Writing this column has some great moments, but it also has some tough ones. Receiving a bottle of Samuel Adams Utopias in the mail from Boston Beer Company turned out to be both great and tough.

This is an extreme beer. A fancy 22-ounce bottle with accompanying Riedel wine glass retails for $150. This is not a bottle I am going to buy for myself, and I would not buy it and then expense it to the company without at least asking my supervising editor in advance. But since it showed up in the mail, I was compelled to taste test it.

Utopias is 27 percent alcohol, so I waited until I had a crowd of five beer drinkers to taste it. The bottle is beautiful, a ceramic decanter modeled after old brew kettles. Sliding copper sides reveal an image of Samuel Adams, the patriot brewer of the American Revolution.

I picked out four other glasses similar to the Riedel glass that came with the bottle, and poured about an ounce in each one. This beer has no head and virtually no carbonation. It looks like a cognac or a well-aged tawny port, with thick legs running down the side of the glass after I swirled the liquid.

The aroma is hoppy and malty, complex and big, with maybe just a bit of oak and bourbon from the Buffalo Trace casks that part of the blend was aged in. I tasted a bit of anise, but none of my four fellow drinkers tasted that. There was a lot of good, rich hops. The texture was very much like such liqueurs as Cointreau — just a bit thick on the tongue.

This is a highly complex beer, one designed for sipping after dinner, perhaps in front of a fire. It took extreme skill to make it.

But not one of the five drinkers actually liked it. We respected it. We knew it required the proper time and atmosphere for drinking, that it is the equal to a single malt such as Springbank, an aged port, a cognac or an Armagnac. I know that many people will like this, but we five are not among them.

I like most beers made by Boston Beer Company — I even own stock in the company — and I wanted to like Utopias. I just didn’t.


The Utopias arrived late last month on the same day as five other shipments from Boston Beer, some mailed as early as March. I think the package delivery part of our mail got messed up somehow.

The Samuel Adams Longshot American Homebrew Contest is a great event, letting home brewers submit their best work to Boston Beer.

You can buy this year’s Longshot winners at specialty beer stores, and two of them are pretty good. The idea was to create unusual beers, which accounts for the wild flavors.

My favorite was Blackened Hops from Rodney Kibzey of Illinois. It has a stiff, long-lasting tan head and a big hop flavor that still wasn’t especially bitter. The roasted malt was excellent and strong.

Caitlin DeClerq of Massachusetts submitted Honey’s Lavender Wheat, which was aromatic and flavorful. The lavender overpowered the honey, but there was a good bit of sweetness.

The one I didn’t like was Richard Roper’s Friar Hop Ale, which includes oranges and coriander in the brew. The fruit and spices were just too overpowering.

Latitude 48, brewed with all the major hops that grow on the 48th parallel, is a good IPA. But creating it in separate bottles, with just one of the hops in each instead of all five so you can compare them, is too beer-geeky even for me.

One Sam Adams beer that has been out for a while that we just discovered is Stony Brook Red, part of the company’s Barrel Room Collection. My son-in-law bought some on a whim, and it is quite good. It is a Belgian-style wheat beer that’s bottle conditioned with yeast on the bottom, and with a tart-to-sour finish. An absolutely great beer.

Staff Writer Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:

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