Just like beers vary in flavor, ABV, and distillation process, each of Kansas City’s breweries offers a different and carefully-crafted experience. The city’s craft beer scene has been brewing for decades, but over the last several years more and more distilleries have opened across the metropolitan area. From the go-tos that have longevity and well-earned reputations on their side to smaller shops that are at the forefront of the microbrewery movement, these are the best breweries in Kansas City for every occasion.
Boulevard Brewing Company
St. Louis has Budweiser, Milwaukee has Pabst Blue Ribbon, and Kansas City has Boulevard Brewing Company. Kansas City’s best-known beer company, Boulevard has been a part of – and arguably the start of – the city’s brewery scene since its founding in 1989. Its most popular offerings are its unfiltered wheat beer, Bully Porter, and the one that started it all – Pale Ale. Embark on the must-see 45-minute tour through the factory, cap it off with a tasting, and finish your visit in the Recreation Center, which offers full pours, flights, and views of downtown Kansas City.
Kansas City Bier Company
Specializing in German-style beers, Kansas City Bier Company is a place where you can kick back. Styling itself after conventional Bavarian breweries, the grounds have a Bierhalle and for warmer months, a Biergarten with expansive seating and a casual atmosphere. On the menu, find traditional German fare like Bavarian-style pretzels, cheeses, and wursts. Year-round selections include Dunkel, Hefeweizen, Helles Lager, and a Pilsner. Each fall, spring, summer, and winter, KC Bier Company rolls out a seasonal selection. If it is available, be sure to try the Sauer-Weisse, a sour, green-colored ale.
Stockyards Brewing Company
A visit to Stockyards Brewing Company feels like a trip to the not-so-distant past. Located in Kansas City’s historic West Bottoms, the area was once the center of agriculture, home to stockyards starting in the late 19th century. Though the livestock is long gone, the area retains its industrial look and Stockyards Brewing Company has made its home inside what was once the Live Stock Exchange building. Enjoy your beer in the front room, or take a walk down a long hallway until you reach the back room, which has another bar and often live music from local bands.
The bare-bones taproom at Torn Label provides an intimate drinking experience that keeps the focus on the flavors of its beers and the conversation happening amongst you and your fellow visitors. One of its year-round offerings, House Brew, samples the flavors of another local favorite, Sumatra Toddy by highly-regarded coffee roasters Thou Mayest. In addition to full- and limited-time runs of their beers, Torn Label’s artist series pairs with local artists to create one-of-a-kind drafts. Although they don’t sell food, you’re more than welcome to bring in your own.
In the heart of Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District – home to hundreds of art galleries and studios – Casual Animal is as unique as its creative surroundings. The small-batch microbrewery goes for quality over quantity. Beers rotate often depending on availability but if you’re lucky enough to be present at the same time the Peanut Butter Stout is on the menu, order it. Casual Animal serves hyperlocal snacks including the popular sheep cheese from Green Dirt Farms and crackers by Farm to Market Bread Co. Between rounds of sampling the local flavors, get in on a game of shuffleboard.
Border Brewing Company
For those who are looking to drink with a vibrant crowd, head to Border Brewing Company. The small taproom fills up fast, and on warm nights, the glass garage door on its facade is opened, letting the breeze and sounds of the Crossroads Arts District inside. Its most interesting beers are its more complex ones like the smoky Campfire Porter, the Coffee Break, made with a base of local beans from Blip Roasters (located just a few miles North) or the cacao-tinged Chocolate Milk Stout. For something on the lighter side, the citrusy Backyard Blonde is also a solid choice.
Brewery Emperial’s space feels more like a neighborhood restaurant that just happens to brew its own line of beer, rather than a typical brewery. Start inside with the full menu that goes beyond basic bar snacks, offering charcuterie, small plates, entrees, and desserts. Its most popular beverage is Biscuit, a bready hybrid of an American Pale Ale and English Extra Special Bitter. After you get your fill, move out back where the outdoor space keeps up the rustic feel of the inside. Picnic tables let you gather and bonfires burn if it gets cool, letting the party continue from day to night.
Strange Days Brewing Company
Whether you want Strange Days Brewing Company to be a stop pre- or post-exploration of downtown, hop on the streetcar and head to the Rivermarket District on the south bank of the Missouri River. Prepare for things to get a little weird in the best way. Try their more nontraditional offerings, like the Chai Time Porter, with a chai spice base or the Georgia On My Mind, brewed with peaches, sea salt, and coriander. Beer tastings are always an option, but sometimes they also offer them as part of a hip-hop yoga class.
BKS Artisan Ales
Open weekends only and located a few miles south of downtown in the historic Brookside neighborhood known for its quaint shops and restaurants, BKS Artisan Ales is the perfect place for those looking for a more low-key atmosphere. Bring your own snacks or sample some from local bread and cheesemakers. For something more substantial, the nearby Flying Horse Taproom is on call to deliver flatbreads to the tasting room. Pair with the Rockhill & Locust, a locally-named libation for BKS’ take on English Mild Ale, a relatively uncommon find on brewery menus outside of England.