I like beer. I like beer a lot. So I was thrilled when Sam Adams invited me to a beer-pairing dinner at Michy’s*. The dinner was to showcase their 2009 Utopias extreme beer, which hits South Florida shelves as early as next week, but we also sampled their winter line of beers.
Utopias are part of Sam Adams’ extreme beer collection, a line that got started in 1994 with Samuel Adams Triple Bock, a dark beer with 17 percent alcohol. Pushed by Sam Adams founder Jim Koch to brew stronger, more complex beers, the first batch of Utopias was released in 2002. Since then it has been released in odd years: 2003, 2005 and 2007.
Sam Adams brewer Bob Cannon explained that with the Utopias they wanted to push the limits of what people know as beer. Well, I think they succeeded.
The 2009 Utopias weighs in at 27 percent alcohol. To make it, Sam Adams uses a proprietary yeast strain containing ale yeast and champagne yeast. As Bob explained it, beer yeast dies under osmotic pressure but champagne yeast will keep going and keep fermenting. Um, okay. Basically, he said, the champagne yeast is what allows them to get the alcohol level to what it is. The beer is aged in wood bourbon, whiskey and cognac barrels.
So is it still beer when it resembles cognac? My brain had a hard time associating Utopias with what it knows as beer but technically it is a beer. Call it what you may, all I know is that the Utopias was a pleasure to drink.
We also sampled the 1994 Triple Bock. This one is a heavier beer that tasted of prunes and soy. It was interesting but for me a little harder to drink. I’ll stick to the Utopias …
Except only 10,000 numbered bottles will be released into the market nationwide and each goes for $150. In South Florida, it will be available at Whole Foods, Total Wine and Publix, according to the Sam Adams PR rep. With the 2002 and 2007 Utopias going for close to $500 on eBay, the $150 may not be a bad investment.
Holiday gift anyone?
Food for Thought has a detailed account of the food for the night and Short Order some pics and video by Jacob Katel, who kindly gave me photography tips over dinner. Finally, to those who have taught me to tilt the glass when pouring beer, watch this video with Bob Cannon.
*If it wasn’t obvious already, this whole lot of beer goodness was compliments of the folks at Sam Adams.