KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Boulevard Brewery is one of the most iconic brands in Kansas City. The brewery’s story begins in a bar in Paris in 1984.
Kansas native John McDonald tried Belgian beer for the first time and was blown away. He returned home motivated by a new idea.
“He started this in his garage at first, but at the time he was a hobbyist, home brewer, he was also a cabinet maker in what we now call Brewhouse Number 1,” tour guide Keith Kennedy said.
“Then he had to move that home brew kit in his personal residence into his cabinet-making studio. That’s when he started calling his space ‘The Boulevard’ since it’s on Southwest Boulevard. That’s where we get our name.”
Long before McDonald bought the brewery’s current space, Kennedy says it was used for brewing a different kind of suds.
“Back at the turn of the century, Robert Pullman, who’s known for the Pullman train car system, he had laundry facilities like that building built next to big train depots, like Union Station across 35 highway,” Kennedy described. “And the idea was those train cars, the linen and laundry would need to be cleaned, so they would take them to depots like that and wash them.”
McDonald took that old laundry facility and expanded upward. His creation has grown exponentially, with the additions of its $25 million brewhouse next door, and the new tour and recreation center.
What started as an idea is now a global brand that’s sold in over 40 states and 12 countries, including the one that inspired it all.
“The real ironic thing about getting our beer into Belgium is that back in 2015, our beer Tank 7 won the gold cup prize for the Belgium Beer Festival out there. So, it was like a long time coming. We already had the best beer in Belgium, so why not sell our beer in Belgium? When that finally happened, it was awesome,” Kennedy said.