This 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).
10th 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
Style: American Strong Ale
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
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