I'm pretty adventurous when it comes to food and drink, but I also spend a fair amount of time in my comfort zone. When browsing the aisles for beers, it is hard not to be influenced by labels and even more subtle things like location on the shelf. One such underestimation I made was with Boulevard Brewing Company from Kansas City, MO. I simply disliked their logo and labels, so I never gave them a shot.

I'm just saying... the logo looks cheap. Seriously, is it just me?

Several years back Boulevard began producing limited edition beers packaged in 750 mL bottles called the Smokestack Series. The new labels (and logo) were pleasing and classic looking. But was a great label on a beer called "Double Wide" just lipstick on a pig?

A few months ago, one of the beer experts at Spec's Warehouse Store in downtown Houston recommended two Boulevard beers (among several other items I put in the cart... getting out of Spec's with a double digit tab is nearly impossible).

Honoring the spirit of American Craft Beer Week, we opened those two beers tonight.

Day 5
May 21, 2010

Beer #1: Boulevard Saison-Brett
Batch#: 2009-2
Bottle#: 07925 of 13400

Website/Bottle Information:
"Our gold-medal winning Saison (Mondial de la Biere, Montreal, 2008) was the inspiration for this limited edition ale. We brewed a slightly stronger version that was then dry hopped, followed by bottle conditioning with various yeasts, including Brettanomyces, a wild strain that imparts an earthy quality. Though this farmhouse ale is given three months of bottle age prior to release, further cellaring will continue to enhance the "Brett" character if that's what you're after."

Serving: 1 Pint, 9.4 fl.oz. (750 mL) Bottle
Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale
ABV: 8.5%

He Said:
Based on Beer Advocate and Rate Beer reviews, I expect this to be Part 1 of my apology to Boulevard for blowing them off all these years. The beer pours with a ridiculously frothy head. I expected more of a sour nose because of the Bretts, but I don't detect much. It is hard to wait for the head to die down before taking the first sip. My first impressions are that this beer is missing the typical saison funk and does not seem to have strong notes of banana or clover esters. Curious, but not bad. As mentioned on the label, the Brett characteristics could be minimal because I did not age this beer for long. The beer was dry hopped, but the hoppiness is not too assertive. This beer is super-drinkable, almost to the point of not being challenging.

I jotted down the notes above and returned to the beer only to notice I made all those comments when it was obviously way too cold to enjoy. The warmer version is funkier (farmhouse ale sourness), slightly hoppier, and fruitier than it was cold. Boulevard Saison-Brett is a great example of this style.

I suppose this is my second lesson on first impressions realized through Boulevard Brewing Company.

She Said:
This beer smells like either weird old lady soap or vomit, but I'm not sure which way I lean after several sniffs. The beer was served to me with a nice foamy head. This puppy has a lot of carbonation, but that was to be expected with the style. The taste starts out clean and then finishes with that soapy/vomity taste. This beer reminds me of some of those other Missouri brewed beers, if you know what I mean. Overall, I'm not that impressed with the Boulevard Saison-Brett, but I am still looking forward to trying its sister later tonight. 1 hop out of 5.

(Later) I stand corrected. After this beer warmed up there is absolutely no resemblance to its colder self. I guess it goes to show you can't judge this type of beer in the first couple of minutes. This score improves to a 3½ hops out of 5 upon better acquaintance.

Beer #2: Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad
Batch#: 2-2009 (best by 10/2012)
Bottle#: 7285 of 11248

Website/Bottle Information:
"Based loosely on the Smokestack Series Sixth Glass, this abbey-style quadrupel, after fermentation on cherries, was separated into a number of oak bourbon barrels, where is aged for varying lengths of time, in some cases as long as a year. Selected barrels were then blended for optimum flavor. The resulting beer retains only very subtle cherry characteristics, with toffee and vanilla notes coming to the fore."

Serving: 1 Pint, 9.4 fl.oz. (750 mL) Bottle
Style: Quadrupel
ABV: 11.8%

He Said:
Few beer names are more fascinating than "Bourbon Barrel Quad (ale aged in bourbon barrels with cherries)." The beer pours a dark opaque amber color, like it had brought with it a significant amount of oak. The aroma is just as intoxicating as the name. The notes of cherry and oak were as prominent on the nose as they are in the flavor. As it warmed, more bourbon flavors come forward as well as some cola flavors. While the 11.8% ABV is hidden nicely in the complex flavor of the beer, I actually wish I had split this beer four ways instead of two. My palate is a little taxed by the end of my portion.

I hope I can still find another one of these on the shelves. Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad is worthy of a "unique" and an "awesome" tag.

She Said:
Aroma: Cherries and oak dominate the nose, which makes sense because it is was aged with cherries in oak barrels. The beer has a nice foamy head and
is much darker in color than your typical Quad.

Taste: Oh wow, there is a lot happening here. Cherries and oak are definitely there, but added to it is that strong Belgian ale flavor that is delightful. The carbonation is perfect, just enough to tickle the palate but still allow the smoky, cherry, oak flavor to dance on your tongue. Very nice and well balanced. Well done! 4½ hops out of 5.