Boulevard & Duvel-Moortgat: Q&A with Brewer Jeremy Danner

Now that things have settled down from the news that shook what seemed to be all of Kansas City - we thought we would try to get some answers from some questions we've been hearing around town. I tried my best to scour the internet far and wide and I pulled common questions from news articles, facebook posts, forum rants and the like. I also tried to make something respectable out of the ramblings that your drunk uncle shouted during the chiefs game last weekend while he was trying to figure out how to pronounce "Duvel".

We then took all these questions and forced them upon Jeremy Danner, one of the brewers down at Boulevard. He's a fan of radlers, goats, and posting funny tweets about his new baby. He was kind enough to answer our questions, check them out below.

Kyle: What will the most immediate change look like?

Jeremy Danner: I think the most immediate change is that we'll have someone from Belgium here in the brewery on a day to day basis as part of the new company that's being formed. Our brewmaster, Steven Pauwels, is from Belgium as well so I don't know if that feels so much like an immediate change so much, but we're all excited about the opportunity to learn what the Moortgat family has learned after making great beer for over 140 years.

K: Will Boulevard beers begin to brewed outside of Kansas City? Or will any part of the process be done outside the brewery? (Bottling/labeling/design)

JD: There are no plans to shift the production of  beers away from any of the breweries. If you look at us and Ommegang, we're both putting out some great beers and there's no need to shift any of that as we both have a really good idea of what it is that we do best. It's not like our brewery was "broken" and needed fixing. That's what made us so attractive to Duvel Moortgat.

K: Boulevard's local focus was always held in high regard, it's been stated that you'll continue to honor local partnerships - but we will see new ones formed?

JD: Definitely. I don't know the figures, but we donate a tremendous amount of beer to local organizations throughout the year. The KC Pils 10% for KC project will continue as well.

K: I know I have heard that just about everyone at the brewery is excited about this, how are local employees effected by this partnership? Everyone is always worried about outsourcing and cut backs - is there any potential for those claims? Will we still see expansion/improvements?

JD: I've talked to folks from every department of our brewery and I can honestly say that no one is worried about their job and I really don't think anyone should be. As I stated above, we're very successful and I feel like we have the right people in the right places. Duvel Moortgat didn't invest their money into our brewery to cut jobs or cut corners. That's one of the great things about craft beer. Sure, it's a business and we're still looking to make a profit, but cutting corners to save money just doesn't happen in craft beer. We're looking to expand our fermentation cellar with a project we're calling "Cellar 5". As I understand it, that's a top priority moving forward. Adding fermentation capacity will allow us to not only keep up with demand for our beers in KC, but also to let folks outside of KC try our beers.

K: Will all new Boulevard beers be created in Kansas City or will we see recipes from Duvel-Moortgat being brewed here? 

JD: All new beer recipe formulation will continue to happen the way it always has. We grab a bunch of beers and sit down at a table where all of the brewers have input on plans for the next beer. We're very democratic in our approach to recipe creation.

K: There has been some confusion around the actual transaction, some say merger and some say acquisition - can you clear that up?

JD: Duvel Moortgat owns a majority stake in the future of Boulevard. John McDonald reinvested a large portion of money and will have a seat on a newly formed board. We consider it to be a merger in the sense that we're coming together with other breweries we respect tremendously to make everyone stronger. 

K: Duvel-Moortgat pushes it's portfolio as "luxury" - personally I don't view Boulevard fitting that mold. Will Boulevard's branding transform at all because of that? Along with that, will the price point be effected?

JD: I don't know that I'd consider us to be necessarily "luxury", but a lot of our focus is on brewing higher end beers. I think beers like Saison-Brett, Love Child No. 3, Rye-on-Rye, and Bourbon Barrel Quad hold their own among some of the best beers in the world. The beauty of beer is that you can spend 12-15 dollars and have one of the best beers around versus the wine world where bottle prices are much much higher. I don't see any of our branding changing any time soon. Since the beginning, all of our labels have been designed in house by Payton Kelly and I don't why that would stop. I also don't see any immediate changes to our price point coming.

K: How does this partnership help Boulevard achieve new goals? What are you most excited for?

JD: The major benefit to this partnership is going to be the immediate investments that Duvel Moortgat will make in the brewery. As I mentioned before, cellar 5 is high on our list of priorities. If we were to run the brew house 24/7, we could brew around 600,000 bbls of beer, but we only have enough fermentation capacity for right at 200,000 bbls. As we brew more complex beers that take longer to ferment and more dry hopped beers, tank space becomes pretty crucial. I'm excited for the breathing room that some additional tank space will provide. In a less concrete example, I'm really excited to learn from the Moortgat family. These folks are very smart and know their beer.

K: Do you think this is the future for craft brewing - multiple breweries forming partnerships?

I think so. Craft beer has always been a very collaborative industry and as more and more breweries open, I think this will be a trend especially for those of us that have been around for a while. 

K: Ommegang has a Game of Thrones series of beers - how long before we see a Mad Men set of beers being brewed at Boulevard? Don Draper's Cigarette Stout needs to be made, and it would need to be aged in whiskey barrels.

JD: Funny. I know our tour director, Savannah, has a giant crush on Don Draper so she'd be pulling for something like this big time. It's been neat to see how a lot of craft brewers have sought out creative crossover type collaboration beers. Dogfish Head has their music series. It's cool to see just how much inspiration is out there for brewers.

K: Jay also had some questions for Jeremy.

J: Will Duvel be distributing more of their brands to America as a result of the sale, such as De Koninck? 

JD: I honestly don't know on that. Duvel Moortgat USA already distributes De Koninck in the United States—along with the majority of beers in their portfolio—for quite some time now, so I'm not really sure how this recent deal would change any future plans.

J: Are regular collaboration brews planned?

JD: As in collaborations with our sister breweries? I don't know. They all make tremendous beer so I would consider it an honor to work with one of the other breweries from our family to make a beer. Ommegang makes some great saisons too, so it would be way cool for us to work together on a killer saison, but again, this whole thing is so new to all of us and we're figuring it out as we go.

J: Will Boulevard beer be brewed at Duvel's European facilities for European sale, or shipped from KC? If shipped from KC, will they take any specific steps to ensure freshness in Europe?

JD: Right now, there are no plans to shift production of any of our beers from Kansas City. We already sell beer in the Nordics and are actually the most popular American craft beer there according to our distributor/importer. As you know, we bottle condition all of our beers with the exception of our lagers. This added step to the process creates a beer that's shelf stable for a longer period of time. Quality is super important to us at Boulevard so we would never put our beer in the position to die on a boat on the journey over.

J: What changes can we expect to see with community outreach programs like the wort transformation?

Zero. We have no plans of changing the way we embrace Kansas City. We've actually already started talking about how we can improve the wort transformation experience for next year. We're very aware of what Boulevard means to Kansas City and it's definitely on the top of our minds to make sure we don't disappoint our hometown moving forward.

J: How will the sale affect the distribution network. Will Central State's still be Boulevard's distributor locally? 

Central States is more than just a distributor to us. They're our friends and our partners. I don't see any changes happening locally with our distribution. With the help and hard work of our friends at Central States, we're hoping to sell 1 million cases of beer in our hometown. That's a whole lot.

Thanks for your time Jeremy, we really appreciate it. 

If you have any burning questions, feel free to drop us a comment. You can also find Jeremy on twitter @jeremy_danner, where he is usually kind enough to respond to most questions as long as they have a picture of goat attached alongside them.

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