Boulevard Brewing is a Kansas City craft beer staple, providing Belgian-style witbier, classic pale ale, and experimental series to drinkers in and beyond Missouri since 1989. As part of Duvel Moortgat, a Belgian brewery that purchased the brand in 2014, Boulevard is now part of the fifth-largest craft brewing company in the U.S.
At the helm is Steven Pauwels, who joined the brewery in 1999. Pauwels is Belgian himself, and has been in brewhouses since a summertime gig working alongside his father at their hometown brewery, Brouwerij Krüger, in Eeklo.
Pauwels later earned degrees in biochemical engineering and business administration (from KaHo Sint-Lieven and Mercator universities in Ghent, respectively), and held positions at Domus, a brewpub in Louvain, and RIVA, a brewery in Dentergem.
As Boulevard’s brewmaster, Pauwels oversees all aspects of brewing and quality control. Under his watch, Boulevard has won awards at both the World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Festival. The most award-winning brand? ZON, a Belgian-style witbier, which is the first brand Pauwels developed at Boulevard.
Pauwels filled VinePair in on how an experimental version of a famous witbier made him fall in love with beer, why sour beers make the perfect one-night stands, and why his ideal last meal would be a 10-course beer dinner — that he helps plan, of course.
1. What’s your desert-island beer?
Boulevard Pale Ale. It’s the first beer John McDonald brewed when he opened Boulevard. Trends come and go, but a pale ale always hits the spot.
2. What’s the beer that made you fall in love with beer?
Forbidden Fruit (Verboden Vrucht) from Hoegaarden. I had this beer for the first time in the late ‘80s. Later I became good friends with Jan Van Gysegem who had been the brewmaster for Celis. He explained to me that the beer was a result of an experiment. Hoegaarden was chasing capacity in the ‘80s, and to optimize they test-brewed one version of Hoegaarden with extra spices and higher starting Plato and another one without spices and hops with the idea to blend both. Needless to say, the one without hops failed, and they were stuck with a tank of strong, higher-spiced Hoegaarden. That test became Verboden Vrucht.
3. FMK three beer types: IPA, pilsner, sour?
Kill the IPA. Marry a pilsner. F*ck a sour. There are too many IPAs right now, and too many sub-categories. I’d marry a pilsner, because she is soft, subtle, and gentle. Sour beer would be the perfect one night stand, I guess.
4. You’re on death row. What’s your last supper beer?
If I only could choose one it would be Duvel. One of the best beers in the world, and pairs very well with any good supper. I hope that if it comes this far I can get a 10-course beer dinner and work with the chef on perfect beer pairings.
5. You can only drink one beer for the rest of your life. What is it?
Orval, because it changes so much as it ages. I still could age some and drink some young and be happy with the variety. And I would be able to answer the question at what age an Orval is perfect.
6. What’s the best and worst beer in your fridge right now?
The worst ones are the unlabeled bottles in the back, and I can’t remember what it is or how old it is. The best one is Space Camper, our newest year-round IPA.
7. If you could no longer drink beer, what would be your beverage of choice?
That would be sad but I wouldn’t be desperate. I enjoy a variety of wine, cider, cocktails, and sparkling water. Maybe it would get me thinking of an adventure outside of beer.