Beer Review 0347: Boulevard Grainstorm Black Rye IPA

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The latest addition to Kansas City, Missouri’s Boulevard Brewing Company Smokestack Series sees the brewery following what is a growing trend — brewing a Black IPA — but adding their own twist, using an adjunct in the form of rye.

Boulevard started as a traditional Bavarian brewhouse on Southwest Boulevard in Kansas City. The first beer made, in 1989, was Boulevard Pale Ale, and John McDonald (Boulevard’s founder) delivered the first keg of it to a local restaurant. In 2006, the brewery made major expansions, increasing capacity to 600,000 barrels, which is a huge jump from the mere 6,000 barrels in Mr. McDonald’s original business plan!

Boulevard’s Smokestack Series is the home for big beers in big bottles; experimentation is encouraged. Distribution started about six months ago here in North Carolina, and lots of attention is being placed on the promotion of the Smokestack beers. One thing I really dig about Boulevard is their willingness to list ingredients on their website. For Grainstorm, the malt bill seems simple: pale malt, malted rye, and roasted wheat. Hops are Simcoe, Bravo, Amarillo, and Citra. The beer is 7.7% ABV (alcohol by volume) and has 65 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

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This beer is corked and caged, and the cork was easy to remove. Thank you for that, Boulevard…I can’t stand corks that are stubborn. The pour drew a large, almost huge head that will spill over the glass if you’re not careful. Composed of large bubbles, the head was light khaki in color and lasted atop a beer that looks murky dark brown out of the light, but is really amber-red when held before a bulb. The body was clear, free of particles and sediment, and the lacing was as good as you could imagine, leaving thick puffy pods glued to my glass.

The aromatics feature simple and classic IPA scents; grapefruit and pine up front. The pine is like raw wood and has touches of resin. The rye malt gives this drink some moderate spiciness; the dark malts also leave behind some toasted grain. There’s shades of orange peel and a mild hit of caramel.

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Flavors generally follow the nose, giving a nice base of bitter grapefruit and pine, which opens up to the rye malt that leaves the palate enjoying a dry, spicy bread-like taste. A subtle orange peel brings on the finish, which alternates between grapefruit, dark pine, and drying rye. The final notes are like bitter rye bread — the bitterness is moderate, and overall the beer is medium-bodied, with a medium mouthfeel and a foamy, drying texture.

What impressed me most about Grainstorm was the high drinkability. While I find Black IPAs to be tasty, they are often a beer that tires my palate fast and makes completing an entire bottle, especially a 750 ml., a chore. Not so here; the flavors are simple and layer well together, but the lack of complexity is surely noticed. A solid offering and worth the price.

Boulevard Grainstorm Black Rye IPA, 88 points. Price: $9.99 US for one 750 ml corked & caged bottle.

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