Imbibe magazine covered the Kansas City beverage scene in early 2012, with a nice section dedicated to beer. Focus included the growth and success of Boulevard, plus notable mentions of numerous beer bars around town, including The Riot Room, Swagger, Grinders, Waldo Pizza, McCoy's, Foundry and Beer Kitchen. It was great to see our city get some attention from an award-winning, well-respected national publication that covers the nation's 'liquid culture.' As our own Randyl Danner says in the article, "Right now is prime time to be a beer geek in Kansas City."
We all learned in 2012 that if Chef Celina Tio or the Julian social media accounts put out the 'Attention beer nerds!' call, you better listen. Tio set a new, high bar for beer events, as she introduced unique hands-on concepts for beer tastings to the city. From a lesson on blending your own sour beer to interactive dry-hopping, local drinkers had some innovative opportunities to infuse (slight pun intended) a little bit of learning with their drinking. I really look forward to seeing what Tio has up her sleeve in 2013, especially now that she's been experimenting with her own brewing.
Though this new KC institution just barely snuck their grand opening into 2012, Bier Station's unveiling has significant impact for the Kansas City beer scene. The combination beer bar and bottle shop is like nothing else in the city, and is really one of the few spaces of its kind in the country. It's not just a big addition for us, but also for the Midwest in general, and though I've just visited once for a sneak preview, I can pretty much guarantee that it will quickly become a must-see spot for beer drinkers who are visiting Kansas City.
Sure, some may debate or doubt the importance of beer festival awards, but whether you believe in their significance or not, the KC area brought some home in 2012. Boulevard took Gold for both ZON and Reverb at Great American Beer Festival, and Free State took home Bronze for Ironman Imperial Stout at the same event. Congratulations to both breweries for their hardware, and I look forward to seeing what honors Kansas City will bring home in 2013.
Kansas City certainly found continued success in continued festivals like Parkville Microbrew Festival (which showed that it needs to expand to accommodate significantly increased attendance and demand), Hop Fest, and Strong Ale Fest. But the real icing on the cake for Kansas City beer events was definitely Zwanze Day at The Foundry. Selected as one of 16 US locations to receive the extremely limited offering from Cantillon, this special distinction was yet another opportunity for KC to be set apart as an important and highly noticed beer town in the country.
Social media proved itself to be increasingly important for the Kansas City beer community in 2012. Distributors, liquor stores, restaurants and bars alike took to Facebook, Twitter and their own blogs to provide regular product and event updates to customers. The craftbeerkc.com forums were started and prove to be a great local resource, and KC Beer Blog's own Facebook page saw a huge uptick in fans and the amount of participation and interaction going on. The beer world in general has made a relatively smooth transition into the social media age and communicating with customers digitally. Kansas City has definitely been no exception.
Some breweries had big kickoff parties to celebrate their introduction to Kansas City. Others snuck under the radar as they brought their beer to store shelves. No matter what manner in which they introduced themselves, a number of breweries around the country decided that Kansas City was worthy of carrying their products. Santa Fe, Deschutes, 4 Hands (MO only), Hermitage (MO only), Crabtree (expanded to MO, was already in KS), Peace Tree (KS only), Empyrean, Wild Onion (MO only) and Mother's all made their way into town, and expanded what was already a rich local beer portfolio. And looking ahead into early 2013, we can already expect to see 3 more breweries coming soon; Kona, Perennial and 2nd Shift.
I think many of us got a bit of tunnel vision in 2012, waiting and hoping for a new brewery to open in town (myself included, admittedly), but the fact is, there was plenty that happened this past year that proved Kansas City to be a viable, vibrant and interesting beer city. The breweries and brewpubs will come. We may have to wait a bit longer than we'd like, and we always seem to find ourselves comparing our progress to the brewery boom in St. Louis (damn I-70 rivalry), but it will happen. As 2013 progresses, keep an eye out for names like The Big Rip Brewing Company, Cinder Block Brewing and of course watch for developments with Martin City Brewing Company as they seek a brewmaster and finalize their equipment plans.
I optimistically and enthusiastically look forward to 2013 and seeing what the Kansas City beer community brings to the table. If there's one thing we aren't short on, it's passionate, motivated people who want to see this area thrive and become its own rightful Midwest beer mecca.
I wish all of you a very happy new year, and thank you for reading KC Beer Blog in 2012. Cheers!