Sunday, February 5, 2012

Boulevard's Chocolate Ale: Mixed Feelings

If you live in the Kansas City metro, then you experienced the overwhelming craze for Boulevard's Chocolate Ale that was released this past week. I actually saw somewhat normal people lining up outside liquor stores in order to get a bottle of this liquid gold. This brew was a limited edition release for Boulevard's Smokestack Series. Christopher Elbow, a world-class Kansas City chocolatier, teamed up with Boulevard to create this unique ale. For those lucky enough to pick up a bottle, I am not sure if people's expectations were met or fell short. Personally, my expectations fell short. My first glass was from the tap at Barley's Brewhaus. There was no head retention to the beer at all, which is very uncharacteristic of Boulevard's Smokestack Series. Other beers like Tank 7 and Dark Truth have fantastic lacing until the last drop. But one thing I think Boulevard did do well was create a unique flavor. At 9.1% ABV the ale had a kick to it, and it also had an interesting dark chocolate aftertaste. Boulevard also used the media well to create a substantial craft beer craze. Most people did not even know what they were really buying, but wanted the ale just because everyone else was getting it. It seemed to me that many people thought the beer was going to taste like candy, and I'm sure they were disappointed when they found out that it was actually beer, and a very strong one at that.

Furthermore, I had mixed feelings about the beer because of the hype around it. When you have people following distributors' trucks to liquor stores out of fear that they wouldn't be able to get a bottle, then I'm not so sure that is healthy for the world of craft beer. What doesn't make since to me is that Boulevard started distributing this Chocolate Ale in other markets a week or two before it hit their home market (Kansas City). From craft beer friends, I found out this brew that everyone was fighting for in Kansas City was sitting on shelves in other states. It just doesn't seem fair that the citizens of Kansas City, who have fully embraced and supported Boulevard to become what they are today, should be worried about not getting to try it. The main problem is that there is little competition between local breweries in Kansas City, so Boulevard pretty much dominates the craft beer scene here. I hate to bash on Boulevard because I do love the beers they put out and I think they represent the city of Kansas City exceptionally. Ultimately, I think they just handled this release poorly and maybe next time they can keep a larger volume of limited edition brews in their hometown market where it is fully appreciated.

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