Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Boulevard hires new CEO; founder John McDonald stays put, teases Chocolate Ale’s 2014 return

Boulevard has a new CEO, and Chocolate Ale might be coming back in 2014.

Posted By on Wed, Sep 12, 2012 at 5:00 AM

Mike Magoulas and John McDonald raise their glasses to a new beginning.
  • Mike Magoulas and John McDonald raise their glasses to a new beginning.

New Boulevard Brewing Co. CEO Mike Magoulas met John McDonald, the brewery’s founder, in the late 1980s when McDonald was looking for investors. Magoulas, 59, says he thought McDonald would will his craft beer to success even before the first keg rolled off the line.

“He was this guy with a riveted vision of this craft brewery that he wanted to build, and he was going to build a brewery,” says Magoulas, who was hired last week. “At the time, I got to tell you, he had such a vision, you just said, 'Yeah, he’s going to do it.’ ”

Magoulas’ prediction came to fruition. Since Boulevard opened in 1989, the company has gone from a small craft brewer to the 17th-largest brewery in the nation, surging into more markets in the last several years.

“I’ve watched this brewery grow,” Magoulas says. “And how does it get any better than coming in and trying to help him try to write the next chapter of history?”

McDonald, who will remain brewery president, says Boulevard hopes to draw on Magoulas’ past work as a regional vice president for the beer distributor MillerCoors and a vice president for wine giant E. & J. Gallo Winery.

“His experience is not in the craft-brewing industry, but we know that,” McDonald says. “That’s our business, so we plan on teaching him that. And he’s going to help us with our strategies going forward.”

Forty percent of the brewery’s business comes from the Kansas City area, but the brews are now sold in 23 states and Washington, D.C. So what’s Boulevard’s next move?

“That’s the million-dollar question,” Magoulas says. “Right now, I’m just trying to get my arms around what I have, and my focus isn’t much more than about 100 miles from this brewery.”

That’s not to say he doesn’t know the risk of standing still in the ever-expanding $8.7 billion craft-beer market. The craft-brewing industry grew by 13 percent in 2011, and it now makes up almost 6 percent of the total beer market, according to industry group the Brewers Association.

“Twenty years ago ... craft was new,” Magoulas says. “Now the consumer is more educated. The arena for craft is congested with so many new beers in the market, and a lot of good beer. From our standpoint, we have to help that consumer on that journey through exploration, experimentation, innovation, and expand the craft business.”

McDonald emphasizes that the addition of a CEO doesn’t mean his role will diminish.

“I’m not planning on spending less time at the brewery,” McDonald says. “I’m planning on spending more time at the brewery.”

McDonald tells The Pitch that there’s more news out of the brewery: Chocolate Ale is likely to return in 2014. The seasonal beer that leads Kansas City’s beer fans on a scavenger hunt each year had some problems with flavor in 2012, leading the brewery to offer refunds on certain batches. During a speaking engagement in June, McDonald prematurely spilled the news that the beer wouldn’t be produced in 2013.

“We’re talking about it,” McDonald tells The Pitch. “I’ve already gotten in all kinds of trouble by announcing that we weren’t going to make it next year. I think we’re definitely going to try to make it in 2014.”

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