Boston brewer pushes new limits on extreme beer
November 30, 2009
RUSSELL CONTRERAS Associated Press Writer BOSTON
It is banned in 13 states including Montana and sure doesn't come in a six-pack. The maker of Samuel Adams beer has released an updated version of its biennial beer Utopias now the highest alcohol content beer on the market. At 27 percent alcohol by volume and $150 a bottle, the limited release of the brandy-colored Utopias comes as more brewers take advantage of improvements in science to boost potency and enhance taste. "Just part of trying to push the envelope," said Jim Koch, founder and owner of the Boston Beer Co. The maker of Sam Adams. "I'm pushing it beyond what the laws of these 13 states ever contemplated when they passed those laws decades ago." Since the 1990s, craft brewers like the Boston Beer Co. And the Delaware-based Dogfish Head have produced a number of "extreme beers" that challenge old notions of beer and the decades-old laws that have governed them. By law, these specialty drinks still are classified as beer when they are based on fermented grain. And despite the hefty prices of the high-scale beer, brewers still have to pay the required nickel deposit on bottles. Paul Gatza, director of the national Brewers Association based in Boulder, Colo., said new yeast research allowed brewers to experiment with the emerging science that pushed the traditional cap of 14 percent alcohol by volume for beer. "As a result, these new beers, like Utopias, balance sweetness, higher alcohol content and more ingredients," Gatza said. A few states also have moved to adapt their laws to allow for the emerging craft brew market. For example, Alabama and West Virginia recently passed laws to allow higher alcohol content in beer. Lawmakers in Iowa and Mississippi are considering similar legislation. Gatza said consumers are also pushing for the changes.