After a fantastic dinner of buffalo burgers and fresh green beans (both procured from a local farmers market), I decided a beer was in order. Well, another beer to be specific. So I went for a Boulevard Two Jokers that I had picked up a couple of weeks ago. This is the 2011 batch and is a Double Wit style. It’s part of Boulevard’s Smokestack Series as a summer seasonal. But, if you’re a loyal reader of this site, you already knew that.
In case you are new to our site, I’ll recap the beer as the brewer describes it. According to the label, Two Jokers is a classic Belgian “wit,” or “white” ale, with lactic fermentation providing a refreshing tartness. But since it’s part of the Smokestack Series, it needs to be taken to the next level. It’s a big beer (8% abv) and is spiced with cardamom, coriander, orange peel, lavender, and grains of paradise. Honestly, the only things there at I could pick out of a lineup is lavender (try it on grilled salmon sometime!) and orange peel. The others I know are spices but I, like Flenker, really have no idea what they taste/smell like. Add that to the list why I’ll never get paid to review beers. But at least I’m honest. So, without further ado, let’s jump in, shall we? We shall!
Poured into a tulip, the beer is dark yellow and quite murky. An initial white fluffy head recedes quickly and doesn’t show any lacing.
If you read my reviews here, you’ll know my nose isn’t the best. Add to this some allergies today and I was surprised how much aroma I picked up on this beer. The first thing that jumps out is spicy. But there’s a distinctly familiar aroma in there that I couldn’t put my finger (or nose, as the case may be) right away. At first, all I could think was grilled meat. But it was more specific than that. Finally it hit me. Fareway bratwurst! Now if you don’t live in Iowa, you probably don’t know what Fareway is. And if you don’t, that’s your loss. Fareway is a chain of grocery stores that is highlighted by a fantastic meat counter. None of that pre-packaged Wal-Meat crap, here. This is all cut fresh from primals. They grind their own sausage and hamburger on site and are full-service butcher. Among other things, I’m a big fan of their homemade bratwurst. They are pretty lean (as far as brats go) and pretty peppery. While, they sell a variety of styles (beer, cheddar, jalepeno, etc.), I like the regular best. Either way, this beer smelled like cooked Fareway brats. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
While we’re on the subject of brats, I’m going to confess I cook brats backwards. But it’s how my dad does it and I like it. First I brown them on the grill. Some of the fat can drip off as the casing will split so you may want to keep a spray bottle handy (or garden hose) to control flare-ups. Meanwhile, I slice up an onion and saute it in some better until soft and translucent When the brats are nicely browned (but not necessarily fully cooked), I put them in a pot with the onions and cover in beer. Now I usually use Pabst Blue Ribbon because it’s cheap and I usually have it on hand. Hey, I like it as a cheap beer. Too bad the hipsters ruined it. But, really, any beer will do. I once used a batch of homebrew that was undrinkable and they turned out fine. Anyhow, let them simmer away in the beer and onions as long as you want. I usually go at least an hour but have gone 2-3 without issue. When you’re ready to eat, the brats will be incredibly tender and a lot of fat will have cooked out. So it’s OK to have 3 or 4 of them. They’re healthy now! I know this is backwards how the pros win Wisconisn do it but give it a try sometime. I think you’ll be surprised how good they are. Just don’t put ketchup on them. Because no matter how you cook a brat, ketchup has no place on it. Mustard, however, is strongly encouraged.
Now back to our beer…
Like the aroma, the dominant flavor is spicy. Also like the aroma, the beer taste like brats. I’m guessing the fine brewers at Boulevard aren’t infusing their beers with Fareway brats so the only conclusion I can make is Fareway uses something in their brat seasoning that’s in this beer. Coriander maybe? Either way, it was very powerful and the only think I could think of when drinking this beer. From the description on the beer bottle, I was hoping for more tartness. Now when I think of tartness, I think of sours. And I love sours. But I don’t get any of that kind of tartness. The orange peel, however, does come out as a little citrus and sweetness on the finish. As the beer warms, you start to taste the 8% abv a tinch. But it’s still bratwurst.
The mouthfeel is pretty average. There’s nothing really to note here.
Witbiers are not a favorite style of mine. As such, I’ve always passed over Two Jokers in the past because of it. But, after reading other reviews I decided to try this year’s batch. With all due respect to my colleague, this just isn’t a beer for me. In fact, I struggled to get through the 750 ml bottle. I do agree it tries to encroach on sour territory but doesn’t get there. And that’s a shame. I’d like to see what the brewers at Boulevard could do with a sour.
Since I have to rate this beer, I’ll give it a C+/B-. BeerAdvocate readers give it an A- and it’s one of the higher rated witbiers on the BA site. And of course Flenker loved it. So don’t let my criticism keep you away from it. It’s a very good beer for the style and worthy of your time.
Just have some mustard ready.