The 2007 version of Samuel Adams' Utopias, the world's strongest beer which hits stores next month, weighs in at 27 percent alcohol by volume, more than five times the strength of an average beer.
The line between beer and spirits is getting closer every day, as more and more brewers use wooden barrels that once aged bourbon, whiskey and other liquors to add various flavors to the brews.
No beer blurs the line more than Samuel Adams' Utopias, the world's strongest beer. The 2007 version, which will hit stores next month, weighs in at 27 percent alcohol by volume, more than five times the strength of an average beer.
"People ask me why we brew a 54-proof beer," Samuel Adams founder Jim Koch said last week at a media dinner. "I say, 'Why not?"'
Utopias is not like any other beer produced.
Bottled in a replica of one of the brewery's brew kettles, this is a beer meant to be savored. It is meant to be an after-dinner drink. Serve it at room temperature in a brandy snifter, or better yet, use a glass designed specifically for the Utopias by famous glassmaker Georg Riedel.
The bottle is also designed with a resealable cap, so you do not have to drink it all at once.
The beer, which has no carbonation, is brewed with a variety of malts and hops, as well as several different yeasts, including champagne yeast.
Yeast typically cannot survive in such high alcohol, but Koch said the brewery kept taking the small amount of living yeast from each high alcohol batch and multiplied it until it reached a level at which it could survive. Some of the yeast used is 14 years old.
"It's ninja yeast," he said.
Utopias debuted in 2002, and it was released again in 2003 and 2005. This release is blended with some batches that have been aged 13 years in different wood barrels.
Some of the Utopias has been aged in Portuguese Madeira barrels and sherry casks. Some of the beer is aged in single-use bourbon casks.
You can really taste the flavors the casks have added to the Utopias, particularly the natural oak vanilla, mixed with a pleasant nuttiness and toffee aromas.
Koch always compared the Utopias to a fine glass of cognac. At last week's media dinner, at the KO Prime in Boston, that comparison was put to the test.
Anthony Dias Blue, editor-in-chief of Patterson's The Tasting Panel Magazine, and former wine and spirits editor of Bon Appetit magazine, led a group of 19 journalists and other guests in a blind tasting.
The tasters received three small snifters, each filled with about two ounces of a different liquor. We were told just one glass held the Utopias. "I will tell you, you have three really beautiful beverages," Koch said.
Then, each person was to rank each drink based on color, aroma, mouth feel, taste and finish.
"It's not like a blind tasting," Blue said. "Don't take a big gulp and swish it around, because it won't be pleasant. These are very sophisticated beverages."
After everyone tried the drinks, the results were tallied and revealed. The first glass was a Frapin's VIP XO, an 80-proof cognac that was named one of the top 50 spirits in the world. That received a total of 287 points from the tasters.
Another sample was a 1994 Fonseca port wine, which received a 100-point rating from Wine Spectator magazine. The reviewers gave this 275 points.
The Utopias won with 307 total points. My scoring gave Utopias 20 points, with both the Fonseca and the VIP XO receiving 18. I thought the cognac's alcohol taste was too much in the forefront, and I thought the port was slightly sweet.
"It (Utopias) is pretty impressive stuff, let me tell you," said Blue. "All three of these products are the top of the line. It's wonderful. It's something no one has ever thought of before."
Samuel Adams has only produced 12,000 bottles of the Utopias. It would make a great Christmas present for someone who wants to try something unique.
Utopias would also be nice to share with the family during the holidays preferably a large family, because of the potency.
However, if you plan on making this a Christmas gift, prepare to empty your wallet. The gift box, which includes the Utopias and the Riedel glass, will retail for as much as $150.
Norman Miller is a Daily News staff writer. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-626-3823.