This Beer Is Illegal in 12 States

But not in Ohio. So we tried Sam Adams Utopias.

It’s always fun when an unexpected package shows up at the office. It’s especially exciting when that package contains alcohol.

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Photograph by Alexandra Taylor

This time, it was a small bottle of Samuel Adams Utopias, a limited release “extreme brew” with an ABV of 28 percent. And that’s where the illegal part comes in. See, some states have laws that limit a beer’s ABV (alcohol by volume). Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Vermont, for example. Ohio would have been on this list, but in May, Governor Kasich signed House Bill 37 into law, doing away with Ohio’s 12 percent ABV limit.

Samuel Adams first brewed Utopias in 2002, but they’ve been experimenting with barrel aging beers for two decades. The version they sent us, the 2013 batch, mixes vintages from previous years. The bottle resembles a pot still, and the recommended serving was two ounces in a snifter glass (also included). So we poured it.

Only a few brave souls dared taste, but most everyone sniffed. Both our fearless editor-in-chief and dining editor detected a sherry-like aroma, and it’s true, there is an oak-y, wine-y note. The overall flavor was dark and somewhat raisin-y, with hints of vanilla and caramelized sugar—it’s very much a “barrel-aged” taste. There’s the warmth of the high alcohol content, but not the burn. (Our digital editor called it “beer syrup,” and it would probably be amazing with pancakes.) It’s not something you want to guzzle, and its darkness and heat make it more appropriate for late fall and winter, but we’re happy to raise a summertime glass to any legislation that boosts our local craft beer industry.

If you want to try it yourself, good luck. One more state with no limit on ABV means more competition for the already limited stock. But as ever, we suggest keeping an eye out at your favorite beer purveyor, whether that’s The Party Source, Cappy’s Wine and Spirits, or Jungle Jim’s.

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