Samuel Adams and Weihenstephan's collaboration Infinium, marketed (and priced) as a Champagne alternative, is back for the holidays.
The limited-edition beer, which will be available next Friday at Central Market and likely other stores specializing in beer, is now in its second year of trying to lure in drinkers looking for a toast-worthy yet grape-free beverage.
Like last year's initial version, this beer adheres to the Reinheitsgebot, or German purity law, meaning it contains simply malted barley, hops, yeast and water, and press material boasts that it is the "first completely new beer style created in more than 100 years to adhere to the rigorous standards" of the Reinheitsgebot tradition.
The press material also offers up some other awfully big claims, though, so I'm inclined to take that first-in-a-century brag with a grain of salt.
Once again, the Boston Beer Company sent a bottle to City of Ate HQ. And just like last year, I'm left wondering just why anyone should buy it. Read on for its analysis on the Hophead Beer Ranking System and some choice nuggets from the press release.
Samuel Adams and Weihenstephan Infinium 2011
Appearance: Clear light amber with a big puffy off-white head that sticks around too long. Before, say, a New Year's Eve toast, you expect to fill a flute, let the foam die down and then top it off as the seconds tick down. With this, you'd miss midnight by the time you topped it off. But the Champagne-style bottle design is simple and elegant. 7/10
Nose: Much more pronounced earthy, citrusy and herbal Noble hops from this year's dry-hopping along with weirdly contrasting caramel malts. Nothing Champagne-like about it. 6/10
Taste: Very rich and caramel sweet -- too sweet -- with a lot of prickly spiciness. It's kind of like a strong, heavily hopped doppelbock and seems oddly unbalanced. It's not bad, but not what I want in a Champagne flute. There are dozens of beers that would be more appropriate as a Champagne replacement. 26/40
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Body: Very lively carbonation and not as heavy as expected for a malty 10.3 percent ABV, but there's a bit of syrupy slick left behind. 8/10
Finish: Clean but not dry as promised in press material. Much hoppier thanks to the addition of dry-hopping in the process. 6/10
Style/Originality: How to rank the originality? Samuel Adams earns props for creating the first new beer style in more than 100 years to be recognized under the German Purity Law (though I've only seen this claim in Sam Adams PR material, so who knows). But adhering to the Reinheitsgebot tradition is completely pointless if Sam Adams is then going to recommend making cocktails with it. Further, they're ridiculous concoctions that absolutely nobody is going to make, calling for obscure ingredients like smoked and gray salt, black pepper syrup, pumpkin bitters and dehydrated cranberries. I haven't seen such absurd beer cocktail recipes since Schlitz's Recipes for Drinking and Dining. Also, the hubris in the press material for it is breathtaking. My favorite line: "Unlike any other beer, Infinium is light and dry, yet complex with a sparkling effervescence." If you're looking for a corked beer as an alternative to Champagne, I'd suggest Duvel or some other light, dry, complex, sparkling Belgian blond. 5/10
Party Factor: Mine was gratis thanks to Samuel Adams PR folks, but the suggested retail price is $19.99 per 750-ml bottle. At 10.3 percent ABV, that comes to 1.09, rounding to 1.