Brewer Magazine Q&A: Josh Held, Boulevard Brewing

This is a part of a continuing series of Q&As with brewers from across the U.S.
Brewer Magazine will share business and personal insights from Brewmasters, Head Brewers, Brewing Managers and others each weekend to help you, a fellow brewer, Brewmaster or brewing manager get to know each other better in the industry and learn more to better develop your own brand.

Josh Held, Brewer, Boulevard Brewing — Kansas City

BREWER: What is a lesson learned within your position that sticks with you to this day?
HELD: I’ve brewed and worked with both manual and fully automated systems. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to believe in your equipment and technology, but don’t blindly trust it. Stuff breaks. It’s just the nature of the beast. You need a small bit of paranoia especially if you’re going to walk away from a process for any length of time. You know, always be thinking what x, y, and z are doing right now.

BREWER: Who is your mentor in the industry and why? What have you learned from them?
HELD: I’d be hard pressed to narrow this to one or even two people. I’d have to go with anyone who has trained me and most people I’ve worked alongside. In this industry, sharing and collaborating are key whether it’s within your company, city or region. Hands down, the number one thing that everyone has always instilled with me is a focus on quality and consistency.

BREWER: What have you added to your brewery lately (concepts, equipment or technology) that’s unique or making your business more successful?
HELD: We recently added a new canning line. We had been contracting our canning for a few years to three breweries and bringing that production back in house is a major plus in my mind. We have also been using our original brewhouse as our “pilot” system. Those beers are destined for our Tours & Rec Center Beer Hall where we have a smaller bar that only serves test beers and crowlers to go. The crowler is new, exciting and unique for us. We don’t fill growlers since almost all of our beers can be bought in bottles/cans in our gift shop, but since we do not bottle or can test beers we allow the option to our guests to get a crowler of a beer that they can’t get anywhere else. Recently, we brewed a collaboration with hip-hop artist Tech N9ne. Together we created a pineapple and coconut infused beer called Bou Lou. The first release of this beer coincided with Boulevardia, a beer and music festival we sponsor in Kansas City, which went over extremely well! People have been drinking beer and jamming out since well, people started making beer and music.

BREWER: In today’s business climate for craft beer, how do you feel your brewery grow?

HELD: I think the continued use of our original brewhouse as a pilot system and having the general public help dictate what beers move on to larger production will definitely help us grow, as they give the people what they want, especially great new beer.

BREWER: What sort of innovations in craft beer excite you?

HELD: Personally, I’ve always been a bit of a Lager guy. Give me a good Pils or Festbier and I’m good to go. But, I’ve really been getting excited about all the experimentation with mixed culture fermentations, coolships and especially foeders.  We recently acquired a few new foeders and our barrel/wild crew has been killing it with beers that we’ve had in our sour program. The possibilities are endless with cultures, wort and fruit.
BREWER: If you had one strategy that you could implement to better the craft beer business as a whole, what would it be?

HELD: With more breweries than we’ve ever seen being that brewery with the next new thing is going to be extremely difficult to achieve. With that being said, if everyone did their best to always produce the most consistent and highest quality beer, we’ll all come out ahead.

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