We haven’t been writing about beer as much at The Daily Caller lately, and that’s because writing takes a lot of work — or whiskey — and with all the political action of the past few months, well, beer was more pastime than full time. Much to the delight of our publisher, we’re sure.
But having played an important role in religion, community and conquest for centuries past, beer really is a lot more than a pastime. And today we’re writing about Samuel Adams‘ new Utopias 2013, which, being far from a pastime, is the single best beer we have ever tasted. By a long shot.
But here’s the thing. And it’s something folks should know before they crack open a bottle of Utopias: This isn’t Budweiser, meant to be crushed ice cold with a pile of buffalo wings. And that isn’t to disparage the King of Beers, either (in fact, we’re drinking one now). The two just simply aren’t the same. Lacking carbonation and at 28 percent alcohol, Utopias has more in line with an aged sherry than it does a beer. And because of that, we’d dare suggest (and will write) that how it is enjoyed is integral to how much it is enjoyed. While it’s tempting to drink at the company bar before going out (we did that one Christmas…), it’s really best savored at the closing of a gourmet meal. (Rough Draught: The true taste of patriotism. In a can)
And now that we’ve established the setting, let’s talk about the process. Because most brewers don’t make beer the way Jim Koch does.
Samuel Adams brews their Utopias in small batches, using caramel and Munich malts, noble hops and a Champagne yeast strain, among others. Not unlike a blended Scotch, the Boston Beer Company blends this base with a number of different beers, including some that have been aging “in different wood barrels for more than 20 years.”
In addition to their usual process, in 2013 the boys from Boston added in Samuel Adams’ Kosmic Mother Funk – a “barrel-aged ale that is aged for a minimum of nine months and up to two years in Hungarian oak tuns.” Finally, they aged it in Port barrels as well as barrels from Buffalo Trace Distillery, who, in addition to their delicious namesake bourbon (we’re enjoying one of those right now… alongside that Budweiser), craft the legendary Pappy Van Winkle whiskey.
Hell, even Utopias’ bottle is beautiful: A miniature, shiny copper brew kettle with the Massachusetts patriot’s signature written in white.
All of this — the craftsmanship, the presentation — eased the awkwardness of introducing a beer to dinner guests after our host had just allowed them to enjoy such luxurious rarities as a 1985 Spring Mountain Cabernet and a 1984 Chateau Ducro-Beaucallou. Who the hell was the reporter who suggested beer as a finish to wines bottled when Reagan was president?
But Samuel Adams stole the show.
Along with cheese, nuts and dark cigars (it’s so important how it is enjoyed that Samuel Adams even partnered with a cigar, which we did not try this evening), we poured two-ounce pours for the assembled guests, filling snifters with the dark, amber beer as they looked on with curiosity and, likely, politely masked doubt.
But as soon as they smelled Utopias, they realized this is no burger beer — and any doubt evaporated. Nearly instantly after leaving the bottle, Utopias’ nose was cognac-like, carrying caramel, almonds and cherries, as well as imparting a pleasant burn when we leaned in and breathed deep (remember — this is nearly three-fourths the alcohol of vodka).
To the taste, Utopias was like “drinking the nose,” as one guest remarked. More like a cognac than a sherry, with coffee notes on the end, the flavor was dominated by the caramel, almond and cherry first noted. The very-pleasant warming of the alcohol followed those flavors, as our drink finished with hints of maple. Stacked next to a decades-old Gewürztraminer that had faded with age, the Utopias won over every guest in attendance, and was a hit with the ladies just as much as the gents.
Clearly, the Boston Beer Company has crafted a special occasion beer — and only 100 barrels of it, at that. The kind that can be given as a wedding gift. And at $199 a bottle, we don’t think it will take to much encouragement to tell folks to save it for a special occasion. Heck, it even ages — and, we’re told, improves — in the bottle, when stored in a cool, basement temperature location (not the refrigerator, for the love of Mary!). Oh, and you can open it, close it, and the oxidation will change — but arguably improve — the character.
Available now, the less-than 15,000 bottles made will go quickly and be relegated to higher-priced auction sites, so time is of the essence on this one. And call ahead — loads of places will have it.