Food & Drink

Taste Test: Terra Incognita by Boulevard and Sierra Nevada


The Smokestack Series’ towering success in local and regional beer circles marks another win with the aged and earthy Terra Incognita.

Steve Dresler will go a long way for a good beer – 1750 miles, in fact. Chico, California is the home of the famous and award-winning Sierra Nevada Brewery. Dresler’s place of business started out as a labor of love back in 1980, much like their partner-come-lately Boulevard Brewery did in 1989. So it’s not so surprising that the brewmasters from both ale houses decided to go the distance with one another to produce a notable brew.

The Idea Behind Terra Incognita

This complex brew is best paired with a hearty meal that incorporates plenty of savory sides. Photos by Chandra Ramey

After a successful partnership during the 2012 SAVOR event that brought Terra Incognita to existence, Sierra Nevada Head Brewer Steve Dresler and Boulevard Brewmaster Steven Pauwels met later in Kansas City to create a blend of three components:

  • Terra Incognita aged in Templeton Rye barrels
  • Terra Incognita aged in a 2,000-gallon foudre
  • Fresh Terra Incognita dry-hopped with East Kent Golding

The end result is a, fittingly, earthy beer, celebrating the unique terroir of the two hometowns of the respected beer barons. The blend incorporates (roughly) 45% foudre-aged, 30% Templeton-aged, and 25% fresh dry-hopped beer—all aimed at showcasing some predominant oak characteristics with a subtle hint of earthy hops.

The final step prior to bottling is adding a dose of the wild yeast Brettanomyces, and allowed the beer to age for over three months. So it could be said that Terra Incognita is a test of quality and patience.


A Partnership Both Local and Distant

For a special beer as this, Pauwels and crew wanted a special look for the label. Their partner for previous pilsners, Hammer Press (110 Southwest Boulevard) fit the playbill, perhaps due to Vest’s balance of subtle detail and his ability to create rollicking pastiche of classic letterheads.

As lead artist Brady Vest wrote on their blog, “We joined in the labeling party held by Boulevard at their distribution center [...] we helped hand-apply part of the 5000 labels.” Count Hammer Press as the third participant in this labor of love parade.

So How Does Terra Incognita Taste?

In a word: complex. Two of our tasters gave notes. One with food, one wishing for food.

Beer Taster P stopped by Rye in Leawood to have a taste right out of the tap. He thought it was earthy and malty, and definitely a session beer to enjoy over time, allowing the flavors to unwind. “I wanted to drink this beer with a pastrami on rye loaded with a dollop of whole-grain mustard.”

Beer Taster A paired the brew with a pesto-glazed pasta accompanied by a tomato and mozarella salad. He said, “The earthen weight of the Incognita overpowered the lightly dressed salad, but complimented the pasta nearly perfectly. You could very much taste the aging casks as the flavor lingered just long enough to give a forkful of pasta an even more savory quality. The finish is mellow. A meat-based dish would have been more welcome. As a fan of Boulevard’s Tank 7 belgian ale, it seems that we’ve come across the black sheep of the farmhouse here. It goes down light, but digests a bit heavy.”