Kansas City, despite what you may have heard, is a sort of lovely town. It's got all those things that us city-dwellers like to hate, like an unnecessary amount of sprawl and an over-abundance of highways and strange public transportation and a considerable amount of Wal-Marts, sure. (And an airport that's unnecessarily far from the actual city, and a baseball stadium that doesn't have the common decency to be anywhere near downtown.)
But underneath that is a little city that mostly thrived in its suburban-ness for years and years, until the past decade when it realized that being a city would kind of be okay. Enter condos! Enter an actual bustling downtown area! And thankfully for me, enter actual beer bars.
I grew up in Kansas City and left about a decade ago, and my opinion of it was quite different on the day I left. It wasn't so much that I disliked KC as it was that I flew down I-70 in my 1990 Mercury Sable with both fingers in the air inviting all of its residents to "Eat It." Along the way, though, something happened, and it might just be that I turned 21. KC has no shortage of spectacular beer, and it's overwhelmingly awesome.
KC's biggest beer claim to fame is Boulevard Brewing. Like most of the midwest, your run-of-the-mill bars will feature 20 beers on tap, most of which have the words Miller, Bud, or some spelling variant on the word "Light" in their name. The exceptions in KC are made for Boulevard. Guaranteed, you can walk in somewhere and at least score yourself a bottle of Boulevard Wheat or Pale Ale. These are the brewery's flagships, and they produce a ton of them. Their year-round portfolio is extensive and covers all the standard bases.
A few years back, Boulevard decided to start expanding their operation. Wheats and pale ales and porters and stouts only get you so far, and only keep your brewers so entertained. In 2007, they started brewing the Smokestack Series, a little experiment to see what they really could do. All beers were originally bottled in just 750mL bottles, but the more popular options would later become year-round and bottled in 12 oz. four-packs as well. Early trials included a Belgian tripel and a quad and a Double IPA, followed by a barrel-aged version of the quad at the holidays. These beers became so intensely popular that they just kept going - a Saison Brett (my favorite), an Imperial Stout, a light Chocolate Ale that collaborates with a local chocolate maker, and a White IPA collaboration with Deschutes, just to name a few. They don't distribute in the Bay Area, but if you ever find yourself in the midwest (or Oregon, oddly enough), keep your eyes peeled for them.
My favorite beer bars are in Westport, the bar and entertainment district a little bit south of downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Start at Beer Kitchen, which has great taps and a serious bottle list. Just down the street, McCoy's Public House brews a ton of their own beer, but I prefer the The Foundry next door, which carries many of the McCoy's beers but also has an extensive list of guest taps. In the Crossroads Art District, stop in for a pizza and a beer or two at Grinder's.
Oh, and I know this post is supposed to be about beer, but as today's friendly midwest advocate, I am required to talk to you about barbecue. Not many people know this, but nurses write the name of your favorite barbecue sauce on your birth certificate when you're born within the city limits, and you're contractually obligated to be an asshole about sauced meat for the rest of your life. It's just the cross we have to bear. I will humbly suggest Rosedale BBQ and Arthur Bryant's (but please go to the original one at 18th & Brooklyn, and then go check out the 18th & Vine jazz district, because we're proud of that), but there's a soft spot in my heart for the Sweet & Mild sauce at Gates. Some people will chat you up about ribs, but for me, it's all about Burnt Ends - the smoky tips of slabs of brisket that are too small to be sliced up for actual brisket sandwiches.
So, Kansas City. The All-Star Game is in Kansas City. Man. Welp, the city may not be much for baseball, but it's got the bases covered on beer and meat! Grab a wheat beer in honor of our biggest crop and roll around in the excitement of not playing in the American League. Happy Derby Day, y'all!
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