A Chocolate Ale Heads Up

Dear everyone in the Kansas City/Lawrence area,

Boulevard’s Chocolate Ale should be hitting store shelves along about January 31st. If things proceed as they did last year, expect every liquor store in town to be sold out by roughly noon that same day.

What I’m saying is that you may want to plan on an early lunch, a long lunch, a random doctor’s appointment that morning, etc., if you want to be certain to get your hands on some. I’ll tweet if I see/hear of any on any shelves earlier than January 31st.

That said, drink it when you get it. This stuff doesn’t cellar.

Happy hunting!

PS – Here’s my review of last year’s batch.
And here is my explanation of what happened last year.


Boulevard Chocolate Ale: the saga

I would feel remiss as a blogger if I didn’t relate to you people what happened with the Boulevard Chocolate Ale. Because the situation surrounding this beer qualifies as a “what happened” rather than a “standard limited edition beer release.”

Basically, the whole of Kansas City went berserk.

For those of you not familiar with the area, Boulevard is KC’s biggest and favoritest brewery, and the chocolatier they worked with, Christopher Elbow, is a local legend for making Beyond the Impossible-level awesome chocolate.* People were excited, with good reason. It’s like everything that’s awesome about Kansas City’s food scene (except the BBQ) rolled into a beer.

There was a lot of chatter before the beer’s release (which kept getting pushed back due to some kind of issue surrounding the label) – heavy anticipation, lots of beer geeks bugging each other online and calling into the store I work at wanting to know if the release date was set, that sort of thing. The longer we waited, the more we talked; the more we talked, the more excited we became.

When the Chocolate Ale finally appeared, the people that had been talking went out and bought it. Quickly. Thanks to the power of twitter and FSM knows what else, most liquor stores in the metro area sold out within hours of receiving their Tuesday-ish shipments.

The sellout happened when the only people aware of the new beer were the city beer geeks, who had been excitedly discussing this stuff for months.

But then it got worse. On the post-release, post-sellout Friday after the Tuesday beer buy-a-thon, the Kansas City Star (our local paper) stoked the fire by running a front page story about Boulevard Chocolate Ale, thus alerting the entire non-beer-snob populace to the existence of this grand and glorious collaboration of brewery and chocolatier.** Sensing something fabulous, the citizens of my fair metropolis reacted to this beer like 13 year old fangirls presented with the prospect of a concert featuring a triple header of Justin Bieber, the Jonas Brothers and Hannah Montana.

Unfortunately, the story was too much, too late. I think it mostly served to piss people off by letting them know that there had recently been awesome beer to be had, and that they had missed it. Furor ensued, filled with indignant complaints from people who hadn’t managed to find any Chocolate Ale. It went a little overboard.***

Boulevard, caught WAY off guard, spent a few days figuring out what to do (I cannot imagine what working there must have been over the past week and a half), and ended by posting an apologetic (if taken aback) letter on its website, promising to make another batch next year. I think they’ve been pretty much 100% fantastic about all of this, given the insanity they’ve had to deal with.

At this point (9 days post-release), Chocolate Ale is going for $50 on craigslist and apparently higher on ebay, and twitter is alight with twits telling one where one can find a pint of the elixir.

I found some tonight. Here we are together:

Here’s my review, if you’d like to read it.
*Christopher Elbow chocolates look like this:

and contain everything from banana to passionfruit to rosemary to balsamic. THEY ROCK AND YOU SHOULD TRY SOME.

**To be honest, I think the Chocolate Ale got more news coverage in the paper that day than did everything going on in Egypt, but this may be faulty memory on my part. I forgot the rest of the news of the day the instant I saw the article because I was so horrified startled to see it in print days after the beer was already gone.
***Some people 13-year-old fangirls have zero sense of scale. I mean, it’s sad not to get some really cool beer, but it’s fundamentally just beer. It isn’t the last supply of oxygen left on the planet, so calm down. Please.

Boulevard Chocolate Ale

In which two of the bestest of all best things of Kansas City collaborate: Boulevard and Christopher Elbow (whose chocolates YOU NEED TO HAVE IN YOUR LIFE)(because you know what a chocolate truffle needs? Earl Grey Tea, that’s what. Seriously. So amazing.) made an ale together. Yes, an ale. Not a stout, an ale. Like a roughly amber-colored ale. With hops (and chocolate) and everything.

It comes out on Tuesday. I got to try it already because my job is awesome like that.

Basic Info:
Chocolate Ale
Origin: Boulevard Brewing Co., Kansas City, MO
Style: Chocolate Ale
ABV: 9.1%
IBU: 24
I drank this: as a sample at work, taking copious notes

See, when I heard Boulevard was making some kind of limited edition chocolate “thing” for the Smokestack series, I assumed what anyone else would: the “thing” in question would either be a stout or a porter (because, being that both styles often use chocolate malts, chocolate is a good, if obvious, addition).

No one ever mentioned that Christopher Elbow would be involved. I seriously cannot describe his chocolate beyond saying a) it is amazingly amazing, b) the flavors are unbelievable, and c) IS PRITTY. So here’s his website to describe it for me. Anyway, had I known Christopher Elbow was involved I would have known there was no way in hell they’d bother making a stout, because that would have been too easy.

Anyway, having tried it, I suspect everyone involved had a whee of a good time.

So here’s the beer. It’s a gorgeous amber color with a thick, tan head and a scent of rich, *slightly* bitter milk chocolate. There might be a touch of fruit in the back.

Upon first taste, I noticed the mouthfeel before I noticed the chocolate (which is a good trick given the chocolate was what I was looking for) – it’s silk. Or cream. It’s smooth and rich and soft and luxurious and wonderful. And yet, as silky as it is, there’s a bite to it from the hops.

Flavor-wise, the chocolate is easily the dominant flavor. On first taste, I really thought milk chocolate; later, I was leaning more towards semi-sweet. It’s probably bittersweet or cocoa nibs or something like that which has then been sweetened by the high alcohol content to read more sweetly. The malts – and the chocolate, I suspect – has a definite sort of fruitiness to it, which I took to be almost cherry-like at first sip. The hops, while bitey, aren’t particularly bitter – just enough to keep the ale from being too sugary.

To be honest, my first reaction was “chocolate-covered maraschino cherry with hops,” but I revised that on the second taste. The second round through, I can still taste the chocolate and the hint of fruit and the bite of the hops, but it’s so much more complex than my first reaction. It’s really pretty awesome. I also think it’s the type of beer that would cellar BEAUTIFULLY – a year or so would really round out the hop bite and let it all meld into a happy chocolate beer heaven.* That said, it’s already kickass, so enjoy whenever you want it.

So basically, try to find some, especially if you love Kansas City, because it’s a project of some of the greatest epicureans we have in this city. I think it’s going to FLY off the shelves at light speed, so this is one of those “swing by your liquor store during lunch at work on Tuesday to get it” type beers, because I’m not convinced it’s going to be around much longer than that. And enjoy it, because it’s a master creation of some amazing artisans and deserves to get some love.

*If I am the luckiest bastard ever to live, there will in fact be a chocolate beer heaven, and I will get to go there.