With beer pairings and chefs taking beer lists as seriously as the wine they serve, it makes sense that I'm learning about the future of Boulevard Brewery from a former chef. Cellarman Alex Rodriguez has been with the brewery for a decade, a career that began with him hand closing six-packs.
On Friday, he walked me down the automated line that was busy filling, capping and packing 12 oz. bottles of Dark Truth Stout.
"I was a chef that wanted to get out of the kitchen," says Rodriguez. "The brew house is just as hot, but it's a lot more forgiving than a saute pan."
He was a chef at the now-closed The Tribal Grill, among other places, a family restaurant with locations in Chicago and Kansas City (3516 Charlotte). An interest in beer and a desire for a change of scenery led him to Boulevard in 2000.
The brewery has plans for a busy fall with a slate of releases, including a 21st anniversary Pale Ale, Nutcracker Ale, and four-packs of 12 oz. smokestacks.
This year's batch of Nutcracker Ale was brewed with fresh Chinook hops, while the 21st anniversary ale features fresh Cascade hops. Rodriguez said this round of Nutrcracker will be subtle and even a little minty.
Boulevard will be rolling out its four-pack, 12 oz. bottles from the Smokestack Series next month. That's when Tank 7, Doublewide IPA, Sixth Glass, and Dark Truth Stout (which was being bottled on Friday) will hit store shelves on November 2.
"The big bottle can be a bit intimidating. These can be an icebreaker," says Rodriguez.
The bottles are a proprietary design, mimicking the shape of the 750ml bottles. The glass is thicker than a standard bottle because of the pressure exerted on the glass from a higher concentration of carbon dioxide produced by a longer secondary fermentation stage. For those who age the Smokestack series, there should be no difference in how the beers age because the ingredients have stayed the same.
While the fall releases promise to be interesting, it was a new collaboration in the works that is most exciting. Boulevard will apparently be teaming with Christopher Elbow on a chocolate beer and here's the surprise...
"It's going to be light," says Rodgriguez.
Elbow has been playing around with Boulevard-inspired ice cream flavors since August and uncorked a few beer floats at the brewery this summer. The first test batch for the potential collaboration will be ready this week and bottles are expected to be on store shelves in times for Valentine's Day next year.