Sam Adams brews beer so good it’s actually illegal

Sam Adams Utopias beer from Boston Beer Co is 28% ABV, a level too high for 15 states to sell it.

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Sam Adams beer being poured into a glass from a tap
Photo: John Bohn/The Boston Globe (Getty Images)

Sam Adams has only released its Utopias series every two years since its introduction in 2002, and it’s easy to see why. As The Drinks Business explains, the brew is a complex barrel-aged, and blended drink whose various elements have spent eons coming together into this final product. (It also sounds like the sort of thing that craft beer aficionados would have strong opinions about.)

“According to the brewery, some of the liquid has been aged nearly three decades in wooden Bourbon casks and, after multiple batches are blended, are aged in a total of 86 different barrels that previously held Madeira, Port and sherry,” The Drinks Business notes. It’s a far cry from the Boston Lager most of us associate with the Sam Adams brand, and it comes with a price to match its prestige: $240 per bottle. But the real kicker is that, depending on where you live, you won’t be able to buy it at all.

Thanks to all that mixing, blending, and aging in wine barrels, the beer has an ABV as hefty as its price tag. Sam Adams Utopias is 28% alcohol by volume, meaning that it’s illegal in 15 U.S. states where it exceeds the legal alcohol limit. “Don’t even look” for Utopias, Sam Adams’ FAQ page warns customers, if you live in these states:

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  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Missouri
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • North Carolina
  • New Hampshire
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia

Tough break, New Hampshire. So close to the Sam Adams source, and yet so far...

For those with the good fortune of living anywhere else, and the even better fortune of a fat wallet, you can find Utopias at specialty beer shops starting on October 11. Though you’ll probably have to act fast; Sam Adams notes that only about 13,000 bottles of Utopias are brewed for each release.

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“Sadly, there’s no shortcut to finding a bottle of Utopias, and we cannot help in this instance because we don’t know whose shelves might still have a bottle,” says Sam Adams’ FAQ page. “We think it’s worth the search; it defines the outer edge of the beer universe.” I guess the longer you age a beer, the more bombastic your marketing materials get to be.

Are any of you intrigued by Utopias? The Drinks Business article casually mentions that the beer is “finished on 2,000 pounds of cherries,” if that does anything to sway your opinion. And while it costs $240 per bottle, that bottle is 25.4 ounces, rather than a standard 12-ounce. Practically a steal!