World's most expensive beer too strong to sell in Washington state? Not quite

by: Ashli Blow, KIRO 7 News digital producer Updated:

From the cost to the limited supply, Samuel Adams’ stirs the passion of beer lovers with a release it hails as the world’s most expensive beer: Utopias.

Known for its Boston Lager, Sam Adams has unleashed its Utopias batch every two years since 2002. Just 13,000 bottles will hit shelves nationwide in the biennial release that carries a price tag of $199 and an alcohol by volume (ABV) or 28 percent.

Twelve states prohibit the unusually strong beer because the alcohol content exceeds the state’s legal limit for beer.

So can I buy it in Washington?

Yes. Some national publications have included Washington state in that list of illegal locations.

But KIRO 7 News talked to the State Cannabis and Liquor Control Board and confirmed that liquor stores can legally sell Utopias in state.

“I’m not aware of anything here [in state] that would prevent the beer from being sold,” State Cannabis and Liquor Control Board Spokesman Mikhail Carpenter said. “If it’s properly labeled by the TTB [Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau] and the TTC accepts the label, then it’s allowed for sale here.”

Carpenters said there’s no ban on Utopias because it has that TTB-approved label correctly presenting itself as a high-alcohol content beer. Also, and there’s no ABV limit on beers sold in Washington.

Many local liquors stores in state already sell beers that are around 14 or 18 percent ABV.

Where can I buy it in Washington?

According to a Sam Adams map, nearly 40 stores and tap rooms in Seattle sell the extreme barrel-age beer.

KIRO 7 News spoke with an Interurban liquor store on that map – Total Wine & More – and they indeed sell the sought-after beer.

You can look at the map here, and filter it by “Utopias,” to see if it’s sold in your neighborhood. That map also includes a phone number for each location so that you can check if the beer still in stock.

Why is it so expensive?

Blended with techniques inspired by whiskey makers, Utopias is a triple bock that ages for more than a decade in a variety of casks – including ones from the award-winning Buffalo Trace Distillery.
The 2017 release is a blend of batches, some having been aged up to 24 years in a variety of barrels.

Those who have tasted it describe one sip as a cognac-like hit combined with vanilla, honey, and maple flavors.

“My original idea for Utopias was to push the boundaries of craft beer by brewing an extreme beer that was unlike anything any brewer had conceived,” said Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Co., the parent firm of Samuel Adams, in a statement to Fortune Magazine. ”I’m proud to present to drinkers this lunatic fringe of extreme beer worthy of the Utopias name.”

The brewer suggests beer enthusiasts consume it in a one-ounce taste, rather than all at once. And a few years ago, a deli mart in West Seattle did just that; it sold $30 tickets for a taste. 

Forty-eight tickets for that one-ounce tasting sold out in a day.
 

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