It's tricky to argue about what something's worth, because there's rarely an objective answer. A few baseball teams are currently debating whether Pablo Sandoval, a charming fat man who hits very well in the playoffs and a bit above average the rest of the time, is worth $90 million dollars for the next five years. At first blush that seems ridiculous, but as this article points out, it's just about the going rate for that kind of thing these days.
Worth is so circumstantial. Myself, I can't see investing $18 million a year in an overweight third baseman with curiously little power. But then, I'm a beer blogger with a one-bedroom apartment; even if I could afford a Pablo Sandoval, I don't have anyplace to store one. And regardless, I'm not sure I could justify seven figures a month for someone to feed the cat and run to the beer store. So consider me out of the Pablo Sandoval sweepstakes.
Which brings us to the matter at hand: Samuel Adams Utopias costs two hundred motherfucking dollars a bottle. I know what you're thinking. "No way any beer is worth $200 a bottle. For that kind of money I'd rather have six minutes of Pablo Sandoval's time." But what if I told you that it's a big bottle (24 ounces) and a pretty one, too (a ceramic brew kettle finished with a layer of copper)?
Utopias has been the most expensive beer in the world since its debut 2002 vintage, and generally speaking the highest-proof one, too. Today we're talking about the most recent version, the 2013, which is 28 percent alcohol-by-volume. It's a blend of beers aged up to 19 years in a variety of barrels, including bourbon, port, cognac, sherry, and rum. In 2013 they used maple syrup and a bit of their Kosmic Mother Funk Grand Cru, too, because what the hell.
Oh, and here's one more neat fact about the particular bottle of Utopias—the two hundred motherfucking dollar beer—we're talking about here: I got it for free. They sent it to my house unbidden. I assume that's the best way to get people to blog about the stuff. I buy 90 percent of the beers I review here, but every now and then UPS will show up with a nice box of graft, which I greedily guzzle but figure I should disclose to you guys. I try to accept bribes in the most ethical manner possible.
I can't speak for other bloggers, but let me speak for other bloggers: I have a very strong suspicion that there's not enough transparency in this game. Just anecdotally, I'll notice that everyone tweets praise about the same beer on the same day that UPS brought me a bottle of it, too. I'm not saying I'm inherently more ethical than the next guy—Deadspin pays me a fair wage, and my job doesn't depend on maintaining good relationships with brewers or publicists, which eases the pressure to whore for free beer—but I often wonder how much the reader knows about this kinda hustle. Okay, enough. On to the delicious, refreshing, teeth-whitening, fat-reducing, hair-restoring, penis- and/or breast-enhancing beer in question.
First off, let's just agree that this is "really beer." It is brewed and fermented in the manner of a beer. Samuel Adams makes it, and they are a beer-making company. It's beer. It's also sweet, super-boozy, uncarbonated, and meant to be served warm. Huh. Words are funny sometimes.
The Samuel Adams website describes the color as "ruby black," so let's go with that, though I'll note it leans a bit "brown, in an expensive way" to my eye. The first aromas to hit me were grapes and raisins, then soy sauce, cocoa powder, and dark fruit. It's sweet from start to finish, with a rich caramel wave floating beneath all the fruit, balanced by a hint of sour cherry, presumably from the Kosmic Mother Funk. There's also moderate vanilla, along with wood and port.
This shit is stunning. But is it worth $200? Again, hard to define worth, given that eight dimes are worth less than three quarters at the laundromat. Also, remember, I didn't pay for it, which tends to cloud a person's judgment. I can in good faith say it's one of the most interesting and excellent liquids I've ever tried, and also that I'll probably never buy myself a bottle. For my lifestyle, it would make more sense to buy 10 bottles of my favorite barrel-aged Belgian-style beers, or 20 bottles of kick-ass double IPA or imperial stout, or 130 cans of pilsner.
But what should you do? You should order this if you see it in a bar. I've seen it around various towns for between $28 and $35 per two-ounce pour. That's about what a shot of Johnnie Walker Blue will run you. It's not for me to say that Utopias is objectively better than Blue (though I prefer the beer apple to the Scotch orange in this case), but it's a much more memorable experience, as Utopias has no peers in the beer world.
This is Drunkspin Daily, the Concourse's adequate source for booze news, reviews, and bullshit. We'll be highlighting a beer a day in this space; please leave suggestions below.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain. Image by Jim Cooke.
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