One of my favorite moments from my Holiday Potluck Party was getting to share a taste of Utopias from Sam Adams. I am the resident beer geek among my friends, and after I first tasted this beer over the summer, they cheerfully tolerated my effusive gibbering. Here, finally, was my chance to show them what all the fuss was about. I can really think of no better context for this beer: a midwinter night, good friends, a cozy moment by the fire.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Utopias is unlike any other beer out there (and yes, its name is plural!). It starts off life just like any other beer — a brew of malts and hops — but then it gets aged and blended and aged some more. It lives in bourbon, rum, and other various barrels during this time and picks up flavors of vanilla and oak.

By the time it’s finally bottled, Utopias is almost more like a cognac or a port than a beer. It clings to the glass like syrup and no longer has even a trace of carbonation. It also clocks in at a whopping 28% alcohol — definitely a brew for sipping!

I poured my friends a few ounces each and sat back to watch them taste. The aroma hits you first, and with eleven of us in the room, the air was thick with it. This 2013 release smells like melting chocolate and pure vanilla, along with a deep aroma of figs and raisins soaked in rum. It smells like something you’d be more likely to find in Rivendell than someone’s living room.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

My friends all took tentative sips and I had to laugh at the variety of expressions and exclamations. That first sip can bowl you over if you’re not ready for it — I’m talking less about the booziness than I am the intensity of flavors here. I really think Sam Adams found something special with the mix in this 2013 Utopias: I simultaneously tasted milk chocolate, warm vanilla, oak, syrupy figs and raisins, boozy cherries, and — the most haunting and unexpected finale — a touch of sweet tobacco. It’s as smooth as a dessert wine and warming in the throat and the belly. Needless to say, we all took seconds.

Utopias is not a beer that you pick up on a whim to go with dinner, but it’s also not an exotic liquor that you hoard and dole out only on special occasions. I recommend finding yourself a group of friends — people who will listen patiently as you effuse and gibber before you finally pass out tastes — and then sharing it to the last drop.

Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.

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