In 1989, Boulevard Brewing Co. in Kansas City rolled out its first keg of pale ale to a local bar and 30 years later, they are still brewing and have become one of the largest brewers in the Mid-West.

In the Summer of 1984, John McDonald was on vacation in Europe and decided to take a break and have a beer. He was amazed with the flavors, aromas and styles of the European breweries and those beers stayed in the back of his mind for years until finally in 1987-88, he decided to do something about. After selling his house and gathering as much capital as he could, he began the process of putting together his dream. It took over a year and every dollar he had to build his brewery in an old brick warehouse in town but finally accomplished it and produced that very important first batch of pale ale using a vintage 35-barrel Bavarian brewhouse.

Fast forward 30 years and today brings a beer to celebrate 30 years of flavor and styles. Inspired by McDonald’s desire to “do something different,” the brewers created a complex blend of eight barrel-aged beers to produce something spectacular for this important anniversary. Many of the beers used for the blend have once been included in the Brewery’s Smokestack Series and special releases.

The beers that were used included the following;

  • 34 percent Imperial stout in rye whiskey finished port casks
  • 26 percent Belgian dark strong ale in ruby and tawny port casks
  • 16 percent Double mashed imperial stout in bourbon barrels
  • 9 percent Belgian dark strong ale aged in California sherry casks
  • 5 percent Imperial stout in bourbon barrels
  • 5 percent Imperial stout in Spanish sherry puncheons
  • 3 percent Imperial stout aged in bourbon and then ruby/tawny port casks
  • 2 percent Belgian dark strong ale in bourbon barrels

Poured from a 750ml heavy, punted bottle, this beer is very dark, only allowing a small amount of light to penetrate and then dousing it quickly before it gets too deep. The head is quite substantial, very fizzy and remains as long as it can before finally disappearing to an ever so light film around the edges of the glass. I expected a huge aroma considering all of the various concoctions that were used, but am quite surprised by the mellow smells that hit the nose, allowing small amounts of sherry, port, bourbon and alcohol burn to lead the way in a subtle way.

The first sip is a muddled mess of flavors that makes it hard to pick out any particular nuances, yet contains a lot of heat from the alcohol. My first instinct is to let this beer sit for a bit and warm a little so that I can decipher everything that is going on. The second sip is about 5-10 minutes later and I am hoping for the best. Tannins have risen to the top and the alcohol burn has increased, especially on the lips. I am now able to taste a little more of the flavors like the bourbon and sherry with a huge helping of the port barrels and a yeasty feel from the Belgian additions.

Moving forward another 10 minutes produces even more heat from the alcohol and the balance starts to swerve all over the place, giving me sweet port, then a taste of bourbon, more burn and then a yeasty feel from the Belgian strong ale addition. I love that there are so many beers in this blend but feel that the balance suffers slightly because not all of these flavors play together too well. The mouthfeel is slightly dry, hot and very fortified with alcohol sweetness and yeast.

Boulevard 30th Anniversary Ale
BREWERY: Boulevard Brewing Co.
LOCATION: Kansas City, Mo.
STYLE: Barrel-aged Ale
ABV: 12.5 percent
IBU: 25
PRICE: $19.99
AVAILABLE IN: 750ml bottles
Overall, it's exciting to try so many base beers at once but the downfall of this is that they don't all go together as they should. There are too many barrels mix the flavors up and cause the beer to be a hot mess. The alcohol, even at a 12.5 percent ABV, has a memorable burn that detracts from the flavors. Don't get me wrong, 30th Anniversary is quite a creation, but it might have balanced better and been slightly more enjoyable with only 3-4 beers instead of eight.
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