pale ales to dark lagers to Belgian-style brews, craft beer ranges from crispy
, bitter to sour, and fruity to funky, with distinct flavor profiles
running the gamut. Garnering a cult-like following in recent years, the upper
echelon of craft beer—selling for $40, $50 and higher for rare
bottles—continues to gain traction as drinkers seek out limited-edition,
sought-after brews, often shelving bottles for a special occasion or adding a
vintage to their growing craft collection.
As one of the craft pioneers in the U.S.,
put high-end craft beer on the beverage map. The company introduced Triple Bock
in 1994—then deemed the world’s strongest beer with an 18% ABV (alcohol by
volume)—and the 20% ABV MMM Millennium in 2000, before debuting the famed
Utopias in 2002.
“Over 20 years ago, when drinkers and brewers were trying to get their hands on the lightest beer possible, I couldn’t help but imagine the exact opposite kind of beer,” says
, founder and brewer at Samuel Adams. “One so extreme, sophisticated, and flavorful that it would challenge expectations and traditional conventions of beer itself.”
Utopias, a limited-release dark ale blend boasting
characteristics of a vintage port, old cognac, or fine sherry, also happens to
be America’s most expensive craft beer, with a suggested retail price of $210
per bottle. Made from a blend of previous batches of
ruby-black Utopias is aged in used spirits barrels, a process that
spearheaded in the industry. “Before I knew it, I found myself exploring the
uncharted territory of barrel-aging beers, breaking rules and boundaries,” Mr.
Koch says. “This process was the foundation for Utopias.”
Mr. Koch’s “labor of love” is released biennially in
odd years, with the most recent vintage (just 77 wooden casks were produced)
revealed in 2019. While the brew’s complex flavor attracts craft-beer
enthusiasts, the elegant packaging is also part of its allure. “A porcelain
decanter modeled after our copper brew kettles and a custom snifter glass allow
drinkers to enjoy a taste of Utopias now and savor it for years to come,” he
Since Utopias has a 28% ABV, this nutty, full-bodied
beverage isn’t meant to be quaffed, but is best enjoyed in one-ounce pours,
similar to a fine spirit. Mr. Koch explains that Utopias offers a drinking
experience so unique that it’s allowed only limited release and distribution.
And due to its high alcohol content, the beer is illegal in 15 states.
Samuel Adams likely prompted other breweries to pursue
high-end, small-batch beer, as the brewery raised the bar over the past few
decades. “It’s interesting if you look into the…
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