“Belgian-style Quadrupel aged in bourbon barrels with cherries.”
Ryan: The short, sweet and to the point description above from Boulevard for their bourbon barrel quad is spot on — but doesn’t nearly do it the justice it deserves. Not that I could do much better, but still, this is a top-notch offering from a brewery that brought us gems like Rye-On-Rye and a collaborative Imperial Pilsner.
The Bourbon Barrel Quad pours cherry in color with a ton of eggshell colored, fluffy head. The nose is full of, well, fruit. In fact my notes on the initial whiff just say FRUIT. Profound. Further investigation reveals a mix of fruit, vanilla, oak and booze wafting out from the goblet.
Take a sip and you get FRUIT; tangerines, cherries, plums and dates. The front is a mix of complex dark fruits and a bit of tartness. Very tasty. The back-end is loaded up with vanilla and oak. The booze is surprisingly well hidden. You don’t really catch it until after this beer warms up a bit.
This was an absolute grand slam from Boulevard. I have one bottle left and will squirrel it away in the cellar for a while. This, if I remember correctly, is a fall/winter release. If and when you see it grab a couple of bottles. This is a truly fantastic beer.
Andrew: The Bourbon Barrel Quad poured dark brown with light, fluffy foam head. Tons of bourbon, booze, dark fruit and possibly toffee were present in the nose.
A ton going on in the flavor of this beer, too — started off tart and finished warm and boozy. I picked up notes of cherries, vanilla, bourbon and oak. In fact, one of the best things I could come up with to describe this beer was it tasted like a Jack and Coke.
Did I mention it was boozy with lots of bourbon?
Incredibly complex and smooth — if you can find this pick it up. Awesome offering from Boulevard.
Karl: Despite the relative failure of the Imperial Pilsner, every time Ryan pulls something out of the closet with a Boulevard Smokestack Series Label my little beer-lovin’ heart goes all pitter-patter. The awesomeness of that Rye-on-Rye is going to stick with me for a while, and the Quad just doubles down on that excellence.
The Quad pours with a huge, heavy-handed head that slowly dissipates over a few years. Okay, it only seemed like forever since we wanted to taste this brew but the head was so pronounced it actually took three pours into a goblet and it still overflowed occasionally. Call that the angel’s share — or the table’s share. Beyond that it pours a ruby/copper color no doubt affected by the cherries it was barreled with, and the aroma is fruity with no discernible bourbon-ness that I can tell. Just rich, tart, and enticing.
In terms of taste, there’s a nice amount of fruit at the front, as well as the expected oak and vanilla. There’s still a good amount of carbonation to it as well, with a surprising fizz on the back-end. The oak continues to develop as this pour warms up and the vanilla comes out as well. In the wake of the Rye-on-Rye I was seriously hoping for a Dr. Pepper beer to combat the Rum-and-Coke taste sensation but my hopes were a little too elevated. That doesn’t take anything away from this beer, tho – another destination drink from Boulevard’s Smokestacks.
Karl: Sometimes, the cellar matches your expectations. Sometimes the cellar tweaks what you thought you knew. And sometimes the cellar just blows your goddamn mind off its moorings and makes you wonder what the hell kind of miracles of chemistry you have yet to discover. Of those three, the cellaring of the Boulevard Smokestack BBQ is the latter. Because man, did we love this beer when we had it fresh, and Boulevard, I don’t even feel like I know you any more.
This beer is all, all, all cherry after three years of sitting around. Cherries on the nose, sour and tart and blissfully red in flavor, full-bodied with a dusty finish. This is a complete transformation.
If you told me just about anything of what I said about this beer previously, I wouldn’t know what you were talking about. This beer sparkles and shimmers while defying you to find any bourbon left whatsoever. Maybe a hint.
This beer thankfully comes with a drink-by date, which Ryan’s careful planning allowed us to nail right on the nose. Boulevard couldn’t have been more right — drink this now if you still have one around. I fear for what could happen in the future, and I fear that none of it is much good. Because for as much as I like what’s happened to this beer, it is pretty one-note. I do like that one note — it’s like how everyone complains that AC/DC only wrote one song over and over again, but no one would dispute that they came up with a pretty damn good song. This beer is a good tune — but I think it’s over soon.
Ryan: I am going to echo Karl’s sentiment here on the Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad. This beer was in a class by itself fresh, but give it a few years and it ascends to a whole new level of awesomeness.
After three years in the cellar the initial, and robust, dark fruit flavors that were present in a fresh bottle take a back seat to a pleasant, sweet tartness. Actually, it may be more accurate to say the dark fruits wound up in the trunk, but I digress.
The first clue that this beer had jumped a level or two was the nose, which was full of green apples and very little else.
A few sips and the depth of these beer is finally revealed. A sour funk leads the charge followed by a smooth maltiness, sweet cherries, plums, dates and twinge of tart cherries in the finish.
The carbonation was sparkly and, at times, a bit sharp — but never detracted from the beer in any way. The nearly 12% ABV is noticeable but in no way overpowering, possibly the only reminder left that this beer was aged in bourbon barrels.
Normally I scoff at best by dates on beers that aren’t IPA’s. For instance, Great Lakes Blackout Stout comes with one and we’ve found this ages well beyond the best by date. But I think Boulevard nailed this one and I’ll happily take their future best by dates as gospel because it’s hard to argue with results like this.