Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! My husband now has a really good reason to come with me and our two boys to visit my parents. It’s called Boat Town Brewing.
To be fair, Jim has never said a negative thing about our weekend trips to Lebanon, Missouri, every few months so my parents can see our boys (apparently the arrival of grandchildren makes the children pretty much irrelevant, other than as transporters of the grandchildren). Jim and my parents actually seem to have a pretty good relationship. But, trips to Lebanon generally involve us hanging out at the house, watching kid shows on TV or playing store or reading Dr. Seuss or building Legos, and drinking beers with my dad after the kids go to bed. Nothing our friends back in the big city would be jealous of, if you know what I mean.
But now the game has changed! Last month, an actual brewery opened just outside of Lebanon (Interstate 44 Exit 123 in Phillipsburg, to be exact), just a few miles from the house I grew up in.
Let’s put this in perspective:
- A brewery opened in a town that threatened to boycott the Super Walmart if they sold alcohol.
- A brewery opened in a town where prayer abounds in the public school and 75% of the population is some variation of Baptist.
- A brewery opened in a town that has only ever used the word “craft” in reference to quilting and scrapbooking.
It’s truly a miracle from above.
Boat Town Brewing
Last weekend, Jim and I took the boys down for some bonding time with the GPs, and as soon as they were down for nap, we headed to Boat Town Brewing [Facebook link]. Jim had gone out there a couple months ago to meet with Colin Starnes, a former high school classmate of my sister (in a small town, there’s always a connection) who is also the wine buyer and general-things-doer for the brewery, to check out the space.
Well, Colin recognized us when we walked in and introduced us to the owners/brewers, Bart Guyer and Dale Korn, as the “Kansas City Beer Scouts Guys”. And from that point on, we were treated like royalty.
We opened a tab and ordered a flight, which comes with four beers. Colin threw in the other two they had on tap. All three asked for our honest feedback.
Colin met us at our table after we’d had time to try everything to chat with us and ask what we thought. This six beers were:
- Wyota Wheat, traditional Bavarian-style hefeweizen
- Brother Blue Kitty, Belgian-style abbey dubbel
- 70HP, IPA
- Brother Rum, the abbey aged in rum barrels
- Perficle, imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels
- Journeyman, export stout aged in whiskey barrels
And honestly, all were good to excellent. This from a brewery that just opened in a location where the majority of the clientele might not know either way. My favorite was Perficle, the bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout. I could sip on that sweet concoction for hours. The abbey, Brother Blue Kitty, was also nice, but Brother Rum, the same abbey aged in rum barrels, was really fantastic.
Lebanon is the home of a barrel manufacturer, Independent Stave Company, so the Boat Town brewers have the ability to get barrels cheap and promise them to Copper Run Distillery in Branson, who returns some used barrels for aging. Bart and Dale are clearly having fun experimenting with the barrels.
The Taproom & Beer Garden
Boat Town has a tap room that’s pretty much open to the brewery half of the building, and a large outdoor area, part gravel and part grass, with picnic tables, washers, bags, ladder golf, and Frisbee golf. Plus, they have a large fire pit on which they let patrons grill their own dogs and sausages! They also have a rotating schedule of local food trucks. (Yes, my hometown now has food trucks!!) On the day we visited, we got a fried gator sandwich from Kamo Kitchen. So. Good. Boat Town even sells cute little packs of s’mores ingredients with a long sharp stick for a make-your-own-dessert campout style right outside the back door! Speaking of camping, there’s an RV park and campground right down the road for those who are in town for the fishing (Bennett Spring State Park is in the area) or for those who just don’t want to have to go far after an evening of drinking.
A Tour of Boat Town
After we finished our flight and our gator, we grabbed another beer and headed into the brewery. Dale showed us their seven-barrel system, explained their business plan, talked about their goals for the future, and even let us try a couple of beers not yet on tap.
First, we got a taste of the barleywine that’s not quite done. It was a treat—great balance of sweet maltiness and crisp clean hoppiness. They have plans to split that batch up into thirds, putting one part in a sherry barrel, one part in a rum barrel, and leaving the other part pure for comparison.
Dale then grabbed a thief, sanitized it, and pulled some beer out of another barrel for us. It was the Irish-style stout aged on sour cherries in a new barrel. The vanilla notes from the oak and sourness of the cherries really cut through the burnt bitterness of the stout and smoothed it out nicely. The cherries were barely detectable in terms of cherry flavor, but their sourness really contributed to the beer flavor profile.
We spent nearly three hours at Boat Town, drinking, enjoying the outdoors, and chatting with Colin, Bart, and Dale. They sent us home with a piece of branded glassware and several stickers. We headed home assuming the kids were up from their nap, but a couple of hours later, we were back out at Boat Town to meet up with a couple of my high school classmates (who got married after college and now live on the family dairy farm and whose cows snack on the spent grains from the brewery). While there were several people at the brewery on that Saturday afternoon, the parking lot was downright full when we came back at 7:00 pm. The clientele ranged from goofy early twenty-somethings still learning how to drink, families with kids, people who looked like they’d been on the river all day, people my parents work with, and everyone in between. Boat Town is already a well-known hang out for a town in desperate need of hang outs.
Salvation for Anglers, Floaters, and Us
If your summer adventures lead you to floating the Niangua River or fishing at Bennett Spring, you should make a stop off I-44 Exit 123 for Boat Town Brewing. They have beer to go in crowlers, giant tap-filled 32-oz. aluminum cans. Perfect for any outdoor adventure.
Boat Town Brewing is open every Thursday and Friday 4:00 pm–10:00 pm. On Saturday and Sunday the doors are open noon to 10:00 pm.
Jim and I will definitely be back—each and every time we come to Lebanon. We’ll come when the kids are napping, or when they are playing in the pool, or when they are sleeping, or when they’re off to get ice cream. My parents won’t miss us! And, when there’s nothing else to do, we can bring my parents and the kids along with us to the brewery. Grass, games, food trucks, wine and beer? Why it’s enough to keep everyone happy!