Was 2018 the Death of Brewing in KC? A Year in Review

The end of 2018 was a rough time in the KC craft beer world. We had back to back closures of McCoy's in Westport and Rock & Run in Liberty. Colony stopped brewing beer in North KC. Tallgrass shuttered their package brewery in Manhattan, KS. And it wasn't too long ago that 75th Street Brewery in Waldo and Gordon Biersch in PNL closed. And who knows, there might be others to follow. But, I would like for you all to please: Don't Panic!

Is Brewing in KC Dead?

Hell no! One thing you'll notice with all these recent brewery closings is that, with the exception of Tallgrass, these were all brewpubs (and there's a very easy explanation for why Tallgrass closed). As opposed to the craft/nano brewing industry, the restaurant industry is a super low-margin, volatile, and brutal industry. For most restaurants, if anything goes wrong (like, for example, a building collapses next to your restaurant forcing you to close down for a time), it can be very difficult to keep the cash flow moving. The half-life of a restaurant is 3 years. Based on my totally sketch research, here's the basic stats on restaurants:

  • 60% of restaurants close within the first 3 years
  • 90% of restaurants close within the first 5 years
  • Only 1 in 20 restaurants last 30 years or longer

So you can see that most of our now closed brewpubs lasted far past the industry average:

  • 75th Street Brewery - 23 years
  • McCoys - 21 years
  • Gordon Biersch - 9 years
  • Rock & Run - 5 years

So, bummer as it is, we need to pour out a drink for our fallen comrades and then stop lamenting about the past and start looking to the future.

Brewing in KC is Alive and Well

While we did have some high-profile closures, we also had a shit ton of brewing openings. Call it creative destruction. We had more brewery openings in KC in 2018 than has ever occurred in the area's history. Seriously. No fewer than thirteen breweries opened. Compare that to three closings. and we've got even more on the horizon. Eleven breweries have already announced for openings in 2019, with several of them likely to open within the first couple months of 2019. Here's a list of all the new dogs in town:

Casual Animal Brewing in the Crossroads
2018 Brewery Openings in KC
Casual Animal Brewing Co - Crossroads KCMO
Strange Days Brewing Co - River Market KCMO
Apex Aleworks - Independence, MO
Callsign Brewing Co - North Kansas City, MO
City Barrel Brewing - Crossroads KC, MO
East Forty Brewing - Blue Springs, MO
New Axiom Brewing - Lee's Summit, MO
Sandhills Brewing - Mission, KS
Limitless Brewing - Lenexa, KS
Dubious Claims Brewing - Excelsior Springs, MO
Atlas Saloon - Excelsior Springs, MO
River Bluff Brewing - St. Joeseph, MO
Liberty Cap Brewing - St. Joseph, MO

2019 Breweries Planned in KC
Transport Brewery - Shawnee, KS
Rock Creek Brewing - Mission, KS
3 Trails Brewing - Independence, MO
Fields and Ivy - Lawrence, KS
Kaw Point Meadery - Kansas City, KS
Servaes Brewing - Shawnee, KS
Transparent Brewing - Grandview, MO
Black Stag Brewing - Lawrence, KS
Alma Mader Brewing - Westside KCMO
Strawberry Hill Brewing - Kansas City, KS
Friction Beer Company - Crossroads, KCMO

What makes me especially excited about this is where these breweries are opening. You'll notice that there are actually MORE breweries planned for the KS side of the metro than the MO side in 2019. This has never happened.

Not Just Quantity--Also Quality

We not only have a ton of breweries opened, but we have some truly spectacular beer coming out of KC. This is truly the Golden Age of KC brewing. Never in the history of the city has beer this good been this easy to come by.

Boulevard continues to impress with more innovative and quality offerings. Their barrel aging program just gets better and better, as does their Love Child series. They also brewed a beer in collaboration with Tech N9ne. Seriously, does it get any more KC than that?

Beyond Boulevard, Torn Label is doing amazing work with their Magic Magic, Old Believer, and Rough Draught series. I shit you not, everything Torn Label touches turns to gold. Also, their core lineup of Monk & Honey, House Brew, and Alpha Pale Ale represent my favorite three iconic year-round beers in the city.

We certainly cannot overlook BKS Artisan Ales. BKS has quickly become the most off-the-wall, innovative, and sought after brewery in the metro. They still have pretty limited hours, but it's getting more regular and easier to snag some of their beers. I haven't had a single beer from them that wasn't marvelous.

Double Shift has also come into their own in the past year. They had somewhat of a rocky start with some quality issues, but they've left that in the dust. If you haven't been by there lately, you are seriously missing out. Their beers are solid and sublime. They have a knack for putting together herbs and spices into beers that you'd never consider but that work very well together.

And I can't let a year go by without giving a shout-out to KC Bier Co. As a father of young children, there really isn't any place in the world I'd rather be than in their tap room or bier garden, drinking a Dunkel, and watching the kids run wild.

Every brewery in KC is making amazing stuff right now. The new guys, the old guard. Everyone. The quality of beer has never been better in KC, we've never had more beers and breweries to choose from, and the fellowship and friendliness of the scene has never been this good.

So go drink a killer KC beer, forget about the past, and look to the future!

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