Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Background On Sam Adams Utopias

By William Brand
Wednesday, September 13th, 2006 at 1:04 pm in Uncategorized.

NOTE: This column was published May 21, 2003. I’m posting it as background on Utopias, which I talk about in the blog above.

Sam Adams Utopias 2003.

By William Brand
Oakland Tribune
Jim Koch _the guy who created Samuel Adams Boston Lager nearly two decades ago and helped fire up the craft brewing movement in America _ has done it again.

In one week he has introduced what is arguably the world’s best light beer on draft and the world’s strongest beer.

The light beer is Samuel Adams Light _ which weighs in at 120 calories _about halfway between Bud Light and Michelob Light, and tastes a lot better, Koch says.

It’s been available in bottles since 1999. Now, it’s on tap at bars in the Bay Area and two other places in America, (Orlando, FL and Phoenix, AZ) as an experiment to see how it does against the champs of draft beer, Bud Light and Miller Lite.

The beer at the other end of the spectrum is Samuel Adams Utopias, which Koch _ always the showman _ bills as the world’s strongest beer.

Remember, your average Bud has 5 percent alcohol by volume and most strong beers top out around 11 percent. But SA Utopias has an amazing 24 percent alcohol by volume and edges out Dogfish Head Worldwide Stout, which tests at 23 percent alcohol by volume. I’ve never seen Worldwide Stout from the Milton, Delaware craft brewer _but Jim Koch assures us that bottles of SA Utopias will be in good beer stores here in the Bay Area in time for Father’s Day.

There’s a catch, of course. The beer comes in a special 750 ml bottle shaped like a copper brew kettle and will sell for a breathtaking $100 per bottle.

It was brewed with three malts, noble German and Czech hops and four different yeasts needed to obtain such high alcohol. A touch of maple syrup was added to give the yeast enough fermentable material to continue working and produce more alcohol.

A 10-year project, the beer was aged in port, Scotch and Cognac barrels before bottling.
It follows on the heels of Sam Adams Millennium, a 21 percent beer produced to mark the new century and S.A. Triple Bock, released in 1999, which set a record at that time at 17.5

Triple Bock was huge and sweet. It tasted a bit like raisins and I put my bottle aside to taste in 10 years. Millennium was more like a fine port, still sweet, like a vintage port.

Koch, in a phone interview the other day, said S.A. Utopias has some sweetness, with Cognac notes and an herbal spicy background with hints of vanilla and cinnamon.

Sounds intriguing.

Extreme beer. Koch loves the sound of it. He didn’t volunteer it _ but I asked him what his advice is to craft brewers around the country. “You’ve got to continue to push the envelope,’’ he said. “The world doesn’tneed one more pale ale or more good porter or hefeweizen. There’s enough of that.

“Craft brewers have to continue to brew unique, distinctive, even surprising beers.’’
With guys like Jim Koch egging us on, I’m not too worried about the future.

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