by Nancy Stiles
Boulevard Brewing Company (2501 Southwest Boulevard, Kansas City; 816-474-7095) announced yesterday that it has been bought by Belgian brewer Duvel Moortgat. Kansas City fans were dismayed on social media, much as we were when InBev swooped up Anheuser-Busch in 2011.
But president and founder John McDonald doesn't see it as a bad thing.
"You know, I am sure there will be somebody drinking a Bud Light on a barstool in KC that will say, 'Did you hear they sold out to the Belgians?' But you know what? I don't really care," McDonald tells Gut Check. "This is a very different story than that."
McDonald says he fell in love with Belgian beer years ago while on a trip to Europe with his wife, but he says this isn't the same thing as the A-B InBev partnership.
"These brewers are much smaller than that -- they're owners and brewers, not bankers. Therein lies the difference," he says. "It allows us to grow our footprint here in the U.S. ....They're strong on the East and West coasts. We're stronger in the Midwest. There was very little overlap when it came to distribution. It gives us just a whole lot more firepower for availability in more venues."
The St. Louis Business Journal reported that the sale makes Schlafly the largest locally owned craft brewer in the state, and some argue that this means Boulevard is no longer a craft brewery. But McDonald doesn't engage with the whole how-big-is-too-big controversy within the craft-brewing community.
"The size of the brewery is way less important than the way the brewery operates and how they go to market. I'm not real big on size matters one way or the other," he says. "It's the way the brewer approaches making his beer."
The main Boulevard offerings will remain the same, but McDonald says the deal with Duvel will give it more opportunity to experiment.
"Right now experimentation is incredibly big in the U.S. -- there's lots of new beers coming out," he says. "I think ultimately every brewery wants what Duvel has -- a beer that is iconic and lasting. I think we have that with our wheat beer, our pale ale, the Tank 7. Some of our beers are approaching that status."
McDonald tells us that he will stay very involved with the day-to-day operation of Boulevard, but he has been looking for the next generation of Boulevard.
"Frankly, it is the Show-Me State, and we'll continue to show them that we make great beer."