Thursday, June 21, 2012

Farewell, Chocolate Ale..For Now

Yesterday afternoon, the Twitter world began swirling up questions and controversy as rumors of Boulevard Chocolate Ale's demise began circulating. It started with a couple tweets from attendees at Kansas City's iKC innovation and entrepreneurship conference, who said that speaker John McDonald announced that there would be no Chocolate Ale in 2013. While the rumors remained just that for a few hours, I came back from a work meeting to find out that Boulevard had confirmed: Chocolate Ale will not be produced in 2013.

Here is the text from the official Boulevard press release, which can also be read here:

"On Wednesday, Boulevard Brewing Company announced that Chocolate Ale, one of the brewery’s Smokestack Series offerings, will not be produced in 2013. The announcement does not mean that the beer has been permanently retired, only that it won’t be a part of next year’s lineup.

It’s no secret that Boulevard faced challenges during the two previous releases of the popular seasonal beer, not least of which was satisfying surprisingly strong consumer demand. The company is actively working on several initiatives to help overcome these challenges, for Chocolate Ale as well as its other Smokestack Series seasonal and limited release offerings.

Boulevard will keep consumers informed over the coming months through its website and social media outlets. In the meantime, fans of the Kansas City company can look forward to some new additions to Boulevard’s portfolio, including 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat Beer and Reverb Imperial Pilsner, both of which should be available later this summer."

Opinions on the announcement have been mixed, to say the least. Just go to Twitter and search 'Chocolate Ale' and you can see comments that run the gamut. The one that irritated me the most was from local Kansas City Star editorial columnist Yael T. Abouhalkah, who claimed that Boulevard pulling the plug on Chocolate Ale was a 'victory.' While Chocolate Ale may not have been my favorite beer, I think it's absurd to call its temporary demise a victory when it was a product that injected the city with some excitement and helped bring money and attention to a local business. Don't worry, I am working on a friendly open letter to our local non-drinking curmudgeon and will post later.

Given the note about it not being permanently retired, it sounds like Chocolate Ale is getting the Two Jokers treatment, and being put on the back burner while Boulevard decides how to approach the beer again in the future. So now the question is, what will they do with this hole in the lineup? Will 2013 see a new beer in Chocolate Ale's place? And if and when Chocolate Ale makes a return, how will the beer or the release process be different?


  1. It's too bad that they had to pull it next year. The initial buildup to its release gave them a lot of press and hype. However, the constant inability to meet demand also resulted in a lot of following backlash and bad press. Perhaps they just felt it wasn't worth the extra attention until they can get their supply issues ironed out. I hope they return again with it in 2014, because honestly I think just getting the general public to talk about these things and open up to more than just Boulevard wheat and BMC is a good thing.

    All that said, can we talk about the beer itself? I was extremely underwhelmed by it. Other than the word 'Chocolate' in the title, I don't see what all the fuss is about. I would rather see them increase the body of the beer, more along the lines of a porter or stout. They could still call it 'Chocolate Ale' and market it as being a collaboration with Chris Elbow so the non-beer people would still go crazy. But then the beer itself would be an overall more balanced, enjoyable product and the beer geeks could also praise it.

  2. The vast majority of chocolate beers already available are porters or stouts, which is why they made theirs a lighter bodied ale. It was not to bow to non-beer people. In fact, they were clearly caught off-guard by its mainstream appeal.

    Personally, I liked that choice of style. If you want a chocolate stout, grab a Youngs, or a Rogue, or a Great Divide, or a Ft Collins, ...

  3. I give credit to Boulevard for not making a Chocolate Stout, or Porter. The true artistry of being a craft brewer is to think outside of the box and create new types of beer that standout among the rest.

    Was Chocolate Ale the best beer they make? I think we can all agree that it is not. But, as anon pointed out, it brought attention to Boulevard from people that may only enjoy Pale Ale or Unfiltered Wheat (not that there's anything wrong with that).

    With all of that said, I certainly wouldn't mind if there was another KC collaboration. Perhaps a Rosterie/Elbow/Boulevard Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout. Just don't repackage it as Chocolate Ale, because it deserves to be its own beer.

    Also, #TeamTwoJokers

  4. I had chocolate ale last year, missed it this time and wasn't too bent out of shape about it, but it was good—good enough, anyway, if not to satisy the hype. My understanding was the chocolate gummed up the works, so a good portion of it never made it to the bottling stage, but that could just be rumor. In any case, I agree, it was a good thing for Boulevard and KC, and I look forward to more innovative and unique brews from our hometown brewery.