Tag Archive | boulevard brewing company

Beer Review 0600: Boulevard Two Jokers Double-Witbier

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Boulevard Brewing Company 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, the founder, delivered the first keg of it to a local restaurant. Fast forward to 2006, when the brewery made major expansions, increasing from a modest 6,000 barrels to the aforementioned 600,000 barrels. Quite a jump!

In late 2013, Boulevard was purchased by Duvel Moortgat, a family-controlled Belgian brewery who also own Brewery Ommegang, another Belgian-inspired American beer maker.

In addition to a full regular line-up of beers, Boulevard makes a “Smokestack Series,” which are all intensely flavored beers in big, corked and caged bottles. Consider it the experimental side of Boulevard — new for the 2014 summer season is Two Jokers, and Boulevard are calling it a “Double-Witbier” because of the 8% ABV (alcohol by volume) strength. Brewed to be a revival of the classic Belgian Witbier, the beer is flavored with cardamom, coriander, orange peel, lavender, and grains of paradise. There’s lactic fermentation involved, too, which should lend some tartness.

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The bottle uncorked with a satisfying pop; in the glass, the beer produced an average size, bright white head that was frothy and rocky. The head disappeared quickly, leaving behind a thin coating atop a dark golden-orange beer which had a cloudy body. Although cloudy as a typical wheat beer should be, there weren’t any chunks of particles or sediment (the bottom of the bottle did contain a thin layer of yeast). I’d call it cloudy enough to be opaque; lacing on this beer didn’t happen, perhaps just a spare wisp here or there.

On the nose, the spices play off heavy, with big notes of lavender and coriander. There’s mild peppercorn along with some sweet orange peel; the actual beer aspect lies low in the background, providing scents of grainy wheat. There are some lactic notes from the yeast, and a dry, powdery, doughy aroma. Odd yet interesting; as it warms, it takes on more of a tea-like nose instead of a beer…

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A mild tartness greets the palate, and it quickly sees itself to the door thanks to a copious amount of spice. Lavender and sugary orange peel for the win — it intensifies as the tart fades, and the yeast brings on more of a traditional bubblegum, light clove, and banana ester. While quite strange at first, the drink opens up into less of a head-scratcher with a rush of wheat, and when combined with subtle tones of lemon and the aforementioned bubblegum is quite nice. The finish brings back a hint of the tartness, leaving the mouth dry, a touch powdery, and very lavender. Two Jokers is light-bodied, with a medium, creamy mouthfeel.

I think this is a very polarizing beer that you’ll either dig or mildly appreciate without wanting a second glass. I find myself in the latter category; there’s just too much going on here. Some folks like all the spice and accouterment. Sometimes, I can go for that — but largely, I’m into the more traditional aspects of beer, and I think this Boulevard brew would be quite tasty without all the extras. Also, I’m not sure the lactic tartness plays well here — it’s nice on the finish, but the initial taste of the first sip is a mess. This beer has a lot going on but it gets dull fast.

Boulevard Two Jokers Double-Witbier, 83 points. Price: $8.99 US for one 750 ml. corked & caged bottle.

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Beer Review 0589: Boulevard Chocolate Ale

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Boulevard Brewing Company 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, the founder, delivered the first keg of it to a local restaurant. Fast forward to 2006, when the brewery made major expansions, increasing from a modest 6,000 barrels to the aforementioned 600,000 barrels. Quite a jump!

Recently, Boulevard was purchased by Duvel Moortgat, a family-controlled Belgian brewery who also own Brewery Ommegang, another Belgian-inspired American beer maker.

In addition to a full regular line-up of beers, Boulevard makes a “Smokestack Series,” which are all big beers in big bottles. Consider it the experimental side of Boulevard — Chocolate Ale is a collaboration with chocolatier Christopher Elbow, who also conducts business in Kansas City. Elbow earned his reputation by teaming unusual and surprising flavors with chocolate; with Boulevard, Elbow recommended that the beer be dosed with a rare variety of cocoa nibs from the Dominican Republic. For the 2014 version, over 3,000 pounds of Valrhona nibs were added; the outcome was a 9.1% ABV (alcohol by volume) beer that hits just 24 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

Chocolate Ale is typically released just before Valentines Day — Boulevard skipped the beer in 2013 due to quality control issues, but it returned this year. It typically disappears off shelves quickly.

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The pour produced a large, frothy head composed of large bubbles. It lasted atop a orangeish-amber colored beer. If you were expecting a Brown Ale or Stout, guess again; this is much lighter than anticipated. The body is a touch hazy, but there are no particles or sediment. Lacing never really existed, and you can’t regenerate the head; once this is poured, it’s pretty much flat.

Expectations denied, once again: if you’re expecting a rush of chocolate on the nose, no can do. Be prepared for a ton of Belgian yeast; slight notes of bread, dough, with plenty of orange peel and a bit of banana. There is some milk chocolate here, but it’s very powdery and dry, and most certainly buried beneath everything else going on. As it warms, the chocolate comes out more, but it’s quite mild, and teams with some citrus and herbal hops. There’s no alcohol present despite the big ABV number, but overall, this aroma doesn’t match the hype on this bottle.

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On the palate, the initial notes are of banana, Belgian yeast, and orange peel. The chocolate finally joins in after a few warm-up notes, but it’s milk chocolate, and there isn’t much depth to it. You know those oranges that are actually chocolate and when you smack them on the table turn into about 50 piece of chocolate? This beer tastes like that — and a bit of Tootsie Roll. There’s some pleasant vanilla, which actually overshadows the chocolate, and the finish has some salted caramel notes. But the chocolate is a timid flavor that you have to hunt for, and I’m not very enthused by that considering the name of this beer is ‘Chocolate Ale.’ The beer has a little alcohol heat at the very end; it’s medium-bodied with a thin, foamy mouthfeel.

I was very excited about Chocolate Ale, especially after Boulevard started distributing to North Carolina just last year and decided not to release it due to quality issues. To say this beer didn’t live up to the hype is totally correct. To say it’s a bad beer would also be false. This is a pretty tasty drink, interesting for sure, but it’s no Chocolate Ale. It’s like a cross between a Dubbel and Quadrupel. Oh, well.

Boulevard Chocolate Ale, 81 points. Price: $12.99 US for one 750 ml. corked & caged bottle.

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Beer Review 0567: Boulevard Imperial Stout (2013)

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Boulevard Brewing Company 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, the founder, delivered the first keg of it to a local restaurant. Fast forward to 2006, when the brewery made major expansions, increasing from a modest 6,000 barrels to the aforementioned 600,000 barrels. Quite a jump!

Recently, Boulevard was purchased by Duvel Moortgat, a family-controlled Belgian brewery who also own Brewery Ommegang, another Belgian-inspired American beer maker.

In addition to a full regular line-up of beers, Boulevard makes a “Smokestack Series,” which are all big beers in big bottles. Consider it the experimental side of Boulevard — Imperial Stout is only produced every other year, and fittingly so after you find out all the work that goes into it. 60% of the beer is fresh ale, while 40% is whiskey barrel-aged; that 40% that gets the barrel treatment is also a blend of several different years of beer.

The beer itself is brewed with a large grain bill that features several types of malted barley, wheat, rye, oats, and spelt. Imperial Stout is brewed with a Belgian yeast strain, comes in at 11.8% ABV (alcohol by volume), and registers 63 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

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The pour made for a large, lasting, creamy head that settles with large bubbles as it finally begins to diminish. The head was a dark khaki color atop a pitch black, opaque beer. The color is spot on for an Imperial Stout; there are some lighter brown/mahogany edges. I noticed as I poured that the body was clear, and there were no particles or sediment. Lacing was excellent, leaving thin and creamy sheets of foam.

On the nose, gear up for an impressive amount of dark, roasted malt. It’s got smoke, caramel, chocolate, coffee, toasted and roasted notes galore — super deep and complex. Add in notes of dark fruits (prune, raisin, and a jammy, dry grape) along with licorice, char, and pinches of grapefruit and oranges, and you’ve got one yummy beer that is dying to be sipped. And as it warmed, all of these aromas became deeper, more pronounced, and more delicious.

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The palate opens with a heavy punch of roast and a snippet of the Belgian yeast in the form of some earthy, dry orange peel. Didn’t know this brew uses Belgian yeast? Well, it does — you’d think the aroma would be a giveaway, but all the roast hides it. As with the aroma, the roastiness catches up quickly, dominating the taste buds with layer after layer of dark chocolate, black char, coffee, smoke, licorice, and dark fruits. Holy complex! Dark, rich flavors swirl around the tongue until the conclusion, which sees caramel come to dominate and bring out just a hint of whiskey barrel. For 40% of the beer to be barrel-aged, you’d never guess it. And the alcohol is completely hidden in taste, but apparent in feel, like it ought to be. Boulevard’s Imperial Stout is full-bodied, with a medium, creamy and frothy mouthfeel.

Wow. This brew is extremely nice and there really isn’t much to say except that it’s full of complex flavors, aromas, and it’s nice to see a beer that is barrel-aged where the particular spirit used doesn’t become an overwhelming flavor. You can tell Boulevard spent some time on this beer and it’s simply wonderful. Perfect for a nightcap, a treat, or an anytime offering — dance in delight, Imperial Stout fans. This is your jam.

Boulevard Imperial Stout (2013), 95 points. Price: $12.99 US for one 750 ml. corked & caged bottle.

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Beer Review 0542: Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad (BBQ)

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We’ve got what sounds like a fantastic beer on deck for today.

Boulevard Brewing Company 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, the founder, delivered the first keg of it to a local restaurant. Fast forward to 2006, when the brewery made major expansions, increasing from a modest 6,000 barrels to the aforementioned 600,000 barrels. Quite a jump!

Recently, Boulevard was purchased by Duvel Moortgat, a family-controlled Belgian brewery who also own Brewery Ommegang, another Belgian-inspired American beer maker.

In addition to a full regular line-up of beers, Boulevard makes a “Smokestack Series,” which are all big beers in big bottles. Consider it the experimental side of Boulevard — Bourbon Barrel Quad, affectionately known as BBQ (a nod to Kansas City barbecue), is based on their The Sixth Glass, a Quadrupel that isn’t barrel aged. (I rated The Sixth Glass 91 points on 11/24/12.) When you take that beer and put it in bourbon barrels to age, you get BBQ — but wait, there’s more.

Not only is BBQ aged in oak bourbon barrels, but some of the beer spends upwards of three years in the vessels; the beer is blended using ales of different ages to produce the optimum flavor. 84% of the beer is aged in the barrels, while the remaining 16% is fresh beer. Once again: but wait, there’s more!

In addition to the barrel aging, Boulevard periodically check the barrels and add cherries to replace the “angels’ share” of the beer. If you’re unfamiliar with barrel aging, the “angels’ share” is what is lost to evaporation during the aging process. BBQ is a beast of a beer, coming in at 11.8% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 26 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

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No trouble with the cork on this bottle, as it comes off with little struggle and a satisfying pop. The pour produced a large, creamy head that became very foamy as it started to fade, which took quite a while — this one had staying power. The color was a very nice amber-red; the beer looked positively vibrant in the glass, especially when capped with a fluffy head. The body was very cloudy and murky, but there weren’t any visible particles or sediment floating about. Lacing was quite sparse, but that is to be expected with a high ABV beer such as this — the head did regenerate very well, and there were plenty of alcohol legs to admire.

The nose: AMAZING. Holy wow. Big bourbon and associated barrel notes, such as vanilla and smokey oak. Make no bones about it, this brew is exceptionally sweet, with a heaping truck load of caramel malt and bready dough. The Belgian yeast is in full force; there’s also significant dark fruits, prunes and raisins especially, and the alcohol is here but is a welcome addition, balancing out the sweetness. The sweet end also has a bit of a darker side, featuring molasses, brown and burnt sugars. Throw in a dash of cinnamon and orange peel, and you’ve got one hell of an aromatic beer that only deepens in complexity as it begins to warm.

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The biggest thing I noticed at first blush on the palate was the cherries — absent on the nose, and described on the bottle as “subtle,” the cherries in BBQ are anything but a shrinking violet. And that’s not a bad thing. Initial flavors hit with a wave of vanilla and bourbon, along with those cherries, which are mildly tart at first. A large wave of sweetness comes in, bringing caramel that is soaked on fresh baked bread. The dark fruits are light, with hints of rum-soaked raisins, prunes, and figs; the alcohol starts to ramp up in the middle of the taste, bringing on a warmth and a touch of booziness to the taste. To my palate, the alcohol adds some depth, but depending on how you like bourbon and heavy booze, your mileage may vary. The alcohol serves to clean off the palate, readying it for the finish of hot buttered vanilla, bourbon, woodsy, earthy oak, and another hit of the cherries, this time sweet. Without a doubt, BBQ is full-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel, and drying finish that thickly lays on the barrel characteristics.

Fellow beer lovers, this beer is INCREDIBLE! Age it if you want, but it’s ready to go. The cherries really add a unique touch, and I don’t know if Boulevard is just downplaying the role they play or if they’re more prominent in the 2013 batch, but this fruit is much more than “subtle.” It really adds a powerful dimension to the beer and gives the already prominent barrel characters more teeth. Even at 11.8%, drinkability is through the roof — I started to feel this beer and had to slow down a bit. Just yummy and exceptionally made. Well done, Boulevard!

Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad (BBQ), 97 points. Price: $13.49 US for one 750 ml. corked & caged bottle.

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Beer Review 0534: Boulevard Reboot White IPA

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Every now and then, something is worth repeating. And that’s exactly what Boulevard Brewing Company are doing with their Reboot White IPA, a beer that was originally brewed in a collaboration with Bend, Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery in 2011. The initial idea married Boulevard, who love to produce Belgian-style beers, to Deschutes, who have more of a focus on American hops. The beer, then simply called ‘White IPA,’ was brewed by each facility using the same recipe, and released into each distribution network.

Boulevard apparently loved their version of the beer so much that they brewed it again, and it has been released as a 2013 Smokestack Series brew. Slightly tweaked from the original, Reboot White IPA is aged on lemongrass and sage, and tops out at 7.4% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 50 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). Boulevard plans to make this a new fall seasonal offering.

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

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Uncorking and pouring into a glass produced a large, almost huge frothy white head that looked like whipped topping atop the beer. Color of the beer itself was perfectly golden, with a nice hazy body that didn’t have any particles or sediment. Lacing was good, leaving behind a couple of pods of thick foam.

On the nose, the sage is loud but not overwhelming, coupling with some unexpected yeast funk. The overall herbal nature of the hops play right into this, giving off orange peel and lemon; the grain bill is exactly that — grainy, and straw-like. Reboot smells like a live beverage in the glass as all the herbal notes teamed with the earthen yeast really give this beer a punchy, organic aroma. And there are some classic Belgian notes here, with some background pink bubblegum and clove. Interesting.

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Is this an IPA? Most assuredly not — sage and lemongrass greet the tongue, along with a touch of funky yeast that begins to take on a menthol flavor as it warms. The further I got into the beer, the more the initial flavors reminded me of a throat lozenge; it does open up some, providing flavors of orange peel, and fleshy tart lemon, but overall Reboot remains quite focused on the sage, lemongrass, and menthol funkiness. The finish brings on moderate bitterness and a twangy zest that dries out the palate. Described on the side of the bottle are flavors like bubblegum and clove; those simply aren’t here. This beer is medium-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel.

This brew really reminded me of Dogfish Head / Victory / Stone Saison du Buff, just a bit drier and more one-note. And there’s nothing wrong with that, because that is a very nice beer…BUT this is marketed as an IPA, and it’s not. If you’re expecting that, tread lightly; otherwise, prepare for a thirst quenching yet somewhat tepid Smokestack offering.

Boulevard Reboot White IPA, 84 points. Price: $9.49 US for one 750 ml. corked & caged bottle.

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