2013: The Year of Beer

The year 2013 will certainly go down as the Year of Craft Beer in the Kansas City. While the craft beer industry as a whole has been growing astronomically since the late '80's, Kansas City has been lagging behind the growth trend. Since the late '70's, the number of breweries has gone from a low of 89 breweries nationally up to 2,538 as of June of this year. This puts the number of people per brewery in America at 127,300. As of Jan. 1, 2013, Kansas City was far behind the trend, supporting one brewery for every 226,700 people. The 5th best beer city in America, it was not.
(source: Brewer's Association)
The start of 2014 shows a completely different scene though. 2013 saw the opening (or start of beer sales) of Green Room, Big Rip, Cinder Block, Bourgmont* and Rock and Run breweries. Within the first couple months of 2014 we will see the KC Bier Company and Martin City Brewing Company selling beer in the metro. The number of breweries will have nearly doubled from 9 to 16, and Kansas City will finally be caught up with the national average. (While having sixteen breweries operating in the metro might sound great, it looks pretty pathetic compared to our neighbor, Denver, which sports 62 breweries.)

Regardless of all the statistics, there is definitely a feeling rippling through the community of a new era of craft beer. Hardly a week goes by without a specialty beer dinner hosted by some of the best restaurants in town. Firkins are being precariously propped up on the edges of bars all over town every other night. Newly opened businesses like the Bier Station and Brewlab are laying the groundwork (and doing the lobbying) for future innovative brewing ventures in the city. The number of beer festivals and competitions increases every year. Up until a couple of years ago, the KC Bier Meisters Competition was the only officially sanctioned homebrew competition in the area. In 2013, there were seven sanctioned competitions, including one of 11 sites in the country to host the preliminary judging for the National Homebrew Competition, which had nearly 8,000 entries. The number of entries in the KC Bier Meisters competition has grown steadily as well, from less than 300 entries in 2010, to nearly 500 entries in 2013.

Obviously we can't talk about the last year without mentioning the sale of Boulevard to Duvel. The deal with the devil is set to close today, after several months of working out merger documentation and license registration. While we're not too concerned about the quality of Boulevard's beer or their commitment to local interests suffering as a result, it definitely does signal a major change in the craft beer scene. Boulevard isn't the same local gem anymore, that's clear. But even if they really lose sight of their KC roots, there are plenty of other new locally owned, independently run breweries to choose from. Regardless of their ownership status or whether you love them or hate them, it's hard to overstate how much they've done for craft beer in KC. We wouldn't be where we are today without John McDonald.

It sure is, VABC
Right now is most certainly the Golden Age of American Brewing. (Or should it be the Amber Age?) We've got the greatest number of breweries that America has seen in over a hundred years. Hundreds of new breweries are opening every year. The world has recognized America as producing the most innovative and best new beers. Even so, before this year I wasn't quite feeling the craft love from Kansas City. This year has definitely changed my mind about Kansas City being one of the great American beer cities and I'm excited to see where we go from here. Keep up the good work, KC beer lovers! Here's to a great New Year 2014!

*Correction: Bourgmont Brewing is not officially licensed yet. They did begin serving their beers at events around town in 2013. We'll be looking forward to hearing more from them in the new year.

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