Thursday, December 1, 2016

Return to Utopias: A Tale of Fortunate Happenstances

Back in the summer, I was fortunate enough to have a friend share with me what he called "the most sparkly of unicorns" in terms of rare beers, Sam Adams Utopias. It was a tremendous experience I am enormously grateful for, so when I discovered that 18 bottles of the 2015 bottling were going up for sale in Edmonton, I emailed Totty and Pete, known appreciators of such things, to make them aware.

At $200 a bottle (!), this was not something I saw myself going for personally, but when attesting to the desirability of the substance in question, I closed by saying I could certainly imagine paying for a share of a bottle.

"Sold!" rang the stereo exclamation, and so it was that I was soon purchasing three lottery tickets just for the opportunity to purchase said elixir.

Mike and Pete were entertaining out-of-towners that evening and so were unable to be present for the lottery, which I would attend as the sole representative of our libational compact. It turned out there was an associated beer sampling and cheese pairing, and knowing full well I was unlikely to get extra samples despite having multiple tickets, so I invited a friend from work and his son along.

Tonight was the lottery, in the tasting room at the Wine & Beyond location at MacTaggart Ridge (where the Co-Op Liquor used to be). There had been 35 tickets sold and about two dozen hopefuls in attendance, meaning I was not the only one there with high hopes and more than one entry into the draw.

A representative from Sam Adams walked us through the tasting and pairing. We tried the Boston Lager, their signature beer, paired with Oka, a semi-soft cheese I dearly love, followed by their Winter Lager and a smoked goat cheese, which was sharp but complemented the slightly sweet and strong lager perfectly. To wrap up, we had an aged cheddar with the Rebel IPA, which was another stellar pairing. My two companions, no stranger to craft beers or nice cheese, were both suitably impressed.

Then the cool thing happened.

After all the pairings were down, our host took a look at the room, and said, "Before we move on to the lottery, we do have the option of opening a bottle of the Utopias and letting everyone sample that, but because it reduces the number that can be sold, it can only be done if there is unanimous consent."

A number of hands shot up immediately, one of my companions murmuring "Oh, hell yes," and then some more, and while I was surveying the room, the last couple of hands were raised.

The Adams rep smiled. "That's great," he said, and began arranging the needed glasses.

In short order, we all had around an ounce of this legendary potable sitting before us in a snifter style glass. Without even lifting the glass from the table, the scent of the Utopias made its way to our olfactory receptors in short order, an intense, port-like aroma that set my mouth to watering.

After examining the color and taking some deep sniffs of the bouquet, discerning some of the dark fruits and burnt sugars that characterize the brew, we all took a sip, and it was just as magnificent and impactful as I remembered from the summer. Best of all, I got to appreciate the reactions of my two companions partaking of this nectar for the first time, and it was easy to see that they were as impressed as I was.

Then it was time for the draw, and thankfully, my three tickets did have one winner amongst them (although I am sure I would have found a home for all three if it had come to that).

Now it's time to arrange a time for the three of us stakeholders to get together and enjoy this remarkable beverage, which may be as great a challenge as obtaining it was!

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