Friday, January 31, 2014

So You Want To Get Some Chocolate Ale?

Boulevard's Chocolate Ale - its third coming is upon us - your mom can hardly bear the anticipation.

Monday will see kegs of the highly-anticipated smokestack in some bars and restaurants  around town, and Tuesday will bring the reckoning that is the bottle release. While this release would be big in it's own right, when you add in the amount of pandemonium created by media outlets like The Star and KCTV5, things start getting out of hand. (I realize we're totally responsible for adding to the pandemonium by even writing this piece.)

In this article I am going to try and help you get your hands on at least a little of this beer, as well as talk about what you should do if you cant. Hint: it isn't writing an angry letter to Boulevard.

On a personal note, I don't think this beer is worth the hype. It's a perfectly good beer, I have nothing bad to say about it, but it's not worth the trouble it causes. So if you're running out to grab a bottle or ten just because of everything you've heard about it and you're not normally a beer drinker, it probably isn't worth your while. It'll likely be more of a headache than anything else. I won't be running out to buy a bottle of this one, but I will wait to see if I can find it on draft sometime soon.

First thing first - some information about special releases for those new to it. I heard horror stories of Moms dragging all their kids to wait for the liquor store to open because they had plans on buying a whole case for their Bingo group - you shouldn't do this, you'll likely end up angry. Limited Releases are typically restricted to two bottles - I can't guarantee this for Chocolate Ale, because it's up to the discretion of the store, but when Bourbon Barrel Quad and Imperial Stout were released this past year that was often the case during the first week it was out. So don't expect to waltz into many places and walk out with a case.

It is good to note that Boulevard is producing twice as much Chocolate Ale this year - but I still don't think that will mean a surplus. What it likely will mean is it will be much more widely available on tap - so if you can't find a bottle, there should be bars/restaurants tapping this beer on Monday and over the next couple weeks.

Do you want to get an upper hand on the release without touring around a bunch of stores/bars in town? Yeah you do. A lot of stores and bars are posting on social media these days, and will let you know as soon as these types of beers are available. Just search for your local stores on Facebook and Twitter to see if they have an account. I also made you a handy twitter search that includes many establishments around town - check it out here. It's by no means comprehensive, so be sure to check the smaller stores. When in doubt, you can always call.

The last thing to note is price. Chocolate Ale won't likely run you the same as a typically Smokestack series bottle - which depending on where you go is normally between $7-$10. It hits a higher range. Expect to see it between $10-$15. Especially since it's a hyped release, several stores will tack on that extra dollar or two. If you see anywhere that is selling it for much more than that, you're likely getting ripped off.

If you can't find any? Don't get all puffed up about it - it's just beer. No one has personally wronged you, there are shelves full of great beer to drink, and some of it even has chocolate in it. Please don't go writing angry Facebook posts or tweets - it does absolutely nothing. And I promise you, while Boulevard loves you very much, a vitriolic letter bashing them will only waste your time. 

To sum it up:
  1. Tuesday, call/look up your local store on Facebook and Twitter. If you find it, tell some friends.
  1. Be aware that there is likely going to be a limit on how many you can buy.
  1. If there isn't a limit, be cool, don't buy a whole case. Hoarding isn't kind (and it won't be nearly as good if you hold onto it for months and months - drinking it within the first month is a good idea).
  1. If you can't find a bottle, you'll likely be able to find it on tap.
  1. Don't write hate mail/tweets/facebook posts if you can't find it. It's just beer.

If you really can't find it, fret not, there are plenty of other chocolate options out there for you to drink. I know Chocolate Ale gets a lot of attention because it's not a stout - a style which scares many people. I understand that, when I was first discovering craft beer I stayed far and wide away from stouts and IPAs. But when chocolate is added into the mix, something special happens that makes these stouts much more approachable. Check out this list below for beers which I think you'd like if you really need that chocolate fix. Seriously, these are great beers. And they should be easily available off-the-shelf around town - no lines, no chaos, no disappointment.
  1. Samuel Smith's - Organic Chocolate Stout
This beer. It's so packed with chocolate that it barely tastes like beer. It's rich and sweet and goes perfectly as an after-dinner desert. It's a personal favorite.

  1. 4 Hands - Chocolate Milk Stout
It's exactly as advertised. Don't let the "milk" scare you either, it just means lactose sugars are added to the beer, which don't ferment, so they add residual sweetness and creaminess to the beer.

  1. Southern Tier - Choklat
Another Chocolate bomb like Samuel Smith's - it's ridiculously rich. I challenge you to drink more than one.

  1. Great Divide - Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti
This may be the least approachable of the group, with a formidable ABV and more flavors than just the chocolate. But a great beer. So if you want complexity, look here.

  1. Young's - Double Chocolate Stout
A classic sweet stout. As one BeerAdvocate reviewer writes it, "like huffing a Hershey bar."

This isn't just a list of alternatives that you should settle for if you can't get Chocolate Ale, this is a list of great beers that you should try at some point anyways.

Next week we'll have a live thread going focused on where people are finding Chocolate Ale out in the wild. It's definitely a quality beer, and if you really want to drink it, we want to help you.


  1. FYI: This year they are putting it at the price tier for "Limited Smokestacks" (ie BBQ/ Saison Brett). Last 2 releases were at the normal tier (Tank 7 cork & cages). So expect it to retail around $11.49+. Also: There is a TON more hitting shelves than in 2012. Rumor on the street is that Cork & Barrel in Lawrence is planning on getting 45 cases at their 23rd Street store and 20 cases at their 9th Street store and will not bother with bottle limits... Also, (full disclosure) this may have been posted by their Beer Manager, Mike...

  2. "On a personal note, I don't think this beer is worth the hype. It's a perfectly good beer, I have nothing bad to say about it"

    I couldn't agree more. I also, completely agree with your top 5 chocolate beer list. Sam Smith's is amazing and actually convinced my wife that not all dark beers are something to be afraid of. She's not even really a beer drinker but the Organic Chocolate Stout has made her rethink trying new beers in general.

  3. I'm with you, Kyle, it's really not worth the trouble. So, I will also sit this one out, more for the soccer moms! I just tried the Southern Tier Choklat and it was amazing! And one bottle was plenty between two of us. Happy hunting, everyone!

  4. Another chocolate beer I'd add to the list above is the Shake Chocolate Porter from Boulder. Generally I'm not a huge fan of Boulder's beers and decided to try Shake on a whim in a mix-a-six. It's definitely one of the better beers I've had from them and if chocolate is what you are after, that one should hit the spot.

  5. Sexual chocolate imperial stout by foothills brewing in NC!

  6. Chocolate Ale = JoCo MILF bait

  7. Do you even read what you write?

    "Boulevard's Chocolate Ale - it's third coming is upon us - your mom can't hardly bare the anticipation."

    There are three major errors in the first sentence alone. I think KC Beer Blog might need an editor.

  8. Thanks Anonymous - I made some corrections. Can we just pay you to the be the editor? We don't have much of a budget, but I could probably buy you a beer.

  9. The post also ends talking about the live posting of where to find "Chocolate Stout." Bully's Chocolate Ale is not a stout... not even close... No disrespect; probably just a typo.

    1. I changed that as well, thanks. It was definitely just a typo.

  10. Last Chocolate Ale release I was drinking it on tap at the Levee like a month after it was released. Screw waiting in line to get a bottle, just go out and have some fun at a bar!

  11. Boulevard's is different in that it is not a stout, and it was good enough but not so much to go out of the way for it.

    I'll hit my favorite store on Tuesday and see how I do.

    1. Its definitely unique. I don't know of any other chocolate beers that aren't some sort of a dark beer. It's definitely got a huge amount of chocolate flavor too. But I'm with you, not worth camping out for. I'll make a special trip to get it on tap somewhere for sure though. Good luck getting a bottle!

  12. All over town? Where?