Chocolate Ale: One Hot Commodity!
Okay I admit, I got a bit of late start in the hunt for KC’s most coveted Valentine’s beer. But let me tell you my intensity was not lacking. It was last year at bluestem that I tried a bottle of this genius collaboration beer by our beloved Boulevard our endeared chocolatier Christopher Elbow. When you hear those two iconic Kansas City names on one product, there are a lot of expectations to go with it.
About a week and a half ago, it occurred to me that I needed to get on the ball because there were probably already wait-lists in the works for this tawny elixir in the season of love. And I was right. Others were well ahead of me.
I spent my lunch break one day calling area liquor stores I to find out what the process would be. Could I show up the day it was released and buy it off the shelf? If so, what time does their delivery arrive? Is there a limit? Or did I have to be on a wait list? And what if I don’t belong to their wine or beer club?
Well, I made enough calls that I felt I had a some good info with which to lay out my plan of attack, But it would probably take some hustling to actually get it done!
On the day of release, my first call was to the giant Lukas Liquor in Overland Park. Not exactly my neighborhood, but I was down that way for an early morning workout and thought I would give it a shot. My instincts were right, the man on the other end said it had just arrived. It wasn’t even 8am and he told me cars were pulling into the lot and people lining up. I could buy it off the shelf, but the store didn’t actually open for more than an hour! That definitely didn’t fit my schedule.
But just like they say, “third time’s a charm”! I had actually dialed the wrong Hy-Vee…. But since I had someone on the line, I asked if they had any Chocolate Ale. JACKPOT!!! They had just received it and the clerk was bagging it up as we spoke.
After I pulled into the parking lot, I hurried into the store ready to get in line. Nope, no other customers there but me! What?! I couldn’t believe it. Unfortunately, the limit was one per person. All that beer just sitting there ready to go, no one else here to get it and I could only have ONE bottle.
So I put on my sweetest smile – cash in hand – and went into the grocery store looking for a friendly face. It worked! I found two very kind souls that headed to the liquor section and came back with my bottles in hand. Oh, I love the kindness of strangers!!
By early afternoon, Chocolate Ale was hard to come by. Many places were sold out by noon and a friend who went to the same Hy-Vee where I purchased, left empty-handed around 3pm. Boulevard said it made three and half times more than last year. Not sure how much of that was bottled for distribution versus going into kegs for bars and restaurants, but it was definitely hard to come by.
That evening I gathered a few friends for the big tasting. I wanted to try the ale with some different food pairings, so I just grabbed anything that sounded good with chocolate beer. There were potato chips, strawberries and raspberries, a few kinds of chocolate and kettle corn.
Now, just to pop that darn cork!! It really was a show. I wrestled that puppy so hard to get the cork out that I worked up sweat! It really was ridiculous. I’ve opened many a bottle of champagne and have never had a problem opening Boulevard’s Smokestack bottles, so I don’t know what was going on! But 10 minutes later and a pass around the room for the others to try and that cork was still firmly planted in the bottle. A few more tries by one of the guys and we had succeeded in breaking off half of the cork with no corkscrew in sight. We resorted to a sharp utility knife and, while it wasn’t pretty, we got it handled! Whew!
Finally, it was in my glass. After all the phone calls, asking complete strangers for help, and a kung fu knife fight with a stubborn cork, I was finally tasting the toasty, caramel flavors with alcohol lingering at the end. My friends liked it best with nutty chocolates, and the berries came in a strong second. I preferred the salt and sugar of the kettle corn which made the beer seem a little less sweet, but still provided that salty kick.
Well if you really want a bottle it may not be too late. You might find some on eBay or Craig’s list, but you could pay up to $50 or even $300 for a bottle. Maybe just heading to one of the local bars or restaurants serving this black gold is a better idea. Gran Falloon and Johnny’s Tavern, as well as some others, have it on tap. In fact, I hear the tap tastes a little different that the bottled. Something I will have to sample for myself!