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Drink Fri Dec 11 2009

Sam Adams Pushes the Envelope

utopias-small.jpgReleased just in time for holiday gift-giving, the 2009 release of Samuel Adams' Utopias could knock any beer lover's socks off--literally.

Utopias is in the Guinness Book of World Records for holding the title of "World's Strongest Beer." The 2009 edition of the brew is a whopping 27% ABV -- 54 proof. But before you run out to Binny's (where they have a few bottles while supplies last) and plunk down $150 for a 24 oz. bottle, what should you expect?

Sam Adams hosted a media dinner at Branch 27, where I got the opportunity to try this beer, and I have to tell you, it's so unlike any other beer I've tasted that I could argue it might not even be a beer.

But it is -- it's technically an ale brewed with maple syrup. Then it's blended and aged in barrels for up to 16 years. The blend includes Utopias from prior years (Utopias comes out about every two years), and it's aged in a variety of woods. Some was aged in Scotch whisky barrels; this year's batch was finished in sherry casks from Spain and muscatel and port casks from Portugal.

The resulting beverage isn't carbonated, and due to its high ABV and flavor profile, should really only be drunk a couple of ounces at a time in a cognac-style glass. Sam Adams actually worked with Riedel to develop a special glass for this brew, and when you buy a bottle, you get a coupon that you send into the brewery to get one of these glasses for free.

How does it taste? Well, first off, it's got a lot of legs and a really strong raisiny scent. When I drank it, I thought it was somewhat thin--it tastes a little thin and syrupy for a beer, but you don't get much of a malt profile. Plus, it doesn't exactly taste like a beer due to the lack of carbonation. I really tasted the sherry flavors, and overall it's kind of an interesting drink to experience -- it's more of an after-dinner liqueuer, but it's just not distilled. It's definitely something I only wanted to drink in small portions and save for special occasions. Overall though, it is an interesting brew--something that's pushing the envelope and redefining what beer can be. Of course, you might argue that I'd say that because I got to try it for free; however, it is a drink that I'd like to have with a group of beer lovers because it does provoke discussion, and to me that's the ideal way to drink.


PHLP / December 11, 2009 3:08 PM

As usual the Guinness Book of World Records is a little behind the curve. Scotland's Brew Dog just released Tactical Nuclear Penguin, an ice-brewed imperial stout that's 32 percent alcohol.

And before that the record belonged not to Sam Adams but to a German brand called Schorschbraer, at 31 percent.

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I was using Rick Bayless' restroom, I mused, staring up at the ceiling window that was projecting a heavenly beacon of light upon my less-than-angelic duties. I could barely distinguish Rick's faint murmurs through the orange walls, something about how...
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