Chocolate Fail: Some Boulevard Brew Has ‘Unwanted Flavor’

Has been described by some as a vegetal green pea like taste. Could be DMS? Something about those bottles and sanitation that failed? We had a story on this beer a few days ago here at PGA. Since there’s such a demand this has got to hurt them financially, but the approach seems wise.

Written by Scott Canon for The Kansas City Star

Maybe the reason you didn’t care for the much-hyped Boulevard Chocolate Ale had nothing to do with your palate. And everything to do with the beer.

Kansas City’s Boulevard Brewing Co. decided to offer refunds on a limited number of batches — up to a third of the bottles of chocolate ale sold — that the brewery said didn’t meet its standards.

“Some of the batches of Chocolate Ale have an unwanted flavor that we really did not anticipate to have in the beer,” Boulevard’s brewmaster Steven Pauwels said in a YouTube clip posted Wednesday.

The beer isn’t a health threat, just not so tasty.

In the same 53-second video, founder and president John McDonald apologized and offered refunds for some of this year’s batches.

“We’re a proud brewery and want to do the right thing,” he said.

This is the second year Boulevard has offered the cocoa-flavored suds, a collaboration between Pauwels and upscale Kansas City chocolate maker Christopher Elbow. Its release both years was timed to be available around Valentine’s Day. Both years, supplies both on tap in bars and in bottles disappeared well before the lovers holiday.

Boulevard conducts routine checks of its beers even after their release. The Chocolate Ale is a seasonal specialty included in its high-brow Smokestack series, beers with generally higher alcohol levels and steeper price tags.

The beers are sold in 750-milliliter bottles, roughly the size of a Champagne bottle, and pack a 9 percent alcohol punch. Most beers are closer to 5 percent.

The Chocolate Ale retailed between $9 and $12 a bottle. This year’s variety went on sale Jan. 31. Although the brewery nearly quadrupled its production of the ale this year, it was almost immediately harder to find than whiskey in church.

Yet not all of it was so great.

Julie Weeks, a spokeswoman for the brewery, said it’s unclear what spoiled the batches. But the off tastes — described differently by different people — developed after the release. So a batch that tasted fine in late January tasted funny by mid-February. All Boulevard ales continue to ferment and carbonate from a small amount of yeast in each bottle. Weeks did not know the exact number of bottles of the Chocolate Ale that were sold this year.

Off tastes did not show up in draft beer or other Boulevard varieties, the brewery said.

Bad batches can be identified by looking in the upper right corner of the back label. Those eligible for a refund show the numbers 2011-1, 2011-2 or 2011-3.

“To receive a refund,” Boulevard says on its website, “send us the name of the store where you purchased the beer, the purchase price, your name and mailing address, and a scan or photo of the back label.” Customers can email label pictures to or mail them to the brewery: 2501 Southwest Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.

To reach Scott Canon, call 816-234-4754 or send email to

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