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Hophead: Boulevard Of Brew-Hounds' Dreams

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Last week's Hophead featured the Kansas City brewery Boulevard's Saison, part of the company's Smokestack series. Though not a life-changing beer, the Saison was impressive enough to warrant further investigation into the Smokestack series. A recent night at home with pizza seemed a perfect opportunity to pop the cork on the other Smokestack bottle crying out for attention from the fridge: the Double-Wide India Pale Ale.

A bit of background: Despite the name, India Pale Ales, or IPAs, are not Indian in origin. Rather, they began in England as a heavily hopped variation of pale ales (ales brewed with pale malts). Popular lore has it that these beers were more highly alcoholic than pale ales, and that the higher alcohol by volume (ABV) and extra hops were intended to help the beer survive its export to India, though those assertions are debatable.

Whatever the reason for their creation, IPAs are wonderful beers for those who like strong, bitter, hoppy beer. And that goes double for double IPAs, such as Boulevard's Double-Wide.

The first thing you'll notice about Double-Wide is its extreme effervescence. Without a very slow, gentle pour, you're liable to end up with a glassful of head.

Trust that your patience will be rewarded. Eventually, it will settle into a brassy orange-brown, cloudy state. From the first whiff of the citrusy, piney aroma, it's obvious that this is a superior beer. Surprisingly, though, it didn't prove as intimidatingly bitter and hop-forward as one might expect from a double IPA, with more spruce than a lemon in the profile. Nor was it as syrupy as some strong IPAs can be. And, despite the 8.5 percent ABV, the beer had no detectable alcohol burn. This bottle (from Batch D8240) had a near-perfect balance of bitter bite and cool malt.

The thick, creamy head lasted almost indefinitely--the next morning, it was easy to measure each sip by the parallel rings of sticky lacing left behind in the empty glass.

IPAs pair best with spicy or robust foods; this one proved a perfect companion for pizza with Italian sausage, green peppers, onions and crushed red pepper.

Where to score: According to Boulevard's Beer Finder, the Smokestack series is available at some 50 businesses in the Dallas area including the Libertine Bar, Al Biernat's and various Goody Goody, Majestic Liquor, Central Market and Whole Foods locations. Oddly, Double-Wide beer is not available at the Double-Wide bar.

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