Monday, May 16, 2011

Kansas City Beer Travel Guide

I get an email once or twice a week asking me where to go for the beer minded individual visiting KC. I used to type up a different response for each one based on specific itinerary or part of town, etc. But, it ended up taking up so much time, in case you didn't notice, I can get a little wordy, especially if I'm trying to hurry through something. So I thought it might be a good idea to just make this into a blog post that I can just link to and be much more thorough. I won't just cover beer locations though, I'll cover my choices for restaurants and beers not to be missed. Consider this my travel guide to KC. Unlike every other post on the KC Beer Blog, though, this will be a living document to be updated as new things enter town and others leave town.

Boulevard (2501 SW Blvd, Kansas City, MO) - Obviously Boulevard is the biggest brewery in the KC area. Unless you're really planning ahead and have 3 months before you're coming to town, you're going to have a tough time getting a tour. The tour is well worth going on for no other reason than you can try all of the Boulevard beers if you're not familiar with them. You can book the tour here.

Free State (636 Massachusetts, Lawrence, KS)- Free State is actually in Lawrence which some people consider part of KC. I do not, but Free State is a great enough place and Lawrence certainly worth an afternoon of your trip to KC. I've never been to Lawrence and not gone to Free State for at least a beer. It's a brewpub and they have great food as well.

McCoy's Public House (4057 Pennsylvania, Kansas City, MO) - McCoy's is a brewpub in the middle of Westport, the best beer bar area around town. McCoy's beer is good, but not that different from most brewpubs across the US. It's a great place for a beer and a dinner or lunch that can satisfy any number of moods for food.

Gordon Biersch (100 E. 14th, Kansas City, MO) - Located in the Power & Light District, a city planned district that lacks any local character, but has the benefit of being downtown across the street from the Sprint Center. If you're staying in the downtown area, Gordon-Biersch is a great place to get a beer. If you're in a part of the US with your own Gordon-Biersch, there's no reason to go to this one. But, they do have good food (if a little overpriced) and good German style beers.

75th Street Brewery (520 W. 75th, Kansas City, MO) - 75th Street's beer can be a little hit or miss, but they have good pub food and it is a really cool place. 75th Street is located in the southern part of KC in Waldo which is another great area in town for beer. Waldo is also the best bet for beer for those who are staying in Overland Park.

Boulevard Tank 7 - If you're in a part of the world without access to Boulevard beers, Tank 7 is the beer you're going to want to get. It's on tap in most of the best restaurants and bars in town so it's not hard to find. It's also available in 750 mL bottles and 4 packs of 12 ounce bottles.

Tallgrass Oasis - Tallgrass is a brewery in Manhattan, KS and Oasis is my favorite of their beers. It may be a little harder to find around town, especially on tap, but it's worth your time. Oasis comes in 4 packs of 16 ounce cans.

Free State Ad Astra - As mentioned above, Free State is a Lawrence brewery. They only distribute to Kansas and Missouri so, odds are, you don't have access to Free State on a regular basis. Of the beers that they distribute, this is my favorite. But, if you see another Free State beer on tap around town, go for it, they don't make a bad beer.

Boulevard Long Strange Tripel - Aside from Tank 7, this is my favorite Boulevard beer from the Smokestack series. It's not available on tap and only comes in the 750 mL bottle. Pair this with your favorite dessert and you'll be very happy.

Bars, Beer and Otherwise
Flying Saucer Draught Emporium (101 E. 13th, Kansas City, MO)- The Flying Saucer is the biggest and best place for beer in town. They have the most beers on tap and have a great selection of local beers. Even if you are coming from a town with its own Flying Saucer, you should still go to Kansas City's. If you're staying downtown, the Saucer is the perfect place to end your evening. Kansas City has so many food options you'd be silly to eat at the Saucer, but if you do, just get a slice of pizza.

Beer Kitchen (435 Westport Rd., Kansas City, MO) - Beer Kitchen in Westport is a great stop for lunch or dinner. They have great burgers which shouldn't be missed and, while they only have 8 beers on tap, those beers are usually pretty rare and special. Beer Kitchen also has an extensive selection of bottled beers. Located just across the street from McCoy's mentioned above, you can spend a great afternoon in Westport.

The Foundry (424 Westport Rd., Kansas City, MO- Another Westport bar across the street from Beer Kitchen and connected to McCoy's. The Foundry has more of a focus on Belgian beers and they have a great selection of taps as well as bottled beers. The Foundry also has great food and is a great late night spot.

Blanc Burgers and Bottles (4710 Jefferson St., Kansas City, MO; 10583 Mission Rd., Leawood, KS)- I consider Blanc more of a restaurant than a bar, but they do have an extensive selection of bottles and 4 taps (at the KC location) with some rather rare or tough to find beers. What you can't miss at Blanc, though, are the burgers. If you eat a better burger in the United States I will refund the money you spent on this travel guide. Blanc has 2 locations, one in the Plaza which you're probably going to anyway and one in Leawood. The Plaza one is probably better because of a more extensive beer list (more beers available in Missouri which is where The Plaza is than in Kansas). Make Blanc one of your meals while in town.

Swagger (8431 Wornall, Kansas City, MO) - Swagger is located in Waldo, the southern part of KC, in a nondescript strip mall in a nondescript part of town. What sets Swagger apart, though, is the massive beer list including lots of taps. Swagger is another place you may consider eating with quite an array of different, unique food, including an eclectic selection of burgers. If you consider yourself a glutton or appreciate gluttonous food, you should definitely check out the Swagger menu when planning your trip.

Waldo Pizza (7433 Broadway, Kansas City, MO) - For the beer traveler with kids, Waldo Pizza is a Godsend. Blanc, McCoy's and 75th Street Brewery are fine places for kids and you definitely shouldn't think twice about bringing kids there. But, Waldo Pizza is the best of the bunch kids wise. And, they have a great beer selection and some of the best pizza in town.

Harry's Country Club (112 E. Missouri Ave., Kansas City, MO)- Located in the River Market area, Harry's is a gem of a bar. It really is one of my favorite places in the city. They have a great happy hour with discounted beer, booze and food. The $3.95 burger and fries during happy hour is one of the best deals in town. They have a great beer selection, but nothing really rare or hard to find. You can get some great beer, good food and look at a naked Indian woman above the bar. I think you'll find everything you need at Harry's.

Westside Local (1663 Summit, Kansas City, MO) - The Westside Local which is a mere mile or two away from Boulevard Brewery has a nice little beer list and good food (try the burger or grilled cheese sandwich). It might be a perfect place to stop in for an afternoon beer and snack or go all the way and grab lunch or dinner here.

Barley's Brewhaus (16649 Midland Dr., Shawnee, KS; 11924 W. 119th, Overland Park, KS- Barley's has 2 locations in town, Overland Park and Shawnee. Barley's has mediocre food but by no means bad food and has a great beer selection, especially for the Kansas side of the state line. Mostly tap beer, some good finds can be had, but since it is in Kansas some of the more well known brands are not available such as Stone, Firestone Walker, Bell's and Founders.

Grinders (417 E. 18th, Kansas City, MO- Grinders is probably the most unique place in Kansas City to get a good beer. They have about 20 taps most of which rotate so you never know what you're going to find there. Another place with eclectic food such as Tandoori Chicken Pizza or Chili and Tater Tot Pizza. Kind of a bad place for those with kids. Grinders is one of those places where a motorcycle gang and 5 guys in suits could be sitting at tables side by side. Be prepared to stay a while as service is notoriously spotty.

Riot Room (4048 Broadway, Kansas City, MO- The Riot Room has great taps and is a great place. A problem with Riot Room is it is a concert venue so if you're going late in the evening, you're going to pay a cover to see the band. If that doesn't interest you, show up when they open at 5 and you can sit at the bar and drink any of their fine selections. They tend to have some rare beers and because of the issues with drinking there, the rare stuff lasts longer than it should.  Located next to McCoy's and The Foundry in Westport, it's just one more great beer place on a great beer block.

All Star Pizza and Pub (6100 NW 63rd Ter, Kansas City, MO) - Near historic Parkville, All Star Pizza and Pub is just about the only place in the Northland to get a good selection of beer. If you're going to Parkville for an afternoon and want to make a good beer stop and get some food, All Star Pizza and Pub is your best bet.

The Well (7421 Broadway, Kansas City, MO- Another place in Waldo with a good beer selection. For the younger crowd, The Well is more of a house music type place with slicked up Guidos drinking Bud Light everywhere. But, The Well has good bar food, decent beer selection and one of the best decks in KC.

Harpo's (4109 Pennsylvania, Kansas City, MO- Yet another Westport bar, this one next to Beer Kitchen with a good beer selection. Harpo's is a pretty standard bar, like The Well, popular with younger people. But, they have an excellent patio with a well thought out selection of beers on tap. If you're visiting KC in the summer, Harpo's may be a good choice for you to drink outside. If you don't like it, you can leave just as quickly and hit up Beer Kitchen, McCoy's, Riot Room or The Foundry.

O'Malley's (500 Welt St., Weston, MO) - A historic bar unlike any other. Located almost entirely underground in cement encased rooms, you'll never see another bar quite like it. On the off chance you're going to travel to Weston when you come to KC, O'Malley's is worth a stop.

Granfalloon (608 Ward Parkway, Kansas City, MO- If you're going to spend a day shopping on The Country Club Plaza or eating at one of the great restaurants on The Plaza (see Blanc Burgers and Bottles) you may want to stop in for a drink. I've never been a fan of Granfalloon, but they've recently undergone a renovation adding a bunch of new taps and if you're in the area already, Granfalloon will certainly have some good beer for you to drink.

Manifesto (1924 Main, Kansas City, MO- Not a beer bar. Manifesto has some of the best cocktails in the country. It's a modern day speakeasy with seating for 40. You buzz in at the back door, leave your name and number and they'll let you know when you can go down to the bar. It's well worth it, you'll drink the best cocktails you're going to find in KC. While you're waiting, you can have a cocktail at the more conventional bar at The Rieger Hotel Grill and Exchange (Manifesto is in the basement of the Rieger). It's a great place to spend an evening.

R Bar (1617 Genessee St., Kansas City, MO- R Bar is what a proper bar should be. Great cocktails and a decent selection of beers on tap, I'd recommend the cocktails. Located in the West Bottoms, it's a destination place as not much else is in the area. But, it's only 5 minutes from downtown so it's an easy to get to out of the way type place.

Pierpont's (30 W. Pershing, Kansas City, MO) - Pierpont's is primarily a restaurant in Union Station. But, they have an excellent bar that you'll be giddy about when you see it. You can get several Boulevard beers on tap, but you're probably going to want a cocktail just to see if you can make one of the bartenders climb the ladder to get your liquor. If you're looking for a good steakhouse in town, you can do a lot worse than Pierpont's, it's one of my favorite restaurants in town.

Liquor Stores
I'm assuming you may want to take some beer not available in your area back with you so I thought I'd recommend a couple of stores where you can find a good selection of beer. Depending on where you're from you may need a little education on buying beer in Kansas and Missouri. Because the state line runs right through the middle of town, we have 2 different systems in place. In Kansas, you cannot buy beer in a grocery or convenience store. Well, you can, you just don't want to, it's 3.2 beer and not full strength. In Missouri you can buy beer at a grocery or convenience store. As mentioned above, Missouri has more beers available than Kansas and you'll probably want to visit a liquor store in Missouri, but if you're looking for local beers, a Kansas liquor store will work just as well for your needs and depending on where you're staying in town, may be preferable. I'll note which stores are in Kansas and which are in Missouri.

Tipsy's (KS) (6840 Johnson Dr., Mission, KS) - Tipsy's is the store I frequent most simply because they're the closest to my house. But, they have an excellent selection, have good prices and are extremely helpful.

Royal Liquor on State Line (MO) (1301 W. 103rd St., Kansas City, MO- This is my Missouri liquor store where I pick up Founders, Bell's, Firestone Walker and Stone beers. Again, they have an excellent selection, good prices and are very helpful and friendly.

Gomer's (KS and MO) (3838 Broadway, Kansas City, MO; 12740 W. 87th St., Lenexa, KS; 6298 NW Hwy 9, Parkville, MO; 9902 Holmes Rd., Kansas City, MO, 201 SE State Rte 291, Lee's Summit, MO ) - Gomer's has several locations and is the best bet to be near where you are staying. Gomer's South, North, Lee's Summit, Midtown, Lenexa all are good stores with good selections. You'll be able to find what you need or want at any of them.

Lukas (KS and MO) (13657 Washington St., Kansas City, MO; 7541 W. 119th St., Overland Park, KS)- I'm listing Lukas here simply because they do have everything. If it's available in MO or KS, Lukas will have it. I don't personally like Lukas because shopping there has all the charm of shopping in a warehouse and I don't find them in any way helpful. Plus, their 2 KC area locations are not very convenient for the traveler. But, if you're looking for something hard to find, Lukas would be your best bet.

If you're coming to KC, you're more than likely going to want to eat barbecue at least once. You ask a Kansas Citian where to get the best barbecue and you're going to get many different answers, so keep in mind this is just one man's list. Another person's is just as valid and I assure you, unless you live in a barbecue mecca yourself, our 10th best place is better than your best place so this is all just academic.

Oklahoma Joe's (3002 W. 47th St., Kansas City, KS; 11950 Strang Line Rd., Olathe, KS) - OJoe's is pretty close to a consensus #1 pick for barbecue in town. They have the best pulled pork you're ever going to eat and some of the best fries in town. Everything's good at OJoe's. Don't be a hero and get the large sandwich, it will ruin the rest of your day, it's too big. The regular size sandwich is fine, you'll get full. You can get Boulevard beers on tap at Ojoe's and at most of the barbecue places in town. Go to the one in the gas station on 47th St. if you have the opportunity.

Gates (1325 E. Emanuel Cleaver, Kansas City, MO; 3205 Main St., Kansas City, MO; 1221 Brooklyn Ave., Kansas City, MO; 4621 Paseo Blvd., Kansas City, MO; 103rd and State Line, Kansas City, MO; 10440 E US HWY 40, Independence, MO; 1026 State Ave., Kansas City, KS )- Gates is a Kansas City landmark. Odds are if you've ever seen a television show dedicated to Kansas City barbecue, you've seen Gates. The simple order of ham on bun will get you a great barbecue ham sandwich and fries. That's what I get.

Arthur Bryant's (1727 Brooklyn Ave., Kansas City, MO; 3200 N. Ameristar Dr., Kansas City, MO; 1702 W. Village Pkwy, Kansas City, KS) - Bryant's is one of those love or hate type of places because of their sauce. I like their sauce, but it's quite vinegarry and not something you're probably used to. Known for their burnt ends which in turn is the reason KC is known for burnt ends, if you want to know why KC has this reputation, Arthur Bryant's is the answer. Go to the downtown location on Brooklyn by the Negro Leagues Museum if you're going.

LC's (5800 Blue Pkwy, Kansas City, MO- LC's is out near the stadiums so may be a good place to go if you're in town for a game. It's what a good barbecue place should be, a little scary looking in a scary looking part of town. Somehow, that makes the Q taste better.

Danny Edward's Blvd Barbecue (2900 Southwest Blvd, Kansas City, MO) - Danny Edwards has great barbecue as well and is just down the street from Boulevard Brewery. If you can get a late morning tour, Danny Edwards might be a good place for lunch.

Smokin' Guns (1218 Swift Ave., North Kansas City, MO- Known mostly for their brisket, Smokin' Guns should be your choice if you're looking for some good beef and willing to cross the river to the Northland.

RJ's Bob-be-Que (5835 Lamar Ave., Mission, KS) - RJ's puts a little gourmet spin on barbecue. While they have good barbecue, they also have a fine selection of other delicacies such as bison empanadas which might just strike your fancy. They also have a great breakfast with some of the best bacon you'll ever eat. If you're staying in Kansas or near The Plaza, RJ's may be worth a trip. RJ's also has a good beer selection and is probably the most beer friendly barbecue around.

Fiorella's Jackstack (4747 Wyandotte St., Kansas City, MO; 101 W. 22nd St. Kansas City, MO; 13441 Holmes, Kansas City, MO, 9520 Metcalf, Overland Park, KS) - If you wish to wipe your hands with cloth napkins and have waiter service, Jackstack is the place for you. It's really good barbecue probably top 5, it's just more of a fancy schmancy type meal for no good reason. A cheesy corn bake or Jackstack baked beans are mandatory if you're there. A good beer selection can be found at Jackstack as well. With 4 locations in town, you're likely to be near one at some point on your trip.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of things to do, see, eat and drink in KC and should just be used as a resource in planning for your trip to KC. If you're into burgers this article in "All About Beer" magazine which I contributed to may prove a valuable guide as well. I'm sure commenters may add a couple of great things to the discussion so check out the comments. I'm going to keep this updated as things come and go so no matter what the date says on this post, know that it's pretty current. I've also included links to Yelp reviews of all these places to better crowd source this guide.


  1. Wow. Well done. I've got nothing to add, as all the places I take out-of-town beer folks are listed.

  2. If you're throwing Lawrence into the mix, you should mention 23rd Street Brewery as well. They make some great beer and usually have 9 or 10 beers on tap. Their Imperial Stout is one of the best I've ever had. I feel like they are often forgotten because everyone wants to talk about Free State.

  3. I'm glad to see that Granite City is not listed here. Good work.

  4. I agree with Taylor, 23rd St has really stepped up their game in the past few years. Plus it's about 10000000 times easier to get a beer at 23rd St and their patio is much larger than Freestates porch. Also the food is quite good and they revamped their menu a while ago.

  5. McCoy's just average? No way. I've done alot of traveling & they are signifiantly better than many brewpubs out there. I'm very proud to have McCoy's in KC.

  6. That being said, your article is great!

  7. Corrective action request:
    1) Brobeck's BBQ, off of Roe & north of 435, has killer pulled pork and baby back ribs. If I don't eat here, you'll find me at Arthur's on Brooklyn getting the beef sandwich w fries rolled up in a BUNDLE to go!

    2) Martin City Lukas is by far the best store in town. Folks there are friendly and helpful.

  8. Your blog site post rocks! Good job. Nice working with every point in your blog, keep it up. Keep coming with new ideas, coming again soon

  9. Hey very nice blog!! Man .. Beautiful .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds also...

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  11. These are great recommendations. I've been busy looking up family friendly Kansas City activities for an upcoming vacation, but I will definitely be visiting some of these places at night. Thanks!