Oldest, Rarest, Fanciest Sams.
Saturday, St. Patrick’s Day. The Secret Agent, The Dead Swedish Girl, currently-nickless Shachar and I have been planning to check out a pub in a kibbutz 50 kilometers north of Tel Aviv. A couple of days before Saturday Shachar texts and asks if we’re available to a tasting before driving to the north. Sure, if there’s time for the driver to chill out before hitting the road. A second text message soon follows: can it take place in our place? Only 5-6 people including The Secret Agent and I.
A couple of hours before the tasting comes a third text: Is it possible to add another guest or two?
Uh, ok, I replied, thinking WTF. In the next message I was asked whom I think should be invited. Puzzled, I called and found out that the tasting that’s about to take place in my place in a couple of hours will contain lots of Samuel Adams bottles: seasonal, limited releases and other goodies that are both unavailable here and come in big bottles, so if it’s possible to share the love with others, it’d be cool. We succeeded recruiting one more participant and only when Shachar arrived I understood why more would be merrier: 11 bottles. Including 1997 Triple Bock and 2003 Utopias. Then Oren arrived with bottle #12 – Samuel Adams Utopias 2007. Yup, two bottles of Utopias on my IKEA glass table in one evening. WOW!
Bottles were organized, bread was sliced and off we started with coincidentally appropriate Samuel Adams Irish Red, one of the three Sam brews that are listed in the 1001 book. Clear red beer with sweet caramel and strawberry aroma and a sweet and sharp taste. It felt a little oily and had a long finish. A nice start. From Saint Patrick’s we regressed to Christmas, with Sam Adams Holiday Porter (2010 edition): dark, brown and muddy looking, with sweet chocolate aroma and smooth sweet chocolate taste. Medium body, long finish.
Samuel Adams Black and Brew coffee stout has the strangest label. I mean, there’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but does it look like a Samuel Adams label to you? If this label is supposed to symbolize the content, I’m afraid that it’s not really working, either. I mean yes, the bottle contains coffee stout, the content is black, and coffee is apparent, at least in the aroma, but you don’t get fancy cappuccino here: that’s American drip coffee I smelled, and that’s exactly what I want to smell. I prefer my coffee Italian-style, but I’d rather drink drip from a cracked, heavy mug in a diner in Missouri. Other than American coffee I smelled chocolate and smoked pepper and tasted bitter, sweetish and rich brew with a long finish and smooth texture.
Following these “unrelated” were 6 bottles from 2011 limited releases. Each adorned with a beautiful illustration and a title that brought fantastic worlds, far away from the usual All-American Sam Adams look and feel, to mind. We started this part of the evening with Tasman Red, a very dark red-brown red ale, that has a big tan head and pine and moss aroma. It tasted bitter with hints of seaweed and bore a full body with an oily texture – very rich like most beers sampled that night. Dark Depths is cataloged as Baltic IPA by the brewery’s marketing department and as Black IPA by Ratebeer. It has an illustration of a steampunk-like diver, and an opaque, dark colour with a big, thick tan head. Smells of hops – evergreen and grapefruit and tastes softly bitter. The body is surprisingly light and the texture stiff. Finish was long and bitter. The Vixen is chocolate chili bock, black in colour, tan head. It has sweet, milk chocolate aroma with hints of chili, and tastes mildly bitter and a little sweet. Finish had some chili but not enough as far as I’m concerned, soft carbonation and medium body.
Third Voyage, a double IPA, has clear brown colour and a foamy white head, beneath which good, dry aroma of grapefruit and pine was hiding. Taste was appropriately bitter with a hint of sweetness,finish was dry, carbonation – soft, body – light. It was a good bear. Cinder Bock is the name of the smoked beer in this series. I absolutely adore smokiness in my brew, and I attribute it to two decades of meat-free diet; this must be some sort of compensation. Anyway, that Rauch Bock has clear dark ruby-brown colour and a yellowish head. It had faint smoke aroma, that also contained some metallic and alcoholic notes and sweet, smoky taste. There was smoke in the finish, oily texture and medium body. Again, I could do with more aggressive smoke, but that’s me.
Griffin’s Bow closed this part of the tasting. Barley Wine. Clear, orange-amber in colour and wooden sweet aroma opened for a bitter-sweet tasting brew that also bore hints of vanilla. It had a heavy body and buttery texture and was good. Dark Depths was my favourite in this part.
The third part of the tasting would be considered by many as the crown jewels. Triple Bock was the brewery’s first attempt in extreme brewing, they say, and the beer sure stretches the limit of the definition. Last brewed in 1997, we opened a 15 years old bottle, which texture resembled soy sauce more than actual beer. Thick, black with no head, soy and chocolate liquor aroma and a rich but not very good taste of chocolate, salt and cherry. Body was thick and full and the beer itself was extreme indeed – too extreme for me.
Finally, Samuel Adams Utopias. Well, UtopiaseS. First is 2007 vintage, which fellow bottle from the same batch is currently available on ebay for $260 and 2003 that at time of writing is offered on ebay for $649. Those two on my table. Guinness Book of Records Strongest Beer in the World(since 2002, %25 abv.), star of any World’s Most Expensive Beers/ World’s Strangest Beer Bottles lists, on MY table. 2007 had a dark soy sauce colour, and soy sauce-alcoholic aroma. It tasted very sweet, liquor-like, and also had some wood. It had a sleek oily texture, obviously lacked carbonation, long, chocolate, burning aftertaste and a general “this is liquor, not beer” feeling. 2003 was brown and cloudy, smelled sweet and moldy, tasted sweet, chocolatey and alcoholic and had a thick, oily, really long finish.
The evening’s best beers were from the 2011 limited edition series, but how can a beer lover not be excited about the opportunity to sample these rare, old editions? I broke three records that night: Oldest, strongest and most expensive beer tasted up to date.
#30 (Irish Red) and #31 (Utopia) I must try before I die.
Then we went to the pub. I drank Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier that’s also in the book, but I’ll write about it some other time.