As I've been on the road a lot lately, and with Spring now here, I've begun to do some "beer-hunting" to refresh our fridge in the garage with a supply of good beers. One of my favorite seasonal beers is Boulevard Irish Ale and it's available from January until April. It's somewhat heavy compared to most Ale's that I drink, but it has a rich caramel/toffee toasty taste to it that I like.
Finding Boulevard Irish Ale can be sort of tough. I usually only find it in the Kansas City area and parts of Missouri. During a recent trip to Springfield, MO, I stopped in to a Brown Derby store to pick some up.
Brown Derby's history dates back 60 years when Mr. John A. Morris began to sell beer and alcohol in a small place in Springfield. Given the area was smack dab in the heart of the Bible Belt, Mr. Morris had a rough start in gaining a foothold with all those pious tea-totalers in the community. In order to "class up" the liquor store, he named it after the famous upscale restaurant in Los Angeles.
Here's a little bit of interesting trivia. In the late 50's, John A. Morris' son - Johnny Morris - began to sell bait and tackle out of the back of his father's liquor store. His little business also began to take off and in 1972 he incorporated the Bass Pro Shops company. Yes, it's the same Bass Pro Shops in Springfield that I've written about here before.
As time went on and Springfield grew - along with the tourism that came to the Ozark area - Brown Derby opened a larger location near their original location on S. Glenstone in Springfield (see map) in 1969. They also began to address the exploding wine business that was taking hold across America. In 1971, Ron Junge - who married John C. Morris' daughter - joined the business and helped transform Brown Derby from a sleepy liquor and beer store into the present day "Brown Derby International Wine Center".
Today, Brown Derby's International Wine Center sports a 5000 square foot atmospherically-controlled wine cellar that has over 70,000 bottles of wine from all over the world. Brown Derby has won a number of awards, including an award from Food and Wine Magazine as one of the Top 10 places to buy wine in the U.S.
From their humble beginnings in the Ozarks to the International Wine Center, Brown Derby has seen tremendous growth in the Springfield market. They've also expanded in the number of stores in the greater Springfield area. They're now up to 14 locations around the city. That's pretty impressive in an area of 150,000 where a lot of the people disdain alcohol and everything it stands for.
The other Brown Derby's do sell wine, but don't have the selection the main store has. Their beer selection is very good - and very pricey. A six pack of Boulevard Irish Ale was $8.49. (I've since found more at Friar Tuck's in Bloomington, IL and it was $7.49 a sixer.) I wasn't going to bitch, however. Finding Boulevard Irish Ale outside of Kansas City is a tough proposition on it's own.
I didn't have time to check through the wines during this visit, but their prices are a little higher than what I find in Chicago. But with such a great selection and a captive audience in SW Missouri, they can get by with adding a couple three bucks on to a bottle of wine.
Along with Bass Pro Shops, the Brown Derby International Wine Center is always a "must stop" when I'm in the Springfield area.