Welcome to my beer blog. Here I'll post some of my thoughts on and reviews of craft brewed beer. Follow me on Twitter @AleThoughts

Monday, May 16, 2011

Beer Review: Samuel Adams Utopias

It doesn't get much classier than this. 
My good friend Greg shared some Samuel Adams Utopias with me yesterday afternoon. I would like to extend a huge congratulations to Greg and his wife Julia on the recent arrival of their baby boy! For this special occasion Greg purchased one of the most expensive bottles of beer he and I will likely ever sample. I can't express how grateful I am to him for sharing some with me. 

Many craft beer snobs shit on the Samuel Adams line of beers, simply because they produce a lot of beer. But, they are still a craft micro-brewery that produces a variety of styles that are consistently good quality representations of their respective styles. While many of their brews I am not a fan of, a few of them I really enjoy. 

To understand Utopias, you have to go back and read about and try the
Triple Bock. I had only heard the legend of this brew back when it came out in the mid-90s. I had heard that it was illegal in several states, that it would make you go blind and that it was somehow magical. The bottom line is that the folks in Boston had created a non-distilled 17.5% ABV strong ale that was unlike anything anybody had ever tasted. Last Summer Greg and I shared a bottle of this historic brew, we believe it was from the 1995 batch, about 15 years old at the time of the tasting. That beer is still very raw and unrefined. It's brute force in a bottle with a whole lot of odd flavors. It's a unique experience that every craft beer historian should experience at some point in their life. I've still got some left if you'd like to come by for a taste.

Utopias is the much more refined younger brother and the natural evolution of the Tripel Bock. It's much higher in alcohol content, clocking in at a whopping 27% alcohol by volume. As far as I can tell it's the highest alcohol content found in a non-distilled liquid. Insanity I tell you.

I was very excited to see the bottle on his counter. Greg and I sat and stared at it for a good ten minutes before opening. It came in a brown cardboard shipping box. The bottle itself is pretty freakin' cool looking. Copper metallic finish, in the shape of and with the details of a vintage copper fermenting tank. There are two small functioning doors that open up to reveal an etching of the familiar Sam Adams image.

Utopias pours crystal clear and deep ruby red. It almost sparkles in the light. It coats the glass like a good bourbon and with no carbonation bubbles or head.

The aroma is amazing. It smells of raisins, dark cherries, figs, prunes, sweet malt syrup, burnt brown sugar with some light wood notes and some alcohol. The flavors present in the mouth mirror that of the nose. Tart cherries, figs, raisins are prominent. At times it's so complexly sweet that it's almost savory. Some vanilla and woody notes pop up from time to time. There are several levels of flavor that develop as it opens up. I picked up some syrupy malt sweetness followed by waves of dark fruit and then back again. It tastes chewy at times, making my mouth water. It feels medium in body with huge alcohol warmth.

This is a very complex and enjoyable drink. It's tough to describe it as a beer. The experience is similar to sherry or port tasting. It's a very unique and palate challenging sipper. I get a lot of flavor hints from the Tripel Bock that I spoke of earlier.

At $170-$200 a bottle in my area it'd be a stretch to even consider this a once-a-year treat. If you couldn't pick up my opinion of this experience already, here it is: Utopias is simply stunning. If you don't want to splurge for a bottle, find a bar that's willing to do a sample tasting, likely for around $20. Or, better yet, split a bottle with a bunch of your beer geek friends. You need to experience this at least once in your life. Trust me.


  1. For friends of mine who read this blog, TJ is trying to find me a bottle that my friend Yvette is fronting the money for. She said I should get my beer geek friends together for a tasting, and she'll take $10 a glass if people want to try it.

    So... if you want a shot, I'll keep you updated.

    I had the 1997 Triple Bock, courtesy of Frank, and a similar thing can be said. Sadly, we were't in the best beer tasting environment. A Charlottesville hotel parking lot in plastic cups, but, Frank really wanted to share it, and I'm glad he did, but whoo boy that was something else. Raw and unrefined is spot on with that brew, but I'd love to give it another chance if I found a bottle.

  2. I'd pay $10 to sample this again.

  3. In all honesty, this is a beer that I'm a bit scared of. I've heard it described as being very "hot" and "distracting." Obviously, you didn't find that. You make it sound very enticing and that pushes me ever so closely to wanting to sample it. Like you said however, it's a beer that almost needs to be tried just to say you have.

    Great post.


  4. Thanks for comment, Scott. It is a bit intimidating, but go I to it like you would a bourbon, sherry of port.

  5. There is a bit of heat to it, but not in a bad way. It is almost like a bourbon, but not quite that hot. The sherry flavors were amazing. I've had some very good sherries and ports, this was far better. I'd much rather spend $170 on this than a 40 Year Taylor Fladgate Tawny Port, and that the Taylor is one of my favorite ever drinks.

  6. Curse your fantastic post. It really makes me want to buy a bottle now more than ever. Can I just forward you the inevitable marriage counseling bills? I'd appreciate that.