Last year, when just about every brewery was releasing a pumpkin beer, Kansas City’s Boulevard Brewing Co. took an eccentric detour. Boulevard Funky Pumpkin wasn’t a complete departure, but the slightly sour ale, speckled with nutmeg, allspice, and ginger, could never have been confused with sweet Thanksgiving pie.
This fall, Boulevard is doubling down on the theme by releasing two beers in the style: Funky Pumpkin is the same brew as last year, a 5.8 percent alcohol by volume, everyday drinker that tastes like a spiced-up Berliner Weisse.
New this year is Funkier Pumpkin, a more substantial version of its sister beer that’s just as experimental. Like Funky Pumpkin, it is brewed with brettanomyces, meaning the funk is more than just a figure of speech. Drinkers should get blue cheese and barnyard notes in addition to tartness in both beers. In other words, this isn’t a beer you crush from a shaker glass with a cinnamon sugar-coated rim.
“Our brewing team wanted to do something different,” says Jeremy Danner, Boulevard’s ambassador brewer. “There are a ton of readily available pumpkin ales in the Midwest, and most tend to be malty or sweet. Rather than adding on a ‘me too’ beer, we wanted to give our own twist.”
As a gift to employees last year, brewmaster Steven Pauwels did some hand-bottling of Funky Pumpkin, inoculating it with more brettanomyces before sealing it up. The result is a beer with a higher ABV — 8.5 percent — than its predecessor.
“The idea is that it’s a pumpkin beer for beer geeks,” says Danner.
How does a funky-sour-cinnamon beer taste? Better than it sounds. The first sip is a swirl of spice, made more fragrant by a clean, green-apple tartness that doesn’t let anything hide. The funk plays off both — and mimics a hint of the gourd — providing a musty complement that balances things. Despite not adhering to previous style guidelines, it all seems very intentional.
“We became fascinated with the idea of spicy, phenolic notes imparted by brettanomyces and their interaction with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice,” says Danner. “The beer was bottled back in February to allow the brettanomyces time to develop complexity in the bottle.”
Boulevard is about to make a Boston road trip, with events at SoWa Open Market on Sept. 25 and Craft Beer Cellar, Belmont, and Redbones, Somerville, on Sept. 28. For more information, go to www.blvdroadtrip.com.
gary dzenGary Dzen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GaryDzen