Boulevard Brewing Co. began distributing in Massachusetts a couple of months ago, an event that was met with understandable enthusiasm from people who are familiar with the Kansas City brewer's beers.
Boulevard, which has been around since 1989, is the 10th largest craft brewery in the United States, and many of its beers are rated among their best of their styles by the users of sites such as BeerAdvocate.com and RateBeer.com. The company's best-known beers are its pale ale and unfiltered wheat, but it also produces a lineup of seasonal beers and artisinal ales.
Those artisinal ales, known as the Smokestack Series, are the ones to buy. Already they are widely available in Massachusetts, in 750-milliliter bottles and four-packs of 12-ounce bottles. The four-packs, which retail for about $11, are the smarter purchase.
In order to give you an idea of what Boulevard's beers taste like, I picked up a sampling of the Smokestack Series beers. That's right, dear reader: I drank these for you.
Double Wide IPA: Boulevard's imperial IPA pours a hazy orange-amber with a creamy head that won't quit -- indeed, it sticks to the glass until the last drop is gone. The aroma is at once floral, tropical, and grassy, and yet the malt character is substantial. The beer tastes earthy, spicy, almost dirty, almost smoky (or is the "Smokestack" name affecting my judgment?), making Double Wide stand out among the increasingly crowded field of double IPAs. 8.5 percent alcohol by volume.
Tank 7 Saison: Apricot color with a big, plush head, Boulevard's take on the Belgian farmhouse style gives off a powerful spicy aroma with its yeast front and center. This saison carries a lemon-peppery zing and a huge dose of spiciness. This is no traditional saison; if it were, its alcohol content (8 percent ABV) would be half of what it is.
Dark Truth Stout: A Belgian imperial stout with a serious attitude, Dark Truth Stout (9.7 percent ABV) is pitch black with a massive coffee head. This beer is all about the malt. Mildly sweet up front and mildly bitter toward the end, it suggests burnt semisweet chocolate, French roast coffee, and a wisp of grassy hops. Now and then the Belgian yeast manages to peek through, too. A spicy finish (everything Boulevard makes has a certain spiciness to it) zaps the roof of your mouth.
The Sixth Glass: Rarely does a beer poured so slowly create such a massive, foaming head. This Belgian-style quad's head is loud too, making the kind of noises you expect from your bowl of Kellogg's Rice Krispies. Copper-brown with a candied-fruit aroma, The Sixth Glass is indeed sweet and fruity, with a big alcohol bite. Sip this one; it's 10.5 percent ABV.