Updated: Jun 6
Normally I spend March 17, in the company of the finest drinking companion a man could wish for, my brother-in-law: the Doc Holliday to my Wyatt Earp, the Bucky Barnes to my Steve Rogers, the Joe Biden to my Barack Obama. Unfortunately, this year, due to covid, it was not to be. Instead, I was accompanied by the second finest drinking companion a man could wish for: Mrs. AAR. While she can't knock 'em back, discuss the Golden Age of Baseball or confederate generals, as good as "Doc", she is easier on the eyes, softer, and smells a hell of a lot better.
Unlike some cities, Kansas City is not nicknamed "Beer City", though with the number of breweries located within walkin' distance of our "wee, humble" apartment (located in the Crossroads), maybe it should be.
It was a nice soft day, and we were off . . . to drink a little beer (and talk a little treason). Establishments listed in order of attendance.
1. Boulevard Brewery: In 1984 a Kansas City carpenter had a dream to make beer as good as it was made in Europe (unlike the ubiquitous American shit). So he sold his house and used the proceeds to literally build his own brewery in a building that used to house the Santa Fe Railroad laundry. Through backbreaking hard work, he then installed a bottling line and was soon brewing 100,000 barrels a year. A $25 million expansion followed and then he sold it all an international beer conglomerate for in excess of $100 million - why it's the story of America!
- The place is actually located just outside the Crossroads neighborhood but has a great setup, a little corporate, but spacious, clean, with spectacular views of downtown K.C. Possibly the best brewery on our crawl (but that may have something to do with the free round they gave me due to an issue with the tap).
Beer: KC Pils, Pilsner, 4.8%, 20 IBU
2. Rochester Roasting and Brewing: From a business POV, this place makes a lot of sense: serve coffee in the morning, beer in the evening, and both in the afternoon. I met a gent named Eric Disney who is an artist, former Hallmark employee, distant relative of Walt (but too distant, if you know what I mean), and now an AAR Sponsor.
Beer: Helles Lager, Helles Lager, 6.1%, n/a
3. Up-Down Kansas City: I was fascinated by this place for two reasons; One: it was filled with the video games of my youth, Ms. Pac-Man¹, AC/DC Pinball, and Donkey Kong. Two: during my prior daily walks I had found numerous Up-Down tokens discarded on the ground by prior non compos mentis patrons, tokens that I could now use to play all those video games for free (that and I am fascinated with the idea of minting my own coinage). In the end though, the arcade games were a little tedious, the food inauthentic, and the crowd, well let's just say no one would think we were at the symphony. Though the beer was inexpensive and an old wrestling match was on the super-large tv: An October 17, 1983 cage match featuring Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka vs. Don Muraco. Spoiler alert: Mr. Muraco cheated and was able to escape the cage first, Superfly was so angry he dragged him back into the ring and attained satisfaction after effecting a "Superfly Splash" from the top of the cage on the nonambulatory Magnificant One.
- Beer: Coors Light, Pilsner, 4.2%, n/a
When I exited, I threw a token on the ground outside - you know, to pay it forward.
4. Casual Animal Brewing Company: Good News! This place had a brass blues band and I thought now we're gettin' into the spirit! Bad News! We weren't the only ones excited to drink our swifty² of Shuttlecock Lager listening to the strains of Grand Marquis! We settled into a socially distanced corner, met with some locals from Raytown, and enjoyed (but not for too long). I gave one of the Raytownians the balance of my Up-Down tokens with an AAR business card asking him to check out my blog (Looks like he didn't subscribe . . . guess I didn't give him enough tokens).
- Beer: Shuttlecock Lager, Pilsner, 5.4%, n/a
5. Border Brewing Company: After the crowd and festivities at Casual Animal, I was a little concerned that St. Paddies Day was starting to heat up. But I needn't be as this place was a downright buzzkill, as the bartender was more focused on her MacBook than on my beer requirements (and the place was uneasily tight). We ordered, dranked up, and moved out.
- Beer: Patio Pale Ale, American Pale Ale, 5.4%, 35 IBU
6. Double Shift Brewing Company: After the preceding iBuzzkill, I was a little concerned that St. Paddies Day was starting to cool off. But I needn't as this place was "pretty cool", the two barkeeps were friendly and knowledgable - a real breath of fresh air after the last place. So we lingered in the nicely sized taproom while enjoying a pint or two.
- Beer: Copper Mirrors, Vienna Lager, 4.7%, n/a. (malty). Nighthawk Postcards, Stout, 5.2%, 22 IBU (with notes of vanilla bean and toasted coconuts)
7. City Barrel Brewery: Spacious space with a soaring ceiling ("like all breweries should be, but seldom are"). This place has a legit kitchen that served a pastrami sandwich, which was the closest entrée to Corned Beef and Cabbage I could find on this crawl. I gave it the go-by as I had Mrs. AAR's Corned Beef waitin' for me back home.
- Beer: Cult Following IPA - Milkshake, 7.2%, 75 IBU (Outstanding!). Crossroads Apfel, Cider - Traditional (mehhhh).
8. Torn Label Brewery Co.: The inside taproom was closed so we were forced to drink outside on the hillbilly porch: A bunch of picnic tables and portable propane heaters on a flapping tarp enclosed wooden porch - I'm surprised the server wasn't wearing overalls.
- Beer: Monk and Honey, Belgian Pale Ale, 6.1%, 22 IBU. It's a Belgian ale made with local honey (get it, Monk & Honey?!)
Concerns about impending twilight, disequilibrium, and inclemency forced us to head back to our "wee, humble" apartment. There we had a wee dram of Jamesons (a cockle warmer) followed by some exceptional Corned Beef and Cabbage and a well-earned night's sleep.
1.The key to the best Corned Beed and Cabbage (Mrs. AAR's Corned Beef and Cabbage) is to use a flat cut of corned beef (not the point cut), and good horseradish and/or mustard
- Note to this Note: Corned beef is not an Irish dish, and its connection with Saint Patrick's Day is part of Irish-American culture
2. The "Black and Tan" is a term for a common St Patrick's Day drink in the U.S., made by layering a pale beer (usually pale ale) and a dark beer (usually a Guinness stout). While it dates to the very late 1800s and should therefore be an etymologically acceptable term. Due to events that occurred during the Irish War of Independence, the phrase has taken on a distinct political connotation that makes it problematic in Ireland. Therefore before ordering a"Black & Tan", you really owe it to yourself to understand the history of the term.
3. As discretion is the better part of valor, I decided not to attend the last brewery in the Crossroads neighborhood. This should in no way reflect badly on Brewery Emperial, which has a spacious patio, some good beer, and a solid menu.
Endnotes: I wanted to provide some very specific details which while vaguely interesting did not contribute to the overall narrative. Perhaps just wait until the end to read.
¹ Whats' the difference between Ms. Pac-Man vs. Pac-Man?
- Pac-Man had a single map whereas Ms. Pac-Man switched between four different boards.
- The maps in Ms. Pac-Man were more intricate -- among other things, they had two sets of warp tunnels (i.e. the exits that come out on the other side of the board) rather than one.
- The bonus fruits move around the board, rather than sit in a stationary spot
- The AI of the ghosts was made more truly random. In the original Pac-Man, there were patterns to the ghost behavior that could be used to a player's advantage
² A "swifty" is a half pint of beer, derived from the British term "swift half" that refers to the mythical quick half pint on the way home . . . that never happens. Therefore it actually means "five pints or more down at the pub, usually ending with some kind of bizarre drunken story".