spreadsheet embedded at the bottom of this post if you're also a data nerd like me). And wouldn't you know, 2016 was the Year of The IPA. I think most of us felt this intuitively, but the sales figures were still rather shocking to me.

Overall, retail craft beer sales were up 8.2% in the US and topped $3.5 billion. And IPAs accounted for nearly 1/3 of these sales. The total retail sales of IPAs in the US in 2016 was just over $1 billion. Yes, we bought over a billion dollars worth of IPAs at bottle shops in 2016.  And not only that, but IPAs accounted for over 70% of all of the growth in retail craft beer sales in 2016.

Most of this is definitely because consumers are really liking more hoppy beers and drinking more IPAs. However, I think part of it because brewers are just using "IPA" as a catch-all branding term for anything hoppy. Of course you can see this easily since we now have IPAs, Session IPAs, Double IPAs, Triple IPAs, Imperial IPAs, Black IPAs, Brown IPAs, White IPAs, Belgian IPAs, Brett IPAs, Rye IPA, Red IPA, and more. (My favorite, of course, is the "Session IPA". How is a Session IPA different from a Pale Ale? Answer: Marketing.)

This is also evidenced by the dying styles--4 of the 6 styles on their way out in 2016 are interchangeable with IPAs--Barleywine, ESB, Strong Ale, and Red. Barleywine saw almost a 40% decline in sales from 2015 to 2016. Speaking from a strict style-guideline perspective, Barleywines are nearly identical to Double IPAs. But who actually knows that besides beer judges? Whereas, even the most casual craft beer consumers now recognize what an IPA is, and the logical leap from an IPA to a Double IPA is an easy one. The other dying styles have similar problems with consumer understanding.

The only problem with using IPA as catch-all name and then indiscriminately applying it to any moderately hoppy beer is that the craft beer industry is going to quickly dilute the meaning of "IPA". I recently had this problem when I wanted to drink an IPA and try something new. I bought a beer that said IPA front and center on the label from a great brewery, only to realize after popping the cork and reading the fine print on the back of the label that it was a "farmhouse/brett IPA" that resembled more of a traditional saison than any IPA I've ever had. The beer was good, but I was still disappointed because I just wanted an IPA.

Another interesting thing I see in the data is that "Seasonals" seem to be on their way out, and "Special Releases" are in. Overall, retail sales of beers classified as seasonals was down nearly 8% in 2016, whereas special releases were up 18%. The absolute number of seasonal sales is still far above special releases, but if we continue on the craft beer path we're on right now, all beers will be "special releases" before we know it.

Here are the trends from the numbers:

Top styles represented 3/4 of all retail sales led by IPAs:

  1. IPA (38.4%)
  2. Wit (13.5%)
  3. Pale (10.0%)
  4. Amber (5.3%)
  5. Amber Lager (5.0%)
  6. Fruit/Veggie/Spice (4.4%)

Top growth styles represented 95% of all growth led by IPAs:

  1. IPA (71.2%)
  2. Golden Ale (9.9%)
  3. Fruit/Veggie/Spice (5.0%)
  4. Stout (3.7%)
  5. Wit (3.0%)
  6. Pilsner (2.0%)

Up and coming styles with more than 20% growth and less than $100 million in sales:

  1. Golden Ale (48.2%)
  2. Saison (44.1%)
  3. Rye (30.3%)
  4. Stout (26.9%)
  5. Scottish (21.2%)
  6. Pilsner (19.3%)

Dying styles with more than 4% decline and less than $25 million in sales:

  1. Barleywine (-39.3%)
  2. Malt Beverage (-30.9%)
  3. ESB (-17.2%)
  4. Light Beer (-8.0%)
  5. Strong Ale (-4.9%)
  6. Red (-4.6%)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

New Bar Coming to Westport and we got you tickets

Anyone who has gone to Westport in last year will have noticed a distinct air of change.  McCoy’s tore down their old deck that has been around since I was old enough to start sneaking into bars. Of course there are promises of opening an even better deck (Which this writer is pumped about). There is a buzz around the area that two new condos may be moving into the area.  Not to mention the countless new trendy food spots that have opened up.  Heck, even the staple Indian place has decided to do ditch the name Korma Sutra in favor of Moti Mahal.  The food is still great though.  This weekend welcomes yet another change to the Westport scene with a brand new bar called HopCat

HopCat Kansas City opens on Saturday, Feb. 25 with one of the state’s largest selections of craft beer on tap, a full menu of “food your mom would make if she loved craft beer,” a rooftop deck and bar, and a private dining room and bar. With a total capacity of about 300, HopCat – Kansas City will be the first Missouri location for the award-winning restaurant and bar, which has been named a top beer bar in the nation by CraftBeer.com and Draft Magazine, among others. HopCat’s full menu, available until closing every night, includes signature burgers, pizza, homemade soups and salads, a variety of homemade shareables and entrees like customizable Killer Mac & Cheese.  While Kansas City will be the 12th HopCat location, it will feature a unique interior and rooftop design that includes custom-commissioned artwork and a few surprises.

**** The contest is over and the winners have been notified!  Thanks to everyone who participated and check back for great info about the Kansas City Beer Scene and for future contest ****

Guess what?   We have tickets to give away for their VIP opening this Friday.  I have been told that they will be curating “a special opening day tap that will feature rare beers from local breweries and from breweries around the world.  More than 40 of the beer selections will be from breweries in Missouri and Kansas.”  If you want to be entered into the drawing for some tickets comment on this post, tweet at us (@KC_BeerBlog), or comment on our Facebook page and you will automatically be entered into the drawing.   We will reach out to all winners early Thursday evening with the good news!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Boulevardia Tickets On Sale Tomorrow!

It's that time of year again...festival season! Ok, so "festival season" might be becoming an outdated term. Back in my day....damn I'm getting too old for this shit....pretty much all of the beer festivals of the year were in the mid-March to Memorial Day span. Then there was usually an odd one or two festivals in the fall, but that was it. Now it seems like we've got a festival on every weekend outside of a short summer and winter break. So I hope you've recovered since New Years and are ready for some beer drinking. 

We'll be covering all of the good festivals here, of course, with the first ones coming up in early March. But the first festival you need to think about is Boulevardia! Although Boulevardia is pretty much the last festival of the Spring season before the dog days of summer, it's the first that you have to buy tickets for. Despite the high price, the high demand for Boulevardia tickets has led to them selling out within 15-20 minutes of being posted in the past three years. 

Now when I talk about Boulevardia tickets, I'm talking specifically about Taps & Tastes--the beer fest portion of the general street festival. The regular tickets for entrance to the fairgrounds and the general festivities will be available for a while. But if you want to attend Taps & Tastes, you need to buy tickets as soon as they go on sale. 

Tickets go on sale tomorrow, Tuesday, February 22 at 10 a.m. If you log in at 10:30 a.m., they'll probably be sold out. To purchase, go to the Boulevardia front page and scroll down. To get into Taps & Tastes, you need either "Taps & Tastes/General Admission" for $85, "Taps & Tastes VIP" for $115, or you can buy the "Ultimate VIP Weekender" for $900 (which includes 2 Taps & Tastes tickets and a bunch of other stuff).

UPDATE: Boulevardia just sent out an email with additional information for buying tickets. Here is the official Eventbrite link for tickets. If you use this link, you don't have to go through the Boulevardia website. Also, you will need an Eventbrite account, so go sign up for one now. Also they provided this tip, "When Eventbrite says something is "not available," that doesn't mean it is sold out. .... When tickets are officially gone, the site will say "sold out." Until then, the refresh button is your friend."

Taps & Tastes Tickets go on sale tomorrow!
Taps & Tastes is expensive as far as KC beer fests go, but for the price you get the best brewery lists of any of the KC festivals. In addition to a great lineup of local and regional breweries, Boulevardia always pulls in heavyweights from across the country. Some of the big names that many of you will recognize include Side Project, Funkwerks, Arizona Wilderness, Cascade, Surly, and the Bruery.

But I'm not just talking about the big names everyone knows about--Boulevardia always pulls in a bunch of somewhat obscure, but super high quality brewers from across the country. Some of these are more local (but not distributed here) including Central Standard (Wichita) and Narrow Gauge (St. Louis), but others are from far and wide like Weldwerks (Greeley, CO), Melvin Brewing (Jackson, WY), and Creature Comforts (Athens, GA). All these breweries have a 4+ rating on Untappd, and I'd venture to guess that very few people in the KC Metro have ever heard of them. Bravo on the list, Boulevardia! The full list of breweries is below.

The Brewery List

2nd Shift Brewing
4 Hands Brewing Co.
American Solera
Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.
August Schell Brewing Co.
Ballast Point Brewing Co.
Boulevard Brewing Company
Brewery Emperial
Brewery Ommegang
Brickway Brewery & Distillery
Cascade Brewing
Central Standard Brewing
Central State Brewing
Cinder Block Brewery
Coop Ale Works
Country Boy Brewing
Creature Comforts Brewing Co.
Deschutes Brewery
Defiance Brewing Co.
Double Shift Brewing Co.
Due South Brewing
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Funkwerks, Inc.
Green Room Burgers & Beer
Hops and Grain Brewing
Kansas City Bier Company
Lagunitas Brewing Co.
Left Hand Brewing Co.
Logboat Brewing Co.
Martin City Brewing Co.
Mccoy's Public House
Melvin Brewing Co.
Mother's Brewing Co.
Narrow Gauge Brewing Co.
Odell Brewing Co.
Oskar Blues Brewery
Perennial Artisan Ales
Piney River Brewing Co.
Public House Brewing Co.
Red Crow Brewing Company
Schlafly Beer
Side Project Brewing
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Stockyards Brewing Co.
Surly Brewing Co.
The Bruery
Toolbox Brewing Co.
Torn Label Brewing Co.
Uinta Brewing Co.
Virtue Cider
Weldwerks Brewing Co.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The 6 New Breweries to Look Out for This Year!

Despite the predictions that 2017 will be the worst year EVER, and that we're closing in on the End Times, there are still certainly things to be happy about. Not the least of these things is Beer! It already looks like it's going to be another big year for beer for KC. As of today, we have 6 new breweries planned for 2017 openings!

If all these breweries in planning come to fruition, we'll have fully 28 breweries and brewpubs in the KC Metro area. This doesn't even quite get us above the national average per capita breweries, but is a hell of a lot better than where we were just a couple years ago. (We've still got a very long way to go compared to Denver with 131 breweries in the metro.)

But the absolute number of breweries in KC is not what I'm most excited about with these new openings. What I'm most excited about is the fact that these breweries are not all opening just in the Crossroads and North KC--we're actually getting breweries in the 'burbs! I've been talking for a long time about the NE Johnson County and Lee's Summit areas as being areas with a huge craft beer demand that have been historically under-served.

That is no more because we're now going to have 2 breweries in Lee's Summit and 1 in Overland Park! Brookside will get it's first brewery ever in 2017 as well. And hopefully more will follow in their footsteps (assuming the angry silver-hairs that control the planning commissions and zoning laws loosen up a bit when they realize these craft breweries don't lead to the demise of their neighborhoods).

As always, congratulations to all the new brewers! It's an enormous accomplishment just to get to opening day given all the legal, logistical, and financial challenges to opening a brewery. Here's the breweries to go drink at today and look out for this year!

1. Brewery Emperial - Grand Opening Tomorrow

Grand Opening: Tomorrow, Feb. 2, 2017
Location: Crossroads (1829 Oak St, Kansas City, MO 64108)
Restaurant Hours:
     Sun-Mon: Closed
     Tues-Thurs: 11am-11pm
     Fri-Sat: 11am-12am
Facebook | Twitter

This much anticipated brewery that has been in planning for several years now opened quietly in late December of last year because of an earlier than expected regulatory approvals. Now they're planning their grand opening party tomorrow, Feb. 2nd. This new establishment is a brewpub with a full menu along with their beers (a relative oddity amongst the mostly tap-room focused brewery openings of late).

This is no virgin venture--Keith Thompson, the long time head brewer at McCoy's, is part-owner and brewer along side former Boulevard brewer Sterling Holman. In addition to this, the brewhouse system came from the Hitachino Nest brewery who still make one of the best Witbiers in the world. (The owl logo is a nod to the brew system's provenance.) On the food side, part-owner and chef Ted Habiger spent his early career at the former Cafe Allegro, at one time rated the #1 restaurant in the city. With all this experience and expertise, Brewery Emperial promises to be a great addition to the Crossroads neighborhood.

2. Fringe Beerworks - In House Brews Starting February

Opened: December, 2016
In-House Brews: Early February, 2017
Location: Lee's Summit (224 SE Douglas St, Lee's Summit)
Tap Room Hours:
     Sun-Thurs: 12pm-10pm
     Fri-Sat: 12pm-12am
Facebook | Twitter | Website

Downtown Lee's Summit is becoming a regular beer destination in the KC Metro, with beer bars, a homebrew store / tap room, and now two planned breweries.

Fringe Beerworks opened recently in the old Grains & Taps location (which moved down the street) as the first brewery ever to open in the history of Lee's Summit as a city. They've been serving other's beers including Ninja Moose Brewery beers (the first location in the metro serving their beer) for a couple months now and should have their first batch of in-house brew out any day now. They cleared the last regulatory hurdle in mid-January and are working to get their first beer on tap soon.

Right now this tap-room has 24 taps of local and regional brews. Their ultimate goal is to have 12 in-house taps and 12 guest taps on at all times. They've got a realtime list of what's on tap on their website. Also apparently if you blow a keg, you get to have your picture taken with it. Their twitter feed is oddly amusing with all the pictures of people standing proudly by the kegs they killed.

3. Smoke Brewing Company - Opening February

Opening: February, 2017
Location: Lee's Summit (209 SE Main St, Lees Summit, Missouri)
Restaurant Hours: TBD

Following right behind Fringe Beerworks, Smoke Brewing Company is planning an opening this month just down the street from Fringe in downtown Lee's Summit. In contrast to Fringe, Smoke Brewing Co will be a full service restaurant / brewpub focused on upscale barbeque. This will be a first for the metro, as we've never had a brewpub that focused on barbeque (and I doubt there are many brewpubs across the country with this mix).

Owners Josh and Lanni Edwards and Josh's father Jeff Edwards all have a background in competition homebrewing for 10 years and competition barbequing for 5 years. In addition to the homebrew experience, the Edwards have hired on Bert Lightle as their brewmaster. Bert recently graduated from the highly respected brewing science program at the Siebel Institute and is currently the president of ZZ Hops. So I'm guessing that all this is going to add up to excellent beer and bbq for Lee's Summit. 

4. BKS Artisan Ales - Opening Feb/March

Opening: February, 2017
Location: Brookside East (633 E 63rd St #120 Kansas City, MO)
Tap Room Hours: TBD (Currently planned for just 1 Saturday per Month)
Facebook | Twitter | Website

We first talked with co-owners Brian and Mary Rooney back in 2015 in regards to their work with the City of Kansas City, MO to change the zoning laws. The Rooneys were instrumental in their work with City Council members (Scott Taylor in particular) to get the zoning ordinance amended so that breweries could be operated in areas with a "commecial" zoning. Previously, breweries could only be operated in "manufacturing" zoning areas (hence all of the Crossroads breweries). But the Rooneys prevailed and are now getting very close to opening up their brewery in Brookside!

BKS Artisan Ales is planned as a production brewery with a tap room at the corner of 63rd & Holmes. They plan on focusing on experimental sour, barrel aged, and farmhouse beers. They've already got some exciting stuff going with their own proprietary bugs too--BKS worked with Bootleg Biology to isolate their own lactobacillus, brettanomyces, and sacchromyces (regular beer yeast) strains that they collected on Mary's family farm in Rosie, AR. These yeast will be used in their Biere de Rosie among other brews. Right now they're planning on only opening the tap room one Saturday per month, but will sell bottled beer and crowler fills to go as well.

5. Colony Espresso & Beer Brewery - In House Brews this Spring

Begin Brewing: Spring, 2017
Location: North Kansas City (312 Armour Rd, North Kansas City, MO)
Tap Room Hours: 
     Mon-Thurs: 7am-10pm
     Fri-Sat: 7am-12am
Facebook | Twitter | Website

In North KC's march towards craft brew dominance of the KC Metro, yet another brewery is planned for the tiny city north of the river. In addition to the current 3 breweries, distillery, homebrew shop, and multiple beer bars, the excellent Colony Espresso & Beer Bar on Armour Road is planning to expand into production of their own in-house brews by this summer.

Rodney Beagle has been a staple of North KC since he started bartending, then brewing at Big Rip several years ago. You probably also know him from Nanobrew Fest under the Beagle Brewing banner. But that is all no more as he will now be representing Colony Handcrafted Ales. Colony plans to purchase Rock & Run's old 1 BBL brewing system once they upgrade to their larger 3 BBL system this Spring. Colony will focus on filling at least 3 taps with in-house brews year round with an ever-changing selection. They will be focusing on one-off batches of experimental brews.

6. Brewlab Brewery - In House Brews Late 2017

Opening: February, 2017
Location: Brookside East (7925 Marty St, Overland Park, KS)
Tap Room Hours: TBD
Facebook | Twitter | Website

Anyone reading this blog (especially this far down the page!) already knows about Brewlab--our first and only brew-on-premise shop. Well they've come out with some extremely exciting news. Brewlab is in the process of moving to their new location a couple blocks to the east of their original shop. This location is just across the street from the Farmers Market building. They will be expanding past the the brew-on-premise service to also have a restaurant, tap-room, and brewery! Their plan is to expand in phases, with the brewery coming some time in late 2017.

I see four awesome with this move: 1) a brewery in Johnson County--an amazing achievement in its own right, 2) a brewery a mile from my house, 3) a lot more room for the perpetually claustrophobic High Plains Brewhoff, and 4) going to the Farmers Market is going to be a lot more fun this year.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

KC Bier Meisters 34th Annual Competition Registration Ends Tomorrow!

It's that time of year again--Kansas City Bier Meister's annual homebrew competition is coming up soon! This is the premier homebrew competition in the region, and by far my favorite to volunteer at every year. I think I say this every year, but this competition looks like the best they've ever had--both for competitors and volunteers. The competition judging will be held between Feb. 7 - Feb. 11, with the primary judging sessions, and the awards banquet on Saturday 2/11. Beer entries and judging registration closes tomorrow, Jan. 27 at 5:00 p.m. sharp! So before you read the rest of this post, go get yourself registered!

We want YOU to be a Beer Judge

Friday, December 2, 2016

Funky Pumpkin We Hardly New You--Boulevard's Updated 2017 Release Calendar

Have we reached Peak Pumpkin? Given the massive explosion of pumpkin beers this season and with Boulevard's updated 2017 release calendar I think we may have--Boulevard will no longer be producing Funky Pumpkin OR Funkier Pumpkin next year. Boulevard already announced a while back that Funky Pumpkin wasn't going to be making a return, but had said that Funkier Pumpkin (the jazzed up version of Funky Pumpkin) would be getting released again in September 2017. But they just released a revised 2017 calendar and Funkier Pumpkin is not planned for release.

This is just a revision of the previously released 2017 calendar, so I won't go into a long lament on beers gone by and the craziness of craft brewery turnover these days, but I wanted to give you all a quick update on the changes from the previous 2017 calendar release.