Happy Friday again, beer fans! Somehow we've all survived another week.
Thanks to a generous member of the homebrew club, I recently tasted a couple of the rarest, most expensive, and most extreme malt beverages ever brewed. I'm assuming you want to hear about them.
Sam Calagione may have literally written the book on Extreme Brewing, but he's far from the only brewer dedicated to continually pushing the limits of what we call "beer".
One limit that's been pushed a long way in the past few years is the alcohol content, now up to an amazing 57%. The strongest of these are ice distilled, but brewers have also bred yeast that can ferment much stronger brews than before. These are weird, hard to find beers made in tiny quantities using extreme processes.
Any of you who's ever drunk cheap malt liquor knows that designing a beer for strength doesn't always make a great tasting product; only four of the 50 strongest reach a score of 4.00 on ratebeer's 5 point scale and none score the 4.13 required to make the list of the 50 best (no one gets a 5, #1 is 4.47).
Here's what I tasted:
Samuel Adams Utopias (2007 release):
The comments on this ratebeer page are useful although they're probably drinking the 2011 release. The Sam Adams site is kind of annoying IMO so I won't link to them (going to samueladams.com/utopias gets you a lame video of pouring it into a snifter and you have to follow a couple of links to get info). Here's what they say about the 2009 release:
Sweet fire, with a rich malt and wood complexity.I think they release a batch only in odd-numbered years. The release price of the 2011 was $150 for 24oz bottle (very pretty decorative bottle), now being resold at $400+. This is fermented to 27% abv, not ice distilled, and is not carbonated. Their description is a good one; I found it rather like a good port or sherry. Oxidized flavors from the long barrel aging; raisiny flavors, caramel, nuts. Sweet but not overpoweringly sweet. Delicious but out of my price range. Ratebeer score 4.01. This is a very good very strong "beer".
Truly the epitome of brewing's two thousand year evolution, Samuel Adams Utopias® offers a flavor not just unlike any other beer but unlike any other beverage in the world. The 2009 release is a blend of batches, some having been aged up to 16 years in the barrel room of our Boston Brewery, in a variety of woods. We aged a portion of the beer in hand-selected, single-use bourbon casks from the award-winning Buffalo Trace Distillery. The latest batch also spent time in Portuguese muscatel finishing casks, as well as sherry, brandy and Cognac casks. This flavorful, slightly fruity brew has a sweet, malty flavor that is reminiscent of a deep, rich vintage port, fine cognac or aged sherry.
BrewDog Tactical Nuclear Penguin:
Gotta like the name. BrewDog gives the impression of being not merely extreme but downright dangerously weird. Tactical Nuclear Penguin is an imperial stout ice distilled to 32% abv, was when released the strongest beer in the world, and it's one of four BrewDog beers in the Strongest 50.
This isn't like a wine or a malt beverage in flavor, it's like drinking a distilled spirit and you notice the alcohol. The ice process concentrates the flavors, giving a strong bitterness with also an herbal hop flavor; people compared it to a German herbal liqueur (not necessarily a compliment). Available from their site for £35.00 / 330ml, in a standard bottle, wrapped in a brown paper bag marked with a crudely hand-drawn penguin. I didn't check on shipping cost to the USA and didn't like it that much anyway. Ratebeer score 3.27.
That was fun, now back to the real world. I haven't shopped yet and don't know what I'm drinking this evening. Definitely neither of the above. What are you drinking? Anyone brewing this weekend?