Sam Adams’ new beer is so strong it’s illegal in West Virginia

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Samuel Adams 2021 Utopias

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October 31 2021 11:59 pm

Samuel Adams’ latest version of its limited-quantity “Utopias” beer is so strong that the 28% alcohol content makes it illegal in 15 U.S. states.

Released every two years, the 12th version of Utopias is barrel-aged and finished with 2,000 pounds of cherries, including Michigan’s Balaton fruit, coveted by foodies for their tart-sweet flavor in pies, cherry preserves and wine. The potent brew will be commercially available starting October 11, Samuel Adams said in a statement on Thursday. 

But beer lovers beware: This stuff is expensive. The suggested retail price for Utopias is $240 for a 25.4-ounce bottle.

Alcohol limits in the U.S. vary by state. Utopias beer batches aren’t shipped to Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont or West Virginia, according to Sam Adams’ website

Ordinary beer has a typical alcohol level of about 5%, according to the National Institutes of Health. That level can go higher for more modern specialty beers that have gained popularity in recent decades. 

But the high alcohol content isn’t what makes the “high gravity” beer so coveted, said Matt Simpson, owner of beer consulting firm The Beer Sommelier. Rather, it’s the long, painstaking process of brewing and aging thick yeast-based beverages like Utopias that’s hard to get right, he told CBS MoneyWatch. 

“They hit it out of the park on their first try,” Simpson said. “They really made a good beer, which is exceedingly hard to do. So the base beer alone is really good. It’s rich, it’s complex. And it’s very, very strong. It’s certainly a sipper. But then, they aged it in various barrels like spirit barrels, and it adds even more complexity and enjoyment to the product.”

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