Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Collaboration #1, The Unauthorized Biography

The time was 1980, the United States was about to shock the world in Lake Placid, George Brett was smoking heaters and buying beer for underage girls in preparation for a wonderful season of baseball and Jean-Marie Rock was perfecting an imperial pilsner recipe in the Orval abbey. Little did he know that he was caught, the monks found the Saaz hops he had hidden in the warehouse for the pilsner side project.

"We don't use Saaz hops in Orval" the head monk told Rock.

"I was just trying something different" Rock said defending himself.

"We're Belgian monks, we do things one way and one way only, we brew the finest beers in the world, Belgian ales, we don't have to brew inferior pilsners" the head monk explained as he slapped Rock in the face and rapped his knuckles with a ruler.

"It's not inferior, it's just different. If it's done right an imperial pilsner can be just as satisfying as a Belgian ale. This brew is done right, it's a great imperial pilsner. If only everyone could drink it, they would find out how great a pilsner could be" Rock said defiantly.

"If you feel so strongly about it, maybe you should go somewhere else to brew. At Orval we only brew Orval belgian pale ale. You will not brew this pilsner here" with that the head monk walked off.

Rock thought about his options and decided to stay with Orval brewing one of the best beers in the world and he shelved his imperial pilsner recipe.

He spent the next 29 years happy with his decision, but had an inner yearning to share his imperial pilsner with the world. Then last summer his old friend, Steven Pauwels came to Orval abbey to see Rock. They had quite a lot to talk about. Pauwels had brought the American Boulevard Brewery to a respected place amongst American brewers with the Smokestack series and their quality session beer lineup. Pauwels was looking for ideas and Rock had just what he was looking for, the old imperial pilsner. Rock decided to come to the US to work with Pauwels at the Boulevard Brewery rather than risk the wrath of the new head monk (the old monk went Hollywood as a technical advisor on the movies "The Name of the Rose" and "Heaven Help Us").

Pauwels helped making the recipe work for the complex Boulevard brewing equipment and Rock helped Pauwels realize the beauty in simplicity. They decided to call the brew Collaboration #1 under the Boulevard Smokestack label.
As for me, Rock was right 30 years ago. This is a great beer, not great for a pilsner, great for a beer. It has a wonderful malty taste with a crisp hop bite and finishes with a clean pilsner like finish. At 8% ABV, it's a bit dangerous. The alcohol is hidden quite nicely and it would be very easy to pop open a second bottle. This would probably be a mistake if, like me, you were drinking this on a school night. The 3/4 of a bottle I drank made me think the first part of this review was a good idea. $12 a bottle might seem a little steep to pay for this beer but you won't be disappointed by it. It certainly opens my mind to how good a pilsner can be.
It should be noted that Boulevard did give me this bottle of Collaboration #1. I can tell you that that had no influence on my thoughts on the beer, but you can judge for yourself if you decide to give it a try. I did have this with a Gorgonzola walnut pasta that you can see in the picture at the top of this post. I didn't think much of the beer while I was eating the very powerful Gorgonzola cheese. The pilsner didn't quite stand up to the flavor, but once I got away from the pasta, Collaboration really started tasting great.

Collaboration #1 should hit store shelves early next week. If you wish to try to talk to Steven Pauwels or Jean-Marie Rock about the collaboration you should make the trek out to Lawrence Monday night for the kickoff party. It will be the perfect opportunity to give the beer a shot without having to pay for it, just make sure you have a driver to get you back to KC.


  1. There's a surprise...another boulevard post. I've said it before and I'll say it again. You are the bitch of an average class brewery. Do you have any other function than to hang on every word of the Boulevard PR department? Is kansas city truly that shitty of a beer town that you have NOTHING else to write about?

  2. Thanks Andy. Again, this post seemed a bit noteworthy. This is the KC Beer Blog and Boulevard is the biggest and best KC brewery. It seems that we should be reviewing Boulevard's beers and to a certain extent their events.

    If you're unsatisfied with what we cover, start your own blog. I'll link to it, I really will. It seems like you have something to share with KC. I'm sure KC would love to hear it.

  3. Hey, Andy -- shut up.

  4. I guess my question is, is this blog primarily to comment on beer brewed here, or available here? Repeated trips to the Saucer, or a Lukas Liquor superstore will show you just how often new, outstanding beers from elsewhere become available to beer drinkers in this fair city. Evidentally, either the writers for this blog don't drink anything but boulevard, or they want so desperately for something "KC" besides bbq to get noticed. Eitherway, Boulevard will be just fine without your readers a favor and branch out a bit. Sheesh.

  5. Bull - good post on a beer I'm excited to try (but not excited enough to go to Lawrence for). I tasted the amber and dubbel yesterday. Amber's great, dubbel needs some tweaking, in my opinion.

    Andy - I disagree with your description of Boulevard as average - I honestly think they're in the top 10 craft brewers in quality, and they are also in the top 10 in quantity. So, yeah, a new release is big news, worthy of several blog posts. When you toss in the involvement of the brewer from Orval, you have national news. We're fortunate to have Bull E. Vard paying attention and providing us with reviews. If you're not interested in his views on Boulevard products, then, by all means, scroll down to a post that is more to your liking.

    Or start your own blog, as he suggests. We can always use more news and views on the beer scene!

  6. I for one am very excited to try Collabo #1. Boulevard is doing great things with their Smokestack series and their session beers haven't blown me away, but they do stand up against other craft brewers. Boulevard is an important entity in the American craft beer industry and I'm glad to see all the exciting things they are coming up with.

    Andy- Did you miss the title of the blog? "KC BEER BLOG" It would seem only fitting that a good number of posts would refer to beer in Kansas City. It's people like you that give craft beer drinkers a bad name with your "holier-than-thou" mentality. We should be supporting one another whether it be bloggers, brewers, or just craft beer drinkers. Go check out or and you will see that Boulevard is doing things far from "average" as you claim.

    To Bull E. Vard- Where did you get that awesome glass? I have seen it in a couple of other blogs, but I cant find it in their online store. I'd really like to get my hands on one.

    Also, check out my beer blog, Beer Epiphany and feel free to comment! If I can get my hands on Collaboration #1 I'll be doing a full review.

  7. Hello Kitty!!!!!

    Bull - Stop talking about beer so much, what about the Cubs! (Just kidding.)

  8. Ha, nice write up. I've been excited about this one since the announcement and now I'm even more so. The $12 a bottle price kind of hurts but hey, it's probably not something I'll be buying regularly so that's fine.

    Some of the comments here make me thankful that I myself am probably my only reader as I tend to speak highly and fairly often of Boulevard's Smokestack Series.

  9. My prediction?

    This is still sitting on shelves in a year like Two Jokers.

  10. James - the glasses are available in the brewery gift shop. And if we're pimping our own blogs, don't forget

  11. The glasses are also available at some retails. I know Gomer's in Lenexa has the glasses along with the new Tank 7 glasses.

  12. 10...really? There stuff in the smokestack series is pretty good. The sixers...among the most unimaginative micros I've had. Not to say they are poorly made, just boring recipes. Top 10, not even close. Maybe top 35 or 40, but no where near the top 10. Which is are very lucky to have a brewery which you love so much this close to you. (assuming you live here) The things I like most about this blog are the bar reviews and heads up on beers you usually don't find here, or seasonals. KC beers...meh...I can get that info when I stop in at Gomers or Lukas.

  13. I enjoy hearing about Boulevard's new releases--but the KC Beer Blog is more about Boulevard than anything else. It does seem that this blog's become a promotional tool (guess the payment is beer and schwag?). Two consecutive posts about Imperial Pilsner? There are so many releases of new beers in "KC" that deserve attention... Foundry's one of my favorite breweries--I love everything I've tried of theirs; there's not been any description of any of their releases in the past year here!

  14. Oops, I meant "Founders"--from Michigan.

  15. Beersavorer, First off, I've had a couple of Founders beers and honestly, had nothing interesting to say about the ones I tried. I might have something to say about Founders in the near future because I did find something I liked.

    Second, you have to keep in mind that the KC Beer Blog is a collection of individuals. The writers have very little to no communication about what we're going to write about. Paul A. Ner and I had different things to say about Collaboration, hence 2 straight posts. This happened last week as well with the Dark Truth Stout news, Paul wrote about the introduction of the beer and I wrote some more information on availability, price etc.

    Third, I was going to get you on the Foundry thing, but you corrected it before I finished typing out this screed.

    Finally, I think we went about 6 months when we first started this blog and barely mentioned Boulevard, if at all. You know why? Because they didn't do anything. They had the same 6 beers and they weren't adding more. Now it seems like they're adding something new every week. And I, for one, find it interesting. I write on this blog for fun, and I only write about something that interests me that I can deliver an interesting (at least to me) take on.

    I appreciate that you and Andy would like to see more from us, I really do. It's flattering in a way. But at the end of the day, I'm only going to write about what interests or amuses me. I assume Paul, Chimpotle and Wes are the same way.

  16. Andy, please tell us about your favorite brewery. In my opinion Boulevard is definitely in the top 10 and this is due to the Smokestack Series. Each one is unique and they have all been good in their own way. I really enjoy the Boulevard posts and reviews along with other reviews. I have been visiting this site for about two years now and I can recall many reviews of beers other than Boulevard (i.e. Goose Island, Schlafly, New Belgium, Surly, Bells, etc). I have this sneaking suspicion that you are really a Miller Lite drinker. If you don't care for the topics here, don't check out this blog!

  17. If someone can name 35 breweries better than Boulevard, I'd very much like to see that list. That said, there has been a lot of Boulevard posts. Expect more variety posts from me in the future now that I'm walking without a limp and cleaning out beers I've had in my fridge since last April.

  18. OK Anonymous...I don't know that I've got a top brewery, but here are some that are among my favorites that I've had, most of which I've been too.

    Pizza Port Carlsbad, CA
    Russian River
    Firestone Walker
    Oscar Blues
    Mountain Sun (Southern Sun is great too)
    Great Divide
    Green Flash
    North Coast
    New Glarus
    St Arnold (not so much about the beer as the tour experience)
    Sierra Nevada...mainly for their pale ale its an original and icon of the style
    Three Floyds

    There are probably a few more I LOVE that I can't remember off the top of my head...but all of these easily beat boulevard in my book.

    Chimpotle, thanks for working to branch out.

    Bull E Vard...its precisely that I do like your blog that I want more than Boulevard. Let me know what is newly distributed here in town, what resturant has a killer beer selection, what beer festival is coming up. You guys do a great job of that, when you do it. I'd just love to see you do it more.

    And for my part, I won't be so harsh with the criticism next time. I'm gonna go sing Kumbaya now.

  19. I agree with Andy. Check out this list:

    You guys are homers

  20. Anonymous comes through in the clutch with a list from 6.5 years ago. Nice research!

  21. It just goes to show that when you comment anonymously, you most likely don't have anything to offer. Say what you want about Andy, and I don't say anything bad, but he puts his name on his comments and sticks by it.

  22. Wow... Ok...I will give you New Glarus and Russian River but... you don't even have Dogfish Head up there... and while Founders has a few good beers...they aren't all that special except maybe Cerise... and Rogue is ok...but they aren't all that amazing.

    I wouldn't say Boulevard is top 10 in America but I will say that they are up there and have been rising since they were able to start making the Smokestacks. I may be a homer but why not have pride for a local brewery... Sounds like you are one of those Kansas Citians that doesn't like their city and thinks the grass is always greener. Boulevard's lineup is pretty solid and I would never call their year round lineup as unoriginal... They are balanced beers...why does everything have to be so "overly" flavorful...