After a quick lunch at Subway, we made our way across town to the Boulevard Brewing Co., arriving at 2 pm just as the next tour was supposed to start. (This seems to be a pattern for us.) Although the tour was very full, the guy let us join it, once Dave told him we were from Illinois.
Boulevard is the largest craft brewery in the Midwest, the second-largest brewery in Missouri (after Budweiser), and – as the tour guide was pleased to say – the largest American-owned brewery in the state. We were introduced to Boulevard not long after we moved to Champaign – their distributor was at our local liquor store doing tastings and PR.
We have done a lot of brewery tours, and this one was among the best we’ve seen. The tour guide had personality and the right voice for talking over 40+ people. There were short videos at about four different spots along the tour – a great way to explain things (like the brewing process) in a more visual way than the tour guide can do, and also to show things that you wouldn’t otherwise get to see. Brewery tours typically are less interesting on a weekend, because they’re not running the machines. (In ten years of doing brewery tours, Dave and I have never seen a bottling line actually running.) The videos helped a lot, and they were really high-quality.
The first part of the tour takes the group through the brewery’s original system, from when Boulevard started in 1989. Then it transitions into the new facility in the adjacent building, which opened in 2007 and features top-of-the line brewing technology as well as industry-leading efficient equipment and architecture. It was pretty impressive.
Like all respectable brewery tours, it ended in a tasting room. They had given us four tokens each (actually bottle caps) to be redeemed for 4-oz tastings. Since I don’t drink beer, Dave got to taste 7 different brews – he kept the last token as a souvenir.