Beer Taste, Champagne Budget

Writing for Florida’s St. Petersburg Times, “beer guy” Joey Redner makes a good, if hardly new, point right off the bat in his story “Top-Notch Beer That Won’t Bust Your Budget,” saying: “Well-made beer has always had one advantage over well-made wine for buyers who enjoy both: Beer is cheaper.”

Um, yeah. Newspapers and wine guides are constantly publishing stories that claim amazing wines can be had for under $10, but somehow everything I buy at the supermarket that’s $15 or less tastes like bad balsamic vinegar. Meanwhile, even the most chichi artisan beers rarely sell for more than $10 a bottle. Except when they don’t. Redner’s story mentions some notable exceptions:

[I]ncreasingly well-made beer is starting to take a heavier toll on the pocketbook. Specialty imports like Le Baladin Xyauy, a 13.5 percent alcohol by volume English style barley wine from Italy, sells for around $40 for a 16.9 ounce bottle. Bush Prestige is a 13 percent abv oak-aged strong Belgian pale ale that can fetch up to $45 for a 750-milliliter bottle.

But nothing makes a dent in the ol’ billfold like a beer that Redner writes about in hushed, awed tones. Sam Adams’ Utopias, a beer I’ve never heard of, reportedly has the highest alcohol-by-volume content of any brew, as well as a flavor profile more akin to port than Amstel Light. Bottled in limited batches (the next bottling is set for this December), Utopias will be sold in 24-ounce bottles at a suggested retail price of $120 to $140, and is expected to be a hot eBay commodity: Last time it was brewed, it sold for around $200 on eBay, twice the SRP of $100.

Who cares about the alcohol content (if I want to get tanked I’ll stick to my good ol’ white lightning, thanks), the fancy bottle, and the high price tag? This beer has me intrigued because it sounds divine. Reviewers have noted Utopias’ “delightful perfume aroma” with notes of vanilla (yum), bourbon (YUM), and caramel (YUMMMMMM!). Brewed by BMOC brew dude Jim Koch, Utopias is aged in barrels like port or Scotch. I can’t afford it or anything, but it sounds good. Guess it’s still Pliny the Elder for me when the white lightning isn’t cutting it.

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