25 Beers of Christmas: #23

#23A – Boulevard The Sixth Glass

Quad / Belgian Dark Strong Ale

10.5% ABV

Boulevard Brewing Co. – Kansas City, MO

AND!

#23B – Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad

Quad / Belgian Dark Strong Ale

11.8% ABV

Boulevard Brewing Co. – Kansas City, MO

 

Funny that I mentioned Boulevard Brewing in my post for #24 yesterday, as today we’ll be celebrating two of their brews.  That’s right: it’s a double feature, three days into the countdown!  I almost had to make this a two-fer today, though, because it’s impossible for me to choose between them.  The Sixth Glass  and Bourbon Barrel Quad (BBQ) are extremely similar, both very delicious, with just a few major points of differentiation, discussed below.  The Sixth Glass is actually the base beer for Bourbon Barrel Quad, which ages in bourbon and whiskey barrels with cherries added for fermentation.  Remarkably, this adds only a small amount of cherry aroma or flavor, mostly adding additional sugars to reach the higher alcohol level.

These beers pour medium to dark amber, with the BBQ having a darker profile, and both feature huge creamy/frothy foam stands on top.  Pour slowly and down the side!  The nose is fruity, pears and cherries, with golden raisins and spicy clove-like notes.  The BBQ also features a strong vanilla/oak quality.  The flavor profile reflects the aroma, and both beers have a quite-notable amount of warmth from the alcohol, always pleasant, never overwhelming.  Both are highly, highly carbonated and sweet, actually balancing quite well.  They are sippers all the way, and the aromas and flavors evolve as the beer warms in temperature.

Honestly, I love both of these most on their own, with no food accompaniment; just me, my glass, and a warm fire.  However, that doesn’t mean they won’t match up well with a lot of your favorite foods.  Since both feature an intense, sweet, dark fruit profile, the food will need to match up.  Rich meat dishes, like braised short ribs, smoked brisket, or duck in a fruit reduction sauce will go great, and just might be the type of thing you’ll have for a special/holiday meal.  Beef stew, any type of savory mushroom dish, or Mexican food featuring mole sauces will also form a great duo.

As with many Belgian styles, this beer will pour best into a tulip glass or a snifter, something that features varying levels of depth to see the changes in color, and has the ability to present all the beautiful aromas that are here.  I prefer the tulip as it helps retain that massive foam from the pour, and allows the light through at the narrowest part of the neck.  Again, pour slowly, down the side, and be patient!  You’ll definitely want to let both of these beers warm a bit; drinking them too cold, you’ll miss a lot of the intricate layers presented.

The Sixth Glass is a year-round beer in the Smokestack Series, and should be found anywhere that carries a variety of Boulevard products.  Boulevard is not completely national yet, but is slowly getting there.  In fact, when I moved to Chicago in 2005, I could not even get Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat, and had to schlep it back from Arkansas when I drove down and up.  Things have changed a lot in ten years…  It is available in 12 oz. and 750 ml bottles, and I have to recommend the smaller bottle if you aren’t sharing with a friend.  This beer will knock you on your tail.

Bourbon Barrel Quad started out as an extremely limited entry in the Smokestack Series, and could be very difficult to find the first few years it was produced. Luckily, Boulevard’s ability to produce this beer, and more importantly store the barrels used for aging it, has grown greatly, and after its release in the late fall each year, this tends to stick around on the shelves for a while.  One of my local stores still had bottles from the 2014 release up until very recently.  It is only available in the 750 ml, corked and caged bottle.

Although both are high gravity and low-hop, and therefore obvious candidates for aging, I definitely recommend drinking them fresh, especially The Sixth Glass.  The Bourbon Barrel Quad can sit for a while however, as the character of the barrel is quite prominent and evolves over time, and the alcohol may come across as a bit hot, mellowing out after a few months in storage.

Boulevard was probably the first brewery that interested me in anything other than mass-produced American lagers, way back in the day, unless you count Spoetzl/Shiner (I did then, I don’t now.)  The variety pack of Unfiltered Wheat, Bully Porter, Pale Ale, and I believe Zon was a frequent go-to for me in the early ‘00s.  The Smokestack Series primary beers, including Dark Truth Stout and Tank 7 (which we’ll discuss later this month) are all excellent, and when they got into the one-off and seasonal releases such as the Imperial Stout, Saison Brett, Rye on Rye, etc., Boulevard really hit their stride.  They continue to be one of the best interpreters of Belgian styles, not only in the U.S., but in the entire world including Belgium!  I have never had a bad beer from this brewery, and they tend to lean towards excellent most of the time.  Their partnership with Duvel Moortgat, discussed yesterday, has really enabled them to focus and expand on efforts such as these, to the benefit of us all.

This is the first entry of the countdown featuring beers that I truly consider to be heavy hitters, so enjoy responsibly. 

JAB – 12/3/15