When a brewery enters a new market, it often rolls out its most approachable flagships first — pale ales, wheat beers, blonde ales, etc. But when Boulevard Brewing Co. recently debuted in Lower Alabama with a double IPA, a saison and a radler, it was obvious the Kansas City-based brewery was looking to stand out in a growing crowd.
Founded in 1988, Boulevard beers have been available in North Alabama for a few years, but distribution didn’t make it to Lower Alabama until last month, when The Calling IPA, Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale and Ginger Lemon Radler started popping up on store shelves.
More offerings are sure to follow, including the popular Unfiltered Wheat and Pale Ale, but these three beers have made quite an impression in a short time.
Style: Saison; ABV: 8.5 percent; Availability: year-round
The folks at Boulevard named this beer after (surprise, surprise) Tank No. 7, a persnickety fermenter they refer to as “the black sheep of our cellar family.” According to either legend or good marketing, it was in this fermenter that the perfect combination of ingredients and methods came together to create what would become Tank 7.
Tall tale or not, this beer is worthy of the legend.
Yeast-derived aromas burst out of the glass and perfectly complement the distinctly American hop profile provided by Citra and Amarillo hops. A light malt bill holds everything together, but it is the delicate balance of yeast esters and hop aromatics that make this very drinkable 8.5 percent offering so special.
A traditional saison is nice and dry with a distinct pepper note in the finish, and Tank 7 is no exception, resulting in a truly world-class example of the style.
Style: Double India Pale Ale; ABV: 8.5 percent; Availability: year-round
Boulevard says its most heavily hopped beer is the IPA they were called to make, a “tribute to like-minded dreamers, adventurous spirits and glass half-full optimists.”
No doubt about it, The Calling is certainly a hop bomb.
Served cold in my favorite IPA glass, I initially found the bitterness level in The Calling to be overwhelming, while any nuance that the hops might provide was lost in a muddled, generic “hoppiness.” As it warmed, however, notes of citrus and tropical fruit emerged, providing a sense of balance to this bitter offering that employs a blend of eight different hops.
Unlike the deceivingly drinkable Tank 7, The Calling is a sipper that shows off all 8.5 percent of its alcohol by volume.
Ginger Lemon Radler
Style: Radler; ABV: 4.2 percent; Availability: March through September
Of Boulevard’s first three offerings, I was most skeptical of the Ginger Lemon Radler. Maybe it’s the purist in me, but I couldn’t quite get on board with the concept of a beer mixed with lemonade and ginger … until the first sip.
Unlike the trendy “hard” ginger ales that have popped up recently, which favor the spicy bite of ginger above all else, Ginger Lemon Radler took me straight back to childhood memories of sipping Schweppes Ginger Ale alongside my Grandpa Newbury.
This traditional German style, a blend of beer and lemon juice that translates literally to “cyclist,” is a thirst-quenching complement to the long, hot days that await us this summer. It’s all ginger ale with a lemonade balance that takes out the hard bite of the ginger.
Whether you’re cycling your way through downtown or just enjoying some good, old-fashioned porch drinkin’, try cooling off with this unique option.
Dan Murphy is a Certified Cicerone® and the founding brewer at Fairhope Brewing Co. Follow him on Instagram @Grand_Krewe and on Twitter @Beer_Man_Dan.