Summer unofficially kicks off craft beer season. Don’t believe me? Boulevardia opens its borders this weekend, and it’s revered as a hipster holiday (My beard still aspires to reach the need for beard oil). So with it — and the rest of the season — you know you need the below 5 tips to be a Functional Craft Beer Connoisseur.
Still need further proof? Just visit the KC Beer Blog and check out their calendar or venture over to Eleven Three KC to see their running beer event list to see all of the craft beer awesomeness. (If you’re feeling spontaneous, the eleventhreekc Instagram account is an AWESOME follow because they post daily beer events).
And it’s because of our love of the Kansas City BEER SCENE and summer festivals that we featured it in our June “Up Next!” post.
But if you are still dubious of our craft beer credentials, I offer Exhibit B: The aftermath from the “Not So Annual NCAA Basketball And Craft Beer Party.”
So, with a little help from my The Hump! Show co-host, Chad Beland, here are my 5 Tips to be a Functional Craft Beer Connoisseur so you can navigate all of the aforementioned wonderment:
5 Tips to be a Functional Craft Beer Connoisseur
1. Arrange Your Transportation Plan BEFORE Drinking
Whether it’s car service or a car pool, you want to square away this “little” detail before you head out.
Several years ago, when we visited Napa for some wine tasting with friends, we rented a car. A convertible at that. The week leading up to the trip we came to the realization, “how are we going to make that work?”
With a little bit of thought and some Evernote handiwork, we employed two key strategies to ensure we were safely working the tasting tour:
- First, we decided we’d rotate driving responsibilities. Here’s how it worked: Whoever was the next driver would taste water not wine. In those situations that the group found something truly notable, the driver didn’t miss out. We bought a bottle to bring back to the hotel to share later.
- Second, we mapped out our Napa wine tour so we would drive to the furthest point to start out. As we hit each winery, we slowly worked our way back to the hotel. During the middle of the trip, we made sure we built in a restaurant visit or a picnic.
If you’re not already with friends, and instead meeting them out, have your game plan ready. You traveling via mass transit, taxi or a ride-sharing service like Uber?
If you’re planning on doing the latter, set up your account BEFORE you go out. It seems like most everyone has an Uber account (or equivalent) these days, but I’ve known a few people (yours truly included) who have accidentally requested information about driving for Uber — and not a ride — after one too many.
If this happens to you, you’ll be left sitting on the curb for some time before you figure it out. And the Uber “finish your driver profile” emails will keep coming for days after to remind you of your stupidity.
2. Keep Track of Your Consumption
A few weeks back, some friends and I were working on our KC Tap Tour itinerary for the day. Now, the Tap Tour itself helped dictate the food agenda (Brew Lab was offering a free pint with a food purchase) and we decided to sandwich lunch (pun intended) into our trio of visits (Martin City Brewing Co., Brew Lab, and KC Bier Co.).
Along the way, especially if you decide to change things up, you’ll also want to keep track of your day.
First, you want to capture the drinks you’ve consumed during the crawl. I’m a big fan of Untappd for a whole host of reasons. One of them is its ability to track and monitor what you’ve had to drink.
I’m also a habitual photo taker of my beers. Because Becca and I feed our photos into the same iPhotos account, she often catches my beer count and might send me a text.
No matter how you do it, keep track and know your limits.
She: Hey … pump the brakes, buddy!
And … second, capture the fun moments while you’re out. When traveling with friends, one of them is really good about jotting down a quick note about unusual encounters, innocuous gaffs or when someone utters a funny one liner. This act of processing what’s going down might keep you and your crew from devolving into The Hangover.
3. A Craft Beer Connoisseur Keeps it Fresh — You and Your Beer
Now … I used to subscribe to the notion that beer is mostly water … but when you start sampling stouts that are 20% alcohol, the tables get turned on you.
Chad’s top beer drinking tip to rule all tips: Hydration is IMPORTANT. After our first near-heat-stroke foray at Boulevardia and the Taps & Tastes extravaganza, Chad wore a swimsuit the next year and proceeded to dump water on himself as if he’d signed up for multiple ice bucket challenges.
He recounts this wisdom in our first episode of The Hump!
Also, while we’re on craft beer connoisseur topic of keeping things fresh, here’s a little note about storing your beer at home.
She: Don’t convince these people to buy a beverage center. It’s bad enough we have four refrigerators. Anyone need one?
During this time of year, get your beer out of garage — or the sun — people. Heat and light kill that brew.
Here’s a little more about HOW to store your beer from Thrillist.
4. Apply Some Craft Beer Creativity
First, a craft beer connoisseur explores the flavor wheel. Another good use for the Untappd app is to guide your journey into previously unchartered beer. (Check out “Top Rated Beers” and filter by style.).
And if you’re local … go where the other locals go and make some new friends. It’s also the perfect excuse to get together with old friends. The gamification of KC Tap Tour and Untappd gives a person an excuse to get out and try a new watering hole — and drag friends along.
She: It does get a little embarrassing when your Apple Watch is constantly alerting you to all of the new beer events at these places.
With respect to KC Tap Tour, a few buddies and I — including Chad — kept in constant communication over a couple month period to make sure we finished the 19 breweries on the list.
And going back to the flavor wheel, you check into as many breweries featured in the KC Tap Tour, you’re bound to try something new. Here’s how we scored working through all 19 breweries:
KC Tap Tour 2 Season 2 — Catch-up Consumption
Smoke Brewing Co. in Lee’s Summit
Fringe Beerworks in Lee’s Summit (note: a favorite of mine over the last year)
Martin City Brewing Co. in, well, Martin City and, now, Overland Park (also a favorite of mine over the last year)
Brew Lab in Downtown Overland Park (and another favorite)
KC Bier Co. near Waldo
BKS Artisan Ales in Brookside (Bonus Brewery — not officially part of the Tap Tour, but we added it because their beer is delicious.)
April 13 or 15
Boulevard Brewing Co. (the newish beer hall is something to behold)
Border Brewing in Crossroads
Double Shift Brewing in Crossroads
Brewery Emperial in Crossroads
Torn Label Brewing Co. in East Crossroads
Stockyards Brewing (The Sunday bluegrass music is really a nice touch.)
Green Room Burgers & Beer (Okay. This place is fun. Beer. Check. Delicious burgers. Check. Plus board games and pinball, too. Damn.)
May 25-27 (This was our make-up date and we got the final breweries in right before the May 31 deadline.)
Each week, Chad and I share a beer while recording The Hump! podcast
And Exhibit C of our craft brew affection. If you don’t watch/listen to us each week, we sample a craft beer from a different brewery. The Hump! Show Beer/Brewery of the Week list so far:
Ep. 1 — Boulevard Brewing Co. Manhattan Cask Imperial Stout
Ep. 2 — Prairie Artisan Ales No Chill (show was recorded on the second day of spring)
Ep. 3 — Founder’s Canadian Breakfast Stout
Ep. 4 — Deschutes Black Butte Porter
Ep. 5 — Torn Label’s Shake Hands With Danger
Ep. 6 — Stone Scorpion Bowl IPA
Ep. 7 — Oskar Blue’s Death by Coconut
Ep. 8 — Rogue Cold Brew IPA
Ep. 9 — Crane Brewing Co. Coconut Milkshake New England IPA
Ep. 10 — Central Standard Brewing Yard Games Pina Colada Gose
Ep. 11 — Big Rip Brewing Co. 237 Milk Stout
Ep. 12 — LaCroix (minors participated in this outing)
5. A Craft Beer Connoisseur Cleanses Their Palate
I’ve never been a pretzel necklace kind of guy. So one thing I did retain from Boulevard Beer School …
Here’s how it works: Cup your nose in both hands and take a big whiff. Your own body scent will neutralize the smell of the previous beer. And half of the flavor — or more — of a given beer is picking up on its aroma.
Want to Learn More About Craft Beer in KC and Beyond?
Check out this good overview of the Kansas City beer scene from VisitKC or this feature of 48 hours of Beer Drinking in Kansas City from Jonathan Bender.
Have more craft beer connoisseur tips, we’d love to hear them in the comments. 👇