When it comes to after-dinner drinks, depending on the meal and my current cash flow, my first thought is a lovely little glass of Sauternes, preferably Château d’Yquem. Never has beer maven, Samuel Adams, come to mind.
Forget everything you might think you know about Samuel Adams beers. I’d like to introduce you to a brew that has more in common with a fine Cognac or vintage Port than with a fizzy, foamy brewski.
Meet Samuel Adams Utopias 10th Anniversary Batch. Since 2002, founder Jim Koch has rolled out Utopias every two years, with a special limited-edition 2012 10th anniversary batch that came out this month. Only 15,000 numbered bottles are available. And, as you can see, that’s not your basic bottle of suds.
Utopias comes in a ceramic black decanter shaped like a brew kettle; its exterior finely etched with a delicate root design. This is a drink for connoisseurs with fat wallets. A 24-ounce bottle comes with a suggested price tag of $190. And if you think you might like to taste this elusive brew, act quickly. While Utopias can linger and age like fine wine, it’s gone in a flash from store shelves, as if it never existed.
While the intense, non-carbonated Utopias are brewed using traditional methods, the end result is anything but run of the mill. First, Koch has broken through the alcohol ceiling by upping the ante with each batch. This year’s Utopias crashes through by pushing the ABV (alcohol by volume) to just above 29 percent and comes out as 58 proof. That’s pretty heady stuff when you consider that a glass of regular Samuel Adams beer hovers at around 5 percent.
But let’s forget the “B” word for a moment because some of the components of the complex 10th Anniversary Utopias have been aged for 19 years in a variety of wood barrels tapped from exotic locales such as Nicaragua and Portugal. These casks are essentially considered ingredients by Samuel Adams.
They include single-use bourbon casks, Tawny Port casks and rum barrels. The incredible flavors resulting from this long aging process in these aromatic barrels range from maple, vanilla and honey to dark raisins, fig, toffee and even chocolate, bringing to mind aged Sherry or fine old Cognacs.
And in the spirit of of those stellar after-dinner drinks, Utopias are served at room temperature in 2-ounce pours – sipped, not downed as shooters, please.
It’s not surprising that a drink this exclusive would have its own custom-designed glass by Riedel. The curvaceous crystal piece from Germany comes with the Samuel Adams signature logo and Utopias logo on the base. It’s available for $18 here.
Unfortunately, if you’re dying to try a sip of Utopias, or if you thought it would make an ideal gift for the beer fan who has everything, you’re out of luck if you live in one of the 13 states that prohibit the sale of Samuel Adams Utopias. You see, the soaring alcohol content exceeds the legal limit for beer. It is, after all, the strongest beer available. Here’s a list of the finicky states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont and Washington.