Boulevard Brewing, Tank 7
The Boulevard Brewing story bears all the hallmarks of the AmericanDreamTM. Whilst travelling through Europe, John McDonald fell in love with beer. The good stuff. He decided America needed some of that. As soon as he returned to his hometown of Kansas City in the state of Missouri he began construction of a vintage Bavarian brewhouse in a carpentry workshop he shared with his old man. He sold his first batch of Boulevard Pale Ale in 1989 to a restaurant round the corner. It was delivered by John in his pick-up truck.
John didn’t necessarily set his sights on the big time. His original business plan contained the lofty ambition of selling 6,000 barrels a year. However, 25 years later Boulevard Brewing had become the 17th largest brewery in the US and the 10th largest craft brewery. In 2006, a major expansion adjacent to the original brewery raised Boulevard’s brewing capacity to approximately 600,000 barrels per year, 100 times greater than John’s original target.
And then in 2013 they sold out. For a reported $100m. Flippin ‘eck. Duvel Moortgat, the huge family owned Belgian company behind brands like Duvel and Vedett swooped to bring John’s beers back to Europe. Like selling ice to the eskimos (sorry, the indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Greenland, Canada, and Alaska).
Whilst the craft beer militia trotted out the inevitable “Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more” outrage, others put Dorothy in her place. We’re not taking sides by the way. But it’s all food (or beer) for thought.
The original, beautiful smoke-stack building (pictured above) that Boulevard started from is now where they’re making their bigger, more experimental Belgian beers. Named the Smokestack Series, that’s where this week’s beer was born. Most breweries have at least one piece of kit that’s a bit temperamental. For Boulevard it is fermenter number seven. When they were experimenting with variations on a traditional Belgian-style farmhouse ale, the perfect combination of elements came together in that very vessel. You could call it fate, but they called it Tank 7.
Weighing in at a hefty 8.5% it gets off to a good start… it just looks ace with that big creamy foam head. Every ingredient is celebrated here. There is the yeasty funkiness in the aroma, grapefruit juiciness in the upfront taste backed up by a bready malt body and a dry, peppery finish provided by the hops. Incredible.