Samuel Adams Infinium (2011 Vintage) – 10.3% ABV
I finally decided the time was right to give this beer a shot. I’ve seen pictures of people celebrating with this on special occasions like New Year’s Eve, where it substitutes for a bottle of champagne. So naturally I thought to myself – “why not?” There is a mass market beer from one of the “Big Three” that is referred to as “The Champagne” of beer. I decided I wanted to compare this new find to the memories I had as a college kid drinking that other stuff. As a side note, after drinking some good import brew that a fraternity buddy gave me, that “champagne” beer I had was more like drinking mud by comparison. Seriously. If I see something that says champagne, I want something that resembles champagne. How does Infinium stack up? Read on.
I did a little homework and watched a video documentary on the origins of Infinium. Samuel Adams decided to collaborate with Weihenstephan, the oldest brewery in the world. Still an operating brewery, it began as the Benedictine Weihenstephan Abbey in 725 AD and is located in Munich, Germany. Between the two of these breweries, they combine for over 1000 years of brewing experience. Wow, the historical lesson alone was enough to pique my interest. This ought to be good.
Infinium comes in a 750 ml bottle with gold painted lettering on it. I poured this into one of my Radeberger flute glasses (Thanks again AJ!) and noticed that on top of a bubbly light golden blonde body, a massive foamy white head formed. Setting it on top of the counter, I started staring at all these bubbles racing to the heavens and it made me think “damn, I’m gonna do some burping after this.” That head stayed around for quite a while. I wanted to take a deep whiff of this while trying to avoid burying my nose in the head, but what I got out of it was mostly wheat grain, green apples, white grape and other light fruit. Slight floral note as well. Uh oh, wait a minute. That hop smell reminds me of something like an IPA would. Are we going to be tasting a lot of hops in this thing? I’ve had this happen with other Sam varieties. Time to investigate.
The first sip and I was amazed. Not by how good it was, but by how much I expected one thing and got another. Very little hop presence, if any, and there was plenty of flavor similar to the aroma – lots of light fruit. Apples, grapes, it’s all in there. The fruit element actually reminds me slightly of a Moscato wine, but with plenty of bubbles. The big head should have given me plenty of prior warning, but upon tasting it I can now confirm the high carbonation of this beverage. Plenty of bubbles dancing over my tongue and giving me a light refreshing mouthfeel, but it also reinforced my theory that I would soon be burping this one up. There was a crispness to it in the finish – not like a sourmouth, hoppy crispness, but something more like a brut champagne would have. Kind of tart. The body is medium, slightly filling, probably much of which can be attributed to the carbonation.
This “champagne beer” style may be something to attract more seasoned wine and champagne lovers, people of refined taste, towards beer. Whatever it is, it’s different and apparently popular over in Belgium. Another maker of this style of beer is Brouwerij Bosteels, brewers of Tripel Karmeliet. Their offering of this style is called DeuS. Perhaps a smackdown would give us the final word, if only I had a way of importing it.
My verdict on this? The jury is still out. Was it good? Yeah, not bad. Interesting to say the least. A noble effort by these two renowned breweries to collaborate on something truly different. Would I drink it again? Sure, but the price tag does give me reservations. At around $18 a bottle, anyone would be averse to buying something that pricy, especially if they’re closely watching their budget. If you’ve got the cash and you want to splurge, go for it. It’s definitely different than just about everything I’ve ever had. Maybe this is one that you can purchase and cellar, just to see how it ages. As a final note, this is something that could appropriately be called a champagne beer, unlike that stuff I had in college.