Boulevard Brewing Company History

By Boulevard Brewing Company

Founded in 1989, Boulevard Brewing Company is the largest independent specialty brewer in the Midwest and the tenth largest craft brewer in the U.S. Our mission is simple: to produce fresh, flavorful beers for a local and regional market using the finest traditional ingredients and the best of both old and new brewing techniques. Boulevard’s family of beers consist of a wide variety of year-round, seasonal, and limited release offerings, all known for their full flavor and unsurpassed quality.

Since its introduction in 1994, Unfiltered Wheat Beer has become our most popular offering. All of Boulevard’s ales—including Unfiltered Wheat Beer—are bottle conditioned, employing an old-world brewing technique that creates a secondary fermentation in the bottle, resulting in beer that tastes fresher, better, longer.

The Boulevard story begins in the mid-1980s when John McDonald, a skilled carpenter and cabinetmaker by trade, traveled extensively throughout the great beer making regions of Europe and fell in love with beer. Not only with the beer itself, but with the idea of small breweries making flavorful beers in a variety of styles for a local or regional market. Upon his return to Kansas City, John took up homebrewing, and the same qualities that made him a successful craftsman made him successful at brewing beer, not to mention very popular with his friends.

In 1988, John started construction of the brewery in a turn-of-the-century brick building on Kansas City’s historic Southwest Boulevard, instantly making it Missouri’s 2nd largest brewery. A vintage Bavarian brewhouse was installed, and the first batches of beer were produced in the fall of 1989. That November, the first keg of Boulevard Pale Ale was delivered—in the back of John’s pickup truck—to a restaurant just a few blocks away.

After 15 years of steady growth, sales exceeded 100,000 barrels per year, and keeping up with the demands of thirsty Midwesterners had pushed our capacity to the limit. An expansion project adjacent to the original brewery was completed in 2006, raising Boulevard’s total brewing capacity to approximately 700,000 barrels per year—a sizable increase from the 6,000 barrels contemplated in John’s original business plan. 

The new brewing and packaging facility is a model of sustainable urban architecture and engineering; a three-story, 70,000 square foot building housing a new, state-of-the-art 150-barrel brewhouse. Today, our original 1930s vintage 35-barrel system is still used for test batches and the award-winning Smokestack Series line of artisanal beers, while the new brewhouse supplies customers with our year-round and seasonal offerings.