As you may have read in Aly’s post about our recent trip to Kansas City, I had nearly two days to explore the city while Aly was busy with conferences. While I was limited to only where my skinny legs could take me, I did have an opportunity to visit two very amazing breweries that were within walking distance from the hotel. Below, you’ll find a truncated version of my review format along with a few other things I did during those two days that don’t involve beer.
Kansas City: The City of Breweries
While I don’t claim to be an expert on the history of Kansas City Brewing, I did discover during my short time there that the city loves its beer. According to Brewery Map, the city has about 20 breweries in a twenty-five mile radius. Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City Bier Co., Border Brewing, Double Shift, Torn Label, Martin City Brewing Co, McCoy’s Public House, and 75th Street Brewery are just a few of the many breweries the city has to offer. If it isn’t breweries you want, the city does offer several brewpubs such as Tapcade & Up Down (arcade-beer pub hybrids, FTW!), the always excellent Flying Saucer, Beer Kitchen, The Foundry, Thou Mayest (coffee roaster, slow bar, awesomeness), Grinders, and so many more. It isn’t totally out of the ordinary to walk in for some grub and see forty tap handles that offer a wide berth of brews. What’s more is that the city offers a unique storage facility in the form of climate controlled caves that many of these breweries use to lager or sour their beers. As a side note, these same cave storage facilities house a number of old MGM film masters in an effort to help preserve the films for future generations. How cool is that? Pardon the pun. Its very early while I’m writing this.
Within five minutes into the city, Aly and I started to notice that nearly every block has a building proudly sporting a sign advertising that they sell Boulevard Brewing Company beer and often these advertisements were done in what I could only guess is city approved murals adorning most every old building’s brick walls. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in my review of Boulevard’s Funky Pumpkin, I did not have an opportunity to visit the flagship brewery of the city due to it being quite a jaunt from our hotel. I had to save something for my next visit, right?
So on with the reviews! But wait! One pitstop before I jump in.
Negro League Baseball Museum
Before hitting up the breweries on 18th street, I took the long jaunt from the hotel to visit the Negro League Baseball Museum in the historic 18th and Vine District and had my admission paid for by the generosity of my love girlfriend. Thanks again, Aly. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, the NLBM has a little to offer to nearly everyone. Much like I did, you might be wondering what the significance of Kansas City is to Negro Baseball. In 1920, the league was formed by Andrew “Rube” Foster, a former player, manager, and owner of the Chicago Giants, held a meeting where several Midwestern team owners met in a YMCA to unify their teams as the Negro National League where they could compete with one another. Soon after, several other regions in the country joined this league.
I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t know much about the Negro Leagues. The museum provided a ton of information to help me understand the history of baseball, this country, and the progress we have made as a nation. Prior to the official forming of the Negro Leagues, African American baseball teams existed as a early as the late 1800s in the form of military, college, or company teams and some of them, such as Moses Fleetwood Walker, actually played on all white teams. By the early 1900s, with racism and Jim Crow laws in full effect, it made it difficult for these teams to play in the same leagues as white men so these rag-tag teams who used to “Barnstorm” the country challenging all white teams to a game. Once the league was formed, Rube Foster would encourage the players to be more entertaining than their all white counterparts and enforced a strict $5 fine to any player that didn’t slide into base after a hit. Blacks and whites all across came to see the often sold out games and this made the league a very lucrative business and the social event to attend. The Negro Leagues continued even though the World Wars nearly bankrupted the leagues and persisted until the early 1960s.
I could spend all day talking about the things I learned at the museum and may even consider writing a future blog post about my interest in baseball history. I’ll just say that it was so incredible to see Jackie Robinson’s signature on a baseball that also had Ty Cobb’s and to be able to fill in the gaps of information about the often overlooked Satchel Paige (quite possibly the greatest pitcher and showman to ever play the game).
So how does this relate to beer? I decided to include this trip in this post for the sake of chronology of my day but to also be able to provide one tiny nugget of information that relates back to beer. Formed in 1913, the Indianapolis ABCs (American Brewing Company) first started as an independent club that eventually joined the Negro Leagues in 1920. So there it is. A Negro League team that existed in my state that was named after a brewery. Kind of stretch but I had to think of something that would tie this all together.
Onto the beer!
Double Shift Brewing
Located in the historic, recently revitalized 18th Street District & Vine Jazz District, Double Shift Brewing is hard to miss. The modest gray, free standing building located across the street from the very popular Grinders provides just enough room for a tap room and a few fermentation vessels. What it lacks in size, Double Shift offers in charm and quality in their product. Sporting six solid offerings at the time of my visit with the promsie of limited barrel aged brews to come, Double Shift won me over almost instantly. Talking with the bartender while there, they opened their doors in the summer of 2015 and eventually intend to distribute locally in order to spread their great beer beyond their taproom once production gets fine tuned. While there, I tried every one of their offerings. Below you’ll find my hastily scribbled notes as I wrote them.
- River Pirate Oatmeal Stout: Great thick mouthfeel with strong notes of coffee, dark chocolate, and vanila. Long lasting rich coffee finish.
- Hayloft Saison: Tastes almost like a Belgian golden with notes of banana, clove, and pepper. Good stuff.
- Run-Around Rye: srong notes of banana and clove in this one too. Very similar to their Saison but way less bright with a citrus bite.
- Heavy Weight Double IPA: So good. Not the standard in-your-face double IPA. Lots of earthy flavor with crisp citrus bite.
- 18th Street Pale Ale: Solid beer from solid folks. Unusual hop profile that is very drinkable. Very approachable pale.
- Black IPA: Balanced hop mixed with earthy, malty, smokey flavor. Very good.
Border Brewing Company
Located, quite literally, next door to Double Shift Brewing in the 18th Street District. Like Double Shift, Border Brewing Company only opened its doors earlier this year. I had to ask about whether there is any competition between the two breweries and was informed that, rather than be competitive, they both support each other and are looking to eventually do some collaborations in the distant future (this may also include Torn Label which is located a few blocks away from these two). What struck me most about Border Brewing is that their taproom was even smaller than Double Shift but this was only due to having a few more fermentation vessels taking up the majority of their modest space. I also found out that they utilize their social media presence to determine which brew is most popular so they can offer those more frequently and they are also very open to suggestions on what they should try next (their excellent Nitro ESB was one of those suggestions). Once there, I immediately struck up a conversation with one of their bartenders and talked beer for nearly an hour. The guy seemed to have knowledge across the full spectrum of brews and offered some great suggestions for things I’ve added to my wishlist on Untappd. After having the first sip of their very incredible red ale, I was hooked. Border Brewing will be a name you should look for in the future. Unfortunately, by this point in the day, I did not take as great of notes about the brews I tried so I’ll be trying to put together a review of each based on memory alone.
- Rooftop Red Ale: By far my favorite beer I had on this trip. Notes of vanilla, rye, and your standard red ale spices. There was just something so uniquely drinkable about this red ale. Reminded me of the equally great Java The Red by Quaff On and, for those that know me, I tend to freak out when I try to tell of Java’s amazingness.
- Backyard Blonde: Creamy, mild brew with notes of vanilla and mild hops. Definitely would recommend this one to fans of the more traditional blonde beers out there.
- Patio Pale Ale: A very approachable pale that doesn’t hit you in the face with oppressive hop flavor.
- Rye PA: Earthy with good hop balance. Rye pales are quickly becoming my favorite take on the style and this one was solid all around.
- Double IPA: Not overly hoppy and has great citrus flavor mostly in the grapefruit vain. This one has a high ABV but the alcohol warmth is mild. Overall, a very solid DIPA.
- Campfire Porter: Notes of vanilla, coffee, and chocolate. I asked what kind of coffee they use in the brew and the bartender offered that there was no coffee used at all. In fact, the coffee flavor comes from bourbon soaked oak chips. Yum!
- Nitro ESB: Very mild and a creamyness that I never knew I needed in ESBs. While it is a style that can be divisive, this one far exceeded my expectations and has me interested in possibly doing a whole blog series about ESBs.
Our Next Visit to Kansas City
I could spend even more time going on about the other 10-15 brews I had while in KC but will save that for another trip to KC. Next time, I’ll be planning a visit to Torn Label, Boulevard Brewing Company, 75th Street Brewery, and any other brewery that pops up from now until then.
Do you have a favorite KC Brewery? If so, leave us a comment.