Beer Review 0487: Boulevard Harvest Dance Wheat Wine

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Today we’re taking a look at a beer that came out late in 2012, which I was only able to pick up recently during my trip to Asheville, as it never saw distribution in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Boulevard’s Harvest Dance Wheat Wine is part of their Smokestack Series, and is a winter seasonal brewed with a large portion of wheat malt. Citra and Hallertau hops are added, and this sees some aging time on both French and American oak. The ABV (alcohol by volume) is 9.5% and the brew registers 42 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

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 a year ago here in North Carolina, and lots of attention is being placed on the promotion of the Smokestack beers.

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Be careful when pouring this beer — it makes a huge head, rocky in texture, and is long lasting. It easily retains itself when swirled in the glass, and shows itself to be much more creamy when agitated than poured. Harvest Dance is golden-orange in color and has a slightly cloudy body, but is still translucent. There are some sizable bits of sediment floating around in this one. Lacing is excellent, leaving thick clumps of sticky suds.

The nose is a big disappointment as this one is majorly subdued. I expected the hops to be gone since this beer is about a year old, but I didn’t expect everything else to drop out — there’s some general wheat notes and some definite breadiness, but you really have to strain to find anything else. As it warmed, it reminded me a lot of a Belgian Tripel, as a note of earthen yeast and bubblegum came out. I expected at least some oak or vanilla given the wood treatment, but it’s just not here.

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The taste is much the same, but only at first — there’s plenty of wheat malt and earthen yeast, with just a touch of vanilla from the barrel. But the middle and finish is where it’s at for Harvest Dance; those faded hops come out and make you scratch your head just enough to wonder what it tastes like fresh. The Citra hops are unmistakable, giving off some candied orange and light tropical fruits. These combine with the sweet vanilla oak very well and make for an interesting finish that wants to be bitter, wants to be sweet, but ends up being fairly squeaky clean with just another hit of wheat, bubblegum, and dry spiciness. Despite the high alcohol, it’s expertly hidden. Medium-bodied, I wouldn’t exactly call this beer refreshing by any means, but it is thin in mouthfeel and very foamy with a soft carbonation.

Overall, this is sort of a dull beer that was probably better when fresh, but the finish featuring the hops mingling with the woody notes makes up for the initial blandness. Nice, but I doubt I would go out of my way for it; perhaps when the 2013 batch hits, my brow will be raised. Interesting use of Citra hops and oak, no doubt.

Boulevard Harvest Dance Wheat Wine, 86 points. Price: $11.00 US for one 750 ml corked & caged bottle.

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