Thursday, January 19, 2012

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.


  1. Damn! ...Really? All Ready?

    ...and then there's:

  2. I dont think you should have to develop a relationship with "the beer guy" at a local bottle shop to get any beer. It should be put on the shelf, not "behind the counter" and sold first come first serve. The second a shop starts playing favorites they are alienating other potential customers.

  3. Boulevard Chocolate Ale could turn out to be their greatest marketing campaign ever. It generates a viral buzz, gets plenty of local coverage on tv and sells out before most get a crack at it.

  4. I know I'm in the minority, but I feel like this one is more hype than substance. I bought 4 bottles last Feb. It was OK. I had my last bottle a couple weeks ago and I do think it has aged nicely. Just my two cents.

    I don't mind selling limited release beers from behind the shelf as long as they're fair about it. When CBS came out I arrived at a certain retailer (at which I spend a lot of money annually) within 11 minutes after it had been announced on their FB page. The first case was sold out and they were going to hold the second case until after 5PM. When I came back just an hour later at 4PM I was told that all bottles were already spoken for. What?

  5. As for CBS, that's because those of us who left work on the first post, and was told it sold out, never left the store. I literally stood there or an 1.5 hours waiting on my bottle.

    Crazy, but it was delicious.

    On another note, I need a login here, so I quit posting anonymously.

  6. Anon 1: I agree, I don't think you should have to develop a relationship with "the beer guy" at a local bottle shop just to get a beer either.

    But "the beerguy" will have the best idea when, if, and how much chocolate ale his/her store will be getting. They are the people that can tell you to show up after 3 on wednesday to grab a bottle. I didn't mean that you needed to have that relationship in order to get a bottle, just that such a relationship would help you out in this situation.

    For people contacting stores now in the hope of getting on a waiting list, you are more likely to get on the list if you already support the shop (not that you have to be friends with the beer guy). Some stores are saving bottles for members of their beer club, rewards program, or email list first before they agree to hold bottles for people from across town. I think that is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

  7. I bought a bunch of bottles last year by going store to store to defeat the 1 per customer policy and share with friends. I have to say for all the hype, this was one of the most underwhelming beers I've ever tasted. It tastes like somebody put Nestle's powder in my beer. Not a fan, and I'll probably skip buying a bottle this year.

  8. dissapointed with last years after all the hype, not buying into the hype this year

  9. I got two bottles last year. I am a dyed in the wool beer lover (grow hops...brew my own beer etc). It is an intriguing beer that defies expectation of chocolate beers (Not a Stout/Porter) and nails the flavor and aroma of chocolate.

    Having said all that, my girlfriend, more a casual beer drinker, LOVES this stuff and has never waited for any other beer release, while I would be fine with one glass from the bottle and one from the draft.

    In the end this beer is more for chocolate lovers than beer lovers, which makes it kind of for those who love everything about beer. But for me it is more of a novelty than a must have. My GF? This is her dream beverage.

  10. If you like eating a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips, you'll love this beer. I'm happy it's successful, but I'll pass. Call me when Boulevard puts together a Elbow/Roasterie Chocolate Coffee Stout that is no more than 6.5% abv.

  11. Elbow/Roasterie Chocolate Coffee Stout sounds ridiculously awesome. Screw Chocolate Ale.

  12. Not going to even try to get any Chocolate Ale this year or any other year.

    It's a chick beer. Not a beer geek chick beer, just a chick beer.

  13. I'm surprised, but there is a lot of Chocolate Ale in Joplin, already!

  14. Anonymous said...
    Not going to even try to get any Chocolate Ale this year or any other year.

    It's a chick beer. Not a beer geek chick beer, just a chick beer

    Thats something someone who drinks Budwiser would say. haha go drink your light beer

  15. As a beer fan orginally from Chicago, I like the way 3 Floyds releases Dark Lord Imperial Stout. They give a limited number of bottles per person, sell tickets to Dark Lord day that benefits charity, and brings the whole local beer community together for the release and have people sharing beers and cracking bottles in the parking lot while they wait. It's a total community athmosphere and definately fun for the beer nerd, as getting your Dark Lord bottles are great, so is communing with other afficianados, who potentially share some other rare brews with you.

  16. Just spoke to the bartender at Ugly Joe's in KC. He said they are going to receive their kegs of Chocolate Ale on Tuesday. Not sure what time.