When the great histories of American craft beer are written, Samuel Adams and its founder, Jim Koch, will assume their rightful place among the early innovators who were the first to challenge the flavorless monotony of the adjunct lager monopoly. To this day, the seemingly limitless lineup of beers descended from the original Boston Lager offers frequent refuge to craft beer fans stuck in chain restaurants and townie dive bars.
To their credit, the brewers at Sam Adams have never seemed content to offer merely expertly crafted versions of old standbys. Their more creative endeavors have ranged from the notorious Utopias to an ambitious line of barrel aged wild ales. Their Limited Release Series is an experiment in quirky flavor combinations and scaled-up versions of more traditional styles, and we'd highly recommend trying them before these one-off beers are gone for good.
The brewers at Sam Adams love the idea of geographically-themed beers, and their take on a hopped-up red IPA is a tribute to the land Down Under, brewed exclusively with hops grown in Tasmania and mainland Australia. The opaque chestnut brew carried a lingering head that left behind ample lacing and offered chocolate and resiny hop aromas. The hops saved their best work for grapefruit flavors that overtook the early hints of malt sweetness and held on through a dry and bitter finish that capped off this strikingly thick-bodied and smooth-drinking beer.
The label calls this beer a "Baltic IPA," suggesting a hybrid of the two classic imperial-era English styles--Porter and India Pale Ale. Its true heritage, though, might be a bit more recent--drawn from the tremendous popularity of Black IPAs (or Cascadian Dark Ales, if you prefer) over the last few years. This one is appropriately dark and pours with a pretty two-finger tan head. The nose was mostly coffee with subtle hints of hops, while roasted flavors of chocolate and coffee rounded out the flavor.
Sam Adams' limited release double IPA is a single hop endeavor that sources Cascade hops from the Pacific Northwest, England and New Zealand, not-so-coincidentally the three stops on the route of Captain James Cook's third voyage. Did we mention they like geography at Sam Adams? The beer poured an amber color with hints of strawberry, along with a one-finger head and nice lacing. The pine aroma of Cascade hops joined hints of the caramel and honey malts in the mash, and the same combination prevailed on the palate, where pine and citrus hoppiness stood alongside toffee and malt sweetness.
This witbier pours an immaculate orange-gold that reminded us all of honey, disrupted only by a quickly dissipating head and the slightest visible carbonation. The intoxicating and complex nose brought together lavender, cardamom, citrus, mead, and tea. The array of spices and malt sweetness subordinated any hints of the beer's high alcohol content. It's still a definite sipper, though--powerfully thick and full-bodied on the tongue.
This seductively-named chocolate chili bock doesn't break promises. It pours dark brown with a reddish tinge and a one-finger light brown head, and carries aromas of--what else--chocolate and chili pepper, along with some fainter notes of cinnamon. The smooth spicy chocolate flavors make for easy drinking, and the spice is mild enough that even the most sensitive palates will fully enjoy this one.