Beer Review 0405: Boulevard Love Child No. 3 American Wild Ale

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Brand new to the limited release section of Boulevard Brewing Company’s “Smokestack Series” is Love Child No. 3, a wild ale that is soured with the yeast cultures of Lactobaccillus and Brettanomyces, and then aged in oak bourbon barrels — portions of this beer were aged as little as sixteen months, while others spent six years maturing.

Boulevard (Kansas City, Missouri) started as a traditional Bavarian brewhouse in 1989. Their first beer, a Pale Ale, was delivered in a keg to a local restaurant by founder John McDonald. Since then, expansions have been contagious, and Boulevard now outputs 600,000 barrels of brew, much more than the 6,000 Mr. McDonald had anticipated on his original business plan.

Big on producing series of beers, not only is this in the limited release section of the Smokestack Series, it’s also the second release in the “Love Child” series — the previous release, Love Child No. 2, was just a tad bit different than this offering. Love Child No. 3 comes with a set of gauges on the back of the bottle that tell you the levels of funk, sour, and fruitiness; funk and sour are exactly even at 50%, while the fruitiness is dialed back to around 25%. The beer is corked & caged, and registers 9.5% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 13 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

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Pouring produced an average size, off-white head that was fizzy and quickly diminished. The color of the beer was orange-brown, resembling dark and muddy river water; the body was extremely cloudy, and there was a light amount of sediment floating about. Lacing didn’t exist, and when the head fizzled away, that was simply it.

The nose features a very bight acidic vinegar note, but there’s some nice complexity here; the fruitiness is indeed dialed down, just tart cherries, cranberries, and a shot of lemon. The barrel characteristics are faint but nice when combined with everything else going on — there’s a gentle note of bourbon, and as the drink warmed, vanilla and a bit of coconut came out.

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On the taste, there’s a moderate to heavy sourness up front, but that quickly fades out and makes way for tart cherries, cranberries, and some funkiness. Middle of the mouth is a bit bland; the fruits never really assert themselves and the funk is kind of grassy/barnyard; the finish is the sweet spot of this beer and it only gets better as it warms. Notes of leather and oak lead to a gentle bourbon, some vanilla, and a touch of coconut. The very mild sourness left over from the initial sip plays well with the bourbon; the finish dries out the mouth. Love Child is medium-bodied, with a thin mouthfeel and no noticeable alcohol flavor.

Speaking as someone who isn’t crazy about sours (I’m just getting into the style), I thought this was a very good beer, albeit a little bland in the middle. I love how the initial sour notes give way to the barrel complexities, and this is a very easy drinker and actually refreshing despite the drying mouthfeel. I encourage you to let this warm up — you’ll be rewarded. I’d be interested to see how this ages, but not for the price tag this commands.

Boulevard Love Child No. 3 American Wild Ale, 87 points. Price: $19.99 US for one 750 ml corked & caged bottle.

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