Givon “Sentric Styles” Blakney’s first experience with beer was drinking the “three amigos – Bud Light, Natural Light, and the champagne of beer, Miller High Life” at college parties in Madison, Wisconsin. Several years later, Blakney began noticing new craft beers on the grocery store shelves.
“The actual term ‘craft beer’ was foreign to me, but I knew I loved Spotted Cow and other beers from New Glarus,” Blakney, an Illinois native, says of his post-college days. “A few years passed and I began experimenting more with beers whose names didn’t end with Light, or have Clydesdale horses in their commercials. I started exploring different beers every week. It always amazed me that local people were creating so many delicious beers. After attending my first craft beer festival, I was hooked.”
Blakney was used to going to restaurants and breweries in Illinois with friends and trying new brews on a regular basis. He moved with his wife to Kansas City in 2016. Blakney was a bit skeptical of what craft beer scene he would find here.
“I found a community of like-minded craft beer enthusiasts that I would bond with, as well as join them in propelling the local craft beer scene,” Blakney says. “I was inspired to make my Instagram page craft beer-focused after I saw an episode of “Beerland” on the Vice channel. I was introduced to Teo Hunter and his Black People Love Beer movement. [Editor’s note: See video below.] I’m used to being one of the few people of color everywhere I go. To see someone who looked like me was a huge motivation for me to start posting about beer more and studying the ins and outs of the beer industry. I just recently passed my Cicerone Craft Beer Server exam. I hope that I can use that knowledge to help push craft beer to minority communities.”
The Kansas City beer scene has grown since Blakney’s move five years ago. More local breweries exist. Breweries have sprung up throughout Downtown Kansas City, surrounding
suburbs, and in cities throughout the region. Most importantly, the quality of locally-brewed beer available reflects the area’s improved craft beer offerings.
“When I would go back to Illinois to visit friends and family, I’d always bring back a ton of beer,” Blakney says. “Now I only bring back a few cans and bottles. BKS Artisan Ales and Alma Mader make some of the best IPAs in the country. There’s no need to stock up on IPAs. Pathlight and Diametric are pushing the limits on older style beers and experimental beers. Breweries are popping up everywhere on both sides of the state line.”
From Johnson County, Kansas, to Kansas City, Missouri, and beyond, the Ale Trail is alive and well. “Being able to experience new flavors and styles of beer essentially every week is amazing,” Blakney says. “The local beer scene in Kansas City is booming, and makes exploring breweries exciting. Many times we as craft beer enthusiasts get lost in the numbers of unique beers we consume. At the end of the day, the best part of exploring breweries, besides the beer, is meeting new people, and sometimes even being able to meet the brewers themselves.”
To learn about new beers, Blakney follows posts on beer-based Facebook groups, such as Beer Tasting KC, as well as various craft beer podcasts. “Instagram is also a great way to learn about beers,” Blakney says. “Besides following breweries, it is also a good idea to follow the companies that distribute the beer on social media. They are always nice enough to send out tweets on when people can expect beers to hit shelves.”
To see someone who looked like me was a huge motivation for me to start posting about beer more and studying the ins and outs of the beer industry. I just recently passed my Cicerone Craft Beer Server exam. I hope that I can use that knowledge to help push craft beer to minority communities.
Blakney’s favorite part of the craft beer experience is tasting beer and then discussing it with other people to get their take. “Everyone’s palate is different, so it’s pretty cool to see what flavors other people get,” Blakney says. “It’s especially exciting to pair the beer with food and discuss what flavors are heightened with the introduction of food to the palate.”
Some craft beer fans seek out whales, or elusive beers that are hard to find and buy because of limited production and distribution and high demand. “Whale” is a literary reference to the elusive white whale in the novel Moby Dick.
“I’m not too obsessed with finding whales,” Blakney says. “I have a few beers that I’ve been trying to find for a year or two, but I haven’t gotten into buying whales on the second market yet. I always try to make it to local brewery releases. Many newer breweries don’t can or bottle beer so once it’s gone it’s gone.”
Blakney uses Instagram to find out about new out-of-town beers. “You can see what people are drinking in other cities, and then buy or trade beer with them,” Blakney says. “I’ll do a little research on beers here and there, mainly sours because I’m trying to slowly get into that style of beer. A lot of my buying habits are impulse. If I see a new double dry-hopped, hazy, or barrel-aged beer in the store, it will most likely be going home with me that day.”
BEHIND THE NAME - SENTRIC STYLES
“It was my music name that I went by when I produced music back in the day,” Givon Blakney says. “I was known for an eccentric style of music, and an eccentric style of fashion. That eccentric style has now crossed over to my palate in the different and off-the-wall beers that I enjoy.”
Photographs courtesy of Givon “Sentric Styles” Blakney.
Pete Dulin is the founder and editor of kcaletrail.com. His most recent book is Expedition of Thirst: Exploring Breweries, Distilleries and Wineries Across Central Kansas and Missouri. Pete’s other books include Kansas City Beer: A History of Brewing in the Heartland, KC Ale Trail (out of print), and Last Bite: 100 Simple Recipes from Kansas City’s Best Chefs and Cooks.