Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A New Bully in Town

It was six months ago today that a new player entered the Colorado beer market, though the change in local liquor stores and at local bars has been marked.

Boulevard Brewing, the 20-year-old Kansas City institution, quietly rolled into the state with six-pack and mix 12-packs and bombers from its Smokestack series. Now, it's hard to stroll into a cooler area without seeing its products lining shelves, nor are you likely to go to too many parties before running into someone who is enjoying the brand.

I admit that Boulevard had an early effect on my beer-snob formation. I don't remember exactly how I got a hold of my first Bully Porter - I think it was from the mix-a-six cooler at my college liquor store - but I remember vividly tasting it and getting hooked on dark beer. Whenever I went to visit friends in K.C., I would search out places where I could have it again.

After running through all of Boulevard's Colorado-available offerings - no small task, considering there have been at least 13 - the overwhelming impression you're left with is this: the porter is still a good beer, as are several of the year-round offerings. But a brewery that sprang up fairly early in the microbrew revolution with an offering of one of the classic English styles has found itself in its new experiments.

Take, for example, the new Two Jokers Double-Wit, which presents a big, sweet nose followed by a thick orange taste that is full-bodied and daring. The orange mellows as you sip, but the acidic citrus finish, tangy but not harsh, stays with you throughout the golden amber ale.

Each time the brewery pushes the envelope, it seems to find a little more within itself. Its Double-Wide India Pale Ale comes on sharp and bitter but warms to a slightly tart, very flavorful grass-scented offering. The Sixth Glass Quadruple Ale presents a smoky, slightly toasted licorice flavor that leaves a toffee caramel impression on the tongue. The Tank 7 farmhouse ale that was one of the hits of the Manitou Craft Lager Festival is a pleasantly strong experience with a slight bitterness on the backtaste.

The seasonal and year-round offerings - there are 11 altogether - are simpler, a little less exciting but more classically representative of their styles, without any major flourish like the big bomber beers. The Irish Ale has a dusty feel of cocoa to it. The Unfiltered Wheat is smooth and drinkable with very subtle citrus. The Single-Wide I.P.A. is for people who like their hops with a bitter bite.

What Boulevard has brought to the state is simply another quality product. Its big Belgians are a joy to crack out with friends and are reasonably priced. Its experimental beers leave the hope of even more to come, in even more styles.
And its porter, well, let's just say it will always be a gateway beer for me into a world that I was just beginning to discover as a 22-year-old. Personally I'm glad to see that the little brewery that hooked me has grown up into something bigger and bolder.


Thanks for the tip on Boulevard beers in CO. Will have to look for them.
I have always enjoyed Boulevard's offerings and am excited to try some of their latest creations. Glad to see that they are now distributing in Colorado.
I'm a big fan of the Tank 7. If you can find it, Boulevard added brett to a special edition of Tank 7. I've seen it as "Saison - Brett," but I don't know if that's the name or how widely available it is. Got a taste at GABF. Deee-licious.
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