I recently had my first Boulevard Brewing beer, Tank 7. And quite honestly it was one of the best American produced Saisons I have ever had. It even went as far as to make the BGN top 10 beers of the year. So with that one under my belt I really wanted to talk to one of the brewers to see what kind of pain and sweat goes into their amazing beer. Thankfully, Jeremy Danner stepped up to the plate and was nice enough to answer my questions. Jeremy is a brewer at Boulevard and below discusses life,brewing and the art of beer in general. Cheers and a big thanks to Jeremy for taking the time out of his day!
Boulevard Brewing Company is an independent regional craft brewery located in Kansas City, Missouri. The Brewers Association currently ranks Boulevard as the 8th largest craft brewery, and the 16th largest active brewery in the United States. The sale of Anheuser-Busch to InBev made Boulevard the largest independent American brewery in the state of Missouri. Boulevard’s beers are available in 20 Midwest and Great Plains states.
Boulevard’s story began in 1988 when founder John McDonald started construction of the brewery in a turn-of-the-century brick building on Kansas City’s historic Southwest Boulevard. A vintage Bavarian brewhouse was installed, and the first batches of beer were produced in the fall of 1989. Based on the historic example set by the local and regional breweries that were once common throughout the United States prior to Prohibition, the brewery has a focus on providing locally-brewed beer for the Kansas City region. The brewery’s first half-barrel was delivered personally by McDonald in his pickup truck to Ponak’s Mexican Kitchen, located nearby. The brewery is now the largest craft brewer in the Midwest, with capacity reaching an estimated 600,000 barrels from an expansion project completed in 2006. Boulevard’s beer is available throughout Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, South Dakota, Minnesota, North Dakota, Colorado, Indiana and parts of Illinois, Alabama, Idaho, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. In 2009, Boulevard sold 140,000 barrels of beer.
: How did you get started in brewing? History,schooling etc
: I worked my way up from being a server/bartender at 75th Street Brewery in the Waldo area of Kansas City. I was a big beer geek before I started there and when an opportunity to help out in the brewhouse presented itself, I jumped on it. I volunteered my time at another brewpub in town and worked on Boulevard Brewing Co.’s Smokestack Series bottling line before I landed my full-time brewing job with Boulevard. Since starting at Boulevard, I’ve earned the General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing & Distilling.
BGN: What was the beer or brewery that made you decide this is what you wanted to do for a profession?
: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was one of the first craft beers I fell in love with and it’s one I still go back to a lot.
BGN: Can you give an overview of your brewery setup? Equipment brands,tanks sizes etc
: We operate two brewhouses at Boulevard. We use our original 35 bbl brewhouse for test beers and Smokestack Series brews, but most of our beer is brewed on our 150 bbl Steinecker system. We have 33 fermenters from a variety of manufacturers that range in size from 70 to 600 bbl.
BGN: Do you have a favorite and least favorite style of beer to brew?
Jeremy: Not really. I consider myself to be pretty lucky to brew to begin with. I guess I would say I enjoy brewing the beers I drink the most, but I don’t really have a least favorite style to brew.
BGN: If you could only brew 1 Boulevard beer for the rest of your life which would it be and why?
: I’d have to pick Tank 7. It’s probably my favorite beer of ours to drink and the brewhouse smells awesome when we add the Amarillo hops near the end of the boil.
BGN: If you could brew with any non traditional ingredient that you have not already brewed with what would it be and why?
Jeremy: We’re just starting to get serious about making sour beer so I’d like to explore more of that.
BGN: What is your favorite and least favorite non Boulevard commercial beer?
Jeremy: It’s really hard to pick a favorite beer, but I’ll say I’m a huge fan of Deschutes, Sierra Nevada, and New Glarus. I also really like Victory Prima Pils, Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, New Belgium’s La Folie, Rodenbach Grand Cru, Orval, Three Floyds Gumballhead, and the sour beers that Upstream Brewing in Omaha has made. I really could go on for a while about beers I like. As far as beers I don’t go for, I’m just not into smoked beers.
BGN: Do you read reviews for your beers on Beer Advocate and Rate Beer? And if so do they influence brewing decisions any?
Jeremy: We read revie ws, but we try not to get too caught up in them. We’re lucky to work in an industry with such passionate consumers so it would be a shame not to take advantage of those resources. It’s tricky though because people say a lot of nice things about our beer and they say a lot of not so nice things. We look at the reviews as a “how are we doing?” guideline, but we also rely heavily on our in-house tasting panel to make decisions regarding changes in recipes or brewing processes.
BGN: Where do you see brewing as an art in the next 5-10 years?
Jeremy: That’s a tough one. Brewers are going so many different directions right now with cool ingredients, barrel aging, wild yeast strains, and collaborations. I have no clue what’s going to be the next big thing in brewing, but I hope that consumers really embrace the idea of the local brewery.
BGN: And last but not least what does being a craft brewer mean to you?
: Being a craft brewer means I get to wake up every morning to go do something I really love. That’s not to say that every day is perfect, but the “bad” days are always better than the best days I’ve had at any other job. My wife, who manages a beer bar, is a total beer geek too so beer is a way of life for us. Also, my dad is finally proud of me! When he introduces me to his buddies, he says, “This is my son. He makes beer.” That’s pretty cool.