Yes, we know it might sound odd. When we think of epic beer cities, we’re more likely to name Portland, OR, Chicago, IL, Los Angeles, CA, or Asheville, NC. But Kansas City, MO, has quietly become home to some buzzworthy breweries—Vine Street, Alma Mader (one of our “14 Best Breweries of 2022”), BKS Artisan Ales (one of our “Best Breweries of 2023”), and KC Bier (whose KC Bier Light Craft Beer & Brewing named as one of its “Best 20 Beers in 2023”), to give you an idea.

That list alone has us thinking: Should we plan a trip to Kansas City next year?

For years, one brewery dominated in Kansas City—Boulevard Brewing. When BKS Artisan Ales opened in the city in 2017, Co-Founder Brian Rooney said they were the twenty-sixth brewery, but there are now over seventy-five in the metro area. Rooney says many visit the city for its barbecue, but the beer has started to catch up.

“It’s good to see people coming to town to try those things but then also looking for beer and that experience,” he says. “Really great restaurants that we admire are interested in carrying beer now, where ordinarily they might just want to do wine.”

Call us crazy if you want, but seems like something is in the water (or should we say beer?) in this Midwestern state.

You heard it here first: Kansas City could be the next great beer city and a top place for beer travel next year.

Hop Culture’s Best Places to Drink in Kansas City, MO

BKS Artisan Ales / Pivo Project

633 E 63rd St #120, Kansas City, MO 64110 | (816) 673-3027

bks artisan ales beer glass
Photography courtesy of BKS Artisan Ales

If one brewery encapsulates the magic brewing in the air in Kansas City, it’s probably BKS Artisan Ales. One of our “Best Breweries of 2023,” BKS Artisan Ales started with a Mr. Beer Kit turned one-barrel brewing basement system and a fateful road trip.

During a drive to Oklahoma in 2012, Mary started mapping out a potential business plan in the car. Five years later, BKS opened in the Brookside neighborhood (BKS is an acronym for the area).

Co-Founders Mary and Brian Rooney envisioned their neighborhood brewery as a tiny spot to serve their drinking community, open only on Saturdays. After just two months, BKS shifted gears entirely. Or, as Brian says, “It changed before we even opened.”

Looking back, Brian asks, “Why was anybody really interested in what a homebrewer would do in Kansas City?”

At the time, Boulevard bottles (yes, bottles, and that’s important) dominated the beer market in this Midwestern city.

But Brian made an intelligent decision before the brewery even opened.

“I would just give cans to some of my friends,” he says. “And they would give them to other people.” And other people. And other people.

“I was just homebrewing, putting it in cans, and giving them away for free,” he laughs. “It got around town, and I think people thought it was really good.”

This pipedream of running a two-person brewery? Well, that turned unsustainable pretty quickly.

Word had gotten out.

People loved BKS, and the Rooneys couldn’t keep up with the demand, which often meant lines out the door for the four hours they opened every Saturday.

Within two months, both left their full-time jobs, dedicating all their time to BKS.

The little neighborhood spot snowballed into so much more. Over the past seven years, BKS Artisan Ales has picked up numerous awards, including a silver at the 2021 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) for Clouds DNEIPA and a gold at the 2022 GABF for Rockhill & Locust English mild ale, which we also named one of “The Best Beers We Drank in 2023.” Craft Beer & Brewing named Pivo Project Bohemian-Style Pilsner one of its “Best 20 Beers in 2023.” And Thrillist named Countercultre IPA one of “The 38 Best IPAs in America Right Now.”

Several years ago, Brian started Pivo Project, an extension of BKS Artisan Ales dedicated only to lagers, where he tinkers and toys to his heart’s content, putting out award-winning pilsners and cold-fermented beers.

One day, Brian hopes to open a spot dedicated to Pivo Project. For now, and lucky for us, the Rooneys are no longer open just on Saturdays but every day of the week.

Going to Kansas City and not stopping at BKS Artisan Ales would be like visiting and forgetting to eat barbecue. One might say the brewery has become the beating heart of craft beer in the ‘Heart of America.’

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Alma Mader Brewing

2635 Southwest Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64108 | (816) 945-2589

alma mader brewing premiant czech style pils slow pour
Photography courtesy of @almamaderbrewing | Alma Mader Brewing

Wander into Alma Mader’s taproom, and you might see a stack of glasses behind the bar waiting for someone to fill them, slowly building up an incredible ice cream cone-like head of foam. It’s a technique called slow pouring and something stunning for those Midwestern imbibers willing to wait.

Alma Mader Co-Founder Nick Mader has a pedigree that looks something like Joe Montana’s (hey, he played for the Chiefs for one season from ‘93-’94)—illustrious. After starting as a bartender at Boulevard Brewing, Mader worked his way up, eventually moving to Denver and landing gigs on the ground floor at Crooked Stave and later Fremont in Seattle, WA, where he worked as a brewer and cellarman for three years, eventually heading up the brewery’s R&D and mixed-culture program.

Looking to move home to Kansas City, Mader infused his experiences into his own place (aptly named Alma Mader Brewing).

The brewery caught our eye a couple of years ago, earning a spot on our list of “The 14 Best Breweries of 2022” for Mader’s focus on IPA, stouts, and, perhaps most importantly, lagers.

What you’ll find at Alma Mader is a brewery taking a deep dive into brewing lager with intention. “I really loved how deep you could dive into lager brewing with how much every little detail mattered,” Mader told me. “I wanted that to be a part of the brewery.”

Which is why Mader installed a Czech side-pull Lukr faucet. His friend Neil Witte, owner and co-founder of Tapstar and Craft Quality Solutions and a Master Cicerone, imported one from the Czech Republic just for him.

Out of the Lukr side-pull faucet, Mader can slow pour a pils, a technique of pouring a beer over five to seven minutes to build up an intense almost whip-cream-like head of foam.

“I knew I wanted a side-pull faucet when opening,” he says. “I wanted it because it’s so completely different from every type of faucet; it’s massive. I wanted people to ask, ‘What’s that? I want what’s being poured off of that.’ If that helps us get more people to try our pilsners, then that totally justified the cost.”

So far, the reception has blown Mader away, with people often coming back just to try their Czech pils called Premiant, which Mader often chooses to slow pour from that beautiful side-pour faucet.

But, you’ll also find a great Italian pilsner, and one of “The 27 Best Beers We Drank in 2022,” called New World Geography.

And for those hop-heads, Mader still delivers with hazy pale ales and a plethora of IPAs.

But really, if you head to Alma Mader and leave without trying a slow-pour pils or lager, you’ve missed out.

It can take five to seven minutes to pour. But trust us; it’s worth the wait.

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Vine Street Brewing

2010 Vine St Building 2A, Kansas City, MO 64108 | (816) 231-0799

vine street brewing co-founders kemet coleman, woodie bonds, and elliott ivory
Photography courtesy of Vine Street Brewing

When Vine Street Brewing Co.—one of our “Best Breweries to Watch in 2024”—celebrated its grand opening on June 30th, it became Missouri’s first Black-owned brewery, bringing beer to Kansas City’s famous jazz neighborhood.

Co-founders Kemet Coleman, Elliott Ivory, and Woodie Bonds opened the new two-story taproom, brewhouse, and beer garden in the historic 18th & Vine Jazz District to be a place of community and inspiration.

Fusing the past with the present, Vine Street honors Kansas City’s musical heritage through one of America’s most classic pastimes—drinking a glass of beer.

Traditionally a musician, rapper, music producer, and performer, Coleman got into craft beer to make a little more income on the side.

“I didn’t want to work at a desk job, and I didn’t want a boring job,” Coleman told us. Making a short list of what he called “really cool places in Kansas City that I believe in as a brand,” Coleman landed on Boulevard Brewing. Plus, it didn’t hurt that it was one of the only places to call him back.

Coleman wanted to open a brewery but wasn’t a brewer himself, so he paired up with Woodie Bonds, known around town for starting the hip-hop beer festival Hip Hops Hooray, who brought in the third co-founder, Elliott Ivory. A former Fortune 100 company engineer, Ivory started homebrewing as a hobby with one of his old fraternity brothers, getting good enough to start his own brand—Wiz Brewing.

Together, all three are infusing history and heritage back into Kansas City.

Much like we talk about wine or even some beers like wild ales as having terroir, getting its essence from the characteristics of a particular place, Vine Street reflects its neighborhood in more ways than one.

Located in the 18th & Vine Street Historic Jazz District, the brewery pays homage to one of the few global Jazz towns recognized by the United Nations, shares Coleman.

While the area thrived through the 1920s, during the 1940s, suburbanization, expansion, and redlining cut the heart out of the cradle of Jazz.

Housed in a 150-year-old building, Vine Street’s taproom was abandoned for forty years before Coleman, Bonds, and Ivory decided to turn it into a brewery.

Everything from the custom piano wall made with reclaimed wood from the West Bottoms to the color palette—a mixture of red, black, green, purple, and gold—holds special significance.

According to Coleman, the red, black, and green represent Africa, the birthplace of beer, a “nod to the Motherland,” he says.

The purple, green, and gold depict New Orleans, the birthplace of Jazz and where many musicians migrated from to come to Kansas City for work during Prohibition, says Coleman.

The colors “represent the diversity of America and the beauty within this country,” says Coleman.

Plus, the beer speaks volumes, too. We named the brewery’s flagship Jazzman dark lager one of “The Top 12 Beers We Drank in July 2023.”

It’s a little poetic that Coleman, Bonds, and Ivory opened Vine Street with a dark lager, a style often forced to hide in the shadows while its lighter-colored brethren thrive. Striving to educate and open people’s minds with Jazzman, Vine Street itself makes a statement.

Now included as one of the Black-owned breweries which make up only one percent of the breweries in the U.S. (Brewers Association) and the only one in Missouri, Vine Street joins a growing group of Black and Brown brewery owners seeking to balance the industry’s scales.

“When people mention we’re the first Black-owned brewery, I do think that is a challenge we’ll have to overcome in Missouri and Kansas City,” says Coleman. “But it is also an opportunity for a whole new perspective to enter this arena that might be refreshing for everybody. I see it more as an opportunity than a challenge.”

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KC Bier Co.

310 W 79th St, Kansas City, MO 64114 | (816) 214-8691

kc bier co dunkel
Photography courtesy of @kcbierco

On a mission to brew authentic German-style bier, KC Bier Co. states that, “We put the i back in Bier.” Here’s what they mean: KC Bier only brews with imported German malt from IREKS, a 160-year-old family-owned Bavarian maltster, imported German hops from the 600-year-old Seitz Farm in Bavaria’s Hallertau Valley, and Andechs yeast from a 500-year old Bavarian monastery.

KC Bier Co. has set a high bar for itself. And it shows. Their beers have caught the attention of folks across the country, with Craft Beer & Brewing naming KC Bier Light to its list of “The Best 20 Beers in 2023.”

You’ll also find core offerings include a dunkel, hefeweizen, helles, and pilsner. On the seasonal side, look out for the Edelweiss in spring, kölsch in summer, festbier in fall, and schwarzbier in winter. Expect other special releases throughout the year with even lesser-seen German styles like a Dortmunder, rotbier, and more.

With a devotion to German beer as stringent as the Reinheitsgebot aka German Beer Purity Law (which the brewery follows, btw), KC Bier may get overlooked by some. That would be a huge mistake.

Do not miss KC Bier when visiting Kansas City.

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City Barrel Brewing Company

1740 Holmes St, Kansas City, MO 64108 | (816) 298-7008

city barrel brewing copmany rad af hazy
Photography courtesy of City Barrel Brewing Company

Ranked as one of the top fifteen breweries in Missouri on Untappd, City Barrel excels in a few things—whacky and wonderful IPAs, long-aged sours, and wild-fermented beers.

Started by James Stutsman, Grant Waner, and Jo Giammanco, City Barrel made a name for itself off popular beers like 2022 Great American Beer Festival bronze winner Rad AF, Daydrinker, and Space Dragon—all pillowy soft, psychedelic hazies.

You’ll find a stacked food menu here, too, often featuring the brewery’s beer throughout various dishes.

For instance, the Fancy AF Fries with Rad AF Fontina cheese sauce, mustard drizzle, bacon, tomatoes, onions, and scallions. Or the BBQ Beef Grilled Cheese with smoked chuck, house BBQ sauce, American cheese, and City Barrel’s American lager High Society pickles.

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Torn Label Brewing Company

1708 Campbell St, Kansas City, MO 64108 | (816) 656-5459

torn label brewing company
Photography courtesy of Torn Label Brewing Company

Similar to a couple of other breweries on this list, Torn Label started as a passion project between multiple people. In this case, Rafi Chaudry, Travis Moore, Carol Troutwine, and Chad Troutwine. Torn Label filters in experiences from all across the world, including Southern California, Chicago, Belgium, and more, into its beers.

Meaning you’ll find a year-round American pale ale called Alpha Pale on tap next to Monk & Honey, a Belgian blonde ale with honey. And limited releases run the gamut. Currently, you’ll find a dry-hopped pilsner, Czech pale lager, American pale lager, TIPA, German-style pilsner, West Coast IPA, imperial stout, BBA barleywine, and more.

As the brewery likes to say, what ties all these different styles together is a Midwestern sensibility.

When you visit, you have two options. You can go to the original Brewery Taproom, open only on Mondays and Wednesdays for a darker, cozier vibe. Or hit up the Public House + Kitchen, a brighter, buzzier spot that opened in 2021, complete with a full kitchen.

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Rochester Brewing and Roasting Company

2129 Washington St, Kansas City, MO 64108 | (816) 216-7181

rochester brewing and roasting company
Photography courtesy of Rochester Brewing and Roasting Company

If we made a list of the places we love to hit when we travel, it would probably go like this: breweries, coffee shops, local eateries, bookstores, and record stores.

Rochester Brewing nails those first two. Opened in the summer of 2019, Rochester Brewing hits both your a.m. and p.m. fixes, earning the title of Kansas City’s first brewery and coffee roaster.

Words like beer, coffee, and community are essential at the West Crosswords brewery.

In the 5,500sqft space, head coffee roaster and co-founder Philip Enloe sources and roasts their own direct-from-origin coffee. A standout seasonal drinks menu also entices with drinks like the Cookie Butter Latte and Persephone’s Kiss Latte with mocha, pomegranate, vanilla, espresso, and milk.

On the beer side, former homebrewers and co-founders David Bulcock and Marshall Van Tuyl pioneer a tap list equally as thoughtful and creative. On Untappd, some of the brewery’s top-rated beers include a Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Hard Cider, Ale of Honor Belgian strong dark ale, and Bourbon Barrel-Aged Huzzah Russian imperial stout. But currently, you’ll find options ranging from hazies to coffee stouts to West Coast IPAs and even a brown ale.

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Strange Days Brewing Co.

316 Oak St, Kansas City, MO 64106 | (816) 469-5321

strange days brewing company
Photography courtesy of Strange Days Brewing Company

Listed in the top fifty highest-rated breweries in all of Missouri, Strange Days operates on a different terrestrial plane. A trifecta of trippy art, off-kilter beers, and kooky charisma, Strange Days also happens to be one of the best places to catch a Premier League game in Kansas City (which, as a self-professed Tottenham Hotspurs fan, caught my attention).

When we say off-kilter, we mean that many of the beers currently listed on their tap list have something just a little askew—like a book on a shelf pulled out a little bit or a frame hanging slightly at a diagonal.

A hazy isn’t just a hazy; it’s an oat cream hazy.

A wheat beer includes New Zealand hops.

And a sour ale gets hit with dark, sweet cherries.

Or a Cold IPA goes black, a collab with Torn Label.

A Japanese-style rice lager includes Jasmine rice and cherry blossoms.

You get the picture.

Strange Days just does things differently. And in a sea of sameness, we’re here for it.

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