Two of my favorite American breweries had a sort of merger last year when Duvel-Mortgaat bought Boulevard Brewery. A few worried Kansas Citians fretted over whether Boulevard’s new owners would change the brewery that this city has taken such pride in for a quarter century.
Time has thus far shown that their fears were unfounded, but those of us who watched Duvel take over another cherished brewery, Ommegang of Cooperstown, New York, in 2003, were never particularly worried. Ommegang has become stronger since that time; I think Boulevard will too.
So it might come as no surprise to find that Boulevard Brewery’s newest collaboration is with fellow Duvel Mortgaat owned brewery, Ommegang, and its talented head brewer, Phil Leinhart. The previous three have produced fascinating beers and Collaboration No. 4, a spiced saison released today, is no less delicious than those. It’s spiced, but in the manner of Ommegang, it’s not showy or edgy, rather, it shows that most elusive of American beer characteristics: balance.
Boulevard Head Brewer Steven Pauwels explained in an email: “We wanted to showcase each brewery and our link to Belgium. That's why we came up with brewing one wort [with the same mix of grains] and have it fermented with the yeast strain from each brewery. The spices came in when we sat down with our brewers.
“Ommegang uses spices a lot more than we do and it is part of their beer characteristics. Our yeast, fermentation and hop blend gives a spiciness to Tank 7 but we wanted to experiment more with spices, so this worked out great.”
Ommegang has always eschewed intensely hoppy aromas, and the saison style, aka farmhouse ale, shouldn’t be overtly hoppy either, despite the habits of so many American brewers. So it is with Collaboration No. 4: a bit of citrus, a hint of tropical fruit, rich and layered textures, a little finish of banana.
It’s not at all spiced like a holiday beer; don’t be misled. This is a tasty little beer to transition us from warm weather to cool.