Boulevard delivered its first kegs of beer in 1989, and to honor the 21st anniversary of the brewery, the company decided to make a fresh-hopped version of its flagship Pale Ale. This is a limited edition Smokestack series beer, and like all Smokestack beers it comes in a 750mL caged & corked bottle. At 7.4% ABV that’s a lot of beer to drink by oneself, but someone has to do it.

In full disclosure, while Boulevard is the local brewery and is well known for sending lots of samples around to bloggers, I bought this beer for $8 out of my own pocket, so my opinion is not clouded by freebies or schwag.

Boulevard has a nice website with lots of info about their beers. This Fresh Hop Pale Ale comes in at 40 IBU’s and uses a mix of five malts and five varieties of hops.

The beer pours a cloudy orange-amber color with a bubbly head that quickly thins out and disappears. Aroma is lighter than I expected, with a citrusy hop character and some alcohol. Rather than a nose full of grapefruit, the aroma is sort of pithy, which comes through in the flavor, too.

Tasting the beer, the sip starts right in the front of my tongue with a fruity, soft flavor that quickly spreads and becomes a pithy, grassy, citrusy hop flavor. There is a fair amount of malt to back up the hops and while it is certainly hop forward, this is similar in character to the Boulevard Pale Ale we all know so well. There are some other soft fruits in the flavor profile, too, with a little peach and apricot mixed in. The mouthfeel suffers a little from a watery character, and there is a slightly sour, grassy overtone to the hops (probably from the fresh hopping) that is different, but not unpleasant. The bitterness built a little after the first glass, but more than the bitterness, a juicy, fruity character developed that I really enjoyed.

I like this beer. At 7.4% it doesn’t have a lot of complexity I would prefer in a higher alcohol beer, but it is easy to drink and has a nice hop character. I would have liked to see it in a 12oz bottle so I didn’t have quite as much of a buzz from drinking it, but overall I think Boulevard did a great job with this beer. Fresh hopped beers are best drunk fresh, and do not gain anything good from aging, so if you bought any of this beer, drink it sooner than later. This is not one to cellar!