Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Samuel Adams Utopias 2011
In case you couldn't tell from the title or the photos, I have a very cool session for you today. This year, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to purchase a bottle of Samuel Adams Utopias. For those of you that may be unfamiliar with it - know that this brew is very special. Why? Read on and find out.
Utopias is a barrel-aged and blended beer that reaches an astounding 27% ABV. That's right, this stuff is 54 Proof. It is the highest alcohol brew produced that gets there only through the magic of natural fermentation. There are other beers out there with higher percentages, but they use a freeze-distillation process which removes water and basically creates concentrated beer. Boston Beer Company uses 2 yeast strains (one of which is typically used for champagne) to help Utopias on it's way.
Multiple batches that have been aged for different lengths of time are carefully blended to create this libation. Some of them have been aged up to 18 years! Many types of barrels were brought in to enhance the aging process, including: Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels, sherry casks, madeira casks, and port casks.
For a beer this grand, you need packaging that lets people know how special it is. Utopias comes in a 750 ml ceramic decanter that closely resembles an old copper brew kettle. The bottle even has doors that open to reveal a picture of Samuel Adams.
When I picked up my bottle from the liquor store, there was a nice descriptive tag attached to the neck explaining everything about the beer. It also gave a nice little backstory on the purposefully designed Utopias glass. Jim Koch worked with well-known glassmaker Georg Riedel to develop a vessel that would deliver all the flavors and aromas in the best manner. The tag also had a code that allows Utopias buyers to get this glass for free from the Boston Beer website. I was happy to use the code, but found I had to pay for shipping on my "free" glass (of course).
I was so excited to do this session that I brought in a professional to take care of the photos. My lovely wife Amy (who is a portrait and wedding photographer) was kind enough to take pictures for me in a special photo shoot. They turned out great! If you have some time, you should check out her other work at amyrondeauphotography.com. Thanks for your help, hon.
This may sound silly, but I'm measuring my portion with a shot glass. I've definitely never measured out my beer serving before! I pour 2 ounces into the shot glass, then transfer that into my new Utopias glass. There is absolutely no head or carbonation at all. This beer is flat, and it's meant to be. The liquid is dark amber with hints of orange and ruby when held at different angles in the light. When I swirl the beer in the glass, it has definite "legs" like one would associate with a glass of wine.
Immediately, I notice the aromas of sherry and port rising up. Another sniff catches raisins, prunes and, strangely enough, a smell similar to a Terry's Chocolate Orange. (That's the foil-wrapped, orange-flavored chocolate confection that breaks into chunks that look like orange wedges.) The strong, boozy scent of alcohol is also present, which is to be expected.
Wow, this doesn't taste like any beer I've had before. The sugary flavor of maple syrup is apparent and briefly visits a touch of caramel, then I get the same chocolate orange that I detected in the aroma. Tart cherries arrive before noticeable alcohol combines with a quick bitter bite. The long sweet finish is rich and lingers a bit.
This brew rolls around my mouth with the consistency of a thin syrup. It sticks to my tastebuds well and doesn't let go easily. There is an obvious warming effect taking place, while a slight tingling affects my tongue.
Yep, this is unlike anything else I've ever tasted from a brewery. Utopias is very rich and super complex. There were moments where it was hard for me to realize that this beverage I sampled was actually beer. It will blow your mind and show you how widespread the realm our favorite drink extends. If you are ever able to try this, you have to do it. No "ifs, ands, or buts" about it.