Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bull E. Vard and the Boulevard Factory

Ooh ooh that smell
Can't you smell that smell
Ooh ooh that smell
The hops smell is all around you

I think if Lynyrd Skynyrd did what I did today they may change the lyrics to their classic tune. I'm sure the fine folks at Boulevard today are singing Skynyrd in their heads today.

Why, you may ask? Because they received their shipment of fresh Chinook hops for use in this year's Nutcracker Ale. When you walked into the tank room you were enveloped in the piney smell of hops. I have 6 hops in glass on my desk right now and even that small amount has permeated my work area (brilliantly beating out the cucumber melon air freshener at my neighbors desk). Last night, the hops at Boulevard were bagged and shipped from the hop farm in Washington state. That's how fresh they are.

Some fellas from Tastebud magazine (Chris and Gordon) and I were invited over by the Boulevard marketing people to see the process of hopping the Nutcracker. Jeremy, the marketing director over there, knew that I loved Nutcracker Ale with all of my heart and thought that I would be interested in seeing this process. It's really a special time for everyone at Boulevard because it is the only time all year they do anything like this.

The hops came in big 35 lb. bags which were enclosed in boxes. Several brewers were scooping out the hops and placing them in a cheesecloth type bag that ended up weighing about 12 lbs. Several years ago, one of the brewers told me, they decided to use pantyhose and he went to Wal-Mart to buy up all of their supply of X-Large pantyhose. He said that he got quite the questioning from the Wal-Mart people (it's too bad he didn't know Chimpotle who has the largest collection of XL pantyhose in the metro). I (and the guys from Tastebud) pitched in and grabbed scoops and filled up these hop socks. I don't know how many they were going to fill up, but it was going to be over 100, I would guess.

After we got the Cuban work effort done, we handed the bags to a brewer who hung them up in the tank (and yes, he is wearing corduroy shorts). Each tank was going to get 10 or 12 hop socks. Then the hops socks were going to seep in Nutcracker like a tea bag. The brewers also told me of the beer, with a name that shall not be mentioned, they make with the squeezings of the hop socks. I would like to be invited over when they tap that keg. Now I really can't wait for Nutcracker to come out to the stores.

After we were done with the manual labor portion of our visit, we went up to a tasting room and had some Saison off the tap. We discussed the Saison-Brett and Bourbon Barrel Quadrupel and the packaging (Nutcracker's neck label is going to change this year). Each bottle of the Brett and BBQ is going to be numbered and you will be able to tell the batch. Some super beer snob (I'm looking at you Bad Ben) will probably master the skill of telling which batch bottles were brewed from a blind tasting. This sort of game is going to be encouraged by Boulevard.

It's really a great experience to be summoned to Boulevard and get to play in their reindeer games. I loved getting my hands all sticky from the hops, enjoyed the great beer discussion and great beer people, and really enjoyed my sample of Saison. I hope to be invited back. Be sure to check out Tastebud magazine as well for a better informed and probably better written story. Also click here to see another video. Forgive me for the title of this post.

Many thanks to Jeremy who thought to invite me over and to Payton for showing me around and most of all to the brewers who were so kind and patient while putting up with us.


  1. You're not man enough to admit that you want to taste their nutsac aka nut drippings?

    I enjoyed the nutsac on a tour last January.

  2. It killed me to leave that joke on the table but I wasn't supposed to reveal the name of the brew.

    I would love to drink up any leavings from their nutsac.

  3. Nutsac aside, it's great that you got to partake in the production of this seasonal brew. Working on a brew imparts "ownership" and the resultant interest in the taste of the (eventual) finished product.

    Cheers & Happy Trails,
    Bad Ben
    Super Beer Snob - (Thanks for that)

  4. We need to get together soon so I can get some "ownership" on one of your brews, Ben.

  5. Nice pictures and article. Those hops smelled wonderful. Thanks for the link to tastebud too.