In case you missed it, Boulevard Brewing has announced their release schedule for 2017. And, boy, there’s a lot to process. Let’s compare 2016 to 2017 (both August and December versions).
That’s a lot of red NEWs across 2017. Then again, there were a lot of red NEWs across 2016 also. So what are we dealing with here?
Same As It Ever Was
The standards are there unchanging. Unfiltered Wheat, Pale Ale, KC Pils, Bully! Porter, Pop Up / Frequent Flyer IPA, Single Wide IPA, Tropical Pale, and 80 Acre are all available year round. The canned radlers announced last year, Ginger Lemon in the spring/summer and Cranberry Orange in the fall/winter continue. Sixth Glass, Tank 7, The Calling (D)IPA continue the Smokestack Series.
The seasonals are all back, though it seems they are reserving the traditional four for the Midwest now: Irish Ale is out now, Zōn in the summer, Bob’s ’47 in the fall and Nutcracker in the winter. We’ve seen three of the other, let’s call them National Seasonals, already. Early Riser coffee porter is available currently. Milk Stout currently in the 12-pack sampler and on tap in the Beer Hall, will get its own release in the fall. Snow & Tell, a Scottish-style ale, will be back again next winter. A new TDB summer seasonal remains mysterious.
All good there.
A few beers that were limited releases are – or soon will be – available year round. Bourbon Barrel Quad is now on shelves. Imperial Stout will be on shelves for good sometime around August 2017. An imperial pilsner, Noble Prize, is also due out in March as a year-long release. All three of these will be available exclusively as 4-packs of 12-oz. bottles.
That imperial pilsner is the same beer as Collaboration #1 from 2010. Ambassador Brewer Jeremy Danner tells us that Boulevard founder John McDonald was a big fan of that initial collaboration with Orval brewmaster Jean-Marie Rock and wanted to brew it again. They are so excited about this one, Boulevard will release it in kegs once starting sometime in March.
Absolutely no complains.
The American Kölsch now in sample 12-packs and the Beer Hall will be added to the year round lineup. More on this later.
Backroads Lead to Bacteria?
Boulevard released three beers under the Backroads Series. The divisive Entwined Ale made with muscat grape juice was the first diversion in 2014. Then Hibiscus Gose came down the road. Finally, Last Splash, a wet-hopped pale ale, landed later that same year.
The tart Hibiscus Gose has returned as a seasonal the past couple of years. Now it sits between two releases in a new seasonal Sour Series that includes Show-Me Sour and a Berliner Weisse. Show-Me, a dark sour beer, was supposed to debut at Boulevardia 2015 as a collaboration with Side Project Brewing in St Louis. Government label approval delayed its release until September of that year. Now it’ll return this February on draft and in six-packs. We tasted the Berliner Weisse at the Boulevard Beer Hall and enjoyed it.
All Shook Up
The limited release Smokestack Series is brand new, save for four. Saison-Brett and Rye-on-Rye-on-Rye continue, and seeing as those might be the best beers Boulevard produces, I will not storm over to their offices and make a scene. Love Child #8 is due in June.
The additions to the limited release Smokestack lineup looks very promising. Scotch-on-Scotch sound killer. A dark sour named Changling sounds intriguing, especially when another dark sour ale, Show-Me Sour, will be released a few months before. We got an idea of the new Cider and Barleywine in the tasting room. The barleywine was a nice malty example, much more in the malty, British-style than say, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot. The cider tasted like a cider. I am no cider judge. Upper Crust Fruit Tart sounds delicious, at least in solid form. As a beer … we’ll have to see.
To the Boneyard
So, what is left off? Long Strange Tripel, an original Smokestack, is no where to be seen. That’s a shame. It is a delicious example of a big, blonde, abbey-style beer. Stock up if you find it. (It is still on tap at the Boulevard Beer Hall.) Chocolate Ale, raspberries or not, is also absent. That’s not to say they won’t return. Chocolate Ale wasn’t produced in 2013, but came back in 2014. So never say never. Tripel Julep, which I thought was a mouthwashy mess, is not on this year’s schedule. And gone are the two pumpkins, Funky and Funkier; where were not my bag. I will miss Tell Tale Tart much, much more.
Some may take the yearly turnover of releases from our city’s craft beer goliath as frustrating at worst or exciting at best. I certainly understand both of those sentiments. On one hand, I hate seeing beer that I love – Long Strange Tripel and Tell Tale Tart more recently, Two Jokers more historically – shipped off. However, I welcome creativity and change. Boulevard has quality down. It’s best for all of us if their products keep changing.
Taking a wider look at the complete year-round Boulevard offering, we can see some stylistic overlap of several of their beers.
- There’s the KC Pils and the new American Kolsch. Both are golden, not very bitter, and very drinkable.
- Three IPAs (not counting the Calling, which is really a double IPA despite its labelling) return from last year, Frequent Flyer, Single Wide, and Heavy Lifting.
- The two pale ales are back, Pale Ale and Tropical Pale.
- And two sister Belgian-style quads, Bourbon Barrel Quad and Sixth Glass are both year round now.
That’s nine year-round Boulevard beers with at least one other Boulevard beer in its ballpark. (We can throw in Show-Me Sour and Changling as two kindred seasonal dark sour beers, taking the total overlaps up to 11.) This isn’t unheard of. Firestone Walker and Stone, among others, produce multiple IPAs. Bell’s produces six different stouts.
But what does it mean? It might be read as a lack of local competition. Boulevard has been the production brewery in Kansas City for a long time. No one else has been distributing cans or bottles of beer at the quality of Boulevard until Free State opened their original bottling line in 2013. That’s a 24 year head start on everyone else. Without any viable local options, Boulevard can fill a lot of gaps that are points of competition in other markets.
The venn diagram of craft beer drinkers and localvores overlap. We are intelligent consumers that know locally-produced usually means fresher. And we like to support those in our own backyard. If there’s only one locally-made IPA (and we like it), one might pick it up more often than another from Colorado. If there’s three locally-made IPAs, that’s more competition. Unless all three are made by the same brewery.
While I’ve just spent 1,100 words examining Boulevard’s release schedule, let’s not lose focus. We’ve done our best to compile as many release schedules for 2017 as we can. I suspect more will trickle in over the next several weeks. Check back often.