Nigel Woodberry is a familiar face in Greater Kansas City’s craft beer community. He is a “beertender” at Wind Shift Brewing in Blue Springs and at Diametric Brewing and Grains and Taps in Lee’s Summit.
“I’m also helping with some production and pouring at events for Crane Brewing,” Woodberry says. “I choose to work in the industry mostly for the community of people in beer. Aside from my days in television news, the camaraderie I find with breweries and drinkers is pretty unique.”
Craft beer fans who haven’t met Woodberry yet might recognize his presence. He’s tall, outgoing, jovial, and is often sharing a joke or story with others at a taproom. Others might recognize his deep voice from “Beers With Nigel,” a podcast produced with Nick Parker of Fredcasts. Beers With Nigel features 45 episodes of conversations with people in the beer community, chats about specific beers and styles, and exploration of the beer industry. Woodberry and Parker interviewed the owners of Rockcreek Brewing Company in Mission, Kansas, for a recent episode.
Left to right: Ronnie Dyer of Dyer Oil Graphics, Beers With Nigel podcast host Nigel Woodberry, and podcast producer Nick Parker.
“Craft to me is the plethora of small breweries producing the classic styles of beer, but also putting their own twist on those beers.”
Woodberry was born and raised in London, England, until he was 12. He now lives in Lee’s Summit near his daughter, who attends the University of Missouri. When not podcasting or serving fresh pours at the taproom, Woodberry works in video production for the City of Lee’s Summit. “My background is in TV/video production,” Woodberry says. “I’ve worked all over the country and have been a news photographer, reporter, sports anchor and radio DJ, just to name a few.”
Along the way, Woodberry has observed and immersed himself in the growth of local craft beer. “Before ‘craft’ it was ‘premium’ beer. Michelob Dark was what I was drinking in the Eighties,” Woodberry says. “In the Nineties I was drinking Dundee Honey Brown. It still wasn’t called ‘craft.’ Boulevard Brewing’s Pale Ale and Tank 7 were the beers that were craft and had my full attention.”
“Craft” beer is one of those terms bandied about often and is open to interpretation. For guidance we can turn to the Brewers Association, an industry trade group. The Brewers Association delineates American craft brewers as “small and independent.” Small meaning annual production of six million barrels or less. Of course, most local breweries are making far less beer for taproom consumption and distribution.
“Craft to me is the plethora of small breweries producing the classic styles of beer, but also putting their own twist on those beers,” Woodberry elaborates. “ To me it’s an art form to see what breweries are doing to expand their ‘craft’ in the making of craft beer. The thing that makes craft beer more exciting than the macros is the fact it’s a local product. Each one of the breweries in our area is someone’s dream that has come to life. I want to support those dreams, and to see the spaces created along with the variety of beers being produced. I’d be hard pressed to buy a macro beer considering the local choices.”
Woodberry’s appreciation for craft beer extends beyond Kansas City, Lee’s Summit, and the surrounding area. After all, local is wherever you find yourself. As a craft beer lover and explorer, Woodberry has traveled across the United States to sample beers and support local taprooms in destination cities like Austin, Texas, and lesser-known locales.
“I love undercover craft beer communities,” Woodberry says. “Sacramento is not really known for craft beer, but if you go you’ll find it’s a hidden gem. Same goes for Oklahoma City. Although the brewery scene is relatively new, I’d put what that city is producing up against any city in the country.”
Closer to home, Woodberry finds that the “growth in the KC area beer scene over the last five years has been crazy to say the least.” He adds, “Gone are the days that those of us in eastern Jackson County have to go to Kansas City proper for craft beer. We still do travel to KC and the Kansas side, (which has its own growth spurt going on). You can actually not leave eastern Jackson County and hit some of the best, although underrated breweries in the metro.”
Currently, Woodberry’s favorite beers for the summer include Alma Mader Brewing’s Premiant Pilsner, Wind Shift Brewing’s Straightline Pilsner, Grains & Taps’ Haus Bier German Pilsner, and Boulevard Brewing’s Quirk Hibiscus Lemonade. He says, “I wasn’t a hard seltzer fan until these came out!”
Look and listen for Nigel Woodberry at a taproom near you and on the Beers With Nigel podcast.
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.