I recently had the opportunity to buy a bottle of Utopias from Sam Adams. Utopias is currently the strongest beer that is brewed on a regular basis. (Several MUCH stronger ones exist; Google the website for Brew Dog if you ever have some free time and a desire to laugh your ass off at sophomoric Scottish beer-related humor.)
Yes, it is VERY expensive. My solution was to go halves with a friend, and thereafter split the bottle. After all, 24 ounces of 28% alcohol beer isn’t going to be ruined by splitting it two ways!
The 2013 batch of Utopias, according to the bottle (an attractive, copper-finished ceramic number, made to look like a huge mash tun in a modern brewery), was brewed with added maple syrup – much like Sam Adams’ earlier Triple Bock – and aged in bourbon, rum and port barrels.
With a pour on my part that was almost homicidally aggressive, I expected to get at least some small head from Utopias, but succeeded only in producing a few short-lived bubbles. The color was as black as Satan’s heart, and just as dense. This brew also left “legs” inside the glass as viscous as I would expect from the richest of dessert wines.
The port barrel aging was VERY evident in the aroma of this brew. In fact, the friend with whom I shared this bottle used to be something of a port afficionado, and he commented, “If I had five guesses about what this drink was, my first would be that it is port, and the other four would NOT be beer.”
So, yes, strong port on the nose, along with maple sugar, a strong jolt of alcohol, dark fruits, and a tiny bit of bourbon. The rum was nowhere to be observed.
The first taste was both a shock and a revelation. For those who have tasted Sam Adams’ Triple Bock (Utopias is a development of that beer), Utopias is like Triple Bock, but on steroids. The dark fruits and port come through very boldly on the palate. The alcohol bite, while strong, is not nearly what I would expect from the ABV. The maple sugar comes through on an extremely long finish.
One interesting note is the aroma left over in the bottle afterwards. Obviously, with such a lovely, collectible bottle, this one currently resides on a shelf in my work cubicle. And it has an almost overpowering aroma of maple syrup clinging to it.
All in all, a very drinkable, enjoyable brew. It doesn’t come across as beer, but it shows what beer can be stretched to, and for that reason alone, it is worth trying. In fact, this one should be on everyone’s “try before I die” list. Would I buy it again? At the price it fetches now, no. But if someone else is buying…
Tom Becham lives in Oxnard, California where he raises killer rabbits for fun, profit and as assassins. Nah, he’s just a great writer who has reviewed breweries, beers, brewers and beer related businesses as far away as Hawaii for The Professor . His current location is unknown, though the professor is using his GPS satellite hacking device right now to track him down and reward him for writing many great articles for PGA. Well, at least that’s what we’ll tell the detectives when they come a knocking.