Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor
TORONTO, ONTARIO — It contains 27 per cent alcohol, sells for $150 a bottle and, as one brewmaster said, is “a miraculous beer.”
Samuel Adams’ Utopias was the highlight of an evening that celebrated Toronto Beer Week with a home-brewing competition and four-course pairing dinner on Monday. Held at the Esplanade location of the Bier Markt, the dinner featured four beers from Sam Adams, culminating in a snifter glass of Utopias, which is aged in barrels of bourbon, madeira wine and rum. Although it tastes of port and cognac and is uncarbonated, Utopias is still beer. It’s made with four kinds of hops and a variety of malts.
“The effort that goes into making this beer is amazing,” said Stephen Rich, the passionate brewmaster at the recently opened Beer Academy in Toronto.
BeerGeeks.ca‘s Cory Legue, another of the dinner guests, tried Utopias for the first time and wasn’t let down by one of the most hyped beers in the world. “It smells like the crust of creme brûlée,” he said. When he tasted it, Legue noted its smoothness despite the high alcohol content and the drink’s brandy elements.
When Sam Adams began making Utopias 10 years ago, it was dubbed the strongest beer in the world. Since then, it has been surpassed in alcohol content, but its stature as a unique product remains. Only 15,000 bottles of the 10th anniversary edition were made and each sells for $150 in the United States (not all states carry Utopias because its alcohol content exceeds the legal limit for beer in some jurisdictions). The 2012 edition has not made it across the border to retail outlets in Canada. Last year’s edition sold for $114.95 at LCBO stores in Ontario.
Canadian Homebrew Awards
The reason for Utopias’ presence in Toronto was the second annual Samley Cup, a competition for Canadian home brewers that’s sponsored by Sam Adams. The Massachusetts-based brewery provided entrants a home-brewing kit, instructions and ingredients that could be used in the beer-making process. The five finalists, curiously dominated by workers at beer restaurants, had their brews taste-tested by a panel of seven judges at the Bier Markt.
The winning entrant came from staffers at BeerBistro, another one of the city’s top bars. They won for Bitter Waitress (it also won for best name, hands-down), a brew with 6.7-per-cent alcohol.
“We lost out by one point last year, so it feels good to win,” said Lauren Jerome, a server at the bar who credited her teammate Jamie Shillow for the recipe. Jerome said the staff didn’t consult with Stephen Beaumont, a co-owner of the BeerBistro and one of Canada’s most highly regarded beer aficionados, in coming up with their ale.
More About Toronto Beer Week 2012
Events: Many bars around the city have events related to the festival. Vacay.ca recommends you take in Belgian Night on Wednesday at WVRST (609 King Street West) and visit the Beer Academy (75 Victoria Street) for an education on the brewing process (Thursday, 11 am).