Tag Archives: Zeus

A Whole Mess of Boulevard

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:

Boulevard Pale Ale

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:

Single Wide IPA

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:

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:

80 Acre Hoppy Wheat

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:

KC Pils

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?

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.

Samuel Adams Harvest Collection

Someone should stop me from going to the grocery store without adult supervision.  I stick to the list—one which I made by the way—until the end when I begin wandering the “health market” section where my local grocery puts a lot of the natural or organic products and the liquor store.  For those of you who cannot imagine a full-line liquor store in a grocery store—I am looking at you people in Minnesota—it’s a damn nightmare because so many beer options are just a short stroll away from the produce.

A sampler pack from Samuel Adams got me again.  First it was …? And then it was …?  Now it’s …?  Someone save me from myself.  I think what gets me every time is that these twelve packs contain six different beers, so I am really able to sample some different varieties without much commitment.  That’s it I am a commitment-phobe.  Nailed it!

The six beers in the Harvest Collection sampler were Boston Lager, Ruby Mild, Oktoberfest, Hazel Brown, Latitude 48 IPA, and Harvest Pumpkin Ale.  Enough ink has been spilled about Boston Lager in this blog and every other beer themed outlet to fill several barrels, so I will leave well enough alone.  I usually save the bottles of that beer for visitors less inclined to experiment with a dry-hopped single hop IPA like the most recent creation in bottled in my basement.

Ruby Mild is a nice place to start:

Ruby Mild

The beer is truly mild with a low bitterness (20 IBU) and middling alcohol content (5.6% ABV).  I would be inclined to characterize this beer as an American amber ale, but the description from the brewer puts it more in line with traditional English ales.  The ingredient list supports this classification as it uses hops of European origin and malts more associated with English brews.  Had it been hopped with Cascade or Willamette hops instead of East Kent Goldings the story would have been different.

Nonetheless, it is an enjoyable drinking experience.  European hops tend to be less “in your face” than some of the more well-known American varieties and the flavor profile is a little more mysterious that it lends an air of experimentation when drinking beers hopped in such a way.

Oktoberfest is another European inspired beer:

Oktoberfest

In my neck of the woods when six packs of Oktoberfest inspired beers—particularly the variety from Samuel Adams—hit store shelves several beer drinkers I know stock up for the coming months in the knowledge that it will disappear shortly.

If you read about the beers that are consumed on the Oktoberfest grounds the beers need to conform to three criteria: adhere to the Reinheitsgebot or “Bavarian Purity Law,” have an ABV equal to or greater than 6%, and be brewed within the city limits of Munich.  Obviously, this leaves a lot of room open for interpretation.

Given these criteria, Oktoberfest from Samuel Adams does not qualify.  It’s lower in alcohol (5.3% ABV) and is not brewed within the city limits of Munich.  However, this is America and we are known for not adhering to rules of style.  It’s what makes our beer culture so dynamic.

Regardless, Oktoberfest is an easy drinking fall beer.  It’s almost like the fall equivalent to summer’s lawnmower beers.  It’s easy to sit down by the outdoor firepit on a cool weekend evening and sip a pint as desiccated leaves blow past.

Speaking of fall flavors let’s discuss Hazel Brown:

Hazel Brown

Hazelnuts are one of those holiday delights from my childhood that stick out.  Every year about this time a bowl of mixed nuts in the shell would appear with a couple of nutcrackers on the kitchen table.  After dinner everyone would sit around with a beer or coffee and crack nuts until it was bedtime.  I always loved the delicate flavor of an actual hazelnut.

Too bad everything that is hazelnut flavored loses the delicate part in favor or amped up flavor.  Hazel Brown is no different.  You notice it from the moment that your nose hits the rim of the glass.  It’s like walking into a coffeeshop that is brewing a pot of hazelnut flavored coffee.  It overpowers everything and just sticks to your olfactory receptors.

I was really disappointed because brown ales or nut brown ales are one of the beer styles that I feel has gotten a short straw in the race to produce IPAs of increasing extremity.  Newcastle’s version is one of my formative beer experiences and I have enjoyed brewing examples of brown ales in my basement for a while now.  It’s a great style to brew yourself because it is very forgiving.

Everyone has an IPA nowadays and the Boston Beer Company is no different:

Latitude 48 IPA

In the description of the beer the hops used read like a menu of craft beer hop varieties: Hallertau Mittelfrueh, East Kent Golding, Zeus, Simcoe, Ahtanum, and Mosaic.  The big deal here is the Mosaic variety.  If you believe the hype than this is the next big thing in hops.  Described in different terms as “Citra on steroids” or “Simcoe, only better.”  With such a wide variety of hops included in the beer already I do not know if Mosaic was given a chance to shine on its own.  It seems like it needs to be used in a single hop experiment to really showcase the hop profile.

The other marketing rhetoric with Latitude 48 is that all of the hops are grown near the 48th latitude.  Okay, I’ll bite, why is this a big deal?  I cannot seem to find an answer.

In the end Latitude 48 is like an IPA with training wheels.  It’s okay, but there are literally hundreds of examples of the style that are better.  The beer is supposed to be mid-high in terms of bitterness (60 IBU), but I did not think that it drank anywhere near that which I am attributing to the muddled profile from so many different varieties of hops being used.  Editing is a skill that can be used to produce superior beer.

When the season begins to change pumpkin becomes the flavor of the month.  All right, the whole pumpkin or pumpkin spice flavored hysteria has gotten out of hand because you start to see items appearing at the end of August.  Sorry marketers but August is still very much summer in my neck of the woods.

Nonetheless, pumpkin ales are a big deal for the American brewing community and Samuel Adams has put forth their own example:

Harvest Pumpkin Ale

The first aromas that I noticed were unmistakably pumpkin.  But, it was more like the aroma of pumpkin that is left on your hands after carving a couple of jack-o-lanterns with the kids.

Honestly, I could not get over the aroma as I drank the beer which was really an unremarkable ale save for the pumpkin aroma.  I guess that pumpkin is like bananas for me.  Once I get a whiff, it’s all that I can think of for the duration of the glass.  Granted, I am also the same person that almost gags when I catch the first whiff of a pumpkin spice latte on my infrequent trips to Starbucks when the weather turns cold.