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Boulevard Double-wide IPA

by Matt O'Connor

“…he wondered if all beer were bitter, if there were not a period of initiation into the pleasures of this great beverage.” – Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward Angel

If that quote looks familiar, great, you actually read my column! I’m leaving it for another week because I really like the quote and because I’m still reading the book. In fact, Wolfe’s book is so long that with all my law school reading, I’ll probably be 40 by the time I have enough free time to finish, but I digress.

Writing this column has been an interesting experience for me because it’s caused me to think a bit about what my taste is when it comes to beer. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always had my favorites, but now I have to justify them in 800-1,000 words for an audience of tens of my peers and other people who stumble onto this website through the strangest of Google searches.

In sum, my favorites are: Belgian tripels, German hefeweizens, and any quality pilsner. I’ve tended to stay away from the beers whose taste can be obliterated by heavy doses of hops from overzealous brewers: the American India Pale Ales. Unfortunately, this happens to be the most popular style in American craft beer, so I’m going to have to learn to like some of them. In that search, I think I’ve found my perfect match, an IPA with balance: Boulevard Brewing Company’s Double-Wide IPA.

Boulevard Brewing Company is based in Kansas City and is the second biggest brewer in Missouri; second by a mile. The leader? Oh, just Anheuser-Busch, of Budweiser fame. Cutting out the big guy, Boulevard is the biggest craft brewer in the Midwest and definitely worth checking out if you can get a hold of their beers. They just recently became available in Massachusetts and I have been able to find them both in stores and on tap. I’ve enjoyed each one I’ve tried, but today’s beer might be my favorite.

In 1989, John McDonald founded Boulevard with the small, regional breweries of a past America in mind. In 1880, there were 4,000 breweries in America, but by the time Boulevard started, that number was down to 100. Boulevard was among the first wave of brewers in the craft beer renaissance of the last twenty years, one of some 1,500 breweries currently up and running. 

In keeping with their image of a regional brewery, Boulevard’s distribution is rather limited with the exception of a special line of beers of stronger alcohol contents that help the beers stand up for travel to far-flung places. This collection is called the Smokestack Series, named after the large chimney adorning Boulevard’s brewery. The beers come in 750mL corked bottles or 4-packs of 12-ounce bottles. Today’s beer -- along with the Sixth Glass quad, Dark Truth stout, and Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale -- are members of this select series.

The Double-Wide IPA is an Imperial IPA characterized by a hefty addition of hops, brewing malts, and sugar to bump the alcohol and bitterness up from their appropriately named Single-wide IPA. The Double-Wide is in the same category as Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, Bear Republic Racer X, and Stone Ruination IPA, but is a bit more balanced than its brethren.

My first thought on cracking the bottle and giving it a pour into my glass was that I’d died and gone to hop heaven. As I’ve said, this column has helped me appreciate beer styles that I had seldom enjoyed before. I have reviewed IPAs and hop-heavy beers, but this is by far my favorite. The beer is a rich reddish-brown color with a two-finger head of rich white foam. The smell is enticing with traditional piney hops, but also a sweet brown sugar smell with a hint of tropical fruit. It’s clear that this is an IPA but its color and smell hint at something more.

Upon tasting, the alcohol is present at 8.5% ABV, but not in a hot burning way that some less refined beers can give off. You get a nice caramel flavor with a creamy mouth feel and just the right amount of carbonation. Best of all, the beer’s bitterness doesn’t overpower and the hop oils don’t leave a thick coating over every surface of your mouth. Instead, the bitterness washes over first and is tempered by the richness of the beer. There’s a long finish, but it’s a clean bitterness. This stuff is really good; I’ll be picking this up again soon. Grade: A

 

Facts:

Boulevard Brewing Company Double-Wide IPA

ABV: 8.5%

Style: American Imperial India Pale Ale

 

Also Try:

Moinette Blond, Brasserie Dupont (Belgium). Had this for the first time this weekend at The Publick House here in Boston, a great bar for beers from Belgium and beyond. [ed. note - 3000x, yes] The Moinette Blond is a strong pale ale type, akin to the Brooklyn Local 1, which I have reviewed here before. This beer has a spicy hop aroma and an amazing crispness that makes it so refreshing to drink. Try it if you see it. Grade: A

 

St. Bernardus Tripel, Brouwerij St. Bernardus (Belgium). St. Bernardus makes some world-class beer, including the line-leading Abt 12 Belgian Quadrupel Ale. This tripel isn’t quite up there in my opinion. I love the tripel style for its dry fruit flavors and crisp effervescence and this one just didn’t jump out at me. It was definitely a good beer, but reach for a tripel ale by brewers Karmeliet or Allagash instead. Grade: B+

Matt O’Connor lives in Boston and is a proud graduate of Boston University. Explore beer with him as he quits his job in the sciences and starts law school. Send any requests, beer, or job offers to him at: matt.oconnor[at]theinclusive.net