Leave it to Kansas City to figure out a way to get BBQ in your glass. The BBQ in this case is the Boulevard Brewing Company’s Bourbon Barrel Quad, which will start appearing on shelves Tuesday. It’s a limited Smokestack release, so that means its only available in 750mL bottles and won’t be on tap.
The Bourbon Barrel Quad [Boulevard gave The Recommended Daily a pre-release bottle] begins life as The Sixth Glass (a Belgian dark strong ale). It’s fermented with Oregon cherries and then aged in oak barrels. In previous years, BBQ was a blend of fresh beer and barrel aged brew, but for the 2014 edition Boulevard decided to use only the barrel-aged beer.
“In the past we used fresh beer to cut the whiskey character a bit, but with it being all barrel-aged, we added body,” brewer Jeremy Danner says. “The cherries tend to stick out more to people, but we’ve always looked at the cherry notes as something that adds a slight complexity. I think you’ll notice a little more whiskey and oak character and the cherry seems to pop a bit more when its 100 percent barrel aged.”[If you want to compare the 2014 release with last year’s BBQ, Barley’s Brewhaus is hosting a pair of local beer nights on Wednesday, October 8, (11924 W. 119th Street, Overland Park) and Wednesday, October 22, (5031 West 135th Street, Leawood). They’ll be selling 2014 bottles and Boulevard will be sampling the 2013 release.]
Brewer Dustin Jamison is responsible for overseeing the blending of Bourbon Barrel Quad, which clocks in at 11.8% ABV. The beer is aged in Heaven Hill, Templeton Rye and Jack Daniels barrels, which lets it mellow and pick up some of the oak notes from the wood. Whiskey and rye barrels are used for a multitude of brews at Boulevard. The first time they’re in service is often for Rye-on-Rye, another Smokestack Series release. The second use is typically reserved for Imperial Stout or BBQ, and then the barrels “graduate,” to be used for the Love Child series.
“As the beer ages, [Jameson] tastes them and arranges the barrels into the groups. Some might be more whiskey forward, others have more vanilla or cherry,” Danner says.
Selections from each lot are then blended to create the final beer. In addition to Jamison’s tasting notes, Boulevard also tracks the barrels via a smartphone app that scans a QR code and displays when a barrel has been filled with fresh beer or how long the contents have been aging.
“I’d like to call out how skilled Dustin has become with blending barrel-aged beers,” Danner says. “Bottle conditioning is an exact science, but barrel aging is an art.”
Danner has long said that BBQ is the beer that “taught him to drink whiskey.” He also thinks this is a good way to introduce somebody to bigger, barrel aged beers.
“If it’s barrel aged, you think it will be really big and in your face. But this is this a really nice, round mellow beer.”