Craft beer and hip-hop.
At first glance, many might assume that these two things have nothing in common. But they would be mistaken. Creators of both value ingenuity, authenticity, and independence. Also, despite what you might think, there many black and brown craft beers fans out there—just ask Crowns & Hops, Ale Sharpton, or Black Brew Culture. Not to mention that Chance The Rapper, Run The Jewels, and Action Bronson have all collaborated with craft brewers.
That’s why Boulevard Brewery’s Bou Lou, created for and inspired by indie rap legend Tech N9ne, makes total sense. It also doesn’t hurt that both are proud products of Kansas City, Missouri. Boulevard is the largest specialty brewer in the Midwest and known for fresh, flavorful beers, while Tech N9ne is the most successful independent artist in rap history.
“It really was truly based on our employees’ fandom of Tech,” says Natalie Gershon,
Boulevard Brewing’s vice president of marketing. “Abby Zender, who heads up sensory in our lab, emailed the general email at Strange Music. She was little shocked when they actually replied. It really went very quickly from there.”
Zender enlisted Boulevard’s lead cellarman, Alex Rodriguez, a huge fan of the MC, to suggest a beer inspired by Tech N9ne’s “Caribou Lou.” “It’s literally a song that has a cocktail recipe in it,” Gershon says. “And a beer based off of those ingredients … he just knew that it was going to be delicious.”
The beer is an improvisation on Boulevard’s Unfiltered Wheat Beer, which is layered with flavors of pineapple, coconut, and rum. The tropical notes play into the song’s theme of a cocktail that features the same ingredients. The result is a summer sipper that isn’t as sweet as you might think.
“My business partner [Strange Music CEO/President Travis O’Guin] and I were floored,” Tech N9ne says about their first taste of Bou Lou. “The beer was that good and needed no tweaking at first taste!”
Bou Lou made its limited-release debut at Kansas City’s largest music festival, Boulevardia, in the Stockyards District last year, where Tech N9ne topped the bill. Packaged in 4-packs of 16-ounce cans, Bou Lou hit shelves in select markets, including Kansas City, Wichita, and Denver. It was also featured at most venues on Tech N9ne’s Independent Grind Tour in 2018.
“It was really special to see how Tech N9ne fans were really engaged with anything connected to him,” Gershon says. “In April, the beer will ship nationwide in limited release.”
“The response from the fans has been incredibly positive,” Tech N9ne says. “This is why we’re bringing it back bigger now!”
Some might see Bou Lou and compare it to other celebrity-driven spirit brands, but it’s so much more than that. “Craft beer is embracing anything that is new and different right now,” Gershon says. “We are having an explosion of craft breweries, so everyone is looking for an interesting and authentic angle. Tech is about as Kansas City as you can get, and that felt good to us.”
“It’s such a wonderful feeling to be able to bring a taste of Kansas City love to the world,” Tech N9ne says.
According to Gershon, both craft beer and music speak to honing in on your craft and finding new and interesting ways to connect with fans. “They’re always looking for something that brings in a new consumer,” she says. “You always want that point of discovery and for it to feel special, but also momentous.
“When we’re hanging out at Boulevard, often people will come up to [Tech], and he’s so warm and welcoming. I think it fuels him to listen their stories of how his music played a part in their lives. And everyone has their Tech N9ne story. And very similarly, everyone has their Boulevard story. And how awesome if someone’s first of both was Bou Lou?”