The Return of Chocolate Ale
I had been hoping to wait a little while longer before I wrote this post, but as the buzz for Boulevard's Chocolate Ale grows stronger, it becomes harder to justify the delay. Everywhere I go, people want to know about Chocolate Ale. Retailers are being inundated with questions, requests to get on a waiting list, even calls from people who live on the other side of town and have never even been to their store before. I don't pretend to understand why people go so nuts for Chocolate Ale, but I can't deny that it has become perhaps the most anticipated beer release this city has seen. More beer geeks might mark their calenders for the annual release of Bell's Hopslam, Boulevard's Saison Brett or the inaugural bottling of Founder's CBS, but Chocolate Ale is that rare beer that transcends the beer geek world and has become a must have for even the casual craft beer drinker. Kansas Citians who have zero interest in craft beer are still at least aware of the existence of Chocolate Ale and I think that in and of itself is a pretty amazing thing.
Today's Star did a nice feature on Chocolate Ale and you can read "How to get Chocolate Ale on January 31st" and other related stories on the Ink KC website. I won't bother going into any actual info about the beer itself. I think you all know about it already and if you don't I would just direct you to the Star articles. What I can hope to tell you is where and when you might get it.
The goods new about the 2012 Chocolate Ale is that Boulevard has a much better idea of what to expect. According to Boulevard brewer Jeremy Danner, "last year when they told us how much we needed to make in a brewers meeting, we laughed. We thought there was no way we were going to sell that much chocolate beer. We were crazy wrong." To make it easier for Boulevard customers to get their hands on this year's batch, the brewery produced over 2.5 times more than they did in 2011. In fact, according to Danner, "this year we made far more Chocolate Ale than any other seasonal or limited release Smokestack Series beer we've ever brewed."
The tentative Kansas City release date for Boulevard Chocolate Ale bottles is January 31st. That means Central States Beverage Company, the sole distributor of Boulevard beer in the Kansas City metro, hopes to send the first trucks of Chocolate Ale to retail accounts that day. Now that date could change as conditions at Boulevard and Central States change, but right now January 31st is the best guess. The other important thing to keep in mind is that just because trucks start delivering the beer on the 31st doesn't mean every store is getting it on that day. Only the stores that just happen to get Tuesday deliveries from Central States will get it then. The rest will have to wait until Wednesday or Thursday or Friday or even Monday, February 6th to receive their deliveries. So if you go to your local liquor store on January 31st and they say they don't have it yet, DON'T FREAK OUT. Also, keep in mind that not every liquor store in KC is going to get this beer. That's just how it is. But if you shop at a store that carries Boulevard's Smokestack beers like Tank 7 or the Sixth Glass, there is a pretty good chance they will get Chocolate Ale.
I think it is with releases like this that loyal patronage of a good liquor store really pays off. If you've developed a relationship with "the beer guy" at your local shop, you probably already know if and when they are getting Chocolate Ale. If you have not, don't be surprised if you find it harder to get a bottle. Stores all across town are being flooded with people who want to make sure they have some Chocolate Ale reserved for them. But put yourself in the retailer's shoes. Who are you more likely to do a favor for (and yes, reserving bottles in this sort of environment is a favor) the regular customer who knows you by name or some stranger you've never seen before who is asking for a bottle over the phone? Let this be a reminder, getting to know your local beer guy (or gal) is a must if you want to score hard to find bottles. This is also where the truly great craft beer stores are going to shine. Stores that bother to employ a knowledgeable and educated staff are also likely to post to facebook and twitter as soon as they receive their allotment. If that's not the sort of store you shop at, you might want to reconsider where you buy beer. Retailers who go the extra mile to provide an excellent customer experience are the ones who will handle releases like this the best and they are also the stores that are most likely to get a large allocation of beers like Chocolate Ale.
Finally, while January 31st may be the big day everyone is talking about, January 30th is a day that might be even better to mark on your calender. That's the day Chocolate Ale kegs will start showing up in Kansas City bars and restaurants. And I've heard its tastes even better on tap.
Edit: As soon as I posted this, I saw this article on the Boulevard website.