In the Mind of Magoulas: An Exclusive Interview*

Photo courtesy of and Boulevard Brewing
By now, almost everyone in town has heard the news about Boulevard Brewing Company appointing a new CEO. Mike Magoulas, a former executive for MillerCoors, will take over John McDonald's role (though he'll still remain president), and his macrobrew past has already stirred up a number of reactions on the internet. Some people praise the move as strategic and business savvy, as Boulevard continues to grow. Others think the move will turn Boulevard into some sort of big beer byproduct, or even lead the brewery into a buyout. Concerned with what could happen to Boulevard, I spoke* to Magoulas to get an idea of how MillerCoors past might affect Boulevard's future.

First, I wanted to address the fear that having a former MillerCoors VP in the house would potentially have an effect on the quality of Boulevard's final product. Magoulas noted that integrity of the beer was of utmost concern, and if anything, his experiences at MillerCoors had the potential to enhance and broaden the horizons of Boulevard's product offerings. "MillerCoors had significant success with flavored beer products like Miller Chill, and Boulevard has already touched on that area with Chocolate Ale," he noted, "why not marry the concept of flavored beverages with Boulevard's immensely popular Wheat and create a revolutionary flavored wheat beer?" Magoulas said an early outline of the potential new product was called Boulevard Wheat Ultimate, and would be a lighter, lower calorie version of Boulevard's staple beer, enhanced with flavors like raspberry, pomegranate and passion fruit.

I then pointed Magoulas to a number of tweets that had been posted by Kansas Citians after the announcement, poking fun at the move and suggesting product changes like punch-top Smokestack beers. Magoulas laughed off the suggestion and said "Novelty packaging was big business for MillerCoors with items like Vortex bottles and cold activator cans, but I understand those concepts wouldn't work as well for a company like Boulevard." Rather than attempt to incorporate packaging that might be passed off as gimmicky, Magoulas said the company would instead look to ideas that would still allow the customer to focus on the beer itself and Boulevard's Kansas City heritage. "Boulevard already has the artisan Smokestack series, so why not supplement that with the SmokeHOUSE series? This would be a collaborative effort with local barbecue restaurants to create beers that impart the flavors of smoke, molasses, and other familiar barbecue tastes, then package them in said barbecue restaurant's sauce bottles." For example, Magoulas said, Boulevard may work with Gates on a smoked porter, then offer it in an 8 ounce or 28 ounce 'Gates-style' bottle.

I dug a little deeper into Magoulas' past and asked him about his previous tenure at E&J Gallo Winery, where he served as Vice President of Management Services. I was curious if that experience would have any impact on his new role with Boulevard. "Well, it seems like only a small percentage of people realize that Boulevard produces wine in addition to beer," Magoulas said, "and it would make sense to tackle the beverage industry with a two headed approach given Boulevard's rapid growth. Boone's Farm was a Gallo product that established itself as a low-cost, readily available wine, so why not translate this into an affordable craft wine product? The original grapes for Boulevard's wine came from John's (McDonald) vineyard in Truman Lake, so why couldn't Boulevard offer up 'John's Farm' artisanal wines?"

Jason SUDSeikis
Finally, I was curious if Magoulas' presence might result in an increase in marketing efforts for Boulevard. As we all know, the big budgets of AB InBev, MillerCoors, etc. allow for a trove of television ads, sponsorships, etc. "Well of course in comparison to MillerCoors, there are financial limitations that Boulevard sees when it comes to planning advertising and sponsorship opportunities," Magoulas explained, "but there are still ways for us to reach a more national target audience while keeping in mind Boulevard's Kansas City roots." Magoulas said that rather than try to secure sponsorship from a big, established name like Ice Cube, they'd look to smaller, homegrown celebrities for endorsement opportunities. "Everyone in Kansas City seemingly has a passionate obsession with (comedian and actor) Jason Sudeikis, so we're in touch with his people to talk shop and try to craft some comedy-meets-beer type of ideas. You know, Jason SUDSeikis or something like that..okay, I'm not the writer here, I'm the ideas guy!" Magoulas laughed.

Clearly, Mike Magoulas is heading into his new position at Boulevard with some big ideas and wants to explore some truly unique opportunities to build this strong local brand into a national powerhouse. I'm excited to see what kind of change he brings to the table, and maybe soon enough, we won't be saying 'BMC', we'll be saying 'BMCB'.

*Editor's Note: Clearly, this whole interview was complete BS. I hope this opened some people's eyes to realizing how ridiculous it is to assume that hiring a former macrobrewery/BMC employee means gloom and doom for a craft brewery. Please see Mitch Steele, current brewer at Stone, as an example (he was a former Anheuser-Busch assistant brewer). Let's leave all assumptions and buyout conspiracy theories aside for the time being and simply see this as John McDonald hiring someone who has a successful business past, that he feels can properly run the BUSINESS side of Boulevard operations. Congratulations to Mike and to John, hopefully this means you can spend some more time enjoying your own product!

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