By

Beer of the Week: Samuel Adams Utopias (10th Anniversary – 2012)

Beer of the Week - Samuel Adams Utopias - BottleThis week’s featured beer is a true specialty – the 10th Anniversary Samuel Adams Utopias, released in 2012. For the beer experts out there, you’ll know right away why I label this a “specialty.” I had the good fortune to try it thanks to local beer friend that was generous enough to share a sample from his bottle. I’m not sure how I would have come to acquire my own bottle (nor pay for it), so I’m grateful I was able to try it; Utopias definitely stands alone in a separate category. Coming in at 29% ABV and without perceptible carbonation, Utopias almost resembles a cordial more than it resembles a beer, and is best served at room temperature.

History and Process
Utopias was first released by Samuel Adams in 2002. A new batch has been released every year since, but each brew is unique from previous years, and it is also released in limited quantities due to the aging involved. Only fifty-four barrels were bottled (15,000 bottles) for this particular batch, and the decanter is specially designed to honor the beer’s complex history and aging (plus it just looks cool).

Beer of the Week - Samuel Adams Utopias - Pour10th Anniversary Utopias includes some of the Sam Adams original Triple Bock that has been aging nearly 20 years. This batch has also been aged in bourbon casks from Buffalo Trace Distillery (to enhance the vanilla and maple notes), and spent time in several finishing casks, including Tawny Port casks, Vintage Ruby Port casks from Portugal, and Rum barrels from Nicaragua. The specific hops, malts and yeasts used are noted in “additional information” below.

Tasty Mug Review

Appearance: Pours a deep amber red/ruby color with no head of any kind. Appears to be clear, but it’s dark in color so it’s difficult to see through.
Smell: Dark fruits. Rich, sweet, more like liquor than beer.
Taste: Follows the nose; sweet, dark fruits such as fig or raisin, slight maple syrup, vanilla, oak. The strength of the alcohol definitely comes across in this one.
Mouthfeel: Smooth, syrupy; flavors stay on the tongue, coating it.
Overall: I can safely say I’ve never had “beer” like this before. It definitely comes across more like a cordial than beer, and drinking it would follow suit. It’s meant to be enjoyed at room temperature and in small, savory sips. This batch has very complex flavors. I’ve read that oxidation is part of the appeal of this beer; in other words you open the bottle, screw the cap back on when done and leave it be (like most liquors). Since I can’t personally speak to how this may taste a year from now, I would risk a guess that it will be as equally tasty as it is from a recently opened bottle. If given the chance to try it (or any of the previous batches) you’ll definitely want to add it to your “tried beers” list.

Tasty Mug Rating: 4.63

Additional Information

Style: American Strong Ale
ABV: 29%
IBUs: 25
Original Gravity: Unknown
Malts:
Samuel Adams two-row pale malt blend, Caramel 60, Munich
Hops: Hallertau Mittelfruh, Spalt Spalter, Tettnang Tettnager
Additional Ingredients: Two proprietary Samuel Adams yeasts (one is a champagne yeast strain); Maple syrup
Availability: Limited
Food Pairings: Cheese (nutty; Asiago, Colby, Parmesan)  or cheesecake
Glassware: Pint Glass (or Becker, Nonic, Tumbler), Snifter, Mug
Aging: Can be cellared for long periods, under the proper conditions

By

Beer of the Week: Trappist Westvleteren 12 (XII)

Westvleteren 12 (XII)

Westvleteren 12 (XII)

After sampling this week’s featured beer last night, I’m still reeling from beer afterglow this morning. Upon first sip, I can immediately taste why Westvleteren XII is often regarded as the best beer in the world. Brewed since 1838 at the abbey of Saint Sixtus in Belgium, it has never been available for sale in the United States. Running about $85 for a six-pack, it was well worth the price. You’ll be hard pressed to find it now, as this was a one-time-only retail release – most of the 150 stores nationwide that were selected to sell it ran out within minutes. All I can say is I’m extremely grateful for a good beer friend that was able to acquire some and share it with me.

Just for the record, “Trappist” can only be applied to beer brewed by Trappist monks in their monastery. Among all Belgian beers only six are allowed to use the name of Trappist – Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle and Westvleteren.

Tasty Mug ReviewWestvleteren 12 (XII) in a glass

Appearance: Pours hazy, barely opaque chestnut color. Minimal head in this particular pour but was sharing with a friend. It has very fine bubbles that retain around the edges of the glass.
Smell: Just the right hint of sweet with dark fruits, raisins, plums, maybe some cherry, caramel and subtle malts.
Taste: At first sip it is clear why this was a highly renowned beer. It is complex, but perfectly balanced with just the right combination of sweet flavors that taste of dark fruits like fig or plums. There is caramel, brown sugar and a very subtle hint of spiciness at the end. There’s a pleasant warmth from the alcohol as it’s consumed.
Mouthfeel: Moderate in body, very smooth and creamy on the palate, the oxidation sits on the tongue. The fine bubbles round out the mouth feel with perfectly balanced carbonation.
Overall: Most anyone should be able to taste why this is one of the top beers in the world. It is complex yet perfectly balanced, has excellent flavor, and overall is one of the best beers I’ve ever tried. The drinkability is off the charts and I really wish I could say I had more than just the one bottle that I tried. I think it’s absolutely worth every penny and if I ever make it over to Belgium I’ll be making my way over to the Abbey of Saint Sixtus.

Tasty Mug Rating: 5 / 5

Additional Information

Style: Quadrupel (Quad)
ABV: 10.2%
IBUs: Unknown
Original Gravity: Unknown
Malts:
Unknown
Hops: Unknown
Availability: Year-round but only available by reservation at the Abbey in Belgium (except for the one-time-only release in the U.S.)
Food Pairings: Buttery cheeses such as Brie, Gouda, Havarti, or sharp such as Blue and Cheddar; beef, smoked meats
Glassware: Snifter, Tulip, Goblet (or Chalice)
Aging: Can be cellared for long periods, under the proper conditions

By

St. Patty’s Day Brings Beer and Cheer

St Pattys - ShamrockSunday St. Patty’s

This year St. Patrick’s Day falls on a weekend – Sunday, March 17th to be exact – which means that Saturday the bars, especially your local Irish pubs, will be packed to the teeth with festive folks parading around in green with pints in hand.

Why March 17th?

March 17th is the feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. He was believed to have died on this day in 461 AD. For Christians, the day commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. However, the holiday has slowly modernized over time to become a general celebration of Irish culture.

The U.S. and its population of over 34 million Americans with Irish ancestry is largely responsible for how St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated today. Boston was the first to formalize a day to honor their Irish immigrants, and there has been a parade held since 1737. New York was not far behind, holding their first St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1762. New York’s parade has since grown enormously – they now boast an audience of 1-2 million people annually.

Although St. Patrick’s Day is not a legal holiday in the U.S, it is now widely celebrated by all, with prominent displays of green (no one wants pinched because they forgot their green!), hearty meals and mass consumption of alcohol.

Why Beer on St. Patty’s Day?

It is estimated that over 4.2 billion pints of beer are consumed on St. Patrick’s Day, which is equal to about 1% of the total amount of beer consumed annually. Officials report that during a typical St. Patty’s week, there is an average increase of 10% in alcohol-related violations, but if this holiday falls on a weekend this more than doubles, with a 25% increase in violations from rowdy celebrators.

What pint do people reach for when they’re getting rowdy? Not surprisingly, Guinness is often the preferred beer of choice for the occasion. About 5.5 million pints of Guinness are consumed on an average day, but on St. Patty’s that amount easily doubles, spiking up to about 13 million pints.

Why do we tend to drink the day away on this particular holiday? The answer isn’t perfectly clear, so here’s my consensus:

  1. Catholics that practice Lent are not restricted from alcohol on St. Patty’s Day
  2. The Irish like to drink. They were nice enough to bring that tradition to the U.S. – as well as bringing Guinness.
  3. Americans are all about boozing it up for any celebratory event. Give us an excuse to wear silly costumes and drink, and we will!

Best St. Patty’s Day BeerSt Pattys - Drink Kit

While Guinness seems to be the unofficial stout of choice, there are many other options out there as well. If you’re into stouts, A Layman’s Guide to Stout outlines the different styles of stouts.

Want to see how Guinness stacks up against some other alternatives? There’s a great article on Drink Craft Beer that outlines some nice beer choices and their drinkability. My thoughts? Guinness is easy to drink, and easy to drink a lot of, which is why it appeals to the masses. And you can always switch it up by adding some Bass and making a Black & Tan!

If you’re not into stouts you can always go the festive route and grab a green beer. You’re typically going to receive a standard American Lager if you ask for a green beer at the bar, but you could certainly pick your favorite brew at home and add your own drop of green food coloring to it. Supposedly a black stout will get a distinctly green head if you add a drop of color to the glass before pouring – try it out!

Irish Eats

If you plan on feasting on St. Patty’s day as well, the best plan is to find great beers to pair with your traditional Irish cuisine. Typical Irish eats include Corned Beef and Cabbage, Shepherd’s Pie, Lamb Stew, Soda Bread, Colcannon (mashed potatoes and cabbage dish), and Champ (mashed potatoes, Irish-style). If you want some tasty Irish food/beer pairings that will make you drool, check out this article on Craftbeer.com.

Irish Spirit

Whatever your plans this St. Patrick’s Day, not to worry, “copious” amounts of alcohol are tradition in virtually every version of the celebration. I’ll be out this weekend wearing my green and knocking back some pints. How about you?

 

By

Beer of the Week: Magic Hat Pistil

Beer of the Week - Magic Hat PistilSpring is just around the corner, so to celebrate, this week’s featured beer is Magic Hat’s Pistil, a rather “grassy,” backyard-flavored sort of brew. Available in the spring and listed as a good summer beer, it would likely be a nice complement to a warm, sunny day spent lazing around outdoors.

Pistil is brewed with dandelion leaves, pale and acidulated malts, flaked oats, and Apollo and Northern brewer hops, which result in a beer with slightly sour acidity and smooth malt body. I can get a sense of all of this while drinking the beer. There are definitely some lingering vegetable undertones to it after you swallow. I’m not a big vegetable fan so my initial impression was “I’m not so sure…”  but the drinkability grows after the first few sips, then I found the consistency and smoothness of the beer made me want to keep drinking.

This beer also gets points for having interesting artwork on the label (which is what initially caught my eye when looking for new beers to purchase).

Tasty Mug Review

Appearance: Pours a golden color with a one finger head that lingers. Lacing and lots of bubbles coming up from the bottom of the glass.
Smell: Sweet, grassy smell. Almost like the aroma of a mild summer day.
Taste: Tastes grassy, grainy, but has a slight sour taste to it. There’s a mild vegetable aftertaste. A unique flavor overall.
Mouthfeel: Actually pretty medium-bodied which surprised me. It finishes very smooth.
Overall:
On first try I wasn’t sure I would like this beer, but after a couple more sips it grew on me and I found myself wanting to finish the beer. I think it’s the hint of the grassy/vegetable flavor that threw me off, with that little bit of additional sour taste, but it would probably be a really nice beer to enjoy with friends on the patio on a nice day.

Tasty Mug Rating: 3.01 / 5

Additional Information

Style: Herbed/Spiced Beer / Spring Ale
ABV: 4.5%
IBUs: 20
Original Gravity: 11° Plato
Malts:
2-row Pale, Acidulated, Flaked Oats
Hops: Apollo and Northern Brewer; Dry Hopped – Northern Brewer, Cascade
Special Ingredients: Dandelion leaves, flaked oats, California Ale yeast
Availability: January – March
Food Pairings: Not listed
Glassware: Pint glass or mug
Aging: Not recommended