Samuel Adams ‘Utopias’ is royalty among beers
Budweiser might call itself “the king of beers,” but if there is such a thing of a beer for kings in America, it is probably Samuel Adams Utopias.
Utopias is not a beer in the usual sense, and even the Boston Beer Company that produces it classifies it as an “extreme” beer. Even though it is brewed like a regular beer, its taste profile is more like aged Sherry, and with an alcohol content of 28 percent by volume, its bite is more like Cognac.
The words that can be used to describe Utopias are words normally used to describe fine wines: distinctive, balanced and complex. It is also expensive, selling retail at Jacques Scott for $120 a bottle.
The Boston Beer Company first ventured into extreme beers in 1994 with Samuel Adams Triple Bock and followed that up in 1999 with Samuel Adams Millennium. In 2002, the company pushed the boundaries of beer making even farther by creating Utopias, which it calls “the epitome of brewing’s 2,000-year evolution.” Its current release of the limited production beer – less than 15,000 24-ounce bottles were made – comes in a special black ceramic decanter that is shaped like a copper brew kettle to mark the 10th anniversary of its first release.
The 2012 release of Utopias is a blend of batches of brewed beer, some of which is aged up to 19 years. Only high-quality malts and hops, along with some special ingredients like maple syrup, are used in making Utopias. The intense flavors come from having been aged in a variety of oak barrels, some of which were previously used to age ruby port, tawny port and rum.
A bottle of the most recent release of Utopias was opened on Sept. 24 at the Craft Food & Beverage Company restaurant on West Bay Road for tasting by local beverage and restaurant industry professionals. Each person got about 2 ounces of the beer, which was served only slightly chilled, about cellar temperature. The color was black, with hints of red on the rim.
Many of the beverage professionals noted that Utopias smelled Sherry-like and had aromas of dark cherries. Craft Executive Chef Dylan Benoit picked up something else.
“I get soy and yeast,” he said, getting nods from others who also smelled those aromas on second sniffs.
In the mouth, Utopias – which has no discernible carbonation – tingled the tongue because of the high alcohol content, but went down the throat with no burn. It was also surprisingly light for such a dark beer.
The complex, layered flavors showed chocolate, vanilla and maple notes, before giving way to dried fruits, particularly figs, and a very long finish that left a mouthful of flavors for more than a minute.
Jacques Scott’s Jon Cubbon, who is well known for his love of Heineken beer, didn’t expect to enjoy the ultra-dark Utopias.
“I’m pleasantly surprised,” he said.
Utopias is not a quaffing beer, but one meant for sipping and savoring with friends. It would be perfect at the end of a meal as a digestif or with a dessert that included chocolate or dried figs. As a unique gift for the beer lover who has everything, Utopias would be on the top of the list. Because of its richness and alcohol content, one bottle is probably too much for two people and would be better served in small glasses to four to eight people after dinner.
Although $120 might seem like a lot to pay for a beer – and it is – it offers a truly memorable beverage experience that will serve as conversation piece at any gathering.