Saturday rolled around and I had been to both local Beer stores in town that were worth a shit. There was nothing on the shelves that caught my eye or drew me in. I wasn’t in the mood for a strange beer in a style that I knew but from a brewery I didn’t know. Right about lunch time, the idea struck. I’ll take a ride to Binny’s!
For those of you who don’t know about Binny’s, it’s a liquor store franchise offering many selections of wine, spirits and beer from all over the world. The prices are reasonable and their staff is very knowledgeable. There may be a Binny’s within driving distance near you.
For me, the distance measured about 45 minutes one way (in Chicago miles.) It was a beautiful day and the temps were perfect. With a cold can of Pepsi, I hopped into the Mighty Tundra and made my way up to Plainfield and more beer than I could shake
my a stick at.
On the ride up, I still didn’t know what I wanted. I decided to challenge a member of the staff into guiding me to exactly what I needed.
Down the beer aisle I slowly paced, past the German, the French, the Polish, the Czech and the Russian beers. A young guy in a Binny’s polo shirt offered his help. The conversation went like so:
“What do have that’s new and everyone is raving about?”
“Do you like IPAs?”
“Oh, yes I do.”
We walked over to a spot nearby. “This one is brand new from Boulevard and it’s their new session IPA.”
What’s the ABV on that?”
“It’s low because it’s a session beer, about 4.2%.”
“Nah, I’d like something with a little more punch. I am also partial to dubbels and quads.”
“Well we have another new one from Boulevard. This is their limited release Bourbon Barrel Quad.”
He held up a 750 of the beer. I examined the label: 11.8% alcohol. It was a quad. I was sold. I took two 750s for the review. I also bought 2 four-packs of their The Sixth Glass quad for my boys who love the beer.
The trip home seemed a lot shorter because I had to think about: how the beer would taste, who else aged a quad in bourbon barrels, what glass would I use and other mundane beer related minutiae that only I dwell on.
The 750s went 30 minutes in the freezer and about 3 hours in the fridge in preparation for the evening’s indulgences. I was going to go to bed a happy man, I was sure of it.
I made sure my stomach was well prepared by having a great supper. I remembered the feeling of getting dopey and slurring my words across the keyboard only to correct numerous typos the next day on the site.
When the time finally rolled around, I opted for the DFH semi-chalice glass and took up a position behind the Mac keyboard and uncorked the first 750.
The beer poured with a light brown color and the foam roared up in the warm glass.This is one example where the Randy Mosher style of pouring beer should be thrown out the window. The foam was a light tan in color and the liquid was very cloudy. The aroma held some nice malty notes and a slight cherry scent. This is gonna be good.
The first sip had a nice big mouthfeel to it and at this initial swallow, the taste of bourbon came through quite prominently. As the sips went on, the whiskey drew back and the subtle flavor of cherries arose. While typing this sentence I felt a slight heat trace make its way down the pipe into the stomach.
Soon, the whiskey flavor and the cherry flavor melded together into an amazing taste. Even from the first sip, the beer warns to be careful through the taste. This is a very big beer but the taste is almost hypnotizing. Each sip begged for another.
Farther into the session, the bold flavors drew back a bit and the sweetness came out from behind the curtain. The cherry flavor played hide and seek with my palate. Sometimes it peeked out, other times it was missing. But the mouthfeel was still the same. At one point I imagined that this beer would be great over pancakes even though no maple taste was detected.
Each time I raised the glass for a sip, the aroma reminded me of those bourbon and Coke cocktails I used to drink when I was young and stupid. But the swallow brought me right out of those old nightmarish memories and into this world of big, bold, craft beer. I’d be a different person today if the craft beer movement had started about 10 years earlier than it did.
This beer was certainly a unique take on the quadrupel style. Some brainiac at the brewery offered up the idea of barrel aging their Sixth Glass recipe and this is what they came up with. A rich, smooth, sweet, boozy concoction that will have the lovers of the Belgian styles grinning from ear to ear.
While The Sixth Glass weighs in at 10.5% alcohol, this Bourbon Barrel Quad tops the scale at 11.8% and goes beyond the limits of the BJCP style guidelines. The label states that the beer is comprised of 16% ale and 84% ale aged in bourbon barrels with cherries. Now that’s a unique twist to the style. It’s kind of what brewers have been doing to stouts for years.
The Sixth Glass is a world-class beer to begin with and the barrel quad ups the ante through the addition of numerous adjunct sugars. The Boulevard website was kind enough to offer up the ingredients used in their recipe.
I wouldn’t rank this beer up with the legendary Westvletern 12 or St. Bernardus Abt 12 due to the bourbon flavors and the barrel aging. It’d surely be in the quad starting lineup if they were to play quad football or something. (How stupid.) I think Boulevard took a hint from what Dogfish Head and other “rebellious” breweries are doing and that’s to play with the recipe and see what you get and who drinks it.
This Bourbon Barrel Quad is part of Boulevard’s Smokestack Series and is a limited release. It should be on the shelves right now. I don’t know it the beer will go into a yearly or periodic release but I sure hope it does.
I urge you to buy this beer at your LBS and if they don’t have it (but have other Boulevard beers) ask the guy behind the counter to order it. I’m thinking time is of the essence here, being a limited release and all. The price is on the steep side but Boulevard has to justify all of the many ingredients it crafted this beer from.
This is another one of those beers that elicit that feeling that all is well with the world as long as we’re sippin’.
Taste: Malty, sweet and at times a bit boozy, but absolutely delicious.
Smoothness: Easy going after the initial shock wears off.
Drinkability: Small sips make for a happy drinker.
Bang for the buck: Worth it for the uniqueness of taste.
Paid price: $12.99 per 750ml bottle.
Get it again? Absolutely and yeah, buddy!
Brewer’s website – Age verification. Pfft!
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: Orangey, cloudy. Almost looks dirty. (sniff) Woodsy. (sip) I got the bourbon. (sip) Yeah this is too alcohol-y. I don’t know how else to describe it. Alcohol-y. (Come to me my alcohol-y baby.)
Bourbon Barrel Quad [1:21]