'Tis the season of office gift pools, when your boss' darling minion starts blasting emails with a "suggested" donation to get the big cheese something invariably tacky. Should you care to remain employed, you can't exactly refuse to participate. But you can take charge of the gift purchasing decision to avoid a repeat of last year's Mario Batali clog debacle. Might we make a suggestion? Consider Utopias, a Sam Adams beer that offers all kinds of potential gift card blather such as "barrel aged in Buffalo Trace bourbon casks" and "former Guinness World Record holder." Plus, it's ridiculously expensive and comes in a fancy cognac-like bottle, and has the added office party ringer that it's banned in more than a dozen states due to its fantastically high alcohol content.
Brush up on your beer lingo before the gift-giving party and you can sound like a real know-it-all when the bottle is handed over. Sam Adams' owner and founder Jim Koch has been brewing Utopias since 2001. It's his baby project, the coveted cult wine of the beer world that has spurned a grand unveiling each year. This year's ale, now available at a handful of local liquor shops, is a blend of Munich malts and various fancy-sounding hops including Spalt Spalter, Hallertau Mittelfrueh, and Tettnang Tettnanger.
Though technically Utopias is beer because it is brewed, it tastes more like a cognac-and-bourbon infused ale because it isn't carbonated. The 2007 release won the Guinness World Record for the highest alcohol beer at 25% (most beers are between 4 to 6% ABV), although this year's 27% ABV batch was upstaged by a beer made by some crazy Scots dressed up in penguin suits who brewed in sub-freezing temperatures to increase the alcohol content to 32%.
These high-alcohol beers are meant to be sipped in 2-ounce pours in a snifter glass, and the open bottle has a shelf life of months, not hours like the typical beer. So despite the $150 Utopias price tag, you're actually getting the boss a really special gift, right? Right. That office full of cramped, overpopulated cubicles sure does start to sound nice on office gift pool day.
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