Beer Review by Tom Becham

Courtesy wiki
Courtesy wiki

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…
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10001368_272283422947213_1841407348_nTom 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.

Beer Profile: Rogue New Crustacean Barleywine-ish Imperial IPA Sorta

Profiled by Ken Carman for PGA

Beer-Profile1-258x300 beer-_382266_sm_0c4b8866134d46d16d640a5e7c5254 Obviously that Cascade/Chinook grapefruit like nose up front, with a pale malt way behind that. Very crisp and fresh.

Big bubble head fades fast. Yellow with srm at about 5 or 6. Hazy, no light shines through. Bubbles hang on side of glass with small legs at best. Medium body that feels full due to hops, caramel malt and firm pale. The malt complexity, while far behind, is quite interesting. Somewhat Maris Otter, somewhat caramel.

Carmel malt with strong hops up front. Very grapefruit with IBUs probably well over 100: they say 88. I think they underestimated this. Almost brassy with the hops. This is a big, bold, beer and probably one of the best Imperial IPAs, less so a Barleywine. ABV 11.5%.

The mouthfeel is a little slick and astringent, but nowhere near what one would assume, considering. There’s a strong, grainy, malt sense that’s almost peppery, but not phenolic.

A pleasurable, grapefruit, hop bomb. Bravo, Amarillo, Horizon and Falconer’s Flight were the actual hops used.

86 Beer Advocate. 92 and 62 for style on Rate Beer.

This is not a quaff for the meek, but for the brave incredibly enjoyable.

4.5

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Welcome to the PGA beer rating system: one beer “Don’t bother.” Two: Eh, if someone gives it to you, drink. Three: very good, go ahead and seek it out, but be aware there is at least one problem. Four: seek it out. Five: pretty much “perfecto.”

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_____________________________________________Beer HERE

meMaria Devan lives in Ithaca, NY and is frequent reviewer of beer and a beer lover deluxe.

Beer Profile: Lagunitas Brown Shugga

BrownShugga

Courtesy 1001bottlesofbeer.com
Courtesy 1001bottlesofbeer.com

Profiled by Ken Carman for PGA

From their site…

“Originally a failed attempt at our 1997 batch of Olde GnarlyWine Ale resulting in an all-new-beer-style we like to call…Irresponsible.”

ABV: 9.99%

BA rating 90% and 90
97 and 86 at Rate Beer

Beer-Profile1-258x300
9.99? You’d never know, and yes, that’s a compliment. But, what’s the noise about? It’s an IPA, and a beautiful one. Maybe a little over the top viscous-wise,: but not much. Since this was sold in March, yet brewed in October, perhaps the distinctiveness of all they did faded: but I doubt it. Compare it to Crustacean Barleywine-ish and you’ll see what I mean. Now that is an over the top Imperial IPA with a hint of Barleywine to it. (At best.)

Where is all the brown sugar go? Fermented out by an aggressive yeast, I suspect.

Great grapefruit in the nose: usual suspects probably Cascade, Amarillo… etc. Essentially American, or spin off of American, hops. Sweet, somewhat unattenuated, nose. No malts noted, but smells fresh, exciting: eager to be tossed into the palate.

Mouthfeel: solid caramel malt with a medium to high side of medium body. Grapefruity hops. Hey, this is simple. It’s a great IPA.

Taste is grapefruity hops up front with a firm body behind it that supports like any decent seas should. This ship sails exactly into American IPA territory.

Appearance foamy/pillow white head with a few big bubbles. SRM is 5-6 bronze. It’s beautiful as the light shines through like gold. Perhaps there’s something to this “old bottle,” thought there’s no cardboard sense or aged hops. The pictures I’ve seen in the glass are almost a deep red. That wasn’t this. Of course there’s always the production line snafu possibility, I suppose.

This is a very simple quaff. No matter what happened here, they wound up with a delicious IPA on the lower side of hops at best. Sierra Nevada upped the ante years ago with their over the top pale, but that only encouraged IPAs into becoming hyper. I like them, but that’s not the point. IPAs shouldn’t be hop race, but a standard one can judge by. I encourage over the top, just do Specialty or Imperial.

4.3

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Welcome to the PGA beer rating system: one beer “Don’t bother.” Two: Eh, if someone gives it to you, drink. Three: very good, go ahead and seek it out, but be aware there is at least one problem. Four: seek it out. Five: pretty much “perfecto.”

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________________________________________Beer HERE

meMaria Devan lives in Ithaca, NY and is frequent reviewer of beer and a beer lover deluxe.