Samuel Adams Utopias is one of those legendary beers. It’s one of the original extreme beers – that is if you don’t include the earlier Sam Adams offerings, Triple Bock and Millennium. It’s not the booziest beer in the world, but it is the highest-alcohol, naturally-fermented brew. Getting a beer to ferment up to 29% is no small feat. Those others – the Tactical Nuclear Penguins and Schorschbocks of the world – cheat with freeze distillation. Part of the Utopias legend is rarity and cost. They make only 15,000 bottles and each 24 oz., brew kettle-shaped bottle retails in the neighborhood of $180.
Utopias is a blend of liquids. High-test brews from many different barrels – some of which have been aging for nearly 20 years – are brought together to complete the final brew. Some of that original Triple Bock from the 1990s is reportedly part of the mix. The result is an uncarbonated, spirituous elixir that is more like cognac or port wine than beer; a brew to sip from a special glass, two ounces at a time.
Utopias has been released in odd-numbered years since 2003. There was a batch in 2001, but they called it something else. Because it is a blend, every edition is somewhat different from the others. Somehow I have been lucky enough to sample every year’s release including 2001. While all have been extraordinary and luxurious, some have been better than others. I remember 2003 as a particularly standout year, though it’s been too long ago to remember why. 2009 was a lesser year; extra boozy and extra sweet as I recall.
Although it was an even-numbered year, Sam Adams released Utopias in 2012. It was the 10th-anniversary edition. The iconic kettle-shaped bottle remained, but this time it’s black instead of copper. The surface is etched with roots, “a metaphor for the 20+ years of complex history and aging of the liquids that make up this final brew.” So says the press release. For Samuel Adams Utopias, 2012 was a very good year.
Here’s my notes:
Samuel Adams Utopias
Boston Beer Company, Boston, Massachusetts
Style: Strong Ale
Serving Style: 24 oz. decanter
Aroma: Every time it comes to my nose there is a different sensation – some extremely pleasant, some less so. Maple. Caramel. Butterscotch. Wooden barrel – very woody in fact. Old musty cedar. Vaporous alcohol. Mineral spirits. Dried cherries and raisins. Chocolate comes in as it opens up. Really, there is so much going on that all I can do is list.
Appearance: Beautiful. Deep chestnut-mahogany. Brilliantly clear. No bubbles.
Flavor: Lip numbing with the first sip and the alcohol warms all the way down. It even stings a bit. Let your saliva blend in to mellow it out. There is so much fruit here; a surprising amount. It starts with bright, sweet/tart cherries. That gives way to darker fruits – plums, prunes, dates, and raisins. But that cherry never quite lets go. Rum and maple linger all the way into the finish. As it opens up in the glass some tootsie-roll chocolate note appear and hang on long after the swallow. Combined with the cherry it give the impression of tart and boozy chocolate covered cherry bon bons.
Mouthfeel: Viscous and smooth. Very warming.
Overall Impression: 2012 is really a very good year.