FrontRunners: From the Robb Cellar


The true king of beers is not Budweiser, nor is it best enjoyed ice-cold on a hot July day. In fact, this most regal of brews tastes best when drunk warm, and its flavor profile more closely resembles that of a sherry or Madeira than that of a lager. However, despite this somewhat exotic depiction, Samuel Adams Utopias remains an all-American creation, one of several “extreme beers” that the Boston Beer Co. has brewed for its most devoted connoisseurs. These limited edition bottlings (which included the 1994 Triple Bock and the 2000 Millennium ale) seek to stretch the envelope of the brewer’s craft, yielding beverages with the weight, complexity, sophistication, and aging potential of fine whiskies—a quality achieved, in part, by cellaring the beers in single-use bourbon casks from the Buffalo Trace Distillery. The Utopias combines beers produced from three of the four noble hops—Spalt, Tettnang, and Hallertauer—and aged as long as 11 years. Crystal malt lends the liquid its amber color, while yeasts typically used to make Champagne give the brew an interesting twist. This über-beer—presented in a copper-tinted bottle in the shape of a beer kettle—is the most potent in the world at 25 percent alcohol by volume, yet it remains remarkably light on the tongue—much like a honeyed oloroso that exhibits flashes of sweetened coffee, dark molasses, and the pain grille of a dry brut. ($100) 617.368.5000, www.samueladams.com



In 1865, while Americans marked the end of the Civil War, the Hennessy clan of Cognac, France, had its own cause for celebration. The family’s business had reached its 100th year of operation, and to honor the occasion, Maurice Hennessy enlisted his master blender, Emile Fillioux, to create a centennial eau-de-vie for a commemorative dinner. Nearly 140 years later, master blender Yann Fillioux, at the request of company president Gilles Hennessy, commenced work on a Cognac that would recall the spirit concocted by their great-grandfathers.

Yann blended 11 eaux-de-vie to produce the Private Reserve 1865, which Hennessy released this spring. To replicate the fresh character of the original spirit, he chose particularly fruity brandies made from grapes grown solely in Cognac’s Grande Champagne vineyards. Limited to 6,000 cases, the Private Reserve bottling features a grape-cluster-in-the-fall design motif based on Hennessy’s first label (which also dates to 1865). The Cognac’s auburn hue is equally autumnal, yet its floral aromas, citrus and brown sugar flavors, and long, nonbracing finish make it a celebratory spirit any time of year. ($175) www.hennessy.com

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