In the beer world, there are many memorable beer moments. For me, there have been many such moments. I can remember my very first Bell's Beer (Third Coast Old Ale, and my palate was not ready for an 11% ABV barleywine). Another Bell's moment for me was sharing my 18 year old bottles of Third Coast Old Ale and Expedition Stout with Larry Bell at Eccentric Day. Other moments include a crisp clear pilsner just blocks from the Strausbourg Cathederal in France, my first Cigar City Hunahpu Imperial Stout in the Northern Michigan backwoods, meeting Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione and Joe Short in Traverse City, MI, and enjoying an Alaskan Amber Ale at the summit of Mt. Roberts, Juneau, Alaska, just to name a few.
In the beer world, there are also many limited, special or single release beers that are often hard to come by. Those beers would include local beers such as Founders KBS (bourbon barrel aged imperial coffee stout, 11.2% ABV, IBUs 70). A 1/6 barrel of this was tapped last week at The Constant Spring and was finished in less than two hours. Bell's Black Note (bourbon barrel aged stout, 11.5% ABV) is another such limited release beer that was recently taped at the Constant Spring. Many breweries also brew single and limited releases with dated and numbered bottles, and some of these are extremely difficult to track down.
One week ago today, I had a memorable beer moment. Thanks to one generous beer enthusiast, for the first time I was able to taste Samuel Adams Utopias. This beer is not even close to anything else that I have ever tasted before. First of all, it is 28% ABV with 25 IBUs (international bittering units). Secondly, this release is a complex blend of batches, some having been aged more than 20 years in a variety of woods in the Samuel Adam's barrel room. This batch (2013) was aged in Buffalo Trace Distillery barrels and eight-year-old Port barrels from Portugal. Then it was further blended with Kosmic Mother Funk, a Belgian-style ale barrel-aged for at least nine months (and up to two years) in Hungarian oak tuns.
This was the first time that Samuel Adams had blended KMF in Utopias. And here is what brewery founder Jim Koch said about this: “The KMF brings a whole new spectrum of flavors and complexity to the beer, including brighter fruit notes like cherries and plums and just a hint of earthiness.”
According to the brewery's website,"Utopias is a strong, rich, uncarbonated dark beer with fruit notes and a rich malty sweetness, reminiscent of a deep rich vintage Port, fine Cognac, or aged Sherry while being surprisingly light on the palate." Or according to one person in our party last week, it is a wine drinker's beer. Wine drinker or beer drinker, it is suggested that it be enjoyed in two ounce pours and served at room temperature (about 70°F). Because it is uncarbonated and has a very high ABV, it can be opened and closed many times and enjoyed over many sittings. If further aged in a cool dark place, the flavor will continue to evolve with this remarkable beer.
Fewer than 15,000 bottles were brewed, and with a suggested retail price of $199.00 for a 24 oz. bottle, not many of these bottles made it to retail outlets in the Michiana area. I have actually seen this with a price tag of up to $250 retail, and of course much higher on internet auction sites. Although, I do not know exactly how many bottles made it to Michiana, this bottle was purchased at Chalet Party Shoppe.
The presentation of the packaging is just as classy as the beer itself. It comes in more of a metal decanter-like vessel than a bottle, that is a replica of a copper brew kettle. Anyone who has been on a brewery tour, will recognize the form of this "bottle".
I certainly wish that this opportunity had arisen with my palate being fresh. However, I am not going to be choosy about when these moments come up. First off, the aroma itself is very complex and includes dark fruit, bourbon, vanilla, maple, chocolate, port and of course at this high ABV, lots and lots of booziness. The mouthfeel is "chewey" and smooth all at the same time. In fact, I was extremely surprised at how smooth and light Utopias is considering what it actually is. Without carbonation, there is nothing to mask any of the wonderful flavors, and here the booziness comes right to the front. Also lots of nice tones of bourbon, maple, wine and dark fruit, much like the aroma. This is definitely a beer to be enjoyed like a fine spirit.
So with a price tag at $8 per ounce, I probably won't ever purchase a bottle. But I am ever thankful for the kind soul who shared this not only with myself, but with several other beer enthusiasts as well. And I think that I can say for all of us, that this was truly a memorable beer moment.