Partial excerpt from 2012 Bloch magazine.
John McDonald, Boulevard Brewing Company founder and Bloch School of Management’s 2012 Regional Entrepreneur of the Year, talks beer.
Where did you get your entrepreneurial spirit?
My father was entrepreneurial. He was a real businessman. He didn’t care if he was selling washers or rubber or lumber—it was just the act of being in business.
But you didn’t go into business with him?
I had a hard decision whether to take over my dad’s industrial supply business. Financially, it would have been the right thing for me to do, but I just couldn’t stomach it. I finally said, “Dad, I don’t want this. This is your dream, not my dream. And frankly, I’m going to be fine just going back to being a carpenter.” I did go back to being a carpenter for a short while, but that’s when I became a home brewer and came up with the idea of starting a brewery.
You’ve been David to the giant breweries’ Goliath since Boulevard began. But do you think the small craft brewers starting up today see you as Goliath?
Definitely, a lot of these small guys see us as the big brewer. But I would rather lose business to another local brewery than I would to some tiny brewery in California that’s shipping beer into Kansas City.
In the late ’90s-early ’00s, a glut in craft breweries resulted in many going under. How did Boulevard survive?
We were very quality-focused. We didn’t have the lab people and professional head brewer that we have now, but in the early days, I was really committed to the detail of making the beer. I had a great consultant who taught me some basic lessons. Like when I wanted to buy a microscope, he said, “If you’re spending time looking in a microscope, it’s time you could be cleaning your brewery. That’s what’s going to make good beer, not looking in a microscope after you already have a problem.