Boulevard’s Tenpenny ale was originally brewed in the early nineties for the grocery stores of Kansas. At the time—and indeed until 2019—Kansas only allowed beer with up to 3.2 percent alcohol by volume on supermarket shelves. Tenpenny was a classic English bitter, a style that founder John McDonald came to love while whiling away afternoons in British pub ales. Originally just 2.6 percent ABV, Tenpenny was meant to be drunk over long, relatively sober sessions.
When Boulevard came up with a lower-gravity version of its popular wheat beer, Tenpenny went the way of the Ford Probe and Ecto Cooler.
“From the moment that we discontinued Tenpenny back in 2002, maybe on MySpace, people were like ’Hey, bring back Tenpenny,” says Adam Hall, Boulevard’s brand manager. “It’s one of those beers we hear about all the time. There’s a voice for it. It’s not a big voice, but it’s enough for us to listen to.”
Twenty years later, Tenpenny is back in Boulevard’s seasonal mixed pack, offered alongside a thematically appropriate milk stout, single Belgian abbey ale, and the original Space Camper—which at this point feels like a throwback. Of those, Tenpenny has gotten outsized attention, at least among local beer geeks.
“It was very much a fan favorite in the early days of the taproom,” Hall says, “and the brewers liked drinking it because they could have a few of those and bike home.”
Social media reaction to the idea of bringing back Tenpenny was strong—surprisingly so.
“We were wondering how many of the people who were asking for it actually had it, because it was twenty years old,” says Hall, who spent several days shopping around for another commercial extra special bitter for the brewers to taste. “Is there a lot of consumer demand for it? Probably not, but it’s not another hazy IPA that’s going to clog the shelf.”
I never had the original Tenpenny, but the new one is crisp and balanced, with a mild caramel sweetness offset by a clean bite from old-school Nugget and Willamette hops. There are only three in the mixed pack, making for a short but satisfying session. It has me hoping for an imminent English ale revival.