The Founder and Brewmaster of Sam Adams dishes on das uberbrew.
What exactly is Utopias?
Well, it’s sort of the ultimate beer. It is the strongest beer in the world, with this release at about 54/55 proof. I’ve been working on it for 18 years, it’s been a labor of a lot of love. Some of the barrels in there go back to the early days of the Clinton administration.
What does it taste like?
Everybody’s notion of beer comes from what they’ve had: carbonated, served cold, you drink 12 ounces in a serving. This isn’t any of those things. A one-ounce serving will just explode once you get it under your palette. 5 CCs of it will fill your head with flavor. It is … intense, beyond any beer people have had. The flavor of it is completely out of the normal realm of beer, into the realm of vintage port.
What would be the ideal time to have it, is it an after dinner thing?
When you’d have a great port or cognac. Its difficult to pair with food because the flavor is so intense, it really doesn’t do it justice. It deserves to be appreciated on its own. You might have it after a nice steak dinner, or with a good cigar.
How did this all come about?
It began in 1993, with the original “extreme” beer, Samual Adams triple bock, which was the first beer to ever get the alcohol level over 14 percent, helping to create this whole extreme-beer movement. It was like a whole new universe [of brewing]. When the alcohol level gets that high, it becomes almost … ferocious, so I started bringing in used oak barrels to age and soften the alcohol. And we had to breed a special yeast that kept fermenting at these very high levels. Even then, at those levels you can’t dissolve co2 in it. Carbonation leaves the premises at around 18 percent. We learned a lot about the aging process, so we blend from a whole room full of barrels that have different elixirs in each one. We end up with about 50 barrels for the whole world. Because it takes so long to make it, we do little bottles.
About how long does the whole process take?
18 years! <laughs> So we’re slowly wrapping it up. Because it requires these barrels of beers that have been aged for years and years … I mean, if you want to make 20 year old scotch, you’ll have it in 2031.
It’s no problem, but you just have to wait 20 years.
We’re slowly able to increase the amount that we release, again, it’s a very special beer with a very select group of connoisseurs. This is not for the guy whose going to crush the can on his forehead.
I wouldn’t try it with one of those cans.
Is this something you are going to continue experimenting with? In 20 years, are you going to be trying this with 40 year old barrels?
Sure. In a way, we don’t have any choice. Every year, the beer is a year older, so every year, it’s a unique release, different from the past, that can’t be duplicated.
What would you say to introduce it, before the very first sip?
This is unlike any beer you’ve ever tasted or even imagined tasting. This is the Starship Enterprise of beer. It takes beer where it’s never been before. This is exploring a new world of flavor.