Over Thanksgiving I found myself in Kansas City, which gave me the opportunity to bring home a whole host of beers from Boulevard Brewing. At a local liquor store I was able to create my own six pack from six different varieties, which is the perfect kind of sampler.
Boulevard has been brewing beer since 1989. In 2012 the brewery was the twelfth largest craft brewer in the U.S. just ahead of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and just behind Brooklyn Brewery. When I moved to Iowa in 2001, Boulevard was one of the only craft beers available that was widely distributed and fresh. Trust me, I went through a lot of six packs that were well past their sell by date in the dark days.
In those days I went through a lot of Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat. As more beers have become available and my tastes have evolved I do not find myself drinking the beer very often, but that does not dim my fondness nor does it change my pleasant memories.
I decided to sample six beers that I had not ever tried: 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat, Bully! Porter, Pale Ale, KC Pils, Pop-Up Session IPA, and Single-Wide IPA.
Pale Ale is a workmanlike beer:
This beer hits all of the notes when it comes to a pale ale, but nothing stands out in particular about the beer. I have said this before and I will say it again, the craft beer scene is moving so far forward that well crafted ales that are not standout in any way will get lost in the shuffle for awareness. That is both a good and bad thing.
It’s good because it means that beer drinkers are getting access to new styles and techniques that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago. It’s bad because good beers are just not making an impression. It’s a new and crazy beer drinking world out there nowadays.
I have a real hard time with the trailer themeing going on with Single-Wide and Double-Wide IPA. There is very little about trailers, trailer courts, or mobile homes in general that make me think about good beer. Except maybe the insanity that is Trailer Park Boys, but that is another story much better told with a rum and Coke in hand.
Let’s start with the smaller of the two trailers:
There is a lot going on here in terms of hops. The beer is brewed with Zeus, Bravo, Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe, and Citra hop varieties. In a world where brewers are showcasing one hop variety in a smattering of single hop brews Single Wide IPA is going the other direction. It’s kind of a circus in a bottle. Nothing is over powering and the beer drinks about perfect at 57 IBU. You get a hop experience without getting tear gassed by alpha acid.
For those of us more mobile, I give you Pop-Up Session IPA:
Session IPAs are hot right now. Session beers are hot in general, but expanding the concept to IPAs is genius. I have a SMASH American Session Ale in bottles waiting to be cracked this weekend that I cannot wait to sample.
Dropping the alcohol and bitterness, but keeping the IPA style is a great way to make a more approachable beer. You could think of this style almost as a gateway drug to “bigger” beers. It would also work well as a summer IPA when the heat is on and you want something a little more complex than a lawnmower beer.
80-Acre Hoppy Wheat, if you could not tell from the name, is a hybrid style:
Wheat beers are generally not thought of as “hoppy” beers. Generally, this style of beer is considered more a lawn mower beer. However, what Boulevard has done here with 80-Acre is spot on as a hybrid style. Granted, at 20 IBU this is not a beer that a true hop head would describe as hoppy but increasing the bitterness really works. Maybe the lack of a very malty body allows a minor increase in bitterness to really shine. It kind of makes want to try a dry hopped what beer. Hmmm…..
KC Pils is a throwback:
This beer totally reminds me of the beers that I cut my drinking teeth on. Those beers are fading into the brand sunset now as much better craft brews steal market share, but I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the beers served to me in plastic cups at parties in basements and fields.
What about Bully! Porter?
Porters are getting to be an afterthought in the wide catalog of beer styles in the craft world. Unless the brewer is a devoted student of the style the results are generally forgettable. In this case Bully! Porter falls victim to that inattention. There is nothing wrong with the beer, per se, save for the fact that it is not particularly memorable in any way. It pours dark, drinks dark, and you move on to the next beer without a second thought.
Boulevard is doing excellent work in Kansas City and I am stoked to see that they are producing some different hybrid styles that do not fall into the convention of “more hops = better beer” school of thought.
In October 2013 it was announced that Duvel Moortgat Brewery of Belgium would be buying Boulevard. We will have to see what the future holds for Boulevard now that it is part of a larger brewer, but I have faith since these are the same brewers who own Brewery Ommegang. Although I wonder if it is the first shot in a wave of consolidation and acquisition for craft brewers given the sheer number that are operating today.