Boulevard Brewing eyes international expansion

04/02/2014 6:00 PM

04/02/2014 8:39 PM

When Boulevard Brewing Co. was founded in 1989 it had a lofty goal — bring high quality craft beer to Kansas City and maybe even a bit beyond.

The homegrown brewery is already sold in 25 states, and now, nearly 100 days after it was acquired by Belgian brewer Duvel Moortgat, the potential for growth is greater than either company anticipated. In two to five years, Boulevard beers could be sold in every state, as well as in Europe.

“We want Kansas City to know that Boulevard is still their brewery,” said Simon Thorpe, chief operating officer of Duvel Moortgat USA. “But the potential to develop is greater than we thought. The potential to develop across the ocean is greater than we thought.”

Boulevard founder John McDonald wanted to make more beer and hire more workers at an accelerated pace. So he sold the company to Duvel in a deal that closed the end of last year for an undisclosed price. He said Duvel has a long history of making a “very well regarded, high quality beer.” And both breweries, he added, have found they are a good fit — “entrepreneurial companies with an obsession for quality.”

Just the announcement of the acquisition boosted sales for the breweries. Perhaps Boulevard fans wanted to see if the new owners were worthy. But Duvel’s fans on the other side of the ocean also wanted a taste of this Midwest beer.

“We think our beer is as good as any in the world and we should have a seat at that table,” McDonald said. “We are still very much a local company — but with this international platform we can start to work from.”

Boulevard’s Bully Porter and its Single-Wide I.P.A. are already sold in Scandinavia. Still, 35 percent of its sales are within a 50-mile radius of its headquarters at 2501 Southwest Blvd., and 80 percent of its sales are in the region (Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and parts of South Dakota).

While Duvel’s brews are sold across the country, Boulevard is in no rush to expand to other states, preferring a strategic rollout, McDonald said.

First, it has to complete a $12-million-plus expansion of Cellar 5, a beer fermenting cellar facing Southwest Boulevard. Two currently vacant buildings that Boulevard had used for storage will be torn down in the next few weeks to make way for the expansion. It is scheduled to be completed in summer of 2015.

Duvel Moortgat also recently acquired Brewery Ommegang of Cooperstown, N.Y. Now the three breweries have formed a new U.S. entity to oversee Boulevard and Ommegang, as well as the import business of Belgian family brands.

Daniel Krug, who has been with Duvel Moortgat for 14 years, will lead the new entity. Thorpe who has been with Duvel for five years, is heading the sales and marketing team, as well as human resources. Koen Van Der Taelen is responsible for strategy and integration. Jeff Krum, Boulevard’s chief financial officer, is leader of finance, and McDonald will still be involved in day to day operations.

“I’ve reinvested in the new company so I am obviously very interested in how things turn out,” said McDonald, who will remain part of senior management and serve on the board of Duvel Moortgat.

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