Happy New Year! In celebration of the New Year tonight, we will share a bit of Sam Adams Infinium Ale brewed with the cooperation of the Weihenstephan Brewery in Bavaria, Germany. It’s a unique beer and one that is touted as being a style of beer unlike any other.
I had spotted the beer as a conspicuous newcomer in the bomber section at the Morris Beer Store. Each bottle was ginormous looking uncharacteristically out of place like that super-tall kid with the big butt in gym class. It more resembled a bottom heavy champagne bottle replete with cork, cage and foil wrapping around the neck.
It was a couple of weeks ago when Infinium first arrived and, having heard about it, I was surprised at that the MBS had it so early (or so late depending on your own geographic location.) I admired the the curved text of the name of the beer imprinted on the bottle. The bottle itself was squat and tall containing the majority of its contents in the steerage section.
Smack dab on the front of each bottle was the little sticker with the big price: $19.00. Yep. Nearly twenty bucks a bottle and sitting on the shelf in front of me was 120 dollars worth of beer in 6 bottles. I held off purchasing early and planned to pursue other sources for the sale of this beer, perhaps saving a few quarters on the cost of this beer over the price of gas for a beer run to outlying cities. But Infinium would be perfect for a New Year’s Eve brew review.
As you may have read in last night’s review, the later run to Binny’s did not produce any Infinium but did afford me the opportunity to wander around in lust among the craft beer shelves, realizing that I had never heard of the majority of the beers offered and appreciated how wonderful and diverse beer is and can be. Later that day I returned to the MBS and nabbed two mutant bottles of Infinium at great expense.
Early afternoon Saturday, there was dilemma. I was looking for room in the fridge to store the beer bottles and despite the ample square inches available, the goddam bottles were too tall to stand up. What was I gonna do? Shouldn’t beer always be stored vertical upright straight up and down not on their backs? I recalled an article I read at CraftBeer.com about storing corked beer bottles on their backs. Generally, it’s not recommended for long storage. But since I’ll be drinking these bad boys in a few hours, it was my only recourse, I had to lay them down.
The day went by rather quickly with the kids abandoning the home nest to be with their babes and go to their parties punctuated with warnings from Mom about the the dangers of this time of year’s celebratory aftermaths. Things went along quietly after that and before I knew it, it was time for some very expensive beer and celebration.
I grabbed the first bottle and wondered why they went with this awkward bottle design. It could quite possibly be to give the noob craft beer (or unsuspecting) drinkers a familiar champagne bottle shape. Nonetheless, the beer geeks will know and the bottle shape will gravitate into a mere inconvenience. I had noticed from the Sam Adams videos that they were not drinking this new beer from their Perfect Pint glass, but rather from a stemmed flute glass. I found a similar looking drinking vessel in my beer glass cabinet and began.
I unfoiled the neck to reveal the wire cage and twisted it off. Popping the cork I noticed the vapors of the carbon dioxide flowed out then lingered a bit in the neck of the bottle. I found it difficult to pour the giant bottle with one hand and tilt the glass with the other. Consequently, the beer came up to the rim of the glass as an enormous blob of white creamy foam. We’ll it it simmer down a bit before sipping.
The liquid was a brilliant golden yellow, crystal clear, with an abundant population of tiny free flowing bubbles. The foam was very thick but comprised of rather large bubbles. The aroma held an almost fruity scent and I wondered just how good of a beer this could possibly be.
The first sip was a wonderful surprise. There was a big body on this beer, surprising for one so light in color. The sweetness big as well. There was a bit of tartness towards the back and a sparkling swallow. The sip finished slightly dry with little aftertaste. Quite a complex cargo of flavors on board here.
I surmised that there were a lot of light malts used in the making of this concoction, and the sweetness that permeated the tongue cavity seemed to paint a different color with each sip. The sweet up front and the tart at the back made for an interesting dichotomy of tastes.
The beer reminded me of a strong Belgian ale but without any of the characteristic overtones that the style has. But the abundant sweetness that this beer has thrown me. It was almost as if they tossed in a little pineapple-orange juice in the fermenter. But that couldn’t be right having been brewed according to the Bavarian Purity Law. I could see the sweetness becoming overstaying its welcome down the line.
I figured that the characteristics rendered by the champagne yeast was where the tartness and the drying effect come into play. But any resemblance to champagne stops right there. This is a full bodied, golden yellow beer weighing in at 10.3% ABV. Guaranteed to break the ice at parties.
Into the second glass, the abdominal space heater kicked on set to LOW. Once again, the alcohol taste is not present in the mouth but nicely felt in the gut. I delighted in watching the blizzard of bubbles within the glass after I topped it off. Each top-off resulted in a maelstrom of bubbles beneath a massive foamy head. It was a fun beer from beginning to end.
I must say that that this beer has party written all over it. From the initial popping of the cork down to the bottom of the bottle, the beer will elicit many superlatives from those who taste it for the first time. Yellow and full bodied like a beer yet sparkling, tart and dry like a champagne, this beer would be a hit at any celebration party.
If you decide to serve this beer, take a tip from me: use the small flute glasses as they don’t hold a lot. When you pour the beer, drizzle it down the side of the glass. The foam is overwhelmingly huge. Every glassful will fill up like that. Watch the bubble blizzard in each new pour. When you drink, sip, then savor.
I can say that I’ve not tasted a beer quite like this one (although Golden Monkey from Victory Brewers has some similarities.) It was as if it evolved on the Galapagos Islands along with the blue footed booby, the flightless cormorant and the frigate bird. It’s a beer in a pencil-thin champagne mustache. The beer is liquid fun with a smile in every sip. Too bad it’s so damned expensive.
Taste: A > Carbonated party nectar. Unique.
Smoothness: A- > Silk beer in satin pajamas.
Drinkability: B > Must. Sip. This. Beer. A lot.
Bang for the buck: C+ > The pain in the pocketbook is relieved by the pleasure on the palate.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: It’s really light. (sniff) Can’t place the smell. Beery but… (sip) It’s got a funny, I don’t know. (sip) A little sweet. I can’t place what it reminds me of. (A little funny, a little sweet. It reminds me of you.)
Sam Adams’ Jim Koch introduces Infinium Ale (the video is poor, the audio is poor, but it is something worth struggling through.)
In case you missed them, here are all the episodes of the development of Infinium:
Episode 1 – Who is Weinhenstephan?
Episode 2 – The Challenge
Episode 3 – The Process
There is an Episode 4, but for now, it’s only available at the Sam Adams site Right there on the front page you’ll see the guys raising their glasses. Learn more and watch the fourth video.
Just plain stupid. I know.
Happy New Year and Celebrate!