WITH REVIEW: NWA and Kansas City connected through baseball and a love of good beer

Flickr / Judy Baxter

I’ve always been a closet Royals fan. I was a kid during the George Brett era, and with the team only 225 miles to the north, it was easy to root for the guys in the powder blue uniforms.

1985 was a special year for the Royals. They beat cross-state rival St. Louis to win their first World Series title. But then things took a turn for the worse. Payroll limitations forced the Royals to trade much of the young talent away, severely limiting the team’s ability to compete. From 2004 to 2012 the team failed to notch a single winning season – the longest streak of futility in club history. The Royals have spent much of the last 25 years as Major League Baseball’s version of the Bad News Bears.

But Kansas City is a great baseball town, and the fans never stopped supporting their team. They kept filling up Kauffman Stadium, waiting for the talent in the Royals farm system to make it to the “show.”

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are a part of that farm system, and over the last few years we’ve been able to watch current Royals stars like Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez, and Lorenzo Cain prove their mettle in Springdale’s Arvest Park.

The fans’ patience was finally rewarded this year when the Royals won the American League pennant, setting up a World Series matchup against the San Francisco Giants. The city has been waiting for this day since 1985 – the last time the Royals played for all the marbles. Needless to say, the excitement in Kansas City has reached a fever pitch.

As passionate as folks in Kansas City are about their baseball, they are just as fired up about their craft beer. The city is a beer advocate’s paradise, with destinations like The Foundry, Beer Kitchen, and Boulevard Brewing Company. I try to make it to some combination of the three anytime I’m in Kansas City. I especially love the brewery tour at Boulevard. The facility is really impressive and they are generous with the post-tour samples.

Boulevard has been sending its beer to Northwest Arkansas for quite a while now. The beer is fresh and tasty – and thanks to the short shipping distance, it’s relatively cheap. A 6-pack of Singlewide IPA, for example, can be had for less than $7 at Sam’s Club in Fayetteville.

One of my favorite Boulevard beers is Pale Ale. It’s often overlooked in a crowded field of craft offerings. It’s not the flashiest beer available, but it’s delicious and easy to drink.

Pale Ale is a light amber color and is moderately carbonated. The malt is light and cracker-like, somewhat reminiscent of the crust from Tiny Tim’s Pizza.

Cascade is the dominant hop, lending a subtle grapefruit character to the beer. Folks who think Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is too hoppy might find Boulevard’s version more palatable. The bitterness level is much more conservative.

The real value in Boulevard Pale Ale can be found in its ability to satisfy at a price that won’t blow your budget. It’s a staple beer at 5.4% ABV – sort of like your father’s Busch Light (remember how the fridge was always full of that stuff when you were a kid?). It can easily serve as an after-work beer, cooking beer, game day beer, and working-in-the-yard beer. Pale Ale wears many hats – and wears them all with excellence. You would be well served to keep some in your icebox at all times.

Northwest Arkansas and KC are connected through our respective ball clubs, and through our love of good beer. Celebrate our former Naturals – as they perform on the grandest stage in baseball – with a Boulevard Pale Ale. Cheers, and Go Royals!

Brian Sorensen (@EBSorensen) is an admitted beer geek, occasional home brewer, and member of the Fayetteville Lovers of Pure Suds.