Boulevard Brewing Company recently released a new beer that has become part of the regular lineup of beers, Single-Wide IPA. It is based on their Smokestack Series beer, Double-Wide IPA, which is, as it sounds, a “double” or imperial IPA. I read about Single-Wide recently on the KC Beer Blog, and the author of that blog, Bull E. Vard, made it sound like the Single-Wide was like sucking on a hopsicle, so I was prepared for a very bitter experience.
For those who don’t know me, I am a fan of bitter flavors, when done intentionally and properly. I like IPA’s, I love the bitter Campari drink, I love bitter greens like arugula, etc. My time living in Italy gave me a palate for such things. So, I was looking forward to what I thought was going to be an aggressively hopped IPA from Boulevard. I think the guys at KC Beer Blog must have been smoking something green before they tasted the Single-Wide because it just isn’t that hoppy.
Boulevard lists Single-Wide as having 5.6% ABV and 59 IBU’s, which is a respectable bitterness on the International Bittering Units scale. Single-Wide’s hop flavor comes from Magnum, Columbus, Summit, Cascade, Centennial and Pallisade hops. I wonder if this year’s hop shortage is driving breweries to use more varieties, or if this is more unique to Boulevard’s style of making beer. I have a special bottle of imperial stout in my bottle from Boulevard that is not on the market yet and it is made from something like 6-8 different grains!
Anyway, getting back to Single-Wide… I found it on tap at O’Dowd’s on the Plaza on Christmas night. There was a nice crowd of laid-back people there… definitely not the usual crowd. We were driving through the Plaza enjoying the lights and on our way to dinner at Po’s when we noticed O’Dowd’s was open. What was even better was that we got there about 10 minutes before happy hour ended, so her black & tan and my Single-Wide only ran me $5 not including the tip. What’s not to like?
In any case, the Single-Wide has a nice hoppy aroma and definitely has up front bitterness. Unlike a lot of IPA’s, the bitterness didn’t cling to my tongue for long, and the aftertaste was quit short, which surprised me. Also, unlike a lot of bitter beers, the bitterness didn’t seem to build with each sip, making this somewhat unique among the IPA’s I generally drink. I couldn’t detect much citrus in the hops. In this case the six different varieties masks some of the character you get from single varieties. While this wasn’t unpleasant, it didn’t blow me away, either. I like the grapefruit-y aromas and flavors that come off many West Coast style IPA’s, so I was hoping for the same with the Single-Wide, but it didn’t happen.
Single-Wide has a slightly aqueous mouthfeel and I think I detected some hot (fusyl) alcohol notes very early in the flavor. Like I already mentioned, it came off pretty “thin” to me and I didn’t notice the bitterness sticking around, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I feel like Boulevard’s winter seasonal, Nutcracker Ale, is a LOT more bitter, but it comes in at twenty IBU’s less, so clearly there is more to the perception of bitter flavor than simply hop content and the IBU scale. The bitterness of Nutcracker definitely sticks around on the tongue more than Single-Wide.
Overall I enjoyed the Single-Wide. Being wintertime I haven’t been drinking very hoppy beers, so I am looking forward to trying it when I re-calibrate my palate for IPA’s and other hoppier, more summery beers! I think it’s a solid IPA and I think the fact that it is not cloying and seems well-balanced between malt and hops will make it a popular offering here in the Midwest. Another great offering from the brewers at Boulevard is not a big surprise!
Single-Wide is available on taps in select markets until March.