At 25% ABV, this is the record-holder for commercial beers, and yet it manages to be lighter on the palate than the Triple Bock (18% ABV), Boston Beer’s earlier attempt at a superstrong beer. Fermented with several yeast strains, Utopias doesn’t even remotely resemble a conventional barleywine. The flavor is more like a cognac, with a sinus-clearing whiff of alcohol followed by notes of oak, sherry, raisins, vanilla and assorted spices. The package—a kettle-shaped 25-oz ceramic bottle—also set a record by retailing at $100 a bottle. What it’s bringing on eBay I have no idea.
Victory Grand Cru
This text will change! is brewed with an exclusive blend of Scharffen Berger chocolate along with a hint of vanilla. The strong lager (5.6% ABV) has a bittersweet cocoa powder flavor along with hints of licorice and molasses. The Chocolate Bock is somewhat reminiscent of Dragon Stout from Jamaica or other sweeter alternatives to Guinness brewed in the tropics. As always, presentation is important to the folks at Boston Beer Co.: the Chocolate Bock comes in a 750-ml bottle with.
Three Philosophers Quadrupel
Brewery Ommegang’s latest year-around product is a transatlantic blend, consisting of a strong abbey-style beer mixed with a small amount of Lindemans Kriek to round out the edges. Copper-colored with a thick, billowy head, this bottle-conditioned beer is remarkably smooth for its 9.8% alcohol content by volume. There are flavors of caramel, raisins and fruitcake with a peppery spiciness throughout. The story behind the name is too convoluted to print here, but it references a line in William Blake’s story “An Island in the Moon.”
Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
Perhaps the first East Coast brand to be labeled as an imperial IPA, the 90 Minute is a powerhouse that measures 9% ABV and 90 IBUs. A combination of Warrior, Amarillo and Simcoe hops give it a tingly, resiny hop bite that lingers well into the back of the throat. The beer also has a complex, nutty, roasty malt background from the use of imported 2-row and aromatic malts. The bottles were originally adorned with a picture of a circus geek hammering a nail into his nostril, but copyright problems forced the brewery to switch to a more conventional label.
Dominion Oak Barrel Stout
Wood-aged beers are a much sought-after specialty right now, prompting the Old Dominion Brewing Co. in Ashburn, VA to trying to give the style a wider currency. Instead of aging this beer in bourbon barrels (which are scarce and expensive), the brewery adds roasted oak chips and fresh vanilla beans during the conditioning period. Oak Barrel Stout has a hint of woodiness and the roasty flavors you’d expect from a dry stout, but what keeps you reaching for your glass is a an appetizing vanilla aroma and flavor. It’s smooth without being cloying or heavy-handed.