Boulevard may have paved the way for craft beer in Kansas City, but now small, independent breweries are popping up all over the metro, bringing an entrepreneurial spirit, convivial environment and full-flavored pours to the city and suburbs.
In 2018, seven new breweries opened in the KC metro, with more on the way. What makes our town fertile ground for brewery startups? Kansas City dwellers appreciate craft beer more than your average person, says James Stutsman, CEO and co-owner of City Barrel Brewing Company opening in East Crossroads this month. In Kansas City, craft beer makes up about 28 percent of the market share, versus the national average of 12 percent, he cites.
In addition, the craft brewing community is welcoming, valuing community over competition. Craft brewers help one another troubleshoot and bounce ideas around. Case in point, before opening, City Barrel launched two collaboration beers with neighboring breweries. Stone’s Throw, brewed at Torn Label Brewing Company, is a juicy New England IPA with apricots and peaches. Gucci Brut, brewed at Stockyards Brewing Company in West Bottoms, is an effervescent, citrusy IPA.
Collaboration tastes good, indeed. Ready to find your new favorite hangout and drink? Let’s take a tour.
Starting close to home, New Axiom Brewing Company opened in Lee’s Summit in July 2018. Brewers here strive to be as experimental as possible, and creatively named small batches go quickly. Crowd favorites are the Milkshake NEIPA and the Mexican Lager, Juan Moore. Grab a hand-labeled four-pack-to-go, or come on a weekend evening for food trucks and live music.
New Axiom joins Fringe Beerworks and Smoke Brewing Company in Lee’s Summit. You can’t go wrong with Fringe’s juicy and refreshing Freshly Squeezed Grapefruit. Or this spring, sample the return of two crowd favorites – Freshly Squeezed Cherry Limeade and Pineapple Whip IPA. Consider pairing Smoke’s popular Black Udder Milk Stout or Irish Red with house-smoked meatloaf and barbecue. Grains and Taps, Downtown Lee’s Summit bar and home brew supply store, recently released its first house-made beers, adding its own brews to the 25-tap rotation. Pair the February featured pizza, Squeal Like a Pig, with Wheat Told You So wheat ale or Grains and Taps Red Ale.
Up for a short drive? Consider a tasting on the patio at Martin City Brewing Company’s original location or at the newer Mission Farms location. Brooo – their new milk chocolate stout with organic, raw cacao brewed in collaboration with Shatto Milk Company – is perfect for your beer-loving Valentine. And be on the lookout for two new flagship beers from Martin City this month, the Robust Nitro Oatmeal Stout and Easy Way IPA.
In Independence, pay a visit to newly opened Apex Aleworks, owned by homebrewer Jeremy Parratt just off Highway 70 and Noland Road. In November 2018, Parratt added a small, three-barrel brewing system and 18 taps to his homebrew supply store Apex Brew Wares. Customers can pick up niche hops and barbecue supplies in the store and carry-in food to enjoy with a crowd-favorite English Dark Mild, Coconut Stout or any other beer on tap on the brewery side.
In Blue Springs, East Forty Brewing Company opened in 2018 as the city’s first and only brewery featuring 16 taps as well as pizzas on Farm to Market dough crust. Try the Sunrise Saison, a French saison with ginger, citrus and peppery notes, or Right Track IPA.
For a full-on brewery-hopping experience, spend an afternoon exploring the Crossroads. Here you’ll find a brewers’ district comprised of Double Shift, Border, Casual Animal, Torn Label and City Barrel Breweries as well as Brewery Emperial. Plan to grab a bite to eat at City Barrel or Brewery Emperial, both of which have full brewpub menu.
From Crossroads, take a short streetcar ride to River Market where you’ll find Strange Days Brewing Company. Homebrewers turned brewery owners Chris and Mary Beier served their own beer at their wedding in 2014 and opened Strange Days in March 2018. They like to have fun and keep things interesting by creating “strange” combinations of flavors and styles and incorporating global flavors and ingredients. The Beiers strive to create a fun and family-friendly atmosphere, evidenced in their Sunday Mornings Cartoons series featuring milk and cereal, throwback cartoons and special small-batch releases like the Strawberry Sunday, a milkshake IPA.
In the Brookside neighborhood, you’ll find BKS Artisan Ales founded by Brian and Mary Rooney in 2017. The Rooneys (who brew, cellar and package all beers served in their tasting room) draw on traditional and experimental styles to produce hop-forward stout, sour and farmhouse ales. Try Counterculture, a hazy, citrus-forward New England-style IPA. Be on the lookout for the appearance of sparkling honey wine and mead in their tasting room this year.
KC Bier Co.’s Waldo Bierhalle opened in February 2014, and today their most-popular Dunkel, a Munich-style brown lager, is all over Kansas City. In 2018, the brewery’s Winterbock won a silver medal at the World Beer Cup – the world’s largest international beer competition. Bier Co., now the largest locally-owned brewery in Kansas City, prides itself in brewing authentic, German-style beer using 100 percent imported German hops. This spring, try the seasonal Maibock, an amber lager with flavors of honey and biscuit alongside German sausages, pretzels and cheeses in the KC Bier Co. Bierhalle and Biergarten.
North Kansas City is also home to four craft breweries: Cinder Block, Calibration, Callsign and Big Rip Brewery. Consider taking a short trip to see what’s brewing north of the river.