Hometown hero Boulevard Brewery faces a fight for our taps.

Bully Wars 

Hometown hero Boulevard Brewery faces a fight for our taps.

Page 3 of 7

Today, though, he's on damage control. The concept of releasing Lunar was "no brand left behind," he says. The introduction of a new variety wasn't supposed to hurt the profit margins of other Boulevard beers. Most bars that stock Boulevard already have at least two tap handles pouring Wheat and Pale Ale. Bars might also assign Boulevard an extra tap for seasonal beers such as the Irish Ale offered around St. Patrick's Day. After Irish Ale's run this year, Boulevard's four sales reps teamed up with nine distributor reps to convince roughly 130 bars to flip Irish Ale taps to Lunar.

The brand has since surpassed expectations, accounting for 8 percent of Boulevard sales in Kansas City, Sullivan says. That makes it the company's third-most-popular beer but still far behind Pale Ale's 27 percent share.

But Lunar has yet to prove its value to bar owners. O'Dowd's lubes a lot of social drinkers, so the demand for a highbrow brew is low. Worse, O'Dowd's put Lunar on tap but pulled Pale Ale, hurting Boulevard's sales.

Colgan asks a blond barkeep to fetch a manager. When manager Brad Schneider appears, Colgan presents him with a shrink-wrapped package of 500 coasters.

"I was hoping we might be able to bring Pale Ale in, perhaps carry it in bottles," Colgan says.

"If we put it back on, we pull Lunar off," Schneider says. "That was the plan, to pull Lunar off anyway."

"Well, don't do that," Colgan says. "Keep it on, and we'll see where it goes. We'll keep on representing."

After Colgan leaves, Schneider asks a bartender's opinion of Lunar. "They usually try one and then switch to something else," she says.

It's the same across the city.

Tomfooleries never carried Lunar because managers there thought the demand wouldn't warrant it. The Granfalloon put the beer on tap at its Northland location, but the bar is about to pull it off.

At the Velvet Dog on Martini Corner, server Katie White puffs on a cigarette before a recent happy-hour shift. She says the bar pulled a Miller-brand keg to put Lunar on tap. But bartenders pour just a few glasses of Lunar each week. "It's gross," she says. "People miss the High Life."

And Lunar has been all but thrown out of Kauffman Stadium. Originally available in bottles and drafts at five locations around the ballpark, it is now being sold only on tap from just one stand and in bottles in two spots.

"We brought it in as sort of a test case, and it didn't sell as well as we thought," says Gael Doar, director of communications for the stadium's concessions contractor, Centerplate.

Direct competitors of Boulevard have welcomed Lunar for one reason: It hasn't drained their sales. "It's not a style of beer that competes with anything we produce," says Scott Poore, the state sales manager for New Belgium.

As Colgan leaves O'Dowd's empty-handed, he acknowledges: "You're gonna get fucked. You just have to suck it up."

Many brands are looking to take advantage of Boulevard getting fucked.

Jon Poteet is director of marketing for Boulevard's distributor, Central States Beverage Company. Poteet says the demand for so-called craft beers is exploding. "There is room for multiple brands because they are all growing right now."

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