Samuel Adams 2011 Infinium
- Malty and effervescent
- Mild sweetness
10.3ABV; limited availability
We ended 2011 with Samuel Adams, and we’ll start this year with a triple review of more offerings from the Boston brewery. A quick note about the 2012 Infinium, which tastes slightly different than last year, where I rated it “Enjoyable.” The 2011 vintage is maltier and richer—still very effervescent, and not as cidery as last year’s. The richer flavor pushes this year’s vintage into “Recommended!” territory; although, bottles are still fairly expensive, my major complaint last year.
Samuel Adams Mighty Oak Ale
- Rich ale with subtle vanilla notes
- Very clean, slight caramel sweetness
5.7 ABV; available in the Brewmaster Collection
High marks, too, for the 2011 Beer Lover’s Choice winner, Mighty Oak Ale, available in the Brewmaster’s Choice 12-packs. My only quibble with this beer is that there are just two of them in each pack. Samuel Adams ages the beer in oak barrels, giving the ale subtle notes of vanilla and caramel. It’s also malty, not overly so, and the hops—including my favorite to say, “Fuggles“—are perfectly balanced. I would dare say that they took one of their unjustly unsung varieties, the little-seen-outside-of-Boston, Boston Ale, and aged it in an oak barrel just to see what would happen. The color of the oaked ale is similar to Boston Ale, dark reddish amber, and they share the same rich backbone.I got to vote in last year’s Beer Lover’s Choice contest, over the summer, and I have to admit I went in there assuming I was going to vote for the one with the pecans and maple syrup, Maple Pecan Porter. Honestly, what is not to like in the name of that beer? To pretend to be fair, I sampled choice “A,” the Oaked Ale first, and as soon as I did I got very nervous. Choice “A” was a really good beer. I tried the maple porter and couldn’t deny that the oaked ale was far better. The porter almost lived up to expectations, it was a little more savory than my imagination, but even if it were my dream porter, the oaked ale pretty much out-scored it on all levels.
Since then, Sam Adams tweaked the name to Mighty Oak Ale, but the recipe remains the same. It’s a rich, malty ale with those notes of vanilla. I was reminded of Innis and Gunn barrel-aged beers, but where Innis and Gunn is super-aggressive with the flavor of the vanilla and caramel esters, the Mighty Oak Ale is subtle, not sweet. I’m enjoying the Mighty Oak Ale and surely buying another 12-pack of the Brewmaster’s Choice to get a couple more.
Samuel Adams Alpine Spring
- Citrus; spicy hops
- European-style crisp lager, lightly malted, with citrus and pines notes
- Clean; mild bitterness
And when I do get that 12-pack, I’ll also have two more Alpine Spring bottles, which are also conveniently sold in their own 6- and 12-packs, as Alpine Spring is now the spring seasonal from Samuel Adams. Alpine Spring, a lager, contrasts nicely with the Mighty Oak Ale. Alpine Spring is pale yellow and effervescent, has a spicy hoppiness, and has the aroma of a classic German Marzen—referred to by Melba as “the bong-water smell.” It’s not too spicy, though. Most of the hops are bound up in the nose and not on the tongue. I’ll admit that I prefer it that way.Alpine Spring is an excellent spring seasonal beer, and I’m glad to see Samuel Adams pushing it in its latest advertising campaign. Previously, some of their spring/summer seasonals have been a bit too fruity. This offering has its citrus notes, but it’s not fruity in any sense. Samuel Adams can position this beer as the lager for people who enjoy IPAs, because the hop spiciness is similar, but not as intense.
There might be other beers in the Brewmaster’s Collection. If I get beyond the Alpine Spring and Mighty Oak Ale, I’m sure to write about it.