Ah the Midwest, home of neutral accents and neutral beers. Yes, if the state doesn’t have a coast, a mountain, or a reasonable winter, then it seems to be home to truly bad beer. Anheuser-Busch, Pabst, Hamm’s, Blatz, Schlitz, Miller, Milwaukee’s Best (Milwaukee has certainly had its share of visitors. The French missionaries and explorers began visiting here in the late 16th century), Old Milwaukee (In fact, it’s pronounced “mill-e-wah-que” which is Algonquin for “the good land)… god, even Beer 30.
Boulevard is doing its best to break the stereotype, especially with the Smokestack Series. I was really impressed with the Sixth Glass Quad, but I wanted to wait to write about it until this years Bourbon Barrel version came out to do a comparison tasting. It was worth the wait.
The Sixth Glass, available year round in bottle conditioned 750ml and 4-packs of 12oz bottles, is the base for the Bourbon Barrel Quad (BBQ). Since the brewery is in Kansas City, I wonder if they just wanted to come up with a beer that has “BBQ” as an acronym, even though KC BBQ isn’t that good (too much corn syrup). Regardless of its origins, I’ve been excited to try it as a new American twist on an old European favorite. Several years batches of the Sixth Glass are aged in Bourbon Barrels for up to three years, and then blended together by the brewmasters. This beer has been a little different each year, this 2010 version is the first which is 100% barrel aged. During blending and before bottle conditioning, a few cherries are added for tartness, and to make up for the “Angel’s Share,” the beer that evaporated during aging.
NOTES: 12oz bottle out of a four-pack. Shared with the Miss at the Hordeum Ranch. A 12oz bottle (from a mixed-six) poured into a Snifter.
STYLE: Belgian-style Quadrupel.
APPEARANCE: Pours a beautiful clear dark amber color with an off-white head.
HEAD: A foamy one, erupts right from the beginning of the pour.
LACING: Lots of sticky lacing.
NOSE: Malty, banana, Belgian funky yeast.
TASTE: Pretty complex. Hits hard and fast with malty sweetness, caramel/toffee, dried fruit. Midway through the hops start to balance the malt, and warming alcohol makes its presence known. The finish is clean and dry. Very little hop presence except for a little bittering.
DRINKABILITY: Thick, creamy, and full-bodied, it is a sipper. Well balanced, the alcohol is there in the middle but hey, it’s a 10.5% brew! Fairly drinkable for a huge beer, I could consume more of these than I should.
RATING: This is a really good beer. 3.5 hops.
NOTES: 750ml corked and caged bottle. Shared with the Miss at the Hordeum Ranch. A 12oz bottle (from a mixed-six) poured into a Snifter. Bottle 7309 of 11248 of the 2010 release.
STYLE: Belgian-style Quadrupel (Barrel aged).
APPEARANCE: Pours a beautiful dark amber color, but very cloudy.
HEAD: Same as Sixth Glass.
LACING: Same as Sixth Glass.
NOSE: Here is where the differences really begin. Earthy, oaky, vanilla. The maltiness and the funk are subdued. Just a hint of the bourbon. Miss Hordeum swears she smells dill, but perhaps she is having a small stroke.
TASTE: The flavors of the Sixth Glass are present, but compete with the additional flavors from the cherries and the wood. The tartness of the cherries balances out the initial big malty flavors, and mixes well with the dried fruit flavors. The flavors are also earthier from the barrel aging. It leaves a bit of a bitter aftertaste not present in the Sixth Glass.
DRINKABILITY: Heavier and less drinkable than the Sixth Glass, from the tartness and additional booze. You probably want a few people to finish the huge bottle (although the two of us polished it off without issue). You could age this beer quite some time, if you had the willpower.
RATING: Different, but equally good. 3.5 hops.