July 21, 2015

Touring Boulevard Brewing

Boulevard's top selling beer is still its flagship Unfiltered Wheat but someday that position may get squeezed out by its popular Tank 7 saison (and its funked up Saison Brett cousin). Boulevard built itself into one of the largest craft breweries in the country on the back of its classic craft line up but its largely Belgian-influenced Smokestack Series is what is keeping Boulevard competitive in a craft industry always reaching for something new and interesting. Boulevard might not throw down the most exotic beers, even in the Smokestack Series, but each beer in the series is interesting and extremely well designed. From looking at the core lineup of beers, one would never guess that it was Belgian beer that inspired founder John McDonald to open a brewery. The core beers are primarily inspired by styles from the United Kingdom but in the nineties when Boulevard was getting up and running these were the styles that a craft brewery could sell. It was no surprise then that when Boulevard looked at expanding its selection through the Smokestack Series that it started with several Belgian-influenced beers.

I like Boulevard's beers, even the non-Smokestack beers, so if the opportunity presented itself to visit I wanted to take it. I visit western Missouri from time to time and I've been lobbying to open that opportunity and finally got the chance this year. Boulevard sets out three tour options. Based upon our schedule we were not able to book the most elusive tour and happily settled in the Smokestack tour. The Smokestack tour is a $20 tour through the brewery with some areas they don't show on the normal tour followed by a paired tasting with Smokestack beers. They then opened up the taps in the taproom and gave us a discount on merchandise, which includes beer. (I picked up a couple Love Child #5 and a Saison Brett at a very reasonable price.)


Photo courtesy of Jared at Tiny Ass Brewery


The tour was pretty much what one expects and really we didn't see too much that was different from other tours. We were taken into the room with the centrifuge and filtration system, which is not usually a stop on many brewery tours. I didn't get pictures like I should have but it's a nice brewery. There are several meeting spaces (available for rent) in the brewery that were really nice. From the picture above you can see the brewery from the parking lot. There are actually two buildings here. On the right with the smokestack is the original building--a former railroad building--which includes the original brewhouse that is now used for experimentation. On the left is a much larger and newer building with the new brewhouse and packaging lines. They are connected by a walkway on the second floor with yellow glass. You can kind of see it above the black delivery truck and to the right of the tree. The building on the left is long and you don't see much of it in this picture. A third building is in the works behind the original building that will further expand production. It's financed by Duvel Mortgaat through their partnership. Duvel Mortgaat apparently really enjoys Kansas City and their relationship with Boulevard. They are moving their stateside offices into KC.

I had hoped to corner a brewer and capture some brewing information about some of the Smokestack beers but I wasn't sure if there were any brewers around. Boulevard takes safety very seriously with the tours and I suspect brewing is scheduled around the tours to minimize risk for guests and employees. When we went into the hop freezer I struck gold with brewing data. Right in front of me was a one page breakdown of the recipe for Tank 7. It had everything. Even the water profile. So I snapped a picture. Unfortunately the picture is unreadibly blurry. I tried to fix it in photoshop but I just can't get it to a readable place. If you have some ideas please post in the comments. I'd love to be able to fix the photo and post it here. Since I don't have that available, I'll just add a recipe I located online that claims to be straight from the brewery. It's missing grain and hop numbers but if you know your system's efficiency then you can calculate the appropriate volumes for your brewhouse.



Malts
Pale Malt - 77.5%
Flaked Maize - 20%
Malted Wheat - 2.5%

Mash in:
145 and rest for 50 minutes.
154 - 25 min
163 - 15 min
Mash off at 172

We look for a beginning of boil gravity of 1063 and boil for 70 minutes to look for in 1067 at the end of the boil.

Hops
Magnum - 6 IBU at 208F
Simcoe - 5 IBU that 15 After beginning of boil
Amarillo - 15.7 IBU that 5 before end of boil
Amarillo - 10.7 IBU in the whirlpool

We cool the wort  to 66F, pitch with a high gravity Trappist strain (I suggest Wyeast 3787) and let it rise  to 70F. We ferment at 70F until we reach 1028, then we ramp the temperature to 73F for the remainder of fermentation. FG at 1009.

Dry Hopping
Amarillo .089 kg / bbl (7.6 grams per. Liter)
The two things that probably jump out as unusual about the recipe is the yeast strain and the base malt. I believe the same Belgian strain is used across all of Boulevard's Belgian-inspired beers and in combination with Amarillo there is a citrusy character that isn't too far off from what one gets from many saison strains. It's short on the phenolics typically more assertive in a saison but it undoubtedly works. Boulevard also seems content using pale malt as a base in Belgian beers that normally employ pilsner malt. I think this is obvious in both Tank 7 and Long Strange Tripel which are slightly sweeter, heavier and less grainy than pilsner-based versions of farmhouse ales and tripels. It works for both beers even if they are not stereotypical examples of either style. Certainly the folks at Duvel Mortgaat know something about Belgian beer and don't seem to mind.


1 comment:

  1. Boulevard is the best craft brewery in America in my not so humbe opinion. They make accessible, yet still interesting, beers. And they have some wild stuff for the hard core beer geeks. The funny thing about the recipe is if you just contact them, they'll help you perfect your recipe, as long as you are respectful and not a commercial brewery. Talk about confidence. Jeremy Danner is extremely helpful and knowledgeable and his sole job is to be an ambassador for beer and brewing. Awesome.

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