First Impressions of the Boulevard/Orval Collaboration No. 1 Imperial Pilsner
Last night I was lucky enough to get an invite to the release party for Boulevard's newest Smokestack Series beer, the Imperial Pilsner. This beer is a collaboration between Steven Pauwels of Boulevard and Jean-Marie Rock of Orval. The style is something Rock had experimented with some thirty years ago in Belgium. Pauwels invited Rock to attempt to recreate the beer at Boulevard and have it released as a one-off limited release Smokestack Series 750.
After having a few glasses I could definitely make connections to both Pilsner style lagers and pale Belgian style ales. I asked Steven Pauwels what Boulevard's contribution to the brewing of the Imperial Pilsner was and he said you can find their influence in the balance of the beer. It may sound like a small contribution when someone else is doing all of the heavy lifting, but with a Pilsner that's been bumped up to 8.0% ABV you're going to sacrifice drinkability as Pilsner malt starts to dominate the flavor. The level of balance in this beer is notable because you're able to pick up on many subtle components that would've been lost if the typical crisp Pilsner was given free reign.
The aroma of the Imperial Pilsner is... well, similar to a Pilsner. You can identify that crisp clean malt aroma right off the bat, but here it's a bit more subdued, which allows hints of light fruit to come through. The flavor is much like a Saison at first with Pilsner accents. It's an interesting combination when you know you're drinking a beer that's brewed to be a Pilsner but ended up being full bodied, balanced and a little citrusy.
I was pleasantly surprised by this collaboration effort and I'm looking forward to picking up my own bottle of the Imperial Pilsner so I can do a formal review.