Today's guest post is from my darling partner, Matt. 'Cause you know this pregnant lady isn't gonna be drinking beer, much less writing about it for quite some time.
Boulevard Chocolate Ale, part of the Boulevard Smokestack Series was the surprise hit of last year, the Valentine's Day treat that took Kansas City by storm. Developed in conjunction with Christopher Elbow, the rockstar artisan candy and ice cream creator, this tasty treat kidnapped Kansas City's taste buds and imaginations and held them captive in its basement until the entire city developed Stockholm Syndrome and refused to prosecute.
Image via Boulevard
What I mean is, we all went a little nuts. I went nuts because by the time I clued into what a big deal it was, the beer had vanished from stores and taps. Sure, I heard rumors that you could still find some in Manhattan, or St. Louis, and some lucky folks found (or claimed to find) pockets of it throughout the year, but as someone who lived in Kansas City proper, I found it maddening that I couldn't get my grubby little mitts on that sweet, sweet nectar.
Image via Spanish Chef
So this year, I made extra sure I would get some. For one, I work at World Market in Westport, which has a very extensive wine and beer section ably commanded by Jeff... Something-or-other. Secondly, this year we had a heads-up -- although we didn't know how much we were set to receive, we knew we'd get at least twice as much as we had gotten last year. In 2011, we got two cases of Chocolate Ale. That's 24 bottles, and that was gone within a half-hour, when two customers, who realized what we had even if we didn't, bought up a case each. So this year, planning on receiving at least three, and optimistically four cases, and knowing that I would be at the store before we opened that day (as I am every day I work), I knew I was in a prime position to snag a couple of bottles. What can I say, the perks of working in a dead-end retail job are few but sometimes very powerful.
Let me take a moment to explain how Boulevard's Smokestack Series works (as far as I understand it, anyway). Boulevard has a set series of four Smokestack beers, The Sixth Glass, Double-Wide IPA, Long Strange Tripel, and Tank 7, which are released yearly. These are available mostly year-round, unless they've had an unexpected demand on one type or other, and they're all quite tasty. On top of that, Boulevard releases limited runs and seasonal brews. The limited releases and seasonal releases don't get ordered by the stores that sell them, they're allocated based on your year-round sales of the four main Smokestack beers. So if you sell a ton of Smokestack, you'll get quite a few cases of each limited and seasonal release, but if your clientele mostly drinks Coors and Miller Lite, you might receive just two cases, or none.
Luckily, last year's Smokestack sales numbers had gone up for World Market, by a lot, and so this year we received eight cases. World Market opened at 10 AM, I bought my beer by 10:01, and by 10:40 we had sold out. Marsh's SunFresh, the next closest seller, which unexpectedly received 35 or so cases of the stuff, but didn't put a limit on sales (World Market's was three per customer), ran out by 7 AM. People reportedly followed the Boulevard delivery trucks around town. Madness, in other words. MADNESS.
A golden brown color, it even looks like a chocolate
bar in this picture (but not in the glass, boo!)
Now I've written all that, it's time to get to the tasting. How was it?
It was pretty good. It tastes like a very well-made malty ale, with a punch of cacao flavor in the middle and a tiny hint of chocolate on the finish. Not sweet.
Seriously, that's all I got. A beer I waited a year for, and I have a three-sentence review of it.
The good news is, I still have a bottle in my fridge, which is more than I can say for most of Kansas City. So... ha!
Overall, I'm glad to've gotten the chance to try it; I really am. However, if it came out all year long, I doubt I'd buy it more than once. It's still on tap all around town, too, so if you didn't get a bottle this year, hurry out to the Beer Kitchen, The Foundry, or any other number of KC restaurants that have Chocolate Ale kegs on tap.
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