Friday afternoon, I received a phone call from Gail, the Beer Maven from the Morris Beer Store. She had one bottle of Sam Adams 10th Anniversary Utopias and she was saving it for me. I grabbed my checkbook and beat feet out to the store in no time.
When I arrived, she was on the phone with the guy (her nephew, I think) who was getting the bottle at a place in Joliet. She quoted me a price of $190 and made out the check right there on the spot. The guy would deliver the gold in about a half hour to the store. I decided to hang out for the duration.
Gail mentioned that she had a new entry in the Sam Adams section, one called Merry Mischief. According to the label, it contained cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger all blended in with a stout. They called it a Gingerbread Stout. The label on the back read:
This rich dark brew entices with the aromas of the holidays, hinting at the merriment and spices within. The flavor of gingerbread comes alive beginning with the smooth sweetness and heartiness of dark roasted malts and a touch of wheat. But it’s the intensity and spices of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, & ginger that add a wicked kick for a jolly playful brew full of merry mischief.
It was part of Batch No. 1 and cost 6 and a half bucks. Not bad. I wondered if this beer was more of a stout than spices or if it would be like eating one of those Christmas ginger cookies that show up every year in your lunches after December 25th. I thought about it.
Time was dragging and wanted to sit down somewhere. I told Gail that I was going to leave but I’d be back in 30 minutes. She mentioned that she was getting off work soon and she drove right past my house to get home. She’d drop it off. I was flabbergasted.
Back home, fired up the iMac and as it was booting, the doorbell rang. It was Gail with the gold, a bottle of Utopias still in the original box. She said, “Hold on tight; this is really a treasure.” I thanked her profusely until she closed her car door.
Inside the box was the familiar tankard of Utopias, this one was styled in black with the sliding kettle doors. The price tag on the box lid stated it to be $175.99. I had no reason to fret over the extra 15 bucks for this rare species of beer, hand delivered to my door no less.
Back in August I attended the Midwest Brewer’s Fest in Plainfield and spoke with a Sam Adams rep at length. He mentioned that If I got a hold of this beer I should store it for two years before trying it. It would be phenomenal. With this latest edition, it was like a dream come true.
All that afternoon I thought about that gingerbread beer from Sam. Hmmph, another stout with flavorings along the lines of the Crème Brûlée from a couple of weeks back. I was trying to get into the holiday mood, perhaps a bit early and I decided to go back early Saturday afternoon and pick up a couple of bombers of Merry Mischief. There. Done. Like it or not, I was going to drink this beer and perhaps learn something along the way.
Beer time finally rolled around and I found myself paused at the beer glass cabinet trying to decide which glass to use. BA recommends a dimpled mug while RB says tumbler. Frank said “screw that” and I grabbed one of my faves, the DFH combo chalice/snifter bastard glass. The beer would taste just fine even if I drank it from a shoe.
The beer poured with a dark brown color and raised up a huge 2” head in the warm glass. The foam was quite thick and had a nice tan hue. It was impossible to see any carbonation and the Craftsman 19.2v flashlight was out in the cold garage. The aroma was spicy, almost like a pumpkin beer.
The first sip was odd. There was a nice overall smoothness to the beer and quite a bit of sweetness toward the front. The back end was held the spicy bitterness and a few other flavors that were spoke about on the label. A slight bit of heat traced its way down the swallow pipe attesting to the 9% alcohol, but there was no alcohol taste in the mouth.
It was difficult to believe from the taste that this was a stout at first. The milk part of “milk stout” came through in this beer right from the beginning but the spiciness at the back was a bit difficult to dissect. This was nowhere near tasting like a pumpkin pie even though the cinnamon was there. The taste lent itself more toward it being a spice beer rather than a stout. But it is actually two, two, two beers in one.
The dark flavors of the beer maintain some slight roasty character of a stout. But the cinnamon and nutmeg carry the beer all the way down in a big way. Sam nailed it by calling this beer a gingerbread stout. It was more ginger than stout. It was like drinking Christmas.
RateBeer classifies this beer in the spice/herb/vegetable category, while Beer Advocate classifies it as a milk/sweet stout. I’d say that they were both correct in their classifications, but personally, I feel that this beer belongs in the Christmas/Winter Specialty beer category. There is no style of beer called a “gingerbread stout.”
This beer may have overdone it a bit with all the ginger spiciness. I couldn’t see myself plowing through a couple of bombers of this. For most people, I’d say it was a little over the top gingery.
With pretty much most of the pumpkin beers gone from the shelves by now, it makes me wonder why we would subject ourselves to more nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. For me, one 12-ounce glassful would be all that I could tolerate, and killing a whole bomber would be pushing it.
Buy one bomber of Merry Mischief and bring it with you when visiting over the Christmas holiday and have a few ounces. Share it with any number of people until it’s gone. There. It’s done and now you can go on with dinner.
This beer made me aware of a few things about my tastes in beer. I’m not rally into the spiced beer scene and this beer confirmed that. However, the smooth sweetness that this beer delivered made me appreciate the milk stout style. And with Sam still in mind, I recalled their Cinder Bock Rauch beer that I tried last April. Little did I know that rauch meant smoke in German. I’ll be a little more careful if I look at another one of Sam’s small batch beers.
Yep. I learned something.
Taste: Over the top Christmas ginger.
Smoothness: Goes down easy before the ginger hits.
Drinkability: 8 ounces would probably be enough.
Bang for the buck: Not bad for a big beer like this.
Amount paid: $6.49
Get it again? Probably not.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: It’s really dark. (sniff) I can smell the ginger. (sip) Whoa! Uccchk! Way too much ginger! (sip) Whoa! Put that in a candle and then you got something. But that’s just too much. (Quick! Chug a bag of M&Ms.)
Video review from Fairgrounds Wine & Spirits
Jim Koch talks about the new Utopias 10th Anniversary here. – Age verification required. Pfft!