I'm not sure how, when, or why it happened, but Kansas City has turned into a center of craft beer brewing and consumption.
Want an example? How about three?
The first is Hopfest, which I attended last weekend in Waldo. The second is the Westport Beer Festival, which will be held on June 7. And, the third example is Boulevardia, a brand new beer-themed street festival put on by Kansas City's original hometown brewery, Boulevard. Boulevardia will play out over three days from June 13-15.
And, it's not just Kansas City and environs experiencing a craft beer explosion, it's nationwide.
Check out some of the numbers from the website CraftBeer.com.
Growth of the craft brewing industry in 2013 was 18 percent by volume and 20 percent by dollar shares.
Craft brewers sold an estimated 15.6 million barrels of beer up from 13.2 million barrels in 2012. The retail sales are estimated to have climbed from $11.9 billion to $14.3 billion.
Craft breweries have now averaged 10.9 percent growth over the last decade.
On the local front, I reached out to Boulevard to find out how the company came up with the concept for the hoppy street fest, Boulevardia.
"Conversations about starting up a regional craft beer and food festival have been happening for years, and with the help of like-minded leaders throughout the community, the concept is finally becoming reality," said Boulevard marketing director Jeremy Ragonese.
He is expecting upwards of 12,000 people to attend Boulevardia, pointing out there are still lots of general admission tickets available.
He says in addition to a wide assortment of Boulevard beers at each bar, there will be special tappings throughout the weekend featuring craft breweries from across the country.
Ragonese stopped short of saying Boulevard was the first, and strongest, element leading to the craft beer explosion in Kansas City, but he admits the brewery was there at the beginning, and it's right in the middle of the craft beer tsunami now.
"We would like to think Boulevard has played a part in exposing Kansas City to innovative new beers over the years, both with our core line up and our Smokestack Series. We will continue to push the envelope with all of our beers we offer providing complex, adventurous flavors sure to intrigue Kansas City craft beer lovers," Ragonese said.
I personally like the idea of Boulevardia stretching out of three days. That will give more people, myself included, the chance to attend. If the event has anywhere near the selection of suds served up at last weekend's Hopfest, there will be many more than one person could possibly try. I didn't do an official tally, but a quick estimation based on the Hopfest program added up to some 230 different craft brews served up in an open parking lot transformed into a huge beer garden behind The Well in Waldo.
Boulevard was there with its Smokestack series along with beers from its new owners, Belgium's Duvel Moortgot Brewery. Longstanding locals like Free State and McCoy's were there as well, along with new malters such as Martin City Brewing and Kansas City Bier Company. There were also plenty of regional and national brewers drawing drafts, from big names like Boston Brewing (Sam Adams) and Anchor Steam, to little guys such as Dechutes and Lazy Magnolia.
"This year, our fourth, was one of the best in terms of offering rare beers, either beers that are unavailable in this market or are highly allocated. We did a good job of pressuring our distributors to bring those beers in," said George Clarke, general manager of Lew's Grill and Bar and Hopfest's coordinator.
Clarke said Hopfest was a resounding success, and yet another example of the increasing interest in craft beer throughout Kansas City.
"The whole push was to have something that the normal guy, the guy who drinks a light beer on the weekend, could enjoy right alongside a craft beer expert, someone who could come and really "geek out" over all the amazing beer," Clarke relayed.
Clarke said attendance has tripled in the four years of Hopfest, and he expects it to continue to grow.
In between Hopfest and Boulevardia is the third annual Westport Beer Festival. Sponsored by Sporting Kansas City and BierKC, this event is a benefit for Aids Walk KC, and another example of Kansas City's unquenchable thirst for craft beer.
With some 35 breweries pouring more than 80 different craft beers, the Westport Beer Festival is the smallest of the three beer events taking place in Kansas City in less than a month, but the only one where members of Sporting KC will be dropping by, so they've got that going for them.
Plus, I don't know about you, but choosing among more than 80 craft beers over one afternoon is plenty for me, but maybe still not enough to satisfy the thirst for high quality lager, pilsners, ales, porters, stouts and more in this beertopia that is Kansas City.
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